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The UAE has taken first but insufficient steps on climate change. On 1 January 2018, it started deregulating energy prices which is expected to limit the growth of emissions, but in itself is not sufficient to stop emissions from increasing. Petrol and diesel prices have been subjected to a 5% VAT rate, whereas crude oil and natural gas are still exempt. However, at prices of AED 2.22/l (EUR 0.49/l) and AED 2.40/l (EUR 0.53/l), respectively, this is still far below the global average. Given these developments, we rate the UAE’s climate policies “Insufficient”—they are inconsistent with a “fair” contribution to achieving the goals set out under the Paris Agreement.
On 21st September 2016, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ratified the Paris Agreement and its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) became its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The UAE pledged to pursue “a strategy of economic diversification that will yield mitigation and adaptation co-benefits”. UAE specifies that part of these efforts is increasing the share of renewable and nuclear energy in the total energy mix to 24% by 2021.
Apart from a lack of ambition, the NDC lacks clarity; it does not explain whether the Renewable Energy target refers to total primary energy or electricity generation.
Based on this target, we rate UAE’s NDC “Insufficient”. This means that the UAE’s climate commitment in 2021 is not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 2°C and 3°C. If all countries were to follow the UAE’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C. Also under current policies, emissions will grow. The deregulation of energy prices is an important element to limit emissions growth, but alone not sufficient to stop emissions from increasing.
The UAE’s NDC does not provide an economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions target. Instead, it describes a number of measures targeting all sectors of the economy, without presenting abatement targets in terms of emission reductions. The level indicated as the NDC target in our graph above reflects the only quantifiable element - the target for clean energy by 2021 - slightly more ambitious than current policy projections.
The UAE’s greenhouse gas emissions would reach 361 MtCO2e/a excl. LULUCF in 2030, which is approximately a 50% increase above 2010 levels or a 480% increase above 1990 levels. One important policy included here is the deregulation of energy prices, i.e. the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, which the UAE started in August 2015. This phase-out is essential for short-term mitigation of climate change, bringing the UAE close to the emission levels resulting from the clean energy target in their NDC. However, implemented policies are not sufficient to stop emissions from increasing further after 2020.
In a recent statement, the UAE announced their Energy Strategy for 2050. We find that the targets for the energy split in the strategy would have no additional impact on emissions even if the strategy were fully implemented. The exact definition of the efficiency target included in the strategy is unclear, so the full potential impact on emissions of the complete strategy cannot be quantified at present.
On 14 June 2017, the UAE cabinet adopted the country’s first National Climate Change Plan covering the period of 2017-2050, overseen by the UAE Council on Climate Change and the Environment. It is designed as a framework for all mitigation and adaptation efforts across the country as well as setting mandates reflected in the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Green Agenda 2015–2030 (UAE Government, 2010; MOCCAE, 2015). The plan sets out a process to establish an economy-wide emission reduction target by 2020, to develop a national adaptation plan and to diversify the UAE’s private sector (MOCCAE, 2018). The CAT current policy projections do not quantify the national climate change plan because it also does not yet appear to include clearly defined mitigation actions.
 As of April 1, 2018.