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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Emiratis urged to consider natural resources part of their national heritage 

Speaking at an event marking National Environment Day, environmentalists said more needs to be done to combat the UAE's overconsumption of natural resources

Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi , Minister of Climate Change and Environment, speaking earlier this month at the World Government Summit press conference in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi , Minister of Climate Change and Environment, speaking earlier this month at the World Government Summit press conference in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Emiratis and UAE residents need to recognise their unsustainable use of natural resources and do more to help combat the overconsumption of natural resources, environmentalists have said.

Despite some improvements, the UAE has one of the highest carbon footprints in the world.

Speaking at an event to mark the country’s 21st National Environment Day on Sunday, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said population growth as well as a surge in income levels due to four decades of economic growth in the Emirates have given rise to non-sustainable production and consumption patterns.

“These are among the main challenges we face in our efforts to conserve our resources and ecosystems today. Their negative impact is apparent in many areas, such as a high ecological footprint per capita, high water, energy and food consumption rates, as well as a high waste production and carbon emissions rate.”

Dr Saif Al Ghais, executive director of the Ras Al Khaimah environment protection and development agency said that overconsumption of natural resources, particularly water, is currently the main environmental concern in the UAE.

“Over consumption of water and the impact we and our lifestyle is having on our natural resources – water, the soil, fisheries. It is all connected,” he said.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said to address these challenges, the UAE has implemented a variety of policies and measures to promote sustainability in production and consumption to maximize the country’s contribution to global efforts to achieve sustainable development.

“The most prominent among them is the UAE Energy Strategy for 2050, which aims to diversify the country’s energy sources. Its objectives involve bringing the share of clean energy in the national energy mix up to 27 per cent by 2021 and 50 per cent by 2050,” he said.

Other sustainability programmes the UAE has in place includes the UAE Green Growth Strategy, which focuses on transforming the economy into a low-carbon green economy by adopting a sustainable approach to architecture and transport and enhancing the efficiency of resource consumption, especially for energy and water.

Dr Al Zeyoudi stressed that although it is too soon to see the full impact of the policies and measures, there are signs that they are already seeing results.

He said: “There is a significant decrease in per capita waste generation rate, from 2.06 kilograms to 1.8 per person per day, and the country’s ecological footprint per capita has also decreased from roughly 12 global hectares in 2006 to less than eight global hectares in 2014.

“In the UAE, we believe that sustainable production and consumption is an essential part of national responsibility for institutions and individuals alike. The consumer society is increasingly gaining importance in this regard as it dictates production trends and influences producer responsibility. Ultimately, consumption is an individual choice that depends on a combination of factors, such as desire, often influenced by advertising, purchasing power and awareness.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi urged nationals to consider their natural resources as part of their national heritage that will later be passed on to future generations.

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“We are confident that the collaboration of the Government and the community will have a substantial influence on stimulating more sustainable production and consumption patterns.”

Dr Al Ghais believes, however, that further awareness and education is needed. He said: “Unfortunately, people do not value their natural resources or the value of conserving them. There is some awareness, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.”