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Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, addressing guests at The Mangrove Alliance for Climate Ministerial Conference at COP28 in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC), spearheaded by the UAE, will build a new mangrove centre as part of its global mission to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030.

Mariam Almheiri, UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said at a ministerial press conference during COP28 that the centre will help advance research and innovation and foster knowledge exchange within the global scientific communities on mangroves.

She said UAE’s personal mission to plant 100 million mangrove trees by 2030 is well on track and the country has successfully planted 45 million mangroves so far.

The minister said MAC, led by the UAE in partnership with Indonesia, has signed 39 countries so far which is a huge achievement.

She said the member countries and 50 non-state actors who met at COP28 affirmed their support for Mangrove Breakthrough - a collaborative effort between the Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) and the UN Climate Change High-level Champions that goes with the same global mission to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by 2030.

All this came in the backdrop of a massive funding announcement by Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Climate Champions for COP28, who said plans are in place for the mobilisation of over $2.6 billion in financing for nature, biodiversity and climate. She also announced $100 million of new UAE grant funding, the first tranche of which will support Ghana’s efforts in forest restoration, ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods for local communities.

The Global Mangrove Alliance (GMA) in collaboration with the UN Climate Change High-level Champions identified the need for a unified global approach towards mangrove conservation and called for signatories to the “Mangrove Breakthrough” which was launched at COP27.

The key objectives of the Mangrove Breakthrough are halting mangrove losses, restoring half of the recent mangrove loses, doubling the protection of mangroves on a global scale, and calling for an investment of $4 billion by 2030 to conserve and revitalise mangrove ecosystems.

She said: “The Mangrove Breakthrough represents a significant stride towards reducing carbon emissions and preserving our planet’s natural treasures. The UAE recognises the paramount importance of mangroves in combating climate change and supporting our coastal communities and we look forward to helping drive real on-the-ground change. I invite nations around the globe to support this unique initiative. Our hope is to see substantial announcements anchored in a science-based, action-oriented plan to deliver these targets. Let us take forward the actions.”

She said, “We are doubling down on nature and rightly focusing on what needs to be done to ensure a future in which biodiversity thrives, land use is sustainable and oceans team with life. The UAE has always been at the forefront of environmental stewardship with a deep commitment to preserving biodiversity. And this is a proud legacy of our founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.”

“Our unique environment here in the UAE - hot and dry- greatly limits our country’s biodiversity richness. So we have always been very conscious of doing our utmost to safeguard what we have and ensure it can flourish, whether that be as part of our desert ecosystem, or our mountain ecosystem, or the coastal and marine ecosystem where the UAE ranks number one globally for marine stewardship. Despite the challenges we face, UAE is home to rich fauna and flora with an area of plant species. We’re home to most of mammal species, bird species and extensive variety of coral reefs hundreds of fish species turtle species, many marine mammal species and over 100 varieties of algae, as well as a range of amphibian and reptile species. We also launched the largest coral reef rehabilitation project in the region last year, which led to a rehabilitation of one million pieces of coral reef in the capital. It’s therefore not surprising that the UAE is one of the first countries that has endorsed the 30x30 biodiversity target. And throughout our journey I have been struck by the resilience of our natural world. I myself do a little bit of diving and see so many of the species flourish when temperatures vary, going up to 36 degrees sometimes in the hot summer on the surface.”

The minister said recognising the crucial role that that nature plays, the UAE embarked on the ambitious journey to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030.

“Mangroves are, in my eyes, the unsung heroes in our fight against climate change, and they are the sentinels of our coasts and the guardians of our marine biodiversity,” she added.

Under MAC, the UAE will also be working with Germany in Africa for mangrove protection restoration.

Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Environment Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Minister, committed to contributing 40 million Euros to the international climate initiative.

“Mangroves really overwhelm us, When they are healthy and sustainably managed, they can contribute to a win-win situation for nature and biodiversity for climate action and adaptation. This is why Germany supports the Mangrove Alliance for Climate. We have been supporting biodiversity conservation and coastal and marine protection worldwide. Many of our projects directly or indirectly benefit mangroves. There are currently over 50 projects with a total volume of over 600 million Euros. We are planning a trilateral cooperation together with the United Arab Emirates to support partner countries in their mangrove conservation efforts. And we are Starting with a focus on Africa. The goal is to conserve restore and sustainably manage mangrove forests.”