x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

More people take responsibility for environment: survey

More people than ever believe they have a personal responsibility to help the environment in the UAE, a new survey has found.

ABU DHABI // People are ready to take a more active role in protecting the environment, a survey commissioned by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi shows.

In 2009, only 35 per cent of UAE residents said people shared that responsibility, the survey found. But last year, that jumped to 76 per cent of the 2,000 respondents. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.19 percentage points.

Razan Al Mubarak, the agency's secretary general, said the survey helped to identify how to encourage people and businesses to live and work in a sustainable way.

"The survey shows some encouraging changes in Abu Dhabi residents' understanding of environmental issues, and that people everywhere take these issues seriously and are doing more to help protect the environment," Ms Al Mubarak said.

"However, it also highlights that more action is needed. Effective coordination between different organisations can help us achieve the behavioural changes that are needed.

"The survey provides us with a scientifically founded basis with which we can all plan this work. We look forward to working in partnership with other agencies, the private sector and the wider community to address these challenges."

Environmental awareness was measured at 58.5 per cent last year, from 49 per cent in 2008. For many, awareness translates into action.

Most residents said they were willing to use a bucket of water to wash their car to save water, and about one in four said they were taking steps to reduce use of plastic bags.

About 40 per cent said they were turning off lights and air conditioners when not in use, while more than one third said they turned off television sets and DVD players.

Companies seemed to be quicker to adopt "green" messages, with 90.1 per cent of respondents saying they turned off computers at the end of the work day, compared with 59 per cent in 2008.

The survey also pointed to areas that needed improvement.

One of those was water conservation, with a third of respondents saying they usually kept the tap running while brushing their teeth, while half admitted to taking long showers. And more than one in seven said they always left air conditioning on, even in winter.

The UAE has among the highest rates of water and energy use in the world, which experts have long attributed to subsidies on utilities.

Most of the survey's respondents seemed to agree.

About 40 per cent said increasing the cost of energy would be the most effective way to reduce consumption, while almost half said that if water charges were doubled, they would decrease consumption by up to 25 per cent.

vtodorova@thenational.ae