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Abu Dhabi's green move gathers pace

$5b masdar initiative involves $350m investment in solar power.

Image Credit:Illustration: Liz Ramos Prado/Gulf News
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi The UAE's response to global warming begins at home.

Last month the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) launched a $5 billion initiative to establish the world's first totally green city in Abu Dhabi.

The development extending over six square kil-ometres plans to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions and zero waste and includes plans to invest $350 million in solar energy generation.

The new city is scheduled for completion by late 2009, and comes as part of a series of projects adopted by the emirate recently to curb the greenhouse gas effect on the climate.

Abu Dhabi also plans a 100-megawatt solar power plant. Solar power is a growing global trend among environment-conscious investors.

The plant will be expandable to 500 mega-watts, with a target to generate enough power for 500,000 households. A pilot project is being planned in Dubai as well with the announcement by Tecom, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, that it will supply all its developments with clean solar energy.

"We have chosen to invest heavily in alternative energy, despite the fact that the UAE is among the top producers of oil worldwide, and given the country's ambitious economic development plans," Masdar's chief executive officer, Sultan Al Jaber, told Gulf News.

The initiative also makes sense economically, says one expert.

"Though it might seem paradoxical that Abu Dhabi adopts such an initiative, yet in the short term this can save substantial amounts of energy, while in the longer term, alternative sources, especially solar power, will present an important aspect in the world's energy mix," said Eckart Woertz, the economist at the Gulf Research Centre.

"Capturing carbon dioxide will not only help to curb global warming, but will also provide an alternative to oil field injections of natural gas," he added.

Abu Dhabi accounts for more than 90 per cent of the UAE's oil resources, and the country's reserves, exceeding 100 billion barrels, rank third largest in the world.

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the greenhouse effect on climate change in the Middle East region will result in an increase in the region's temperature of 1-2 degrees Celsius by 2030.

Impact

The impact on the region's ecological system, water resources and health could be catastrophic.

The majority of greenhouse gas emissions has usually been blamed on the developed world, headed by the US, Europe, and Japan.

However, a report published last month on the Science and Development Network website argues that developing countries account for 40 per cent of the total emissions worldwide.

Even more dramatically, the report stipulates that emissions from developing economies made up 73 per cent of the global growth in emissions during the period from 2000 to 2004, largely due to the moving energy-intensive activities from the developed to the developing world.

China and India are by far the largest contributors to such emissions growth, according to the website report, but the effect of the massive econ-omic development and diversification plans in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries cannot be ruled out.

"What we are trying to do is to set an example not only in the region, but worldwide, for other nations to follow, as environmental issues do have a global effect," Al Jaber said.

According to United Nations statistics, the UAE ranks 43rd among polluters.

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