September 2023

Sustainable Insights

UAE in 2023 Striding towards Sustainable Developments

Source: Young plant growing at sunlight/

The UAE was the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement. It was the first to commit to an economy-wide reduction in carbon emissions at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 and the first to announce the strategic initiative to achieve Net Zero by 2050. It was also the first country in the region to deploy industrial-scale carbon capture technology in heavy industry. All in all, the UAE is committed to climate action in this critical decade.

This year is special, though. The Emirates is hosting the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. With over 140 world leaders in attendance, the timing for COP28 is crucial.

The 2023 year also marks the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake (GST), the main mechanism through which progress under the Paris Agreement is assessed. The world, as we are aware, is not on track to meeting the agreement’s goals as yet. COP28 will hopefully unite efforts for ambitious and pragmatic solutions to climate action. Besides, negotiators at COP28 in Dubai have a few more critical tasks at hand. It includes getting the loss and damage fund (established at COP27) up and running and agreeing on a framework for the Paris Agreement’s Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). Other issues that are likely to receive much attention and which may be reflected across several negotiating streams include energy transition and food system transformation. And as is often the case, discussions and negotiations on climate finance are likely to take centre stage. In the UAE, however the journey towards sustainability and building an economy that is more environmentally friendly, however, started years ago. The government’s vision is closely linked to global initiatives to address climate change and achieve sustainable development targets. Over the years, the UAE has made efforts to reduce emissions, which include increasing reliance on clean energy, boosting energy efficiency, expanding capacity for carbon capture, use, and storage, conserving blue carbon ecosystems, promoting sustainable agriculture, and implementing environmentally friendly waste management.

Energy Diversification

Diversifying energy sources and minimising dependency on fossil fuels have been at the top of this list. In July this year, for instance, the Emirates approved an updated version of the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the development of the National Hydrogen Strategy, which includes investing up to Dh200 billion ($54.4 billion) over the next seven years. The country has also unveiled its Climate Change Strategy for 2023–2027, which aims to cut emissions by 30 million metric tonnes over the following four years. On a global scale, the Emirates has recently committed $4.5 billion in a financing initiative to advance clean-energy projects in Africa. The deployment and use of clean energy solutions is one of the main pillars of the UAE’s model of addressing the challenge of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The UAE began financing clean energy projects more than a decade ago and has invested over $40 billion in the sector to date. Current trends predict the production capacity of clean energy, including solar and nuclear, to reach 14 GW by 2030. The following are some of the initiatives funded by the UAE government that are paving the way to a greener future:

Source: Electric car charging station in Dubai/
Hydrogen factory concept. Hydrogen production from renewable energy sources
Source: Hydrogen factory concept/

Renewable Energy: The UAE is a fierce proponent of renewable energy. Over the years, it has invested heavily in harnessing natural resources to meet the demands for energy. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the largest single-site solar park in the world, with a planned total capacity of 5 GW by 2030. The Emirates is also supportive of developing green infrastructure and clean energy projects worldwide and has invested in renewable energy ventures in 70 countries.

Nuclear Energy: As the first country in the Middle East to operate zero-carbon nuclear power, which, along with renewable energy, will provide 14 GW of clean power for the UAE by 2030. The development of a peaceful nuclear energy sector is a key component of the country’s net zero strategy, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to diversifying its energy mix and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. In the lead-up to COP28, Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and the World Nuclear Association have launched the Net Zero Nuclear initiative, which calls for unprecedented collaboration between government, industry leaders, and civil society to triple global nuclear capacity to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Hydrogen Energy: In the coming years, hydrogen will provide a clean, carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels. The UAE is aiming to manufacture 1.4 million metric tonnes of hydrogen annually by 2031 and ten times that amount, or 15 million, by 2050. With the country’s ample sunshine, natural gas, and wind resources, the UAE plans to advance low-carbon green and blue hydrogen in emerging international markets and help build a substantial green hydrogen economy in the UAE. The National Hydrogen Strategy aims to set the main measures that the UAE will take to expedite the growth of the hydrogen economy and become among the world’s top producers of low-emission hydrogen.

Sustainable Buildings

Source: Sustainable City in Dubai/

Since 2011, the government of Dubai has enforced a set of “Green Building Regulations” for private sector construction to reduce energy and resource consumption and improve public health and general welfare. The Expo City project in Dubai is a perfect example. The 4,912 solar panels on Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion in Expo City, feature a 130-metre-wide canopy and 18 Energy Trees. These help generate 4 GWh of alternative energy per year.

To put things in perspective, this amount of energy is enough to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones. There is a growing emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly construction practices in the UAE. Developers are incorporating green building principles,

such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, to build more environmentally friendly buildings.

Some of the prime examples of this include Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Sustainable City in Dubai. The UAE government plans to make at least half of all buildings in Dubai sustainable by 2030. To achieve this, they have launched several initiatives to encourage sustainable building practices. According to a report by Dubai Carbon, Dubai’s green building regulations have resulted in a reduction of 1.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and have led to savings of Dh4.5 billion in energy costs.

Food Security

The UAE has prioritised food security due to its limited arable land and water resources. The country has invested in advanced agricultural technologies, such as vertical farming and hydroponics, to increase domestic food production. Vertical farming, with its ability to grow crops in stacked layers, allows efficient use of limited land resources. Hydroponics, on the other hand, involves cultivating plants in nutrient-rich water without soil, resulting in significant water savings. The UAE has embraced smart farming techniques, incorporating advanced technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), sensors, and data analytics.

Farmers use these technologies to monitor and optimise crop growth, irrigation, pest control, and other vital aspects of agriculture. Precision agriculture techniques enable farmers to target their use of water, fertilisers, and pesticides, reducing waste and environmental impact. The country encourages the cultivation of crops suited to its climate and supports initiatives that boost local food processing and manufacturing. The focus on local production has been helpful not only in enhancing food security but also in reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.

Scientists are analysing organic vegetable plants in greenhouse
Source: Scientists are analyzing organic vegetable plants in greenhouse/

Going All The Way

Source: Woman tourist walks on the tolerance bridge in Dubai/

The changing climatic conditions across the world point to the urgent need to make reforms and change the way of doing business and life as we know it. Needless to say, the UAE government has extended its efforts through global participation and domestic policies and emerged among regional leaders in climate action over the past decade. Today, the UAE is focusing on various aspects of sustainability, which include water management and waste management too. The Emirates has implemented plans and systems to ensure efficient water usage and preserve water resources. Waste management practices, including recycling and waste reduction, are also being prioritised. Their commitment to sustainability is evident through various initiatives and strategies that encompass multiple sectors. By prioritising sustainability, the UAE

aims to create a greener and more sustainable future for its people and the planet. The initiatives taken and road maps built by the UAE government demonstrate nations do not have to choose between economic growth and caring for the planet. Both can be achieved hand in hand. We need to innovate and be open to investing our resources in technologies that are sensitive to the needs of our changing planet.

Sustainable Solutions LLC is partnering in the UAE and globally to realise the road to net zero. We are a boutique consulting firm based in the UAE, working on SDG-related projects and connecting investment-seeking companies with investment powerhouses.