The United Arab Emirates could become the first nation among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to set a net-zero goal, a move that would please Western countries pushing for stronger climate commitments but won’t require it to sell less oil.
The country is considering a 2050 target to align with a global push to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, according to people familiar with the discussions. They asked not to be named because talks are private and ongoing. The aim is to make an announcement before the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in November, the people said.
If the UAE decides on a 2050 target, it would be the first major petrostate to set such an ambitious climate goal. Emissions from burning fossil fuels after they’re shipped abroad aren’t included in such country-level targets, meaning the UAE could technically reach net zero while continuing with plans to invest billions in oil extraction.
Oil exports from the region that became the UAE began in the 1960s, and growing revenues have made the country among the wealthiest in the world. Consumption of fossil fuels and generation of planet-warming emissions have risen in tandem. Home to nearly 10 million people, the UAE generated 190 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, according to the Global Carbon Project. It has among the highest per capita emissions in the world, beating Australia and the U.S.
The UAE’s current long-term energy plan calls for only half of all power capacity to be emission free by 2050, consisting of renewables and nuclear. It plans to meet the rest of its energy needs with gas and coal. Climate Action Tracker, a nonprofit that analyzes climate goals, rates the UAE’s policies “highly insufficient.” Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the state-owned energy giant, is planning to increase its production capacity from just over 4 million barrels a day to 5 million barrels a day within the next decade.
[Anthony Di Paola, Verity Ratcliffe and Akshat Rathi]