As part of its mandate to protect the environment and ensure the sustainability of natural resources, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has announced the launch of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Environmental Award.

The award was founded to encourage environmental initiatives, enhance interest in environmental work, help achieve positive change, and raise public awareness about the importance of environmental protection and the achievement of sustainable development goals.

In its first edition, the award includes three main categories and six sub-categories for nominees from across Abu Dhabi emirate.

The first main category includes the Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Environmental Medal, which will be awarded to honour successful individuals who have achieved excellence in the field of environmental work. This main category contains three sub-categories: Optimal natural resource user (fishermen, farmers, owners of groundwater wells, falconers); Environmental initiators (individual environmental initiatives); and Environmental influencers.

The second main category, the Environmental Research Award, focuses on the best scientific research, either individual or collective, in the field of environment and sustainable development, through which innovative scientific and practical solutions to current and future environmental problems and challenges have been put forward. This category includes two sub-categories: Research institution; and Environmental researcher.

The third main category, the Environmental Performance Award, focuses on the best practices or pioneering activities in the field of environment and sustainable development for private institutions and industrial facilities. Under this category, one sub-category targets industrial facilities, large private companies, the aviation sector, and others.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of EAD, said: “The UAE’s keenness to protect the environment represents an original trend stemming from its belief in the importance of the environment in achieving sustainable development, which began many years ago, and has grown day by day thanks to the attention paid by the wise leadership, which laid its foundations, by the late Sheikh Zayed.

“Today we are launching this award to stimulate excellence and creativity among individuals and institutions in the field of preserving and protecting the environment, encouraging initiative and leadership, and enhancing interest in environmental work and compliance with relevant legislation.”

His Highness said the award represents an opportunity to honour individuals and entities that work diligently to protect and preserve the environment, and to encourage them to lead and excel, and present innovative ideas to protect the environment.

This is in addition to its importance in supporting scientists and specialised experts who work to find innovative and effective environmental solutions, in light of the challenges facing the world in the environmental field. This requires continuous and integrated efforts to reach innovative practical and scientific solutions that help protect the environment and its natural resources.

His Highness added that the launch of the award comes with the implementation of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE, who declared 2023 will as the UAE Year of Sustainability, under the theme Today for Tomorrow.

The theme is in line with EAD’s objectives of taking the lead and creating a future to bring about positive change in the environment. This will be achieved by establishing sustainable concepts in daily life, and providing an incentive for various sectors to put environmental considerations within their action plans, in a way that does not hinder the progress of Abu Dhabi, to achieve sustainable development, which was established by UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Her Excellency Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “The launch of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Environmental Medal confirms EAD's commitment to continuing its relentless endeavours to protect the environment and stimulate innovation in the field of the environment and green technology. The award aims to enhance the image and reputation of Abu Dhabi at the local and global level, by publishing national success stories and highlighting initiatives that contribute to environmental protection and the sustainability of natural resources.

“The award provides a motivational framework to enhance interest in environmental work and environmental initiatives, which will help raise the level of public awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. This in addition to driving positive change in environmental compliance to protect and preserve all elements of the environment.

“The award will also contribute to raising competitiveness between entities and improving their environmental performance to enhance their environmentally friendly credentials. It will also raise awareness of industrial pollution issues and the importance of preserving resources, and pay attention to the adoption of innovative scientific and practical solutions that contribute to addressing current and future environmental challenges in various sectors.

“The award, which bears the name of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, indicates the size of the attention and care that His Highness attaches to the environment, and confirms his keenness to honour distinguished individuals and organisations. It also reveals his commitment to a culture of positive competition to promote environmental sustainability, achieve sustainable development, and honour efforts to address environmental challenges.”

Her Excellency added that the award, which targets scientific institutions, researchers, private institutions, industrial establishments, and members of society, is a source of encouragement for initiative and leadership in the field of the environment. The award’s vision is leadership in protecting the environment and sustaining natural resources to reach the best environmental practices, while its mission is to enhance the environment and advance positive change in environmental compliance with all elements of the environment and preserving it, and to stimulate environmental interest.

The criteria for the awards were developed in cooperation with corporate training company EFQM to take advantage of the organisation’s experience in developing diagnostic tools – the result of which was the creation of an environmental diagnostic tool.

Russell Longmuir, EFQM CEO, said: “EFQM are extremely honoured and excited to work with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi to create this prestigious award. For more than 30 years, EFQM has been encouraging organisations globally to focus on their impact on society, sustainability and the environment through our EFQM Model and its suite of assessment tools. We are certain this award will showcase Abu Dhabi as a world leader in terms of encouraging its organisations, research bodies and people to address the environmental challenges we all face.”

Isra’a Mobideen, EFQM Middle East Regional Director, said: “Launching this award with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi confirms EFQM's commitment to creating a better future for all. As the year 2023 is declared as the Year of Sustainability by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, we are very proud to support his vision and contribute to the global aim of preserving the environment and achieving a sustainable future.

“EFQM has been embedding environmental principles into its Management Model for over 30 years. We have also been developing different diagnostic tools, such as Circular Economy, UN SDGs and Net Zero, to support organisations in adopting them. The new environmental diagnostic tool, created in conjunction with EAD, will further support organisations and individuals in Abu Dhabi and the UAE's vision as a host of COP28.”

During the coming period, EAD will hold awareness workshops about the award, while nomination and participation requests will be opened as of 28 May 2023 through EAD’s official website. This involves filling in an eligibility form, after which the nominees will receive an update as to whether they are eligible to submit a nomination.

The award is open for self-nominations or third-party entries by entities (individuals or institutions) by all those with competence in the field of environmental management. Researchers and research institutions, private institutions and industrial establishments are assessed according to the criteria and conditions set by the Technical Committee of the Award.

The winners of the Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Environmental Medal will be announced at a ceremony during COP28, and will receive a medal and financial reward, while those individuals who win the Environmental Scientific Research Award will receive a trophy and financial reward. Winning entities and institutions will have the right to put the logo of the award on its documents, publications, website and in advertising campaigns until announcing the results of the next cycle. EAD will also publish award winners’ success stories on EAD's website, with the aim of disseminating the benefits and promoting their win.

The award winners can present their success stories, review their outstanding performance and share them with others through seminars and training courses that will be held to introduce the award, and through related conferences.

Institutions and industrial establishments participating in the Environmental Performance Award can also benefit from fast-track environmental licensing and approval, and the classification of the winning establishment as one with a low risk to the environment. Entities will also be subjected to fewer environmental inspection visits and, in the case of industrial establishments will be issued licences for a period of one year.