Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed: Sustainability efforts must be net positive, says architect

Co-founder of Jordan's Sahara Forest Project warns more needs to be done

Michael Pawlyn delivers a lecture at Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed in Al Bateen Palace. Photo: UAE Presidential Court
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One of the world's most renowned architects has said sustainability efforts must go beyond doing things that are “less bad”.

Michael Pawlyn, who was part of the principal team that conceived and designed the Eden Project eco visitor attraction in Cornwall, England, was speaking at the latest Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed, in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The lecture, titled A Sustainable Future Inspired by Nature, explored how the natural world can inspire people to move to a new level of sustainability.

The talk aimed to reflect the determination of the UAE and its leadership to pursue all opportunities to safeguard the environment.

The event was attended by Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed, Chairman of the Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination.

At the event, Mr Pawlyn said all building designs should endeavour to be “net positive”.

“Our future sustainability efforts must go beyond doing things that are 'less bad' and instead should endeavour to be net positive,” he said.

“For example, by designing buildings that take more carbon out of the atmosphere than they emit and generate more clean energy than they use.”

The 56-year-old British architect, known for his work on regenerative design and biomimicry, said the shift would require us to rethink our relationship with nature.

“Instead of considering ourselves separate from nature, humanity's future progress will depend on the health of natural systems that provide us with the essentials of life.”

The talk also explored how nature already possesses solutions to modern problems as the planet has benefited from 3.8 billion years of evolutionary refinement.

Mr Pawlyn highlighted recent architecture and design projects inspired by nature, including the Sahara Forest Project in Jordan, of which he was a co-founder, which created a way to supply water, food and renewable energy to hot, arid regions.

The lecture was moderated by Saood Al Noori, head of diplomatic engagement at the Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, and featured pre-recorded contributions from Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency; Habiba Al Marashi, co-founder and chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group; and Mohamed Al Marzooqi, a communications specialist in nature, the environment and sustainability.

Updated: October 28, 2023, 9:24 AM