United Nations Secretary-General voices support for “North Pole Walk for Climate Action”

November 22, 2019

New York – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today expressed support for the North Pole Walk for Climate Action, an effort by Lebanese endurance athlete Michael Haddad to focus attention on the devastating impact of climate change by attempting the extraordinary feat of walking 100 kilometers across the North Pole.

Haddad, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the Arab States, has been paralyzed from the chest down since the age of six, and will cross 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 window of opportunity to respond to the climate emergency is closing rapidly. We need urgent and transformational change to combat this existential threat,” the Secretary-General said. “Michael Haddad’s extraordinary resolve and determination should be an inspiration to us all. I wish Michael well on his journey which I hope will encourage ambitious climate action around the world.”

The remarks came during a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, during which the Secretary- General handed over to Haddad a United Nations flag that he will carry on his trek to underline the necessity of unified multilateral action and leadership to stop the worst consequences of climate change and preserve prospects for sustainable development.

“It is a tremendous honor for me and for all involved in the North Pole Walk for Climate Action to have the support and encouragement of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres,” said Haddad. “Tackling climate change is a global challenge, which knows no borders. We need climate action which is bold, and universal – carrying the flag of the United Nations on this journey will underscore the message that we are in this fight together.”

The “North Pole Walk for Climate Action” will provide Haddad and UNDP a platform to advocate for greater ambition, acceleration and mobilization of climate action — as called for in the UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Action Summit.  UNDP, through its “Climate Promise”, has committed to support 100 countries to accelerate their climate action by 2020, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. UNDP also pledged to lead by example by 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.