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Story | Research
11 September 2019

Why businesses that don't take action on climate change should see the writing on the wall


Speaking at Qatar Foundation, a UN climate change expert has driven home the message that, for companies everywhere, success depends on sustainability

Businesses that recognize the need to tackle climate change are positioning themselves for success, while “the writing is on the wall” for those that do not, a United Nations climate change expert has warned while speaking at Qatar Foundation (QF).

Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), drove home the message that taking action to combat the environmental crisis facing our planet cannot be delayed, in a public lecture as part of QF’s Education City Speaker Series.

He told the audience that rather than harming economies and jobs, companies that adopt more sustainable business models are set to reap the benefits while also helping to preserve the planet – but businesses that fail to do this “will not be around for long”. Mr. Sarmad’s talk at Qatar National Library, titled ‘Why Are We Waiting? The Urgency For Tackling The Climate Crisis’, also emphasized the need for fossil fuels to form part of the solution to climate change, and the transition to more renewable forms of energy.

“In taking climate action, there can be a fear that people will suffer because it will create a negative economic impact,” Mr. Sarmad told the audience. “The truth could not be further removed.

“Businesses that are preparing right now for more sustainable economic growth, who are reducing their emissions and working toward carbon neutrality, will thrive. For those who do not, the writing is on the wall. Nobody can do business in a world decimated by climate change, and it’s baffling to me that businesses do not see the advantages of adapting more sustainable business models.

Those businesses that do this will position themselves for the future; those that do not will not be around for long.

Ovais SarmadDeputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Mr. Sarmad said that making the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable growth path could boost the global economy by US$26 trillion, and create 65 million new jobs in the low-carbon industry, by 2030. But he also stressed that fossil fuels will not, and cannot, simply be eradicated.

“Fossil fuels have literally fueled the prosperity of this region, and they are not going to disappear overnight,” he said. “That is unrealistic – it would lead to the collapse of the global economy.

“They will be around for the foreseeable future, so they need to be converted into being part of the solution, through a process of transition that also recognizes the needs of employees within this sector.”

During his talk, Mr. Sarmad also spoke of how education is essential to addressing existential societal challenges such as climate change, saying: “Without education at the grassroots level, anything else we do is merely a bandage.”

The talk was followed by a question-and-answer session with Mr. Sarmad, the latest global expert to share his insights and perspectives at the Education City Speaker Series. The QF initiative, which has now entered its second season, gives members of the public an opportunity to listen to and interact with thought-leaders whose expertise spans a range of key topics.

Mr. Sarmad’s lecture was organized in collaboration with the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar, which provides an avenue for young people in Qatar to play active roles in environmental protection and raising awareness of the importance of sustainable living, as part of its Earth Talks series.

The UNFCCC – of which Mr. Sarmad became Deputy Executive Secretary in 2017 – is an international environmental treaty that came into force in 1994. Ratified by 197 countries, its goal is to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that prevents “dangerous” human-induced interference with our world’s climate, with industrialized nations being expected to take the lead in cutting emissions while also supporting developing countries’ efforts to tackle climate change.

Mr. Sarmad follows His Excellency António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad; Google’s former Chief Health Strategist, Roni Zeiger; and fashion entrepreneur Dame Natalie Massenet as guests of the Education City Speaker Series, with further talks planned for the coming months.

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