Abu Dhabi, 29 January 2024 – The 12th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC2024) convening under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), and in the presence of esteemed global leaders, officially opens its doors today until 2 February at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), under the theme “Connecting People, Creating Tomorrow”.
Held for the first time in the Middle East, WEEC2024 welcomes global leaders, environmental experts, educators, and advocates from 72 countries around the world to embark on a transformative journey towards environmental sustainability through education.
WEEC2024 is a beacon of collective action, addressing the interconnected challenges of climate emergency, biodiversity loss, and pollution through the power of Environmental Education.
“The 12th edition of the World Environmental Education Congress is a testament to our nation’s unwavering commitment to advancing environmental education, knowledge-sharing and innovation in the UAE – important elements that will pave the path for progress, said HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the occasion of the Congress. “As the first nation in the region to host the congress, we are proud to advance the UAE’s legacy in harnessing cross-cultural dialogue and sharing innovative practices. We will continue to ensure that the UAE leads by example in fostering environmental literacy and empowering communities to build a more resilient and sustainable future.”
Inaugurating the event, HE Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General at Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, commented: "In the continuity of the intense efforts to confront environmental challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and escalating pollution, the significance of environmental education often remains overlooked. While policy changes are crucial for safeguarding the planet, elevating education stands as the foundational step in realising our environmental objectives. Additionally, our collective response, shared knowledge, and commitment are the compass guiding us toward sustainability. It is in this context that WEEC2024 assumes a paramount role, serving as a powerful catalyst that will gather educators, NGOs, governments, and academia from across the globe to engage in profound discussions, critical evaluations, and invigorating exchanges on Environmental Education, all with the aim of driving tangible change. WEEC2024 emerges as a beacon of unity, where minds from around the world will come together to discuss the best solutions to these challenges head-on, forging decisive actions and strategic pathways towards a sustainable future through environmental education."
HH Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, President and CEO of UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA), who delivered a keynote speech at the congress, added, "This event provides an opportunity to unite our efforts in cultivating environmental awareness and accelerating the transformation to a resource-efficient green economy. WEEC2024 is a platform that brings together key stakeholders from all around the world to embrace social responsibility and empower a generation of environmentally conscious leaders, who shall contribute to the wellbeing of our nation and the preservation of the planet. In the UAE, entities like UICCA are committed to driving the transition to Net Zero by 2050, where sustainable development is not just a priority but a part of our mission. In line with the broader collective vision, we are happy to be a part of WEEC2024 which plays an important role in advancing this agenda.”
To mark the opening ceremony, HE Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak Al Shamsi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “This significant global conference underscores our commitment to environmental stewardship and the role our nation plays in safeguarding the future for generations to come. We all know that the challenges posed by climate change demand bold and decisive action, and the UAE is leading the global community in educating and deploying solutions. Our dedication to protecting our planet stems from the understanding that environmental education plays a pivotal role in the well-being of our ecosystem. This commitment only serves to highlight that our global journey towards sustainability is more urgent than ever.
Prof. Mario Salomone, Secretary-General at WEEC Secretariat, reflected on the congress's objectives, affirming, "By hosting WEEC2024 in the UAE, we're spotlighting a region that's not only committed to environmental sustainability but leading by example. The UAE's dedication, from ambitious climate targets to groundbreaking initiatives, sets the stage for this congress to showcase how a nation can drive tangible change. WEEC2024 embodies a global commitment to environmental education, offering a dynamic platform for dialogue and collaboration. The UAE's role as our host is pivotal, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond the congress and inspiring impactful change worldwide.”
Over the next four days, WEEC2024 will witness engaging plenary sessions, panel discussions, workshops, and youth-led initiatives aimed at nurturing leadership, inspiring action, and charting a course for a sustainable future through environmental education. Each day builds upon the last, culminating into a roadmap for lasting change. The first day highlights the key environmental ‘challenges’ to be considered – featuring a line-up of exclusive speakers who will address the Triple Planetary Crisis and the Water, Food, and Energy Nexus. Day Two focuses on identifying the ‘goals’, fostering global unity for a sustainable future, and championing environmental education.
Similarly, Day Three investigates the ‘dimensions and means’ by which Environmental Education can be implemented, shining a spotlight on collaboration, values, and cultural diversity. Summarising the discussions of the first three days, Day Four solidifies key learnings, and takeaways and translates them into agreed actions that will be implemented beyond the event to align with the identified goals. The fifth and last day of the congress features field trips, inviting participants to explore Abu Dhabi's ecological and educational sites, seamlessly integrating theory into hands-on experiences.
WEEC2024 demonstrates its commitment to sustainability by implementing various measures to reduce its environmental impact. The event organisers have taken proactive steps, including working with ADNEC, the event venue, to embrace eco-conscious practices and a unique initiative to sequester delegates' carbon footprint through the planting of mangroves.
A key component of the congress, the Youth Environmental Education Conference (YEEC) will offer workshops, interactive sessions, and panel discussions, nurturing leadership skills and inspiring action among young changemakers. Designed as a transformative platform, YEEC aims to engage and empower young minds, providing them with an opportunity to connect, learn, and gain valuable insights from global leaders in environmental education, sustainability, and youth empowerment.
Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder & Executive Director, Green Generation Initiative, Kenya commented: “Platforms such as the Youth Environmental Education Conference (YEEC) are pivotal in securing humanity's future and ensuring the livability of our world today. If our actions lack sincerity, we fail not only those currently affected by the crisis but also the generations to come. The imperative lies in embracing genuine solutions and amplifying their impact through education. Environmental education equips individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to address challenges effectively, empowering the younger generation to become informed caretakers of our planet's future."
Occurring every two years as one of the most critical global events gathering environmental educational experts worldwide, WEEC2024 represents a transformative movement in environmental education for a greener future. With experts convening to review best practices, share experiences, and discuss research on environmental education methods and outcomes, the congress will play a pivotal role in raising awareness about the importance of preserving vital natural resources – emphasising resources common to the Middle East – and ensuring their sustainability for future generations.
Those interested can register online or at the venue in Abu Dhabi until 1 February 2024. WEEC 12 | Registration (weec2024.org)