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Dubai Environment Outlook Traces Path To Sustainability

The Dubai Environment Outlook report, supervised by The General Secretariat for The Executive Council in cooperation with Dubai Municipality, has said that rising population demographics and economic growth are the main drivers of environmental change in Dubai.

The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the current status of the environment, while also highlighting challenges the emirate will need to overcome in the coming years. In total, it takes a look at seven separate themes: air, water, biodiversity, land, coastal zone, built environment, and waste.

The report responds to global calls for greater transparency and access to environmental data, as Dubai makes a conscious effort to adopt a sustainably clean and healthy environment. The report also supports Dubai Plan 2021, which has committed to building a smart and sustainable city, by ensuring the availability of clean energy sources and protecting natural resources such as soil, water, and air.

In addition to the two main drivers, the report notes that while there was widespread environmental degradation during the construction boom as city planners and developers rolled out mainland and offshore development schemes of epic dimension, often with little regard for the environment, evidence now may suggest that Dubai has reached a turning point, with environmental improvement prominently featured in national plans like Dubai Plan 2021 and Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, as well as a number of corporate strategies in the country.

In addition, technological advances and multilateral environmental agreements have an increasingly large role to play. In Dubai, technological innovations by the likes of DEWA present powerful tools for mitigating some of the environmental impacts caused by human activities. And all of these efforts will be central to the UAE’s broader global obligations. Last year, the country ratified the Paris agreement, which was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, in Paris. The central goal of the agreement is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Commenting on the report, Abdullah Al Shaibani, Secretary-General of The Executive Council of Dubai, said, "Ensuring a sustainable pathway for the future is vital, and Dubai has taken bold and swift steps in that direction of late. Economic growth and the resulting increase in construction activity have both necessitated the need for a deeper examination of the resulting environmental impact, providing us with the opportunity to develop a greener and more sustainable approach, and this report has given us a basis to build on, in line with the objectives of Dubai Plan 2021."

He continued, "The importance of sustainable solutions for future generations is of unquestionable importance, and directing more investment towards research and development, innovation and advanced technologies should be given special priority. We are seeing increasing momentum in this regard, to create systems that are resilient to climate change, and institutions that are building sustainable development into their core business strategy. This report is a welcome step in that regard."

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Chairman of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee of the Executive Council of Dubai, said, "We work under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to be first in everything we do. The Infrastructure and Environment Committee, a part of the Executive Council of Dubai, is working with several government organisations to achieve long-term sustainability goals. This supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the UAE Centennial 2071, to provide all the elements of success to empower people and ensuring their happiness. This is done by investing in an advanced physical and digital infrastructure. We also work to achieve the goals of the Dubai Plan 2021, to make Dubai a smart and sustainable city with a secure and reliable urban environment, and to make it the preferred place to live, work, and visit."

He added, "The need to innovate and foresee the future is more important than ever before. The committee aims to develop and adopt modern innovative technologies to ensure a futuristic infrastructure, and create a healthy environment with good quality air for Dubai’s residents. This is done by identifying the elements that affect air quality and their impact, and controlling those factors, which is an important way of supporting the leadership’s vision to further sustainable development in Dubai."

Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General, Dubai Municipality, said, "Addressing these challenges effectively requires our urgent attention, as well as continued efforts to develop programmes that aim to minimize the negative impact on our environment. Reports such as this one are invaluable for our sustainable planning efforts, and represent a starting point as we begin to prioritizing environmental issues. In this respect, Dubai Municipality has provided its full support and backing to this project, which demonstrates Dubai’s commitment to ensuring a sustainable future. I am confident that we can work together to help the city reduce its carbon footprint and provide more sustainable choices to our residents."

"The Dubai Environmental Outlook notes some challenges that Dubai will need to overcome moving forward. These include: diversifying its fuel mix without affecting total emissions, reducing car ownership and controlling the size of its fast growing vehicle fleet, concomitant and costly expansion of the sewage networks and treatment plants, changing the common perception by city planners and the general public that drylands and deserts are waste lands with little value to society, mitigating the long-term effects of completed Offshore Development Schemes on Dubai’s shoreline and marine ecosystems, as well as mitigating the impacts of desalination on the marine environment. Overcoming these challenges, and the others mentioned in the report, will be key if the emirate is to effectively improve environmental governance."

Sameera Al Rais, Director of Policies and Strategies - Sustainable Development, said, "The report takes a look at seven separate environmental themes, in line with global best practice - including air, water, biodiversity, land, coastal zone, built environment, and waste. This report is one of many steps we are taking in our efforts to manage against Dubai’s future growth by ensuring the availability of clean energy sources and protecting our natural resources, for the benefit of our future generations."

The report noted that the degradation of air quality was an increasing concern. Key pressures impacting this included the transport and energy sectors; in 2014, there were 1.4 million vehicles, a figure that is expected to rise to 2.7 million by 2030.


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