While there is a long way to go in fulfilling the green agenda for the real estate and urban housing sector, it needs the collective collaboration of the industry, the government and the entire supply chain
As the UAE embarks on a new 50-year cycle of growth to develop the Emirates into the world’s most dynamic economy, the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategy – the first Middle East and North Africa (MENA) country to set a target to achieve net-zero emissions – will be a key enabler of that vision.
The UAE’s ambitious vision for a path to net-zero lays out a promising roadmap to a future full of abundant opportunities and path-breaking innovation. It significantly boosts the scope for more sustainable developments across the country to protect the national economy, and further burnishes the UAE’s global standing as a future-ready destination for investments.
The projected investment of more than $160 Billion announced by the UAE to achieve net-zero by 2050 is certainly an ambitious goal. But with the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimating as much as $23 trillion in reduced annual global economic output globally as a direct consequence of increased emissions, addressing climate change is a collective responsibility shared across the public and private sectors.
The UAE’s efforts are being led by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, which is driving collaborations with all industries and government stakeholders to introduce measures to reduce emissions and instil a culture of sustainability across projects and communities.
These initiatives include energy projects that aim to increase the contribution of clean energy in the UAE’s total energy production from 25% to 50% by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70%. There is also water desalination, particularly through utilising reverse water osmosis desalination plants, with investments in desalination plants across the UAE valued at around $2 billion.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects aim to mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from sources such as power plants, and storing it underground. And finally, major investments are being made in sustainable transportation and clean mobility such as electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
But it is the infrastructure and real estate sector which will have a major impact on the UAE’s pursuit of net-zero emissions. According to an assessment by Norton Rose Fulbright, regulatory and legislative support for the Net-Zero 2050 plan will be key to its success, and the UAE has taken several steps to improve the regulatory landscape in the infrastructure sector.
Dubai, for instance, has approved regulations such as the Green Building and Sustainable Building Standards to ensure that developers adhere to sustainable development practices. Abu Dhabi launched the Estidama Pearl Rating System in 2010, which is used to evaluate sustainable building development practices and minimise water, energy consumption and waste generation.
That’s the reason sustainable projects such as the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, and communities such as Sharjah Sustainable City have already made their mark on the national net-zero landscape.
Sharjah Sustainable City – a joint venture between the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Diamond Developers – represents an environmental leap forward for the sector in the UAE, with villas powered by rooftop solar panels, a waste-to-energy biogas plant, electric shuttles for internal mobility and the facility to grow its own vegetables and greens through vertical farming. As the first fully-integrated and sustainable development in the emirate, Sharjah Sustainable City aims to create a net-zero community with reduced carbon footprint and major savings on energy consumption and bills.
By combining the best of sustainable architecture and building materials, sustainable engineering and construction, low-carbon agricultural technologies, clean mobility and renewables, Sharjah Sustainable City has set a new benchmark for sustainable communities and is poised to drive the growth of the sector in the pursuit of a net-zero journey. But this journey is not without its challenges.
Net-zero could certainly become more commercially viable through a combination of industry incentives and policies and the introduction of standardised measurement frameworks. Developers, for instance, cannot achieve net-zero alone. A report by the World Green Building Council found that there are currently only 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes around the world.
That’s why contractors, governments, and other stakeholders need to develop and incorporate solutions that make the industry greener: suppliers and vendors must make net-zero materials a priority. Governments can support the economy with infrastructure and mandate for green construction, clean mobility, and renewable energy such as green hydrogen – like in the case of the UAE.
While there is a long way to go in fulfilling the green agenda for the real estate and urban housing sector, it needs the collective collaboration of the industry, the government and the entire supply chain. As projects such as the Sharjah Sustainable City demonstrate, it is well worth making the effort to join hands in building a sustainable environment for future generations.