DUBAI: Britain’s Prince William embarked on his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, where the future monarch is highlighting his passionate work around wildlife conservation and climate change.
The visit by Prince William marks a significant milestone in relations between the UK and the UAE. The prince has met with Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum at Expo 2020 Dubai site.
Queen Elizabeth II first visited the UAE as monarch in 1979, while Prince Charles’ last visit was in 2016.
There are more than 100,000 British citizens living in the UAE and more than 6,000 British companies operating in the country, according to the British Business Group in Dubai and Northern Emirates.
The Duke of Cambridge’s visit coincides with the UK’s national day at Expo 2020, the world’s fair taking place in Dubai. Prince William has toured the $7 billion expo site and is expected to visit the UK pavilion, as well as discuss the importance of conservation efforts with young Emiratis, officials and conservationists.
One initiative close to Prince William’s heart is United for Wildlife, established in 2014 by the duke to help facilitate efforts to counter the trade in illegal wildlife.
Prince William, who is traveling without his wife, Kate Middleton, also will use his time in Dubai to draw attention to The Earthshot Prize.
Launched by Prince William and The Royal Foundation in late 2020, The Earthshot Prize held its first-ever award ceremony late last year, offering five, $1.36 million prizes to innovators, entrepreneurs and scientists seeking solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems.
This year’s award ceremony will be held in the United States. Last year’s finalists will showcase their innovative solutions to an audience at Expo following a speech by the duke.
Among the founding funding partners to the prize is Dubai-based global ports operator DP World, in partnership with Dubai Expo 2020.
The duke, like his father Prince Charles, has long used his platform to advocate for greater environmental awareness, warning that the Earth is at a tipping point and facing irreparable damage unless action is taken to repair the planet.
He started his tour in the UAE with a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Mangrove Park to learn more about the emirate’s local conservation efforts.
In a meeting with Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan the two discussed their work on globally impactful sustainability initiatives.
They were briefed on Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi’s (EAD’s) ongoing work to protect the environment and enhance biodiversity and the Abu Dhabi Mangrove Initiative.
The initiative marks Prince William's visit, aiming to establish the emirate as a leading global centre for research and innovation on mangrove conservation and resilience.
The initiative, which will be implemented by EAD and has formed its first partnership with conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – of which Queen Elizabeth II is patron – will provide a platform for innovation in mangrove research, climate change mitigation, and community engagement. It will also see a state-of-the-art mangrove nursery established in Abu Dhabi as a research, learning, and outreach centre.
The initiative will enable the mass scaling of mangrove recovery as a key nature-based solution to biodiversity and climate crises through research and innovation. These areas will provide sources of connection to nature, carbon stores, havens for biodiversity and sustainable incomes for local communities.
The programme will also develop outreach, training, and advocacy for mangrove restoration in local contexts and global networks.
While at the park, they spent time with several school students and planted mangrove saplings, and discussed the importance of young people's commitment to sustainability efforts, now and in the future.
Jubail Mangrove Park opened in January 2020 to help protect biodiversity, raise awareness of the emirate's rich mangrove ecosystem, and showcase its natural heritage.
The Duke of Cambridge is also expected to meet with UK sports figures as the Queen’s Baton Relay makes it way around Dubai’s Expo site to pavilions of countries in the Commonwealth — mostly territories with former colonial ties to Britain.
The baton contains a message from Queen Elizabeth and travels to all 72 nations and territories ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
Katy Holmes, general manager of the British Business Group in Dubai, said Britons are really excited about the prince’s visit because it sends a positive message about strengthening a bilateral relationship so well established by Queen Elizabeth II, who marked 70 years on the throne Sunday.
“He’s very well regarded as a royal and he is the future of the UK monarchy, so I think there’s interest from that perspective. But it’s also a celebration of Expo,” said Holmes, who is among those invited to attend an evening performance at Expo that will be attended by Prince William.
(With AP and WAM)