Dubai Expo 2020 aiming for sustainability

16 Nov 2019 by Tom Otley
Aerial shot of Expo 2020 Dubai site

Dubai 2020 is promising to be one of the most sustainable World Expos ever held, according to Sanjive Khosla, the event’s chief commercial officer.

The Expo will take place for six months from October 2020 to April 2021 in Dubai, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.

The event takes place every five years and bills itself as a festival of innovation, creativity and exploration. Previous inventions unveiled at the show include the telephone in Philadelphia in 1876, the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889, touchscreens in Knoxville in 1982 and a humanoid robot in Nagoya in 2005.

Khosla told Business Traveller: “Sustainability is one of our themes and has been core to the planning, design and execution of everything we are doing.

“We have close to 40 KPIs which are sustainability-focused. To take a couple of examples, all the buildings that will remain are LEED-certified, we have set a target that 85 per cent of the waste generated from the event will be diverted from landfill which means it’s going to be recycled, and even the parking lots that we have built have asphalt from recycled materials, so we are doing things in a very sensitive way.”

Khosla said that after the event, the Expo site will be transformed into ‘District 2020’ which will be a mixed-use business site focused on innovation.

“We have announced Siemens is setting up there, Accenture and a blockchain Chinese company called Atlas, as well a sustainability lab by Merck, the pharmaceutical company out of the US,” Khosla said.

“So our idea is that this entire district has a clear, sustainable use after the event.”

According to the organisers, visitors to Expo 2020 will gain awareness about climate change, green growth, natural ecosystems, biodiversity and sustainable cities.

The commitment to sustainability was part of Dubai’s bid for the event, including the pledge ‘to deliver one of the most sustainable World Expos in history’.

Within the overarching theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, there are three subthemes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, the last meaning  ‘Living in balance with the world’.

The Expo certainly has a catchment area, aiming at those within a four-hour plane ride – “one-third of the world’s population”.

The site is midway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and served by three airports, including Al Maktoum International, which is approximately six kilometres from the Expo. It will be the first Expo that is relatively accessible for many millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Dubai Expo 2020 Sustainability Sector


True to its sub-theme, the LEED Platinum-certified Sustainability Pavilion (above) is targeting zero net energy consumption. Sustainable features include 9,300 sqm of PV panels on the steel canopy, 4,100 sqm of PV panels across 18 ‘Energy Trees’, and a system that filters and reuses water collected through the canopy.


The station is part of Route 2020, an extension created by the Roads and Transport Authority to serve the Expo site. With a fleet of 50 trains, it will run every two minutes, carrying up to 46,000 passengers per hour.

All permanent buildings on the Expo site are on track to achieve a minimum of LEED Gold and the highest rated infrastructure in the region: CEEQUAL Excellence.

Expo 2020 Dubai site marks major construction milestone


Approximately 30,000 car parking spaces will be available during Expo 2020. As mentioned by Khosla, the roads were built using reclaimed crushed concrete, salvaged from previous buildings. Approximately 87.8 per cent of the asphalt waste generated on site has been reused, say the organisers, with the remaining quantity sent to external, municipally-owned landfill facilities for disposal.

General waste and organic waste is being transported off-site and disposed of at municipally-approved landfill sites. The Expo’s sustainability reports says that “to the maximum possible extent, recyclable wastes, such as timber, plastic, paper and cardboard, steel and metals, are either reused on-site or sent to registered recyclers.”

An electronic version of the report can be downloaded at expo2020dubai.com.

To see the initial promotion for the Expo, see the video below, viewed over 50 million times on Youtube so far.

Khosla said that although international visitors would be targeted with either a one-day ticket or a three-day ticket, doing justice to the site would take at least three days since it will be so large, and the attractions so extensive and varied.

When asked why a business person might take time out to see the event, Khosla said:

“You may be very busy but we are putting up a truly exceptional event, like nothing the world has seen before, and it’s only going to be there for six months and then it’s gone forever.

“We’re not saying it’s the world’s greatest show for nothing. And we think it has something for everyone.

“If you’re there on business there will be something for you to see, and even related to your business. If it’s cuisine you like, we have over 54 cuisines being showcased. For entertainment there are 20 performance venues with 60 shows available every day.”

Khosla told Business Traveller that buying tickets to the event would be easy, since in addition to thousands of authorised resellers around the world, tickets would be available for those who made the decision late while travelling to Dubai.

“We are ensuring tickets are available at every point of interaction for potential visitors. We are working with some of the key airlines including Emirates to see if we can even have tickets sold on the planes using their ecommerce platforms.

“At the airport there will be the opportunity, and at the hotel there will also be the chance to buy from the concierge. If you are attending a conference we are speaking with major conference organisers to see if they would be happy to bundle the ticket into what they are selling, and finally if you want you can buy on the day on the gate.”


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