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  • US$750 million for new Arab climate change fund

Four Arab Gulf states have pledged a total of US$750 million to a new fund for tackling climate change.

The announcement was made on 18 November at the end of a two-day summit for leaders of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia will invest US$300 million in the fund, with Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates pledging US$150 million each.

The fund aims to support cleaner and more efficient petroleum technologies for the protection of the local, regional and global environment, and promote the development of technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

It will also promote the transfer of environmentally friendly technologies from advanced countries to the 12 OPEC member countries, as well as other developing nations.

Christoph Bals, Executive Director of Policy at the nongovernmental organisation Germanwatch, told SciDev.Net that the next step for OPEC's Arab countries is to diversify their strategy towards solar energy and energy efficiency, to benefit both Arab countries and the world climate.

He added, "It is not yet proven that CCS can be a strong pillar of an international climate strategy. There are many indications that the risk of storing carbon dioxide in the earth is lower than storing it in the atmosphere, and this should be tested during the coming years."

But others believe that exploring CCS technology is a waste of resources and legitimises reliance on fossil fuels.

"We believe that the pursuit of an unproven technology like CCS serves as a justification to continue depending on fossil fuels when all efforts should be focused on the proven solutions of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Investing in CCS proves that oil-rich Arab states are only interested in saving their oil-trade," says Wael Hmaidan, executive director of Lebanon-based environmental group IndyAct (The League of Independent Activists). 

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, believes that oil's role in the global energy mix cannot be ignored.

"Oil will continue to play a pivotal role for many decades to come. But it will have to be decarbonised with adequate technologies. OPEC can deliver a big part of the solution to climate change," he said in a press release.

"International action on climate change is a war against emissions — not a war against oil."