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UAE initiatives to preserve the environment

The UAE’s reputation has traditionally been associated with ambitious construction projects and abundant living. However, in recent times, the nation has shifted its focus towards sustainability, recognizing the importance of preserving the environment and resources for the benefit of future generations. To cement this ambition, the UAE’s declaration of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability demonstrates a dedicated emphasis on environmental sustainability and collaborative pursuit of key initiatives in sectors such as energy, transport, water conservation, waste management and sustainable development. This article explores the country’s initiatives as a whole, aimed at promoting respect for the environment.

Is sustainability a long-term plan?

In recent years, the UAE has made significant progress in promoting sustainability within its borders, guided by the UAE Vision 2021, the Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040 and aligned with various international initiatives such as the UAE Green Agenda. UAE 2015-2030, the Paris Agreement, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Recognizing the seriousness of climate change, the UAE government has strengthened its dedication to global engagement and domestic policy setting. This has made the UAE a leading regional supporter of climate action over the past decade.

What is the UAE’s vision for 2021?

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled the UAE Vision 2021 during the conclusion of a cabinet meeting in 2010. This ambitious Vision aims to elevate the UAE to a world-leading position through its Golden Jubilee Union. To achieve this objective, six national priorities have been identified as fundamental sectors for government action in the coming years, namely:

  • World class medical care
  • Competitive knowledge and economics
  • Safe and fair public judiciary
  • Cohesive society and preserved identity
  • First level educational system
  • Sustainable environment and infrastructure

Sustainable environment and infrastructure are already in place throughout the country. Expo 2020 Dubai, for example, ambitiously embedded sustainability from buildings to landscapes, generating a large amount of clean energy, reducing water consumption and promoting natural landscaping solutions, among other sustainability measures. Surprisingly, this same site will host COP28, or the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, from November 30, 2023, until December 12, 2023. This is an important milestone achieved and a great testament to the efforts of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates to achieve a greener future for the new generation.

COP28: the UAE’s potential on the map

Amid the challenges of global climate change, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a leading global champion of sustainability. Through a broad vision and ambitious efforts, the UAE is actively shaping a sustainable future. The upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP28) will underline the UAE’s commitment to addressing environmental issues and guiding the world towards a greener and more resilient future.

Take advantage of renewable energy sources: The UAE invests heavily in clean energy, as exemplified by the vast Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which will generate 5,000 MW of clean energy by 2030. This commitment to renewable energy, including wind and nuclear power, reduces the footprint of the country’s carbon and promotes a sustainable future.

Sustainable water management: The United Arab Emirates addresses global water scarcity with its Water Security Strategy 2036, emphasizing sustainable water management through desalination, reuse and conservation. Its efficient infrastructure is a sustainable example. Working on and advancing this vision is the Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040.

Greener living: The United Arab Emirates is leading sustainable urban development with projects such as Masdar City, an innovative initiative in Abu Dhabi. This living laboratory showcases sustainable technologies, including renewable energy, efficient waste management and smart transportation solutions, setting a global example of sustainable urban planning. With a nearly two-decade history of climate innovation that promotes sustainable economic growth, the United Arab Emirates is host to three of the largest and most profitable solar plants in the world. It is the first in the region to adopt carbon capture technology on an industrial scale, the pioneer in the deployment of zero-emission nuclear energy, and a pioneer in emerging zero-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen.

Additionally, the UAE’s role as a global connector between nations has resulted in investments exceeding $50 billion in clean energy projects across six continents, spanning 70 countries, including 27 climate-vulnerable island nations.

Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040

The Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040 prioritizes well-being, prosperity and continued advancement. It is people-centric, based on global best practices and envisions a sustainable future of excellence. This is the seventh development plan for the emirate since 1960. Over six decades, from 1960 to 2020, Dubai’s population increased significantly by 80-fold, from 40,000 in 1960 to 3.3 million. At the same time, the emirate’s urban and built-up area expanded significantly, increasing 170-fold from 3.2 square kilometers. By 2040, Dubai’s vision includes important achievements such as:

  • Double the size of green and recreational spaces.
  • Allocate 60 percent of the emirate’s total area to nature reserves and rural natural areas.
  • Establish green corridors to connect service areas, residential neighborhoods and workplaces.
  • Improvement of infrastructure for pedestrians, bicycles and sustainable mobility.
  • Increasing the land area destined for hotels and tourist activities by 134 percent, and for commercial activities it will reach 168 square kilometers.
  • Expand land area for educational and healthcare facilities by 25 percent.
  • Expand the length of public beaches by a substantial 400 percent.
  • The Master Plan emphasizes promoting the use of public transport, walking, cycling and flexible transport methods, supported by a robust planning database for informed decision making.

Furthermore, the Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040 incorporates the Hatta Development Plan, ensuring comprehensive development of the area.

The plan’s focus also extends to the creation of integrated sustainable housing complexes that meet the needs of citizens. These communities meet the highest planning standards and feature green spaces, shopping centers and recreational facilities to improve overall human well-being.

The UAE Green Agenda – 2030

The UAE’s Green Agenda 2030 was introduced to increase the country’s GDP by 4 to 5 percent, increase exports by approximately AED 24 to 25 billion and reduce emissions to less than 100 kilowatt-hours. This long-term plan aims to improve sustainable development and promote environmentally friendly practices in the UAE economy. It comprises strategic objectives along with a variety of programs and initiatives to achieve these objectives. The UAE Green Agenda 2030 strives to:

  • Boost UAE GDP by 4 to 5 percent.
  • Increase exports by approximately AED 24 to 25 billion.
  • Reduce the country’s emissions to less than 100 kilowatt-hours.

As a pioneering force in climate action and sustainability, the UAE has consistently maintained an optimistic outlook on our potential to build a better, safer and more prosperous world. Echoing the sentiments of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the United Arab Emirates:

“The preservation of our planet is not only a moral duty, but also an economic necessity.”

Keeping the wheels of sustainability moving

Dubai is at the forefront of sustainable transportation efforts, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. The city has introduced a fleet of hybrid taxis and electric buses, with the aim of 20% of all trips to Dubai being made with autonomous vehicles by 2030.

Other initiatives include strengthening infrastructure, expanding the use of clean energy in buildings and promoting waste recycling to support a circular economy.

Additionally, Dubai Metro, in operation since 2009, operates as an automated, driverless system powered by electricity. This not only reduces carbon emissions and road congestion, but also relies on a mix of clean energy sources, including solar energy.

Dubai Municipality has initiated a comprehensive recycling program, promoting the separation of recyclable materials at the source. Recycling bins have been strategically placed throughout the city for easy access, successfully diverting a substantial amount of waste from landfills and reducing environmental impact.

Furthermore, Dubai Waste to energy project is innovative and converts municipal solid waste into electricity. The Dubai Waste Management Center (DWMC) will process 1.9 million tonnes of waste annually, making it the largest operational capacity in the world. This project, scheduled for completion in 2024, will generate renewable energy to power 135,000 homes. Aligning with Dubai Municipality’s waste diversion targets, this project is a big step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly city.

In conclusion, the United Arab Emirates is a model of progress and innovation in the pursuit of environmental sustainability. With visionary strategies, ambitious initiatives and a relentless commitment to green growth, the UAE is setting a global example to address climate change, conserve natural resources and promote sustainable development. From innovative renewable energy projects to sustainable transportation and comprehensive waste management solutions, the UAE is not only protecting its environment but also actively contributing to a more sustainable world. As host of COP28, the UAE has a unique platform to inspire and lead, underscoring its dedication to forging a greener and more prosperous future for generations to come.

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