The Irena irony
Abu Dhabi has won the bid to host Irena’s interim HQ. How did that happen?
June 30, 2009 3:37 by Dana El Baltaji
The irony isn’t lost on anyone: Abu Dhabi, beat Bonn, Germany and Vienna, Austria in the race to become the interim headquarter of the International Renewable Energy Association (Irena), in spite of the UAE having the highest Ecological Footprint in the world, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2008.
Both Austria and Germany were ranked 20th and 30th in same report.
So why did Abu Dhabi win? Perhaps its sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA, which is reportedly worth $627 billion) may have had something do with it. The UAE’s capital’s bid to host the association was worth more than double Germany’s $11 million. Abu Dhabi even offered to pay for the headquarters and a worldwide advertising campaign.
To be fair, Abu Dhabi is trying to improve its environmental record. It is building Masdar City, the world’s first carbon-neutral development of its scale. The $15 billion development will house the Sustainable Cities Research Center, which will provide invaluable information to nations that wish to build similar developments. The project, which will be powered almost entirely by solar panels, will house 40,000 people when it is completed in 2016.
Furthermore, the capital is launching a capital investment venture, Masdar Clean Tech Fund – valued at $250 million – to provide funds for developments in green technology.
With Abu Dhabi’s financial assets and its willingness to change its poor environmental track record, perhaps the UAE capital is an apt choice for Irena’s HQ.
However, changing the world’s perception about Abu Dhabi’s commitment to renewable energy will take considerable work. Aside from the damage the WWF’s index did to the nation’s reputation as a responsible global player, Abu Dhabi will need to contend with its association with Dubai and its indoor ski slopes and manmade islands.
Will Dubai’s extravagances put a strain on the relationship between the two emirates, or is this a non-issue?