Environment agenda sets targets for sustainability in UAE

The Abu Dhabi Environment Policy Agenda was prepared over a period of three years after consultations with more than 38 other government entities.

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ABU DHABI // Climate change, air quality, water and waste management and biodiversity conservation have been outlined as priorities in a document prepared by the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi on behalf of the UAE government.

Abu Dhabi Environment Policy Agenda was prepared over three years after consultations with more than 38 other government entities, including Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the National Marine Dredging Company, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and others.

The document sets environmental performance targets for the reduction of per capita carbon emissions, water use and waste generation and treated sewage effluent reuse.

“The Government of Abu Dhabi wants to be a regional leader when it comes to environmental performance and sustainability,” Dr Mohamed Al Madfaei, executive director of the agency’s integrated environmental policy and planning sector.

The document is in line with earlier initiatives such as the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Green Growth Strategy.

The UAE’s overall climate impact is less than half per cent of global emissions, said Dr Al Madfaei. Besides outlining a number of measures to reduce emissions, the policy agenda also has climate change resilience and the protection of valuable ecosystems and infrastructure as a priority.

When it comes to air quality management, one agreed goal is to reduce the number of hospital visits due to respiratory complaints from 10.7 per cent as recorded by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi in 2011, to less than five per cent by 2030.

While some factors affecting air quality are natural – winds bringing high amounts of dust from the desert – one way to reduce exposure is by developing a system to alert people on days with high amounts of dust. Other priorities in the document are setting up standards for indoor air quality and monitoring more closely emissions from major industries, said Dr Al Madfaei.

Water management is another issue of key priority for the Government, which has already announced some targets when it comes to the more efficient use of water resources. The document confirms the commitment to reuse all treated sewage effluent in Abu Dhabi by 2018, as well as to reduce per capita water consumption from the current average of 629 litres per person per day to less than 340 litres by 2030.

The document also calls for the establishment of more protected areas to enhance biodiversity and measures to reverse the decline of the emirate’s fish stocks, as well as efforts to reduce municipal waste generation and divert significant amounts of waste from landfill.

“Each of the priority areas has a five-year strategy, it has also a current situation, where we are and where we want to be in five years and a full action plan developed with key partners,” said Dr Al Madfaei.

The document will be presented for approval to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council in the next three months.