Environment justice and action on climate change, along with creation of jobs were always going to be at the core of Joe Biden's priorities. Even during his election campaign, the US President had indicated rejoining the Paris Agreement and he did so as soon as he took office, on January 20. Now, Mr Biden, who wants America to achieve the milestone of zero carbon emissions by 2050, has invited leaders of 40 countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to partake in a climate summit in the US next month. The year's big climate event, COP26, was otherwise slated to be only held in Glasgow in November.
By calling for international co-operation on lowering carbon emissions – even as the pandemic has far from loosened its grip on the world – Mr Biden has underlined the sense of urgency necessary for a green recovery and to tackle the global problem of rising temperatures while also creating employment by harnessing new green technologies. One important ambition – both for the Leaders Summit and later in the year at COP26 – will be to push for steps that limit global warming to well below 2°C, but preferably to 1.5°C.
For its part, the UAE has long been a champion of creating sustainable solutions and switching to carbon-neutral alternatives, and was one of the first countries contacted by the US special envoy for climate. Just 10 days after coming into office, John Kerry held talks with UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change and Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr Sultan Al Jaber on joint efforts to deliver global action on key environmental issues.
The virtual Leaders Summit, which people world over will be able to watch as it will be streamed live, is exactly the sort of forward-thinking measure that the world needs.
Even as several countries, grappling with rising cases, have little choice but to enter the third lockdown well over a year after the pandemic began, it is wishful thinking to imagine that climate-related disasters will be on hold until Covid-19 finally abates and the world's entire population has been vaccinated.
Decisiveness and direction from the highest levels of leadership inspire people to switch to more sustainable ways of living and inspire them to evaluate daily choices that, to however seemingly minor a degree, affect the global ecosystem.
As the world on Saturday marks a virtual edition of the 15th Earth Hour, an annual event in which people switch off all lights and appliances for 60 minutes, it is important to reflect on why it is essential to re-energise the conversation around climate change and how much of the future we risk by neglecting to do so.
Last year, despite Covid-19 lockdowns world over, here in the UAE, more than 3 million people and 700 organisations were involved in the global Earth Hour campaign.
Gearing up for later this year, the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai has already received more than 50,000 visitors since it opened to the public in January. Of this number, interestingly 97 per cent said they would change their behaviour and be more mindful of the environment. This is heartening, for while greater international co-operation among the world's major economies is pivotal to slow the effects of climate disasters, it is prudent also that people at all levels of society come together for the planet, and not just for an annual hour. Collective effort will bear fruit when consistent action is taken, bearing in mind that our future generations are at stake.