Abdullah bin Zayed attends World Ocean Summit

  • Tuesday 05, March 2019 05:41 PM
Sharjah24 – WAM: With effective and timely action, the world’s most valuable resource - its oceans - could be saved. In creating a sustainable ocean economy, countries around the globe have a real chance at protecting their biodiversity and safeguarding their food and climate security.
These were the key takeaways on day one of the sixth World Ocean Summit, currently underway at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

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, the event marks its first-ever edition to be held in the Middle East. The annual gathering, which runs from 5th – 7th March this year, is supported by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, EAD, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, DED, on behalf of the Government of Abu Dhabi.

The Summit convenes over 500 delegates - including heads of state, political leaders, policymakers, corporate heads and academics from over 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. Abu Dhabi will leverage its role as a nexus for Africa, Europe and Asia encouraging dialogue on ocean issues with the aim of bringing greater collaboration across regions and, connecting the world to new ideas and perspectives.

Commenting on the occasion, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said: "The World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi marks a momentous occasion for the UAE as it welcomes its very first edition in the Middle East. It provides an invaluable opportunity to showcase our nation’s leadership in marine environmental protection, which is guiding by the legacy of our founding father, Sheikh Zayed. Promoting the sustainable development of our ocean is a key priority for the UAE as we work to ensure that rapid economic development does not come at a cost to our marine biodiversity and natural ecosystems, which are critical to sustaining the livelihood of our coastal communities."

He added: "The fact that the UAE governs the healthiest oceans in the region according to the latest Ocean Health Index reflects our steadfast commitment to marine conservation and preservation, but there is still lots more yet to be done. The World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi will shine the spotlight on regional economies as changemakers in the global sustainability dialogue. We have been overlooked in these discussions in the past, but we believe our participation and impact can be significant and far-reaching. Platforms such as the summit are critical to keeping the dialogue alive and strong in order to inspire collective, global action towards the development of sustainable oceans."

Delivering the opening remarks on behalf of the UAE, Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: "The UAE has been closely connected to its marine environment for centuries. In the past, pearl trade, fishing, and transport of basic materials were a major source of livelihood here. Now, 42 percent of Abu Dhabi population and 90 percent of the UAE population are living in coastal areas. The blue economy contributes 68 percent of the GDP, and desalinated water accounts for 98 percent of the country’s fresh water."

He added: "The UAE Government has long realised that the country is blessed with rich marine biodiversity and assigned a great importance to preserving it and ensuring its sustainability. It has worked towards striking a balance between economic growth and environment protection. To meet the priority of sustaining natural resources and biodiversity, it has devised multiple strategies, plans, visions, and initiatives. Prime examples are the Environmental Impact Assessment Programme, Abu Dhabi Plan Maritime 2030, Zayed Protected Areas Network, the Marine Water Quality Network, in addition to the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme, Aquaculture Policy, and the many laws protecting our marine environment."

Dr Al Zeyoudi noted that despite the international measures being taken to restore balance in oceans, the magnitude of pressure on the marine environment is colossal. He said: "We all need to join forces and expedite the pace of collective efforts to mitigate the common challenges our marine environment faces, such as climate change, overfishing, and pollution. Through hosting the World Ocean Summit, the UAE seeks to convene international decision makers, experts, and specialists to drive innovative, actionable mechanisms and solutions that effectively contribute to the protection of marine environment and ensure biodiversity sustainability, in a bid to create a better future for this generation and generations to come."

A third thought leadership session held during the day focused on the shipping industry and the proposed 2050 targets to reduce greenhouse gases by 50 percent compared to 2008 levels. Speaking on the need for tech disruption to achieve this goal were Bud Darr, Executive Vice President of Maritime Policy and Government Affairs at Mediterranean Shipping Company, Adam Goldstein, Vice-chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Global Ghair of Cruise Lines International Association, and Shizuo Takahashi, Executive Vice President and Chief Information officer, Mitsui OSK Lines.

With close to 13 million tonnes of plastic entering the world’s oceans every year, fish stocks being harvested at biologically unsustainable levels, and with close to 60 per cent of the world’s oceans lying outside national jurisdictions, there is an acute need for urgent action to protect the oceans through local, regional and global partnerships. Through spotlighting these challenges and facilitating collaborative solutions by representatives from governments, businesses, academia and civil society, the World Ocean Summit continues to remain a catalyst in the global movement towards ocean sustainability.