Sharjah: Government efforts to prevent ecological disasters will fail unless the public changes its behaviour, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment warned during the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) in Sharjah on Thursday.

Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, in his IGCF keynote, said people need to stop “extreme consumption” of goods and resources. He also called for greater awareness of environmental problems to motivate behavioural change.

Collapse of civilisation

Dr Al Zeyoudi said the rise of income has led to “irresponsible consumption” of resources, which has worsened extreme phenomena like floods and desertification by disrupting nature’s equilibrium. He added that the ancient Maya civilisation “collapsed” because “they suffered from extreme water consumption, leading to the collapse of agriculture”.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said Cape Town too was on the verge of drought because of water overconsumption, but pulled back because the government managed to motivate behavioural changes in the public.

UAE’s efforts

He added that the UAE has, since its foundation, first led by late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and now under the current leadership, realised the value of conserving resources.

“We have a number of strategies, such as Vision 2021, to reduce the environmental impact and we’ve taken steps to preserve resources. But we need to play a greater role in changing the behaviour of people through raising awareness, in which the media can play a great role,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.

He added that events such as Earth Hour, the planting of trees and targeting youth in awareness campaigns have started to make a difference.

Morning keynotes

Dr Al Zeyoudi was speaking at the end of a series of keynotes during the second and final day of IGCF, organised annually since 2012 by Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB).

Starting the keynotes, SGMB director Tariq Saeed had also mentioned the role of communications in leading behavioural change. The theme of the latest edition of IGCF, which concluded its eight year, was ‘Behavioural Change Towards Human Development’.

New free zone

Saeed’s talk was followed by an address by Professor Hamid Al Naimiy, chancellor of University of Sharjah, who shed light on Sharjah Oasis Technology and Innovation (SOTI), established by a decree of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, in January.

SOTI, a free zone fully owned by the university, will allow students to “incubate” projects, provide jobs to them, benefit from the exchange of latest research and development, and forge international partnerships with leading institutions, Prof Al Naimiy added.