A pulse check from Arab News on the Kingdom’s green and blue initiatives

A pulse check from Arab News on the Kingdom’s green and blue initiatives

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When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the twin launch of the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives in March 2021, he made clear the scale of the challenge he was setting for both the Kingdom and the wider region.

“This is only a start,” he said. “The Kingdom, the region, and the world needs to go much further and faster in combating climate change.”

He added: “Given our starting point, beginning this journey to a greener future has not been easy.” But, as a major oil producer, Saudi Arabia fully recognized its share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis and “we are not avoiding tough choices.”

He predicted, “just as the Kingdom underpinned energy markets during the oil and gas era, it is going to become a global leader in forging a greener world.”

The issue of sustainability is a key part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. At the launch of the wide-ranging blueprint for the Kingdom’s future in 2016, the crown prince said climate action would “enhance competitiveness, spark innovation and create millions of high-quality jobs.

“Young people, both in the Kingdom and the world, are demanding a cleaner, greener and more inclusive future, and we owe it to them to deliver on this.”

The story of how Saudi Arabia is now fulfilling that pledge is a remarkable one that deserves to be explained in detail. That is why Arab News decided to launch a new section, Green and Blue, dedicated to coverage of this historic journey upon which the Kingdom has embarked.

Why Green and Blue? These are the colors of life on our precious planet, reflected in the Kingdom’s ambition to restore and protect all elements of the environment on which we all depend.

At the inaugural SGI forum in Riyadh in October 2021, a number of climate-action programs and pledges were unleashed, addressing issues on land and at sea.

The SGI, “an ambitious national initiative that is focused on combating climate change, improving quality of life and protecting the environment for future generations,” has so far set in motion more than 80 separate programs designed to help the Kingdom hit three key targets: Reducing emissions, greening the country, and protecting land and sea.

The heroic determination and achievements of the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives should be documented and celebrated as an inspiration.

Noor Nugali

With more than 7,572 km of coastline and the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf lapping its shores, Saudi Arabia has become one of the 77 member states of the Global Ocean Alliance, dedicated to protecting an environment that is home to an incredible range of biodiversity, from microscopic krill to giant blue whales, responsible for half of the oxygen we breath, and the primary food source for 3.5 billion around the world.

Already, under the auspices of the SGI, tens of thousands of homes are being powered by clean energy, and numerous wind, solar, green hydrogen and carbon-capture projects are either live or under way, driving Saudi Arabia toward its first major milestone on the road to achieving net zero by 2060 — cutting carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes per year by 2030.

At Al-Jouf, in the north of the country, the Kingdom already has the largest wind farm in the Middle East. The 400MW Dumat Al-Jandal began generating electricity in August 2021. When fully operational, it will power 70,000 homes and offset a million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The ambition to green the country entails a commitment to plant 10 billion trees and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of degraded land, while some 30 percent of Saudi Arabia’s land and sea will be designated as protected territory.

This will create habitats in which indigenous fauna and flora can thrive and, where necessary, be successfully reintroduced, with agencies working in partnership with leading international organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Through the MGI, Saudi Arabia is also promoting sustainability across the entire region.

At the inaugural MGI summit in Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2022, the crown prince announced the Kingdom would host the organization’s headquarters and contribute $2.5 billion to its operations.

These included plans to reduce carbon emissions from regional hydrocarbon production by more than 60 percent, helping to reduce global carbon levels by 2.5 percent, plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East, and restore an area equivalent to 200 million hectares of degraded land.

In other words, there are many stories to be told.

Every Saturday, in print and online, Green and Blue’s dedicated writers, Haifa Alshammari, Sulafa Alkuniazi and Nada Alturki, will tell those stories, reporting on the multiple environmental initiatives unfolding in the Kingdom and the wider region.

In doing so, they will document and explain the great strides being taken toward the ultimate goal of transforming Saudi Arabia into a net-zero economy.

It is, of course, the work of experts across various fields who will plot the course ahead, for both the Kingdom and for the whole world. Each week, Green and Blue will therefore feature a column from an expert on the week’s topic.

Let there be no doubt: Saudi Arabia has set itself an extraordinarily ambitious target. Achieving it will demand much of all of us — from individuals and communities to companies and all departments of government.

But we at Arab News believe that the great efforts and sacrifices it will entail will be worth the ultimate prize of preserving our green and blue planet for our children’s children, and that the heroic determination and achievements of the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives should be documented and celebrated as an inspiration as we travel this path together.

• Noor Nugali is deputy editor-in-chief of Arab News

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
Updated 10 min 29 sec ago
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Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
  • The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday
  • Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A massive cradle of baby stars has been observed in new detail by a European space telescope, adding to its celestial collection of images.

The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday.

They were taken following the telescope’s Florida launch last year as a warm-up act to its main job currently underway: surveying the so-called dark universe.

From its perch 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky.

The shape and size of all these galaxies can help scientists understand the mysterious dark energy and dark matter that make up most of the universe.

“Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the universe,” the space agency’s director general, Josef Aschbacher, said in a statement.

Among the newly released pictures is one of an enormous cradle of baby stars some 1,300 light-years away known as Messier 78. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. Euclid’s infrared camera peered through the dust enveloping the stellar nursery, revealing new regions of star formation, according to ESA.


HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests
Updated 23 min 3 sec ago
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HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests
  • For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset
  • Research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat — twice as common in men than in women — compared to those who didn’t get the shots

New research suggests the HPV vaccine is preventing cancer in men, as well as in women, but fewer boys than girls are getting the shots in the United States.

The HPV vaccine was developed to prevent cervical cancer in women and experts give it credit, along with screening, for lowering cervical cancer rates. Evidence that the shots are preventing HPV-related cancers in men has been slower to emerge, but the new research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat compared to those who didn’t get the shots. These cancers are more than twice as common in men than in women.
For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset.As expected, vaccinated women had a lower risk of developing cervical cancer within at least five years of getting the shots. For men, there were benefits too. Vaccinated men had a lower risk of developing any HPV-related cancer, such as cancers of the anus, penis and mouth and throat.
These cancers take years to develop so the numbers were low: There were 57 HPV-related cancers among the unvaccinated men — mostly head and neck cancers — compared to 26 among the men who had the HPV vaccine.
“We think the maximum benefit from the vaccine will actually happen in the next two or three decades,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Curry, a head and neck surgeon at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “What we’re showing here is an early wave of effect.”
Results of the study and a second were released Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be discussed next month at its annual meeting in Chicago. The second study shows vaccination rates rising but males lag behind females in getting the HPV shots.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is very common and is spread through sex. Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear up without treatment. Others develop into cancer, about 37,000 cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the US, the HPV vaccine has been recommended since 2006 for girls at age 11 or 12, and since 2011 for boys the same age. Catch-up shots are recommended for anyone through age 26 who hasn’t been vaccinated.
In the second study, researchers looked at self- and parent-reported HPV vaccination rates in preteens and young adults in a large government survey. From 2011 to 2020, vaccination rates rose from 38 percent to 49 percent among females, and among males from 8 percent to 36 percent.
“HPV vaccine uptake among young males increased by more than fourfold over the last decade, though vaccination rates among young males still fall behind females,” said study co-author Dr. Danh Nguyen at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Parents of boys, as well as girls, should know that HPV vaccines lower cancer risk, said Jasmin Tiro of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center who was not involved in the research. And young men who haven’t been vaccinated can still get the shots.
“It’s really important that teenagers get exposed to the vaccine before they’re exposed to the virus,” she said.


German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university

German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university
Updated 40 min 25 sec ago
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German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university

German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university
  • Activists had occupied several rooms of the Humboldt University’s Institute for Social Sciences in downtown Berlin on Wednesday

BERLIN: German police cleared about 150 pro-Palestinian demonstrators from a Berlin university faculty on Thursday, ending one of a wave of student-led protests across Europe over Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas.
Activists had occupied several rooms of the Humboldt University’s Institute for Social Sciences in downtown Berlin on Wednesday.
Student Coalition Berlin, the group which organized the protest, called in a statement posted on social media for the university to “take an active role in ending the genocide against the people of Palestine and their decades-long suffering.”
University administrators agreed after talks with protest leaders to let them stay until Thursday evening. But they called in the police when some of them refused to leave, German news agency dpa reported.
Police spokeswoman Beate Ostertag said that, while some of the demonstrators left voluntarily, police officers had to lead others from the building. Police said about 130 people were briefly detained during the operation, in which officers broke through several barricaded doors.
Student protests over the war in Gaza that began in the United States have spread to university campuses in many European countries. In Germany, protests have taken place this week at universities in cities including Munich and Leipzig.
Berlin authorities have taken a tough line against anti-Israeli demonstrations, urging police to step in if demonstrators use slogans that could incite hatred against Jews – taboo in a country marked by the memory of the Holocaust.
“There is no place for hate and anti-Semitism in Berlin and at our universities,” said Burkard Dregger, a lawmaker for the Christian Democratic Union, which leads the Berlin state government.


Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers

Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers
Updated 24 May 2024
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Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers

Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers
  • While the oil and gas industry has boomed under Biden despite increased regulation, they are pushing back against Biden’s ban on fracking on federal land a recent halt in approving new gas export facilities

HOUSTON: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised tens of millions of dollars during a fundraising swing through Texas this week, promising he would support the oil and gas industry by backing new pipelines and restoring fracking on federal land.

Trump has courted support from the energy industry with a pro-fossil fuel and anti-regulation agenda and regularly criticizes President Joe Biden’s policies to accelerate the energy transition toward a low-carbon economy.
The oil and gas industry has boomed under Biden despite increased regulation and the more climate-focused administration, making record profits and pumping more oil and gas than ever before. The industry has pushed back against Biden’s ban on fracking on federal land a recent halt in approving new gas export facilities.
A Houston fundraiser on Wednesday was hosted by oil billionaires Jeff Hildebrand, founder of Hilcorp Energy, the largest closely held US oil firm; George Bishop, founder of GeoSouthern Energy; Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources; and Kelcy Warren, head of pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners.
Trump drew standing ovations when he promised to get more natural gas pipelines built if elected and to restore fracking to areas barred under Biden, said Mark Carr, a Houston entrepreneur who was in attendance. Many oil and gas pipelines were delayed or abandoned under both Trump and Biden’s administrations due to community opposition, legal challenges and lengthy permitting processes.
“He’s going to get energy going again in the United States,” said Carr, who founded the Houston-area Christian Brothers Automotive chain.
Trump said America needs to quit taking Venezuelan “tar” oil and instead use American oil, said another attendee, who declined to be named. The United States has resumed limited imports of Venezuelan crude under Biden for processing at US refineries.
Trump has emphasized tax cuts for the industry, “streamlining” the permitting process, and removing certain regulations, said donor and oil executive Dan Eberhart, who was in Houston for the event. “We can drill our way to energy security and low gas prices,” said Eberhart.
The Houston fundraiser was held by the Trump 47 Committee, a fundraising tie-up between the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, a fundraising group that has spent tens of millions of dollars on Trump’s legal fees, and a raft of Republican state parties. The Houston luncheon and a smaller, more intimate roundtable with a group of about 45 executives was followed by a fundraising event in Dallas on Wednesday night.
A Trump campaign official said the Texas swing brought in at least $15 million. Two sources told Reuters the various Texas events took in a total of around $40 million. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm that number.
After a raft of high-dollar donor events across the country, Trump overtook Biden in fundraising last month for the first time.
Meanwhile, the US Senate finance and budget committees on Thursday launched an investigation into Trump’s reported offer to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in exchange for $1 billion in campaign contributions.
The investigation came a week after the top Democratic lawmaker on a US House oversight panel sought information from nine oil companies about reports about “quid pro quo propositions” made by the former president at a campaign event this spring at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The Texas events were pricy affairs: Host committee members were asked to pay $250,000 per couple and agree to raise another $500,000, according to the invitations. The chair was asked to donate about $845,000 per couple and raise another $1.69 million.
An after-luncheon roundtable drew Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub and Houston entertainment and sports magnate Tillman Fertitta, who owns the hotel where the event was held. They were offered a question-and-answer period with the candidate.
Also in attendance in Houston was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a former Trump rival for the Republican nomination and now a possible running mate, according to another attendee.
Teofilo Lingi, chief operating officer of EK-Petrol, said the former president was “good for the oil industry” and relations with Angola, where his trading and oil exploration company was founded.
Stricter environmental regulations since Trump’s term in office have “made it more difficult for us to import from Angola,” Lingi said, citing customs duties.


Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
Updated 24 May 2024
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Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
  • Oliver Varhelyi, EU commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, says he regrets making the warning
  • The EU official says his remarks on the Slovak assassination attempt was 'taken out of context

TBILISI/BRUSSELS: Georgia’s prime minister on Thursday said an EU commissioner had hinted he could face an assassination bid over a controversial law but the official said the conversation had been distorted.
Georgian premier Irakli Kobakhidze said the unnamed commissioner told him to be “very careful,” citing this month’s assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, while discussing the legislation likened by critics to Russian-style laws.
The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the bill, but the ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers in parliament to override her veto in a vote next week, despite mass protests and sweeping global condemnation.
Critics say the measure mirrors Russian legislation used to stifle dissent, while Brussels warns it is “incompatible” with Tbilisi’s longstanding bid for European Union membership.
Kobakhidze said that “amid open blackmail” by high-ranking foreign politicians, an EU commissioner had called him to outline “measures, which Western politicians could take if the presidential veto is overridden.”
In what Kobakhidze called a “horrific threat,” he quoted the commissioner as saying: “You’ve seen what happened to (Robert) Fico and you must be very careful.”

Fico, a Euroskeptic populist, was shot four times at point-blank range on May 15. Slovak police arrested a 71-year-old suspect who said he had wanted to hurt Fico because he disagreed with government policies.

“As a precautionary measure, I decided to inform Georgian society of that threat,” Kobakhidze added in a statement.
EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said later: “I would like to express my very sincere regret that a certain part of my phone conversation was taken out of context.”
Georgia’s ruling party has faced widespread accusations of derailing the country from its EU membership path and leading the ex-Soviet republic back toward the Russian orbit.
But the party insists it is committed to EU and NATO membership — which are enshrined in the country’s constitution and supported by more than 80 percent of the population.
It has repeatedly accused Western countries of attempts to drag Tbilisi into Russia’s war on Ukraine.