Expo 2020 Dubai succeeded in spreading Emirati values to a global audience – now let’s consider its legacy

Expo 2020 Dubai succeeded in spreading Emirati values to a global audience – now let’s consider its legacy

The dust has settled on Expo 2020, and as it evolves into an exciting new district, I believe it’s important to pause for a moment to think of the event’s legacy. 


Every aspect of the Expo had a technology element, from the 150 state-of-the-art greeter robots to futuristic innovations such as 3D-printed food and the world’s first compressed-air train. 

Visitors to the Netherlands pavilion could examine an integrated climate system that harvests water, energy and food through sustainable innovations such as a vertical farm. 

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic Pavilion showcased how to create fertile land from barren desert by extracting water vapour from the air using solar energy. 

And at the heart of Expo, Terra – the sustainability pavilion – allowed us to meander through forest roots and dive into ocean depths while learning about a range of global projects which provide solutions to help preserve our planet for future generations. 

The legacy here is in sharing a global vision of an innovation-led, technology-centric future. 

Sustainable Nation  

Key to the themes running across the six-month event was sustainability. Indeed, Expo led by example – such as the 4,912 solar panels on sustainability pavilion Terra’s 130-metre-wide canopy and 18 energy trees, which could create 4GWh of alternative energy annually – that’s enough electricity to charge over 900,000 mobile phones! 

Of the million-plus visitors to the Terra pavilion, some 95 per cent pledged to bring about a sustainable change, such as undertaking meat-free days and swapping cars for public transport. 

Many of those taking the pledges are UAE residents, so a clear legacy of the event will be in changing the habits of local residents. 

It’s worth noting that the Expo site included renewable energy systems with a combined total capacity of 5.5 megawatts on all permanent buildings, which will remain as the site transforms into a new district. 

The sustainable actions that permeate the entire site underline the UAE’s ongoing efforts in this field – and support the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Sustainable lifestyle  

With more than 24 million visits during the Expo’s six months, people are bound to have taken away not only new ideas and ways of looking at things but sowed the seeds of new habits – such as the renewed effort to act more sustainably. 

Expo 2020 provided the opportunity for people to move around a sustainable space. The event was brimming with practical sustainable solutions, and visitors encouraged to learn about and interact with exhibits. 

One simple element which was a first in the UAE was charging for carrier bags across the entire site. This generated increased awareness of the lifecycle and journey of this everyday item and raised awareness of just how many bags we (unthinkingly) use. 

Alongside the strong sustainability message, people were encouraged to view new means of transport, new ways of collaborating, and, of course, understanding. With 192 nations participating, there was a genuine chance for people to build a beautiful habit: of better understanding each other through the lens of sustainable activities. 

Stronger global collaborations and networks 

Every Expo is a chance for greater ingenuity and collaboration. We saw nations talking to each other, new business partnerships and a coming together of scientists, academics and thought leaders. 

An enduring legacy of Expo is the fact that despite the devastation of the pandemic, the very human ability to endure, adapt, and progress was underlined every day at the event. 

The UAE wisely took the opportunity of hosting Expo to introduce sustainable initiatives in the ‘test’ environment of the Expo site. This not only validated some concepts but created a great deal of interest among other nations. 

One of the greatest legacies of the Expo is that it represented an unmatched opportunity to test different concepts, often using trial and error, and to explore whether ideas, tools and technology used in other countries could work in the UAE. 

It’s clear that sustainability was a key pillar of every aspect of Expo 2020. With the vision of delivering one of the world’s most sustainable Expos, the concept was ingrained in every element from infrastructure, energy, construction and buildings. By paying heed to these factors, the site established a lasting sustainability legacy, which will endure long after Expo is over. 


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