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Saudi should 'review' emissions targets: French minister

France's Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher, centre, said in Riyadh that earlier emission reduction targets are more credible
— Riyadh (AFP)

Saudi Arabia should review its goals for lowering carbon emissions and consider adopting targets to be met as soon as 2030, France's energy transition minister told AFP in the kingdom.

Agnes Pannier-Runacher left the world's biggest oil exporter early Sunday morning after meeting with her Saudi counterpart and French and Saudi business people.

Emissions reduction targets can be more credible "when we give ourselves objectives in a short period -- 2030-2035 -- and therefore do not postpone the subject to 2050," Pannier-Runacher said in an interview late Saturday.

Saudi Arabia pledged in 2021 to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060.

The French minister's trip came as the United Arab Emirates prepares to host the COP28 climate summit beginning in November, an event at which neighbouring Saudi Arabia can play "a leadership role", Pannier-Runacher said.

The climate talks represent a "time to take stock of our respective trajectories," she added. France will do so, "and obviously encourages all countries and in particular Saudi Arabia to also review its trajectory," she added.

Largely state-owned energy firm Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's main revenue generator, is targeting "operational net-zero" carbon emissions by 2050, which applies to emissions produced directly by the firm's industrial sites.

Environmental activists have been deeply sceptical of Riyadh's goals, which Greenpeace described as "nothing but fossil fuel propaganda".

Officials in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter which is trying to diversify its economy, continue to call for more investment in fossil fuel production. Aramco plans to ramp up its production capacity from 12 million to 13 million barrels of crude a day by 2027.

Climate activists and some Western legislators have already criticised the COP28 talks, especially after Sultan al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, was tapped to lead them.

But Jaber has the support of COP parties including US climate envoy John Kerry.

Jaber has called for rapid development of renewable energy and acknowledged that "the phase-down of fossil fuels is inevitable."

Saudi Arabia is also developing renewable energy sources, including a green hydrogen project at the planned $500 billion futuristic megacity known as Neom.

Pannier-Runacher on Saturday attended a roundtable on hydrogen and later told AFP that France was eager to work with the kingdom in developing its nuclear energy sector.

"Saudi Arabia has launched a competition for a high-powered nuclear reactor project and we want to be part of this competition and show the qualities of the French nuclear industry to meet Saudi expectations," she said.