The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s strongest advocates of green schools closed out 2017 with the formal launch of the Emirates Coalition for Green Schools. In a roundtable event convened by the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), government representatives, academics, teachers, education and sustainability stakeholders and private sector representatives came together to discuss a national vision for healthy, high-performing schools.
As a founding member of the Global Coalition for Green Schools—which was founded by the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, in partnership with the World Green Building Council—EmiratesGBC has been leading the UAE’s green schools work since 2013.
Research and recommendations for UAE schools
The first in a series of planned events, the November roundtable was focused on how each distinctive stakeholder group could contribute to the shared goal of greening UAE’s schools. The event culminated in the release of the State of Our Schools white paper, which outlines recommendations for transforming UAE’s schools into more sustainable learning environments. The white paper is supported by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Taqati and Etihad Energy Services and was developed with the Center for Green Schools.
The roundtable encapsulated a significant challenge in the industry: A very limited number of schools currently meet the agreed-upon definition of a green school in the UAE. For instance, as noted in the white paper, a recent study found that across 16 elementary schools examined, the average total VOC, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate concentration were outside of the recommended ranges for classroom environments. Improvements to indoor air quality in UAE schools have been highlighted as a specific need to address.
Working together for a common goal
In addition, the establishment of the Emirates Coalition shows that the global movement is taking root in other countries, bringing together multidisciplinary actors to develop strategies and resources to address the most pressing issues. Collaboration across different sectors in the UAE is helping green schools and improve the sustainability literacy of local students.
The Emirates Coalition is also considering the potential of green schools more broadly. As the white paper emphasizes, greener schools would contribute to the UAE’s educational targets for 2021, as well as aid in achieving national and municipal energy, water and waste reduction targets.
For a U.S. perspective on these issues, read the Center for Green Schools' 2016 State of Our Schools report, which analyzes the best available school district data about K–12 public school facilities funding and identifies strategies for addressing the structural deficits in our education infrastructure.