Cambio climático

Cable sobre la posición de Arabia Saudí sobre el cambio climático

Date:2010-02-12 14:16:00
Source:Embassy Riyadh
Dunno:09DHAHRAN201 09RIYADH1302 09RIYADH1397 09RIYADH1492 09RIYADH1557 09RIYADH1642 10RIYADH103 10SECSTATE11182 10SECSTATE3080

DE RUEHRH #0184/01 0431416
P 121416Z FEB 10

S E C R E T RIYADH 000184



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2020

B. 09RIYADH 1302
C. 09RIYADH 1397
D. 09RIYADH 1492
E. 09RIYADH 1557
F. 09RIYADH 1642

Classified By: Ambassador James B. Smith for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (S) Saudi Arabia is officially still studying the issue of
whether to associate with the Copenhagen Accord on Climate
Change. Behind the scenes, we understand serious discussions
are taking place about which road will best serve the
Kingdom's long term interests. On one hand, Saudi Arabia's
lead climate change negotiator has criticized the Copenhagen
process in private and in public, arguing that the UNFCCC
process is the only acceptable legal framework. On the other
hand, Saudi officials are very eager to obtain investment
credits for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and other
technology transfer projects that will only become available
once an agreement has been reached. Saudi officials express
concern about the impact a transition to a low-carbon energy
mix will have on the country's revenue stream at a time when
it faces enormous financing needs to transform its economy to
create jobs for its young, growing population. It also fears
imposed economic costs associated with "demonizing" oil.
Part of the explanation for this schizophrenic position is
that the Saudi Government has not yet thought through all the
implications of a climate change agreement, in part because
it may not fully understand the various demand scenarios.
There appears to be a growing sense within the SAG that it
may be in danger of becoming isolated on climate change,
which may prompt a re-examination of its position. Saudi
officials have suggested that they need to find a way to
climb down gracefully from the country's tough negotiating
position. More sustained engagement in coordination with
other governments, particularly if pitched as an effort to
develop partnership, may help them do so. End Summary.

Saudi Arabia not yet Decided on Copenhagen Accord
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (C) Saudi Arabia's lead climate change negotiator Dr.
Mohammad Al-Sabban told Econoffs February 3 the United States
should adopt a more inclusive, transparent approach to United
Nations Forum for Climate Change Cooperation (UNFCCC)
negotiations. Although he was encouraged by President
Obama's attitude towards developing country partners in the
negotiations, Al-Sabban said the parties needed to "learn
from the mistakes" of Copenhagen in thinking about preparing
for the next Conference of Parties (CoP) in Mexico.
Al-Sabban said developing countries felt their Danish hosts
forced them to decide on the Copenhagen Accord with
practically no notice. Heads of state were also called into
the negotiations too early and they applied too much pressure
"when the deal was not there," he said. In specific response
to the U.S. request for support for the Copenhagen Accord
(ref H), Al-Sabban said Saudi Arabia was still studying the
accord to determine its position. The SAG cares about the
environment, but it also must care for its citizens, he said.

Addressing Saudi Economic Concerns Key to Progress
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (C) Asked how to move forward on a global climate change
commitment, Al-Sabban agreed negotiations need a "speedy
outcome," and said countries need to rebuild trust and
confidence through more transparent negotiations. He
reminisced fondly about the inclusive nature of the initial
Kyoto Protocol negotiations, which he said should be
replicated in Cancun. Al-Sabban said climate change
negotiations should remain under the UNFCCC and not be
pursued under alternative frameworks.

4. (C) Asked about tangible actions to reach national climate
change goals, Al-Sabban said Saudi Arabia's nationally
appropriate actions would include carbon capture and storage
(CCS) credits. He emphasized Saudi Arabia's need for
technology transfer and foreign direct investment to mitigate

the adverse impact that emissions-reducing policies may have
on the Kingdom. Al-Sabban said the SAG had closely studied
climate change policies' potential negative impacts. The
Kingdom will need time to diversify its economy away from
petroleum, he said, noting that a U.S. commitment to help
Saudi Arabia with its economic diversification efforts would
"take the pressure off climate change negotiations."

5. (C) Al-Sabban said the development of renewable energy and
energy efficiency technologies was key to addressing Saudi
Arabia's domestic energy demand, and he acknowledged the need
for increased energy efficiency awareness. The deployment of
CCS technology, he said, was "crucial" for Saudi Arabia. He
said the U.S. Administration's rhetoric to end dependence on
foreign oil, reiterated by President Obama in Copenhagen, is
antagonistic and causes genuine fear in Saudi Arabia. The
SAG is concerned about the outlook for oil demand and global
production, and fears it will not be able to diversify in
time to reach its development goals.

Shadow Negotiator Suggests Partnership

6. (C) Senior Advisor to the President of Meteorology and
Environment (PME) Fawaz Al-Alamy told Econoffs January 27 the
U.S. and Saudi Arabia share the same values on climate
change, but have different negotiation tactics. Al-Alamy,
who joined PME in late 2009 and led Saudi Arabia's World
Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, said Saudi Petroleum
Minister Ali Al-Naimi wants to move forward in UNFCCC
negotiations. (Note: PME sends three representatives with
Al-Sabban to climate change negotiations. End note.)
Al-Sabban's negative approach to negotiations "disheartens"
him, as does the ongoing "blame game" on climate change.
Saudi Arabia, like China and India, needs to behave like an
emerging economy rather than a developing country, he said.
Al-Alamy noted he had met the previous day with both the
Chinese and the Indian Ambassadors to the Kingdom to discuss
climate change.

7. (C) Al-Alamy recommended several steps for U.S. engagement
with Saudi Arabia on climate change, including active
outreach to all the key players including Al-Sabban,
Petroleum Minister Al-Naimi, and PME President Prince Turki
bin Nasser. Al-Alamy recommended the U.S. reach out to the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General, who has the
power to tone down the alarm in the rest of the Arab world,
such as in Egypt. Al-Alamy recommended the U.S. continue to
coordinate its approach with other Embassies, which he said
has been very effective. Asked how to get beyond the Kyoto
Protocol lens through which Al-Sabban views climate
negotiations, Al-Alamy quickly replied "he only has two more
years to talk about Kyoto" before it expires.

8. (C) Al-Alamy said that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi
strongly supports solar energy as he believes it will
displace oil currently used in the power sector and
ultimately increase oil exports. Saudi Arabia currently uses
1.5 million barrels per day to produce electricity and water,
he said. The Kingdom is considering beginning a civilian
nuclear program, and top leadership including Minister of
Foreign Affairs Saud Al-Faisal supports the increased use of
renewable energy sources. Some, however, view Copenhagen as
a serious threat to Saudi Arabia's economic stability. "Ask
any Saudi," Al-Alamy said, "they all think Saudi Arabia will
be asked to foot the bill for climate change." Al-Alamy
outlined Saudi Arabia's top concerns, including its strong
aversion to mixing trade and environmental priorities. If
duties are placed on oil and gas, Saudi Arabia will not be
able to move ahead with its economic diversification plans,
and this creates a "phobia" of climate change talks, he said.
The Saudis also resent the U.S. when it makes decisions
"without consulting its friends." Al-Alamy said Saudi
Arabia, and Al-Sabban in particular, needs to feel like a
partner of U.S. decision making.

Is Al-Naimi the Problem?

9. (S) Minister Al-Naimi has consistently been rational and
practical in talking with western delegations about climate
change, noting that Saudi Arabia had to address its
development concerns, but conceding that the world needs to
work together to address climate change. These reassuring
statements stand in sharp contrast to Al-Sabban's public
comments, such as questioning the science behind climate

change just before Copenhagen, and his often obstructionist
behavior, as reported by a number of Embassies in Riyadh,
during working-level negotiations. Senior Ministry of
Petroleum officials have reassured us after each of
Al-Sabban's public outbursts over the last six months that he
has been "tamed" and brought back onto the reservation. The
frequency and number of times that Al-Sabban steps out of
line, and the apparent lack of any sanction, raises questions
about the real Saudi position on climate change.

10. (S) A recent conversation with UK Embassy officers
suggests that indeed Al-Naimi may have some questions about
climate change. They report that Al-Naimi was sharply
critical of the Copenhagen meetings and the climate change
effort in general, in marked contrast to earlier meetings.
He complained that heads of state were brought in to
negotiate the final stages, which prevented Saudi Arabia from
voicing its true opposition to several elements. He also
questioned the legality of the Copenhagen process and its
future direction.

11. (S) A senior Ministry of Petroleum official explained
that, leaving Copenhagen, the Saudi delegation was convinced
that the Copenhagen accord would not attract significant
support, apparently largely based on Al-Sabban's analysis.
The Minister's office was unpleasantly surprised by
mid-January, when it was clear that a number of countries had
already associated themselves with the accord. Assistant
Petroleum Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told EconCouns
that he had spent two days walking Minister Al-Naimi through
each of the 90 plus submissions on the UNFCCC web site.
Prince Abdulaziz told the Minister that Saudi Arabia had
missed a real opportunity to submit "something clever," like
India or China, that was not legally binding but indicated
some goodwill towards the process without compromising key
economic interests. The Prince intimated to EconCouns that
Al-Sabban would not long retain his position, and said the
challenge for Saudi Arabia was to find a way to "climb down"
from its negotiating position.


12. (C) All indications are that Saudi officials are
intensely discussing what position the country should take.
We believe that the message is getting through, that there is
a broad consensus among countries that tangible action needs
to be taken now to address climate change. We also think
that Saudi leaders are beginning to understand that they are
in increasing danger of being left behind. They do have
significant, legitimate concerns about how this process will
affect their long-term livelihood. Our conversations,
however, with officials in Finance, Petroleum and the other
economic ministries suggests that they have not done
sufficient economic analysis of the various scenarios to
understand what the real impact of a climate change agreement
might be. Such a discussion might help provide the kind of
dispassionate basis to address legitimate Saudi concerns,
while also making a better case for the need to take action
to mitigate increasing emissions. We take as an encouraging
sign the fact that several Saudi officials have noted to us
that the Kyoto agreement only runs for two more years,
suggesting that some at least understand the need to chart a
more assured future course. We take the suggestion seriously
that we help the Saudis find a way to climb down from their
current position, ideally by offering the hand of
partnership, which may help persuade the rest of OPEC to
follow suit. For now, we believe that success will require a
sustained, broad engagement with Saudi leadership, as we
think the problem is more than just a rogue negotiator, but
some broadly shared fears about the future, and uncertainty
about the way forward.

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