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Campaign begins in UAE for unspoilt Antarctica

Arctic explorer and member of Ajman ruling family launch efforts to lobby for treaty to keep continent commerce-free

Robert Swan
Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News
Robert Swan
Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE could play a serious role in protecting Antarctica from oil drilling and mining as an official campaign to lobby the government to join 48 other countries that have already signed a treaty in this respect was launched jointly yesterday by an Arctic explorer and a member of Ajman's ruling family.

If the campaign is successful, the UAE will be the first nation in the Middle East to sign the 50-year-old treaty which seeks to keep human activity on Antarctica limited to peaceful scientific research alone and help it retain its status as the last great wilderness on earth.

Robert Swan, 52, a British explorer and environmentalist, has committed to protect the South Pole until 2041, when the UN Antarctica Treaty expires, and beyond. He is backed by Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, 42, of the ruling family of Ajman.

Shaikh Abdul Aziz is also chief executive officer of Al Ihsan Charity, and is also known as the Green Shaikh for his environmental endeavours.

Swan is travelling around the world on his renewable energy-run yacht called 2041 — after the organisation and treaty of the same name — complete with solar-powered sails made of recycled plastic to raise awareness of sustainable living, and promote renewable energy. The yacht is scheduled to dock in the UAE in September later this year.

"Ninety per cent of the world's ice is held in Antarctica and 70 per cent of the world's fresh water is held in Antarctica: if the next world war is going to be for water then the preservation of Antarctica is critical to the survival of us as a species," said Swan, touching on the issue of water scarcity so important in the region.

Eighty to 90 per cent of the total worldwide energy consumption is derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. The UAE has the capacity to produce three million barrels of crude oil a day but presently only produces around 2.2 million barrels daily.

Currently between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after attempts so far to cap the BP oil leak on the seabed a mile below the surface have not worked. So much crude pouring into the ocean may alter the chemistry of the sea, with unforeseeable results, said Mak Saito, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Bloomberg reported. A ‘worse-case' scenario could see the leak getting plugged by Christmas.

"When people ask me about the BP spill, you have to remember that they did not do it on purpose," said Swan, speaking on the sidelines of the Corporate Social Responsibility Summit in Dubai this week. "But we're the people using the stuff aren't we? If we reduce our demand of these fossil fuels and conserve what we have, we'll be a lot better off."

Expedition: You too could go

Emiratis and businesses are invited to enter a national sustainability competition that will take them to the bottom of the earth, literally.

Launched yesterday on Yas Island at the Sustainable Leadership Salon, the competition gives participants a chance to win places on the 2011 expedition to Antarctica together with future leaders from all over the world, and Robert Swan.

Under the patronage of Dr Mohammad Al Kindi, former minister of environment and water and UN ambassador, in partnership with Emirates Environmental Group, iLearn will give away places to 15 future Emirati leaders, and 15 places to business with a sustainable CSR programme.

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