Sheikh Hamdan and Prince William during visit to Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday

Dubai: United Kingdom’s Prince William’s first official visit to the UAE today was packed with events highlighting his advocacy on environmental protection, wildlife conservation and combating climate change.

The Duke of Cambridge also participated in UK’s National Day celebrations at Expo 2020 Dubai, where he was welcomed by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

During the meeting, Sheikh Hamdan highlighted “the deep historical ties between the two countries and their shared desire to take bilateral relations to greater heights, especially in areas of sustainability and environmental conservation".

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Crowd gathered to watch Prince William, Duke of Cambridge outside UAE pavilion at Expo 2020. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sheikh Hamdan, who noted that protection of the environment “is one of the UAE’s highest priorities”, also praised Prince William’s contributions to global environmental preservation.

The Crown Prince of Dubai said: “The United for Wildlife initiative, launched by Prince William, with the support of DP World, reflects Dubai and the UAE’s commitment to supporting international efforts to promote sustainability, safeguard the planet’s flora and fauna and combat climate change."

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem visiting Jebel Ali port during his UAE visit. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Creation of nature reserves

Sheikh Hamdan and Prince William discussed the UAE’s efforts to promote sustainability and conserve its biodiversity, including the creation of nature reserves to protect the emirate’s wildlife and endangered species.

The meeting also discussed Dubai’s commitment to preserve marine environment. Later, Prince William toured the UAE Pavilion, which showcases the UAE’s culture and heritage as well as its sustainability initiatives.

Tackling illegal wildlife trade

Earlier in the day, Prince William visited Jebel Ali Port in Dubai to know more about the country’s efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

Back in 2014, Prince William established United for Wildlife, where DP World, the operator of Jebel Ali Port and other ports globally, is a key task force member, supporting efforts to raise awareness on the menace of illegal trade.

During his visit to Jebel Ali Port, the Duke was shown the scale of operations at the Middle East’s largest port. He was given a demonstration of cargo being unloaded from container ships by crane, scanned for suspicious items and inspected by Customs officials.

On his official Twitter account, Prince William posted: “This morning we joined the team at @DP_World, who are working alongside @united4wildlife to fight against the illegal wildlife trade. Initiatives like ‘Cargoes’, an AI technology to identify suspicious shipments, are even more vital with trade increasing & resource constraints”.

Prince William also took note of the operations at Jebel Ali Port. He tweeted: “The sheer scale of Jebel Ali Port is phenomenal. Heralded the ‘engine’ of Dubai, this is one of the busiest ports in the world, seeing thousands of containers and cargoes go through it everyday.:

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem and officials visiting Jebel Ali port during his UAE visit. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

‘Act now’

Prince William’s next stop was at Expo 2020 Dubai, where he delivered a clear and urgent message during his speech at the Earthshot Prize event at DP World Pavilion. Launched in October 2020, Earthshot Prize is a global platform for the environment, designed to incentivise change and help to repair the planet in the next ten years. DP World, in partnership with Dubai Expo 2020, is among the founding partners of the Earthshot Prize.

Talking to various leaders, environmentalists and captains of the industry, Prince William said the next decade should be made a decade of Earthshot — “to respond with urgency and optimism to change the course of our planet’s future".

Prince William said the Earthshot tool drew its inspiration from former US President John F. Kennedy’s Moon shot, which united millions of people to put the first man on the moon and catalysed space technology in the 1960s.

The challenge now is to protect the environment and the time to act is now. Prince William said Earth is now experiencing an “increasingly devastating planetary and humanitarian crisis as a result of our changing climate. (But) if we act now we will be on the track towards repaired and regenerated paths that will flourish with generations to come".

“The change is not happening fast enough or at the scale we need. We are still in race against time and Earthshot is a global platform to discover, showcase, accelerate and scale ground-breaking solutions to repair our planet,” he added.

Meet with sports figures

While at the UK Pavilion, Prince William also met with British sports figures as the Queen’s Baton Relay made its way around various pavilions of countries in the Commonwealth. The baton contains a message from Queen Elizabeth and travels to all Commonwealth nations and territories ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

The Duke of Cambridge also briefly interacted with hundreds of flag-waving and adoring people outside the UK Pavilion before he proceeded to Al Wasl Dome to enjoy a performance by up-and-coming UK music talent and the Band of the Coldstream Guards, before viewing a short film projected across the interior of the impressive Al Wasl Dome, celebrating UK’s achievements and the contributions it has made to the world.