Chadi Aoun
Chadi Aoun

Information Systems professor joins panel on climate change and coronavirus

Chadi Aoun joined a Qatar Green Building Council webinar to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect climate change. Aoun is an associate teaching professor and the program director for information systems at CMU-Q. He is an expert in sustainability and smart cities.
“QGBC webinar mulls virus impact on climate change” appeared in Gulf-Times on April 22, 2020

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), there has been a level of climate recovery, from reduction in pollution in several countries to clearance in waterways. While experts have called them short-term gains, these changes have prompted the world to re-think future climate action.

In a webinar on Monday hosted by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), a member of Qatar Foundation, a panel of experts led by Hamoda Youssef, head of Technical Affairs at QGBC, discussed the future of climate change after COVID-19.

The panellists observed that the pandemic has effectively forced a behaviour change that could break current habits. Moving business operations, school and university classes, and events and meetings online – coupled with remote working – is an example of how, if the behaviour is sustained, the amount of carbon produced through transportation can be reduced.

However, Mohammad Asfour, head, MENA & Africa Regional Networks, World Green Building Council, argued that more research is needed so that it is not a case of simply “shifting high carbon emissions from the office to our homes.”

He expressed his optimism that a certain level of change is possible in the future and argued for “collaboration between private sector, policymakers, academia and civil society,” as well as “more investments in the field of the green and circular economy.”

Dr Chadi Aoun, professor and Information Systems Program director, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, pointed to lessons in empowerment, sustainability and food security that can be learned from how the pandemic has shrunk supply chains.
Nations and regions could begin “localising production, empowering small farmers and small operators to start producing and making a livelihood, and even begin competing. Even households could begin looking at ways to produce in their own gardens,” said Dr Aoun.

The panel discussed how COVID-19 economic stimulus and recovery plans can be seized as an opportunity to drive a climate-conscious transition. Experts agreed that it was not necessarily politicians or governments driving the groundswell of opinion but also the youth, young activists, and businesses.

Harry Sealy, environmental & sustainability manager and chair IEMA Middle East, Jacobs Qatar, said: “The challenge for governments now is to stimulate economic recovery without compromising environmental sustainability. There may be an opportunity to offer incentives to companies that demonstrate they have a commitment to climate action.”

Asfour agreed, adding that commitments made by big corporations to the World Green Building Council’s net-zero energy building policy have not always been from politicians but a responsibility the companies have taken on themselves.

Sealy concluded that the pandemic may have given us insight into how much we really need a step change in mentality. “I would welcome no longer setting environmental targets for 2050 but to 2030 or like Chile, targeting 2025, to emphasise the importance of continuing to drive forward climate change.”

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