Existing global sustainability frameworks don’t take into account the reality of countries like Qatar which sit on the harshest desert on the planet, and with minimal biocapacity. Is it then fair, or even logical, to rank countries like Qatar and the Republic of Congo – one of the most biologically important forest ecosystems on the planet – using the same sustainability frameworks?

According to Earthna Center for a Sustainable Future (Earthna) Executive Director Dr. Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, vastly diverse ecosystems mean the journey towards a sustainable future should and will look different for different countries – one that should be shaped by questions that fully consider the unique challenges in each country or region and tailor solutions accordingly. Earthna is a member of Qatar Foundation.

He said that practices, solutions or even policies from countries that are very different from Qatar in terms of  ecology can’t be imported. Instead, he said we have to reframe the questions and discussions so that we can come up with local solutions to create a sustainability framework that works for us. And that is precisely what the upcoming Earthna summit will focus on.

Building New Sustainability Pathways for Hot and Arid Environments

Titled Building New Sustainability Pathways for Hot and Arid Environments, the summit will be held in Msheireb Downtown Doha on 8 and 9 March. The event is organised by Earthna in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Its four main streams will focus on

  • Creating new sustainability frameworks for hot and arid environments
  • Food security, adaptation and resilience
  • Climate and energy
  • Biodiversity, ecosystems and indigenous knowledge

A unique aspect of the summit will be its emphasis on weaving indigenous knowledge into all its streams, as it provides a platform for experts and policymakers in sustainability to learn from and exchange knowledge with those who know their countries best – their indigenous peoples.

Through this, the summit aims to bring renewed focus to examining ancestral practices, and how they can potentially support plans for advancing sustainability in the world of today – reflecting on the fact that hot and arid climates have been part of the fabric of the planet for centuries; and so the past holds knowledge that can serve the present and future.

Dr Castro De La Mata said that indigenous communities have developed practices that allow them to live with and from nature, respecting natural resources and cultural values. Some of these practices are still relevant today.

Creating ‘new’ knowledge

By creating communication and collaboration opportunities between the traditional knowledge that has been collected over hundreds of years through direct contact with the environment, lived experiences and extensive observations – scientists, researchers and technology developers, the summit will aim to facilitate the creation of new knowledge that could not be created through the efforts of either group alone, and will contribute to the creation of new and important pathways for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Speaking specifically on the different challenges faced by hot and arid countries, he explained that because of the harsh conditions, their natural environment is less productive and therefore unable to sustain the economy, and so many of these countries, including Qatar and other neighbouring countries, have developed economies that are based primarily on hydrocarbons.

Dr Castro De La Mata is confident that through the inaugural Earthna summit, which will bring together all the different players, including the private sector, the government sector, the academics, researchers, policymakers, and the indigenous community, we will be able to start the development of a new understanding when it comes to sustainability and trigger new dialogues. All of which will contribute to creating a new sustainability framework tailored to our needs, created by us.

Six sessions at the upcoming Earthna Summit will be open to the public. Interested individuals may register here. The summit will also host an Earthna Village at Barahat Msheireb, also open to the public. The village will showcase an exhibition of indigenous, sustainable practices that span cultural, environmental and social sustainability. Additionally, the exhibition’s agora section will host short, interactive discussions between participants and the audience about their exhibits.

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