Opinion

Saudi Arabia’s methane pledge is a big step forward in fight against climate change

Saudi Arabia’s methane pledge is a big step forward in fight against climate change

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Amid all the razzmatazz and big policy initiatives of the Saudi Green Initiative, one item perhaps did not get the full attention it deserves.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that the Kingdom will join the Global Methane Pledge as part of its commitment to reduce world methane emissions by 30 percent over the coming decade — “part of its commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener future.”

It is a significant initiative on several levels. In environmental terms, while those concerned about the world’s atmosphere have tended to focus on CO2 emissions, methane is seen by some experts as an equally serious threat, and responsible for about 25 percent of total global warming.

While there is far more CO2 in the atmosphere, experts calculate that methane is up to 120 times more powerful as a warming agent and can stay in the air for as long as a decade.

Methane is a byproduct of energy production, especially gas output. As the world transitions toward relatively cleaner gas as a “bridge” to renewables in coming years, some experts predict a surge in methane could throw out the calculations on overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Saudi Arabia actually has a very good record on methane emissions. The practice of “flaring” gas as a byproduct of oil production — common in the US shale industry, for example — was ended many years ago, and Saudi Aramco is one of the leading oil companies in the world when it comes to mitigating methane as a gas byproduct.

Nonetheless, as Aramco ups its gas strategy, which CEO Amin Nasser highlighted once again at the SGI event in Riyadh, the methane challenge will grow, in the Kingdom and the rest of the energy world.

Having a major producer like Saudi Arabia within the pledge marks significant progress, and is a signal that global cooperation on the big issues of environmental policy can still be tackled effectively.

Frank Kane

The methods to control methane output consist of efficiency of production, and investment in technology that prevents it escaping or removing it from the air once it has seeped. Again, Aramco is leading the field in techniques on both counts, with significant sums committed to investment in research and development. 

In terms of energy diplomacy, Saudi Arabia joining the pledge is a significant step. The Global Methane Pledge was the result of a joint agreement between the EU and the US, and was portrayed as “a crucial step in tackling climate change and getting the world closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise to below 2 C.”

As such, it was a notable example of international cooperation in a world that does not always see eye-to-eye on energy policy. The Biden administration, in particular, sees the pledge as a crucial step forward, even as other parts of its domestic energy initiative run into difficulties.

Having a major producer like Saudi Arabia within the pledge marks significant progress, and is a signal that global cooperation on the big issues of environmental policy can still be tackled effectively.

If similar measures of international collaboration emerge from the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, it will be another sign that the problems of global warming and climate change can be effectively tackled. 

• Frank Kane is an award- winning business journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

MGI: Charting a regional road map for sustainable living

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Saudi Arabia's Prince Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman bin Abdulaziz, acting governor of Riyadh Region, receives Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Boden during the Summit of the Green Middle East Initiative in Riyadh on Oct. 24, 2021. (SPA)
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Updated 25 October 2021

MGI: Charting a regional road map for sustainable living

  • Saudi initiatives demonstrate Kingdom’s willingness to address environmental challenges

JEDDAH: The final event of the Saudi Green Initiative, the Middle East Green Initiative, is taking place today to create a sustainable road map for the region and highlight green transition, green policy solutions, the finance sector’s contribution to the goals of the SGI as well as insight from an international perspective.

It will be attended by several heads of state, with key speakers including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, UN Deputy Secretary Amina Mohammed,  BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, HSBC Group Chief Executive Noel Quinn, and André Esteves, senior partner, BTG Pactual, Brazil.

Earlier this year, the crown prince highlighted that the Saudi and the Middle East green initiatives are a continuation of the environmental efforts in the Kingdom over the past few years in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

The two initiatives demonstrate the Kingdom’s strong willingness to address the environmental challenges it has faced, from increase in temperatures and dust waves to low levels of rain and desertification.

The SGI and MGI are also aiming to collectively plant 50 billion trees as well as propel the Middle East region toward achieving more than 10 percent of global carbon emissions reduction targets.

The SGI aims to reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases, mostly produced by burning fossil fuels, by 2060.

Saudi Arabia said the transition to net zero carbon emissions “will be delivered in a manner that preserves the Kingdom’s leading role in enhancing the security and stability of global energy markets.”

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Announcing a plan to reach “net zero” in carbon by 2060, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday said the move was in line with the Kingdom’s development plans, “while preserving and reinforcing its leading role in the security and stability of global energy markets.”

The Kingdom has pledged to double the amount of carbon it will cut in its domestic economy, removing 278 million tons of the pollutant per year by 2030.

“As a region, we have always had to live with harsh climate conditions and we will have to continue to innovate in both mitigation and adaptation,” said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al-Jaber, at a forum on COP26 in Riyadh.

“The UAE highly commends the leadership and the people of Saudi Arabia, particularly the youth, for such a landmark, bold and long-term strategic initiative. It represents a paradigm shift in ambition for this region,” the minister said.

The SGI aims to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve marine ecosystems.

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Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Updated 25 sec ago

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.

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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.