Professor Greg Hunt, the winner of the World Governments Summit's (WGS) first World's Best Minister Award, said the WGS provides free and open discussions of big global challenges and big ideas in response.

“This exchange of ideas may not always work, but is overwhelmingly a positive vehicle for understanding, new ideas and spreading of effective policy between nations,” he told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

In addition, he continued, the awards provided by the global event help recognise and reward good policy which often requires courage to sustain and implement.

About receiving the WGS 2016 Best Minister Award, Hunt, who served as Australia's Minister for Environment (2013-2016) and Minister for Health (2017-2022), said the award “plays an important role in encouraging and recognising good policy and policy courage.

“This is particularly so in some of the less economically developed economies where global recognition for transformative policies can help embed critical and life-saving or life-improving changes.”

Asked about pressing issues that should be at the forefront of the world's agenda, and relevant solutions, Hunt, an Honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne and University College London, explained that the global agenda ultimately has to encourage three things.

First, he said, economic participation through education and trade for lower-income families and communities around the world. “Tariffs and other actions that limit trade, reduce the opportunities for the poorest to both access goods and even more importantly participate in the economy. In turn, this allows access to healthcare and well-being.

“Second, we have to rediscover the momentum for peace that characterised the early 1990’s. This is not easy, but requires a genuine commitment from communities and leaders on all sides to believe that they are the ones who have to extend the hand, not merely to wait for others.”

As for the third aspect, Hunt affirmed the need to proceed sustainably. “Our air, our water and our soil have to be viewed as either a renewable or an exhaustible resource. If we treat these goods as disposable, then we will see environmental collapse. However, if we recognise that the global commons can be managed in a sustainable way, then we can continue to see life on earth improved for the average person over the coming decades and centuries and indeed millennia.”

Giving a comparative view of the state of the environment between today and 2016, he expressed his optimism, saying, “While emissions have continued to go up, the trajectory has come down. It is clear to me that there is genuine concern about emissions globally, as well as specifically within the big emitters.”

“We are seeing dual-benefit initiatives such as the jointly sponsored Blue carbon initiative between Australia and the UAE. By protecting and enhancing mangroves and sea grasses, we are not only helping to rehabilitate breeding grounds for fish and other marine life, but also helping to absorb emissions through natural carbon sinks,” he went on to say.

About the likelihood of countries achieving their 2050 goals, Hunt opined that “each country has to set achievable goals”.

These goals, he explained, have to be accompanied by a plan to deliver actual tonnes of emissions reduction or other measurable environmental benefits. “Finally, the actions need to be externally verified by an independent or international agency of credibility that can measure progress without fear or favour.”

On the UAE's contribution to solving global issues and stimulating government action, Hunt said, “I had the privilege of working closely with the UAE on the Dubai Roadmap to help reduce ozone-depleting substances,” noting that the Dubai Roadmap helped chart a pathway to not only limiting ozone-depleting gases and extending the impact of the Montreal Protocol, but also contributed massive CO2 equivalent emissions reductions in the lead up to the Paris climate Conference.

“Without the UAE, and in partnership with Australia, China and the US, it would not have been possible to achieve such a breakthrough at such a critical time,” he said in conclusion.