National Efforts to Address Climate Change
In the United Arab Emirates
Considering the growing body of scientific evidence of the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change at both the global and local levels, the UAE has taken active steps to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to its implications. The country has launched a series of national initiatives and has taken a set of measures based on the use of technology, innovative solutions and best practice, including:
- To adopt clean energy options
- To transform the national economy into a low-carbon green economy
- To embrace green architecture and sustainable construction
- To improve the sustainability of the transport sector
- To minimize the ecological footprint
- To utilize government accelerators
- To research the development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies
To Embrace a Renewable and Clean Environment
The energy sector is one of the major contributors to climate change. Available data indicates that the energy sector, including electricity production, oil extraction, oil refinery, desalination, conversion industries and transport, accounts for about 80% of total emissions at the national level.
Considering these facts, the UAE has been keen to pay particular attention to this sector. The establishment of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company “Masdar” in 2006 marked a major turning point in the energy source diversification policy pursued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE (may Allah protect Him) and in UAE's handling of the issue of sustainability in general, and climate change in particular.
UAE’s Most Important Clean Energy Projects
- In Abu Dhabi in March 2013 His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE (may Allah protect Him), launched the Shams 1 Project, the first renewable energy project in the country and the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world with a production capacity of 100 megawatts. This was followed by the opening of the Noor 1 Plant with the same capacity. Preparations are currently underway for a new plant in Abu Dhabi with a production capacity of 350 megawatts.
- In October of the same year (2013), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai (may Allah safeguard Him), inaugurated the first project of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Complex for Solar Power, with a capacity of 13 megawatts.
- In March 2017, His Highness inaugurated the operation of the second phase of the Complex with a production capacity of 200 megawatts. The second phase, at a cost of around 1.5 billion Dirhams, is expected to generate electricity for almost 50,000 homes and to reduce carbon emissions by about 214 thousand tons in Dubai annually.
- The operation of the second phase falls under a plan aiming to produce 1,000 megawatts in the Complex by 2020 and 5,000 megawatts by 2030. The Supreme Council of Energy in Dubai plans to bring solar energy in the energy mix of Dubai to 7% by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050.
- In 2013 the UAE started to build 4 nuclear power plants in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi with a capacity of 5.6 gigawatts, representing about 26% of the energy mix in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. These plants will start producing energy in stages between 2017 and 2020.
- In November 2015, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) officially announced the start of the operational phase of its renewable energy desalination pilot project in “Ghantoot”, Abu Dhabi, with a production capacity of almost 1,500 cubic meters of water per day, reducing typical desalination energy requirements by 40%.
- In 2013 the first the conversion of waste into energy began with the launch of the first project to produce electricity from methane generated from Dubai’s Al Qusais waste dump with a capacity of (1) megawatt for 20 years. Similar large production capacity projects are expected to be created in the coming years in all emirates.
- Community involvement in energy production from renewable sources. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has launched the “Shams Dubai” initiative to encourage homeowners and building owners to install photoelectric panels that produce electricity from solar energy, for their own use and to transfer any surplus to a network.
- In the same context, the Ministry of Energy announced at the end of 2016, in collaboration with the Federal Authority for Electricity and Water, a law that allows residents, establishments and private companies to produce electricity using solar energy by installing photoelectric panels on the roofs of their buildings.
- The renewable energy projects implemented by the UAE at national and global levels have contributed to a significant reduction of the cost of production, achieving a new world record of 2.42 cents per kilowatt/hour. This important achievement will enhance the opportunities for spreading renewable energy technologies globally.
- All this has coincided with the attention paid to the improvement of oil and gas production and the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation through a variety of measures. These include raising awareness, linking consumption to the economic mechanism (band system) and the use of energy conserving tools in various sectors.
Emirates Energy Strategy 2050
In the light of the UAE energy successes, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai (may Allah safeguard Him), launched in January 2017 the “Emirates Energy Strategy 2050”, the first unified energy strategy in the country in terms of both production and consumption, thus balancing production, consumption and global environmental commitments and ensuring a comfortable economic environment for growth in all sectors.
This strategy aims to increase the share of clean energy in the national energy mix to 50% by 2050, taking into account the growth rate of energy demand estimated at about 6% until 2050. It also aims to increase the efficiency of individual and institutional consumption by 40% and to reduce the carbon emissions associated with electricity production by 70%.
The strategy has determined the following energy production mix which must be reached in 2050: 44% for clean energy, 38% for gas, 12% for green coal and 6% for nuclear energy.
UAE’s Contribution to Spreading Renewable Energy Technologies Globally
- Since its establishment in 1971, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has overseen the provision of 73 billion Dirhams for financing 488 developmental projects in 83 countries worldwide.
- The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development is committed to providing franchise loans worth 1.285 billion Dirhams (the equivalent of almost 350 million Dollars) in cooperation with the International Renewable Energy Agency to support renewable energy projects in developing country members in the Agency.
- Through the UAE-Pacific Island Partnership Program, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development provides grants worth 183.6 million Dirhams (the equivalent of almost 50 million Dollars) in support of renewable energy projects. Under this program, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has supported 6 projects in Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
- The Caribbean Fund, announced in September 2016 with capital of 50 million Dollars, is the latest addition to the program for helping to develop renewable energy abroad. This is based on commitments exceeding 840 million Dollars undertaken so far to provide support in more than 25 countries worldwide.
- “Masdar” invests in renewable energy projects around the world, including solar systems for homes installed in 940 villages in Morocco and the London Wind Energy Matrix in the United Kingdom, in addition to other projects supporting renewable energy solutions around the globe.
Hosting International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Headquarters
The global consensus on the UAE's hosting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) headquarters in Abu Dhabi represented global recognition of the importance of UAE's efforts in the field of spreading renewable energy worldwide.
The strong material and moral support provided by the UAE to the Agency have enabled it to strengthen its presence, to enhance its efforts and to achieve its objectives in spreading renewable energy technologies and promoting global investments directed at this vital sector.
Emirates Green Development Strategy
Green Economy is one of the tracks of sustainable development. This approach aims in general to strengthen the role of economic growth in achieving sustainable development and combatting poverty, while simultaneously conserving and expanding the natural resource base by decoupling growth and resources.
The UAE officially adopted this approach in 2012 when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai (may Allah safeguard Him), launched UAE's Green Development Strategy under the theme “A Green Economy for Sustainable Development”. Its objective is to transform our national economy into a low-carbon green economy based on its development of knowledge and innovation.
This strategy is divided into six tracks: green energy, green investment, green cities, climate change, green life and green technology.
In 2015, the Cabinet endorsed the implementation mechanism of UAE Strategy and Green Agenda 2015-2030, which was prepared following studies, meetings and workshops where various developmental activities took place in the public and private sectors.
The continued growth in the UAE road transport sector represents an important challenge. The number of vehicles rose from approximately 1.9 million in 2008 to almost 3.2 million vehicles in 2015. These all depend on gasoline and diesel for fuel, with the exception of a small percentage running on natural gas.
Despite the important role played by this sector as a major driver of development, the steady and rapid increase in the number of vehicles in the nation has created negative effects and marked challenges on more than one level. These include increased levels of pollution in cities and urban centers, increased hazardous and non-hazardous waste, and increased level of carbon emissions. The transport sector contributes about 15% of the total carbon emissions in the country.
In an effort to reduce the negative effects of the land transport sector and to maintain its vital role in development, the concerned authorities have taken a range of measures, including:
- Setting national standards for the levels of emissions resulting from land transportation. These are guaranteed by the system of air pollution protection issued by virtue of Cabinet Resolution No. 37 of 2006 as part of the executive regulations of Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 with respect to environment protection and development.
- Periodic inspection of the gaseous pollutants emitted from exhausts annually as a prerequisite for licensing vehicles.
- To improve the types of fuel used in vehicles. Leaded gasoline was replaced with unleaded gasoline in 2003, and the sulfur content of diesel has been reduced to 10 parts per million at present.
- Use of natural gas as fuel in more vehicles.
- The adoption of the mass transport option and making it more acceptable and attractive. New means of mass transport, such as trains, metro and tram have been introduced in order to limit the individual use of means of transport. Public transport has become an option for much of the country's population. For example, more than 531 million passengers used public transport in Dubai in 2015, with a daily average of about 1.5 million passengers.
- Setting up the appropriate infrastructure to encourage the entry of clean-fuel cars to the local market.
- To float fuel prices effective from August 1, 2015.
The efforts to sustain the transport sector will continue in the next phase, with a focus on continuous improvement of fuel types and road networks, diversification of transport by increasing the share of clean-fuel vehicles, as well as promoting mass transport and making it the preferred choice for the largest population.
The building sector is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to the governmental authority concerned with climate change. In the UAE, this sector accounts for more than 70% of the total electricity consumption and for about 40% of the total water consumption. Consequently, the sustainability of consumption patterns in this sector represents opportunities to lower consumption and to reduce pollutants, emissions and waste, more than in any other single sector.
The UAE has adopted the Green Architecture approach, which is deemed one of the most important tools in this regard, especially in light of the level of urban development it witnesses. The implementation of the criteria of this approach is mandatory in Abu Dhabi through the “Estidama” (Sustainability) program, which includes five levels of assessment and, in Dubai, through the four-level “Al Safat” assessment system. Moreover, the implementation of the criteria of Green Architecture has begun at the federal level in governmental buildings as a first stage, and they will be implemented in all buildings in the country in later stages.
The Emirates Ecological Footprint Initiative is a partnership initiative between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, Emirates Wildlife Society and the Global Ecological Footprint Network. The UAE is considered the third country in the world, after Switzerland and Japan, to adopt such an initiative.
Since its launch in 2007, the Initiative, through its three-year strategic partnership, has realized significant achievements, including: introducing the concept of Ecological Footprint to policy makers, decision-makers and community members, integrating it into policy development and decision-making, and setting up sophisticated mechanisms and models for collecting, reviewing and auditing the data related to Ecological Footprint accounts and to make them available at both local and global levels.
The initiative has also succeeded in developing a scientific modeling tool to assess how energy and water supply and demand processing policies affect carbon emissions, in developing standards and policies for efficient energy use in lighting, and in developing public standards and policies for the transport sector.
The initiative has played an important role in reducing the Ecological Footprint per capita in the country from around 12 global hectares in 2006 to less than 8 global hectares per capita annually in 2014.
UAE Strategy for the Future
The UAE's visionary strategy aims to anticipate and analyze opportunities and challenges in all vital sectors in the State and develop long-term proactive plans at all levels to achieve qualitative achievements serving the interests of the country.
The Strategy aims to develop governmental systems that make the future outlook part of the strategic planning process in government agencies, to launch studies and scenarios for anticipating the future of all vital sectors and to develop plans and policies accordingly.
Addressing climate change represents one of the priority issues selected in the first phase of the Strategy.
The Government Accelerators adopted by the Cabinet in October 2016 are considered as a new government action mechanism aimed at accelerating the pace of achieving the objectives of the National Agenda of UAE Vision 2021, including those related to climate change.
In the context of the 100-day work program announced by His Highness Sheikh / Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai (may Allah safeguard Him), the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, Emirates Global Aluminum Company and General Electric Company have begun a joint project for reducing the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from the activities of the company's plants in Al Taweelah area, Abu Dhabi, and Jebel Ali, Dubai, by 10% at the end of February 2017, which is equivalent to removing 280 thousand cars off the roads of the country.
The project, which was completed on time, surpassed the planned targets by reducing NOx emissions by 16%.
Emission Elimination Projects
Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies
Carbon capture and storage technology adopted by the UAE is considered one of the most promising and important technologies in the field of carbon emission mitigation in industrial projects.
In November 2016, Abu Dhabi Carbon Capture Company (Al Reyadah), a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), began implementing the region's first commercial scale program for capturing, storing and using carbon in Abu Dhabi's enhanced oil production.
The project aims to capture 800 thousand tons of carbon dioxide from Emirates Steel Company, to store it, to transport it through pipelines and to inject it as a substitute for liquid saturated gas in Abu Dhabi oil fields in order to boost their productivity. The carbon dioxide captured in the project is equivalent to carbon emissions resulting from 170 thousand cars.
This project will lead the way for the application of this technology and its widespread use in the region in the future.
“Blue carbon” is a term that refers to carbon in marine and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, salt marshes, sea grass, algal mosses and coastal swamps. During this process, carbon is stored in the atmosphere in biomasses and marine sediments.
In the context of its interest in carbon capture and elimination projects, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, conducted a comprehensive study of coastal ecosystems and their ability to store carbon.
This project has provided a broader understanding of the capacity of those systems to store and to capture carbon and the options for integrating the outcome entailed by the project in policies and management in order to enhance the efforts of their protection and sustainable use.
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Draft of National Plan for Climate Change
As part of its responsibilities, the Ministry of Climate Change, in collaboration with all the stakeholders in the State and through the Emirates Council for Climate Change and Environment, is developing the first plan to address climate change in the region. The plan is based on the 2021 Vision, the UAE's Green Development Strategy and the Innovation Strategy. The plan will strengthen the country's ambitious economic diversification process and it will also reinforce its shift to new and knowledge-based sectors.