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In brief

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

How to citeLast update: June 2021

Economy wide

The level of ambition required for a 1.5°C compatible emissions pathway is a 36-49% reduction by 2030 from 2015 levels, which translates to emissions of around 111-138 MtCO₂e/yr.

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 NDC

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

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).

Current policy

Under current policies, emissions are projected to increase by 29-40% above 2015 levels.1

2050 Ambition

In 1.5°C compatible pathways, GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) would need to reach a level of 18-30 MtCO₂e/yr, or 82-92% below 2015 levels by 2050.8 These emissions reductions would be driven primarily through the decarbonisation of the energy sector, but also waste and industry processes, which will likely be the last sectors to decarbonise.

Remaining emissions

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 could contribute negative emissions of up to -40 MtCO₂/yr in 2050 mostly based on bioenergy from carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Achieving a high share of renewable generation would allow the country to rely less on CDR technologies, which are prohibitively expensive and not yet available at scale.

Sectors

Power

To be 1.5°C compatible, the UAE would need to implement policies to move away from natural gas in its power sector sometime between 2040 and 2047. Natural gas currently accounts for around 98% of total generation. This transformation would also require the rapid ramping up generation from renewable energy sources to reach a 30-53% share by 2030 and 95-99% by 2050, compared to the 0.5% share in 2017 (mostly solar).

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Power

A higher share of renewable energy in the power mix would help to avoid a future reliance on negative emissions technologies and reduce the risk of carbon lock in from fossil fuel-based generation.

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Power

The UAE’s carbon intensity of electricity generation would need to decline from 530 gCO₂/kWh in 2017 to reach 0-40 gCO₂/kWh by 2050. In its National Energy Strategy 2050, the UAE targets an increase in clean energy, including renewables and nuclear, to 50% of installed capacity by 2050. It also aims to reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70% by 2050.2

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Footnotes