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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

SAUDI ARABIA SET TO RAISE FUNDS FROM GREEN BOND

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Saudi Arabia plans to allocate half of its investment funds to renewable and sustainable power sources and will issue a green sukuk soon, the governor of the Public Investment Fund and chairman of Saudi Aramco said. “The kingdom aims to deploy 50 per cent of its investments in renewable and sustainable power sources,” said Yasir Al Rumayyan during an online round table organised by the Future Investment Institute in New York on Tuesday.

“We are one of the most efficient countries when it comes to sustainability and renewable energy.”  Although the kingdom is the world’s largest oil exporter, it fares much better than other producers when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

Saudi Arabia is Opec’s largest producer and accounts for 12.5 per cent of all oil production, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021. Under its Vision 2030 initiative, the kingdom is taking measures to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons and to decarbonize its utility systems.

The country plans to generate up to half of its electricity from clean sources. The PIF has been given the mandate to develop about 70 per cent of renewable projects in Saudi Arabia. Utilities and renewables are among the 13 sectors identified by the fund as part of its Vision 2030 strategy. 

Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion sovereign wealth fund will announce its first green sukuk issuance soon as it looks to increase the role that environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles play in its investment allocation, Mr Al Rumayyan said.  “We will be the first sovereign wealth fund to issue green debt. Some of our portfolio companies have already issued green debt. The Red Sea [Development] Company issued green debt worth $3.7bn,” he said.

The PIF is also working with the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock to develop an ESG framework, Mr Al Rumayyan said. “We are working with many partners from all over the world, domestically and internationally, to have a better ESG compliance in all the things that we do.”

The fund is also working with ratings agencies to standardise the ESG framework and address the inconsistencies in rankings from different agencies. As part of efforts to develop its own ESG framework, the PIF is looking to “gradually” turn down investments that lack sustainability plans, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

The PIF has been investing more in businesses that focus on the pivot away from fossil fuels. It boosted its stake in utility developer Acwa Power International, which is spending heavily on renewable energy, and also invested in electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid.

Oil “should be used more efficiently, such as in crude to chemical, which produces zero emissions. We do not want to exploit all our resources overnight,” Mr Al Rumayyan said.

Saudi Arabia has been meeting future sustainability targets set by global initiatives for the past several years, he said.

“About 70 per cent of our population is under the age of 35. We want to think about the future generations of Saudi Arabia. You cannot separate health from economies and from sustainability.”

He said the cost of solar power in Saudi Arabia stands at 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus 15 cents for other producers in the sector.  The PIF and the Arab world’s biggest bourse Tadawul announced a plan this month to set up the Riyadh Voluntary Exchange Platform for offsets and carbon credits within the Mena region.

The platform will become the primary destination for companies and institutions that are focused on reducing their emissions or contributing towards reductions through the trading of verified, approved and high-quality carbon equivalent credits certificates, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.  PIF governor Yasir Al Rumayyan says Saudi Arabia is working with partners to achieve better ESG compliance.

Reuters


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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

The Sahara Desert used to be a Green Savannah – New Research Explains Why

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By Edward Armstrong

Algeria’s Tassili N’Ajjer plateau is Africa’s largest national park. Among its vast sandstone formations is perhaps the world’s largest art museum. Over 15,000 etchings and paintings are exhibited there, some as much as 11,000 years old according to scientific dating techniques, representing a unique ethnological and climatological record of the region.

Curiously, however, these images do not depict the arid, barren landscape that is present in the Tassili N’Ajjer today. Instead, they portray a vibrant savannah inhabited by elephants, giraffes, rhinos and hippos. This rock art is an important record of the past environmental conditions that prevailed in the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert.

These images depict a period approximately 6,000-11,000 years ago called the Green Sahara or North African Humid Period. There is widespread climatological evidence that during this period the Sahara supported wooded savannah ecosystems and numerous rivers and lakes in what are now Libya, Niger, Chad and Mali.

This greening of the Sahara didn’t happen once. Using marine and lake sediments, scientists have identified over 230 of these greenings occurring about every 21,000 years over the past eight million years. These greening events provided vegetated corridors which influenced species’ distribution and evolution, including the out-of-Africa migrations of ancient humans.

These dramatic greenings would have required a large-scale reorganisation of the atmospheric system to bring rains to this hyper arid region. But most climate models haven’t been able to simulate how dramatic these events were.

As a team of climate modellers and anthropologists, we have overcome this obstacle. We developed a climate model that more accurately simulates atmospheric circulation over the Sahara and the impacts of vegetation on rainfall.

We identified why north Africa greened approximately every 21,000 years over the past eight million years. It was caused by changes in the Earth’s orbital precession – the slight wobbling of the planet while rotating. This moves the Northern Hemisphere closer to the sun during the summer months.

This caused warmer summers in the Northern Hemisphere, and warmer air is able to hold more moisture. This intensified the strength of the West African Monsoon system and shifted the African rainbelt northwards. This increased Saharan rainfall, resulting in the spread of savannah and wooded grassland across the desert from the tropics to the Mediterranean, providing a vast habitat for plants and animals.

Our results demonstrate the sensitivity of the Sahara Desert to changes in past climate. They explain how this sensitivity affects rainfall across north Africa. This is important for understanding the implications of present-day climate change (driven by human activities). Warmer temperatures in the future may also enhance monsoon strength, with both local and global impacts.

Earth’s changing orbit

The fact that the wetter periods in north Africa have recurred every 21,000 years or so is a big clue about what causes them: variations in Earth’s orbit. Due to gravitational influences from the moon and other planets in our solar system, the orbit of the Earth around the sun is not constant. It has cyclic variations on multi-thousand year timescales. These orbital cycles are termed Milankovitch cycles; they influence the amount of energy the Earth receives from the sun.

On 100,000-year cycles, the shape of Earth’s orbit (or eccentricity) shifts between circular and oval, and on 41,000 year cycles the tilt of Earth’s axis varies (termed obliquity). Eccentricity and obliquity cycles are responsible for driving the ice ages of the past 2.4 million years.

The third Milankovitch cycle is precession. This concerns Earth’s wobble on its axis, which varies on a 21,000 year timescale. The similarity between the precession cycle and the timing of the humid periods indicates that precession is their dominant driver. Precession influences seasonal contrasts, increasing them in one hemisphere and reducing them in another. During warmer Northern Hemisphere summers, a consequent increase in north African summer rainfall would have initiated a humid phase, resulting in the spread of vegetation across the region.

Eccentricity and the ice sheets

In our study we also identified that the humid periods did not occur during the ice ages, when large glacial ice sheets covered much of the polar regions. This is because these vast ice sheets cooled the atmosphere. The cooling countered the influence of precession and suppressed the expansion of the African monsoon system.

The ice ages are driven by the eccentricity cycle, which determines how circular Earth’s orbit is around the sun. So our findings show that eccentricity indirectly influences the magnitude of the humid periods via its influence on the ice sheets. This highlights, for the first time, a major connection between these distant high latitude and tropical regions.

The Sahara acts as a gate. It controls the dispersal of species between north and sub-Saharan Africa, and in and out of the continent. The gate was open when the Sahara was green and closed when deserts prevailed. Our results reveal the sensitivity of this gate to Earth’s orbit around the sun. They also show that high latitude ice sheets may have restricted the dispersal of species during the glacial periods of the last 800,000 years.

Trucks driving through the desert.
The Sahara desert. Getty Images

Our ability to model the African humid periods helps us understand the alternation of humid and arid phases. This had major consequences for the dispersal and evolution of species, including humans, within and out of Africa. Furthermore, it provides a tool for understanding future greening in response to climate change and its environmental impact.

Refined models may, in the future, be able to identify how climate warming will influence rainfall and vegetation in the Sahara region, and the wider implications for society.

Edward Armstrong is a postdoctoral research fellow, University of Helsinki

Courtesy: The Conversation


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SUSTAINABILITY & CLIMATE CHANGE

COP28: New Draft Text on Climate Deal Published; Calls for Transitioning away from Fossil Fuels

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By Imogen Lillywhite,

A new draft text on global stocktake has been published at the UN climate summit, COP28 UAE, on Wednesday morning. While the draft text does not contain the words “phase out”, it includes reference to transitioning away from all fossil fuels to enable the world to reach net zero by 2050.

The text published by the UN’s climate body calls on parties to accelerate and substantially reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions worldwide with a focus on reducing methane emissions by 2030. “We all want to get the most ambitious outcome possible,” Majid Al Suwaidi, COP28 Director-General, said on Tuesday.

The text, published early Wednesday, does not specifically refer to oil, but mentions the need to ‘phase-down’ coal.  It says that it recognises the need for ‘deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5C pathways and calls on Parties to contribute to global efforts.

Among those efforts it recognises the need to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 and doubling the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by the same date. It also recognises the need to accelerate the phase-down of coal and accelerate towards net zero energy systems, utilising zero or low carbon fuels by mid century.

While the document does not mention oil or combustion engines, it does recognises the need for accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles. It also recognises the need to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible.

Finance specifics

On the subject of finance, the document said developed countries should continue to take the lead in mobilising climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds, through a variety of actions, including supporting country-driven strategies, and taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries.

Such mobilisation of climate finance should represent a progression beyond previous efforts, the text said. It may provide small comfort to campaigners from developing countries who implored Parties to begin the phase out of fossil fuels and provide vastly improved access to funding for renewables.

The document highlights the persistent gap and challenges in technology development and transfer and the uneven pace of adoption of climate technologies around the world.

It further urges Parties to address these barriers and strengthen cooperative action, including with non-Party stakeholders, particularly with the private sector, to rapidly scale up the deployment of existing technologies, the fostering of innovation and the development and transfer of new technologies.

It also emphasizes the ongoing challenges faced by many developing country Parties in accessing climate finance and encourages further efforts, including by the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, to simplify access to such finance, in particular for those developing country Parties that have significant capacity constraints, such as the least developed countries and small island developing States.


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Nairobi’s Climate Summit Seeks External Funding Amid Geopolitical Challenges

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By Kester Kenn Klomegah

The historic gathering on Climate Change inside Africa, clearly portrays efforts at spearheading towards finding sustainable solutions to existing challenges. But African leaders are still standing at a crossroads as they try hard to balance their geopolitical positions, this time with raising the needed funds for controlling the effects of climate change in Africa.

Majority of these African leaders consistently barked at Western and Europeans for the their excessive control, frequent interference in their internal affairs and shout over aspects of democracy, human rights and hegemony, and yet look forward for their invaluable investment in the economy.

This summit held under the theme, “Africa Climate Summit 2023: Driving Green Growth & Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World” attracted a host of African and external guests, and including representatives of civil society and non-state organizations. The governmental leaders met for three days while the entire week was dedicated to the current situation and potential solutions.

With high optimism, the first summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, early September was primarily to review and systematize possible options African nations have to finance climate change, and on the other way, nature and its inherent resources in the continent. Kenyan President William Ruto made the summit’s aim very clear his speech – to discuss how to fund the challenges posed by climate change.

Ruto further envisioned a “future where Africa finally steps into the stage as an economic and industrial power, an effective and positive actor on a global arena” and unreservedly boasted the availability of the young population, to take advantage of the vast renewable potential and natural resources.

Ruto’s narratives at the conference dealt with the fact that Africa is acutely vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change, and consequently made a strategic call for accelerating funding in Africa. At the end of the summit, the narratives appealing to the international community to help achieve that goal by easing the continent’s crushing debt burden and reforming the global financial system to unblock investment was finally incorporated into the final declaration.

Prior to the declaration, it  was broadly noted that Africa has an “unparalleled opportunity” to benefit from the fight against global warming but needed massive investment to unlock its potential as Nairobi hosts a landmark climate summit focusing on the continent. “The overarching theme… is the unparalleled opportunity that climate action represents for Africa,” Ruto said in his opening address, while further stressing for trillions of dollars from the international community to unblock financing for Africa.

It is always puzzling, Africa has all the resources. Africa needs external funds. African leaders have savings in foreign banks. Yet, Africa is poor to the bone-marrow, complaints of dearth of finance, and despite the abundance of natural resources in the continent. In order to rebuild confidence, African Union Commission head, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was straight to the point in his demand – wielding his French tongue and some tiredness or frustration – on behalf of the 54-member states, that the international investment must be “massively scaled up to enable commitments to be turned into actions across the continent of Africa.”

While demanding sweeping changes to the global financial system, Moussa Mahamat also announced that the summit would become a regular event and be held every two years.

Among most of the speakers, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s remarks seemingly carried different weighty significance. “Climate change poses, by all accounts, one of the most pressing challenges of our times.  Its impact in Africa will be immensely aggravated; compounded as it is by a host of other major hurdles,” he said.

“The policies we articulate, and implementation mechanisms we map out, at the individual national level will not provide the primary panacea to this global challenge,” noted Afwerki, but added that, in this context, Africa can tap and incorporate the numerous scientific measures undertaken by global players in the field to bolster its purposeful mitigation measures.

While concluding his talk at the gathering, he reminded the necessity for Africa to mobilize its own resources rather than extend hands for handouts that may aggravate the existing situation by inviting interference and corrupt practices, mobilizing inside resources will be enabling and motivating creativity at the level of the continent.

Isaias Afwerki urged everyone to not be attracted by the billions that are being promised by so called donors. Rather, better to mobilize resources and get away from this dependency that will definitely compromise everything at the level of the continent.

Despite potential internal and external hurdles to scaling up funds, one report co-authored by Executive Secretary at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe, concluded that multilateral development banks’ climate finance must triple within five years, from US$60 bln to US$180 bln, to help developing economies globally cope with global warming. Annual climate finance flows in Africa stand at only US$30 billion at the moment, however.

In another report released by Oxfam, for instance, said the devastating drought has gripped Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — which scientists say has been made more severe by climate change — as well as floods in South Sudan, have caused losses of between US$15 billion and US$30 billion in the two years to 2022, or around two to four percent of the region’s GDP.

It estimated that between 2021 and 2023, the four countries lost about US$7.4 billion in livestock alone. “Millions of already struggling people saw their animals die and lost their ability to grow, sell or eat nutritious food, plunging them into even greater poverty and hunger,” the report said.

There so many reports detailing various aspects of the climate change, specifically with regards to Africa. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also estimates that 34 of 59 developing economies most vulnerable to climate change, many or which are in Africa, are also at a high risk of fiscal crises.

The summit has raised approximately US$23 billion in funding pledges. There are daunting challenges for the continent where hundreds of millions lack access to electricity. The oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE), in complete recognition of the Africa’s potential offered the financial pledge of US$4.5 billion as it competes to get hold of Africa. United States’ climate envoy John Kerry also announced US$30 million in new funding to accelerate climate-resilient food security across the continent.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, at African Climate Summit, pointed to an injustice burns at the heart of the climate crisis. And its flame is scorching hopes and possibilities in Africa. This continent accounts for less than four per cent of global emissions. Yet it suffers some of the worst effects of rising global temperatures: Extreme heat, ferocious floods, and tens of thousands dead from devastating droughts. The blow inflicted on development is all around with growing hunger and displacement. Shattered infrastructure. Systems stretched to the limit.

All these above aggravated by climate chaos not of Africans’ making. It is still possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But only with a quantum leap in climate action. The people of Africa – and people everywhere – need action to respond to deadly climate extremes.

Notwithstanding all that he mentioned above, Antonio Guterres explained that reaching these targets requires climate justice. Developed countries must present a clear and credible roadmap to double adaptation finance by 2025 as a first step towards devoting, at least, half of all climate finance to adaptation.

Referring to multinational development banks and othe foreign financiers, Antonio Guterres added in his speech: “They must keep their promise to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries for climate support. Every person on earth must be covered by an early warning system by 2027 – by implementing the Action Plan we launched last year.”

“Six out of every 10 Africans currently lack access to these systems. The Early Warning for All Africa Action Plan launched yesterday under the leadership of the African Union will be critical to addressing this need. More broadly, we need a course correction in the global financial system so that it supports accelerated climate action in the context of sustainable development. We can’t achieve one without the other,” accroding to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

It, therefore, means re-capitalizing and changing the business model of Multilateral Development Banks. This could make it possible to leverage private finance at affordable rates to support developing nations to build sustainable economies. The global financial system must be reformed to be an ally of developing nations as they turbocharge a just and equitable green transition that leaves no one behind, especially those in Africa.

But then, and but the point here is that African leaders must get down to their tasks. Interestingly, Africa produces and trades in critical minerals. Africa must be sustainable, transparent and just across every link of the supply chain, with maximum added value produced across Africa. So we are saying is that African leadership must strive to generate innovative green economies anchored in renewable power.

Without hyperbolic geopolitical slogans, now is the time to bring together African states with developed world, financial institutions and technology companies to create a true African Renewable Energy Alliance. With adequate access to financial resources at a reasonable cost and technological support, renewables could dramatically boost economies, grow new industries, create jobs and drive development – including by reaching the over 600 million Africans living without access to power.

Nevertheless, African leaders and the attendees,  demand from external nations to honour long-standing climate pledges for poorer nations. Analysts in their several news reports also acknowledged that the summit unity generated momentum for making this demand. But consensus is still challenging across the diverse continent of 1.4 billion people, the 54 African leaders and the African Union and within the context of geopolitical situation around the world.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics.


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