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


Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs
Updated 25 September 2021

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

Ithra launches cultural and heritage programs

DHAHRAN: In celebration of the 91st Saudi National Day, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture has launched programs and activities to highlight diversity across the Kingdom.

Ithra will engage visitors through a cultural journey that embodies the unity of the Saudi people and their interdependence, from north to south and from east to west, through the Tafaseel exhibition.

The exhibition will express the diversity of fashion as part of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage across regions, as well as telling stories about the civilizations that inhabited them.

The national day activities aim to present a collection of interactive art, performances, traditional local crafts, cultural activities, workshops, and knowledge-based games for all age groups.

The activities continue until Saturday.

 


Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees
Updated 25 September 2021

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

Two Holy Mosques management trains 600 female employees

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques announced on Friday that it has so far trained around 600 female employees of its agencies or assisting agencies.

The Women’s Development Affairs Agency, led by Al-Anoud Al-Aboud, deputy president for women’s development affairs, employs 310 of those women.

Around 200 women work for the Agency for Women’s Scientific, Intellectual and Guidance Affairs, led by Noura Al-Thuwaibi.

The rest of the trained women work at the Agency for Women’s Administrative and Service Affairs, under the leadership of Kamelia Al-Daadi, the general presidency said in a statement.

 

 


Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day
Updated 25 September 2021

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

Saudi Arabia joins global community to celebrate World Sign Day

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia joined the international community by participating in World Sign Day, celebrated on Sept. 23.

The Ministry of Health implemented the “We Are with You” initiative to support deaf people, raising staff awareness about the deaf community. The MOH trained its staff to work with individuals who are deaf, teaching them sign language rules and basics, and helping them find ways to support deaf patients overcome challenges.

Sign language includes 35 manual symbols, each representing a letter of the alphabet, and five other symbols representing diacritics.

The Arabic language also includes numbers in its sign language system; Arabic sign language includes 53 manual symbols representing number, in single or multiple digits.

The MOH also launched the Awlawiya (Priority) Card, one of the Patient Experience Center’s initiatives to facilitate and accelerate procedures and services provided to some groups (including the deaf) inside health facilities.

 

 

Other electronic services include the Queries on Treatment Abroad Orders Service and the Mawid (Appointment) Service.

Moreover, it launched the Online Registration initiative for people with disabilities, including the deaf, through its E-Health system. The platform enables MOH officials to follow up on registration and classification electronically, as well as oversee the issuance of Transportation Discount Cards and Traffic Facilitation Cards.

The MOH linked the E-Health platform with other authorities, such as the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and the Ministry of Education, by automating all procedures to ensure speed and uniformity of service provision. Furthermore, the ministry launched the Eshara app, which provides direct services to the deaf and hearing-impaired, and which allows them to benefit from the services offered by the 937 Service Center.

The app allows visual communication between deaf people and the remote sign interpretation communication center; the interpreter translates the signs as a third party through the digital platform by converting the sign language to spoken Arabic (and vice versa), serving as a mediator between the employee and the deaf person.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched a series of training programs about sign language basics in its branches in the Kingdom, trained its members and employees in all sectors to understand sign language, and raised their awareness on how to communicate with deaf people to ensure access of all services with ease.

Decoder

'We Are with You' campaign

It is the Saudi Ministry of Health initiative to support deaf people, raising staff awareness about the deaf community, teaching them sign language rules and basics, and helping them find ways to support deaf patients overcome challenges.


ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization
Updated 25 September 2021

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara, in KSA’s Northern Borders region, yield signs of early civilization

ThePlace: Dawqara,  in KSA's Northern Borders region, shows signs of civilization during late late Roman period 

Dawqara is located 40 kilometers west of At-Turaif, near a mountain known as Aqrun or Dawqara. The site is registered in a comprehensive archeological survey program.

Rainwater accumulates on the northern side of the site and forms a large lake. The southern side is made up of volcanic rocks with many stone circles. Some stone tools have also been found.

One of the site’s most important artifacts is a square palace that was built from large volcanic stones. Its construction takes into consideration the straightness and solidity of pillars, linked by clay.

The palace’s door is located in the middle of the eastern wall and is 2.85 meters long. The palace comprises two parts. The first is a yard that constitutes the largest part of the building. The second has seven rooms on the western wall, each 4.5 meters wide.

The history of the palace is not clear, as an archeological excavation is required to extract, study and compare artifacts. 

But, according to preliminary studies, the palace was built in the pre-Islamic era and there is other evidence indicating that it was used until the Umayyad era. 


Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
Updated 25 September 2021

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life
  • 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque

MAKKAH: Ahmed Khan Qandal, who came from Mandi Bahauddin in Pakistan in late 1983 at the age of 23, never thought that he would spend the next 40 years of his life in Saudi Arabia, specifically as a sanitation worker at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Qandal initially promised his parents he would return home as soon as possible. But Makkah and the service of the Grand Mosque kept him preoccupied as his parents have since passed on.
The years flew by and today the 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque.
His memory is made up of different Saudi events, the most important of which were the Grand Mosque’s second and third Saudi expansions projects, and the Kaaba restoration project.
“Since I came to Saudi Arabia almost 40 years ago, I felt that I was among family and I never felt alienated,” Qandal told Arab News. 
“Whenever I meet someone new, they tell me how lucky I am
to be able to serve the Grand Mosque and pray there. I was always near the Holy Kaaba and this is a great honor that only a person with a special relationship with God can have. I was blessed to be able to do this work for four decades.”
He noted that he came to Saudi Arabia during the reign of the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz. 

“I worked in cleaning the outer courtyards, and approximately four years later, the second Saudi expansion of the Grand Mosque happened,” Qandal said. “I was a witness to how Muslims began to perform their rituals more comfortably.”
The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life.
Qandal believes God chose him to witness many significant events, including the third Saudi expansion during the reign of the late King Abdullah.
Aside from his time at the Grand Mosque, Qandal also worked with a cleaning company for 11 years until he moved to the Saudi Binladin Group. Over the years, he became known for his efficiency and hard work.
Working with warm, welcoming people from all over the world is what has stuck out the most for Qandal during his time at the Grand Mosque.
“We were all loving brothers,” he said. “All the workers in the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosques and the Prophet’s Mosque operate as a united team to show the Two Holy Mosques in the best way possible.”
Qandal has two sons and a daughter. One of his sons works in the electrical department at the Grand Mosque and the other is with his sister in Pakistan.
He stressed that his wish is to be buried in Makkah, the city he lives in, pointing out that whoever lives in the service of the Two Holy Mosques cannot in any way feel bored or lonely.
“Happiness, love, harmony, tolerance, mercy, and peace can be found in all corners of the Grand Mosque,” Qandal said. “Where Muslims coming from all over the world come to praise God.”