Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the inaugural session of the 7th Asian Regional Conservative Forum of IUCN on Wednesday. — APP
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the inaugural session of the 7th Asian Regional Conservative Forum of IUCN on Wednesday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is beset with serious environmental conservation and climate change challenges that pose risks to efforts to achieve socioeconomic and poverty reduction goals, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday.

Inaugurating the seventh International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asia Regional Conservation Forum, Mr Khan emphasised the need to pursue the development of effective policies geared towards conserving natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity.

He said these policies would build the foundation for economic productivity and improved livelihoods, and are key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Asia.

More than 500 participants, including around 170 from Asian countries, will be attending the forum, which is being co-hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change.

Seventh IUCN Asia Regional Conservation Forum inaugurated with focus on nature-based solutions to societal challenges

Mr Khan said that protecting the environment was one of his priorities when he began his term as prime minister.

“With the active participation of youth in the country, the implementation of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project has become a gigantic step towards restoring and protecting the country’s natural resources,” he said.

Delegates from governments, NGOs, research and academic institutions and the private sector from 24 countries in south, east and southeast Asia and other parts of the world are participating in the event, which takes place every four years.

Prime Minister’s Advisor on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said that Asia accounted for 60pc. It also has the highest growth rate today and is home to nearly half of the world’s poorest people, rendering poverty a key issue to be addressed.

He quoted the World Bank’s 2018 report, which said that of the 783 million extremely poor who live below poverty line, 33pc live in South Asia and 9pc in East Asia and the Pacific.

“Most countries are likely to reach middle-income status by 2020 and Asia is in the trajectory of becoming the World’s Economic Centre of Gravity by 2050. With many Asian economies relying on ecosystem services, there is an urgent need to conserve the region’s rich biological resources,” he said.

Addressing the inaugural session of the forum, IUCN acting Director General Grethel Aguilar said Asia has to act now for environmental conservation.

She told participants: “Nature is under intense attack. A quarter of vertebrate and plant species on the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction and the world does not seem to be on course to achieve many of the biodiversity targets by the 2020 deadline.”

“This is why the next ten years will be crucial. By 2030, the world must achieve all the SDGs,” she said.

“It was necessary that investments were taking place in parts of the world where growth was happening and where governments needed support to ensure that the development was sustainable,” IUCN Global President Zhang Xinsheng said during his address.

The forum will continue until Nov 8. It is being held under the theme ‘Greening Asia for Nature and People’, and will focus on nature-based solutions to societal challenges. A variety of side events on a broad range of topics will also be held during the three-day event.

Discussions from the Asia Regional Conservation Forum will help shape conservation action for the next decade and will feed the IUCN World Conservation Congress, to be held in Marseille, France in June 2020.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019