Saudi Green Initiative will lead to a better, greener future
Big congratulations to Saudi Arabia on launching the Saudi and Middle East green initiatives. These are bold and transformative efforts that will significantly contribute to achieving global climate change targets, reversing land degradation and conserving biodiversity.
The Saudi Green Initiative positions Saudi Arabia as a global leader in clearly defining an ambitious roadmap to rally the region in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman announced that the Kingdom aims to reach net zero in the year 2060, through a major investment program from the government and private sector. They will also encourage projects using the circular carbon economy approach that was endorsed by the G20 last year.
These initiatives come at a time of critical demographic and economic developments in the Middle East and North Africa, where resilient recovery from the coronavirus disease pandemic should not only rely on old policies but on greener, more inclusive measures that spur governments and corporations into action.
By combining leadership, resource mobilization, and convening power, Saudi Arabia is demonstrating its commitment to supporting innovative solutions to addressing climate change challenges in a holistic way. The Kingdom has committed to reduce its emission by 278 million tons yearly by 2030.
This is important, as Saudi Arabia alone accounts for 22 percent of the MENA region’s gross domestic product and 53 percent of the Gulf Cooperation Council CO2 emissions. Saudi Arabia is highly urban, and its cities heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Therefore, this initiative is vital both for the Kingdom’s future and that of all the GCC countries as well as the region at large. This initiative can lead others into making similar leaps.
The SGI aims to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine ecosystems.
The SGI aims to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine ecosystems. It includes the planting of 10 billion trees, which represents 1 percent of the global target for planting trees. The Kingdom also announced the implementation of the first phase of afforestation initiatives by planting more than 450 million trees, in addition to rehabilitating 8 million hectares of degraded land, and establishing new protected areas, thus bringing the total quantity of protected area to more than 20 percent of its territory.
In addition, the SGI has great potential to create new job opportunities linked to sustainable forest landscape management, with rural communities becoming actively engaged by participating in public works programs linked to tree planting and care. There will also likely be nature-based tourism opportunities that will help diversify and improve rural livelihoods. Jobs will also be created in new techn fields related to reaching the goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
The initiative is well aligned with the World Bank’s agenda for Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development, or “GRID,” and will be a key factor in the context of the global recovery from COVID-19, kickstarting green growth in the Kingdom and creating jobs.
We at the World Bank are very supportive of these initiatives, and see the SGI as having excellent potential to reverse some negative trends, and generate multiple global environmental and national/local benefits, if the underlying approach can maximize the opportunities and minimize existing risks.
The implementation of the SGI would require a sequenced approach, which would build on early successes, and should focus on improving the enabling the environment and building human and institutional capacities to scale up in order to fully achieve its ambitious targets.
• Issam Abousleiman is the World Bank’s regional director for the GCC.