UAE: Climate Future Week calls for urgent environmental action at Dubai debut

Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, opened the event with a keynote address
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Museum of the Future, in collaboration with Dubai-based think-tank Fiker Institute, hosted the first day of the inaugural ‘Climate Future Week’.

The opening day commenced with an inspirational address by Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, alongside speeches by government officials, and sessions with leading experts who explored the future trends surrounding climate action.

Climate Future Week, which is expected to welcome the participation of more than 1,500 UAE government officials, public figures, international institutions, and global experts working within the field of sustainability and climate change, as well as members of the public, will run for five days, until September 30.

Aligned with the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’, Climate Future Week takes place as the country gears up to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai in November.

Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of the Dubai Future Foundation launched the proceedings, saying: “The Museum of the Future is one of the most important places for undertaking dialogues on the challenges facing our world. The UAE leadership are driving global meetings and are backing climate initiatives. Climate targets have been set in the UAE and funding has been made available to make sure discussions have tangible outcomes.”

He added: “We have convened top speakers, policymakers, politicians and innovators together during Climate Future Week to discuss and implement different initiatives ahead of COP28.”

climate future week at motf in dubai on sep 26-1695745354900
An overview of the hall at the museum
Image Credit: Supplied

During his keynote, Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, briefed the audiences on key initiatives aimed at enhancing the sustainability of the tourism sector in Dubai in line with the objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to double the size of Dubai’s economy during the next decade and consolidate its position among the top three global cities.

During his speech, he highlighted that sustainability is deeply rooted in the UAE’s history and culture, and is embedded within the heart of Dubai’s tourism strategy. He went on to highlight the educational programmes, far-reaching initiatives and innovative practices in place within Dubai’s tourism industry to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Meanwhile, nature and wildlife conservation featured prominently on the agenda, with a presentation from Laila Mostafa Abdul Latif, Director-General at Emirates Nature – WWF, who shared updates on the UAE’s efforts in preserving our natural heritage.

She said: “Climate change has reached incalculable urgency. The Earth is getting warmer. Climate change is moving faster than we are, and we are reaching the tip of the iceberg. Nature is a tool we must leverage more upon utilising nature-based solutions. We must protect and restore natural ecosystems. In the UAE, we are blessed with our sea based nature solutions, from the mangroves to sea grass, which act as green lungs.”

She added: “By protecting the ecosystems, we are protecting opportunities for ecotourism. We are working in the Northern Emirates towards climate resilience and creating commercially exciting and feasible products that support natural ecosystems and carbon sinks. We must learn to adapt within one generation.”

Call for action

“The question is a simple one. As a population of 8 billion we need food, water, mobility and shelter. Ask yourself where do you fit in to secure a planet for our needs? Everyone can get involved, from corporates, businesses, individuals and youth.”

The first day of Climate Future Week also witnessed Najib Saab, Secretary-General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), take to the stage in a session entitled ‘Arab Eco-Futures’.

He said: “The Museum of the Future is the best place to talk about the environment. Dubai is the city of the future. The future of the region is based on managing our resources. We have limited natural resources and a scarcity of water and arable land. Water, food and energy are inter-connected, we must not forget one at the expense of over exploitation. In the region, we have pioneering projects for carbon captures. It is positive that the benefits are being shared. To ensure a sustainable future we must have more cooperation in the region. Partnership and collaboration is essential.”

The afternoon’s proceedings saw Toby Gregory, Founder of the Plastic Pledge and Founder of the Arabian Ocean Rowing team, in his ‘Row To COP28’ session, charting his journey rowing the across the Atlantic Ocean.

“My objective is impact. Everyone we talk to focuses on how we are going to be part of the change. In Dubai, we are witnessing people act as a catalyst for change. Across the UAE, there is the strong belief that we can make change happen and we are focusing on our impact,” he said.

Later in the afternoon, Dr Markus Eriksen, Co-Founder at 5 Gyres Institute, took to the stage during his session, which reviewed the scientific solutions addressing plastic pollution.

“Surviving and thriving in this century is the question I always ask myself. There is no single fix for plastic. It is going to be different sectors using a different kind of polymer, a different product or packaging. The solution has to be nuanced for each sector. For single use plastics, there might be bands in place that make more sense than just focus on recycling,” he said.

The afternoon also included a session by Alzainah Al Babtain, an organic gardening enthusiast and a Guinness World Record Holder, who said: “Gardeners are experts in conserving water and we adopt practices such as drip irrigation to save rainwater. You will never find a gardener that wants to keep all their secrets and sustainable practices close to their heart. Educating and advocating automatically begins when you practice conserving water.”

There was an immersive session by Will Bennett, landscape architect and Founder of WILDEN, who shared his perspective on how social change can be driven through local landscapes, inspiring media with his vision for tomorrow’s landscapes, commenting: “When I look at all of the challenges around climate, I think there is one thing that really unifies them together – it’s our relationship with our landscapes and the natural world. If we renew our vows with nature and renew how we engage and interact and take care of the landscape, I believe we can create an amazing future and a better world. The more we know, the more we’ll understand, the more we’ll love and the more we’ll protect the world around us.”

The first day of Climate Future Week concluded with an immersive ‘Climate Negotiations’ workshop in collaboration with Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy, which saw more than 30 delegates participate in the workshop, with Moustafa Bayoumi of Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy. The interactive workshop allowed participants to gain first-hand experience negotiating climate goals from different regions of the world, from both developing and developed countries perspectives, and implement proactive measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Climate Future Week, in collaboration with Fiker Institute, is part of the UAE’s broader commitment to bolster national endeavours and initiatives within the realm of environmental conservation, climate change, and natural resource management. This commitment gains particular significance as COP28 approaches, where global discussions on the future of climate change will be hosted in Dubai. This endeavour further solidifies the UAE’s status as a hub for crucial global dialogues that impact our present day and future challenges and opportunities.