US Climate Envoy Welcomes Green Saudi Initiative
He considered that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s proposal constitutes a “challenge and a source of suspense.”
Wednesday – 6 Dhu al-Qi’dah 1442 AH – 16 June 2021 AD
US Climate Envoy John Kerry (Reuters)
Riyadh: «Middle East Online»
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, announced the “Green Saudi Arabia” and “Green Middle East” initiatives in April, which aim to reverse the trend of environmental degradation and climate change. This step put the Kingdom at the center of regional efforts to achieve the international goals of environmental projects.
“I think it’s a very important initiative, especially when combined with the Green Middle East initiative,” Kerry said, in an interview with Arab News.
The former US Secretary of State was on his way to Riyadh from Abu Dhabi after visiting the UAE capital for the second time, where he attended the first regional dialogue conference on climate change in April. This conference focused on preparations for the twenty-sixth session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled for later this year, with the aim of accelerating efforts to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Referring to the conference participants, who are 11 different countries, mostly producers, including Morocco, Iraq, Egypt and others, Kerry said, “They are all committed to moving in this direction. What we need to do now is harmonize the global understanding of the different goals and standards that apply to green and define the word green and so on.”
“We can do these things, and that’s my job as a Special Envoy to help us stay focused as we move to Glasgow, where the world will gather, as we did in Paris, to renew our ambition,” he added. We also have to raise the level of our ambition to accomplish this task, and I believe that the green initiative is a good step towards contributing to achieving this.”
Kerry has been touring the world for months, meeting with prime ministers, kings, crown princes, ministers and senior officials, seeking to raise the bar for ambition in the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. ).
As part of his visit to the Middle East, Kerry arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for talks with Saudi ministers, officials and chief executives on a range of climate-related issues.
Kerry said that his meeting with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also included “all the CEOs who are leading different initiatives in different economic sectors to start transforming the way we work to be environmentally friendly.”
The latter added: “We held a series of fruitful meetings in which we discussed all topics. I also met with the experts of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and we spent a lot of time looking at all aspects of what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently doing, what it can do and what it will achieve.”
Kerry said he was very impressed by “the depth of the analysis (Saudi Arabia) and its commitment to the future, which clearly addresses this challenge.” He also acknowledged that it is a “significant and increasingly important challenge,” adding that President Biden “is equally committed to moving forward in this area.”
He explained, “We believe that the Kingdom can be one of the main elements of change, as it has an exceptional opportunity to benefit from solar energy and green hydrogen, and this possibility is very realistic.”
The goals of the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the region by 60 percent, using renewable energy sources to produce 50 percent of energy in the Kingdom by 2030, and eliminating more than 130 million tons of carbon emissions through the use of technology green hydrocarbon.
Kerry, who met the Crown Prince earlier today (Wednesday), to discuss international efforts to combat climate change and Saudi Arabia’s initiatives in this regard, continued, “I think what Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, presented as a concept is, at the time himself, a challenge and a source of excitement indeed, and he has the potential to accelerate this shift for all of us by providing alternative fuels.”
“A lot of people around the world today are looking for a solution to hydrogen, and I think our meetings have led to a commitment to work together to try to speed that up, so I’m very optimistic,” he added.
Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the Paris Agreement, but President Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the United States into the Paris climate agreement just hours after being sworn in in January. These radical shifts in policy have raised questions about the stability of America’s climate policy into the future.
But Kerry flatly dismissed these concerns, saying: “No, absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why. The reason is that the private sector is moving in an extraordinary way around the world, and trillions of dollars will be invested in this transformation.”
“Six major US banks have committed $4.16 trillion over the next 10 years to climate investment, excluding development banks or asset managers. We also find several financial institutions in other countries fully committed to the same goal, ie to achieve zero emissions by 2050 or before, thanks to the efforts of many people around the world who are contributing to the formation of the coalition.”
Explaining why there is no going back in terms of policy, Kerry said: “I think there is a lot of technology, innovation and development of new products and new fuels. The market will be a great force and no politician in any country will be able to change that. They will not want to change this situation because it will create millions of jobs for our citizens as it directs the world towards sustainable and renewable energy sources.”
The latter explained that the same logic applies to “regarding carbon, because a producing country like Saudi Arabia is very concerned about this issue.”
“As long as emissions are coming down at the rates we need and as long as we are able to capture those emissions and use them somehow, we will find a range of different approaches and different types of fuels,” Kerry said.
“I think the future is really very promising,” he added. We are currently experiencing the largest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution, and I think it is full of opportunity. Entities or countries that will develop a battery with a storage capacity of two weeks or one week or find a way to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store it and use it in several areas, will make a lot of money, because these are the things that the world needs today and will want in the future.”
The United Nations has warned that countries must redouble their climate efforts if they are to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C, or ideally 1.5°C, by the end of the century. Climate scientists have called for a transition that should start early and lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions even before 2030.
However, developing countries want rich countries to honor their commitments from the Paris negotiations to mobilize $100 billion annually in public and private financing to assist in the energy transition. Kerry noted that progress has been made on this controversial issue.
He added that “about 81 billion dollars have already been collected from the amount to be raised, which amounts to 100 billion dollars. The issue is not only related to giving money, but also to encouraging the provision of money, by urging some development banks or other people to sit around the negotiating table and offer a certain amount of money.”
He continued, “The desired goal must be achieved. It is very important that the developed world be able to deliver the amount that was promised, knowing that we are striving to achieve it. I have personally spoken to President Biden about this and he is aware of it. Not to mention that the Group of Seven industrialized nations discussed the issue during the weekend summit in Cornwall, UK. It is very important that we raise the money over the next four months to get the job done.”
Kerry is confident that the funds needed to carry out the necessary energy transitions can be found by governments that have adopted major changes in their monetary and fiscal policies to reduce the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on the economy.
He said, “Part of the envisaged funds must be secured by countries, because we need funds that are called (soft money), and they are funds that exist to help pay for things that the private sector will not be interested in paying for because it does not generate any return on investment.”
“But the vast majority of this money will come from the private sector around the world, because it has the money to invest and because the different sectors of our economy are as productive as the transportation sector. So whether you have a train, high speed rail or clean public transportation, these are the sectors that generate revenue. Revenue is what gives you the ability to attract investments.”
“The same goes for energy use,” Kerry explained. People will pay for the energy they use for air conditioning, heating and lighting, so that will generate a revenue stream. This means that you can invest in this area and make some money, then the private sector will see economic opportunity in many of the choices that we need to make, which is why those banks that I talked about put $4.16 trillion on the table.”
He added, “It will not stop there, but we will take more steps and initiatives around the world. The drive to achieve the desired goals will be the ability for people to seek solutions, through technologies and individual use, as well as products that people use and are willing to pay for.”