Environment Global Guide - UAE
1. Environmental Regulatory Framework
What are the key pieces of environmental legislation and the regulatory authorities?
Numerous federal and local laws have been enacted in the UAE to protect the integrity of the country’s environmental laws and regulations. Federal Law Number 24 of 1999 for the Protection and Development of Environment (the Environmental Law) is the primary legislation for environmental protection in the UAE. Further, the following legislations have been enacted in pursuant to environment related issues:
Federal Law Number 23 of 1999 regarding Conservation of Aquatic Resources;
Federal Law Number 9 of 1983 regulating the Hunting of Birds and Animals;
Federal Law Number 20 of 2006 (which amended Federal Law Number 1 of 2002) regarding the use of radioactive materials;
Federal Law Number 16 of 2007 concerning animal protection;
Federal Law Number 11 of 2002 regarding the Regulation and Control of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and Executive Order issued by Council of Ministers Decree Number 22 of 2003;
Federal Law Number 5 of 1979 concerning Agricultural Quarantine; and
Federal Law Number 6 of 1979 regarding Veterinary Quarantine.
Further, the following legislations have been enacted by their respective Emirates in pursuant to their local environmental strategies:
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has implemented Law Number 21 of 2005 for Waste Management and Law Number 16 of 2005 Restructuring the Environment Agency, Law Number 13 of 2005 regulating Grazing, Law Number 5 of 2016 regulating the Ground Water. Besides, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi have also enacted the ingenious Decree Number 42 of 2009, concerning the Comprehensive Environment Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS) which aims at accomplishing the protection of Healthy and safe environment;
The Emirate of Dubai have issued numerous orders and regulations for protection of health and environment just as, Local Order Number 61 of 1991 on the Environment Protection Regulations, Local Order Number 8 of 2002 concerning the Sewage, Irrigation and Water Drainage, Local Order Number 11 of 2003 regarding the Public Health Safety of Society and Law Number 15 for the safeguarding the Groundwater;
The Emirate of Sharjah have enacted Law Number 6 of 1998 for incorporating Environment and Natural Resources Authority, similarly, they have Law Number 1 of 1974 for the Protection of Public Health; and
The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has implemented Law Number 2 of 2007 for Environment Protection and Development Authority.
The organizations enumerated below are the key regulatory authorities for supervising environment-related issues in the United Arab Emirates:
Emirates have also established the following local regulatory agencies in order to look into sector-specific environmental issues:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries deals with environment related issues regarding marine and terrestrial matters.
The Federal Environment Agency (the FEA) is a federal governmental body which frames policies for further protection and development of healthy environment while overlooking into the issues of pollution control and environmental standards.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (the EAD) is the principle regulator of the environmental issue in Abu Dhabi. Further, Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (the ERDWA) operates various research centers that deal with both marine and wildlife development.
Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing is the principle authority that is responsible for the development and marketing of tourism in the Dubai. This agency also ensures that safe environmental practices are followed while encouraging tourism practices in the Emirate. The Environment Department at the Dubai Municipality is the strategic regulator of environment-related issues in the urban city.
The Department of Environment and Protected Areas for the preservation of endangered species is conferred with the duty to mandate the conservation of endangered wildlife in the Emirate of Sharjah.
The UAE has endeavored to safeguard the integrity of its geological environment by enforcing numerous legislations and regulations that impact the country’s domestic and international goals. The Industrial Emissions Directive directly has not had any direct or indirect impact on the United Arab Emirates since it mainly concentrates on the environmental issues that surround the European Continent. Whereas, the countries in the Middle East face a varied condition of environmental issue due to the surfeit of population that flows into the region every year and the region’s abundance of oil and natural gas exploration projects. However, the United Arab Emirates has strived to achieve their domestic environmental strategies by enforcing stringent legislations regarding the matter.
2. Regulatory Enforcement
To what extent are environmental requirements enforced by regulators?
The United Arab Emirates has initiated various environmental strategies with the view to meet the growing population and the national mandate of conserving the country’s resources. Vision 2021 has been initiated by the government in order to attain sustainable development vide diversification in national economy and increase in investments in sectors that include clean energy, sustainable development, information technology, space technology and the like. Further, Abu Dhabi and Dubai has also initiated local strategies such as Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 and Dubai Plan 2021 with the primary objective of economic diversification and sustainable development. The recent unveil of UAE’s Energy Plan 2050 announcement has been much awaited due to its significance in transforming the country’s energy sector into a clean energy sector by the year 2050. The project was primarily intended to access the feasibility of making a transition to the nation’s energy sector into 70% - 100% renewable resources. The importance of this project lies in the underlying fact that a major portion of the country’s economy is derived from the oil and gas sector.
UAE is the home to one of the most sector specific economies on the globe with major interests in the oil and gas industry. Therefore, the federal government and the respective governments of the Emirates has strived to achieve economic development by reducing carbon emissions and employing innovative technologies to improve industrial efficiency.
Further, the government has laid down a federal legislative framework for waste management that has defined a national roadmap for integrated waste management. The Blue Carbon Demonstration Project was also initiated in 2013 with the view to provide a strategic understanding of the carbon sequestration in Abu Dhabi. However, the jurisdiction of the initiative was expanded to cover the whole nation in the subsequent year due to the effectiveness of the project in the capital Emirate.
3. Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
To what extent are environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups active?
Various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and pressure groups have undertaken varied sector specific initiatives in the UAE. NGOs working towards the fulfillment of environment-related goals in the country plays a pivotal role in adjusting the void in the society by educating them about the sustainable lifestyle practices. A few major NGOs in the UAE which are engaged in safeguarding the various aspects of environmental protection laws in the country have been mentioned below:
Emirates Natural History Group is an Abu-Dhabi based organization which is engaged in safeguarding the natural history of UAE and Oman. This organization is also a member of the World Conservation Union (the IUCN);
Environment Friends Society is an Abu-Dhabi based organization which works towards creating a public awareness regarding environment-related predicaments;
Emirates Environment Group is a Dubai-based organization that is devoted to protecting the environment by educating the society about the need of the hour to protect the environment;
Dubai Natural History Group is a Dubai-based organization that conducts surveys and research regarding issues that are hazardous to the nation’s environment;
Arabian Leopard Trust was established in Sharjah to promote the conservation of endangered wildlife species, specifically the Arabian Leopard;
Emirates Wildlife Society in association with World Wild Fund for Nature (the WWF) has been established due to a rising need to protect biodiversity at key sites across the country.
Further, two other major pressure groups that are active and involved in the protection and conservation of the environment in UAE are:
Environment and Wildlife Management System(EWM) that is accountable for handling wildlife collections and land owned by Abu Dhabi royal family; and
Emirates Health Club that primarily focuses on the protection and preservation of marine and coastal resources.
4. Environmental Permits
Is there an integrated permitting regime or are there separate environmental regimes for different types of emission? Can companies apply for a single environmental permit for all activities on a site or do they have to apply for separate permits?
Integrated/separate permitting regime
The Department of Economic Development of the respective Emirate is responsible for the licensing and registration of the companies that intend to conduct business within the political borders of the Emirate. However, the companies are also mandated to obtain necessary permits regarding the safety of the environment from the respective authorities that regulate environmental concerns in the respective Emirate. To learn more on compliance and permits, please visit our blog or get in touch with one of our lawyers in Dubai.
These permits may be either integrated or separate in nature depending upon the underlying project and the ambit of environmental conditions that are affected.
5. Permits and Regulator
What is the framework for the integrated permitting regime?
In Abu Dhabi, EAD is accountable for protection and enhancement of the environment by reducing pollutants in air, water, and land. in pursuant to the Environment Law, all the projects and establishments are under an obligation to procure an environmental permit prior to initiating any project. EAD provides permits for development and infrastructure projects, industrial facilities, and hazardous material stores.
Further, in accordance with the provisions of Law Number 16 of 2005, EAD is the competent authority to safeguard the environmental and natural resources of Abu Dhabi by providing necessary permits to companies after assessing the risk of pollution involved in the project.
The Environment Department in Dubai Municipality provides permits and licenses that succor companies to conduct their commercial or industrial activities in the Emirate after assessing the harm that the project may pose to the environment.
Length of permit
The permit issued by EAD is renewable every year in order to assure the compliance of the regulations and conditions and for the up gradation.
Restrictions on transfer
A permit that has been awarded to a company by the competent environmental authority may not be transferred to a third-party.
Non-compliance of EAD regulations will attract penalties amounting to minimum AED 5,000.
6. Water Pollution
What is the regulatory regime for water pollution (whether part of an integrated regime or separate)?
Permits and regulatory
The EAD along with the Regulation and Supervision Bureau for Water, Waste Water and Electricity in Abu Dhabi is responsible for regulating the discharge of waste effluents into the Emirate’s water resources. They mandate the wastewater and marine water quality monitoring that arises from ‘Technical Guidance Document for the Permitting of Marine Dredging Operations in Abu Dhabi’.
Further, Trakhees of the Department of Planning and Development under the Ports, Customs and Free Zones Corporation of the Government of Dubai primarily overlooks the issues related to water pollution by companies in the Emirate of Dubai. This authority has laid down a standard of discharge of water pollutants into the water resources of the Emirate. They also issue ‘Harbour Discharge Permit’ that enables companies to discharge waste pollutants that do not exceed the general standard that has been set by the authority.
The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has banned companies from the production, manufacture, formulation, circulation, import and use of certain pesticides that has been elucidated vide Ministerial Decree 849 of 2010 on the amendment of Ministerial Decision Number 554 for 2009 concerning the prohibited and restricted use of pesticides in the UAE. Further, this Ministry issues such decrees from time to time in order to protect the country’s water and other resources.
Parties that violate the provisions of the legislations that have been instituted to safeguard UAE’s water resources would be liable to any civil action that arises out of such violations. Article 71 of the Environment Law has clearly laid down that parties would be responsible for bearing all costs associated with any damage that has been caused to the environment. Further, the violating parties may also be asked to compensate individuals for the losses they incurred due to the pollution caused by the former. Organizations that succor the national cause of environmental protection may also institute civil litigation suits against the offenders. To learn more about litigation claims, please consult one of our lawyers in Abu Dhabi.
The Environmental Law has imposed stringent criminal and civil penalties onto offenders of the provisions of the Environment Law. The offenders may be liable to pay heavy fines ranging from AED 10,000 to AED 1,000,000 and imprisonment depending upon the gravity of the issue. However, companies that dump their industrial or commercial waste into water bodies, which in turn pollutes the same would be imposed with a fine ranging from AED 10,000 to AED 100,000.
7. Air Pollution
What is the regulatory regime for air pollution (whether part of an integrated regime or separate)?
The Air Quality Department of the Ministry of Environment and Water regulates the pollution of air in the nation by issues a number of decrees and air standards in the nation. The EAD is the key authority regarding issues surrounding air pollution within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Further, Trakhees of the Department of Planning and Development under the Ports, Customs and Free Zones Corporation of the Government of Dubai primarily overlooks the issues related to air pollution by companies in the Emirate of Dubai. This authority has laid down a standard of discharge of air pollutants with the view to maintain ambient air quality in Dubai.
The Environmental Law has not explicitly stated about any specific commercial or industrial business that is prohibited from conducting its activities in the country due to its concerns over the air pollution. However, Article 4 of the Environmental Law has stated that no project or establishment could commence its activity unless it has conducted a detailed study of its effects on the environment.
Parties that violate the provisions of the legislations that have been instituted to safeguard UAE’s water resources would be liable to any civil action that arises out of such violations. Article 71 of the Environment Law has clearly laid down that parties would be responsible for bearing all costs associated with any damage that has been caused to the environment. Further, the violating parties may also be asked to compensate individuals for the losses they incurred due to the pollution caused by the former. Organizations that succor the national cause of environmental protection may also institute civil litigation suits against the offenders.
The Environmental Law has imposed offenders with fines ranging from AED 2,000 to AED 20,000. Further, the statute has also imposed any criminal liability on an offender depending upon the nature and extent of pollution.
8. Climate Change, Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency
Are there any national targets or legal requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy (such as wind power) and/or increasing energy efficiency (for example in buildings and appliances)? Is there a national strategy on climate change, renewable energy and/or energy efficiency?
Companies in the United Arab Emirates are mandated to follow the guidelines and monitoring systems that have been established by the competent authorities regarding the disposal of effluents into the nation’s resources. Therefore, legislations (including the Environmental Law) has imposed a legal responsibility to the residents of the nation.
Further, the UAE has initiated various environmental strategies with the view to meet the growing population and the national mandate of conserving the country’s resources. Vision 2021 has been initiated by the government in order to attain sustainable development vide diversification in national economy and increase in investments in sectors that include clean energy, sustainable development, information technology, space technology and the like. Further, Abu Dhabi and Dubai has also initiated local strategies such as Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 and Dubai Plan 2021 with the primary objective of economic diversification and sustainable development. The recent unveil of UAE’s Energy Plan 2050 announcement has been much awaited due to its significance in transforming the country’s energy sector into a clean energy sector by the year 2050. The project was primarily intended to access the feasibility of making a transition to the nation’s energy sector into 70% - 100% renewable resources. The importance of this project lies in the underlying fact that a major portion of the country’s economy is derived from the oil and gas sector.
9. Treaty Framework
Is your jurisdiction party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and/or the Kyoto Protocol? How have the requirements under those international agreements been implemented?
UAE ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol) in 2005 and became a non-Annex 1 country. Therefore, the UAE is not obligated to reduce its carbon emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. However, the nation has opted to reduce its emissions by tracking the pollutants in the air and assessing policies for reducing GHG emissions. Further, UAE agreed to generate 24% of its energy from renewable resources at the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015. Although UAE is not under any legal obligation to do so, the nation has initiated various national and local strategies in order to attain a higher level of energy efficiency while reducing the total emissions and burning of fuel in the country.
10. Carbon Emissions and Carbon Trading
What, if any, emissions/carbon trading schemes operate in your jurisdiction?
UAE has exhibited high potential for increased use of carbon trading schemes, although the concept is relatively novel in the Middle East. Major free zones such as the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre in Dubai has entered the carbon sector since Dubai has been transforming into a centre for trading of greenhouse gas emissions permits. The primary phase of the carbon trading scheme in the UAE was aimed at collecting approximately 6.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from industrial facilities that could later be transported and employed in oil reservoirs in order to enhance the process of oil recovery. However, the carbon trading market of the nation is still in its initial stages and the viability of this scheme could only be comprehended once the sector has established itself in the UAE.
11. Environmental Impact Assessments
Are there any requirements to carry out environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for certain types of projects?
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a process that has been used to identify, evaluate and predict the social, ecological and related biological effects of the proposed policy or a project on the environment. Requirements for carrying out the EIA are compulsory for certain types of projects where the extent of potential environmental impacts is undetermined at the design phase. Further, the result of the project will provide an indication of which environmental aspect of the proposed project creates an impact on the environment.
Permits and regulator
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the EAD is the regulator to provide permits to carry out EIAs; whereas, the Environment Planning and Studies Section (EPSS) of Environment Department in Dubai Municipality issues permits in Dubai.
Further, the project owner should submit the following documents that are required for EIA process:
These reports and documents and any other technical report should bear the signature of the authorized person who prepared the report and must bear the signature of the project owner.
Penalties for non-compliance of EIA may vary from AED 1,000 to AED 10,00,000 along with criminal liability that may amount to imprisonment for up to one year.
What is the Regulatory Regime for Waste?
Permits and regulator
In the Emirate of Abu-Dhabi, the regulatory authority EAD and the Centre for waste Management- Abu-Dhabi (CVM), that issues the license, approval and permit for waste management. Further, they provide permits for waste management, transportation, recycling, storage and trading of waste. (Law Number 21 of 2005 on waste management)
In the Emirate of Dubai, Sustainable Waste Management (DMSWM) of the Dubai Municipality issues the permits and licenses to the waste operators in the Emirate. Similarly, the respective municipalities of the other Emirates undertake all responsibilities regarding waste management in their respective Emirate.
The regulatory regime for waste prohibits the open burning of any waste unless that is specifically permitted by EAD and CVM. Further, they also prohibit the open dumping of waste in desert, open area and highway sides.
Operators must follow the enumerated criteria to operate the waste disposal sites:
Seek preliminary approval from the competent authority.
Storage, disposal and processing facilities must comply with the regulations laid down by the authority.
Operators must not obtain any hazardous materials unless they seek approval of competent authority on site.
Operators must seek for annual approval from the competent authority for recurrent shipments for hazardous wastes.
Special rules for certain waste
Hazardous waste including asbestos, medical waste, slaughterhouses, fallen stocks and oil and gas waste are mandated to be disposed of in accordance with the respective legislation dealing with those materials (Federal Cabinet Resolution Number 39 of 2006 on banning the import and production of asbestos).
Parties who violate the provisions of the Environmental Law regarding waste management will be slapped with a fine that may extend up to AED 20,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than one year.
(Contributed to Thompson Reuters Questionnaire (Environment Guide 2017-2018)