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RIYADH: The world should embrace a balanced approach where climate ambitions are met without compromising on energy security and energy affordability, said a top KAPSARC official. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the 44th conference of the International Association for Energy Economics, Fahad Alajlan, president of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, said that Saudi Arabia is leading this balanced approach through programs like Saudi Green Initiative, clean energy investments, and decarbonization efforts. 

He also called for involving all stakeholders to find a solution to effectively fight climate change. According to Alajlan, climate change conferences like the UN’s COP should involve oil and gas companies in their discussions aimed at smoothening energy transition as more than 50 percent of emissions are coming from the energy sector. 

The KAPSARC president said that Saudi Arabia is leapfrogging in carbon capture technology which will play a crucial role in the ongoing energy transition efforts. 

“In the past, oil and gas companies have been excluded from discussions. If we look at emissions today, more than 50 percent come from the energy sector. So, it is very important that we involve oil and gas companies in this discussion, to become part of the solution rather than demonizing and excluding them,” said Alajlan. 

He added: “The COP 28 presidency in the UAE will be an inclusive COP. It will be a COP that brings everybody to be part of the solution. So, it is very important to get this inclusive approach.” 

During the talk, Alajlan noted that carbon capture is not the only solution to reduce emissions, but it is a part of the solution which will ensure a sustainable future.

According to Alajlan, carbon capture initiatives should be sufficiently complemented with renewables, hydrogen, and green efforts to get better sustainable results. 

“It (carbon capture) is not the one solution, it is part of the solution. If we look today, there are about 50 commercial carbon capture projects globally. Saudi Arabia has one of the biggest with a capacity of 500,000 tons, but the ambition goes much bigger,” he said. 

Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s carbon capture and storage hub in Saudi Arabia is eyeing to have a storage capacity of up to 9 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2027, and 45 million tons by 2035, he further noted. 

According to Alajlan, the ongoing IAEE conference in Saudi Arabia is very crucial, as it came at a time when the entire world is witnessing a new energy landscape post the invasion of Ukraine, which highlighted the vulnerabilities surrounding energy security. 

“There are many pathways to achieve climate ambition and energy transition. These pathways should ensure energy security, energy affordability, and climate change. The discussion here (IAEE conference) has focussed on Saudi Arabia as an example of many pathways that exist. Saudi Arabia has pursued renewable energy, clean energy investment, and hydrogen,” he added.  

Alajlan also said that the issue of energy affordability is posing problems to energy transition even in the MENA region, and it should be seriously addressed. 

He further noted that the $100 billion committed by developed economies for developing economies to catalyze energy transition is not sufficient, as it requires $3 trillion to $8 trillion annually. 

Talking about the importance of green financing in the energy sector, Alajlan said that the world should think about how green finance can be pushed into technologies like carbon capture, hydrogen, and ultimately energy transition.

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