Saudi Arabia is doing little to decarbonise its economy—its emissions are projected to significantly rise by 2030 while its national oil company, Aramco, is planning to increase oil output in the coming years. Despite repeatedly announcing ambitious renewable energy targets, Saudi Arabia has made little tangible progress in the last decade.
In fact, the government is actively seeking to undermine global efforts to phase out fossil fuels; instead, it is promoting false solutions like carbon, capture and storage (CCS) technologies as a smokescreen to justify expanding its oil industry. Saudi Arabia is also investing in so-called “development projects” strategically designed to artificially increase demand for fossil fuels in developing countries. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) rates Saudi Arabia’s overall climate action as “Critically Insufficient”.
Saudi Arabia’s 2030 and 2060 climate commitments are problematic in several ways: they lack transparency, rely largely on the deployment of CCS, and fail to address concerns about its role as the world’s leading crude oil exporter.
Its 2030 emissions reduction target is explicitly based on a scenario with substantial fossil fuel exports and includes a “get out clause” if international climate change policies negatively affect these exports. Our analysis suggests that this target could lead to national emissions ranging anywhere between ~520–800 MtCO2e—going from a slight decrease in emissions to a significant increase compared to current levels (700 MtCO2e in 2021) due to uncertainties around the expected contribution of the land use and forestry sector.
The Saudi government also announced a 2060 net zero target in 2021 but has yet to release any additional information on this objective or enshrine it into law, giving it little credibility. Despite its diversification plan, Saudi Arabia remains heavily dependent on oil revenues and has done little to diversify its economy and adapt to a world heading to net zero emissions.
In fact, a recent investigation reveals that Saudi Arabia is developing investment plans strategically designed to protect its oil revenues by keeping developing countries “hooked” on fossil fuels. The government aims to artificially increase demand for oil in Africa and Asia, including by promoting the development of commercial supersonic air travel, deploying fossil fuel-powered vehicles, and lobbying against government subsidies for electric vehicles.
Saudi Arabia also has a track record of obstructing international climate negotiations by repeatedly opposing references to the 1.5°C warming limit and language related to the phase-out of fossil fuels. Notably, at COP27, Saudi Arabia was one of the few countries that strongly opposed language around a fossil fuel phase-down. This raises concerns about the country’s willingness to engage in meaningful climate action on the global stage.
Saudi Arabia has a history of flip-flopping on renewable energy targets. The government made its first bold announcement in 2013, aiming to install 54 GW by 2032. Several announcements have since followed but these have yet to translate into concrete action. The most recent target aims for 50% of electricity to be generated with renewable energy by 2030. However, in 2022, renewables generated less than 1% of electricity, and Saudi Arabia still had less than 1 GW of installed renewable capacity.
To improve its climate action, Saudi Arabia should take the following steps:
- Develop an economic diversification plan away from fossil fuels which is both compatible with the Paris agreement and takes into account the risks associated with exporting fossil fuels in a net zero world. This plan should include a clear commitment to ending new investments in oil and gas production and a phase out of fossil fuels in line with a 1.5°C scenario.
- Significantly increase the pace of renewable energy deployment.
- Update its NDC by strengthening its 2030 target, providing an absolute emissions reduction target (instead of a reduction below an uncommunicated baseline scenario) and clarifying LULUCF assumptions.
- Clarify the assumptions behind its 2060 net zero target, which currently lacks transparency and credibility, and does not provide a clear emissions reduction pathway.
The CAT rates Saudi Arabia’s climate targets and policies as “Critically insufficient”. This rating indicates that Saudi Arabia’s climate policies and commitments reflect minimal to no action and are not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit. Saudi Arabia’s 2030 climate commitment is unclear, as the government has not published the baseline corresponding to its Paris Agreement target.
We rate Saudi Arabia’s 2030 emissions reduction target as “Critically insufficient” when compared with its fair-share contribution to climate action and is consistent with more than 4°C of warming.
The 2030 target is rated as ‘Highly insufficient’ when compared to modelled domestic pathways, downscaled from global least-cost scenarios. Saudi Arabia’s policies could lead to its emissions peaking in the second half of this decade, but still only in line with 2°C to 3°C warming. Saudi Arabia still needs to strengthen its target for emissions reductions and implement additional policies to get a rating aligned to the Paris Agreement.
We rate Saudi Arabia’s policies and actions against modelled domestic pathways as “Critically Insufficient”. This rating indicates that Saudi Arabia’s policies and action in 2030 reflect minimal to no action and are not at all consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. If all countries were to follow Saudi Arabia’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
Saudi Arabia remains highly dependent on fossil fuel revenues and keeps pushing for false solutions in the hope of extending the life of its extractive industry. The government has put forward several mitigation measures, but implementation has been slow, particularly in the renewable energy sector. Despite its vast solar energy resource, Saudi Arabia had only installed about 0.4 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, generating less than 1% of total electricity.
The full policies and action analysis can be found here.
We rate Saudi Arabia’s NDC target as “Critically insufficient” when compared to domestic pathways. The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that Saudi Arabia’s NDC target reflects minimal to no action and is not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to modelled domestic pathways. If all countries were to follow Saudi Arabia’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
Saudi Arabia's NDC rating against modelled domestic pathways has deteriorated compared to our previous assessment due to an update in our modelled domestic pathways to the pathways assessed in the AR6, and a significant change in historical emissions. The latest historical data show higher emissions in the energy and industry sectors, which were previously underreported.
As a result, its NDC rating is no longer “Highly insufficient” and falls into the “Critically insufficient” range. Our newer pathways better capture national circumstances - including the recent plateauing in Saudi Arabia's emissions - and, for higher temperature levels, show less room for emissions growth than the previous set.
We rate Saudi Arabia’s NDC target against fair share as “Critically insufficient”. The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that Saudi Arabia’s NDC target in 2030 reflects minimal to no action and is not at all consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to its fair share. Saudi Arabia’s target is not in line with any interpretation of a fair approach to meeting the 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow Saudi Arabia’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
We evaluate the target as: Poor.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Saudi Arabia’s net zero target for 2060 at the first Saudi Green Initiative Forum in October 2021. However, the target has yet to be enshrined in law or in a policy document.
Since its initial announcement in 2021, the Saudi government has not provided any further detailed information on scope, target architecture, or transparency. Saudi Arabia has not yet provided a clear emissions reduction pathway to net zero. The emission coverage remains unclear. The CAT currently assumes that only CO2 emissions are covered given the lack of information.