Dubai: The impact of climate change is everywhere for us to read about, but how many people actually take an interest? Many blame their government, few blame themselves.
We all know the cues: switch the lights off, turn off the taps, walk more, eat less meat — so it's comforting to know that members of the country's ruling circles share the same fears.
Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Ali Al Nuaimi, 44, of the ruling family of Ajman dubs himself the ‘Green Shaikh' and claims to have a carbon footprint which is a third lower than others in his position.
Shaikh Abdul Aziz worries about the sustainability of his lifestyle and that of his family's emirate, Ajman.
One major environmental achievement has been the ban on production of non-biodegradable plastic bags in Ajman — three years ahead of the federal nationwide deadline — but more could be done, Shaikh Abdul Aziz said.
A shortage of fossil fuels in the small but ‘unique' emirate means it has faced repeated power shortages. However, there is a potential for biomass and solar power, he said.
"Ajman is unsustainable because the planning was done without environmental consideration… We can do a lot in Ajman… A lot of renewable [energy] could be [tapped] but [it] needs a committee, not just one person to make decisions," he said.
"It's not a matter of money but of understanding and belief... of how to make Ajman sustainable It's so easy because Ajman is small and growing and there is a lot of things that can be done," he told Gulf News.
"Ajman has no resources, no fossil fuels, and a shortage of energy. [With] innovation we can make something unconventional. It's time for Ajman to make a change."
Shaikh Abdul Aziz believes public and private partnerships would be a boon to the emirate, which currently lacks public initiative to incorporate environmental measures.
Trying to engage people, however, is not easy. By his own estimates, two-thirds of the youth in the UAE — Emirati and expatriate — have no idea about their carbon footprint and what they could do to minimise it.
"They should be learning through education, at school, but they don't know or they are not aware and they do not practice… it depends on their role models, they need leadership," he said. Shaikh Abdul Aziz believes people should be given attainable goals.
"We don't want to scare people, we need to give them something realistic... hugging trees is too extreme [a measure]. We want to use fossil fuels and we want something in the middle that can make savings at the end of the day," he said.
Shaikh Abdul Azis's environmental zeal was stoked when he undertook a trip to the Antarctic sponsored by Shell last month with the organisation 2041.
It was founded by polar explorer, environmental leader and public speaker Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South poles.
As the last unspoilt wilderness, Antarctica is currently protected by a treaty prohibiting drilling and mining until 2041.
Swan has dedicated his life to preserving Antarctica by promoting recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change. Since the trip, Shaikh Abdul Aziz is convinced change is possible.
"We have a climate change problem and reducing your carbon footprint is very easy. Check your daily life, how much money and energy you spend and see how much you can cut... you realise you can change your behaviour…
"You will not die from switching off the lights for one hour like [during] Earth Hour, you will not die from not using your car for one day, you will be more healthy and productive."
Share your eco-friendly ideas
To contact Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Ali Al Nuaimi on his trip and any ideas to make Ajman more environmentally friendly, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Only emails concerning the environment will be acknowledged.
For more information on 2041, visit www.2041.com