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
In less than half a century, the United Arab Emirates transformed itself from almost empty desert to an oasis of air conditioned skyscrapers. For its next trick, it aims to be environmentally sustainable too.
From an indoor ski slope to the tallest building on the planet to a series of man-made islands and manicured golf courses kept lush with desalinated water, Dubai and its fellow emirates are strewn with symbols of the defiance of nature.
Its extravagant developments have lured the super-rich and the super-famous, but attracted criticism from those who say such rapid development is destroying the natural environment.
In a shift in keeping with a property slump that hit Dubai World — the conglomerate responsible for many of Dubai’s most ambitious developments — the UAE has moved its marketing towards idyllic, natural islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
It has promised to get 7 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. It has also embarked on the Masdar project to build what it says will be the world’s first zero emissions, zero waste city, though the completion date has recently been put back to 2025 from 2020.
Not everyone is convinced real changes are afoot.
“All of this is green, advanced-tech branding, not deep, strategic change of the sort that would propel the Gulf states into the 21st century,” one internationally-renowned specialist in sustainable development said. “The Emirates can and must do better than 7 percent in 10 years.”
He asked not to be named because he wanted to maintain relations with the UAE “to nudge them in a saner direction”.