The United Arab Emirates has unveiled an ambitious target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, ahead of the crucial COP26 summit that starts in Glasgow later this month, making it the first Persian Gulf nation to announce long-term plans to eliminate carbon emissions.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said on Thursday that the nation “is committed to seizing the opportunity” to cement its leadership on climate change within its region and “take this key economic opportunity to drive development, growth and new jobs.”

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The UAE’s ambitious climate commitment comes weeks ahead of the crucial COP26 summit in the UK that is set to kick-off on 31 October and is likely to put pressure on other Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, to announce similar targets.

Al Maktoum said the country would invest almost $165 billion in clean energy by 2050 and would “play its global role in combating climate change".

He said the UAE development model will take into account the net-zero goal and that all institutions would work as one team towards it.

Big leap forward

Robin Mills, the chief executive of Dubai-based Qamar Energy, said in a social media post that UAE is the “first leading non-OECD oil & gas exporter to announce a net-zero carbon target (2050).

“Big step forward, (a) major challenge. Will face welcome, also some scepticism, ahead of COP26. But maybe more doable than some expect,” Mills said.

UK COP26 president, Alok Sharma described UAE’s move as “an historic announcement,” in a Twitter post.

Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi said the “net-zero 2050 strategic initiative announced today is consistent with the long-standing vision of the UAE and its people to make a significant contribution to global sustainability efforts while supporting economic and human development both at home and around the world.”

Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy said the “announcement of the UAE net-zero by 2050 strategic initiative is a significant milestone that reflects a long-term dedication to sustainable economic development and to the tenets of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

“In just five years Abu Dhabi will be producing almost 55% of its electricity from clean sources, halving the CO2 emissions associated with the power sector,” he said.

Even as UAE has highlighted its ambition to achieve net-zero by 2050, state-owned giant Abu Dhabi National Oil company (Adnoc) is expected to continue with its ambitious plan to scale up crude oil production to 5 million barrels per day by end of this decade, up from the existing 4 million bpd capacity.

However, Adnoc has embarked on several clean energy initiatives across its operations that are aimed at reducing its carbon footprint, including its enhanced focus on developing its hydrogen business and is aiming to grow its carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) capacity over the years.

For the UAE, the Barakah nuclear power plant and its solar photovoltaic projects, including the flagship 1.177 gigawatt Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant and the 2GW Al Dhafra single-site solar PV plant, are expected to play a key role in its transition to cleaner sources of energy.