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

Utrikespolitiska institutets forskare Mari Luomi har publicerat en artikel i Middle East Policy, vol 16: 4.

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 countries.

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 important 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 multidimensional 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.

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