EYE ON THE PRIZE

Oman 2019 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

In 1982, Oman became the first country in the Middle East to create a comprehensive environmental policy, and in 1984 the first to establish an environmental ministry.

Mohammed S. Al Tobi
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed S. Al Tobi is the current Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs. He has 18 years of experience working with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). He holds a degree in human resource management and is member of the Shura Council for Nizwa as well as the Environment Society of Oman (ESO).

Since its founding in 2007, how has the strategy of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs evolved?

MECA adopts an adaptive management approach that proactively responds to changing requirements for the protection of the environment and human health, while strengthening economic competitiveness. MECA strategies are formulated according to these principles, but still allow for flexibility in their adaptation. Our strategies have evolved to strengthen efficiency, effectiveness, and robust environmental protection through legislative and procedural actions. In the meantime, new strategies have been developed to facilitate private sector compliance, while reducing its economic burden. In a nutshell, MECA is continuously updating its strategies to effectively contribute to the sustainable development of Oman in coordination with other government, private sector, and social stakeholders.

The ministry is pushing an initiative to bring international standards to Oman in the use of shopping bags. What impact will this have on the environment?

The ministry has been working in coordination with the relevant bodies to reduce and contain the harmful impacts of plastic shopping bags, which have a negative impact on bio habitats, marine environments, land, and underground water. Actions are underway to develop regulations on procedures for the import, production, and circulation of plastic bags in the Sultanate, thus limiting their use. Each of these actions will minimize the risk to ecosystems, food chains, and public health.

How does this initiative reflect the need to coordinate with other ministries in pushing for environmental standards?

Oman's environmental policy and regulations set coordination and cooperation as the cornerstone of environmental protection where everyone is responsible. Accordingly, the initiative concerning plastic shopping bags is no exception. In this regard, every effort is exerted to ensure the participation of all stakeholders in order to cover all social, economic, and environmental aspects of our actions.

What efforts is the ministry making to encourage investment in renewable energy technology?

The ministry recently launched its Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy in which renewable energy attains special importance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. MECA is also formulating a National Policy for the Energy Sector, a project under the national initiative on diversifying economic activities with Tanfeedh. This tackles environmental aspects of the sector, including reducing dependency on fossil fuels and encouraging renewables with supporting regulations and standards. Together with other government actions, these efforts should encourage investment in renewable energy.

What problems will Oman's environment face in the next decade, and how is the ministry working to fix them?

In relation to nature, Oman's environment faces desertification, land degradation, reduction in vegetation, drought, degradation of some coastal areas, and a loss of biodiversity in certain wildlife species. We also face the negative effects of climate change. In order to address these, the ministry is working on human development, conducting awareness campaigns, building partnerships with local communities, drawing on international expertise in various environmental fields, and updating its national strategies on climate.

What are the ministry's objectives for the next 12 months?

Our main objectives include continuous efforts to raise environmental awareness across all levels, strengthen protection of biodiversity, support cleaner technologies in all sectors, mainstream our sustainability paradigm in every sector, strengthen human resources, enhance environmental monitoring and databases, and give more support to scientific bases of decision-making.