Growing a green economy in the UAE: From theory to practice with ICTs

Way back in 2012, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai launched the Green Economy Initiative under the slogan ‘a green economy for sustainable development.’

The initiative aims to make the UAE a global pioneer in green economy products and technologies by maintaining supporting long-term economic growth while protecting the environment. It involves developing programmes and policies in the fields of energy, agriculture, investment and sustainable transport in addition to new environmental and construction policies.

Impact-driven green economy efforts

A host of efforts are being undertaken in the environmental field, all of which are designed to directly augment green economy efforts in the UAE.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s Green Agenda programme 2015-2030 includes a National Green Economy Data Program whose success largely depends on the innovative use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). More specifically, the Green Agenda focuses on:
• Energy data management and automation
• Monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
• National Communications on GHG emissions to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
• Periodic public reports on GHG emissions
• Identification and collection of environmental, economic and social data with plans to develop an integrated database
• Further refinement and regular monitoring of Green KPIs
• Regular compilation of the UAE State of Green Economy Report

Resource efficiency and local green economies in smart cities

We have seen first-hand how environmental goals can be complemented by setting up smart cities that use technology not only to conserve natural resources, but also to convert them more efficiently. Technology can help ration the use of natural resources and improve the recycling of waste.

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, the first smart sustainable city in the UAE and among the first in the Middle East region, is leading this drive. It uses a combination of technology, architectural designs and solar power to run. Homes in Masdar City feature low-flow showers and smart water metres that ensure water waste reduction. The green architecture of Masdar City ensures that streets and houses are cooler than they would be otherwise.

In Dubai, The Sustainable City is already fully operational while Dubai South and Desert Rose City are in planning or construction stages. The Sustainable City is a mixed-use township and runs on solar energy produced by panels that double as shades in the parking area. The residences, offices and other properties are equipped with energy-saving appliances. To boost the local green economy, the Bedayat business incubator was launched last year to enable SMEs to develop their innovations in the fields of sustainable technologies, turning them into commercial opportunities.

Growing green through organic farming

In addition, the UAE is attempting to nurture its green economy through organic farming. As of May 2019, there were 2,356 organic farm products in the UAE. To further promote sustainable agriculture, the UAE launched its Food Research Platform, an online portal on which specialists can share their latest findings and publications.

Among the priority areas for research and development is Farm IoT, which involves leveraging information and communication technologies (ICT) for agricultural applications such as monitoring crop fields and automating irrigation systems.

To further accelerate the adoption of ICTs in agriculture, the Office of Food Security in cooperation with the Government Accelerators launched the following initiatives:

1. Emirates Sustainable Agriculture Label
2. Framework of Agriculture Finance
3. Ag-Tech Loan Guarantee & Supply Chain Financing
4. Ag-Tech Building Code
5. Unified Agriculture License
6. Food Security Data Framework & Platform
7. Aquaculture Standards
8. Fish Feed Facility
9. Aquaculture Atlas

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) promotes the use of ICTs to fulfil its organisational mission to be a leading organisation in the ICT sector while encouraging innovation and investment in green economy initiatives, among others. With federal strategies in place to promote the use of blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and smart mobility, the role of ICTs has never been more important in achieving the UAE’s goals of a thriving green economy.

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