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Young Iraqi woman speaks out on climate change, building green at Davos

Young Iraqi woman speaks out on climate change, building green at Davos

2019/01/25 | 17:35

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)- Basima Abulrahman was born in Baghdad. Her family moved to Sirnak and then Duhok where she went to university. She now lives in Erbil. Runs a green sustainable architecture business named KESK and is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. 

Her vision is to make Iraqi cities more sustainable, inclusive and economically productive by making buildings and infrastructure healthy, environmentally responsible, and resource-efficient.Abdulrahman was a Fulbright Scholar and earned her master’s degree in structural engineering at Auburn University in the United States. Robert Edwards, Rudaw English: This is not your first time at the World Economic Forum here in Davos. Could you tell us a little about your role this year as a co-chair? What are you hoping to achieve for your business and interests here?

So, our role as a co-chair, we have been picked as six young people from different areas and region in the world to voice the concerns and ideas of young people from around the world. So our role is mainly to deliver messages to leaders and decision-makers on what are the solutions and what are the better ways to solve globalization [property] challenges, and what, and we were giving statements on how better this annual meeting can help through a consensus-based, and consensus-approach to find solutions to globalization in a way that it becomes very inclusive and sustainable.And tell me how your business, particularly your work in Iraq and in the Kurdistan Region, how is it helping those aims?So, my business is actually the first green building company in the whole country. We are helping the government, private sector, and individuals obtain green strategy and solutions for improved building performance. The reason why is that because buildings in emit one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions. So, improving building performance, and designing them to meet sustainability features is one of the key strategies to combat climate change. Maybe not everybody is aware of this big challenge we are facing, but Iraq is one of the top five countries in the world in terms of vulnerability to climate change. We have put down climate change on the agenda as a country because we have been going through years of wars, conflict and dictatorship. So, we are not considering this challenge as one of our main priorities. But I believe it is time to put it up on the agenda.How can it be pushed up the agenda? And I also want to know, and it sounds crude to say it, but because of the level of destruction that has been in Iraq, we are almost left with a blank slate for how to maybe build back better in a more sustainable way. Is that your ambition?That is my ambition and my mission. I am advocating for green-building sustainable bidding all over. We are trying to bring stake-holders from different sectors to jump in to participate in the process in order to ensure an adoption of this knowledge in a wider scale in this country. Yes, I think we have heard about the model of building back better, but the humanitarian organizations have been struggling to adopt this model and that is mainly because of the financials and also the fact that they have to implement in a timely manner, in a very short time, and implementing sustainably and in green way requires more skills, more time, comprehensive process of design, and different discussions before you jump in because. So in this way, I see humanitarian focusing more on providing shelter and WASH, etc. in the rebuilding. But, it is a big struggle for them if you think of financials as well as the timeliness of implementation.That brings me to the question: Do you feel optimistic if the financial situation and the level of destruction and the very urgent needs of refugees and displaced people to be sheltered, to be watered, to be feed. Are you optimistic we can raise this up in the agenda of the Iraqi and Kurdistan regional governments?I am optimistic. I do not think we are going to start instantly, because we are still suffering from the consequences of war and the destruction, the massive destruction that we have as well as the financial crisis we are going through. It would take some time, but also such platforms like the World Economic Forum and other international platforms and agreements are pushing to adopt and work on actions towards climate change… from top down. So I think this could accelerate the process and help government and decision makers in our Region to stop being very skeptical when it comes to climate change as a challenge and also start acting faster.You said before that Iraq is incredibly vulnerable in the world as someone that is going to suffer the consequences of climate change. What is the worst case now and what is the best case now for building back Iraq?The worst case scenario would be that the world is connected and all nations will have to work together to mitigate big challenges including the climate change. For me climate change is a security issue. I remember there was an incident. A terrorist was captured after a roadside bomb attack in Fallujah. It turned out that the terrorist was a farmer and he became a paid terrorist mainly because he lost his crops to drought as a consequence of climate change. So, being vulnerable and in need of money made him open to criminal actions. I think this is the worst case scenario that if we don’t give attention to the climate change as a challenge, we will face a lot of insecurity in the future and displacement due to climate change issues. And I think the best case would be that we will create by adopting sustainability and rebuilding and reconstruction, we will create livable cities, flexible cities, and cities that can withstand the future demand. I call them ‘living cities’, instead of dead cities. So, if you build something to be sustainable, is productive and it can give back in terms of financial profit, in terms of giving back to environment, giving back to people, and to all public services. But if we decided to go the traditional way, we are just basically putting money on the ground and without thinking of how we can use this as an investment where we can get paid back in a way, so we think of it from environmental point of view, from an economical point of view as well as people and their health and their wellbeing in these cities.























































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