Expo 2020 – Part 2: Sustainability

by Reed Smith

One of three main themes of Expo 2020 is sustainability. During the event, the participants will explore and discuss the development of sustainable sources of energy and water.

However, sustainability is not just a theme for discussion at the event. Sustainability will drive how the facilities are built and how the event is delivered.

Dubai has, for the first time in Expo history, set quantifiable sustainability targets, along with global benchmarks on resource management for events on such a scale. The Expo planners intend for the site to be serviced by zero emission vehicles, a subterranean supply system, and on-site solar power generation to meet 50% of its power needs.

In order to meet the power requirements from renewable sources on-site Expo 2020 will showcase the first large-scale application of building-integrated photo voltaic and solar technology, setting a new benchmark for mega-events. Additional sustainability criteria have been set to monitor carbon footprint. Wastewater management, material reuse and energy monitoring are also included as part of the Expo’s eco-strategies.

The sustainability requirements will also be applied to the supply chain, demanding integration and collaboration from the outset among the different parties involved in Expo 2020.

Sustainability in the UAE

Sustainable development in the UAE is not a new concept and Expo 2020 builds on the various green initiatives already taking place in the country.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have introduced various green building regulations and requirements in recent years, implementing both local requirements and requiring developments to meet accepted international standards for green and sustainable construction.

In Dubai, there have been mandatory “green” requirements for all government buildings. As of January 2014, the Green Building Regulations and Specifications are mandatory for new private sector buildings. The purpose of the regulations is to improve the performance of buildings in Dubai by reducing the consumption of energy, water and materials through enhanced planning, design, construction and operation of buildings.

The plans to introduce these policies were in place before the city had applied to host the Expo but they have since taken on added importance.

Abu Dhabi has adopted the International Codes (I-Codes) from the International Code Council in the U.S. The code has been customised for use in Abu Dhabi and covers issues of sustainability in the as-built environment. Abu Dhabi has had the Estidama (meaning “Sustainability” in Arabic) programme since 2007. The programme includes a green build rating system known as the Estidama Pearl Rating System.

The UAE is also developing Masdar City, an ambitious project to create a carbon-friendly landscape. The Masdar Institute opened in 2009 and is pioneering solutions for green energy and it is now the permanent headquarters of the international Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The synergies between Masdar, the UAE and the World Expo were highlighted during the bid for Expo 2020 by Dubai.

Environmental legislation in the UAE

Environmental legislation in the UAE exists at both federal and emirate levels.

The key federal environmental law is Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the Protection and Development of the Environment (Environmental Law). This provides the legislative framework for environmental regulation within the UAE and aims to protect and conserve the environment, control pollution, develop natural resources and conserve biological diversity and protect society and health from environmentally harmful acts. The law also aims to protect the UAE environment from the harmful effect of activities undertaken outside the state and undertakes to comply with international and regional conventions ratified or signed by the UAE relating to the protection of the environment.

The Environmental Law stipulates that a licence must be obtained from the Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) or the relevant competent local authority for any project within the UAE which may have an impact upon the environment. Once a licence has been approved, regular analysis of waste and discharge and pollutants generated from the project is monitored and the results sent to the FEA and the competent authorities.

Another part of the national vision to strengthen the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to the environment and sustainable development was the creation of the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) in 2006. MEW has also published a number of resolutions and regulations that have effect across the UAE. Legislation is under review that would broaden the powers of MEW to penalise polluters and develop recycling programmes.

The federal laws are supplemented within each emirate by local agencies which pass binding regulations and orders at a local level. The Dubai Municipality (Environment Department) is responsible for environmental matters and is working on preparing and updating many of the legislation and environmental standards that deal with the protection of the environment, the conservation on the natural resources, and Coastal Zone Management & Canals.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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