Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

Who Is Responsible for Protecting the Climate?

Climate challenges have long occupied a large segment of world leaders’ agendas. Although some leaders view the matter from a scope of political goals, a few others deal with this issue as a duty of moral responsibility.

Today, this space may not be an opportunity to review the two previous points of view. But it is sufficient for any observer to track the statements of the first party and the second party’s initiatives to feel the problem’s current reality and its dimensions. They can also sense each party’s intentions in dealing with the situation.

Those who believe that the responsibility for confronting climate challenges rests solely with the oil-producing countries are mistaken.

As I indicated in a previous article on August 15, titled “Oil, A Boogeyman,” the West imposes taxes on Gulf oil under the pretext of protecting the environment while subsidizing coal, which is the most significant pollutant among the energy sources that exist today. This constitutes a stark and incomprehensible contradiction that isn’t commensurate with human reasoning.

Despite all this, Saudi Arabia has taken it upon itself to adopt many initiatives during the past few years, some national, some regional, and some global.

Its Green Middle East Initiative and the circular carbon economy approach, adopted by the G20 at the summit level, are but a small part of the initiatives presented by Riyadh to the region and the world, with the aim of energy sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

Is facing climate challenges an individual or a collective responsibility? What initiatives are required from all countries to save the planet? Is protecting the earth a monopoly on countries with rich energy sources? Is it reasonable to focus on specific energy sources, such as petroleum, while ignoring others, such as coal?

Any human effort’s success stems from a principle of “collective partnership” in addressing crises.

From this standpoint, Saudi Arabia has taken it upon itself to lead the region’s countries to contribute to achieving global climate goals.

Under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the second edition of the Green Middle East Initiative Summit was held in Egypt in tandem with the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Agreement (COP27).

It was convened under a joint Saudi-Egyptian presidency, which clearly communicated the importance of collective action in the face of climate challenges.

I will quickly review some of the numbers and targets mentioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his speech at the opening of the Green Middle East Initiative Summit. These numbers demonstrate the seriousness of this ambitious initiative, which requires continued regional cooperation to implement the commitments of the region’s countries at a faster pace.

With concerted regional efforts, the initiative seeks to remove more than 670 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which amounts to 10 % of global contributions.

The initiative also aims to plant 50 billion trees across the Middle East and restore an area equivalent to 200 million hectares of degraded land. The initiative will reduce global carbon levels by 2.5%.

On the national level, Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 278 mtpa by 2030 by implementing a Carbon Circular Economy (CCE) approach.

Moreover, the Kingdom launched an international collaboration platform to implement the CCE approach, a regional investment fund dedicated to financing CCE solutions, and a Clean Fuel Solutions Initiative for Food Savings.

Riyadh also plans to rely on renewables for 50% of its electricity generation by 2030, removing 44 million tons of carbon emissions by 2035.

What caught my attention at the second edition of the Green Middle East Initiative Summit was the announcement by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) aims to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through the CCE approach.

This will make PIF among the world’s first sovereign wealth funds and the first in the Middle East to reach carbon neutrality. It will also challenge the world’s wealth funds to eliminate their old investment thinking and enter a fierce competition that will benefit future generations.