UAE is setting a world-class example in sustainability

Anjana Sankar /Abu Dhabi Filed on April 4, 2021

It is a fine balancing act for countries to pursue the development goals of today without derailing the prospects for the coming generations to have a healthy future.

Global climate change and its impact on our planet is no more a cock and bull story or a conspiracy theory. It is a known fact that if global temperatures continue to rise and greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities keep rising at the current level, the earth will be uninhabitable.

It is a fine balancing act for countries to pursue the development goals of today without derailing the prospects for the coming generations to have a healthy future.

As a country that has unapologetically pursued infrastructure development projects in the last decades, the UAE has but shown enormous political will and vision to embrace a sustainable future and accelerate action to mitigate carbon footprint.

The first Regional Climate summit that was held in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and attended by leaders from the region is one of the many proofs that the UAE is walking the talk when it comes to progressive climate action.

The US Special Envoy John Kerry who is attending the summit said it is remarkable to find the UAE trying to lead many other nations in the search for new technology to address the global climate challenge and is transitioning to the new economy while facing the crisis.

If you look back at UAE’s climate mitigation and sustainable initiatives in the last ten years, it is clear that the young country, which rose from the barren desert, is headed in the right direction.

From diversifying its economy to powering up nuclear reactors to produce electricity, building solar power plants to constructing sustainable buildings to promoting food security by boosting local production, and revving up clean energy transportation to developing innovative technology, UAE’s is sparing no efforts to save the earth.

Understanding early on that the right policy frameworks and legislations are key, the UAE has signed an array of treaties to show its commitment to sustainable growth and laid down strategies both at the state and federal level to pursue it diligently.

The UAE was the first country in the region to join the Paris Agreement by which 196 signatory countries are committed to keeping global warming at less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

In solidarity with the efforts to reduce global warming, UAE has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by a quarter by 2030. “Climate change is the most prominent battle for mankind over the coming decades, to preserve a healthy planet for generations to come,” said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Centennial 2071, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, and the National Climate Change Plan 2050 announced by the UAE cabinet in 2017 aims to consolidate its efforts in promoting clean energy by managing greenhouse emissions while sustaining economic growth. The country has also launched ‘The Climate Project’ in cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.

In August, the UAE achieved an ambitious clean electricity transformation in the region when the Unit 1 reactor at its Barakah nuclear power plant was connected to the power grid. Once all the four units at Barakah are operational, the UAE will generate up to 25 per cent of the country’s electricity demand by producing 5,600 MW of clean baseload electricity. That would mean reducing 21 million tons of carbon emissions each year or eliminating 3.2 million cars off the roads annually.

As the UAE’s economic wheel-turner is its fast-paced infrastructure development, legislations to ensure and promote green construction is crucial for it to achieve its sustainability targets.

As early as 2009, Abu Dhabi has established a pearl rating system called Estidama (meaning sustainability in Arabic) to ensure developments comply with the sustainability framework. Similarly, Dubai’s Sa’fat was established to ensure green practices are followed while constructing new projects, and how they function afterwards.

The most recent announcement by Sheikh Mohammed that Dubai aims to convert 60 per cent of the emirate into natural reserves under the Dubai 2040 Urban Plan is the latest example of how the country is going green.

Sustainable urban development has been at the heart of UAE’s development agenda and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a pioneer in promoting a wide range of sustainability initiatives in the country as well as across the world.

UAE’s zero-carbon city that has residential, retail, manufacturing and recreational facilities, uses recycled water and energy-efficient appliances. It also houses the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that helps countries attain a sustainable energy future.

Masdar also manages the Zayed Sustainability Prize that recognises small- and medium-sized enterprises, non-profit organisations and global high schools for their innovative sustainable solutions. The prize has benefitted more than 352 million people across 150 countries globally.

The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week hosted by Masdar also brings together global leaders in sustainability and projects UAE as a world leader in clean energy vision.

The five million square feet of Dubai’s Sustainability City complete with roof-top solar panels, car-free zones, green spaces, is an example that demonstrates how the country is pioneering efforts in offering clean, energy-efficient environment-friendly yet luxury living to its residents. The UAE has also strategically invested in converting solar power into energy in order to meet its energy needs. The Abu Dhabi Solar Rooftop Programme that provides solar photovoltaic systems on government buildings, the standalone solar home systems (SHS) for homes and public or community buildings in remote areas without access to the national electricity grid; the Shams Dubai project that allows residents to install solar panels on their property are only a few of the solar energy projects underway in the UAE.

Whether it is boosting local agricultural production for food security or promoting clean energy transportation, the UAE is betting big on transforming to a green economy through public-private partnerships, innovation and use of technology. By doing so, it is also setting a world-class model for sustainability and energy efficiency for many countries to follow.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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