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 30 April 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


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief
Updated 17 min 36 sec ago

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani chief of army staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince, deputy prime minister and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia, and reviewed bilateral relations, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Bajwa arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan will also embark on a three-day visit to the Kingdom today.

The media wing of the Pakistani military said “matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including recent developments in Afghan Peace Process, bilateral defense, security, collaboration for regional peace and connectivity were discussed” during Friday’s meeting.

 

 

“COAS said that Pakistan is resolute in its commitment to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of KSA and defense of the two Holy Mosques. The Crown Prince acknowledged Pakistan’s role toward regional peace and stability,” the military said.

“The Crown Prince also said that the relations between KSA & Pakistan are based on bonds of brotherhood & mutual trust and both nations will continue to play their part for peace, stability & betterment of Muslim Ummah.”

SPA reported that the two leaders “reviewed bilateral relations, especially in the military and defense fields, and discussed opportunities for their development, in addition to a number of issues of common concern” during their meeting.

“The meeting was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense, His Excellency the Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, National Security Adviser Dr. Musaed bin Muhammad Al-Aiban, His Excellency the Head of General Intelligence, Mr. Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan, and the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Pakistan Mr. Nawwaf bin Saeed Maliki.”

On the Pakistani side, Pakistani ambassador to the kingdom, Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar, the secretary to the army chief, Major General Muhammad Irfan, and the Defense Attaché of the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, Brig. Gen. Harun Ishaq Raja, were present.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
Updated 23 min 27 sec ago

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Meetings with Saudi leadership to cover areas including economics, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia today, Friday, on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In meetings with the Saudi leadership, Khan will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation including economics, trade, investment, environment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and the welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom, the foreign office said. 
“The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the Foreign Minister and other members of the Cabinet,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
During Khan’s visit, “the two sides will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest … A number of bilateral agreements/MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit.”
Khan will also meet the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary General of the World Muslim League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. 
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will also interact with the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah,” the foreign office said.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history and mutual support. The relationship is marked by close cooperation in all fields and mutual collaboration on regional and international issues, in particular those faced by the Muslim Ummah,” the foreign office said, adding:
“​Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing toward the progress and prosperity of both countries. Regular high-level bilateral visits continue to play a pivotal role in providing impetus to the fraternal ties and close cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”
Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Riyadh this week and on Wednesday discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili.
During the meeting with Al-Ruwaili, Gen Bajwa “emphasized the need to further enhance military-to-military cooperation between the two-armed forces and said that Pakistan-KSA cooperation will have positive impact on peace and security in the region.”


Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
  • There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia

Not only does she report on the growing empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia, journalist Deema Al-Khudair said that every day she gets to experience the advances and greater freedoms women in the Kingdom now enjoy as a result of the ongoing reforms under her nation’s Vision 2030 development plan.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Show” on the US Arab Radio Network on Wednesday, Al-Khudair, a reporter with Arab News, talked about her experiences and some of the stories she has worked on that reveal the changing role of women in Saudi society.

Recently, for example, she wrote a story about women who work as security guards in the women’s prayer section at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. It was exciting, she said, to see them proudly working on an equal footing with male security guards.

There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia, said Al-Khudair, including the military.

“Women have been enrolling in the military for about three years now,” she said. “But for them to be noticed (working) in the Two Holy Mosques is still relatively new.

“The female security guards in Makkah (started working there around the time of the) last Hajj season. Most of these women I interviewed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah told me they have been working there for six months.”

Previously, the women’s prayer section was monitored by women who received only the most basic training and support. Thanks to the reforms, all that has changed.

“They receive firearms training, self-defense (instruction), learned about fitness, and they took courses in Islamic studies, computer education and English to (help them) speak with foreigners visiting the mosque,” said Al-Khudair “Anything men went through, they received the same training.”

The female guards are very proud of their new roles and the advances they have made.

“All of the women feel very empowered,” she said. “One of the women I interviewed told me her whole family has a military background — all of her brothers are in the military — and this job made her feel included. She felt right at home.”

Al-Khudair said she began her journalism career in 2017, soon after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled his Vision 2030 project. The success of the initiative, an ambitious program of development and diversification in preparation for the post-oil age, depends in part on the expansion of the rights and freedoms of Saudi women.

In June 2018, for example, women in the Kingdom were granted the right to drive. Their child-custody rights were also reformed, and they were given the right to attend sporting events, among many other new freedoms.

Al-Khudair, who works on the local-news desk at Arab News, covering Saudi issues, said the past few years have been an exciting time for Saudi women.

“Honestly, I am so proud of them, myself, as a Saudi woman,” she said. “Throughout my job as a journalist I have witnessed all the changes the Kingdom went through.”

For example, she added, she has interviewed female athletes, successful businesswomen and other high-ranking Saudi women.”

Al-Khudair has written stories on many topics but said she has a special fondness for stories about children.

“Some of my favorite stories are children’s stories,” she said. For example, she interviewed a 7-year-old gymnast who said her ambition is to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.

The nation’s youngsters can even make her smile when writing about serious issues such as the coronavirus crisis.

“During the pandemic last year, we were all upset about the lockdown and I wanted to find a way to make the situation lighter. So, I interviewed children,” Al-Khudair said.

“I wanted to find out what they knew about the coronavirus. I laughed through the whole article — they thought it was some green monster that was going to turn people into zombies. I loved that article.”

* The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio, and in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 Radio. The show is streamed live on Facebook.com/ArabNews and the podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and many other podcasting providers. For more information on this and other interviews, visit ArabNews.com/RayRadioShow.


Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV
Updated 07 May 2021

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

RIYADH: Every worker in the Kingdom will be required to get inoculated against COVID-19 to be able to attend their workplaces, state TV Al Ehbariya said on Friday, quoting the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

In a series of tweets, Al Ekhbariya said the ministry was also calling on all sectors to ensure that their employees are vaccinated.

The mechanism of the forthcoming policy and its date of application will be announced soon, the TV station said.

 


 

 


Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president
Updated 21 min 10 sec ago

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president
  • Strong relationship gains its strength from common religious and cultural values

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed cordial relations.
This strong relationship has been nurtured by successive generations of leadership on both sides and gains its strength from common religious and cultural values and a shared desire for international peace and global development.
Saudi Arabia is held in great reverence by the people of Pakistan and there exists a deep affiliation with the Kingdom, as it is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
There also exists a complete synergy for shared development between the two countries. Pakistani engineers, construction experts and labor have played a leading role in building the infrastructure of modern Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, Pakistani doctors, bankers, entrepreneurs, academics and financial experts have played a premier role in developing the institutional infrastructure of Saudi Arabia.
The visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in early 2019 ushered in a new area of economic cooperation.
We wish to have greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia and also look for enhanced trade between the two countries. I am sure the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia will open further avenues of mutual cooperation and broaden understanding on issues of mutual interest.
Pakistan looks forward to the further strengthening of strategic cooperation, trade and investment.
It also looks for cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a major challenge for the world including Muslim countries.
Long live the Pakistan-Saudi friendship!

• Dr. Arif Alvi is the president of Pakistan.