UAE’s science talent takes to the international stage
ABU DHABI // The UAE depends on its youth to bring about solutions to climate change – that was the message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa) to a roomful of engineering students from Masdar Institute and New York University Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, director of energy and climate change at the ministry, said that while international expertise was crucial in the development of the UAE’s clean energy sector, local development must also be brought to the fore.
“We here in the UAE, we look at the whole situation as opportunities,” he said.
“So far we’ve depended on the international science community to help us, but now we want to develop our students to come up with answers.”
Dr Al Zeyoudi and his team will be part of the international community gathering at the Conference of Parties 21 (Cop21) meeting in Paris, where countries at the United Nations event will form a legal agreement to mitigate climate change.
The main issue at the 12-day meeting which starts on November 30 is how to keep global warming to less than two degrees Celsius before 2050.
As part of the UAE delegation, Dr Al Zeyoudi will be accompanied by some of the students he addressed at Masdar.
“Students are always coming up with ideas. Having them involved in our negotiations and in our delegation is really going to give them the exposure to these problems and give us new ideas.”
Mohammed Al Ghailani is studying for his masters degree at Masdar in chemical and environmental engineering. He is part of the ministry delegation going to the French capital. “It will make me a better engineer, this is for sure,” the 23-year-old said. “I think that a very important part for us as engineers is that we don’t really realise negotiations and how we can push our ideas forward.”
As it is common for engineering students to be “stuck in the lab all day”, he said, opportunities such as Cop21 gave context to their work, which is more often than not lost in academia.
“I’m not saying that the lab isn’t important, of course it is. But there are many other factors that play into it, and bringing these ideas together, that’s what I want to be a part of.”
Dr Al Zeyoudi said that the students would be exposed not only to fellow engineering students but also to members of the community involved, from legislative authorities to NGOs.
“They will have been exposed to the delegation. They will be able to speak to members there and be exposed to what’s going on in the world.”
He said the students would see that they were a part of a wider community and that they might be able to improve upon their research while there.
Dr Steven Griffiths, vice president of research at Masdar Institute, said that the students would be part of an important agreement as decisions made at Cop21 would be legally binding.
“Students are going to earn great experience, as they’ll see what leaders are looking at as far as their commitments. What can be taken away from that is what actions will be taken in the coming years in technologies and policy solutions.”
He said the UAE was differentiating itself from other Gulf nations in terms of renewable energy policies, an aspect that the students could look to as they tried to secure employment in the sector.