The new emissions reduction plan of the United Arab Emirates, host of the UN climate talks at the end of the year, is deemed “insufficient” by an analysis published on Thursday, which criticizes the oil-rich country for planning to increase production.
The United Arab Emirates’ new climate commitments: ambition and criticism
The Emirates, which will host COP28 from November 30 to December 12, last week published an update on their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, technically known as their “Nationally Determined Contribution” (NDC). This new plan sets a more ambitious target for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, by 19% by 2030 compared with 2019 levels, compared with the equivalent of 7.5% previously, according to the report.
Emissions in the country of ten million are around half those of France (225 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2019, compared with 430 million for France). But for the Climate Action Tracker project, run by environmental NGOs, the plan, while better than the previous one, is “unworkable” given the plans to increase fossil fuel production. “Although the United Arab Emirates has updated its targets, unlike many governments, it remains far off the mark, particularly on the implementation of the policies needed to meet its targets and move away from fossil fuels,” said Santiago Woollands of the NewClimate Institute, involved in the analysis.
Challenges and shortcomings of the United Arab Emirates’ plan to comply with the Paris Agreement
The world is still not on track with the Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C and, if possible, 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Global emissions must fall by 43% by 2030 compared with 2019 to meet the 1.5°C limit, according to calculations by UN climate experts.
Last week, the Emirates’ climate change minister acknowledged that the updated Emirati plan was not in line with the Paris Agreement, but promised to strengthen it. “We’re not there yet,” admitted Mariam Almheiri. For Climate Action Tracker, there is a “significant and worrying” gap between the country’s current policies, this NDC and the measures needed to align with the 1.5°C scenario; the experts point to the lack of detail on how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. As with all signatories to the Paris Agreement, the plan only covers domestic emissions, not including those resulting from the combustion of oil exported by the country, which produces around three million barrels a day according to OPEC.
Energy ambitions and controversy surrounding the role of fossil fuels
National oil giant Adnoc plans to invest a further $150 billion in oil and gas expansion. However, the country is aiming for a threefold increase in renewable energies and a reduction in emissions in all sectors, with a particular focus on electric cars. Adnoc CEO Sultan Al Jaber, who will chair the COP28 negotiations, said he expected fossil fuels to continue to play a role, albeit a reduced one, with the controversial help of carbon capture or storage devices. The Emirates’ updated plan calls for the development of these technologies. Without specifying “the scale of the emissions reductions and eliminations they would represent”, CAT warns.