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UAE pledges $54bn for renewable energy

Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the UAE cabinet approved the national hydrogen strategy Imago/Frank Sorge via Reuters
Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the UAE cabinet approved the national hydrogen strategy
  • Emirati cabinet approves updated national energy strategy
  • UAE also launched national hydrogen and electric vehicle strategies
  • World forecast to exceed Paris agreement’s 1.5C target for a year

The UAE has vowed to treble its renewable energy investment over the next seven years, investing up to AED200 billion ($54 billion) as climate experts warn the world is losing the race to reduce global warming.

The Emirati cabinet – chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai – approved an updated national energy strategy at a meeting on Monday.

The strategy aims to raise the share of clean energy in the UAE’s energy mix to 30 percent by 2031.

The UAE government also aims to reduce carbon emissions across the country by 40 percent by 2030, ahead of its net zero target in 2050.

In addition, the cabinet approved a national hydrogen strategy on Monday.

Sheikh Mohammed said this plan would promote “the UAE’s position as a producer and exporter of low-emission hydrogen over the next eight years through the development of supply chains, the establishment of hydrogen oases and a national research and development centre”.

According to the World Bank, the global hydrogen production market was valued at $130 billion in 2021 and is estimated to grow by up to 9.2 percent per year through 2030.

Hydrogen “is expected to play a key role in decarbonising the economy across end-use sectors in the GCC”, said a report from business consultancy Frost & Sullivan in January.

However, the Renewables 2023 Global Status Report, published in June, revealed that Africa and the Middle East combined represented just 1.6 percent of worldwide investment last year.

China accounted for 55 percent of total investment, followed by Europe at 11 percent and the US at 10 percent.

The report was compiled by REN21, a Paris-based organisation made up of scientists, governments, non-government organisations and industry experts in renewable energy, of which the UAE and Morocco are members.

The research found that, at 1 percentage point, the Middle East recorded the lowest growth in renewables as a share of its electricity generation between 2012 and 2021.

The REN21 report found that investment in renewable power and fuels across the Middle East and Africa amounted to $8.4 billion in 2022. While this was slightly up on the $8.2 billion recorded in 2021, it was down from a peak of $13.7 billion in 2018.

The UAE aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 182 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 – a decrease of 19 percent compared to the level of base year 2019. The level of emission reduction will be 40 percent compared to the business-as-usual scenario for the year 2030.

The UAE is hosting the Cop28 summit later this year, which will mark the first global stocktake since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015.

In Paris, countries pledged to keep long-term average temperature increases within 1.5C. But the World Meteorological Organisation has predicted there is a 66 percent chance that number will be exceeded for an entire year before 2027.

"We've run out of time because change takes time," Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climatologist at Australia's University of New South Wales, said this week, according to Reuters.

A national electric vehicles policy was also approved at the UAE cabinet meeting. It aims to “build a national network of electric vehicle chargers, organising the market of electric vehicles, promoting associated industries to ensure lower emissions, lower energy consumption and maintain the quality of roads”.

The first national preliminary approval was adopted for autonomous vehicles in the UAE for WeRide company. 

“The company will begin testing all types of autonomous vehicles in the country, reflecting a change in the country's future mobility patterns,” added Sheikh Mohammed.