Expo 2020 Dubai: How the world fair is driving forward climate change

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Expo 2020 Dubai may be billed as the world’s biggest cultural gathering – but it also aims to create lasting sustainable change for the planet.

The Expo has earmarked a six-month calendar for its Program for People and Planet to create a legacy of transformative change and address the most critical challenges and opportunities the world faces today.

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Through 10 “Theme Weeks” and 18 “International Days,” participants and Expo 2020 visitors will explore solutions to fundamental global issues – ranging from fighting climate change and biodiversity loss and making human habitats more sustainable to bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal access to education and healthcare.

On Monday, climate change advocates from the United Arab Emirates and around the world gathered to speak at the Climate and Biodiversity Business Forum, with Sultan Bin Saeed al-Mansoori, former UAE Minister of Economy, stressing the need for global collaboration

“If we want to heal our planet and protect its natural beauty for ourselves, for our children, then we will have to work together. Each one of us in every part of this world has to work together,” al-Mansoori said.

Protecting a nation’s future, he said, is not built by a single group or person.

“It requires the private sector, the government sector and the public working towards a common goal.”

When it comes to our planet, we have a similar goal to protect it so the future generations will have a better world.”

UAE ‘green initiatives’

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, minister of climate change and Environment, said everyone has a role to play in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Almheiri said the UAE has several “green initiatives.”

For example, she said, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030, while Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s national carrier, has also pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Hana al-Hashimi, Head of the Office of the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, said the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global fallout was an important reminder about the devastating effect a global catastrophe can have on the planet.

“Essentially, it’s either we change or, we will be changed,” she said. “I think that is something that’s the lesson we all learned through the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Qais al-Suwaidi, Director of Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, spoke of the need for countries to become more adaptable with changes needed to mitigate greenhouse gasses and CO2 emissions, saying it now has to be a “number one priority.”

“We need to act together, and we need to pull resources together at the government level, but also through the support of and the ingenuity of the private sector then we will be able to address this challenge, and turn it into a race.”

Biodiversity’s critical role dominates Expo discussion

Biodiversity’s critical role in the survival of the planet, and the importance of listening to and learning from nature, also dominated discussion at Expo 2020 Dubai’s first World Majlis at the Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion.

Held as part of Climate and Biodiversity Week, the Majlis featured thought leaders and experts from around the world, who traded ideas on everything from using birds of prey to deal with rodents destroying crops in Israel, Jordan and Palestine, to overhauling educational curricula in a lively 90-minute session.

Dr. Shaikha al-Dhaheri, secretary-general of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said: “It says in the Quran that God created human beings after the creation of the Earth to be the custodian of the environment, to be the custodian of this Earth. This is why biodiversity, the environment and Mother Earth are very critical to sustain our life.”

Tom Crowther, founder of the Crowther Lab, Switzerland, and a finalist in The Earthshot, said: “Biodiversity conservation and restoration is incredibly hard – a social, economic and ecological challenge. Those heroes of biodiversity are doing so in isolation, often facing these challenges alone.”

Dr. Lalasia Bialic-Murphy, Lead Scientist, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, said each ecosystem around the world is different.
“We’re just at the beginning of our path of understanding and restoring different systems around the world. What I’m hearing in this conversation is that some people are talking about climate change, and some people are talking about biodiversity, but really the best news is that they are interconnected.”

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