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AEON Collective and Community Jameel present initial findings of joint project evaluating impact of climate change on GCC health at COP26

  • The panel, titled “Initial Findings from GCC Climate & Health Report examined the multi-faceted risks faced by the GCC region as a result of climate change as well as mitigation measures
  • A research publication will be released in the first quarter of 2022 containing all data collected by researchers and scientists from all around the world. 

KSA Pavilion, COP26, Glasgow, United Kingdom: AEON Collective, in collaboration with Community Jameel, presented at COP26 initial key findings from their innovative and collaborative research endeavour that scientifically evaluates the impact of climate change on health in GCC. The panel, which took place in Glasgow, UK, was moderated by Princess Mashael Al Shalan, Founding Partner of AEON Collective and Fady Jameel, Vice Chairman of Community Jameel gave the opening remarks. The full report of findings is set to be published in 2022.

The panel, titled “Initial Findings from GCC Climate & Health Report”, included Dr. ElFatih ElTahir, Professor of Hydrology and Climate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Community Jameel Advisor; Dr. Ana Margarida Costa, Head of Sustainability at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST); Dr. Gregory Sixt, Research Manager at Abdul Latif Jameel Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab at MIT (J-WAFS); Claire Walsh, Associate Director of Policy, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Global and Project Director for J-PAL’s King Climate Action Initiative; and Dr. Maimoonah AlKhalil, Director of the National Observatory for Women, Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University. 

Panel members deliberated the implications of climate change on an array of themes including the impact of heatwaves on Hajj; premature deaths due to air pollution, physical climate damage; food insecurity; the effect on vulnerable groups particularly children and women. The panel also explored measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures for Gulf countries, which are particularly susceptible to increased levels of heat, which adversely impact health, economic activity, and physical wellbeing, leaving vulnerable segments of the population severely affected.

“It is easier to humanise the impact of climate change when we understand its health implications. We have already started to feel it in our region. The report looks at data going back to 1979 to the present day. The region is progressively becoming warmer, and we can see the effects on precipitation levels and rainfall. We can no longer afford to be observers while we feel the impact on our cities and lives today,” said Princess Al Shalan.

The report found the GCC to be a hotspot for heatwaves making it potentially one of the highest regions in the world to be impacted by climate change. Dr. ElTahir noted that maintaining the status quo would lead to deadly heat levels that will impact mass activities such as Hajj, where exposure to high temperatures, especially during summer days, will have adverse effects on pilgrims. He also highlighted the increased potential of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and zika spread in the region as a result of climate change.  

“Like the rest of the world, the GCC has seen the impact of climate change on people’s health. When Community Jameel and AEON Collective convened this research partnership, our objective was to bring together a consortium of world-leading researchers and scientists to examine how climate change is impacting the GCC. Our partnership encapsulates the vital role organisations like ours can play in the fight against climate change. By enabling the community to produce science-based and actionable recommendations, we can guide the public and private sectors in tackling pressing environmental challenges facing the region,” said Fady Jameel.

With worldwide premature deaths reaching close to seven million annually as a result of pollution-related illnesses, Dr. Costa commented on the expected increase of greenhouse emissions rates with the increase in the concentration of people in urban areas and level of economic activities on her discussion of the impact of natural and anthropogenic air pollution in the Middle East. She also emphasised the need for more measurable data and statistics to feed into research in the areas and inform recommendations.

Additionally, food security was reported to be one of the areas closely interlinked with human health and climate change. Dr. Sixt noted that while the GCC is one of the world’s most food secure regions, it is also an import-reliant region. Food capacity production, supply chain challenges, crop decline, and diseases in exporting countries to the GCC may have adverse impact on the region in the long run.

Reflecting on the role of J-PAL as a global research network working to reduce poverty and combat climate change by ensuring the policy is informed by scientific evidence, Walsh emphasized the importance of the role of governments in introducing policies rather than awaiting populations and businesses to adapt practices and technology of their own accord, particularly in low-income communities. She noted that health protection could be secured through investments in physical, financial and social safety net structures prior to the onset of crises to allow communities to take action themselves, citing shock responses and cash-based action as examples. 

The absence of systematically collected and analyzed climate-related and gender-aggregated data, was highlighted by Dr. AlKhalil who argued that women are one of the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change due to its impact on their general wellbeing, reproductive health, and livelihood. 

The full report containing the research group’s findings is set to be released in the first quarter of 2022. In the meantime, the group will host a series of events, exhibitions, and interactive panels on the topic.

About AEON Collective:

AEON Collective is a Saudi-based NGO, also known as Waqf, with the mission of enhancing dialogue and harnessing discussions to advance cooperation and efforts towards sustainable development. As advocates of sustainable and equitable development, Princess Mashael bin Saud Al Shalan and Princess Noura bin Turki Al Saud co- founded AEON COLLECTIVE, a cross-disciplinary Waqf that produces, curates and disseminates fact-based and culturally informed knowledge around sustainability in the Kingdom. Equipped with the critical expertise to discuss complex topics, the collective aims to serve the country’s ambitions and enhance international, cross disciplinary dialogue.

About Community Jameel:

Community Jameel is an international organisation tackling some of the world’s most urgent issues and challenges, using a pioneering approach grounded in evidence, science, data and technology.

Founded by Mohammed Jameel KBE – a graduate of MIT and engineer by training – Community Jameel employs a new approach to creating impact by driving new scientific and technological breakthroughs and innovations in the fields of education, health and climate.

Community Jameel supports programmes, projects and ideas that unlock the power of data, research, AI and other digital tools to understand and address pressing human challenges.

The work enabled and supported by Community Jameel has led to significant new breakthroughs and achievements, including the discovery of the new antibiotic Halicin, critical modelling on the spread of Covid-19 and a Nobel-Prize-winning approach to global poverty alleviation.

Community Jameel and the Jameel family are currently celebrating three quarters of a century of philanthropy; this journey is marked through the 75 Years / 75 Voices / 75 Stories project, which includes contributions from our partners and constituents.

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