Leading sustainability experts took part in the first of the Decarbonisation Roundtable Series held today (May 23) in Bahrain as part of the Sustainability Forum Middle East (SFME).
The roundtable - Carbon Markets - Accelerating and Funding the Road to Net-Zero - was aimed at helping regional audiences build a better understanding of carbon markets – regionally and around the world, said the organisers.
The one-day event saw more than 100 leaders from the public and private sector come together for 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 high-level gathering of senior climate, finance and sustainability leaders was held under the patronage of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Environment where they discussed the tools and pathways to support regional net-zero goals.
On this occasion, the Supreme Council for Environment asserted the importance of the national partnership between the public and private sectors in any country seeking to achieve sustainable development goals and reach net-zero.
The SCE praised the national role of the private sector in the kingdom 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 Council also applauded the success achieved by the first session of the roundtable at the Forum, wishing all participants success in achieving the targeted objectives.
It lauded 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.
The event kicked off with opening remarks from Majed Al Khan, the CEO of Infracorp, a leading sustainable infrastructure developer working across global markets.
This was followed by an introduction on carbon markets by the event’s moderator, Ms. Jessica Robinson, Mena Sustainable Finance Leader, EY-Parthenon.
The high-profile speakers at the event were officials representing regional governments including Layla Sabeel, Head of Planning, Climate Change & Sustainable Development, Supreme Council for Environment, Kingdom of Bahrain and Okan Ugurlu, Climate Change Expert, Directorate of Climate Change, Department of Carbon Pricing, Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, Republic of 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), a joint venture between Saudi wealth fund PIF (Public Investment Fund) and the kingdom's bourse Tadawul.
In October last year it had organised the world’s largest carbon credits auction where more than 1.4 million tonnes of carbon credits were purchased by leading regional industrial companies and banks.
AlGizy 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.
These experts addressed the key industry challenges 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.
On the major issues, Bell 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 realize the opportunities, whilst still prioritizing the primary goal of emissions reductions," she added.
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