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UAE-UK Business Council targets building emissions

A street of terraced houses in Primrose Hill, northwest London. The age of much UK housing has helped it develop expertise in retrofitting Reuters/Eddie Keogh
A street of terraced houses in Primrose Hill, northwest London. The age of much UK housing has helped it develop expertise in retrofitting
  • Focus on how buildings can be decarbonised
  • Nations have ‘great deal of expertise’ in retrofits
  • Countries have pledged to increase collaboration on clean energy 

Decarbonising the built environment should be a key aim for the UK and UAE as they work to accelerate the energy transition, the head of the UAE-UK Business Council has told AGBI.

The council’s executive director Bradley Jones said the two countries had “a great deal of expertise in retrofitting existing buildings and developing alternative, low-carbon construction materials”.

“Additionally, both countries are looking at how they can improve methodologies for evaluating a building’s carbon footprint throughout its entire lifespan.”

The built environment is estimated to account for around 40 percent of carbon emissions around the world, according to a 2022 report from the International Energy Association. This includes buildings, as well as construction materials and operations. 

The report said structures that already exist today will make up around two-thirds of the world’s building stock in 2040 – and they will still be emitting significant amounts of carbon unless there is widespread intervention and retrofitting.  

The UAE-UK Business Council, which fosters collaboration between the two countries in trade and investment, has been focusing on decarbonisation of the built environment for the past six months, Jones said.

A focus group of experts from both countries has been meeting virtually on a monthly basis, he added, to share knowledge on retrofitting existing stock, improving data sets, methodologies and evaluation, and using low-carbon building materials such as decarbonised cement. 

The council will hold a Dubai summit on the topic in December as part of its programme of Cop28 activities, and aims to produce a report afterwards. 

In January the council published an energy transition white paper that identified “an untapped commercial opportunity to be exploited from closer collaboration between the UAE and UK in developing the technologies to sustain and accelerate the transition; working together to address the skills gap in the sector; and partnering to unlock the finance necessary to power the green revolution.”

Both countries have set a 2050 deadline to reach net zero. They signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year to deepen collaboration in the energy sector. 

The white paper is also prompting the council to investigate how best to stimulate sustainable investment. Next year it aims to study opportunities for UK-UAE collaboration in the waste-to-energy sector.