The UAE has been placed bottom of a new ranking of countries based on their carbon pollution after emissions jumped by 25 per cent in two years, according to a new study.
Maplecroft, a consultancy based in the UK, said the UAE had dropped 15 places passing Australia, the US and Canada as a polluter, in a survey of 183 countries. The survey incorporates total emissions, emissions per capita and cumulative rate of increase in emissions since the beginning of the 20th century.
The ranking, which takes into account the UAE's short history of rapid economic expansion, is a poorer showing for the country than the most recent International Energy Agency report, which places the Emirates at number 30 of 142 and lists China as the worst polluter at the end of 2008.
The Emirates's placing comes ahead of this month's UN climate change conference taking place in Cancun, Mexico, which delegates hope will achieve more than the Copenhagen summit at the end of last year.
Companies worldwide are preparing for a possible imposition of a multilateral tax on carbon, although this is still only in the formative stage.
The Emirates's ranking stemmed from a 25 per cent increase in overall carbon output between 2006 and 2008, alongside a 20 per cent rise in per capita emissions. The UAE's carbon footprint will fall dramatically by the end of the decade when it is expected to benefit from low-carbon nuclear and solar power.
Much of the Middle East fared badly in the report. "The poor performance of UAE and Saudi Arabia is reflective of a near 100 per cent reliance on fossil fuels and their use of energy-intensive desalination plants to produce drinking water," the report said.
Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE topped the list of countries with the greatest carbon emissions per capita.
Responding to the report, Denis Burke, the executive director of municipal governance at the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA), said: "I don't see many countries in the world that use recycled water as efficiently as the UAE does.
"On the desalination, I'd point to the amount of countries that need to ration water because of poor forward planning," he said.
"Forward planning and water security are very high on the agenda here.
"Every department has to provide a sustainability report to the Government to improve their environmental posture, and certainly from the DMA's perspective, we see the introduction of new building codes as a major initiative within the emirate to improve sustainability throughout the construction industry."
The report also warned that companies should prepare for stricter regulation to combat climate change in the coming years.
"As the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, more rigorous environmental policies may leave companies exposed to costly operating expenses and new investment requirements," said Fiona Place, Maplecroft's head of maps and indices.
"Energy-intensive sectors, such as the extractive sector and logistics, will be particularly vulnerable, but all areas of business need to monitor the associated risks," she said.
The report will add to the pressure on the next round of climate talks ahead of the Cancun summit, which begins on November 29. Last month, Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief, urged countries to identify achievable goals for the talks to succeed.
"You can continue to stand still or move forward. Now is the time to make that choice," she said.