The UK is considering using taxpayer money to fund a new Aramco project in Malaysia bringing a conflict of ethics into question.

Should human rights violations, murdering journalists and bombing Yemen disqualify you from taxpayer funds? The UK is not so sure. The UK government is contemplating funding a project by Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian state-owned oil giant considered the most profitable in the world.

If the deal goes through, the UK will sign a $2 billion loan, which would be used to help fund a major petrochemical refinery in Malaysia called the PRefChem project. The refinery is a joint venture between the Malaysian state oil company Petronas and Aramco.

The revelation comes thanks to a report by Global Witness and while Saudi Arabia is still being internationally condemned for the recent alleged Saudi-backed murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen have also killed thousands and created one of the most devastating humanitarian crises of our time as millions of Yemen civilians are suffering from hunger and a cholera outbreak resulting from the war.

According to Global Witness, UK Export Finance (UKEF), a controversial provider of credit lines for overseas buyers of UK goods, recently announced that it might use public funds to help with the Malaysian petrochemical project.

Climate Change Campaigner at Global Witness, Adam McGibbon said, “Given the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which led to UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox pulling out of a high profile event in Riyadh, this deal looks ethically dubious and inconsistent on the part of the UK government.

“As if that wasn’t enough reason for UK Export Finance to steer clear, the ink is just drying on the International Energy Agency’s 2018 report, which tells us that we cannot build more fossil fuel infrastructure if we’re to keep climate change to a safe limit. That UK taxpayers’ money could be spent supporting oil giants with a huge refinery project shows that the UK government has no credibility on climate change and has forgotten its Paris Agreement commitments,” McGibbon added.

Historically, UKEF has been known for lending vast amounts of money to fossil fuels, In fact, 99.4 percent of funds from UKEF in the last measurable period went to fossil fuels, according to research from the Overseas Development Institute.

According to geographer Richard Heede, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco is the number one producer of carbon emissions in the world and has been at the top of that list since 1995. Heede spent years tracking global carbon emissions and compiled a database of the top producers of carbon emissions since 1890, which was published in Science magazine. In 2013 alone, Aramco produced 1707 million metric tons of CO2 accounting for 3.39 percent of total global emissions.

The potential UK – Aramco deal underscores the West’s awkward relationship with Saudi Arabia. The West condemns Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations both internally and internationally in places like Yemen, but at the same time continues to sell Saudi Arabia weapons and support their war in Yemen. Environmentally, Western-supplied funding for the number one producer of carbon emissions in the world seems to contradict international global warming agendas.

As McGibbon stated, “With one hand the UK claims to be a climate leader and spends billions on fighting climate change abroad. With the other hand it provides billions to fuel climate change by funding fossil fuel projects worldwide. This hypocrisy has to stop, and Theresa May needs to phase out UKEF’s fossil fuel support to zero if we are to have a hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change.”


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