Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, Emirates Nature-WWF, Director General
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us, in ways which leave us in no doubt, that human health equals economic health equals planetary health. The three are intricately linked, as witnessed by the profound domino effect continuing to transform the world we live in. There is a dangerous dichotomy emerging: do we prioritise human health or climate change? This is misleading; it is not an either/or situation. It is critical that society works together as we enter a new era of radical, collaborative action to cut emissions and reverse nature loss.
As the UAE prepares its national strategy for the post-COVID-19 recovery, it’s important to reflect on the fact that the UAE is home to a myriad of natural landscapes and rare species. Over the years, it has become clear that Emirati culture and customs are deeply entrenched in nature. This is also reflected in the nation’s long-term strategies for economic growth and development, which showcase commitment towards diversifying the economy and supporting technological innovation with business ideas for the future. This can be seen in the AED50 billion ‘Ghadan 21’ stimulus package for Abu Dhabi announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince, last year.
The UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once said, “On land and in the sea, our fore-fathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”
This principle is implemented till this day, with the direction and guidance of the UAE’s wise leadership, helping to encourage and promote the conservation of the nation’s natural habitats and wildlife. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum embedded these values in his recently published best-seller ‘My Story’, a detailed selection of anecdotes chronicling the life and times of the Ruler in honour of his 50 years of service to the nation.
Many people are wondering when life will get back to normal after the COVID-19 crisis. What we should be asking is: can we use this opportunity to learn from our mistakes and build something better? A focus on nature can help us understand where pandemics come from and how the socio-economic fallout from the crisis could be mitigated.
As governments around the world move from “rescue” to “recovery” mode, key sectors could provide particularly strong returns in terms of rebooting economies, creating jobs and advancing climate goals. Highlighting the UAE’s commitment to future generations, Sheikh Mohammed has always stressed the government’s role in working towards maintaining a secure future for the people and focusing on ensuring the prosperity of future generations. The UAE has taken important steps to mitigate climate change and its devastating consequences.
Our failure to protect nature and mitigate climate change will deprive future generations from adequate and quality natural resources as basic as air and water. To encourage the preservation of the environment, we have to continue to work in line with the government to bring conservation science closer to policy makers, initiating and encouraging dialogue on these issues across all sectors of society – and youth, the future decision makers of tomorrow, need to be a part of the conversation.
Youth from across the UAE can now share their insights, predictions and recommendations as part of a series of live dialogues organized by ‘Connect with Nature’ titled the ‘Reimagine Series’; a platform of virtual youth majlis’ focusing on reimagining life following the pandemic. The Connect with Nature programme, cofounded by Emirates Nature-WWF and Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi with the International Fund for Houbara Conservation as a strategic partner, will provide youth with the opportunity to share their insights with key decisionmakers and experts from across various sectors. Free for all participants, young residents of the UAE aged 15 to 30, can register and join the ‘Reimagine Series’ youth majlis’ through the Connect with Nature website for a chance to contribute their thoughts and insights towards the critical question of how society can emerge from the crisis and start to build the path towards a more resilient and sustainable future.