British Academics Stand with Saudi Arabia at International Climate Talks to Present Green Front

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Saudi Arabia and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are generally an obstructive force at the annual international climate change talks. But that rarely stops them trying to present a green front to the world.

Today, two British academics stood alongside representatives of state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco and chemical giant SABIC to help present a picture of low carbon progress.

The panel took place among the lavish surroundings of the GCC pavilion, filled with bright screens showing stock footage of the region’s low carbon projects and well-dressed hostesses handing out carefully curated information sheets.

Jon Price and Professor Anthony Ryan from the University of Sheffield outlined how technological advances developed in the UK could help to clean up the Gulf region’s manufacturing processes.

While the presentations highlighted some intriguing research, the image of two figures from a leading publicly-funded British university contributing to the GCC’s public relations push perhaps raises some questions.

When asked if he considered lending the university’s reputation to the conference’s traditional nemeses was problematic, Price reasoned:

By having manufacturing rather than oil, that’s a better thing. And helping them to grow food in Africa, is a good thing …That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

So what do you do? Do you sit aside and watch, or do you try and help them do good things?  That’s the balance, that’s our agenda.”

It is true that selling the UK’s knowledge about clean and efficient manufacturing processes could help to slightly reduce the carbon intensity of the GCC countries’ economies.

But there are perhaps better settings for that collaboration than a public event at the world’s most prominent climate change conference, with plenty of photographers capturing the moment for the world’s leading oil states.

Main image credit: DeSmog UK CCBY

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Mat was DeSmog's Special Projects and Investigations Editor, and Operations Director of DeSmog UK Ltd. He was DeSmog UK’s Editor from October 2017 to March 2021, having previously been an editor at Nature Climate Change and analyst at Carbon Brief.

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