Environmental leaders have warned that the Arabian Gulf faces a daunting challenge in combating climate change.
Razan Al Mubarak, managing director of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, told delegates at the World Ocean summit that the region was particularly vulnerable to increases in global temperatures.
“Our seas are getting warmer and our species of fish are existing at the threshold of their abilities to survive,” she said.
“The health of our seas is also linked to water security, with 98 per cent of our potable water coming from desalination.”
Her comments came on the first day of the summit, a three-day conference that aims to confront the threats facing the world’s oceans such as overfishing, pollution and climate change. It is the first time the summit is being held in the UAE and Ms Al Mubarak said it was a timely moment. When asked to name another major challenge facing our oceans, she replied: “plastic, plastic, plastic.”
Close to 75 speakers and 400 guests from the worlds of business, technology and government will be attending the event, which concludes on Thursday.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, both attended the conference on Tuesday, while Prince Albert of Monaco addressed delegates, calling for a global effort to fight back against the deterioration of the seas.
“The oceans concern everyone,” Prince Albert said via video link. “They need the action of everyone, because more than ever before they are at the heart of our planet and will determine its future - our future,” he said.
The summit also heard from companies that are using new technologies to address problems such as overfishing. One such company is Finless Foods, a California start-up that makes lab-grown fish meat. Michael Selden, the company's co-founder, claims its products can reduce pressure on dwindling stocks of wild fish, reduce the number of trawlers and ultimately be more affordable.
“I can’t imagine a future in which this isn’t the way meat is made,” he said.
The EAD and Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development also launched a new award for a technological innovation in clean energy, ocean conservation and single-use plastics. Anyone with an idea can enter the competition, which is open until June 2, with the winner being announced later this year.
The conference continues on Wednesday with efforts to tackle the millions of tonnes of plastic waste being dumped at sea each year on top of the agenda.
Graphic by Ramon Penas