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UAE seeks zero flaring policy: says Hamdan bin Zayed

posted on 10/02/2001: 2212 views

The UAE has made dramatise reduction in flaring of gases from onshore and offshore oilfields as part of its commitment to conservation and protection of the environment, according Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. 'In 1995, some 250 million cubic feet of gas a day were flared in Abu Dhabi.

Today, we are down 56 million - a 78 per cent reduction in just five years and our objective is a zero flaring policy,' Sheikh Hamdan said in article entitled ' Threat that faces us all' contributed to the Wednesday's issue of the British newspaper the 'Guardian'. Sheikh Hamdan, which is also Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA), urged both rich and poor countries to join efforts in order to ward off the threat to the global environment.

' We are conscious that in the process of funding our ambitious development programme, we have a responsibility not only towards our own environment but, also to that of the planet,' he stressed.

Following is the full text of Sheikh Hamdan's article.

At the start of a new century, it is sobering to reflect that 100 years ago, there were 4.3 billion less people on the planet then there are today and their impact on the natural environment was comparatively modest. The competition for the use of scarce resources today is massive, and we now have the strongest evidence yet that global warming is overwhelmingly induced by human behaviour.

According to the international Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, surface temperatures of the planet could rise by between 1.4 and 5.8 degree Celsius over the next hundred years. This is on top of the 20th Century having seen the biggest rise in temperatures in at least the past 1000 years. And global warming is not the only man-made environmental threat. Already this year we have seen the Galapagos Islands become the latest victims of a major oil spill. Away from the headlines, chain saws are destroying rainforests, dams are silting up rivers and pesticides threaten both wildlife and the soil from which food to feed an ever-growing world population must be derived.

In her introduction to the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Gro Harlem Brundtland wrote : "If we do not succeed in putting our message of urgency through to today's parents and decision makers, we risk undermining our children's fundamental right to a healthy, life enhancing environment. "And yet, the IPCC now tells us that the subsequent decade of the 1990s was probably the hottest of the past millennium.

Thanks to an explosion of environmental pressure groups, we now hear much more about how we are mortgaging our children's future, but there is little sign of concrete action from policymakers as the warnings become louder and are backed up by more and more evidence. In the Middle East, we have a special need to pay attention to these warnings. As many of the countries of the region are low-lying and short of water, we are also under the threat from rising sea levels and desertification.

By the end of this century, we are now told, sea levels could rise by as much as 88cm. This could flood not only coastal areas of the United Arab Emirates, but also much of the heavily populated Nile Delta in Egypt and the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates river system in Iraq. Increasing desertification threatens much of our agricultural land. A rapidly rising population places ever-growing demands on our natural resources. We are not alone. Rising waters threaten livelihoods from Bangladesh to Boston and desertification in the Middle East may be matched by a return of the dustbowl that drove farmers off the land in the American Midwest in the last century. From Rio to Kyoto to the Hague, we have seen too many deadlocked conferences where reluctance to give anything up has meant that Mrs. Brundtland's message of urgency has fallen on deaf ears. Part of the answer is new technology, from wind up radios to CVC free refrigerators to desalination plants. But, ultimately, it will take tough policy decisions and the courage to follow through to reverse the frightening threat to our common future.

During the 1990s, the world GDP grew by more than ten trillion dollars. Eight percent of that growth was in the high-income countries of the world. As their wealth increased so did their use of natural resources. We are all in the same boat, and rich countries can not simply shrug their shoulders. We must all step up to our different responsibilities. In the UAE, we are still a developing country, although we are blessed with the wealth bestowed on us by our oil and gas reserves. We are conscious that in the process of funding our ambitious development programme, we have a responsibility not only towards our own environment, but also to that of the planet. We are getting promising results from research into the capturing of clean energy from the sun through a new generation of solar panels. Before long it will be possible for us to construct buildings with photovoltaic panels that will generate most of their own energy requirements.

A major achievement in recent years has been a dramatic reduction in the flaring of gases from onshore and offshore oilfields. In 1995, some 250 million cubic feet of gas a day were flared in Abu Dhabi.

Today, we are down 56 million - 78 per cent reduction in just five years. Our objective is a zero flaring policy. We are but one small prosperous country and we still have a long way to go and much to learn. Bigger countries that are fully developed must be willing to join in a compact with their global neighbours, rich and poor, to ward off the threat of the global environment. We and our neighbours in this region need to move forward together to do our part. Early this Week, the Environment Ministers of the 21 Arab countries met in Abu Dhabi to adopt the "Abu Dhabi Declaration" to lay down a strategy for sustainable use of environmental resources throughout the Arab world for the 21st century. And Environment 2001 Conference and Exhibition has heard top scientists from around the world discussing the problem we face, and their possible solutions. They are timely meeting and have issued warnings to which we must listen. The stakes are high for us, for our children and for our planet. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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