The UAE has set a more ambitious target for curbing carbon emissions in response to calls at last year’s Cop26 conference for greater efforts to combat climate change.
A statement from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment revealed the country aims to cut carbon emissions by 31 per cent by 2030, compared with a “business as usual” scenario without curbs on greenhouse gases.
This stricter commitment compares with the 23.5 per cent reduction pledge that the Emirates made in December 2020 as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The new target means the UAE aims to have total annual carbon emissions of 207.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) by 2030 - 93.2 million tonnes less than 301 million under a business as usual scenario.
It ties in with the UAE’s aim of becoming a net zero carbon emitter by the middle of this century, a target the country announced last October, ahead of the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference summit in Glasgow in the UK, through the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.
Under the previous December 2020 commitment, the UAE set an annual emissions target of 240 million tonnes of CO2-eq by 2030.
With the updated target, almost two thirds of the emissions reductions – 66.4 per cent – will be accounted for by electricity generation.
Industry is expected to account for 16.6 per cent of the reductions, transport 9.7 per cent, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) 5.3 per cent, and waste 2.1 per cent.
Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said in the statement that the UAE had “a remarkable track record” of local and global efforts to combat climate change.
The latest figures represent the UAE’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), a figure each nation submits to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as part of its Paris Agreement commitments. The UAE submitted its first NDC in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed.
Governments were asked to update NDCs by the end of 2022 as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact, a key outcome of Cop26.
The updated NDC comes ahead of the Cop27 UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in November, and Cop28, to be held a year later in the UAE.
“Today, we mark a new milestone in our voluntary commitment to environmental protection and climate action as we respond to the call of the Glasgow Climate Pact in our enhanced greenhouse gas emission reduction target,” said Ms Al Mheiri.
“As the host of Cop28, the UAE will continue building on its climate ambition towards 2023 and beyond. With the submission of the updated second NDC, we are demonstrating our commitment to progressively raising our ambition further each year as new solutions and initiatives become available.”
Significant strides have already been made in expanding clean energy in the UAE. In 2011 it was 13 megawatts (MW), in 2015 it had increased to just over 100MW, and by 2020 had reached 2,540MW.
A key role in the UAE’s efforts to transition to clean energy is played by the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, where pre-operational testing of the fourth reactor’s cooling and safety systems recently took place. Within around three years, the facility will produce 85 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s clean electricity.
The country’s investments of more than $40 billion in clean energy have also helped to heavily increase solar power capacity.
As well as making efforts to curb carbon emissions, the UAE has also committed to making itself more resilient to climate change.
This work includes the Abu Dhabi Blue Carbon Demonstration Project and tree-planting drives, with the country set to plant 100 million mangrove seedlings by 2030.
For the next NDC, officials are working on a long-term strategy to promote economy-wide emissions reduction targets, and to further strengthen climate change adaptation and resilience.
To promote reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by the private sector, the ministry launched the National Dialogue for Climate Action (NDCA).
Through a monthly stakeholder assembly, each focused on a particular industry, this aims to involve sectors such as waste, cement, energy, transport and manufacturing.
Another initiative involving the private sector is the UAE Climate-Responsible Companies Pledge, in which signatories measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions and share emission-reduction plans with the government.
In its statement, the ministry said that meeting new climate targets required involvement from the private sector, civil society and youth, and the updated second NDC emphasised the importance of engaging women, young people and “climate-vulnerable communities”.