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Explorer in town to lobby for Antarctic treaty

Visit part of five-year global voyage to promote clean energy

We can change the world
Image Credit: MEGAN HIRONS MAHON/Gulf News
British explorer Robert Swan makes a point as he speaks atthe Corporate Social Responsibility Summit at the Shangri-LaHotel in Dubai.
Gulf News

Dubai: The first Arctic explorer to trek to both the North and South Poles is in the UAE to urge the nation to ratify a treaty that calls for the protection of the Antarctic from oil exploration.

Robert Swan, 52, is a British explorer and founder of 2041, an organisation whose aim is to work towards the continuing protection of the Antarctic so that the last great wilderness on Earth is never exploited.

The organisation is named after the year 2041 when the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty could potentially be modified or amended allowing drilling and mining.

Speaking at yesterday's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Summit in Dubai, Swan said he would love to see the UAE "sign up".

"There is real firepower here. This part of the world could show leadership directed towards issues of survival on Earth," Swan told Gulf News. "What interests me about being here is that it's a place where things get done."

Clean technology

Swan is currently on a five-year Voyage for Cleaner Energy around the world on a sailboat powered by clean technology. The voyage will end at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2012.

Swan is also keen on bringing more Emiratis to Antarctica and will be launching a competition tomorrow with ilearn, a training and consultancy firm based in Dubai, for 15 Emiratis to assist in a mission to the South Pole in March 2011. Fifteen spots will also be available for businesses with a competent CSR strategy.

"I believe the whole issue of survival on Earth has to be tackled by inspired people, not negative people. We want to have champions worldwide. To inspire people we have to take these steps," he said.

Swan's journey to the South Pole in 1986 was, and is, the longest unassisted walk ever made on earth. During the journey he experienced radiation no other explorers had. Ozone depletion was just being discovered.

His team suffered from blisters on their face and eyes — his eyes changed colour after prolonged exposure walking under the hole in the ozone layer. He saw icebergs melt in the Arctic prematurely caused by global warming.

"There are 400 million people in China without electricity yet. There are 350 million people in India without electricity yet. We have to help them not repeat the mistakes that have already been made," he said.

"Masdar is a great example here." The country, he said, produces the most oil but suffers from power shortages. "Having a company like Shell who is looking way ahead, that is not green washing, shows great environmental leadership. It doesn't appease the mind but you hope that others will follow," said Swan.