RIYADH: Experts in economics and urban development emphasized the importance of reconciling economic development and environmental preservation during a virtual round table organized by Prince Sultan University in Riyadh on Monday.
The round table, titled “Managing the City’s Economy: Challenges, Strategies, and Opportunities,” which was moderated by the economist Talaat Hafez, brought together Prince Faisal bin Ayyaf, Mayor of the Riyadh region, and many local and international experts.
Li Yin Zhang, Professor of Urban Economic Development in the Development Planning Unit at Bartlett, University College London, noted that the fastest growing cities are in three countries: China, India and the United States.
Chang, who is the author of Managing the City Economy, noted that the Net Zero program is a critical step toward a green economy.
The big challenge for urban economies, she explained, is that the annual rate of decarbonization must increase by 500%, noting that revenues from oil and gas sales will halve in the 2020s.
It highlighted three main opportunities for innovation to reach net zero: through the development of advanced batteries, the hydrogen electrolyzer, and direct air capture and storage. These were in addition to manufacturing low-carbon equipment, infrastructure, and services, such as photovoltaics and electric vehicles.
“A new competitiveness could be developed in the process,” she said, citing the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which alone will produce more than 40% of the world’s electric car batteries in 2021.
It concluded that developing countries need to find a new force in this technology landscape and that there is a “need to balance fear and optimism in the direction of net zero”.
Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp, said there is a need to reshape economies to balance investment and environmental concerns.
Glaser, who is also chair of Harvard’s Department of Economics, emphasized the importance of technology and innovation in achieving sustainability.
Dr. Saeed Al-Sheikh, Director General of the Center for Studies and Consultations at the University of Business and Technology, focused on the main challenges facing the fast-growing cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Its rapid development raises concerns about a heavy dependence on oil export revenues and an unsustainable increase in water consumption.
He warned that the increase in the size of megacities is already creating low-density suburbs, leading to continued dependence on private cars for transportation, leading to increased environmental pollution.
“Urban primacy is a sign of unbalanced development and poses complex challenges, [including the decline] of the rural economy, which widens the development gap between rural and urban areas and also exacerbates urban sprawl, congestion and environmental degradation.
Al-Sheikh, chief economist at the National Commercial Bank between 1998 and 2018, noted that the service sector is the most important given the impetus generated by the rise in oil export revenues, which boosts trade and creates the need for financial services and government administration. providing service. However, the share of agriculture in GDP has declined in all cities.
“This sectoral economic transformation led to a change in the spatial concentration of the population by 26% in total in Makkah, 25% in Riyadh and 15% in [the] He pointed out that the eastern region, which was inhabited by 66% of the population in 2017, declined from 64% in 1992.
“On the contrary, there has been slow growth in medium-sized cities and a significant decrease in the proportion of urban residents living in cities with fewer than 300,000 inhabitants.”
He emphasized that urban primacy provides a wide range of benefits, including improved infrastructure, which leads to increased productivity and increased employment.
“But the precedence has led to the neglect of other cities, which has led to a marked regional imbalance in the country’s development,” he added.
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