Abu Dhabi, November 6, 2017: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) published the Abu Dhabi State of Environment Report (AD-SoER 2017), which provides a comprehensive insight into the current state of the environment of Abu Dhabi Emirate. The report focuses on major environmental themes, including air quality, soil, water resources, marine water quality and biodiversity and important issues, such as climate change, the emirate's fisheries, forestry and waste.
The AD-SoER 2017 was launched officially on Monday, at Masdar Institute, in the presence of a large number of dignitaries from the government, private sectors, NGOs, academia and students.
The report was developed using an integrated DPSIR approach (Driving forces–Pressure–State–Impact–Response) that covers environmental themes and issues and maps socioeconomic activities with environmental change to demonstrate consequences of environmental pressures.
Lead authors of the report were all Emirati staff within EAD, who underwent multiple levels of stakeholder participation and consultation, in the development of the report. Stakeholders included Abu Dhabi Emirate entities, federal entities, NGOs and academia.
Stakeholder engagement helped with the collection of information and data that may not be available in the public domain, foster a common understanding of complex issues and provide scientific credibility, accuracy and legitimacy.
HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region, Chairman of EAD stated in the report's foreword, "The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has experienced unprecedented growth over the last 40 years. Since 1975, the population has grown over 14 times, and in the past decade alone, it has almost doubled. Our GDP has similarly grown exponentially".
"Our emirate and our nation should be justifiably proud of this progress. We are indebted to the leadership of our President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who are guiding the rapid and sustained development of our emirate", HH Sheikh Hamdan added.
He said "But not surprisingly, with this development there has been greater industrialisation, urbanisation, use of technology, transportation, and an increase in our appetite for consumables, water and energy. All of these factors have the potential to impact our fragile natural environment negatively. We believe that our continued growth must be sustainable, and for this to happen, a frank and realistic view of the current state of our environment and of significant human impacts is essential".
"Only then can we make policy decisions to chart a more sustainable path for growth. This robust State of Environment Report has been developed using global best practices and knowledge. It has been authored by UAE nationals, ensuring transfer of knowledge and ownership of methods for future environmental reporting", HH Sheikh Hamdan said.
HE Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs Managing Director of EAD said; "Today our planet faces potentially very grave consequences resulting from the growth of the global population and our appetite for resources. Issues such as climate change, water scarcity and food security weigh heavily on our collective consciousness".
"Thankfully, there is a growing global movement towards environmental protection and preservation. Many governments, corporations and citizens are actively pursuing and reaping the benefits of a green growth strategy, striving not only to limit the anthropological impacts of our continued development but, where possible, to reverse the trends of environmental degradation. The leadership of Abu Dhabi and the federal government of the UAE are determined to be leaders and not followers in environmental stewardship" he said.
HE Bowardi noted "We have made commitments to international agreements and instruments, but perhaps our biggest commitment is to the people of Abu Dhabi. The vision for Abu Dhabi, enshrined in the Abu Dhabi Plan, is to deliver sustainable growth for the benefit of all inhabitants of the emirate. The Plan, developed under the guidance of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, aims to deliver the vision of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for the continued fulfilment the ambitious vision envisaged by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan".
"But such international commitments and sustainability targets can only be met with a thorough understanding of the state of the environment and of priority issues that we face – whether they are natural or anthropological" he added.
HE Bowardi added "This SoER paves the way for an honest, open revelation of the issues and a subsequent dialogue with policy-makers as the first step in finding workable, sustainable solutions. The development of this report not only consolidated our collective knowledge on the environment, but it also built capacity among the employees of EAD, like-minded entities, and local and international peer reviewers. It has also been an exercise in gap analysis, for there is clearly a constant need to seek in-depth data and robust analysis on the state of our environment and priority areas if we are to effect change for good".
HE Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD's Secretary General said: "EAD is celebrating, reflecting and building upon 20 years of achievement in environmental protection in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The cornerstone of all of our achievements is the collection, interpretation and utilisation of environmental data. This enables us to continue our efforts in species conservation, habitat protection, the designation of protected areas and in environmental quality-related issues. We champion the improvement of marine water quality and air quality and the protection of precious groundwater resources.
"We continue to further our understanding of the potential impacts of climate change and how to mitigate against these, and to develop appropriate policy instruments and a judicial system to ensure their enforcement", Al Mubarak added.
"None of these achievements would have been possible without an ever-deepening understanding of the state of our environment. Perhaps one of our biggest accomplishments over the past 20 years is the growth of our collective knowledge on the state of our environment and anthropogenic impacts", she noted.
"AD-SoER 2017 is a snapshot at a point in time, however, our collection, aggregation and analysis of data, and the way that we use this collective knowledge is a continuum. Where there are gaps in data or understanding we will seek to fill them. We strive to make better use of our collective knowledge for cohesive action to develop and enforce stronger policy instruments for environmental preservation, for the benefit of our natural environment and the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi Emirate" HE Al Mubarak said.
The report revealed that households are the greatest contributors to the UAE's ecological footprint, followed by the business/industry and government sectors, which account for 30 % and 12 % respectively.
Using a number of indicators, the AD-SoE revealed the current state of the emirate's air quality. It stated that 76% of the time the emirate's air quality was within National Air Quality limits which is generally quite good, whilst emissions from transport, industry and naturally occurring dust events are a significant pressure on the quality of air in the emirate and need to be monitored and managed.
According to the report, extensive analysis of soil use, salinity and contamination, showed that 85% of land in Abu Dhabi Emirate is naturally degraded and therefore the appropriate use of our land is of fundamental importance for our future.
For water resources, currently groundwater and desalinated water account for 60% and 35% of water use in the emirate, with recycled water contributing just 5%. Over the last decade, the emirate's overall groundwater level has continuously declined, particularly in the Eastern Region. The sustainability of the emirate's precious groundwater resources is one of the greatest sustainability challenges that the UAE faces.
The key indicator of the current state of marine water quality showed that 94% of monitored sites met good microbial water quality standard in 2015, therefore the marine water quality in the emirate is generally good. The impacts on mainland coastal areas appear to be stable, except for certain confined areas. Previous impacts, measured in terms of fish kills and beach closures, are diminished. However, eutrophication primarily from coastal industry and treated wastewater are the biggest current and potential threats to marine water quality, which really is the lifeline of our coastal existence.
For biodiversity, the key indicator of the current state showed that 80% of terrestrial and marine habitat baseline area retained in Abu Dhabi in 2015. The report noted that the emirate's harsh environment hosts approximately 3,800 known species with more being discovered. Whilst populations of many key species are stable, some are certainly in decline. At present less than 2% are considered threatened. Establishment and maintenance of safe havens for our wildlife are critically important to ensure that we do not witness or mirror the declines of other species around the world.
The report also shows that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is already experiencing the effects of climate change including increases in air and sea temperatures, sea level rise, higher salinity and acidity of water resources. Rapid growth in demographic, social and economic development and the ever-increasing demand for water and energy are the main drivers for the increasing pressure exerted by greenhouse gas (GHG)) emissions. The principal source of GHGs in Abu Dhabi Emirate is the combustion of fossil fuels by the energy and transportation sectors. Earlier concerns of ozone-depleting substances have diminished due to effective regulatory controls and awareness. However, there are new concerns about GHG emissions from power and fuel production, road transport, metal production and other manufacturing, and waste disposal sectors.
According to the report, Abu Dhabi's principal fisheries resources have experienced severe over-exploitation. There has been an estimated 90% decline in abundance over the past 40 years. Over-capacity in the fishing fleet, coastal development, cumulative desalination activities and pollution, as well as climate change, cause pressure on the emirate's fisheries. The report highlighted that this decline in the state of Abu Dhabi Emirate's fisheries causes social, economic and environmental impacts. Fisheries' contribution to future food security is jeopardised, as is the opportunity for employment in the sector. There is also a loss of recreational value and tourism opportunities. A reduction in ecosystem function may have far-reaching effects on Abu Dhabi Emirate's maritime domain.
For forestry, the key indicator of current state showed that 12.6% reduction of all water use in forestry in 2016. It noted that forests cover 3.5% of our land mass, they include over 20 million trees and are home to 55,000 ungulates, but as the greatest consumer of groundwater, their sustainability is very much linked to groundwater consumption.
The report highlighted that in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi the development of waste management infrastructure and enforcement of policies has not kept pace with our rapid development, where 1.65Kg per capita per day of municipal solid waste was generated in 2015. The report noted that to deal with this issue the emirate has developed a number of measures to improve waste management, including: public awareness initiatives and engagement in sustainable consumption; improved infrastructure based upon accurate data; incentive programmes to encourage waste minimisation, reuse and recycling; and enhanced, enforceable regulations. A comprehensive regulatory framework and the proposed integrated waste management master plan will also help Abu Dhabi Emirate achieve national and local targets.
The report concluded that notwithstanding the advances in environmental management in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi over the last 20 years, further action is needed to address current pressures such as inefficient use of resources, and emerging challenges such as climate change. This includes more effective policies and regulations and a stronger commitment from business and individuals to embrace sustainable production and consumption.