“Estidama” is an Arabic word for sustainability. Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s (UPC) Estidama Program is the government’s initiative to integrate principles of sustainability into Abu Dhabi’s urban development and economic master plan. Bespoke to the region’s culture, climate and physical environment, Estimate is developed to be more than just a set of principles or a rating system. It is presented as a way of life in the Arab world that will encourage sustainable urban and economic growth, protect the natural environment, and preserve Abu Dhabi’s unique cultural identity and historical assets (Estimate, 2010).
The past few years have seen a global trend towards development of sustainability policy initiatives. These are based on the notion that the existing development paradigms are a threat to the sustainability of the natural environment. If these paradigms remain unchallenged they will soon deplete earth’s natural resources and threaten the survival of future generations. Therefore, sustainable practices are adapted across the construction industry, sustainability rating systems are developed to assess environmental performance of the developments, and cities are planned based on low and zero carbon technologies (Mills, et al., 2012). While Abu Dhabi is still affluent in its natural resources, with approximately 10 % (98 billion barrels) of total world oil reserves and the world’s 3 % (212 trillion cubic feet) natural gas reserves (Jordan, 2012), they are adapting sustainability to remain competitive and relevant to the rest of the world (Urban Planning Council, 2011).In line with this objective, in 2005, the government presented the “Abu Dhabi Plan 2030”.UPC defines this plan as a “road map” to reinvent the city’s urban framework and to diversify the economy away from reliance on revenues from oil and gas towards renewable energy and technology. To ensure, that the Plan 2030 complies the highest sustainability standards UPC has developed Estidama. “Estidama is not a programme, a rating method or something people do; it is a vision and a desire to achieve a new sustainable way of life in the Arab world” (Estidama, 2010).
Set against the context of sustainable development, this essay narrates the evolution of Abu Dhabi’s sustainability policy and analyses the literature to determine if Abu Dhabi is on the path to becoming a world class sustainable city.
2 The Past and Its Ramifications
The emirate of Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Until the 1950s, Abu Dhabi was a small village of fishermen, herders and pearl hunters. After the discovery of oil in 1958, the region’s urban landscape and economy experienced an unprecedented transformation. The oil and natural gas resources made it one of the wealthiest cities in the world (Morton, 2010). Abu Dhabi invested its oil revenues to boost infrastructure, education, and health projects; thus improving the standard of living of Emiratis. Within a short span...