Dubai’s upmarket bars and cafes are set to offer patrons a unique experience by incorporating rare cubes of glacier ice sourced from the North Atlantic Ocean into their drinks, despite the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) recent commitments to address pollution at the COP28 climate summit it hosted. Greenland-based start-up Arctic Ice is responsible for harvesting glacial ice from the Arctic’s natural glaciers and transporting it around 9,000 nautical miles to the UAE.
The initiative has faced criticism from environmentalists who accuse Arctic Ice of exacerbating the climate crisis. However, co-founder Malik V Rasmussen defends the practice, emphasizing that the ice, sourced from Greenland’s fjords, is environmentally friendly.
He highlights that using glacial ice in drinks is common in Greenland and emphasizes the unique properties of the ice, such as its lack of bubbles and slower melting rate, making it desirable for the UAE’s hot climate.
The icebergs harvested by Arctic Ice break off naturally from glaciers connected to Greenland’s ice sheet. The company, having recently commenced exports to the Gulf via Denmark, aims to open up new markets for ice sales from Greenland, diversifying the country’s economy traditionally reliant on fish exports and tourism.
This decision by the UAE to import glacial ice raises concerns among environmentalists about the nation’s green credentials, especially following backlash against Sultan al-Jaber, who led the COP28 climate conference and serves as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Al-Jaber faced criticism for advocating continued fossil fuel use despite the climate emergency, given the UAE’s position as one of the top oil producers globally.
Leaked documents also suggested the UAE sought to leverage its hosting role at COP28 for oil and gas deals, reinforcing concerns about double standards. The UAE’s move to reduce alcohol taxes and offer free liquor licenses to boost tourism further underscores its efforts to strengthen its tourism and hospitality industry.
However, these actions, coupled with the decision to import glacier ice, contribute to the skepticism surrounding the UAE’s commitment to environmental sustainability and its role in addressing climate change.