How Saudi-hosted MENA Climate Week aims to generate regional momentum for climate change mitigation

Special How Saudi-hosted MENA Climate Week aims to generate regional momentum for climate change mitigation
MENA CW will showcase the many climate initiatives Saudi Arabia has adopted to achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement. It has positioned itself at the forefront of sustainability projects, launching the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives. (SPA)
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Updated 08 October 2023
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How Saudi-hosted MENA Climate Week aims to generate regional momentum for climate change mitigation

How Saudi-hosted MENA Climate Week aims to generate regional momentum for climate change mitigation
  • MENA Climate Week in Riyadh offers the Kingdom an opportunity to highlight its many sustainability initiatives
  • Saudi Arabia is expected to explore partnerships with organizations and countries to address the climate challenge

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is hosting Middle East and North Africa Climate Week (October 8-12), a conference that brings together experts and policymakers from the climate field and provides the Kingdom an opportunity to highlight its energy transition efforts.

Widely touted as one of the most significant events taking place ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, this November in Dubai, MENA Climate Week will allow officials, activists and scientists to discuss ways to mitigate the effects of global warming.

The Riyadh-hosted event, held in collaboration with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will also offer Saudi Arabia a chance to show how it is leading the region’s green transition with programs like the Saudi Green Initiative and the adoption of renewables.

The UNFCCC is tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The week will take place in collaboration with the UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme, and the World Bank.

Partners based in the MENA region include the International Renewable Energy Agency, Islamic Development Bank, the League of Arab States secretariat, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy said in a recent statement that MENA Climate Week will position Saudi Arabia at the forefront of the climate debate, allowing it to help set the narrative for COP28 and shape forthcoming negotiations on emissions targets.

MENA Climate Week will feature a packed agenda of regional and international events, meetings and exhibitions, along with several cultural activities.

FASTFACTS

The Middle East and North Africa Climate Week 2023 will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 8-12.

Regional climate weeks aim to inspire people to become part of the momentum created by the Paris Agreement.

They are a collaborative platform where governments and organizations come together to address climate issues.

During the week, Saudi Arabia will use key discussions to promote its circular carbon economy approach and to identify potential partnerships with organizations and countries to mitigate climate challenges.

A circular carbon economy is a closed loop system for managing and reducing emissions involving four “Rs”: reduce, reuse, recycle, and remove. Saudi Arabia and Aramco have adopted the framework as a way to reduce their carbon footprints.

“Our world needs to urgently transform to address the climate challenge,” the Ministry of Energy said in its statement. “Saudi Arabia and the MENA region are committed to exploring all approaches to reach the ambitions outlined in the Paris Agreement.”




The World Economic Forum’s annual Energy Index Report revealed earlier this year that Saudi Arabia has advanced 24 ranks in the Energy Transition Index since 2021, thanks to SGI and the establishment of the Regional Voluntary Carbon Market by the Kingdom. (Supplied)

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change that was adopted in 2015 and compels signatories to work toward limiting global temperature increases to no more than 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

“Climate action must not leave any section of society behind. Finding solutions requires an inclusive approach, where all parts of society — including industry — have a role,” the ministry added.

The week will also showcase Saudi Arabia’s progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the different initiatives the Kingdom has adopted to achieve its net zero goals by 2060.

“The MENA region is blessed with some of the fastest growing economies in the world,” the ministry said. “Through innovative solutions, our development goals can be achieved while meeting the challenge of climate change. 

“As the leading energy exporter in the region and an important investor in research and development, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the wider region, can provide potential paths to reduce environmental impacts.”




Saudi Arabia has positioned itself at the forefront of sustainability projects, launching the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives. (AFP/File photo)

Indeed, the ministry says that climate action should not come at the cost of economic development and global energy security.

MENA Climate Week will focus on three main pillars: transformation, inclusion, and solutions.

The transformation pillar emphasizes the need to change the way societies live and work and how their economies function in order to mitigate climate risks. The Gulf states have already understood the necessity of change and are acting toward a greener future.

Inclusion means promoting cooperative approaches that leave nobody behind in this transformation — be they public, private, or civil society.




This aerial view shows dry fish farms in the village of Albu Mustafa in Hilla, about 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, on July 6, 2023, following a crackdown by the Iraqi government on unauthorized ponds in an effort to meet the country's water demands. (AFP)

The first day of MENA Climate Week will feature an opening ceremony, followed by a ministerial panel discussion under the theme “Advancing inclusivity and circularity for just and equitable energy transitions.”

Also on the first day, a second ministerial panel will handle the subject of “Inclusive finance and economic diversification toward the goals of the Paris Agreement,” while the third is titled “Towards a global goal on adaptation that adapts to a 1.5 degree world.”

One of the most important events taking place on the second day of MENA Climate Week is the League of Arab States Roundtable, which will discuss expectations of COP28.

Saudi Arabia has positioned itself at the forefront of sustainability projects, launching the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives. The Saudi Green Initiative, or SGI, aims to reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tons annually by 2030.

Under SGI, Saudi Arabia will also plant 10 billion trees across the country in the coming decades and designate 30 percent of the country’s land and sea territories as protected areas by 2030.




Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Global implemented a nursery project with the goal to have 50 million trees of Mangroves by 2030. (Red Sea Global photo)

Meanwhile, the wider Middle East Green Initiative focuses on eliminating 670 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and planting 50 billion trees across the region.

The Green Saudi Cities initiative, launched by the Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing Ministry, aims to plant up to 32 million trees in public parks and gardens across the capital Riyadh.

The scheme will be conducted over three phases and will undertake new greening projects in Riyadh, equivalent to an area of 437.5 sq. km. The project is set to be completed by 2031.




As planned, close to a tenth of the Saudi capital city would be green by 2030. (File photo)

The capital is also undergoing a massive overhaul as the Green Riyadh project sets out to increase the proportion of green space to 9 percent and to plant 7.5 million trees by 2030.

At the heart of it all, work is underway to establish the King Salman Park, the largest urban park project in the world, in which 11 sq. km of its planned 16.6 sq. km park will be covered in green spaces and more than a million trees.

The third edition of the SGI forum will take place on Dec. 4 during COP28 and will bring together influential figures, thought leaders, and climate experts who will share their insights and suggestions for tackling climate challenges effectively.

Earlier in July, the World Economic Forum’s annual Energy Index Report revealed that Saudi Arabia has advanced 24 ranks in the Energy Transition Index since 2021, thanks to SGI and the establishment of the Regional Voluntary Carbon Market by the Kingdom.

 


How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda
Updated 50 min 43 sec ago
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How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda
  • Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund wants to produce half a million electric vehicles by 2030
  • The Kingdom has installed charging outlets in public areas in Diriyah to encourage EV ownership

RIYADH: Around the world, electric vehicles are already revolutionizing leisure, public transportation and logistics, shrinking the carbon footprint of travel, improving air quality and reducing pollution in the air, on land and in the sea.

As Saudi Arabia embarks on a range of environmental initiatives designed to address the challenges posed by climate change and foster sustainable economic development, EVs have become an important focus area.

The shift from traditional combustion engine vehicles to new electric models has accelerated worldwide as companies and consumers opt for greener modes of transport. Saudi Arabia is no exception.

Saudia, the Kingdom's national flag carrier, has signed an arrangement to acquire 100 electric-powered jets from Lilium, developer of the first all-electric vertical take-off and landing (“eVTOL”) jet. (Supplied)

The transition from regular cars to electric vehicles in the Kingdom is flourishing. The EV trend has gone beyond personal vehicle ownership, with the proliferation of everything from e-scooters to electric buses.

There are even discussions around whether EV technology will soon be applied to aircraft and perhaps space travel.

Stephen Crolius, former climate adviser at the Clinton Foundation and current president of Carbon-Neutral Consulting, supports the idea of EV ownership due to its environmental benefits.

Although it might still be a challenge to educate the public in some societies about the benefits of transitioning to EVs, Crolius says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“For mass transition to occur on any front, there has to be a set of circumstances that cause it to happen,” he told Arab News.

“Through government encouragement, we can continue to build volume (and) cause industries to mature, like, for example, the battery industry, which has done a lot of maturing over the last 15 years … the cost of batteries and the prices of batteries have come down to an extraordinary degree.

Opinion

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“We are developing renewable generation for electricity. Are we developing fast enough to head off the climate crisis? I don’t know. But compared to new generations of technology getting rolled out, we are deploying a lot of renewable electricity generation, in historical terms, really fast.”

Companies such as CEER and Lucid, which are heavily funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, are at the forefront of driving growth in Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle industry.

US electric car manufacturer Lucid signed a contract with the PIF two years ago to build a factory in the King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea. Today, PIF shares a little over half of the ownership of the group in the Kingdom, and aims to produce almost half a million EVs by 2030.

Since last year, the use of electric vehicles in the Kingdom has expanded to include electric buses as a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Electric buses have zero emissions and therefore significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases in urban areas, especially during the Hajj season, when pilgrims flock to the Kingdom and make use of its mass transit network.

An electric bus service connecting the airport to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah was launched by the region’s governor Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during the last Hajj season.

DID YOUKNOW

• The Kingdom has invested at least $10 billion in US electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors.

• With 61% of shares, Saudi Arabia is the majority owner of Lucid Group through its Public Investment Fund.

• PIF aims to produce 500,000 EVs annually by 2030.

• In Riyadh, the EV share is targeted to increase by 30% in 2030.

The route connecting the two locations enabled high operational efficiency, with a bus able to travel 250 km on just a single charge.

Electric buses offer a variety of benefits, including reduced noise, improved energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. In addition, they have a smaller carbon footprint, which is a crucial step toward sustainability.

Saudis committed to protecting the environment have also included EVs in their daily commute, with e-scooters now found in Riyadh and other cities. E-scooters provide an eco-friendly solution to local transport by cutting toxic emissions and lowering noise pollution.

Offering e-scooter services in various locations in Riyadh is a clear sign of the Kingdom’s eagerness to not only set regulations and promote electric vehicles, but also lead society in adopting a positive attitude toward sustainable living.

Gazal's e-scooter services have become a popular option for those traveling specially in crowded places in Riyadh. (Photo courtesy of Gazal)

Furthermore, with advancements in battery technology and the development of charging infrastructure, electric vehicles are becoming a viable option for companies aiming to decarbonize their operations.

For example, in public areas in Diriyah such as Albujairi and At-Turaif, standard wall outlets are available for EV owners to charge their vehicles while enjoying a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

As the aviation industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, the concept of electric aircraft may offer a promising solution to global decarbonization.

Three years ago, British automobile maker Rolls-Royce broke records when its “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft reached 628 km per hour, making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

At the time, Warren East, the company’s then-CEO, said that electric aircraft could make “jet zero” a reality and help decarbonize all forms of transport.

Compared to existing commercial aircraft, which rely on petroleum and synthetic fuel blends, electric planes produce less noise, have lower operating costs and emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases.

However, there are still several obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric aircraft — in particular the sheer expense of adapting the existing infrastructure needed to support their use.

Though governments and private companies worldwide could collaborate and build a comprehensive network of charging stations to meet growing demand, this may burden the economies of some countries.

Nevertheless, the growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future.

The growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future. (Shutterstock photo)

Utilizing alternative sources of energy in these areas can change the carbon emissions game for the better, fight air pollution, and pave the way for sustainable transport systems in the Kingdom and around the world.

To realize the full potential of electric vehicles, however, governments and businesses will first have to address challenges such as the provision of sufficient charging infrastructure as well as range limitations in battery technology.

Through continued innovation and investment, electric vehicles will play a key role in creating a greener and more sustainable future.
 

 


Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist
Updated 19 April 2024
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Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist
  • Jawad Al-Omair has established himself as a painter, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him

RIYADH: While his classmates took part in sports activities, Saudi teenage artist Jawad Al-Omair daydreamed about the next time he would pick up a paintbrush or pencil to draw again.

At only 16 years of age, Al-Omair has established himself as an artist, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that his breakthrough moment came when he discovered his artistic abilities in the third grade.

“All the kids used to go to play. I always found myself opening my notebook and just drawing. I remember one day, I drew something at school, and when I got home, I showed it to everyone. I told myself, ‘I should do this more often.’”

HIGHLIGHT

Jawad Al-Omair views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks.

He uses acrylic paint to portray his vivid ideas on canvas.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

“With every painting I do, I usually have a vision of what the color palette is going to be and the composition, and most importantly what message and feeling I am trying to deliver through the painting.”

The young artist views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks. “If I wanted to paint something that conveys the feeling of being lost, I would usually use cool toned colors like greys and blues.”

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

Al-Omair said that he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks.

“Dana Almasoud is one of my best friends who has helped me so much. Three years ago, I used to be a completely different artist. I used to be unable to draw small portraits, but she taught me how to. I can’t picture how my life would be if I had not met them,” he said.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

In a recent artwork, Al-Omair painted a large-scale self-portrait inspired by the style of John Singer Sargent, an American artist renowned for his portrait paintings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He described Sargent as one of his favorite artists. “If you see his self-portrait, It is similar to mine. I was looking at his artwork while I was painting so I could capture that same vibe.”

It took Al-Omair about 12 hours to complete the self-portrait, which emphasizes his prominent features.

“I get commented on my nose a lot, so I painted it in the center. I wanted to immortalize my 16-year-old self, because who knows what I will look like five years from now?”

The young artist aims to turn all sorts of experiences — even those of friends or family members — into art.

“How would life be if we did not have music or anything beautiful to look at? When you think of an artist, people usually imagine someone with a brush, but it is much bigger than that.

“Art is translating feelings with a certain skill. Movies taught humanity so much because you get to learn about people. Writing, songs and music are emotional things that we share. Art is one of the most important parts of life. Everyone has an artistic side to them that they may have not found yet,” he said.

 


Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Updated 19 April 2024
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Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Funding will help rebuild and repair facilities damaged by natural disasters in the Caribbean island nation

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development signed a $50 million loan agreement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday to assist communities affected by natural disasters, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deal was signed by SFD CEO Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad and Camillo Gonsalves, finance minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, during the 2024 spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

According to the World Bank, the southern Caribbean nation faces a host of natural threats, including floods, hurricanes, droughts, landslides, and volcanic eruptions.

The agreement will fund a project to rebuild and repair buildings and facilities damaged by natural disasters in the island nation.

This initiative includes the restoration and construction of essential infrastructure, such as housing, healthcare, educational, and sports facilities, aimed at boosting their durability and resilience against future disasters and climate change impacts.

The project will also include establishing four healthcare centers, building primary and secondary schools, renovating government buildings, and restoring homes damaged by volcanic activity.

The loan is in line with the SFD’s commitment to supporting vulnerable communities around the globe.

Since its inception in 1975, the Saudi fund has financed over 800 development projects and programs worldwide, with total funding exceeding $20 billion.
 


Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission

Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission
Updated 19 April 2024
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Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission

Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission
  • Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, said: “At Art Jameel, we are committed to fostering the role of the arts in public life

JEDDAH: The Hayy Jameel Facade Commission is inviting new and established artists in Saudi Arabia to reimagine the facade of the Hayy Jameel art building in Jeddah.

In its fourth year and third open call process, the commission will select a winning artwork that serves as conversation starter between the complex, the community it serves and the broader public.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, said: “At Art Jameel, we are committed to fostering the role of the arts in public life.

“Through this annual commission which positions the facade as the first point of contact with the Hayy Jameel community, we are providing a platform that propels mid-career artists forward and challenges them to produce a large-scale, highly imaginative work that remains in-situ, front and center in Jeddah, for around 10 months.”

The commission encourages artists to consider the site-specific nature of the project and the technical requirements of a public work.

Sustainability considerations are also appreciated in managing the carbon footprint of the artwork and its installation.

Eligibility is open to all Saudi and Saudi-based artists and collectives, with at least one member required to be a Saudi citizen or resident if applying as a collective.

The commissioned artists will receive a work fee and a production budget managed by Art Jameel.

The jury, consisting of local and international art professionals, curators, artists and museum directors, will select a single work for production.

Applicants are required to submit a concept statement (200-500 words), up to four sketches and diagrams, and an estimated production schedule through the application portal.

The deadline for the facade submission has been extended to May 1, with the launch scheduled for October. Following the unveiling, there will be a public viewing period from October 2024 to September 2025.

Previous works displayed on the building have showcased the talent of artists such as Nasser Al-Mulhim, Tamara Kalo, Mohammad Al-Faraj and Dr. Zahrah Al-Ghamdi.

 


Saudi universities participate in Geneva’s International Exhibition of Inventions

Mohammed Al-Sudairi
Mohammed Al-Sudairi
Updated 19 April 2024
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Saudi universities participate in Geneva’s International Exhibition of Inventions

Mohammed Al-Sudairi
  • More than 1,000 inventions from over 40 countries showcased at event

RIYADH: Mohammed Al-Sudairi, the Saudi deputy minister of education for universities, research and innovation, opened the Kingdom’s pavilion at the 49th Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions.

Some 26 Saudi Arabian universities are taking part at the event — including 19 government universities, two independents and five private bodies — and a total of 113 inventions have been produced, in scientific, theoretical, medical, and biological specializations, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Among the universities taking part is Qassim University, which is showcasing a display that highlights innovations and several inventions.

Abdulaziz bin Bani Alharbi, a faculty member at Qassim’s College of Agriculture and Food, said that the college was showcasing a patent registered with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property: a method for desalinating salt water using a halophyte plant.

He said the invention involved introducing water and placing the plant in a closed system that allowed the collection of water from the plant after the transpiration process.

Alharbi added that gas exchange followed and then desalination to obtain salt-free water.

Fahad Alminderej, a faculty member at the College of Science, said his group had obtained a patent for extracting materials from date waste, and was then using them in pharmaceutical manufacturing in an innovative manner. This patent had also been registered with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property.

Abdullah Almohaimeed, the head of the Innovation Center and Intellectual Property at the university, said that Qassim was participating in the exhibition as part of the Ministry of Education’s initiative to enhance the international presence of Saudi universities, in line with national objectives.

He added that the university’s participation aimed to highlight its role in supporting the innovation system and entrepreneurship, as well as showcase many inventions.

The exhibition, which is taking place until April 21, is displaying more than 1,000 inventions from over 40 countries. Some 800 exhibitors are featured at the event and 30,000 visitors are expected to attend, in addition to 650 journalists.

It is the world’s largest annual event devoted exclusively to invention.