Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, addressed the final session of the Summit on Wednesday Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE has demonstrated itself as an example of striking a balance between oil and environment, as climate action and environmental protection have been at the core of the country’s foundation, Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, said at the valedictory speech of the World Government Summit in Dubai on Wednesday.

In a thought-provoking speech attended by a packed audience including His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saif delivered his key note address titled ‘The Emirates: Solid Roots and a Vibrant Future’.

He affirmed that the UAE’s dedication to climate change has been at the core of its heritage since the foundation, driving a series of achievements that earned the country the “must-deserved” right to host the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) later this year. He also praised the UAE’s vision that helped strike a “delicate balance” between oil and environment.

Desert country built around trees

Presenting a video that showed how desert land built its metropolitan cities while preserving trees and planting more of them, Sheikh Saif said: “The UAE was built around the trees in the desert. We were among those who first cared about environment inside and outside the country.”

“In 1981, the UAE issued the first law to preserve the environment, and today we have 31 laws,” he said.

Sheikh Saif recalled how the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was honoured by various international agencies for his contributions to environment and sustainable projects locally and globally.

He highlighted the striking coincidence that it was in 1995 that the world honoured Sheikh Zayed for his environmental contributions and it the same year that the UN launched the first COP to educate the world about the environment.

He pointed out that UAE is spending billions of dirhams for renewable energy. It hosts prestigious institutions that champion the cause of renewable energy and sustainable development such as the IRENA Headquarters and Masdar City.

Speaking about keeping the balance between oil and environment, he said the reason why the UAE appointed the chief of an oil company as the President-designate of the COP 28 was for this very purpose.

'The UAE Family'

Sheikh Saif offered his condolences to the victims of the two devastating earthquakes that recently hit Turkey and Syria, killing over 35,000 people and shattering cities. “My prayers for the families that have been affected,” he said.

He then spoke about “the UAE Family,” using the title throughout his speech.

Sheikh Saif noted that the leadership’s confidence in the “UAE family” guided achievements across various sectors of environment, economy, trade, and tourism.

“The UAE family believes in the risks that environmental pollution poses on the universe and people’s wellbeing; it believes in its destructive impact on the nation. However, pollution of mind is far more dangerous than any form of pollution,” he said.

He said the success of the cohesive structure of the UAE family is evident in the country’s leading position on the world map.

Thanks to the leadership’s vision, the UAE presented the world with a model of what integrative work can do, he said.

“The UAE family, with the support from the leadership, government and society across all segments has nurtured an environment that preserved solid roots, from which the country went global,” said Sheikh Saif bin Zayed.

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Overcoming challenges

Speaking about how the country has overcome various challenges in the past year including the COVID-19 pandemic and missile attacks, he said the UAE was still successful in economic growth and hosted more than 6,000 events, many of which were international events as Dubai topped the world’s cities in tourism revenues that exceeded $29.4 billion in 2022.

Sheikh Saif also pointed out that the UAE was the preferred destination for more than 200 million of the Arab youth to live and establish a life, and the first choice for investors and the world’s richest to establish their business empires for its security, law and order, respect for different cultures.

“It’s impossible to become a world number one unless there is a base from where to start, which is the right family,” said Sheikh Saif.

He stressed that the most important pillars of the stability of states are the smooth transfer of power, continuity, and belief in the unity of destiny. “This is what distinguishes the UAE family: its leadership and the steadfastness of its vision,” he said while playing a video of the transition of power to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE.

Sheikh Saif urged the people of the UAE, from ministers and government officials to private sector employees and heads of families to continue contributing to the UAE Family.

“Ask yourself every day, every week, and every month, what have you done for the UAE Family? What did you do for the country?” he said.

Surprise elements

Sheikh Saif also used the opportunity to appreciate the great work done by Emiratis who represent the country globally by showing their photos at the WGS.

He also offered a surprise gift to more than 1000 delegates at WGS. The gift, date palm sapling named as “Sustainability Tree” will help the legacy of the 10th edition of WGS to live on at homes and offices in the UAE and abroad while literally driving home the message of the Year of Sustainability.