UAE s Climate Change and Environment Minister Mariam Almheiri during an interview with AFP in the French capital Paris. AFP
The oil-rich Gulf monarchy, which will host this year's COP28 UN climate talks, last week unveiled plans to cut domestic emissions by 19 percent of 2019 levels by 2030.
Under these plans, the UAE would contribute to keeping warming to "just below" 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the UAE's climate change minister said, slightly outside the goals set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.
"We're striving towards the best that we can do with what we have now. I think it will be 1.5, we're not there yet," Mariam Almheiri told a media briefing about the UAE plans.
"We are not losing hope here. We're continuing our efforts on this because just from our experience of seeing what we've done in this improvement, I just feel there's a lot more in there that we can do," she added.
At COP21 in the French capital, countries pledged to try to keep warming "well below" 2.0C and to pursue "all measures" not to exceed the key 1.5C threshold.
The fossil fuels that powered the industrial revolution and global prosperity have already warmed the planet 1.2C, unleashing extreme weather and human upheaval.
Last week was the hottest recorded worldwide, the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization said on Monday, after days of scorching temperatures across the planet.
To cut domestic pollution, the UAE plans to triple renewable energy production and slash emissions in everything from industry to transport, including a new focus on electric cars.
Currently in the UAE, one of the world's biggest per-capita polluters, gas-guzzling SUVs abound and air conditioning is ubiquitous against the intense desert heat, which is rising fast because of global warming.
According to some studies, parts of the Gulf region could become uninhabitable by the end of the century if warming is left unchecked.
Almheiri said the UAE was pursuing the "pro-climate, pro-growth" approach championed by COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of state oil giant ADNOC, who believes global warming is an economic opportunity.
She said the UAE hopes to unveil details of its plan to reach domestic carbon "net zero" by 2050 in the coming months, before COP28 starts in Dubai in late November.
"Believe me, we had hard discussions," Almheiri said, describing weeks of government brainstorming over the net zero goal.
"This year we're hosting COP28, we want to walk the talk," she added.
The domestic targets do not include planet-warming emissions from oil exported by the UAE, which is currently producing about three million barrels per day according to OPEC.