The Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) Exhibition at COP27 in Egypt s Sharm el-Sheikh. Courtesy of the SPA
On 11-12 November, the second editions of the Middle East Green Initiative and Saudi Green Initiative Forum were launched with the arrival of Saudi Prince Crown Mohamed bin Salman to the Saudi pavilion in the Green Zone in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The Saudi pavilion is the biggest at COP27, comprising two tents hosting 28 exhibitors, representing governmental and non-governmental entities and civil society.
Visitors to the pavilion can explore multiple initiatives that Saudi Arabia is implementing across the kingdom, from the world’s largest clean hydrogen factory in Neom to successful animal rehabilitation programmes.
On his arrival in Sharm El-Sheikh, Bin Salman reviewed Saudi efforts in the field of climate change, green and smart projects, the safe disposal of waste and preserving biodiversity.
Through the Middle East Green Initiative, Saudi Arabia is attempting to increase the region’s ability to protect the planet by drawing an ambitious roadmap to achieve global goals. Among the initiatives kickstarted to adapt to climate change, promote sustainable development and preserve the environment are the establishment of a regional centre for climate change, a centre for facing dust storms, and a cloud seeding programme.
The Middle East Green Initiative is testimony to Saudi Arabia’s commitment to international sustainability efforts. The initiative supports coordination efforts between the kingdom and its regional and international partners towards sharing knowledge and exchanging experience for the sake of reducing carbon emissions on a global scale and to launch the largest tree planting programme in the world.
Bin Salman hosted the first round of the Middle East Green Initiative summit in Riyadh on 25 October 2021. The summit helped effect the first regional dialogue about climate. It was agreed the summit be convened periodically to draw up plans to achieve the goals of the Middle East Green Initiative by reducing carbon emissions by more than 10 per cent and decreasing harmful emissions resulting from petroleum production in the region by more than 60 per cent.
The initiative aims to pump 39 billion riyals into the Clean Fuel Initiative and the Regional Investment Fund to finance technical solutions for the circular carbon economy.
The Saudi Green Initiative aims to plant 10 billion trees throughout the kingdom in the coming decades, increase protectorates to 30 per cent of the total regions in Saudi Arabia and reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tons annually by 2030. These goals are in line with the regionally determined contribution of planting 50 billion trees.
The kingdom currently has 13 renewable energy projects worth $9 billion in the pipeline, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told Al-Arabiya satellite channel. The projects include a 11.3 GW green hydrogen plant — one of the world’s largest — and will help reduce annual carbon emissions by 20 million tons and contribute to Saudi Arabia’s plan to increase the contribution of renewable energy in its power generation mix to 50 per cent by 2030.
Efforts of the Saudi non-profit Baa Foundation were also presented in Sharm El-Sheikh. The foundation works on increasing awareness about, and finding solutions to, climate change. Baa is working on a programme to revive coral reefs in the Red Sea. The Saudi pavilion displayed healthy, colourful corals, others that have grown white due to climate change, and reefs that have died due to increased levels of calcium.
Baa Foundation, together with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and other partners, are taking small parts of lively coral reefs and planting them in controlled environments until they are fully grown and transported back to the sea. This is one effective means to face the effect of climate change on biodiversity.
The foundation also launched the Ras Baridi Marine Turtle Conservation Initiative on the Red Sea coast. A six km beach in the Ras Baridi area was turned into a nature reserve. The beach is divided into rookeries where turtles lay their eggs — each female lays about 120 eggs — and returns back to sea. Around 60 days later, the baby turtles begin their journey towards the ocean.
It is a journey fraught with danger and not all babies make it to the water. This is where Baa Foundation comes in, protecting the youngsters from animal attacks to help them survive.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.