A UK envoy for the Cop26 climate summit has welcomed the UAE's support for a plan to protect nearly 30 per cent of the world's oceans by 2030.
Janet Rogan, the Cop26 regional ambassador for the Middle East and Africa, said she looked forward to seeing “even more ambition, regional leadership and innovation from our friends in the UAE”.
Protecting marine life "will improve the Earth's resilience and support the restoration of critical habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, which are so important in this region," she said.
"[Eighty] countries are now signatories, including the UAE, which is also a member of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People."
The UAE signed up last year to the target of protecting or conserving at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans.
Ms Rogan spoke at an event to mark Tuesday’s World Oceans Day which was also attended by the UK’s ambassador to the UAE, Patrick Moody.
“For both the UK and the UAE, the ocean is integral to our history,” Mr Moody said. “This is a time when we remind ourselves how important that heritage is to us.”
Mr Moody said there was a “very live tradition here from the inheritance of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan around the importance of everybody recognising the importance of the natural world in our life”.
“I welcome the UAE leadership’s signature of new commitments in advance of Cop26,” he said.
The EU’s ambassador to the UAE, Andrea Matteo Fontana, cited an initiative in Abu Dhabi to promote the use of refillable bottles to prevent pollution.
“This is an important action and initiative that will help to protect our oceans,” he said.
Mr Fontana said the EU wanted to promote a sustainable “blue economy” in the oceans, with zero-emission vessels and environmentally-friendly ports.
“We face an environmental crisis in the oceans that can have catastrophic consequences for humanity,” he said.
“We have to stop this climate change and increase in temperature, we have to preserve biodiversity and stop biodiversity loss, and we have to reduce pollution.”
Preparations continue for Cop26
Reem Al-Otaiba, a member of the Abu Dhabi Youth Council, told Tuesday's event that UAE policies had helped to protect biodiversity.
Conservation programmes had “resulted in the survival of many of our wonderful species”, such as gazelles and brown-spotted reef cod, she said.
Referring to the British filmmaker, she said: “No matter how many environmental documentaries Sir David Attenborough brings out to the world, there will be no change except when we start that change by ourselves.”
The 2030 ocean target was backed by G7 environment ministers at their virtual summit last month.
As well as the UK and UAE, countries that have signed up to the target include Australia, India, Japan, Germany and France.
The UK government said the commitments were another step forward in preparations for November's Cop26 summit.
Climate ambitions will also be on the agenda at the meeting of G7 heads of government which begins in Cornwall on the English coast on Friday.
“The UK is a global leader in marine protection, and we are leading the way internationally to deliver healthy and sustainable seas,” said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice, in a statement to mark World Oceans Day.
“We must strike a balance in supporting sustainable industries while increasing protections for our seas to ensure a healthy, resilient and diverse marine ecosystem and we will work with others as we develop future protections.”