Saudi Arabia threatens to upend talks if not paid for lost oil revenue — sources

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013

WARSAW, Poland — Saudi Arabia today threatened to block negotiations toward a 2015 climate change treaty unless the world compensates it for oil production losses stemming from reduced petroleum use, according to two sources who were in the closed-door session.

Saudi Arabia, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, earned more than $336 billion in petroleum exports last year. Negotiators didn’t name a specific dollar amount, but Saudi Arabia has previously estimated it will lose $19 billion annually as nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and move to cleaner energy sources.

“They said that a 2015 agreement needs to have ‘response measures,’ and if not there won’t be a deal,” said a negotiator who attended the meeting.

Despite the U.N. jargon, the source said, “I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that response measures means they want to see some kind of redress for what is the negative impact from other countries’ climate measures.”

Countries meeting here this week are trying to tee up a new climate treaty in 2015 that many expect to enforce emissions cuts from all nations. Laying the groundwork has been slow going, and diplomats said the Saudi threat could derail the effort.

Brazil Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said his country doesn’t support the Saudi demand.

“This is not our position, and you will not see my country going to that direction,” he said.

While the demand for oil reparations is not new, Saudi Arabia did soften its tone when annual U.N. talks took place in the Middle East last year. That conference, held in Doha, Qatar, saw a new negotiator take the reins and a series of more climate-friendly statements.

Saudi officials could not be reached for comment today.

Said Wael Hmaidan, head of Climate Action Network International, “During Doha, Gulf countries took one step forward. It would be disappointing to have Saudi Arabia take two steps back.”