Climate change mitigation: What Saudi Arabia and Japan can learn from one another

Climate change mitigation: What Saudi Arabia and Japan can learn from one another
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Two shinkansens, or high speed bullet trains, leaving and arriving in Tokyo as Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), looms in the distance. (Photo by Charly Triballeau / AFP)
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Two shinkansens, or high speed bullet trains, N700A series, leaving and arriving in Tokyo as Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain at 3,776 meters (12,388 feet), looms in the distance. (Photo by Charly Triballeau / AFP)
People look at the cherry blossoms at Ueno park in the Japanese capital Tokyo on March 19, 2020. (Photo by Behrouz Mehri / AFP)
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People look at the cherry blossoms at Ueno park in the Japanese capital Tokyo on March 19, 2020. (Photo by Behrouz Mehri / AFP)
Solar panels are pictured in Yufu, Oita prefecture on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Charly Triballeau / AFP)
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Solar panels are pictured in Yufu, Oita prefecture on October 14, 2019. (Photo by Charly Triballeau / AFP)
This handout picture taken April 8, 2020 shows a tulip field managed by Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. (Photo by Handout / Sakura City / AFP)
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This handout picture taken April 8, 2020 shows a tulip field managed by Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. (Photo by Handout / Sakura City / AFP)
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Updated 15 April 2021

Climate change mitigation: What Saudi Arabia and Japan can learn from one another

Climate change mitigation: What Saudi Arabia and Japan can learn from one another
  • Both countries have launched bold initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and prioritize renewables
  • Saudi Aramco recently shipped “blue” ammonia to Japan in a demonstration of clean energy cooperation

DUBAI / BOGOTA: Late last year, Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister of Japan, unveiled a major policy shift, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero and realize a carbon-neutral society by 2050.

As Saudi Arabia launches its own ambitious environmental initiatives, experts say the two countries have much to learn from one another as both the Kingdom and Japan remain heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Japan is the world’s fifth-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, making timely steps towards renewable energy use and cuts in fossil fuel imports imperative for the country to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.




Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth, says Japan's PM Yoshihide Suga. (AFP)

“Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth,” Suga said in his first policy address to parliament. “We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth.”

Building on Suga’s speech, Japan presented its “Green Growth Strategy in line with Carbon Neutrality in 2050” in December, setting out an industrial policy that marries economic growth with environmental protection.

As part of his plan, Japan will energize research and development in solar cells and battery technology, promote carbon recycling, and expand digitalization of the economy. Infrastructure projects, including vast offshore wind farms, are already in the pipeline.

“Achieving the aim of carbon-neutrality by 2050 will require Japan to substantially accelerate the deployment of low-carbon technologies, address regulatory and institutional barriers, and further enhance competition in its energy markets,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its March 2021 country report.

Suga’s carbon-cutting plans could be as trailblazing for East Asia as Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives, unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 27, could prove for West Asia.

The Saudi Green Initiative calls for regional cooperation to tackle environmental challenges and includes plans to generate 50 percent of the Kingdom’s electricity using renewables by 2030 and to eliminate more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions. The Middle East Green Initiative likewise sets out to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent across the region.

There are also plans to plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom and restore 40 million hectares of degraded land, while across the wider region there are plans for 50 billion trees and the restoration of 200 million hectares of degraded land.

These initiatives are designed to work in tandem with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s commitment to diversifying its economy away from oil, empowering its citizenry and opening up to global visitors and investors.

Koichiro Tanaka, a professor at Tokyo’s Keio University and a former managing director at the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan, said Saudi Arabia’s regional approach in mitigating climate change is unique.

“This is the reason why numerous countries from South Asia to West Asia have voiced their support and expressed willingness to join the initiative,” he told Arab News, adding: “If there is room for a country like Japan to cooperate and collaborate, it should definitely benefit both parties in its effort to address climate change.”

Japan’s transitional experience could prove instructive for other economies, both advanced and developing, eager to cut their own emissions.

Roland Kaeppner, executive director of hydrogen and green fuels at NEOM — Saudi Arabia’s forthcoming smart-city project — believes Japan’s biggest challenge now is adapting its highly developed economy and embedded legacy infrastructure to meet its low-carbon commitments.

“All developed and developing economies need to be able to meet their nation’s energy needs while combating climate change,” he told Arab News.

“Since nuclear has dropped out of the energy mix in Japan, it has exacerbated the problem and increased reliance on energy imports. However, they have developed clear road maps to change the mix and meet environmental targets.”




An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture on March 12, 2011. (JIJI Press photo via AFP)

Japan suspended its nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster pending a safety review. As a result, Japan’s already heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels ballooned further.

In 2019, fossil fuels accounted for 88 percent of Japan’s total primary energy supply — the sixth-highest share among IEA countries.

Although there remains widespread public mistrust of nuclear power, the Japanese government sees its reactors as a realistic means of meeting its carbon-neutral goals. It now intends to raise the share of its power sourced from nuclear to between 20 and 22 percent by 2030.

Kaeppner said one way Japan hopes to clean up its legacy infrastructure is through decarbonization of its coal-fired plants using clean ammonia as a fuel additive. It also has a detailed hydrogen strategy, which the NEOM experts considers one of the world’s most advanced.

Indeed, hydrogen is expected to play a central role in Japan’s clean energy transition. By 2030, Japan aims to have 800,000 fuel cell vehicles, more than 5 million residential fuel cells and to establish an international hydrogen supply chain, according to the IEA.

FASTFACTS

  • In Oct. 2020, Japan said it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero and become a decarbonized society by 2050.
  • In Dec. 2020, Japan unveiled a Green Growth Strategy in line with Carbon Neutrality in 2050.
  • The Green Growth Strategy identifies 14 sectors with high-growth potential toward the 2050 targets.

It is also experimenting with large-scale power generation based on hydrogen — all of which will provide valuable lessons for the international energy community.

“Japan’s willingness to embrace innovation while pursuing its targets is probably at the heart of creating a strong renewable energy mix, which can be seen by their ambitious strategic hydrogen road map,” Kaeppner said.

Saudi Arabia is well placed to serve these new demands. Saudi Aramco has already shipped 40 metric tons of “blue” ammonia to Japan in a widely commended demonstration of clean energy cooperation.

Blue ammonia, created from the byproducts of current fossil fuel production and usage, is 18 percent hydrogen, making it a viable alternative energy source. In fact, hydrogen power is a key facet of the NEOM project.

“NEOM goes one step further in creating a market which is completely carbon-free and is at the core of NEOM’s approach to build on a 100 percent sustainable supply chain,” Kaeppner said.

Japan’s transition will be a long slog, no matter the level of interest shown by politicians, the private sector, and civil society, said Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder and managing director of UAE-based green social enterprise Goumbook.




This handout picture taken April 8, 2020 shows a tulip field managed by Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture. (Photo by Handout / Sakura City / AFP) 

“Japanese corporations lead the world in green technologies, such as hybrid automobiles, while both citizens and the state have endeavored to clean up polluted skies and waterways, reduce greenhouse emissions and adopt the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle,” she told Arab News.

And yet, Japan has a long history of deforestation, industrial pollution, rampant consumerism, wasteful state infrastructure projects, controversial stances on whaling and, of course, a heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels.

“Like many nations, Japan struggles to balance economic growth and environmental protection,” Abella said. “Unlike many nations, however, it has the affluence and motivation to develop green policies, technologies and practices.”

She added that “an over-supply of energy, a lack of strategic direction from policymakers, the economic effects of COVID-19, and continued dependence on fossil fuels” could pose challenges for other countries.

Still, Japan, with its ambitious government targets, political stability and solid regulatory and legal framework, is a model undoubtedly worthy of emulation.

__________

Twitter: @CalineMalek

Twitter: @RobertPEdwards


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
Updated 09 May 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait
  • The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects
  • The coalition confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law

DUBAI: The Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
The coalition said it is taking operational measures to deal with sources of threat to protect civilians and civilian objects.

The coalition also confirmed that the Houthis’ attempt to target civilians was a serious violation of international law.

The Iran-backed militia has been intensifying attacks against Saudi Arabia, targeting key oil facilities and civilians amid international and Arab condemnation in support of the Kingdom’s security.

 


KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
The findings revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities. (Social media)
Updated 09 May 2021

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan

KSA poll finds 72 percent fall in Saudi socializing in pandemic-hit Ramadan
  • Saudis reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found

JEDDAH: A new poll has revealed that Saudis reduced their participation in social events by more than 70 percent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.
Saudis also reduced visits to relatives by 46 percent and to friends by 54 percent, the center found. During Ramadan, 42 percent of people maintained regular levels physical exercise, while 39 percent of respondents said they watched less television.
The findings also revealed a 39 percent increase in mobile phone use and that 52 percent of people spent their time on other entertainment activities.
Speaking to Arab News, Arwa Meer, an admin supervisor at a Jeddah hospital, said that she had reduced her social activities due to the nature of her work environment.
“Last Ramadan, I was working for the whole period of the COVID-19 curfews and lockdowns. Even if I had time, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was in constant contact with COVID-19 cases. That was something that made me refrain from seeing anyone,” Meer told Arab News.
However, this year has also created a similar situation, she said. “There’s potential exposure to COVID-19 cases as I continue my work at the hospital. Some of my colleagues got infected, so that made me refrain from social gatherings and visits even more. Even with my family at home, I try to avoid physical contact with them as much as possible, just as a precaution not to possibly infect anyone if I was a carrier.”
When asked if her visits to friends had also changed, the supervisor said the pandemic forced her to become “less social.”
She added: “The pandemic has made us all a little less social actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen my friends. I see them maybe once a month. This Ramadan, I didn’t see my friends at all, not for iftar or sahoor.”

HIGHLIGHT

The results were part of a recent telephone study by the Saudi Center for Opinion Polling that surveyed a random sample of 1,190 people aged 18 years and older during Ramadan.

Sharing the same sentiment, 28-year-old Talal Al-Shammari from Jeddah said that it is “only natural” that family visits will decrease during the current circumstances.
“Nobody wants to be put in such a situation to be infected in the first place. Everyone is afraid for their family members over themselves,” he told Arab News. “No one would ever want to harm their relatives or friends, especially the elderly, those with a weaker immune system or children.”
The survey found that online shopping was also unaffected during Ramadan when compared with previous levels.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of people surveyed reported that higher levels of advertising during Ramadan did not affect their buying decisions. “Another surprising result is that the majority (79 percent) were reluctant to eat in restaurants during Ramadan,” the survey said.
Other results revealed that total hours of sleep during Ramadan increased for just 25 percent of respondents, while the majority of those surveyed said that they did not “significantly change their lifestyles” during Ramadan.
The survey also found that 58 percent of people did not notice a change in their moods or emotions during the period.
Work discipline remained the same for 81 percent of people, as did working hours for 79 percent of respondents.
The Saudi Center for Opinion Polling is a not-for-profit organization authorized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, and the Ministry of Commerce.


Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi authorities intensify preparations at Two Holy Mosques ahead of 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said they are working in joint cooperation around the clock. (SPA)
  • The authority intensified COVID-19 preventive measures inside the Two Holy Mosques

JEDDAH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia intensified preparations to receive pilgrims and worshipers for the 27th and 29th nights of the Muslim month of Ramadan at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Hani bin Hosni Haider, spokesman for the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said the authority intensified coronavirus preventive measures, particularly purification and sterilization operations, and technical and transportation operations, including providing vehicles inside the Two Holy Mosques.
Haidar said staff are working around the clock and have also intensified regulating entry and exit mechanisms and services provided to pilgrims and worshipers under the supervision of head of the presidency, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais.
He said that the presidency coordinated with relevant authorities to organize the movement of pilgrims and worshippers inside the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and its squares, to ensure their safety and to fulfill the precautionary health requirements.
Haidar said the “presidency was keen to intensify its efforts to achieve the aspirations of the Kingdom’s leadership and highlight the great efforts the state is making toward the Two Holy Mosques.”


Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 

Saudi authorities bust hashish, khat smuggling operations 
  • A total of 41 people have been arrested in connection with the drug smuggling attempts

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested several people in connection with the seizure of a large quantity of illegal drugs in the Jazan and Najran regions.
Lt. Col. Mesfer bin Ghanam Al-Quraini, spokesman for the Border Guards, said that the seizures came as part of the continuous monitoring of criminal drug activities targeting the Kingdom.
Al-Quraini added that 802 kilograms of hashish was seized in Jazan and Najran, and 25 individuals suspected to be involved in the smuggling operation were arrested, including 14 Yemeni nationals, four Ethiopians, three Saudis, two Somalis and two Pakistanis.
He said that among several other security operations conducted by the Border Guards, 25.4 tons of khat were seized in the Jazan region and 16 people were arrested, all of whom are Yemeni nationals.
The spokesman said: “The Border Guards will continue to carry out their tasks with great determination to confront attempts to smuggle narcotic substances across all borders, and arrest those involved.”


Mandatory jabs for office-goers ‘will make workplaces safer’ in Saudi Arabia

Mandatory jabs for office-goers ‘will make workplaces safer’ in Saudi Arabia
Updated 09 May 2021

Mandatory jabs for office-goers ‘will make workplaces safer’ in Saudi Arabia

Mandatory jabs for office-goers ‘will make workplaces safer’ in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi ministry’s decision would facilitate herd immunity and reduce the number of cases, says expert

RIYADH: The days of working from home may be numbered following a recent government decision making coronavirus vaccines mandatory for employees, with people telling Arab News that the move would curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

While some companies are still allowing staff to work from home, others are formulating plans in response to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announcing on Friday that jabs would be mandatory for in-person attendance at workplaces in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
The ministry will clarify the procedures and date for implementing the decision, which is part of the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19.
People said the vaccine policy would make the workplace safer.
“I know that a lot of people do not want to take it or do not believe in the safety of the vaccine,” Dr. Mona Al-Munajjed, a writer and adviser on social issues, told Arab News. “However, the rate of people infected is higher and the vaccine is the only way to contain the spread of coronavirus and put fatalities under check. The decision by the ministry is to keep us safe by curbing the spread of COVID-19. The decision is for the safety of employees. In some offices there are too many employees and mixing can cause infection. This is why it is a must to take a vaccine.”
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, an adviser and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said the decision would facilitate herd immunity and reduce the number of cases. It would also expedite the return of economic activities in the tourism and entertainment sectors, as well as others, to their pre-pandemic levels, he added.

Such recovery will enhance economic activities that require social interaction and not distancing in order for life to go back to normal.

Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy

“Such recovery will enhance economic activities that require social interaction and not distancing in order for life to go back to normal,” he told Arab News.
“We all have seen the suffering in many developed and advanced countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and lately India in their fight against this pandemic in terms of deaths, the number of infected cases as well as the economic and social toll inflicted on them, while Saudi Arabia managed with flying colors in organizing vaccination centers and services that run smoothly and efficiently which many other countries failed to do. This achievement by the Kingdom is due to the care and hard work of its leadership to protect the health of its citizens and residents.”
Saudi Arabia’s daily case count at the height of the pandemic was nearly 5,000. More than 425,000 people have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic in March, around 1.2 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million population.
Dr. Manzer H. Siddiqui is from India and works as an associate professor at King Saud University. He said mandatory vaccinations for the workplace were an effective and efficient way to curb the spread of COVID-19, and that the ministry’s decision would save lives and ensure public safety.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Sectors where working from home is not an option will benefit from the ministry’s decision, especially those where people are in close proximity to one another due to the nature of their job.

• Some companies are still allowing staff to work from home, others are formulating plans in response to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announcing on Friday that jabs would be mandatory for in-person attendance at workplaces in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

“Moreover, it will also be crucial to keep all sectors working properly as well as reducing psychological fear and anxiety,” he told Arab News.
Sectors where working from home is not an option will benefit from the ministry’s decision, especially those where people are in close proximity to one another due to the nature of their job.
Waqas Hussain is a Pakistani who is working on the Riyadh Metro project. He said that mandatory vaccines would ensure people’s personal safety and that of their families as well.
“The nature of my work is hectic and busy, with many people coming and going,” he told Arab News. “One can only do so much to keep surfaces clean, wash up and keep the mask on, but it’s a daily struggle especially with the summer near and high temperatures during the day. Many still follow the safety rules but mistakes can happen and that is not something I can afford, especially with my family involved in my daily life. It’s hard to change workplace behavior but you can see that everyone is on board and vaccines are one step closer to returning back to our normal lives safely. My family is safer because of it and it’s something to appreciate and be thankful for.”