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Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment giving the opening speech at the sixth edition of the World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Middle Eastern economies are coming to the fore of global sustainability dialogue as experts and leaders from across the world gather at the World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi, a top UAE official said here on Tuesday.

“The sixth edition of the summit [being held for the first time in the Middle East] will shine the spotlight on regional economies as change makers in the global sustainability dialogue. We have been overlooked in these discussions in the past, but we believe our participation and impact can be significant and far-reaching,” Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, commented while attending the opening ceremony of the summit.

He said platforms such as the summit are critical to keep the dialogue alive and strong to inspire collective global action towards the development of sustainable oceans.

The fact that the UAE governs the healthiest oceans in the region, according to the latest Ocean Health Index, “reflects our steadfast commitment to marine conservation; but there is still lots more yet to be done,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

The UAE tries to ensure that economic development does not affect marine biodiversity and natural ecosystems, which are critical to sustaining the livelihood of coastal communities, he said.

The three-day summit is hosting over 500 delegates, including heads of state, political leaders, policymakers, corporate heads and academics from more than 26 countries. Mohammad Ahmad Al Bawardi, Minister of State for Defence, and other senior officials were also present in the opening ceremony.

Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, who delivered the opening speech, said the UAE’s close link with marine environment for centuries with pearl trade, fishing and the transport of basic materials continues as 90 per cent of the country’s population are living in coastal areas [42 per cent in Abu Dhabi].

The blue economy contributes 68 per cent of the GDP and desalinated water accounts for 98 per cent of the country’s fresh water, he said.

In a panel discussion on the UAE’s Blue Economy, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, managing director of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, said the summit is an opportune moment as the UAE gets ready to assume presidency of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for the first time since becoming a member in 1999.

Ocean rim countries such as the UAE have a defining role in promoting healthy oceans as almost 90 per cent of the world’s trade is carried by sea, and nearly 80 per cent of the world’s maritime oil trade flows through three narrow passages in the Indian Ocean alone, she said.

Rashed Al Beloushi, acting undersecretary at the Department of Economic Development, said as countries with 2.5 billion people build infrastructure around oceans, the UAE with its excellent port network can be a hub to support that efforts.

Prince Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, shared a video message on the importance of ocean conservation.

EAD launches first edition of TIP Envirotech award

The officials launched the region’s first ever Technology Innovation Pioneers Envirotech (TIP ET) Award on Tuesday on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi.

The award is a platform that offers innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present and pitch creative ideas and inventions to leading investors who can help turn their projects into practical applications, the officials said at a press conference.

In line with the National Innovation Strategy aimed at positioning Abu Dhabi as the leading hub for technological innovation and solutions to global environmental challenges, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) launched the award.

Led by EAD, TIP Envirotech is the latest awards programme under the Technology Innovation Pioneers (TIP) Awards, a joint initiative by UAE Ministry of Economy and ADDED.

The award aims to tap into technological innovation that can create significant impact in the areas of clean energy, ocean conservation and single-use plastics.

For more information, please visit: http://tip.gov.ae/sectors/envirotech/