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UK embarks on one of the most comprehensive low-carbon initiatives in the world

Gulf News

I write this as I prepare to return to London to celebrate another great example of Emirati partnership with the UK at the inauguration of the London Array, one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world, set 20 kilometres off the coasts of Kent and Essex in the outer Thames Estuary.

This is an iconic example of UK and UAE innovation in clean energy, with important investments by Masdar alongside DONG Energy and E.on, and I am looking forward to seeing Prime Minister David Cameron launch this significant collaboration with Masdar’s CEO Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber.

The London Array has 175 turbines — all now fully installed — and is capable of generating enough energy to power nearly half a million homes and reduce harmful CO2 emissions by over 900,000 tonnes a year. Building offshore wind farms of this size allows us to harvest the advantages of scale and is an important element of Britain’s strategy to drive down the cost of energy.

The UK leads the world in offshore wind, with more than 700 turbines already installed. In addition, we are also accelerating the deployment of onshore wind with the biggest projects in Europe either already operating, or under construction in Scotland and Wales.

I care deeply about the world I pass on to my children, so it pleases me — as both a British diplomat and an ordinary Briton — that my government has embarked on one of the most comprehensive low-carbon initiatives in the world.

As well as the clear environmental benefits of adopting a low-carbon approach to the way we live, we are also increasingly seeing the economic possibilities of such a shift. ‘Going green’ creates jobs and stimulates economies.

Economic benefits

From research and development through to manufacturing and construction, a low-carbon approach has clear economic benefits. The UK is currently sixth in the world in the supply and provision of low-carbon goods and services, the sales of which amounted to £122 billion (Dh682.3 billion) — or 3.7 per cent of the world’s total — in 2010-11.

The UK is legally bound to create a low carbon economy. The principal sources of this will be clean coal and gas, nuclear and wind power, although our industry has extensive capabilities across the energy sector, including solar, tidal, wave and biomass. We are pioneers in the use of biomass
boilers which are used to create heat and electricity from agricultural and forest waste.

To help support this, the UK Government introduced the world’s first Renewable Heat Incentive in 2012. We estimate that this will deliver as many as 124,000 renewable heat installations in the UK by 2020.

The UAE has a fantastic story to tell too in moving towards a low carbon economy and a desire to work with the UK to further its green credentials was evident during the recent state visit to the UK by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan when Masdar and the UK Green Investment Bank signed an MoU to explore project investment opportunities for green energy projects in Britain.

Like the UK, the UAE is mindful of both the harmful effects of carbon-based energy and their finite nature. As such, the UAE government has embarked on one of the most ambitious programmes in the world to build a sustainable city. Designed by UK architects Foster + Partners,

Masdar City is not only being designed and built using the latest techniques and technologies to reduce its carbon footprint, it is also home to a series of research institutes that are pioneering new alternatives to carbon-based fuels.

In addition, there are several other companies and organisations in the Emirates contributing to the development of similar technologies.

The Abu Dhabi-based energy company, Taqa, recently announced plans to build a 100-MW waste-to-energy plant in the capital which will provide electricity for 20,000 homes and reduce CO2 emissions by 1 million tonnes per year.

This is just the beginning, as Abu Dhabi aims to divert 90 per cent of its waste from landfill by 2018, an ambitious target, but one which will help transform the emirate.

The writer is UK’s Ambassador to the UAE.