Saudi Arabia 'aims to hook Africa, Asia on oil' despite climate emergency

Saudi Arabia 'aims to hook Africa, Asia on oil' despite climate emergency
While most of the world is trying to wean itself off fossil fuels amid a climate emergency, Saudi Arabia is trying to ramp up demand for oil in Africa and Asia, undercover reporting has found.
3 min read
29 November, 2023
Saudi Arabia’s Oil Sustainability Program has sprawling plans to keep Africa and Asia hooked on its oil, an undercover investigation has revealed [Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty]

Saudi Arabia is trying to "artificially stimulate" oil demand in Africa and Asia while most of the rest of the world tries to tackle the climate emergency, undercover reporting has revealed.

In collaboration with Channel 4 News, undercover journalists from the Centre for Climate Reporting conducted a sting by posing as oil investors and speaking to officials from Saudi Arabia’s Oil Sustainability Program.

The journalists found that the programme - spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - has some 50 projects to get countries in Africa and Asia to become dependent on Saudi oil for their growth.

One of the projects involves setting up a fleet of ships off the coast of Africa that use heavy fuel oil to produce electricity.

Another plan is to flood Africa and Asian markets with diesel and petrol vehicles to counter the growth of the electric cars market which threatens to make petrol and diesel vehicles obsolete.

"EVs (electric vehicles) are being favoured in terms of subsidies and regulatory advantage especially in regions like Africa so what we are working on is to increase internal combustion engine adoptions," one Saudi official said.

Beyond Africa and Asia, the OSP officials want to launch supersonic commercial flights globally.

"You know, supersonic aviation consumes more energy and the market size is expected to grow significantly," another official said.

"So our opportunity here is to facilitate growth and development of supersonic technologies."

The revelations came on the eve of the COP28 climate conference, set to start in Dubai on Thursday.

The UN talks will be the first global assessment of progress since the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory.

To achieve the agreement’s ambitious target of keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, countries need to dramatically cut their use of fossil fuels.

Live Story

Experts have said that emerging economies must be given boosts for development of their renewable energy sector —not that of non-renewables.

Summit hosts the UAE have already come under fire after leaked documents revealed that their COP team wanted to discuss oil and gas deals with more than a dozen countries, in breach of UN guidelines.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been accused of committing "greenwashing" by using climate initiatives to improve their images internationally.

Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment from Channel 4 News on the revelations.

Mohammed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, which campaigns on climate action in Africa, told Channel 4 News of the investigation: "The Saudi government is like a drug dealer trying to get Africa hooked on its harmful product."

"The rest of the world is weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia is getting desperate for more customers and is turning its sights on Africa. It’s repulsive," Adow said.

"They are trying to use Africa’s poverty to enslave us to their fossil fuels."

The report coincides with the start of COP28 in Dubai this week, which comes as a crunch time for the environment.

The UAE has been criticised by environmentalists for hosting the summit, seeing as it is one of the world's biggest oil producers.