Kingdom committed to reducingcarbon emissions: PME chief

Updated 22 May 2012

Kingdom committed to reducingcarbon emissions: PME chief

Excerpts:
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.


A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 27 min 44 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”

 

 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.