By Sofia Serrano.
Covid-19 has not only been a global health emergency but has triggered a massive economic, social and humanitarian crisis. The period of the global lock-down provided an unfiltered view of the impact of our economic activities and progressive lifestyle on the environment, with emissions falling during the peak of the pandemic confinement measures (The United in Science 2020 report). It also provided a surprising view of our ability to change and re-set our actions and lifestyle when the need arises. At its core, the pandemic is a stark reminder that the wellbeing and future of humans and nature is inseparable.
With lock-downs lifted and economic activity restarted emission levels that had earlier fallen have recovered to within 5 per cent of the same period in 2019 and are likely to increase further.
As societies learn to live with Covid-19 and countries focus on rebuilding we have a unique window of opportunity to reset by designing a green recovery that prioritizes sustainability along with economic growth and which is intrinsically linked to climate action.
Transitioning to green economies is of paramount importance to the MENA region in order to prevent the next climate crisis and its impact on health due to air pollution. It will also bring jobs and growth as a green recovery strategy has higher economic multipliers than the alternative business-as-usual model of ‘brown’ growth.
However, a transformative agenda of this scale cannot be achieved by the government and policymakers alone. It is pertinent that the voice of every stakeholder is weaved into the green recovery plan to ensure stronger economies and a sustainable future for the planet.
On January 13th Unilever held the Sustainable Living Plan Event ‘Building Back Better’. The webinar covered the topic of how can we achieve a post-Covid MENA green economic recovery and the role of the youth in achieving this.
The event had the participation of H.E. Dr Abdullah Bin Mohammed Belhaif Alnuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, UAE with the Keynote Speech.
Sanjiv Kakkar, executive vice president, Unilever MENA, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and Akanksha Khatri, head of Nature Action Agenda, World Economic Forum gave presentations on the different verticals that brands are tackling towards sustainable practices to reduce the footprint on the environment.
The C-suite panel discussion was moderated by Tanzeed Alam, managing director, Earth Matters Consulting, that included prominent leaders from the sustainable community including Khaled Al Huramel, group chief executive officer, Bee’ah; Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, director-general, Emirates Nature WWF; Dr Aisha Al-Sarihi, research associate, climate change and environment, KAPSARC and Sarah El Battouty, senior advisor to Egypt president on sustainable communities development founder, EConsult Company.
The panel discussed the different solutions and innovations in the sustainable realm that included entrepreneurship, advances and also the different challenges in MENA towards sustainability.
The event also counted with a second-panel discussion focused on the MENA youth for sustainability with the presence of young leaders including Saad Ahmad, director AIESEC Egypt; Mohamed Lahmami, community builder, UM6P, co-founder and president, World Merit, Morocco; Kehkashan Basu, UN Human Rights champion and founder president of Green Hope Foundation UAE and Juan Pablo Celis Garcia, Youth Policy and Climate Advocate US, with the moderation of Middlesex University Dubai lecturer Stephen King.
This is Unilever’s 8th Annual event in the UAE and first across MENA and where it has used the opportunity to provide an update on its sustainability progress and also engage stakeholders on driving a greater focus on sustainability in the region.
Unilever’s objectives include to engage in conversations with stakeholders in the MENA region; to collaborate and accelerate action towards climate change; to communicate the role of the private sector by sharing its new climate commitments and ambitions with stakeholders across the region (UAE, Lebanon, Saudi, Egypt, Morocco) and to refocus, Inspire and Involve youth to become change agents and sustainability influencers.
The panel included a video compiling the opinion of different MENA youth, advocating for sustainable practices.
The webinar included live polls with responses from the more than 200 participants. The questions included: