Electric public bus in Dubai at a charging station Image Credit: Twitter/@DXBMediaOffice

Dubai: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai has rolled out its ‘Zero-Emissions Public Transportation in Dubai 2050’ strategy, which makes it the first Middle Eastern agency to develop a long-term strategy for migrating towards ‘Net-Zero Emission Public Transport’ by 2050.

With this strategy, RTA aims to contribute to mitigating climate change and minimise its carbon footprint across three areas: public transportation, buildings and related facilities, and waste management.

The new strategy is aligned with UAE’s preparations for COP28 and the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, and is a part of RTA’s ongoing efforts to advance sustainability maturity levels in roads and transportation and achieve global leadership in sustainable mobility. It seeks to bolster the flexibility of public transport infrastructure and its impact on climate change in line with the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, transitioning from pledges to tangible achievements.

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Main targets

Consistent with the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to consolidate the emirate’s status as one of the world’s top urban economies, RTA’s new strategy aims to achieve multiple objectives over the coming years. The primary objectives include the decarbonisation of all taxis, limousines, and public buses, designing buildings with near-zero energy consumption, sourcing energy from renewable sources, and eliminating municipal waste by sending zero waste to landfills. The strategy will result in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes and realising financial savings worth Dh3.3 billion in comparison to current operations.

Integrated strategy

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, RTA said: “The new strategy outlines a comprehensive approach to sustainability within RTA. Its primary objective is to enhance sustainability and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, it contributes to realising RTA’s mission of achieving global leadership in smooth and sustainable mobility through innovative roads and transport services that elevate the customer experience to world-class standards.”

He added: “The new strategy encompasses ten initiatives, covering various RTA sectors and agencies, in addition to partnerships with the private sector that contribute to implementing the strategy over five years. The strategy will review, adjust and align future goals with changing circumstances.

“Under the theme ‘Zero-Emissions Public Transportation in Dubai 2050’, the strategy is aligned with the UAE’s commitments to environmental and sustainability goals at global, national and local levels such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is also consistent with national strategies such as the UAE Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative, The UAE’s Green Agenda - 2030, National Climate Change Plan of the UAE 2050 and the UAE Energy Strategy 2050.

“The strategy is also linked to local initiatives, such as Dubai Carbon Abatement Strategy 2030, the Clean Energy Strategy 2050, Dubai Demand Side Management Strategy 2030, the waste management plan in Dubai, Dubai Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and other relevant strategies, agreements and initiatives.”

RTA’s Board of Executive Directors reflected on various aspects, opportunities, and challenges associated with the new strategy and its implementation. These include the costs of novel green technologies, the distribution of targets and their review over time, the importance of the availability of energy technology providers, particularly for electric buses and hydrogen fuel production stations, and other factors that contribute to the execution of the new strategy.

Taxis and buses

The new strategy specifies the target rates to be achieved in the coming years to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in the three categories, namely: green public transportation, buildings and facilities, and waste management. It entails converting 10 per cent of public transport buses into electric and hydrogen buses by 2030, which will be expanded to 20 per cent in 2035, 40 per cent in 2040, 80 per cent in 2045, and ultimately 100 per cent by 2050.

It also encompasses the conversion of 30 per cent of taxis and limousines in the emirate to electric and hydrogen vehicles by 2030, which will be increased to 50 per cent by 2035 and 100 per cent by 2040.

The plan aims to convert 10 per cent of DTC’s school buses into electric and hydrogen buses by 2030, which will be raised to 30 per cent in 2035, 50 per cent in 2040, 80 per cent in 2045, and 100 per cent by 2050.

Buildings and facilities

The strategy entails retrofitting RTA’s buildings and facilities with solar cell systems. A total of 24 buildings and facilities will see the installation of solar panels before 2025 and the scope of this will be extended to all other buildings and facilities according to feasibility studies. The goal is to retrofit and upgrade 74 per cent of the buildings by 2030, expanding it to 83 per cent by 2035, and finally achieving 100 per cent by 2045. New buildings will be near zero energy, starting in 2025.

Existing streetlights will also be retrofitted so that all of them are 100 per cent energy efficient, provided the application continues on all new projects.

Waste management

Regarding waste management, programmes will be implemented to reuse and recycle 100 per cent of municipal waste by 2030, thus achieving the goal of zero municipal waste to landfills, as well as increasing the use of recycled water in RTA’s buildings and facilities to 40 per cent by 2050.

Notable achievements

RTA has recorded significant accomplishments in sustainability. From 2014 to 2022, its energy and green economy initiatives have contributed to saving electricity by around 360 gigawatt-hours, and water savings of 300 million gallons, as well as saving around 88 million litres of gasoline, and 10 million litres of diesel. This is equivalent to avoiding 416,000 tonnes of equivalent emissions, yielding savings of approximately Dh420 million.

RTA is the world’s first roads and public transportation entity to release a sustainability report adhering to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards and the international standard: ISAE3000 in 2018. In 2020, RTA also signed the United Nations Global Charter for Sustainable Development. This was achieved after aligning the data in the sustainability reports issued with the UN’s goals that address global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, peace, justice, human rights, and combating corruption.