The UAE has taken a few small but insufficient first steps on climate change. On 1 January 2018, it began deregulating energy prices and thus phasing out fossil fuel subsidies 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, diesel prices are still far below the global average. Given these developments, we rate the UAE’s climate policies “Critically insufficient”—they are inconsistent with a “fair” contribution to achieving the goals set out under the Paris Agreement.
With its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the UAE pledged to pursue “a strategy of economic diversification that will yield mitigation and adaptation co-benefits”. Part of these efforts is increasing the share of renewable and nuclear energy in the “total energy mix” to 24% by 2021. Although this is not clearly specified in the NDC, we assume that this target refers to the electricity mix based on a number of government statements.
Therefore, we rate UAE’s NDC “Highly 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 3°C and 4°C. If all countries were to follow the UAE’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C. Also, under current policies, emissions will grow by 50% by 2030 compared to today. 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 several 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. For full details see pledges and targets section
With implemented policies, the UAE’s greenhouse gas emissions projections reach 280 to 300 MtCO2e/a excl. LULUCF in 2030, which is approximately a 45% to 57% increase above 2010 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 2017, the UAE announced their Energy Strategy for 2050 (WAM, 2017). 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. For more information, see our description of “Current Policy Projections” in the energy sector.
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 (MOCCAE, 2017) . 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 . 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.