Envisioning A Low-Footprint Future for the UAE

05/14/2010 09:34 PM

What can a hyper-industrialized nation with one of the most resource-intensive economies in the world do to cut its Ecological Footprint? Recently, Global Footprint Network and researchers from the United Arab Emirates began a project to test scenarios for policies to cut the UAE’s per capita Ecological Footprint, currently the highest in the world.

The UAE has been working with Global Footprint Network for the past two years to create a baseline of data about its Ecological Footprint and to help the UAE position itself for the future by developing new policies and strategies. In recent years, Abu Dhabi has invested $15 billion toward the development of solar and other renewables. The newly established IRENA – International Renewable Energy Agency is making its headquarters in the UAE. And construction recently began on Masdar City, billed as the world’s first car-free, zero-carbon, zero-waste urban community that will ultimately house 1,500 clean-tech companies and 40,000 residents.

Recently, Global Footprint Network met with representatives of the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF) and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a university started in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Abu Dhabi government to shift Abu Dhabi’s energy sector toward clean energy. The group met to create a scenario calculator that will test the Footprint reduction potential of various policies and determine which offer the biggest ecological returns.

The project will begin by looking at the electricity-generating sector. It will evaluate policies that address drivers of both supply – such as production of energy from renewable sources – and demand, such as carbon taxes and electricity tariffs. Specific policies to be evaluated include:
• mandates for purchase and use of electric vehicles
• implementing widespread public transit systems
• various urban planning measures to create more compact and ecologically efficient development.

The group will present its first report, on the electricity sector, in February.

Read more about the UAE’s national Ecological Footprint Initiative.

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