Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week fosters green multilateralism
The health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the resulting economic slowdown, commanded global attention in the past year. People across the world closely followed news of the outbreak, from the first wave to the second and the emergence of vaccines. But while the world focused on combating the virus, many countries were also struck by the impacts of climate change.
In 2020, extreme weather events fuelled by climate change caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and financial losses to the tune of $120 billion, according to a recent report by the London-based Christian Aid foundation. China and India faced $40bn worth of losses as a result of floods. The US lost $60bn due to wildfires. Cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc on the Bay of Bengal, causing damages valued at $13bn. Swarms of locusts – proliferated by the changes in climate – cost various African countries $8.5bn. Ireland, the UK and other countries endured a $2.7bn loss because of Storm Ciara. And in Sudan, floods killed 138 people.
The Economist Intelligence Unit's Climate Change Resilience Index forecasts that an increase in global temperatures may set back the world economy by almost $8 trillion by 2050 due to natural catastrophes triggered by it.
In 2020, extreme weather events caused the deaths of thousands and financial losses to the tune of $120 billion
Despite the repercussions of Covid-19, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – the main cause of climate change – and the improvement in air quality during the past few months have proven that global co-operation is key to overcoming environmental challenges.
Given the lessons we drew from the pandemic, our ability to confront climate change as an international community relies on people and countries pursuing a wholehearted commitment to green recovery across all sectors.
Such an approach involves implementing environmental standards across all sectors and societies, from individual behavior to the legislation of countries. Focusing on the future, the leaders of the UAE have embraced a path that expedites the country’s pursuit of a green recovery. Under their directives, the nation has adopted the principles of an environmentally friendly and circular economy, established sustainable cities, deployed renewable energy solutions, expanded protected areas, initiated country-wide planting drives, promoted sustainable finance, launched a national climate change plan and adaptation programme and submitted its second nationally-determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, in which it has raised its climate ambitions.
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The quickening pace of environmental deterioration urged UN Secretary-General António Guterres to call on all leaders worldwide to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries.
A collective green recovery must be the way forward if we are to ensure the sustainability of the planet and a brighter future for current and upcoming generations.
To co-ordinate eco-friendly recovery efforts, leaders from all over the world must come together and shape a shared vision. The 2021 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that has just commenced provides an ideal platform for this mission, as it brings together decision makers, experts, youth, as well as representatives of every sector to devise feasible and effective solutions to sustainability challenges.
Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi is the UAE's Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
Updated: January 19, 2021 04:41 PM