Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future
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Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (R) Suhail Al-Mazrouei (L)
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future
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Updated 19 January 2022

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Saudi, UAE energy ministers outline paths to net-zero future
  • The GCC’s two biggest economies have launched pioneering green initiatives without disrupting energy security
  • Prince Abdul Aziz, the Saudi energy minister, tells summit he is confident the Kingdom will reach emissions targets

As the global energy transition takes center stage at this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in the UAE, concerns around energy security, both in the Middle East and the world at large, are high on the agenda.

In light of this, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have taken the lead on pioneering green initiatives, setting a road map for other nations looking to adopt more sustainable energy sources without causing economic harm.

“Energy security is a concerning topic,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy and chair of OPEC Plus, during a summit discussion titled “Energy Transition in the GCC — Net Zero on the Horizon?”

“We believe, as OPEC Plus, that we have done a lot in bringing about stability. There is nothing more profound or important for energy security than having a stable market and those who are not copying us as OPEC Plus need to copy us.”

The key to energy security is to embrace many different energy sources, he said, as “tabooing” a specific source or being too selective could prove damaging to a nation’s economy.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have focused attention on building a more sustainable energy model, while also working to ensure they remain reliable global suppliers of oil and gas.

“We came up with a strategy in 2017 of going 50 percent green by 2050 and reducing 70 percent of our emissions,” Suhail Mohamed Al-Mazrouei, the UAE minister of energy and infrastructure, told summit delegates.

“But what is important as well is that (going 50 percent green) would save us around $191 billion of the $353 billion of our budget, so almost 60 percent, and that was an eye-opener for many countries.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, at the opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). (AFP)

Energy officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been working with advanced economies to help diversify their energy mix, while encouraging other countries to adopt renewables, Al-Mazrouei said, adding: “This is what the world was not expecting from us, as conventional producers.”

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Summit will run from Jan. 15-19 is one of the biggest gatherings concerned with exploring sustainability issues, and providing a global platform for cooperation, knowledge exchange, investment and innovation.

Besides launching renewable-energy initiatives and embracing green fuels, Saudi Arabia and the UAE participated enthusiastically in COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, in November, where nations committed to cutting their emissions.

The previous month, Saudi Arabia launched its Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, committing the Kingdom to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, and to planting 10 billion trees over the coming decades, rehabilitating 8 million hectares of degraded land and establishing new protected areas.

“These initiatives are ideas that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself put together,” Prince Abdul Aziz told the panel, adding that the commitments are genuine and not mere “greenwashing” as suggested by critics.

“It is not trying to take Saudi Arabia to a beauty shop. It has more to do with conviction that we need to do all the above because there is a solid economic case for all of us.” 

Referring to two megaprojects taking shape on the Kingdom’s northwest coastline, he said: “We cannot have a place like the Red Sea project or NEOM without being too careful about what you do to the environment.”

Saudi and Emirati ministers at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2022. (WAM)

Prince Abdul Aziz added: “We have been advocating the circular carbon economy and we will be demonstrating (it). The circular carbon economy is a closed-loop system designed to promote the reuse of resources that would otherwise have been wasted or discarded.”

Technology is expected to play a core role in the region’s plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an efficient and cost-effective way, including carbon capture, utilization and storage tools. Scaling these technologies presents many lucrative business opportunities.

“There will be money that will be made because, in the concept of reusing and recycling, carbon and gasses will become a material that will be monetized,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.

Al-Mazrouei drew attention to circular economy’s potential for creating jobs by enabling and incentivizing the private sector.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (R), UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai with Minister of Defence, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (C), UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and Armen Sarkissian, President of Armenia, at the ADSW opening ceremony. (AFP)

“Others are watching and copying and catching up, so it has been a positive movement,” he said. “And whenever they see us as the largest two economies in the Middle East doing these things, others are adapting and learning, and we are spreading that learning as much as we can.”

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a far-reaching economic and industrial transformation under the umbrella of Vision 2030, a diversification plan that is creating jobs in a variety of new industries, while encouraging more young people to seek careers in the rapidly evolving energy sector.

“Some of these technologies are challenging and they will continue to be,” said Prince Abdul Aziz. “But with challenge and creativity, you will see serious men and women approaching this sector with excitement. Because, to them, it is making them look like models — in their  ambition of having economic prosperity and monetizing their natural resources, including wind and sun, and advancing the diversity of the economy.”

Prince Abdul Aziz said he is confident that Saudi Arabia will achieve its goal of eliminating 278 million tons of emissions, almost equivalent to the emissions of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman combined.

“If we are not proud and willing to show that, I don’t know what else we would show,” he said.

Hydrogen has emerged as one potentially game-changing source of renewable energy. The UAE is working on seven hydrogen projects in the hopes of capturing 25 percent of the market share.

“We think we can export hydrogen to some of our partners and we’re already in discussions with many countries that we supply hydrocarbons to today,” Al-Mazrouei said. “We will work on both blue and green hydrogen; we have built the first Middle East green hydrogen plant and we are now testing the utilization.”

Green hydrogen is produced using solar energy, and is a major feature of the energy equation at Saudi Arabia’s planned NEOM megacity. Although hydrogen presents its own set of challenges, research and development will be a crucial step in the transition.

Workers plant trees next to a highway in Riyadh, on March 29, 2021. The Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce emissions by generating half of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030. (AFP)

“We will spare no effort in ensuring we make this a viable option for us, and we think that because we are big in hydrocarbons, both of our countries will be big in hydrogen and hydrogen export,” Al-Mazrouei said.

In his concluding remarks, Prince Abdul Aziz pressed home the need for all nations to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“We owe it to ourselves, as Saudi Arabia; I owe it to our friends in the UAE, that if you look at our commitments when it comes to emission reduction, we are doing way beyond our share.”


Twitter: @CalineMalek

Three killed as strong quake rocks southern Iran: IRNA

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 38 sec ago

Three killed as strong quake rocks southern Iran: IRNA

Iranians gather outside their buildings after an earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
  • The quake struck just a minute after a 5.7 tremor

TEHRAN: At least three people were killed and 19 injured when a strong earthquake shook southern Iran early Saturday, the state news agency IRNA reported.
The 6.0 magnitude quake hit 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the port city of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan province, the US Geological Survey said.

A handout shakemap made available by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows the location of a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hitting around 54km north east of Bandar-e Lengeh, Iran, 02 July 2022. (EPA)

Three people were killed in Sayeh Khosh village close to the epicenter of the quake, IRNA reported, citing a member of the village Islamic council who said three bodies had been pulled from the rubble.
The quake struck just a minute after a 5.7 tremor.
One person was killed in November last year when Hormozgan province was hit by twin 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes.
Situated on the edge of several tectonic plates and crossing various fault lines, Iran is an area of strong seismic activity.
Iran’s deadliest quake was a 7.4-magnitude tremor that struck in 1990, killing 40,000 people in the north of the country.


Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya
Updated 02 July 2022

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya

Protesters storm into parliament building in eastern Libya

BENGHAZI, Libya: Demonstrators broke into the building that houses the eastern Libya-based parliament in Tobruk on Friday, setting fire to parts of it amid protests over months of failed efforts to set the divided country on a path toward elections.
One witness, Taher Amaizig, said thousands joined a march to the parliament building calling for the current political powers to be dissolved and elections to be held. He said that as security guards tried to prevent people from entering, a protester was shot in the legs and other demonstrators then forced their way inside.
Videos circulated on social media showed protesters filing past burning piles. Friday is the first day of the weekend in Libya, meaning the building was likely empty when it was stormed. It was unclear what protesters intended by targeting the building
Other protests demanding elections were staged earlier in the day in several cities around Libya.
The unrest comes a day after representatives of Libya’s rival powers — one based in the east of the country and the other in the west — failed at UN-mediated talks in Geneva to reach agreement on a constitutional framework for national elections.
After more than a decade of war, the country is once again split between competing administrations, sliding backwards despite a year of tentative steps toward unity.
Oil-rich Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, leading to a rise in rival governments. The administration based in the east is backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-supported administration is based in the capital of Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
Tobruk, the seat of Libya’s House of Representatives, has long been allied with Haftar. More recently the parliament there elected Fathy Basghagha as prime minister to a government that rivals the Tripoli-based administration. Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister, is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.
Libya’s plan for elections last Dec. 24 fell through after the interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, failed to go ahead with the vote. The failure was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya.
The deteriorating economic situation was also a factor in Friday’s protests. In Tripoli, hundreds came out earlier in the day in opposition to the political crisis but also to rail against electricity shortages and rising prices for fuel and bread.

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis
Updated 02 July 2022

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

Libya’s Dbeibah says ‘election’ the only solution for crisis

The head of Libya’s Government of National Unity Abdulhamid Al-Dbeibah said he supports protesters in the country, agrees that all institutions should leave including the government, and there is no way to do that except through “election.”
Dbeibah’s comments come after protesters stormed the parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk and staged the biggest demonstration for years in the capital Tripoli, in the west.

Executions in Iran soar in protest crackdown

Executions in Iran soar in protest crackdown
Updated 02 July 2022

Executions in Iran soar in protest crackdown

Executions in Iran soar in protest crackdown
  • Numbers double in six months

JEDDAH: The number of executions in Iran has more than doubled in the past six months in a new campaign to intimidate anti-regime protesters, rights groups said on Friday.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, 251 Iranians were hanged compared with 117 in the first half of last year. The surge in executions has coincided with a series of nationwide protests over Iran’s economic collapse and the soaring price of basic food staples such as bread.
“There is no doubt that spreading fear to counteract the growing popular anti-regime protests is the main goal of these executions,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, founder of Iran Human Rights, an activist group in Norway.
“Only stronger international reactions and domestic campaigns against the executions can raise the political cost of these executions for the authorities and stop the increasing trend.”
Amiry-Moghaddam said 137 of the executions had been carried out since the latest wave of anti-regime protests in Iran began on May 7. Six women were among those executed, and eight prisoners were hanged at the Rajai Shahr Prison outside Tehran this week alone.
The group said its estimate of executions included only those published in official media or confirmed by at least two independent sources, so the real number was likely to be higher.
Activists also accuse Iran of executing a disproportionately high number of people from ethnic minorities, especially Baluch and Kurds. Iran Human Rights said it counted the executions of 67 prisoners from the Baluch minority, mainly Sunni Muslims who live in the southeast.
Amnesty International’s annual report on the death penalty in 2021 said that at least 19 percent of recorded executions in Iran were Baluch, although they make up only about 5 percent of the population.
There is also concern over the execution on June 20 of Firuz Musalou, a Kurd convicted on charges of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey. His sentence was carried out in secret without his family being informed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern last month over the rise in executions, with Iran again executing drug offenders in high numbers and many people from ethnic minorities.
“The death penalty continues to be imposed on the basis of charges not amounting to ‘most serious crimes’ and in ways incompatible with fair trial standards,” said Nada Al-Nashif, the UN’s deputy high commissioner for human rights.

Erdogan warns Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive

Erdogan warns Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive
Updated 02 July 2022

Erdogan warns Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive

Erdogan warns Turkey may still block Nordic NATO drive

MADRID: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Sweden and Finland that he could still block their drives to join NATO if they fail to implement a new accession deal with Ankara.
Erdogan issued his blunt warning at the end of a NATO summit at which the US-led alliance formally invited the Nordic countries to join the 30-nation bloc.
The two nations dropped their history of military non-alignment and announced plans to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Their bids were headed for swift approval until Erdogan voiced concerns in May.
He accused the two of providing a haven for outlawed Kurdish militants and promoting “terrorism.”
Erdogan also demanded they lift arms embargoes imposed in response to Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.
A 10-point memorandum signed by the three sides on the sidelines of the NATO summit on Tuesday appeared to address many of Erdogan’s concerns.
Erdogan lifted his objections and then held a warm meeting with US President Joe Biden that was followed by a promise of new warplane sales to Turkey.
Yet Erdogan told reporters at an impromptu press conference held as the summit ended that the memorandum did not mean Turkey would automatically approve the two countries’ membership.
New countries’ applications must be approved by all members and ratified by their respective parliaments.
Erdogan warned Sweden and Finland’s future behavior would decide whether he forwarded their application to the Turkish parliament.
“If they fulfil their duties, we will send it to the parliament. If they are not fulfilled, it is out of the question,” he said.
A senior Turkish diplomat in Washington said the ratification process could come at the very earliest in late September and may wait until 2023, with parliament going into recess from Friday.
One Western diplomatic source in the hallways of the NATO summit accused Erdogan of engaging in “blackmail.”
Erdogan delivered his message one day after Turkey said it would seek the extradition of 12 suspects from Finland and 21 from Sweden.
The 33 were all accused of being either outlawed Kurdish militants or members of a group led by a US-based preacher Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup.
But Erdogan appeared to up the ante on Thursday by noting that Sweden had “promised” Turkey to extradite “73 terrorists.”
He did not explain when Sweden issued this promise or provide other details.
Officials in Stockholm said they did not understand Erdogan’s reference but stressed that Sweden strictly adhered to the rule of law.
“In Sweden, Swedish law is applied by independent courts,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said in a statement to AFP.
“Swedish citizens are not extradited. Non-Swedish citizens can be extradited at the request of other countries, but only if it is compatible with Swedish law and the European Convention,” Johansson said.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Wednesday that Erdogan appeared to be referring to cases that had already been processed by officials and the courts.
“I would guess that all of these cases have been solved in Finland. There are decisions made, and those decisions are partly made by our courts,” Niinisto told reporters in Madrid.
“I see no reason to take them up again.”
Most of Turkey’s demands and past negotiations have involved Sweden because of its more robust ties with the Kurdish diaspora.
Sweden keeps no official ethnicity statistics but is believed to have 100,000 Kurds living in the nation of 10 million people.
The Brookings Institution warned that Turkey’s “loose and often aggressive framing” of the term “terrorist” could lead to problems in the months to come.
“The complication arises from a definition of terrorism in Turkish law that goes beyond criminalizing participation in violent acts and infringes on basic freedom of speech,” the US-based institute said in a report.