Saudi environmental initiatives raise the bar for action ahead of climate summits

Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 3, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives are designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent. (Supplied/Green Riyadh Project)
Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 3, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives are designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent. (Supplied/Green Riyadh Project)
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Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi environmental initiatives raise the bar for action ahead of climate summits

Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 3, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives are designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent. (Supplied/Green Riyadh Project)
  • Saudi Green and Middle East Green schemes come as the UN gears up for three major climate conferences this year
  • UNDP regional team leader says the two initiatives are welcome approaches to problem of climate change mitigation

NEW YORK CITY: The recent announcement of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives came as welcome news to UN officials in a year that has been described by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as “make it or break it” for the planet.

Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 27, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives are designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent through the use of clean hydrocarbon technologies and the planting of 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in the Kingdom.

Planners say it will help revive millions of hectares of deteriorated land, preserve marine and coastal environments, increase the proportion of natural reserves and protected land, improve the regulation of oil production, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and boost the amount of energy generated by renewables.

The initiatives come as the UN gears up for three major climate summits this year — considered by experts as the last chance for nations to “walk the talk” on their commitments to reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to clean energy.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is set to convene in Glasgow, Scotland, in November to bring parties together  to accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Before this, the High-Level Dialogue on Energy is due to take place in September to push forward implementation of the Paris Agreement — the first such global gathering under UN auspices since 1981.

The UN says the meeting presents a historic opportunity to raise ambitions and accelerate action toward the energy-related targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).




Planners say the Green Initiative will help revive millions of hectares of deteriorated land, preserve marine and coastal environments, increase the proportion of natural reserves and protected land. (Supplied/Riyadh Green Project)

Finally, there is the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October.

Its aim will be to reverse the loss of ecosystems and conserve biodiversity in a way that contributes to “the nutrition, food security and livelihoods of people, especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative can mark a new era in Saudi Arabia’s role for advancing green solutions locally, and in partnering globally and regionally to achieve the SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework,” Kishan Khoday, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) coordinator for nature, climate and energy in the Arab world, told Arab News.

“The Saudi Green Initiative sets a strong vision of expanding solar solutions in the Kingdom. The ambitious vision of reaching 50 percent of power from renewables by 2030 is an important step toward rethinking development pathways beyond the conventional carbon economy. It’s an important signal in the evolution of oil-exporting economies toward green goals.”




“The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative are welcome approaches in particular for mitigating climate change,” Khody said. (Supplied/Riyadh Green Project)

The UNDP is today the UN’s largest implementer of grant assistance for environmental sustainability in the Arab world.

Its grant initiatives — dedicated for countries across the region to combat climate change, expand solar solutions, restore ecosystems and improve land and water security — amount to more than $500 million.

Khoday describes Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula as “global hotspots of climate risk,” where temperatures are rising faster than the global average and faster than other areas of the Middle East.

“The last decade has seen more frequent and severe climatic disasters, floods and storms in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, impacting infrastructure, ecosystems and human security,” he said.

“The locust outbreaks in the Gulf and elsewhere in the broader region are one example of ways that climate change is disrupting communities and ecosystems.”

GREENINITIATIVE

* 50bn - Total trees to be planted across the Middle East.

* 60%+ - Reduction of carbon emissions regionwide.

* 50% -  Energy capacity to come from renewable energy projects by 2030..

* 30%+ - Protected Saudi land, including coastal ecosystems.

Recent studies indicate that rising temperatures and evaporation rates could further diminish water resources.

More extreme flooding events, and increasing heat and humidity, could deal a blow to economic vitality and infrastructure.

Although broadly optimistic, Khoday says reaching the Saudi Green Initiative’s goal of procuring 50 percent of the Kingdom’s power from renewables to generate electricity (up from less than 1 percent at present), as well as the afforestation target in a water-scarce region, will be quite a challenge.

“To achieve this level of transformational change, one priority will be to innovate at the policy level, to de-risk renewable energy investments from the private sector, and to establish institutional capacities to advance sustainable energy pathways,” he said.

“The envisaged afforestation drive in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region will also face many challenges, not least growing levels of water insecurity owing to climate change.”




Kishan Khoday, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) coordinator for nature, climate and energy in the Arab world. (Supplied)

Khoday added: “Rather than rely on high-carbon water-desalination processes, an opportunity exists to use nature-based solutions and select plant species that are best adapted to the dryland ecosystems of the region both today and into the future.

“An enhanced set of policies is needed to scale up private investments and partnerships on renewable energy, develop the capacity of national centers of excellence to catalyze new technology solutions, and build the local market ecosystem for renewable energy supply chains.

“Efforts should also build on past successes. For example, through the National Energy Efficiency Program, Saudi Arabia and the UNDP partnered over the past decade to scale up actions on energy efficiency, bringing together national agencies and leading companies to reduce energy intensity in key sectors.”

With regard to the Middle East Green Initiative, Khoday says its attempt to address the serious regional issue of land degradation and desertification is very important.

“Many communities in the region are dependent on local ecosystems for livelihoods, so afforestation and ecosystem restoration will be critical to achieving goals of climate resilience and sustainable use of biodiversity,” he said.




With regard to the Middle East Green Initiative, Khoday says its attempt to address the serious regional issue of land degradation and desertification is very important. (Supplied/Riyadh Green Project)

Although the MENA region has seen several successes in climate-change adaptation, low-carbon solar technology and nature-based solutions, it is still the world’s most water-scarce and food import-dependent region with the fastest rising temperatures.

Desertification continues to be one of the major environmental problems in the region, exacerbated by one of the world’s fastest-growing populations.

Changes in lifestyles and increasing food demand have led to overgrazing and overcultivation of land, overexploitation of water resources and widespread deforestation, which have collectively degraded soil quality.

“Climate change is now exacerbating resource insecurity, leading to greater social vulnerability, displacement and fragility across the Arab region,” Khoday said.

He added that climate action, such as the two Saudi initiatives, is critical to preventing further escalation of crises in the Arab region and achieving goals of peace and security.




A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

As climate change is proceeding at a relentless pace, its effects extend beyond the environment into the social and political realms. While it is rarely the primary cause of conflict, climate change can aggravate existing vulnerabilities.

Climate action is also key for “building back better from conflicts and the pandemic, through making recovery investments resilient to future climate risks, exploring debt-for-climate swaps and other mechanisms,” Khoday said.

As he pointed out, eco-friendly solutions have been rapidly climbing the policy agenda among Arab governments in recent years.

“In the decade 2008-18 following the last global economic crisis, for example, the region saw a 10-fold increase in renewable energy capacities,” Khoday said.

“Solar solutions became an important part of building back better from the last crisis, and they should again be prioritized as part of a green recovery from the pandemic and economic crisis facing the region today.

“The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative are welcome approaches in particular for mitigating climate change.”

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Twitter: @EphremKossaify


Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
  • Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits

JEDDAH: Intrepid expats Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and their son Noah are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia and reveal to the world the country’s natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture.

They have been going on epic adventures that take them off the beaten track across the Kingdom for almost two years, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of friends they describe as “a united team.”

They film their trips and experiences, and Jenny edits the footage to create entertaining travelogues that are uploaded to the couple’s YouTube channel, called Epic Everyday Adventures. Launched in August 2020, it now has more than 25,000 subscribers and has become particularly popular with Saudi viewers.

“We are so humbled to know how viewers have been inspired by our travels through some of the most remote parts of Saudi Arabia,” Dale told Arab News. “With more than 45 videos of adventures, we have seen families and individuals alike find inspiration and education through sharing our story and experiences.”

Dale, a US national who works in the aerospace industry as an aircraft mechanic and advisor, said he came to the Kingdom in 2015 to experience life in another country and grow as a person. Jenny, a nurse from the Philippines, came to work in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The couple married in 2016 and Noah, was born in Tabuk in 2017. They said they fell in love not only with each other but also their adopted country.

Dale said he comes from a small town in the US and grew up camping and hiking. Jenny, on the other hand, who grew up in a city and wanted to experience the great outdoors.

“Being outdoors and exploring nature really creates some positive character traits and memories, and we wanted to share and create our own experiences with Noah and give him an opportunity to grow up with those amazing outdoor adventures,” said Dale.

Along the way, he added, they have made some great friends.

“One of the things that makes Saudi Arabia really pull on our hearts is how easy it is to meet new people and become real friends,” said Dale. “People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.

“One of the things we enjoy the most about our YouTube channel is how many awesome people we have been able to meet here in Saudi Arabia and establish personal relationships with.

“People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.”

The idea for exploring the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia came to the couple about two years ago, after s trip to AlUla.

“We had gone on a tour to AlUla in early 2020, around February,” said Dale. “We enjoyed the scenery and the places and the desert so much that after that trip we knew that we wanted to continue and explore more. So, definitely our AlUla experience was the turning point that motivated and inspired us to explore more.”

Shannon had some vacation time saved up and Jenny, who was by then a stay-at-home mom, learned how to become a videographer and editor to produce their YouTube videos. They also invested in proper equipment and a new vehicle suitable for off-road exploring and began their adventure of a lifetime.

“After our AlUla trip, we bought some gear and changed our vehicle to a proper off-road exploring vehicle, a Nissan Patrol Super Safari, and we slowly started exploring the Kingdom.

“We fell in love with the landscapes, the open-air museum of history you find here and the hospitality and friendliness of the people of all areas … and then we started exploring. We just became naturally curious to see and know more.”

Venturing into the desert wilderness is not easy and requires a financial investment. As their videos grew in popularity the Shannons last year joined Patreon, a platform that provides content creators with the tools to build a subscription service for fans of their work. For the Shannons, it means that people who enjoy their videos can contribute toward the costs of creating future content. They said that about 70 percent of their supporters on Patreon are Saudi.

“We are so thankful for their support and hope to grow our small Patreon family so we can continue these adventures,” said Dale.

“It is expensive to take trips as much as we do. We don’t have any sponsors or anything like that, so up until recently we financed our own adventures so that we could continue sharing our experiences here in Saudi Arabia. We are thankful for the support of our small Patreon family.”

There have been some challenging moments during the family’s adventures, including a worrying incident during a journey through Al-Nafud Al-Kabir (The Great Desert) this month, when they were accompanied by other members of their team.

“We had prepared for this trip six months in advance,” said Dale. “This was the final leg of our overlanding trip. The terrain is difficult and full of sand dunes. We entered the desert just north of Hail and drove about 230km into the desert through the sand dunes. There was no cell service.

“We camped for three nights and drove for three days. The trip through the desert consumed most of our fuel and for some, all of their fuel.

“The stress you face and the quick decisions that have to be made are really challenging but, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding. I am happy our overlanding team trusted me enough to let me lead the expedition through Al-Nafud.”

His family has done so much traveling in the Kingdom during the past two years that Shannon said it is hard to keep count of their destinations.

“I am not exactly sure on the number of places we visited, but we drive everywhere we go and we have driven from Haql in the northwest all the way down to Fayfa in the south, and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have been from Hail down to Riyadh and in between. We hope to get enough time in the future to make it to the north and the east of the Kingdom.”

Wherever they have traveled in Saudi Arabia, Shannon said he has never felt concerned for the safety of his family.

“I mention this on many occasions in our videos because in comparison to most places I have been around the world, it’s extremely safe here and this is part of the reason we feel so comfortable exploring here,” he said.

In fact the most difficult aspect of the experience in Saudi Arabia so far has been language barrier.

“It would be really great to be able to learn Arabic,” he added.

Both Shannon and his wife said they adapted easily to life in Saudi Arabia after leaving their home countries behind.

“We found it to be quite easy transitioning to living in a foreign country,” he said. “I think part of the reason is because we had set our minds that this is what we wanted to do, but also because we both really fell in love with the people and the culture here in Saudi Arabia — those two things made the transition extremely easy.”

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers to the Kingdom or people considering moving there, Shannon said: “My advice to others moving to Saudi Arabia is always to come with an open mind, embrace the culture and the people, and once you arrive and settle in, go out there and meet people and get to know the people of Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.”


Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
Updated 27 January 2022

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
  • The event, hosted by the Kingdom’s Museum Commission, explored ways in which the role of women could be enhanced in the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Museum Commission hosted an open discussion on Wednesday about the empowerment women in the museums sector.

The event, at the National Museum in Riyadh, was moderated by Maha bint Amer Al-Shukhil, a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, and the participants included Stefano Carboni, the CEO of the commission.

The topics addressed during the discussion included the roles and work of Saudi women, creating change in the Museums Commission, and the need to develop job opportunities for women in the museums field.

Participants also discussed how to foster cooperation between universities and the Museums Commission, the role and importance of museums in society, encouraging and highlighting efforts by women in the field, providing training and volunteering opportunities in the commission, and giving women more opportunities to work in the museums sector.

Carboni said that the objectives of the commission include providing advisory services, providing specialized courses and programs on museum management, offering opportunities to learn about specialized establishments in the sector, and working to develop communication skills between museums and visitors.

On the sidelines of the session, Hind Al-Turki, the head of the history department at Princess Nourah University, spoke about the necessity of offering field-training opportunities for female students specializing in the museums sector, to improve their knowledge and provide practical experience, and to present programs and workshops.

The commission said that the session was part of its efforts to communicate with the public and promote dialogue with workers in the sector to identify their needs and aspirations, and work to achieve them, based on the authority’s responsibility for developing and enhancing the museums sector in the Kingdom, and supporting and empowering its employees.
 


KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

KSrelief, UNICEF sign agreement to provide basic health services for mothers and children in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a cooperation agreement with UNICEF to provide basic health services for mothers and newborns, according to the humanitarian response plan for Yemen, with a value of $10 million.
KSrelief supervisor general Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore signed the agreement, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The agreement stipulates providing free basic health services for obstetrics and gynaecology emergency and care services, increasing the preparedness of the Yemeni health sector with medical equipment for newborns, localizing the sustainability of providing health services for mothers and children, and training 156 midwives for emergency cases to obstetric care and emergency care for newborns. The agreement is expected to benefit 43,533 individuals in several Yemeni governorates.
It is part of the humanitarian and aid projects implemented by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, in partnership with UNICEF to develop the Yemeni health sector and increase care services offered to children and mothers in all Yemeni governorates.

 


DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day
Updated 27 January 2022

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

DiplomaticQuarter: Indian Embassy in Riyadh celebrates 73rd Republic Day

RIYADH: The Embassy of India in Riyadh celebrated the 73rd Republic Day with great fervor to honor the historic date of Jan. 26, 1950, when India’s constitution came into effect and the country became a republic.

The celebration began in the morning with a flag-hoisting ceremony on the embassy premises, where Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia Dr. Ausaf Sayeed unfurled the national flag of India.

Sayeed extended greetings to all the attendees at the function and to all Indians residing in Saudi Arabia.

“On this joyous occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, I would like to extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all Indian nationals, persons of Indian origin, and friends of India in the Kingdom,” envoy tweeted.

He also talked of the growing ties of India and Saudi Arabia. He said that since independence, India’s relationship with the Kingdom has evolved into a multifaceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership encompassing several key areas, including defense and security cooperation, investment, healthcare, technology, energy and food security.

The envoy also read out the message of the President of India, Ramnath Kovind, on the occasion, which read: “My heartiest greetings to all of you, in India and abroad, on the 73rd Republic Day! It is an occasion to celebrate what is common to us all, our Indian-ness. It was on this day in 1950 that this sacred essence of us all assumed a formal shape. That day, India was established as the largest democratic republic and ‘we the people’ put into effect a constitution that is an inspired document of our collective vision. It is this spirit of unity and of being one nation which is celebrated every year as Republic Day.”

This was followed by cultural performances given by the students of Indian schools in Riyadh.

The event was attended by members of the Indian community based in the Kingdom.

The celebration holds greater significance for Indians across the world as India is celebrating its 75th year of independence. India gained its independence on Aug. 15, 1947. This celebration also coincides with 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and Saudi Arabia.


King Salman appoints new board to help SAIP become regional IP hub

King Salman appoints new board to help SAIP become regional IP hub
Updated 27 January 2022

King Salman appoints new board to help SAIP become regional IP hub

King Salman appoints new board to help SAIP become regional IP hub

RIYADH: King Salman has appointed several executives and government vice ministers to the board of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property to help it become a globally recognized IP hub for the Middle East and North Africa.

The appointments include Osama bin Abdulaziz Al-Zamil, deputy minister of industry and mineral resources; Haitham Abdulrahman Al-Ohali, vice minister of communications and information technology; Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, deputy minister of culture; Deemah bint Yahya Al-Yahya, secretary-general of the Digital Cooperation Organization; and Abdulrahman bin Abdullah Al-Samari, CEO of the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority.

Board Chairman Mohammed bin Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh and CEO Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem expressed their gratitude and appreciation to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their support.

They also wished success to the board members as the authority seeks to establish itself as a focal point for intellectual property in the MENA region by the time the Saudi Vision 2030 is wholly implemented.

Al-Sheikh is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Saudi Arabia’s representative to the World Bank in Washington. In 2013 he was appointed chairman of the Saudi Capital Market Authority and two years later named as a state minister.

HIGHLIGHT

The main tasks of SAIP include developing a national IP strategy, proposing and developing relevant regulations and laws, and registering, granting and protecting IP rights. It also raises awareness of intellectual property, provides information to the public, represents Saudi Arabia at international and regional IP organizations, grants licenses for IP activities, and comments on relevant international agreements.

Al-Suwailem, who has served as an adviser to the World Intellectual Property Organization and UNESCO, is experienced in IP rights at the local and international level. He is also a former vice president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

The main tasks of SAIP include developing a national IP strategy, proposing and developing relevant regulations and laws, and registering, granting and protecting IP rights. It also raises awareness of intellectual property, provides information to the public, represents Saudi Arabia at international and regional IP organizations, grants licenses for IP activities, and comments on relevant international agreements.

Recently, SAIP signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korean Intellectual Property Office, in the presence of the Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the Saudi-Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh.

The agreement enhances the strategic partnership between South Korea and Saudi Arabia, and will involve the secondment of Korean IP experts to Riyadh.

SAIP spokesman Yasser Hakami told Arab News that the MoU laid out the framework, projects, timeline and procedures for the cooperative activities.