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Saudi Arabia says it will lean heavily on renewable energy and recapturing emissions to cut its carbon output sharply by 2030 while diversifying its oil-dependent economy.
The Saudis say those technologies and other steps, improving energy efficiency and reducing oilfield methane emissions, can help them cut their emissions by 130 million tons a year — slightly over a quarter of their economy's current emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases. The kingdom submitted the pledge to the United Nations' climate agency this week ahead of the upcoming Paris conference on curbing global warming.
Oil-exporting heavyweight Saudi Arabia was the largest fossil-fuel producer that hadn't submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations before this week.
The kingdom was the world's 10th-largest carbon emitter in 2013. Its current estimated output is about 470 million tons a year, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute. And the world's drive to head off climate change has put it in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation: Climate change will pose extensive challenges to the desert nation, while a global drive to reduce fossil fuels jeopardizes its oil-driven economy.
The Saudis say they'll use their oil revenues in the coming decade to reshape their economy, boosting "high value-added sectors" like finance, medicine, and renewable power — solar, wind and geothermal.
"Economic diversification is a key factor influencing the stability and sustainability of the growth of any country's economy, hence an economy's reliance on one income resource puts at risk its ability to maintain a level of growth in the long run," the Saudi INDC reads.
Saudi Arabia has also bet heavily on carbon capture and storage, an ambitious but still-nascent technology that supporters hope will be able to suck large volumes of carbon dioxide out of the air. The Saudis are pledging to build the world's largest carbon-capture plant, one that would allow them "to capture and purify about 1,500 tons of CO2 a day for use in other petrochemical plants."