x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi packs Sustainability Week with international events

The capital is getting ready to welcome more than 30,000 delegates from 150 countries in January for the first Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

ABU DHABI // More than 30,000 delegates from 150 countries are expected to arrive in the capital early next year for the first Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

The event, from January 13 to 17, aims to attract ministers of environment, energy and economy, business leaders, entrepreneurs, activists and scholars, said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change.

The event was announced this year during Rio+20, a UN conference on sustainable development in Brazil in June.

Proponents of sustainable development are looking for ways to eradicate poverty and create wealth for communities without damaging natural resources.

"We decided to extend the reach of Rio and the discussion that took place there to Abu Dhabi," said Dr Al Jaber, who is also the chief executive of Masdar, the capital's clean energy company.

The start of the event will coincide with the third general assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). The world's first international clean-energy body has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi and has 158 states and the EU among its members.

The sustainability week will build on the success of the World Future Energy Summit, a yearly event for the renewable-energy sector hosted by Masdar in Abu Dhabi since 2008.

Last year, the summit was attended by high-ranking delegates including the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon; China's premier, Wen Jiabao; and the South Korean prime minister, Kim Hwang-sik.

"The World Future Energy Summit is an already established platform and it has proved very successful," said Dr Al Jaber.

This year the summit will take place from January 15 to 17 as part of the sustainability week. The summit provides a global platform for Masdar to display its projects and a meeting place for the clean-energy industry.

The sustainability week in the capital will also include International Renewable Energy Conference, a biennial event for policymakers convened by REN21, an international network of organisations.

For the first time, Abu Dhabi will also be welcoming water conservation experts to the International Water Summit.

The event was announced in January this year by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

It will gather influential water experts to discuss how resources could be used more efficiently and the policies needed to encourage conservation.

The events, said Dr Al Jaber, would solidify Abu Dhabi's position as a catalyst for change in the region. In 2006, the emirate's announcement that it would invest in renewable energy was a shock to many in the region, he said.

"A lot of questions were raised. We had our reasons … one of the greatest successes and achievements [of Masdar] is the fact we have been able to change mindsets, starting at home and reaching out abroad."

Following the UAE's example, a number of other countries in the region have announced renewable energy programmes, most recently Saudi Arabia.

Dr Al Jaber said Masdar was cooperating with Saudi's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy to help shape policy and regulation for renewable energy.

The company is ready to invest in Saudi Arabia if the country provides "the right regulatory framework", he said.

Masdar is also cooperating with organisations in Morocco, Jordan and other countries in the region, said Dr Al Jaber.

vtodorova@thenational.ae