Zayed University Sustainability Club Hosts Discussion on the ‘Path to COP28’

Zayed University Sustainability Club Hosts Discussion on the ‘Path to COP28’

Path to COP 28 aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to act as student ambassadors at COP28

Spearheaded by Emirati student Alia Abdulmajeed Hussain Abdulrahim Ahli, the newly launched Sustainability Club at Zayed University is hosting a series of panel discussions and workshops to raise awareness of issues around climate change and promote the UAE’s target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The student-led club is supervised by Dr Suzanna Elmassah, who also leads Zayed University’s newly established interdisciplinary undergraduate programs in sustainability that aim to educate students on the interconnected global challenges and ethical principles of sustainability.

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“Path to COP 28,” the club’s first initiative for 2023, aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to act as student ambassadors at COP28 in the UAE later this year.

In a talk earlier this week, the club discussed the likely impact of the upcoming climate change conference and discussed the smart solutions of circular economy that can accelerate the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Highlighting the significance of COP28 in the UAE, Dr Suzanna said: “For a country like the UAE and for the region - which is a mainly dependent on oil and gas exports - hosting COP28 is a powerful message of commitment and responsibility towards the urgency of climate action.

“The country will still export energy, but it will export more responsible energy, more renewable energy, and less climate-impacting energy. The UAE will set an example for other countries in the region in how to achieve this."

Anticipated to be the most important COP to date, the expectations for COP28 are high. “We expect COP28 to fill the gaps left behind by the previous COPs,” Dr Suzanna said.

At COP28, she hopes to see more case studies from different countries on food sustainability, health and nature, as well as results related to limiting biodiversity as these were not adequately addressed at COP27.

Dr Elmassah also anticipates that COP28 will bring discussions around the operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund announced at COP27, which will help developing countries act on climate action.

Furthermore, she expects COP28 to show more climate financing options and products from the banking sector and ways to attract more money towards projects that bring ROI while saving the environment at the same time.

Furthermore, COP28 would be a promising space for innovative solutions and new technologies to enhance cradle-to-cradle practices, especially in the context of the circular economy approach to substitute the linear production approach.

The club’s leader Alia, who along with five other Zayed University students from its pioneering College of Interdisciplinary Studies, participated at COP27 as a youth delegate representing the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment highlighted the importance of youth engagement in accelerating the SDGs.

“Students should be at the centre of sustainability initiatives and be taken to COPs or similar sustainability events so they understand how things work and can make informed decisions tomorrow,” she said.

The panel also discussed the role of the private sector in supporting and strengthening the youth’s engagement in sustainability.

Guest speaker, Rana Hajirasouli, founder of The Surpluss, a global B2B climate-tech start-up that aims to encourage profitable sustainability practices across industries identified the need to reduce the gap between academia and practitioners.

“A lot of R&D happens at university level so, in my opinion, it is more fruitful for the private sector to tap into that knowledge capital than it is for university students to be able to engage with them,” said Rana.

“To stay ahead of the curve, we need bright young minds and youth to engage with the private sector because they will be shaping the future. Understanding how they can operationalize and where they sit on the sustainability spectrum is really important,” she added.

The Partner Challenge program at Zayed University is an example of connecting industry with students.

The programme engages leading organizations with talent in a structured and impactful way, offering a unique opportunity for private and public sector institutions to develop the future generation of leaders in the UAE.

As the discussion progressed, the panelists explored the innovation of smart circular economy solutions to deal with scarce resources and the climate change threat.

“The concept of a circular economy is closely related to the COP28's innovation agenda. With a circular economy, resources can be maximized, raw material consumption reduced, and waste can be repurposed,” said Alia.

Speaking about the UAE’s shift towards becoming a circular economy, Rana stated: “On a policy level, we are quite progressive.

"The circular economy policy is really interesting because if you look at the regional level legislation around this, there is actually a lot that we can fall back on to promote the reuse of goods.”

Furthering the advantages of a circular economy, Rana said, “Circular economy adoption in UAE amongst private sector actors can boost green growth for local job production and position the UAE as a knowledge leader in international best practices.”

Read More: Zayed University Students Launch Sustainability Club with COP28 Plans

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