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Executive Perspectives

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Sustainability emerging in the Middle East

Tim Nixon

18 Jan 2019

How could a region of the world built on oil become a credible source of leadership on sustainability?  It turns out that this question has a very interesting answer, which is quite similar to the planning coming out of some of the more progressive oil giants like Total, Shell and Statoil.  And the short answer is that the end of oil is now seen as an inevitability by many in the hydro-carbon C-Suites, with possible unexpected acceleration with the advance of climate change and the increasingly lower costs of renewable energy and storage.

At Abu Dhabi Sustainability week, just wrapping up, we saw ample evidence of an oil based economy in full preparation for a new age.  With consistent leadership coming from the top of the government, the United Arab Emirates is planning on complete decarbonization of their economy by 2070, and rapid diversification around new energy technology and sustainability services.

And the experts, from the largest corporates to the most disruptive start-ups, are flocking to the UAE to engage with the leadership and explore options to scale and invest.

We conducted a series of interviews drawing from this pool, which provide a flavor for the crowd:

H.E. Adnan Amin – Director General, IRENA

Headline: ‘Greenwashing’ warning amid renewable push

Summary: With companies facing increasing pressure to adopt renewable technologies, Adnan Amin, the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency, has warned of the threat posed by so-called ‘Greenwashing’ to global development.  Transparency is just one of the major topics being discussed at this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week hosted by the UAE.

Minister Zulkifli – Singapore Minister for Environment and Water Resources

Headline: Singapore works on solutions for future water supplies

Summary: Singapore’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, has spoken of the water crisis facing his country and how they’re trying to tackle it. Zulkifli spoke to Reuters at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, where future water supplies has been a key topic.


Ban Ki-moon – former UN Secretary-General

Headline: Ban Ki-moon backs tech solutions to climate change

Summary: Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on countries to adopt greater digitalization as they attempt to tackle climate change, warning without it the 2015 Paris Climate Accord might struggle to be implemented.  Moon made the comments on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, a meeting of leading global figures on green issues.

Bibop Gresta – Chairman, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Headline: How safe will Hyperloop travel be?

Summary: Hyperloop travel is getting closer to becoming a reality, with a host of competing firms bidding to become the first to master the technology.  But whilst it could revolutionize high-speed travel it also poses some safety and regulatory issues.  Reuters spoke to Bibop Gresta, the Chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies about what challenges the technology faces.

Marianne Laigneau – Senior Executive Vice President, EDF Group

Headline: Saudi set for region’s largest wind farm

Summary: Saudi Arabia has just signed off on a project to build the largest wind farm in the Gulf.  The contract is estimated to be worth some $500 million and has been awarded to a consortium including EDF Group. It comes as Saudi Arabia pursues ‘Vision 2030′, a plan to diversify its economy away from a reliance on oil and gas revenues, courting foreign investment to do so. EDF Groups’ Marianne Laigneau has spoken to Reuters about the renewable investment climate in the Gulf.

Dr. Enass Abo-Hamed – Co-founder, H2GO

Headline: Burning issue: Green power storage

Summary: As countries around the world attempt to decarbonize to meet targets set in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, ways to store green energy are gaining in importance.  Reuters spoke to one company attempting to use hydrogen to revolutionize how power is stored.

Armen Sarkissian – President of Armenia

Headline: Security in sustainability? Armenia’s green light

Summary: Armenia is a country in flux after 2018 saw mass protests that eventually led to a change in government, but the Southern Caucasus nation could also be facing a changing energy situation.  A potential price hike for Russian gas hangs over the small country, as does any knock-on effect from U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian energy supplies, from whom Armenia buys gas. Reuters spoke to the country’s president about whether this adds more impetus to its renewable energy drive.

Marc Zornes – Founder, Winnow

Headline: Food for thought: Tech fighting waste

Summary: Food waste might not be the first thing that springs to mind at the thought of greenhouse gas emissions but reducing the amount of food left to rot could have a dramatic impact on the world’s climate.  Reuters spoke to Winnow on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week who are trying to change how restaurants manage food

H.E Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri – Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, UAE

Headline: UAE looks to space to map climate

Summary: The United Arab Emirates is attempting to boost its presence in space, 2018 saw the launch of the first Emirati made satellite and the Gulf state even has ambitions of a Mars mission.  But at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week the government outlined how the country’s space programme might help tackle climate change.

H.E. Eng. Awaidha Murshed Al Marar – Chairman, Department of Energy, Abu Dhabi

Headline: The shifting sands of Gulf energy

Summary: Facing a future of dwindling reserves and fluctuating prices Gulf nations are increasingly trying to wean themselves off fossil fuel reliance. The chairman of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Energy has outlined what that means for the oil producing UAE.




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