Social Involment / February 11, 2020

How the UAE Became a Sustainability Leader

By Sarah El Shabrowy

The United Arab Emirates is known for the bright lights of Dubai and the high-class standards of Abu Dhabi. Lavish living and high spending are a part of everyday life for the residents of this country, located in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, which will celebrate its 49th year of its foundation as a federation on December 2nd, 2020.

Yet even though the UAE promotes this opulent lifestyle, the government of the UAE has also made a firm commitment to taking a leading role in the fight against climate change. Being environmentally aware is a strong conviction in the UAE, and the country has initiated a major effort to battle the effects of climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of the country. The UAE has put plans in motion to achieve complete sustainability by 2021.

In accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the UAE is not obligated to reduce its emissions because it is a non-Annex 1 country. Nonetheless, the UAE has made a strong commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of the country, introducing 14 initiatives to deplete its carbon emissions, monitor and track greenhouse gasses, and has added climate change measures into UAE national policies and strategies.

By investing in renewable energy and pledging to generate 24 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2021, the UAE has placed itself at the center of the clean energy revolution. The UAE also hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an organization of 161 member countries that have joined together in their commitment to investing in renewable energy and nuclear power. The UAE became one of the first major countries of oil production to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Convention on Climate Change in 2005.

In 2014, the UAE and the USA entered into the first annual mutual energy dialogue to expedite new and ongoing initiatives in an effort to heighten collaboration between the two countries and boost the global energy market. The UAE confirmed its carbon footprint reduction plans at the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015.

With the use of better technology and the switch to natural gas in power plants, the UAE’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita have decreased significantly. In 2010, the UAE emitted 21.9 tons of CO2 per person per year in comparison to the 1990 levels of 32.6 tons per person per year. This massive drop in carbon dioxide emissions is due to the efforts of the UAE in reducing its carbon footprint, monitoring the emissions of gasses that lead to the greenhouse effect, and reducing its per capita emissions.

Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate of the UAE and the capital of the country, has committed $15 billion USD to renewable energy projects through an initiative called the Masdar Initiative. This initiative has four key aspects:

1. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology with programmes for graduates in renewable energy and sustainability. The institute is located in Masdar City, the world’s first waste and car free city.

2. An economic zone to cater to organizations investing in renewable energy and related technology.

3. An emissions reduction and clean development technology company focused on the commercialization of mechanisms and solutions provided by the Kyoto Protocol.

4. A center of innovation to back the adoption and manifestation of sustainable energy technologies.

Many are interested to see the United Arab Emirates move closer to its goal of achieving sustainable environmental impact and infrastructure by 2021. Although the UAE is more known for opulence and wealth, it is quickly making a name for itself as a leader in the fight against climate change.

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