The UAE's new visa offers a real return on investment

Competition for climate specialists is intense but with its Blue Visa, the Emirates is not only playing to its strengths, it is securing vital environmental expertise for future generations

Blue Visa holders will deepen the UAE’s talent pool, much in the same way its current Golden Visa residents are contributing to other key sectors, such as health care, technology, education and the arts. Photo: iStock
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The fight against climate change should be a collective effort. And yet, the race to save the planet from global warming has become highly competitive. In the search for technical and scientific solutions to mitigate or even reverse the alarming changes taking place in our environment, the field’s best and brightest thinkers are in high demand.

That’s what makes the UAE Cabinet’s recent approval of a 10-year Blue Residency visa for people who make “exceptional contributions” towards protecting the environment a timely development. Global environmental targets are fuelling the need for skilled professionals, and the UAE is trading on its strengths – its stability, its high quality of life and innovative environment – to attract top talent, a strategy it has pursued since the foundation of the state.

Indeed, the competition for cutting-edge researchers and forward-thinking investors who could produce a climate breakthrough has been in play for years. In 2017, France offered four-year grants and information on how to gain work visas to US climate scientists, students and entrepreneurs alienated by then-president Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris Agreement on global warming.

But do such special visas work? Other countries' experience suggests the answer is yes. The US, which remains a prime destination for global talent, has its EB-1 visa – more commonly known as the “Einstein visa” – for extraordinary people who have made significant contributions in their fields, including environmentalists. Among the occupations eligible for the UK’s Tier 2 skilled worker visas are roles such as energy manager, environmental consultant, flood risk managerand environmental scientist.

Other countries offer residency to investors who can bring much-needed financial firepower to green projects. For example, in 2019 Portugal introduced of a residency programme for investors in environmentally sustainable projects, such as organic agriculture, ecotourism and renewable energy. This was particularly appealing to investors from outside the EU, as Portuguese residence offers greater access to the rest of the bloc’s 26 other countries.

The UAE’s Blue Visa scheme, however, is about more than attracting skills and experience. It reflects the government’s policy and political priority of building a more sustainable future. Offering residency based on an individual’s contribution to that aim is a natural progression that follows other high-profile Emirati commitments in the fight against global warming, such as holding the Cop28 presidency which included hosting the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai last year, where the country’s stewardship went a long way to achieving much-needed international consensus.

Bringing people along on this journey – not just for a conference or a short-term project – is a crucial step forwards in developing successful climate strategies for the future and dealing with the challenges it presents today. Blue Visa holders will deepen the UAE’s talent pool, much in the same way its current Golden Visa residents are contributing to other key sectors, such as healthcare, technology, education and the arts.

This type of residency is about creating a long-term presence of climate specialists who will generate knowledge that will build a better future for the next generations. That is quite a return on investment.

Published: May 17, 2024, 3:00 AM