Unleashing the power of carbon dioxide removal

Opportunities and challenges on the path to net zero in the UAE, GCC and MENA
Unleashing the power of carbon dioxide removal
Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is critical.

The urgency to combat climate change is undeniable amid rising temperatures, severe weather events, and ecological and human impacts. The IPCC emphasizes limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, requiring substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is critical, meaning emissions must be balanced with carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide removal has three roles. The first one is to accelerate net emission reductions immediately. The second is to counterbalance “hard-to-abate” emissions in the near term. The last is to achieve net negative emissions in the long term. However, emission elimination remains the top priority. And a distinct separation must be maintained to guarantee that removal efforts complement emissions reduction rather than replace them.

The GCC and MENA regions, heavily reliant on fossil fuels, face unique challenges in achieving net zero by 2050. As the first MENA country to commit to net zero by 2050, the UAE recognizes the importance of effective CDR strategies to offset residual emissions. Scaling up CDR technologies can contribute significantly to climate goals in the region and the global fight against climate change. The UAE presents economic opportunities for CDR, potentially becoming a net exporter of carbon credits and developing innovative business models in the energy and extractive industries.

The Bridge Institute, supported by Carbon Gap, is evaluating the UAE’s CDR potential and developing a country roadmap report to accelerate CDR development. CDR is an essential component of achieving net zero. The Bridge Institute brings together experts and stakeholders to address carbon removal methods effectively.

Carbon dioxide removal technologies

CDR technologies have immense potential to help the GCC and MENA region achieve their net zero goals by using innovative approaches to directly or indirectly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

Implementing these CDR technologies is crucial for the MENA region. This will help them achieve their net zero goals and effectively reduce GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. By embracing these innovative approaches, the region can make significant strides toward a sustainable and low-carbon future.

Promising CDR methodologies

Here are 10 promising CDR methodologies that can play a crucial role in the UAE and the wider region.

CDR methods, corresponding storage mediums and timescales of carbon storage. Source: Carbon Gap (2023)
  1. Afforestation, reforestation and improved forest management involve planting trees and managing forests to increase CDR and carbon sinks.
  2. Soil carbon sequestration focuses on land management practices that enhance carbon storage in the soil. These include incorporating organic matter and reducing soil disturbance.
  3. Biochar is produced by heating biomass in the absence of air, resulting in a carbon-rich charcoal-like substance that stores carbon and prevents its release into the atmosphere.
  4. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage combines biomass energy generation with capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions. It effectively removes carbon dioxide from the air.
  5. Direct air capture technology directly extracts carbon dioxide from the air, concentrates it, and stores it underground, contributing to significant carbon removal.
  6. Enhanced weathering involves accelerating the natural process of rock weathering to absorb carbon dioxide by grinding rocks and spreading them on land, facilitating carbon removal.
  7. Blue Carbon Preservation focuses on the restoration and preservation of coastal wetlands, such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and peatlands, which store large amounts of carbon.
  8. Ocean alkalinity enhancement aims to increase the capacity of oceans to absorb carbon dioxide from the air by adding alkaline materials to seawater.
  9. Ocean fertilization involves adding nutrients to the ocean, stimulating the growth of carbon-consuming organisms like plankton and promoting carbon storage when they sink to the seabed.
  10. Direct ocean capture involves removing carbon dioxide from seawater and storing it deep underground, while the treated seawater continues to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Implementing these CDR technologies is crucial for the MENA region. This will help them achieve their net zero goals and effectively reduce GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. By embracing these innovative approaches, the region can make significant strides toward a sustainable and low-carbon future.

CDR landscape in the UAE, GCC and MENA Region: Opportunities and challenges

The GCC and MENA region face unique circumstances in their decarbonization efforts due to their reliance on hydrocarbon-based industries. However, there are opportunities for the UAE and the Middle East to become leaders in implementing CDR technologies.

Establishing carbon trading platforms and registries allows transparent carbon removal credits to be traded. This creates a new market and revenue source. The region’s commitment to diversifying its energy mix and investing in renewable energy infrastructure provides a conducive environment for CDR solutions.

The abundance of land, marine and renewable energy resources (e.g., sunlight) supports afforestation, reforestation, blue carbon and other CDR approaches. Carbon capture, utilization and storage using natural minerals and mangroves offer further potential. The strategic geographic location of the GCC and MENA regions enables them to leverage resources and expertise. It allowed them to do cross-border collaborations on carbon removal projects.

However, the region also faces challenges that need to be addressed to unlock the full potential of CDR. Financial barriers, including high upfront costs and limited funding access, hinder large-scale CDR deployment. Establishing regulatory frameworks and policy incentives is crucial to supporting CDR initiatives.

Technological readiness and capacity building are additional hurdles requiring investments in research and development. Sustainable land and water management, especially in arid regions, is vital for the success of CDR projects. Collaboration with international partners for knowledge exchange and capacity-building is essential. Developing local talent will be vital to the region’s leadership in carbon removal technologies. So are fostering research and innovation and establishing dedicated CDR hubs.


The journey to net zero by 2050 in the GCC and MENA regions will be a rollercoaster ride. However, CDR technologies can help smooth out the bumps along the way. The Bridge Institute’s CDR Program uses a unique methodology to investigate the potential CDR solutions contributing to the UAE’s CDR roadmap as a case study for the whole region.

By embracing CDR technologies, the GCC and MENA regions can make significant strides toward achieving their climate commitments and contributing to a sustainable future for all. To overcome the CDR challenges, governments, businesses and individuals need to work together to invest in CDR research and development. They can also implement subsidies and other incentives and launch public education campaigns. By taking these steps, the GCC and MENA regions can accelerate CDR deployment and set the stage for a sustainable and resilient future.

Professor Suzanna Elmassah is director of Sustainability Program at Zayed University.

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