Abu Dhabi sets out to champion sustainability in the Middle East

In the sixth edition of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, one of the world’s largest gatherings on clean energy and sustainable development, a country long steeped in oil-driven excesses leads a sustainable path for the region.

adsw 2019
Every year, government heads and business leaders gather in the UAE capital for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW). This year, ADSW focuses on how digitalisation is transforming the global economy. Image: Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week / Masdar

In a bid to position itself as a regional sustainability leader, oil-wealthy nation United Arab Emirates (UAE) has called on governments, businesses and communities in the region to show their commitment to a greener feature and amplify the conversation on sustainable development.

Launched ahead of Abu Dhabi Sustainably Week (ADSW), which opened on Monday in emirate capital Abu Dhabi, the #WeAreCommitted campaign features the nation’s rulers, ministers and young innovators encouraging viewers to adopt sustainable lifestyles—a move deemed critical to mitigating climate change and reducing the country’s massive carbon footprint.

“We urge the public to take part in the #WeAreCommitted campaign as no single technology or company can meet this demand for sustainability alone,” said Mohamed Al Ramahi, chief executive of Masdar, the state-run renewable energy company behind ADSW.

Acting as a global platform for governments, businesses and communities, ADSW is the largest sustainability gathering in the Middle East, convening over 30,000 attendees each year in a series of events spanning key areas of sustainable development and clean energy solutions. Last year, more than US$15 billion in commercial deals related to low carbon innovations and renewable energy projects sprang out of the week’s events alone.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, UAE, said: “Through advancing innovation and leveraging the latest technologies, the UAE has emerged as a model of global sustainability stewardship. The country has paved the way for the public and private sectors to work together to launch joint projects and initiatives that drive sustainability at home and abroad.”

The gathering follows the general assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Abu Dhabi that supports countries in their adoption of renewable energy and helps them transition to a sustainable future.

Moving away from oil 

According to a report titled “A New World” launched at IRENA’s ninth assembly, countries that have been heavily reliant on fossil fuel exports would need to adapt to the global shift towards renewables to avoid serious economic consequences.

“By 2020, all commercially available renewable technologies will be on par with, or cheaper than, fossil fuels competitors,” said secretary-general of IRENA, Adnan Amin.

The UAE is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, with Abu Dhabi holding more than 90 per cent of its oil reserves that are predicted to last the nation for another century.

At the opening ceremony of ADSW, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, minister of state and chairman of Masdar, said: “The country is focusing on the symbiotic relationship between sectors to create lasting impact on every facet of sustainability. The UAE will play an influential role as an incubator of clean energy and sustainability, injecting confidence in the renewable energy industry.”

He also revealed that Masdar, in partnership with global energy company EDF Renewables, has recently won a bid to start the Dumat Al Jandal onshore wind project in Saudi Arabia, which will be the largest wind farm in the Middle East.

Along with the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, which is planned to help the UAE diversify its energy mix and generate at least 7 per cent of its energy from solar by 2020, the wind farm is just one in a stream of ambitious sustainability projects in the pipeline for the Gulf nation.

Beyond the scope of renewable energy, ADSW 2019 aims to address global challenges and opportunities in the last league of the event, The Future Sustainability Summit. The summit will cover key areas such as energy and climate change, water, mobility, space, digitalisation, biotechnology and technology for good.

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