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A look into Expo 2020 Dubai's sustainability efforts

© Good Travel Guide, October 2021

World Expos are mega-events that take place every five years in a new location and last up to 6 months. They bring together nations from all over the world to discuss and promote solutions to the pressing challenges of our time. Expo Dubai 2020 is the first World Expo in the Middle East, and its overarching theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, while the sub-themes are Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Beyond selecting sustainability as a sub-theme, Expo 2020 Dubai has declared their aspiration to make this one of the most sustainable World Expos ever and we’ll have a look into what they delivered.

Each theme has a dedicated district, which houses a main thematic pavilion along with the pavilions of the 192 participating nations divided within these districts. The Sustainability District focuses on displaying innovative global projects developed to preserve our planet as well as educating people on how to reduce our environmental impact on an everyday basis. For example, the Netherlands decided to show that technology can enable sustainable ways of living in arid conditions. The pavilion features a system that harvests water by capturing moisture from the desert air and is powered from solar panels. The water is then used to irrigate plants and purified into drinking water for guests. The main thematic pavilion, called Terra, is dedicated to educating visitors on the negative impact of humans on earth, like marine pollution, and encouraging them to reflect on their choices. It also showcases sustainable innovations like the energy trees, structures equipped with solar panels that rotate to face the sun.

Overall, the creation of Expo 2020 Dubai required the construction of a site that covers 4.3 square kilometres and more than 200 pavilions. According to the Expo 2020 Dubai website, the construction was done using socially and environmentally responsible sourced materials and encouraging responsible and regional sourcing of materials as well as the use of reused materials. On most of the buildings, they installed renewable energy systems that serve to partly power the event and renewable energy will also be outsourced to meet the event’s needs. Expo 2020 Dubai is also committed to reducing waste, recycling, and diverting waste from landfills; reducing packaging and single-use materials; reducing water consumption and recycling water.

However, there is still a considerable amount of carbon emissions connected with the construction and the ongoing event. Therefore, Expo 2020 Dubai is going to offset these emissions through various carbon offsetting projects and the visitors themselves will be given the chance to vote on the project they prefer. Another major problem connected with the event is that of human rights. The UAE has been criticised by many, including the European Parliament, for “inhumane practices against foreign workers” such as “exposing them to extreme working hours in unsafe weather conditions”. Read more about this on Ap news.

If you want to know more about sustainability at mega-events like the Olympics, read our blog article here.


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