At the initiative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced two initiatives that will serve as the cornerstone for efforts aimed at protecting Earth and nature in the Kingdom and the region respectively. These initiatives, which will be crystallized in the few coming months, are a continuation of the Kingdom’s leading role vis-à-vis common international issues, as well as its efforts to protect the planet, which it had outlined last year during its G-20 presidency.
Centered in the Kingdom and the region of the Middle East, the initiatives seek to plant 10 billion trees inside the Kingdom and double that number in the region in the coming decades.
The main objective is clear as day: saving Earth from the frightening destiny that awaits it, especially if global warming rates are to maintain their current rise, not to mention all the disturbing climate disasters that would ensue. Not least of these are the sandstorms that constantly befall the region, costing the Kingdom alone nearly $13 billion every year.
Climate change, now a bigger threat than even weapons of mass destruction, does not only harm Earth itself, but also its inhabitants. According to scientific studies conducted in the Kingdom, air pollution due to greenhouse gases is estimated to have shortened the lifespan of Saudis by one and a half years.
The initiatives of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prefigure a new green age that will grow and elevate the Gulf and the Middle East. These initiatives will come as part of concerted international efforts to breathe life into the planet instead of watching it die. The time for a green era has undoubtedly come.
One may wonder, however, whether tree planting can indeed make a dent in our climate crisis, especially given the lack of any positive, effective steps by major industrial powers around the world to fight the current and future repercussions of climate change.
Perhaps the only positive effort made recently in this regard was by the US as it rejoined the Paris Agreement, the same agreement from which the former administration had withdrawn in protest of the US bearing the brunt of the economic burden of combating the climate crisis while other countries accumulate wealth without taking care of Mother Earth. This is where the Crown Prince’s initiative become vital; they will add positive, innovative, and real value to the path of healing the planet. After all, trees are the lungs of the Earth.
In late September, a team of forest management experts at the US Department of Agriculture released a study proving the importance of planting trees to redress the environmental balance as global carbon emissions are still on the rise all around the world. Forests, as the study suggests, can help alleviate the situations as they enable greater carbon sequestration.
In the report, research forester Professor Grant Domke speaks of the role of tree planting in enhancing the ability to provide several ecosystem services. In addition to carbon sequestration, afforestation allows soil stabilization, the provision of wildlife habitats, and improved groundwater quality.
His Highness’ two initiatives are evidence of his foresight and cosmologic vision of the changes taking place in a world based on non-enlightened pragmatism. Several forests around the world have been mowed down with the sole purpose of making a fast buck, despite the fact that all economic revenues from wood products account for more than 14 percent of the yearly economic cost of carbon dioxide emissions in a country like the United States. One can only imagine the extent of damage such thoughtless, incautious policies have caused for future generations.
Day after day, the projects and initiatives of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prove his progressive vision for development and advancement, not only in the Kingdom, but across all the Gulf and, by extension, the Middle East.
These green initiatives are part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which is based on innovation instead of imitation. As a leading global oil producer, the Kingdom also realizes its responsibility in driving the efforts to combat climate change. Just as it plays a pioneering role in stabilizing energy markets during the oil and gas era, the Kingdom will strive to lead the upcoming green era.
These Saudi initiatives serve as a model proposal that seeks ecological justice for all of humanity and wards off the phantom threatening millions with inequality, exclusion, and deprivation of basic human rights, like clean water, unpolluted air, and proper nutrition.
Furthermore, not only will these initiatives work towards the reduction of global carbon emissions by over 4 percent, but they will also save 50 percent of electricity production costs in the Kingdom by 2030 thanks to renewable energy projects.
Armed with world-class power and leadership, Saudi Arabia heralds the Green Era; an era of combating climate change and addressing the environmental risks that the future holds.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
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