ricultural expansion and infrastructure development. If not planned and executed with care, this expansion can further exacerbate existing challenges of deforestation, air pollution, and plastic pollution which can have significant implications for endangered species, habitats, and key terrestrial and marine ecosystems, said Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).
The UAE has won the bid to host the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2025 in Abu Dhabi. Slated to be held in Abu Dhabi in October 2025, it is expected to bring an estimated 10,000-15,000 delegates from over 160 countries across the globe and is hoping to be an event that could galvanize conservation actions to protect the planet amid local and global challenges.
In an interview with The Hindu, Ms. Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, which submitted the bid on behalf of Abu Dhabi and the UAE government, spoke about what the Congress expects to achieve, what it means for the Middle East, and India’s role in it.
“India can help shape the agenda of the Congress to achieve positive outcomes for biodiversity and the environment. India has been an IUCN member since 1969 with two of the former IUCN Presidents coming from India. India has a significant presence in the IUCN and has a National Committee with over 30 members representing governments, non-government organizations, and civil societies. It is this diverse membership, which brings extensive knowledge and expertise, from policy making to natural resources management to livelihood and food security, that will further enrich the Congress discussions,” she said.
Listing the challenges faced by India, she pointed out that addressing them will depend on finding innovative solutions and integrating the best of the information, communication, and space technologies. “India, with its enormous technology infrastructure, the vast pool of skilled IT resources, and the advanced space program, is well equipped to deal with them and demonstrate its leadership to the world. India can also play an equally important role in climate-related discussions, especially as the country grapples with the challenges of air pollution in some of its biggest metropolitan cities. Much will depend on synergies between the country’s energy and environment policies,” she added.
Theme to be decided
Though the IUCN is yet to decide on the themes for the 2025 Congress, she said the Congress is likely to focus on key concerns and challenges related to biodiversity, climate change, pollution, and overall environmental sustainability. A significant part of the deliberations would also revolve around ways and mechanisms for delivering on the Global Biodiversity Framework, she added.
“The challenges of biodiversity loss remain our most pressing concern and an immediate challenge too.Congress must identifys clear directions for implementing actions under the KM Global Biodiversity framework, to stop and reverse biodiversity loss and to restore nature through its 23 targets over the next decade. As the IUCN Congress will take place within a year from the Climate COP28 in the UAE, it will provide an ideal opportunity to take forward discussions and actions from the COP and ensure the integration of climate goals and actions into resolutions coming out of the IUCN Congress,” she explained.
Finding long-term finance for species conservation and particularly for ecosystem restoration will be a huge challenge and this is something that the world needs to focus on. From a climate change point of view, the transition to clean energy and developing infrastructure and services to achieve NetZero ambitions will also be a significant challenge, she added.
About what hosting the Congress means to the Middle East, she said it would be returning to the region after a gap of 25 years as the last Congress held in the region was in Amman in 2000. “Bringing the Congress after such a long gap is important for the Middle East region and will bring the regional conservation issues at the forefront, besides showcasing achievements and progress the region has made despite enormous environmental and geopolitical challenges. The 2025 Congress in Abu Dhabi will also be important for the South and South-East Asia region as well,” she said.