Dubai’s leadership on an Integrated Climate Agenda

By Sami Ibrahim, Policy & Strategy Advisor, The Executive Council, Government of Dubai; Gabriel Oliveira, Mass Transit Network Manager at C40 Cities; and Regina Vetter, Cool Cities Network Manager at C40 Cities

As urban populations around the world continue to grow, more and more people will be at risk from climate impacts such as heat extremes, water availability, food security and sea level rise. Responding to the climate change threat therefore requires two main approaches: mitigation, or taking actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation, anticipating and acting on climate risks in order to reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience. C40 advocates for climate action that integrates both adaptation and mitigation, because even if we are able to dramatically mitigate emissions in the future, we must also deal with the impacts that are already occurring.

In 2017, on the heels of the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the General Secretariat of The Executive Council of Dubai partnered with C40 to organise the C40 Adaptation Conference in Dubai. The three-day conference assembled 43 cities and represented a powerful opportunity to catalyse action.

Inspired by the Adaptation Conference and hearing about other cities' climate adaptation efforts, Dubai has developed the city’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Although Dubai is generally adapted to climate extremes, with many measures implemented throughout its history given its location, the strategy is a first step in aligning and enhancing the adaptation measures undertaken. This strategy identifies a range of short-, mid- and long-term actions, cross-sectoral opportunities and benefits, and is broad in scope, seeking to facilitate both individual and shared actions from across different stakeholders.

Having attained this important milestone on climate adaptation, Dubai is pursuing efforts to advance on the mitigation front as well. Research by C40 shows that the world’s megacities must peak emissions by 2020 and cut per-capita emissions from over 5 tons of CO2 to around 3 tons by 2030. Transportation is crucial to this goal, as one-third of greenhouse gas emissions from C40 cities come from transport and traffic is globally responsible for up to one-quarter of particulate matter in the air.

To advance in the sector, C40 and the General Secretariat of The Executive Council of Dubai hosted the first C40 Mass Transit workshop, where representatives from 13 global cities shared their experiences on new mass transit implementation, enhancement and promotion, using adaptation to extreme heat as a cross-cutting theme throughout the workshop.

Dubai showcased the city’s efforts to position public transport as a credible alternative to the private car. Specifically, climate solutions such as air-conditioned bus shelters and metro stations and pedestrian overhead crossings to major attractions are key aspects that make access and waiting experiences more comfortable in the harsh climate. Major government-owned vacant lands directly adjacent to metro stations will be developed as “Transit Villages”, based on transit-oriented development principles. By increasing population densities, with an emphasis on low-middle income groups, Dubai aims to raise the current share of 10% of the population living within 400 meters of these stations.

Participating cities were also inspired by Dubai’s big-data analytics, highly technological predictions and contingency-planning practices. Not surprisingly, Dubai is on the right track for more sustainable mobility, with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority reporting an annual public transport modal share increase of 1.2% per year, a higher rate than those observed in London (0.2%), Amsterdam (0.5%) and Berlin (0.8%).

C40 and Dubai have built a long-lasting relationship that has already borne its fruits in terms of a more sustainable and resilient urban life. C40’s Mass Transit Workshop represented a powerful opportunity to catalyse integrated action in the world’s leading cities and reinforce the need for mitigation strategies to be well integrated with adaptation efforts.