Masdar, the government-owned clean energy firm, took time out from work to rally for strict caps on carbon emissions, a day after green activists staged demonstrations across the world. Clad in office attire, several hundred Masdar executives stood in neat lines in a sandy pitch next to the firm's solar panels to form the number "350". The number referred to an ambitious target described as the maximum proportion of carbon that can be in the atmosphere without causing significant climate change.
In a statement, Masdar called 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide "the maximum safe level", while noting the reading had already reached 387 ppm. The firm wanted to draw greater attention to upcoming climate change talks in Copenhagen in December, said Khaled Awad, the director of Masdar City, the firm's zero-carbon, zero-waste project. "At Masdar, we understand the importance of contributing as individuals to the need to reduce carbon emissions," he said. "More importantly, we recognise the need for collaborative efforts that lead to real solutions."
Negotiators have more or less given up on the 350 ppm target and public discussion now focuses on holding the concentration of carbon to 450 ppm. In August, Yvo de Boer, the top UN climate change official, called 350 ppm "a pipe dream" and said negotiators would in the best case limit the rise in global temperatures to 2°Celsius. The UAE has styled itself a leader on climate change, even as it continues to rank as one of the world's leading exporters of hydrocarbons, said Mohammed Raouf, the programme manager of environment research at the Gulf Research Centre, the think tank in Dubai.
"If the UAE has Masdar and the International Renewable Energy Agency, it should have a bigger responsibility," he said. "I don't see any contradiction between this and the oil industry." Masdar's workplace rally followed an international day of climate action Saturday, which saw activists gather in capitals across the world. In the Middle East, protesters formed human "350" figures around the Dead Sea in Jordan, Israel and Palestine, according to www.350.org, the website that co-ordinated the protests.
The website also published a photo of students lying down in the shape of the 350 figure at a football pitch in Kuwait. Within the region, awareness of climate change at a grassroots level is growing, but still remains far behind western countries, Mr Raouf said. "It's much better than five, 10 years ago," he said. "Still, you have a long way to go." @Email:email@example.com