- His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi: Renewable energy is the solution for minimizing the impact of climate change and reversing the devastation of natural disasters
Dubai, UAE, September 23, 2017: Against the backdrop of the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Vitaly Vanshelboim, Assistant United Nations Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), hosted The Bloomberg Global Business Forum, held on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The forum brought together government and business leaders, financial institutions, international organizations and academics to discuss solutions to combat climate change, make rapid advances towards sustainable development and to bridge the gap between climate and humanitarian needs.
In his opening remarks, His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “In humanitarian relief, the priority is to get children back to school, restore business operations and public services, and implement utility systems that are resilient to extreme weather. Renewable energy is the solution for minimizing the impact of climate change and reversing the current trend of increasingly severe natural disasters that cause tragic loss to life and property, as well as immense material and environmental damage.”
“To achieve these objectives, the UAE has allocated about US$1 billion for renewable energy aid since 2014 to provide both economic empowerment to communities, as well as climate-resilient and carbon-mitigating solutions. This week, we announced the first five projects under a new US$50 million grant fund for the Caribbean Islands. The projects include cutting-edge solar, geothermal, and energy storage solutions in the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbuda,” His Excellency added.
In addition, Dr. Al Zeyoudi indicated that the UAE has already pledged US$10 million to the United Nations in humanitarian relief to fund a solar and battery power system for the island of Barbuda that was devastated earlier this month by Hurricane Irma.
Vitaly Vanshelboim, Assistant United Nations Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), emphasized that UNOPS' mission is to serve people in need by expanding the ability of the United Nations, governments and other partners to manage projects, infrastructure and procurement in a sustainable and efficient manner.
“When we build anything, from a school to a road, we aim to have the support of local communities, employ local companies and workers, be environmentally friendly, and have a plan to maintain it for the future,” he said.
“Each year, UNOPS helps a range of partners implement US$1 billion worth of aid and development projects in over 80 countries around the world. As outlined in its strategic plan 2014-2017, UNOPS is firmly committed to working with diverse actors in order to increase efficiency, innovation and encourage collaboration, while being an enabler and active supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Vanshelboim added.
Furthermore, His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, co-hosted the Leaders' Roundtable: Integrating Climate and Humanitarian Action with His Excellency Vidar Helgesen, the Norwegian Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
Building on the Every Woman Every Child Everywhere 2016-17 panel series hosted by the UAE and Norway Missions in New York, the session was moderated by Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid, Co-Chair of Every Woman Every Child Everywhere global movement.
In his welcoming speech, His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi stressed that the connection between climate change and humanitarian crises is real, and as oil producers, both Norway and the UAE take this point seriously.
“This year, the world has faced devastating hurricanes, terrible weather events in South Asia and West Africa, as well as long series of droughts, floods, and storms,” Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi said.
“We must also acknowledge the gender dimension of the nexus. Crisis situations affect around 2-3 percent of the global population, but account for 15 to 60 percent of global deaths of mothers and young children. This alarming impact will also worsen with climate change,” he explained.
“In the UAE, we are trying to rapidly integrate the nexus into our own national and foreign assistance strategies. Last week, we formalized our US$50 million contribution to a new World Bank fund focused on women's entrepreneurship, as part of our broader foreign aid effort to empower women in countries that are also climate vulnerable,” Dr. Al Zeyoudi concluded.
His Excellency Vidar Helgesen, the Norwegian Minister of Climate Change and Environment, emphasized the importance of focusing on women's and children's health in distressed and humanitarian locations.
“Women, girls and children are more vulnerable to managing climate change, because of less access to information and education on how to adapt, especially in farming or agricultural places. They are also less likely to effectively recover in post-disaster situations, where most jobs in the reconstruction industry are male dominated. Women, girls and children are also less likely to have assets or capital to survive off in post-disaster situations,” he noted.
Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid, Co-Chair of Every Woman Every Child Everywhere, moderated the discussions into three major topics within the climate-humanitarian nexus; coping and preparing for climate change, gender and finance.
Her Royal Highness stressed that climate change is a risk multiplier that when added to challenges that a lot of countries face, such as poverty, inequality and tensions, would create a toxic mix for all, and it is vital that we integrate humanitarian and climate action in order to form powerful and innovative solutions.
Concluding the session, Her Royal Highness praised the leadership that the UAE for setting global benchmarks in combating climate change and its approach in finding holistic solutions, describing it as a tremendously important contribution to the world.