A woman records while Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman speaks during the Saudi Green Initiative Forum to discuss efforts by the world's top oil exporter to tackle climate change in Riyadh on October 23, 2021. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Saudi Arabia has pledged to eliminate planet-warming emissions within its borders by 2060.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made the announcement in Riyadh on Saturday at the opening of a climate conference.

Crown Prince Mohammad, who is the head of the Higher Committee for the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), launched the first set of SGI environmental initiatives at its inaugural annual forum. SGI will also monitor the impact of initiatives that have been previously announced.

Saudi initiative comes ahead of COP26
The Saudi Green Initiative, which comes ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow from October 31 - November 12, that hopes to agree on deeper emissions cuts to tackle global warming.
Riyadh, a signatory to the Paris climate pact, on Saturday set out details of its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) - goals for individual states under global efforts to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The United States and the EU want Saudi Arabia to join a global initiative on slashing emissions of methane by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. US climate envoy John Kerry will attend a wider Middle East green summit Riyadh is hosting on Monday.
The Saudi Green Initiative aims to eliminate 278 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, up from a previous target of 130 million tonnes.
Saudi Arabia in March pledged to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4% of global contributions through initiatives including generating 50% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030 and planting billions of trees in the desert state.
Megaprojects, such as futuristic city NEOM, also incorporate green energy plans including a $5 billion hydrogen plant, and Saudi state-linked entities are pivoting to green fundraising.

The Crown Prince announced a diverse set of initiatives in the Kingdom as a roadmap to protect the environment and address climate change challenges while achieving SGI’s ambitious targets.

He said that the first wave of initiatives that will deliver against the targets under the Saudi Green Initiative include programmess that aim to achieve more than 278 Mtpa carbon emissions reduction by 2030.

This is more than doubling delivery against the emissions reduction target set forth at the announcement of the Saudi Green Initiative earlier this year. The Kingdom will also join the Global Methane Pledge to contribute to cutting global methane emissions by 30% by 2030, as part of its commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener future.

Transformation of Riyadh

The Crown Prince said that the Kingdom will plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come. The transformation of Riyadh into one of the world’s most sustainable cities is already underway, with an extensive set of sustainability solutions that will be outlined at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum.

The Crown Prince said that an increasing area of land is being designated for protection in the coming years, to achieve the first 20% of the goal to protect over 30% of the Kingdom’s total land area, with initiatives to deliver the final 10% to be announced at a later stage.

He also announced that Saudi Arabia aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2060 through the Carbon Circular Economy approach. This is based on the Kingdom’s critical role in confronting shared international issues, its belief in the need for collaborative efforts to confront climate change and the necessity of the green transformation to deliver social and economic prosperity to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s ambition to reach net zero emissions aligns with the Kingdom’s economic diversification and development plans and the “Dynamic Baseline” for emissions reduction, he said.

The transition to net zero carbon emissions will be delivered in a manner that preserves the Kingdom’s leading role in enhancing the security and stability of global energy markets, particularly considering the maturity and availability of technologies necessary to manage and reduce emissions.

700 billion riyals

To further amplify its protection of terrestrial, marine and coastal environments, the Crown Prince announced that Saudi Arabia is joining the Global Ocean Alliance, establishing the Ocean Exploration Foundation and announcing a number of initiatives – including a Global Center for Tourism Sustainability.

The first set of initiatives represents over 700 billion Saudi riyals contributing to the growth of the green economy.

“The Saudi Green Initiative will provide huge investment opportunities for the private sector, quality job opportunities for the next generation of leaders in the Kingdom and enhanced international relationships that will have a positive impact on the region and the world,” the  Crown Prince said.

Saudi Arabia’s newly-announced goal to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 could be achieved earlier and would not have any adverse financial or economic impact on the world’s top oil exporter, the Saudi energy minister said.

Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al Saud, speaking at the Saudi Green Initiative summit, also said most technology needed to cut emissions would mature by 2040 and that the kingdom “needs time to do things properly”.

He said the world needs all sources of energy.

The UAE this month became the first Gulf nation to say it would neutralize its emissions by 2050. Russia followed less than a week later, though President Vladimir Putin set a later deadline of 2060.

Saudi Arabia is now aligned with most major economies and the changes scientists say is essential if the world is to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

The decision is likely to play well with US President Joe Biden, Bloomberg quoted Karen Young, fellow of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, as saying. “The net-zero goal firmly establishes Saudi Arabia in the G-20 economies that are pushing on this agenda,” she said. “It also is probably a conciliatory gesture toward the Biden administration.”