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
PRAGMATISM AND PRINCIPLE
Starting from the clean slate of new construction, the UAE, in many ways, has a head start on sustainable growth over the West, with its hodge-podge of historic, inefficient buildings.
With a budget of $22 billion, Masdar was genuine progress, Sharratt said.
“They are one part of the world that understands the art of city-making. They can build to quality at speed,” he said.
For Sharratt, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, along with the other five less high-profile emirates, are a product of the international community, and its criticism is hypocritical.
“In one way, everybody has helped to shape Dubai,” he said. “Our own achievements in relation to sustainability don’t always quite match the rhetoric.”
That resonates with the long-standing complaint of oil-producing countries, as well as their defenders, that consumer nations have for generations burnt huge amounts of fossil fuel and belatedly developed a conscience.
“When Europe set its target of 20 percent renewable energy, it was already around 10 percent at the time,” said Helene Pelosse, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, set up in 2009 and with headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
“The effort of the Gulf countries is a very good sign.”
In moving towards cleaner motor fuel, the UAE is slightly behind the United States and very far off best practice in Europe, notably in Norway — heralded as the world’s most environmentally virtuous oil producer.
The International Fuel Quality Center ranks the world’s countries for the sulphur content of their vehicles and the UAE comes in at number 46, two behind the United States at number 44.
Abu Dhabi has set a target to reduce the sulphur content of the fuel it uses to 10 parts per million. That would rank it with Europe. The timescale, however, is vague and depends on a refinery upgrade project being completed.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi is salving its conscience with a series of high-profile green events.
In November, it will host World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi, which describes itself as “the first dedicated eco-tourism event in the region”.
In January, the third World Future Energy Summit, billed as “the world’s foremost and must-attend annual meeting for the renewable energy and environment industry”, will follow.
The 2010 edition brought 24,792 attendees from 148 countries at the cost of many thousands of air miles.
Those arriving for this year’s event will be offered a scheme to offset emissions, although conference organisers said details had yet to be finalised.
(By Amena Bakr and Barbara Lewis. Editing by Lin Noueihed)