The World's Most Improbable Green City (2023)

  • Case Study

A decade ago Dubai had one of the largest ecological footprints of any city in the world. By 2050 it wants to have the smallest. Can it get there?

ByRobert Kunzig

Photographs byLuca Locatelli

Published April 4, 2017

40 min read

To plunge headlong into the audacity of Dubai—the sprawling efflorescence of concrete, glass, and steel that has sprung up over the past three decades on the scorched sands of Arabia—you could start by going skiing. Smack in the middle of the flat city, the slope looks like a silver spaceship impaled in the ground floor of the Mall of the Emirates. Inside, you can window-shop at Prada, Dior, and Alexander McQueen before pushing through the glass doors of Ski Dubai. Passing a mural of the Alps, you zip up your parka, pull on your gloves. You begin to marvel then at what air-conditioning can do, when pushed to its limits.

The souvenir T-shirt I bought bears a cartoon of a Celsius thermometer. “I went from +50 to -8,” it said. It didn’t feel quite as cold as minus eight (14°F) on the slope, but the temperature outside can get close to 50 (122°F) in summer. The humidity is stifling then, because of the proximity of the sea. Yet it rarely rains; Dubai gets less than four inches a year. There are no permanent rivers. There is next to no soil suitable for growing crops.

What kind of human settlement makes sense in such a place? For centuries Dubai was a fishing village and trading port, small and poor. Then oil and a wild real estate boom transformed it into a city that sports the world’s tallest building, one of its densest collections of skyscrapers, and its third busiest airport. “From the point of view of sustainability you probably wouldn’t have done it here,” says Janus Rostock, a prominent architect transplanted from Copenhagen.

And yet a sustainable city is precisely what Dubai’s government says it aims to create.

Sustainable? Dubai? When camels fly, you might say. The boom years made the city a poster child for the excess that results when cheap energy meets environmental indifference. Indoor skiing is just a symbol: Dubai burns far more fossil fuel to air-condition its towers of glass. To keep the taps running in all those buildings, it essentially boils hundreds of Olympic pools worth of seawater every day. And to create more beachfront for more luxury hotels and villas, it buried coral reefs under immense artificial islands.

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In 2006 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) declared the United Arab Emirates the country with the largest ecological footprint, per capita, largely because of its carbon emissions. The shoe certainly fit Dubai, the most conspicuous consumer among the seven emirates. In the decade since, the city’s population has doubled, to more than 2.8 million. The number of cars on its roads has more than doubled. A surprising number are Bentleys, Lamborghinis, and other gorgeous gas hogs.

And yet, something else has happened since 2006: Dubai has started to change.

Gleaming driverless metro trains now run the length of the linear city, alongside Sheikh Zayed Road, carrying about as many people, and often faster, as the cars on that clogged 12-lane artery. On Dubai’s southern outskirts, a new housing development has opened—called Sustainable City—that recycles its water and waste and produces more energy than it consumes. Further out in the desert, Dubai is building a giant solar power plant that will soon be producing some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity on Earth.

“The leadership has recognized that the growth of the economy is not sustainable without taking action on emissions,” says Tanzeed Alam, climate director for the Emirates Wildlife Society, WWF’s local partner.

In Dubai, the “leadership” is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 67-year-old hereditary emir, aka the Ruler. Sheikh Mohammed took over in 2006. He has decreed that his city will get 75 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2050. He wants it to have the smallest carbon footprint in the world. Many people I met on a recent visit to Dubai, including Rostock and Alam, believe the city might actually pull that off.

And if it can happen here, they say, it can happen anywhere.

Survival Instincts

Two places on Dubai’s 40-mile-long coast frame its astonishing trajectory.

The first is Jebel Ali, home to a busy man-made port as well as an enormous industrial plant belonging to Dubai Electric and Water Authority (DEWA). It produces most of the city’s electricity and drinking water in the same process: Natural gas, mainly from Abu Dhabi and Qatar, is burned to generate electricity, and the leftover heat is used to distill seawater and remove the salt. As Dubai has grown, the plant has kept adding new modules, and it’s now a mile-long line of candy-striped smokestacks and evaporator tanks. It can produce nearly 10 gigawatts of electricity and half a billion gallons of desalinated water a day.

The second place is in what’s left of Old Dubai, on what’s called the Creek— actually a saltwater inlet. One of the few natural harbors on this coast, the Creek is why Dubai exists at all. Beat-up wooden dhows from another century still line up to be loaded with refrigerators and air-conditioners from South Korea, which they will deliver across the Gulf to Iran. Near the mouth of the Creek is the house where Sheikh Mohammed spent his childhood.

The house belonged to his grandfather, who was then the Ruler. (The Al Maktoums have ruled Dubai since 1833.) Though large, it was hardly a palace. It had neither running water nor electricity. Dubai didn’t get electricity, or its first paved road, until 1961. Running water arrived a few years later. Mohammed grew up by lamplight, in a place where water was delivered by donkey cart, in barrels filled at one of the village’s wells.

His father, Rashid, had grown up in the same house. In the 1930s he saw people in Dubai starve; the global depression and the invention of artificial pearls had destroyed the market for pearl diving, which was then Dubai’s main enterprise. It was Rashid who began to modernize—and diversify—Dubai, after he took over as ruler in 1958, and especially after the proceeds of oil began to materialize in the late 1960s. He built roads, schools, an airport, and in 1979, a 39-story World Trade Centre, at the time the tallest building in the Middle East.

“It was built in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of the city,” says Neil Walmsley, a British engineer who has been in Dubai since 2005 and is director of urban planning for Arup, a consulting firm. “It was a vote of confidence. The city responded by growing towards it”—and then well past it. Dubai was not a center of world trade when Rashid built his centre, but it is now. When he dug a giant new port at Jebel Ali, having already dredged the Creek, even his sons were baffled by his optimism. Now that port is one of the world’s busiest.

The pearl business hadn’t lasted forever, and Rashid knew he couldn’t count on the oil. Dubai had never had more than a small fraction of what Abu Dhabi had. There’s a saying attributed to Rashid: His father and grandfather rode camels, while he himself drove a Mercedes, and his son, a Land Rover. His grandson would drive a Land Rover too—but his great grandson might ride a camel again.

Unless, that is, the Al Maktoums played their cards right. In Dubai, that’s the first meaning of “sustainability”: finding a way to wring a good living from a hard place, ideally without having to rely on camels again. Worrying about your footprint comes later.

Toward a New Golden Age?

The Burj Al Arab, or Tower of the Arabs, was one of the first of many Dubai landmarks that Sheikh Mohammed commissioned, even before he was Ruler, in the 1990s. It’s a luxury hotel built on an artificial island. As Jim Krane tells the story in Dubai: The Story of the World’s Fastest City, the hotel could have been built on the mainland, but Mohammed and the architect decided it would make a more memorable addition to the skyline if it stood just offshore. And they were right: Shaped like a three-cornered sail rising off the sea, it’s now an icon.

Arab merchants pioneered the use of the three-cornered lateen sail more than a millennium ago. As Sheikh Mohammed tells that story in his own book, My Vision, the new sail helped Arab dhows outdistance their square-sailed competitors. It symbolizes his aspiration for Dubai: to be the first, the best, the smartest, the fastest—to win the race against its global competitors, not just for its own sake but for the whole Arab world. He wants to make Arabs pioneers again, the way they were in the Middle Ages.

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Dubai has no income tax or sales tax, and that has long made it attractive to foreigners. But in the early 2000s, it began for the first time to allow them to own property. Waves of cash flooded into Dubai real estate from Russia, from Iran, from the Arab world—from investors anywhere who were looking for a safe haven. Combined with a law that grants each Emirati citizen a plot for his own villa, it led to a surge in development. Four large developers, three of them controlled by the state, were granted great plots of land. Workers streamed in from South Asia to build new skyscrapers for the affluent. They themselves lived in camps that were often squalid, in conditions that some said resembled indentured servitude. (Read an in-depth report on Dubai’s guest workers.)

The city exploded down the coast. The Dubai Marina, a dense forest of more than a hundred 40-story apartment buildings, sprung up out of nothing, to be inhabited only by expats, some of them for only part of the year. The city also pushed inland into the desert, with new villa developments for Emiratis and foreigners.

“When you look at how Dubai has been growing, it’s just been this obsession with building outward into the desert,” says Yasser Elsheshtawy, an Egyptian architect who has taught at the university in Al Ain for 20 years. “There were no limitations. Energy was cheap. You had cars. So why not?”

The more compelling question is why Dubai would ever change. What could prompt a Ruler with a deep drive for economic growth—who had ordered up not only a sail-shaped tower but also a skyscraper as tall as the Sears Tower with the Eiffel on top, and not only three palm-shaped artificial peninsulas jutting miles into the sea but also an archipelago of 300 islands shaped like countries and arranged in a map of the world—to develop an interest in photovoltaic panels, low-flow faucets, and walkable neighborhoods?

Crisis: “The Best Thing To Happen”

In 2008 and 2009, with the global economy on the edge of collapse, tourism plummeted in Dubai. Real estate prices fell 50 percent, oil even more. Dubai had to be bailed out of debt by Abu Dhabi. But it also got a chance to take stock.

“The economic crisis was the best thing that happened to us—a blessing in disguise,” says Habiba al Marashi, founder of the Emirates Environmental Group, an organization that attempts, through education and recycling, to promote environmental responsibility. ““It slowed down the crazy pace of construction.”

As the city drew its breath, three factors combined to pave the way for a new focus on sustainability, says Dubai-based energy consultant Robin Mills. The first was Masdar City, a project launched in neighboring Abu Dhabi in 2006. Billed as the world’s first zero-carbon city and designed by the firm of star British architect Norman Foster, it was intended to be car free—driverless pods would ferry residents around—and to produce all its electricity with solar power.

Though the financial crisis put a crimp in Masdar City’s ambitions too, it's now expanding around its compact urban core, with a new apartment complex nearing completion and plans for 5,000 homes. And the international publicity the project received from the start helped break the resistance to green ideas throughout the UAE. When Masdar began, “it was really tough,” recalls CEO Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi. “People didn’t want to talk about it. They said, ‘It’s too expensive! Who likes it? What’s the need?’”

And yet Dubai, says Mills, was starting to feel a strong need to reduce its dependence on imported natural gas. Just before the financial crisis, when the city was at the peak of its growth, oil and gas prices were soaring. Mills, who had once been a geologist for Shell, was working on energy at Dubai Holding, a major developer in which Sheikh Mohammed holds a majority stake. “One of the issues was how Dubai was going to source the energy to power all these enormous real estate developments,” Mills says.

Meanwhile a new alternative—the third factor—was emerging. Solar power was booming in places like Germany and Spain, and prices were falling fast. In 2012 Mills wrote a report saying that solar power had become cost-competitive in the Middle East, at 12 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour. By 2015 DEWA signed a contract for 200 megawatts worth of solar panels that would deliver power at 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour—a world record-low. At that price, it was making a profit on solar.

“For the utility, that was a eureka moment,” says Saeed al Abbar, head of the Emirates Green Building Council. It was founded in 2006, when the boom was at its height.

Endless Sun

By the time I visit the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park at the beginning of February, DEWA has shattered that record: Masdar’s parent company—the largest exporter of renewable energy in the Middle East—has agreed to furnish the next 800 megawatts of power at 2.99 cents a kilowatt-hour. “Solar is clearly by far the cheapest form of electricity,” Mills says.

The site, about 30 miles southeast of the city, was chosen for its insolation, a DEWA engineer says. We climb out of the shade of a transformer building onto its roof to gaze out over the field of solar panels, slanted toward the sun. They already cover well over a square mile and produce 200 megawatts, two percent of DEWA’s total generating capacity, but there’s room for a lot more—a thousand megawatts will be here by 2020, 5,000 megawatts by 2030, DEWA says. And unlike some utilities in the United States, which see solar power as unwelcome competition, it’s also actively encouraging citizens to put solar panels on roofs.

“The solar potential is so great here,” Mills says. “Millions of acres of empty desert, and plenty of roof space. Electricity generation—for me it’s almost ‘problem solved.’”

DEWA, however, is afraid to count on any one solution, however limitless. So by 2030 it plans to get seven percent of its electricity from four nuclear power plants that Abu Dhabi is building; the first is expected to switch on this year. More troubling, DEWA is constructing a plant that will burn coal. It’ll have to be imported, probably from Australia or Indonesia. The electricity will cost 40 percent more than solar power. It makes neither environmental nor economic sense—other than as a hedge against Dubai’s nightmare, an energy shortage that might limit the growth of the city.

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Building Greener

After the profligate boom years, Dubai is also attempting to restrain demand for electricity and water. Prices used to be heavily subsidized, but DEWA raised them substantially, and introduced a progressive scale that rises with consumption. Dubai residents now pay roughly as much for electricity as I pay in Washington, D.C., and about 50 percent more for water—unless they happen to belong to the 10 percent of the population who are citizens of the UAE. Citizens pay less.

New buildings in Dubai aren’t built as if energy and water are limitless, says Al Abbar. Old buildings from before the boom weren’t either: Sheikh Mohammed’s boyhood home featured thick walls, small windows, and wind towers that caught the breeze and funneled it into the shaded courtyard where he played ball. Even the World Trade Centre had deep-set windows and white walls to reflect the heat. But if you stand on its 31st floor today, in the offices of Sheikh Mohammed’s educational foundation, you look out over a city of glass towers.

“There is an expectation from the tenants—they want to see floor-to-ceiling glass,” Al Abbar says. Developers can’t necessarily fight their clients’ desire for spectacular views, he adds; an unoccupied building is an unsustainable one.

Since the economic crisis, Dubai has tightened its green building regulations, as part of a strategy to reduce energy demand by 30 percent. New buildings must have solar water heaters, as well as operational systems that lower lights and thermostats when people are absent. To reach the city’s goal of retrofitting 30,000 older buildings, regulations allow third-party contractors to renovate buildings and take their profits from a portion of the energy savings. “What I’ve seen is a huge change,” Al Abbar says.

The city government is not just imposing rules on building owners, says the municipality’s director general, Hussain Nasser Lootah, an engineer by training. It’s also collaborating with manufacturers on rolling out efficient products for the Dubai market. Philips is making a one-watt LED bulb that will soon be in buildings across the city, Lootah says. And a new Scandinavian low-flow faucet will be installed in all the local mosques this year, inshallah. Observant Muslims practice ritual ablutions before prayer five times a day, washing face, hands, and feet. “They use too much water!” Lootah says. The new faucet delivers 40 percent of the water with 100 percent of the noise, reassuring the faithful that they’re being adequately cleansed.

Faris Saeed, developer of the Sustainable City, which stands (for now) on the edge of the sprawling and less sustainable one, traces the origin of his own project to the financial crisis. A Jordanian engineer who has lived in the UAE since 1995, Saeed runs Diamond Developers. At the height of the boom, he built six towers containing 1,300 apartments in the Dubai Marina. Those days are gone now. “We took a decision as a company that we could never go back to business as usual,” he says.

Saeed’s new development, which will eventually include a school, hotel, an “innovation center,” and a riding stable, currently consists of 500 villas on a compact 114-acre site. The L-shaped houses stand close together on narrow, verdant streets, facing north, such that they shade each other—sun falls onto the windowed facades only in the early morning and late afternoon.

That simple design choice, Saeed says, allows the air-conditioning units to be 40 percent smaller. Extra insulation, reflective windows and paint, and LED lights further cut energy consumption to around half what would be expected for a 3,000 to 4,000 square foot villa in Dubai. “It’s a myth that sustainable has to be more expensive,” Saeed says.

The Sustainable City produces more electricity than it consumes, thanks to solar panels that shade roof terraces and parking lots. Each roof also has a solar water heater. All waste is recycled—the organic stuff is composted and used in a series of dome-shaped greenhouses that occupy a “farm” at the center of the development. “We’re self-sufficient in herbs,” a public relations person says. For other food, residents can walk to the grocery store, just off a central plaza that will be lined with restaurants. On summer evenings they can sit and watch their children play in small squares cooled by wind towers, like the ones at Sheikh Mohammed’s boyhood home, but augmented by fans.

For this sustainable idyll, Saeed says, residents will pay no more than they would at one of the other developments nearby. He’ll even throw in a $10,000 subsidy for an electric car, which leads to the one apparent flaw of Sustainable City: It’s a longish drive from any of the multiple centers of Dubai.

The Curse of the Grandchildren

On a wall in Lootah’s office, a framed series of aerial pictures shows how Dubai has evolved since 1935, when it was an impoverished fishing village huddled around the Creek. At the center is a visualization of the future: It shows a coast even more clogged with artificial islands and peninsulas than it is today. This city has no intention of slowing down. It lives off its expanding footprint: Nearly a quarter of the population works in construction.

Less than a decade ago, tanker trucks were pulling up to modern apartment buildings to pick up sewage, some of which was dumped illegally in the desert. Now nearly all parts of the city—all but the industrial areas and the labor camps, Lootah says—are connected by pipes to two modern sewage treatment plants. A third plant is about to open, and Lootah expects to build several more to keep up with growth. Dubai sees its population doubling, to more than 5 million, by 2030.

“When I was in the States,” Lootah says—in the late 1970s he studied in Pittsburgh, and after that proved too cold, Arizona—“people asked where you come from. ‘Emirates? Where is this? Where is Dubai?’ Now, you ask anybody: They say they love to come to Dubai!”

Lootah credits the Ruler with putting the city on the map. A large portrait of Sheikh Mohammed hangs behind Lootah’s desk, as it does in most Dubai offices. A two-story-high portrait hangs on the façade of the municipality building, alongside that of the Emir of Abu Dhabi, who is president of the UAE. (Sheikh Mohammed is vice president.)

All over Dubai, from Emiratis and expats alike, I heard testimonials to the decisive leadership of Sheikh Mohammed. “We don’t have a lot of formalities,” Lootah says. “Here projects take days to be done, elsewhere years.” It’s not just the lack of red tape that speeds things up—it’s the lack of democratic institutions. Without a free press, political parties, or free elections, there’s little chance of public opposition to projects endorsed by the Ruler.

Planners of Washington, D.C.’s Metro system started sketching a Silver Line to Dulles Airport in the late 1960s; it’s still not finished. Dubai’s Red Line, of comparable length, was planned and built in less than a decade, and its first stretch opened in 2009, at the height of the financial crisis. Even sustainability mavens, aware of how much needs to change, find a lot to cheer in the can-do spirit that trickles down from the Ruler.

“This country has developed so quickly,” says Tanzeed Alam of WWF. “It can change quickly too—because the leadership gets behind it.”

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“As long as they’re making decisions that are good and make sense,” the lack of democracy “is not that big an issue,” says Janus Rostock, chief architect in the Dubai office of Atkins, the firm that designed the Metro, the Burj Al Arab, and most recently, the Dubai Opera, which is shaped like a dhow and opened last year.

Between 2011 and 2016, while the population of Dubai grew by 35 percent, water and electricity consumption grew a bit slower—in other words, per capita consumption is falling, a sign that city efforts are bearing fruit. Per capita carbon emissions have fallen dramatically since the UAE’s world-champion days, according to Dubai Carbon, a government think tank. They’re now comparable to those of the United States, at less than 18 tons per year. “Dubai is pursuing carbon-neutral growth,” says Ivano Iannelli, who heads Dubai Carbon. “The idea is not to increase emissions” as the population grows. But for the foreseeable future, total emissions will keep rising.

Dubai residents may emit no more carbon than average Americans, but they emit nearly three times as much as the average residents of New York City. That’s in part because of Dubai’s legacy of heedless expansion—it’s a sprawling, car-centered city built to be taken in at 75 miles per hour, Rostock says.

He and others are trying to change that. Rostock has led an effort to transform the area around the Burj Khalifa (“a fortress,” he says) and the new opera into a district of ground-floor shops and restaurants that invites people to stroll. And near the Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed’s own Dubai Holding has master-planned a mile-long development, called Jumeirah Central, where hundreds of apartment and office buildings are to be laid out on small, walkable blocks. They’ll be linked by trams and gondolas to the Mall and its Metro stop.

Hereditary rulers, it’s sometimes said, can take a longer view than democratically elected ones. Habiba al Marashi tells me about another saying attributed to Sheik Rashid: Humans need to live in harmony with nature, she says, paraphrasing the father of modern Dubai, “so we have the blessings of our grandchildren and avoid being cursed by future generations.”

But Rashid also didn’t want his descendants to have to ride camels again, and if Dubai succeeds in its current shift toward sustainability, it will be for reasons of hard-headed economics. Dubai is pivoting now, says Rostock, because it has to—because it’s competing with other global cities for business and people, and sustainability is in.

“What we have is a willingness and a push to change Dubai and how it’s perceived by the world,” Rostock says. “Dubai is unique in its dependence on the surrounding world. Dubai doesn’t have the oil. It has to be attractive to two billion people within a four-hour flight.”

People in Glass Houses

On my last evening in Dubai, I finally went skiing. It’s a peculiar experience: You’re in a giant fishbowl, being watched through tall windows by people in the mall. But it’s real skiing, with real snow. As my legs fell into the familiar rhythm, I felt the old familiar pleasure. In a former life, I had spent many winter holidays in the French Alps, and this reminded me of the bunny slopes where my children had learned to ski. To be sure, the only Alps here were painted ones—but there were plenty of real and happy children, playing in the snow and cutting in front of me in the lift line. They seemed blissfully unaware of the unsustainability of their activity, though I admit I didn’t ask.

Once we’ve converted to solar energy, we won’t have to worry about carbon emissions from air conditioning, even on ski slopes. Dubai and the UAE could easily pioneer that transition. By the time the whole world makes it, however, it may get very hot along the Persian Gulf. In Dubai at the height of summer, people already go outside as little as possible. By 2100, according to one recent study, there may be days so hot and humid that going outside could kill you.

Water may become a choke point even sooner. At the National Center of Meteorology & Seismology in Abu Dhabi, meteorologists monitor every cloud that passes over the UAE; if a cloud looks promising, the pilot of one of six planes on standby 24/7 is guided to the right spot to seed it with salt crystals. Researchers say they can tease a few extra millimeters of rain out the atmosphere each year, which helps a bit to recharge the country’s depleted and polluted aquifers.

But those are drops in the bucket; Dubai will always depend on desalination for its drinking water. The problem is not so much the tremendous energy it takes—that will eventually come from the sun—but the hot brine that’s left over and discharged into the Gulf. A shallow, almost closed sea, the Gulf is already 20 percent saltier than the ocean, and it’s getting saltier: In addition to the hypersaline brine pouring into it, dams in Turkey and Iraq are diverting fresh water and climate change is increasing evaporation. In time the Gulf could become too salty to desalinate economically or to support much in the way of marine life. “We still feel we can cope,” says Lootah. With technology, “everything is possible.”

Should this city even be here? I put the question to Tanzeed Alam. We’re sitting in the Sustainable City—where the Emirates Wildlife Society is about to move into new offices “to walk the walk,” he says—but I’m asking about Dubai.

“That’s the wrong question,” Alam says. “It’s more about accepting where we are today, and how do we make that better. It’s a question of the right to develop, and of human beings’ right for a better future. How do we make cities better?”

At Ski Dubai, I don’t stop at the wooden chalet in the middle of the slope, where you can sip hot chocolate in front of an open fire. I’m in a hurry to get on my 14-hour flight back to Washington, where the traffic is among the worst in the U.S.; where the Metro system is on the edge of collapse; where, because of my apartment’s antique heating system, I must leave the windows open in winter to keep the temperature inside below 80 degrees; and where the new administration has promised to dismantle government efforts to address climate change.

As I drive to the airport, a light, tentative rain begins to spatter the taxi’s windshield. I take it as a hopeful sign.

This article is part of our Urban Expeditions series, an initiative made possible by a grant from United Technologies to the National Geographic Society.

Photographer Luca Locatelli worked on the feature story "Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future" in the November 2015 issue of the magazine.

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Is Dubai really a sustainable city? ›

The results are remarkable. In 2021, this community in Dubai avoided more than 8,000 tons of CO2e roughly equivalent to removing 853 cars from the roads for a year. Average daily water consumption stands at 162 liters/capita compared to Dubai's average of 278.

Why is Dubai not sustainable? ›

Furthermore, Dubai is highly dependent on foreign imports for most raw materials and largely bases its economy on manufacturing and construction. This dependence means that Dubai is unable to provide food and water locally and cannot sustainably support its current population.

Is Dubai's way of life environmentally sustainable? ›

In contrast to the global average, residents of the Sustainable City generate just three metric tons of carbon emissions each year. Cars are banned from most of the city, instead, bicycles and electric carts are the main modes of transportation.

Why is Denmark so green? ›

By dedicating their capital to an eco-friendly culture, Denmark is leading by example for its citizens to care for the planet and try to be green. The three major pillars of this environmental protection are bikes, wind, and trash. Offshore wind farms are a staple of Copenhagen.

Is Dubai No 1 city in the world? ›

Dubai has been ranked as the fifth best city in the world in a global report. Resonance Consultancy's World's Best Cities Report 2021 places the Emirate ahead of cities like Tokyo, Singapore and Los Angeles.

What are the 2 most sustainable cities in the world? ›

These are the most sustainable cities in the world right now
  • Tokyo, Japan.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Berlin, Germany.
  • London, UK.
  • Seattle, USA.
  • Paris, France.
  • San Francisco, USA.
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands.
16 Jun 2022

Is life in Dubai stressful? ›

"It is very stressful, as you get to stay here depending on how well you do your job," Shaheen told Insider. "That's a huge burden on anyone, especially for breadwinners and people who come from countries that are not doing well economically."

Is Dubai good for human rights? ›

The government restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and the local media are censored to avoid criticising the government, government officials or royal families. As a result, the UAE routinely ranks near the bottom of many international measures for human rights and press freedom.

What is the biggest problem in Dubai? ›

Major Challenges Facing Dubai and The UAE
  • Limited water sources. ...
  • Overfishing. ...
  • Waste generation. ...
  • Air pollution. ...
  • Land degradation and desertification. ...
  • Delayed Payments. ...
  • Scams, Frauds, and Unsolicited Offers. ...
  • COVID-19 pandemic.
19 Sept 2022

Is quality of life good in Dubai? ›

Best quality of life

86% of respondents in HSBC's 2021 Expat Explorer study said Dubai offers better living standards than their home country.

How does Dubai dispose waste? ›

Most of the waste ends up in municipal landfills or dumpsites, where organic waste generates a large amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Currently, little of the waste is burnt and the rate of municipal waste recycling has been rapidly rising.

Why is Dubai a good example of globalization? ›

Dubai can be best example as it is surrounded by conservative countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia but it is able to attract foreign investors by allowing company to work in tax free environment. Globalization is acculturation of many countries.

What is the least green country? ›

You will instantly see that several of these countries score well on the Environmental Performance Index and the Climate Change Performance Index.
The Least Environmentally Friendly Countries in the World
  • Afghanistan.
  • Sierra Leone.
  • Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Guinea.
  • Madagascar.
  • The Solomon Islands.
  • Chad.
  • Haiti.
22 Dec 2021

What's the most eco friendly country? ›

Here are the Best Countries for Green Living in 2022
  • Switzerland.
  • Finland.
  • Sweden.
  • Norway.
  • Japan.
  • Germany.

What is the greenest place on Earth? ›

The answer is Copenhagen, the world's greenest major city. Denmark's capital has long put sustainability at the top of its agenda, as have many of its inhabitants. Lots more initiatives are taking place this year as the city continues its bid to become carbon-neutral by 2025.

Is Dubai poor or rich? ›

Dubai has a combined wealth of $312bn and is the top city in Africa and the Middle East and the fourth largest wealth center worldwide. The city lives up to its prosperous reputation and provides everything you need to succeed, including the capital, market, world-class infrastructure, and a secure environment.

What is the 1st best city in the world? ›

Overall, Edinburgh, Scotland was named the best city in the world.

Is India rich than Dubai? ›

The UAE currently has 79,000 high-net-worth individuals, 3,400 multimillionaires and 12 billionaires. Meanwhile, India's GDP grew from US$468 billion in 2000 to US$2,869 billion by the end of 2019 becoming the world's fifth-largest economy.

What are green cities called? ›

The sustainable city, eco-city, or green city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact (commonly referred to as the triple bottom line), and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same.

What are 5 features of a sustainable city? ›

Here are the ten characteristics of a sustainable city as a result of environmentally-conscious urban planning.
  • City-Wide Access To Public Transportation. ...
  • Pedestrian- and Bike-Friendly Sidewalks. ...
  • Electric Car Charging Stations. ...
  • Renewable Energy. ...
  • Sustainable Architecture. ...
  • Urban Agriculture And Food Production.
10 Nov 2021

What are 3 ways to make a city sustainable? ›

This means the main ways cities can become greener are to: Reduce the amount of energy and resources used through improving the efficiency of systems, for example transport, and changing citizens' behaviours. Reuse and recycle waste energy and materials. Obtain energy from cleaner sources.

Can we kiss in Dubai? ›

There are certain things you can't do in Dubai and PDA is one of them. In Dubai, holding hands, hugging, and kissing in public is considered socially unacceptable and if caught indulging in such acts, you might land up in jail.

Can men hug in Dubai? ›

- Public displays of affection should be minimal – holding hands is acceptable but kissing and hugging in public is not. - Noise disruptions, bad language, making obscene gestures and showing disrespect in any way to Dubai's religion or its leaders are all forbidden and may land you in legal trouble.

Can you wear shorts in Dubai? ›

Yes, women can wear shorts in Dubai as long as they are not too short. You can wear them at beaches or malls but you should avoid them at local markets and souks. Can men wear shorts in Dubai water parks? It is mandatory in the water parks to wear any kind of swimwear.

Does Dubai have death penalty? ›

The death penalty can be applied in the United Arab Emirates as a capital punishment for crimes endangering the society's safety. It is rarely carried out, however, as a panel of three judges must agree on the decision of a sentence to death and the death penalty may not be executed until it is confirmed by the U.A.E.

Can you drink in Dubai? ›

Alcohol. UAE Residents can drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. Liquor licences are still required for Residents in Dubai but are no longer required for Residents in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates (save for Emirate of Sharjah) to purchase alcohol for personal consumption.

Is Dubai safe at night? ›

Avoid walking around at night by yourself. Dubai may be generally safe, but best to be extra careful, especially in quieter areas of the city or on deserted streets. Some women travelers get mistaken for sex workers. If you need to get around at night, get a taxi.

Is Dubai a crime? ›

In terms of crime, Dubai is one of the safest destinations in the Middle East. 1 The largest city in the United Arab Emirates is a major tourist and business hub and one of the fastest-growing cities with international travelers in the world.

Is lying a crime in Dubai? ›

Even if a false name or capacity has been assumed as part of an ordinary lie, without the support of external instruments, such actions are still deceitful and should be punished according to the law of fraud.

Is Dubai safe to live? ›

Low crime rate

Dubai is a leader in the world rankings of cities regarding the safety of its residents. The government of the UAE has imposed stringent laws, a well-devised impartial justice system and actively invested in modern technology to keep the city safe.

Can I live in Dubai without a job? ›

UAE visa you can get without a job. Although a majority of the expats, which accounts for about 85 percent of the UAE's population, work as an employee in the country and require a work visa to live here, there has, however, been a noteworthy expansion of the visa scheme as announced by the UAE government.

Is Dubai cheap to live? ›

In terms of costs like food, entertainment and activities, Dubai is reasonably expensive (but proportionally lower than rental costs).

Why do people leave Dubai? ›

Lured by almost no taxes, full paid salaries without deductions, sunny beaches and luxurious lifestyle to some point you cannot handle the high expenses of such a lifestyle. High paid professionals are not expecting to come to the UAE and live a lower standard life than theirs in their home country.

What can I do with leftover food in Dubai? ›

Composting food waste in the UAE

If you have outdoor space, try using either the Gobble or Bokashi systems to easily compost at home. These kits come with a special powder to sprinkle on to food waste to encourage it to break down over six to eight weeks. Both units claim to be odourless and rodent-proof.

How do I dispose of a couch in Dubai? ›

The bulky waste collection service helps residents dispose of waste that includes used furniture, electronic and electrical used devices. Any Dubai resident can avail this free service by contacting the Dubai Municipality Call Centre (800900) or via the Dubai 24/7 Application.

What are positive impacts of tourism in Dubai? ›

Tourism is a one source of foreign currency for Dubai, stimulating and accelerating growth of the emirates. Increased foreign currency reserve in the Dubai economy has contributed to stabilizing of United Arab Emirates economy.

Why is Dubai important to the world? ›

Dubai is considered one of the leading cities in the world. It is the most developed and sophisticated city of the United Arab Emirates mainly because of the great amenities, high salaries, outstanding buildings, excellent healthcare system, etc.

What country is all green? ›


With an overall score of 87.42, Switzerland is the greenest country in the world. Switzerland received almost perfect scores for water sanitation and water resources, scoring 99.99 and 99.67 respectively.

What state is green State? ›

The Greenest States in America By MPHOnline
StateOverall RankGreen Energy Rank
Rhode Island41
46 more rows

Which country is known as green country? ›

Sweden. Sweden is by far the most sustainable country within the world. The country has the highest renewable energy usage, lowest carbon emissions, as well as this Sweden has some of the best education programs. By 2045 the country will have reduced their emissions by 85% to 100%.

Which is the cleanest country in the world? ›

The cleanest country in the world is Denmark as per the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Its EPI value is at 82.5. Denmark earned the rank due to low emission of carbon dioxide and having the best sewage treatment system in the world.

Which country has the best pollution? ›

World air quality report
64 more rows

Where is the best country to live? ›

  • Sweden. #1 in Quality of Life. #5 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Denmark. #2 in Quality of Life. #10 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Canada. #3 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Switzerland. #4 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Norway. #5 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Finland. #6 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Germany. #7 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Netherlands. #8 in Quality of Life.

Which is the first greenest city? ›

Mysore is India's 1st and most greenest city in India, even though it is the third highest populated city in Karnataka. Swachh Bharat Urban felicitated and classified Mysore as the greenest city of India.

Which is the greenest city in the world 2022? ›

Telangana's Hyderabad city won the overall 'World Green City Award 2022' and 'Living Green for Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth' award at the International Association of Horticulture Producers (AIPH) World Green City Awards 2022 held in Jeju, South Korea, Friday.

Is Dubai smart and sustainable city? ›

It has been announced and put within the national vision that it is of priority for the Government to transform Dubai into a smart city with an eco-friendly economy. This is under the aim to make it the most sustainable city in the world by 2021.

Can Dubai survive as a city in the desert? ›

Remember, Dubai is deep in the desert and there are no sources of freshwater. To survive, the city uses a carbon intensive process called reverse osmosis desalination to convert 182 million liters of seawater into drinkable water for its nearly 3 million inhabitants every day.

How is Dubai sustaining itself today? ›

With only modest oil reserves, Dubai began to diversify—into finance, real estate, tourism, and aviation—and plunged headlong into expansion, creating a sprawling, car-centric city. Now it's investing in renewable energy, green building, and mass transit for a more sustainable future.

Is Dubai a future city? ›

Dubai is on the way to become the City of the Future

In fact, a quarter of journeys in the city plan to be driverless by 2030 and the trial of autonomous vehicles in Dubai will be launched by the end of 2022.

Why Dubai is a dream city? ›

From the sea to the desert, Dubai is a heaven for tourists. It offers a rich cultural region and dynamic destinations that tourists love to visit here. Dubai has luxurious and iconic hotels and resorts providing easy and cheap services to its tourists. Food lovers this place is the right place for you all.

What are 10 most sustainable cities? ›

The top 10 cities in the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022 are:
  • Tokyo.
  • Copenhagen.
  • Berlin.
  • London.
  • Seattle.
  • Paris.
  • San Francisco.
  • Amsterdam.
21 Jun 2022

Can you hug a man in Dubai? ›

There are certain things you can't do in Dubai and PDA is one of them. In Dubai, holding hands, hugging, and kissing in public is considered socially unacceptable and if caught indulging in such acts, you might land up in jail.

Why is Dubai so rich? ›

Free trade, a low tax rate, and zero income tax have made Dubai a popular business hub and a wealthy state. Dubai is also the gateway to the East and boasts of the world's highest international passenger flow. It is a world-renowned destination for all travelers, including the rich and famous.

Why is Dubai so hot? ›

The climate of Dubai is warm and sunny due to its position near the line of the Tropic of Cancer. During the winter season it has an average daytime temperature of 25 °C (77 °F).

Why Dubai is growing so fast? ›

Discovery of oil

Coupled with the joining of the newly independent country of Qatar and Dubai to create a new currency, the Riyal, after the devaluation of the Persian Gulf rupee which had been issued by the Government of India, it enabled Dubai to rapidly expand and grow.


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