COP21 and Beyond: UAE panel debates climate change
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05 October 2015 Share article Expert panel and UAE students discuss COP21 and climate action future

5 October 2015, Abu Dhabi
- Yesterday in Abu Dhabi, a high-profile panel of experts in the fields of energy, environment and sustainability, debated with students from a range of UAE educational institutions including Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MI), New York University, Abu Dhabi University, Higher Colleges of Technology, Zayed University and a number of high schools, as well as representatives from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), about the potential for significant outcomes at the forthcoming Paris Climate Change Conference – COP21 in November.

The panel, convened by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, in partnership with the Zayed Future Energy Prize, included:  Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Provost, MI; Vice Chair Marie-José Nadeau, Chair, World Energy Council and Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Secretary General, Hydro-Quebec; Roger Ballentine, President, Green Strategies, Inc.; Dr. Steven Griffiths, Executive Director of Institute Initiatives, MI; Anup Jacob, Director, Masdar Capital; Richenda Van Leeuwen, Executive Director, Energy and Climate, Energy Access Initiative, United Nations Foundation; Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future; Prof. Ad Van Wijk, Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur, TU Delft; David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow, Columbia University; and Yukari Yamashita, Board Member, The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

During the debate, the students and panellists discussed topics ranging from the COP21 climate conference, the UAE’s leadership in environmental stewardship and objectives for the climate action space to ensure that the topic stays at the top of the policy agenda beyond the meetings in Paris. The debate was moderated by two Emirati students who are currently studying at MI.

Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA and Director of Energy and Climate Change, UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Selection Committee Member said highlighting the keen interest of the students: “It is always inspiring to have the opportunity to listen to our students who are the leaders of tomorrow, and who will head key industries in the future. Their voices are vitally important for ensuring that the agreements reached at COP21 remain in place and result in a more sustainable tomorrow for everyone across the globe. The next few months will see the continuation of the UAE’s journey towards ensuring a more sustainable future. Putting students at the centre of this dialogue is a natural continuation of the legacy of Sheikh Zayed.”

“I was delighted to be part of this informative and highly engaging panel debate,” said Bader Mohammad, MI student and one of the panel moderators. “Having experts and students in the same room, debating climate action, is a great way to ensure that this topic is firmly in the public consciousness.”

“I think giving students and young people access to experts at this crucial time in the political debate on sustainability and climate change can make a tremendous difference to the climate action that our leaders will take,” added Omar Asad, MI student and the second moderator of the panel. “Ultimately, it will be our generation that will shape our world over the next few decades.”

COP21 will take place in Paris between 30 November 30 and 11 December. For the first time in 20 years, world leaders from over 190 countries will discuss the possibility of establishing a legally-binding global regulation on climate change.

Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Director of Sustainability at Masdar and Director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, said “We convened this panel at a crucial juncture in the global dialogue on sustainability and climate change. To meet the challenges before us, we need to bring together the experts who will be shaping the policy central to COP21, and the young people whose responsibility it will be to take action in the long-term. Masdar believes in encouraging debate between innovators and thought leaders of all ages, and the Zayed Future Energy Prize helps give voice to individuals who are already impacting communities across the world in a positive way. This is why bringing all these separate constituencies together to create an ongoing dialogue is crucially important.”

The panellists were made up of Selection Committee members from the Zayed Future Energy Prize. The Selection Committee were meeting on the 4th and 5th of October to review and choose the finalists that will go before the jury in late October. This year’s prize saw a record number of 1,437 entries from 97 countries, underlining its truly global reach.