x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Clinton calls for unity on climate change

The former US president Bill Clinton told attendees at an environmental convention in Abu Dhabi that they must do more to make life on earth sustainable.

ABU DHABI // Bill Clinton, the former US president, has urged delegates at the Eye on Earth Summit to improve the way energy, resources and food are produced.

"We are brought here because of our shared imperative to build a more sustainable world, a world that finds solutions for developed and developing nations alike," Mr Clinton told about 1,100 people.

"In some ways this is an incredible venue," he said of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre where the summit runs until tomorrow.

"Not so many years ago it would have been unimaginable to have a conference focused on the need for data and measurements and action to reduce carbon emissions in the Gulf. A generation ago, it would not have happened.

"It is happening today because we recognise we live in an interconnected world that is on a path that is not sustainable."

Mr Clinton, the president from 1993 to 2001, yesterday spoke of the challenges facing the world, including inequality between countries and within societies, and instability from the global economic crisis.

"A certain amount of instability is necessary for the creative process to work in economics and society, but too much of it freezes people up and shuts them down and it is complicating America's efforts today to deal with climate change," Mr Clinton said.

"But most important of all, the economic model we have been following is simply not sustainable because of the way we produce and consume energy, and because of the rapid depletion of local resources undermining the future's access to adequate levels of water and food and forests."

If it continues at the current rate, the melting of ice caps over Greenland could cause vast amounts of water to flow into the North Atlantic, disrupting the Gulf Stream and recreating in northern Europe "climate conditions that existed 700 years ago in the little Ice Age", he said.

Records show that during this period, Europe and North America suffered long, bitter winters that disrupted agriculture and caused crop failures and famine.

Mr Clinton also touched on the fate of small island states such as the Maldives, which scientists predict will be among those hit hardest by rising sea levels.

"We have to decide whether we are going to share the future in a positive way, or through inaction or short-term attention to our own interests at the expense of others, share the future in a highly competitive but highly negative way," Mr Clinton said.

"I believe we should choose a path of shared responsibility and shared opportunity."

Mr Clinton outlined some solutions to ensure a sustainable future: green buildings, renewable energy, recycling and reducing landfill, and sustainable agriculture.

"The most important thing to me is proving that changing the way we produce and consume energy, changing the way we produce and consume resources … is far better economics than the current course," he said. "We have to prove that this can work … there is still a lot of denial out there.

"The fact that we are meeting here in Abu Dhabi is encouraging to me and I want to thank the leaders of the UAE and indeed people all over the Gulf who are looking at this. We have come a long way, but in all the important ways we have barely begun."

In the audience were influential conservationists and UAE dignitaries including: Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; Sultan Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy; Mariam Al Roumi, the Minister of Social Affairs; Humaid Al Qatami, the Minister of Education; Dr Rashid bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water; and Dr Maitha Al Shamsi, the Minister of State.

vtodorova@thenational.ae