Saudi Green Initiative: From Policy to Action

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Sarah Elzeini
CEO of SMZ International
MEPC 40 Under 40 Honoree

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a global energy producer, committed to advancing the fight against climate change through a policy packed initiative. The Saudi Green Initiative launched a comprehensive and ambitious effort to reverse environmental degradation and climate change through regenerative development, conservation, and sustainable practices. It is designed to harmonize sustainable programs of Vision 2030 and work with the adapting future of humans and industries cohabitating with nature.  


Saudi Arabia is highly vulnerable to climate change, yet was labeled by the EU JRC 2020 as the ninth largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Desertification, air pollution, and water scarcity are issues the country will continue to face, as less than 2% of its land is arable. With this new initiative, there will be a robust engagement in research, exchange of best practices, and business development in technology in the direction towards sustainability and green energy. This initiative will rely on domestic and international public-private partnerships.  


To offset emissions, the Saudi Green Initiative will invest in increased public transportation through the construction of railways and other low carbon solutions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the initiative intends to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the region by 60% and eliminate MTCO2 emissions by using clean hydrocarbon technology. The Kingdom aims to reach net-zero by 2060, ten years ahead of China and Russia, and plans to plant 10 billion trees in the nation. 


Moreover, the Kingdom will raise protected areas by 30% in a rewilding program that will reintroduce and foster the gazelle, oryx, and Arabian leopard. As a case example, there are currently fewer than 200 Arabian leopards in the wild and are rated as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In September 2021, a new female Arabian leopard was born, marking an important step toward preserving the endangered species. 


The protection of the leopard is a goal of Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US and founder of Catmosphere. Catmosphere joined forces in February 2022 with the Royal Commission of AlUla on a memorandum of understanding to safeguard the leopard. The Arabian leopard, among other wildlife, is important to the Kingdom’s heritage; thus, protecting the environment protects the heritage. The aligning relationship between the two speaks to the patriotism of Saudi citizens, showcasing the extension of the initiative’s significance in various facets.


The Saudi Green Initiative sits under the goals of Vision 2030. Within the goals, the Kingdom has already begun to build cities of the future, such as The Line in NEOM, which will be 100% powered by renewable energy. The Kingdom has invested billions of dollars in sustainable initiatives, technology, and infrastructure. The Saudi Green Initiative is an actionable effort and, in its design, holds itself accountable as the cities of the future and conservation efforts cannot be successful without measurable change. 


The initiative and its impact extends beyond Saudi borders. It can act as a driving force to engage the Arab League countries in offsetting the impact of fossil fuels and investing in clean hydrocarbon technologies. Saudi Arabia’s efforts in climate change also serve as a strong point within the US-Saudi relationship, notably under President Biden’s administration.  


The Middle East Green Initiative is part of the Saudi Green Initiative which aims at driving climate action in the region and with global partners. John Kerry, President Biden’s special presidential climate envoy, traveled to Saudi Arabia in October 2021 to participate in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit, an initiative that aims to create a pact between regional countries and pool resources to protect the region through shared seas, land, and air. According to Kerry, the Saudi Green Initiative is “a very important step,” the type of “initiative we need on a global basis—planting trees, beginning to move to different kinds of innovative solutions that reduce the level of emissions, to deal with waste more effectively.”


The Saudi Green Initiative will engineer innovative solutions to help combat the climate crisis. The initiative will as well provide a huge investment opportunity for the private sector and quality job opportunities over time. Equally, the initiative will enhance international partnerships through knowledge-sharing and best practices that will impact the Kingdom and the world.


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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