In an exclusive interview to Inspire Middle East, His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi describes the UAE's approach to climate change
Inspire Middle East has traveled this week to Dubai for the World Government Summit, where innovators and 4,000 VIP guests meet to discuss advancements in business, science and technology.
Inevitably, one of the topics on the table was climate change and the measures required to tackle environmental catastrophes. Our team spoke exclusively to His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the United Arab Emirates, to understand the region's efforts towards these issues.
Q: What news has been generated by your ministry during the summit this year?
A: There were so many excellent announcements that were done over the three days - with the opening of the Future Museum and the focus on A.I, plus the various projects focussing on happiness and reaching Mars.
We're really proud as well, about our own announcements when it comes to climate change – and the policies, regulations and actions that governments and private sector people have taken on board to reduce such an impact.
Q: So often with climate change, the environmental effects - the disasters, the floods, the fires and the droughts – women and children are the ones that are impacted first and often worst. What is the UAE doing from a humanitarian standpoint to help them?
A: The impact on women and children is almost 14 times more than for normal people in any disaster.
And from our side, as the UAE, we’ve done so many things for the globe, especially for the smaller islands - in terms of our grants and soft launches - when it comes to clean energy.
We’ve spent more than one billion USD, so far, around the world and we’re always targeting having a positive effect on society - and for sure this affects the families, women and children.
Q: How do you empower a generation to get involved in something like climate change when there are so many distractions out there for them?
A: The involvement and engagement of the youth has been embedded always and in most of the things which we are doing in the UAE.
And we have ministers, who are below 35-years-of-age, leading very crucial and vital topics around the world. We're talking about A.I, we're talking about advanced science, youth engagement, culture and climate change.
So, yes, we do care about wisdom, we do care about expertise and knowledge, but at the same time we need the softer skills and the energy of youth to do the maximum to move forward.
Q: Look into the future for me. When will I, and everyone in the UAE, be living in green houses which are solar powered, and driving electric vehicles?
Very soon. Here in the UAE we have two excellent examples. MASDAR City is a liveable lab - and we have Dubai Sustainable City.
Yes, maybe it hasn't reached the 100% you just mentioned, but it's good steps forward. So, expect that to happen very soon.
Q: Now, at your invitation, we’ve had some megastars attend the summit. Oscar winners - Robert De Niro and Forest Whittaker. Do we need celebrity endorsement to make the world sit up, listen and pay attention to climate change?
A: We need everyone. Governments cannot do it alone. We need each person on planet Earth to do his part, to ensure that we really protect our planet.
We have to reduce the wastage we have to look after the resources. We have to be sure that we apply the sustainable practices wherever we go.
And bring such celebrities for sure when the aim is to reach out to as many people, to ensure that we spread out the word and we have to ensure that we reach to the maximum people who are not aware of climate change.
Q: Lastly, what's one little thing that all of our viewers can do today to be more mindful, greener, more eco aware, and to help – in a small way – to combat climate change.
Turn off your lights whenever they’re not needed. Turn off your air conditioning, and reduce your water consumption – it’s a very valuable resource.
Some cities are suffering and are expected to run out of water. So, we don't this situation to happen all over the world. We have to prepare and keep the resources for the future generation.