The UAE last month became the first country in the GCC to earn financial credits from the UN for a project that reduces carbon emissions.
Masdar, Abu Dhabi's renewable energy and clean technology initiative, worked with Emirates CMS to develop a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project at its power generation plant at Taweelah.
The project helped to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and increase energy efficiency by recovering heat from power generation and using it in the process of water desalination.
It has been a long journey, from the initial analysis of emissions to regulatory documentation, validation, registration and finally the approval by the UN.
The lower levels of carbon dioxide translate into Certified Emission Reductions, more widely known as carbon credits, which are the tradable international unit defined by the UN Kyoto Protocol.
Earning them is core to the work of Masdar Carbon, the division of Masdar tasked with driving clean fossil fuel energy and efficiency at an industrial level, while helping Abu Dhabi to reduce its carbon footprint.
It offers project owners - mainly in the oil and gas and power sectors of the Middle East, Africa and Asia - technical assistance, project management, expertise in carbon finance and emissions trading.
With the rate of energy consumption projected to steadily rise, Abu Dhabi's power generation capacity will have to increase with it, from its present 10gigawatts to about 23gw by 2020.
Unless the emirate can meet that demand with cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy, it will produce more carbon emissions.
Therefore, we need to develop cleaner fossil fuel power and an industrial base through technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
At the World Future Energy Summit in January, Dr Sultan al Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar, said a balanced, sustainable energy mix was "critical to supporting the UAE's projected economic growth", but controls to reduce carbon emissions were needed.
"Our energy mix must include sustainable, energy-efficient and cost-effective practices that find a balance between clean fossil fuel production, advanced nuclear power and the integration of renewable energy," Dr al Jaber said.
Fossil fuel-based carbon abatement technologies enable traditional fuels to be used with substantially less carbon-dioxide emissions.
Under the CDM, Masdar Carbon has developed several projects, which include reducing emissions of perfluorocarbons - long chains of carbon and fluorine that are highly potent greenhouse gases.
It is also developing energy-efficient measures to reduce fuel-gas consumption, and recover and use flare waste gases.
This month, Masdar Carbon and TriOcean Energy, based in Cairo, announced that the Kafr El Dawar CDM project in Egypt has become one of only 23 projects in the Middle East and North Africa registered under the Kyoto Protocol.
Other initiatives include the fuel switch gas-flare reduction project for Suez Oil Processing Company in Egypt, and leak reduction in gas distribution networks in Uzbekistan, which is expected to result in 1.4 million credits a year.
Masdar Carbon is also working on developing a multibillion-dollar national carbon capture and storage network.
Another initiative is E.ON Masdar Integrated Carbon, set up to develop, finance and run projects that focus on the power generation and oil and gas sectors across the Arab world, north and sub-Saharan Africa, and central and South East Asia.
As the UAE continues to grow, Masdar Carbon will play a major role to ensure the country reduces its carbon emissions, increases its energy efficiency, generates recurring revenue and economic opportunity, and supports the overall goal to turn the nation into a knowledge-based economy.
* Bader al Lamki is associate director of Masdar Carbon