COP26 climate talks ‘difficult’ without promised finance, says UN fund head

The call by Yannick Glemarec comes as about 50 climate ministers meet in Milan, Italy, on Thursday to hammer out details and tackle differences on the pace of green transition and who pays for it, ahead of the COP26 climate summit. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 30 September 2021

COP26 climate talks ‘difficult’ without promised finance, says UN fund head

  • COP26 talks, from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Scotland, have been billed as the last chance to galvanize the collective effort needed to limit global warming

KUALA LUMPUR: Rich countries must deliver on a promise to channel $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing nations, otherwise they may jeopardize November’s critical negotiations to limit global warming, said the head of the UN-backed Green Climate Fund.
The call by Yannick Glemarec comes as about 50 climate ministers meet in Milan, Italy, on Thursday to hammer out details and tackle differences on the pace of green transition and who pays for it, ahead of the COP26 climate summit.
Those talks, from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Scotland, have been billed as the last chance to galvanize the collective effort needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, the lowest goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
But with a month to go, UN officials say they have yet to see ambitious enough action, including fulfilment of an overdue pledge to channel $100 billion a year from 2020 to help poorer nations adapt to global warming and adopt cleaner energy.
“The $100 billion is critical to catalyze much larger financial flows,” said Glemarec, the executive director of the multi-billion-dollar Green Climate Fund (GCF), speaking in an interview from its headquarters in South Korea.
“It’s also critical for establishing a climate of trust — you have no successful negotiation without trust,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The GCF was set up under UN climate talks in 2010 as one of the main global funds to support developing-country efforts to tackle climate change, and started allocating money in 2015.
Glemarec said the latest figures — showing climate finance for vulnerable nations at just under $80 billion in 2019 — were a “disappointment” and could undermine the COP26 talks.
“It’s very difficult to trust parties when we have been telling you since Copenhagen COP15 (in 2009) that we will be mobilizing the $100 billion,” he said.
“So it’s really important to deliver on this commitment.”
US shortfall
The pre-COP26 summit in Milan this week is the last major UN meeting before negotiators head to Glasgow.
Thousands of young activists have converged on the Italian city to demand leaders match rhetoric with action and stump up the billions of dollars needed to wean the world off fossil fuels and onto cleaner energy, while adapting to a warmer world.
Glemarec said delivery of the $100 billion — some of which flows through the GCF — was important to ensure the fund has enough money in its coffers to disburse to developing countries.
The GCF board meets next week and will consider approving $1.2 billion for 13 new climate projects — from improving water security for communities in Kenya to enhancing early warning systems against floods and cyclones in East Timor.
If they all get the green light, the fund will have used up its available resources before COP26.
Glemarec joked that the GCF would have “just enough money in our bank account to pay for electricity bills” by the time he heads to the talks in Glasgow.
“If we want to be able to meet the needs of some developing countries, we need to be capitalized — and our capitalization comes from this $100 billion,” he stressed.
Securing a backlog of US contributions to the GCF, which were halted by former President Donald Trump, a climate-change skeptic, would be “significant,” Glemarec said.
The new Democratic US government has thrown its support behind the GCF again, with President Joe Biden requesting about $1.2 billion for the fund in the coming fiscal year’s budget, according to his climate envoy John Kerry in April.
But the Biden administration’s spending plans have hit a standstill in Congress.
“I will not venture a guess on what will be the final result but a stronger replenishment from the US will enable us to maintain a very ambitious level of programming in 2022 and (going) forward,” said Glemarec.

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

  • The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016

RIYADH: More than two-thirds of Riyadh’s new restaurants are Saudi, dwarfing American and Lebanese influenced eateries, according to a report from real estate firm Knights Frank.

The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016, when the National Transformation Plan was announced, the research says.  “The Kingdom’s capital is beginning to morph into a foodie’s treasure trove and we’re not done yet,” Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East research at Knight Frank said. 

This growth is led by homegrown restaurants and cafes, he added, with 68 percent of Riyadh’s new outlets being Saudi — 21 percent of which specialize in international cuisine. 

“American food outlets account for 16 percent of food and beverage outlets, while Lebanese restaurants are the third most prevalent at 13 percent,” Durrani said. 

The US and the UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh, respectively, he added.

“International brands must adapt their proposition across the full spectrum to suit demand, both in terms of operational aspects, as well as the actual menu offering itself,” said Pedro Riberio, head of retail advisory KSA at Knight Frank. The Kingdom’s capital will further benefit from upcoming tourism developments, including the Bujairi Terrace and Diriyah Gate, which the Knight Frank report said will add “15,000 sq. meters of lifestyle retail space to the capital when its 17 restaurants open their doors in 2022.”

This rapid growth and competition are putting pressure on older developments, the report indicated, with some operators struggling to keep vacancy rates and footfall up.

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

  • Kingdom’s plans for improving environment, combating climate change, reaching carbon neutrality shared at global industry forum

JEDDAH: A Saudi government institution responsible for the desalination of seawater has revealed its road map to achieving environmental sustainability at a major international industry conference.

Officials from the Saline Water Conversion Corp. shared their Saudi Green Initiative action plans — aimed at improving the environment, combating climate change, and reaching carbon neutrality ­— at a recent forum in London attended by more than 90 global leaders and investors.

By taking part in the event, the SWCC not only hoped to strengthen its world leadership role in the desalination industry, but also look at ways to further reduce production costs while increasing the involvement of relevant Saudi companies and organizations in current and future projects.

Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan was among forum delegates who heard how the corporation was focused on enhancing the use of clean energy sources in place of thermal heating systems.

Addressing the meeting, Saleh Al-Mana, the SWCC’s assistant deputy governor for technical affairs and projects, said that by reusing water and recycling filters in production systems, and developing engineering principles in technical designs for beneficiaries including the agriculture, industrial, and urban sectors, the transition to low carbon activated the circular economy.

The corporation has been working on initiatives to achieve environmental sustainability in all areas of desalination supply, from production to transportation.

At the Saudi Green Initiative forum held in Riyadh in October, the Kingdom revealed its blueprint for dealing with climate change by increasing the reliance on clean energy, protecting the environment, and offsetting millions of tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030.

The country was investigating more ways to produce, treat, and distribute water locally using energy systems that ensured sustainable growth.

The initiative aims to protect the marine environment by investing in zero liquid discharge systems, a wastewater management system that extracts salts and minerals and converts them into products of high economic value for use in the industrial sector.

Earlier this year, the SWCC set a world record for the lowest energy consuming desalination plant.

The transition to a low-carbon future will be a complex process. Alternatives will take significant time and sustained investment to meet the rising global energy demand.

Egypt to launch natural gas-powered bus fleet in 2022

Updated 05 December 2021

Egypt to launch natural gas-powered bus fleet in 2022

CAIRO: Egypt will launch its first fleet of buses powered by natural gas next year, Minister of Public Enterprise Hisham Tawfik has said.

About 70 percent of the components used in the manufacturing of the buses will be sourced locally, in cooperation with several Egyptian companies, he said.

Tawfiq said that the fleet will include buses that can accommodate 14 to 50 passengers, and that the goal of the project is to localize technology and transport production.

“Our strategy is to work in the production of environmentally friendly vehicles, whether they run on natural gas or electricity,” he added.

A delegation from the Belarusian Minsk Automobile Plant signed a contract to supply production materials for the project.

Production is expected to begin in mid-2022, with a target of 250 buses completed per year.

Tawfiq welcomed cooperation with the Belarusian side, especially in light of the distinguished relations between the two countries, which have developed significantly in recent years.


IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat

Updated 05 December 2021

IMF likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to omicron threat

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates due to the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, the global lender’s chief said at the Reuters Next conference on Friday in another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic.
Omicron has spread rapidly to at least 40 countries since it was first reported in South Africa last week, officials say, and many governments have tightened travel rules to try to keep it out.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence, and in that sense, we are likely to see some downgrades of our October projections for global growth,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the conference.
Much remains unknown about omicron. Researchers said it could have picked up genetic material from another virus, perhaps one that causes the common cold, which would allow it to more easily evade human immune system defenses.
Georgieva said the fund is also looking at all of its research processes in order to ensure the its data integrity in the wake of a data-rigging scandal at the World Bank.
“Is there something more that can be done, and we are looking at all the processes — are they sufficiently up to date with what others are doing?” Georgieva said.

YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

Updated 06 December 2021

YouGotaGift — region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards

YouGotaGift is the region’s first marketplace for digital gift cards. It is an end-to-end digital platform that connects prepaid cards from top retail brands to consumers and businesses. 

Its prepaid cards are completely digital, meaning customers can buy them online and have them delivered instantly by email or SMS. 

It works with over 700 retail brands, reaches over 5 million users and serves over 2,000 corporates.  

YouGotaGift was originally founded in 2013 in the UAE by CEO, Husain Makiya, Marketeer Abed Bibi, and Honeybee Tech Ventures (incubator), and further backed by a major regional VC, namely MEVP (Middle East Venture Partners).

It began operating in Saudi Arabia in 2014, with its first significant banking client in the Kingdom. It is now operating across the Gulf Cooperation Council and beyond with multiple offices across the region. “Our consumer business offers our global users the convenience to send personalized e-gift cards to celebrate friends, family, and colleagues,” Makiya told Arab News.

“As a fully registered Saudi company, we have massively expanded our business in the Kingdom and greatly scaled up our team on the ground over the last 18 months, spearheaded by Fawziah Al-Hoshan, as general manager,” he added.

Al-Hoshan is a Saudi woman with a decade-long career in business and HR with Saudi corporates and multinationals, including Olayan Group and Pepsico. Makiya said the Kingdom is witnessing tremendous economic growth and the emerging talent pool is highly energized to engage in new roles and career opportunities offered by such companies as YouGotaGift. 

He said YouGotAGift is the first to bring this category of gift cards to the Kingdom. “Our collection of gift cards were first incorporated by National Commercial Bank for their loyalty program LAK,” he said. “It was a pivotal move toward adding a digital redemption process for customers who were used to traditional physical products or gift cards as a reward for their loyalty toward a program.”

Since then, it has integrated with over 800 businesses in the Kingdom to digitize their rewards and incentives programs for both employees and customers.

“With Saudi Vision 2030 well on its way, tremendous efforts from the government to push digitization in every aspect of life has also contributed to a ‘never-before’ level of interest for e-gift cards amongst consumers,” he said.

Makiya explained that corporates and individual customers have both identified various ways to use these cards over the last 18 months; from traditional incentives and rewards to sending Eidiya or just helping the ones in need during the pandemic.

“It’s a clear sign that they’re here to stay,” he said. Makiya said the global gift card business is expected to cross $2 trillion by 2027, adding: "In our part of the world, we expect the eGift Card market alone to reach $1.2 billion dollars by 2024, of which at least $700 million will be attributed by the Kingdom."

“For businesses and government entities, e-gift cards are the No.1 most in-demand method to reward their employees and customers, and the adoption rate of these cards in the Kingdom outweighs that of the entire region driven by the digital transformation of Vision 2030,” he added.