ABU DHABI, 26th July, 2022 (WAM) — The UAE is always looking ahead, and as a nation it has developed strategic initiatives and plans up to 2050 and beyond. The vision for the UAE was inspired by its Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed, who, with one eye on the future, saw beyond the present and the past.
He is also known as the First Environmentalist and pioneered most of our environmental conservation efforts. The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is consistently walking in his footsteps because he paved the way for of the nation’s environmental efforts.
During COP26 last year in Glasgow, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, announced a nationwide plan to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030. Additionally, in February of this year, Abu Dhabi set out ambitious plans to establish the emirate as a global hub for research and innovation in support of conservation through the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative. This was announced during HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge’s landmark visit to the UAE. This initiative is an extension of the Blue Carbon project, focusing on the importance of mangroves and their role in combatting climate change through carbon sequestration.
The Agency plays multiple roles in the drive to combat climate change, and aims to improve its data collection process through the use of technology, artificial intelligence and spatial techniques, providing data on greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon dioxide in particular.
Another Agency goal is to clarify mitigation measures that will minimise environmental impact from different sectors, including health, water and infrastructure, in addition to developing ways to reduce the impact on species and ecosystems.
In addition to their climate-related benefits, Blue Carbon ecosystems are valuable to coastal communities like Abu Dhabi. They protect shorelines, improve water quality, and provide nursery grounds for a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic species. They also support responsible coastal tourism and have important cultural and social value.
The UAE was one of the first countries to recognise the importance of coastal habitats, and mangrove restoration, and conservation efforts have been in place since the 1970s. Moreover, the Abu Dhabi Blue Carbon Demonstration Project was implemented and led by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), together with EAD – as Abu Dhabi was the ideal setting for such a project due to its innovative concepts and commitment to environmentally-responsible development.
The project found that, overall, Blue Carbon ecosystems in Abu Dhabi are calculated to store within the soil and biomass more than an estimated 41 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. To put this into context, it accounted for more than the emirate’s annual emissions from the oil and gas (26.4 million tonnes) or water and electricity (30.9 million tonnes) sectors at that time. The success of the project led to Phase II, known as the National Blue Carbon Project in 2015, which extended the understanding and valuation aspects of coastal Blue Carbon ecosystem services throughout the UAE.
Abu Dhabi has the oldest known mangrove restoration and afforestation initiatives anywhere in the world, with some stands in the emirate being nearly 100 years old. In 2015, mangroves occupied an estimated 14,117 hectares in scattered locations throughout the emirate. During the past 10 years, at least 15 million young mangroves have been planted along the coast of Abu Dhabi.
In February of 2022, in partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, EAD launched the Etihad Mangrove Forest to provide guests, corporate accounts and partners the ability to adopt mangroves in Abu Dhabi to help reduce their carbon footprint.
The Etihad Mangrove Forest is the culmination of multiple joint programmes between Etihad, EAD, Jubail Island, The Storey Group, and other partners to support UAE mangrove conservation projects, and develop new carbon sinks and natural resources to absorb carbon from the atmosphere following the principle of: “Abu Dhabi for the World”.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi also announced the successful completion of its Blue Carbon Environmental and Social Responsibility Project, which aims to protect mangroves in the emirate. The project was implemented in collaboration with ENGIE – the low carbon emission service provider- and in partnership with Distant Imagery, which specializes in drone engineering and restoring blue carbon, and involved striving to plant more than 35,000 mangrove seeds in the Mirfa Lagoon in Abu Dhabi, using highly innovative drone planting technology. The success rate exceeded 35%.
EAD continues to take the lead for mangrove restoration in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and its future plan involves developing cost effective, technology and innovation led mangrove restoration programmes, restore lost, degraded and potential mangrove areas with the best international practices and to engage stakeholder and involve public and private entities in mangrove conservation and restoration initiatives