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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Scenario Planning for Urban Development in the United Arab Emirates

J Tan

Scenario Planning for Urban Development in the United Arab Emirates

Scenario Planning is a valuable tool for decision makers to look at the use of explorative scenarios. The explorative scenario can be used to highlight all possible scenarios of the future and shift away from business-as-usual planning. This dissertation focuses on urban development in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is a country with one of the world’s highest reserves of crude oil and natural gas supplies. The exponential growth of the UAE over the last few decades had been propelled by more than just its oil riches. With political and business leadership providing the competitive edge in turning the UAE into one of the world’s most affluent countries, this has spurred on rapid urban development in the country. Alongside, problems from urban sprawl, and the increase in energy usage has led to concerns in the future of the country in terms of energy provisions for the urbanising country. The approach to developing the scenarios is through the identification of key important forces that can drive change in the future from the Delphi approach. The approach involves having participants being engaged in two rounds: first identifies the forces of uncertainty, and second ranks these according to importance levels. The top uncertainties have been identified to be (1) Climate change; and (2) Energy prices and availability of resources A few influencing factors have been identified from these interviews. They are global factors like geopolitical pressures, global competitiveness, climate change, energy security, and local-level ones like population growth, economic productivity, income growth and energy reliability. The current responses towards issues of energy and development include public awareness; improving building regulations; alternative energy; and funding for sustainable energy projects. From this, the initiatives appears to perform well in scenarios where energy prices are high and natural resources are limited, and not so effective in converse scenarios. However there is a gap that policy makers need to focus on to ensure adaptability and preparedness for all possible scenarios the UAE could face. As such, recommended remedial measures have been proposed to fill this gap. The measures proposed include carbon capture and storage, hydrogen energy, removal of energy subsidies, financing schemes and grants, and encouraging on-site renewable energy.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.