Fighting Climate Change: Saudi Initiative, Green Middle East Initiative a new sustainable pathway to achieve green global targets

Faifa Mountains in southern Saudi Arabia

Faifa Mountains in southern Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to launch the “Saudi Green Initiative” and the “Middle East Green Initiative” to chart a path for the Kingdom and the region in protecting the planet by clearly defining an ambitious road map that rallies the region and significantly contributes to achieving global targets in confronting climate change.

Announcing the initiatives, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that, Saudi Arabia, as a leading global oil producer, fully recognizes its share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis.

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, he added.

Saudi Arabia and the region face significant climate challenges, such as desertification, an immediate economic risk to them. Currently, $13 billion are lost due to dust storms in the region every year while air pollution from greenhouse gases has reportedly shortened average Saudi life expectancy by 1.5 years.

“We will work through the Saudi Green Initiative to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine life,” he said, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

This initiative will include several ambitious initiatives; most notably the planting of 10 billion trees within the Kingdom in the upcoming decades, the equivalent to rehabilitating roughly 40 million hectares of degraded lands. This will lead to a 12-fold increase from current tree covers. IT represents the Kingdom‘s contribution of more than 4% in achieving the goals of the global initiative to limit the degradation of lands and fungal habitats, and 1% of the global target to plant 1 trillion trees.

The Kingdom will also work to raise the percentage of protected areas to more than 30% of its total land area, representing roughly 600,000 square kilometers, exceeding the current global target of 17%, in addition to launching ambitious initiatives to protect marine and coastal environments.

The Crown Prince added that the Saudi Green Initiative will also work to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4% of global contributions, through an ambitious renewable energy program that will generate 50% of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030. Several other projects in the fields of clean hydrocarbon technologies will eliminate more than 130 MT of carbon emissions, alongside raising the rate of waste diversion from landfills to reach 94% in the Kingdom.

Saudi capital Riyadh set to overcome climate challenges, become greener

Saudi capital Riyadh set to overcome climate challenges, become greener (Twitter)

While there is still a lot more to be done, Saudi Arabia is determined to make a lasting global impact.

“We will start working on The Middle East Green Initiative in coordination with countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Middle East to plant an additional 40 billion trees in the Middle East,” he said.

“This overall regional 50 billion tree planting program is the largest reforestation program in the world, twice the size of the Great Green Wall in the Sahel. This project will restore an area equivalent to 200 million hectares of degraded land, representing 5% of the global target of planting 1 trillion trees and reducing 2.5% of global carbon levels.”

Currently, the share of clean energy production in the Middle East does not exceed 7% and technologies used in hydrocarbon production in the region are not efficient, therefore the Kingdom will work with regional partners to transfer our knowledge and share our experiences, he said.

This will contribute to reducing carbon emissions resulting from hydrocarbon production in the region by more than 60%. These joint efforts and various other initiatives will achieve a reduction in carbon emissions by more than 10% of global contributions.

The  Crown Prince highlighted that these two initiatives are a continuation of the environmental efforts in the Kingdom over the past few years in line with our Vision 2030.

The two initiatives are a testimony of the Kingdom’s serious keenness to address the environmental challenges it has faced, from the increase in temperatures and dust waves to low levels of rain and desertification.

In this regard, Saudi Arabia has carried out a comprehensive restructuring of the environmental sector, established The Environmental Special Forces in 2019, raised the percentage of natural reserves from 4% to more than 14% and increased vegetation cover by 40% in the past four years.

According to SPA, the Saudi kingdom was also able to achieve the most efficient levels of carbon emission among hydrocarbon producing countries, alongside other initiatives that have started on the ground and resulted in tangible positive results for the environment. This is all part of the Kingdom’s efforts to promote public health and raise quality of life for its citizens and residents.

The Crown Prince said the initiatives emanate from the Kingdom‘s leadership role towards common international issues. They are a continuation of the Kingdom’s efforts to protect the planet during its presidency of the G20 summit last year in which a dedicated environmental declaration was issued, the concept of Circular Carbon Economy were adopted, and the first environmental taskforce was established, alongside the launch of two global initiatives to reduce land degradation and protect coral reefs.

Hanging Gardens at Faifa Mountains in southern Saudi Arabia

Hanging Gardens at Faifa Mountains in southern Saudi Arabia

“I am proud to announce the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives, but this is only a start,” the Crown Prince said.

“The Kingdom, the region and the world need to go much further and faster in combatting climate change. Given our starting point, starting this journey to a greener future has not been easy.

“However, in line with our overall modernization philosophy, we are not avoiding tough choices. We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment.

“Climate action will 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.

“Saudi Arabia will work with all international partners to further develop these two initiatives and the various programs and timelines entailed in them.”

The details of the Saudi Green Initiative will be announced within months, and a global forum with international partners for the Middle East Green Initiative will be launched and held in the second quarter of next year.

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