Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri talks about World Environment Day activities in the country and environmental protection efforts
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment. — Stock photo
Today we celebrate World Environment Day which aims to encourage global awareness and action to protect our environment.
This year, the occasion takes on special significance as it marks 50 years since the 1972 United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, considered the first international meeting on the environment. The event spurred the formation of environmental ministries and agencies around the world, launched a series of new global agreements to protect the environment, and paved the way for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment, gives us an overview of the country’s World Environment Day activities and environmental protection efforts.
Excerpts from the interview:
How is the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) marking World Environment Day 2022, celebrated under the theme “One Earth”?
On Saturday morning we hosted an event in partnership with the Fujairah Environment Authority, Fujairah Adventures Center and the Emirates Diving Association (EDA) which engaged recreational divers in coral planting in Fujairah.
Today we are organizing a mangrove planting activity in Umm Al Quwain for schools and the general public in collaboration with the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Archeology and the Marine Environment Research Center.
Additionally, Shaemma Rashed, Climate Change Analyst at MOCCAE, will participate in a virtual discussion on “Environmental Safety and Security”.
Through our activities, we aim to spread the message that we all have a responsibility to protect our environment in our own way, because we only have one planet – there is no planet B.
What are some examples of the UAE’s animal conservation efforts?
We are proud of our track record of implementing effective breeding and wildlife reintroduction programs to conserve endangered species, such as houbara bustard, hawks, Arabian leopard, sand cat, the Arabian oryx and the Arabian tahr.
For example, the Arabian oryx has roamed remote parts of the world in large herds for centuries, but overhunting and habitat loss have contributed to a sharp decline in its numbers, leading to the statement of extinction in the wild in 2000. Urgent action was needed to ensure its survival. We had the last five to seven of them captured from the wild to form the basis of a breeding program that saved the entire species from extinction.
Today, the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Program releases hundreds of animals into protected areas every year, and the UAE is home to nearly 7,000 Arabian Oryx – the largest population in the world. species in the world.
Meanwhile, our International Houbara Conservation Fund (IFHC) is one of the largest species conservation projects in the world that aims to restore sustainable numbers of houbara bustards in the United Arab Emirates and other range countries. To date, the program has bred nearly 630,000 houbaras and released more than 487,000 into the wild.
Globally, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has allocated more than $23 million to support the conservation of more than 1,500 threatened species in 160 countries.
In terms of marine life conservation, we have deployed more than 5,000 artificial reefs and are developing the Fujairah Cultured Coral Reef Gardens, the world’s largest coral nursery which will span approximately 300,000 square meters and house 1.5 million corals.
We have also launched the Super Coral Project which brings various species of coral out of their natural habitats and exposes them to extreme conditions with the aim of activating once unused genes that can help them cope with climate change. In addition, we have developed an innovative method of micro-fragmentation and fusion which accelerates the growth of corals, normally slow in the wild.
To preserve some of our key marine species, we are implementing two national action plans – one for the conservation and management of the 43 species of sharks and 29 species of rays recorded in the country, and the other for the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats in our territorial waters.
And to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks, we have put in place bans on the fishing and trade of certain species of fish during their breeding seasons. We work closely with anglers to help them understand the importance of following the ban to allow fish to recover.
To provide safe habitats for endangered species, we continue to expand our protected areas. We currently have 49 protected areas which represent 15.5% of the territory of our country and we are in the process of rounding this number to 50.
And what is the country doing to protect its flora?
We develop and implement programs aimed at the rehabilitation and restoration of our natural habitats, including the planting of native tree species, such as mangrove, acacia and ghaf. A notable project used drones to disperse six million acacia seeds and 250,000 ghaf seeds over large areas in 25 locations to help restore degraded ecosystems and protect our natural resources.
At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) last year in Glasgow, we announced an increase in our mangrove planting target to 100 million by 2030.
In an effort to provide a comprehensive knowledge base and spark public interest in native flora, MOCCAE has launched Gheras, an online portal and app that contains detailed information on local plant species in Arabic and Arabic. English, such as threat level, how to grow them, and where to get the seeds. Additionally, they include an algorithm that calculates how much carbon sequestration each species can achieve, helping to engage the community in mitigating the impact of climate change. The Gheras application is available for free download on the App Store and Google Play, and the portal can be accessed at https://portal.moccae.gov.ae/gherasuae/.
To ensure that our plant gene pool is preserved and can be reproduced in the wild, we are currently establishing the Abu Dhabi Plant Gene Resources Center (Gene Bank) which will be the largest in the region with storage capacity than 20,000 samples when completed later this year. .
In addition, the Khalifa Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (KCGEB) studies the flora of the region with the aim of generating scientific knowledge to address global challenges related to food security and sustainable agricultural practices through genomics, genetic engineering genetics and biotechnological innovation.
Meanwhile, the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium protects the country’s flora by building collections of plants and seeds and conducting studies on genetic diversity, DNA barcoding and capacity building for the seed bank, seed science and molecular genetics research.
How do you decide which species to focus on?
Our efforts to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems are guided by the National Biodiversity Strategy, which is being updated to take into account the latest developments related to environmental issues and the means to respond to them.
In March 2020, we also unveiled the results of the UAE National Red List Project in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is a collaborative effort between MOCCAE, local government authorities across the country, experts from public and private universities, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
The project assesses the risk of extinction of 1,167 animal and plant species in the country, identifies threatened species and maps their distribution. The results show that 60% of shark and ray species, 53% of bird species, 46.7% of mammal species and 43% of coral species in the UAE are threatened with extinction.
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The high rate of endangered species pushes us to raise the bar in protecting wildlife, preserving ecosystems and conserving natural resources, and the results of the UAE National Red List Project inform our efforts in this area.
On the other side of the environmental protection spectrum, the last year saw the launch of the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative which sets the country’s roadmap for reducing carbon emissions.
What is MOCCAE doing to increase sectoral participation in this pioneering effort in the region?
In May, we launched two initiatives that support this goal. The first is a monthly assembly for priority sectors, called the National Dialogue for Climate Ambition (NDCA), which aims to raise sectoral climate ambition and remove any potential barriers. The series of events is modeled after the Emirati majlis, a traditional gathering that brings community members together to consult on local issues. These stakeholder dialogues, dedicated to a different sector each month, will help us design our zero emissions trajectory, define ways to achieve our goals and create an ecosystem conducive to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. .
Recognizing that the circular economy is an essential part of our decarbonization efforts, we have also launched the Dynamics of Circularity (DCS) series in partnership with government accelerators. The periodic stakeholder assembly aims to share knowledge, build capacity and explore opportunities to implement circular economy practices in carbon-intensive sectors.