UAE  - It has been one year since His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was unanimously elected as the President of UAE by the members of the country’s Supreme Council. However, his work on improving the environment and sustainability began long before he was President.

After taking helm of the country, his efforts have had profound impact on related initiatives in the country. A keen champion of everything green, Sheikh Mohamed announced 2023 as the Year of Sustainability (YOS) in January. The move has inspired collective action through a nationwide commitment towards sustainable practices.

Last month, the team at YOS launched an initiative that recognized mothers as the masters of recycling. It highlighted how UAE mothers reused items to create a legacy of sustainability.

YOS is just one of the initiatives championed by Sheikh Mohamed. He was instrumental in establishing the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi and has led significant conservation efforts to protect the falcon, houbara bustard and Arabian oryx within the UAE and internationally.

In January 2008, he announced that the Abu Dhabi Government would contribute approximated Dh.54 billion (US$15 billion) to Masdar, the alternative and renewable energy initiative based in Abu Dhabi and developer of the world's first carbon-neutral, zero waste city.

Here is a look at several initiatives he has championed to ensure that the country continues on a path of a sustainable and environment-friendly future.

1. Zayed Sustainability Prize

In 2008, Sheikh Mohamed launched the Zayed Sustainability Prize at the World Future Energy Summit. It became the UAE’s pioneering global award for recognising excellence in sustainability.

The Prize honours nonprofit organisations (NPOs), small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and high schools for their impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainable solutions across the categories of health, food, energy, water, climate action and global high schools.

With 106 winners across the world, over 378 million people have been impacted by the sustainability solutions and school projects since the first awards ceremony in 2009, with this number continuing to rapidly grow.

2. Mohammed Bin Zayed Conservation Fund

He initiated the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to provide small grants to boots-on-the-ground, get-your-hands-dirty, in-the-field species conservation projects for the world’s most threatened species.

Through innovative micro-financing, the Fund empowers conservationists to fight the extinction crisis without being bogged down by bureaucracy and red-tape. To date it has awarded over 2000 grants to a diverse range of species across the world.

In 2019 the Fund supported 170 projects located in over 60 different countries across six continents who shared among themselves over Dh5 million ($1,502,029) in funding.

Mubadala Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi-based sovereign investor, entered a three-year partnership with the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to support conservation initiatives around the world. Through the partnership, Mubadala Investment Company will provide the MBZ Fund with $1.5 million annually to be directed towards supporting endangered flora and fauna in Africa and Asia.

3. Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan issued directives to establish programmes to protect the Arabian Oryx. Following this, Sheikh Mohamed launched a similar programme in 2007, which is part of the Abu Dhabi government's vision to create a regional herd that reflects all programmes for the resettlement of the Arabian Oryx in their range countries.

The Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme has played a pivotal role in protecting the Arabian Oryx, preserving it from extinction and enhancing its numbers in the wild. This has resulted in changing its status in 2011, in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable to extinction'. This is considered as one of the most important achievements in the field of the reintroduction of species on a global level.

In 2020, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, EAD, the agency in coordination with Al Dhafra Municipality, released a new group of Arabian Oryx into the Houbara Protected Area. Located in Baynunah, the Houbara Protected Area is managed by EAD and extends over 774 square kilometres.

More than 800 Arabian Oryx live freely within the reserve's borders. In addition, groups of Arabian Oryx were also released in Qasr Al Sarab Protected Area.

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