Archive for the ‘The Launch of the Green Economy Initiative in the UAE’ Category

The Launch of the Green Economy Initiative in the UAE

January 15, 2012

By Moshe Terdiman

January 2012



On January 15, 2012, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of a long-term national initiative to build green economy in the UAE under the slogan “A green economy for sustainable development”.

This initiative’s aims are threefold: to make the UAE one of the global pioneers in green economy, a hub for exporting and re-exporting green products and technologies, and a country preserving a sustainable environment that supports long-term economic growth. Sheikh Al Maktoum said that “our goal from this national initiative is clear, that is, to build an economy that protects the environment as well as an environment that supports the growth of the economy. We in the UAE, within the vision 2021, are striving to build a diversified economy based on knowledge and innovation, through which we can provide excellent employment opportunities to our citizens. Through this, we can protect our natural and environmental resources, and strengthen our competitive position in global markets, especially in the areas of renewable energy products and technologies on the green economy.” He added that “we are serious about the transformation of our development process to reach the first position on the global level. During the next nine years and up to the year 2021 we will launch a range of initiatives and projects in all areas to achieve our goal”.[1]

According to Sheikh Al Maktoum, the announcement coincides with the launch of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, which will begin on January 18, 2012, in order to “reaffirm our commitments to the world of our serious endeavor to diversify energy sources and preserve the environment, as well as to become a model for all countries that want to strive to achieve the same goal”.[2] 

The green economy initiative consists of various programs, projects, legislation, and policies in six major fields, including: promoting the production and use of renewable energy and developing standards for energy consumption in the public and private sectors; encouraging investments in green economy and facilitating the production, import, export and re-export of green products and technologies; planning of green cities, green building, and environmental-friendly transportation; reducing carbon emissions from industrial and commercial sites, promoting organic agriculture, and maintaining biodiversity and the ecological balance in the UAE;  regulating the use of water resources, electricity, and natural resources, recycling water and promoting environmental education; and developing green technology, while its first phase includes carbon capture and conversion of water into energy.[3]  

UAE’s Vision 2021

The Green Economy initiative falls under the UAE’s Vision 2021 document, which was released by the UAE cabinet on February 7, 2010.[4] This document outlines the future challenges facing the UAE and how to best deal with them until the year 2021, when the UAE will celebrate its golden jubilee.

The UAE Vision 2021 specifically mentions the need to develop and promote renewable energy sources as one of the challenges facing the UAE. It says that “we want the UAE to sustain its drive toward economic diversification, as this is the nation’s surest path to sustainable development in a future that is less reliant on oil. This means expanding new strategic sectors to channel our energies into industries and services where we can build a long-term competitive advantage. Balanced growth must be fuelled by a sustainable range of energy sources, within which the UAE will ensure an important role for alternative and renewable options such as nuclear power”.[5]

Facing climate change and its effects on current and future generations as well as the need to protect and preserve the environment are central challenges which face the UAE, according to Vision 2021. It says that “in the face of humanity’s shared ecological challenges, we want the UAE to vigorously support international initiatives to protect the environment in full consciousness of its worldwide responsibility. As a global nation, the UAE is committed to playing its part in developing and implementing innovative solutions to protect and sustain the environment. New, energy-efficient technologies will harness the UAE’s pioneering role in the green revolution and reduce its carbon footprint. The government will act decisively to reduce the nation’s ecological deficit, promoting environmental awareness and responsible behavior among Emiratis. The UAE will mitigate the effects of climate change in order to safeguard its environment for current and future generations. The nation’s rich natural environment will be shielded from human-induced threats – both global and local – by preventive measures such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and regulations to defend fragile ecosystems from urban development. The Federation will safeguard Emiratis from harm in the event of large-scale natural or man-made environmental emergencies, guarantee the rights of present and future generations to clean air and water, and protect citizens from environmental health hazards. Anticipating the problems of tomorrow is the only reasonable way to preserve and enhance our way of life, acting with initiative in full awareness of our collective responsibility”.[6]

The Arab Green Economy Initiative

The Green Economy Initiative in the UAE has also been influenced by the Arab Green Economy Initiative, which was presented for the first time by Najib Sa’ab, the Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), at a special session held during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which convened in Nairobi on February 21-24, 2011. According to Najib Sa’ab, the Arab Green Economy Initiative aims at “transitioning from virtual economy based on real estate and financial speculation and depletion of resources, to the real economy based on sustainable growth combined with productive investment which creates new job opportunities”. Najib Sa’ab said that the Arab development agendas are facing demanding challenges, as populations grow fast and rapid economic growth strain institutional capacities and natural resources, such as water. He added that “Arab economies are requested to provide gainful employment to tens of millions over the next 10 years, alleviate poverty, address food and water security risks, drive economic growth, and adapt to climate change”. Sa’ab emphasized that these challenges demand strong action by Arab governments guided by a bold vision and concluded that a shift to a green economy can bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and diversify national incomes, while maintaining social stability, cultural identity, and environmental sustainability.[7]

The AFED is regarded throughout the Arab world as the leading and the most influential and important regional environmental organization that has become the main source of credible information on the state of Arab environment and policy options. According to its website, the “Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is a not-for-profit regional non-governmental organization, grouping experts together with civil society, business community and media, to promote prudent environmental policies and programmes across the Arab region”. The AFED was officially established in Beirut on June 17, 2006, at the conclusion of a regional conference on Public Opinion and the Environment, organized by the Environment and Development magazine on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The AFED is based in Beirut and has been endorsed by the Arab League and the UNEP.[8]  

The Arab Green Economy Initiative has won the backing of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as other regional bodies, who have cooperated with the AFED to develop a joint Arab vision for green economy, which will be presented at Rio+20 Summit that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

In the meantime, in October 2011, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development conducted its fourth annual conference on Green Economy in a Changing Arab World, held in Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut. The conference called on Arab governments to allocate a higher priority to agricultural rural development; to introduce a policy shift towards water demand management and fair water tariffs; to adopt national and regional strategies for energy efficiency, demand-side management, cleaner energy, and renewable energy;  to introduce municipal zoning regulations; to develop a national industrial policy that provides appropriate and favorable institutional and regulatory framework for low-carbon industries and research and development (R&D) capabilities; to make use of green solutions in buildings; to make sustained investments in mass public transportation in Arab cities; to adopt a resource management approach to municipal solid waste; to promote investments in converting organic food waste into compost and biogas, as well as waste-to-energy strategies; to develop a package of policy instruments to implement sustainable tourism practices in travel, hospitality, and recreational services, as well as community-based cultural tourism; to help in nature conservation and to support local economies. The conference also called on regional organizations and governments to activate the Arab Environment Facility and establish regional green economy initiatives, covering: research and development, renewable energy solutions, sustainable communities, cleaner production, sustainable agriculture, and regional transport networks.[9]


The UAE is the first Arab country to launch the green economy initiative. This initiative, which falls under the UAE Vision 2021 and under the Arab Green Economy Initiative, seems to be a natural continuity to the recent green economy initiatives in the UAE, such as the building of the Masdar City, the first green city in the world; the investment in the creation of renewable energy sources, including nuclear energy; and the development of greenhouse and organic agriculture. The UAE has also become the center of green building in the Arab world. Therefore, it has been only natural for the UAE to launch the green economy initiative.

Hopefully, more Arab countries will soon join the UAE in launching the green economy initiative, which has a good potential in some countries to boost even more socio-economic and environmental progress while in other countries it has a good potential to solve many acute and difficult socio-economical and environmental security challenges facing the Arab world.

Thus, future possible implementation of the green economy initiative in more Arab countries might shift the whole regional economy throughout the Middle East and North Africa into a green economy, which is much more sustainable than the current economy.