UAE recognises the need to act on climate change fast

May 08, 2024


UAE recognises the need to act on climate change fast

May 08, 2024

Dr. Rahaf Ajaj

Assistant Professor

Dr. Rahaf Ajaj is an esteemed researcher and educator specializing in radiation safety, environmental sciences, sustainability, and climate change. Currently an Assistant Professor at Abu Dhabi University's College of Health Science, Dr. Ajaj has published many peer-reviewed journal articles and presented her research at prestigious conferences worldwide. Before her role at Abu Dhabi University, Dr. Ajaj was a Health Physicist at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation in the UAE. Beyond her professional pursuits, Dr. Ajaj also volunteers in leadership positions for organizations like the UAE Climate Change Research Network (CCRN) and Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE).


By hosting COP28, 2023 marked a significant milestone in the UAE's dedication to climate-change mitigation, public health and sustainability, but more needs to be done.

By organising global events such as COP28, the UAE aspires to demonstrate its commitment to climate action and bolster its global influence. The nation has been stepping up its climate actions over the years, starting with it being the first nation among Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries to ratify the Paris Agreement in 2016.1 Then in 2022, it announced its Net Zero by 2050 strategy, the first such initiative in the region. The introduction of “The COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate on Health” further underscored the UAE’s substantial efforts towards climate-change mitigation and sustainability, and the crucial connection between climate change and health.

The impacts of climate change in the UAE affect well-being

By integrating climate considerations into public-health practices, the UAE's health system can enhance its resilience to climate-change impacts and better prepare for any associated health risks. The impacts of climate change in the UAE and the Middle East are becoming increasingly evident. As a result of climate change, the region is experiencing extreme weather in the form of more prolonged droughts, increasing frequencies of hotspells, extreme precipitation and compound effects on water resources, which will affect agricultural production and water availability. Furthermore, projections indicate a decrease in winter precipitation, leading to dryness and desertification in the Middle East. Recent studies suggest a significant decline in precipitation and an increase in temperatures, exacerbating the water-shortage crisis in the Middle East's semi-arid and arid climate.2 All of this will affect public health and therefore people’s well-being.

Focusing on capacity and infrastructure

The UAE is taking steps to address climate-related health challenges. This will mean a focus on existing building blocks. We will need to build resilient health-care systems by focusing on upgrading our health-care infrastructure, capacity and preparedness. Identifying and addressing the UAE’s top health priorities, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and childhood obesity, will also be an essential part of strengthening health systems in order to mitigate and manage the health impacts of climate change.

And we must not forget about research, as much is still unknown. We need to prioritise research on climate-change-related health issues to inform evidence-based interventions, which will provide valuable insights for effective policy formulation.  Moreover, leveraging information and communication technologies (ICT) can enhance the UAE's health-system response to climate change. The health system can improve preparedness and response to climate-related health challenges by using telemedicine, remote sensing and data analytics. These advancements can strengthen health-care delivery, increase adaptive capacity and promote resilience in the face of climate-change impacts.3

By focusing on all these priorities, health systems can enhance their capacity to respond to the health impacts of climate change, promote public-health resilience and contribute to sustainable development in the region.4

Health is not alone—calling out to other sectors

As climate change is a collective challenge which requires cross-sectoral collaborative efforts, health actors need to lean on other sectors to manage this system challenge. By integrating climate considerations into urban planning, cities can develop green spaces, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and efficient public-transportation systems, which will improve air quality and well-being.5  The UAE is also diversifying its energy mix and reducing its dependence on traditional fossil fuels. Initiatives such as solar-power plants and user-owned solar-power generators are being implemented in selected UAE cities to introduce renewable energy. Research has also highlighted the potential of biofuels sourced from mangroves, underscoring the UAE's commitment to renewable energy.6 Furthermore, sustainable-agriculture practices can bolster food security and minimise the environmental impact of food production, thereby positively influencing public health. Practices such as conservation-agriculture techniques and integrated pest-management techniques are critical for ensuring food security and promoting environmental sustainability. Furthermore, embracing alternative proteins and food tech interventions offers a promising avenue to bolster food security. These innovations can diversify food sources, reduce reliance on traditional livestock and farming, and mitigate the environmental impact of food production. The UAE has also been exploring the use of ICT for smart and sustainable agriculture, to enhance productivity while minimising environmental impact.7

Engagement will be key

While these initiatives are needed, we must also improve multi-sector collaboration, public education and engagement in climate advocacy. Many stakeholders will be needed, but universities and educational institutions, as custodians of knowledge, can help facilitate students and faculty to engage and act on climate change.

A good example of multi-stakeholder engagement is the UAE Climate Change Research Network, which was created in January 2021 by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. It is dedicated to improving climate resilience in all sectors, which includes new research, addressing adaptive capabilities and improving public awareness of the implications of climate change.  Currently, the network consists of five clusters: Climate Change and Public Health (which I lead), Climate Data and Modelling, Climate Change and Infrastructure, Climate Change and Terrestrial, Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, and Climate Change and Food and Water Security.8 This network also actively contributes to the UAE's global climate-action initiatives.

Demonstrating regional leadership, the UAE is actively identifying and implementing effective strategies to enhance its health and broader systems in response to climate change. While acknowledging the imperative for acceleratered action, the UAE remains committed to driving positive change swiftly and decisively.

1 UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. The United Arab Emirates’ First Long-Term Strategy (LTS) Demonstrating Commitment to Net Zero by 2050. 2023. Available at:

2  Chandran, A., Basha, G. and Ouarda, T.B.M.J. (2015). Influence of climate oscillations on temperature and precipitation over the United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Climatology, 36(1), 225-235.

3 Alkhaldi, M., Moonesar, I.A., Issa, S.T. et al. (2023). Analysis of the United Arab emirates' contribution to the sustainable development goals with a focus on global health and climate change. International Journal of Health Governance, 28(4), 357-367.          

4 Gan, C.C.R., Banwell, N., Pascual, R.S., Chu, C. and Wang, Y.W. (2019). Hospital climate actions and assessment tools: a scoping review protocol. BMJ Open, 9(12), e032561.

5 Amrousi, M., Paleologos, E., Caratelli, P. and Elhakeem, M. (2018). Are garden cities in the desert sustainable? International Review for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development, 6A(1), 79-94.

6 Merheb, M., Matar, R., Marton, J.M., Youssef, K.A., Hodeify, R. and Shafiq, N. (2018). Alternative energy in the UAE: the potential of biofuels sourced from Ras Al Khaimah mangroves. Al Qasimi Foundation.

7 Bilali, H.E., Bottalico, F. and Palmisano, G.O. (2020). Information and communication technologies for smart and sustainable agriculture. 30th Scientific-Experts Conference of Agriculture and Food Industry, 321-334.

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