UAE to focus on circular economy as it aims to double GDP growth by 2031

The Arab world's second-largest economy will also focus on 'circular trade' during net-zero push, economy minister says

UAE's Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq at the UAE Climate Tech forum in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Victor Besa / The National
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The UAE will focus on developing a circular economy as it aims to double its economic growth by 2031, the Minister of Economy said.

The Arab world’s second-largest economy aims to move from “linear economy to circularity”, with an annual 7 per cent gross domestic product growth target to double its economy in the coming years, Abdulla bin Touq told the UAE Climate Tech forum in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

"We introduced 22 policies and we are going to introduce more. There is a new technology that can help us decarbonise."

Last year, the UAE approved 22 policies aimed at accelerating the country's transition to a circular economy, as part of its push towards sustainable economic development.

It also set up the UAE Circular Economy Council, which will create policies focusing on four main sectors: manufacturing, food, infrastructure and transport, the government said at the time.

A circular economy is an economic system that focuses on reducing the extraction of natural resources, minimising waste and regenerating natural systems. Raw materials, components and products keep their value for as long as possible, while renewable energy sources are used to fuel economic activity.

"We created the UAE circular economic policy with the private sector. We brought all the multinational companies and we [discussed] what policies we need to take to help advance technology and help the economy to be more circular," Mr Bin Touq said.

The UAE is also focusing on "circular trade" to reduce its carbon footprint, Mr Bin Touq said, without elaborating.

The UAE is investing heavily in clean energy projects and has announced several initiatives as it seeks to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

This week, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology signed four preliminary agreements with Adnoc, Edge Group, Kezad Group and Dubai Industrial City to accelerate decarbonisation and digitalisation in the manufacturing sector.

It has also launched initiatives such as the Technology Transformation Programme, Industrial Technology Transformation Index, green financing in partnership with Emirates Development Bank and the Industrial Sustainability Alliance amid efforts to reduce emissions.

Many organisations in the country have begun adopting initiatives to support the circular economy.

Earlier this year, Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE’s largest industrial company outside the oil and gas sector, teamed up with beverage producers, can makers and waste management companies to launch an aluminium recycling initiative in the UAE.

The Aluminium Recycling Coalition, which includes EGA, Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company (Tadweer), Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Company, Coca-Cola Al Ahlia Beverages Company and Pepsi-bottler Dubai Refreshment, among others aims to drive a “step-change” in recycling the metal in the UAE and to promote aluminium recycling by consumers, particularly beverage cans, EGA said at the time.

Meanwhile, Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, called for more investment in technologies, especially in hard-to-abate sectors, to lower emissions.

"So sectors that are the highest emitters need to look at the whole value chain approach," she told the Climate Tech forum on Thursday.

“The first approach is through carbon capture and ensuring that carbon is captured across the production process. The second is a mechanism to ensure that you are unlocking the value chain ... so it's a whole value chain effort in terms of where you are sourcing the raw materials and what type of energy is being utilised," Ms Al Amiri said.

Applying carbon-capture technologies to heavy emitting industries is a critical enabler in the race to net zero, but cost is the barrier, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, President-designate of the Cop28 summit, said at the forum on Wednesday.

“We need policymakers to incentivise technology companies to help commercialise all kinds of carbon capture, from storage to direct air to mineralisation," he said.

Ms Al Amiri added that the UAE has committed — especially in hard-to-abate industries — to lower the carbon footprint, find mechanisms to reutilise carbon, diversify its sources of energy and ensure that "cutting edge investments are being made in research and development to uplift the production process".

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, senior minister of Singapore, said climate change is a "huge global opportunity as the scale of challenge and the urgency of the challenge has not been seen before".

"Investments are required, both for mitigation and adaptation, of what I really call the three-headed ecological crisis, climate, water and biodiversity," he said.

"The investments required [for lower carbon initiatives], estimates of maybe $7 trillion a year, maybe it's $9 trillion a year, even if you take a more modest $4 trillion a year ... it will give you a very significant increase in global growth annually over a very long period of time. So by modest estimates, it will be something like a 20 per cent to 25 per cent increase in global growth over the next 10 years."

Tackling climate change offers "an opportunity with tangible results in terms of employment growth, skills growth and greater dynamism", he added.

Updated: May 11, 2023, 1:33 PM