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Arab Eco-Futures was the topic of AFED Secretary General Najib Saab’s speech at the opening of Climate Future Week, organized by Museum of the Future in Dubai, in association with Fiker Institute. The main theme of the speech was that the future of environment is determined by sound management of natural resources. This requires not only technology, but also a shift in lifestyle and consumption patterns. Saab identified 5 key challenges of particular importance to Arab countries: water scarcity, land degradation, air pollution, coastal and marine degradation, sea-level rise. However, the most serious indicator is that 14 Arab countries are among the 18 most water-scarce in the world.
Saab stressed that we have to account for virtual water, use appropriate crops with efficient irrigation methods, change our consumption patterns, and draw our policies based on water-food-energy-climate change nexus. Food security cannot be dissociated from water and energy security. In the past 50 years, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in most Arab countries grew fast, accompanied with higher standards of living. However, this happened at the expense of non-renewable natural resources, which were steadily over-exploited.
In spite of the challenges, prospects are not entirely gloomy, as demonstrated in various positive examples across some Arab countries, such as Masdar Future Energy in Abu Dhabi, Green Saudi Initiative, Global Water Organization announced in Riyadh, various renewable and clean energy initiatives, and advancing green economy strategies in general. However, the fact is that these initiatives are still limited to few Arab countries, mainly those with more resources and better visionary planning. The challenge is how to ensure other countries in the region are not left behind. Saab presented a roadmap for building a prosperous future based on sustainable development, based on a balance between economic growth and human progress, which combines ambition with respecting nature’s limits.
The full presentation can be streamed via the Museum of the Future’s YouTube channel.