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Saudi Arabia: UN experts challenge oil giant Aramco over risks to climate change goals

Letter seeking response to concerns says expansion of fossil fuel production could threaten human rights
Visitors stop at the Aramco exhibition section at the Misk Global Forum on innovation and technology held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in November 2019 (AFP)

Experts from the United Nations have written a letter of concern to the Saudi oil giant Aramco, challenging it on its recent activities. 

According to the letter, the experts are concerned over the company's expansion of fossil fuel production, which they say could threaten human rights if continued. 

The letter was sent to the company's chief executive, Amin Nasser, on 26 August, and says that Aramco's activities have negative consequences on the rights to a healthy environment. 

Aramco has previously said it aims to achieve zero net emissions from its operations by 2050. However, the experts say that the organisation's activities could be undermining the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a target of limiting the world to a temperature increase of 1.5C. 

The experts concluded that Aramco ranked as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, and that fossil fuels account for more than 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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The allegations in the letter also said the oil giant maintained "crude oil production, exploration for further oil and gas reserves, expansion into fossil fuel gas and misrepresentation of information".

The letter also stated that state-owned companies would have an "increased responsibility" to act in line with international standards. 

Those involved in writing the letter included a UN working group on human rights and transnational corporations and a number of special rapporteurs who focus on rights, climate change and sustainability.

The experts said that Aramco's activities have all been funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, as well as by international banks and investment firms.

The letter asked for a response from Aramco, requesting its observations on 10 outlined points, after which the letter and any responses to it would be made public. 

Aramco is the main source of revenue for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, a plan to diversify the country's economy away from oil and open up the kingdom to entertainment.

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