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Story | Education
30 September 2021

Fighting climate change is up to every one of us, QF panel told at global Youth4Climate conference

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QGBC and THIMUN Qatar participate in educators panel discussion in Milan

There are only about 200 country leaders in the world, but there are seven billion people – and it is up to every one of them to make a real difference to the future of our planet, a Qatar Foundation sustainability leader has told the international Youth4Climate conference in Italy.

Meshal Al Shammari, Director of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Qatar Green Building Council, was speaking during a panel hosted by THIMUN Qatar – a youth-driven program that is part of QF’s Pre-University Education – on the role of youth in taking climate action, and emphasized that: “Sustainability is beyond solar panels and water usage.

If you want to make a difference, commit to something

Meshal Al-Shammari

“It’s a lifestyle – from eating habits to shopping habits to traveling patterns. If you want to make a difference, commit to something. Maybe take a pledge to reduce paper consumption for one week. For you it’s just one week, but in the larger picture, when a lot of people do this, it makes a big difference.”

The THIMUN Qatar session formed part of QF’s participation at Youth4Climate.

Al Shammari explained the magnitude of paper consumption in Qatar and what prompted Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) to start the No Paper Day campaign. “We consumed more than five million A4-sized pieces of paper per day in Qatar, not including industrial paper and newspapers,” he said. “We knew had to do something. Instead of planting-a-tree initiative, we decided to host a No Paper Day campaign.”

However, Al Shammari notes that the largest consumer of paper in Qatar is schools. “During COVID-19, we noticed that paper usage dropped drastically. And so, with schools we started the ‘Zero Paper Schools’ campaign.”

The power lies with each of us. We are the ones who can make a difference

Fatima El Mahdi

Al Shammari was joined by Dana Al Anzy, Multisector Strategic Partnerships Specialist at Education Above All Foundation; Fatima El Mahdi, Head of THIMUN Qatar; and Mohammad Sakib Mahmoud, a THIMUN Event Specialist and moderator for the panel discussion.

Answering a question by Mahmoud on the behavioral pattern of millennials – of instant gratification – in relation to climate change, which doesn’t happen overnight, how organizations keep the young generation locked on and focused, El Mahdi said: “It helps that the youth already have so much passion spilling over, and their hearts are in the right place.

“Aside from our programs giving students agency and responsibility, and being student-centered, students realize if they don’t do their work, no one’s coming to rescue them. If they don’t arrange for their own food, they don’t eat.”

Climate change will impact each and every single one of us. And thankfully, the younger generation is very aware of this

Meshal Al-Shammari

She also added that students often have a large network of friends, and what they do, they share with word of mouth. “Social media really helps. It’s changed the way young people’s minds work.”

El Mahdi said the key is advocacy. “The power lies with each of us. We are the ones who can make a difference,” she said. “This is done with empowering everyone with the right skills, which is what we do at THIMUN Qatar.”

Al Anzy echoed these thoughts, pointing out the power of each youth advocate at Education Above All has. “All of the youth are enthusiastic and passionate towards their causes. The question is whether they feel supported for their causes,” she said.

The panel discussed the role of youth in taking climate action.

Ending the discussion, Al Shammari made an observation – that previous generations learned about climate change in books and in schools, but the younger generation is living the effects of climate change. “In Qatar, we’ve noticed that it hasn’t rained in the last two years,” he said. “Temperatures go above 50 degree Celsius, and remain between 48-50 degree Celsius for four to five hours in the summers, and we expect it to extend to about six hours in the near future.

“It’s not just the role of the government, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight climate change. Climate change will impact each and every single one of us. And thankfully, the younger generation is very aware of this.”

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