The Saudis want what?

THE SAUDIS WANT WHAT?…. To address the climate crisis, industrialized nations are obviously going to have to reduce carbon emissions — and that necessarily means using fewer fossil fuels.

At least one major oil exporter is not only starting to worry, it’s getting creative as part of a long-term financial plan.

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

The oil-rich kingdom has pushed this position for years in earlier climate-treaty negotiations. While it has not succeeded, its efforts have sometimes delayed or disrupted discussions. The kingdom is once again gearing up to take a hard line on the issue at international negotiations scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.

“Assisting us as oil-exporting countries in achieving economic diversification is very crucial for us through foreign direct investments, technology transfer, insurance and funding,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message.

I see. So, Saudi Arabia’s customers are expected to compensate oil producers when they want oil and should also compensate oil producers when they don’t want oil.

The NYT report added that petroleum exporters “view any attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by developed countries as a menace to their economies.” That happens to be true — if a country’s economy is predicated on oil sales, and demand for oil drops as other countries hope to avoid a climate catastrophe, then a country like Saudi Arabia is going to be in some trouble.

But instead of subsidies for nothing, maybe some of these exporting countries could try forward-thinking diversification?

“It is like the tobacco industry asking for compensation for lost revenues as a part of a settlement to address the health risks of smoking,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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