Royal Commission for AlUla aims to slash emissions by 270 metric tons annually

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DUBAI/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is in full gear to host the upcoming Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh — a much awaited event that will set out the Kingdom’s ambitious environmental agenda. 

But the event is not only going to cover Saudi efforts to fight climate change, but also rally the wider Middle East region to comply with international targets, including limiting global warming to below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. 

Experts all over the world have emphasized the role of collaboration to achieve this, with Saudi Arabia demonstrating it with its remarkable hosting of the G20 summit last year — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The efforts are not only coming from governments though — one of the most reported environmental campaigns is coming from young people, which the UN said is just logical given they are the inheritors of the Earth.

“My generation has largely failed until now to preserve both justice in the world and to preserve the planet. It is your generation that must make us be accountable to make sure that we don't betray the future of humankind,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres previously said in a statement. 

This will be reflected in the upcoming SGI, where a parallel event that focuses on youth participation in the regional and global environmental agenda will be held.

The Youth Green Summit, happening on October 24, is “a platform for environmental literacy, advocacy, and policy making,” according to the SGI website. 

It will feature interactive workshops and collaborative climate policy activities, as well as panels with leading youth activists. 

Saudi Arabia has a massive young population — almost 51 percent of the Kingdom is below 25 years old, and the government has been empowering them to contribute to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” to improve the quality of life in the Kingdom. 

A Saudi-based founder of a local environmental initiative said including the youth in discussions about the environment is “what will provide effective results.”

“The future of national development in the Kingdom hinges on empowering its youthful majority,” Eshraq Al-Haddad told Arab News.

She added: “The Kingdom has already made tremendous efforts to empower youth through programs and projects of national transformation initiatives, increasing their participation in society and the labor market.”

Al-Haddad said many young Saudis have shown an increasing interest in environmental sustainability, and many are championing this cause through creating businesses or promoting environmental awareness through community activities or campaigns.

“In a recent development, Saudi youth have been profoundly involved in the lead up to the Saudi G20 Summit. Hence, youth have been the major beneficiaries of the chance for open dialogue and inclusive policy making,” she said.

The Saudi youth is “yearning for an active role to make a positive impact towards the environment,” Al-Hadded said, adding the “Saudi Green Initiative is a great step.”

A 23-year-old Saudi-based diver, Joud Hamshari, said she is “thrilled” for the upcoming Youth Green Summit.

“We scuba dive to explore the underwater and enjoy the scenery of marine life. As divers, it is our responsibility to preserve the aquatic environment, and it is good to have the support of SGI to sustain the effort we do as scuba divers,” she said.

Other divers like Hamshari have been involved in different activities to create awareness in their own communities, including annual clean-up drives. 

Fifteen-year-old Saudi Nour Binmahfouz said: “As divers, it is our obligation to preserve the aquatic environment and educate those who have neglected their duties. With the support of the Saudi Green initiative, us divers will be able to continue with our efforts in spreading awareness as pollution in the ocean has skyrocketed.”

The SGI Forum will take place on October 23, followed by the Youth Green Summit on the next day.

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