Dubai dubbed “capital of the green economy” in new report

Ilario D'Amato
3 November 2014

LONDON: The Dubai Carbon Center of Excellence has just released the State of green economy report 2015, a UN-backed publication which analyzes achievements and challenges for the low carbon economy in the current global market, focusing on new leadership from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Authors outline the major steps made so far by the UAE to become a global capital of the green economy, following commitments made in the Dubai Declaration at the inaugural World Green Economy Summit in April 2014, and paving the way for next year's Summit.

Developed with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, the work features extensive contributions from United Nations organizations including United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency.


UNEP defines a green economy as one resulting in "improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”, and the organization's Green Economy Coalition points out 65 countries that are dedicated to adopting such a green economic model in the coming years. This means a quarter of the world is shaping a low carbon, resource efficient and socially-inclusive future.

To help drive collaborative business and government action toward achieving this low carbon economy, in August the Sustainable Development Solutions Network addressed an open letter to world leaders ahead of Climate Week NYC and the UN Climate Summit. The letter, signed by Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, called to limit the increase in the earth’s global average surface temperature to under 2 degrees Celsius (°C) - equivalent to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) - above pre-industrial temperatures.

In order to hit international climate targets, the UAE has developed several initiatives aimed at diversifying and strengthening its low carbon economy. One of the most important has been the World Green Economy Summit held last April in Dubai, the first green summit in the Middle East and North Africa region, which convened world leaders committed to facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy through innovative policies and smart technology ideas.


The most prominent outcome of the Summit was the Dubai Declaration, which sets Dubai on the pathway to become the “capital of the green economy” by 2020. The document pledges finance mechanisms and public-private collaboration, as well as showcases the most prominent innovations in the sector. This cooperation between policymakers, finance and business is crucial to securing a binding agreement at climate talks in Paris next year.

UAE also recognizes that developed countries have an “environmental debt”, so they have to take the lead in shaping a sustainable, low carbon approach. The core of this commitment is at the center of the UAE Vision 2021, which is aimed at reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels while increasing the use and development of renewable energy. In this vision, growth is stimulated by innovation, which is in turn stimulated by investments in research.

On top of this, the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 plan aims to reduce total energy consumption in the nation 30% by 2030, with solar power making up at least 5% of its energy mix. As part of this, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, when fully developed, will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity.


Another way UAE aims to achieve these bold commitments is to develop 'smart cities', where technology and social needs come together to raise the quality of life of urban citizens.

Dubai's strategy to be a sustainable, interconnected city includes a smart grid initiative to connect solar energy in houses and buildings, a traffic-control center and many smartphone applications. Sustainable planning, technical innovation and integrated approaches are at the heart of this strategy.

On top of the 30% energy reduction, UAE plans to diversify its energy mix with 71% from natural gas, 24% from nuclear and clean coal, and 5% from solar energy by 2030, with a total potential from renewable energy of 15%. This is not an easy task, since Dubai’s population is rapidly increasing and energy consumption in the nation is among the highest in the world.

But importantly, energy efficiency and solar will be key pillars of UAE's socio-economic clean revolution, with hundreds of megawatts to be commissioned, largely driven by a scheme to adopt decentralized solar PV on roof tops.


Solar is one of the most dynamic sectors: globally it employed 2.3 million people last year, mostly in China, according to IRENA. In total, the green market supports 6.5 million jobs globally, up 14% from 2012.

Tourism is very important for the UAE too. The nation will host EXPO 2020, with a target of 25 million visitors. Holding mega-events while minimizing environmental impact is a hard task, but the social and economic benefits for the area are equally huge.

“Today, like the global economy, the UAE sits at a crossroads. Located at one of the hubs of world fossil fuel production, the country faces important choices on the direction of its future economic growth. It is therefore heartening to see the UAE investing in initiatives that will allow it to diversify its energy mix, increase energy efficiency and pursue an increasingly green development path. We live in an era of unprecedented risk. But we also live in a time of extraordinary opportunity,” highlights Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. “As we sit at this crossroads, it’s clear that only one road leads to security and opportunity - the road of a clean industrial revolution. We hope that the UAE will be one of the leaders of this revolution”.

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