Traditional Emirati life is a model for environmental conservation that can serve as an inspiration against climate change, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment said during the International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) in Sharjah on Wednesday.

Dr Thani Bin Ahmad Al Zeyoudi was speaking during a panel discussion on ‘Environment and Climate Change in Media Policies’ at IGCF, being held at Expo Centre Sharjah till Thursday.

“Environmental preservation was embedded in the daily lives of our forefathers … now we can do it with the help of technology,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.

“Our forefathers were thinking about resources every step of the way. When they went fishing, they asked themselves ‘are we overfishing?’ When it comes to irrigation, they built very sophisticated systems called falaj. Regarding waste, they managed it without hurting the neighbour.”

The minister added that such early examples of “best practices” are an inspiration to current and future generations to do their bit in resource conservation.

Panellists also discussed how the ideals of preservation in Islam and other faiths can motivate people to shun wasteful and selfish lifestyles. They were responding to a question by panel moderator Mark Schapiro, an American author and an award-winning journalist specialising in international environmental stories. Schapiro had asked the panellists “what is the role of religion in climate change?”

John Bruton, former prime minister of Ireland, said “they [statements from the Quran and Bible] remind us we are not here to serve just ourselves but to serve mankind”. He added that people should not see climate change as “a problem for future generations”, but as a threat to “our children and grandchildren”.

Safa Al Jayoussi, founder of IndyACT, who also heads the Climate and Energy Campaign in the Arab World, said an Islamic declaration in 2015 by chief jurists focused on conservation. She added that since Islam is “close to people in their daily lives”, even simple steps such as highlighting environmental issues during the Friday sermon can “trigger questions in the head”.

Khaled Essa Al Huraimel, group CEO of Sharjah’s environment firm Bee’ah, said wasting resources is sinful in Islam. He added that Muslims make up around one fifth of the world’s population, saying “we’re not exempt from climate change”. He urged everyone to play their part in preservation.

The sixth annual IGCF concludes on Thursday night with a declaration of recommendations on best practices in communications.