‘Saudi Arabia not just talking but doing, investing’ in climate change mitigation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir tells Arab News

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Updated 30 January 2024
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‘Saudi Arabia not just talking but doing, investing’ in climate change mitigation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir tells Arab News

  • Saudi Climate Envoy says $186bn targeted for investment in more than 80 different projects under SGI, MGI
  • Says climate conversations should “revolve around logic and science, not emotions and political point scoring”

RIYADH: Very few countries have embarked on efforts such as Saudi Arabia has in reducing the impacts of climate change and improving the quality of life, the Kingdom’s Climate Envoy Adel Al-Jubeir has said.

Al-Jubeir, who is also Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, made the remark during an exclusive interview with Arab News on Tuesday, coinciding with the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai.

“Saudi Arabia has not just been talking. We are actually doing, and we are actually investing. And the results are clear for everyone to see,” he said.

“If you go to NEOM, you will see the tremendous work that’s being done to protect the environment. If you look at our coastlines, you will see the work that’s being done with mangroves.

“If you look at our cities, you’ll see the work that’s being done in terms of greening of our cities and (the) redesigning of our cities to make them more efficient, so that you reduce commute time and you reduce pollution, and you increase the quality of life for people.”




“There is no contradiction between Saudi Arabia’s commitment to climate change and dealing with that challenge and producing oil and gas,” Al-Jubeir told Arab News. (AFP)

Al-Jubeir explained that Saudi Arabia has so far targeted investments of $186 billion in more than 80 different projects as part of the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. Inaugurated in 2021, the two initiatives unite environmental protection, energy transition and sustainability programs with the aims of offsetting and reducing emissions.

He said these projects and investments have been set in place to boost climate mitigation, reverse desertification and help countries adopt a “circular carbon economy approach.”

Al-Jubeir explained that the “circular carbon economy approach” is centered around a “holistic, all-of-government, all-of-society approach of dealing with the reduction of carbon and contributing to our atmosphere.”

He said he believes very few countries in the world have committed the type of resources that Saudi Arabia has in order to confront climate change.

“We do so because we are inhabitants of this planet,” he said. “We all have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

Discussing the Kingdom’s green energy plans, Al-Jubeir pointed out that Saudi Arabia is building the largest green hydrogen plant in the world in NEOM, a futuristic smart city under construction in the northwestern Tabuk province.

“We are looking at producing other forms of clean hydrogen. We are looking at reducing carbon in terms of the airline industry in order to contribute to a reduction of carbon,” he said.

“We are looking at the shipping industry. Every facet of our society we are looking at in order to reduce the carbon, in order to improve the quality of life and very few countries, as I said, have embarked on a program like this.”

Responding to critics of the Kingdom for not agreeing to a “phase-down” of fossil fuels, Al-Jubeir described the “discussions” around the topic as “devoid of reason and rationality.”




The minister talking to Arab News’ Noor Nugali. (AN photo/Abdulrahman bin Shulhub )

Al-Jubeir said that “fossil fuels will be with us for many, many decades to come, adding that it is inconceivable to have economic development without having energy at reasonable prices — and fossil fuels provide that, oil and gas in particular.

“We have always argued that the challenge is mitigation,” he said.

Al-Jubeir added that the challenge lies in ensuring that these resources are produced and used in the most efficient, most clean way possible.

He pointed out a certain irony in critics talking about the issue at meetings of COP28 or climate discussions in general. “People tend to go for superlatives and they tend to go for dramatic statements that have very little connection to reality,” he said.

“The countries that call for a reduction in production of oil and gas, they should start with themselves. I haven’t seen any of those countries without naming them. I haven’t seen any of those countries come up with a timeline for reducing their own production of oil and gas, much less coal, which is a much, much worse polluter.”




​Al-Jubeir explained that Saudi Arabia has so far targeted investments of $186 billion in more than 80 different projects. (AFP)

Underlining Saudi Arabia’s commitment to mitigating climate change while also stressing the important role of fossil fuels, he said: “There is no contradiction between Saudi Arabia’s commitment to climate change and dealing with that challenge and producing oil and gas.”

“We (Saudi Arabia) believe in being rational. We believe in being logical. We believe in being practical, and we believe in being pragmatic,” he added.

Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom has solutions in place with tremendous investments in renewable energy and has made investments in redesigning Saudi Arabia’s cities, designating large areas of both land and sea as protected areas.

He said the Kingdom is also investing in transforming waste into energy, plus dedicating investment around the world to help other countries deal with issues of climate and energy.

“We are reasonable, practical, pragmatic, rational people. We believe that the conversations and the discussions (have) to revolve around … logic and science, not emotions, and trying to grandstand and score a political point,” he said.

Al-Jubeir pointed out the hypocrisy of some Western countries deploying contradicting policies when it comes to pollution.




Al-Jubeir spoke to Arab News as the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, is hosted in Dubai. (Reuters)

“Countries that say they are against hydrocarbons all of a sudden go back to producing coal, which is a much, much worse polluter than oil and gas, and they have no problem with it. To me, this is this is not a reasonable, rational position,” he said.

Discussing the long-term returns from renewable energy, Al-Jubeir highlighted that the future benefits that will result from the Saudi Green Initiative outweigh the investments being made in projects by Saudi Arabia.

“Renewable energy is very profitable. The Public Investment Fund has tremendous investments in those areas, whether it’s solar whether it’s wind, whether it’s hydro, whether it’s electric cars, electric car batteries, because they are very profitable in addition to being very important to confronting climate change,” he said.

Concluding the interview, Al-Jubeir discussed Saudi Arabia’s successful bid to host the 2030 World Expo. “The idea is: for the world, by the world, in Saudi Arabia, 2030,” he said.

He described 2030 as the “perfect year” for Saudi Arabia as it is the target date for the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

“Saudi Arabia is about being connected to the world and having the world be connected to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“It’s about connection. We are the world’s largest exporter of energy, so we have a huge stake in the global energy markets. We intend to be one of the largest exporters of green and clean hydrogen. So that makes us also an important country.




“Saudi Arabia has not just been talking. We are actually doing, and we are actually investing. And the results are clear for everyone to see,” Al-Jubeir said. (AN photo/Abdulrahman bin Shulhub )

“We are one of the largest investors in the global community financial system through the Public Investment Fund.”

Al-Jubeir said World Expo 2030 in Riyadh would be “totally renewable, totally green,” and each country will have its own pavilion.

And in line with Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainability, he explained that the pavilions would be designed to be recyclable or rebuildable. “They can be disassembled and rebuilt in the countries that would like to move them and used for another purpose such as a clinic, a school, shelter,” he said.

“Expo 2030 will bring the world to Saudi Arabia and also allow Saudis to connect with the world. That’s important to us. It will be a very unique and special expo that we have no doubt will set the standard for expos going forward.”


Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition

Updated 28 February 2024
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Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition

  • Series of ink drawings by veteran Abdulrahman Al-Soliman is a highlight of Art Biennale in Riyadh

RIYADH: Series of ink drawings by veteran Abdulrahman Al-Soliman is a highlight of Art Biennale in Riyadh

Work by several of the best artists from the Kingdom’s Eastern Province is on show at the international Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh.

Among them is Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, who has been a force in the Saudi art world for decades. His series of ink drawings, titled “Palm, Bow and Fragments” (1990-91) is on show for the first time.

Born in 1954 in Al-Ahsa, Al-Soliman told Arab News he created the collection during the Gulf War more than 30 years ago. “I lived with the side effects of the Kuwaiti conflict and its liberation. I started organically, I didn’t know it would become a series,” he said.

“Since 1970, I have been making art. And this series on display at the biennale — some in color, some not — I rolled them up and put them aside. This is the first time anyone has seen them displayed.”

Another Eastern Province artist whose work is on show is Nabila Al-Bassam, who founded the Arab Heritage Gallery in Alkhobar in 1979. Al-Bassam is a mixed-media artist who uses traditional textile-making processes to produce and create multilayered collages. She is delighted to be among the artists on show.

“What stood out to me at the biennale was the works of Saudi women artists, I really was surprised,” she said.

“I’ve seen many beautiful works. The installations, the hangings — very, very interesting, made out of metal and things like this. There’s a lot to be excited about. They were large works and they were new works, completely new, modern and a new way of thinking.”

The younger generation is also exhibiting in Riyadh. Tara Aldugaither, 34, grew up in Dhahran and in 2020 founded Sawtasura — “voice of the image” — a community-based platform that collects and reimagines the musical histories of Arab women.

The biennale is taking place in the city’s JAX district and continues until May 24.


Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet called for an end to the escalation in military operations in Gaza and the dire humanitarian crisis that it is causing, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The Cabinet also reviewed the outcomes of the Kingdom’s participation in a two-day meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro and its vision regarding the group’s role in dealing with existing international tensions and restructuring global governance.

The Cabinet also reiterated the Kingdom’s support for regional and international efforts to ban all types of weapons of mass destruction as was expressed during its participation in the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

The Cabinet also praised the outcomes of a recent Arab Interior Ministers’ Council held in Tunisia and stressed the Kingdom’s constant keenness to support and enhance joint Arab action in all fields in a way that contributes to establishing the foundations of security, stability, and prosperity in the region.


Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh

Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh

  • For 50 years, Sami Almarzoogi quietly pursued his love for art alongside his medical practice

RIYADH: Saudi artist Dr. Sami Almarzoogi’s solo exhibition at L’Art Pur Foundation in Riyadh “Is This a Gold Bar?” demonstrates the benefits of never giving up on your passion.

Presented in collaboration with Hafez Gallery, the showcase presents Almarzoogi’s diverse body of work, encompassing paintings, drawings and mixed-media pieces, which delve deep into his exploration of materials, techniques and themes. He invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions he seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush.

‘Is This A Gold Bar?’ by Sami Almarzoogi (Inset, right) invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

“The exhibition’s title, arrangement, and presentation serve as windows into my inner world, where shadows give way to the unveiling of my creations in the light of day, beckoning viewers to embark on a captivating artistic odyssey,” the artist explained.

His art — drawing inspiration from nature, human figures, personal experiences, and decorative objects — defies categorization, encouraging viewers to ponder the emotional depth conveyed through color and form.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Sami Almarzoogi’s art draws inspiration from nature, human figures, personal experiences, and objects.

● ‘Is This A Gold Bar?’ is being showcased at L’Art Pur in collaboration with Hafez Gallery in Riyadh.

● Curated by Ayman Yossri Daydban, the exhibition signifies a pivotal moment in Almarzoogi’s artistic journey.

Curated by Ayman Yossri Daydban, the exhibition signifies a pivotal moment in Almarzoogi’s artistic journey. Daydban is a celebrated visual artist based in Saudi Arabia who brings a unique perspective shaped over three decades of artistic practice, ensuring a nuanced and stimulating presentation of the artist’s work.

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

Almarzoogi was born in 1945 and spent over three decades unraveling the transformative potential of color and line. Through an intuitive exploration of motifs straddling the realms of figuration and abstraction, his work radiates with sensitivity, drawing prowess, and a profound understanding of color theory.

Almarzoogi said: “Drawing transcends mere equations of form, color, and ideas, or even complex formulations including feelings. It is, in fact, a sentiment taking shape in form, anchoring itself through colors, and blooming into a tapestry of ideas.”

Qaswra Hafez, Hafez Gallery founder

His creative process, he added, “is a reflection of diverse experiences and emotions, unfolding freely on blank canvases, unbound by symbols and interpretations. This natural approach to artistry transcends the confines of studios, beckoning an existential exploration enriched by observation, travel, and a universal spirit.”

Speaking about the journey captured in his works, he said: “In my artistic journey, the transition from darkness to doubt and ultimately light mirrors my personal growth, culminating in the radiant beauty of radiance.”

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

His creative journey, initially interwoven with a distinguished career in anesthesiology, found its full expression upon his return to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s, following an enriching decade-long sojourn in Germany.

Qaswra Hafez, founder of Hafez Gallery, said: “In my 35 years involved in the arts one way or another, producing this exhibition gave me the most confidence measure. It’s not every day that you find a 78-year-old artist who has been working in silence for over 50 years and never had a solo. It was such a joy for me to watch (and) see the exhibition the first time.”

It’s not every day that you find a 78-year-old artist who has been working in silence for over 50 years and never had a solo. It was such a joy for me to watch (and) see the exhibition the first time.

Qaswra Hafez, Hafez Gallery founder

Kenza Zouari, communication manager at Hafez Projects, said: “Sami Almarzoogi’s life is a testament to the courage to embark on new journeys. After years in the medical field, he made the bold decision to pursue his lifelong passion for art and his relentless quest for exploration led him to dive into the world of colors, shapes and forms with the same dedication and precision he once had in the operating room.”

She added: “With brushes replacing medical tools, Dr. Almarzoogi kept on trying new styles and techniques with this insatiable hunger for experimentation. His transition from doctor to artist was not just a career change; it was a profound transformation that allowed him to fully explore and express himself.

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

“Today, as we stand witness to his incredible body of work, we are reminded of the possibility within each of us to pursue our passions. Dr. Almarzoogi’s story is a powerful reminder that it is never too late to chase our dreams.”

Echoing this sentiment, Rania Rizk, director of the arts program at L’Art Pur Foundation, said: “We are thrilled to present the second solo exhibition, offering the Riyadh audience a glimpse into his extensive artistic journey and captivating narrative. Dr. Almarzoogi’s dedication to painting and drawing, quietly and authentically, alongside his medical profession, reflects his unwavering passion for art.

“His close friend, artist Ayman Yossri, as the curator, (ensues) the spiritual essence of the artwork shines through, enriching the exhibition with a deep sense of warmth and meaning.”

The exhibition at L’Art Pur is open to the public until Feb. 29 at 8 p.m.

 


Ardah performer finds strength in traditional Saudi dance

Ali Shaker Al-Ghamdi is a prominent performer of Saudi ardah who notes that the folk dance requires great physical effort.
Updated 27 February 2024
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Ardah performer finds strength in traditional Saudi dance

  • Ali Shaker Al-Ghamdi told Arab News: “I used to attend ardah performances and was obsessed with it, its rhythms, its fast pace. I participated for the first time when I was young, in my uncles’ village, Qarn Dhabi”

MAKKAH: Ali Shaker Al-Ghamdi is one of the most prominent performers of the southern Saudi ardah, a dance he described as showcasing strength while uniting communities.

Performed on special occasions such as Saudi Founding Day, the ardah highlights the Kingdom’s heritage through poetry and dance.

Al-Ghamdi had to undergo surgery after tearing a tendon in his foot while dancing at an Al-Janadriyah festival in Riyadh and feared being unable to perform again.

Ali Shaker Al-Ghamdi is a prominent performer of Saudi ardah who notes that the folk dance requires great physical effort. (Supplied)

He told Arab News: “I used to attend ardah performances and was obsessed with it, its rhythms, its fast pace. I participated for the first time when I was young, in my uncles’ village, Qarn Dhabi.”

While each region has its own distinct style of the folk art, the ardah performances share heritage, culture, and the spirit of heroism. The dance combines poetry to tell the stories of battles, wars, and courage passed down from one generation to another.

On how the ardah had changed over time, Al-Ghamdi said: “In the past, ardah was performed when a tribe felt it was being attacked by another. Whenever they heard the sound of the zir (a type of drum), they gathered and performed the war-related ardah.

FASTFACT

Performed on special occasions such as Saudi Founding Day, the ardah highlights the Kingdom’s heritage through poetry and dance.

“Their steps are synchronized as they raise their right and left arms together. Their movements are synchronized.

“It makes you feel like you are actually on the battlefield. Now it is a performance with a smile on the face and a symbol of manhood,” he added.

Al-Ghamdi, a physical education teacher in the Baha region, noted that the folk performance required great physical effort.

He said: “Thanks to God, I still maintain my fitness. I teach those who want to learn folk arts the Saudi ardah and the southern ardah.

“I still remember very well when I participated in one of Al-Janadriyah festivals in Riyadh and one of the attendees told me that I was fitter than the (Swedish) footballer (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic and that I should leave the show and join one of the big clubs. It was hilarious.”

Al-Ghamdi pointed out that no matter where he was, if he heard instruments, he felt compelled to join in. “It is as if my body and the instrument are in harmony and in a state of communication.”

He highlighted a performance where an elderly man from the audience, who appeared to have physical constraints, got up and joined in. “When he saw me, he stood up, danced, and interacted with me, leaving everyone blown away. I wondered what ardah could have done to him to move his body?”

 


Who’s Who: Wesam Al-Ghamdi, CEO at NEOM Green Hydrogen Co.

Wesam Al-Ghamdi
Updated 27 February 2024
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Who’s Who: Wesam Al-Ghamdi, CEO at NEOM Green Hydrogen Co.

Wesam Al-Ghamdi is CEO at NEOM Green Hydrogen Co., spearheading the growth and execution of the world’s largest green hydrogen plant, which is set to commence in 2026.

Once fully operational, the plant will also be managed under his leadership. Under his direction, the company will progress from its construction phase to full functionality for the supply of green hydrogen to the local and global markets for the heavy industry and transportation sectors.

Al-Ghamdi has also developed an environmental, social and governance factors strategy for the company to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

He brings over two decades of cross-functional senior leadership experience within diverse industry sectors in the Middle East region and globally, including in engineering, operations, and project management with companies like the Saudi Arabian Mining Co., or Ma’aden, SABIC and Shell.

During his tenure at Ma’aden, where he began working in 1998, he held several positions, each making a significant impact in the region. Most recently, he served as vice president of strategy and business development in the aluminum strategic business unit. In this role, he was responsible for long-term strategy development and divesture opportunities.

Al-Ghamdi is a graduate of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. He also has several technical certifications, including foundations of directorship from the Board Directors Institute, INSEAD/Ma’aden’s executive leadership development, GE’s executive leadership development, and Alcoa’s leadership development training.