At present, while people are primarily concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting economic slowdown, and are pushing for a fast recovery, life forms on land and in water are being lost at a rate that is unprecedented in human history.
Recent assessments conclude that species extinction rates are tens to hundreds of times higher now than historical averages, with over one million species facing the risk of extinction in the next few years.
However, this does not mean that countries must choose between economic recovery and environmental protection. It is possible to build back better, greener, and bluer.
To achieve this priority, the Summit on Biodiversity and the Oceans Roundtable, which took place last week as part of the UN General Assembly, convened high-level delegates to generate momentum for urgent collective action.
A green economy that involves low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive activities, such as clean energy, energy efficiency, water supply, waste management, and pollution control services, is worth roughly $4 trillion. Investing in renewable energy alone would deliver global GDP gains of US$98 trillion, and increase the number of jobs in the sector four times to 42 million by 2050
Global environmental action strategy
As a participant in the Summit on Biodiversity and the lead organiser of the Oceans Roundtable, the UAE has helped provide a clearer sense of what deliverables are the most important and achievable to shape a global environmental action strategy in the context of the pandemic.
Although the outbreak has been disruptive, to say the least, we must not allow it to overshadow long-term concerns such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and habitat degradation. With that in mind, we shared the UAE’s effective approach to factoring in the environment in its development plans with the international community.
Combining an integrated set of environmental protection legislation, diverse initiatives that promote sustainability, and international engagements that drive collective environmental action, our model has proven successful.
We have passed the region’s first robust marine litter regulations, set to go into effect in 2021. We run one of the world’s largest mangrove replanting programs. We have managed successful wildlife reintroduction programs to conserve endangered species, introduced seasonal and permanent fishing bans on certain species, and designated 49 protected areas that account for 15.5 per cent of our territory. And we leverage innovation in every possible way to increase the scale and pace of our environmental action. We are especially proud of our renewables sector that makes a remarkable contribution to the country’s climate mitigation efforts with a current total production capacity of 1,800MW and an additional 6,500MW either under development or planned until 2030.
Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Furthermore, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund continues to carry out its noble mission. To date, it has allocated over $20 million to support the conservation of 1,400 endangered species in 180 countries.
In 2021, we will also host Oceanology International Middle East with the aim of strengthening collective action around the protection of oceans and their valuable resources.
We recognise the pressures facing the natural world, as well as the benefits we reap from protecting it.
The blue economy — sustainable use of marine resources for economic growth — annually contributes $1.5 trillion to the global GDP, offering more than 350 million jobs worldwide. Meanwhile, the green economy that involves low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive activities, such as clean energy, energy efficiency, water supply, waste management, and pollution control services, is worth roughly $4 trillion. Investing in renewable energy alone would deliver global GDP gains of $98 trillion, and increase the number of jobs in the sector four times to 42 million by 2050.
Acknowledging these universal benefits and acting accordingly, the world has a unique opportunity to turn the current challenges into a win-win situation. Environmental action cannot wait for COVID-19 to disappear. An immediate commitment to developing the green and blue economies as a priority will enable us to not only survive the pandemic but also thrive long after it is but a distant memory.
Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi is the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment