Home » MENACW 2023: Building momentum to COP28 and driving forward climate action 

MENACW 2023: Building momentum to COP28 and driving forward climate action 

by Madaline Dunn

This year, the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week (MENACW) is being held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, hosted by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

Running until the 12th October, the event is the second of four regional climate weeks in the lead-up to the UN COP28. 

Bringing together policymakers, scientists, businesses and civil society, the event is an opportunity to discuss approaches to and progress on climate change, showcase the Kingdom’s climate initiatives, explore the challenges facing the region and stimulate regional action. 

Speaking about hosting the event, HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, said: “We are pleased to host the second edition of MENA Climate Week in Riyadh, a sign of the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to exploring all solutions to the climate challenges we currently face.”

Adding: “MENA Climate Week will explore advancing climate action and inclusive approaches including the Circular Carbon Economy approach which promotes the use of all available technologies, forms of energy and mitigation opportunities that would contribute to achieving climate goals.”

ESG Mena looks at some of the highlights, talking points and announcements from the event so far. 

The global energy market’s position in the transition

In his formal address at the opening ceremony for MENA Climate Week, COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, highlighted that regional wind and solar investments have grown over four times in the past decade, and projected they will double again in the next five years. 

Further, Dr. Al Jaber called for global renewable energy capacity to triple, and energy efficiency to double by the end of the decade.

During the event, on day two, there were also discussions from panellists on the current state of global energy markets and where they stand in their transition journey. Tasnee CEO Mutlaq Al-Morished, for example, on a panel discussing advancing decarbonisation in the petrochemical sector, said the market is not yet “mature enough” with regard to renewables – infrastructure was highlighted as a key challenge here. 

Energy ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, the three largest members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also gathered at the event. On a panel, Suhail Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, highlighted that as major hydrocarbon producers, the three countries have a “responsibility to the world” to provide the transition with enough hydrocarbon resources to ensure the transition occurs in a “responsibly priced manner.”

Elsewhere, the Saudi Press Agency quoted Al-Mazrouei as saying: “We cannot stop using the sources of energy we use today before we secure alternative, sustainable sources of energy for the future.” 

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, meanwhile, said that the industry should not be “stigmatised,” and that the world still needs hydrocarbons. 

Indeed, while Dr. Al Jaber has previously said that the phase-down of fossil fuels is “inevitable,” at the opening of Climate Week, he said: “We cannot unplug the energy system of today before we build the new system of tomorrow. It is simply not practical or possible.”

Adding: “We must separate facts from fiction, reality from fantasies, impact from ideology, and we must ensure that we avoid the traps of division and distraction.”

Inclusion within the energy transition has also been a key theme throughout the week, and there have been calls to ensure that the transition “doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

In other developments, on Sunday, oil ministers of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met on the sidelines of the event, where, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), ministers “reiterated the willingness of the Declaration of Cooperation (DoC) countries to take additional measures at any time in their continued efforts to support market stability, building on the strong cohesion of the OPEC plus.”

A ‘clean’ hydrogen hub

Earlier in the week, Dr. Al Jaber highlighted the region as being the world’s leading producer of clean hydrogen. Indeed, research from S&P Global Commodity Insights, revealed that planned clean hydrogen capacity in the Middle East has “more than doubled year on year.” 

Meanwhile, projections are that by 2040, the Middle East will take the global lead, with production projected at 28 million mt of clean hydrogen, with exports at 6.28 million. 

At MENACW, Saudi Arabia shared its plans to position itself as a “world leader” in hydrogen exports, with the general director of the Clean Hydrogen and Circular Carbon Economy National Program at the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy Zeid Mohammed Al-Ghareeb sharing that the Kingdom is working on “very important projects” that will further the clean hydrogen industry. 

CCS (carbon capture and storage) was highlighted as one of them, which he said would be the “spine” of the production of blue hydrogen. He also shared that the Kingdom is studying the possibility of building another hub to produce clean fuels, and derivatives of hydrogen. 

Challenges around carbon capture technologies were also discussed in a panel on Tuesday, while the event also saw the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) join the Global CCS Institute.

On the sidelines of MENACW, India and Saudi Arabia signed an MoU which will see them co-develop green and ‘clean’ hydrogen and renewable energy projects, and secure supply chains for materials used in green hydrogen and renewable energy production.

Already, Saudi Arabia is developing one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world, in NEOM. 

Ten billion trees

During Climate Week, Saudi Arabia also launched its roadmap to reach its target of planting ten billion trees under the Saudi Green Initiative. This is said to be the equivalent of rehabilitating 40 million hectares of degraded land, and is one of the world’s most ambitious targets in a greening program. It accounts for 1 per cent of the global greening target and 20 per cent of the Middle East Green Initiative’s target of planting 50 billion trees across the region. Already, between 2017 and 2023, 41 million trees were planted in Saudi Arabia. 

The Kingdom outlined that the roadmap, which will be conducted in two phases, is the result of a two-year feasibility study conducted by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) and the National Center for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC). 

Green tourism push

With global tourism accounting for between an estimated 8-11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, industry decarbonisation is increasingly coming into focus and demand for ecotourism is on the rise.

In recent years, a number of sustainability-focused tourism projects have been launched in Saudi Arabia, including Red Sea Global’s Red Sea project, a regenerative tourism offering. 

In keeping with this focus, at MENA Climate Week, Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Ministry announced the launch of the world’s first Global Solutions Hub. The Hub, which will be led by the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC) in Riyadh, will serve as a knowledge centre, aimed at driving forward the sector’s transition to carbon neutrality. 

Building momentum 

MENA Climate Week wraps up tomorrow, with 50 days to go until COP28. 

Having been centred on four themes: energy systems and industry; cities, urban and rural settlements, infrastructure and transport; land, ocean, food and water; and societies, health, livelihoods, and economies, the event has included panels, roundtables and workshops, exploring everything from mobility investing to the role of Arab youth on climate action. 

Following its conclusion tomorrow, there will be Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week, and then, finally, Asia-Pacific Climate Week. The week, as with all of the regional climate weeks, is intended to contribute to the Global Stocktake process, which concludes at COP28. 

Stay tuned for more updates from ESG Mena.

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