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COP26: Johnson urges Saudi crown prince 'to make progress' on climate deal

Discussion comes as Saudi energy minister denies accusations of hampering UN climate negotiations
Climate change activists dressed as world leaders pose for a photograph during a demonstration in the Forth and Clyde Canal in Glasgow on 9 November 2021, during COP26 (AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Wednesday about the kingdom's climate pledges and the need to make "progress in negotiations" at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

A spokesman for the prime minister said: "He [Johnson] welcomed Saudi Arabia's commitment to reach net zero by 2060 and their efforts to transition away from fossil fuels."

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But he added that Johnson also said that "all countries needed to come to the table with increased ambition if we are to keep the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C alive".

A draft COP26 agreement released by the UK presidency on Wednesday called on countries to accelerate the phasing out of the use of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.

Details of the conversation between Johnson and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came amid reports that the kingdom, one of the largest oil producers and exporters in the world, appeared to be pushing back against the draft's recommendations.

'A cheat and a lie'

Saudi Arabia's top energy official said on Wednesday that efforts to tackle climate change should not have "any bias towards or against any particular source of energy".

Speaking in Glasgow, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud also said that efforts to combat climate change should not undermine global energy security and denied the kingdom was hampering international talks on the issue.

"It is imperative that we recognise the diversity of climate solutions, and the importance of emissions reduction as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, without any bias towards or against any particular source of energy," said Prince Abdulaziz.

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He added that negotiators should be "conscious of the special circumstances of the Less Developed Countries," some of which have been resisting calls for aggressive moves away from fossil fuels because of the economic costs.

"We should work together to help these countries mitigate the impact of climate change policies, without compromising their sustainable development," he said.
 
Several officials involved in the Glasgow talks have said that Saudi Arabia has been obstructing the progress of negotiations toward a strong deal, including by using procedural delay tactics.

“What you’ve been hearing is a false allegation, and a cheat and a lie,” Prince Abdulaziz said in response.

When asked by Reuters whether he agreed fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, Prince Abdulaziz said: “No, I think there will be a good way forward. We should use all resources as long as we congregate around mitigating [the effects of climate change]."