Experts laud Saudi plan for confronting climate-change challenge head on

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Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman briefs King Salman on the Riyadh Green program. (SPA file photo)
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Decarbonizing the economy is being touted as a job-creation opportunity for the region’s future. (SPA)
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Decarbonizing the economy is being touted as a job-creation opportunity for the region’s future. (SPA)
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Updated 05 April 2021

Experts laud Saudi plan for confronting climate-change challenge head on

  • Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives aim to reverse environmental degradation and tackle climate change
  • Twin initiatives will help rebuild degraded soils, enhance water cycle and restore region’s biodiversity among other things

DUBAI: Two new Saudi initiatives are generating buzz and enthusiasm for environmental protection and climate-change mitigation far beyond the Kingdom’s borders. Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 27, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives call for regional cooperation to tackle the environmental challenges facing the Kingdom and the region as a whole.

From conflict and hunger to energy and diplomacy, Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a leading force in shaping the GCC region’s policies and coordinating responses to crises. The “green” initiatives, which are part of the Vision 2030 reform strategy, will place Saudi Arabia at the center of regional efforts to meet international targets on climate change mitigation, as well as help it achieve its own goals.

Indeed, the Saudi plan is already a major talking point in the run-up to the US-hosted Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day (April 22), which is also the fifth anniversary of the day the Paris Agreement was opened for signature.

“The initiatives are a forward-looking and commendable move by the Saudi leadership to seriously curtail greenhouse gas emissions and combat the negative effects of deforestation in the region,” Koichiro Tanaka, professor at Keio University and former managing director of the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan, told Arab News.

“The Saudi Vision 2030, with its ambitious goals, has already demonstrated the Kingdom’s determination to significantly reduce CO2 emissions through the concept of the circular carbon economy.”

The Saudi Green Initiative entails the planting of 10 billion trees in the Kingdom, restoring 40 million hectares of degraded land, generating 50 percent of electricity from renewables by 2030 and eliminating more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions. Under the Middle East Green Initiative, 40 billion trees will be planted in the region, 200 million hectares of degraded land will be restored and carbon emissions will be reduced by 60 percent.

The targets are ambitious to be sure. But as Yousef Al-Balawi, an environmental risk assessment specialist at the National Center for Environmental Compliance in Saudi Arabia, explains, the tree-planting process will be examined by specialists and experts, with a focus on indigenous trees that can survive on minimal amounts of water. Most of the Kingdom’s 2,000-plus species of plants are well adapted to the region’s hot, arid environment.

“Plants greatly help in reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide responsible for global warming, and the associated negative effects on the environment, such as desertification and land degradation,” he told Arab News.

“Moreover, different plants remove different harmful gases. Thus, a ‘green belt’ can contribute to purifying the atmosphere of cities in addition to absorbing and reducing traffic noise, among other things.”

Decarbonizing the economy is being touted as a job-creation opportunity for the region’s future. (Reuters)

With vegetation cover being a pillar of three important systems that support the global economy (farms, forests and pastures), Al-Balawi says that the planting of 10 billion trees under the Saudi Green plan will be equivalent to rehabilitating about 40 million hectares of degraded land, which in turn will give rise to a 12-fold expansion in the Kingdom’s existing tree cover.

“The initiatives will actively contribute to preserving the planet and protecting the environment to improve quality of life, which confirms the Kingdom’s pioneering role on common international issues,” he told Arab News.

“Adopting and launching the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives will enhance the role of vegetation in purifying the air through the process of photosynthesis, the absorption of carbon dioxide and the production of oxygen. Preserving the environment is the responsibility of everyone — government as well as people.”

Sounding an equally positive note, Mohammed Al-Ghazal, co-founder and CEO of Noor Energy, said the Saudi Crown Prince’s initiatives could facilitate a quantum leap in quality of life and environment in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and beyond. This is especially critical as climate change and public health are global challenges today.

Mohammed Al-Ghazal, co-founder and CEO of Noor Energy. (Supplied)

“Not many plants in Saudi Arabia are native to the region. The country is also a powerhouse of fossil fuels, which continue to run the world. Yet Saudi Arabia has boldly taken the world to higher levels of re-foresting sandy deserts and greening energy supplies,” he told Arab News.

“This is an extension of Saudi Arabia’s leadership role of the G20, to make the world a better place for all.”

While the GCC region has long been a leading global supplier of fossil fuels, renewables are complementing its own energy mix, offering eco-friendly alternatives such as clean hydrogen fuel to decarbonize and reduce gas emissions.

“It is rewarding to see different countries of the region working together toward a common goal under the umbrella of the Kingdom,” Al-Ghazal said. “This will spur similar initiatives the world over, with Saudi Arabia as the nucleus of an ambition green revolution.”

With around 70 to 90 percent of the Arabian Peninsula facing the threat of desertification, owing to past and ongoing human activities, a massive afforestation and land restoration initiative holds hope for millions of hectares of degraded land.

“The benefits of such a project go far beyond the carbon sequestration, as it will contribute to rebuilding degraded soils, enhancing the water cycle, restoring biodiversity, growing income and livelihood opportunities, as well as increasing the region’s resilience to climate change,” Seta Tutundjian, director of programs at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai, told Arab News.

“In the long term, it can even alter local weather patterns. Unfortunately, many still view the environment as a resource to exploit for economic and social gain, with very little thought for the ecological implications. Therefore, initiatives and campaigns that aim to protect the environment can play a huge role in changing this mindset.”

Decarbonizing the economy is being touted as a job-creation opportunity for the region’s future. (Reuters)

For Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder and managing director of UAE-based green social enterprise Goumbook, Saudi Arabia’s transformation from one of the world’s top oil producers to a leader in forging a greener world is extremely encouraging.

“The Crown Prince recognizes the Kingdom’s responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis, and seems to be ready to act while preserving the economy and protecting the environment,” she told Arab News.

“The Saudi Green Initiative is a clear move to diversify the economy away from its oil dependence. Even today, less than 1 percent of the Kingdom’s energy comes from renewables.”

As daunting as it may be, the Saudi Green goal of 50 percent electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030 dovetails nicely with that of at least one neighbor: The UAE hopes to achieve the same target by 2050, although Abu Dhabi has set for itself a more ambitious deadline: 2030.

“Such is the scale and range of global environmental challenges that no single country can tackle them alone,” Abella said. “They require a joint, cross-border approach, hopefully aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda.”

Antoine Vagneur-Jones, associate at BloombergNEF, said that the Saudi initiatives make sense when one considers the fact that carbon dioxide emissions were soaring across the region before the pandemic hit. He noted that progress in decoupling Saudi Arabia’s economy from fossil fuels has been made over a short time, although oil still accounted for two-thirds of fiscal revenues in 2019.

“Decarbonizing the economy can yield a myriad of opportunities, from job creation linked to new technologies, to producing hydrogen from clean power,”  Vagneur-Jones told Arab News. “The Kingdom has aligned the initiative with existing objectives. In order to drive the transition, the headlines must translate into a robust policy and concrete measures.”


Twitter: @CalineMalek


Oil behemoth Aramco beats forecasts with record Q2 profit of $48.4bn

Updated 14 August 2022

Oil behemoth Aramco beats forecasts with record Q2 profit of $48.4bn

  • The oil giant was expected to report $46.2 billion in net income based on 15 analyst forecasts.
  • Profits of “the most profitable oil company in the world” hit SR182 billion ($48.4 billion) after revenue soared 80 percent to SR562 billion.

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco’s profit has surged 90 percent in the second quarter of 2022, beating the median of analysts’ forecasts with the highest quarterly profit since going public in 2019.

The oil giant was expected to report $46.2 billion in net income based on 15 analyst forecasts.

Profits of “the most profitable oil company in the world” hit SR182 billion ($48.4 billion) after revenue soared 80 percent to SR562 billion, according to a bourse filing.

This is up from SR148 billion in the prior quarter and SR95.5 billion in the second quarter of 2021.

The crude producer said the results were primarily driven by rising crude prices which soared to record highs earlier this year, higher volumes sold, and improved downstream margins.

“Our record second-quarter results reflect increasing demand for our products — particularly as a low-cost producer with one of the lowest upstream carbon intensities in the industry,” said CEO, Amin Nasser, commenting on the results.

“While global market volatility and economic uncertainty remain, events during the first half of this year support our view that ongoing investment in our industry is essential — both to help ensure markets remain well supplied and to facilitate an orderly energy transition,” he added.

Further to the solid results, Aramco maintained stable quarterly dividends at SR70.3 billion, representing a per-share payout of SR0.3198 to be paid on Sept. 7.

Capital expenditure during the quarter grew 25 percent to $9.4 billion as Aramco continued to invest and capture growth opportunities.

In terms of half-year performance, Aramco outperformed with an 86 percent profit surge to SR330 billion from SR177 billion a year earlier.

The Saudi-listed company almost doubled its revenue to SR1.03 trillion, compared to SR584 billion in the first half of 2021.

Buoyed by higher operating cash flow, Aramco managed to strengthen its balance sheet with a gearing ratio of 7.9 percent at June end, compared to 14.2 percent at the end of 2021.

“We expect oil demand to continue to grow for the rest of the decade, despite downward economic pressures on short-term global forecasts,” Nasser said.

“But while there is a very real and present need to safeguard the security of energy supplies, climate goals remain critical, which is why Aramco is working to increase production from multiple energy sources — including oil and gas, as well as renewables, and blue hydrogen.”

Recent highlights:

  • Aramco and Cognite, a global leader in industrial software, announced the launch of CNTXT, a joint venture based in the Kingdom, which will be headquartered in Riyadh. CNTXT will support industrial digitalization in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.
  • Aramco was reported to weigh an initial public offering of its unit Aramco Trading Co. that could potentially raise over $30 billion, slated to become one of the world’s biggest listings this year.
  • Aramco joined hands with Thailand's national oil company PTT, as it expands its footprints in Asia. Both companies will work together in areas of blue and green hydrogen and various clean energy initiatives.
  • Aramco acquired US-based Valvoline Inc.’s global products unit in a $2.65 billion deal.

Saudi tour guides shine at NEOM’s The Line exhibition

Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi tour guides shine at NEOM’s The Line exhibition

  • Details of NEOM project on full display at the exhibition
  • About 49 tours are organised per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs

JEDDAH: An exhibition exploring Saudi Arabia’s ambitious The Line project is leaving visitors enthralled thanks to the work of specialist tour guides.

The details of the NEOM project are on full display at the exhibition, hosted at the Jeddah Superdome. Visitors of all age groups will get first-hand insights with the help of the Saudi tour guides, who explain visual displays in both Arabic and English.

The guides are bringing the exhibition to life with about 49 tours per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs, architectural concepts and engineering capabilities.  

Speaking to Arab News, several tour guides expressed their enthusiasm at taking part in the exhibition and playing a small but important role in NEOM. 

One of the guides, Ragad Seit, said: “The experience is beyond wonderful. I love the excitement on the people’s faces while we explain the details of The Line. It is amazing to see the excitement they have for this revolutionary project and watching that makes me feel that it’s worth being a part of this exhibition. I am sure this will be a great movement for the future and we can’t wait to see the completion of The Line.”

Another young guide, Ghalya Faisal Alsahhaf, said: “My job here is to explain the unique and rare NEOM flora that will be grown in The Line. The experience is definitely one of a kind where I get to educate people on the vegetation aspect.

“The look on the people when they learn about the different kinds of flora is incredible. Also, I get to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds where I interact with them about the exhibition, and have discussions. The enthusiasm of the visitors is unimaginable.”

Abdulaziz Salmin said: “Although I am here as a tour guide, I am very proud to be a part of NEOM and work on this project.

“I work on sections one and two where I explain to the people what The Line is all about. The thrill and anticipation that the public show is very similar to my excitement. I am eagerly waiting to see how the city will turn out, especially after learning a lot more about it through this exhibition,” Salmin added.

Apart from tour guides, NEOM officials are also present at the exhibition to assist those looking for in-depth answers. 

The Jeddah exhibition opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Aug. 14, before moving to the Eastern Province and then staying in Riyadh.

“I learned about the project for the first time on social media and I was so excited to get my own first impression of the revolutionary model of The Line. I’m so excited to see this in reality,” Mohammad Ali, a visitor, said.

“Besides, we now understand more about the project with the help of the tour guides. It’s true that they can take the visitors on a whole different journey,” he added.

Another visitor, Raees Ali, said: “The tour guide turned my experience into a most pleasurable one by answering my questions and providing the information available in a clear and simple way.

“The project definitely looks futuristic and promising. After the tour, I did have many technical questions in my mind, but I am certain that they will be answered in the coming days. Hopefully, I would really like to relocate to this dreamy place.”

Saed H. was awestruck at The Line’s designs on display at the exhibition and is excited to see how the city will look after construction. 

“It is definitely a good idea to have a guide who gives some interesting details. I was surprised to learn about the football stadium in the city which will be embedded in a way where the city itself will turn towards the stadium and become the venue. All these details are so mind-blowing that the visitors were awe-inspired by this dreamy world. We really look forward to seeing it come to life,” said Saed.

Divided into different sections, the displays at the exhibition detail urban living plans being implemented in the city. The Line follows a human-first approach with health and well-being prioritized over transportation and infrastructure.

Free tickets can be booked through the Hala Yalla application for events.

Wanted militant detonates suicide vest as Saudi security forces try to make arrest

Updated 12 August 2022

Wanted militant detonates suicide vest as Saudi security forces try to make arrest

  • Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri was listed as a wanted person by Saudi authorities
  • Pakistani resident, three security officials injured in explosion

JEDDAH: The list of the nine wanted individuals involved in a militant operation that targeted a mosque for Saudi Arabia’s special emergency forces in the southwestern Asir region in 2015 has been reduced, after the Presidency of State Security announced the killing of Abdullah Al-Shehri, who has been number four on a wanted list.
The man detonated a suicide vest he was wearing when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah on Friday.
The spokesman for the Presidency of State Security said that in addition to the statement issued in February 2016 regarding the announcement of a list of the nine wanted persons for the security authorities, and as an extension of the existing security follow-up, the authority was able to track down the number four on the wanted list, Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri, during a security operation.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years. (Supplied)

He had been approached by security personnel at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday in the Al-Samer neighborhood in Jeddah. He died at the scene and a Pakistani resident and three security men with various injuries were taken to hospital to receive the necessary treatment.
Al-Shehri has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years, according to the statement. 
Security forces had tracked down the location of the militant and launched an operation to arrest him when he set off his suicide vest. 

With this announcement, only one wanted person remained from the announced list, Majid bin Zayed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri, who has been in hiding so far. The list included:
1. Saeed Aaidh Al-Dair Al-Shahrani, who was killed during a raid in Makkah in May 2016.
2. Taya Salem Eslam Al-Saiari was killed in a raid on his house in the Al-Yasmeen neighborhood in Riyadh in 2017.
3. Mutee Salem Islaam Al-Saiari was killed by a militant organization and it is believed that Taya’s sister beheaded him in a house in Al-Harazat neighborhood in Jeddah following orders from Daesh leaders after they doubted his intention to surrender to the security authorities in November 2016.
4. Abdulaziz Ahmed Mohammed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri was killed during a siege with another wanted man in the Barah area in Bisha governorate in April 2016.
5. Aqab Moajab Fazaan Al-Otaibi, who was arrested in Bisha in May 2016.
6. Mohammed Suleiman Rahyan Al-Saqri Al-Anzi was killed in a raid in Wadi Numan in Makkah in May 2016.
7. Mubarak Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari was killed in a raid in Wadi Numan in Makkah in May 2016
8. Majid bin Zayed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri is still in hiding.
The nine militants affiliated with Daesh were involved in a militant attack that targeted worshipers at the Special Emergency Forces Command Mosque in Asir on Aug. 6, which killed 11 security officials and four Bangladeshi workers on the site, while 33 other people were injured.
The Presidency of State Security said the operation confirms the Kingdom’s determination to crack down on militants and ensure the safety of all citizens and residents. 

Saudi Arabia will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah – Hajj ministry

Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi Arabia will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah – Hajj ministry

  • 49 nations eligible under the new rules
  • Booking online or on arrival, says ministry

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that the Kingdom will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah.

Citizens of 49 countries will be able to do so by securing their visas online at Visit Saudi Arabia, or immediately on arrival at airports.

The decision has been taken to allow as many people as possible to perform the ritual.

Those who qualify include holders of visas to the US and the UK, as well as those who have Schengen visas.

The regulations allow visitors to obtain a tourist visa, valid for 12 months, to visit other cities in the Kingdom.

Those who have family visit visas are allowed to perform Umrah, by booking through the Eatmarna app.

To perform Umrah, visitors are required to obtain comprehensive health insurance, which includes covering the costs of COVID-19 treatment, accidents resulting in death or disability, and expenses arising from flight delays or cancellations.

Those wishing to perform Umrah from nations other than those who currently qualify, should apply for visas at the Kingdom’s embassies in their countries.

Documents required include proof of residence and employment, return ticket, bank statement proving financial stability, itinerary, and complete personal information.

Beit Hail in Saudi Arabia’s north showcases local heritage

Updated 12 August 2022

Beit Hail in Saudi Arabia’s north showcases local heritage

  • Ancient Thamudic and Sadu embroidery on display

HAIL: The Beit Hail 15-day festival was launched on Wednesday showcasing local heritage including incense burners, daggers, wicker baskets, and clothes with ancient Thamudic and Sadu embroidery.

Dep. Gov. of Hail Prince Faisal bin Fahd inaugurated the event at Aja Park with the undersecretary of the region, Adel bin Saleh Al-Sheikh, and other officials.

Prince Faisal toured the site and visited the exhibition of the late artist Youssef Al-Shagdali.

The festival also features classic cars and popular, colorful handicrafts created by the region’s artisans.

There were also stalls that showed how cloth is woven and transformed into clothing.

Visitors were entertained by a folklore troupe performing the Saudi Arda.

The event aims to support local talent and boost small businesses.