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United Arab Emirates

Brief description:


(This country has no specific CCS policy)


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed up to the UNFCCC in 1996 as a non-Annex 1 Party, with no obligations to cut emissions but with a clear recognition of the urgent need to tackle climate change.

The federation is a major exporter of oil and holds the sixth largest proven oil reserves and the fifth largest proven natural gas reserves in the world. In 2007, oil and gas activities accounted for about 38% of national gross domestic product. According to its second national communication to the UN, submitted in January 2010, the UAE’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2000 were 128.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Energy-related activities accounted for around 90% of total emissions. This included those from the combustion of fossil fuels or fugitive emissions from oil and gas operations. Industrial processes contributed 5% of all emissions, with agriculture emitting 3% and the waste sectors about 2%. According to the UAE’s report, about 8% of net emissions in 2000 were sequestered by the hardwood tree plantations throughout the country.

These figures show a 64% increase in total GHG emissions since 1994, with those from the energy sector rising by about 66% and industrial processes seeing an increase of 88%.

Government challenges

With more than 1,318 kilometres of shoreline and a hyper-arid climate, the UAE is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Its rising population, which has grown ten-fold since 1975, has increasing needs for energy and other resources. Water is of particular concern and is the focus of national strategies to reduce consumption and promote water conservation.

The country has a fast-growing economy, not just because of the oil and gas sectors but also within construction, industry, real estate, finance, transport and communications and tourism. Rising global and domestic demand for natural gas has also led to the rapid development of the UAE’s large natural gas reserves. This will ultimately have a knock-on effect on total GHG emissions.

In 2010, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) published its study ‘Climate Change and the UAE: Impact,  Vulnerability and Adaptation in the UAE’, which assessed the region’s economic vulnerability to climate change in consultation with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the UNFCCC. A key finding was that coastal areas, and therefore all coastal cities in the UAE, are under threat from extensive inundation due to sea level rise. Changes in annual temperatures would also cause shifts in the ecology of the country’s dryland ecosystem. There would also be a threat posed to water resources.

The report recommended strategies and policy adjustments needed to address these impacts. More details can be found at EAD’s website (currently unavailable at the time of this posting).

Government actions

The Supreme Petroleum Council sets energy policy in the UAE. Efforts to promote sustainable energy development include measures to promote economic growth while aiming to protect the environment. The UAE is taking a role in developing new technologies, and has invested in alternative energy through the multi-billion dollar Masdar City initiative (see below, and also Hydrogen Power Abu Dhabi for more details).

In order to try and preserve fragile natural resources, the UAE has launched a number of environmental strategies that aim to strengthen regulations governing industrial and other development activities, establish conservation areas for biodiversity, and manage scarce water resources.

In terms of its UNFCCC obligations, the federation has laid out a number of steps it hopes to follow. These include better monitoring and tracking of GHG emissions to help identify their impact; an assessment of policies, strategies and measures for reducing GHG emissions throughout the economy followed by actual reductions; and a strengthening of key agencies which carry out the studies that will ultimately guide policy and decision-making.

In 2008 the Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) launched its Abu Dhabi Environment Strategy 2008–2012, which set environmental policy for five years within the sectors of oil and gas, construction, transport, tourism, health, energy and industry. The policy was unavailable from EAD’s website - - at the time of this posting.

In February 2012, the UAE state of Dubai unveiled plans for an integrated energy strategy – targeting 2030 – that would seek to reduce GHG emissions and introduce a “groundbreaking” carbon trading system. It also vowed to play a more active role in implementing CCS.

Climate change initiatives

The Masdar City initiative is a bold $15-billion programme that aims to link economic growth with sustainable modes of living. The city will be fully powered by renewable energy to sustain a population of 50,000 and 1,500 companies. If completed, it will be a world-leading example of how energy and water conservation can be achieved while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions without any loss to quality of life. The project has been designated an official “One Planet Living Community” by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Funding is currently being sought for developing solar power, hydrogen, wind power, and carbon reduction and management technologies.

As well as Masdar City, there has also been an ongoing governmental process to identify strategies to reduce GHG emissions across the federation. These include an increase in the use of renewable technologies. Also, enhanced oil recovery schemes using CO2 from industrial flue gases injected into onshore oil fields are being explored through a joint ADNOC (the national oil company) and Masdar collaboration.

Other strategies being considered or already underway include sustainable building regulations, the use of nuclear energy, high-efficiency natural gas plants, sustainable public transport and the use of alternative fuels. The government has set a target of achieving emissions reductions of about 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent cumulatively by 2030.

Other information

Ministry of Environment and Water

Ministry of Energy (English version under construction at time of posting) article, 11 April 2010