UAE - Citizens and residents now have the chance to join a nationwide collaborative drive to safeguard nature and biodiversity for the next 50 years in the UAE.
The Emirates Nature-WWF launched ‘Leaders of Change’, an innovative community programme to mobilise the public towards combating climate change and achieving transformational impact in environment conversation.
Through an integrated digital platform, volunteers across the UAE will be able to enrol in a range of certified expert-led training courses on climate action, engage in solutions-oriented dialogues, and implement the ideas through in-the-field activities with conservation experts.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, director-general of Emirates Nature-WWF, said the programme aims to involve the UAE community in achieving science-based solutions and actively contributing to the government’s broader conservation action for the next 50 years.
“What makes the programme different is that we take volunteers on a journey of change where they experience nature directly and make a tangible change in the areas of biodiversity and nature conservation, heritage storage, food and water security, climate action, circular and green economy," she said.
The programme, which has attracted 2,000 volunteers so far, features year-long activations, which include hiking across the UAE’s nature and installing camera traps to map out biodiversity, rebuilding traditional heritage sites in the Northern Emirates, setting up heritage and nature trials in mountains and villages, and joining plastic clean-up drives.
Volunteers can also engage in citizen science by learning about the natural heritage from community elders.
People with an interest in marine conservation can be involved in installing camera traps underwater to understand the different fish species and status of the ocean habitat.
Personally-designed dashboards and smart apps will also enable volunteers to track their annual journeys and impact for the environment.
Abdullatif added that the programme takes a hands-on collaborative approach towards supporting the UAE’s pathway to net zero by 2050 and integrating nature-first solutions to transform organisations from within - in light of the global climate summit Conference of the Parties (COP 28), which will be hosted in Abu Dhabi in 2023.
“The UAE has paved a clear roadmap for climate action aligned with the Paris Agreement. We are working to ensure that civil groups are contributing to the country’s conservation blueprint for the next 50 years through bespoke activations that can appeal to different audiences," she said.
Two levels of change
The programme stems from the belief in the power of individuals to make two levels of changes, starting with themselves to their wider communities.
Abdullatif said: “An individual can have a massive impact on the environment through leading by example in the direct community and raising awareness about climate action. This is how bigger changes can happen.”
She added: “The role of volunteers is to dedicate their time to driving awareness and action across their network of friends, work colleagues, families, organisations and the wider community.”
With over 20 years of working with partners locally, regionally and internationally to lead research that support science-based policies, the Emirates Nature-WWF is now intensifying efforts to embed nature conservation into the DNA of every student, individual and organisation to achieve behavioural change.
Abdullatif pointed to plans to roll out a version of ‘Leaders of Change’ in schools as an extracurricular activity over the course of the academic term. University students are also being reached through a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s ‘Connect with Nature’ programme, co-founded with Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.
She noted that the inclusive individual-centric program focuses on building and nurturing a community of like-minded individuals with knowledge on climate action, giving a platform for people to raise their voice and solutions with influential decision makers, while implementing their ideas in the field to achieve a real impact.
Interested volunteers can sign up on the platform https://volunteer.emiratesnaturewwf.ae/
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