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Minister of Climate Change and Environment Reinforces Importance of Green Economy as Cornerstone for Post-COVID-19 Recovery

His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, today stressed that expediting the transition to a green economy is of paramount importance to stage a sustainable recovery from the economic slowdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, without harming the environment or depleting the country’s natural resources. His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi made his comments at the First Ministerial Meeting on COVID-19 and the Environment in West Asia. Hosted by Bahrain, represented by the Supreme Council for Environment, and organized by the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) Regional Office for West Asia, the meeting aimed to shed light on the impacts of the pandemic on the region, and recommend policy actions to ensure a more sustainable and green recovery.

Speaking at the meeting, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi said: “COVID-19 has triggered an economic downturn on a global scale. Countries around the world are currently shaping their recovery plans, and we urge them to align their post-COVID-19 economic activities with the environmental protection priority, because climate change still is the most important existential threat to humanity. Any plans of economic recovery must factor in the green and blue economies as its cornerstones.”

His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi noted that the pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in the global supply chains, particularly for food supply, posing a serious risk to the food security of the community. “For that reason, food security and safety are now at the forefront of the UAE’s priorities and a key focus area for the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.”

The Minister highlighted the UAE’s successful approach in combating COVID-19. As part of its integrated approach, the UAE adopted an effective business continuity scheme through online and smart channels amid the lockdown and the preventive measures taken to limit the impact of the outbreak.

He added: “The UAE stayed on course and maintained the timeline of projects that increase the share of clean energy in the mix. These projects include awarding the contract of the 2GW solar plant project in Abu Dhabi to a consortium, and the milestone induction of the first peaceful nuclear reactor in the Arab world. We also successfully launched the first Arab interplanetary mission to Mars, thereby motivating a whole new generation of Arab youth to pursue space sciences and contribute to pushing the boundaries on space exploration.”

In addition, the Minister noted that the UAE prioritizes preserving the marine environment, as it contributes 68 percent of the country’s GDP.

The meeting drew the participation of His Excellency Dr Mohammed bin Daina, Vice President of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) and Executive Chairman of the Supreme Council for Environment in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Inger Andersen, Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, and Sami Dimassi, Director and Regional Representative of UNEP West Asia Office.

Inger Andersen said: “This meeting is particularly timely as the world continues to face turmoil, massive environmental risks and increasing natural disasters. We are here to address this worrying situation and to drive home the message that the pandemic recovery efforts must place planetary health at the heart of all decisions, and focus on building back better.”

She added: “We have backed the planet, and by extension ourselves, into a corner through the triple planetary crisis of nature loss, climate change and pollution. We now have a real opportunity to do something about it through ensuring that the health of the planet is prioritized in recovery plans. If we consider the numbers, investing in a green recovery is the only thing that makes economic sense. This zoonotic outbreak is incurring costs running to trillions of US dollars across the globe. New research suggests that a series of measures to protect the natural world and ecosystem services would cost a mere 2 percent of the post-COVID-19 recovery bill.”

During the meeting, the ministers adopted a joint ministerial statement confirming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human safety and the environment, and its adverse impact on local, regional and global economies. The ministers expressed their deep regret for the lives lost due to the pandemic, noting that it has led to a remarkable increase in the production of waste in general, specifically plastic at the national, regional and international levels. The pandemic has also resulted in declining investments in environmental and economic measures and activities that depend on environmental services due to the precautionary measures.

The meeting called for strengthening regional coordination, and for stepping up efforts and exchanging knowledge and experiences, in working for a healthy environment for current and future generations. It also urged the UNEP Regional Office in West Asia to continue providing technical support and assistance to the countries of the region, especially those affected by the crisis, to drive home the environmental dimension in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, achieve the sustainable development goals, and fulfill their obligations towards relevant multilateral environmental agreements.

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