The UAE’s heavy reliance on air-conditioners, love of gas-guzzling four-by-fours, and current construction boom have pushed it up a list of the world’s top carbon-emitting nations.
The country is 43rd in a ranking by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change but its per capita emissions are among the highest in the world.
And, as the world’s 20 leading polluting nations meet in Japan today to draft rules to fight global warming and climate change, energy experts are urging people to change their lifestyles and use clean energy.
Top of the list is the United States, followed by China, Russia and India the last three have vast populations and are experiencing substantial economic growth. Saudi is the highest emitter of carbon in the Middle East, followed by Egypt.
“Per capita carbon emissions in the UAE are among the highest in the world because of the huge requirement for air-conditioning, the large number of vehicles on the road, desalination and rapid development,” said Dr Alan Dickson, an alternative energy expert and managing director of Solstice International.
“Air-conditioning is needed by everyone, causing a huge amount of carbon emissions and high electricity demand. The same applies to desalination.
“Most people here have vehicles, especially four-wheel-drives that use more energy than conventional cars. Petrol and electricity are cheaper here. Because of the low costs people don’t think about energy use and cause more carbon emissions.
“The Worldwide Fund for Nature’s 2007 report said the average person in the UAE put more demand on the global ecosystem than anyone else, giving the country the world’s largest per capita ecological footprint. The US came second.”
Dr Dickson said authorities were launching initiatives to control the greenhouse effect, including introducing green standards for buildings and the Dubai Metro and other public transport systems to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Initiative was developing alternative energy sources.
Dr Dickson, who has worked in the UAE for 15 years, said traffic congestion and vehicle emissions will fall when the Metro becomes operational.
“People should be encouraged to use other energy-saving means of transport.”
Graeme Sweeny, executive vice-president for future fuels and CO2 at Shell Downstream Services, said in a presentation at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi last month the global demand for energy would double by 2050 and supplies of conventional fuels oil and gas would not keep pace with demand.
“Hydrocarbons currently account for 80 per cent of the global energy portfolio and alternative energy account for just two per cent of the market,” he said. “By 2025 alternative energy will account for 10 per cent of world energy consumption. Oil will have to be decarbonised to fight emissions.”
Michael Kimberley, CEO of car manufacturer Lotus, said: “We need to introduce vehicle technology and change fuels to fight carbon emissions. Energy sources such as hydrogen, compressed natural gas and alcohol have to be developed in conjunction with a consumer awareness campaign.
THE FUTURE'S GREEN IN THE UAE
The Roads and Transport Authority is taking multi-billion dirham moves to reduce traffic levels and encourage people to use public transport, including the Metro, buses, trams and water taxis.
A new resolution makes it compulsory for all new buildings to meet internationally recognised green standards for the conservation of resources, such as electricity and water. This is a first for the Middle East.
Energy and environment ministers from the world’s 20 major greenhouse gas-emitting nations meet in Tokyo from today to discuss climate change, clean energy and sustainable development. Here are some questions and answers about the G20’s fourth meeting:
Who is attending?
Energy and environment ministers from the Group of Eight (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US) and emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India, the World Bank, International Energy Agency, NGOs, and former British prime minister Tony Blair.
What is the G20?
A group of 20 energy and environment ministers comprising member nations of the Gleneagles Dialogue. It is different to the G20 grouping of finance ministers and central bank governors.
Which countries are members?
Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the United States, and the European Union (represented by Slovenia, which holds the rotating presidency).
Why are they important to the climate debate?
The G20 emits almost 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about 78 per cent of global emissions. G8 nations contribute 45 per cent of this, other members contribute 33 percent. The US (23 percent) and China (16 per cent) are the G20’s greatest individual emitters.
What's on the meeting's agenda?
Host Japan is expected to push for a “sectoral approach” to cutting greenhouse gas emissions after 2012.
Driving down global CO2 emissions