Saudi Arabia: The 2021 Climate Year in Review

Saudi Arabia: The 2021 Climate Year in Review


  • Commercial Production of Blue Hydrogen
  • Launch of Saudi Green Initiative
  • Commitment to Net Zero Emissions by 2060


Currently, blue hydrogen requires heavy use of carbon capture and sequestration technology and can only be transported in ammonia form. The Saudi giant state oil company Aramco has been investing in blue hydrogen as an energy source with a lower carbon footprint and a high potential to meet global energy needs. In September 2020 Saudi Aramco, in partnership with the Japanese Institute of Energy Economics, sent the first commercial shipment of forty tons of high-grade blue hydrogen in the form of blue ammonia to operate a zero-carbon power generation plant. Additionally, the kingdom is engaging with its existing crude oil buyers to explore selling blue hydrogen.

The second major event is the Saudi Green Initiative as announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year is to plant 10 billion trees in the coming decades across the Kingdom. In October 2021 and ahead of the COP26 climate conference that was held in Scotland, a smaller scale version of the initiative was announced to plant 450 million trees, restore a large area of degraded lands by 2030; goals aim to reduce 200 million tons of carbon emissions, increase sustainability of landlocked cities like Riyadh, and reverse desertification. However, the announcement did not provide any details on how to carry out the plan or how the impact on carbon emissions will be measured.

The third big event is the Saudi government’s commitment on October 23rd to join global efforts to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060. However, the Kingdom plans to reach this milestone through a so-called “Carbon Circular Economy” approach, which means producing more fossil fuels rather than phasing them out. In fact, the Saudi government argues that any premature transition away from traditional energy resources will create price volatility and energy shortages in low-income nations and populations that depend on conventional energy supply.

Saudi Arabia’s pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2060, which is ten years later than the agreed upon commitment set by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, although it is an improvement over the previous absence of any commitment to net-zero emissions by Saudi Arabia. According to the latest IPCC report, net-zero global emissions need to be achieved much earlier than 2060, so Saudi Arabia’s latest commitment is still insufficient. Saudi Arabia’s carbon circular economy is out of step from what the most progressive and ambitious countries are doing to combat climate change. The country needs to make a solid commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, which will only be achieved, at least in part by, moving away from fossil fuels as the predominant revenue and energy source for the country, in the quickest fashion possible.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Saudi Arabia Country Managers Amgad Ellaboudy and Abeer Abdulkareem


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