Abu-Dhabi's alternative-energy initiatives: Seizing climate-change opportunities

Institute researcher Mari Luomi has published an article in the volume 16 issue 4 of Middle East Policy.

Abu Dhabi, the leading monarchy
of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has arguably
been the most successful polity in the Gulf region in seizing the
opportunities brought about by the rise of climate change on the
international agenda. Instead of emphasizing the threats of
international climate-change mitigation
to oil-export revenues, Abu Dhabi, despite its vast fossil-fuel
reserves, has opted for a proactive domestic approach to the challenge.
In 2006, it established the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, commonly
known as Masdar, and started positioning the UAE among the world’s
leading countries in clean technology and energy. In 2008, Abu Dhabi
announced its national nuclear policy and is now well on the way to
making the UAE the first Arab state with a civilian nuclear energy
program and several operating plants by the 2020s. Moreover, in 2009,
in international
recognition of the credibility of its stated ambitions, Abu Dhabi won a
tight race against Germany for hosting the headquarters of the recently
established International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, aimed at
promoting renewable energies in both developing and industrialized

While these domestic developments undoubtedly have been
influenced by wider changes taking place in the UAE’s external
environment, especially in the energy sphere, they also encompass
domestic motivations and perform key functions in a larger pattern of
strategic economic transformation that has been taking place in Abu
Dhabi since 2004. Evidently,
Masdar, the nuclear program, and the IRENA headquarters are all geared
to some of the most momentous of domestic challenges: economic
diversification and job creation for the growing national population,
demand-side management of energy security, and transfer of technology
and knowledge. Moreover, the three examples serve to illustrate the
different ways in which Abu Dhabi seeks to raise its profile and
prestige both regionally and internationally.
Finally, these recent alternative-energy projects also reflect the
ways in which key members of Abu Dhabi’s ruling elite seek to maintain
domestic legitimacy. Fundamentally, the continuthree
examples represent the many ways in which the emirate’s elite strive to
secure the country’s long-term economic prosperity
and sociopolitical stability, so as to maintain the regime’s rule
beyond the current energy paradigm.

Link to the article