If the world continues on the current trajectory of emissions, killer heat waves, and deadly flooding, as we have witnessed this summer, will be de rigueur over the next decade. But what would it look like if we make the radical changes necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius?
We are seven years from the Paris Climate goal of limiting the temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and reducing 43% of emissions by 2030. For these goals to be achieved, urgent action is a must to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
When we talk about climate change, all of us acknowledge the real risks posed by climate change aren’t a monolith. The members of the Fast Company Middle East Impact Council, an invitation-only group of leaders from diverse sectors, deliberated on climate change and sustainability, its progression, and our chances of stopping climate change by adopting sustainable solutions.
If we were to make genuine progress, engagement of all sectors is essential, and the Impact Council members acknowledged that COP28 in the UAE later this year could be a real game-changer in finding a common ground.
Stefano Castoldi, Partner in Climate and Sustainability at BCG, reiterated the ambition of COP28 to deliver such a sustainable impact. “COP 28 will transform the pledges into real impact to make a meaningful change,” he said.
URBAN PLANNING AND COLLABORATION
There is promising news from time to time. We learn that a certain environmental intervention did make a difference for the better, or we hear of a developing technology that might offer solutions we never previously thought possible.
Given the significant impact that cities have on the environment, low-carbon cities are crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Vikita Shahani, who heads digital community development at Love That Design, emphasized the importance of a circular economy and transitioning to low-carbon or net-zero cities like Dubai’s Expo City. “Urban planning can move the needle for green cities and set up a development model. With COP28 just around the corner, there’s probably a lot more acceleration to those conversations,” added Shahani.
Waste prevention and recycling are real ways to help address climate change. Stressing the importance of recycling and government support, Jérôme Viricel, General Manager RECAPP – Veolia Middle East, said although UAE has reached a point where 100% of plastic bottles can be recycled, it is only the beginning of a long process.
“We need the government’s support through regulation or subsidies, and also from the private sector to ensure a positive payback. The most difficult challenge is balancing economics and environmental conservation,” Viricel added.
Another important point brought forward at the meeting is that we have the tools and the ability to mitigate the climate crisis. Anyone who is overwhelmed by the climate challenge can take action. And for that, everyone needs to be brought to the table when tackling climate change and sustainability.
Azhan Hasan, advisor for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in Qatar, echoing a similar view, says, “Sustainability needs to be championed by every level of society. We cannot work in silos. So the collaboration, in all aspects, is important, not only for the Middle East but for other regions.”
Similarly, Fawzi Dibis, Service Lead-Climate Change and Carbon Advisory at WSP, said sustainability and decarbonization need a public and private partnership.
“The idea is to be ready for the future. Throughout this journey, different components need to be considered for sustainability or carbon literacy. Having an open mind towards innovative ideas and digital ecosystems that support entities with identifying their emissions and their threats and digitizing this process will support them towards their goal of net zero,” added Dibis.
Stephanie Asgill, Director of Sustainability at Dubai Holding, said collaboration and partnership are crucial players in driving climate action.”We have a lot of the solutions and the tools. We need to take action.”
Ayman Ashour, CEO of Mobility Turnkey – MEA & Siemens Mobility – UAE, says companies should not wait for the authorities and regulators to chime in but rather foster their initiatives towards driving continuous and sustainable impact. “This is not only about innovation or growth; it’s about profitable growth. If the industry is not profitable, the growth is meaningless.”
Meanwhile, as supply chains everywhere face major climate-related threats, Dana Dadoush, Sustainability Specialist at Chalhoub Group, pointed out the criticality of companies stepping up efforts to sense and respond to them and make supply chains more sustainable.
“Accelerate your climate action. So much can be done before the required regulatory framework is in place. Do as much as you can. We are in a region that has strong leadership and vision when it comes to sustainability. It’s a matter of time, and we can expect change to happen quickly.”
EDUCATION AND AWARENESS
Tatiana Antonello, Founder of Goumbook, believes that education and awareness are critical, starting with the youth. “They have a huge role to play. We’re putting a lot of pressure on them to take and lead in the future with many challenges that await them,” she says.
Furthermore, Eva Ramos, Director of Policy Analysis and Economics at the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi, said that working from different fronts is a solution. “There is not a silver bullet. At the agency, we work on innovation, regulation, partnerships, knowledge, and science, and we need all these together to achieve sustainability.”
Rajesh Garg, Chief Financial Officer of Landmark Retail, who also leads Sustainability for Landmark Group offers to continuously raise awareness. “Humans didn’t deliberately set out to destroy the planet, they were not aware, they still aren’t. The biggest opportunity and challenge is to raise awareness and is the best lever to drive sustainability,” he says.
Working towards decarbonizing the construction industry, Abdul Traboulsi, General Manager for DesertBoard, shared that the company has successfully innovated a nature-based green building material.
Stressing in keeping the conversation on sustainability going, David Shepley, Director of Sustainability at Five Holdings, says, “Just as sustainable development fundamentally teaches us that everything is in community, I think continuing conversations surrounding the topic is important and will continue to bear fruit.”
Changing minds is a challenging aspect of sustainability, as it takes a very long time; Laetitia Magentie, Head of CSR and Sustainability at Apparel Group, said that regulations are needed to accelerate the process and that nobody should be afraid to take bold action.
The Impact Council leaders meet multiple times yearly to address the most significant opportunities and pressing challenges. These gatherings provide a platform for networking and collaborative idea generation, fostering connections among some of the most brilliant minds in the industry.