How Saudi Arabia is initiating action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction

The Kingdom is aiming to plant more than 10 billion trees over the course of the next two decades as part of the Saudi Green Initiative.
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Updated 21 September 2021

How Saudi Arabia is initiating action on greenhouse gas emissions reduction

  • At UNGA, Saudi Arabia will show it is a leader in the global campaign for energy sustainability
  • The Kingdom has a big environmental responsibility as a major player in global energy markets

DUBAI: Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister of Saudi Arabia, set out the Kingdom’s position on climate change loud and clear at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh earlier this year.

“We are long believers in the Paris Agreement and are doing everything in our power to achieve it,” he said, before issuing a challenge to other countries to match the Kingdom’s ambition in the campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby mitigate global warming.

“Whatever we will do in the Kingdom will support emissions reduction, and we are doing it willingly because the economic benefits (from new energy technologies) are clear. We will enjoy being looked at as a reasonable and responsible international citizen because we will be doing more than most European countries by 2030 to combat climate change,” he said.

That message — Saudi Arabia will be a leader in the global campaign for energy sustainability — will be hammered home at the continuing 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where climate change and sustainability are bound to be key issues.

The UNGA meetings are an opportunity each year to monitor progress on the UN’s sustainable development goals, the set of 17 policy objectives put in place in 2015 as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all,” and intended for full implementation by 2030.

That time frame coincides with Saudi Arabia’s own Vision 2030 strategy, itself designed to transform the Kingdom and diversify its economy away from oil dependency. Sustainability is a vital part of the Vision 2030 plan.

The message will be driven home in New York, and next month in Glasgow when the COP26 summit takes crucial decisions on the next phase of implementation of the Paris Agreements.

Saudi Arabia’s position on climate change is long-standing and clear: The Kingdom shares the concern of the rest of the world that global warming presents a risk to humanity if allowed to go unchecked. Moreover, as a major player in global energy markets, Saudi Arabia has a big responsibility for protecting the planet.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman set out the Kingdom’s position on climate change loud and clear at the Future Investment Initiative forum earlier this year

But, precisely because of its role as a leading energy producer, the Saudi position is far more nuanced than some in Europe and North America who have turned against hydrocarbon fuels in any form.

One Saudi policy adviser told Arab News: “We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment. We view the rising global demand for energy products as an opportunity to re-imagine the future of energy globally, and through the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, we aim to pioneer this future.”

That thinking is behind many of the energy policy initiatives that have emerged from Riyadh over the past couple of years. Prince Abdulaziz has long been an enthusiast of sustainability and energy efficiency, and the drive toward a comprehensive policy on climate change has been given new impetus since he was appointed energy minister two years ago.

Central to the Kingdom’s strategy on climate change is the concept of the circular carbon economy (CCE) — a framework for tackling climate change while continuing to enjoy the benefits of economic growth driven by oil and gas, the most efficient and powerful energy sources mankind has ever developed.

CCE is based on the principles of the 4Rs — to reduce, reuse, recycle and ultimately remove harmful CO2 and other emissions from industrial processes and the atmosphere.

The Kingdom has a longstanding policy of aiming to reduce greenhouse gases through energy-efficiency programs that target travel, industry and construction. Saudi oil is already one of the “cleanest” crudes in the world, as measured by independent scientists.

Saudi Aramco also has a big R&D program in place to develop more energy-efficient motor engines. Hydrocarbon products are reused and recycled across the Kingdom’s industrial sector.

Saudi Arabia long ago ceased the practice of gas flaring, which is still common practice in many oil-producing countries.

One of the persistent features of the Kingdom’s energy policy has been to use hydrocarbons and their byproducts as non-fuel ingredients in the chemical and other manufacturing industry, and this trend has accelerated since the merger between Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the petrochemicals giant.

Most climate experts agree that it is the fourth R — remove — that is the most challenging, but also potentially the most effective in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change to the 1.5C global temperature increase the Paris Agreement requires by 2050.

Saudi Arabia has a headstart in technologies linked to carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), which aims to prevent CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, either by reusing it in industrial processes such as building materials or storing it in secure “sinks” such as old oil reservoirs and other natural locations.

The Kingdom’s reliance on oil could soon become a thing of the past, with megaprojects such as NEOM being built on zero-carbon models. (AFP)

The Kingdom has also been funding R&D into direct air capture (DAC), which some climate scientists see as the long-term “silver bullet” in combating climate change. If CO2 can be successfully removed from the air on a global scale, that would go a long way to solving the problem of global warming.

However, until the technology is proven and widely available, there are other techniques that can be implemented to ameliorate airborne carbon. Again Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront with its Saudi Green Initiative, which envisions the planting of 10 billion trees in the Kingdom over the next two decades as part of a wider Middle East Green Initiative that will eventually see a total of 50 billion trees planted in the region.

When he launched the initiative earlier this year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis, and that just as we played a leading role in stabilizing energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will work to lead the coming green era.”

The other major plank of the Saudi Green Initiatives is a commitment to lift the proportion of renewables in the Kingdom’s domestic energy mix to 50 percent by 2030, replacing oil as an energy-generating fuel, with the balance to come from natural gas.

The Kingdom has already begun this program, with big wind and solar projects announced earlier this year to generate electricity from renewable sources.

The jewel in the crown of the Saudi sustainability strategy is the NEOM megacity under construction in the Kingdom’s northwest, which will have a zero-carbon footprint, with all its power and water needs satisfied by non-hydrocarbon sources, notably “green” hydrogen.

All the Saudi mega-projects of Vision 2030 also have sustainability at the heart of their plans.

Saudi Arabia is already a pioneer in developing hydrogen fuels, and last year exported the first shipment of “blue” ammonia — a much cleaner fuel that is a byproduct of the oil and gas industrial process — to Japan for use in that country’s electricity generation industry.

Saudi Aramco’s Shaybah oilfield. The company is one of the most profitable in the world. (Reuters)

An alliance with Germany was announced this year to study and develop hydrogen fuels, combining Saudi energy expertise with German engineering and technological prowess.

Nobody in New York — or Glasgow next month — is underestimating the scale of the climate challenge ahead, but Saudi Arabia has shown, and will continue to show, that a responsible approach to the problem can be adopted without totally abandoning the power and efficiency of hydrocarbons.

The Kingdom is winning allies in this challenge. At last year’s G20 summit of world leaders, the CCE framework promoted by Saudi Arabia was adopted unanimously as the preferred global methodology for combating global warming.


Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Updated 22 October 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Nimari, chief information security officer at KSA’s Rock Solid Group

Abdulrahman Al-Nimari has been the chief information security officer at Rock Solid Group since August.

A cybersecurity expert and regular conference speaker, he has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology and cybersecurity sectors.

At RSG, he is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic, long-term information security strategy and roadmap to ensure that data assets are adequately protected.

He has been an independent cybersecurity architect and consultant since 2019.

From September 2017 to June 2019, he was lead cybersecurity systems architect for ManTech International Corp. where he was in charge of developing security strategies and utilizing new technologies to enhance security capabilities and implement improvements.

Between March and August 2017, he held the position of chief enterprise security architect at Security Matterz.

Al-Nimari was technical manager and senior security consultant at Riyadh Business Machines from August 2013 to February 2017, and an IT manager at the Ministry of Education between January 2008 and July 2013.

During his time with the ministry, he also worked as cybersecurity team leader on a major education system project and was a network and system administrator and supervisor.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in English from Umm Al-Qura University.

Al-Nimari has headed numerous cybersecurity initiatives and projects for government and private-sector bodies.

He pointed out that all members of society had a duty to be aware about cybersecurity. “It is our role to participate in protecting the cyberspace of our beloved Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

Updated 22 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Iran nuclear talks with EU envoy — statement

CAIRO: Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed the Iran nuclear talks with the European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, the Saudi Foreign ministry said on Thursday.
“They discussed developments regarding the Iranian nuclear program talks, and international efforts to ensure that Iran does not violate international agreements and treaties in this regard,” it added in a statement.

‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions

Updated 22 October 2021

‘Open library’: Tourists in AlUla glimpse distant past in Ikmah’s ancient inscriptions

ALULA: Imagine stepping back into a time before cell phones, emails, or even paper. During this era, documenting important moments was simplified to sketching on rocks.
This is Ikmah mountain, or the “open library” as it is referred to by AlUla’s locals. AlUla was a highlight on the trading route many took through the Arabian Peninsula. Travelers stopped at the mountain to document their stories or carve their names for those who came after them.
“We call Ikmah the ‘open library.’ If you want to know why it has this name, have a look around for a few seconds and you will see inscriptions all over the mountain,” Amal Aljahani, an expert Rawi storyteller, told Arab News.

Ikmah has over 500 inscriptions from the Dadan and Lihyan civilization. The earliest texts from the mountain have been studied and translated by historians and archeologists and have been dated back to the ninth and 10th century B.C. 
The languages in the mountain include Aramaic, Thamudic, Dadanitic, Minaen, Nabatean, Greek, Latin, and Arabic. An important area for historians, Arabic linguistics experts, and archaeologists, the mountain offers a look back into the pre-Arabic era.
Tourists from the Kingdom and international visitors gather for hours to sit in front of the high peaks and observe the delicate techniques of the ancient language that turned into the modern Arabic letters we know today.

Some inscriptions were written by the region’s professional scribes while others were merely sketches by travellers and locals passing by years ago.
Many of these messages differed in meaning, some surviving inscriptions are names written in the ancient Arabic text, but many involve tales of the ongoing events of the local community.
These inscriptions described the kings who ruled the land, the religious beliefs of the people, and sometimes notes for other visitors.
Ikmah held a high place in the hearts of the locals and travelers. It was a sacred ground for pagan worship and sacrifice along with documentation.  One of the inscriptions on the mountains was written by a woman named “Mirwa,” who carved her name into the rocks and detailed an offering she made to her deity.

“The woman used to come here and give her deity offerings to bless her and her children. The inscription says the deity blessed her and her children. Those are the kinds of things the people wrote here on this beautiful mountain,” Aljahani said.
Mirwa returned to add another inscription that her prayers were answered and her sons were blessed.
Some of these inscriptions are personal, while others are names or drawings of animals and musical instruments.
The oldest inscription in the Islamic era — known as the Naqsh Zuhayr — and the earliest glimpses into the Arabic language are documented on the east side. The inscriptions date back to 644 A.D.
The mountain hosts different inscription methods, Aljahani said, such as “carving inside the alphabet to be clearer.”
He added: “The second way is what we call the 3D way. It is the hardest method. They beautifully carved in between the alphabet letters using sand stones for the message to be clearer.”
In 2017, the Royal Commission of AlUla closed the mountain to begin preparation for the public to visit. Ikmah is now prepared and open to the public under the commission’s supervision.


The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world



Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation

Updated 21 October 2021

Saudi education minister, Egyptian envoy discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh met with the Egyptian Ambassador to the Kingdom, Ahmed Farouk Tawfiq, to enhance joint cooperation between the two countries in the education field.
The two sides also discussed the development of scientific and research partnerships between the countries’ universities along with the exchange of expertise and experiences in educational technologies.
The talks focused on joint cooperation between the Kingdom and Egypt in educational programs and ways to benefit from the development plans and programs implemented by educational institutions in both countries.
Saudi Ministry of Education’s undersecretary for international cooperation, Saleh Al-Qassumi, undersecretary for public education, Mohammed Al-Muqbil, undersecretary for university education, Mohammed Al-Adib, general supervisor of the general administration of media and communication, Ahmed Al-Jumaiyah, and supervisor of the public relations department, Saleh Al-Thubaiti, also attended the meeting.


Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai

Updated 21 October 2021

Pilgrim services in the spotlight at GITEX Dubai

DUBAI: As part of the Saudi Ministry of Interior’s pavilion at GITEX Technology Week 2021 in Dubai this week, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah showcased the state-of-the-art technologies it employs to deliver the services the Kingdom provides to pilgrims and other visitors.
They include artificial intelligence technologies that are used as part of the ministry’s digital platform to help pilgrims.
They access the platform using smart cards that contain key information, including the details of their visit and medical data. This is used to organize their journeys.
The ministry’s aim in adopting the latest technology is to provide upgraded services and develop the work of the pilgrim-services system as a whole.