The UAE announced on Thursday an ambitious strategic initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 2050.
The plan will mean Dh600 billion being invested in clean and renewable energy sources in the next three decades.
It comes in a crucial year in the fight to protect the planet, with the UAE building momentum ahead of the Cop26 climate talks in the UK next month.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the country would “play its global role in combating climate change".
He said the UAE development model will take into account the net zero goal and that all institutions would work as one team towards it.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said: “The UAE’s Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative announced today is consistent with the long-standing vision of the UAE and its people to make a significant contribution to global sustainability efforts, while supporting economic and human development both at home and around the world.”
The UAE net zero announcement comes ahead of the crucial Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow next month, which has been described as the most important summit since the Paris Agreement in 2015.
The UAE “net zero by 2050 strategic initiative” aligns with the Paris deal. Agreed to in 2015 and signed by 195 countries including the UAE, the objective of the Paris deal is to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Cop26 represents the first time that countries are expected to commit to enhanced pledges to cut emissions since the Paris accord was signed.
UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the UAE’s pledge.
“We very much welcome this very important announcement and the secretary general looks forward to the UAE submitting as soon as possible a new nationally determined contribution in line with this ambitious goal that the government set for itself,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric said. “We encourage other states in the Gulf to follow this example, especially ahead of the Cop-26 climate talks in Glasgow.”
The UAE's initiative, meanwhile, takes into consideration key economic sectors in the country and supports their efforts to benefit from green growth opportunities. Federal and local government authorities will develop plans to introduce the measures to reduce emissions, while also ensuring economic growth.
“Our announcement … is consistent with our drive to diversify and build a knowledge-based economy, adopt the principles of a green and circular economy, protect the environment, attract foreign direct investment and develop competencies in future growth areas,” said Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Minister of State for Food Security.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the UAE's commitment to net zero emissions.
"Fantastic news that the UAE has become the first Gulf country to commit to Net Zero emissions by 2050," he said.
"This is a significant step in tackling climate change and I hope more countries commit to Net Zero ahead of Cop26."
Alok Sharma, president of the Cop26 summit, due to be held in Scotland later this month said of the UAE pledge: "I am delighted the UAE has announced it will reach net zero carbon by 2050.
"As the first net zero-carbon commitment in the Gulf, this is an historic announcement," Mr Sharma said.
"I look to others in the region to also announce ambitious climate action commitments ahead of Cop26."
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, said the announcement epitomises the vision of the UAE's leadership and drives sustainable development.
“The UAE [net zero] strategic initiative is an open invitation to the world to collaborate with the UAE in developing practical solutions, boosting multilateralism and creating opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development,” said Dr Al Jaber.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment will lead efforts to execute the plan. It will entail close co-operation with civil society, foreign governments and international organisations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency, which has its headquarters in the UAE.
The UAE has long been committed to protecting the environment and embracing clean energy. The country began financing clean energy projects more than 15 years ago, and has invested more than $40 billion in the sector to date.
The UAE also enjoys the world’s lowest-cost solar power and is home to three of the largest solar facilities in the world. It is also the first Arab country to develop a peaceful nuclear energy programme.
Authorities are also addressing the fact that agriculture is responsible for about a quarter of global carbon emissions. It is leading efforts to drive innovation in agritech, in particular by reducing water and energy use in farming.
The move was also welcomed by the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy.
“The announcement of the UAE net zero by 2050 strategic initiative is a significant milestone that reflects long-term dedication to sustainable economic development and to the tenets of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Awaidha Al Marar.
“In just five years Abu Dhabi will be producing almost 55 per cent of its electricity from clean sources, halving the CO2 emissions associated with the power sector,” he said.