They didn't make it to the top 50 globally, but Dubai and Abu Dhabi were named the most sustainable cities in the Middle East according to a report by Arcadis.

The ranking is based on social, environmental and economic subindices. Dubai ranks very high on the Profit Index (4th place), but encounters considerable challenges on the Planet sub-index coming in 96th in the world. It finished 52nd overall. 

Abu Dhabi is the second-highest of eight cities ranked for sustainability in the region, finishing 58th overall. The lowest-ranking regional city, finishing 86th, was Amman, the capital of Jordan.

Unsurprisingly, Zurich came in 1st followed by Singapore.

Dubai aims to become one of the top 10 sustainable cities in the world  by 2020, which means it much jump a whopping 40 places in just four years.

Here are 8 initiatives that show that, in spite of its oil richness, UAE is serious about reigning supreme on sustainability. 

1. Masdar City, Abu Dhabi

The project spreads over 700 hectares and will be completed by 2025. It aims to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world, by relying nearly exclusively on solar energy and other renewable sources. It aims to be a hub for clean-tech companies and will operate solely on clean energy.

It also hosts the headquarters of the International Renewal Energy Agency, an intergovernment organization that promotes the adoption of renewable energy.

The project covers the three major aspects – social, economic and environmental – and is aiming to become a global landmark for ecotourism and sustainable living. It will have 11 biodomes and hopes to integrate urban agriculture. It aims to be the first net-zero energy city in Dubai. In January, Dubai's Sustainable City switched on green energy for over 500 villas by installing over 5,000 solar panels in the area.

3. Desert Rose, Dubai

Desert rose dubai sustainable
Photo source: Dubai Municipality

A 14,000-hectare smart city expected to accommodate 20,000 plots for Emiratis and will cost 20 billion AED to build. Roofs in the neighborhood will be covered with solar panels which will provide over 20,000 watts of electricity; 40,000 cubic meters of waste water will be recycled. 

4. Oasis Eco Resort, Abu Dhabi

The Oasis Eco Resort aims to be one of the greenest resorts in the world. The resort will be located in Liwa, the southern region of UAE, and is scheduled to open in 2020.

5. Dubai Pearl

 Dubai Pearl promises the luxury expected in Dubai with more environmentally responsible construction. Its developers say the complex will attain LEED gold certification, which means that the buildings will be resource efficient as they will use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Solar energy parks

Earlier this year, the UAE unveiled a 48 sq km solar energy park  that promises 1,000 megawatt capacity upon completion. The local energy authority is mulling strategies, including a carbon market scheme, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. 

7. Recycling bins

dubai sustainable cities

You probably noticed them rolling out among the villas spread across the city. Please use them! Here's a map of the recycling bins in case you can't find them. 

8. Water

The UAE invests heavily in the use of treated sewage effluent for landscaping, which is a great solution amidst the rapid urbanization and the need for efficiency in water and energy resources.

Ay Kay contributed to this report.