Innovative private sector must play its part in energy transition, business forum told at COP28

Innovative private sector must play its part in energy transition, business forum told at COP28
The event brought together over 1,300 CEOs and philanthropists, as well as 250 foundation heads from 55 countries, AN Photo
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Updated 01 December 2023

Innovative private sector must play its part in energy transition, business forum told at COP28

Innovative private sector must play its part in energy transition, business forum told at COP28

DUBAI: The private sector can no longer be on the periphery of energy transition efforts, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has insisted on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference.  

Speaking at the Business Philanthropy Climate Forum — a first-of-its-kind event held alongside COP28 in Dubai — Scotland appealed directly to commercial enterprise leaders to use their capital, talent and innovative capacity to tackle global warming. 

The event brought together over 1,300 CEOs and philanthropists, as well as 250 foundation heads from 55 countries, with the aim of facilitating a paradigm shift toward collaborative, action-oriented participation.   

 Addressing the forum, Scotland said: “The idea that the private sector is peripheral to such a profound crisis cannot be the standard.   

“The private sector is exposed to the impacts, and it is central to the solution, not just through the provision of capital, but through your capacity to innovate.”  

In the inaugural year of the global stocktake, it has become evident at this COP that, despite ongoing global efforts to offset emissions, the gap between current progress and necessary benchmarks continues to widen, according to Scotland. 

In order to meet the ambitious target of achieving net zero, an estimated $4 trillion is needed each year until 2030. This includes an unprecedented investment required for deploying the vital technology essential to accelerate the energy transition, as outlined by the secretary-general. 

In 2021, climate finance flow amounted to $630 billion, just a sixth of the required amount, emphasized Scotland. 

She added, “We cannot fill this gap without the private sector … without accessing the right private sector support potential to unlock transformational investment in mitigation and adaptation, especially for small, vulnerable, and developing countries.”  

Scotland emphasized the necessity of collaborative efforts to create the right environment to enable these investments, addressing upfront costs, long time horizons, and the absence of data — factors that can make a crucial difference and fulfill the required conditions. 

The notion that the private sector is independent of the effects of climate change is not one that is rooted in truth, Anil Soni, CEO of the World Health Organization Foundation, said while speaking on a panel at the forum. 

He emphasized the cascading effects of natural disasters and severe weather events, which ultimately disrupt supply chains and affect businesses.  

Soni cited the cholera outbreak in Malawi as a consequence of flooding, leading to health issues, migration, potential conflicts, and subsequent impacts on business returns, supply chains, and customers. 

“Because of all of that, you see climate change in practice through health effects; you see it in conflict, and you see it in your business returns. Businesses should be motivated because, you know, this is going to affect your supply chain, and you know what’s going to affect your customers,” he explained.

Speaking at the forum, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, reaffirmed that the private sector is the necessary piece needed to bridge the gap. He deemed the energy transition a business and operational challenge that the private sector must deploy its talent, capabilities, and money to overcome.

Moynihan emphasized that the public sector cannot achieve this massive undertaking alone.  

He stated, “They (the public sector) don’t have the money and the talent that’s in this room, represented by all of you. So, we’ve got 48 hours to get to work. Let’s take action; let’s make progress.”

As one of the key private sector players at the forum, Amazon’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kara Hurst highlighted the company’s shift in investments toward companies that can develop new technologies for achieving net-zero goals. 

Amazon, for the third consecutive year, held the position of the largest corporate purchaser of renewables globally, with a 23 gigawatt portfolio, Hurst noted. 

Through the BPCF, the company aims to “share how we’re doing this, and we want our supply chains to be involved in that as well. So, there’s a lot of work to do collaboratively in these areas, and a lot that I think that we can do together and collectively.” 

During his inaugural address, Jafar Badr, chairman of the BPCF, stressed that governments, businesses and philanthropists cannot continue to operate in silos, adding that the private sector must fulfill its crucial role in ensuring a just transition.  

Referring to the breadth of nationalities and organizations at the event, Jafar said: “This unprecedented scale and diversity sends a clear and powerful signal that the private sector is ready to engage. And in doing so, business and philanthropy will become the connective tissue between COP presidencies.”  

He added: “This powerful partnership can facilitate consistent progress towards Net Zero, no matter which way the political winds are blowing in capitals around the world.” 

The call for more private sector involvement was echoed by the head of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority at Abu Dhabi Global Markets, Emmanuel Givanakis.

Speaking at the forum, the CEO insisted that regulators need to show more flexibility to adapt to the evolving landscape of sustainable finance. 

“The public sector can’t do everything, it's gotta be a combination of both. We are all in this together, this great thing that we are going through is something we’re all having to tackle – we can’t ignore it anymore,” Givanakis said. 

“Policymakers need to facilitate better governance around transition, seeing companies start to think about transition as part of their journey going forward,” he added.

Givanakis praised the recent actions of the sustainable finance working group in the UAE, which has come out with a set of high-level principles encouraging boards to deal with financial risk around transition and climate change. 

In March last year, ADGM built the world’s first regulated carbon trading exchange and clearing house in partnership with the global greenhouse house gas company, AirCarbon Exchange. 

“That framework in essence, took carbon as a carbon-offsets and created them in what we call environmental instruments, and that's just part of the journey, and carbon markets in themselves are not the solution to transition alone. They're just one segment,” Givanakis said.

Another critical area of emphasis in Givanakis’s agenda involves bonds and sustainably linked instruments, underscoring the importance of the finance industry directing capital to the right places, whether in the southern or northern hemisphere, to address global climate challenges. 

Referring to forecasts by the International Energy Agency on the evolving landscape of energy sources, particularly focusing on solar and wind energy, Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO of financial services group Macquarie said that solar will become the world's largest energy source by 2050. 

However, she added: “There are intermittent sources of energy, and the transition journey is a meandering one, not just for those in finance, but in the real economy.” 

Additionally, Wikramanayake provided an example in the shipping industry, illustrating how a shift from liquefied natural gas to methanol has proven successful in reducing emissions. 

“We have now 200 ships and shipyard being developed and running on methanol instead of LNG because human innovation and technology bring costs down,” she said. 

On the note of calling people to action, Givanakis concluded his statements by encouraging open-mindedness and innovation in addressing challenges, particularly emphasizing that existing solutions may not be the only answer. 

“Don't think that the only solutions are the ones that we already have. If we put our minds together we can solve a lot of problems, and major ones like climate change,” he said. 

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
Updated 04 March 2024

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports

Egypt begins process for privatization of airports
  • Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport

RIYADH: Egypt began the executive process for offering the management and operation of Egyptian airports to the private sector, a Cabinet statement said on Monday.

Egypt is due to set an international tender for operating Egyptian airports, which include Cairo International Airport, the country’s Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Abbas Helmy has said.

Egypt is set to transition the management and operations of critical logistics and transportation entities to the private sector, starting with the aviation industry. 

In November 2023, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly declared that seaports, dry ports and airports would be offered to private sector management in the near future. 

Madbouly highlighted a strong commitment to fostering partnerships with private entities in the stewardship and operational aspects of mass transit systems.

An integrated strategy has been formulated by the Egyptian Transport Ministry, in collaboration with global corporations, to begin localization of the industry. 

In July 2023, Egypt’s efforts to bolster its private sector and empower small and medium enterprises received $533.7 million in support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as it undertakes massive privatization and restructuring measures for the public sector.  

Under the umbrella of Egypt 2022-2027 strategy, launched by the Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat in March 2022, the EBRD approved development financing worth $400 million for the National Bank of Egypt to support SMEs, focusing on regional companies led or owned by young entrepreneurs.  

The bank also approved funding worth $100 million for Banque Misr to improve financing for SMEs in a way that promotes inclusive and sustainable growth. In addition, it aims to increase funding to SMEs in areas with limited access to financial services.

The EBRD also approved another funding for the Mediterrania Capital IV Fund at a value of €30.2 million ($33.7 million).

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies
Updated 04 March 2024

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

NHC signs deals to revolutionize Saudi real estate sector with innovative technologies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Housing Co. signed two agreements at LEAP 2024, aiming to support real estate activities in the Kingdom by crafting unique business intelligence solutions.

The deal were signed with data science company Quant and Paseetah Tech Solutions to empower technologies in the real estate market to enhance services provided to customers interested in making investments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The chief of solutions sector, Rayan Al-Aql, represented the National Housing Co. in signing the agreement, while Quant CEO Ahmed Bukhamseen and Omar Al-Omar, CEO of Paseetah Tech Solutions, represented their respective companies.

The agreements aim to enable modern technologies in the real estate sector by leveraging information owned by the NHC to contribute to creating unique solutions serving the market.

This includes generating more accurate real estate analytics, supporting innovation in data analysis, and creating real estate indicators that enhance the market’s reliance on data in property decisions. This facilitates informed decision-making for investors and buyers, the SPA reported.

NHC is showcasing its services and technological achievements at the LEAP conference currently underway in Riyadh. 

These achievements have benefited over 10 million people across eight government digital platforms. 

The company has also documented more than 9 million residential and commercial lease contracts, achieved over 6.5 million downloads for the “Sakani” application, operated and developed the “Balady” platform under the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, among other technological accomplishments associated with the digital platforms operated and developed by the NHC.

Earlier in February, the National Housing Co. announced that it would build a total of 3,800 homes after forging six partnership agreements worth SR2 billion ($533 million). 

These deals, which were signed with several real estate developers, aim to build residential units in the Riyadh southwestern community of Al-Asalah, with prices starting from SR475,000, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

SPA added that this initiative is part of a comprehensive program of urban development spearheaded by the NHC aiming to revolutionize the housing landscape by introducing innovative concepts and integrated services, ultimately enhancing the quality of life across all sectors of society.

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index
Updated 04 March 2024

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

Saudi Arabia named ‘most improved country overall’ in US Chamber of Commerce IP Index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has received recognition as “the most improved country overall” in the 12th edition of the US Chamber of Commerce International Intellectual Property Index. 

Released on March 2, the report emphasizes the several achievements of the Kingdom, with Vice President of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce Steve Lutes telling Arab News that Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the technology sector over the past year.

“Specifically, I think this year the Kingdom did sign on to some important international treaties and they’ve made some other progress on both the enforcement side and some other of the indicators,” Lutes said on the sidelines of the LEAP 2024 conference.

“The Kingdom moving up in ranking gives more confidence to investors,” he added. 

Lutes went on to say that the body aims to encourage partnerships with the business community, government, and academia in Saudi Arabia to drive the establishment of a diversified, knowledge-based economy aligned with Vision 2030.

The US Chamber of Commerce considers over 50 indices when ranking countries, Lutes added. 

“Some of this looks very marginal. But really, when you think about it from an economic perspective, these are very important drivers because these are the sorts of things that companies look at. Is my IP going to be safe? Is it going to be protected? Are rules going to be enforced? And that’s where you get the investment in value and innovation,” said the vice-president.

The Kingdom allocates a total of $2 million across all funding rounds dedicated to artificial intelligence companies and over $3 billion proportional to gross domestic product with a ranking position of 31 in the Global AI index.

“We’ve been looking at this as governments around the globe start to grapple with the regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence. The Chamber commissioned a report that was largely targeted toward a domestic audience and had some policy recommendations in that,” said Lutes.

A report by the European Centre for International Political Economy and the US Chamber of Commerce, titled “The Opportunity of Artificial Intelligence: Boosting Productivity and Growth in Saudi Arabia,” will be released in March.

The study will include a breakdown covering the benefits of AI for the Kingdom, endowments and digital industry structures, and AI policies going forward. 

“It has some sector-by-sector analysis where we think it can be the most impactful. In my mind, though, the biggest message is for policymakers,” Lutes said, adding: “One of those is investing, for example, in human capital. You have to have the workforce that’s ready to take on these technologies and bring it to government processes, to business processes and see it diffuse. So, when it comes to the sectors, I think, you know, healthcare and education are two that are highlighted in particular as having the most upside.”

Lutes added this is his first time attending LEAP, which is now in its third edition, and the Chamber has been collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence. 

“We are at the LEAP Conference and IP is so fundamental to that. So, kudos to the Kingdom this year. And I guess our message is let’s not rest on our laurels. Let’s continue to work together to see if we can continue to see the Kingdom climb in that index as well,” he concluded. 

LEAP, held in Riyadh from March 4-7, is an annual premier tech event founded in 2022 by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It convenes leading professionals from the sector to deliberate on the industry’s future and the innovative opportunities ahead.

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
Updated 04 March 2024

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties

Riyadh forum explores Saudi-Brazil business, trade ties
  • South American country ‘an important trading partner’ for the Kingdom, says envoy
  • Joint council launched after Brazilian president’s visit late last year

LONDON: The Saudi-Brazilian Business Forum in Riyadh was attended by more than 150 investors from both countries on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, hosted by the Federation of Saudi Chambers and Brazil’s Lide Group, aimed to improve business and trade ties.

Dr. Faisal Ghulam, Saudi ambassador to Brazil, delivered a speech at the forum in which he praised the strong economic relations between the two countries built over 55 years.

He described Brazil as “an important trading partner” for the Kingdom. Annual trade between the two countries stands at $8 billion.

Ghulam lauded the establishment of a Saudi-Brazilian coordination council following President Lula da Silva’s visit to the Kingdom late last year.

Saudi Vision 2030 is providing Brazilian investors with significant opportunities, paving the way for improved trade ties, said Luiz Fernando Furlan, chairman of Lide’s board.

The newly established council will “work to advance the partnership, overcome challenges, and facilitate visas for the business communities from the two countries,” said its Chairman Mishal bin Hithlain.

Lide chief Joao Doria called on the Brazilian business community to explore the “great investment opportunities” available in the Kingdom through Vision 2030.

The forum covered key sectors at the heart of trade between the two countries, including aviation, energy, logistics, mining, agriculture, real estate and healthcare. It was the first event hosted by Lide after the firm opened offices in Riyadh.

The company’s Saudi representative, Malik Al-Qahtani, pledged to serve the business sectors of both countries and improve the ease of operations for Saudi and Brazilian investors.

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase
Updated 04 March 2024

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

Saudi aviation professions localization plan enters 2nd phase

RIYADH: The number of Saudi flight attendants and fixed-wing pilots is set to increase as the localization plan for the Kingdom’s aviation sector enters its second phase.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services, has announced the implementation of the second phase of localizing licensed aviation professions in private sector establishments employing five or more individuals in targeted aviation professions.

In the second phase, the HRSD has specified the professions targeted, setting a 60 percent target for flight attendants and a 70 percent ratio for fixed-wing pilots, contingent on employees in the aviation professions obtaining the professional accreditation certificate from the General Authority of Civil Aviation.

The Ministry of Transport has reiterated its commitment to overseeing the implementation of the program’s second phase. It aims to enable private sector establishments to leverage all support and employment programs offered by the Human Resources and Social Development System to aid in the recruitment and retention of national talent.

The HRSD has issued procedural guidelines explaining the details of the decision, its implementation, and the support and employment programs provided to private sector establishments.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Saudi Airport Exhibition, held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in December 2023, Mervat Sultan, president of the Women in Aviation Middle East Chapter, noted a significant boom, with an increase in airports, establishment of new airlines, and a rising number of tourists. 

She added that the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia is “becoming bigger and bigger and would be leading the industry in the next 20 years.”

In 2022, Ahmed Al-Rajhi, minister of HRSD, issued a notification nationalizing a number of professions and economic activities — including licensed aviation professions, opticians, and periodic inspection activity, as well as postal service outlets and more. 

The decision to localize licensed aviation professions was announced to be implemented in two phases. The first one became effective on March 15, 2023.

In line with its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undertaking an ambitious initiative to empower its citizens and boost their global competitiveness.