How Saudi Arabia is aiding global action on climate change

Special Analysis by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center showed that Saudi Arabia has become the third-fastest reducer of emission from fuel consumption among G20 countries. (Supplied)
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Analysis by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center showed that Saudi Arabia has become the third-fastest reducer of emission from fuel consumption among G20 countries. (Supplied)
Special Alok Sharma, President of the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, poses for a photograph during his Bangladesh tour, in Dhaka. (AFP)
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Alok Sharma, President of the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) to be held in Glasgow, poses for a photograph during his Bangladesh tour, in Dhaka. (AFP)
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Updated 25 August 2021

How Saudi Arabia is aiding global action on climate change

Analysis by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center showed that Saudi Arabia has become the third-fastest reducer of emission from fuel consumption among G20 countries. (Supplied)
  • Human activity over the past century has fundamentally altered the natural order, according to a recent UN report
  • Saudi Arabia is setting the pace for the Arab region with accelerated steps to meet global climate objectives

JEDDAH: It is now indisputable: The planet is getting hotter, and unless governments take immediate action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, dramatic changes to the climate will become irreversible. That was the verdict of the world’s foremost climate scientists in a report published earlier this month.

Dubbed “code red for humanity” by UN chief Antonio Guterres, the report issued by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says human activity over the past century has already fundamentally altered the natural order.

To prevent a global temperature rise of more than 2 C by the year 2030, scientists believe governments must substantially cut their carbon emissions — and fast.

The effects of climate change are especially clear in the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa region, where drought and temperatures in excess of 50 C have now become the norm.

 

Over the past 40 years alone, average temperatures in Saudi Arabia have risen by more than 2 C — three times the current global average.

“Global average temperatures can be misleading because they hide local temperature increases,” Natalia Odnoletkova, a Ph.D. student at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology majoring in earth sciences, told Arab News.

“Based on research, we concluded that the rate of temperature increase in Saudi Arabia is drastic. This is what people often misunderstand. When we speak in the context of just 1 degree, we should understand that global average temperature can be misleading.”

Perhaps the biggest environmental challenge facing the Kingdom and other MENA countries is water scarcity. Underground aquifers are not replenishing fast enough to meet commercial and industrial demand, while desalination techniques and foreign imports are damaging and unsustainable.

In response to mounting calls on all governments to act, the Kingdom ratified the Paris Agreement in November 2015 and communicated to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change its intention to cut up to 130 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030.

Early last year, analysis by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center showed that Saudi Arabia has become the third-fastest reducer of emission from fuel consumption among G20 countries.

It found that CO2 emissions in the Kingdom had fallen by 26 million tons — down some 4.4 percent over the previous year.

Even if societies move away from fossil fuels, there is no guarantee temperatures will remain stable enough for the planet to cool. Governments will also have to invest in restoration to repair the damage inflicted on the environment over many decades.




Saudis work at a solar panel factory in Uyayna, north of Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)

This year’s record-breaking summer temperatures, flash flooding across China, central Europe and the US — and simultaneous forest fires on almost every continent — have been cited as the latest destructive manifestations of accelerating climate change.

The burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of forests to make way for agriculture and industry, and the ravaging of vulnerable ocean ecosystems by chemical pollutants have rapidly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

After the first Industrial Revolution began in the 1750s, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gradually rose to about 5 billion tons per year by the mid-20th century, before skyrocketing to more than 35 billion tons by the end of the century.

“An all-hands-on-deck approach is needed in order to meet our shared climate goals,” Carlos Duarte, a professor of marine science at KAUST and an internationally renowned marine biologist, told Arab News.




This NASA image obtained October 6, 2014 shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite. (AFP via NASA/File Photo)

“This requires global collaboration and activating all options, even those that do not seem to currently have a sufficient scale.

“Once we achieve these goals, the world needs to embrace a program of atmospheric restoration, as holding CO2 levels at the threshold may lead to unpleasant and catastrophic surprises if events, either natural or anthropogenic but unanticipated, lead to a release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

INNUMBERS

* 137m MWH - Electricity consumption in KSA residential sector in 2020.

* 144m MWH - Electricity consumption in KSA residential sector in 2015.

That is why, in the lead-up to November’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Saudi Arabia has joined the club of countries and associations that have launched bold efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, restore ecosystems and reduce their environmental footprint.

Saudi Arabia has pioneered the framework of the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) as a way of tackling the climate change challenge. This approach was endorsed unanimously last year at the G20 summit of world leaders under the Saudi presidency.

CCE advocates the reduction, recycling and reuse of carbon emissions across industrial processes, which are goals that are now familiar and accepted across the world as a way of mitigating harmful emissions.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage are essential if greenhouse gases are to be gradually eliminated as a threat to the atmosphere and the environment.

The Kingdom is also leading the way in the GCC with the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, which aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent with the help of clean hydrocarbon technologies and by planting 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in the Kingdom.

“Afforestation projects can indeed contribute to removing CO2, increasing biodiversity and avoiding land degradation,” said Duarte.

“They need to be very carefully planned, monitored and protected. Achieving the very ambitious goals of afforestation under the Saudi Green initiative will be indeed very challenging, but will generate major benefits to the Kingdom and the planet.”

These positive steps were recently acknowledged by John Kerry, the US climate envoy, who also lauded Riyadh’s plan to invest $5 billion in the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in NEOM — the smart city under construction on the Red Sea coast.  




Saudi Arabia has ratified the Paris Agreement in November 2015 and communicated to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change its intention to cut up to 130 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030. (AFP/File Photo)

As part of the framework for local action on climate change, NEOM is exploring several potential initiatives to combat rising temperatures as well as restore ecosystems, including one critical marine discovery that could benefit other coastal habitats.

Researchers claim that many coral species found off the Red Sea coast of NEOM appear to be preconditioned to survive in higher sea-surface temperatures.

“This natural resilience provides an opportunity for NEOM to grow corals that can be used for reef-restoration activities and it is planning the world’s largest coral garden from nursery-grown corals,” Damien Trinder, Acting Chief Environment Officer at NEOM, told Arab News.

“This program may also help offset the impacts of climate change already reported in other parts of the world by providing resilient coral strains for export globally.”

Another innovation championed by NEOM is a plan to increase the use of locally and regionally grown native plants in gardens and public spaces.

“These species are naturally adapted to hot, dry conditions, use significantly less water than non-native species and provide additional habitats for birds, insects, and other fauna,” said Trinder.

Indeed, while governments are busy looking for ways to prevent the further warming of the planet, they are also searching for ways to adapt to already fast-evolving habitats. But that is not to say the world should sit on its hands and accept climate change is inevitable, say scientists.

“Our choices today can make a real positive difference,” said Trinder. “In the same way, we can make choices, such as making sure we minimize electricity use in offices and homes and selecting local produce over imported, which can help both the climate as well as the local economy.”

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Twitter: @Rawanradwan8


Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
Updated 57 min 12 sec ago

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022

Saudi Arabian team takes home gold in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022
  • In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian team made history by winning the gold medal in the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022 on Saturday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In the final match, Saudi Arabia defeated Romania 3-1.

The Saudi team competed in the Special Olympics Unified Cup for the first time, along with 22 other teams from around the world, from July 31 to Aug. 6 in Detroit, Michigan.

In unified sports, players with and without intellectual disabilities compete on the same team.

The UAE, Egypt and Morocco were among the Arab teams that competed in the cup.

Other teams included Brazil, the US, Jamaica, South Korea, Nigeria, Paraguay, Romania, and Singapore.

Chairman of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors Dr. Timothy Shriver congratulated the Saudi team on their gold medal win.

Director of the Saudi Special Olympics Abdulrahman Al-Quraishi also congratulated the players, technical and administrative staff, and members of the Saudi Mission for their outstanding achievement.


Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
Updated 07 August 2022

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition

Makkah youth scouts win second place in international competition
  • Makkah scouts claimed second place in the Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work
  • Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009

JEDDAH: The Makkah youth scout team won second place at this year’s Fawzi Farghali Prize for Creativity in Islamic Scout Work, it was announced on Sunday.

The prize is organized by the International Union of Muslim Scouts, which said the Makkah scouts had come second out of 59 entrants.

Head of the Makkah team Bakr Al-Tumbkti said the scouts were committed to the highest professional standards.

He stressed the importance of attracting more members who were scientifically, practically, and academically compatible to reach the widest section of society.

“Contributing to all national and religious occasions within governmental, private, voluntary, economic, sports, cultural, social and commercial entities is a key to success,” he said.

He added that the presence of the Makkah youth scout team in these fields had helped them to attain the silver-level place in the global scout field for social initiatives.

The International Union of Muslim Scouts tweeted on Saturday: “Cairo will host a ceremony to honor the winners of the late Fawzi Farghali prizes for creativity in Islamic scouting work on September 17, 2022, at the headquarter of the Egyptian Federation for Scouts and Guides.”

Its secretary-general Dr. Zuhair Ghoneim said the union had adopted this award, which carried the name of one of the best scout leaders in Islamic countries, the late Fawzi Farghali, as appreciation for the efforts, support, and services that he had provided to the union.

Ghoneim wished the winners every success. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to the chairman of the media, communication, and documentation committee at the union, his colleagues, and the award committee for their efforts.

Farghali was an Egyptian who served as the Arab Regional Scout Executive for the World Scout Bureau in 2009.

In 1986, he received the 186th Bronze Wolf from the World Scout Committee for his exceptional services.


‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 August 2022

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia

‘One of Not Many’ young female mentorship program launches in Saudi Arabia
  • Six leading Saudi women to advise students on business startups
  • Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University to run 6-month course

JEDDAH: Luxury watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin has launched its second “One of Not Many” business mentorship program in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

The company had initially run its first project in the UAE in 2020.

Six Saudi women leaders have been selected to mentor undergraduate students over six months. The program is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 and aims to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs.

Christophe Ramel, regional Brand Director Middle East at Vacheron Constantin, said: “The Kingdom represents huge promises and great potential, and the Maison values are aligned closely with Saudi Vision 2030.

“We, at Vacheron Constantin, realize the importance of passing down skills to the next generation to support the leaders of tomorrow. We wish all selected students a fruitful program ahead and look forward to witnessing them excel towards their career ambitions.”

Shahd Al-Shehail, entrepreneur and co-founder of Ethical Luxury Brand Abadia, said that the small choices people make every day matter and young people should continue to work hard and not be afraid of failure.

Aya Al-Bitar, Saudi product and furniture designer, and founder of AYA the Art of Living, said she would encourage students to explore their heritage and individuality if they choose to enter her field.

Emon Shakoor, founder and CEO of Blossom Accelerator, Saudi Arabia's first female-focused and inclusivity accelerator, said: “As an entrepreneur, it’s not about how much resources you have but about how resourceful you can be. Every individual has the power to create the life that they have dreamed of and to achieve it. This program will definitely allow the student to understand and execute the things that they actually want in life and never take no for an answer.”

Nora Aldabal, arts and creative industries executive director at The Royal Commission of AlUla, said: “Saudi Arabia is a gold mine of inspiration; inspiration attracts talent and talent gets ideas. This program will accelerate individuals to be the most creative version of themselves.”

Nouf Al-Moajil, strategic analyst and CEO of the Eastern Province Social Responsibility Council, said she would advise students to explore and follow their passion, even in a new area of business. They should try to be as authentic as possible, she said.

Basma El-Khereiji, chef and entrepreneur, and founder of the Social Kitchen, said students should be passionate about what they do and allow people to feel and appreciate it.

After successfully completing the program, students have the opportunity to embark on an internship program with Vacheron Constantin or any other Richemont Maison.


Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi teenage singer sings about inner conflicts, traumas

Noha Al-Sehemi, a Saudi singer who write songs that discuss traumas and inner struggles that many teenagers feel. (Supplied)
  • “Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News

RIYADH: Many young singers have discovered a home for their talent thanks to Saudi Arabia’s increased focus on music and the establishment of a music commission in 2020 that aims to develop non-discriminatory access to music education.

Noha Al-Sehemi, a 17-year-old Saudi singer, is one of them.

At 15, she was able to produce her first song on social media. Her songs highlight some traumas that she has experienced and the feeling of being misunderstood, which sparked the inner struggles that many teenagers feel.

Now she has launched a song called “Good Luck Sleepin’,” where she speaks about this inner conflict.

“Good Luck Sleepin’ is a song that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the time when I was 14 and was confused, and it was like an internal discussion,” Al-Sehemi told Arab News.

Her song was played on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music. She has performed her work at a series of events, one of them at the American embassy.

“I was flown out to Washington, DC by the Saudi embassy for the celebration of the national day in 2019,” she said.

Al-Sehemi prefers English music due to her family’s exposure to it.

“Growing up with a musical family helped me a lot, and when I was a child I always loved games that had music in them, like Guitar Hero, and I was curious about music,” she said. “I was exposed to many song genres and was influenced by them.”

Al-Sehemi describes her music genre as funk and likes classic rock, hip hop, R&B and jazz.

She plays piano and guitar. Although she has written a number of songs, she has decided to focus more on her vocals at the moment.

Al-Sehemi met a group of talented people in Open Night Mice, who helped her to produce her song in 2019.

“We got to know each other at an open mic night in August 2019 and it’s a Saudi Music Community initiative, and we recorded the song in my house,” she said.

“They all put in their own touches, so it was like a collective project with many different perspectives and tastes embedded in the song,” she said.

Al-Sehemi intends to record an entire album where she expresses her opinions and speaks directly to other teenagers who share her sentiments.

“I have been working on an album for three years now and many songs will be out soon and the lyrics of the music will tell you so much about what I feel, and I stopped being a stubborn person who wants to be a perfectionist about every song,” she said. “I usually throw away any song I don’t like initially, but now I just do what I believe in and everything else will follow.”


Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
Updated 07 August 2022

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
  • The world’s largest date palm oasis is generating a new era of prosperity

RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the world’s largest date palm oasis, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.

On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of directors for the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.

The move aims to enhance the governorate’s potential while helping develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.

The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state press agency.

“The decision reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the comparative advantage of Al-Ahsa and to utilize it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary-general at Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

Ibraheem Alshekmubarak

The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.

UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of handicrafts, considered cultural and social practices passed on from generation to generation.

“Around 50 expressions of crafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and bear witness to Al-Ahsa’s scenic wealth, including textiles from palm trees, pottery, weaving and joinery.”

Boosting tourism

The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and stages several festivals a year.

“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-profile investment conference in the city called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference showcased Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.

“Post pandemic, people are a little bit more conservative internationally regarding cross-border investment. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite a decent amount of interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for investment attraction, told Arab News.

The Kingdom seeks to generate 10 percent of the gross domestic product from the tourism sector and to attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.

“We want to make the sector stand on its own two feet. So we are keen on large private sector investment to come in, even as we are mindful that the whole sector is built on small and medium enterprises,” added Abdulhadi.

The city’s chamber of commerce led several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to keep them formulating plans and drawing strategies that help them overcome the damage.

“Al-Ahsa Chamber organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.

Airport expansion

Al-Ahsa airport’s capacity will more than double the expectations of fast regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, the CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.

The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.

Saudi Aramco mainly uses the facility, but before the pandemic struck, there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and another two or three international sites.

“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is the most in need of projects at present,” said Alshekmubarak.

Business destination

Essam Al-Mulla

The city is already growing in businesses as the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing announced in June that the investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on its online portal.

The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.

The available opportunities in the portal in 2022 already reached 112 investments, said the Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, according to the Saudi Press Agency.