UNDP goodwill ambassador Michael Haddad walks in the snow to raise awareness on climate resilient development

With the purpose of minimizing risks adapting to climate change in Lebanon

Posted March 22, 2022

Beirut – 22 March 2022:
UNDP Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action, Michael Haddad has walked five kilometers in two hours at one of the largest snow-covered mountain areas in Lebanon —and the Middle East— Kfardebian, to raise awareness on the risks associated with global warming and their impact on weather patterns, water resources, agro-biodiversity and tourism, a key economic sector.

The walk comes only three weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's foremost body of climate researchers, has launched its second of three reviews of the state of climate change (causes, impacts and solutions). The UN Secretary General had described the first report of the trilogy as a “Code Red for Humanity.” Echoing the call of the first report for climate action at a higher scale and with greater urgency, the second report rings a louder warning bell, that many of the impacts of global warming have reached the point of being "irreversible."

In the case of Lebanon, the anticipated impact of Climate Change includes adverse effects on agriculture, water resources, coastal resources, public health, infrastructure, energy and tourism. With winter tourism and ecotourism increasing in the last few years, the impact of climate change on this sector can have devastating consequences on livelihoods.

To that end, Haddad and his research team —from the Lebanese American University (LAU) and the American University of Beirut (AUB)— planned the walk to also serve as an opportunity to examine the special snowshoeing gear that he will be using in Svalbard Walk for Climate Resilience and Food Security in June 2022,  to build resilience to climate change through preserving crop biodiversity, a unique initiative where FAO member nations are working together to preserve the worlds crop diversity for future generations. Paralyzed from the chest down at the age of six, and told that he could never walk again, Haddad will perform his odds-defying symbolic snow walk with the aid of a simple exoskeleton to keep him upright, as he uses snow trekking gear that was specially designed for him in the laboratories of LAU, that helps him apply the unique “step-to-gait” mechanism that he devised to be independently ambulant, to snowy terrain.

"I am doing this today to raise awareness on the impacts of climate change on vulnerable destinations. Climate Change is real, and we are witnessing its impact every day in Lebanon. As I test my walking gear with the support of my scientific and innovation team from AUB and LAU, I will be preparing for my biggest challenge yet, a 100 KM walk in the north pole to bring attention to one of the gravest consequences of global warming, namely the rapid melting of the arctic ice sheet. Today is not only about climate change, but also about science, and how we are testing innovation and taking it to the extreme to provide opportunities in mobility to people with similar cases as mine” said Michael Haddad, UNDP Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action.

The Ambassador of Germany, Canada, Italy, and the United States of America as well as UNDP’s Resident Representative accompanied Haddad on his walk to shed light on the importance of building climate resilience and taking action towards reducing the impact and risks of climate change on vulnerable communities.

“We need to keep the momentum going to encourage accelerated and more ambitious climate action worldwide. Countries like Lebanon which depend on tourism, biodiversity and agriculture as national economic sectors and sources of local livelihood are vulnerable to the impacts of climate. So together with our partners we need to promote for climate-resilient development such as sustainable tourism activities, conserving water systems, protecting the marine and coastal areas, and ensuring climate-smart agriculture” added Melanie Hauenstein, UNDP Resident Representative.

For more information, please contact

In UNDP – Lebanon        |  Rana Moughabghab   |  rana.moughabghab@undp.org  |  +961 3 835 351

UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.