Green Dubai

A Shared Commitment to Protecting the Environment

Land and sea diversity is an integral part of the UAE's heritage. Similar to the United States, the UAE has a strong tradition of conservationism. UAE organizations have partnered with environmental groups in the US and around the globe for decades to revitalize habitats, protect threatened species and preserve our planet.

Preserving Coastal Ecosystems

Within the UAE, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is working to preserve the local coastal and marine ecosystem through coral reef rehabilitation, mangrove cultivation, and installing artificial caves. At COP26, the UAE pledged to plant 100 million mangrove trees, which help capture carbon and protect coastal areas, by 2030. By spearheading the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC), the UAE has worked to facilitate mangrove recovery and advance practical climate solutions. Since the MAC was launched at COP27, 30 countries have joined the alliance. At COP28 this year in the UAE, $186.6 million of new financing for nature and climate towards forests, mangroves, and the ocean was announced.

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In 2020, the UAE Embassy, The United Way of Collier County and the Keys and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the UAE was granting $3.5 million in funds to restore and preserve 100 miles of coral reef in the Florida Keys. Once a thriving ecosystem, only two percent of the area’s reef has survived hurricanes, aquatic health issues and human interaction. In revitalizing North America’s only barrier reef, restoration experts and local communities are working hand-in-hand over the course of five years to build up 500,000 coral clusters. The gift is part of a larger pledge to the state of Florida for Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

In 2023, United Way of Collier and the Keys and the UAE announced a collaboration to provide critical funding of up to $50,000 to support Reef Renewal USA in response to the escalating coral bleaching crisis throughout the Florida Keys. The funding aids projects focused on removing the corals at risk of bleaching from their current environment and relocating them to deep water or land-based nurseries.

The UAE’s role in restoring the reef will extend far beyond the seafloor. Part of the funding is used to establish educational initiatives in marine science to engage youth, including a UAE-supported scholarship fund for students in Monroe County pursuing marine science degrees at state universities. Funds have gone towards developing a Coral Restoration Learning Exchange Program between the UAE and the Coral Restoration Consortium (CRC). Restoring the coral reefs will also have a significant economic impact in the Keys, where tourism is a key industry and the ocean environment supports more than half of all local jobs.

Closer to home, the UAE launched the Fujairah Cultured Coral Reef Gardens project in 2019. The five-year project involves the cultivation of 1.5 million coral reef colonies spanning 300,000 square meters. Conservationists from the Florida Keys in the United States will join marine biologists in the Emirates to establish the world’s largest artificial reef. In order to preserve key marine species, the UAE is implementing two action plans for the conservation and management of the 43 shark species and 29 ray species and the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats in territorial waters.

Sea turtle in ocean

In December 2022, the United Nations Environment Program named the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi's marine ecosystem preservation and rehabilitation program in its top 10 global initiatives. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi is establishing nurseries for seagrass, reviving the coast and maintaining a haven for marine life in order to preserve the dugong, a mammal now considered vulnerable to extinction. When Abu Dhabi’s seagrass restoration is completed, 3,000 dugongs and over 4,000 green turtles are expected to use the habitat for foraging and reproduction.

Dugong preservation efforts

Protecting Species and Habitats

The UAE’s work with conservationists extends back decades. Founded in 2008, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund provides grants to organizations around the world working with threatened plant and animal species. As of 2023, the Fund has awarded more than $24 million to over 2,500 conservation projects, including 42 in the US. The fund has helped species ranging from giant sea bass living off the coasts of Mexico and California to the ‘ohe mauka plants native to Hawaii. The latest addition to the list is the world’s rarest duck, the Madagascar pochard, that has taken a small step away from the threat of extinction, thanks to a conservation project supported by the Fund.

The UAE also supports the worldwide effort to save the Arabian oryx, a desert antelope that became extinct in the wild in the early 1970s. Thanks to groundbreaking work at the San Diego and Phoenix zoos, experts have reintroduced the animal into the Middle East, including the UAE, over the last 40 years. UAE founder Sheikh Zayed personally supported the project, breeding oryx himself and founding the Sir Bani Yas nature reserve in 1977.

Arabian oryx on a hillside

Thanks to decades of conservation work, the UAE today is home to 7,500 of these stunning creatures, and Sir Bani Yas island has become a cradle of biodiversity teeming with wildlife and several million trees and plants. For his dedication to conservation, the late Sheikh Zayed became the first head of state to receive the World Wildlife Fund’s Golden Panda award in 1997.

Aside from the Arabian oryx, the UAE’s conservation programs target a variety of threatened species, saving them from extinction. These include the International Fund for the Conservation of Houbara, the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Program and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Additionally, UAE conservation efforts extend to marine turtles and dugongs. In 2019, over 80 marine turtles were rehabilitated and returned to the waters of the Arabian Gulf, also home to the second largest dugong population in the world after Australia.

E conservation program helps save endangered species