UAE Announces Net-Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative

The United Arab Emirates today announced the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, making the Emirates the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nation to do so. The initiative aims to underpin dynamic economic growth alongside positive environmental impact.

“We are committed to seize the opportunity to cement our leadership on climate change within our region and take this key economic opportunity to drive development, growth and new jobs as we pivot our economy and nation to net zero. With an investment of over Dhs 600 billion in renewable energy, our vision for a clean future is clear.” Commented His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

The announcement, made at Expo 2020 in Dubai, aligns with the Principles of the 50 – the UAE’s roadmap for accelerating national economic development to mark the country’s golden jubilee year, as the nation enters a new 50-year cycle of growth. The major economic opportunities offered by the path to net zero directly support a vision to develop the Emirates into the most dynamic economy in the world.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said: “With our announcement today of our plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the UAE continues our effective role in climate control issues, adding our support to international efforts to mitigate climate change with a range of effective community and economic initiatives. In achieving climate neutrality in the UAE by 2050, we aim to develop an approach that both drives sustainable economic growth and is an exemplar of working together to achieve a better future for humanity.”

The announcement took place at the conclusion of a government-wide accelerator program initiated earlier this year. The Government Accelerator for Climate Ambition and Economic Development took a holistic approach to developing the framework for the UAE’s pathway to net zero, leveraging strategies for green economic growth and job creation. The initiative integrated the work of ministries and private sector entities in cross-sectoral teams focused on fast-tracking effective policymaking and implementation.

“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 His Excellency Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Special Envoy for Climate Change. “Critically, we will leverage the development pathway to net zero as a vehicle to create economic value, increase industrial competitiveness and enhance the UAE’s standing as an attractive destination for investment, in line with the UAE’s vision of progress for the next 50 years. The UAE net zero by 2050 strategic initiative offers new opportunities for economic progress and also further establish the UAE as an ideal location to live, work, raise families and create communities.”

The UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative aligns with the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to prepare long-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Today’s announcement takes into consideration the needs and priorities of the key economic sectors in the country, and supports their efforts to benefit from green growth opportunities. Federal and local government authorities will be responsible for preparing comprehensive studies and developing plans that introduce the measures necessary to reduce emissions while also ensuring economic growth based on principles of sustainability.

Net zero in the UAE

“The UAE is focused on balancing the requirements of economic growth, social inclusion and cohesiveness and limiting the impact of climate change on our environment and natural resources. Our announcement of the Net Zero 2050 strategic initiative is consistent with our drive to diversify and build a knowledge-based economy, adopt the principles of green and circular economy, protect the environment, attract foreign direct investment, and develop competencies in future growth areas,” Said Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) will lead and coordinate efforts to execute the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative and ensure collaboration at national level to fulfil this objective. Stakeholders in key sectors, such as energy, economy, industry, infrastructure, transport, waste, agriculture, and the environment, will update relevant plans, strategies, and policies, and implement initiatives and projects to achieve net zero by 2050 in line with their needs and growth requirements. 

The implementation of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative will entail close cooperation with civil society, foreign governments, and international organizations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which is headquartered in the UAE and currently engaged with 184 countries. 

“The whole of the government’s approach, combining the strategic thinking of key ministries together with the private sector, will leverage innovation and the breakthrough technologies of the Fourth Industrial Age. In so doing, we will call on the contribution of our academic institutions, large scale industrial players and innovative SMEs to create solutions that both drive down emissions, while creating jobs and sustainable economic growth.” Said Al Jaber. “We will also partner with our friends and allies around the world to share knowledge, expertise and practical lessons so that our experience contributes to global progress and the UAE can benefit from best-in-class approaches from around the world.”

The UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change will continue to enhance the nation’s climate action efforts by building international partnerships and joint initiatives that support the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. The country is leveraging its strong international relations to advance shared interests and drive sustainable development.

The deployment and use of clean energy solutions is one of the main pillars of the UAE’s model of addressing the challenge of climate change and reducing GHG emissions. The country began financing clean energy projects more than 15 years ago, and has invested over US$40 billion in the sector to date. Current trends predict the production capacity of clean energy, including solar and nuclear, to reach 14 GW by 2030, up from about 100 MW in 2015 and 2.4 GW in 2020.

In 2017, the country launched the National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2017-2050, which sets out a framework for managing GHG emissions, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and diversifying the economy through innovation. 

In December 2020, the nation submitted its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC, which entailed raising its climate ambition through several measures, including strengthening its efforts to reduce emissions by 23.5% compared to business as usual for the year 2030.

The UAE supports green infrastructure and clean energy projects worldwide, and has invested in renewable energy ventures worth around US$16.8 billion in 70 countries with a focus on developing nations. It has also provided more than US$400 million in aid and soft loans for clean energy projects.

The UAE now 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 country in the region to deploy nuclear power and to develop industrial-scale carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). 

Recognizing that agriculture is responsible for almost one-quarter of global carbon emissions, the UAE is leading efforts to drive innovation in agritech, in particular by reducing water and energy use in farming, with the aim of supporting the country’s food security strategy by expanding the production of homegrown healthy crops and reducing reliance on food imports.

The UAE is also actively involved in international initiatives that pursue this goal. These include the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), a multi-country commitment to increasing innovation in the agricultural sector that the nation announced together with the United States at the Leaders Summit on Climate, held virtually in April 2021 in Washington, DC, with the participation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.