Video Intervention from Khalida Bouzar, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Assistant Administrator & Director of the Regional Bureau of Arab States

UNDP Regional Goodwill Ambassador Michael Haddad Walk & Business Leaders Roundtable for Climate Action at Expo 2020

January 21, 2022

I am pleased to greet you at this important event where our UNDP Arab States Goodwill Ambassador, Michael Haddad will perform his Expo 2020 Walk for Climate Action and host a roundtable for business leaders.

I had planned to join you in person, but unforeseen commitments intervened.

I thank our partners at the Dubai Expo 2020, the Committee for Sweden’s Participation at the Expo, the UN Hub, and Michael for organising this vital event. I also commend the United Arab Emirates on the success of the Expo thus far.

Climate change poses an urgent threat to our shared future – a threat the UN Secretary-General calls a code red for humanity.

The Arab States region is a global climate hotspot with temperatures rising faster than the world average. Only 6% of power in the region is renewable, of which only 1.3% is solar and wind. And this, despite the fact that the region has the world’s highest levels of solar radiation.

The region also contains 14 of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries. Its annual internal water resources amount to only 6% of its average annual precipitation, against a world average of 38%.

Overexploitation of natural resources in the region has also led to severe ecosystem degradation. The region is exceptionally dependent on food imports, especially of wheat and other staple grains. Half of MENA's food is imported, rising to 90% in the GCC.

Yet against this challenging context, our Regional Ambassador for Climate Change, Michael is carrying a message of hope for a better future.

As a child Michael was told that he would never walk again. But today, Michael will do just that. His every step shows we can overcome any challenge.

Climate devastation is not inevitable. If we act in solidarity, guided by science, and with the private sector, we can save our common future. At UNDP, we are honored to work with a wide range of partners across the region and globally to prepare communities for the impact of climate change.

Michael brings this message to the world today - to urge action that keeps our hope alive. Michael is saying to us: If I can walk, we can unite to save ourselves and our planet.

Michael is also contributing to UNDP’s efforts in the Arab region as we look forward to supporting COP 27 this year, in Egypt, and COP 28 in the United Arab Emirates next year.

We look forward to engaging in these global dialogues, that fittingly are hosted in the Arab region, which is vulnerable to climate change and highly committed to leading on solutions

I trust that today’s events, are steps for us all on the path to the climate action we need.

I am encouraged that the Expo will also soon host the first Middle East and North Africa Climate Week, maintaining momentum in our region. I hope to be able to join then.

I thank you all for joining this worthy endeavor and I look forward to being with you as we continue to come together for people and planet.