Sheikha Shamma says deadly floods highlight need to combat climate change

Leading environmental campaigner speaks out at Abu Dhabi sustainability summit

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan called for further innovation and investment to pave the way for a more sustainable future for all. Victor Besa / The National
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Devastating floods in Pakistan and the UAE in recent months demonstrated the urgent need to take action on the "global issue" of climate change, a leading Emirati environmental campaigner said.

Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan, chief executive and founder of the Alliances for Global Sustainability and co-founder of Aurora50, called for further innovation and investment to pave the way for a more sustainable future for all.

Speaking at the Countdown to Cop27 event, being held at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, she welcomed a shift in attitudes on green issues but said there was more still to be done.

Experts say global warming is likely to have played a role in the floods in Pakistan last month that left vast areas of the country under water and led to about 1,500 deaths.

In July, we experienced flash floods in my country that we have never seen before
Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan

In the UAE Seven people died and more than 800 were rescued and thousands more placed in temporary accommodation in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah after a summer deluge led to widespread flooding in July.

“Climate change is a global issue. My region, the Middle East, is four times more affected than the global average," said Sheikha Shamma, who is the granddaughter of the late president, Sheikh Khalifa.

"This summer we have seen devastating floods in Pakistan and in my country.

"In July, we experienced flash floods in my country that we have never seen before.”

Sheikha Shamma is at the forefront of UAE efforts to protect the planet.

She recently received the Young Leaders in the Field of Climate Change award from Trends Research & Advisory, continuing the sustainability legacy started by her grandfather.

She received the award while participating in the Trends–Atlantic Council's second annual conference, under the theme of Sustainable Security of the Middle East: Climate Change Challenges and Prospects, in Washington.

The award marked the culmination of a successful visit to the US that included Sheikha Shamma meeting several senior figures to discuss climate change.

Sheikha Shamma said she was focused on helping to shape policies to accelerate the UAE's transition to clean energy, working with the private and public sectors to achieve these goals.

A welcome shift in attitudes

She said she was encouraged by a change of mindset in the UAE from businesses and members of the public.

“Not too long ago, we had a ban on plastic waste. Now I see people with their reusable bags. And so, there is a shift happening. Organisations are changing as well. I think people are becoming a lot more aware of the impact as an individual on the planet.”

She said the UAE was leading the way on sustainability.

“It is the first country [in the region] to ratify the Paris Climate Change Agreement. It is the first country to set a [target of] net zero by 2050.”

She called for the introduction of an independent body in the region to hold producers accountable for surplus waste.

“So, who is going to technically take responsibility, and who is going to pay for the extra financial costs of the waste produced?"

She said placing “extra financial cost on the producers and making them responsible for products they are creating” is critical.

She said there is momentum for further research and development for eco-friendly projects.

“At the moment, it's not enough but I do think it's an opportunity.”

She said the circular economy ― which has a heavy focus on promoting recycling ― could be worth $130 billion by 2030 if the transition happens.

"So, my hope is that we invest in innovation, we invest in research, and we look at solutions from a national level," she said.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 5:13 AM