The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been struggling with sustainability issues for many years. Energy conservation and climate change have been two of the most challenging problems. In that regard, the country has developed its sustainability framework that corresponds to the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) for 2030. Examples of sustainable plans and initiatives include the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, and the Advanced Energy-Efficient Desalination Pilot Project. Projects that have been implemented in order to enhance energy efficiency include the advanced energy-efficient desalination project, smart cities, and sustainable/green transportation.
The Importance of Environmental Concerns and Sustainability
The key sustainability drivers in the UAE include energy efficiency, effective waste disposal and management, compliance with environmental conservation policies, the efficient production and use of water, and the control of carbon emissions (Al Tayer 2018). The aforementioned aspects will enhance the sustainability of UAE’s resources from an economic, social, and environmental perspective. The main challenges to the sustainability of the UAE include energy efficiency, environmental conservation, and rapid population growth (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
Two of the most challenging aspects of UAE’s sustainability are a rapidly growing economy and an expanding population (Al Tayer 2018). Economic growth is linked with increased industrialization that includes the construction of new factories, industries, and transport infrastructure. On the other hand, an increasing population is associated with a higher demand for energy, water, and food (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
Economic and population growth have a direct impact on the energy needs of the UAE as well as environmental conservation. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has stated that the UAE’s large energy consumption has a negative impact on the environment. The challenge of sustainability will be overcome if the UAE uses its agricultural land and water resources effectively, and ends its reliance on oil as the main source of energy.
The UAE is famous for its large hydrocarbon reserves that have supplied energy to the world for many years. However, scientists have warned that the reserves might become depleted faster than previously projected if measures to conserve energy are not put in place (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Moreover, the rapid rates of industrialization and population growth are worsening the situation. In that regard, the UAE has decided to diversify into renewable energy sources in order to mitigate the problems of climate change, increasing demand for food and water, and its hydrocarbon reserves are becoming rapidly depleted (Al Tayer 2018).
The UAE is committed to solving the aforementioned challenges by revising its domestic policy on energy use and cooperating with other nations in finding a lasting solution to the issue of global warming. This commitment is reflected in its energy conservation initiatives and programs that, though expensive, are mitigating the problem of sustainability.
Basic Principles Underlying Basic Phenomena of Environmental Changes
With regard to the challenges the UAE has been dealing with, the basic underlying principles for change are driven by the need to address environmental issues relating to overpopulation, loss of biodiversity, public health, as well as water scarcity and pollution necessitated by poor waste management practices (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Access to adequate clean water is an essential element with regard to achieving the objectives of public health in the UAE. However, this feat cannot be achieved without understanding the dynamics of technologies associated with major environmental problems.
Technologies Associated with Major Environmental Problems
Technologies sued in the manufacturing and transport industries cause several environmental problems (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Technologies deplete resources and increase industrial activities that utilize natural resources. For example, technologies used in coal and iron processing result in carbon emissions that cause pollution and global warming. Transport systems, inefficient farming methods, and power generation technologies produce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
How Human Impact on the Earth Has Changed Through History
One of the main elements that have influenced the need to promote environmental protection and sustainability initiatives in the UAE is the manner in which the impact of human activity on the planet has been escalating over the years. Some of the notable effects of human activity on the environment that have changed over the years include the rates of sedimentation, erosion, as well as emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
In addition, there have been notable changes in the unprecedented extinction and invasion of species across the world. Globalization has led to an increase in human activity, which has, in turn, heightened the rate of pollution due to poor waste management practices, as well as legal policies that are either poorly formulated or implemented (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
The sustainability of the UAE depends on the implementation of key projects that use advanced technologies to reduce energy consumption. Several sectors of the economy such as construction and manufacturing have benefited from the adoption of newly-developed technologies that use energy efficiently (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). For example, new technologies to desalinate water have been introduced to lower energy use by running on renewable energy (Al Tayer 2018).
The UAE uses a lot of energy to desalinate water. Therefore, adopting advanced technologies that do not rely on oil is an important step toward ensuring sustainability by improving efficiency in energy use. Revolutionary projects that the UAE should implement in order to enhance sustainability include water desalination, sustainable transportation, and smart cities (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
Advanced Energy-Efficient Desalination Pilot Project
The two main sources of water in the UAE are saline: groundwater and seawater. In order to make the water potable, desalination is necessary. According to 2010 reports, the water desalination plants in Abu Dhabi were powered by fossil fuels, thus contributing to environmental pollution (Brinkmann & Garren 2018).
A large percentage of UAE’s energy is utilized in water desalination. Therefore, adopting advanced technologies that lower energy consumption and carbon emissions is one of the most important aspects of sustainability. In that regard, the UAE launched the Advanced Energy-Efficient Desalination Pilot Project in 2013 to demonstrate technologies that can be used to desalinate water with the use of renewable energy (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Four companies (Trevi Systems, Abengoa, Sidem, and Degremont) were selected to demonstrate their advanced water-desalination technologies and help in the attainment of the goal to implement a cost-effective and energy-efficient water desalination plant.
The Gulf region accounts for approximately half of the world’s water desalination initiatives. Water desalination is a major sustainability issue in the UAE because the process of turning salt water into potable water consumes a lot of energy (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). In order to mitigate this challenge, the desalination project was launched in 2013. Four companies were selected to demonstrate advanced water-desalination technologies that would be powered by renewable energy.
The project was commissioned after the realization that the increasing population of the region would pose a challenge in the future with regard to water and energy sustainability (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). As mentioned earlier, the process of removing salt from seawater is very intense, thus its energy consumption levels are often high. Therefore, there was a need for technologies that would lower energy consumption by running on alternative energy sources. Some of the technologies that the four companies engaged in the project use include reverse osmosis and forward osmosis.
Sustainable Transportation/ Green Transport
The transportation sector is one of the areas that utilize a lot of energy and that contributes significantly to environmental degradation. According to government statistics, the transport sector is one of the major sources of carbon emissions in the UAE. For example, it is the third-highest with regard to carbon emissions in Dubai. In 2015, the UAE developed plans to implement a green transportation initiative that would lower carbon emissions by 16 percent by 2020 and enhance energy use (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Examples of steps taken by the UAE government to improve energy efficiency in the transportation sector include the Surface Transport Master Plan and the Dubai Green Mobility Initiative.
The Dubai Green Mobility Initiative
This initiative was created by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy in order to promote the use of hybrid and electric cars and lower carbon emissions. Therefore, the Dubai Green Mobility Initiative was launched in order to enhance sustainability in the transportation sector (Dubai Green Mobility initiative 2016). Its main pillars include the use of sustainable transport as well as electric and hybrid vehicles. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority have constructed several charging stations across the emirate. In 2015, the government reported that 100 stations were set up (Dubai Green Mobility initiative 2016).
Currently, it is encouraging its citizens to purchase cars that promote sustainable transport. The Dubai government aims to increase the use of energy-efficient cars in the Emirate. For example, it gave a directive that would ensure that 2 percent of the cars sold between 2016 and 2020 were either electric or hybrid (Dubai Green Mobility initiative 2016).
The Surface Transport Master Plan
This initiative was launched in order to promote Abu Dhabi’s economic, environmental, cultural, and social sustainability objective of an energy-efficient transport system (Surface Transport Master Plan 2018). The Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP) aims to enhance sustainability by implementing numerous low carbon and sustainability measures. They include the adoption of innovative systems that utilize solar energy, the development of transport infrastructure that is powered by renewable energy and alternative fuels, and use designs that lower carbon emissions (Surface Transport Master Plan 2018). In addition, the plan involves encouraging citizens to walk and cycle in order to conserve energy and protect the environment.
The UAE has been a leading developer of smart cities in the world as part of its sustainability program. For example, Dubai was named as one of the top 3 model smart cities in the world (Sustainable cities 2018). The development of smart cities is important to the sustainability of the UAE because its population that lives in urban areas is growing rapidly. A smart city is a municipality that harnesses technology in order to improve the lives of its citizens by fueling sustainable economic development and the efficient use and management of resources. The UAE has several smart city initiatives.
For example, the Smart Dubai initiative was created in order to make Dubai one of the happiest cities in the world (Sustainable cities 2018). Sustainability is achieved primarily through the utilization of advanced technologies that lower energy consumption and lower carbon emissions.
The UAE has embraced the smart city sustainability concept that includes concepts such as improved electrical grids that monitor energy usage and distributed generation that involves on-site energy production. The government is also promoting the use of hybrid and electric cars in smart cities by building the necessary infrastructure. For example, charging stations have been built throughout the various emirates.
Masdar City is an initiative of the UAE to develop a sustainable city that will reduce energy consumption significantly (Sustainable cities 2018). The main goal of the city is to use solar energy in order to lower its impact on the environment. Energy conservation measures include low-flow showers, high-efficiency appliances, and architectural designs that make houses cooler (Sustainable cities 2018).
According to the Dubai Plan 2021, several smart cities will be built: Dubai South District, Sustainable City, Desert Rose City, and the Dubai Silicon Oasis. These cities will be powered by solar energy and the houses will be equipped with energy saving appliances (Sustainable cities 2018). Others will run on renewable energy, use LED lighting, and incorporate street lighting powered by smart technology. Sensors are placed in buildings to monitor electricity consumption, smart lamp posts and weather poles are used, and energy-efficient sewage treatment plants lower operational costs by 70 percent (Sustainable cities 2018).
Ethical Considerations Involved in the Planning of Current and Future Environmental Policies and Laws
The Federal Law 24 that was enacted in 1999 is the foundation of all policies and laws that are associated with environmental conservation and protection. According to the law, individual and corporate entities that are carrying out developmental initiatives should consider how their activities impact the environment (Ulrichsen 2017). In that regard, it is illegal to damage the environment, and so, fines are imposed on activities or projects that pollute the environment. Environmental laws deal with the protection of the environment and natural resources. For example, they address issues such as global warming/climate change, depletion of oil and coal, pollution of air and water, efficient production and use of energy, and the utilization of renewable energy (Ulrichsen 2017).
The ethical considerations involved in the planning of current and future environmental policies and laws include the proper use of natural resources, the protection of the environment for future generations, pollution control and remediation, and the creation of a balance between development and sustainability (Brinkmann & Garren 2018). Environmental laws and policies should aim to prevent the destruction of the environment that comes from development projects. In addition, they should aim to reduce pollution, associate human values with environmental conservation, and impose fines or jail sentences to individuals or corporations that violate conservation policies (Ulrichsen 2017).
The UAE is currently experiencing rapid rates of economic and population growth that have led to an increased demand for energy, water, and food. Therefore, sustainability has become a key concern. Diversification into renewable energy and advanced technologies are driven by the need to balance development and environment conservation, as well as the efficient use of energy. Several programs and initiatives have been launched to enhance energy use and promote sustainability.
They include water desalination project, the development of smart cities, and sustainable transport. The UAE should consider the ethical responsibility of humans to protect the environment for future generations. The implementation of the aforementioned projects is proof of the government’s commitment to conserving the environment and promoting the sustainability of the UAE.
Al Tayer, SM 2018, ‘UAE powers towards a sustainable future’, Gulf News. Web.
Brinkmann, R & Garren, SJ 2018, The Palgrave handbook of sustainability: case studies and practical solutions, Springer, New York, NY.
Dubai Green Mobility initiative 2016. Web.
Surface Transport Master Plan (Abu Dhabi) 2018. Web.
Sustainable cities. 2018. Web.
Ulrichsen, KC 2017, The United Arab Emirates: power, politics, and policymaking, Routledge, New York, NY.