Climate change dominates day two discussions at FII 2019 forum in Riyadh

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In Riyadh, the second day of the third Future Investment Initiative kicked off on Wednesday with a focus on environment and climate change as John Pagano, CEO of The Red Sea Development Company, spoke on the impact of Saudi Arabia’s massive Red Sea tourism project.

The development of the Red Sea movement is one of Saudi Arabia’s “giga-projects” geared towards increasing tourism, expanding the coral reefs, as well as reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

Pagano noted that the project was only possible due to the “passion of the Saudi people.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, continued the day with a keynote address followed by participation in a panel discussion on climate change featuring other prominent energy leaders, including US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

On the subject of the timing of Saudi Aramco’s upcoming initial public offering (IPO), Prince Abdulaziz said it would be a “Saudi decision first.”

The IPO, which is a cornerstone of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed’s economic diversification plan, will “come at the right time, with the right approach, and definitely the right decision,” he added, while emphasizing that it will be a “Prince Mohammed decision.”

Crown Prince Mohammed, who is spearheading the Kingdom’s social reforms and leading the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, is the younger brother of Prince Abdulaziz.

Meanwhile, Secretary Perry said that the global energy sector is living in “transitional times,” and that “natural gas will be a major part [of the move towards] massive carbon reduction.”

Secretary Perry then went “off-script” during the debate to awkwardly pitch a robotics contest in Riyadh.

“I am just going to make a pitch. I saw the last four days, across the way in neighboring emirates, I saw this extraordinary global competition with young people, first Global Robotics Championship in Dubai,” Secretary Perry said.

“They want to bring that to the Kingdom,” he said, adding that, “I know that’s a little off-script here.”

In a separate panel, Special Adviser to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, Andrew Liveris said that Saudi Arabia is taking a leading position in reducing the world’s carbon footprint, adding that “sustainability is a business opportunity,” but that “we need a global framework that businesses can adjust to.”

US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that there is a “very strong appeal” to invest in Saudi Arabia. His comments in Riyadh come following the upgrade of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) to emerging market indexes early this year, seeing billions of dollars of investment flow into the Kingdom, with Sarah al-Suhaimi, chairperson of the Tadawul, moderating the discussion.

Secretary Mnuchin went on to praise Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan as “very important and an enormous transformational opportunity for the entire country’s development.”

Later, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took to the stage to discuss his country’s development and the relationship between it and Saudi Arabia. Bolsonaro said that there is a strong level of personal friendship between him and Crown Prince Mohammed. He thanked the Crown Prince for the announcement of an additional $10 billion worth of investments in Brazil on Tuesday.

On the subject of Brazil’s economy he said that; “No other country in the world has as much as we have to offer in terms of business opportunities … [it has] one of the world’s best arable lands, which can ensure you food security, which is essential.”

Bolsonaro went on to state that he would personally like to see Brazil as a member of OPEC based on the country’s very large oil reserves.

The afternoon also saw a panel discussion with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyattta and Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou. The three leaders joined together for a discussion on how to build Africa’s economy, and welcomed foreign investors to the continent.

“We’re telling the world … come, Africa wants to be a friend to all, and is open for business,” Buhari said.

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