AUS hosts HECD conference discussing UAE’s path to net zero and career readiness in a climate-conscious world

The Higher Education Climate Dialogues (HECD) Conference, a student-led conference on sustainability, was hosted by American University of Sharjah (AUS) on March 21 in partnership with New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). More than 150 attendees, including university students, prominent experts and government officials, gathered to prepare for meaningful engagement at COP28, which will take place in Dubai in December.

Focusing on the UAE’s journey to Net Zero by 2050, prominent speakers included Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment; Fatma Al Habshi, Acting Head of International Affairs at the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment; Gregory Ross, the Head of Sustainability at Petrofac; Hanan AlSakr, the Head of Private Sector Engagements at COP28; Philipp Rosenthal, the Associate Director of Environment and Sustainability at Williams Sale Partnership (WSP) Global and Moustafa Bayoumi, Research Fellow at Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy and Xan Northcott, Project Manager at COP28 Youth Climate Champion Team.

Panelists Kritika Kadekodi, Assistant Vice President for Environment, Social and Governance Strategy at First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Wissam Kadi, Global Initiatives Director at SAP, spoke about how students can prepare themselves for careers at the forefront of sustainability.

“At AUS, we are committed to promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship. We realize the urgency to address climate change and are proud to be a member of the COP28 University Taskforce. As we prepare for this important global conference, we continue to engage our students, faculty and staff in sustainable practices and initiatives. We believe that by leading by example, we can inspire others to take action and create a more sustainable future for all,” said Dr. Juan Sanchez, AUS Provost and Chief Academic Officer.

Among the highlights of the conference was a Car-go to Waste Competition, organized by dnata, which challenged students to find innovative sustainable solutions to repurpose or reuse cargo belts, cargo nets and thermal blankets that are currently being sent to the landfill.

Lilian Alawar, an AUS student and competition winner, stated that her team’s commitment to creating a more sustainable future motivated them to participate in the competition.

“By proposing a solution to recycle polyester materials into eco-friendly tote bags, we aimed to reduce waste, conserve materials and promote sustainable practices. Through this competition, we learned valuable lessons about the importance of considering the environmental impact of waste generation, the power of innovative solutions and the benefits of collaboration and critical thinking in developing sustainable practices,” Alawar said.

The winning team received a cash prize and a three-month internship opportunity at dnata and will present their solutions at the Airport Show 2023 and COP28.

Also part of the conference was the Youth Climate Negotiation Simulation, organized in collaboration with Masdar’s Youth 4 Sustainability initiative and Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy. By representing a particular country’s climate stance in discussions aimed to reduce global climate emissions, students enhanced their negotiation skills and shared ideas to fight climate change.

Additionally, the conference featured an exhibition of student research on a broad range of topics, from quantifying food waste in Al-Ain households to measuring carbon emissions from university travel. Some of the projects were carried out in partnership with well-known organizations such as BEEAH and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

American University of Sharjah (AUS) has prioritized sustainability and has been recognized for its success in sustainability initiatives. AUS has implemented sustainability education across 72 percent of its undergraduate and graduate courses, offers extracurricular activities to promote sustainability practices and awareness, and is a leader in sustainable practices as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. AUS has also developed a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions in alignment with the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 initiative. For more information, visit

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