As diplomatic pressure mounts on Opec+ to help curb rising oil prices with more aggressive output hikes, Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its commitment to “affordable energy”.

Speaking following the conclusion of the G20 summit in Rome, Saudi oil minister Abdulaziz bin Salman stressed “the importance of providing affordable energy” while curbing the effects of climate change. He underscored that the energy sector continues to rely on the three “pillars” of security, economic development and environmental change, which must be “taken into account together, without prejudice to one for the other, whatever the circumstances”.

The oil minister’s comments, reported by the state-run Spa news agency, come after Saudi Arabia recently outlined an ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also announced a $10.4bn Mideast green investment fund at last week’s Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh.

Even so, US president Joe Biden has singled Saudi Arabia out as among the countries that are falling short in their efforts to combat climate change. “We’ve made significant progress and more has to be done,” Biden said in his closing remarks at the G20. “But it’s going to require us to continue to focus on what China is not doing, what Russia is not doing, and what Saudi Arabia is not doing.”

Saudi Arabia and its Opec+ allies face competing calls to increase their climate commitments on the one hand and to raise their crude production to help soften oil prices on the other. The US, Japan and India have been pushing for the group to unwind its output cuts faster than planned, although that looks unlikely, at least in the short term. As Opec+ ministers prepare to meet this week to confirm December output policy, Opec members Angola, Iraq and Kuwait have all endorsed the current plan to raise the collective production quota by another 400,000 b/d next month.

Biden hinted yesterday that domestic pressures from rising gasoline prices could push his administration to respond if Opec+ sticks to its guns, although he did not elaborate. “The idea that Russia and Saudi Arabia and other major producers are not going to pump more oil so people can have gasoline to get to and from work, for example, is not right. What we’re considering doing on that, I’m reluctant to say before I have to do it,” he said.


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