Mohammed bin Zayed-Environment

Mohammed bin Zayed

Global warming in the UAE is expected to result in warmer weather, less rainfall, droughts, higher sea levels and more storms. Recognizing the imminent danger of this phenomenon, MBZ has been engaging the UAE in the fight against climate change. The UAE was one of the first signatories of the Paris Agreement on climate change, agreeing to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases. Global warming is part of the UAE’s priority targets to maintain the country’s sustainability and growth. To highlight the importance of the dangers posed by climate change, the UAE renamed the Ministry of Environment and Water to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, making climate change an official responsibility of the Ministry. 

First Nuclear Power Plant in the Arab World 

In light of the threat posed by global warming, to diversify the UAE’s energy and economy, MBZ has overseen the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear power reactor, the Barakah nuclear power plant. It’s the only nuclear power plant on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Arabic World. Barakah will be able to produce 25% of the UAE’s energy supply, thus diversifying the UAE’s power consumption. Moving away from fossil fuels with nuclear energy will help the UAE reach its carbon emission goals; at the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, the UAE pledged to generate 24% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2021.

MBZ’s ability to build a nuclear power plant in the Middle East with the West’s backing shows the deep levels of trust that runs between the UAE and Western powers. Constructed by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, the power plant needed the US’s green light to be built. Indeed, the US and Israel have been very wary of nuclear projects in the Middle East, worrying that they could be transformed in nuclear weapons programs. The Barakah nuclear power plant is the embodiment of the high-status level the UAE has developed with its Western allies under MBZ. However, Barakah nuclear power plant is also a security liability for MBZ, as Houthi rebels in Yemen claim to have targeted the plant with cruise missiles. The Barakah power plant is a central piece of MBZ’s environmental policy. 

Other Environmental Initiatives

The UAE’s government also formed the UAE Council for Climate Change and Environment at MBZ’s behest. The council creates partnerships with the private sector to fund environmentally friendly business practices, as well as research & development in renewable energy technologies. At the global level, the UAE and the US launched the first annual bilateral energy dialogue in 2014 to develop cooperation in the global energy market. This further strengthens ties with the US, while allowing MBZ to benefit from American tech and expertise. The UAE is also a signatory to several treaties revolving around the exploitation of oil and gas, using extraction methods that are the most eco-friendly.

MBZ is one of the regional leaders most engaged in fighting climate change, creating initiatives, partnerships and energy diversification programs. However, the UAE remains one of the biggest oil, gas and petrol exporters in the world, which could be interpreted as hypocritical. Nevertheless, the many initiatives domestically and internationally, as well as the construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant, shows that although this is not his area of predilection, MBZ is still highly invested in environmental politics. 

David Salinger

R&A Editor in Chief