By Claire Davenport
Amr Seleem (MSc ’13) is part of a team of UN Climate Change High-Level Champions pioneering resilience, which is the next phase of the climate revolution, where they mobilize non-state actors, including businesses, private sectors and civil society.
“Resilience is to plan, cope, recover, adapt and learn,” said Seleem. “It’s the capacity to build economic, social and environmental systems that enable us to deal with any disasters, hazards and disruptions while maintaining essential functions.” In other words, resilience is our ability to plan for, and ultimately, meet the future.
Up until this point, international climate change efforts have mostly focused on the present or near future. Actionable goals to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 have been set and signed on to by governments across the world, and 70% of businesses have committed to reducing their carbon footprint in the next 10 years. AUC has joined the Race to Zero campaign, a UN-backed global initiative aimed at achieving a zero-carbon world. The University has pledged to halve its emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
“Race to Zero is a well-established mitigation campaign to reduce global emissions,” said Seleem. “Race to Resilience is a newer campaign to build capacity for adaptation.”
Resilience is imperative so individuals, communities, sectors and countries can prepare for the climate shifts we know are coming down the line. “This includes learning, transformation, anticipation, and the ability to recover and cope” he said. “For instance, if we talk about energy transition, we need to ensure reliable energy sources for everyone on Earth. Same for health and transit. We have to guarantee the safety of people and our ecosystems.”
Seleem’s team is currently working with 37 partners as part of the Race to Resilience campaign to pilot new methodologies for building resilience on a project-by-project basis. “Resilience is hard to define and fully measure, so we are working to embed risk reduction to avoid future costs while sharing best practices and lessons learned,” he said.
As a mainstreaming resilience officer of the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, Seleem works exclusively to bring NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders on board. According to CDP Worldwide, businesses will lose around $120 billion by 2026 if they don’t invest in resilience and tackling climate change.
Explaining his usual pitch to stakeholders, Seleem said, “If I am building a case for the private sector, for example, I say, ‘Hey, there is a cost you are going to pay in the future. You have to adapt now and consider why you are doing business as usual. We are exposed to extreme events, and you are not going to be safe anymore. Your value chain isn’t the same. You are going to pay the costs of climate risks in the future if you don’t act now to reduce these risks.”
Seleem first got exposed to climate policy during his time at AUC when he took a course on sustainable environments. He described falling in love with policy as “discovering myself” because “you reach the people who decide how to implement things.”
Seeing an opportunity to affect change, Seleem joined the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat as an intern before the Paris Climate Accords. He later joined the UN Climate Change High-level Champions, formed during the 2016 COP22 in Morocco to mobilize non-state actors toward achieving the Paris Agreement goals.
“We must have hope for a climate-resilient future. We are going to carry this on to future generations,” affirmed Seleem. “We must listen to them and get input from all stakeholders to articulate the kind of future we want. What makes me hopeful is to consider the future, not the present. The future could tell a different story.”
Photo by Omar Mohsen