Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan has told a London meeting that the challenge of sustainable growth must be at the heart of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We must ensure that decisions taken today as part of recovery from coronavirus are taken with regard to sustainability,” said Sheikha Shamma, the great-granddaughter of the UAE's Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.
"We need to start today.”
She was addressing a meeting of the Emirates Society in London alongside Lord Goldsmith, a minister of state for international development and the environment, and Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London.
Highlighting the effect of the crisis with a series of slides, Sheikha Shamma discussed the drop in greenhouse gas emissions at the onset of the epidemic.
China has had a one-quarter reduction in emissions so far this year. In Abu Dhabi a 50 per cent drop in nitrogen-dioxide output has been recorded since mid-February.
But there have also been blows to the circular economy in the medical emergency.
Waste pollution, in particular medical gear and personal protective equipment, has been a continuing setback to goals for a cleaner planet.
“This is also true of single-use plastic as a means of preventing the spread of the virus in communal living and food delivery packaging,” Sheikha Shamma said.
Lord Goldsmith spoke on behalf of the UK government to thank the UAE for its gestures of support through the pandemic, including shipments of 60 tonnes of PPE and continued investment in the UK, such as in its national electric car-charging infrastructure.
“Coronavirus is a wake-up call on the misuse of the planet,” he said.
The campaigning Conservative politician said Expo2020 in Dubai next year and the UK’s presidency of the Cop26 UN climate conference were platforms for alliances between countries willing to “make commitments to protect land and sea”.
Lord Goldsmith praised the way in which the UAE was addressing climate challenges, including by hosting the first Middle East meeting of the World Ocean Summit.
"Your transition to clean energy is helping us as well," he said.
Mr Jermey said Covid-19 illustrated the dangers of the now faster crossover of diseases between animals and humans.
He stressed the need to encourage business and investment to triple report performance and the effects of their operations under the global sustainability reporting guidelines.