Non-profits perfectly placed to spearhead climate action: QF sustainability expert
November 13 2021 09:59 PM
Omran Hamad al-Kuwari
Omran Hamad al-Kuwari: Non-profits like the QF are purpose-driven, and they don’t have the short-term goals and targets that financial institutions have.


* Climate tech partnership between QF and Rolls-Royce highlights how non-profit organisations are ideal partners in solving toughest challenges, says Omran Hamad al-Kuwari

The ability of non-profit organisations to tackle complex challenges and think beyond short-term financial considerations makes them key climate action players, a Qatar Foundation (QF) sustainability expert has told the COP26 global climate change summit in the UK.
Speaking in the Qatar Pavilion at the Glasgow climate gathering, Omran Hamad al-Kuwari, chief executive of Qatar Foundation International and a climate technology and energy transition adviser, emphasised the “distinct advantages” of non-profits such as the QF in combating climate change – including their ability to connect the public and private sectors, academia and the research world.

Dr Tareq al-Ansari: Adopting a circular economy is directly in line with the pillars of sustainability

He highlighted the newly announced partnership between the QF and Rolls-Royce – which will create a global centre that helps entrepreneurs develop and grow new climate technology businesses, supported by academic leadership, research and development funding, and early-stage venture capital investment – as an example of how non-profits can play a part in accelerating the global energy transition, as well as emphasising how this partnership can open up opportunities for Qatari investors.
“The concern around climate change is broader than what governments and the private sector can do – it has become a global issue, and that’s where unique organisations can play a unique role,” al-Kuwari told the COP26 audience.
“Non-profits like the QF are purpose-driven, and they don’t have the short-term goals and targets that financial institutions have,” he added. “We can think longer-term and about the broader impact beyond financial impact.”
“We can be more patient and work with different industries and sectors – governments, the private sector, academia – and this allows us to have a more comprehensive approach to dealing with complex issues like climate change,” al-Kuwari continued. “And non-profits are flexible; they can depend on different sources of funding, they can depend on the private sector to play a role, and they can depend on many different factors coming together to work on specific areas.”
“Education, health, community and economic development are areas non-profits have focused on, because they are complex,” he said. “Non-profits can be the connector that other organisations cannot be.”
“It is forecast that, in the next 10-15 years, climate change will overtake all these sectors as the leading area where non-profits play a positive role, and that can be in innovation and technology, climate adaptation, or social issues such as making sure there are just energy transitions around the world.”
Al-Kuwari explained that the approach non-profits are able to take can be particularly valuable in advancing climate technology, saying: “With some technologies, there is a quick turnaround between development and the ability to scale up, but with climate tech, that gap is longer.
“You need organisations that have what we call ‘patient capital’ and are able to think long-term, and this is where non-profits can play a role.”
In a Bloomberg TV interview screened during COP26, al-Kuwari said the partnership between the QF and Rolls-Royce, announced as the summit began, “has a lot of benefits globally, but also specifically for Qatar”.
“We’re looking to help create companies and help spur investors,” he explained. “We think there is huge potential to create a new breed of investors in climate technology, and we hope to create these investment opportunities and investment funds alongside our traditional investors for Qataris to learn about this sector.
“Non-profit organisations like Qatar Foundation may not necessarily be what you would think of as partners for this kind of initiative, but actually they are exactly the kind of partners you need for this specific challenge.”
COP26 delegates also heard from Dr Tareq al-Ansari, associate professor in Sustainable Development at QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)’s College of Science and Engineering, who spoke about the role of the “circular economy” in supporting water and food security in arid regions.
Designed to address challenges such as climate change, a circular economy is built on the principles of eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.
In his talk, Dr al-Ansari explained that researchers at the HBKU are exploring how food and plastic waste can be used to create biochar – a substance that, when applied to soil, can store carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years, lower emissions by reducing the need for chemical fertilisers, improve plant production and consequently carbon dioxide consumption, and reduce “water stress” on agricultural land.
“We need to transition from the industrial system we are accustomed to, which is to take from the environment, make, and disposed of,” he said. “We need to move to something more regenerative and restorative, where we are able to first reduce the amount of waste, and then convert this waste into value-added products.”
“Adopting a circular economy is directly in line with the pillars of sustainability,” Dr al-Ansari said. “From an economic perspective, we need new business models that enhance the governance of a circular economy, and allow us to implement it in an economical fashion and create value from our waste.
“From a social perspective, new activities generate new jobs. And from an environmental perspective, a circular economy enhances resource optimisation and reduces the pollution and emissions that contribute to climate change.”

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