The UAE on Friday took a significant step forward in its quest to preserve nature and protect the environment for years to come.
The UAE Cabinet agreed the country would join the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, an international effort to boost the green agenda.
The Emirates had endorsed the crucial initiative at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, and Cabinet ministers reaffirmed the UAE's support for the pledge at their first meeting of 2022, held at the UAE pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
But what is the Leaders' Pledge? And how will nations work together to safeguard the planet?
A vision for a better future
Political leaders from 93 countries initially signed the pledge at the UN Summit on Biodiversity in September 2020, with signatories committing to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 as part of the UN's Decade of Action.
The collective effort aimed to put policies in place to address harm being caused to the planet and embrace sustainable strategies.
The pledge highlights increasing the protection of the planet’s land and oceans through effectively managed protected areas as well as moving land use and agricultural policies away from harmful practices, all while reducing air, land and marine pollution — particularly by eliminating plastic leakage into the ocean by 2050.
It also calls for a transition to sustainable production and consumption, and for leaders to be guided by nature and the environment when setting out future policies.
UAE backs eco plan
Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said at Cop26 that the UAE's support of the pledge was in line with the legacy of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father.
“The UAE is proud to endorse the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, committing to working with other nations to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and sending a powerful message that there is no conflict between nature conservation and the economy,” she said.
“The move aligns with our unwavering dedication to protecting our environment and preserving it for future generations, instilled in our nation by the Founding Father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
“The alarming magnitude of biodiversity loss can sometimes come across as an afterthought in the climate process, and it is critical that we as governments and stakeholders rally around dual-purpose deliverables.
“Aligning our agendas for tackling biodiversity loss and climate change is the only way we can resolve them and take decisive collective action to preserve our planet and the life on it for future generations.”
She said the UAE is home to 49 protected areas which account for more than 15 per cent of its territory.
What is the UAE doing to help the environment?
In October, the UAE announced an ambitious initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 2050.
The plan will invest Dh600 billion in clean and renewable energy sources over the next three decades.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the country would “play its global role in combating climate change".
At Cop26, the UAE joined more than 100 countries in agreeing to reverse deforestation, and the government will follow up on that plan by using $19 billion in public and private finance to restore degraded land, tackle bushfires, protect indigenous people and focus on key areas such as the Congo Basin.
Meanwhile, single-use plastic bags could be banned in Abu Dhabi by the end of the year, a senior figure from the emirate’s environment agency said.
The move had been expected to come into effect in 2020 but was put on hold by Covid-19.
Monir Bou Ghanem, senior adviser to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, said this week there were 15 to 16 items that would be affected by the new scheme, including plastic straws and disposable plates and cutlery — all commonly used in takeaway meals.
He said an incentive-based bottle return scheme would also be introduced in the capital when the new rules come into effect, which he expected to happen before the end of 2022.
Sheikh Mohammed tweeted after the announcement that the UAE would put everything towards making Cop28 a success.
“We congratulate the Emirates for winning the bid to host the most important conference for climate Cop28, for 2023 … a deserved win for our country … we will put all our capabilities for the conference to succeed … the UAE will remain committed to global climate action to protect our planet Earth,” he said.