Note: we have updated the UAE's net zero assessment in April 2023. The rest of the assessment remains unchanged (our previous, full update was in November 2022).
The United Arab Emirates, president of the 2023 COP28 climate negotiations, is one of the few countries that submitted a new NDC with a strengthened emissions reduction target ahead of COP27. However, the UAE is also planning for a significant increase in fossil fuel production and consumption, which is not consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. Overall, the CAT rates the UAE’s climate targets and policies as “Highly insufficient”.
The UAE’s new NDC sets a 31% emissions reduction target below a business as usual (BAU) scenario in 2030, resulting in 214 MtCO2e in 2030 (excluding land use, land use change and forestry), a 13% decrease compared to its previous target, and close to the 2021 emissions level. The CAT rates this target as “Insufficient” compared to modelled domestic pathways and “Critically insufficient” when compared to the UAE’s fair share.
The UAE will not be able to achieve its NDC with current policies. It would need to implement additional policies and significantly reduce its 2030 emissions to reach its NDC target. We estimate that the UAE’s 2030 emissions are set to increase by 30–35% above 2010 levels. The CAT rates the UAE’s policies and action as “Insufficient”.
GHG emissions appear to have decreased between 2015 and 2020, notably due to efficiency increases in the use of gas in the electricity sector and more recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are significant uncertainties in the historical emissions. The UAE’s last GHG inventory dates from 2014, and there are large discrepancies in historical emissions reported by other sources, particularly for energy-related CO2 emissions.
The UAE is planning to significantly increase oil and fossil gas production by 2030, as part of its goal to reach gas self-sufficiency and increase exports. In this context, it has heavily invested in ramping up its offshore gas production, after the discovery of fields with up to 57 billion cubic metres in February 2022.
In 2017, the UAE released its Energy Strategy 2050, which sets targets for the development of its power system. This strategy foresees a large role for fossil gas and coal (although the coal target is being revised) in 2050 and is therefore not in line with the UAE’s stated goal of reaching net zero by 2050.
In February 2022, the UAE announced that it would be switching its first coal power plant to fossil gas and has since reported that the plant, originally designed as a dual-fuel plant, had already made the switch.
The UAE continues to develop large solar power projects. 3.5 GW are in the pipeline for the near-term, with up to 5 GW more planned to go online by 2030, which would bring total solar capacity to around 9 GW. In October 2022, the third unit of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant came online, increasing total capacity to 4.2 GW. The last unit of the project is scheduled to come online in 2023. As of 2020, the total capacity of the electricity generation system is ~35 GW.
The UAE also launched a partnership with the US ahead of COP27 to advance low-emissions energy, aiming to mobilise USD 100 billion and develop 100 GW of clean energy globally by 2035. It is not yet clear which technologies will be supported.
The CAT rates the United Arab Emirates’ climate targets and policies as “Highly insufficient”. The “Highly insufficient” rating indicates that the UAE’s climate policies and commitments are not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit, and lead to rising rather than decreasing emissions.
We rate the UAE’s 2030 climate target as “Insufficient” when compared to modelled domestic emissions pathways and “Critically insufficient” when compared with its fair share contribution to climate action.
Overall, the UAE’s climate targets and policies are not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C and need substantial improvements.
We rate the United Arab Emirates’ policies and actions as “Insufficient” when compared with modelled domestic emissions pathways. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that the UAE’s policies and action in 2030 need substantial improvements to be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. If all countries were to follow the UAE’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.
Current policies are set to lead to increasing rather than decreasing emissions in 2030 due to the UAE’s continued investments in oil and gas infrastructure, as well as its plans for coal power generation towards 2050. The UAE is also currently developing both nuclear and solar power and is well on track to meet its 50% “clean” energy capacity target by 2050.
The full policies and action analysis can be found here.
We rate the United Arab Emirates’ 2030 NDC target as “Insufficient” when compared with modelled domestic pathways derived from global least cost pathways. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that the UAE’s target in 2030 needs substantial improvements to be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow the UAE’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.
We rate the United Arab Emirates’ 2030 NDC target as “Critically insufficient” when compared with its fair share contribution to climate action. The “Critically insufficient” rating indicates that the United Arab Emirates’ 2030 target reflects minimal to no action and is not at all consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The UAE’s target is not in line with any interpretation of a fair approach to limiting warming to 1.5°C. If all countries were to follow the UAE’s approach, warming would exceed 4°C.
We evaluate the net zero target as: Poor.
In October 2021, the UAE announced its intention to reach net zero by 2050, as part of the UAE Net Zero 2050 strategic initiative, becoming the first Middle Eastern and Gulf country to do so. During COP27, the UAE presented its “National Net Zero by 2050 pathway”. In March 2023, the UAE’s member states signed the UAE Governments Net Zero 2050 Charter, further signalling commitment to reaching net zero.
To date, these announcements lack information on scope, target architecture, and transparency. The UAE specifies in its latest NDC that the target covers “the entire UAE economy” which we interpret as covering all sectors and gases. As of March 2023, the UAE has yet to submit a long-term strategy to the UNFCCC.