Factbox: Why does the UAE have such a high carbon footprint?

(Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

According to a U.N. Development Programme report in 2003, the UAE emitted 33.6 tonnes per capita, second only to nearby Qatar and over nine times the world average of 3.7 tonnes.

The 2008 WWF Living Planet Report gave the UAE the world’s worst ecological footprint per person. It placed the United States second and fellow Gulf Arab state Kuwait in third place.

The ecological footprint measures humanity’s demand on the biosphere in terms of biologically productive land and sea required to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste.

The UAE has said it is becoming greener. The following lists some of the UAE’s green and not so green credentials.



Dubai’s Executive Flight Service handled 6,060 flights and 19,797 customers in 2009, according to figures from Dubai International Airport.


Dubai Taxis made 70 million journeys in 2009, in which they transported more than 140 million passengers, the emirate’s transport authority said. That compares with 120 million people who took public buses in 2009.

Since its inauguration in September 2009, the number of passengers using the Dubai Metro has risen from about 40,000 a day to more than 120,000 a day. In total, it has transported more than 19 million people so far and expects 35 million passengers in 2010.


In 2006, the UAE’s population of around 6 million consumed nearly 500 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of gas.

Germany, which has a population of more than 80 million, burned 942 billion kWh in 2008, according to the German energy industry association (BDEW).


One of the most ambitious schemes in Dubai, The World is a collection of man-made islands shaped into the continents and countries of the world. As the slump has frozen much building activity, homes have yet to be built there. If completed, the islands would be reachable only by private jet or boat.

Property developer Nakheel used 34 million tonnes of rock to build the 27 kilometer breakwater that surrounds the 300 islands in the development.

Nakheel has said its activities have no harmful effect on nature, although environmentalists have said the consequences of such extensive artificial islands on the natural ecosystem are unknown and could be damaging.



Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, better known as Masdar, was set up in 2006 with a mandate to develop, commercialize and deploy renewable energy technologies and environmental solutions.

Its flagship project in Abu Dhabi is Masdar City, a $22 billion investment in what will be the first zero-emissions, zero-waste city when completed in 2020.

The plan is for Masdar City to be home to some 40,000 residents.


The Desert Islands resort comprises the former royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island, and the Discovery Islands, six nearby offshore outcrops. All of them will be linked by a ferry and hydrofoil service, water taxis, private ‘resort’ boat service and regional and sea planes.

For every visitor to Sir Bani Yas, one mangrove plant is planted to offset the environmental impact of the visit.

Other initiatives include breeding programmes for rare and endangered wildlife, removal of human interference, including closing roads and removing old irrigation pipes, and water conservation.


The UAE has set itself a goal of reducing the maximum sulphur target for both diesel and gasoline to 10 parts per million (ppm). Industry analysts say the target will be reached once a refinery upgrading project is finished.

Until then, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology has set a maximum sulphur limit for gasoline at 100 ppm, which must be followed by all oil companies in the UAE. For diesel, the maximum limit is 500 ppm.

Reporting by Amena Bakr, Barbara Lewis, Nina Chestney and Henning Gloystein, editing by Lin Noueihed