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East meets West for the good of the world at Abu Dhabi Ascent

Silvia Radan / 5 May 2014

Clean energy, pollution, forestry, agriculture, urbanisation, disaster risk reduction, climate finance are all topics under discussion at the Abu Dhabi Ascent.

The time for talking is over, the time for action has reached its deadline. This was the message repeated all morning by national and international high level speakers at the opening of the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a two-day conference that started today in Abu Dhabi, in support of the New York September 2014 climate summit.

Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan briefing delegates about the UAE’s efforts to control its carbon footprint on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Ascent at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. — KT photos by Nezar Balout

“We only have 15 years left to address climate change, to prevent the two degree Celsius global rise in temperature,” warned Sultan Al Jaber, UAE minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change.

“We must commit to a decade of action that the world will remember over time as the moment when East and West united for the good of the world,” he added.

Time to change carbon economy

Silvia Radan

Cities consume 10 per cent more energy than rural areas and with urban population doubling by 2050, reversing climate change should start in urban areas. Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Ascent, a high-level meeting to generate momentum for the September 23 Climate Summit,  Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), yesterday said major cities have already taken action to reduce the world’s worst pollutant, carbon dioxide.

“There are 3.5 billion people living in cities currently, which will grow to seven billion in 2050. In cities, 10 per cent more energy is consumed, so imagine the consequences of this doubling. It is a dramatic reason to change our carbon economy,” Clos said.

With population growth comes economic growth and that involves lots more cars on roads, the number one cause for air pollution. Global emissions from transport are growing faster than any other sector. Over 23 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions is attributed to transport.

A new initiative, the Bus Rapid Transport, seeks to connect 20 cities to reduce congestion, alleviate private vehicle dependency and promote fuel efficiency by 2020.

Another urban initiative is to produce energy from landfills.

Globally, the waste sector is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the energy, agriculture and industrial sectors. Landfills account for 11 per cent of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas second only to carbon dioxide in terms of impact on global warming.

As part of an urban sustainable waste management approach, projects will link resource recovery and recycling with sustainable landfill design and urban economy.

UN Habitat hopes this initiative will be implemented after the New York climate summit. Also on the UN action agenda is a Transformative Projects for Cities that will guide future sustainable urbanisation in cities in developing countries.

It will benefit cities in Africa and Asia with populations of less than one million inhabitants. — silvia@khaleejtimes.com

Clean energy, pollution, forestry, agriculture, urbanisation, disaster risk reduction, climate finance are all topics under discussion at the Abu Dhabi Ascent to encourage political leaders to come closer to an agreement to combat climate change.

“For the next two days we will work to draft ideas at political level under the United Nations supervision,” pointed out Al Jaber.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon considers the conference a preparatory meeting for the New York summit on climate change next year, which is the last chance for world leaders to get their act together before the Paris 2015 — the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — when a global agreement is expected to be signed.

“We have little time to lose. The effect of climate change can be seen all over the world from small islands to wide continents and from rich countries to poor ones,” warned Ban Ki-moon.

“The New York summit will focus on solutions, and the meeting here in Abu Dhabi is a major step towards that goal.”

“Developing countries need most of our support in reducing carbon footprint and we have the moral and political responsibility to make the world sustainable,” added the UN Secretary-General.

He went on to explain that the choice for the UAE holding the conference was an easy one since, despite being a small nation it is a “global champion particularly in sustainable energy”.

UAE a major investor in renewable energy

UAE may be the world’s seventh largest, proven oil reserve in the world, currently producing 2.7 million barrels of oil per day estimated to reach 3.5 million barrels by 2017, but it is also a major investor in renewable energy both at home and abroad.

Al Gore addressing delegates during the high-level meeting at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.

Most recently, the country’s first major solar power plant, Shams 1 in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, is displacing 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees or getting rid of pollution caused by 15,000 cars.

Foreign efforts include a project in Afghanistan to supply eight isolated villages with 600 individual off grid solar photovoltaic systems or the Shaikh Zayed Solar Power Plant in Mauritania, 15 megawatt solar facility that accounts for 10 per cent of Mauritania’s energy capacity.

“We are very proud of our efforts and of what we have done in terms of investments in other countries,” said Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, as he concluded the morning speeches.

“At home, 24 per cent of our electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020-21 and we are committed to half a billion US dollars in grants and investments to support renewable energy projects in developing countries,” he added.

“My friends, we may be a small country, but we hope to make a huge impact in helping deal with global challenges,” concluded Shaikh Abdullah.

Some alarming facts

Former US Vice President Al Gore continued the warning that time for talking is over with some alarming facts.

“This May the levels of carbon dioxide emissions, which for years have been 400 parts per million, has exceeded the level for the entire month,” he pointed out.

“There are 90 million tonnes of pollution dumped in the air every 24 hours; 85 per cent of all world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels”.

“This morning there were 4.1 million people homeless in the Philippines because of the 2011 tsunami,” said Al Gore, giving an example of climate change effects.

He further explained that for each one degree Celsius rise in temperature, there is a seven per cent increase in water vapours, which, in turn, cause stronger storms. Water vapours also have the effect of “pulling” out heat from the land, causing draughts.

“Between 2006 and 2010 Syria lost 60 per cent of its arable land that has turned into desert because of drought,” revealed Gore.

Sea level rise, higher temperatures, pollution, famine are all adding up the cost of carbon footprint.

Yet, Gore said he is convinced there is still time to reverse climate change and we are already doing it; or rather the private sector is doing it and it proves to be a good business too. All that is left is for governments to follow suit.

“Always remember, politicians are a renewable resource too,” he concluded.


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