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Environmental law and practice in the United Arab Emirates: overview

Published on : 10 Jun 2017

Environmental regulatory framework

  1. What are the key pieces of environmental legislation and the regulatory authorities?

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The primary legislation for environmental protection in the UAE is Federal Law Number 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment (Environmental Law).

Other laws relevant to environmental issues are:

  • 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 regarding the use of radioactive materials (which amended Federal Law No. 1 of 2002).
  • 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 an executive order issued by the Council of Ministers Decree No. 22 of 2003.
  • Federal Law Number 5 of 1979 concerning agricultural quarantine.
  • Federal Law Number 6 of 1979 regarding veterinary quarantine.

The following laws have been enacted by their respective emirates concerning their local environmental strategies:

  • Abu Dhabi. Legislation includes:
    • Law Number 21 of 2005 for waste management;
    • Law Number 16 of 2005 restructuring the Environment Agency;
    • Law Number 13 of 2005 regulating grazing;
    • Law Number 5 of 2016 regulating groundwater;
    • Decree Number 42 of 2009, concerning the comprehensive environment health and safety management system (EHSMS).
  • Dubai. Some of the orders and regulations relating to environmental protection are:
    • Local Order Number 61 of 1991 on the environment protection regulations;
    • Local Order Number 8 of 2002 concerning sewage, irrigation and water drainage;
    • Local Order Number 11 of 2003 regarding public health;
    • Law Number 15 for the protection of groundwater.
  • Sharjah Laws include:
    • Law Number 6 of 1998 for incorporating the environment and natural resources authority;
    • Law Number 1 of 1974 for the protection of public health.
  • Ras Al Khaimah.This emirate has enacted Law Number 2 of 2007 for the environment protection and development authority.

Regulatory authorities

The principal federal regulatory authorities for supervising environmental issues are:

  • Federal Environment Agency (FEA).This is a federal governmental body which frames policies for further protection and development of a healthy environment and oversees pollution control and environmental standards.
  • Federal Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. The Ministry manages all aspects of climate change including implementing climate change policies and initiatives.
  • Air Quality Department of the Ministry of Environment and Water. This regulates the air pollution in the nation by issuing decrees and air standards.
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. This deals with marine and land environmental matters.

Emirates have also established local regulatory agencies to supervise sector-specific environmental issues, as follows:

  • Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi (EAD) is the principal regulator for environmental matters in Abu Dhabi, while the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERDWA) operates research centres for marine and wildlife development.
  • Regulation and Supervision Bureau for Water, Waste Water and Electricity (Abu Dhabi).
  • Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai has the dual responsibilities of ensuring that safe environmental practices are followed while encouraging tourism practices. The environment department at the Dubai municipality is the strategic regulator of environment-related issues in the urban environment of the city of Dubai.
  • Department of Environment and Protected Areas for the preservation of endangered species is responsible for the conservation of endangered wildlife in the emirate of Sharjah.

Regulatory enforcement

  1. To what extent are environmental requirements enforced by regulators?

The Environmental Law (Federal Law Number 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment) sets outs criminal and civil penalties for environmental offenses, which are enforced by the relevant authority, depending on the type of offense committed.

See Questions 67 and 11 to 13.

Environmental NGOs

  1. To what extent are environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other pressure groups active?

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Various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and pressure groups have been involved in a range of sector-specific initiatives including the following:

  • Emirates Natural History Group, an Abu Dhabi-based organization, is engaged in safeguarding the natural history of the UAE and Oman. It is also a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
  • Environment Friends Society, also based in Abu Dhabi, works towards raising public awareness on environment-related issues.
  • Emirates Environment Group is a Dubai-based organization committed to protecting the environment through education.
  • Dubai Natural History Group conducts surveys and research into activities 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 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) aims to protect biodiversity in the major sites across the country.

Two other major pressure groups that are active in the protection and conservation of the environment are:

  • Environment and Wildlife Management System (EWM) that is accountable for handling wildlife collections and land owned by Abu Dhabi royal family.
  • Emirates Health Club that primarily focuses on the protection and preservation of marine and coastal resources.

Environmental permits

  1. Is there an integrated permitting regime or are there separate environmental systems 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

Companies that intend to conduct business in a particular emirate are required to obtain the necessary environmental permits from the respective authorities that regulate environmental concerns in that emirate (see Question 1).

Single/separate permits

These permits may be either integrated or separate in nature depending on the underlying project and the ambit of environmental conditions that are affected.

  1. What is the framework for the integrated permitting regime?

Permits and regulator

In Abu Dhabi, Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi (EAD) is responsible for protection and enhancement of the environment by reducing pollutants in the air, in the water, and on land. All operators or entities must obtain an environmental permit before beginning any project (Environmental Law (Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment)). EAD provides grants for development and infrastructure projects, industrial facilities, and hazardous material stores.

The EAD also has a duty to safeguard environmental and natural resources by assessing the risk of pollution involved in the project before granting permits to companies (Law No. 16 of 2005).

The Environment Department of Dubai Municipality (see Question 1) issues permits and licenses that allow companies to conduct their commercial or industrial activities in the emirate after assessing any potential environmental risks.

Length of permit

The license issued by EAD is renewable every year to ensure that an operator or entity maintains compliance with the regulations and conditions and also to ensure that they conform with the most recent laws.

Restrictions on transfer

A permit that has been awarded to a company by the competent environmental authority cannot be transferred to a third party.


Non-compliance with EAD regulations attracts a fine of at least AED5,000.

Water pollution and Abstract

  1. What is the regulatory regime for water pollution (whether part of an integrated regime or separate)?

Permits and regulator

Lawyers in Abu DhabiThe Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi (EAD), along with the Regulation and Supervision Bureau for Water, Waste Water and Electricity in Abu Dhabiis responsible for regulating the discharge of waste effluents into water resources. These authorities enforce the wastewater and marine water quality monitoring regime set out in the guidance document issued by the EAD (Technical Guidance Document for the Permitting of Marine Dredging Operations in Abu Dhabi).

Dubai's Ports, Customs, and Free Zones Corporation (Trakhees, which is part of the Dubai Department of Planning and Development) primarily oversees issues related to water pollution in that emirate. This authority prescribes standards for the discharge of water pollutants into water resources, and issues harbor discharge permits that allow companies to discharge waste pollutants as long as they do not exceed the maximum standards set by the authority.

Prohibited activities

The Federal Ministry of Climate Change and Environment bans companies from producing, manufacturing, formulating, circulating, importing and using certain pesticides prescribed by law (Ministerial Decree 849 of 2010 on the amendment of Ministerial Decision No. 554 for 2009 concerning the prohibited and restricted use of pesticides). The Ministry also issues decrees from time to time for the protection of the country's water and other resources.


Parties violating any of the country's water pollution laws are liable to civil actions and are responsible for all costs associated with any damage to the environment caused by their actions (Article 71, Environment Law (Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment)). Offending parties can also be asked to compensate individuals for the losses caused by the pollution. NGOs can also institute civil suits against environmental offenders.


Offenses under the provisions of the Environment Law also attract stringent criminal and civil penalties. Offenders are liable to fines ranging from AED10,000 to AED1 million and a prison sentence, depending on the gravity of the offense.

Companies convicted of polluting water bodies with industrial or commercial waste are liable to a fine ranging from AED10,000 to AED100,000

  1. What is the regulatory regime for air pollution (whether part of an integrated regime or separate)?

Permits and Regulator

Water abstraction is the process of extracting water from a natural source, such as lakes, rivers or the ground, and using it for activities including, but not limited to, drinking, industrial applications and irrigation. The regulatory regime for water abstraction is an integrated regime [** Please explain what you mean by "integrated regime" in this context] and is covered under various legislations.

Abu Dhabi. Law No. 5 of 2016 concerning the regulation of groundwater in Abu Dhabi governs water abstraction. Water supply and sanitation in Abu Dhabi is the responsibility of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA). Law No. 2 of 1998 concerning the regulation of the water and electricity sector in the emirate of Abu Dhabi also covers water abstraction.

Dubai. Law No. 15 of 2008 for the protection of groundwater in Dubai covers water abstraction. The relevant authority is the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

Prohibited Activities

Any throwing, compiling or burying of materials that will cause change in the natural or chemical composition or properties of the groundwater is strictly prohibited by the Dubai municipality (Article 14, Law No. 15 of 2008 for the protection of groundwater in Dubai). Disposing of dead animals or establishing cemeteries is restricted near the water basin areas or the impact areas.


The Dubai municipality is authorised to charge for the licences or services relating to the provisions and regulations under Law No. 15 of 2008 for the protection of groundwater in Dubai, which range from AED100 to AED20,000.


Any person who violates any of the provisions or regulations of Law No. 15 of 2008 for the protection of groundwater in Dubai is liable to a fine ranging from AED100 to AED500,000, and in the case of a recurring offence within the same year, the fine will be doubled. The Dubai municipality is also authorised to cancel or suspend the licence for a maximum of one month (see Question 5), effect the closing of the well, withhold the tools or equipment causing such violation, and/or destroy such tools or equipment. If the violating party fails to pay the fine, the municipality is entitled to hold a public auction in which such tools or equipment will be sold for the settlement of the fines arising from the violation. 

Air Pollution

  1. What is the regulatory regime for air pollution (whether part of an integrated regime or separate)?

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Permits and Regulator

The Air Quality Department of the Ministry of Environment and Water regulates air pollution by issuing decrees and air standards.

The EAD is the main authority for regulating air pollution in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai's Ports, Customs and Free Zones Corporation primarily supervises air pollution by companies in Dubai and sets maximum standards of discharge of air pollutants for air quality purposes. [** Are there any relevant permits?]

Prohibited Activities

The Environmental Law does not explicitly prohibit businesses from conducting activities, but no operator or entity is allowed to commence activities unless it has conducted a detailed study of their effects on the environment (Article 4, Environmental Law).


Parties that violate any provisions concerning air pollution in the Environmental Law are liable to a civil action and are responsible for all costs associated with any damage caused to the environment by their actions (Article 71, Environmental Law). They can also be asked to compensate individuals for any losses they incur from the polluting activities. NGOs can also institute civil litigation suits against environmental offenders.


Fines ranging from AED2,000 to AED20,000 can be imposed on offenders, as well as criminal liability, depending on the nature and extent of the pollution (Article 83, Environmental Law).

Climate Change

  1. Is your jurisdiction party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement? How are the requirements under those international agreements implemented or being implemented?

UAE ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol) in 2005 and became a non-Annex 1 country, meaning it is not obliged to reduce its carbon emissions following the Protocol. However, the nation has opted to reduce its emissions by tracking the pollutants in the air and assessing policies for reducing GHG emissions. It also agreed (at the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015) to generate 24% of its energy from renewable resources. Although UAE is not under any legal obligation to do so, the nation has initiated various national and local strategies to improve energy efficiency while reducing the total emissions and burning of fossil fuels (see Question 8).

  1. Are there any national targets or legal requirements for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? How far are the targets aligned with the 1.5-degree target in the Paris Agreement, if at all? Has a climate emergency been declared? Is there a national strategy on climate change?

The UAE has initiated various environmental strategies to meet the growing population and the national goal of conserving the country's resources.

UAE Vision 2021 has the aim of attaining sustainable development to accompany diversification in the national economy and to increase investment in sectors such as clean energy, sustainable development, information technology and space technology.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have 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 (long-awaited) unveiling of UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 aims to transform the country's energy sector into a clean energy sector by the year 2050, with the following long-term targets:

  • Clean energy: 44%.
  • Gas: 38%.
  • Clean coal: 12%.
  • Nuclear energy: 6%.

This is a significant challenge since the economy has historically depended on the oil and gas sector.

Federal government and the respective emirates' governments are working to achieve economic development by reducing carbon emissions and employing innovative technologies to improve industrial efficiency.

The government has also set out a federal legislative framework for waste management, including an integrated waste management regime.

In addition, the Blue Carbon Demonstration Project was initiated in 2013 to provide a strategic understanding of carbon sequestration (removal and storage of carbon gases) in Abu Dhabi. The scope of the initiative was expanded to cover the whole nation in 2014 due to the effectiveness of the project in Abu Dhabi.

  1. Do any emissions/carbon trading schemes operate?

There is much potential for the 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, have entered the carbon sector and Dubai is becoming a centre for trading greenhouse gas emissions permits. The primary phase of the carbon trading scheme in the UAE was aimed at collecting about 6.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from industrial facilities that could later be transported and employed in oil reservoirs to enhance the process of oil recovery.

However, the carbon trading market is still in its initial stages and the viability of this scheme can only be properly assessed once the sector has been established for longer.

Renewable Energy 

  1. Are there any national targets or legal requirements for increasing the use of renewable energy (such as wind or solar power)? Is there a national strategy on renewable energy?

The UAE launched the Energy Strategy 2050 (see Question 10). The strategy targets renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) along with other energy sources to meet the economic requirements and international environmental goals. The plan includes:

  • 44% clean energy.
  • 38% gas.
  • 12% clean coal.
  • 6% nuclear energy.

The strategy aims to connect at both the national and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) level through the GCC power grid (that is, the power grid authority established by the GCC countries).

  1. Do any renewables support schemes operate?

The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to support the efficient use of renewable energy sources (see Question 10). Several other schemes and energy projects aim to increase the use of renewable sources, reduce waste and achieve sustainable urban development.

Abu Dhabi

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, one of the world's most sustainable urban communities, focuses on and supports the use of renewable energy, and has created various renewable energy projects. It has also contributed to the development of technologies for water desalination and thermal energy storage, among others.


The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to create an environment-friendly energy mix comprising of renewable energy sources.


The green building committee in Ajman Municipality and Planning Department supports energy conservation efforts.

[** Would it be possible to provide a bit more detail on the support schemes mentioned above?]

Energy Efficiency

  1. Are there any national targets for increasing energy efficiency (for example, in buildings and appliances) or legal requirements for achieving energy efficiency standards? Is there a national strategy on energy efficiency?

One of the national strategies on energy efficiency is the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) was established in 2009 and oversees all aspects of energy in Dubai to ensure the efficient use of energy. According to this energy strategy, Dubai aims for a share of 15% of renewable energy in the total energy mix by 2030. Some targets set out in the strategy include the following:

  • 27% clean energy by 2021 (UAE Vision 2021). 
  • 50% target for power generation from clean energy by 2050 (National Energy Strategy 2050)
  • Abu Dhabi: 7% renewable energy target by 2020. 
  • Dubai: 7% renewable energy target by 2020, 25% by 2030 and 75% by 2050 (Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050).

Top Best Law Firms in UAEThe principal legislation governing soil pollution and the use of hazardous materials on the land is Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment (Environmental Law) Various local laws have also been enacted by Emirates to combat specific issues relating to contaminated land in their respective jurisdiction.

  1. Do any mandatory or voluntary labelling schemes exist to identify energy efficient goods or buildings?

The ADWEA anticipates that the majority of electricity consumption in 2030 will come from residential and commercial buildings. The building sector’s total energy use is expected to reach 0.7 exajoule (EJ) by 2030.

The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) has launched an efficiency-labelling scheme for window and split-unit air conditioning systems in order to eliminate highly inefficient units from the market. This scheme aims to cut energy use by 500 megawatts (MW) per year.

Abu Dhabi

Efforts have been made by the Emirates Energy Star (EES) to reduce the GHG emissions by retrofitting existing buildings in the UAE with energy-saving control systems, which will result in energy saving of 10% to 35%. [** Are these labelled as such?]


Green building specifications and standards were issued in Dubai in 2014, according to which new buildings would have to adhere to such requirements from 2014 onwards. The DSCE oversees the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 to ensure the efficient use of energy. [** Are there any applicable labels?]

See also Question 16.

  1. Do any energy efficiency support schemes operate?

[** When we talk about "support schemes", we mean schemes offering support (financial or otherwise) to business or individuals to make their buildings/projects more energy efficient. Are there any such schemes in the UAE?]

Environmental Impact Assessments

  1. Are there any requirements to carry out environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for certain types of projects?


An EIA must be undertaken for certain types of projects. The EAD has released a list of projects that may potentially require an EIA in accordance with the Environmental Law, including fossil natural resources projects, non-fossil natural resources projects, industrial projects and agricultural projects among others. This list can be found in a document released by the EAD (Permitting of Development and Infrastructure in Abu Dhabi (EAD, EQ-PCE-SOP-02)) where the extent of potential environmental impact is undetermined at the design phase. The result of the EIA will give an indication of which specific aspect(s) of the proposed project creates an impact on the environment.

Permits and Regulator

In Abu Dhabi, the EAD grants permits to carry out projects on the basis of EIAs, while in Dubai, the Environment Planning and Studies Section (EPSS) of Environment Department in Dubai Municipality issues permits.

The following documents must be submitted for the EIA process:

  • EIA summary.
  • EIA report.
  • EIA checklist.

These reports and documents and any other technical report must be signed by the authorised person who prepared the report and by the project owner.


Penalties for non-compliance with an EIA vary from AED1,000 to AED1 million, and a prison sentence of up to one year for criminal liability.

Habitats and Biodiversity

  1. What requirements and regimes apply for the conservation of nature, habitats and biodiversity that affect development? What assessments or obligations are required before any development begins?

Requirements and Regimes

The UAE joined and ratified the 1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in 2007, which promotes and supports wildlife sanctuaries and the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity in the territory.

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) was signed in 2001 and binds all the emirates of the GCC. It helps in the co-ordination of activities towards the protection and conservation of wildlife and natural habitats. The signatory countries are called to undertake development projects and implement policies for the protection of wildlife, which includes all flora and fauna, and to ensure sustainability by enacting proper legislation. The killing or hunting of animals is also banned under the Bern Convention.

The UAE signed the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention) in 2009, under which efforts have been made to conserve the migratory species on a global scale. This convention aims for the preservation of both aquatic and terrestrial migratory species.

The UAE is a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims to conserve the biological diversity through the appropriate and sustainable use of its components. This is achieved by formulating national strategies that are developed for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The UAE is also a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which intends to protect the endangered plants and animals and to ensure the survival of such endangered species.

The UAE is a party or signatory to many conventions and regimes which aim to achieve the conservation of nature, habitats and biodiversity, and which have been implemented in the territory of the UAE.

Prior Assessments and Obligations

Any country that signs or becomes a party to any of the conventions must carry out environmental assessments before the beginning of any development project in order to stipulate the current condition of the environment in the territory and to assess the impact of such projects. A mechanism or system also must be developed for following up the implementation of the ratified environmental standards and requirements of each state.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Regulatory Regime 

  1. What is the regulatory regime for waste?

Permits and Regulator

[** Are the permits mentioned below single or can they be integrated into a general permit covering all polluting activities?]

Abu Dhabi. The EAD and the Center for Waste Management Abu Dhabi (CWM) (Tadweer, an integrated environmental company in the Middle East) issue the licences, approval and permits for waste management in that emirate. They also provide permits for:

  • Waste management.
  • Transportation.
  • Recycling.
  • Storage.
  • Trading of waste.

(Law No. 21 of 2005 on waste management.)

Dubai. In Dubai, as in the other emirates, the municipality's Sustainable Waste Management department issues permits and licences to waste operators, and undertakes all responsibilities relating to waste management in the emirate.

Prohibited Activities

The regulatory regime for waste prohibits the open burning of any waste unless that is specifically permitted by the EAD and the CWM. They also prohibit the open dumping of waste in desert, open area and highway verges.

Operator Criteria

Operators of waste disposal sites must:

  • Seek preliminary approval from the competent authority.
  • Comply with the regulations laid down by the authority for storage, disposal and processing facilities.
  • Seek approval of the competent authority before storing any hazardous materials on site.
  • Seek annual approval from the competent authority for recurrent shipments of hazardous wastes.

Special Rules for Certain Waste

Hazardous waste including asbestos, medical waste, waste from slaughterhouses and oil and gas waste must be disposed of in accordance with the specific legislation dealing with those materials (for example, Federal Cabinet Resolution No. 39 of 2006 on banning the import and production of asbestos) (see Question 21).


Violations of the waste management provisions of the Environmental Law can incur a fine of at least AED10,000 and up to AED20,000 and/or a prison sentence of at least one year (Article 78, Environmental Law).

National Strategy, Targets and Producer Responsibilities 

  1. Is there a national strategy to tackle particular types of waste (such as plastics waste or marine litter)? What waste targets exist? What producer responsibility schemes exist? 

National Strategy

The Environmental Law prohibits any deliberate litter or dumping from ships, other industrial installations and any other means into the marine environment, as well as the international disposal of pollutant waste in the UAE.


The EAD devised a policy to eradicate the use of avoidable single-use plastic by 2021 through a culture of recycling and re-using, and by promoting more sustainable practices in the community.

Waste issues are being handled by recycling efforts, such as the conversion of waste to energy and resources through improved waste separation and collection systems. The CWM in Abu Dhabi is responsible for the strategy and policy of waste management in the jurisdiction. A "Recycling Hub" was established in Dubai as an electronics recycling facility, which is also the world’s largest integrated electric and electronic waste recycling facility.

The UAE launched the integrated waste management plan, among other recycling efforts, which aims to divert 75% of waste from landfills by 2021.

Producer Responsibility Schemes

See above, Targets.


  1. What is the regulatory regime for asbestos?


Companies and individuals dealing with asbestos must comply with the requirements of the following laws:

  • Environmental Law.
  • Federal Cabinet Resolution No. 39 of 2006 on banning the import and production of asbestos.
  • Federal Ministerial Decision No. 32 of 1982 on protecting employees from hazards at work.
  • Federal Ministerial Decision (4/1) of 1981 on determination of hazardous works.
  • Federal Law No. 21 of 2005 for waste management.

Abu Dhabi. Mandatory requirements relating to the use of asbestos in Abu Dhabi are set out in regulations issued by the emirate's Environment, Health and Safety Management System (Abu Dhabi EHS Regulatory Instrument).

Dubai. The use of asbestos is regulated by the Public Health and Safety department of the Dubai municipality, which issues guidelines (that is, Guidelines for Safety in Handling Asbestos).

Others. The municipalities of the other emirates regulate the transport and disposal of asbestos in their respective jurisdictions.

Prohibited Activities

Asbestos has been banned by the federal government (Federal Cabinet Resolution No. 39 of 2006 on banning the import and production of asbestos). Most of the activities involving asbestos relate to the transportation and disposal of the material.

Main Obligations

Abu Dhabi. The EHS Regulatory Instrument (see above) sets out requirements for companies that deal with asbestos in the emirate, including that they must:

  • Identify potential asbestos materials by specialist consultants.
  • Develop an asbestos management plan to reduce risks.
  • Make all staff dealing with the material aware of the management plan.
  • Provide prescribed tools and equipment to staff to reduce the risk of exposure.
  • Dispose of the waste at the prescribed waste management site in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai. The guidelines issued by the municipality (see above) require anyone handling asbestos to (among other requirements):

  • Enclose asbestos waste in the prescribed manner.
  • Provide accurate labelling of all materials containing asbestos.
  • Provide prescribed safety tools and equipment to staff removing or dealing with the material.
  • Dispose of the waste material at the prescribed waste management site in Dubai.

Permits and Regulator

Abu Dhabi. Companies transporting and disposing of asbestos must obtain an official approval from the CWM.

Dubai. The Environmental Control Section of the Dubai municipality deals with companies that transport and dispose of asbestos and its waste materials.

Others. The respective municipalities of the other emirates regulate activities involving asbestos.


Anyone who contravenes the provisions relating to the disposal of hazardous materials can be sentenced to imprisonment of up to one year and/or to a fine between AED10,000 and AED20,000 (Article 78, Environmental Law).

Contaminated Land

  1. Is environmental due diligence common in an asset sale/a share sale?

Regulator and Legislation

Abu Dhabi. The EAD regulates the inspection and assessment of contaminated land in accordance with the:

  • Code of Practice: Contaminated Land Management.
  • Technical Guidelines: Identification and Remediation of Contaminated Land.

Dubai. The Environmental Planning and Studies section of the Environmental Department of Dubai municipality regulates and assesses contaminated land.

Others. The municipalities of the other emirates regulate the inspection and assessment of contaminated land in their respective jurisdictions.

The principal legislation governing soil pollution and the use of hazardous materials on the land is the Environmental Law. Various local laws have also been enacted by emirates to combat specific issues relating to contaminated land in their respective jurisdiction.

Investigation and Clean-Up

The EAD conducts a systematic study of the land and the root cause of the contamination before evaluating the findings to identify an appropriate restoration plan.

The Dubai municipality conducts a three-phase investigation:

  • An environmental site assessment exercise identifies the environmental conditions of the site.
  • An evaluation of the findings is made and an action plan is generated for restoration.
  • An assessment of alternative clean-up methods, costs and logistics is carried out and the remediation of the contaminated land is instigated, if appropriate.

All the other emirates have a similar investigation and restoration process in place, ensuring that a detailed analysis of the land is conducted before clean-up works are commenced.

The costs of the investigation process and consequent restoration are borne by the party who is responsible for the contamination.


Any party who violates the provisions of the Environmental Law relating to contamination of land can incur a fine between AED10,000 and AED100,000 (Article 81, Environmental Law). 

  1. Who is liable for the clean-up of contaminated land? Can liability be excluded in transactions?

Liable Party

The party who is responsible for the cause of the contamination is liable for all the costs of investigation and remediation process. If more than one party is responsible for the contamination, they are jointly liable for the costs.

There are currently no government funds available for clean-up works where the polluter is not financially solvent.

Owner/Occupier Liability

The owner of the land is responsible for engaging environmental experts to conduct a site assessment even before the formal investigation process begins.

The owner, occupier or tenant of the land is also liable for any damage caused during the investigation and any indemnity that arises as a result of the process.

Previous Owner/Occupier Liability

The regulations and guidelines issued by the relevant authorities do not specifically apportion liability to a previous owner or occupier who caused contamination to the land. Any dispute that arises between the parties over liability occurring before a transfer of ownership will be referred to a court of law in the relevant emirate.

Limitation of Liability

The regulations of the municipalities of the various emirates and the EAD strictly adhere to the "polluter pays" principle and do not set a limit on the extent of the polluter's liability to pay

Voluntary Clean-Up Programme

The UAE does not have specific legislation for voluntary clean-up programmes, although individual municipalities embark on clean-up campaigns from time to time to create general awareness in the society and to restore contaminated land.

  1. Can a lender incur liability for contaminated land and is it common for a lender to incur liability? What steps do lenders commonly take to minimise liability?

Lender Liability

There are no specific provisions in legislation governing the liability of a lender for contamination of land and in such cases the court with the relevant jurisdiction will deal with the matter based on the particular circumstances in the case.

The lender is generally not liable for the pollution or contamination that arises due to the past use of the land. However, the lender might have to initiate an investigation process and adhere to the guidelines of the local municipality.

Minimising Liability

The court decides the matter depending on the underlying contract between the lender and borrower. A lender's liability can be minimised by including a provision stating that the borrower bears liability for contamination caused before the borrower's occupation or ownership

  1. Can an individual bring legal action against a polluter, owner or occupier?

The relevant authority generally institutes the investigation and other legal formalities against the polluter, owner or occupier. However, a third-party individual can bring a civil suit against the polluter, owner or occupier in the court if it has been affected by the contamination.

Environmental Liability and Asset/Share Transfers

  1. In what circumstances can a buyer inherit pre-acquisition environmental liability in an asset sale/the sale of a company (share sale)?

Asset Sale

Buyers must undertake a thorough site check before completing the acquisition to verify compliance with any environmental regulations, permits or provisions.

However, carrying out environmental due diligence in the UAE is not easy and seeking information on previous regulatory violations on a particular site can be a problematic and cumbersome process.

Share Sale

The buyer of the shares of a company will not be liable if the sale agreement contains clauses stating that the former owner will continue to be liable for the pollution and relieving the buyer from past acts, liability, demands and claims on the company. Such a clause must not contravene the provisions of Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 on commercial companies.

  1. In what circumstances can a seller retain environmental liability after an asset sale/a share sale?

Asset Sale

In an asset sale process, the seller transfers the entire business with its rights and obligations, and it is up to the buyer to accept the conditions of the sale. The sale and purchase of assets are generally governed by the provisions of Federal Law No. 18 of 1993 concerning commercial transactions.

The UAE’s Cabinet has approved amendments to [## Federal Law No. 18 of 1993 (Commercial Transactions Law).] A Decree-Law to this effect has been approved and will come into force in 2022. The amendments include changing certain provisions on bounced cheques and the issuing of cheques without value, by providing fast, advanced and civil mechanisms to collect outstanding payments. 

Share Sale

In the share sale process, the seller is at no risk of retaining the environmental liabilities after the sale, as the buyer usually acquires all the liabilities attached to the sale, unless there is any specific provision in the contract stating otherwise.

  1. Does a seller have to disclose environmental information to the buyer in an asset sale/a share sale?

Asset Sale

The seller must generally disclose environmental information, especially that which relates to soil and contaminated land. If the seller fails to do so, the buyer can claim for damages.

Share Sale

The seller must disclose known environmental information in good faith.

  1. Is environmental due diligence common in an asset sale/a share sale?


Environmental due diligence is increasing in company sales. The due diligence carried out by the seller/buyer is dependent on the type of the activity and the amount of environmental risk involved.

Such due diligence has been a debatable issue because of significant change in climate policy after the UAE joined the Kyoto Protocol as an Annex-II country. The federal government is taking a cautious approach towards due diligence in the environmental sector.

Types of Assessment

The types of assessment undertaken for a particular project depends on various factors, including the likely extent of environmental impact, the master plan of the project and other data. Initially, three types of assessment are conducted:

  • Preliminary environmental review (PER).
  • Strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
  • Environmental impact assessment (EIA) (see Question 17).

Environmental Consultants

Environmental consultants are generally employed in the assessment process, in which the sellers in an asset or share sale hire the consultant for assessment reports and deliver the copy to the buyer.

The consultants can be held liable for environmental reports submitted to the relevant authorities.

Environmental insurance

  1. Are environmental warranties and indemnities usually given and what issues do they usually cover in an asset sale/a share sale? Are there usually time limits or financial caps on environmental warranties and indemnities?

Asset Sale

The ambit of coverage of an environmental indemnity clause depends on the provisions in the underlying contract. Parties can draft their own clauses to determine the specific limits of any environmental warranty.

Share Sale

See above, Asset sale.

Environmental warranties and indemnities are limited to the extent of contamination that occurred on the asset sold.

Reporting and Auditing

  1. Do regulators keep public registers of environmental information? What is the procedure for a third party to search those registers?

The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment maintains up-to-date statistics and reports on environmental issues in the UAE. This information is available at the Ministry's webpage at

  1.  Do companies have to report information to the regulators and the public about environmental incidents (such as water pollution and soil contamination)?

Companies must report all issues of environmental pollution to the relevant authority. Legal actions and environmental protection steps can then be initiated in accordance with the Environmental Law.

  1. What powers do environmental regulators have to access a company?

Companies must report all issues of environmental pollution to the relevant authority. Legal actions and environmental protection steps can then be initiated in accordance with the Environmental Law.

  1. What powers do environmental regulators have to access a company?

The environmental regulators (see Question 1) are responsible for implementing regulations and conducting inspections in companies that may be responsible for environmental pollution. [** What specific powers do they have in relation to inspections?]

  1. What obligations are there on companies to report on environmental issues in their annual corporate reports?

Companies must report in the annual corporate report about any environmental damage and associated costs for which they are responsible (Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 regarding commercial companies). Federal Decree-Law No. 26 of 2020 has been issued, introducing significant amendments to Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 on Commercial Companies (CCL). 

  1. Do companies have to carry out environmental auditing? Do companies have to report information to the regulators about environmental performance?

The main aim is to expand the GHG emissions management system to form a national climate change management system (NCCMS) that will serve as an information and data source for all climate-related data and technical studies by 2050. The NCCMS aims to collect inventories of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures and to set out comprehensive climate risk and vulnerability assessment data, along with adaptation initiatives. The Ministry of Energy is currently responsible for the national GHG inventory and is producing national inventory data for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, published in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. 

  1. Do companies have to carry out environmental auditing? Do companies have to report information to the regulators about environmental performance?

The UAE has taken voluntary measures to mitigate climate change. The National Climate Change Plan for 2017 to 2050 was launched in the UAE and is overseen by the UAE Council for Climate Change and Environment. [** What specific requirements relevant to corporate governance are contained within this?]

  1. Do companies have to carry out environmental auditing? Do companies have to report information to the regulators about environmental performance?

Types of Insurance and Risk

There are two main types of insurance available for environmental liability:

  • Pollution Legal Liability (PLL). This policy is designed in accordance with the Environmental Damage Regulation 2009 and includes the liability for damaging biodiversity.
  • Contractors Pollution Liability (CPL). This policy protects the contractors, developers and site owners against the pollution releases and sudden accidents caused at the sites.

Obtaining Insurance

Environmental insurance is easy to obtain and there are numerous insurance companies covering such risks.

Environmental Taxes

  1. What are the main environmental taxes?

There are no direct or indirect environmental taxes.


  1. Are there any proposals for significant reform of environmental law?

The UAE has initiated various strategies towards protecting its environment and natural resources. The country has also been trying to structure its policies in conformity with international standards. [** Are there any new laws expected soon or over the next few years?]

Feature table: carbon trading and energy support schemes comparative table


Do emissions/carbon trading schemes operate?

Do renewable energy support schemes operate?

Do energy efficiency support schemes operate?

United Arab Emirates

The National Climate Change Plan for 2017 to 2050.

The UAE Energy Strategy 2050.


Contributor profiles

Sunil Thacker, Senior Partner

STA Law Firm

T +971 4 368 9727
F +971 3 369 5126

Non-professional qualifications. LLM; ILEC; LLB; B Com

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George SK, Associate

STA Law Firm

T +971 4 368 9727
F +971 3 369 5126

Professional qualifications. BBA; LLB (with emphasis on corporate law)

Recent transactions

  • Assisted numerous clients in various environment-related matters including pollution, real estate development, land acquisition, and environmental legislation.
  • Advising international clients on environment compliance in the Middle East.


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Originally published with RESOURCE ID W-008-3980, Practical Law Guide, THOMSON REUTERS