The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country that is increasingly becoming an important partner in global climate politics proposing the original methods and strategies to solve different types of problems. The UAE is at the epicenter extraction of petroleum, but this country still does not stay distantly in global climate policy. It has become a major participant in the implementation of modern technologies, financing major projects of renewable use the alternative energy, and “investing millions in fundamental research (in partnership with MIT) in energy, water, microelectronics, advanced materials, and transportation systems” (Winston, 2014). This situation is caused by difficult geographical position, but the main goal for the UAE is to show its place in the international global strategies of reaction on global climate including producing strategies in environment, energy economics, water supply, costal zones, agriculture, and urbanization.
The UAE has always recognized the importance of maintaining environmental resources emphasizing this in its basic diplomatic documents. The UAE’s main argument is that for healthy policy and conservation of future generations, it is important to find the most rational strategy of conserving environmental resources. Accordingly, the government of the UAE “has identified energy diversification and climate change as being strategic priorities” (UNDP in United Arab Emirates, 2012). In recent years, the country has achieved significant progress in the field of sustainable development including creation of the Federal Agency for the Environmental Protection and a comprehensive national strategy on issues of ecological legislation. In addition, in the context of international relations, it is important that the UAE has participated in numerous multilateral environmental agreements. This strategy is a concrete political position that is aimed at changing its status from passive consumers of energy to environmentalists.
There are several main efforts of the country that have been aimed at protecting the environment. First, it is the creation of environmental agencies at the federal level. In addition, the agencies will consist of different institutions that fulfill specific functions and submit a single law. Second, it is the formulation of national environmental strategy plan, which includes priority issues such as air and waste pollution, problem of water in the desert, marine environment, urbanization, and biodiversity. Third, it is the formulation of the national strategy for opposing desertification and lack of conditions for life. These ideas are similar to climate policy of other countries including the United States; thus, the climate strategy of the UAE fully supports the global trends in climate policy.
The Minister of Environment cooperates with the Minister of Energy in order to prepare a report on climate change, which also includes a strategy of human adaptation to the changed climate. The central theme of the report is the country’s transition to a green economy, which involves the rational correlation of production resources to climate change. World economic crisis is an additional incentive for decisive actions in protecting the environment. In regard to other Ministers, they also join the plan of conservation. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs establishes an office where the international strategies for solving pressing environmental problems are developed. The Ministry of Education has complemented the curriculum with a requirement to study the problems of the environment thus developing critical thinking and environmental consciousness among young generation.
This strategy is a signal for many other countries to rethink their own positions on the climate change. This is especially important for other Arab countries where oil is the main source of income. In response to climate change, the government focuses on the decarbonization of energy and water and also provides investments for renewable energy in developing countries. It is one of the most successful projects for the last ten years, which has no examples in the world climate policy.
The carbonization of traditional fuel supplies has become an ideal model for many countries, especially for the USA and Russia that try to ding their way in climate policy. For example, the UAE was the first country that has banned gas flaring, and thus, in 2013, a contract “for the region’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project, one of the few proceeding globally was signed on carbon, one of the few in the world” (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015). Since 2013, the UAE government has allocated numerous grants and soft loans for the development of photovoltaic and wind projects in the country. It means that the UAE has actively developed the climate policy winning a favorable position in the international relations. In other words, the use of regional resources condemned by many countries, but the presence of environmental projects rehabilitates the UAE in the international community. However, there is a theory that the UAE “is doing this all for show, but it does not feel that way” (Winston, 2014). The UAE continually builds the supply of clean energy because conventional energy has a very low query. Obviously, it invested hundreds of millions of dollars, but it is rather a coherent and developed strategy than a demonstrative political game.
The program of energy efficiency can be illustrated by the example of Dubai. This city has a policy of stability, which is regulated by the Supreme Council of Energy that consists from largest energy producers and consumers. The Supreme Council of Energy established a regional standard in the use of clean energy according to Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015). In Dubai, the world economy, culture, and politics concentrate, and the climate strategy is aimed at demonstrating a clear position on the UAE in the context of energy efficiency. The message of the Emirate’s international politics is that even such an expensive and developed city as Dubai needs a special climate strategy, as well as the formation of ecological culture in the future. Accordingly, “in comparison to Exxon’s backward-looking position, the UAE seems positively progressive on clean energy” (Winston, 2014).
The development of Masdar City is a great example proving that the UAE could be a serious partner in the international climate policy. The project is called the Initiative of Masdar and involves the construction of the first city in the world provided by solar energy and other renewable sources of energy. It has a stable ecological environment, with minimal emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as a complete system of recycling of urban activities. Indeed, this is a demonstration project for the world community, but it is also a great research center where various projects have been developed in order to know the efficient use of world energy. The idea is to populate the city with scientists who will be working on the high-tech green projects and various startups. The plan is also to build more than a thousand companies and institutions in the city mainly specializing in developing environmentally friendly technologies, production, and sales of related products and goods of wide profile. The project involves the construction of a high wall around the city in order to protect it from the hot desert wind. The absence of vehicles will allow the city to split the area into many shady streets where a cool breeze will always be. The key points of interface with the transport network of roads and railways will be put out of the city.
The city project is an attempt to show how clean technologies can work in practice, especially in such difficult region. This proves the fact that the UAE cares about putting their own policies in international climate company. The UAE is also a large investor in renewable energy worldwide, with their sovereign funds and government securities companies.
The project Masdar has brought online the London Array and Gemsolar in Spain (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015). The first one is the world’s largest offshore wind park, and the second is a solar power plant with advanced storage energy. This is an example of how the UAE policy impacts on the international climate program and sets basic standards for the implementation of important trends in climate change adaptation. In addition, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) obliged many countries to reduce their GHG productions, but the UAE is not obligated to follow this statement. However, the UAE expressed its own initiative in developing strategies of limitation the growth in GHG emissions.
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The UAE has a very dry area and rapid economic development so that the provision of water for people and agriculture is the main priority in the country’s policy. This strategy involves the creation of specific sectors that take care for water on both local and global levels. The Ministry of Agriculture and its departments of Water & Soils are the national agencies that are responsible for the sustainable use of water. Excessive restrictions of groundwater resources have led to a decline in groundwater more than one meter over the years. This reinforced saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas.
The water policy consists of three types: groundwater and two types of non-conventional water reserves such as desalination and wastewater treatment (Shahin, 2007, p. 445). Groundwater is used exclusively for agricultural work while for daily human consumption, it is not suitable. Accordingly, there is an ever-growing gap between natural waters and the need for clean water. The last two species have become an important step in showing the international community that the UAE is ready for rational rethinking of climate change, particularly in the case of water use. Since clean water is difficult to find in the desert, the UAE government has decided to propose the opposite method: recycling the already used water with the practice of high technologies (Shahin, 2007, p. 447). In fact, such strategy is relevant not only for Arab countries where the problem of water is the main environmental challenge but for many western countries. The UAE’s strategy can be useful for modern cities, which are also suffering from similar problems.
There is no national strategy for water management, but various actions are taken conserving water and its proper distribution between different centers across the UAE. This strategy is especially prevalent in the commercial sector where different types of alternative plants could save water. Public campaigns are also organized around the idea of saving water to the masses. Abu Dhabi is a great example of the region applying this strategy that constantly emphasizes the need to save water for future generations. In addition, the country has established a long-term plan for water conservation in 2008 (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015), and presented it to the international community. However, in times of rapid climate changes, the UAE needs to take part in various international projects with the Western countries, as well as invest money for their better realization. Consequently, the common problem of water unites different countries to create the climate policy for a common future.
On the other hand, there are several indicators that show the vulnerability of water resources in the UAE. The country is particularly focusing on the extraction of groundwater, but it also increases the demand for fresh water from the household sector. This request helps exacerbate worries about the availability of water in the coming years creating a kind of stress among the population. Though there are many futuristic projects among scientists such as the melting of glaciers, the problem of water scarcity. In terms of climate change, the water vulnerability of the UAE will be even more noticeable; thus, for the country, it is very important to find the most effective plan for obtaining water turning to the international community.
The given climate projections show that the situation with water in the UAE will not be resolved. In the future, there will be more dry days and less rain resulting in another reduction of surface and groundwater. Therefore, the strategy of the UAE is to determine what priority for them is the most important: the search for new sources of water or recycling the old one.
Coastal zones of the UAE consist of two parts, which are also related to climate policy. There are various waves and tidal actions affecting the coastal system. Lagoon system consisting of linear coasts and beaches is common to the Arab and Gulf of Oman coasts (Alsharahan & El-Sammak, 2004, p. 462). The coastal Sabkha systems play one of the main climate roles in the UAE coastline because it consists of fine-grained sediments and thus is prone to periodic flooding. This environment has been studied enough because it affects the efficiency of oil extraction. However, it contains concentrated numerous marine species, many of which are endangered. Accordingly, the strategy of the Emirates is to decide climatic issues at the economic extraction of oil.
The IPCC shows that the range for global average sea level for the next hundred years could change both the UAE and world climate. The potential impact on the ecosystem emirates coast can include inundating, erosion, and flooding from this rise in sea level. This is particularly important in the context of population that concentrates on the coast, as well as placing key economic objects, shopping centers, and the oilrigs. Thus, climate change threatens not only the disappearance of unique species but also significant pollution. The UAE government reacts to this change; thus, the country has built a complex protect systems on the coast, cleaning canals, and improving Sea Indicators. These measures demonstrate the country’s competence to respond together with other nations to the climatic challenges because the situation of coastal zones in the UAE is similar to coasts of the Southern Europe, the North America, and the South America.
In the Middle East, there is a great threat reduction of agricultural productivity due to soil degradation caused by climate change. The statistics provides that the new climate change will be threatening for the UAE; thus, there is also a need for the development of a strategy in agricultural manufacturing sector. Since agriculture is one of the most important sectors, any reduction will have negative consequences for the process of local employment and market. In addition, the UAE is now a powerful exporter of various products to the international market, especially to the Eastern countries. Thus, the country could lose key positions in the international trade as a result of the crisis in the sector. Further, if the UAE is losing revenue, it will also lose its influence in the world economy. Therefore, the development of high technological standards is not only a part of environmental strategy but also a part of global policy for the UAE government.
The development of agricultural sector needs to use modern irrigation and desalination technologies that have played a key role in the world agricultural activity. Thus, many technologies were borrowed from Europe and the US, which have experienced high technologies for improving the crop. Most of the leading Western countries started their climate program from this principle because the increase of population has intensified the problem of products as well. In regard to foreign policy, for the UAE, it is favorable to conclude an agreement for the common innovations to the agricultural sector in order not to lose profits on both local and global levels (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015).
The vulnerability of the agricultural land is a growing concern in the UAE. Particularly, strong winds, sand invasion, extreme temperatures, and drought have influenced the UAE climate (The London School of Economics and Political Science, 2015). The current forms of land degradation in the UAE include the reduction of production waste, organic matter, soil stability, microbial activity, and lower fertility of soil. They lead to a sharp decline of the agricultural sector and changes in the ecosystem. Therefore, there is also the task to monitor the level of plants and animals, which are on the verge of extinction. Accordingly, this task is part of a global climate policy because the extinction of some species influences others.
Reduction of energy demand has forced the country focus on the building sector, particularly the urban environment. In 2010, Abu Dhabi sanctioned the system of mandatory standards for urban planning in the UAE. The urbanization in the country is not as acute as in the US, but such cities as Dubai actualize a number of important environmental projects. The Urban Planning Council, such as the European Councils, is particularly concerned about the level of greening the city because “urban regions are known for their extensive use of natural resources and prolific generation of waste substances” (Al Marashi, 2005).
The main centers of manufacturing are concentrated in the cities. At the same time, all this has the negative impact on air, water, and soil. In addition, there is a high level of cars in the UAE that annually emit tons of harmful vapors. The task for the UAE government is not only to prohibit the release of toxin but also to build the most effective way of disposal. In addition, the task of authorities is to ensure adequate living conditions, public transport, park, and waste management for citizens.
The strategy of urban space is a top priority for politicians, civil servants, and environmentalists. The cities are growing particularly fast in the UAE, which is associated with the development of the national economy from upstream. Among the countries of the Persian Gulf, the UAE takes the main place as a center of high incomes, unprecedented economic growth, and secure of social development (UNDP in United Arab Emirates, 2012). However, the most important urban center is still Dubai, which is an ideal place for a number of environmental projects.
While the construction and real estate is a major factor in Dubai’s gross domestic product, it is also common among the intensive industries. Thus, the growth of cities such as Dubai should consider planning sustainable lines in order to reduce their negative impact on the environment and depletion of natural resources. There is great scope for the establishment of direct links between the environment and development in urban growth. Promoting sustainable lifestyles, cleaner production, renewable energy, water management, solid waste reduction and wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse of materials, ecological city design and construction, health care, cultural expression and social responsibility of residents, cities can aspire to be a magnet for long-term environmental sustainability (Al Marashi, 2005).
The UAE has a key position in the global strategy of reacting to climate change. The geographical situation allows to find rational and quick solution to its own problems, such as lack of water, sand winds, increasing drought, and alternative sources of energy. However, the external climate policy is aimed at understanding their own place in global politics given the presence of oil, high economic development, manufacturing production, urbanization, and agricultural development. The UAE offers a number of important projects and measures in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resource use, and recycling of water. At the same time, there are no international convention that obliges the UAE to react on climate plan in a certain way. Nevertheless, the country shows solidarity and cares not only about its territory but also about the future of all people. The example of the UAE’s participation in climate policy is the development of Masdar City, which is a kind of platform for modern innovations. It affected the implementation of various projects in the US and Europe.
One of the steps is the introduction of mandatory courses on climatic environment in schools; thus, in this case, younger generations will be aware of the key environmental problems. It also shows the government’s strategy to create the national awareness in the global context of climate policy. In addition, the UAE constantly takes part in various conferences on climate change, offering specific strategies and means for solving climate challenges. It includes high cooling system, solar panels, and fuel savings for import of vehicles. Hence, this manifestation actualizes other countries for the integration into one common climate policy.