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Abdulla Shahid, the newly elected president of the UN General Assembly, will use his appearances at Expo 2020 Dubai to warn of the “existential threat” posed to mankind by climate change, particularly to those living in low-lying coastal regions.
Mr Shahid told The National he would focus on those who have the most to lose from rising sea levels, droughts and storms while at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“Not even for a moment will I forget the plight of small states and others who are on the front line of climate change,” Mr Shahid said in New York on Friday before flying to the Emirates.
“I will do everything possible to keep on talking about how challenging … this entire issue is — an existential threat to us.”
The former Maldivian foreign minister said his native low-lying archipelago of 1,190 coral islands is particularly vulnerable to the anticipated half-metre rise in sea levels that UN climate scientists are saying is inevitable this century.
“For us, it's an existential issue,” said Mr Shahid. “For us, there is not enough being done. Because we don't have high ground. We don't have anywhere to go.”
Mr Shahid will travel to Dubai to speak about climate change and biodiversity at four Expo events and meet UAE government officials, local UN staff as well as representatives for youth and women's issues.
He will also meet officials at the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency and visit International Humanitarian City, a logistics hub for delivering crate-loads of aid across the region.
His visit comes about a month before the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where the countries that signed on to the 2015 Paris climate accord will announce pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“I will make sure that my interactions in Dubai, with the UAE leadership as well as at the Expo continue to highlight these facts,” said Mr Shahid.
The trip is Mr Shahid’s first overseas visit since this month assuming the largely ceremonial role of president of the world body’s 193-nation assembly. Afterwards, he will visit the Maldives, his homeland, and Serbia.
Expo 2020 Dubai opened on Friday, featuring more than 190 country pavilions, 200 eateries and about 60 public shows each day as well as themed exhibitions at the Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability pavilions.
The multibillion-dollar event will be the largest global gathering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a projected 25 million visitors attending over six months. All visitors must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test.
A series of UN events will also take place at Expo 2020 Dubai, focused the world body's work in the region and its anti-poverty, climate change and sustainability targets, known as the Sustainable Development Goals.