Food security and improving air quality under focus in UAE's new environment policy

Guidelines focus on eight key pillars identified after a detailed study of the environmental situation in the country

The UAE announced details of its newly adopted environmental policy on Wednesday, which includes prioritising conservation, air quality and sustainable agriculture.

Launched by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment last month, the new policy puts environmental protection at the forefront of the country’s priorities.

The guidelines focus on eight key pillars identified after a detailed study of the environmental situation in the country as well as the future challenges.

The policy targets climate action, environmental protection, air quality, food safety and security. It also covers sustainable local crop and livestock production, as well as the safe management of chemical and general waste.

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The state is keen to ensure food safety, starting from sources of primary crops and animal products, right up to the consumer

“Over the past 49 years, environmental protection has been at the forefront of the UAE’s priorities and an integral part of its cultural heritage,” said Dr Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

“Through this policy, we aim to advance environmental action and contribute to the efforts of our beloved country to achieve sustainability across all sectors.

"In particular, the policy focuses on enhancing quality of life by preserving ecosystems and the sustainability of ecological resources and services."

Over the past few years, air quality indicators in the country registered a significant improvement, compared with previous years.

Within two decades, the country also wants to achieve a net positive impact on the four main pollutants – carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ground ozone.

This means the negative effects of the pollutants on biodiversity would be outweighed by the biodiversity gains that are achieved through conservation projects.

Reducing loss of native species was another main point highlighted in the policy. It said this would be achieved through conservation projects and initiatives under the guidance of the ministry.

Aisha Al Abdooli, director of the green development and environment affairs department at the ministry, said the Covid-19 pandemic forced the UAE to assess its food supply chain after suffering some initial disruption.

“The state is keen to ensure food safety, starting from sources of primary crops and animal products, right up to the consumer,” she said.

“We are working to ensure the continuity of diversifying the sources of food production within the country and the circulation of products within the commercial market.

“The policy hones in on sustaining local livestock production and optimising local natural resources by supporting farmers.”

She said the government is also promoting food security by supporting start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses that can accelerate the shift from traditional agriculture to sustainable practices such as urban farming.

The environmental protection pillar aims to build on the country’s achievements in protecting the environment, preserving its natural resources, and ensuring the sustainability of its biodiversity.

It focuses on reducing the loss of indigenous species, conserving habitats, managing marine and coastal protected areas, as well as protecting, developing, and regulating the use of living aquatic resources.

Targets include protecting 22 per cent of inland water areas and 20 per cent of biodiversity-rich coastal and marine areas, and rehabilitating 80 per cent of degraded land by 2030.

A vertical farm in the UAE in pictures

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