This article is dedicated to the memory of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away on April 9 2021, aged 99. He was the British Queen’s “rock” but equally importantly, in his own right he was a visionary, passionate, avant-garde environmentalist, aiming to save the planet long before the word environment became part of the 20th century zeitgest.
By Rhona Wells.
Celebrating Earth Day –A selection of Middle Eastern initiatives aiming to save the planet
Restoring our planet along with saving ourselves and the environment are mandatory matters. We tend to forget about the Earth and the environment and their importance to us at times. The Earth is basically a protection to us, but in order to feel protected, we need to protect it back. It is never easy, and it’s certainly a commitment to all humans but we need to maintain a sustainable way of living for a healthy life. Imagine your country clean, natural, safe, and green. All of this won’t happen on its own, and we need to start being aware of the consequences of what could and could not happen. Save the Earth in order to save yourself, and Earth Day (21April) is a necessary reminder to celebrate and protect the green, the seas, the animals and the planet. Several countries of the Middle East have achieved laudable results to this end.
Jordan- reforestation initiative
Jordanians gathered in March in Aljoun’s barren hills and have started a reforestation project planting Eucalyptus and carob saplings. The effort comes as a part of the Levant country’s initiative to plant 10 million trees in 10 years.
Forests currently make up only 1% of the country’s territory, and one year after the other, this national treasure is being eradicated by fires, often started by barbecues or carelessly discarded cigarettes. In 2020 alone, there were 499 fires in wood and forest areas, according to Jordan’s Agriculture Ministry.
Green hydrogen in the Middle East
Governments and entities in the Middle East are embracing renewable energy.
Whilst they take advantage of the immense potential of resources such as the sun and wind in the region, there is a huge hurdle of integrating electricity supply into existing grids that are currently designed for traditional stable power generation. On the other hand, governments are using and pushing sustainable energy into industries such as manufacturing and transportation. Clean hydrogen can also help address the challenges of carbon-free transportation, with fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen emitting only water as waste. These vehicles can fill their hydrogen tanks in just a few minutes, compared to much longer charging times for electric vehicle batteries. Hydrogen power is also ideal for heavy-duty transport because it offers significantly longer ranges than exclusively battery-powered vehicles.
Masdar City aims to create initial domestic demand for hydrogen and build a local green hydrogen economy. The demonstration project represents the first concrete step under a strategic partnership between Mubadala Investment, the sole shareholder of Masdar, and Siemens Energy. They plan to jointly accelerate green hydrogen capabilities in Abu Dhabi.
The ultimate goal is to scale up clean hydrogen production, including green hydrogen production via large-scale solar plants, in order to accelerate the adoption and use of hydrogen in major sectors in the United Arab Emirates, while positioning Abu Dhabi as a reliable global supplier of hydrogen.
Oman- saving world heritage frankincense
Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian peninsula for more than 6,000 years and was “worth its weight in gold” on the old trade routes such as the Silk road.
In 1998, the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) warned that one of the primary frankincense species, Boswellia sacra, is “near threatened”. Frankincense trees are not covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora but experts argue that the Boswellia species meet the criteria for protection.
Frankincense trees—of biblical lore—are being literally tapped out for essential oils.
At this rate, the fragrant resin reputed to have been gifted to the newborn Jesus, may be at risk of disappearing.
During the past decade or so, the market for essential oils—worth re than $7 bn in 2018 and expected to double in value by 2026—has boomed, putting greater pressure on frankincense trees.The new appetite for the raw material has led to its price rocketing.The price per kilogram of raw frankincense has shot up from one to around six dollars.
Harvested for millenniums, the current rhythm to meet the global appetite for essential oils offers few options for sustainability ; these ancestral forests in Oman and Somalia cannot replenish fast enough to survive the current over-harvesting.
Harvesting in an unsustainable way means making a higher number of cuts per tree to extract as much sap as possible and tapping the trees year-round rather than seasonally. These practices weaken the trees, impede them from recovering and, ultimately, means they will end up dying.
The Environment Society of Oman (ESO) has now set up a project which aims at generating world awareness about the tree, “which has a conservation status of ‘Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List’ of threatened species.” Headed by Dr Mohsin al Amri, an agri-scientist specialist in this field the aim is to create a sustainable way forward which will ensure the safety of the Boswellia sacra for years to come..
Dewa – saving tons of carbon emissions annually
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai is the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model. The solar park has a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030, with investments up to AED50 bn ($13.6bn). It features the world’s tallest solar power tower at 262.44 metres. The Molten Salt Receiver (MSR) on top of the solar power tower is the core and most important part of the Concentrated Solar Power plant (CSP). It receives solar radiation and turns it into thermal energy. The MSR contains over 1,000 thin tubes that enable the absorption of sun rays and their transfer to the molten salt within these tubes.
On its completion, the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, that Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is building, will have the largest energy storage capacity in the world of 15 hours, allowing for energy availability around the clock. This phase will provide clean energy for 320,000 residences and will reduce 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia join forces in green initiative
Egypt has declared its goal to effectively help out Saudi Arabia to enact and carry out the green Middle East initiative. The Green Saudi Initiative aims to plant 10 billion trees across Saudi Arabia in the upcoming decades, equivalent to 1% of the global goal, in attempting to combat climate change. This will increase the country’s vegetation coverage to 12 times its current size. The scheme also aims to reduce about 130 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Along side this project, The Green Middle East Initiative aims to plant 40 billion trees across the Middle East.
This will help reduce the CO2 emission resulting from the hydrocarbon production in the region by 60%.
This initiative aims to enhance the efficiency of hydrocarbon technologies in the region. Another goal is to rehabilitate and reforest more than 40 hectares of degraded land.
The Line –a zero carbon city in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman has unveiled plans to build a zero-carbon city at NEOM called ‘The Line’, the first major construction project aiming to diversify the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter.
It is meant to represent a new lifestyle that can sustainably cope with growth, unlike the contemporary cities.
The city will extend over 170 km and will be able to house a million residents in “carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy”. This means a new approach to urban planning with a new mind set.
A full re-design, no cars, no streets and building around nature instead of over it, the project aims to locate everything you need within a 5-minute walk, invisible technology generates care-free and open urban space, and most importantly, sustainability will always be a priority.
The Line is a never-before-seen approach to urbanisation, a city with new services driven by Artificial Intelligence, urban living protecting the earth’s nature while creating unmatched livability.
Located in NEOM, the city will link the coast of the Red Sea with the mountains and upper valleys of the north-west of Saudi Arabia.
The location is at the crossroads of the world, making it a natural choice for a global innovation hub. More than 40% of the global population will be able to reach NEOM’s breathtaking terrain in less than a four-hour flight, while 13% of the world’s trade already flows through the Red Sea.
The Line is built in a way that connects 4 ecologies, from coastal beaches and desert to upper valleys and mountains.
It will be a city integrated with nature, restoring the connection with nature to improve health and wellbeing for everyone.
No cars, just humans! This is a community built for people, with no more than a five-minute walk to live, work, and play. Clean energy means a more sustainable future for us all; the city will be enabled by the latest technology in order for its residents to live an easier life.
Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020
Designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, the 25,000 square-metre pavilion aims to be an example of sustainable building design.
Built to be net-zero for both energy and water, it features 1,055 solar photovoltaic panels arranged on a 130 metre-wide roof canopy and on top of a series of ‘energy trees’.The canopy’s slanted angle lowers temperature in the surrounding area.
The pavilion also uses water-reduction strategies, water recycling and alternative water sources. Surrounding the pavilion are a salt-tolerant species of desert plant called halophytes, which aid in filtering water produced from the building.
The panels combined together will have the space and capacity to charge over 900,000 phones, creating a sustainable future on a natural world.
The sustainability pavilion will be included in the expo legacy project District 2020 after April 2022, as a children’s and science centre.
Egypt – Cleaning up the Nile
Co-founded by two Egyptian startups, Greenish and Bassita, VeryNile is the first initiative to develop large scale projects aiming to clean the Nile of the vast amounts of trash and junk contained within its’ waters. The message and importance behind such an initiative is to raise awareness of the importance of cleaning up the Nile, whilst protecting the environment and remembering they both go together.
In January 2019, VeryNile launched an environmental education program for schools to encourage 8-13-year olds to engage with Egypt’s environmental issues and commit to conservation.
An estimated 250 million people rely on the Nile, the longest river in the world running through 11 countries on the African continent. Sadly, three-quarters of fish in the Nile now contain microplastics.
Investigations are currently being conducted into methods of efficiently controlling plastic pollution in freshwater fish in the African Great Lakes. One historic pioneer, Dr A. Khan, has identified that in most water systems there is a class of pollutant, including pesticides which don’t mix well with water. When they are in the water they look for materials to combine with and plastics provide just that, providing surface areas for contaminants to bind. The fish then feed on plastics and ingest these plastics which is how these contaminants make their way into the fish. There is therefore a truly urgent need to clean up the plastic in the Nile, before all the fish are poisoned off
Educating future generations
If humanity is to avoid the worst consequences of global warming and fast forward the green, clean and sustainable economies of tomorrow today, education must start at school. Teachers and students need to be part of real efforts to address climate issues. A recent global survey found that education was the one biggest factor determining whether or not individuals viewed climate change as a global emergency. Through teaching, we can turn the tide so that the whole world wakes up to the terrifying crisis we face and help to provide solutions for the future of our planet.
We only have the one planet so we all need to take care of it urgently before it is too late. This is not a rehearsal.
Sadly, there are many things we can’t go back and fix (rain forest devastation, extinct species, extreme pollution, ozone layer atrophication ,gas emissions, coral erosion to name but a few) but we can and must look forward, learn from our extremely damaging mistakes and create a new road map for planet Earth and the generations of tomorrow.
Working together to save the planet, we can ensure that these atrocious pictures are condemned to the history books of the 20th Century .
Climate Change Summit 2021 01-12 November, Glasgow,UK
We cannot afford to wait to act against the threat of climate change. We must work together to protect our planet and people and ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all.
The UK will host the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 , in association with Italy to bring together world leaders to commit to urgent effective global climate action. It will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Climate change and the reversal of biodiversity loss will be at the heart of the multilateral agenda in 2021. COP26 will also focus on a green and resilient recovery, post Covid 19, that promotes sustainable growth and delivers solutions for those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Ahead of the conference, efforts are already being made to address the critical situation. Race To Zero is just one of the many global initiatives underway.Backed by science-based targets, it aims to empower businesses cities, regions, investors and universities to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.