As part of its commitment to the UAE Government’s sustainability vision, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is leading a range of projects that will help curb the impact of climate change.

Following the announcement in October by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, regarding ‘UAE Net Zero 2050’, a strategic initiative to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, EAD took the lead in Abu Dhabi to help realise the initiative’s goals.

To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, EAD affirms that reducing residual GHG emissions in sectors that pose challenges to decarbonisation using natural and artificial carbon sinks, as well as advancing Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification agenda through innovative low-carbon solutions, is the way forward.

Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “The concept of climate change is not new to EAD, and we are in the process of devising a Climate Change Mitigation Policy for the emirate of Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with all our significant partners. This policy targets head-on the adverse effects and prospects of climate change in Abu Dhabi. It will factor in socio-economic and cultural catalysts while oscillating between the environmental conservation needs of the Emirate. The policy will also be the premise upon which we will base our transformation of the UAE Net to Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative into local and tangible implementation plans.”

She added: “We play multiple roles in the drive to combat climate change. This involves improving the data collection process through the use of technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and spatial techniques, and providing data and information services related to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide.”

“We also clarify mitigation measures related to minimizing the impacts of the different sectors, including health, water and infrastructure on the environment, and the development of ways to reduce impacts on species, habitats and ecosystem services which need to be aligned with the objective of combating climate change.”

She elaborated: “On a strategic level, the Abu Dhabi Government has worked on the development and implementation of a cross-sectoral environmental plan that covers climate change, air quality, water, waste, biodiversity and other elements. Since environmental and natural resource management is a multi-stakeholder issue, the strategy was not only be developed for EAD alone, but also included relevant entities and institutions from the private sector, educational institutions, development partners and other concerned organisations. The goal of the strategy is to integrate environmental issues into policies, action plans and investment plans at the institutional and Emirate levels, and we are enroute to making this strategy come to life in Abu Dhabi.”

In alignment with the Abu Dhabi Government objectives, climate change mitigation is already one of EAD’s top strategic priorities and as part of its new five-year strategy 2021-2025, the Agency is working towards “securing the resilience of Abu Dhabi through mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and protection of our air and marine water.” Within the mandate of this priority, EAD has been developing and executing several projects to curb climate change in Abu Dhabi.

Since 2010, with the support and participation of all sectors, EAD has been preparing an emissions inventory report based on the best international methodologies. The report includes the results of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions inventories at the emirate level, which are constantly updated as part of the Agency's comprehensive plan to monitor emissions. This would help support the federal government to fulfill its obligations towards the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It also enhances the capabilities of local authorities to track and manage their emissions.

These inventories contribute to creating a robust and constantly updated database that allows researchers and policy makers to understand changes in emissions and formulate sound local policies to improve air quality and reduce the impact of climate change.

The emissions inventories in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are the first of their kind in the region in terms of application at the level of the emirate, and in terms of the comprehensiveness of the inventory to all sources of emissions. They include the energy, industry and waste sectors, and the method of implementation is based on the application of the latest international standards and practices and partnership with all parties.

The inventory includes a comprehensive inventory of all sources, sinks and levels of GHG emissions in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It provides an assessment of a future vision for the year 2030, and an update of the inventory process once every two years. The process is in accordance with the guidelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

During the coming period, the results of the fourth cycle of the inventory will be announced, which was completed based on the project's work plan and the methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In addition, EAD has several programmes that support the multi-layered aspects of climate change. These cover policy and regulation development, enforcement, monitoring and management. However, climate change management is, indeed, a cross-sectoral responsibility that needs the engagement of all sectors.

EAD has implemented initiatives to develop natural carbon sinks and enhance environmental resilience through the study of blue carbon, which was reviewed at the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change 21, and the planting of 14 million mangroves through a project coordinated between the Department of Municipalities and Transport and the Al Dhafra Region Municipality. It is expected that the planting of these trees during the next 25 years will contribute to storing approximately 200 thousand tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of more than 20 thousand homes. In addition, mangroves provide environmental benefits that help reduce the impact of climate change.

Consecutively, a first in the region Fish Carbon Analysis pilot project was implemented and involved marine mammal experts and leading academics from the region. This exploratory study represents a preliminary test case of carbon stores from marine vertebrate biomass in the United Arab Emirates with a focus on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It used existing data sets and methodologies to assess blue carbon values ​​in the seas by determining the capacity of fish, whales, dugongs and sea turtles and seabirds that live in the marine environment of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to store carbon.

The study found that the current stock of carbon in the biomass of marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is estimated at 520 tons. This is roughly equivalent to the carbon storage potential of biomass lost (532 tonnes) across fisheries in Abu Dhabi Emirate in 2018.

As a pilot study, the results of the project will allow relevant decision-makers in the UAE to evaluate options for the possible implementation of blue carbon policies at the local and national levels.

Similarly, EAD has also implemented a project to plant 2 million mangrove trees along Abu Dhabi’s coastal areas (between Al Mirfa and Thumairah), in order to mitigate the effects of the deterioration and loss of mangrove habitats resulting from development activities, and to develop natural resources with a high potential for carbon storage and sequestration.

Furthermore, EAD will also continue supporting the development, implementation and adoption of low-emission vehicles in Abu Dhabi, starting with the Government fleet, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. EAD will also work with Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT) and Integrated Transport Center (ITC) to provide environmentally-friendly public transport and promote more activities such as walking and cycling.

Moreover, EAD will examine the feasibility of replacing buses, taxi cars and waste management refuse trucks with electric power alternatives and coordinate with relevant entities to introduce incentives for personal vehicle electrification. This is in addition to the incentive-based replacement of old buses and trucks, which are the highest polluting and less efficient vehicles, as well as upgrading delivery motorcycles to electric versions.

EAD is working with relevant stakeholders to articulate clear emission reduction plans for specific sectors, pollutants and non-attainment areas that are of clear concern to air quality levels. This includes self-regulating sectors such as oil and gas. Furthermore, EAD will continue to close gaps in concentration limits for specific air pollutants and address gaps in sector-specific emissions limits, especially for mobile sources.

EAD is also actively seeking to leverage opportunities by engaging with the private sector on important topics pertaining to the environment through Public-Private partnerships. It achieves this through its unique multi-stakeholder engagement initiative - Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG).

Established in 2008 by EAD, ADSG is the only sustainability platform in the region that allows all people from different backgrounds to connect on the future sustainability of communities and businesses. It is also the platform for government, industry and non-profit organisations to work together to enact positive change. Today the Group has over 53 leading organisations working together to deliver social and environmental commitments for the benefit and future sustainability of the UAE.

Over the last decade, the ADSG has focused on capacity building and knowledge sharing, by funding certified training programs and events and workshops attended widely by regional sustainability practitioners. In the next decade, the ADSG will be more focused towards ‘integrating sustainability governance to achieve impact’ addressing sustainability governance, climate change and sustainable economies. ADSG will also work towards corporate thought leadership that aims to encourage business leaders to make a fundamental shift towards resilient business models that support a sustainable and carbon neutral economy.

Also, as part of its awareness programmes, in 2019, EAD launched the Green Enterprise Network, which includes a group of institutions committed to environmental issues. This network also encourages the promotion of dialogue and cooperation between government and private agencies in all fields, through the assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, resource sharing, best practices and case studies.

These are only a few of the initiatives curated by EAD, and the Agency pledges to continue its work towards mitigating the effects of climate change, in full alignment with the UAE government and the rest of the world to mitigate this global threat.