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UAE Environment Centenary | Asharq AL-awsat

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Abu Dhabi recently pledged to achieve environmental goals for the next fifty years, in conjunction with the UAE’s centenary in 2071, announced earlier to mark the establishment of the state. It triggered memories of how the ultimate aspiration of Arab environmental activists less than twenty years ago was simply to trace the word “environment” mentioned in any government plan. But the UAE has gone much further than that, drawing up a fifty-year environmental plan, leading up to the union’s 100th anniversary. Saudi Arabia has also launched multi-decade environmental policies and goals, starting with Vision 2030, through the Saudi Green Initiative, to help achieve climate goals by the middle of this century. Other Arab countries, including Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, have also committed themselves, to varying degrees, to long-term environmental policies and goals.

The most important clue this bears, whatever the details, is the emergence of a new perception of the environment which sees it as an integral part of development policies, rather than a ceremonial addition without substance.

The 2071 Environment Centenary, announced by the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi, aspires to place the UAE among the world’s leading countries in environmental standards within fifty years, i.e. say 100 years after the founding of the state in 1971. The plan combines efforts to preserve the environment with the economy and opportunities for investment in technology and scientific research, so as to enable all sectors vital to society to contribute to the achievement of common environmental objectives. The plan envisions achieving this goal through the transition to a green economy, which is the shortest approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2071 Environment Centenary maps out three pathways, beginning with the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources, to achieve the best sustainable natural systems, to the highest standards. The second path commits the country to becoming a green force resilient to climate change, based on a proactive vision, by adopting renewable and clean energy, reducing waste by embracing the circular economy and investing in green infrastructure, taking natural capital account and ensuring the ability to successfully compete with the world’s most advanced economies. The third way aims to develop human capacities as a driving force of the future, in a way that preserves the environment and the right to sustainable development, by accelerating green policies and legislation, by developing non-traditional approaches environmental awareness and education, and innovating in the field of environmentally friendly science and technology. The plan calls for integrating all these principles into the future work of government at all levels, so that environmental considerations are at the heart of development policies and programs.

Here, it must be recognized that these developments do not come from a vacuum, but rather represent the restoration of a heritage that respects the limited resources of nature. It is certain that the difficulties of living in a dry desert environment are at the origin of the adhesion of its inhabitants to a noble culture based on the preservation of the scarcity of available water and the safeguard of plants and animals. It is true that decades of rapid development, which saw the extreme exploitation of natural resources to near exhaustion, and a legendary expansion of cities, transport networks and industry, have brought with the modernization enormous damage to the environment and natural systems. . But the ambitious plans announced today by the governments first reveal an awareness of the problem, which is the first step to solving it thanks to the new principles adopted, based on sustainability. Solving the complex environmental challenges of this difficult era requires modern plans that go beyond lofty feelings and wishes.

I remembered, while reading the details of the 2071 Environment Centenary, my conversation with the late President of the United Arab Emirates and founder of its modern renaissance, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a quarter of a century ago , which was the subject of the cover article of the magazine Environnement & Développement in November 1997. This man was an environmentalist by nature, whose ideas are based on the principles of sustainable development, compatible with the limits of nature . In this interview, he called for “returning to the balance between nature and man. If human livelihoods were thriving while animal livelihoods and nature’s safety were not guaranteed, there would be a lack of equity, which would ultimately derail human development. A capable man must do what he can to preserve the rights of both.” When I asked him why he planted forests in the desert, he replied that his goal was to achieve “the sublimity of man and nature”, in addition to the fact that the green cover contributes to the moderating the climate and halting desertification. Sheikh Zayed explained that “Land becomes precious to a person when it produces useful yields and when the sight of it makes him happy, then he relaxes and feels at home. In the beginning, we focused on developing the human dignity, knowledge, culture and livelihoods; then we started to pay attention to other issues, such as the preservation of nature and wildlife and the reintroduction of endangered species in their natural habitat, for integrated life dwells in all of God’s creatures.”

Sheikh Zayed’s words affirm that for any plan to care for the environment and achieve sustainable development to succeed, it must be rooted in the heritage of this region, which was based on the careful use of scarce resources. and the protection of nature, which is the source of life. Therefore, each new initiative in this field is in fact a return to basics, while using modern methods that take advantage of scientific discoveries and technological advances.

Although long-term plans are necessary and useful, their success depends on basic principles, the first of which is to set clear objectives and tie them to a precise timetable. This prevents the use of large projects, which are planned for twenty or fifty years, as an excuse for not achieving immediate and near objectives. There is a need for periodic reviews to determine the extent of progress in achieving set goals and mechanisms in place to uncover errors at an early stage, allowing the course to be changed before it becomes too much. late. Such is the case with the United Arab Emirates’ environment centenary in 2071, and so it is with international plans to achieve climate goals by 2050.