Khansa Ibraheem Al Blouki, Director- Environmental Information, Science & Outreach Management, The Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)
The EAD – an organization that unites public and private sectors, as well as individuals towards environmental protection
Q: What are the biggest challenges that the EAD has identified and is facing with regards to the positive impacts on the environment and the society on all 3 levels – public, private, and individuals?
Changing behavior could be challenging when it comes to positive impacts on the environment. Education helps to shape behavior and environmental education is paramount to developing well prepared and environmentally responsible citizenry. Our outreach division designs programs focused on different target audiences in order to deliver messages about the environment in the simplest way and lead towards behavioral change. Through our targeted programs we work with all 3 levels and we have noticed that all are keen to contribute to changes. All challenges could be resolved if we join our forces to make a difference.
Q: Through the Green Business Network (GBN), the EAD influences businesses to contribute positively to the economy, environment, and society. Could you tell us more about your achievements so far?
The EAD launched the Green Business Network in 2019 – a platform for public and private sector organizations to learn, promote and share environmentally friendly practices in their workplace. The initiative aims to empower large corporations as well as small to medium size enterprises to make a greater collective contribution to the emirate’s sustainable development plans. The core objective of the platform is to foster dialogue and actions encouraging responsible business activities in the UAE, and it was designed as a response to growing trends in consumption, government policy and costs, all of which point to greater green business opportunities in the years ahead. So far 67 members have joined the GBN. Additionally, the GBN focuses on teaching the organizations how to assess carbon emissions from waste, water, and energy. It also encourages sustainability practices among employees.
In 2019 more than 21 organizations participated in the Paperless Day. In only one day these organizations succeeded in saving 2 million paper sheets, 330 trees and 308 thousand liters of water.
Q: Can individuals and organizations from other emirates join the AED initiatives and programs?
All our activities and programs are open to general public all over the UAE. Please follow us on Instagram page @environmentabudhabi to stay updated about the EAD’s initiatives and activities.
Q: The EAD understands the importance of the young and their education. With this in mind, it runs Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI), with 75% of Abu Dhabi schools registered in it, as well as ‘Connect with Nature’ program which is encouraging young people in the UAE to explore the country’s natural heritage. What can you tell us about the responsiveness and engagement of the young in the UAE today?
The EAD with support from the BP developed Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI) with the goal to promote environmental knowledge, critical thinking, impart problem solving skills, encourage a participatory approach and develop the right attitude on environmental ethics among the school community in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. As the major component of the SSI program, participating schools audit their own environmental impact, set in concrete action goals to address the impact, develop their teaching staff through training sessions, and engage students by setting up environmental clubs. Furthermore, they give exposure to their students to hands on field experiences enabling them to understand the environment better. Since the launch in 2009, there has been a positive response and a very high level of engagement and participation from over 100 schools in Abu Dhabi Emirate. This initiative encourages students not only to reduce their ecological footprint, but also to increase their ‘ecological handprint’, which are actions towards achieving sustainability. At this moment 150 schools are part of the SSI.
Connect with Nature (CWN) is an innovative program targeted at the UAE population aged between 15 and 30 years and designed to inspire, motivate, educate and enable them to experience, celebrate and respect the UAE’s natural heritage. It aims to increase environmental awareness, build a public movement for change through outreach initiatives and create an appreciation of nature that translates into living a more sustainable lifestyle. The program’s goal is to equip young people with the experiences, knowledge, skills and opportunities to become the next generation of sustainability leaders, thus continuing the legacy of the late founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. We are happy to confirm that since the launch in January 2019, the program has been met with an immense interest. There has been a real positive response and level of engagement and participation.
Through experiential learning, outreach activities and citizen science, our aim is to shape values, influence attitudes and behavior of 10,000 young people by 2022. Nonetheless, we already have reach the community of more than 4,000 people indicating that the program is well received and that we will reach our target in the next two years. We have also achieved our impact target of influencing the young to priorities and value nature in their lives with 86% of the current CWN community already making nature a priority in their everyday lives.
Q: In 2020, the EAD organized the first edition of Al Sidr Environmental Film Festival. What was the reaction from the visitors? Who was the target audience on this occasion?
The first Edition of Al Sidr Environmental Film Festival targeted the general public with several workshops focusing on environmental activists, film-makers and school students. It received positive feedback and reviews while many expressed their wish and interest to visit the festival again. Furthermore, they emphasized that the films they had seen, left a positive impression, raised their awareness and opened their eyes to the reality of the condition of our environment. One visitor commented that the combination of films, discussions and workshops was very inspiring. We are proud to have had 1,130 visitors over the course of three days of the festival.
Q: In the near future will there be any initiatives organized or supported by the EAD that companies or individuals can join and participate in?
One of our biggest initiatives happening soon is the Abu Dhabi Clean Initiative, supporting the recent progressive policy to reduce the singe use of plastic in the Emirate. ABU DHABI CLEAN is a community driven initiative empowering individuals to take actions towards creating a sustainable environment. It is an opportunity for all Abu Dhabi residents to contribute to the citizen science by supporting the EAD in its research on the amount of single use of plastics and other types of waste entering the marine environment throughout the year. “ABU DHABI CLEAN” is a user-friendly mobile application and an easily accessible tool for individuals of all ages. Whenever you find single use plastic and/or waste on the beach, the “ABU DHABI CLEAN” application helps you to categorize, record and upload your findings. The data are reported directly to the EAD providing the researchers and policy makers with insights about the current situation, as well as helping them to make better decisions formulate new regulations and provide recommendations to the leaders in Abu Dhabi. Stay tuned as we will be launching it soon.
The EAD regulates and enforces Abu Dhabi environmental laws to protect biodiversity and preserve the quality of life for a sustainable future. The EAD works closely with NGOs, public, private, and international organizations in order to come up with solutions to conserve our environment and achieve our vision – ‘Towards a sustainable environment for a sustainable future’.