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UAE Paperless Day on UN calendar

Silvia Radan / 5 July 2010

Initiated by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) three years ago, Paperless Day has now become a United Nations international annual celebration.

More than 50 organisations, which joined Paperless Day 2010, gathered in the capital on Monday to celebrate the good news.

Razan Al Mubarak presents the charter to UNEP’s Dr Habib Al Harb in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

They had all signed a charter calling for this day to become a fixed staple on the global environmental calendar. The charter was presented to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which endorsed the UAE-wide initiative.

“What begins as a paper-less day, can build into a paper-less week or a plastic-free month and eventually into the ultimate goal — transformation towards a low carbon, resource efficient 21st century green economy,” said Achim Steiner, UN undersecretary-general and UNEP executive director.

Paper manufacturing is the third largest user of fossil fuels worldwide. Every year, the world produces more than 300 million tonnes of paper and for every tonne, two to four tonnes of trees are cut down.

Paper production not only means unsustainable deforestation, which often triggers displacement of indigenous people and loss of ecosystem, but also huge consumption of chemicals, energy and water. Plantation of new trees help, but they usually require heavy doses of insecticides, pesticides and fungicides, harmful to the environment.

Saving and recycling paper are no longer options, but necessities.

“Despite the advent of digital technology, high levels of paper consumption remain prevalent inside many businesses and other organisations, much of it unnecessary,” said Razan Al Mubarak, EAD’s assistant secretary-general.

Paperless Day was initiated by EAD in 2008 to encourage organisations to reduce their paper use. To date, 141 organisations and academic institutions representing 126,756 individuals throughout the UAE and Arab world took part every June 3, all contributing to an estimated reduction in carbon emissions from the UAE by 4,287 kilograms.

On May 11, EAD invited government and private organisations, communities and individuals to commit to Paperless Day through a dedicated website — www.paperlessday.com — and in just one week the number of participants reached 17,000. By June 3, they became 126,756, with 58 per cent being from Abu Dhabi and 41 per cent from the other emirates.

“We also had participants from the Gulf, including Yemen and even oversees, from India, Germany, the USA and South Africa,” mentioned Al Mubarak.

Each of these participants were given the flexibility to choose their own ways of saving paper, which could be anything from sending electronic faxes and printing on both sides of the paper to ‘don’t pull more tissue paper out of the box than necessary’ message.

During the campaign, EAD itself printed only one paper, which was the formal invitation letter to UNEP to support this UAE-wide initiative.

“The UNEP will take your initiative globally and hopefully it will spread worldwide,” said Dr Habib Al Harb, UNEP’s West Asia director and regional representative.

Paperless Day will be celebrated internationally from 2011, on June 15.


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