RIYADH: The world needs to strengthen cooperation to reduce land degradation, habitat loss and coral reef conservation, said Saudi Deputy Minister for Environment Dr. Osama Faqeeha on Tuesday.
Speaking at a G20 meeting briefing on the highlights of the Environment Working Group, Faqeeha underlined the importance of preserving the environment for a sustainable future.
He said that the Saudi presidency is pursuing collective efforts and taking concrete actions to safeguard the planet.
The deputy minister said conserving the earth’s environment meant protecting marine and terrestrial environments and working towards reducing marine pollution such as plastic littering.
“Around 12 million hectares of land are lost annually due to land degradation, including deforestation,” he added.
Moreover, land degradation affects about 60 percent of people directly or indirectly and contributes to massive habitat and ecosystem service losses, he said, adding that deforestation and other land use are also responsible for 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
G20 Saudi Arabia is leading the international community in working toward minimizing land degradation and deforestation to conserve biodiversity and meet climate goals.
Faqeeha also spoke about preserving the oceans, saying that the human activity and climate change endanger the survival of coral reefs, on which about 50 percent of the world’s marine life depends.
Without concrete action, it is estimated that “a significant share of coral reefs are at risk,” he said. Coral reefs are under constant threat from pollution and habitat destruction, therefore conserving them “urgently important to ensure protection of our ecosystem.”
Due to the urgency of this issue, Saudi Arabia intends to build on the Japanese G20 Presidency's efforts and advance steps on the preservation of the ecosystem.
Furthermore, climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges. The urgency to act increases as the world population continues to grow and emissions rise.
The Saudi G20 presidency is committed to advancing efforts for managing emissions in all sectors and improving synergies between adaptation and mitigation actions, including nature-based solutions such as reforestation and protecting and restoring marine resources.
“There has been significant appreciation of Saudi Arabia on environment preservation," said the deputy minister.
Addressing the subject of “Securing a Future for the World’s Coral Reefs” later, Carlos M. Duarte, a professor of marine science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), talked about the Kingdom’s coral reefs in the Red Sea.
“Red Sea coral reefs are the best preserved in the world and remarkably beautiful,” he said, adding that Red Sea is very salty, which protects coral reefs, which often called the tropical forests of the oceans.
Duarte said that the northern Red Sea provides a globally unique refuge for coral reefs.
Regarding securing the future of coral reefs, he added that by the turn of the century, about half of the coral reefs were lost. “We should not accept the loss of the coral reefs and grieve, but there is a need to act and strengthen cooperation to preserve them, not only through green recovery plan but blue recovery initiatives as well.”
He suggested some measures to preserve coral reefs, including resilience-based management, expansion of mangroves, growing and expanding habitats and restoring marine habitats.