Exclusive Interview with H.E. Dr Amna Al Dahak, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, UAE

Exclusive Interview with H.E. Dr Amna Al Dahak, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, UAE

We are working hard to promote a culture of biological diversity at home & abroad and the UAE has committed to conserving wildlife and ensuring its sustainability: H.E. Dr Amna Al Dahak

“Be part of the Plan”, the theme of International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) 2024, is a call to action for all stakeholders to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by supporting the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, also referred to as the Biodiversity Plan.

It is significant to note that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has placed significant emphasis on the conservation of its rich biodiversity and the protection of endangered species. The government has taken proactive measures by establishing various protected areas, including national parks, wildlife reserves, and marine protected areas.

On International Day for Biological Diversity 2024, SMEN had an opportunity to interview, the UAE's Minister for Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Dr Amna Al Dahak. Below are the excerpts ...

On International Day of Biological Diversity, what can you tell us about the biological diversity of the UAE?

Our country’s landscape is characterized by vast desert areas, mountains, wetlands and marine environments. A growing population and rapid pace of development mean that, in many cases, these environments play host to interactions between humans, plants, and animals. We have been careful to maintain the characteristics, natural resources, and beauty of our natural environment.

According to the National Red List project the UAE host more than 1,167 local species. Statistics indicate that 58 native species of mammals are found in the UAE, 39 of which are terrestrial and 19 are marine. Other species of mammals in the country are alien species. Furthermore, the UAE is home to 72 species of herpetofauna, including 57 terrestrial reptile species, 13 marine reptile species, and two amphibian species, in addition to 167 species of native birds, 598 species of native vascular plants , 126 species of bony fishes, 80 species of cartilaginous fishes, and 66 species of corals.

We are working hard to promote a culture of biological diversity at home and abroad. Through its strategic priorities, the UAE has committed to conserving wildlife and ensuring its sustainability. Our National Biodiversity Strategy demonstrates our commitment to protecting species and their habits, balancing economic growth with consideration of our fragile environment.

A good example of this, is our success in bringing the beautiful antelope back from the brink of extinction, and through our Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme, we have successfully released hundreds of oryxes into protected areas each year.

This year’s theme for International Day of Biological Diversity is ‘Be Part of the Plan’. How is the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment ensuring its ambitious National Biodiversity Strategy is being taken from agreement to action?

On International day for Biological Diversity, themed “Be Part of the Plan” this year, we reaffirm our commitment to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, interpreted in the UAE through the overarching framework of the Biodiversity Strategy 2031 launched at COP28UAE.

The overarching framework was developed in alignment with the national agenda and the global Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, aiming to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and confront challenges by integrating biodiversity values across all sectors of the country, reducing direct pressures on biodiversity, and improving the state of biodiversity by preserving ecosystems, local species, genetic diversity, ensuring the sustainability of ecosystem services, as well as enhancing cooperation, capacity-building, and raising community awareness among all individuals.

What role do you see international collaboration playing in addressing biodiversity challenges?

At COP28 last year, the UAE championed collaboration as the route to success in our global fight against climate change. We concluded COP28 with a groundbreaking agreement uniting 198 countries in a shared vision for the future of climate action. The UAE Consensus emphasizes the importance of conserving, protecting and restoring nature and ecosystems and sets targets that will be achieved through international collaboration.

The UAE has experienced first-hand the benefits of investing time and resources in bilateral and multilateral programs. Climate change is not a crisis any one country can combat alone. Together, we can pool resources and expertise and work towards a shared vision for a better future.

An excellent example of this is our work in mangrove preservation. At COP27, we joined forces with Indonesia to launch the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC). This partnership would leverage expertise and resources aimed at scaling up and accelerating mangrove conservation, restoration, and resilience.

At COP28, we extended this collaboration, announcing a formal partnership between MAC and the Mangrove Breakthrough. This latest collaboration means 49 governments representing around 60% of the world’s mangroves, and over 50 non-state actors, support the Mangrove Breakthrough targets to halt mangrove destruction by 2030.

The UAE joind as well the NBSAP Accelerator which brings together governments to discuss the importance, challenges, and opportunities in adopting a synergetic approach in the design and implementation of their national biodiversity plans and strategies, in support of achieving the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, in order to support countries to develop and submit their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), to further drive collective action for a nature-positive future and foster collaboration to address the biodiversity crisis.

We are also working with international partners to achieve significant milestones in protecting biological diversity. This includes the recent groundbreaking of the Mohamed bin Zayed-Joko Widodo International Mangrove Research Centre on the island of Bali, in collaboration with the Republic of Indonesia. This initiative, made possible with a USD $10m commitment from the UAE, will bolster international efforts in nurturing mangrove ecosystems, recognized as a critically important nature-based solution in combatting climate change and preserving coastal ecosystems.

The results we will see from this global approach to a critical biodiversity challenge are monumental compared to what any one country could achieve alone.

International Biological Diversity Day serves as an important reminder that country to country, we share many similar environments and face many of the same challenges. Collaboration is vital to global success in protecting our biodiversity and we must embrace opportunities to support each other.

What can individuals or communities do to help protect our nation’s biodiversity?

Individuals and communities can significantly contribute to protecting biodiversity by raising awareness and educating others about its importance, supporting local conservation projects through volunteering, and adopting sustainable practices. Simple actions like planting native trees, reducing plastic use, and promoting eco-friendly behaviors can collectively make a substantial impact on preserving our natural environment and ensuring the sustainability of diverse ecosystems.

At the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, we believe it is vital to raise public awareness of the challenges facing our nation’s biodiversity and facilitate community involvement in protecting it.

Numerous community engagement projects in the UAE help individuals connect with nature and help conserve our biodiversity. Emirates Nature - WWF’s Restoring Mangrove Ecosystems is one example of a project that provides a platform for communities to help take action by helping plant 50,000 mangrove trees in the Northern Emirates. As well The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) actively involves the community in environmental conservation through various programs and initiatives, such as recycling campaigns, tree planting events, and educational workshops.

On International Biological Diversity Day, we encourage people to look around at the beauty of their surroundings and take an interest in protecting them. Our wildlife and biodiversity are integral to our planet’s ability to thrive, and helping protect them is a brilliant way to feel connected to national climate action.

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