The UAE is ramping up its commitment to decarbonization ahead of hosting COP28 in November. In July 2023, the country pledged a 40% emissions cut from the 1990 baseline, up from the previous 31%, aiming for net-zero by 2050. Plans include producing 1.4 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2031, with one million tonnes being green hydrogen from renewables. The UAE also targets tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030. COP28 President designate Sultan al-Jaber urged the oil and gas industry to phase out methane emissions by 2030. Fadi Al Shihabi, Partner and Head of ESG Advisory Services at KPMG Lower Gulf, notes the UAE's ongoing efforts, with a focus on implementing strategies and significant investments, facilitated by oil revenues. The completion of a new nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi is also aiding in reducing gas demand.

Industrial circular economy

Industry was responsible for 42 percent of the country’s emissions in 2022, including energy-intensive production of aluminum and steel. In June, Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, launched an industrial strategy involving investment of AED 10 billion (USD 2.72 billion) which includes environmentally focused aspects, including circular economy regulatory work, procurement that considers environmental issues and incentives for improving environmental sustainability. Abu Dhabi also makes use of natural carbon sequestration, reckoning that in 2018 the equivalent of around 5 percent of its carbon emissions were removed from the atmosphere by plantations including forests, mangrove wetlands and croplands.

Only a few thousand electric vehicles are currently on the UAE’s roads but this looks set to increase rapidly with the emirate of Dubai’s Green Mobility Strategy requiring 30 percent of public sector and 10 percent of all vehicle sales to be either electric or hybrid by 2030. Dubai also plans for all taxis to be hybrid or electric by 2027 and it has more than 620 electric vehicle charging stations with a target of more than 1,000 by 2025. Abu Dhabi is exploring hydrogen fuel for vehicles and its national energy company wants to install more than 70,000 electric charging points across the UAE by 2030. Etihad Rail, the country’s recently completed national rail system, aims to reduce the UAE’s annual transport emissions by 8.2MtCO2e through moving freight off the roads.

A plethora of initiatives

By adopting innovative strategies, establishing progressive policies and investing in clean technologies, the UAE is making promising progress, through sustainable urban planning, renewable energy adoption, environmental conservation, and responsible water management. It has undertaken ambitious sustainability initiatives, embracing a holistic approach to economic development that balances environmental conservation, social welfare and economic growth.

Sustainable urban planning

The UAE government is working towards achieving sustainable development by actively planning and developing smart cities. Notably, they have been ranked as the smartest cities in the Middle East and North Africa region according to the Smart City Index 2021. Abu Dhabi's Economic Vision 2030 focuses on transitioning to a knowledge-based economy, exemplified by smart city projects like Masdar City. Dubai is working on transforming into a smart and sustainable city through various initiatives and projects, including The Sustainable City, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai South District, Desert Rose City, and Sharjah Sustainable City. These cities prioritize renewable energy, innovative technologies, and comprehensive services to create sustainable, efficient, and environmentally conscious urban environments.

The Global Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Institute also opened its first Middle East headquarters in Masdar City, the regional home of technology innovation, research and development. Carbon capture and storage is an innovative technology that mitigates climate change impacts by capturing carbon dioxide. This facility would capture carbon dioxide from power plants and industrial facilities and store it underground.

The UAE encourages green building practices through certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Estidama’s Pearl Rating System (PRS) to promote energy-efficient, resource-conscious and sustainable building design and construction. The PRS is used to assess the sustainability of buildings in the UAE and awards buildings with pearls based on their performance in several areas including energy efficiency, water conservation and waste management.

The UAE is investing in sustainable urban transport systems, including electric buses, metro networks and cycling infrastructure. These initiatives aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in urban areas.

The Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative was introduced under Dubai's Department of Economy and Tourism aiming to make Dubai a more sustainable tourist destination. It is committed to promoting green transportation, reducing waste, conserving water and contributing to Dubai’s broader clean energy and sustainable development targets.

The Year of Sustainability

The Year of Sustainability has brought together UAE-based experts through the Sustainability Experts Network to promote collaborative, sustainable practices among UAE residents. Through a series of action-led activations, this initiative aims to encourage individuals and the community to adopt an environmentally conscious lifestyle and sustainable food practices.

In addition, the Year of Sustainability aims to promote sustainable fashion by encouraging UAE residents to switch to slow fashion and support more eco-friendly brands. This will run in parallel with the ongoing support of the Sustainability Experts Network, which assembles UAE-based professionals with a deep understanding of the country’s context. The network focuses on addressing sustainability in various fields, encourage positive behavioral changes and foster public participation in three key areas: promoting responsible consumption, encouraging conservation initiatives and inspiring collective action to impede climate change.

Renewable energy adoption

UAE Energy Strategy 2050

The UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 is a comprehensive roadmap that aims to achieve net zero by 2050. The strategy focuses on diversifying energy sources, investing in renewable projects and promoting energy efficiency to reduce the carbon intensity of power generation. It aspires to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to MTCO 229 compared to business-as-usual by 2050. The UAE has already made significant progress towards this goal, generating 10.57% less emissions than the Middle East and Asia average and 9.5% less than the global average.

Solar energy revolution

The UAE is a global leader in solar energy adoption, with notable projects such as the Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), the world's largest CSP plant located in Abu Dhabi. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park was also launched under the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 to increase the share of clean energy in Dubai’s total power output to 75% by 2050. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to make Dubai the world's first city to run entirely on clean energy by 2050. These projects have contributed significantly to the nation's renewable energy capacity and have been instrumental in its transition towards a sustainable future.

UAE Wind Program

The UAE has also tapped into its coastal wind potential, with initiatives like the UAE Wind Program. The project is expected to power more than 23,000 UAE homes annually and reduce 120,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. By investing in wind energy, the UAE further diversifies its renewable energy portfolio and reduces its carbon footprint.

The development of a hydrogen economy

Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel that could potentially replace fossil fuels in a number of applications. The UAE is investing in the development of a hydrogen economy, with the goal of making the country a global leader in this area. The National Hydrogen Strategy 2050 also aims to support low-carbon local industries, contribute to achieving climate neutrality and enhance the UAE’s position as one of the largest producers of hydrogen by 2031.

Environmental conservation

Biodiversity protection

The UAE places significant emphasis on biodiversity conservation, implementing measures to protect its unique ecosystems, including coastal areas, wetlands and deserts. The country has established protected areas and marine reserves to safeguard its rich biodiversity.

The UAE is also working to develop more sustainable agriculture methods, such as drip irrigation and vertical farming.

Mangrove reforestation

Mangrove reforestation efforts have been a cornerstone of the UAE's environmental conservation initiatives. These crucial ecosystems serve as habitat for diverse marine species, enhance coastal resilience and sequester carbon, contributing to climate change mitigation.

Waste management and recycling

The UAE has adopted advanced waste management practices, including waste segregation, recycling programs, and waste-to-energy technologies. These initiatives aim to minimize waste generation and promote a circular economy.

Responsible water management

Water conservation and desalination

Given its arid climate and limited freshwater resources, the UAE places a strong focus on water conservation. The country has implemented efficient irrigation techniques, water recycling and desalination technologies to ensure water security.

Aquifer recharge projects

To preserve groundwater resources, the UAE has embarked on aquifer recharge projects that replenish underground water reserves through artificial recharge mechanisms.

Partnerships and international cooperation

Global climate initiatives

The UAE actively participates in global climate initiatives, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings. The nation collaborates with other countries to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The UAE is also a signatory to a number of international agreements on climate change and sustainability. These include the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

These sustainability initiatives are making a significant contribution to the global effort to address climate change and achieve a more sustainable future, and the UAE is well-positioned to continue to lead the way in this area in the years to come.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

The UAE is a member of the IRENA and it plays a key role in promoting the adoption of renewable energy worldwide.

  2. 'Greenhouse gas inventory and projections for Abu Dhabi emirate', April 2021, Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.
  3. 'United Arab Emirates electric vehicle market', US International Trade Administration.
  4. John Dennehy, 'How Etihad Rail's freight service aims to cut travel times for UAE motorists', The National News, 16 May 2023.
  5. 'Greenhouse gas inventory and projections for Abu Dhabi emirate', April 2021, Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.
  6. 'Final unit of the Barakah plant commences operational readiness preparations', Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, 8 June 2023.
  8. Masdar News
  9. The Pearl Rating System for Estidama (
  10. Latest growth projects | Department of Economy and Tourism (
  11. UAE’s Year of Sustainability initiatives advocate responsible consumption | Government – Gulf News
  12. UAE Energy Strategy 2050 | The Official Portal of the UAE Government
  13. Shams 1 in Abu Dhabi | The Official Portal of the UAE Government
  14. UAE Wind Program | The Official Portal of the UAE Government
  15. National Hydrogen Strategy | The Official Portal of the UAE Government

Contact us

Connect with us

Stay up to date with what matters to you

Gain access to personalized content based on your interests by signing up today