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Ambition gap

What is United Arab Emiratesʼ pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

How to citeLast update: June 2021

1.5°C compatible pathways

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) updated NDC sets an emissions reduction target of up to 23.5%, below business as usual by 2030. This translates to emissions of around 246 MtCO₂e/yr (excluding LULUCF) in 2030, which is 13% above its 2015 levels.1 Under current policies, GHG emissions are projected to increase to 29-40% above 2015 levels, which equates to 279-303 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030. This is far from the emissions reductions required to be compatible with 1.5°C pathways.

Conversely, to be 1.5°C compatible the UAE should reduce its GHG emissions by 36-49% below 2015 levels to reach 111-138 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030. The majority of emissions reductions should take place in the energy sector, followed by industrial processes and waste.

Long term pathway

The UAE does not have a net zero GHG emissions goal. To be aligned with 1.5°C compatible pathways, GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) would need to decline to 18-39 MtCO₂e/yr or 82-92% below 2015 levels by 2050.8 This would require stringent and ambitious policies in the power, industry, transport sectors and the halting of oil and gas exploration.

On the road to net zero emissions, the UAE will need to balance its remaining GHG emissions through the development of carbon dioxide removal approaches, either from the land sector or technological approaches. Analysed pathways show that the power sector would be contributing negative emissions of up to -40 MtCO₂/yr in 2050 mostly based on bioenergy from carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Higher shares of renewables would allow the country to rely less on CDR technologies, which are not yet available at scale and entail high investment costs.

1 Climate Action Tracker. CAT Climate Target Update Tracker: UAE December 2020 Update. (2020).

2 Government of UAE. Second Nationally Determined Contribution of the United Arab Emirates. (2020).

3 IEA. World Energy Balances 2019. (2019).”:https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-balances-2019#data-service

4 International Energy Agency. Energy data and statistics. (2021).

5 US.Energy Information Administration (EIA). Country Analysis Executive Summary: United Arab Emirates. (2020).

6 International Renewable Energy Agency. Statistics Time Series. (2021).

7 Power Technology News. Barakah nuclear plant’s first unit begins operations. (2021).

8 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

9 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Methodology

United Arab Emiratesʼ total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−80%−60%−40%−20%0%20%19902010203020502070
Reference year
2015
1.5°C emissions level
−53%
NDC
+10%
Clean energy target
+10%
Ambition gap
−63%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
NDC
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2015
224MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

The major source of GHG emissions in the UAE is fuel combustion in the energy sector (industry, electricity generation and transport) and fugitive emissions from the extraction of oil and gas. Clear and stringent government policies will be critical to the transformation of these sectors.

A 1.5°C pathway would require the share of fossil fuels in primary energy to decline from almost 100% in 2017 to less than 10-30% by 2050. To realise this, the UAE would need to significantly increase its uptake of renewable energy, to reach at least a 60% share by 2050, compared to the existing target of 50% by 2050. Higher shares of renewables will reduce the need to develop carbon dioxide removal technologies which are at present prohibitively expensive and not yet available at scale. Pathways analysed show that if negative emissions technology is deployed, this could start from 2030 onward reaching up to a 6% share of primary energy by 2050.

Methodology

United Arab Emiratesʼ primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020502 0003 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020502 0003 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

United Arab Emiratesʼ total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

05010015020019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for United Arab Emirates. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
2015
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
224
191
105
95 to 116
54
40 to 58
29
22 to 32
2068
Relative to reference year in %
−53%
−57 to −48%
−76%
−82 to −74%
−87%
−90 to −86%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
183
148
94
73 to 106
37
17 to 51
10
4 to 31
2067
2056
Relative to reference year in %
−49%
−60 to −42%
−80%
−90 to −72%
−94%
−98 to −83%

Footnotes