UAE minister warns of dangers of unchecked climate change

Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, hopes Cop28 can provide some solutions

Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, at the opening of the Global Future Councils meeting in Dubai on Monday. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The issue of protecting the planet for future generations is one of the most pressing existential questions facing the world, a UAE minister has said.

Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, said climate change was intertwined with many other issues, including new sources of energy, new economic models and new developments and alliances.

Speaking on Monday at the opening of the Global Future Councils meeting in Dubai, Mr Al Gergawi outlined some of the scenarios facing the world if climate change were to be left unchecked.

"Humanity may face the challenge of more than 1.5 billion people seeking refuge due to the climate by 2050, and may incur economic losses exceeding $32 trillion by 2050, if the climate issue is not dealt with," said Mr Al Gergawi.

“Perhaps hosting the largest global climate gathering in the UAE can contribute significantly to answering some of these questions."

He was referring to Cop 28, the UN climate talks that will take place from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai.

Shaping the debate

Hundreds of experts from government, business, academia and think-tanks are expected to travel to the Global Futures Council in Dubai over the next few days to examine new trends in technology, governance, the economy and the environment.

The meeting and its conclusions will help shape the annual World Economic Forum, to be held in January.

In the opening address, Mr Al Gergawi, who is also co-chair of the Global Future Councils, posed three questions. The first was regarding the climate.

The second was about how to ensure the best model for governments and international organisations to deal with future challenges such as technology change.

The third question was: How can there be a discussion about the future without settling the issue of principles of justice?

“We need to raise this humanitarian question. A human being stays a human being wherever he may be," said Mr Al Gergawi.

Other topics under the spotlight over the next few days also include the future of autonomous mobility, the energy transition, food and water security, geopolitics, space, the future of sustainable tourism, and artificial intelligence.

An additional area of discussion that arose was the threat of superbugs and the wider issue of antimicrobial resistance, which Prof Sally Davis of the University of Cambridge said was a leading underlying cause of death around the globe.

“It is a risk for all of us, and yet, I’d hazard a bet most of you haven’t even heard of ... superbugs before today,” said Prof Davies.

“It's the third most important underlying cause of death across the world, causing more death than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

"So what are you going to do? Because frankly, it impacts all of us across every bit of our lives, and it is much worse in the low-income and middle-income countries, and we owe it to them to sort it out. Like Covid, no one is safe until we are all safe,” she said, adding that the forum provided an opportunity for industry to hear voices from front-line workers on how to address the problem.

The Global Future Councils 2023 runs until Wednesday and is part of the strategic partnership between the UAE and the World Economic Forum. A major report on how the Middle East and North Africa can address the climate crisis is set to be issued during the event.

“The future of humanity depends on asking new questions. We hope these meetings mark a new milestone in shaping better future for humanity,” Mr Al Gergawi said.

Updated: October 17, 2023, 6:57 AM