UAE's voluntary commitment to climate action at upcoming COP27 in Egypt

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment will present a comprehensive plan at the annual summit, which will be held at Sharm el-Sheikh between November 6 and 18


Joydeep Sengupta

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Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri
Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri

Published: Sun 30 Oct 2022, 4:26 PM

Last updated: Mon 31 Oct 2022, 10:24 AM

The UAE’s journey in climate action began three decades ago, when it joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and will reach new heights next year when the nation hosts the 28th Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP28). The event will include the first global stocktaking of the countries’ progress in implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement that was signed in November 2016.

Over these more than 30 years, thanks to the vision and directives of its wise leadership, the UAE achieved three milestones that testify to its voluntary commitment to protecting the planet and raising its climate ambition to ensure a better, more sustainable future.

The UAE submitted its first NDC to the UNFCCC Secretariat in 2016 after signing the Paris Agreement as the first country in the region. In its second NDC in 2020, the UAE pledged to boost the share of clean energy in the domestic energy mix, increased its emission reduction target and set a goal to plant mangroves with the aim of offsetting emissions.

In September 2022, the country voluntarily updated its second NDC to raise the emission reduction targets in the energy and industry sectors, upgrade its waste management approach by reducing and treating waste and transforming it into a clean source of energy, and scale up nature-based carbon sequestration solutions.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) is finalising the third NDC, which will be submitted early next year.

As part of the UAE delegation to COP27, which will be held between November 6 and 18 at at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, the MOCCAE will present its leading model of climate action that involves plans, strategies, projects, initiatives, programmes and guidelines aimed at advancing research and development (R&D), leveraging innovative solutions and modern technologies to accelerate the clean energy transition, shifting to a green economy and driving sustainable development.

The first NDC

The UAE’s first NDC included reaching a 24 per cent clean energy share in the domestic energy mix by 2021, increasing reliance on modern technologies that enhance energy efficiency and reduce resulting emissions, and decarbonising key sectors.

The UAE also committed to cutting down on electricity and water consumption in buildings by adopting green building standards, expanding the district cooling system, and shifting to energy-saving lighting. In addition, it pledged to develop an environment-friendly public transport system, initiate a wide-scale conversion of conventional motor vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG) with a focus on taxis, buses, government vehicles and commercial vehicles, adopt sustainable waste management methods and enhance efforts to conserve blue carbon ecosystems that play a key role in CO2 sequestration.

The second NDC

The UAE’s second NDC included stepping up emission reduction, boosting reliance on clean energy, expanding carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) and blue carbon projects, and adopting sustainable agricultural and waste management systems through integrated climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.

The country increased its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target to 23.5 per cent compared to business as usual for the year 2030, which translated into an absolute emission reduction of about 70 million tonnes. This goal reaffirmed the UAE’s commitment to the Paris Agreement as the best option for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Many national initiatives and projects supported the NDC by deploying the latest green technologies, increasing the use of renewable energy solutions and planting thousands of trees.

Climate change mitigation

In terms of climate change mitigation, the UAE committed to increasing its clean energy capacity to 14 gigawatt (GW) by 2030, compared to only 100 megawatt (MW) in 2015 and 2.4 GW in 2020. To date, total investments in domestic clean energy projects have amounted to $40 (Dh146.92) billion.

The country pledged to continue to reduce emissions across key economic sectors (energy, transport, industry, services, agriculture and waste). In this context, it has established the region's first commercial-scale CCUS network, advancing the deployment of a technology critical for carbon abatement and climate change mitigation.

Climate change adaptation

To enhance its climate change adaptation capabilities, the UAE committed to expanding its blue carbon ecosystems by planting 30 million mangrove seedlings by 2030. The country also pledged to adopt climate-smart agricultural methods, step up food waste reduction efforts, and promote sustainable production and consumption patterns.

Updated second NDC

The updated version of the UAE’s second NDC increased its emission reduction target to 31 per cent compared to the business-as-usual scenario for the year 2030 that forecasted 301 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The new target represents a decrease of 93.2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The update responds to the call of the Glasgow Climate Pact, one of the most important outcomes of COP26, for countries to raise their climate ambition by end-2022 to enhance their capabilities to fight climate change.

The electricity sector is projected to be the highest contributor to the target at 66.4 per cent, followed by the industrial sector at 16.6 per cent, transport at 9.7 per cent, CCUS at 5.3 per cent and waste at 2.1 per cent.

The NDC is supported by previously announced climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, which include conserving blue carbon ecosystems with an increased target of planting 100 million mangrove seedlings by 2030.

Enhancing private sector participation

To boost the contribution of the private sector to achieving the targets of the updated second NDC, the MOCCAE launched the National Dialogue for Climate Ambition (NDCA). The series of industry-specific assemblies provides a national platform for raising climate ambitions and supporting emission reduction in key sectors, such as industry, cement, waste, transportation and energy. It also seeks to develop a national sustainability outlook and support the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.

In addition, the ministry introduced the Climate-Responsible Companies Pledge to enhance the participation of private sector entities in the country’s emission reduction efforts. The signatories commit to measuring and reporting their GHG emissions in a transparent manner, drafting ambitious plans to reduce their carbon footprints, and sharing these plans with the relevant government agencies to fast-track the country’s journey to net zero.

The enablers

The NDCs identified the main enablers of climate action and strengthening climate change resilience of all sectors. These include shifting to a green economy, adopting circular economy principles and promoting the use of the latest technologies to ensure sustainability.

The UAE welcomes international cooperation in the deployment and financing of clean energy solutions locally and globally. The nation has invested around $16.8 (Dh61.71) billion in renewables projects across 70 countries, and provided more than $400 (Dh1,469.20) million in aid and soft loans for clean energy ventures around the world.

Big numbers

Dh61.71b - The UAE’s investments in renewables projects across 70 countries

Dh1,469.20m - Aid and soft loans given for clean energy ventures around the world

Dh146.92b - Total investments in domestic clean energy projects


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