September is that time of the year when the Middle East’ most ambitious thinkers and doers convene around the subject of sustainable development and social impact in Dubai. A regional and global gathering of experts, business executives and government organisations that work towards a more fair, just and sustainable society. And even that the name Dubai isn’t necessarily associated with the word ‘sustainable’, the emirate is well on its way to become fully sustainable by 2050. The Dubai Energy and Water authority for example has devoted a large part of its budget for clean energy projects to generate 25% of Dubai’s total power output from clean energy by 2030 and 75% by 2050. And since there is little room for negotiating ambition levels at the top, it is not unlikely that goal will actually be achieved.
With a 14-year legacy, the summit is the leading event to learn from inspirational leaders as well as to share best practice on sustainable development programs in the MENA region. The award ceremony recognises outstanding achievements made by organizational teams that have contributed to the development of the region’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability agenda.
The summit takes place when one of the most extreme summers seasons has come to a close. Record heats were recorded across parts of North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Ice losses from Antarctica tripled since 2012, increasing global sea levels by 3 millimetres in that timeframe alone, according to a major new international climate assessment funded by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). Also, unusual tropical cyclones hit Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen and Oman while sand and dust storms killed hundreds of people in India. Pakistan suffered from unprecedented successive heat waves.
These weather events took place against the unsettling backdrop of the U.S. government rashly withdrawing from the Paris agreement and even relaxing pollution regulations on coal-fired power plants. The Paris agreement was originally signed by 195 parties – including the US, the EU and China – and aimed to limit global warming to 1.5°C so to substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change. The current 1°C of warming has already led to millions of people fleeing their homes. On the bright side however, the process of actual withdrawal by design can only begin the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. And who knows how the political landscape will look by then.
Chairing this event especially this year can’t occur without dwelling momentarily on a giant champion of social justice, a Nobel Peace Laureate, godfather of the Millennium Development Goals and former Secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who told me during an on-stage conversation last year: “If we work in partnership and we all do our little bit, collectively we can make a giant contribution.”
In his spirit, with sheer optimism and a fantastic line up of speakers and keynote panel contributors, I look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Social impact Summit!