Life in modern civilization across the globe revolves around the generation of energy. As such, inadequate or power outages result in massive blackouts that incapacitate economies. In addition, people depend on energy for their daily work including lighting, communication, heating, and transportation hence making it indispensable and the most important component of the economy (Neykov, 2020). On the other hand, one of the challenges facing the 21st century is the mitigation of the adverse climate conditions experienced resulting from power usage especially the consumption and dependence on fossil fuels by many states across the globe. For mutual understanding and collaboration in the global world, different nations negotiate on issues of common interests through representatives. Marks & Freeman (2020) assert that diplomacy is essential in influencing the behaviors and decision-making of other people and foreign states through dialogues without resorting to force. Therefore, it is an important element in the interaction between countries or international relations.
In addition, to curb issues such as global warming, there is a need for efficient energy usage and changing to clean energy sources and this can be possible through diplomacy in international relations between states. Notwithstanding, accessing, controlling, uncovering, and exploiting sources of power entails international contention and cooperation thus the correlation between energy and diplomacy (Neykov, 2020). Consequently, it underpins the importance of statesmanship among countries on the global scene. Moreover, achieving tangible international agreements, especially on climate change, requires working together in coordination among states. Therefore, negotiation between country representatives and other groups becomes essential in integrating energy consumption into a state’s foreign policy while enhancing both global and domestic conditions to reach an international agreement.
This is made possible through the use of diplomacy by different actors. Further, it has not only been established as an institution to officiate intercountry relations but also is a tool exploited by states in achieving their international relations goals (Neykov, 2020). Negotiations through the aforementioned areas are through multilateral and bilateral formats and ways of diplomatic nature in their representation. For instance, the United Nations and most international energy organizations, provide platforms where global energy engagements take place through dialogues (Neykov, 2020). In the contemporary world, international relations are used interchangeably with diplomacy and it occurs between countries, civil societies, and private sectors.
Similarly, from the mid-twentieth century, global energy consumption increased leading to climate change concerns, and as such diplomacy was introduced in the economic sector to seek solutions. Consequently, it is used across the geographical environment and it is characterized by the control of the supply and demand for resources among countries (Neykov, 2020). It has been seen as a policy used by states to maximize their interests in securing stable sources of energy for their needs. Further, diplomacy ensures there is a predictable stable external power market that includes affordable founts that enhance the country’s economic development. It is significant in global governance which groups countries according to multilateral and bilateral networks and partnerships regarding their global goals and interests (Neykov, 2020). For example, the petroleum export countries viz a viz the global energy agency fall under the aforementioned categories.
On the other hand, while fossil fuels have been used for many years by countries, their consumption is not tenable in the future since many states are looking for cleaner and renewable sources instead (Koons, 2022). Therefore, the transition has started to take shape with the Asia and the Middle East countries changing their power sources due to climate change. There is a likelihood of enormous transitions caused by the new paradigm where fossil fuel-rich countries formerly with both political and economic power become non-influential due to the shift to renewable energy (Koons, 2022). This has led to the UAE progressively seeking clean power through investments in renewable energies. For instance, in 2016, the country announced that it could reduce its oil dependence in revenues from thirty percent to twenty by 2021 (Koons, 2022). Consequently, the United Arab Emirates has started changing its technology, education, and health to a new era where the country does not depend solely on fossil fuels. This has been successful due to the use of diplomacy with other states in the fight against the challenges resulting from global warming.
To that end, this research paper draws upon secondary research to look at the concept of diplomacy in international relations. In addition, it highlights its functions and importance in the world from the United Arab Emirates’ perspective, especially in the energy sector. Further, it evaluates the contributions of the UAE as a major fossil fuels exporter in global energy; whether it can use its economic power to curb climate change.
The research paper will be guided by the following questions.
- How can a major fossil fuel exporter like the UAE be able to have a leading role in climate actions?
- Can the United Arab Emirates combine its strong economic growth to curb the adverse effects of climate change?
Using various studies, the paper explores the role of a major fossil fuel exporter in the energy sector and as such whether the UAE can contribute to the limitation of environmental degradation. Further, by highlighting the importance of diplomacy in fostering relations, the research looks at various treaties signed by the United Arab Emirates in the global arena regarding global warming. It elaborates on the country’s current technical status, its geographical position, and energy consumption (Koons, 2022). Further, it evaluates the country’s achievements through various climate change projects and concludes by reiterating the importance of diplomacy and cooperation to curb global warming.
At the forefront of the United Emirates’ historical timeline agreements is the country’s use of diplomacy in the international community to align its goals toward climate change. Consequently, the UAE has signed and ratified various treaties according to the United Nation’s requirements thereby strengthening its global relations with other countries hence showing the importance of statesmanship. By using a soft power strategy on the international scene, the country has enhanced its image hence strengthening its global position. Krzymowski (2022) asserts that the UAE’s diplomatic activities have contributed to numerous agreements and treaties thus establishing many partnership projects at both multilateral and bilateral levels. As a result of this, the state has become home to many international organizations’ headquarters as well as hosting various events. For instance, through soft power as its diplomatic tool, the UAE was awarded the International Renewable Energy Agency head office in Abu Dhabi (Krzymowski, 2022). Through this, world leaders converge to discuss global warming challenges and look for solutions by ratifying treaties aimed at proposing an alternative to renewable energy sources. In line with this, the United Arab Emirates is among the member countries that have signed and ratified various global agreements on climate change.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992
The UAE has been a member of the United Nations climate change convention for a long time. This treaty was signed in 1992 and came to force in March 1994 with a membership of 178 countries around the world (United Nations.org, n.d). By appending their signatures to the documents prepared and presented at the conference that was held in Rio de Janeiro, the heads of state and other country representatives reaffirmed their commitment to environmental protection. This was through the pursuit of economic development to prevent dangerous human activities that interfere with the climate system. Further, the convention’s main objective was to stabilize and reduce the greenhouse gas levels hence preventing harmful anthropogenic interference in the environment (United Nations.org, n.d). Therefore, this can be feasible within a timeframe where the ecosystem adapts to climate change in a natural way while ensuring that food production is unaffected and economic development is sustained eventually.
On the other hand, it challenges the developed countries to pioneer in climate change. This is because these countries are the main sources of greenhouse gas and they are required to reduce those emissions in the various sectors within their states. These are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which includes the UAE. In addition, countries from Eastern and Central Europe are parties to climate change conventions. The OECD states were expected to reduce their emissions to the 1990 levels by the year 2000 (United Nations.org, n.d). As a mandate, most industrialized countries are required to report regularly on the environmental measures and policies undertaken. Further, they must submit annually an inventory of their emissions especially the greenhouse gas which includes the database year 1990 (United Nations.org, n.d). Other developing states are expected to report the steps taken to adapt and address climate change although their commitment is dependent on funding for the reports and other activities. This is specifically for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who in some cases are unable to make progress hence the need for assistance.
The convention charts a beginning for the world’s poor states by looking at tenets of economic development. Nevertheless, it affirms the fact that climate change is a global phenomenon whereby progress cannot be possible in the aforementioned countries if their financial sustainability is not checked. Therefore, the UN resignedly accepts that for many years to come, the greenhouse gas emissions from developing states will multiply (United Nations.org, n.d). Nonetheless, it is the ultimate objective of the convention is to assist such countries to reduce their pollution without derailing their economic growth. Consequently, the framework acknowledges the vulnerability and susceptibility of all countries globally to the inherent effects resulting from climate change. To address such challenges, it calls for concerted efforts to address the same in the LCDs that have inadequate resources to tackle the issues on the same. Conversely, in the beginning, the convention implementation was not as popular when compared to the climate mitigation measures since party members were concerned about the impact of climate change. However, later they understood the need to address adverse effects hence establishing a funding mechanism. During the “Rio Earth Summit” as the treaty came to be known, there were two other conventions that were ratified including the biological diversity and the combat of desertification agreements hence related to global warming (United Nations.org, n.d). As a result, a joint task force was appointed to develop synergies on issues of common interest through diplomacy.
The UAE’s Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol
The United Arab Emirates is among the parties that adopted the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The conference on the convention took place in Japan on 11th December 1997 with 192 member states ratifying the treaty (United Nations.org, n.d). After the UN realized that the primary pollutants of carbon emissions were developing and industrialized nations, it created the treaty to combat the greenhouse problem. Further, it excluded the developing countries from the requirements of the protocol. The convention operationalizes the early adopted United Nations Framework on climate change through the commitment of the industrialized economies and states to limit and reduce their carbon emissions to the required individual targets. Further, the countries are obliged to take measures by implementing and adopting policies that are likely to mitigate the effects of the aforementioned gases while reporting periodically (United Nations.org, n.d). It is based on the premise that every nation has an obligation and a responsibility to limit the overall pollution.
In addition, it binds the developed countries and challenges them to do more since they are reliable for the emissions of gases into the atmosphere. The protocol has categorized states and sets binding emission targets for more than thirty-seven nations including Japan, the US, and United Kingdom whose base years caps are 94, 93, and 92 respectively (United Nations.org, n.d). As a result, there has been some progress over the years. Moreover, the earmarks sum up to an average of 5% reduction in the 2008-2012 five-year period when compared to 1990 (United Nations.org, n.d). Furthermore, various amendments to the original treaty have been implemented with the UAE taking a leading role. On the 8th of December 2012, the Kyoto Protocol saw a second commitment phase ranging from 2013 to 2020 known as the Doha Amendment (United Nations.org, n.d). Under the new treaty, the industrialized countries had been obligated to curb their greenhouse gases (GHG) and agreed to another period beginning from January to December of the aforementioned period.
Further, it revised the GHGs to be monitored by countries and reported over the period while several articles on the first protocol timelines issues were amended and updated according to the requirements of the second phase. Consequently, the new treaty was circulated by the UN Secretary-General in line with Articles twenty and twenty-one of the first convention to all member states. In the first period, 37 developed states committed to seeing their emissions reduced to 5% against the 1990 levels (United Nations.org, n.d). In the second phase, the countries promised to cut their GHG emissions. They anonymously agreed to an 18% carbon gas reduction below the early targets within the eight years (United Nations.org, n.d). Under the new arrangements, states were required to put in place their measures to meet set percentages.
Moreover, it encouraged the abatement of pollution by parties in the most effective ways whereby the countries were encouraged to remove GHG from the atmosphere without considering the areas of concern. This was seen as a multifaceted benefit since it encouraged stimulus green investments from both private sectors and developing nations hence leading to steadily reduced emissions on safe levels (United Nations.org, n.d). It encourages the discarding of dirty technology for cleaner and new infrastructure systems that have more economical benefits. Similarly, under the Kyoto Protocol, rigorous monitoring, verification, review, and compliance to set parameters are undertaken to hold the signatories accountable. As such, a state’s emission percentages are checked as proper and accurate records are kept for inspection. The transactions between parties are kept in the registry system while the UN Secretariat for climate change verifies activities against the set rules by the treaty (United Nations.org, n.d). Furthermore, reporting is done through the submission of a regular annual national inventory of emissions under the protocol as required.
Just like early conventions, the Kyoto agreement was meant to cushion countries from the adverse effects of global warming by facilitating the deployment of the latest technologies that increase the resilience of parties to the impacts. This resulted in the setting of an adaptation fund to finance member developing countries’ environmental projects. During the Doha agreement in 2012, it was agreed that 2% of proceeds from the joint implementation and global emissions trading were to be remitted to the fund kitty (United Nations.org, n.d). This second amendment was made possible through diplomacy engineered by the UAE hence leading to the new agreement that took place for eight years.
On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates has geared its efforts toward the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through its foreign policy, the country supports and incorporates the implementation of the United Nations Agenda for 2030 (Krzymowski, 2022). Furthermore, the UAE’s representatives have been participants in the aforementioned UN mandate for years while the minister for cooperation and foreign affairs was a member of the United Nations’ Secretary Panel on the SDGs. In addition, it participated in the expansion of Sustainable Development Goals in the global agency’s open working group (Krzymowski, 2022). Nevertheless, the United Arab Emirates has met 10 out of 17 SDGs including number thirteen which focuses on climate change.
Ratification of the Federal Law in 1999 by the UAE
The United Arab Emirates ratified its Federal Law for environmental development and protection. It was signed by president Zayed bin Sultan in October 1999. The objective of the law is to balance a quality habitat and conservation while controlling pollution hence curbing long or short-term agricultural, economic and industrial growth effects (International Energy Agency. org, 2020). Furthermore, it gives directions on how the water and environmental federal ministry ought to guarantee approval to petroleum operations. As such, the federal agency for the habitat is mandated for the authorization of specifications, principles, and regulations for environmental impact assessments of projects as well as applying and issuing permits (International Energy Agency. org, 2020). Other local departments are responsible for enforcing the regulations and relevant respective Emirate legislation. In addition, the law requires all gas and oil projects to undertake a permit process that subjects them to environmental impact assessments.
All forms of pollution from drilling., exploration, testing, gas, and oil production must be mitigated according to the regulations set standards. Related action must prioritize habitat protection in the best practice in line with international and regional treaties or conventions (International Energy Agency. org, 2020). Similarly, the law mandates the registration and maintenance of flaring and fuel combustion being maintained within the instituted limits. Therefore, according to Articles thirteen and fourteen, the environmental monitoring networks are required to report any form of violations to the set limits as well as submit reports on the same.
In addition, it has well-articulated provisions aimed at limiting the challenges of climate change. For instance, chapter four advocates for the protection against environmental air contamination whereas Article forty-eight requires projects that are undertaken to establish limits for their emissions. Furthermore, Article 53 specifically focuses on petroleum activities where pollution from drilling, exploration, production, and extraction (International Energy Agency, org, 2020). They must be minimized with operators in the sector required to take all precautions to reduce the level and keep records of all discharges. Conversely, the country has not only been active on the international scene to advocate for environmental protection but also, has made steps at home to implement the agreements. For instance, since 2012 the UAE has tremendously reduced its emissions. Latest studies from the region have shown how the country’s pollution from oil production is on the decline for a long period with the trend continuing yearly. Figure 1. Hydrocarbon revenues in percentages among the Middle East countries between 2012 and 2018 (Koons, 2022).
Nevertheless, through various ratifications by the UAE including federal law, the country has fulfilled its obligations to the international conventions. This includes the UN Framework on Climate Change as the backbone of all other treaties (International Energy Agency. org, 2020). By using diplomacy as one of its international relations tools, the United Arab Emirates participated in global climate change treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, and Montreal and Paris Agreement. This has strengthened its global image as well as its relations with other parties in the fight against climate change.
In addition, it has initiated and created funds for global warming and as such, it links its foreign aid to SDGs aimed at protecting the environment, especially in LDCs. Krzymowski (2022) asserts that between 2010-and 2020 the UAE transferred $538 million through foreign aid to poor countries for the pursuit of Goal 7 which entails clean and affordable energy. This shows its commitment to the welfare of other countries through aid and diplomacy in the international arena. This does not only cement its ties with other states but also, fosters its influence through international relations.
Attracting Global Organizations by the UAE
Various global events have taken place in the United Arab Emirates that show the international community’s confidence in the country. Further, this has been possible through the efforts made by the UAE in the region to spearhead the campaign against climate change through dialogue with other states and implementing globally accepted environmental protection protocols. As a result, this has elevated its status and strengthened international cooperation hence the country taking a leading role in hosting some of the most important climate change events across its cities. The UAE has increased its importance as a global hub through its foreign policy and diplomacy (Krzymowski, 2022). This is due to the constant implementation of plans, strategies, and assumptions hence contributing to the establishment of relations and partnerships with many initiatives. The aforementioned programs are at both the multilateral and bilateral levels including international organizations. To that end, the UAE has undertaken numerous climate change projects that have attracted global recognition.
Various global agencies have located their headquarters in the capital cities of the UAE with these organizations undertaking their conferences in the county. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is a global body that facilitates cooperation among member states and advocates the sharing of knowledge for the adoption of renewable energy. Founded in 2009 and ratified in 2010, it is based in Abu Dhabi (IRENA. org, n.d.) During the second session which met in Egypt, in June 2009, the Preparatory commission decided to locate its head offices in the above-mentioned city of the UAE. As such, it became the first country outside the industrialized nations group like Germany which had hosted prior conferences on the same to be home to a major global organization (IRENA. org, n.d.). During this meeting, the committee adopted an interim budget, staff, programs, and monetary rules to be applied for the smooth running of the agency. Further, IRENA meets annually to discuss its goals, new membership, and other budgetary requirements and allocations.
Moreover, the United Arab Emirates is among the signatory group of countries that host United Nations agencies and other international bodies. Therefore, in January 2013 the UAE ratified the headquarters of IRENA by signing and confirming the organization as a renewable energy global hub. The press release was made in the presence of representatives from other countries where the foreign minister remarked that this was the first international agency to base its offices in the region (IRENA. org, n.d.). Consequently, it gives the organization privileges, rights, and protections destined for all UN-affiliated bodies. This agreement highlighted the role and emergence of the UAE as a global renewable energy champion.
While thanking the United Arab Emirates for their hospitality and diplomacy across the world, the Special Envoy for climate change and energy, reiterated that IRENA’s headquarters ratification was a milestone achievement. It marked the coming of age by the organization that bore a visionary idea that had begun in 2009 in the UAE but was realized through the ratification in 2013 (IRENA. org, n.d.). It oversees member states including the European Union that enhance renewable energy sustainability. This showed the trust and confidence the global community had bestowed upon the United Arab Emirates as shown through the housing of IRENA and many other agencies across its cities.
The Signing of the Copenhagen Accord in 2009
Following various conferences on climate change such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, there was a need for another treaty. The fifteenth session by parties to the aforementioned conventions was held in Denmark in 2009 with the UAE signing the accord (United Nations.org, n.d). This conference raised the carbon emission policy into the political echelon. It was attended by high-level government representatives and country leaders. Close to 115 delegates were present hence becoming one of the largest meetings by world leaders outside the US which is home to the United Nations’ headquarters (United Nations.org, n.d). It entailed negotiations on the mode of infrastructure to be used in effective management of climate change across the world including the improvement of the early agreed Kyoto protocols. It mainly focused on the political class who were mandated to use their power to reduce the production of carbon and further respond to global warming using both short and long-term measures. It had common interest views that were agreed upon by the world leader at the conference.
Thus, this included the reduction of temperatures to a specific level in developing and industrialized countries as well. Developed nations promised to fund greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing regions with a total of $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 with long-term finance of USD100 billion yearly by 2020 (United Nations.org, n.d). Further, measurements, verification, and reporting by developing countries were not ratified at the conference as they needed more consultation. The UAE became the first country from the Gulf to associate with the accord where the country became the 99th member and advocated for all oil producers to supper nuclear technology (United Nations.org, n.d). This solidified the country as a regional leader championing the curbing of greenhouse gases. The United Arab Emirates’ move made it an exemplary country ready to be accountable and committed to international requirements while undertaking its domestic responsibilities in climate change.
The 2006 Masdar Company
Launched in April 2006 in the city of Abu Dhabi, Masdar is a multifaceted renewable and clean energy technology. It aimed to explore the possibility of developing and commercializing power sources shortly. Furthermore, it started a zero-carbon city in 2008 where cooling was provided by solar power which desalinated the water as well. Rosenzweig et al. (2018, p. 159) assert that this is a clean technology located in one of the most sustainable developments in the world that use renewable energy. Further, the carbon-free development has become a landmark for other inventions throughout the globe aimed at climate change mitigation, especially in arid states by the use of integrated renewable power sources. Situated 17km from the city, it continues to progress to be a global center for research, with company offices becoming an international hub for clean energy technologies (Rosenzweig et al., 2018). In addition, the design of the city adopted a traditional Arab settlement combined with modern solutions hence developing a zero-waste and carbon-free community despite being surrounded by extreme weather conditions.
The company is owned by the government through the Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. It augments the country’s efforts in change toward renewable energy growth throughout the Arab region. The Emirate has spent more than $15 billion on the Masdar initiative as it combines both diversifications of the country’s economy while aligning its commitment to the international environment (UAE Government, 2021). As a result, it led to the global agency on renewable energy opening its offices in Masdar City.
In addition, the city has led to international partnerships with world energy companies. They include Shell, BP, Occidental Petroleum, Mitsubishi, Rolls Royce, and WWF (UAE Government, 2021). The city has four thematic areas such as special economic zones for institutions focusing on renewable energy. Developments aimed at commercializing emissions as enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol (UAE Government, 2021). An innovation center to support the adoption and commercialization of sustainable energies. The UAE’s diplomacy was exemplified by the Masdar company when it held the World Future Summit conference event in Abu Dhabi dealing with energy issues. Furthermore, for its sustainability, the city has an institute where learners are taught programs in renewable energies and their sustainability located in a vehicle, waste, and carbon-free environment.
Ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016
The ratification of the Paris Agreement by the UAE in 2016 was a commitment by the country to the global climate change conventions signed early. The central objective was to build capacities to respond to the challenges posed by global warming hence ensuring that temperatures were below 2 and 1.5 Celsius above the pre-industrial level (United Nations.org, n.d). Further, the treaty was to increase the signatories’ capacity to deal with the adverse effects through the availing of resources while ensuring that lower GHG emissions are recorded and making the countries climate-resilient. Therefore, to achieve the set milestones; provision of financial aid, mobilization of resources, and enhancing capacity-building of developing nations and poorer countries while aligning them with their national goals were emphasized (United Nations.org, n.d). The central tenet in all the above was to provide a transparent framework for support and action.
Similarly, it requires members to synergize best strategies through national contributions. As such, the agreement presupposes the continuation of programs that are geared toward the sustainability of financial help in the future. In addition, all parties are required to report the efforts made to mitigate while indicating their emission levels regularly. A 5-year global evaluation was introduced to assess individual countries’ progress toward the achievement of set targets and other new ones. It was ratified by 55 countries in April 2016 in New York and it was enforced in November of the same year with the UAE being among the member states. The nations that appended their signatures accounted for more than 55% of the total global emissions and by 2017 other countries had ratified the agreement reaching a total of 125 signatories (United Nations.org, n.d). To that end, the signing of the convention by the UAE reaffirmed its global commitment to climate change.
The Launch of Energy Strategy 2050
The UAE’s energy policy “Net Zero by 2050” is a national initiative. It was launched in 2017 to ensure that the country had zero emissions by 2050 hence contributing immensely to climate change (UAE Government, 2021). Further, this will make it the first nation to achieve that in North Africa and the Middle East. It is a strategic initiative aligned to the 50 years of the federation, in conjunction with principles that are the blueprint of the country toward attaining its economic development to mark its golden jubilee year. Further, it propels the policy towards the Paris Agreement on national strategies aimed at reducing ad curbing GHG emissions hence limiting the increase of temperature around the world (UAE Government, 2021). Coordinated by the ministry of the environment and climate change, it will ensure the fulfillment of the objectives with the assistance of other key sectors such as energy, the economy, and the environment.
Similarly, the local and federal governments will combine efforts in preparing and developing plans aimed at introducing reduction measures for emissions while enhancing the country’s economic growth through sustainable strategies. Conversely, the UAE boasts of green infrastructure around the globe through its foreign aid and assistance. It has invested in renewable energy for $16.8 billion in more than 70 countries while it provided over $400 million for clean power initiatives (UAE Government, 2021). Notwithstanding, the UAE was not obligated by the conventions to reduce its pollution levels but it decided to ratify all the agreements and has been at the forefront of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. This is attributed to its strong belief in humanity through diplomatic efforts to make the world safer by the use of clean energy. Figure 2. The UAE’s governmental energy set targets by 2050 (Koons, 2022).
Conversely, the country announced the reduction of its dependence on oil revenues. Therefore, in line with the 2050 country goals, it targeted a 10% decrease by 2021 as one of the strategies for decreasing the UAE’s overreliance on petroleum (Koons, 2022). Consequently, it has diversified its power needs by investing in education and technology, health, and renewable energy. As a result, the country has implemented various projects with the main aim of meeting its goals in the future.
The 2020 Inauguration of the Peaceful Nuclear Program
To change from old methods for energy consumption, the UAE has pioneered in transitioning to power sources that are friendly to the environment. In 2020, the country inaugurated the Gulf’s first nuclear plant in what it termed “a peaceful program” aimed at reducing the dependence on oil production as the main source (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). The Barakah power station was lauded as a government initiative that attempts to solve the energy demands of the Middle East region. The project has been seen as an international relations attempt to elevate the country’s global image and position as a leader in Africa and the Gulf in science and technology (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). While opening the plant, the government officials in Abu Dhabi said that the operationalization of the project marked the UAE as the first Arab state to generate nuclear energy.
Depicting the role of international cooperation and diplomacy, the Barakah plant is developed by a Korean consortium. Led by the vice president of the country, the seven emirates’ leaders ignited the four reactors adding that the plant will provide reliable, safe, and emission-free energy for a quarter of the country’s power needs (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). Furthermore, when it becomes fully operational, the reactors are estimated to generate around 5,600 megawatts. This will translate to about 25% of the country’s power with zero GHG emissions (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). The UAE plans to commercialize it while the first unit was destined to be connected to the national grid hence providing electricity to homes and restaurants.
The technical aspect of the country regarding climate change paints a challenging future due to its geographical location. Found on the Arabian Peninsula, the UAE is located between longitudes 51.0° and 56.5° E., and 22.0° and 26.5° N latitudes with an 83,600km2 area and a coastline of 1,318 km (World Bank. org, 2021). The state extends to the south of the Arabian Gulf, especially in the western part of Oman. Further, it has approximately 9.9 million people with the majority being migrants where the economy has been for a long time dependent on construction, trade, real estate, and crude oil production (World Bank. org, 2021). Moreover, the United Arab Emirates is susceptible to the effects of global warming.
Necessitated by an extremely hot region, the UAE’s geographical position contributes to its vulnerability. Consequently, the rising sea levels are likely to negatively impact its infrastructures such as power stations, desalination plants, and residential areas facing and located along the Arabian Gulf (World Bank. org, 2021). In addition, climate change affects various sectors and aspects of agriculture ranging from precipitation to temperatures. An observed average by the world bank from 1901 to 2020 confirms that the UAE’s weather is getting worse over the years, especially in the summer (World Bank. org, 2021). The country experiences high temperatures throughout and this has been the major challenge toward its endeavors in meeting climate change goals.
Furthermore, the UAE has an arid climate that has two seasons, summer; June to September; and winter starting from December to March with transitional periods. At the start of the year, the temperatures are between 16.4°C and 24°C while they increase in most regions during that period. For instance, an average approximation of temperatures for May, June, July, August, and September have realized 31.72°C, 34.54°C, 34.68°C, 34.40°C, and 32.62°C respectively (World Bank. org, 2021). However, most hot seasons have extreme heat, especially in the southern part. In these sites, transposition can reach 50°C while in October and November, the temperatures range between 24°C and 30°C (World Bank. org, 2021). Therefore, this depicts the general picture of a country that is extremely hot throughout the year. On the other hand, the UAE has an average of annual rainfall 140 to 340mm while in the mountainous region it can reach 350 millimeters within the same period (World Bank. org, 2021). Moreover, it is prone to shamal winds or violent dust storms occasionally.
Conversely, the country’s economy is challenged from an environmental point of view. The UAE depends on revenues from its fossil fuel exports although it has diversified its income sources (Global Green Growth Institute, 2020). While undergoing tremendous developments and prosperity, the country faces an uphill task from climate pressure resulting in water scarcity. This increases its vulnerability to environmental events and extreme weather due to its geographical position in an arid region (Global Green Growth Institute, 2020). High living standards and its location have led to high energy consumption leading to insufficiency hence making the country continue depending on revenues from fossil fuels.
Perhaps this leads to the question: how does the UAE fare in the (GHG) emissions given the aforementioned circumstances? While the country has taken preliminary steps in reducing its CO2 output, climate action tracking paints a difficult picture. Mulhern (2020) asserts that if the UAE could combine all its government targets the country’s climate change is approximated to hit 4 degrees Celsius. However, it has shown willingness in the fight against global warming by divesting its fossil fuels with various measures against its oil products. For instance, Diesel and petrol are taxed at 5 percent VAT while exempting natural gases. Further, the country has become a major investor committing $1 billion in soft loans and grants to renewable energy programs and projects globally (Mulhern, 2020). In addition, a new strategy was launched in 2017 whose objective was to develop the nuclear energy and coal sectors. These areas were projected to produce 7% and 75% renewable energy in 2020 and 2050 respectively (Mulhern, 2020). Policies were implemented to regulate prices hence removing subsidies meant to boost the aforementioned power.
On the other hand, the country faces challenges resulting from the high consumption of energy in its multifaceted projects that require more power. Therefore, the UAE has not increased its investments in coal to achieve the IPCC’s 1.5°C goals by removing fossil fuels (Mulhern, 2020). Moreover, the country’s CO2 emissions in metric per capita have shown some positive changes. When looking at 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, its pollution was 20.9, 21.3, 22, and 20.8 metrics respectively hence showing that the government has started reducing its emissions (World Bank. org, 2022). This is important to the UAE since it is a major player in the world economy where it is ranked among the top suppliers of fossil fuels. Therefore, the country has been tasked with finding solutions while providing energy needs to the globe.
The latest reports indicate that global warming is likely to change water balance and as such its availability will become a challenge. Most areas in the UAE will be hit with droughts, floods, and water shortages. Further, massive air pollution in the country could lead to climate change. UAE Government (2020), asserts that the country suffers an 80 per capita tonnage of GHG emissions as compared to 14 tons in the US per a head annually. Further, the UAE government’s energy consumption in cities is likely to increase pollution due to energy being used for air-conditioning. Seemingly, this shows that every region has different power needs hence the government is at the forefront of concerted efforts to curb global warming effects.
Global Cooperation as a Remedy to Climate Change
For a long time, the aftermath of global warming has affected the Least Developed Countries leading to many challenges such as floods, desertification, and water scarcity. This has a close link with the most industrialized nations whose GHG emissions lead to climate change hence causing disasters elsewhere, especially in the poor regions around the globe. Stalley (2021) highlights that China is the world’s leading greenhouse gas pollutant, accounting for more than 30 percent of all global warming. Further, the author challenges that unless it takes rapid steps to curb its contamination, it will be impossible to achieve the overall Paris agreement. This gives the onus to the country to help others meet their energy needs as well as curb climate change issues in those developing nations.
On the other hand, in its desire to reduce air pollution, China has invested in renewable energy by buying raw materials such as cobalt from Africa. By 2019, the Asian country accounted for 50% of electric vehicles in the world while 98% of all its buses were power-driven (Stalley, 2021). Moreover, the country’s president has indicated that it will initiate programs overseas to limit climate change. As such, in 2021 it announced that it will stop the operation of overseas coal power production hence this will see the financing of 65 gigawatts plants canceled (Stalley, 2021). To enhance China’s commitment to helping other poor states in meeting their climate change obligation, there is a need for those countries to castigate it into offering subsidies and other funds. These nations can influence its approach since the Asian giant values its global image, especially to the developing world, and therefore pressure from the nations can make it change its attitude hence helping them.
Conversely, all countries in the world are bound to be immensely affected by climate change but some can change this intensity. Woetzel (2020), asserts that China can shape the ultimate global response to global warming by developing, scaling, and sharing climate solutions. Given its resources, it can invest in low-carbon technology such as solar panels, electric vehicles, and wind turbines. In addition, mobilize resources for green development by establishing carbon trading markets. Furthermore, it can greatly support international collaborations on climate change. The country can align all its sectors with the global warming agenda hence becoming consistent with the 2050 net-zero emissions target (Woetzel, 2020). Both companies and businesses undertaking international projects in developing countries can play an important role in implementing sectoral practices aimed at curbing climate change effects. To this end, as the biggest GHG emitter China should invest in these nations on projects that help in boosting their capacities in meeting global warming challenges.
The UAE’s Readiness for Change
The United Arab Emirates has made major strides in climate change strategies but many people wonder whether the country is ready to change to renewable clean energy. To answer the above poignant question; many examples show the UAE’s commitment to transitioning to the new global reality. As a start, the country has inaugurated two major initiatives aimed at achieving its power consumption and production while moving toward international environmental obligations. In 2017, the vice-president launched its solar panel project as an alternative clean energy strategy for 2050 (Gulf News, 2017). The Mohamed bin Rashid solar program at Al Marmum was lauded as a future strategy during its inauguration and was organized by the ministries of cabinet affairs and energy cooperation. The project’s main focus was on changing the consumption culture by diversifying power sources hence reducing buildings and home intakes by 40% (Gulf News, 2017). Therefore, the initiative will see the country’s energy sources multiply hence getting from gas, coal, wind power, solar, and biofuels.
Further, the government emphasized the importance of the program alluding that much money was allocated to its development. As such, the strategy realized a Dh 600 billion investment meant to ensure that the country’s economic growth is maintained and it is projected to realize more savings (Gulf News, 2017). This was to be implemented in three themes with the first focusing on initiatives that enhance consumption efficiency while ensuring the consistency and security of the supply. Another tenet seeks solutions to complement power transport challenges with the last focusing on innovation, research, and development geared towards energy sustainability (Gulf News, 2017). Similarly, the project was meant for partnership and cooperation, and, was later integrated into the private sector where they were encouraged to invest in science and technology through research.
Similarly, the UAE’s inauguration of the Barakah nuclear plant is another initiative that shows the country’s positive strides toward clean energy sources. Termed a peaceful project, the United Arab Emirates intends to augment its power supply whereby it has been projected to contribute 25% to the national grid (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). In addition, the government lauded it as a source of energy for the whole Gulf region hence showing its willingness to share with its neighbors. Furthermore, developed by an international consortium, it shows the magnitude and importance of the plant thus the country’s strides toward the global environmental commitment to clean energy production. It elevates the UAE as the first Middle East nation to produce power for peaceful coexistence while embracing climate change agreements.
Norway and Russia Case Study
Conversely, the above two cases demonstrate the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to change to renewable energy by starting various initiatives as forementioned. However, the latest happenings in Europe have indicated that global agreements on climate change have not been implemented by western countries and they are not ready to forego fossil fuels soon. To illustrate the point, one case study has been highlighted depicting two countries in Europe whose activities undermine the global concern for GHG emissions.
For many decades, the Arctic region in northern Norway has been the center of conflict between the country and Russia. Since the cold war period, the two neighbors have been competing for the part of the sea with both looking for ownership of the gas, oil-rich section. Against the backdrop of environmental concerns, western countries are torn between meeting the climate change requirements and their respective national energy needs. An agreement over the area was reached later in July 2011 while Denmark, Canada, and the US obtained licenses to explore the sea which has 5.9% of the global oil (Murray, 2020). Further, the Russian Rosneft company and the Equinor which have explored gas fields in Norway were to start production. The region holds gas of more than 1,700 trillion cubic feet with 90 billion oil barrels as the Nordic country accounts for 25% and Russia 45 percent of Europe’s gas consumption (Murray, 2020). On the other hand, the dependence on fossil fuels from the two countries by many western nations underpins the dilemma faced by the world over global warming.
This was the case during the standoff between the two producers over the region hence making many countries suffer due to the lack of fossil fuels as they are among the major producers. Similarly, current events in Norway show how the country is torn between taking a leading role in climate change and being among the world’s largest gas and oil exporters. Consequently, climate change activists have condemned the Norwegian Supreme court for granting oil exploration and drilling permits which threatens the people’s rights to clean energy (Arvin, 2021). As a result, it puzzles many how the country is at the forefront of climate change while it leads in pollution. For instance, its fossil fuel extraction ends up in European countries (Arvin, 2021). The same nations advocate for climate change but are reluctant to make bold steps like the UAE which has started transitioning to clean energy.
Notwithstanding, Norway’s activities are exacerbating the problem it purports to be solving. In 2019, the country was ranked among the top 15 world oil producers and eighth globally for gas production (Arvin, 2021). This shows how western nations are dependent on Norway hence, moving toward renewable clean energy without fossil fuels is not possible. Arvin (2021) asserts that much attention has been drawn to the production and supply of energy with many countries restricting drilling while recent research shows a mismatch between fossil fuel supply and the prohibiting treaties. While Russia and Norway continue to explore and produce gas in the artic with other countries joining, the transition to clean energy is impossible for western leaders as their countries continue polluting the environment. On the other hand, the UAE has shown its ability to undertake initiatives that indicate the country’s readiness to change to renewable energy.
Leading by Example
The UAE’s Diplomacy and Other Achievements
The role of the United Arab Emirates in diplomacy is seen through its numerous initiatives across the world. Perhaps the question that is often asked is: can the UAE as a major oil exporter take a global role in championing climate change? To that end, there are many local and international activities that the country has led hence showing its capabilities. Following the Cop21 and Cop22 successes, countries were committed to global climate targets and the UAE delegates assisted other world leaders in drafting a workable framework that will yield results. Similarly, the country’s pledge targeting zero GHG emissions by the year 2050 led to its successful bid for the Cop28 scheduled to be held in July 2023 (Leon, 2021). Further, it became the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to ratify its climate change agreements. In 2016, the UN secretary-general launched the Abu Dhabi annual Action Day during its sustainability week while its relentless diplomacy saw it become a host to the World Expo 2020 (Leon, 2021). As a result of the adoption of alternative renewable energy and its diplomacy, the UAE hosted the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Furthermore, the country has been elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council membership for three consecutive periods showing its global achievements. The launching of the Mohamed bin Rashid solar project as a 2050 energy strategy by the nation remains among the best initiatives toward its environmental commitment. In addition, the inauguration of the Barakah peaceful nuclear program has realized its transition to renewable energy where it aims to reduce its dependence on oil as the main source of energy (Deutsche Welle News, 2020). This will enable the government to move toward achieving its power policy goals. Further, 25% of the country’s power consumption needs will be met while the Gulf region stands to benefit from the plant. Moreover, the Masdar City project has been lauded as another innovation that puts the nation in the limelight as a global leader in climate change. Therefore, the above examples of its immense projects and the global confidence in the UAE prove that it is ready to lead through both local and international initiatives.
The UAE’s R&D
Across the globe, a country’s transformation is synonymous with development in the 21st century. The United Arab Emirates has embarked on this venture by launching its Abu Dhabi vision 2030 initiative meant to diversify its economy into international and regional competitiveness (Griffiths, 2022). Through the above, various industries such as aviation, pharmacy, aerospace, transport, trade, education, telecommunication services, and petrochemicals have been earmarked for transformations. The UAE highlights competition as its main focus and as a result, it launched its National Innovation Strategy (NIS) in 2014 reorganizing the country into transportation, renewable energy, health, education, and technology sectors (Griffiths, 2022). The aforementioned, departments include those in the economic vision mentioned above, and together they propel the country toward its sustainable development agenda. Similarly, the UAE understands that its transformation can be possible through iterative efforts from both global and private partners facilitated through diplomacy. It aspires to be an innovative country where human capital, finance, research, and development excel through government strategies that accommodate the thriving of transformations (Griffiths, 2022). Among those initiatives taking place in Abu Dhabi, R&D is seen as a gateway to new technology and fundamental knowledge, forming the basis for change.
To maintain its grasp on the economic development sphere, the country initiated the Masdar institute as a gateway for its growth. Further, the organization was launched in 2007 by the government to enhance its financial diversification objectives while producing energy leaders making Abu Dhabi a socioeconomic knowledge hub (Griffiths, 2022). The learning institution collaborates with other renowned universities hence responding to the global need for solutions to renewable energy, the environment, and information technology that are fundamental for the economic development of any country. Consequently, the college produces top graduates who specialize in engineering providing the UAE with professionals who are sought after to provide solutions for local and international companies hence developing the world economy. In addition, the core focus of the institute is experimentation where learners dedicate most of their time to studying projects of importance to the region and having a global impact. In 2014, Masdar initiated a research center that became the backbone of all its activities and started channeling its projects to the commercial sphere where it enhanced its prowess at solving global problems (Griffiths, 2022). This is through workshops, programs, and collaborations with other institutions and donors.
Other centers have different activities about the funding entity’s interest in a particular area. Its activities have resulted in the integration of the UAE’s innovative ecosystem making the world become one of the world’s knowledge economies in the global industrial sector (Griffiths, 2022). Therefore, this highlights the UAE’s dedication and emphasis on innovation since it understands that it’s the driving force behind a country’s economic growth using R&D. Furthermore, the fundamental function of transformations leads to improved products, better-paying jobs, and improved services that are spread across all sectors. The success of the Masdar programs has enhanced the development of a knowledgeable and innovative economy backed by a strong research and development ecosystem hence setting a stage for its expansion in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the UAE has provided a model through which other countries can adopt and configure according to their pressing needs. In the end, the country will continue making strides and maintaining its economic growth trajectory in the future.
Investment in Global Projects Toward Climate Change and Sustainable Development
The United Arab Emirates has funded many projects around the globe aimed at reducing GHG emissions in the respective states while maintaining SDGs. In 2020, the government technical team inspected its various funded programs in countries such as Colombia, Cuba, St Vincent, Togo, and Guinea (Emirates News Agency, 2020). Although the COVID-19 pandemic had posed some challenges to the implementation, their progress was on schedule. Under the Abu Dhabi development fund, the UAE had launched a solar PV project in Cuba meant to produce 15 megawatts while four provinces are expected to have a power plant. This translated to AED 55 million with an estimated ten thousand homes across the region benefiting from power while reducing CO2 pollution by nineteen thousand tons annually (Emirates News Agency, 2020). Further, the country is undertaking a hybrid energy initiative in Antigua and Barbuda where it is a solar and wind power initiative that is intended to produce 4MW enhancing desalination plants hence supplying water to more than 90,000 people. This shows how the UAE is assisting other nations through humanitarianism.
Another initiative in St Vincent, the United Arab Emirates funded a geothermal power project. This generated 15 megawatts to augment the energy sector and reduce fossil fuel dependence by 17 million liters annually while supporting education, the commercial sector, and health (Emirates News Agency, 2020). A water supply and hydropower megaproject in Argentina marks the epitome of the UAE’s aid to South American countries. The Nahueve hydroelectric and Desvio Arijon water scheme was funded AED55 million and will provide electricity to over 54,000 people while offsetting 23,000 tons of CO2 (Emirates News Agency, 2020). In addition, it will irrigate over 120 hectares of land for agriculture and save fossil fuels worth 7.3 million liters. Furthermore, through foreign aid, the country constructed dams in Jordan and north Africa. The Sheikh Zayed canal in Egypt was built to provide water for agricultural purposes (Krzymowski, 2022). Both projects were funded by the Abu Dhabi foundation which saw their implementation. Numerous development schemes are implemented in other LDCs supported by the aforementioned organization from the UAE and this confirms that the country’s leadership is exemplary.
On the other hand, the UAE has taken a major interest in global ventures where it intends to extend its local climate change initiatives to other countries. As such, during the 2020 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, it announced that Masdar Energy Holdings had acquired 40% of an Australian second utility waste energy company (Bridge, 2020). The facility is located 40km outside Perth, whose construction had started, cost around $352million for the stake. Upon completion, it is projected to generate a 29MW renewable energy baseload, 70.000 TPA bottom ash used for road bases, and 30,000 tons of biosolids annually (Bridge, 2020). Among other benefits, the project will provide clean power to thousands of households in Australia.
In addition, the CEO of Masdar expressed his confidence by saying that extending its reach to Australia, showed the efforts by the company to enlarge its renewable energy portfolio. The East Rockingham Resource Recovery company was the second acquisition after a joint venture with the Sharjah Waste facility in 2017 meant to divert over 300,000 tons of refuse from landfill areas yearly (Bridge, 2020). The aforementioned projects and other initiatives show how the UAE is leading globally by implementing programs geared toward sustainable development and the promotion of climate change.
In summation, the United Arab Emirates has demonstrated the need for global cooperation through diplomacy to enhance climate change. Further, the country’s history depicts a small nation with an arid climate where energy consumption is high but over a short period has met its environmental obligations by ratifying various international treaties. In addition, it has initiated projects at home and in poor countries aimed at providing renewable energy while ensuring that sustainable development is maintained. Similarly, the realization by UAE that oil will be depleted someday has led to setting the 2050 energy strategy by diversifying its resources through investing in R&D, especially the Masdar institution. As such, the solar and peaceful nuclear projects are meant to mitigate the country’s energy crisis in the future while sustaining its economic growth. Lastly, hosting Cop28 enhances the country’s climate change initiatives hence showing that the UAE can lead the fight against global warming.
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