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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE on path to improving environmental health, UN report finds

UN Human Development report praises UAE efforts, but gaps in data restrict efforts to paint a complete picture

The Barakah plant in Al Dhafra. Arun Girija / AFP 
The Barakah plant in Al Dhafra. Arun Girija / AFP 

Important steps have been taken to boost the country’s environmental health, according to the latest UAE Human Development Report.

When compared with other GCC countries, the UAE has achieved “excellence” in water resources, the report said.

The performance in this category alone, which tracks the proportion of wastewater from households and industrial sources that is treated before it is released into the environment, was better than Norway and South Korea.

“The progress achieved in the water resources indicator … supports the national agenda in the field of sustainable development and integrated infrastructure,” the report said.

The wide-ranging publication was two years in the making and was compiled by UAE University in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme.

To assess the strides made by the UAE, it referred to the 2016 international environmental performance index report (EPI). Jointly produced by Columbia and Yale universities and in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, it ranks 180 countries on environmental health and ecosystems. The UAE was ranked 92 in 2016, with a balanced EPI of 69.35, coming in ahead of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Lebanon. The latest report in 2018 has seen the UAE rise to 77 globally but 2016 was the latest on record when UAEU teams began the work.

“This performance might be classed as above average,” the report said regarding the 2016 placing, while also noting that many countries higher up in the list suffer from a “marked imbalance”. It gives the example of Singapore, which lost swathes of forest in the city state’s urban expansion — a fact not reflected in the high ranking.

Lack of data in many countries including the UAE was also an issue.

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Read more from the Human Development report:

Fertility rates in the UAE dropping significantly and rapidly, according to report

UAE schools should encourage 'creation and innovation' over curriculums

Life in the UAE among the best in the world, according to the latest human development report

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The report also reflected on the historic performance of the UAE in these global rankings. From a score of 112 in 2008, it fell to 152 in 2010 and then surged to 92 in 2016. This fluctuating performance should be corrected, the report said.

“This unstable performance hinders achieving sustainable development and does not compete with the performance of developed countries such as Finland and Norway."

The UAE 2021 vision, meanwhile, aims to reduce gas emissions that cause global warming. It seeks to increase clean and renewable energy — including nuclear — to 27 per cent by 2021 and cut the gas share as a source of energy from 98 per cent in 2012 to 76 per cent by 2021.

Central to this is the UAE’s first nuclear power station. The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al Dhafra will start to generate electricity by 2019 or 2020 and this was also noted in the report.

“One of the supporting steps in this direction is the UAE’s establishment of a peaceful nuclear power plant, which represents one of the environmentally friendly [energy] solutions," it said.

“It also meets a large amount of the country’s needs of clean energy, which helps improve the environmental situation of the UAE.”

In conclusion, the report said despite the progress made in some areas, more needed to be done. “[The UAE] is still seeking to strengthen its environmental abilities and efficiencies in line with the national environmental strategy.”