Date palm key to climate revolution

BY : Susan Robertson

On 22nd February 2021

The conservation of date palm is critical to reducing global inequality and creating a more sustainable world, according to a new report.

The Khalifa Award report‘Bridging boundaries: how can bio-regional collaboration convert the date palm industry into a successful model of the bio-circular economy?’ is ‘framed around ‘the five Ps’: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships, which shape the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. And is a call to action for political and industry leaders to prioritise the importance of date palm ecosystems, particularly in the MENA region, as a driver for positive change for people and planet, as well as a range of business sectors.

The genetic diversity of date palms means they are resistant to extreme weather conditions like intense heat, droughts and floods, which can hit harvest yields and destroy natural resources, especially in lower income countries. Properly managed date palm ecosystems are also critical in reversing desertification in desert regions, due to their role in providing habitat, shade and protection from wind and heat for other species. And by scaling up restoration efforts their social impact can help alleviate the scourge of poverty and food insecurity, as well as create jobs.

With input from 46 contributors spanning 21 countries, including renowned adaptation experts like Dr Youssef Nassef, Director of Adaptation Programme UNFCCC, this report can function as a guidebook for leaders facing major climate challenges: ‘COemissions, biodiversity, desertification, drought and land degradation’.

One of the report’s co-editors, Dr. Abdelouahhab Zaid, FAO Goodwill Ambassador in UAE, and Secretary General of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation said: “It may not be widely recognised yet, but date palm is essential to sustainable living. Through the conservation and growth of date palm trees, we can overcome environmental, societal and economic challenges. As mentioned in the report, each date palm tree can absorb around 200 kilograms of CO2 per year. This means that the 100 million trees in the MENA region have the capacity to absorb around 28.7 megatons of CO2 per year.

Reflecting on the post-pandemic Green Recovery opportunities, Dr Sandra Piesik, who co-edited the report alongside Dr. Zaid, added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed unresolved pre-pandemic challenges involving the national food security of individual countries during national lockdowns. Therefore, the pursuit of a self-sustainable developmental model serves both planetary and human health.

“To achieve this, North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation will be crucial, in line with SDG 17, which aims to enhance international cooperation when implementing sustainable initiatives. As a result, we urge governing bodies and industry leaders across the world to read the report, work together and take the appropriate action. It will save lives, livelihoods and fundamentally, our planet.”