Business & Technology Review

The green signal

Fatema Ebrahim
Filed on February 23, 2021
Terra sets an international example for sustainable building design and is built to be net-zero for both energy and water

The UAE is committed to and is fulfilling its sustainable development goals as it undergoes post Covid-19 recovery

The UAE is reinforcing its commitment to sustainable development in global post-Covid economic recovery and this will be further endorsed as the nation gets ready for Expo where Sustainability is among three pillars, along with Mobility and Opportunity.

Expo 2020 Dubai is inviting visitors to be among the first to explore Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion and its surrounding public spaces, offering a glimpse of what's to come when the next World Expo begins on October 1, 2021. The pavilions premiere will provide an opportunity for visitors to experience, discover and engage with Expo 2020's Thematic Pavilions, as well as enjoy entertainment, children's activities, food and beverage, retail, and more until April 10, 2021. The limited-time preview will start with Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion, which was opened to the public from January 22, followed by Alif - The Mobility Pavilion and Mission Possible - The Opportunity Pavilion later in the first quarter of 2021.

Terra sets an international example for sustainable building design and is built to be net-zero for both energy and water. Designed by Grimshaw Architects, its impressive features include 1,055 photovoltaic panels arranged on a 130-metre-wide roof canopy and a mini forest of 'Energy Trees'. Terra will offer an immersive journey through the wonders of the natural world, including an interactive walk through the roots of a forest where every footstep affects the 'wood-wide web'.

The Sustainability Pavilion from the UAE will showcase the nation's efforts to provide a happy and healthy society for its residents. Recently, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and UAE's special envoy for Climate Change and Chairman of Masdar, said the Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for humanity and it reinforced the importance of sustainability in its broadest sense.

The green signal (KT27940223.PNG)

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and UAE's special envoy for Climate Change and Chairman of Masdar

"The pandemic showed us how close the ties are between the world's health, food, and resource security. Global supply chains were tested like never before and revealed weaknesses we never imagined. These were difficult and challenging days and forced us to focus on the essential, on what truly matters. At the end of the day, we humans proved just how resilient we can be. In the UAE, our leadership viewed the Covid-19 experience as an opportunity to reflect, to strengthen our resource security and reinforce critical supply chains. This approach ensured that we were able to test, re-test and test again every single person living here. It allowed us to lead the way in vaccinations, with more than two million doses given so far, representing the second-highest ratio in the world."

"What we learned from Covid is that when humanity comes together, there is no challenge we can't overcome. And, after Covid, one of the most important challenges we face today is climate change," Dr Al Jaber said.

As with Covid-19, the UAE has been a leader in its global approach to climate change and has reached across borders and united with others to make a difference according to Dr Al Jaber.

"As the world aims to lower its carbon footprint, the UAE will continue to lead as a responsible global citizen and we will leverage our convening power as a unifying force for progress. Later this year, we will welcome the world to join us for this region's first expo, the Dubai Expo, where sustainability will be the front and centre of our future-focused dialogue.

"And, as we prepare to join the global community at the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow, we have already announced our second progressive Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

The NDC makes the UAE first country in the region to commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions. With a goal of a 23.5 per cent emission reduction by 2030 from a 2016 baseline, it represents a real and practical contribution that we will build on. Importantly as an emerging, growing economy, it aligns our stage of development with the needs of global development."

Dr Al Jaber stressed that pro-growth policies based on a diversified energy mix are essential for sustainable post-Covid economic recovery. To power this growth and ensure continued global progress, oil and gas will need to remain part of this energy mix for many years to come and we must make the oil and gas as low carbon as possible, according to Dr Al Jaber.

"Here, the UAE has a dual advantage: a leadership that has made environmental stewardship an integral part of our economy and a natural advantage that has made our oil and gas among the least carbon-intensive in the world," Dr. Al Jaber said.

The UAE is investing in technologies to further reduce the carbon footprint of the energy it produces and a prime example is its investment four years ago in the first industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in the region.

 Aveva, a global leader in engineering and industrial software, convened leaders from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Schneider Electric, Petronas and Verdantix in a virtual press panel session recently discussed how digitisation is driving the sustainability business agenda for industrial organisations. Participants highlighted how in the past year, the world had faced a challenge that is unique in history, in its scale and scope, and industries have been adversely affected in many ways. The key takeaway from the session was that 2021 is set to be a year of resiliency and renewed rebuilding, and Industry 4.0 will enable employees and communities to optimise sustainable processes to reduce carbon footprints.

Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer at the UNDP, outlined the importance of organisations setting clear objectives for leveraging new technologies to align with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a 'blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all'. The convergence of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud and Big Data and Analytics, is disrupting and creating opportunities across every industry."Promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and innovation, are all important ways to facilitate sustainable development," said Opp. "Over the last few years there has been a major shift toward sustainability, and our mission at the UNDP is actively championed by technology organisations like Aveva, who recognise the urgency to prioritise sustainable practices and also measure the multi-faceted benefits that reducing a company's carbon footprint and being more efficient through technology, affords," Opp added.

Aveva's software has been driving sustainable outcomes for customers for years. The company's goal is to provide customers with the real data they need to run their businesses efficiently, with the myriad of technological solutions it provides. Once the data is available, the process of being able to cohesively understand where the disconnects are and start doing something to remedy them begins.

Craig Hayman, CEO at Aveva, said: "It is no surprise, therefore, that Aveva announced that we have partnered with the United Nations Global Compact Network, a voluntary platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible business practices. The digitalisation of traditional manufacturing businesses has enabled Aveva to provide its customers with software solutions that not only increase ROI, but also streamline their business models, in order to start to 'frame' their environmental plans. By providing customers with real-time data and supporting improved operational efficiency, Aveva has the potential to help thousands of customers - some of whom have very sizeable carbon footprints - to significantly cut their energy consumption and emissions."

According to Schneider Electric, there are only 10 years left to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees and ever-increasing expectations for a better life and resilient business, good is not enough anymore. In January 2021, the company was ranked the world's most sustainable corporation, in a prestigious annual list, announcing at the same time the acceleration of its own sustainability strategy and the launch of its climate change advisory services.

Schneider Electric's Olivier Blum, Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer, pointed out the importance of supporting the wave of net zero commitments from corporates with end-to-end solutions. "The momentum is huge. However only four per cent of sustainability programmes will make it over time without a robust strategy and a concrete plan to digitise, measure, implement and iterate."

Sustainability vital to businesses

David Metcalfe, CEO of Verdantix, an Independent research and advisory firm with expertise in digital strategies for Environment, Health and Safety, ESG and Sustainability, Operational Excellence and Smart Buildings focused on the impact of sustainability on financial leaders. Metcalfe highlighted how today's challenging environment for businesses has impacted on how they are approaching and prioritising sustainability, noting how this has shifted to equal importance as other business focused initiatives. "If we compare what happened during the financial crisis in 2008, where climate change and sustainability were pushed very far down in the agenda,  it's amazing just how rapidly these topics have risen back up the agenda in just a matter of months," Metcalfe commented. "This is the difference between the 'passive' sustainability of yesterday compared to the shift in thinking that has occurred more recently."

Petronas has reaffirmed its sustainability proposition by defining a new statement of purpose which defines Petronas as 'A progressive energy and solutions partner, enriching lives for a sustainable future".

Prakash Kumar Karunakaran, Head of NervCentre, Petronas, said: "This statement of purpose really galvanised the company, and provided clarity as to the company's position on sustainability.  Last year, this direction was given a significant boost when Petronas set an ambitious target of Net Zero Carbon Emissions (NZCE) by the year 2050.  This demanding target requires a radical rethinking of engineering to ensure both our current and future facilities are able to deliver on the target of NZCE."

The panel was united in its observations that a principled approach to business and profits must go hand in hand with an organization's sustainability journey. The very essence of a sustainable future for the industrial sector lies in embracing common objectives such as those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and using a public-private sector collaborative approach to drive and create new opportunities for a greener world today.


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