Op-Ed: Living in harmony with the environment is an act of tolerance

By Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment In the Year of Tolerance, the UAE is on a noble mission to promote peaceful coexistence around the world. The historic Human Fraternity Meeting in Abu Dhabi between His Holiness Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, represented a manifestation of interfaith unity that brought people together despite their differences.

The message of tolerance our country seeks to convey to the world includes in its scope the peaceful coexistence between people and their surrounding environment. The founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, championed this message, and the country’s current wise leadership carries it forward.

Rehabilitation centers for endangered species, designated terrestrial and marine protected areas, and a host of ongoing conservation schemes are prime examples of how the UAE endeavors to maintain peace with its environment.

These efforts are supported by a legislative framework that ensures that the country’s development is sustainable and does not come at the expense of the environment.

According to statistics, 60 percent of the animal population has been wiped out since the 1970s, carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have surged 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018, and over 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from our fields. Furthermore, a third of all marine species in the Arabian Gulf could become extinct by 2090, and extreme weather events have increased dramatically from 80 in 1970 to 400 in 2017.

These disasters are clearly man-made. Whether it is a result of ignorance, carelessness, or the blind pursuit of economic gain, failure to heed the evidence-based warnings about climate change comes with a hefty price tag – loss of species and entire ecosystems, and the products and services they provide that are invaluable to our livelihoods and well-being.

Despite the clarion call urging people to adopt sustainable production and consumption patterns and reduce their carbon footprint, they continue to act as if the earth has an infinite capacity to provide raw materials and absorb waste.

It is imperative that goodwill and tolerance are intrinsic to people’s interactions with one another and with the environment so that mankind and nature can thrive side by side.

As evidenced by the landmark visit of His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, the UAE today is a beacon of solidarity and peaceful coexistence, with over 200 nationalities living together in harmony. Nations of the world need to take a leaf out of our country’s book, and nurture tolerance and compassion towards their fellow human beings and the environment.

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