Middle East gathers in Riyadh for Green Initiative Summit on climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US climate envoy John Kerry and others will discuss plans to tackle climate change in the region

Mountains in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority / Shutterstock
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Delegations including national leaders from across the region started arriving in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the day before the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh to discuss plans to mitigate climate change.

As well as figures from the region, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and US climate envoy John Kerry will attend.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to boost regional action on emissions through the Middle East Green Initiative Summit and work with neighbours to combat climate change beyond its borders through collective action.

In March, Saudi Arabia announced the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative — two programmes to tackle environmental degradation and reduce emissions in the kingdom and across the region.

The plan includes planting 50 billion trees in the Middle East, restoring 200 million hectares of degraded land and cutting emissions from hydrocarbon production by more than 60 per cent.

The initiatives unify Saudi Arabia’s sustainability efforts to combat climate change, increase reliance on clean energy and offset the impact of fossil fuels.

GCC Secretary General Nayef Al Hajraf praised the green initiatives, saying they represent a global contribution and a real response to the challenges of climate change. He called for regional and international co-operation to put them into practice with the aim of saving the planet.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will open the day laying out the kingdom’s vision before leaders discuss green plans and the impacts of climate change. Financial experts will lead talks on how to finance a green economy revolution before Mr Kerry and Ms Mohammed lay out the international outlook and the Crown Prince closes out the day.

Pakistani leader Imran Khan is in Saudi Arabia to attend the meeting, among others.

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, will lead the UAE's delegation.

On Saturday, the kingdom announced that it would commit itself to net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 at the Saudi Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh.

“These initiatives aim at modifying the Kingdom’s energy mix, rationing and increasing the efficiency of energy production and use and investing in new energy sources, including hydrogen,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told attendees.

“As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis, and that, as in our pioneering role in stabilising energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will act to lead the next green era,” the Crown Prince said.

He also announced a plan to cut Riyadh’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent and make it “one of the most sustainable cities in the world.”

After the announcement that the kingdom plans to go carbon neutral, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres phoned King Salman on Saturday night and welcomed the new initiatives.

The UK’s Prince Charles said that Saudi Arabia's green initiatives contribute to building a sustainable and productive future, indicating that the kingdom's global leadership in the “transition to renewable energy is essential.”

The prince will be a leading voice at the UN Cop26 climate summit next week in Glasgow as world leaders meet to discuss progress with regard to the Paris Climate Agreement, that seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to under 2°C.

Delegates will discuss the coming Cop26 during Monday’s meeting in the Saudi capital.

Updated: October 25, 2021, 11:00 AM