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Saudi Arabia’s netzero commitment prior to COP 26


As the UN’s 26th climate change conference, referred as COP26, is starting on the last day of October, most of the world leaders and dignitaries are ready to show their blueprints and commitments for reducing the carbon emissions, greenhouse gases (GHG) and the carbon footprints to reach to NetZero target of 2050. According to the Energy Agency, 80% of the global energy comes from the fossil fuels (coal, oil & gas) and out of it, 60% of the energy is derived from oil & gas. Since most of the carbon emission comes from the fossil fuels (FFL), the world has been waiting to see what kind of roadmaps and markers FFL countries (OPEC) will use to help reduce the global warming, halting & reversing the climate change, and reaching to their NetZero targets, without jeopardizing their robust economies.
Among the OPEC countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the leading oil producer, and the major energy supplier to the world. Thus, the Saudi leadership felt their duty to leading the war against the climate change and global warming. To show their commitment for this noble and urgent cause of saving the planet earth, the kingdom organized two distinct events in Riyadh over a period of three days (October 23-25). The national project is called the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) and is based on two major paradigms, called OASIS (Oceans, Atmosphere, Space, Interface, Species) and ALIVE (Action, Legacy, Investment, Vision, Equity), and they are the DNA & the backbone of the initiative. The regional program is called the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) and is designed for cooperation, assistance, and support to the Middle Eastern countries for doing their part for the NetZero emissions. Both events are the brainchild of the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), who is also the deputy Prime Minister & Defense Minister of the Kingdom. The events were immensely thought-out and well planned with exceptional success and well attendance by the excellencies, highnesses, world leaders, dignitaries, policy makers, capital market executives, investment bankers, assets managers, market leaders, risk managers, multilateral lenders, energy thinktanks, and heads of the UN agencies. Both events were live telecasted above, and beyond the Middle East region. By some estimates, the proceedings were watched by millions of people around the world.
In his opening addresses at SGI and MGI, the Crown Prince made landmark announcements about the climate change and described the roadmap how the kingdom will contribute to reducing the global warming through carbon emission & greenhouse gases (GHG; CH? & CO?) reductions. He described his vision of making the KSA and the world greener and sustainable place by reducing the carbon emissions by two times from the current level, planting 10 billion trees, increasing the protected habitat area by 30 percent, and making many other changes in the kingdom’s ecosystem. Additionally, the Crown Prince announced that the kingdom will establish an investment fund for the circular carbon economy (CCE) as well as an international economic initiative (IEI) to providing food to over 750 million people across the world with an initial earmarked amount of 930 million Saudi Riyals (US$~248 million). He declared that the kingdom would achieve its national NetZero carbon target by 2060 (if not sooner), a bit later than the Paris Agreement, by making many changes in its current ecosystem. The kingdom will be switching to natural gas, hydrogen, and renewables fuel mix (50%) in place of the liquid fuel (oil), by increasing investments in the carbon capture & storage (CCS) technologies, helping neighbors for their strives to reaching their own NetZero targets; through sharing experience & technology, and providing financial assistance. The Crown Prince said that since the climate change is a global challenge it has to be solved collectively through individual plans and roadmaps to converge together at the final destination of the NetZero target! Now, it is a marathon where we are all running in the same direction (not competing against each other) to stop and reversing our own created problem caused due to neglect and perpetual denials! The theme of collective efforts for saving the planet was repeated again and again by most of the speakers.
The Crown Prince was applauded by every speaker for his vision, foresight, and commitment for taking the lead in organizing a very timely conference on climate change with monumental and daunting scale challenges, just at heals of the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Crown Prince represents the younger generation with progressive ideas for reforming the ultraconservative Saudi society into a vibrant, inclusive, and modern society with his charming personality, dynamic leadership, and assertive governance style. These virtues has made the Crown Prince not only very popular in the new generation of the Saudis but also he is admired by the other Middle East countries youths. The Crown Prince cherishes his heritage & values and admires his culture and the kingdom’s vital role in making the industrial revolution a spectacular success in the history of human civilizations by becoming the major energy supplier. As the creator of the “Saudi vision-2030”, the Crown Prince wants to lead the kingdom to its next phase of transformation in the digital era through economic diversification, inclusivity & equal opportunity for men, women & minorities for sustainable growth, fulfillment, pride, and prosperity. This transformation will create higher paying jobs that in turn will bring prosperity to every Saudi citizen, resulting into higher standards of living, improved quality of life through equally accessible cutting-edge health care, deploying “Ivy-league” higher education standards, encouraging entrepreneurship, creating digital technology (AI, ML, AR) incubator centers, collaborating research (basic & advanced) with the world’s renowned institutions, creating environment for equality & inclusivity, fostering cooperation, eliminating waste, making operations transparent, reducing carbon emissions and transforming the KSA into a carbon NetZero country by following the guiding principles of 2015 Paris Agreement. These actions have made HRH, MBS as the most popular Crown Prince in Saudi succession’s history, and also equally popular in the GCC and the Middle East.
His Royal Highness, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Minister of Energy, resonated the audience when he described that the SGI project is a bottom up and is developed by the younger and new generation colleagues and staff who wants to change the status quo to protect the planet earth not only for themselves but also for the future generations to come.
He said that under the SGI, more than 450,000,000 trees are being planted in addition to rehabilitating million hectares of the degraded land. Planting 50 billion trees in the Middle East to help reduce carbon emissions in the region by more than 10%. HRH also elaborated about the landmark proclamations by saying that Saudi Arabia plays a very important and vital role in the supply chain of energy to the entire world. Thus, it is very natural for the kingdom to take the lead in addressing the climate change and reducing the carbon & greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by committing for it by navigating through a clearly mapped out pathway, allocating resources, monitoring progress, and reporting it transparently to all the stakeholders and nations. Since the carbon emission and the climate change are global issues, Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, any single nation cannot do it all alone. Thus, we have to work together and benefit from each other’s experiences in addressing the paramount challenges of depletion of the north pole ice, warming of the ocean temperatures, permanent presence of smog and smoke in major metropolitan cities, unhealthy air quality causing upper respiratory ailments at alarming rates, unprecedented extreme weather events frequency, ocean pollution resulting into depletion of the marine species, and accelerated rate of global warming!
Several distinguished speakers emphasized this fact, over and over again, that saving the planet is a global challenge and as such is the responsibility of all of us and the entire ecosystem of the institutions to do their part. It means that it is not just the national policy makers but also the global, multilateral, regional, and local financial institutions have to accept their responsibilities in combating demise of the planet by encouraging, fostering, and supporting the green initiatives at all levels. They should finance only those projects that meet a minimum requirement of reducing the emissions and the carbon footprint of the products and services that they are currently offering or going to commercialize in the future. For funding of the existing projects, the financing institutions should put conditions to their clients for committing with well-defined markers how their managements are planning to reduce the carbon and GHG emissions from their current portfolio of products, in compliance with the Paris agreement. As a matter of fact, and as the good news, many of the multinational lenders, investment bankers and commercial banks are already drafting to incentivize the industries & businesses by offering discounted rate financing to their clients who are pursuing the stated goals of the emission reductions. And for those who don’t come up with a viable plan and commitment, the cost of financing will be higher than their counterparts who comply with the emission reduction path. In some situations, it is very likely that they may be denied additional capital for their capacity increase or business expansions!
Many distinguished speakers from several countries, energy experts, environmentalists, capital market players, multilateral lenders and the Deputy Secretary of the UN gave their thoughts and recommendations for combating the climate change and they were all appreciated by the Crown Prince and the delegates. PM Imran Khan also addressed the conference and said that the climate change is humanity’s “biggest crises” and “was quite visible 20 years ago, but somehow we were all in self-denials”. It resonated very well with the participants and was applauded. PM also highlighted plantation of trees & mangroves on massive scales in the country and moving away from coal for the future power generation as the roadmap for Pakistan to address the carbon emissions and the climate change. Hopefully, more detailed information will be shared by Pakistani delegate during the COP 26 summit in Glasgow in the coming days.