The study explores the research question of what influences sustainable development policies in the water and renewable energy sectors in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi.
The thesis draws upon the growing initiatives undertaken by Gulf Arab states to address economic diversification, branding and perception, and sustainable development. Kuwait and Abu Dhabi epitomize the fossil fuel reliant, rentier city-states of the Arab Gulf, and have much in common historically, culturally, geographically, and economically. In tackling issues of sustainable development, particularly within the water and renewable energy sectors, the two have pursued different policies and strategies. The aim of this study is to question whether drastic policy differences do exist beyond the rhetoric and, if so, to identify the variables that account for this policy variance, particularly the in areas of governance, policy networks, and leadership. As Kuwait and Abu Dhabi lie on opposite ends of the democratic spectrum among the Gulf Arab states, the comparative case study seeks to improve understanding of the unique interplay between populations, government, and civil society in national decision-making.
Isolating Abu Dhabi rather than taking the entire UAE as a unit for comparison is done for the purpose of simplification, as each Emirate within the UAE has a significant amount of autonomy that extends to legislation on water and electricity management, and crucially, autonomy over the use of oil revenue and energy policy. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi’s nuclear program and multi-billion dollar Masdar Project indicates an aggressive pursuit of alternative energy options despite the abundance of fossil fuels within the Emirate, the scale of which has not been replicated in Kuwait.
The dissertation aims to contribute to analyses on rentier theory and current understanding of the processes incorporated in national prioritization, development strategies, state branding, and policy networking within the Arab Gulf city-states. Addressing how climate change policies manifest themselves within top-down societies is another key theme within the study.