The UAE’s environment minister has stressed the need to tackle pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change during a meeting with counterparts from various countries, in Iran.
Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Minister of State for Food Security, spoke at the Ministerial Meeting on Environment Co-operation for a Better Future, state news agency Wam reported.
Held in the presence of the Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi, the gathering brought together ministers from the Middle East and Africa as well as representatives of the UN Environment Programme, various NGOs, and academics.
Ms Al Mheiri said the international community needed to work together to find solutions to pressing environmental challenges.
“The transboundary nature of the environmental challenges we face necessitates that we respond in a co-ordinated manner,” she said.
“Building a sustainable future is a moral obligation towards the next generations, and our success depends on how well we all work together to drive low-carbon, nature-positive, and resilient growth.”
The UAE will host the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai, as part of its drive to safeguard the environment.
The meeting of world leaders in November 2023 will seek to find solutions to the threats posed by climate change.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Ms Al Mheiri signed an agreement with Dr Ali Salajegheh, vice president and head of the Department of Environment of Iran, for the countries to partner on efforts to tackle sand and dust storms.
The UAE’s environment ministry will work with Iran’s environment department to share knowledge and expertise and develop a regional action plan to address the issue.
The agreement will include exchanging expert visits, setting up a joint task force and shaping plans for early warning and forecast alerts over impending storms to boost readiness for extreme conditions.
Doctors in the UAE offered safety advice after storms swept across the country weather in May.
Dr Emad Al Nemnem, a pulmonary disease consultant at Burjeel Medical City, said residents with respiratory diseases are at greater risk and must take extra care.
“Sandstorms are especially dangerous for patients with respiratory disorders, particularly those with chronic bronchitis and asthma,” Dr Nemnem said.
“The symptoms start with an increase in coughing, sputum and chest tightness.”
He advised asthma patients to carry their inhalers at all times and consult a doctor or head to the emergency department if breathing becomes difficult.
“We urge patients to drink lots of water, wear good-quality masks even at home and get an air purifier,” he said.
In a WhatsApp alert, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre said exposure to sand and dust could be harmful to all.
Sand and dust storms occur relatively frequently in the Middle East.
They most often hit during the summer and turbulent weather, such as during the transition from winter to spring, when rising temperatures cause strong winds.
The number of storms is expected to increase with the effects of climate change, a report published in 2017 said.