Finding a balance: UAE eyes sustainable growth
The country aims to produce 7 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020, and will promote green tourism with a conference in November. Is it enough?
October 14, 2010 1:35 by Reuters
The OPEC member and world’s third-largest oil exporter has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.
Its population of around 6 million burns more than half as much gas as Germany, home to more than 80 million people.
The number of private jet flights whizzing in and out of Dubai has continued to rise though economic growth has slowed, and its inhabitants take more taxi rides than journeys on the new, but often empty, Dubai Metro.
Abu Dhabi’s investment in expanding its all-important oil and gas industry — $30 billion in the 12 months to March 2010 — clearly outpaces its environmental spending.
But its investment in greener energy, as part of initiatives across the Gulf Cooperation Council, has grown.
Advocates of sustainability say the UAE has a compelling reason to cut its carbon footprint — burning less oil means it has more to export, but that just shifts the burden elsewhere.
“The leadership very much senses oil is a finite resource and they have a commitment to selling resources, not burning them at home,” said Peter Sharratt, group global director for energy and sustainability at WSP, a London-based sustainable design and engineering company working as a consultant to Masdar.
“There is a real ambition to have a balanced approach.”
The words of the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, on the need to conserve the environment are not dissimilar to statements made by the West’s green lobby.
“On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment,” he is quoted as saying by the organisation that awards an environmental prize in his name (www.zayedprize.org.ae).
“They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”