Masdar, IRENA… why can’t going green go right?
The chief of IRENA handed in her resignation and Masdar got scaled down and postponed; Kipp wonders if the UAE’s green efforts are all they’re cracked up to be.
October 26, 2010 12:48 by Eva Fernandes
“Going green” maybe everyone’s favorite catchphrase these days, but recent developments (or should we say green glitches?) in the capital suggest that when it comes to getting tough with global energy consumption, the dog’s bark might just be louder than his bite. Kipp takes a closer look at the UAE’s latest green troubles.
Earlier this week, IRENA chief Helene Pelosse quit her position as the agency’s first interim director. The departure of Pelosse – who was IRENA’s interim director general for almost 15 months – came as a surprise for most because as recently as July she appeared to be considering her stint at IRENA to be one of a longer tenure. The National reports that on July 29 Pelosse is known to have said, “IRENA is like a baby – it’s an organization that didn’t exist so you had to build it up, you had to set it up, it’s a long-term process (…) We will take years to get there.”
Speaking to AFP just yesterday, Pelosse claims she left the agency because of “intimidation” tactics used by the UAE government against her to force her out of her job. Pelosse told AFP: “Since I’ve been here, I’ve done several things which have led each time to the (UAE) foreign minister calling Paris to say, ‘This does not please us at all.’” Pelosse claims her offences include publicly accusing the UAE of delaying its payments and wearing a t-shirt at a climate conference in Amsterdam which read “IRENA recruits 50 percent women”.
IRENA was established in 2009 and Abu Dhabi beat out three European countries, including Vienna and Germany, in a bid to host the headquarters of the organization. When it began, the agency had big plans to speed up the process of going green and reducing climate change. But bureaucracy and financial restrictions appear to have curbed the fast pace of initial plans. With the funding for the project being based primarily on voluntary contributions, IRENA has reported severe financial restraints in the past year. According to IRENA’s website, Japan still owes the agency $2.1 million, and the US owes an estimate of more than $3 million. Though it must be noted that the US has not ratified the IRENA treaty; in fact only two members of the G8 have ratified the treaty as of yet, and only 42 out of 148 overall.
News of trouble with IRENA comes shortly after reports that Masdar City, the ambitious carbon-free, environmentally friendly city will not be completed until 2020, four years after it was supposed to be completed. And Abu Dhabi’s pet project might even stretch until 2025. To rub salt in, the project has also been scaled down, as Emirates 24/7 reports.
There are two different views Kipp could take on all this. First, that the glass is half full: the UAE is making very noble attempts to save mother earth. But as complications arise around, you wonder whether the country should cut the smoke and mirrors around the big green talk until it has something tangible to boast of. The alternative view, of course, is that it’s all just talk; a big green-washing scam to make a country built on petro-dollars appear environmentally concerned.
We always try to be optimists, but it gets harder all the time…