In the contemporary world, environmental preservation has gained consideration as one of the relevant aspects that would facilitate sustainability. For this reason, the international community has been at the forefront in ensuring each country implements the provisions of different treaties that concern the environment. The United Arab Emirate (UAE), a country that conducts a massive production of oil, has shown concern by supporting environmental conventions and treaties owing to the detrimental outcomes of power generation (Spiess 2008). In this regard, the UAE has been keen on preventing interference with the climatic system in the name of economic activities and thus, it has concentrated on observing the requirements of different treaties it has signed and ratified concerning the environment (Sbia, Shahbaz, & Hamdi 2014). The UAE is a signatory of environmental agreements like the 1971 Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation in Oil Pollution Damage, the Montreal Protocol, and the Kuwait Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC).
The UNFCCC was negotiated between 3rd and 14th June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro before it attained reinforcement on 21st March 1994, forming one of the international environmental treaties. The primary objective of the UNFCCC focuses on the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse house concentration within levels that curb hazardous anthropogenic interference that would harm the climatic system. In December 1995, the UAE acceded to the UNFCCC thereby becoming one of the official 197 parties in March 1996. As such, the UAE considered the Convention’s non-Annex 1 party ought to depict its commitment to enforcing the UNFCCC framework (Kazim 2007). As such, the adoption of the UNFCCC treaty by the UAE implies that it affects the country’s legal frameworks on environmental sustainability through the harmonization of the individual stipulations. Therefore, this paper focuses on the impacts of the application of the UNFCCC in the UAE pertinent to its environmental laws and regulations.
Significance of the UNFCCC to the UAE
In the wake of unprecedented global warming, the adoption of policies that seek to facilitate the sustainability of the environment holds substantial importance. Particularly, countries that contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions should be in the leading position when it comes to matters of environmental sustainability. The UAE, considered a developing country, considerably sustains its economy through oil exports due to its richness in fossil fuels. In this concern, the adoption of response approaches incorporated by various developed countries implied that the UAE had to join the cause since it is a global player in the energy industry (Ahmed 2015).
The UNFCCC mainly handles the issue of uncontrolled greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The employment of the UNFCCC primary provision means that the UAE would profoundly facilitate the mitigation of GHG releases at different levels (Gelil 2009). In this regard, the treaty is significant since it fosters the rolling out of domestic investments and policies that facilitate the adoption of greenhouse technologies in the UAE. For instance, the country could consider the application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as part of its clean energy options. Further, other GHCs including Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) would also experience a reduction through the incorporation of domestic and international measures seeking to protect the environment from degradation (Michaelowa & Luomi 2012)
The UNFCCC treaty implies that the UAE, besides meeting its CO2 emission reduction goals, would also achieve the various protocols or agreements that form the agreement’s framework (Radhi 2009). The UAE has several local and federal laws that seek to enforce provisions geared towards the curtailment of environmental degradation. Some of the environmental laws and decrees in the Abu Dhabi emirate include Federal Law No (24) on the environment’s protection and development, established in 1999 and Federal Law (23) concerning the living aquatic resources’ exploitation, conservation, and development, created in 1999 (Kazim 2007).
Additionally, the agreement is important since the UAE is located in a pristine desert that experiences limited rainfall implies that it ought to implement measures that would see the improvement of its environment rather than its deterioration (Michaelowa 2013). The climate of the UAE is pigeonholed by punishing temperatures and aridity. During summer, a period stretching from April to September, the temperatures reach 50°C, especially in the coastal regions. In winter, the temperature average at 26°C during the day and 6°C at night. Failing to embrace legal frameworks that seek to improve the climatic conditions in the UAE implies that its coastal areas, sea level, agriculture, ecosystem, and water resources would experience the adverse consequences of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions (AlAwar 2015).
Additionally, the rapid population growth experienced in the UAE since 2005 implies that sound environmental measures require an implementation to ensure the sustainability of the environment for future generations. With a population of at least 8.3 million, that mostly resides in the urban centers, the application of the environmental stipulations entailed in the UNFCCC treaty would allow the flourishing of the economy, as it would control the exploitation and development of natural resources in a manner that safeguards the surroundings (Ahmed 2015).
Various scholars and interested parties have published articles regarding environmental law with the aim of sensitizing its importance in creating a sustainable environment. International organizations like the United Nations (UN) have organized conventions that seek to urge its signatories to implement various agreements and protocols that aim at curbing further degradation of the environment if not improving it. In this respect, the UN-facilitated the opening of the Convention for signature after a report submission following the provisions of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on 9th May 1992 thereby, forming the origin of the agreement (Michaelowa 2013).
One of the initial objectives of the UNFCCC sought the establishment of national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories on the various GHGs removals and emissions. The inventories contained the benchmark standards for the agreements of the Kyoto Protocol in 1990 for Annex 1 countries (Gelil 2009). Further, the inventories sought the commitment of the signatory parties in the lessening of GHG emissions. Mainly, the UNFFCC expects the Annex 1 countries to receive regular inventory updates showing the progress towards the reduction of GHG emissions. In this regard, the updates could imply that the parties need to alter their individual policies in a manner that complies with the prevailing environmental law provisions.
The UAE became a signatory of the UNFCCC treaty in March 1996 as the convention’s non-Annex 1 party. In this regard, the UAE was required to uphold GHG inventory provisions of the UNFCCC in a manner that would promote a sustainable environment given its intensive activities on oil production (Spiess 2008). The UNFCCC has influenced the development of supportive policies that aim at fostering the development of initiatives that manage the exploitation and protection of the environment. The focus on the established environmental laws in the various emirates of the country concentrates on protecting its maritime flora and fauna, the scarce water resources, land, and the atmosphere.
China has also adopted the UNFCCC agreement by leading the fight against harmful GHG emissions besides spearheading environmental negotiations internationally. Currently, China is at the frontline in fostering a world that is energy efficient through the control of GHG emissions and the integration of alternative and renewable energy sources. Remarkably, in 2014, China demonstrated the success of the UNFCC by realizing a CO2 consumption and release reduction that reached 29.9% and 33.8% correspondingly with respect to its unitary GDP (Ahmed 2015).
Since 1996, after assenting to the UNFCCC environmental stipulations, the various municipalities in the UAE have concentrated on the establishment of a series of environmental regulations founded on local orders. Notably, the UNFCCC requirements have influenced the UAE to establish environmental laws made up of profound enforcement necessities. The emirate of Dubai has witnessed the establishment and execution of a substantial number of environmental laws compared to the rest of the Emirates (Ahmed 2015). Notably, the local municipality issue permits to parties that engage in activities that trigger air and water pollution. The influence of the UNFCCC provision manifests in the UAE’s grassroots level where the municipalities require various industries to conduct monthly tests before submitting the results to the authorities just like the case of the updated inventory requirements concerning GHG emissions.
Moreover, the development of the UAE’s Green Strategy in 1992 demonstrates the impact of the UNFCCC at the national level. The Green Strategy purposes to realize a country characterized by a green economy that fosters economic development. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid underlined that the strategy would concentrate on the main areas that include Green City, Green Energy, Green Investment, Climatic Change, Green Technologies, and a Green Life. As such, the strategy appears to derive some inspiration from the ambitions of the UNFCCC (Michaelowa 2013).
Before the adoption of the UNFCCC, the Federal Environmental Authority (FEA), established in 1993, developed policies that pursued the attainment of a green UAE despite it being a desert country. The initial three years of the authority’s undertakings lacked comprehensiveness in addressing environmental issues not until after 1996 when the UAE became a non-Annex party of the UNFCCC treaty. As such, the FEA has received substantial cohesiveness on environmental regulations as depicted in the current fragmented framework. Today, the FEA contains comprehensive environmental laws chapters addressing soil, air, and water pollution, wildlife preservation and protection, noise pollution, protected areas, management of disastrous materials and wastes, and environmental disasters (AlAwar 2015).
In this light, the various benchmark levels associated with the different protocols and agreements forming UNFCCC’s application mechanism comply with the municipal and federal environmental regulations thus, promoting the realization of mutual goals and objectives. Further, the Ministry of Justice has also harmonized the domestic environmental stipulations with those of the UNFCCC in a way that enhances effective enforcement.
Axiomatically, the UAE, as a non-Annex party of the UNFCCC treaty has achieved notable developments on its environmental laws. The UNFCCC proposes thresholds that parties need to meet concerning GHC emissions through the maintenance of a GHC inventory covering five areas that encompass industrial processes, energy, land use, agriculture, waste, and land use and forestry. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlined the guidelines for the GHG inventory, thus facilitating the analysis pertinent to the UAE case. Surprisingly, the UAE realized GHG emissions that are considerably lower than the global emission heights by the year 2005 (Nanda 2012). The figure below depicts the total GHG emissions for the various sectors covered by the inventory.
Notably, the energy sector contributed a significant volume of GHG emissions accounting for 88% of the total emissions owing to the oil production activities in the UAE. Sectors including industrial processes, water, and agriculture accounted for 8%, 4%, and 2% of the GHG emissions respectively.
As a non-Annex I party to the treaty, the UAE has been able to develop several environmental laws that seek to protect various forms of pollution. The UAE has enacted and enforced several laws at the municipality and federal levels to safeguard its land, air, and water resources. Notably, the enactment of Federal Law no. 24 in 1999 that seeks the Protection and Development of the Environment depicts the extent to which the UNFCCC influences the legislators to establish frameworks that foster environmental sustainability. The FEA drafted the said law in a manner that incorporates the requirements of the various protocols provided by the UNFCCC. The strength of the law that comprises 101 articles addresses issues concerning the maritime environment firmly. Evidently, 40 articles of the law focus on the various forms of marine pollution and transportation and the corresponding penalties applied to vessels that disregard a particular stipulation (Kazim 2007). Therefore, since the economy of the UAE depends majorly on oil exports, mitigating the forms of pollution associated with the transportation of oil facilitates the coverage of all the factors that trigger environmental degradation including CO2 emissions. Instead of only focusing on energy production GHG emissions, the law also concentrated on oil spillages on the water bodies thereby, bolstering a comprehensive coverage of the various aspects of the environment.
The UAE has also incorporated the UNFCCC in a manner that has resulted in the stabilization of its energy supply, denoting its success. Notably, each emirate has the responsibility of managing its oil production activities in a sustainable manner. For this reason, the UAE has initiated projects that seek to tap the various types of renewable energy. The concentrating solar power plant situated at the Shams 1 and the Noor 1 photovoltaic plant have the capacity of generating 100 MW each thereby, improving the country’s energy sufficiency through renewable sources. Besides, the UAE has invested in wind and waste-to-energy projects with the potential of generating a combination of 126 MW. As such, the use of renewable resources with the aim of cutting down GHG emissions has also accounted for 7% of the country’s electricity generation (Kumetat 2014).
Further, in a bid to satisfy its energy demands, the UAE has successfully integrated the GHG production articles in its energy efficiency strategies adopted by the FEA that also seek to protect the environment. By 2030, the UAE government intends to lessen the total consumption of energy by 30%, a move that focuses on meeting the future demands effectively (Hamdi, Sbia, & Shahbaz 2014). The environmental laws have also inculcated the relevance of fostering energy efficiency in the transport sector. For this reason, the UAE has mandated its airline companies to work towards the realization of the 2050 energy targets set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that will see the reduction of CO2 emissions reduced by 50% compared to the 2005 base year. Moreover, the street lighting projects introduced in the UAE purpose to employ LED technology to ensure an 80% reduction in carbon emissions besides promoting energy savings by 67% (Radhi 2009).
Evidently, the adoption of the UNFCCC provisions made up of several agreements including the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols yielded positive outcomes as seen in the inventory figures. The influence of the UNFCCC deserves appraisal since it facilitated the move towards the creation of legal frameworks like the FEA and the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA). Consequently, the harmonious application of the stipulations contained in the UNFCCC and the FEA facilitated the fulfillment of the requirement upheld by the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols. Notably, the attainment of GHG emissions that are within the levels that curb hazardous anthropogenic intrusion with the climate system. Therefore, meeting the 2005 targets implies that the UAE has effective environmental law mechanisms since it did not report any cases of provision incompatibilities in the various sectors covered by the UNFCCC inventory.
As a non-Annex, I party to the agreement the UAE has been able to develop new environmental laws and programs that purpose to promote the sustainability of the environment. Today, the UAE plays a considerable role in the mitigation of GHG emissions at varying levels through the implementation of different strategies (Ahmed 2015). The establishment of the unique Green Growth strategy in 2012 demonstrates the level of government commitment to combating environmental degradation. Particularly, the Green Growth strategy has spearheaded the development of the different sectors of the economy in a way that also proposes the implementation of measures that concentrate on the decarburization of energy (Michaelowa & Luomi 2012). It is vital to underscore that the UAE projects to lessen GHG emissions are progressing on a voluntary foundation. Further, the UAE desires to consider the reservation option that would allow it to realize its rights as one of the oil-producing countries concerning the associated articles of the UNFCCC. For instance, in implementing the strategy, the UAE deserves to receive financial support from the UNFCCC funds since it is one of the Annex 1 parties.
Evidently, the incorporation of diverse approaches to promote energy efficiency in a way that fosters environmental sustainability (Kazim 2007). Notably, the use of renewable sources of energy, LED-based public lighting, and compliance with IATA provisions concerning CO2 emissions demonstrates the degree to which the various articles of the UNFCCC treaty have influenced the UAE (Radhi 2009). As a result, the UAE has been at the forefront in leading the countries in the Middle East towards the sustainability of the environment as seen by the technological developments in renewable energy, water efficiency, and transportation.
Besides the application of policy solutions and technology, the UAE has continually invested in innovations that bolster the effectiveness of its systems towards environmental sustainability. Mainly, the investments concentrate on future energy and climate solutions. The Masdar City initiative provides one of the innovative strategies employed by the UAE as it seeks to develop one of the record energy resourceful cities in the world. Interestingly, the city purposes to lure cleantech corporations to invest in it, as it would facilitate the provision of an infrastructure that promotes research and development of cleantech innovations (Kumetat 2014).
The environmental laws in the UAE would realize greater achievement through the consideration and incorporation of several initiatives besides facilitating the efficient implementation of the UNFCCC treaty. In so doing, it would also reinforce its commitments regarding international environmental matters as well as foster new perceptions about its climate change vulnerability (Nanda 2012). Thus, the UAE needs to consider the following approaches.
The UAE needs to bolster its data collection plans for the realization of effective measurement and management of GHG emissions. In this light, the incorporation of a comprehensive GHG at the national level would be appropriate since it includes a broad range of indicators for analysis. Therefore, besides depending on inventories updated by the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi through the Dubai Carbon Center of Excellence and the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi, the rest of the Emirates should also develop their inventories to improve the national data collection efforts (Michaelowa & Luomi 2012).
The UAE should also consider the establishment of effective adaptive efforts while implementing the Convention (Spiess 2008). In this light, institutions like the FEA require additional support to enhance their oversight of the Convention’s implementation. The move would facilitate the reinforcement of adaptation capacity in the vulnerable sectors besides improving the ecosystem’s resilience. The mobilization and management of knowledge are necessary for policy adaptation and planning.
Moreover, the UAE needs to reinforce the capacity of the different stakeholders geared towards environmental sustainability. Therefore, the individuals, the private, and public sectors require strengthening to address the issues of climatic changes in a collaborative manner. Through information accessibility, the public would gain a better understanding of the climate change problem and thus, see the essence of fully implementing the UNFCCC. As such, more public awareness programs need to be developed to facilitate the sensitization of the public concerning the effects of the consumption and climate change nexus.
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