United Arab Emirates

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates’ constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Environmental protection is considered the main objective of the UAE's developmental policies aimed at increasing green areas, developing water resources, improving marine environment and protecting it from pollution, preserving fisheries and livestock, and developing strategies to protect biodiversity.

Article 23 reads: “The natural resources and wealth in each Emirate shall be considered the public property of that Emirate. Society shall be responsible for the protection and proper exploitation of such natural resources and wealth for the benefit of the national economy”.

Featured Legislation

1999: Law No. 2 of 1999 (protecting the public health and agricultural environment against the misuse of pesticides and fertilizers) was passed. This Law, consisting of 18 articles divided in VI Sections, aims at establishing The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, replacing the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency. The new Agency is aimed at protecting the environment and wildlife along with its biological diversity in its natural environment, offering suggestions, making recommendations and conducting necessary studies and researches to conserve the environment and develop wildlife. All government departments and agencies are required to coordinate with the Agency in activities relating to environmental and wildlife affairs. To achieve this objective, the Agency shall be, inter alia, responsible for: assessing ground water resources and propose methods for the optimal use of such resources; evaluating the effects of treatment of household sewage water projects, industrial liquid wastes and oil wastes, industrial gases and household air pollutants on the environment; evaluating the efficiency of existing projects in treating solid domestic and industrial waste; preventing harmful effects of poisonous, hazardous and medical waste; evaluating the effects of chemicals, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and non-organic manure on the environment, classifying such materials according to their degree of harmful effect and proposing systems to control their use; evaluating the effect of the population growth and infrastructure projects for implementing projects on the environment and wildlife; preparing the plans required for formulating and developing a balanced environment policy and applying it to the industrial and economic and agricultural projects; evaluating the effect of fishing and hunting activities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, managing these activities and establishing protected areas; setting up and managing centers specialized in the development of endangered species of wildlife and veterinary centers to look after wildlife and rehabilitate them to live in their natural habitat; raising awareness on the importance of the protection of the environment and wildlife; and inspecting any applications for issuance of licenses for the industrial, agricultural and environmental projects. The Law states also that it shall be prohibited for any establishment or any individual to carry out any activity that could negatively affect the lives of human beings and the safety of the environment before obtaining a license from the Agency.

1999: Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 (on the environment protection and development) was signed. The purpose of this Law is to protect and develop the environment. It is composed of 9 Sections: (I) provides for the development and protection of environment; environmental impact assessment; environmental monitoring; and emergency plans to respond to environmental disasters; (II) deals with the protection of water environment; environmental protection scope; marine environment protection; pollution caused by marine sources; pollution caused by land sources; and protection of drink water and groundwater; (III) pertains to soil protection; (IV) provides for air protection against pollution; (V) refers to the circulation and handling of hazardous waste materials and sanitary waste; (VI) addresses the natural protected areas; (VII) pertains to liability and compensation for environmental damages; (VIII) contains offenses and penalties; and (IX) contains final provisions.

1999: Protection and development of marine resources (Federal Law No.23) was approved. This Law is composed of 10 Chapters divided into 64 articles. Article 1 deals with terms and definitions. Chapter I regulates fishing profession and fishing trade, including licenses issued by the Competent Authority and the general register established at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for enrollment of the fishing trade practitioners. Chapter II provides for the following matters: registration measures; establishment of a committee in all emirates called “the Fishing Regulating Committee"; its competence and task: (i) ascertaining the conformity of the particulars in the application for entering into the Register; (ii) examining the boat owned by the applicant for registering and writing down its own particulars; and the registration of fishermen and fishing vessels. Chapter III deals with fishing vessel licenses (use, validity, renewal). Chapter IV pertains to the protection and development: prohibited fishing grounds, banned fishing gear or equipment either in specific times or specific species, rules in fertilization or reproduction seasons, the establishment of farms of aquatic organisms, prohibited fishing gears, set up of artificial coral reefs, protected animal species such as turtles, whales, sea cows, and other sea mammal, permits to extract oysters and sponges. In order to protect the water environment, article 33, on giving license for establishing aquatic organism breeding farms, provides the following (i) disallowing the use of fresh water for breeding aquatic organism unless the applied rule approves such kind of water firstly for rearing aquatic organism and then for agriculture in order to optimally use freshwater sources through the systems of reusing the same waters on the soil; (ii) disallowing the establishment of aquatic organism firms on beaches, bays, creeks, gulfs, and islands where mangrove trees are present; (iii) in case of use of floating marine cages, the competent authority shall determine number and sizes of such cages; (iv) presenting economical and technical feasibility study of the project with all the requested specifications. Chapter V provides for fish circulation, processing and marketing: equipment of fishing boats, hygienic and trade conditions, health standards to be considered in processing and drying living aquatic wealth prior to the marketing, permits for ships of scientific research, and marine surveys ships. Article 40 prohibits foreign ships to fish living aquatic wealth in fishing waters in the country. Chapter VI refers to grants and loans for fishermen and establishes that the Ministry will give out grants, loans, and services to the fishermen who practice or desire to practice the fishing trade, and the priority will be for those who had fishing as their unique trade, their source of sustenance, and carry on it by themselves (art.42). Chapter VII deals with the exportation of living aquatic resources. categories permitted to export the living aquatic wealth caught in the fishing waters are (i) cooperative societies of the fishermen; (ii) national fishermen who own fishing boats and depend on the fishing trade as their essential source of sustenance; and (iii) persons, companies and authorities who carry on fish farming activities concerning the fish extracted from the fish farms. The Chapter deals also with fish exporter cards and certificates of origin. Chapter VIII deals with the introduction and re-exportation of the living aquatic resources. Chapter IX contains offenses and penalties. Chapter X contains general and final provisions, including fees, boats owned by the scientific research bodies, fishing and diving for hobbyists.

2005: Law No. 21 of 2005 on Waste Management was propagated. The aim of this Law is to regulate the management of waste in Abu Dhabi. It's composed of 8 Chapters divided into 12 articles. Chapter I deals with terms and definitions. Chapters II-VI specify the responsibilities of the following authorities, facilities and parties interested in the management of waste: Competent Authority; Concerned Parties; Generators of Waste; Storage, Treatment and Disposal Facilities; and Environmental Service Providers. Chapter VII deals with the control and inspection of treated facilities and defines offenses and penalties. Chapter VIII contains final provisions.

2014: The Biodiversity Strategy of the United Arab Emirates 2014-2021 was introduced. This Biodiversity Strategy is a nationwide sectoral document that includes a series of main orientations and national goals in line with the “Emirates Vision 2021”, in addition to the Emirates' Strategy for Green Development, the National Strategy for Coastal and Marine Environment, the Bio-safety Strategy and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The main orientations focus on: 1) mainstreaming biodiversity in all economic and social sectors; 2) reinforcement of knowledge sharing and capacity building for upgrading and addressing biodiversity management; 3) improvement of biodiversity status through habitat protection, genetic diversity and restoration of degraded ecosystems; 4) reducing pressure on marine and terrestrial biodiversity; and 5) enhancing regional and international cooperation on biodiversity cross-cutting issues. Twenty-one national targets with action-driven and outcome-oriented measures, grouped under the aforementioned 5 thematic areas, have been set out. The new biodiversity strategy includes particular engagements on capacity building, communication and public awareness, resource mobilization, and on a national knowledge sharing platform in line with the CHM of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Progress on the implementation of the strategy and action plan will be monitored and assessed and findings will be reported by representatives from each Emirate.

2020: Federal Law No.10 on Pesticides was created. This Law consisting of 13 articles aims at (i) ensuring a high level of protection for human and animal health, and environmental safety; (ii) ensuring proper handling and safe disposal of expired pesticides and their containers; and (iii) organizing the registration, import, re-export, circulation, use, advertisement, control and inspection of pesticides. The provisions of this Law shall apply to (i) pesticides, consisting of chemical pesticides, biological pesticides, or organic pesticides; (ii) active ingredients of the pesticide; and (iii) the additive for the pesticide, if sold separately to be used with the pesticide. The following shall be excluded from the application of the provisions of this Law (i) pesticides imported for use in scientific research purposes, or imported for the purpose of holding exhibitions, provided that the concerned authorities take safety measures and ensure that they are not circulated in the country; and (ii) pesticides that reach the country's ports and airports for the purpose of transit (transit).

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

The United Arab Emirates has revealed its plans for a net-zero emissions target, a process that has brought the nation to The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26. UAE’s extreme heat and dry conditions make the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions challenging, as energy is needed for cooling and desalination, according to a senior Ministry of Climate Change and Environment official. Qais Al Suwaidi, head of the ministry’s climate change department, is spearheading the move towards a net-zero emissions target, in contrast to major OPEC producing nations. With a goal of deep emissions cuts over the next three decades, UAE’s decision is crucial to preventing temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels. Citizens of UAE have expressed concern over the government’s pledge to commit to drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gasses, citing net zero practices as merely lip service, and in practice, businesses will find ways to flout regulations. Some argue that more time is needed for the UAE to carry out studies that will determine how quickly it can reach net zero. Stronger commitments wouldn’t necessarily require the UAE to sell less oil, the bedrock of its economy; rather, it would mean setting a net-zero target for emissions produced within its borders, encouraging other nations in the Persian Gulf to follow suit. In December 2021, the country pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost 25% over 10 years, from a baseline that assumes moderate economic growth.

References and Further Reading


Minister of Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Dr Abdullah Belhaif AlNuaimi: dr.abdulla@moccae.gov.ae uaefea@emirates.net.ae