Since its launch, WADE has been a supporter of the Masdar initiative on energy sustainability in Abu Dhabi and of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), which marked its third anniversary this January with an even more impressive gathering of energy leaders, thinkers and doers from 130 countries.
When one thinks of clean, efficient and renewable energy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not the spot that immediately might come to mind. That is changing rapidly. The sun shines brightly on the UAE and, perhaps, that is why the new International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), decided to locate its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi. IRENA was founded around a year ago in Bonn and, in that short time period, has gained signatory support from 142 member states and the EU. IRENA will play a critical role in the global uptake of renewable energy solutions and removal of policy barriers that stand in the way.
While climate discussions may have stalled in Copenhagen, there is no shortage of ideas and dialogue on energy and environmental solutions in the UAE. Thus, we are witnessing what may be the birth of a new global capital – one built around clean and sustainable energy. Although this may seem incongruous with a land endowed with massive fossil fuel reserves and jammed with gas-guzzling vehicles, it makes it no less significant or exciting. The Masdar/WFES/IRENA triple threat holds great promise for an energy future that is not only brighter, but also cleaner and more secure.
WADE plans to continue supporting these efforts and also to launch a research programme later this year focused on the potential for decentralized energy throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council region. This research will make use of the WADE Economic Model to quantify the benefits in terms of carbon dioxide reduction. This study will be part of a collaborative effort and partnership with one of the top business schools in the world, INSEAD, based in France. Together, we hope to add more fuel to the fire of discussions about the future of sustainability in the Gulf region and beyond.
We now leave the UAE and head to Vancouver, British Columbia, the site of the XXI Olympic Winter Games. Just as the Beijing summer Olympics were marked by the sight of athletes arriving wearing face masks as protection from the polluted air, the Vancouver winter Olympics were noticeable for a different climate phenomenon – the lack of snow in a place that is usually awash with it during the winter months.
As one who endured record snowfalls in the Washington, DC region this winter, I would have happily donated our excess snow to Canada (so long as they came and shovelled it up from my driveway). Indeed, the more southern city of Washington, DC looked more like an Olympic venue than the actual Olympic venue. Unfortunately, even with this first-hand look at climate change, energy and environmental policy in Washington can still be described by the gold medal winning half pipe snowboard jump – a double McTwist. Partisan politics continue to twist and derail legislative efforts, although there are signs that new ideas on energy and climate may be percolating and partisan divides may be thawing. Let’s hope so, or else we may be watching beach volleyball in 2014 at the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi.
David M Sweet