Published: December 2019 (3 Min Read)

Perhaps this was no more than marketing, but if it wasn’t then this could be important for the efforts to combat climate change. I have written frequently on environmental topics and recently about the IPO of Saudi Aramco. I hope this was more than just words, but in any event they are thought provoking words.

Perhaps it bodes well for the use of the proceeds of the IPO, which happened earlier this month.

At the Oil and Money Conference in London in October, Amin Nasser, the CEO of Saudi Aramco, now the world’s biggest stock exchange listed company, said the following:

“Is the current approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions producing acceptable results? In my judgment, the answer is “no”—and here is why.

Simply speaking, thus far the world has focused on just two fixes: replacing hydrocarbons with renewables in the power sector, and on electrifying light duty road passenger transport via electric vehicles.

The serious flaw in this approach is its exceptionally narrow focus, as electricity accounts for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and light duty passenger vehicles only about eight percent.

In other words, they focus on only about one-third of total GHG emissions. And that is why I strongly believe we need to think differently.

In my view, we could consider four key strategies that have the potential to make the global effort much more effective.

First, we must go beyond electric power generation and light duty passenger transport, broadening our focus and paying attention to all the other economic sectors that jointly account for about two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Second, most clean R&D and technology funding by governments is currently focused on emerging energy sources, and this must be extended to the existing energy sources that will be with us for a long time to come.

Third, we should concentrate on moving toward a Circular Economy: an economic system focused on the elimination of waste and the sustainable use of resources, which could be characterized by the three Rs of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.

This compares to a traditional Linear Economy in which raw materials are mined or extracted, processed, and turned into products, but then are simply thrown away after one use rather than being remade, repaired or recycled.

Carbon and a wide variety of other materials and resources can be similarly transformed into circular systems. In other words, we need to “close the loop” to the maximum extent possible.

And fourth, let us take advantage of the greenhouse-gas reduction synergies across economic sectors offered by the circular economy, which will be lost if we work on various sectors in isolation, or focus only on a selected few.

Ladies and gentlemen, in my view, this more comprehensive approach is vital, because looking at the global energy mix for the foreseeable future, I see both new energy sources and existing sources contributing in parallel.

Without a doubt, oil and gas will be here for many decades to come. But there can also be no question that climate change is among the most significant challenges facing humanity.

With more than 2.2 million mangrove seedlings already planted through an Aramco-sponsored program, we have also launched a campaign to plant one million trees across the Kingdom to absorb carbon and enhance biodiversity, while also prioritizing water conservation as well as its treatment and reuse.

Outside our gates, in the area of end-use oil applications, we are working on a variety of low-carbon technologies.

These range from the higher-mileage and lower-carbon integrated engine-fuel systems of the future; carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS); beneficial uses of carbon; and clean hydrogen from oil as a key energy source to fuel a potential future hydrogen economy.

We are backing our words with concrete action. By the same token, I urge governments around the world to work closely with us to develop pragmatic policy solutions to deliver ample, reliable, safe, affordable and at the same time sustainable energy to the world.

I’m confident that with all stakeholders working together toward rational solutions, this goal—while challenging—is achievable.”

Article written by
Simon James