UN official hails UAE for sustainable initiatives

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Abu Dhabi: The UAE has made significant progress in sustainable development since signing up to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework upon its establishment in 2015, a senior United Nations official has said.

“The UAE has made significant progress in sustainable development since its signing up to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but in some areas more needs to be done,” Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 10th World Urban Forum organised by the UN-Habitat n Abu Dhabi.

Msuya added the issues around water efficiency are much better here in the UAE compared to other parts of the word.

“The UAE’s contribution to other countries around the world and the United Nations and the UNEP to help achieve their SDGs is great. If you look at the voice of the UAE at multi-lateral institutions, again it very good,” Msuya said.

But, she added, much more can be done because the SDGs are diverse and broad.

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Renewable energy

Msuya praised the UAE’s renewable energy story, saying the country has been doing well in renewable energy, but the performance can even be better because the expectations from the youths in this country are very high.

“Overall, I want to congratulate the UAE for not only contributing to SDGs domestically, but also internationally for the better of the humankind. We work together with the UAE to speed up implementation of the SDGs and see how UNEP supports the UAE’s efforts in this regard and how we can learn from the UAE’s experience,” Msuya said.

She praised UAE women entrepreneurs, particularly a woman who has started a women’s sustainability network.

To advance the implementation of the SDGs, the UAE launched the Water Security Strategy 2036. The strategy focuses on three main programmes: the Water Demand Management Programme, the Water Supply Management Programme and the Emergency Water Production and Distribution Programme.

The UAE Energy Strategy for 2050 aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50 per cent resulting in savings of $190 billion by 2050.

Improving air quality is one of the leading priorities under the UAE Agenda 2021. The UAE is conducting regular monitoring of ambient air quality through the UAE Air Quality Network, while developing a National Air Emissions Inventory and a project to utilise advanced satellite data for remote monitoring and modeling. The national target is set to achieve 90 per cent of green days by 2021, while the rate has already reached 76 per cent in 2016.

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Impact of climate change on public health

On the UAE’s action to protect public health from climate change impacts, Msuya said the UAE’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) highlights the impacts of climate change on human health, particularly the negative impacts of air pollution associated with greenhouse gas emissions. This includes addressing the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions through:

• Introduction of a new fuel pricing policy, which aims to support the national economy, lower fuel consumption and protect the environment

• A federal freight rail network crossing the country and eventually integrated into the GCC network

• Abu Dhabi has also set targets to shift 25 per cent of government vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas

•Dubai has invested in a multi-billion-dollar light-rail and metro system, which will continue to add new lines. The UAE continues to improve the emission standards for new motor vehicles, in accordance with European emission standards, as well as through the introduction of standard labels. These initiatives target both improvements in fuel economy and reduction in local air pollution.

Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Image Credit: Natalia Mroz/ UN Environment

Air quality platform

The official said the UNEP launched the air quality platform during the World Urban Forum.

“Globally, seven million people die each year because of air pollution. Of these, 650,000 are children. Air pollutants not only affect our health; they also affect ecosystems and food production. Pollution is also interlinked with climate change. Yet most citizens don’t have access to real-time air quality data about their neighbourhoods and cities. While Europe, Asia and North America have thousands of monitoring stations providing real-time air quality information to the public, many developing countries lack infrastructure. For example, Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people, has just 50 monitoring stations. Even within a single country or city, access to air quality information can vary among different communities.

“To provide a solution, UNEP has joined forces with UN-Habitat and IQAir (a Swiss air quality technology company), and will use the WUF platform to launch the world’s biggest air quality platform on 10 February, bringing together real-time PM2.5 pollution data [PM2.5 is the fine particulate matter responsible for much of the illness and deaths from air pollution] from thousands of initiatives run by citizens, communities, companies and governments to inspire cities around the world to take action,” the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme said.

She added this strategic partnership will sustain and grow the world’s foremost air quality databank to drive improvements in health and the planet with citizens at the forefront being given real-time information they can act upon.

“The shared data on one UN-coordinated platform, will empower governments make better-informed investments and policy decisions and for people, elevate their levels of awareness. Presently, there are over 15 million users of this platform whose reach will grow through the UNEP-UN-Habitat collaboration,” Msuya said.

She added this unique collaboration between UN entities, the private sector and local government, aggregates data that up until now was either restricted to individually-run websites or apps, or not shared publicly. UN-Habitat, strengthens the effort by leading work with cities to take action for better public transport and waste management interventions, improving basic services for city dwellers, and so on. UNEP helps elevate awareness, fill the data gap and communicate actions we can all take to reduce exposure.

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