Reconciling human progress with environmental protection
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Insights: Reconciling human progress with environmental protection

Insights: Reconciling human progress with environmental protection

The UAE has put environmental protection at the heart of its development agenda for decades; it was the first country in the GCC to sign the Paris Agreement and launch its Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative

Gulf Business
Reconciling human progress with environmental protection byPascal Grante, Chief Executive Officer, Veolia Near and Middle East image Veolia

As the ecological footprint of humanity becomes increasingly compromised due to the planetary trilemma of climate change, resource depletion and widespread pollution, it is time for all of us to collectively disrupt the incremental methods adopted to combat this ecological emergency and adopt a fresh approach instead.

The world today is in jeopardy largely because we have not acted in solidarity with a pragmatic view of the future, because we have not been able to balance sustainable human progress with economic growth and environmental protection.

But these do not need to be mutually exclusive dimensions of existence.

Just as there is only one Earth for all of us and not separate ones for nature and humanity, in the same way there needs to be one collective and cohesive solution that can help forge a healthy planet for the prosperity of all.

In order to prevent a social paralysis due to environmental destruction and to ensure continuing human development, we therefore need urgent action that straddles economic, social, and environmental challenges all together as an inseparable whole. And the way to achieve that is by making decisive structural choices – by embracing an ecological transformation.

Whether it’s dealing with climate calamities, nurturing biodiversity, or decarbonising the economy, the current ecological emergency demands that we go beyond transition alone.

With environmental concerns so instantly visible, and their consequences for societies so immediate, the need of the hour is to accelerate and expand the deployment of existing solutions, while simultaneously working to create the results of tomorrow.

From a dramatic race to lower greenhouse gas emissions and the restoration of fragile ecosystems to the replacement of high-carbon infrastructure, investments in renewable energy and tackling plastic pollution, there are many pathways to secure an ecological transformation that averts a climate catastrophe and promotes inclusive development.

The UAE is focused on environmental protection

With the UAE declaring 2023 as the Year of Sustainability and excitedly preparing to host the 28th session of the Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai this November, this is a fantastic opportunity to rekindle the sense of urgency needed for an ecological transformation and preserve the planet and its rich biodiversity. By challenging climate change models of the last century, breaking down silos that separate economic, social, and environmental issues, and bridging the divides to critical breakthroughs, this is a moment in history to unite around decisive action to achieve both human progress and environmental protection.

And this moment is imbued with renewed hope and optimism.

A survey on ecological transformation led by Veolia in partnership with research and consulting firm Elabe has found that while 79 per cent of UAE residents share the certainty that climate disruptions are currently happening, 55 per cent feel that the future is in our hands and climate disruption and pollution can be controlled.

The Ecological Transformation Barometer also found that 70 per cent of respondents in the UAE feel that the cost of climate disruption and pollution would be more important in the future and override concerns about the investments needed to protect our environment, while 35 per cent think we need to change our ways of life and put in place technological solutions to lower climate risks. The survey also showed that 60 per cent of people are willing to accept 95 per cent of the changes that come with the green solutions provided they contribute to the country’s food or energy security.

We must build on this optimism and determination to move forward together in the pursuit of ecological transformation.

The UAE is a shining example of this transformation by putting environmental protection at the heart of its development agenda for decades: it was the first country in the GCC to sign the Paris Agreement and launch its Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative. Inspired by that spirit, in the days, months and years that follow, let us pledge to unleash a paradigm shift for the benefit of future generations by reconciling human progress with environmental protection.

The writer is the CEO of Veolia Near & Middle East

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