by Katrin Scholz-Barth, President, SustainableQATAR

Do you want to be part of the in-crowd? Climate Action Alert! “New York City (NYC) is the first city in the United States to align its ambitious sustainability goals with those of the world” in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That’s great news. And who’s to say that we can’t do the same for Qatar and demonstrate global leadership right here?! Become part of a movement! It takes truly everyone, and it can be done! We, YOU, ALL of US TOGETHER!

SustainableQATAR dares you – every resident, together with the private and public sectors to drive actions and financing toward creating a sustainable, inclusive and resilient Qatar to wow the world when Qatar hosts an amazing FIFA World Cup in 2022. 

The 52-weekly challenges are our contribution to mobilize every individual in Qatar to reduce our carbon footprint with our daily actions and choices. Our ambition is to inspire all residents to participate in the weekly challenges and create powerful personal narratives that tell individual stories about ‘localizing the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) and favorably positions Qatar for delivering the first-ever carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup. Are you in? 

Ultimately, our goal is to identify realistic opportunities for everyone to create an impact in meeting the SDGs with concrete daily actions and purchasing decisions within our local community. 

With greater youth participation pushing for sustainable solutions and demanding a more sustainable future, the negotiations at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos and the UN Climate Conferences are more uncomfortable and tough. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, a direct outcome of the UN Climate Conference COP21 Paris Agreement in 2015 in Paris, provide clear rules for actions to be fulfilled by all.

What’s happening globally, in the world right now, is promising. For the SDGs to be reached, everyone can do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people like us! 

But Hope is no strategy. This blog Think Globally – Act Locally is about empowerment for climate action in Qatar. Yes, we can because we are all part of the dialog and we all have a voice. 

But how can we translate these seemingly complex UN Sustainable Development Goals into our personal lives and daily actions? It is much easier than it sounds with the SDG Good Life Goals. 

2019 Global Survey on Sustainability and the SDGs

The 2019 Global Survey on Sustainability and the SDGs asked participants which six of the 17 SDGs were “of immediate importance to you and your family.“ The six most frequently named SDGs worldwide are in this order: (SDG Survey Results Report, Page 19): 

  • SDG 13 – Climate Action 
  • SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being 
  • SDG 4 – Quality Education 
  • SDG 15 – Life on Land 
  • SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation 
  • SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production 

Respondents to the Global Survey on SDGs identified the top choices for individual actions to live more sustainably as consumer choices and food related choices (>50%), followed by transportation choices and participation in political voting (48% each). One third of global respondents “take sustainability into account when making financial decisions, in education or when choosing an energy supplier.” Additionally, over 20% of respondents consider a company’s commitment to sustainability when choosing an employer. 

Project Drawdown

A great number of options and strategies introduced throughout the 52 weekly challenges to reduce the carbon footprint in Qatar reflect the New York Times Bestseller “Project Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” by Paul Hawken – a book beautifully summarized by Chad Frischmann in the TED Talk, 100 Solutions to reverse global warming. These existing solutions are relevant for Qatar as well. 

Project Drawdown is a new way of thinking and acting on global warming and climate change. It’s a movement to take out more carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases (GHG) than putting into the atmosphere from human activities. There are two strategies:

  • decrease GHG emission – what we put into the atmosphere
  • draw down GHG that’s already in the atmosphere 

When we think about climate solution we often think about energy and electricity. However, of the top 20 solutions to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, eight relate to the food system – how we produce and consume food, for instance plant-based diet, reducing food waste, and conservation agriculture, all of which we impact as individuals by making daily food choices. Twelve of the top 20 solutions relate to land management and surprisingly, top of the list, as the single most impactful solution to reverse global warming is Refrigerant management, properly managing and disposing of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigeration and air conditioning, according to Project Drawdown.

Closing the Gap

This indicates the need for closing the gap between people’s perception and understanding of the importance of SDGs and translating Project Drawdown’s goal of reducing GHG emissions into daily actions with high impact. It also indicates the urgency for mobilizing and inspiring people to participate in daily actions that have the highest impact on carbon emission reduction and to become part of a participatory society. 

The real opportunity for all of us is to demand to accelerate implementation of viable, scalable, and financially feasible solutions that do one or more of these things:

  • Replace existing fossil fuel-based energy with clean renewable sources, like the 800MW solar power plant committed to be built in Qatar. 
  • Reduce consumption through technology efficiency and behavior change. 
  • Bio-sequester carbon in plant’s biomass and soil through the magic of photosynthesis. 

The combination of these three things is what makes carbon emission reduction possible. 

All Actions Count

There is no easy solution. However, the ripple effects of cascading benefits to our human and environmental health are worth our efforts to act and find carbon-neutral, or better yet regenerative, and more sustainable solutions. And while the heads of state negotiate, we can take the first steps in generating concrete and tangible results in our daily lives because individual actions count! “The microeconomic argument, …, is often overlooked. Stakeholders, particularly customers and employees, have increasingly high standards for the companies they buy from and work for.” 

Clayton Christen, the Harvard Business School Professor who will forever be remembered for “disruptive innovation, jobs-to-be-done, non-consumption and the value of purpose transformative” addressed his students in the famous commencement speech “How Will You Measure Your Life?” The speech summarized his thinking and focused on applying all the management theories the student had learned in class to their own lives, instead of companies and businesses. The core message “was that the criteria we value most shape our everyday decisions and it is those criteria that ultimately shape who we really become — it is those criteria that reflect our real strategy in life, no matter what we might formally declare to others. In other words, when we measure our life, it will be those seemingly small, but very real criteria that shape how we spend our time and attention and, in the end, shape who we become over a lifetime of thousands of seemingly small choices.”

As individual investors we can connect our money to impact and become active participants in shaping a sustainable future and we can also choose schools that actually teach sustainability for resilient and future-proof businesses and work for and companies with a purpose because there is money to be made with impact as Tesla and others demonstrate.

A 2017 report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission indicated that reaching the SDGs opens up US$12 trillion of economic market opportunities. A report published by the World Economic and Climate Commission in 2018 concludes that US$26 trillion in economic benefits can be achieved by 2030 through climate protection measures. Today’s consumers are part of this solution, and tomorrow’s leaders should be ready to seize this opportunity. 

The final four challenges of our 52-weekly challenges program round out a full year of individual actions. These challenges highlight opportunities for the biggest impact of carbon drawdown and reduction and are about reflecting on the challenges we addressed, exploring and tackling additional ways to create a truly participatory society in Qatar. Empowered by our own values and priorities we can choose to act to protect our personal and environmental well-being. What we don’t do – we also choose!

By connecting our monthly themes and weekly challenges to Project Drawdown and the SDGs we aspire to inspire more and more people to become part of an unstoppable movement, participate and actively reduce our carbon footprint through personal choices and actions. It matters and creates powerful personal narratives, addressing all 17 SDGs. 



Challenge #49 ~ Transport

Challenge #50 ~ Buildings and Cities

Challenge #51 ~ Materials

Challenge #52 ~ Food