x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abu Dhabi has good case for Irena, says UN chief

The UN chief Ban Ki-moon says Abu Dhabi has made a strong case to host the headquarters of a global green-energy body.

COPENHAGEN // The UN chief Ban Ki-moon says Abu Dhabi has made a strong case to host the headquarters of a global green-energy body. Although the secretary general cannot actively support any single candidate for the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), Mr Ban said the UAE had made a powerful case. Abu Dhabi says that hosting Irena in a non-Western city - rather than somewhere like the traditional European contenders of Vienna, Copenhagen and Bonn - would send a positive signal to the developing world.

"That can be a strong argument," Mr Ban told The National in an interview at a climate change summit. "The United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi have been contributing a great deal in many ways to the United Nations' major objectives. I appreciate that very much." The UAE Government has campaigned hard to secure global backing and build a home for Irena on the fringes of the capital, in Masdar City, but faces stiff competition from Austria, Denmark and Germany.

There are only a handful of international agencies with headquarters outside a major western city, including the United Nations Environment Programme, in Nairobi, Kenya. Irena will compile data on renewable energy and encourage countries to move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power. The organisation has 81 members, who are set to choose a headquarters at a meeting in Egypt next month. Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's minister for climate and energy, said Abu Dhabi's application was one of "many good bids on the table" but argued that Copenhagen had a "long history with renewables" stretching back more than 30 years.

She described Masdar City as "amazing" and "interesting" but outlined a range of factors that would probably influence Irena's members when they vote in Sharm el Sheikh. "They will be voting on who has the best building, the best location and proximity to an international airport as well as who can move the fastest," said Ms Hedegaard. "It will be a mixture of these criteria and some political reflections."

The advocates of clean energy were speaking on the sidelines of the World Business Summit on Climate Change, a three-day conference which began in the Danish capital yesterday. Ahmed al Jarman, the UAE ambassador to the UN, has previously outlined the Government's case to host Irena in Abu Dhabi, saying the move would "have a positive effect on developing and Arab countries". The rapidly industrialising nations of the developing world are increasingly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and are widely seen as key actors in global efforts to combat the threat of climate change.

Reem al Hashimi, a minister of state, recently outlined Abu Dhabi's case to fellow members of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been active in canvassing support for the emirate's bid. Earlier this month, Mohammad al Tuwaijri, the Arab League's Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs, reiterated the 22-nation group's support for Abu Dhabi.

The UAE bid for Irena is expected to be hampered by the nation's relatively poor record on using renewable energy and emitting disproportionately high levels of carbon dioxide per head of population. According to the latest issue of the World Bank's Little Green Data Book, the average UAE resident creates one of the largest carbon footprints in the world and compares unfavourably with figures from Denmark, Austria and Germany.

jreinl@thenational.ae