New York, 11 November 2019 - Endurance athlete and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador for Arab States Michael Haddad announced today that he will attempt the extraordinary feat of walking 100 kilometres across the North Pole. His ambition: to focus attention on the devastating impact of climate change.
Paralyzed from the chest down since the age of six, with 75 per cent of his motor functions lost, Haddad will be crossing the North Pole using a high-tech exoskeleton to stabilize his chest and legs so that he can walk. He will wear a special suit to mitigate the impacts of the harsh arctic weather tailored through textile computing–a pioneering technology that connects functions of the human body with the outside world.
The announcement of the ‘North Pole Walk for Climate Action’, planned for the spring of 2020, came as Haddad met with UNDP acting Associate Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS) Mourad Wahba. RBAS appointed Haddad in September 2019 as a UNDP regional Goodwill Ambassador to help advance and accelerate climate action across the Arab States region and around the world.
“I have been working closely with many wonderfully dedicated people — trainers, arctic scientists, physicians, nutritionists, bioengineers and industry innovators — to make this walk happen. It is a great collective effort. Today, I am proud to embark on this challenge with the valuable support of UNDP as well,” said Haddad. “Humanity will not be able to respond successfully to the climate crisis without coordinated, multilateral global action. The UN has an indispensable role to play in that vein,” he added.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. Each one of us has a responsibility to act and inspire others to urgently join the collective struggle to reduce our carbon footprint, to save our planet,” said Wahba. “UNDP RBAS is happy to support Michael’s ambitious feat – traveling all the way from his native Lebanon to the world’s northernmost point, braving arctic weather and defying his own mobility challenges to call for action on Climate Change.”
Now through next spring and beyond, the ‘North Pole Walk for Climate Action’ will provide Haddad and UNDP a joint platform to advocate for greater ambition, acceleration and mobilization of climate action — the three elements declared as key to climate success in the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, which convened last September at the UN General Assembly.
At the Summit, UNDP launched its ‘Climate Promise,’ committing to support 100 countries to increase their ambition and accelerate their climate action by 2020, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, through their national climate pledges (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs). UNDP also pledged to lead by example by greening its business practices and reducing its own emissions by 50 per cent by the year 2030.
Michael Haddad will work closely with UNDP to advocate and support such initiatives across the Arab States region and beyond.