Laws and strategies
As an integral part of its heritage, the UAE follows a policy to conserve its desert environment and terrestrial ecosystems. Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the Protection and Development of Environment (PDF) aims to protect the environment and its quality, develop natural resources, conserve biodiversity and rationalise its usage across the country.
In 2013, the UAE launched a four-year national strategy and action plan for bio-security to ensure that the country is protected against biological hazards.
In addition, one of the main elements of the UAE's environmental conservation policies is to raise awareness among new generations to adopt a more responsible behaviour towards natural resources. This is supported by the launch of 'The National Environmental Education and Awareness Strategy 2015-2021' that was developed according to international standards and the expectations of the parties concerned.
The strategy aims at educating the youth of the UAE towards a sustainable future and strengthening the community's commitment to sustainability and environmental protection.
The UAE is committed to protecting and managing the rich biodiversity of the state and prevent the extinction of threatened species. The creation of natural reserves intend to improve the environment and protect the wildlife in the country, in addition to the promotion of eco-tourism.
By 2017 there were 43 nature reserves in the UAE. Reserves that have been listed as wetlands of international importance within the framework of Ramsar Convention increased.
Preserving the UAE's plant species
The UAE aims to conserve its native plant species and use them sustainably. In 2014, the UAE's Ministry of Climate Change and Environment completed the first phase of its date palm tree identification through DNA profiling through a collaboration with the UAE University.
The projects aims to offer all kinds of support to preserve, identify and classify all genetic assets of date palm trees. It also aims to establish a reference database for all types of palm trees found in the UAE, as well as identify and document the extent of their diversity. The project will also help increase the contribution of palm tree planting and date production to the country's gross domestic product.
Efforts for conserving life on land
The UAE boasts a diverse range of marine and terrestrial ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and sand dunes, with a wide range of flora and fauna including vulnerable or endangered species such as, Arabian leopard, Arabian Oryx, green turtle and dugongs. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan adopted in 2014 is based on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and guides the UAE’s efforts in conserving biodiversity during the coming decade and contribute to the achievement of relevant SDGs, mainly SDG 14 and SDG 15.
To date, the UAE has designated 43 federal protected areas of which five have officially been designated as Ramsar Sites (wetlands sites recognized under the Ramsar Convention). These amounts to a total of around 12 per cent of marine and coastal areas and 16 per cent of terrestrial areas of the UAE and there are plans to increase their coverage. The management effectiveness of the UAE's protected areas is evaluated annually to ensure sustainable management of species and ecosystems in close cooperation with relevant entities. Furthermore, in 2016, five areas in the UAE were identified as Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) under CBD, in recognition of their contribution to healthy marine ecosystems.
The UAE launched a number of programmes and initiatives for biodiversity conservation. For example, in order to better factor-in environmental and economic benefits offered by ecosystems and to facilitate their sustainable utilisation, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCE) launched the UAE Smart Map of Natural Capital in 2014. This initiative enables users to identify available natural resources and value ecosystem services at the national level in monetary terms. Aside from policies and regulations, public awareness raising and capacity building through specialised trainings and workshops are important in ensuring the achievement of the SDGs.
In 2016, MoCCE celebrated biodiversity through a number of international and regional environmental days such World Day to Combat Desertification, World Wildlife Day, International Day for Biological Diversity, World Shark Day, GCC Biodiversity Day and World Animal Day.
In particular, the UAE is working to ensure that relevant entities and the general public are aware of the issue of illegal wildlife trade, and a number of campaigns have taken place in the recent years. The 'Beautiful in the Wild' campaign was kicked-off in 2015, to raise the awareness of the importance of keeping wild animals in their natural habitats and the effects of invasive species on local biodiversity using visual simulation technologies. In 2016, the campaign targeted Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports in cooperation with partner organisations to raise awareness among UAE visitors and residents.
Furthermore, Al Ain Zoo in corporation with the MoCCE launched the second Nature Conservation Festival in 2016, under the theme 'Illicit Trafficking in Endangered Species'. The festival helped to raise awareness on the different endangered species and roles and responsibilities for the community in addressing illegal wildlife trade.