How Saudi Arabia is using wildlife conservation, habitat protection, and the green transition to preserve its ecosystems

Special How Saudi Arabia is using wildlife conservation, habitat protection, and the green transition to preserve its ecosystems
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Updated 03 February 2024
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How Saudi Arabia is using wildlife conservation, habitat protection, and the green transition to preserve its ecosystems

How Saudi Arabia is using wildlife conservation, habitat protection, and the green transition to preserve its ecosystems
  • Harnessing renewables and promoting biodiversity are key to climate action, environmental experts tell Arab News
  • Saudi Green Initiative aims to cut emissions, plant 10 million trees and safeguard 30 percent of the Kingdom’s territory

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia aims to be at the forefront of environmental protection through initiatives aimed at restoring and maintaining the ecological balance, which promotes harmonious and flourishing ecosystems.

Climate action, clean energy, and preserving habitats are just some of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals incorporated into Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The SDGs serve as a blueprint for achieving a balanced ecosystem for wildlife, water, and the environment in the Kingdom.

Without balance, ecosystems face major challenges from global warming, water shortages, and the loss of biodiversity.

Carlos Duarte, a distinguished professor of marine science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Tarek Ahmed Juffali Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology, has spent 40 years researching ocean ecosystems.

 

 

“Loss of biodiversity reduces the capacity of ecosystems to maintain their functions under stress, such as under climate change,” Duarte told Arab News. “It directly impacts food security, but also by undermining pollination, the nursery role of many ecosystems for fisheries, and pest and disease control.

“It also represents the loss of natural products and genes of potential interest in pharma, cosmetic, food, energy, and environment applications before we have even discovered them.

“These are the major consequences of biodiversity loss, climate change and the impact of widespread pollution on our societies, economies, and well-being. The emerging concept is one of ‘one health,’ which recognizes that our health and that of our ecosystems are intimately linked, so that there are no healthy people on a sick planet.”

National Center for Wildlife

Established in 1986, the National Center for Wildlife is responsible for protecting and preserving plants and animals in Saudi Arabia.

The center is leading the initiative to expand the Kingdom’s protected land and sea area to 30 percent, to help rehabilitate ecosystems and enrich biodiversity.

 

DIDYOU KNOW

1

The fine for unauthorized hunting in Saudi Arabia amounts to SR10,000 ($2,666) while fines for harming living animals range from SR1,500 to SR200,000.

2

Fines for violators of logging regulations start at SR1,000 and can reach SR20 million. Penalties can be doubled for repeat violations.

3

The National Center for Wildlife prohibits the hunting of all types of animals or birds within the borders of cities, villages, centers, farms, and rest houses, within various proximities to populated areas, as well as military and industrial centers, various institutions, and within protected areas and major projects. It also prohibits hunting along the Saudi coast at an inland limit of 20 km.

4

The NCW presented an infographic pointing out article 4 of the Executive Regulations for Wildlife Hunting, which prohibits hunting predators such as the Arabian leopard, hyenas, wolves, jackals, lynxes, sand cats, common genets, and honey badgers.

5

Hunting endemic birds in the Kingdom is also prohibited, in addition to ungulates, including the Arabian oryx, the sandy-colored goitered antelope, the mountain gazelle (whether found in mountains or on the Farasan Islands), and the Nubian ibex.

It is also involved in 10 breeding programs to aid the reintroduction and propagation of endangered species including the Arabian oryx, sand gazelle, mountain ibex, bustards, and ostriches, as well as predators, such as the Arabian wolf, striped hyena, lynx, and cheetah.

The NCW recently collaborated with the Saudi Konoz Initiative, under Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media’s Center for Government Communication, on “Horizon,” a Netflix documentary showcasing the Kingdom’s diverse wildlife.

Saudi Green Initiative

Inaugurated in 2021, the Saudi Green Initiative features 81 projects designed to cut carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes per year, plant 10 million trees across the country, and safeguard habitats.




Caption

The SGI uses the circular carbon economy, a framework focused on managing emissions. Saudi Arabia has implemented more than 30 CCE initiatives across the energy system to date.

One of the SGI’s focus areas is “whole-of-society action,” which encourages the public and private sectors to work together and enables citizens to participate.

Red Sea Global

 

The Red Sea is home to the world’s fourth-biggest barrier reef, where marine life and coral thrive.

Established in 2018, Red Sea Global aims to transform the Kingdom’s west coast into a world-class tourism and hospitality destination.




Rendering of a Red Sea Global project off Umluj and Al-Wajh in Tabuk province. (Supplied)

Located between Umluj and Al-Wajh, the project covers an area of 28,000 square kilometers.

Omar Al-Attas, head of environmental protection and regeneration at Red Sea Global, told Arab News the firm aims to protect ecosystems by using 100 percent renewable energy and promoting “regenerative tourism.”

“One of the strategic goals that we are trying to realize is achieving 30 percent net conservation benefit by 2040 by enhancing biologically diverse habitats including mangroves, seagrass, corals, and land vegetation,” he said.

The RSG is currently working on seven SGI projects, which include establishing the largest marine-protected area in the region. It also aims to limit development and visitor footfall to protect the environment




Launched in 2017, NEOM's Oxagon project in Tabuk features a floating industrial complex, global trade hub, tourist resorts and a linear city powered by renewable energy sources. (Supplied)

“We made the decision to develop only 22 of the more than 90 islands,” Attas said. “We limited our development to accommodate no more than 1 million visitors a year at the Red Sea and 500,000 at AMAALA,” two of RSG’s luxury projects.

However, Attas believes society as a whole has a role to play in environmental protection.

“Individuals can help promote a balanced ecosystem by reducing waste, conserving water and energy, planting native species, using sustainable transportation, supporting local and sustainable food, minimizing chemical use, protecting natural habitats, educating others about environmental issues, and supporting conservation organizations,” he said.




Society as a whole has a role to play in environmental protection, says Omar Al-Attas, head of environmental protection and regeneration at Red Sea Global. (Supplied)

NEOM Green Hydrogen Company

The world’s biggest green hydrogen plant at NEOM’s Oxagon is expected to be fully operational by 2026, producing up to 600 tonnes of green hydrogen per day.

Green hydrogen is made through a process of electrolysis using only renewable energy sources, which makes it carbon free to produce. When hydrogen undergoes combustion, it produces nothing but water vapor, so it is also carbon free to use.

The Kingdom aims to be the world’s largest hydrogen energy producer and exporter, producing up to 4 million tons of clean hydrogen per year.




Illustration showing the Oxagon's green hydrogen project. (X: @NGHC_)

Duarte says these projects are raising community awareness about the importance of sustainable living.

“We can only promote a balanced ecosystem if we are aware of the broader consequences of our choices and behavior,” he said. “Our choices of energy source and delivery systems for transport or illumination, our respect for water — essential for a Bedouin culture where the respect for scarce water resources was of absolute importance — and the responsible generation and disposal of waste are all key elements of our footprint on the environment.

“Vision 2030 has not only brought about a commitment with sustainable development that is far more sincere and pervasive than I have seen in any other nation; it has also reconnected Saudi society with a heritage of sustainability and commitment as custodians of biodiversity and ecosystem that is reflected in projects around the Kingdom, from the Red Sea Project to AlUla and Diriyah Gate.”

 

 


Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris

Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris

Saudi Arabia takes part in 3rd annual international Camel Parade in Paris
  • This year’s event celebrates decision by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to designate 2024 as International Year of Camelids
  • Saudi representatives will highlight role of the Kingdom in promoting the value of camels as a cultural symbol associated with Saudi society since ancient times

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is taking part in a special Camel Parade in France on Saturday, in celebration of the UN’s designation of 2024 as International Year of Camelids.

The event in Paris has been organized by the French Federation for the Development of Camelids in France and Europe, under the umbrella of the International Camel Organization, and is sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Kingdom’s Camel Club.

This is the third year in which the event has taken place.  The event was first held in January 2019 and repeated in 2022.  

The participants in the parade of camels, llamas, alpacas and other members of the camelid family of creatures are expected to include more than 50 representatives of camel-related organizations from more than 30 countries, along with camel breeders, government officials, others with an interest in the animals, and entertainers from various branches of the performing arts.

The camelids family. (Shutterstock image)

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the countries that will be represented include the US, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Canada, India, Morocco, Tanzania, Peru, Algeria, the Czech Republic, Pakistan, Tunisia, Austria, Spain, Burundi, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, France, Sudan, Chad, Angola, the UK and Uganda.

Saudi representatives will highlight the role of the Kingdom in promoting the value of camels as a cultural symbol that has been associated with Saudi society since ancient times and “still enjoys great prestige,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

On Friday, the eve of the parade, public discussions took place at the Chateau de Janvry’s historical center about cultural heritage associated with camels around the world and the specific contributions by participating countries to the annual event in Paris.

The parade will be followed by a reception for invited guests, including representatives of the participating countries, international organizations, academia, research centers and the private sector, the SPA reported.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization named 2024 as International Year of Camelids to honor and promote the sector and highlight the important role it plays in efforts to achieve food security and economic growth in many countries.

 

 


Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad

Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad

Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan’s top military officials in Islamabad

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister of defense, Talal Al-Otaibi, on Friday held talks with top officials from the Pakistan Army during an official visit to Islamabad.

He reviewed relations between the two countries during meetings with the commander of the army, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, and the chief of the general staff, Gen. Muhammad Avais Dastgir.

The Saudi-Pakistani Committee also met during Al-Otaibi’s visit. Its members discussed cooperation between the nations in the field of defense, including research and development, and the transfer and localization of technology, in line with the goals of Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan.


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 20 April 2024
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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.