Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi Convenes High-Level Roundtables to Enhance Efforts to Tackle Local and Global Marine Pollution
Special session held on the sidelines of World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi promoted joint action to clean up 10 major river systems in Africa, Asia and the Middle East
Abu Dhabi - UAE: 7 March, 2019 – A high-level gathering of local and global government officials and representatives of international environmental agencies, non-profit organisations and private sector companies discussed efforts to combat marine pollution in Abu Dhabi and around the world, at special roundtables convened by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on the sidelines of World Ocean Summit 2019. The first meeting - “Cleaning Abu Dhabi’s Marine Environment” - focused on advancing action to tackle the issue of marine litter including plastics, micro-plastics, discarded fishing gear, and other types of marine waste in the waters of Abu Dhabi, while the “Saving the Rivers, Saving the Oceans” session discussed ways of tackling plastic pollution in coastal and riverine areas in developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The issue of plastic pollution in the oceans is global in nature and requires collective action from all maritime nations. Among the participants of the Abu Dhabi roundtable were Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of EAD; Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of EAD; Ahmad Omar Abdulla, CEO of Abu Dhabi Polymers Company (Borouge); and representatives from the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, BP Middle East, Abu Dhabi Ports, Tadweer, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Emirates Nature-WWF.
Members of the Abu Dhabi-focused discussion recognised the serious threat single-use plastics pose to the marine environment and biodiversity in the emirate and ways to reduce their usage across the emirate. The roundtable stressed the importance of supporting federal efforts to clean the marine environment and mobilising collaborative effort, resources and funding to maintain a clean marine environment. The introduction of targeted awareness-raising measures for inspiring behaviour change and encouraging the local public to reduce single-use plastic consumption, leverage proper disposal methods, report lost fishing gear and further foster a culture of environmental preservation was also discussed.
Headlining the international roundtable also convened by EAD were His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment for the United Arab Emirates (UAE); Peter Thomson, the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Ocean; Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Head of the Oceans and Natural Resources division at The Commonwealth Secretariat; Prof. Khaled Abdel-Hay Ramadan from the Egyptian National Water Research Centre; Mohamed A. A. Elkari, the Sudanese Ambassador to the UAE; and representatives from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kenyan and Ethiopian Embassies in the UAE; Pepsi Co., and Shell – among others.
His Excellency Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi said: “Healthy oceans are essential to our very existence. Protecting oceans and ensuring they continue to provide us with the valuable services and resources that human beings have relied on for millennia is crucial to our prosperity. However, with statistics indicating that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050, the world must step up and commit to a more concrete action plan to generate solutions that can reverse these statistics and preserve a healthy ocean ecosystem for the future.”
He added: “We welcome this commitment as a first step towards cleaning the world’s most polluted rivers. It will drive much-needed action and help countries take more proactive steps to save rivers, and ultimately, save oceans.”
Further to this, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak added: “The oceans are a shared responsibility. Raising awareness and focusing measures on the dire issue of plastic pollution requires coordinated policy and funding, as well as the implementation of innovative blue technology. Our global partnerships are a critical pillar in facilitating collective action, and this roundtable represents a diverse commitment from stakeholders across both the public and private sectors.”
For her part, Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), said: “Today, plastic waste is one of the major contributors to ocean pollution. It is our collective duty to do all we can to address this environmental challenge and ensure that we can continue to benefit from the ocean - a critical shared natural resource that maintains the livelihood of coastal communities around the world. These meetings allowed us to align on our priorities moving forward, and provided an opportunity for all the stakeholders present to share their views on how we can enable effective local and regional cooperation towards mitigation efforts aimed at reducing marine litter and pollution. These sessions also highlighted the growing importance of platforms such as the World Ocean Summit in giving government and industry players the opportunity to join forces for the greater protection of our oceans,” she added.
The attendees pledged their commitment towards existing efforts on the development of new initiatives required to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 14, which calls to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans and marine resources for sustainable development”. Nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, causing over USD 13 billion of damage each year to marine ecosystems. This waste is causing significant damage to the total value of the ocean’s assets, such as fisheries, coral reefs, shipping lanes and carbon absorption, together estimated at USD 24 trillion.
Peter Thomson said: “There is no better example of connection than the rivers and ocean. The pollution that comes from our cities goes into the ocean. Sewage that comes from so many developing countries goes straight into the lagoons or coastal ecosystems. The excess nitrogen and phosphorous that comes from our agricultural fields goes into rivers and is taken into the sea, causing eutrophication and dead zones. And, of course, industrial pollution is also coming down the conduits of the rivers into ocean. The poor ocean is like a dumping ground and we have to stop that. The ocean is critical to our welfare as human beings - every second breath of oxygen you take comes from the ocean.”
Some 90 per cent of the ocean plastic pollution from rivers enters through 10 major river systems in Africa and Asia – a concerning fact that underlined the dialogue at the second roundtable. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is looking to advance global efforts to reduce ocean litter as well as promote targeted interventions to support existing efforts to clean our rivers and oceans. The roundtable provided a forum to engage relevant stakeholders in a cross-sectoral dialogue to discuss sustainable solutions for plastic waste reduction in the major river systems from which waste enters the ocean, existing gaps, and actions required to plug these gaps.
Mohamed A. A. Elkari commented: “This issue of river pollution affecting our oceans has been of high concern to us as Sudan is one of the countries that belongs to the Nile river basin. This roundtable was an excellent opportunity to rally all stakeholders, concerned agencies and organisations that are dealing with the issue of pollution to sensitise their efforts and provide ideas to tackle this alarming issue around the oceans.”
World Ocean Summit 2019 - held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces - is being hosted by the Government of Abu Dhabi and is supported by EAD and DED. The event provides a forum for a global gathering of over 500 delegates - including heads of state, political leaders, policymakers, corporate heads and academics from more than 26 countries – to share dialogue on how best to innovate, govern and promote a sustainable blue economy, and explore new ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of human pressures on ocean health.