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Current situation

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

How to citeLast update: June 2021

Emissions profile

GHG emissions in the UAE have increased more than five-fold from 41 MtCO₂e/yr in 1990 to 221 MtCO₂e/yr in 2017. The majority of this increase took place in the energy sector where emissions rose from 34 MtCO₂e/yr in 1990 to 185 MtCO₂e/yr in 2017.

The energy sector accounted for 84% of GHG emissions in the UAE in 2017. Within the energy sector, the power sector is the single largest source of GHG emissions, followed by industry and transport sectors. Fugitive emissions from Saudi Arabia’s extensive oil and gas extraction also form a considerable share of total emissions. Emissions from industrial processes (11%) and waste constitute the remaining share.

Under current policies, GHG emissions are projected to rise 35-47% above 2015 levels and reach 280-300 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030.1

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).

United Arab Emiratesʼ current GHG emissions

MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values

By sector

  • Power
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Transport
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Buildings
  • Other
  • Industry (processes)
  • Waste
  • Agriculture
  • LULUCF
Energy (84%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • Other
  • N₂O
080%0

Sectors by gas

Energy
085%0
Agriculture
090%0
Industry (processes)
092%0

Energy system

The UAE is heavily reliant on fossil fuels with natural gas and oil’s shares in primary energy at 76% and around 21% respectively in 2016.3 While the residential and commercial buildings sectors are the main consumers of electricity in the UAE, the largest primary energy consumers are the industry and transport sectors.

As of 2018, electricity generation in the UAE was dominated by gas (97.7%), with a minimal share of oil (1.8%) and renewables (0.5%).4 Total installed capacity was 30 GW in 2017.5 In recent years the installation of solar (both PV and concentrated solar power technologies) has grown significantly, reaching 2.4 GW in 2020.6

The UAE aims to increase the share of renewable and nuclear energy to 50% in its installed power capacity mix by 2050.2 The country started the commercial operation of Barakah nuclear power plant in April 2021, which is the first nuclear power plant in Arab world.7

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Baseline scenario target

NDC target

Unconditional target:

  • 23.5% below business as usual for 2030 (incl. LULUCF).1
  • 13% above 2015 levels by 2030 (excl. LULUCF).1

The UAE updated its NDC in 2020.

Market mechanism

  • While the UAE intends to primarily rely on domestic efforts to fulfill its NDC objectives, it has indicated in its NDC it may consider using voluntary cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to partially fulfill these objectives.2

Long-term target

  • The UAE does not have a net zero target, nor has it submitted a long-term strategy to the UNFCCC. The UAE has issued a 2017-2050 National Climate Plan, but it does not include an emissions reduction target, or refer to long-term mitigation actions beyond the electricity sector.1

Sector coverage

EnergyIndustryWasteAgricultureLULUCF

Greenhouse gas coverage

CO₂CH₄NF₃HFCsN₂OSF₆

Sectoral targets

Energy

  • Reduce final energy demand by 40% relative to a business as usual scenario by 2050.2

Transport

  • 2% share of electric and hybrid cars in Dubai’s road fleet, and a 30% share in Dubai’s government-procured vehicles by 2030.2

Waste

  • Reduce waste-to-landfill to zero by 2021 in the Emirate of Sharjah.2

Power

  • 50% share of renewable and nuclear energy (in installed power capacity mix by 2050.2

Buildings

  • Retrofit 30,000 buildings in the Emirate of Dubai by 2030, and retrofit 3000 buildings in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah by 2040.2

Footnotes