G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world

G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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Media watches Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz's virtual speech live at the media centre during an opening session of the 15th annual G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 21, 2020. (REUTERS)
G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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King Salman in Riyadh presides over the G20 Summit on Saturday, virtually attended by world leaders because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (SPA)
G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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In this handout image provided by Saudi Royal Palace, King Salman gives his opening remarks at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP)
G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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King Salman said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia was pleased with the meeting of the leaders of the G20 countries, stressing that the G20 had demonstrated its ability to join efforts against COVID-19. (G20)
G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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King Salman said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia was pleased with the meeting of the leaders of the G20 countries, stressing that the G20 had demonstrated its ability to join efforts against COVID-19. (G20)
G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
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King Salman gives his opening remarks at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 22 November 2020

G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world

G20 leaders seek to help poorest nations in the post-COVID world
  • King Salman says member countries must work toward equitable access to coronavirus vaccines
  • Adds that economies and borders must be reopened to facilitate the movement of trade and people

RIYADH/LONDON: G20 leaders must work toward fair and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines, King Salman said during his opening remarks at the G20 summit in Riyadh on Saturday.

“Although we are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics tools for COVID-19, we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” he said, opening the unprecedented meeting held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“It is unfortunate that we are unable to host you in person in Riyadh, due to the exceptional circumstances that we are all facing this year,” King Salman told G20 leaders.

“Our peoples and economies are still suffering from this shock. However, we will do our best to overcome this crisis through international cooperation,” the king said. 

King Salman gives his opening remarks at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Nov. 21, 2020. (Royal Palace photo via AP)

Together, King Salman said, people can protect their lives and livelihoods while shaping a better world.

The G20 leaders are holding a two-day virtual meeting via video-conference due to the pandemic, under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which holds the rotating presidency of the G20 until the end of November.

The pandemic, which will throw the global economy into a deep recession this year before an economic rebound expected in 2021, is at the top of the agenda.

The king noted that the 20 largest global economies had so far contributed $21 billion to confronting COVID-19 and “took extraordinary measures to support our economies by injecting over $11 trillion to support individuals and businesses.”

Environmental protection

G20 countries should provide support to developing countries to maintain development progress, the king said.

The role of women and youth in society and the labor market must be strengthened, he added.

King Salman added that G20 countries must lead the international community in conserving and protecting the environment, combating land degradation and preserving coral reefs. 

He added that G20 countries have adopted the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO which aims to make the multilateral trading system more capable of facing any challenges.

Economies and borders must be reopened to facilitate the movement of trade and people, the king said. 

The Kingdom launched the summit with an aerial display of passenger and aerobatic planes over Riyadh and on Friday, a virtual “family photo” of G20 heads of state was displayed on the walls of the historic Salwa Palace in Diriyah at a cultural dinner for journalists, guests and envoys. 

Individual photos of the G20 leaders were joined together with King Salman at the center.

“I am confident that the Riyadh Summit will deliver significant and decisive results and will lead to adopting economic and social policies that will restore hope and reassurance to the people of the world,” King Salman said at the end of his speech. 

Earlier on Saturday, King Salman said that Saudi Arabia was pleased with the meeting of the leaders of the G20 countries, stressing that the G20 had demonstrated its ability to join efforts against COVID-19.

“The group demonstrated its strength and ability to cooperate in order to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the world,” he tweeted.

It’s everyone’s responsibility “to move towards to a better, healthier and prosperous future for all,” King Salman added.

 

Dealing with COVID-19

G20 leaders are concerned that the pandemic might further deepen global divisions between the rich and the poor.

“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the summit.

To do that, the EU urged G20 leaders to quickly put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

“At the G20 Summit I called for $4.5 billion to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement & delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We need to show global solidarity.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin offered to provide Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries and said Moscow was also preparing a second and third vaccine.

China, where the pandemic originated a year ago, also offered to cooperate on vaccines. 

“China is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines,” Xi told the G20 Summit.

“We will ... offer help and support to other developing countries, and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use and can afford,” he said.

 


Saudi Arabia, US committed to addressing climate challenge with urgency: Joint statement

Saudi Arabia, US committed to addressing climate challenge with urgency: Joint statement
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia, US committed to addressing climate challenge with urgency: Joint statement

Saudi Arabia, US committed to addressing climate challenge with urgency: Joint statement
  • The joint statement came after the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited the Kingdom
  • The two countries will work to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the US are committed to addressing the increasing climate challenge with “seriousness and urgency,” a joint statement said on Wednesday.
The two countries will work to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement and actively promote a successful G20 in Italy and UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
They also affirmed the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking action during the 2020s to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
The joint statement came after the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry visited the Kingdom where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia and the US said they intended to work together to actively support and engage bilaterally on the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, including on clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and land use.
The countries will also collaborate on accelerating the deployment of renewable energy and low-emissions power systems in the region, encourage private sector partnerships, and support ocean-based and nature-based solutions for addressing both mitigation and adaptation.
The two sides also aim to cooperate on the potential of clean hydrogen to address the hardest to abate sectors and to partner to accelerate clean hydrogen’s development and deployment.


GCC foreign ministers: Iran missile program should be addressed in nuclear talks

GCC foreign ministers: Iran missile program should be addressed in nuclear talks
Updated 16 June 2021

GCC foreign ministers: Iran missile program should be addressed in nuclear talks

GCC foreign ministers: Iran missile program should be addressed in nuclear talks

RIYADH: Talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal should take into consideration Tehran’s ballistic missile program, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers said on Wednesday.
GCC countries should also be included in the dialogue, a meeting of the ministerial council in Riyadh heard.
The foreign ministers condemned Tehran for smuggling weapons to its proxy militia in Yemen - the Houthis. And they denounced attacks carried out by the militia in Yemen’s Marib province.
They also condemned the Houthis for obstructing the arrival of an international team to examine the decaying FSO Safer tanker that is moored off Yemen’s coast.
The tanker was abandoned more than five years ago and its structure, equipment and operating systems are deteriorating, leaving the tanker at risk of leaking, exploding or catching fire.
With 48 million gallons of oil on board, the UN warns a potential leak would be four times bigger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, considered the world’s worst oil spill in terms of environmental damage.
The foreign ministers also said they reject foreign interference in the affairs of Arab countries and any actions that affect the water rights of Egypt and Sudan.
They also condemned the increase of drug smuggling from Lebanon after the Kingdom banned the import and transit of fruit and vegetables from the crisis-stricken country after authorities foiled two large drug smuggling attempts in April.


Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 15 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 451,187
  • A total of 7,621 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 15 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,239 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 371 were recorded in Makkah, 253 in Riyadh, 229 in the Eastern Province, 98 in Asir, 83 in Jazan, 71 in Madinah, 32 in Najran, 17 in Al-Baha, 17 in Hail, 10 in the Northern Borders region, nine in Tabuk, and five in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 451,187 after 932 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 7,621 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 16.1 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same
Updated 16 June 2021

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same

US climate envoy John Kerry welcomes Saudi Green Initiative, says world needs more of the same
  • Kerry says what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has put forward as a concept is “both challenging and exciting at the same time”
  • American diplomat is seeking to increase climate ambition in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in November

RIYADH: US climate envoy John Kerry has praised the Saudi Green Initiative as “a very important step,” adding that it is “the kind of initiative we that we need on a global basis — planting trees, beginning to move to different kinds of innovative solutions that reduce the level of emissions, to deal with waste more effectively.”

Aimed at reversing environmental degradation and climate change, the combination of the Saudi Arabia Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April. The step has put the Kingdom at the heart of regional efforts to meet international targets on environmental projects.

“I think it’s an extremely important initiative, together with the Middle East Green Initiative, when you put them together,” Kerry said during a special interview with Arab News in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The former top US diplomat was in Abu Dhabi en route to Riyadh, his second visit to the UAE capital where attended the first Regional Dialogue Conference on Climate Change in April. That conference focused on preparations for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held later this year to accelerate efforts to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Referring to the participants - “11 different mostly producer countries including Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and others – he said: “They are all committed to moving in this direction. Now what we need to do is harmonize the global understanding of the goals and the different standards that are being applied to ‘green’ and the definition of ‘green’ and so forth.

Arab News Assistant Editor in Chief, Noor Nugali, (L) and US climate envoy John Kerry.
 

“But we could do these things and that’s my mission as special envoy to help us to stay focused as we move to Glasgow, where the world will come together as we did in Paris and renew ambition. We have to raise our ambition to get this job done, and I think the Green initiative is a good step towards helping to do that.”

For months now, Kerry has been crisscrossing the globe, meeting heads of government, kings, crown princes and ministers and senior officials, seeking to increase ambition in the lead-up to the COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Kerry’s latest foray into the Middle East brought him to Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with Saudi ministers, officials and CEOs on the gamut of climate-related issues.

He said his meeting with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz included “the whole group of CEOs who are leading different initiatives in different sectors of the economy to begin to ‘green’ the way we are doing things.”

“We had a very good series of meetings that covered everything possible. Also, Prince Abdul Aziz pulled together his experts and we spent a lot of time really going through every aspect of what Saudi Arabia is doing currently and what it can and will do,” he added.

Arab News Assistant Editor in Chief, Noor Nugali, (L) and US climate envoy John Kerry.

Kerry said he was “very impressed by the depth of the (Saudi) analyses and the commitment going forward, which clearly is beginning to grapple in a serious way with this challenge,” acknowledged that “it’s a big challenge and getting more urgent,” and added that President Biden is “equally committed to moving forward.”

“We believe that Saudi Arabia could be one of the principal agents of change because Saudi Arabia has such an extraordinary opportunity with solar and green hydrogen and the possibility is very real,” Kerry said.

Among the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative are cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the region by 60 percent; using renewables to produce 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy by 2030; and eliminating more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions using clean hydrocarbon technology.

“I think what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman put forward as a concept is in fact both challenging and exciting at the same time, and has the ability to speed up the transition for all of us by providing alternative fuel,” Kerry said, who met with the Crown Prince later on Wednesday to discuss international efforts to combat climate change and Saudi Arabia’s initiatives in this regard.

“Many people in the world are looking for the hydrogen solution now, and I am, I think that out of our meetings has come a commitment to work together to try to accelerate that, so I am very hopeful.”

Arab News Assistant Editor in Chief, Noor Nugali, (L) and US climate envoy John Kerry.

The administration of Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement but President Biden signed an executive order to have the US rejoin the Paris climate agreement within hours of being sworn in in January. The policy U-turns have prompted some questioning about the future consistency of America’s own climate policy.

But Kerry dismissed such concerns emphatically. “No, absolutely not and I will tell you why not. The reason is that the private sector is moving in an extraordinary way all across the planet and trillions of dollars are going to be invested in this transition,” he said.

“We have six major banks in the US that have committed about $4.16 trillion over the next 10 years for climate investment. That’s without even getting to the development banks or the asset managers. And thanks to the work of a number of people around the world who are helping to put together an alliance, there are many other financial institutions in other countries that are completely committed to the same goal — net zero by 2050 or earlier.”

Explaining why the policy clock cannot be put back, Kerry said: “I believe there’s so much technology, innovation and so much new product development and new fuel development, the marketplace is going to be a powerful force that no politician in any one country is going to be able to change that. They wouldn’t want to because it is going to be millions of jobs for our citizens even as it transitions the world to sustainable and renewable energy sources.” 

Kerry said the same logic applies “with respect to carbon obviously because a place like Saudi Arabia is a producer which is deeply concerned.”

“As long as the emissions are going down at the rate we need to, as long as we are able to even capture those emissions and put them to use in one way or another, then there will be a combination of different approaches and different fuels,” he told Arab News.

“So I think the future is really very, very promising. This is the biggest economic transformation facing all of us since the Industrial Revolution and I think it’s filled with opportunity. Whoever discovers battery storage of two weeks or one week, or whoever is the person who, or country that comes up, or a company with a way to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, store it or put it to use, they are going to make a lot of money because these are things the whole world needs, and will want.”

The UN has warned that nations must redouble their climate efforts if they are to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2C - ideally 1.5C - by the end of the century. Climate science has called for a transformation that must start early and result in deep emission reductions even before 2030. 

However, developing countries want richer countries to make good on their Paris negotiations pledges to mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private financing to aid the energy-transition effort. Kerry said progress has been made on this contentious issue.

“About $81 billion of the total $100 billion is now accountable. It is not just direct giving of the money but it is also mobilizing money so you can push some of the development banks or you can bring other people to the table and mobilize a certain amount of money,” he said.

“We have to get there. It is very, very important for the developed world to produce the $100 billion that has been promised and we are already working very hard on it. I have talked personally to President Biden about it and he is well aware of it. It was discussed at the G7 (summit held over the weekend in Cornwall in the UK). In the next four months, it is critical for us to bring it together and get the job done.”

Kerry is confident that funds can be found for the necessary energy transitions by the governments that responded with significant monetary and fiscal policy changes to limit the COVID-19 pandemic’s shock to the economy.

“Some of the money will have to come from countries, because we need money that is what we call ‘concessionary money,’ money that is there to though public budget to help pay for things that the private sector will not be interested in doing because it does not have a return on investment,” he said.

“But the vast majority of this money is going to come from the private sector all around the world because they have the money to invest and because the different sectors of our economy produce products such as in transportation. If you have a train or a high-speed rail or a clean public transport, those are areas where you have revenue. And if you have revenue, then you have the ability to be able to attract investment. 

“The same is true for energy use. People will pay for the energy they use for their air conditioning, for their heating, for their lights and so that's a revenue stream. That means you can actually invest in that and make some money so the private sector will see economic opportunity in many of the choices that we need to make and that’s why those banks I talked about put $4.16 trillion on the table. 

“There will be more than that, much more than that, around the world. And that’s what’s going to drive this - the ability of people to seek solutions, through technologies and individual use, products that people use and are willing to pay for.”


Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi crown prince meets US climate envoy John Kerry

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman met on Wednesday US Climate envoy John Kerry.

During the meeting, they reviewed international efforts to confront climate change, including Saudi initiatives to reduce emissions, environmental preservation.

The meeting comes after Kerry met with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met on Tuesday.

Kerry was on his first visit to the Kingdom after assuming the position of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Since President Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, he has made several moves to emphasize the importance of mitigating global warming and reinstating America's role as a leader in that battle. This included appointing former Secretary of State Kerry to be the country's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, making him the administration's global face on the issue.