Energy and Climate Change

The UAE hopes to provide a model for energy and environmental stewardship. It is implementing groundbreaking renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and is committed to reducing carbon emissions. In 2005, the UAE ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Convention on Climate Change, becoming one of the first major oil-producing countries to do so.

In accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the UAE is a non Annex 1 country, and not obligated to reduce its emissions. The UAE, however, has chosen to implement actions to slash its carbon emissions, including monitoring and tracking GHG emissions and assessing policies for reducing GHG emissions. In addition, the UAE is committed to expanding the role of low-carbon technologies in the economy and investing in renewable energy and nuclear power. At the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015, the UAE affirmed its plan to generate 24 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2021.

Abu Dhabi has also established one of the world’s most comprehensive clean energy initiatives. In 2014, the UAE and US launched the first annual bilateral energy dialogue to facilitate new and ongoing initiatives to strengthen cooperation between the two countries and enhance and secure the global energy market. In May 2014, the UAE hosted the Abu Dhabi Ascent to bring together individuals from government, the private sector and civil society to create momentum for serious discussion and action on climate change.

In order to reduce its carbon footprint, the UAE monitors the emission of gases that lead to the greenhouse effect and has reduced its per capita carbon emissions. The UAE's CO2 emissions increased from 52,009.0 (thousand metric tons) in 1990 to 167,597 in 2010. Due to better technology and transition to more natural gas in power plants, emissions of CO2 per capita have decreased. In 1990, the UAE emitted 32.6 tons of CO2 per person per year. In 2010, the figure dropped to 21.9 tons per person per year.

Studying the Impact of Climate Change

Due to concerns about climate change, the UAE commissioned international studies to assess the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant changing weather patterns. In 2010, the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center (a research affiliate of Tufts University in Massachusetts) completed a report for Abu Dhabi, addressing how climate change will affect ecosystems, infrastructure and the economy, and what impact it might have on the health of residents. The report found that the UAE could lose up to 6 percent of its populated and developed coastline by the end of the century because of rising sea levels. A rise of one meter – the most modest scenario presented in the report – would put 1,155 square kilometers of the country's coast under water by 2050; while nine meters – the most dire scenario – would see almost all of Abu Dhabi and much of Dubai submerged.

Reduced Flaring of Natural Gas

The UAE is also committed to reducing emissions from flaring, which involves burning off waste gas or oil during petroleum testing or production. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has zero-flaring as a strategic objective. From 1995 to 2010, ADNOC reduced gas flaring by up to 78 percent.

Energy Efficiency

The UAE has launched several innovative programs to increase energy efficiency. In 2014, Dubai launched the “Smart City” strategy, focusing on 1,000 government services and development in six main areas including transportation, infrastructure, communications, financial services, urban planning and electricity. The strategy lays out steps toward optimizing energy, smarter transport and recreational areas. Demand-side management of electricity will play a role, as will increased public transportation.  In 2011, the Dubai Government issued a set of “Green Building Regulations” for private sector construction in order to reduce energy and resource consumption as well as improve public health and general welfare. The code is mandatory for all new buildings.

The Masdar Initiative

The UAE’s largest Emirate, Abu Dhabi, has committed more than $15 billion to renewable energy programs through the Masdar Initiative. Masdar underscores twin commitments to the global environment and diversification of the UAE economy. Masdar focuses on the development and commercialization of technologies in renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon management and monetization, water usage and desalination. Reflecting the UAE’s commitment to sustainability, the International Renewable Energy Agency opened its permanent headquarters in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City in June 2015.

The initiative’s partners include some of the world's largest energy companies and elite institutions: BP, Shell, Occidental Petroleum, Total Exploration and Production, General Electric, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Rolls Royce, Imperial College London, MIT and WWF. It has four key elements:

  • An innovation center to support the demonstration, commercialization and adoption of sustainable energy technologies.
  • The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology with graduate programs in renewable energy and sustainability, located in Masdar City, the world’s first carbon-neutral, waste free, car-free city.
  • A development company focused on the commercialization of emissions reduction, and Clean Development Mechanism solutions as provided by the Kyoto Protocol.
  • A Special Economic Zone to host institutions investing in renewable energy technologies and products.