Saudi Arabia committed to preserving environment, water resources, minister tells WEF

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has detailed plans for the protection of its lands and environmental resources, the Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture said on Sunday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Abdulrahman Al-Fadley said: “We have devised our plans based on the preservation of our environment and the management of our water resources. The Kingdom is also providing incentives for the private sector to become more engaged and more responsible toward the environment.”

With 40 percent of lands around the world degraded and further degrading at an alarming rate, critical action is needed as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification COP16 is set to take place in Riyadh in December.

Al-Fadley said Saudi Arabia had preserved millions of hectares of land and set up programs for cloud seeding and increasing the number of dams in the country.

“This will not only be beneficial to the Kingdom but for the whole region,” he said. “With us hosting COP16 we are hoping to give the meeting the importance it commands. We don’t want matters to go back to the status quo after COP16 ends.”

Tariq Al-Olaimy, a member of the Global Shapers Community Foundation Board at the WEF, commended King Salman for his land restoration efforts.

“When you put nature first, you are equally putting people first,” he said. “Nature is our greatest collaborator … There is no successful growth story without successful land restoration and this starts inwardly, through our religion, community, values and moral clarity.”

Ibrahim Thiaw, secretary of the UNCCD, warned of global repercussions if the world did not pay heed to environmental safekeeping.

“Entire ecosystems are being destroyed through actions and inactions,” he said. “There has been a 29 percent increase in droughts in the past few years and that is affecting 1.8 billion people around the world. For poor nations that is disastrous and carries a large death toll of animals, people and agriculture. We have to be more proactive and not just emergency-ready. We must attempt to avoid emergencies.”

Thiaw said the Panama Canal’s functionality had been reduced by 12 percent, which was causing a problem for supplies.

“Demand is increasing while resources are shrinking,” he said. “As humanity we have been looking at resources as if they are unlimited. We have not been managing them. Companies need to reset their relationship with nature and we need to focus on land restoration to keep going.”

Naoki Ishii, director of the Center for Global Commons, had similar concerns.

“We are on a collision course,” he said. “The only solution is to modify our economic system. COP16 must be transformative for all of us. We need the political momentum to implement positive changes.

“If we are able to push those efforts, economically and ideally speaking, that will be a game changer.”

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