UN report adds urgency to UAE clean energy efforts
The world must triple its use of clean energy and trim fossil fuels consumption to a third of current levels to avoid the worst effects of global warming, said a UN report released yesterday.
The 2050 prescription from the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change places extra urgency on Abu Dhabi’s efforts to build the Arab world’s first civilian nuclear power plant and bring to life experimental technologies such as carbon burial. But it also casts a shadow on the income that has enabled those investments – the oil and gas sector that contributes 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP.
Delaying efforts to cut emissions could result in long-term costs in the economy and in temperature increases, said the report, which will help to guide representatives from 194 nations, including the UAE, when they meet next year to draft a plan to curb carbon emissions.
“2050 is 35 years away, which I view as long enough time to cut fossil fuels by a third and to triple renewables,” said Bob Bryniak, the chief executive of Golden Sands, a regional utilities consultancy. “The opportunity cost for not cutting the use of fossil fuels is very high. It is also important that the above efforts start sooner rather than later, as a typical power plant lasts 25 to 35 years.”
To limit the rise in the earth’s temperature since pre-industrial times to 2 degrees, countries must cut spending on oil and gas-powered plants by US$30 billion a year by 2030 and raise spending on clean energy – nuclear, renewables and carbon burial – by $147bn a year, said the panel of 235 scientists. The bulk of investment will go to energy efficiency, which scientists said needs an extra $336bn a year.
“It’s not like we stopped using whale oil because there are no whales,” said Jourdan Younis, the managing director of Alpin, a consultancy based in Masdar City. “Something better came out and it took over. Is it going to be market or policy driven?”
While the report has been designed to represent the consensus in the scientific community, a minority have criticised its alarmist nature or even its length – more than 2,000 pages.
Richard Tol, an economics professor at the University of Sussex, said he withdrew in March from a team drafting the report for what he saw as too little emphasis on the potential benefits of global warming, such as opportunities to grow new crops or milder winters that would be easier on the elderly.
But the lion’s share of the scientific community agrees that increases in the earth’s temperature have exacerbated the scale and frequency of natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November, and could in the long term melt Arctic sea ice, flood coastal cities and threaten food security.
Governments across the Arabian Gulf are seeking to revamp a power sector reliant on diesel and natural gas. The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority expects to receive bids this month for a planned 100 megawatt extension to its flagship solar park, part of a plan to raise renewables to 5 per cent of the emirate’s energy mix by 2030. Saudi Arabia has an even more ambitious plan to install 41 gigawatts of solar by 2032 and is crafting new efficiency guidelines for buildings, cars and industry.
“The position of the Gulf is slightly unclear because right now they’re in the pilot phase,” said Mohammed Atif, the manager of DNV GL’s energy advisory in Dubai. “We’ve seen all these big announcements from Saudi Arabia, but will we see larger-scale deployment in the Gulf? I think that question has yet to be answered.”
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