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As the UAE hosts the COP28 conference, the world stands at the precipice of positive climate action that could reshape and rebuild our future in decisive ways. At this critical juncture, it is important to acknowledge sustainability not just from an ecological standpoint, but also as an extension of self-sufficiency, to ensure future industrialisation aligns with evolving societal values and the imperative for sustainable development.

Once viewed as resource-intensive process, manufacturing has undergone a paradigm shift, driven by a recognition of the environmental impact and the need for resilience in the face of resource scarcity. Dubai’s industrial sector has embraced sustainability as a catalyst for innovation, recognising how the intersection of environmentally conscious practices and technology can deliver ecologically conscious outcomes without compromising on efficiency or competitiveness.

Saud Abu Al Shawareb, Executive Vice President of Industrial at TECOM Group PJSC, on behalf of Dubai Industrial City

Strategic institutions, such as the UAE’s Circular Economy Policy Committee, are nurturing a corporate environment that optimises materials and eliminates waste, helping to establish pathways that ensure the benefits of ecological sustainability extend to society and economy alike. Enabling such investments is rightfully a national priority, and several manufacturing project investments in Dubai are already geared towards addressing the critical role of the industrial sector in enabling self-sustenance for environmental security.

Increasing local food production

The food and beverage (F&B) sector is a case study that has attracted high levels of investment in recent months that promise to diversify and expand the regional economy in the long term. In October, Nutridor launched its first state-of-the-art dairy production facility in the UAE, worth Dh75 million at Dubai Industrial City, part of TECOM Group PJSC, to provide greater access to new markets for its flagship Abevia brand. The launch came months after IFFCO Group opened its first 100 per cent regional plant-based meat factory, Thryve, at Dubai Industrial City.

Speaking at the Thryve factory’s launch in March, Mariam Bint Mohammad Saeed Hareb Al Mheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said projects like the Thryve factory, supplement the UAE’s efforts to protect its ecosystems and enhance its food and water security for the long term.

A legacy of growth

Such investments are the engine that have powered not just Dubai but the UAE’s ascendence as a regional non-oil superpower in the last 52 years since its formation. Today, the non-oil sector accounts for more than 70 per cent of the UAE’s GDP, and manufacturing activity is on track to continue enabling this growth. Robust infrastructure and business-friendly regulation have also enriched Dubai’s legacy of attracting – and uniting – the world’s leading innovators and investors to deliver globally impactful innovations and initiatives, like Dubai Economic Agenda D33. These are helping to ensure industrial growth is achieved not at the expense of, but in harmony with, global environmental priorities.

The outlook for the sector is positive as strategic government visions like Operation 300bn – through which the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT) plans to raise the industrial sector’s GDP contribution to Dh300 billion by 2031 – are realised. It is through the lens of programmes like Operation 300bn and Make it in the Emirates — which aims to raise the value of the Made in UAE brandmark across the world — that Dubai and the UAE’s manufacturing investments must be prioritised in the coming years.

These strategies are more than mere government programmes and visions and underscore the UAE’s commitment to balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility. There are already real-world examples of how these ideals translate into reality at Dubai Industrial City, home to more than 800 local, regional, and international customers, and over 300 operational factories, including Unilever’s Dubai personal care manufacturing site, recognised as an Advanced 4th Industrial Revolution Lighthouse by the World Economic Forum.

As global decision-makers navigate the complex terrain of climate action at the COP28 conference, Dubai and the UAE stand as a reminder that economic prosperity and environmental stewardship can coexist for the benefit of current and future generations. ●

The writer is Executive Vice President of Industrial at TECOM Group PJSC, on behalf of Dubai Industrial City