Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced that the kingdom will host the Mena Climate Week in 2023.
At a panel discussion at the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) event taking place on the sidelines of the Cop27 climate conference in Egypt, the minister set out the kingdom's growing role in climate change talks within the region.
“We have been talking with the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] secretariat and we will be hosting in 2023 the Mena Climate Week,” he said on Sunday. Saudi Arabia is working on setting up the Knowledge Centre for the Carbon Economy, due to open at the beginning of next year, he said.
Prince Abdulaziz also announced three new projects and a greenhouse gas credit scheme to launch next year.
“The entire government is working in unison to deliver the Saudi Green Initiative," he said. "Next year, we will be finalising the plans for developing 10 more renewable energy projects and connecting an additional 840 megawatts of solar PV power to our grid. Today, we are announcing that we will launch a GHG [greenhouse gas] crediting and offsetting scheme at the beginning of 2023 to support and incentivise efforts and investments in emission reduction and removal projects in all sectors in the kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is working with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia to establish a regional centre to advance emissions reduction.
"This centre will provide opportunities for regional collaboration to accelerate emissions reduction and facilitate the implementation of the CCE."
The centre will serve as a powerful platform to represent regional voices, influencing global narratives and developing a road map to lower emissions, a Saudi Press Agency statement said.
'A leading role'
Adel Al Jubair, Saudi Arabia's envoy for climate affairs, said climate change does not recognise borders, genders or religion.
"Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of petroleum and so we also have a responsibility in that sense … we have to take a leading role," Mr Al Jubair said.
"We all inhabit this planet together. What happens in one part of the world affects other parts of the world — we can’t escape that."
Saudi Arabia will invest $2.5 billion to deal with desertification and planting trees to reduce carbon emissions.
"The objective is to plant up to 50 billion trees in the Middle East," Dr Al Jubair said.
He said the kingdom had released funds to promote food security and help countries manage the transition using a circular carbon economy approach.
On the sidelines of Cop27, the chief executive of the National Centre for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC), Dr Khalid Al Abdulqader, also reiterated Saudi Arabia's plans to plant 600 million trees by 2030.
The NCVC launched a Local Trees Genome project that aims to use technology to collect rainwater and spread seeds by using drones, as well as study the genetic characteristics of local plants and trees.
The kingdom will achieve the SGI target of placing 30 per cent of its land and sea under protection by 2030, and plant more than 600 million trees within the same timeframe, an increase of more than 150 million trees from the initial goal to plant 450 million by 2030, according to SPA.
"We want to be an example to the world in terms of what can be done," he said. "We believe it can be done, we believe it will be done and we are determined to do so. You either get ahead or you are going to be buried by it [climate change]." Dr Al Jubair said.
"Saudi Arabia is committed to being ahead of it."