Doha Debates– Don't settle for a Divided World
Doha Debates is a production of Qatar Foundation
Learn more at
Doha Debates News / November 03 2021

Finding common ground in the fight against climate change

by Amjad Atallah
Photo: Patrick Pleul (Getty Images)

A letter from Doha Debates’ managing director, Amjad Atallah

Our 11th debate asks how we can best rise to the climate challenge

As I write this, part of our Doha Debates team is in Glasgow, Scotland at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. They are working to amplify the voices of young activists from around the world, who are there to add their perspectives to those of governments and international organizations. The conference’s goal is to assess global progress on climate change, and to determine how — and if — nations can actually implement the goals they adopted earlier in the Paris Agreement to achieve a climate-neutral world by 2050.

I was at the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan just a month earlier, where the preparatory work by global youth activists was taking place. The sophistication of the debate at the summit contradicted the sensational headlines we see so often. From the impact of colonialism to the efforts to address the desperate need for more energy, not less, in the poorest countries, young people were having hard, nuanced conversations.

I was reminded that this isn’t the first global challenge that we have faced. I grew up in a generation that was terrified about the very real threat of nuclear annihilation that any misstep by the United States and the Soviet Union might cause. I remember the enormity of the risk creating a feeling of hopelessness and nihilism among many. But for a minority of activists, it also spurred a global movement against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which played an important role in the ultimate de-escalation tied with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Today’s risks are different — and as one of our debaters would argue, not as existential — but the response is far more global than anything I have witnessed in my lifetime. Despite the obstacles, I find myself more optimistic than ever before.

On November 4, Doha Debates will hold our 11th debate — our third that is fully virtual because of pandemic restrictions. With COP26 on everybody’s minds, we’ve invited three speakers to drive this majlis-style debate about where we should focus our collective energies around the topic of climate change: Naomi Klein, a journalist, author and activist; Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank; and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, scientist and former president of Mauritius. Journalist Ghida Fakhry will moderate the conversation, and connector Dr. Govinda Clayton will guide the speakers to find the common ground among their positions. Correspondent Nelufar Hedayat (and host of #DearWorldLive and the Course Correction podcast) will be joining the debate live from the center of COP26, where she has been speaking to activists and delegates.

Although Naomi, Bjorn and Ameenah speak from different viewpoints and experiences, they are all intimately involved in the theory and practice of fighting climate change. Naomi, a long-time critic of capitalism, has authored several books on climate change, including 2019’s On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, which lays out a blueprint to prevent a full-blown climate catastrophe while building a more just society. Bjorn, who describes his work as finding “smart solutions through economic prioritization,” doesn’t see climate change as the existential threat that media makes it out to be, and believes that with the right kind of spending, technological innovations will help us adapt and thrive. And Ameenah, as a biodiversity scientist — and former president of Mauritius, a climate-vulnerable country — wants to see an immediate focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, accompanied by an equally urgent demand that world leaders create policies centering the climate inequalities of the global south. These speakers promise a conversation that is spirited, practical and provocative.

Although the three speakers at our next debate have very different, and legitimate, perspectives, learning more about their work and their efforts has only strengthened my optimism. I hope after watching the debate, you will follow them on social media and learn more about the work they are doing.

And, of course, this wouldn’t be a Doha Debates event without you, our audience. Because we’ll be livestreaming this debate, we invite you to watch and, more importantly, to engage with us. Nelufar will be monitoring social media for your questions and comments, and making sure that you have a voice on our virtual stage. I look forward to seeing you there.

Amjad Atallah
Managing director, Doha Debates