Greg Hunt, Minister of Environment, Australia, gives acceptance speach after recieving an award from Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the award ceremony, Best Minister in the World Award at the World Government Summit 2016, at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Australia’s Minister for Environment Greg Hunt was named ‘the best minister in the world’ at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

Hunt was recognised for his achievements as minister, including his contribution to preserving the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, including banning in 2015 the dumping of dredge spoil on the reef.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, presented Hunt with the award during the second day of the World Government Summit.

In accepting the award, Hunt announced a new partnership between the UAE and Australia to lobby the United Nations on developing a method to evaluate blue carbon.

“Let me begin with a heartfelt welcome to Shaikh Mohammad. On a personal level I am humbled and thankful. I am especially glad that the award went to a minister of environment because the environment is our land and identity,” he said.

“This should be something which, if it can be measured, earns [carbon] credits and therefore creates an incentive to protect their mangroves,” he later told Gulf News.

Sharing some of the environmental initiatives he has led in Australia he said: “We provided A$140 million (Dh361.47 million) to improve water quality in Australia... Australia has already exceeded our Kyoto Protocol 2020 target. We also already have 2.4 million solar homes, covering 15 per cent of our homes in Australia, the highest in the world,” he said.

He also said under a programme called the Green Army, 13 million trees have been planted. The target is 20 million trees by the year 2020.

Hunt also proposed for the world to work towards a global rain forest recovery agreement.

A carbon credit represents a tonne of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere as part of an emission reduction scheme that can be used by governments, and others, to offset harmful carbon emissions.

Hunt, who has served as the Minister for Environment since 2013, is a member of Australia’s conservative Liberal National coalition government that repealed the carbon tax in 2013. That made Australia the first developed nation in the world to remove laws meant to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

The ‘best minister of the world’ award was an effort by the World Government Summit and Thomson Reuters.The award is meant to recognise a minister “who led quality successful initiatives” for the benefit of its citizens.

Australia’s government is currently in the process of controversially sending 37 children to an offshore detention facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Hunt, a cabinet minister, declined to comment on the subject, saying he would leave it for the “Prime Minister and others”.

Hunt was selected out of a list of 10 candidates that was earlier whittled down from a list of 100.

The award, which was launched this year in collaboration with Thomson Reuters, aims to highlight the innovative ministerial work and achievements of the world’s governments that brought about positive changes in societies.

In its first edition, 10 out of 100 candidates from 80 countries qualified for the World’s Best Minister Award.

To ensure transparency, ministers from the UAE are not considered for the award.

Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the organising committee of the World Government Summit, and Nadim Najjar, managing director, Mena, of Thomson Reuters ,also presented Hunt the award on stage along with Shaikh Mohammad.