UAE leads water security agenda
ABU DHABI // The UAE has taken the lead in a bold initiative under the umbrella of the GCC that could cut the region's carbon footprint and increase the efficiency of water use and desalination plants.
In a 15-point declaration at the closing of the GCC summit, the council announced a broad plan to address the scarcity of water, calling it one of the most significant challenges facing the region.
Water security is to become a focus of GCC policy under the presidency of the UAE, which has taken the council's helm from Kuwait.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, pledged yesterday that the focus of the GCC in the next year would primarily include water security, removing obstacles to the Gulf's proposed customs union, and negotiating free-trade agreements with other blocs of countries.
"Water security, diversifying our sources of energy and food security are vital necessities … for the future of our countries," said Abdul Rahman al Atiyyah, the outgoing secretary general of the GCC, as he announced the outlines of the plan at a joint press conference with Sheikh Abdullah.
The proposals are aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of GCC states, measured as among the highest in the world.
The joint announcement comes ahead of Sheikh Abdullah's trip to Cancun, in Mexico, later this week to attend a major summit on climate change. About half of the world's desalinated water is produced in the GCC.
The Abu Dhabi declaration's proposals, which are now set to be studied by internal GCC committees, call for concrete steps to build a long-term strategy for water security that would be approved by the GCC's rulers and represent a strong commitment to combating climate change.
The strategy would take into consideration the effects of climate change the impact of thirsty agricultural practices on the Gulf's water resources, the region's strategic water reserves, and the effects of desalination on marine life and climate change.
It would put in place local and regional standards that would limit the carbon footprint of the energy and water sectors, as well as the carbon footprint of individual homes.
To increase efficiency, the Gulf countries would support research into ways to make energy and water production more efficient. The GCC states are also expected to draft legislation that would mandate improving the efficiency of these industries, as well as promoting water conservation.
The declaration urged devising a way to persuade people to reduce their water usage, by raising awareness and by reconsidering the pricing plans for water in the Gulf, which are often subsidised.
The proposals also stress that the GCC countries must improve their desalination plants. This means they should be made more fuel efficient, by funding research and buying new desalination technology.
The GCC would also introduce new efficiency standards for home appliances like air conditioners, vital in the Gulf's hot climate.
The council would also review the agriculture sector in the Gulf, often the biggest consumer of water, and try to promote environmentally friendly farming practices like hydroponic farming.
Saudi Arabia will host the next GCC summit in 2011.
Updated: December 8, 2010 04:00 AM