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 Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 8 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 507,374
  • A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,084 new infections on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 235 were recorded in Riyadh, 207 in Makkah, 154 in the Eastern Province, 94 in Asir, 69 in Madinah, 64 in Jazan, 58 in Hail, 40 in Najran, 23 in Tabuk, 17 in the Northern Borders region, 13 in Al-Baha, and three in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 507,374 after 1,285 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 27 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
Updated 01 August 2021

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
  • The pills were found hidden inside bags of cocoa beans during an inspection
  • The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling

JEDDAH: The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at Jeddah Islamic Port has foiled an attempt to smuggle 8.7 million Captagon pills.
The pills were found expertly hidden inside cocoa bean bags during an inspection. Three people were arrested by the General Directorate of Narcotics Control.
The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling by land, sea and air, and put an end to smugglers and their organized crimes.
The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority called on everyone to contact the Security Reports Center on 1910 to report any information related to smuggling and customs violations in strict confidentiality. It said that whistle-blowers will receive a financial reward if their information is correct.


Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 August 2021

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
  • One dose or virus recovered must to attend events and enter establishments

JEDDAH: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased in the past 10 days with the arrival of the Aug. 1 deadline that means unvaccinated residents are prohibited from entering establishments.

The acceleration comes as residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments. Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time-slots to accommodate the growing numbers.
So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been delivered at a rate of 77 doses per hundred. More than 8.1 million so far have received two doses and more than 77.5 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million have been vaccinated so far.
More than 1.46 million of the Kingdom’s elderly have been vaccinated to date.
Health officials continue to urge residents to receive the vaccine, adhere to social distancing measures and take precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a Saudi research team has successfully developed the first Saudi vaccine against COVID-19 and is ready to carry out clinical trials after receiving the required approvals.

INNUMBERS

525,730 Total cases

506,089 Recoveries

8,237 Deaths

Led by Dr. Iman Almansour, the research team from the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC) at the Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam published the findings, “Immunogenicity of Multiple Doses of pDNA Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2,” in the  Pharmaceuticals Journal on MDPI, an open-access publishing website for academics.
On Saturday, 1,146 new cases were reported by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, raising the total number to 525,730.
Three regions reported numbers above the 100 case mark, Riyadh leading with 243 cases, the Eastern Province with 209 and Makkah with 196 cases. Jouf continues to be the region with the lowest count with only eight cases on Saturday.
There are currently 11,404 active cases, 1,377 of which are in critical care, a decline of 18 in the past 24 hours.
A total of 1,086 new recoveries were reported, raising the total number of recoveries to 506,089. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Riyadh led the cities with the highest recovery count as 232 recoveries were reported, Taif with 99 and Jeddah with 64 recoveries.
A total of 11 new fatalities due to complications from COVID-19 have been reported, raising the death tally to 8,237.
A total of 113,300 PCR tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to more than 25 million tests so far.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s control teams in Makkah region carried out 20,137 inspection tours in July on private sector enterprises, to ensure abidance by the precautionary and preventive measures against the coronavirus disease and compliance with nationalization and labor regulations.
During the inspections, 3,755 violations of labor regulations and precautionary measures were found, and 813 warnings issued.
The ministry urged owners of enterprises to abide by all precautionary measures at workplaces to curb the spread of the virus, and to abide by the ministry’s regulations to avoid incurring penalties.
Inspection tours will continue across businesses in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry addedd, calling on everyone in the region to report breaches and violations through its call center (19911) or its Ma3an lil Rasd app.


British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2021

British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
  • British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more
  • Saudi Arabia through Folake’s eyes

JEDDAH: With the thousands of pictures coming out of Saudi Arabia in full color these days, it is refreshing to find calm in monochromatic photographs, especially when they have been snapped by expats who see beauty through a lens.
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in.
British-Nigerian photographer Folake Abbas, a lecturer teaching academic writing and research methods to engineering students at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University since 2013, has been taking photographs for as long as she can remember, and is gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more.
She started taking photographs in the Kingdom “almost immediately after I arrived in Jeddah. A friend took me to Al-Balad and I fell in love with the place immediately, and I’ve had a very strong connection to Al-Balad ever since,” she told Arab News.

I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer.

Folake Abbas

“A lot of people there know me because I take their photographs most of the time — it’s a place that I’m drawn to and that I feel very comfortable photographing. I’ve been there many times and have taken thousands and thousands of photographs to attest to that,” she added.
Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.
She told Arab News that she’s been inspired by some of the greatest black and white photographers of all time such as Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mary Ellen Mark and Dorothea Lange.

HIGHLIGHT

Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.

With time, she began wondering about what more the Kingdom has to offer and what hidden gems can be discovered. She’s frequented nearby Taif, Dammam and a few other cities throughout the years but it was only after the coronavirus disease pandemic hit did she realize she needed to see more.
“I hadn’t really moved around that much, it wasn’t until last year after the lockdown was lifted, knowing I couldn’t leave the country I thought, you know what? this is my time to start to explore Saudi Arabia, there’s something more for it and I’ve got to get around,” she said. “The idea of having to stay cooped up in my apartment for the whole summer was just something I wasn’t ready to entertain.”
She then started traveling around the Kingdom as a conscious decision, booking trips, connecting with people, and taking different tours.
“When you live in a concrete jungle, there isn’t much greenery around here, and it’s very rugged, you just have no idea of what a country looks like. It’s not until you hit the road and go deep into a valley or around a bendy road such as in Taif that you really get to appreciate the country that you live in,” said Abbas.
She said it was in Saudi Arabia that she identified as a photographer the most. “I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer. As I mentioned, I’ve always taken photographs but being in Saudi Arabia really solidified that for me. All I want to do is take photographs here, that’s all I want to do.”

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)

Folake participated in two group exhibitions, the first in November 2017 in Jeddah, and January 2021 in Riyadh and has had three solo exhibitions — October 2018, December 2019, both in Jeddah and the third in Riyadh in February 2020.
She visited AlUla in March and said the artwork she composed there is the closest to her heart, highlighting that it is a majestic and timeless place.
“What I love about the photos that I took there is the fact that the whole place itself sort of makes you feel like you are in a time that is long forgotten and so to be in this place that is absolutely dripping with so much history going back thousands and thousands of years, to be in that space in itself was nothing short of spectacular. The photos that I took and loved the most (were of) the tomb in Hegra; it’s just a majestic building.”
She said she experienced Saudi hospitality firsthand throughout her adventures in the Kingdom and highlighted their polite traits.
“I’m very impressed as to how open the people I meet when I travel are. They will give you directions, they will get people to come and help you, they will even take you to where you want to go,” she said. “That is really endearing to me.” She added: “I’ve traveled a lot around the world and I’ve had wonderful experiences, but nothing quite like this.”


Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 01 August 2021

Over 12k held for residency, labor, border violations across KSA

More than 12k held for residency, labor, border violations in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents

RIYADH: More than 12,000 violators of residency, work and border security systems have been arrested in the Kingdom in one week, according to an official report.

In the campaigns that took place in all regions of the Kingdom from July 22-28, there have been 12,642 offenders, including 4,180 for violating residency regulations, 991 for labor violations and 7,471 for border violations.

The report said that 266 people were arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom: 52 percent were Yemeni citizens, 44 percent were Ethiopians, and 4 percent were of other nationalities.

In addition, eight people were arrested for trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 12 were arrested for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The total number of violators who were subjected to procedures was 64,539, including 53,777 men and 10,762 women.

The authorities transferred 48,453 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 3,352 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 5,308 were deported.

The Ministry of Interior said that whoever facilitates the entry of violators to the Kingdom, transports them or provides shelter or any other form of support will face imprisonment for up to 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), confiscation of the means of transport or residence employed in the violation, and defamation.