Q: What are your impressions on the drought wave that hit some regions of the Kingdom? What are the major regions struck by this phenomenon?
A: According to climatic information, the current drought wave is the worst experienced in the Kingdom over the last 30 years. As the Kingdom’s environment is already accustomed to harsh climatic conditions, it is not in a position to bear any further climatic pressures. The drought wave would have a negative impact on the wildlife and various other sectors such as agriculture, irrigation, water resources, migration and demographic structure in the long run. The 2011-12 season is considered the driest season ever witnessed in the Kingdom. The worst drought-hit regions in the Kingdom include some interior regions as well as the eastern slopes of the Al-Sarawat Mountains and the northeastern regions. The Drought Monitoring and Early Warning Center had issued a warning about this situation since mid-2011.
Q: Do you think that the current drought situation would have any direct ramifications on the Kingdom’s water sector?
A: Of course, it would have impact on various sectors including water, especially those areas that depend on renewable underground water resources. Recently, there has been a growing demand for endorsing environmental criteria and integrating them into the development plans, especially in the construction and industrial fields.
Q: What about the role of PME in strengthening the environment criteria?
A: PME has prepared and developed a set of environment criteria, standards and guidelines that are aimed at protecting human health, environment and natural resources, in addition to implementing the National Strategy for Sustainable Development in the health, economic, industrial, agricultural and development sectors. These standards aim to fulfill PME’s commitments toward protection of the environment in a way keeping pace with current requirements and future needs. These include a set of standards such as the quality of air and water, noise pollution and waste management. There was coordination with the agencies concerned while preparing and developing these standards. We have taken into account the suggestions, recommendations and general observations of these agencies with regard to each and every standard. We will apply these standards on the new projects, which are now in the phases of feasibility studies and designing. As for the existing institutions, they will be given a grace period of five years.
Q: Do you have any plans to compel the private sector to reduce the percentage of industrial pollution?
A: PME is currently working on enforcing environmental standards in line with the provisions of the Kingdom’s environmental law by issuing certificates of evaluation and environmental rehabilitation to all factories and institutions. This initiative has resulted in bringing out concrete positive results in their performances during the last few years. There has also been improvement in the programs aimed at realizing sustainable development and boosting protection of the environment and its capabilities. Similarly, inspectors from the presidency are carrying out raids on factories and plants all over the Kingdom to verify whether they are adhering to the required standards and specifications. There has been direct cooperation and coordination with all the government and private agencies in this respect.
Q: What is your strategy to transform the Kingdom into an environment economy in the wake of the changes and environmental hazards resulting from industrial pollution?
A: Saudi Arabia has taken a bold initiative to tap renewable energy resources. It has established the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy for this purpose. It has made investments in the renewable energy research field locally. Work is under way to carry out more research and development, especially in the fields of solar energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The National Committee for the Clean Development Mechanism has also been formed to take advantage of this mechanism and promote investment in emissions trading in the Kingdom. Green investment strengthens growth and reduces hazards. It is possible to take advantage of green economic initiatives to achieve successful solutions in order to confront challenges. As for the green economy, it is going to determine our future life in addition to reducing pressures enabling us to play an active role in the global economy. Therefore, we have to strengthen the green economy concept, reduce pollution, and search for green technologies in order to take advantage of clean energy. We must also strive to strengthen positive behaviors with regard to protection of the environment to realize sustainable growth, as it is a national duty to build an environmental future for generations to come. We are also ensuring participation of the government agencies concerned through effective implementation of existing environment laws or enacting new laws to ensure protection of the environment. The most significant feature of the green economy is tapping various renewable energy resources, such as generation and consumption of solar, atomic and wind energies, in addition to management of municipal, medical, industrial, hazardous waste as well as e-waste, and their recycling and conversion into energy sources. In the framework of PME’s social responsibility to protect environment and encourage investment in the green economy and renewable energy, the presidency is encouraging the private sector to make investments in these fields. It also strives to solve the water crisis as well as protect the climate, energy resources and facilitate treatment of sewage waste.
Q: What about the role of PME in encouraging companies to make investments in the sustainable development field, especially in constructing smart buildings that helps reduce carbon emissions?
A: PME is striving to contain environmental degradation to achieve a clean environment. It is working to create strategic partnerships with all ministries and agencies concerned to realize this objective, which also includes spreading the culture of green buildings and investment in sustainable development. To realize this objective, PME recently signed 14 agreements with mayors of major cities to implement the National Environment and Sustainable Development Program with the theme of “My Environment is a Green World and a Green Nation.”
Q: What about your impressions with regard to meeting the Kingdom’s international commitments toward reducing carbon emission, especially taking into account the Kingdom’s reliance on oil exports?
A: As I mentioned earlier, the Kingdom is committed to fulfilling its international obligations toward the reduction of carbon emission. The National Committee for the Clean Development Mechanism was formed to realize this purpose. During the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) held in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, the committee won the prize for reducing gas emissions caused by global warming. This was a global recognition of the committee’s contributions in spreading awareness about the clean development mechanism in the Kingdom.
Q: There are several voluntary youth teams who actively participate in various environment protection programs like the cleaning of gardens and beaches. Do you have any strategy to support voluntary work in this field?
A: Like the Saudi Environment Society, PME also has a full-fledged strategy for voluntary work. We implement a program to make school and university students aware of the importance of environment protection. PME receives thousands of students at its offices across the Kingdom for this purpose. The PME headquarters in Jeddah alone entertained as many as 1,000 students from various levels of education. We made them aware of PME’s efforts to protect the environment as well as to prevent pollution. The presidency is implementing the program in cooperation with the ministries of Education and Higher Education.