Sustainability Forum Middle East (SFME) hosted a high-level gathering of senior climate, finance and sustainability leaders in Bahrain to explore the role of “Carbon Markets - Accelerating and Funding the Road to Net-Zero”.
The event was held under the patronage of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Environment (SCE).
The council highlighted the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors to achieve sustainable development goals and reach net-zero.
The SCE praised the national role of the private sector in Bahrain and its close cooperation with various public and private trade and industry sectors and other fields related to climate change and clean energy transformation.
The SCE also applauded the success achieved by the first session of the roundtable in the Sustainability Forum Middle East, wishing all participants success in achieving the targeted objectives and lauding the speakers’ efforts to find innovative solutions and ambitious sustainable economic visions that contribute to achieving sustainable development goals and enhancing the national efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.
More than 100 leaders from the public and private sector came together to take an in-depth look at the growth and practical workings of carbon markets globally and in the region and assess the benefits they can provide as another tool and pathway for helping businesses and countries in the MENA region to achieve their net-zero ambitions.
The event was kicked off with remarks from Majed Al Khan, CEO of Infracorp, where the roundtable was held. Infracorp is a leading sustainable infrastructure developer working across global markets. This was followed by an introduction on carbon markets by the event’s moderator, Jessica Robinson, MENA Sustainable Finance Leader, EY-Parthenon.
Among the event’s line up of distinguished speakers were officials representing regional governments – Layla Sabeel, Head of Planning, Climate Change & Sustainable Development, Supreme Council for Environment, Bahrain and Okan Ugurlu, Climate Change Expert, Directorate of Climate Change, Department of Carbon Pricing, Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change, Türkiye. They provided views on the approach of their jurisdictions and others to carbon markets.
Reporting on the development of local carbon markets was Riham AlGizy, CEO of Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company (RVCMC), which recently launched as a joint venture between Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Tadawul and which has already held the world’s largest carbon credits auction in October 2022 where more than 1.4 million tons of carbon credits were purchased by leading regional industrial companies and banks.
AlGizy, commenting on the event said, “We need to use every tool at our disposal to address the threat posed by climate change to our region, and the world. Voluntary carbon markets complement direct emissions reductions by enabling organisations to compensate for their carbon emissions. At RVCMC we are creating a credible voluntary carbon market at speed and at scale, with integrity at its core. Our focus is on channelling climate finance and improving livelihoods in the Global South. This carbon markets roundtable was a valuable opportunity to meet with peers and partners to discuss how, collectively, we can work together to drive climate action across the region.”
Other high level speakers addressed a range of important related issues. This included the role of financial institutions and asset managers in supporting the development of carbon markets, investor interest and appetite from the GCC and beyond and how carbon markets can create new revenue streams and help fund sustainability projects including renewables. Contributing to the discussion were Venetia Bell, Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Gulf International Bank, Dr Wael Albeniyan, Director, AcwaPower Portfolio Management, Essam Albakr, CEO of Riyadh-based Ejada Capital, Abdulrahim Ahmed, Senior Representative, Sustainability Committee, National Bank of Bahrain and Abdulaziz Tawfeeqi, Director, Project Development at Infracorp.
Challenges were also addressed including views from some climate advocates asserting carbon markets slow down decarbonisation in real terms, carbon pricing, how to build the right level of transparency and recent issues surrounding verification, all precursors for effectively scaling carbon markets in the region.
Looking at the issues addressed, Venetia Bell, Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Gulf International Bank, said, “Carbon markets are a valuable tool to support the needed transition to net zero in the Middle East, but to fulfil their potential we need to see an increase in the supply of high-quality carbon credits, improved market infrastructure and supportive policy and regulatory frameworks. Today’s roundtable provides a regional multi-stakeholder forum to find ways to overcome these challenges and realise the opportunities, whilst still prioritising the primary goal of emissions reductions.”
Speakers further looked at the place of carbon markets on the United Nations Climate Meeting (COP) agendas and what COP28, coming up in November 2023 in the UAE, could mean for carbon markets and their development following some progress already made at COP26 in Glasgow and COP27, which took place last year in Egypt.
Concluding, Laila Danesh, Managing Director of FinMark Communications, the founders and organisers of Sustainability Forum Middle East, said, “We’re delighted to have gathered such a knowledgeable group of experts to address this exciting topic. As countries and businesses look for solutions to accelerate their net-zero journeys, our aim is raise awareness and help the private sector across MENA better understand the pathways available to them to decarbonise their businesses and help move the regional economies towards a lower carbon model. We’re grateful to the Supreme Council for Environment, our speakers and partners for their ongoing support and leadership on climate action.”
Sustainability Forum Middle East was launched earlier this year in the Kingdom of Bahrain under the patronage of the Minister of Oil and Environment, Special Envoy for Climate Affairs, Dr Mohamed bin Mubarak bin Daina, attracting participation from more than 400 regional and international decision makers, sustainability and climate experts, finance leaders and dignitaries at its inaugural event in January. The Forum’s second edition is set to take place on January 9, 2024 in the Kingdom of Bahrain and will focus on “Achieving Net Zero – Pathways to Accelerating Implementation”.
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