Negotiators and activists have labeled the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the bully of the United Nations in climate talks underway in Paris.
Representatives from the Gulf kingdom reportedly tried to thwart agreements during the summit to protect its oil supremacy in the world.
Among the negotiations Riyadh stands accused of sabotaging includes an agreement that aims to prevent global warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, since 2 degrees Celsius warming could be catastrophic for the planet, especially for vulnerable small island nations such as the Philippines.
“Saudi Arabia is braking on every important subject,” Denis Voisin of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation said in The Irish Times. “They’re playing for time, contesting long-term objectives about reducing emissions and decarbonization.”
But negotiations to save fossil fuels with a country whose primary budget revenue — almost 80% — is its massive oil reserves were likely to be complicated.
For years, the Saudi government opposed global action to reduce CO2 emissions that would affect the price or supply of oil, quite understandably, to protect its economic future. However, all of that changed in November when Saudi Arabia submitted its climate plan to the United Nations.
It was the first time ever Saudi Arabia committed to act to protect the planet, but even that arose from economic concerns after oil prices dramatically plunged in September and Saudi rulers started mulling a future without petroleum sales.
Still, keeping its poor performance at the Paris summit in mind, it appears Saudi Arabia is having a hard time coming to terms with global warming.
“They are seeing the writing on the wall,” Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network, told the Guardian. “The world is changing and it’s making them very nervous.”