Adopting sustainability: Following in Dubai's footsteps
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Adopting sustainability: Following in Dubai’s footsteps

Adopting sustainability: Following in Dubai’s footsteps

Sustainability initiatives launched by the Dubai government will pave the way for more sustainable cities across the Middle East and Africa region

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Ashraf Abdelkhalek, Sustainability Leader at Schneider Electric

The world currently faces the stark reality that major environmental issues have sprung up due to millions of tonnes of plastic that ends up in the oceans every year. Today, one million plastic bottles are sold every single minute across the globe.

More than 40 percent of plastic is used just once, then tossed, ending up in oceans where it can take up to 500 years to dissolve naturally. If we continue at same pace, the amount of plastics in the oceans will be more than the amount of fish by 2050.

Nearly 700 species of animals and marine organisms, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics.Worryingly, microplastic pollution has also been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80 per cent of the people tested. The reasons for this growing problem are many, from excessive littering to lack of proper post-use management.

This makes plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental issues due to huge amounts of production of disposable and single use plastic products. Plastic pollution does not recognise territories or boundaries, a plastic bottle thrown in the Mediterranean can end up in the Arabian Gulf.

The remedy is straightforward: stricter governmental oversight into plastic waste, how we discard it and how to curb it altogether. Constructive solutions are aimed at individual actions and sustainability initiatives that require collaborative efforts and actions of all the stakeholders.

Tackling the global challenge of ocean plastics will require everyone to step up and find innovative solutions to drive a circular transformation. Action is required at grassroots level to cut plastic use and production from sources. Global agreements are needed to coordinate efforts as well.

Dubai, which is taking speedy steps towards sustainability and climate action, is set to host the COP28 in 2023 at Expo City Dubai.

With sustainability becoming a priority, transforming common behaviours of the community to reduce the environmental footprint of individuals is crucial to preserve natural resources and environmental habitats. These changes will ultimately contribute to a healthier environment, which is vital to maintaining a sustainable and high quality of life.

Two new sustainability initiatives were just launched by Dubai government, paving the way for more sustainable cities across the Middle East and Africa region.

In order to enhance environmental sustainability and encourage individuals to reduce the excessive use of plastics, The Executive Council of Dubai has approved the policy to limit single-use bags by imposing a tariff of 25 fils on single-use bags used for carrying goods, starting from July 1.

The tariff  is being implemented in all stores across Dubai, including retail stores, textile and electronic stores, restaurants, pharmacies, online and e-commerce deliveries. The policy will be updated until single-use carrier bags are completely banned within a span of two years, following the assessment of behavioural changes in the community. This is a big step forward that I am sure will be followed by many other countries across the region.

The second initiative is Dubai Can by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, which addresses plastic pollution by tackling single use plastic water bottles. To support the community in transforming their habits, the infrastructure across the city will be equipped with drinkable water filters that will provide water of the same quality as bottled water.

These two initiatives are addressing one of the most persisting pollution issues we face today. They also support the UAE’s position as one of the top countries that are working towards a sustainable future. Targeting behavioural change and providing infrastructure to support the change is the optimum formula to make sustainable change a reality.

Aligning with the UAE’s sustainable vision, we’ve also implemented various initiatives at our Dubai-based headquarters such as stopping the use of single-use plastic bottles and a water filtration system to drive sustainable action.

Sustainability is about people and about small, but consistent and continuous steps to make progress. In the meantime, we must remember that the biggest and most meaningful change comes when people are empowered to take ownership of their own contributions to the sustainability challenge that affects us.  Dubai has shown that sustainability is acting today, not tomorrow.

Ashraf Abdelkhalek is the sustainability leader for Gulf Countries at Schneider Electric

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