From the second year of the global pandemic to the overthrow of governments, from glimmers of hope for environmental justice to the world’s biggest sporting and cultural events, the past 12 months have been a roller-coaster ride for the Middle East and North Africa region. Let’s get to know what “green” events influenced the MENA regions, thanks to Arab News.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy aims to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on fossil fuels. Riyadh went a step further in October with the launch of two major initiatives designed to show that it is playing a leadership role in the global campaign against climate change.
When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the details of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green Initiatives during a special event in Riyadh, it was a landmark occasion for the region. It committed Saudi Arabia to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.
In addition, the Kingdom pledged to completely eliminate oil from domestic power generation by 2030, replacing it with cleaner gas and renewables. Multi-billion-dollar investment programs to plant trees in the Kingdom were also announced, among other environmentally sound strategies.
This year was the year when the effects of climate change got real for many people, with a spate of forest fires, flooding, droughts and storms wreaking havoc the world over. It was also the year when efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions began to be taken seriously.
At the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the world’s governments accepted a compromise deal aimed at maintaining a critical global warming target of no more than 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, with a last-minute change that toned down commitments to eliminate the use of coal.
Several countries complained the deal did not go far enough. However, it did set out rules for international trading of carbon credits and called on big polluters to come back next year with improved pledges for cutting emissions.
Experts had said governments were woefully unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic when the World Health Organization declared it in early 2020. Now, almost two years later, the world is still grappling with the uneven distribution of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the virus, the latest being omicron.
In late November, the variant was first identified in South Africa and quickly became the dominant version in many countries. Studies suggest that the variant is not any more aggressive in terms of its effects than the alpha, beta, gamma, and delta strains, but is more transmissible and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
Experts warn that persistent high rates of infection will continue to place a strain on countries’ health infrastructures and risks creating more-dangerous variants in the months ahead unless screening and vaccination rates in the developing world radically improve.
Although vaccination campaigns and precautionary measures in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf states have been notably successful, other countries in the region have been less effective, leading to fresh spikes in cases.
Bloomberg identifies natural disasters among the top 10 risks to the global economy in 2022.
In 2020, pandemic economies were worse than pretty much any economist had forecast. But that wasn’t true in 2021: recoveries were surprisingly rapid in many countries. That’s a helpful reminder that some things could go right next year, too.
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