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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Due to its immediate threat, climate change is identified as the first pillar. The initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions and develop flexible plans and programmes that enhance ecosystem capabilities.
Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE minister of climate change and environment. (WAM)
London - The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) announced a new environmental policy that will ensure the country’s electricity is 50% emission free and clean by 2050.
The policy’s 2030 aims, announced at a virtual media briefing on December 16, are to strengthen the country’s ability to adapt to climate change and cut energy consumption at both institutional and individual levels by 40%.
The drive is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to preserve global ecosystems and promote economic diversity and prosperity, as well as UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071.
MoCCAE developed the new policy in cooperation with its partners after a detailed study of the UAE’s expected challenges and current environmental situation.
The cabinet adopted the environmental policy in order to keep pace with local and global developments in the field, providing a toolkit to build on the country’s environmental sustainability achievements.
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi said environmental protection is a priority for the emirate: “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,” he told the media briefing. “In line with the forward-thinking visions and directives of its wise leadership, the country’s environmental efforts have included establishing a comprehensive legislative and regulatory framework, and launching multiple initiatives, programmes and projects aimed at protecting the environment, preserving its natural resources and ensuring the sustainability of its biological diversity.”
Nuaimi went on to explain that the policy has eight main pillars: climate change, environmental protection, air quality, food safety and security, sustainable local crop production, sustainable local livestock production, integrated waste management and environmentally sound chemical management.
“Each pillar identifies a host of initiatives aimed at achieving its goals,” Nuaimi said.
Due to its immediate threat, climate change is identified as the first pillar. The initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions and develop flexible plans and programmes that enhance ecosystem capabilities.
To protect the environment, the policy will work to ensure biodiversity sustainability and preserve natural resources. It will focus on reducing the loss of indigenous species, ecosystems and services preservation, habitat conservation and the protection, development and regulation of aquatic resources. It will also seek to provide protections for 20% of biodiversity rich marine and coastal areas and 22% of inland water areas, while rehabilitating 80% of degraded land by 2030.
The policy also aims to raise the National Air Quality Index score, which was recorded at 81% in 2019, to 90% in 2021 and 100% by 2040, in line with UAE Vision 2021 objectives.
By developing food safety legislation and a regulatory framework, the policy aims to build the UAE’s credentials as a global food trade hub and gain the trust of consumers and export markets. Its target is to monitor residue levels in animal origin food products by 2026 and achieve a score of 100% on the Food Safety Index by 2040, compared to 78.5% in 2019.
To strengthen local agricultural sector capacities, the policy will adopt sustainable and climate-smart agricultural methods and expand their use as production increases, boosting safety and efficiency through resource optimisation.
Crop production targets include increasing urban farming by 60% by 2050 and raising crop production per land area and volume of irrigation water by 2026. The UAE also hopes to position itself as a global hub for camel breeding research and achieve 100% self-sufficiency in select animal products by 2040.
The integrated waste management pillar focuses on cutting waste generated at the source, while mitigating the risk at the environmental, economic and health levels that result from sustainable waste treatment and removal.
Its targets are to treat 75% of municipal solid waste by 2025 and 85% by 2035, while reducing waste generation to 1.4kg per person per day by 2025, and 1.2kg per person per day by 2035
To move towards environmentally-sound chemical management, the policy will reinforce regulatory and legislative frameworks that ensure the safe use of chemicals through their life cycle, while raising awareness about the risks of unsafe and inappropriate waste handling. It also aims to implement high-level measures, policies and practices to minimise hazardous chemical reliance while paving a new path of green industries.
In doing so, it aims to ensure that no accidents result from unsafe or inappropriate chemical use by 2025, as well as an increase in the use of environmentally safe refrigerants, which are expected to completely eliminate ozone-depleting substances by 2040.
The UAE’s new environmental policy is one of its most critical tools in setting its climate action path and moving forward with environmental protection programmes, as well as making sure the country meets its international obligations in the fields.
Omar El-Huni is a contributor to The Arab Weekly on environmental issues. He is a graduate of the University of Reading on environmental matters.
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