Climate change is the biggest and most urgent challenge of our time. During a live forum hosted yesterday by the British Embassy in Riyadh, experts from private and public sectors and civil society discussed the challenge, strategies and actions that need to be taken, with a particular focus on plastic consumption and waste.
The virtual roundtable, ‘Reusing and recycling: the effects of plastic in nature. Ahead of COP26, can we encourage a fundamental change in attitudes?’, was held as part of the British Embassy in Riyadh’s #TogetherForOurPlanet معا_لأجل_كوكبنا# campaign.
The campaign is building awareness about climate change and the urgent need for action in the lead up to COP26 (the United Nations 26th annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention), which will bring together world leaders, delegates, climate experts and negotiators to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change. In the run-up to COP26, the UK is committed to working closely with governments, businesses, civil society groups, schools and people across the world as part of a global conversation on tackling climate change.
The British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Neil Crompton, opened the roundtable. He commended the leadership of Saudi Arabia demonstrated on climate and environment issues during the Kingdom’s presidency of the G20 last year.
The Ambassador said: “We are dependent upon each other and the sum of our collective actions as we seek to tackle huge, global challenges. Saudi leadership on climate and environment is key to building awareness and momentum globally on this critical issue as we accelerate progress towards achieving our global climate commitments.”
The virtual roundtable was moderated by COP26 Regional Ambassador for MENA, Janet Rogan. She opened that 2021 is a pivotal year for climate change action, noting the significance of the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP26, which will be convened in Glasgow in November. She spoke of the need for systemic action across all parts of society and the economy to address climate change, but also highlighted that individual action too can have a significant impact and that public awareness and support is needed to enable change.
Janet Rogan also noted the importance of nature. She said: “Our lands and oceans are under threat from climate change, but can also contribute to the solution. And that we cannot meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement or adapt to the effects of climate change without restoring, protecting and enhancing nature.”
The British Ambassador, Neil Crompton, and COP26 Regional Ambassador for MENA, Janet Rogan, were joined on the roundtable by six speakers including:
Distinguished Professor Carlos M. Duarte, Tare Ahmed Buffalo Research Chair in Red Sea Ecology at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia who said: “We found the Red Sea to be depleted in floating microplastics, which was surprising since it supports heavy shipping traffic and plastic management in the basis remains suboptimal. We found the reason to be on the high plastic trapping rate of the extensive coastal habitats, corals, seagrass meadows and mangroves, flanking the Red Sea, which act as very intense sinks for microplastics. Reducing inputs requires a combined effort at improving the regulatory environment, collecting and recycling facilities and environmental education of the general public.”
Ahmed Samir Elbermbali, Managing Director of the MENA Clean Energy Business Council, commented: “Conscious consumerism and energy efficiency are two of the most effective ways to fight climate change, which not only governments, but also individuals can act on today.”
Speaking on the importance of education in raising awareness about climate change, Helen Olds, Principal of the British International School Riyadh,said: “The education sector plays a critical role in raising awareness about climate change, helping children develop a clear understanding of key environmental issues through an interdisciplinary approach. At BISR, we cover critical topics through a ‘think, feel and act’ model, helping students to understand key concepts through academic studies, providing opportunities for them to engage with individual stories relating to those affected by climate change, and facilitating experiences for them to take positive action. At BISR, we are proud to be a green flag Eco School and the first school in Saudi Arabia to be engaging in a project called Precious Plastics, providing practical ‘hands on’ learning activities related to recycling and reusing. We are committed to ensuring that our students develop lifelong habits relating to environmental sustainability.”
“Climate change is the defining challenge of this century, for every single country, every business and every individual,” said Caspar Herzberg, President, Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric. “Saudi Arabia has moved with remarkable speed to conceive new ideas and technologies that will reduce emissions, with many mega projects that will run on 100% clean energy and be home to millions of people. As a sustainable business, we will play our part, and our technologies are already helping our customers in the region to set, measure and achieve decarbonization strategies that are very much positively impacting their bottom line. Sustainability is good for us all, and that’s the message that we must focus on as we head into COP26 in Glasgow.”
Mouna A. Eusman, MDP, Co-founder of Naqaa Sustainability Solutions and a Circular Economy Expertsaid: “Our belief in a circular economy is not only driven from our work with Naqaa’s clients but most importantly from trying to keep us up with the ambitious Saudi leadership efforts for a sustainable future embodied in a big part of the 2030 vision. We at Naqaa strive to accelerate our clients transitioning to a circular economy believing that we are creating the future”.
Taha Boksmati, Founder of Hejaz Ploggers and the Operational Excellence Manager at the National Center for Environmental Compliance, said: “We witnessed a significant reduction in greenhouse gases during the lockdown in 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As environmentalists, it is our responsibility to convey the importance of investing in environmental systems and environmental awareness first, to improve both social and economic pillars of sustainability moving forwards.”
Individuals and organizations can share their pledge on their social media channels tagging @UKinSaudiArabia and using the campaign hashtags.
For the latest updates on Together for Our Planet in Saudi Arabia, please visit The British Embassy in Saudi Arabia’s social media pages – Instagram:@ukinsaudiarabia Twitter:@UKinSaudiArabia and Facebook:@UKinSaudiArabia