As Europe overheats, what can it learn from Saudi Vision 2030?
Temperatures hitting 47 C, the king of rivers running dry and apocalyptical wildfires devastating people’s lives; does this sound like an average European summer? It soon could be, according to scientists.
As heartbreaking and shocking as the deadly heat wave currently sweeping Europe is, temperatures in the 40s do not even break world records: This July is one of the three warmest on record. And this is just the beginning.
Europe’s scorching summer is a reminder of how interconnected our world is. The extreme heat wave has happened as a result of events thousands of miles away: Tropical Storm Alex, intense boreal summer sunshine, and the double jet stream from Eurasia. These events are no longer once-in-a-generation; due to climate change, they will become more frequent and more intense.
Rest assured, these extreme weather events will touch every country unless bold action is taken. My international nongovernmental organization, Wildlife Alliance, is no stranger to bold action. Starting in 1995, we began partnering with governments to safeguard some of the most important ecosystems on Earth, from Arctic tundra to tropical rainforests.
In Cambodia, we have come a long way in achieving what was once unimaginable: The protection of some 1.5 million hectares of rainforest in the Cardamom Rainforest Landscape, once a holdout of the Khmer Rouge and hotbed of large-scale illegal logging.
The ambitious Wildlife Alliance model of direct forest protection is a win-win situation for people and the planet: Global warming is reduced and the quality of life is improved for thousands of people across the Cardamoms. Here, the forest provides ecosystem services such as a year-round water supply, which in turn means electricity can be supplied from hydropower.
While extreme climate effects are starting to show in the West, the responsibility to combat the climate crisis falls on the shoulders of the entire world.
Dr. Suwanna Gauntlett
Fortunately, the Cambodian government is not alone in taking action to improve the lives of its people. In the Arab world, bold actions have likewise transformed the lives of ordinary people. One remarkable example is Saudi Arabia, where the development of the oil industry brought with it clean drinking water, electricity and an incredible increase in per capita gross domestic product of 3,500 percent since World Bank records began.
Now, the global climate crisis calls for bold new action. The Saudi Vision 2030 development and diversification plan exemplifies the leadership the world needs to improve the fortunes of people and planet. The determination to create a more diverse and sustainable Saudi economy shows confidence in the nation’s greatest asset: People.
Through collective effort, transformative change is possible. Vision 2030 holds great promise and, after all, the government has a proven track record of delivering enhanced quality of life for its people.
As a conservationist of over 30 years’ experience, I am excited about Saudi plans to safeguard the environment, which will bring benefits for current and future generations. During my recent visit to the Kingdom, I was blown away by the scale of water desalination and the high standard of urban waste management, including well-established gray water (water that has already been used domestically, commercially or industrially) systems which I understand will be further expanded.
In addition, plans to establish comprehensive recycling projects, reduce all types of pollution and fight desertification are noble and necessary actions that the governments of Europe and my native US would be wise to take note of.
Ultimately, while extreme climate effects are starting to show in the West, the responsibility to combat the climate crisis falls on the shoulders of the entire world. In this regard, Saudi Vision 2030 is indeed a pioneering initiative that shows the commitment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to sustainable development, and opens the gateway through which the whole world may prosper.
• Dr. Suwanna Gauntlett is the founder and CEO of Wildlife Alliance. She has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments.