Countries not taking part in the coming Cop28 global talks risk being left behind when it comes to the fight against climate change, said a leading UAE expert.
Ahmad Baharoon, executive director for environmental information and science and outreach management at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, told The National there must be collaboration and unity between nations over climate action.
A lack of unity between countries on the issue would only create problems, said Mr Baharoon.
“If you are not part of the discussions at Cop28 there is absolutely a chance that you will be left behind,” he said.
“You cannot be singing along outside of the herd, you need to be part of the group.
“If you are not part of Cop28 then you are not part of the outcome, you are not part of the decision.”
Cop28, the UN's climate change conference, takes place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.
Education is key
Next month's event is not the only global climate event on the UAE's upcoming calendar. Abu Dhabi will host the World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC 2024) from January 29 to February 2.
More than 3,000 people are expected to attend.
The congress, which is being organised by the Environment Agency, offers a vital opportunity to help educate young people on the importance of sustainability, said Mr Baharoon.
“There needs to be greater awareness among young people about the need to protect the planet for the survival of humanity,” he said.
“We all have a role to play in protecting our planet. Not just in the UAE or the UN, every person in every country has a duty.”
The issue of sustainability is especially pertinent in the UAE, not only because the country is hosting Cop28 at the end of next month.
President Sheikh Mohamed declared 2023 to be the Year of Sustainability in January.
“The need to act now is more pressing than ever,” said Eisa Al Subousi, project lead at the Year of Sustainability.
“Cop28 is an excellent opportunity for the world to gather and discuss the global environmental challenges and come up with impactful solutions, and for all those who call the UAE home, to learn first-hand about how their collective actions – big and small – can contribute to a better tomorrow for our planet.
“Events such as the World Environmental Education Congress are important in that they are bringing together academics, students and people from all over the world to develop educational programmes focusing on sustainable development, thus preparing the next generation for a sustainable future, which is in line with the UAE’s vision.”
Rooted in culture
Sustainability is a practice that has always been part of the Emirates' make-up, he added.
“Sustainability has always been a deeply-rooted value within the UAE’s heritage, and this is something we aim to remind and instil in the public, for future generations to come,” said Mr Al Subousi.
“Our ancestors were sustainable out of necessity and care for their land. From fresh water in wells to fishing for their food, they've used only what they needed.
“To be the best ancestors to our future generations, just like our ancestors were to us, we need to take action today – individually and collectively.”
Earlier this month The National reported how the UAE's focus on climate issues was beginning to pay off as one of the country's leading universities, Zayed University, was experiencing a surge in students studying sustainability.
Call for collaboration
Collaboration was the only way challenges could be overcome said another expert, who added Cop28 was the perfect opportunity to kick-start the fight against climate change.
However, that would only happen if everyone approached it with an open mind, said Ivano Iannelli, senior adviser for sustainability at Emirates Global Aluminium.
“Collaboration is the only way forward. Not a single one of us has a silver bullet that will fix these problems on their own,” he said.
Complaining about Cop28 being held in the UAE, an oil-producing country is also unhelpful in solving climate issues, added Mr Iannelli.
A letter was signed earlier this year by a number of members of the US Congress and the European Parliament calling for the influence of oil and gas lobbyists to be curbed at this year's climate talks.
However, it was unrealistic to expect the challenges around sustainability to be overcome without the input of all stakeholders, said Mr Iannelli.
“Cop28 being held in an oil-producing country is the beginning of change,” he said.
“We all need to accept we have to be out of our comfort zones.
“Inviting high emitters to the table is part of the solution, it's as simple as that.”