Standing outside his new home, Karam Hamadeh is a happy man.

His house is on the outskirts of Dubai in what is expected to become the city’s first carbon-neutral development. It uses energy-efficient building techniques and thousands of solar panels generate most of its electricity.

“When I first visited I fell in love with it,” says Hamadeh, a manager for a doors and windows manufacturing company, who lives with his wife Hiam and their two-year-old daughter. “It really makes you think about energy use.”

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and across the region, rapid economic development has led to soaring electricity consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. As a result, the UAE’s carbon emissions per person are nearly three times the level of the UK, for example.

The creation of Sustainable City – in a region which has supplied much of the crude oil to fuel the global economy – reflects growing local recognition of the need to tackle high emissions that contribute to climate change. It is also part of a global trend towards building small-scale developments aimed at making urban living more sustainable.