ABU DHABI - Policymakers, industry specialists and innovators gathered at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2019 to discuss and help accelerate the progress towards sustainable energy development.
The event followed COP 24, the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, where advances were reported in areas ranging from solar energy to sustainable transport.
Under the theme “Industry Convergence: Accelerating Sustainable Development,” ADSW 2019 addressed energy and climate change, water, future mobility, space exploration, biotechnology and technology for good.
The summit revolved around events such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly with the participation of 120 ministers and representatives from 160 countries; the Zayed Sustainability Prize Awards ceremony; Future Sustainability Summit; Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum; Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum; World Future Energy Summit Forum; WFES Expos, Forums and Initiatives; Youth 4 Sustainability Hub; Climate Innovations Exchange (CLIX); Future Skills 2030 and a festival at Masdar City.
The IRENA Assembly reported that renewable costs were declining drastically with wind and solar technologies well within the fossil fuel power generation cost range of 5-17 cents per kilowatt hour.
IRENA Director-General Adnan Ameen said that “by 2020 all commercially available renewable technologies will be on par with or cheaper than fossil fuel competitors.”
Another trend has been electric vehicles. Four million electric passenger vehicles were in operation internationally by June 2018 and the number has been growing rapidly, leading to the decarbonisation of the environment, Ameen said.
The Zayed Sustainability Prize awards were handed out by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in the categories of health, food, energy, water and global high schools. The prize fund for each winning category was $600,000.
The 2019 prizes honoured leaders whose work and spirit of enterprise resulted in working solutions across communities around the world. The global high schools category sought to inspire young minds and encourage entries based on concepts or projects they can implement with the award’s prize money.
Previous awards have had direct and indirect effects on more than 307 million people around the world and have contributed significantly towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 1 billion tonnes. They have saved 1.2 billion megawatts of clean energy while expanding access to energy to 27.5 million people in some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia.
Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar City, pointed out how the United Arab Emirates’ influence as early adopters and developers of solar power through its mega solar power plants has created confidence in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the wider region in the feasibility of renewable energy projects.
Before ADSW, the consortium of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company comprising Masdar and EDF Renewables won the bid to build Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind project at Dumat al-Jandal. The $500 million project would produce 400 megawatts of power.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the kingdom was targeting a renewable energy capacity of close to 60 gigawatts by 2030. In 2019, Saudi Arabia is to issue tenders for 12 renewables projects, with more in the pipeline soon, he said.
An addition this year was the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum organised by the Abu Dhabi Financial Market.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking on “Sustainable Development Goals in Practice” at the Future Sustainability Summit, said “the youth should challenge the political and business leaders and tell them this world should be managed in a sustainable way.”
An anti-fire drone invented by Shouq Mohammed, an 18-year-old Emirati high school graduate, was featured among 48 developments displayed at ADSW as part of the second Climate Innovation Exchange. The global initiative of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment aimed at enabling young people to innovate and contribute to sustainability solutions.
Mohammed’s drone can be programmed to be used automatically and reach buildings on narrow lanes that civil defence vehicles cannot access.
“I am so happy that I did something for the country,” she said. “Those who visited CLIX motivated me and made me feel that I should work harder, come up with new ideas and innovations. Participating in ADSW helped me know more about new companies, inventors and innovators.”
N.P. Krishna Kumar is an Arab Weekly correspondent in Dubai.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.