NEW YORK // UAE envoys to this week's climate change summit in New York have outlined a road map for turning around what they concede has been the country's weak energy conservation record.
Business and environmental leaders from the Emirates formed the largest delegation from the Arab world at a meeting on the sidelines of the summit, being held at UN headquarters. Habiba al Marashi, the head of the Emirates Environmental Group, urged UAE construction firms and energy companies to help reduce carbon dioxide emission levels, which at present are almost seven times the global average.
"I think the governments of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah are doing a lot at the moment, but what is the private sector doing?" Ms al Marashi asked during an interview on Tuesday. "We want to see the private sector take the lead. There should be incentives, there should be regulation. The private sector must lead on this issue, and it goes above and beyond the call of regulations; we have to do it because we do not have another planet." Ms al Marashi, together with Carl Sheldon, the general counsel and deputy general manager of Taqa-Abu Dhabi National Energy, and Sultan al Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, took part in the UN's Leadership Forum on Climate Change in Manhattan.
At the same time, US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, were joined by more than 100 world leaders trying to revive talks on a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Politicians want to draw up a new treaty by December, when more than 190 nations will meet in Copenhagen to finalise it. While the UAE ranks low on a list of the world's main polluters, which include the US and China, the 30.1 tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually for each individual far exceeds the global average of 4.5 tons, according to World Bank data.
"Steps are being taken to change the UAE," Mr Sheldon said, adding that the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, have demonstrated they are "willing to take a long view" and have embarked upon long-range public projects. Mr al Jaber said the carbon-neutral, zero-waste Masdar City on the outskirts of the capital demonstrated the Government's commitment to reduce reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. "The international discussion taking place this week in New York is a reflection of the importance global leaders have given to mitigating climate change," he said in a statement. "
Abu Dhabi will have its role to play in this global effort. The emirate has already taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint beginning with its seven per cent renewable energy target by 2020. "Masdar will play a significant role in meeting this target and reducing the emirate's carbon footprint through its various projects including the carbon capture and storage network." Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, headed the UAE delegation during round-table talks as part of the summit.
A UAE diplomat said Sheikh Abdullah was also holding more than 40 bilateral meetings with leaders from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia during his 10-day visit to New York before starting a 13-nation tour of Latin America. "As well as furthering diplomatic and business co-operation, he is lobbying to make the International Renewable Energy Agency a more useful organisation by getting more countries to sign up to its statute," the diplomat said.
In June, Abu Dhabi was selected to host the headquarters of the agency, which now has 136 members. firstname.lastname@example.org