An Analysis of the Role of OPEC as a G77 Member at the UNFCCC

Posted on December, 09 2004

The role of Saudi Arabia and OPEC in climate negotiations
The G77 and China bloc of developing countries has always played a crucial role in the climate negotiations. With the current lack of leadership from key developed countries, future successful negotiations will depend upon G77 and China taking an active role in climate change mitigation and adaptation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities enshrined in the Climate Convention. Within G77 and China, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has often been a driving force. OPEC is comprised of 11 developing countries whose economies are heavily reliant on oil revenues. Saudi Arabia is OPEC’s most active member, but this is a very heterogeneous group.
OPEC’s role in G77 has been simultaneously positive and negative: positive in so far as it brings to G77 a large team of experienced lawyers and negotiators; negative in so far as OPEC is largely concerned with the impact of climate policies on their oil export and revenues rather than in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or in developing policies and measures to facilitate adaptation. OPEC and in particular Saudi Arabia have close associations with the oil industry, in particular US companies. This has led them to oppose greenhouse gas reductions, disrupt the whole negotiation process (by asking for equal progress on all issues) or by holding certain issues that are important to other G77 countries (e.g., adaptation) hostage by linking progress on them to progress on the impacts of response measures. This has created some resentment and frustration on the part of G77 delegates.
OPEC and in particular Saudi Arabia are not particularly well viewed by G77 delegates because of the tactics they have used in the negotiations: controlling the process and agenda items; misrepresentation of G77 positions, etc. Their tactics have implications for all Parties, even OPEC member states. Saudi Arabia’s positions are not aligned with most OPEC countries interests to attract CDM projects, diversify their economies and reduce regulatory uncertainty. For many G77 groups such as AOSIS, LDCs, the African Group and other vulnerable developing countries the implications are much more significant as issues that are important to them (assistance for adaptation) are not advancing because they are linked to OPEC issues such as response measures.
This report highlighted cases on how OPEC and in particular Saudi Arabia roles in negotiation processes and what are the implications for other G77 members.