Climate change playbook is a threat to the conservation cause

UAE conservationist warns ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 30 SEPTEMBER 2018. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Enviroment Agency, Abu Dhabi, at the Artificial Intelligence Conference. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alkesh Sharma. Section: Business.
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As preparations get underway for a landmark UN-sponsored conference on bio-diversity in China next year, a leading conservationist has given warning that the issue needs to be seen as separate to the climate change agenda.

Razan Al Mubarak, the head of the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, told a panel at the Paris Peace Forum that preserving the diversity of species and easing the plight of the endangered was already a world of successful solutions.

While the scale of the response needed to be raised, the methods employed were already in the hands of activists and specialist organisations.

Ms Al Mubarak said the Paris Agreement and COP 21 climate change process was widely admired and “undoubtedly a success”. Climate issues were part of the challenge to biodiversity but conflating the two could harm the battle to save species.

The danger was that the COP 15 meeting in Kunming, one of China’s most biodiverse regions, could see officials look to bring across the principles of climate change action into the realm of conservation.

“Do not underestimate difference between the two issues of climate change agenda and the biodiversity agenda,” she told the former French prime minister Jean Pierre Raffarin. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Within the conservation movement the solutions to address conservation exist today.

“We’ve tried them, we’ve tested them and they work.”

The 15th meeting of the parties to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity in October in China next year has drawn comparison with the 2015 French summit on climate change because it will set a new direction with a post-2020 framework.

Huang Runqui, the Chinese vice-minister of ecology and environment, said Beijing was determined to deliver an inclusive process that set clear targets for members of the convention.

“Endless development has a impact on the biodiversity and undoubtedly some species will be threatened by extinction in the future,” he said. “The question facing us is how do we reach an ambitious yet realistic framework — it is important to have a roadmap but without actions a roadmap is useless.

“We must also mobilise the necessary funds for all members to reach our goals.”

From a European perspective, French minister Brune Poirson said the priority must be on gaining more regional commitments to action. “More [European] member states need to be mobilised on it and as it is with nature we need really local entities fighting for the agenda.”

Ms Al Mubarak also stressed the importance of involving local authorities and communities to make breakthroughs with species conservation. She cited the partnership between her UAE fund and Chad to restore a species of antelope to the wild.

“Artificial Intelligence, the use of big data, aerial surveillance, all these innovations can support conservative but they can’t replace boots on the ground,” she said. “That is local communities protecting local resources.

“What is missing is not the what, not the how, its the will to do it,” she added. “Look at the example of the UAE and government of Chad working to put the Scimitar-horned Ornyx back to roam in the wild.

“It wasn’t the innovation, it was the will to put it out top of our agenda,” she said, explaining the species had been red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as extinct in the wild in North Africa. “In less than 2 years we have Scimitar-horned Orynx roaming in the wild and hope to apply soon to get it de-listed.”