MVP Sustainability Map

United Arab Emirates


Sustainability Grade




Sustainable Population

23.6 %

Contraception Use


Species Threatened

1.22 %

Population Growth

$ 36,285

GDP Per Capita

Country Comments

In its own report published in December 2020 the UAE attributed rapid economic development (primarily derived from its oil wealth) made the country face serious environmental challenges that arise from the high pace of population growth, the increase in the demand for energy and water and the fast-paced urban development. According to the Living Planet Report 2010 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the UAE was rated number one in the world for having the biggest ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is a measure of a country's sustainability that compares the use of natural resources per person per capita. The UAE has seventime times more people than its natural resources can manage.

The country’s water and carbon footprints are amongst the highest in the world as the hot and dry climate requires a high amount of energy and import of many goods that cannot be produced in the country. The UAE's natural freshwater sources are rare and limited to groundwater. The government is increasingly resorting to desalinated water, which has been produced using excess heat from electricity generation. This has caused an impact on the marine environment from discharging highly concentrated seawater to the Arabian Gulf. Overfishing, air pollution, waste management and land degradation from too many people consuming too many resources are endemic. (1)

The UAE’s total fertility rate has declined dramatically from three decades ago to below 1 ½ children per woman today. Women’s rights are improving with new domestic laws in 2020 and reforms to give greater protection, rights and empowerment to women. Even with these new laws, gender equality has a long way to go in practice. The country is heavily reliant on immigrant labor for its development and it is estimated around 80 percent of its total population are temporary labor immigrants seeking employment opportunities. Immigration is a major driver of the country's population growth and impediment to long term sustainability.