x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Computer model reveals measures needed to cut greenhouse emissions

Emirate would require a functioning nuclear programme, notable renewable energy capacity, a new technology called carbon capture – and the price of electricity and water to double.

What is needed to cut Abu Dhabi's carbon emissions by 15 per cent in two decades? A computer model has calculated the answer. 

The emirate would require a functioning nuclear programme, notable renewable energy capacity, a new technology called carbon capture - and the price of electricity and water to double. And if the goal were to cut CO2 emissions by 40 per cent? As well as those measures above, Abu Dhabi would need to recycle all its sewage water, mandate energy efficiency appliances and cut the cooling demand by 60 per cent.

And if nothing is done? Greenhouse emissions will more than triple by 2030 - from almost 50 mega (million) tonnes a year to 180 mega tonnes. Researchers from the Masdar Institute and the Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) developed the unique computer model to make the projections. Now for the first time in Abu Dhabi, planners can investigate the impact of policies on water and electricity demand and, in turn, CO2 emissions.

"The tool is a first step at making us understand the potential effect of policies," Razan al Mubarak, the managing director of EWS-WWF, said. The model looks at development trends in the capital and projects them into the future. It then evaluates the potential impact of different policies in the water and energy sector to reduce Abu Dhabi's greenhouse emissions. It produces three "green" scenarios based on various energy-saving policies to make a reduction of emissions of nearly 40 per cent, 14.9 per cent and 11.6 per cent, all compared against projected emissions under current trends.

All three scenarios factor in the UAE's nuclear energy programme, which produces no direct CO2 emissions and is expected to come online later this decade. They also estimate the effect of having 15 per cent renewable energy in Abu Dhabi by 2020, double the emirate's target for this period, which is seven per cent. They also assess the impact of storing some carbon emissions underground. The technology, known as carbon capture and sequestration, is still in its infancy.

Ms al Mubarak said she hopes Government officials will consider the tool as it offers "science-based guidance on different policies that could be implemented to help tackle our carbon footprint". Christian von Tschirschky, the principal and head of utilities in the Middle East and North Africa for global management consultancy AT Kearney, welcomed the initiative. "The tool addresses the right topic because the future development of the UAE and the region depends on the success of implementation of such initiatives," he said.

Some of the measures, such as the commissioning of nuclear power plants and green building codes are under way. "I do not doubt, if there is political will, it is possible to realise these scenarios," Mr Tschirschky said. The modelling tool was developed as part of the UAE Ecological Footprint Initiative, Al Basma Al Beeiyah, which aims to identify the country's overall environmental impact.

 vtodorova@thenational.ae