Abu Dhabi, UAE, may be overflowing with oil, but the Emirate is also brimming with ideas and commitments to a green energy future. Such was the key take-a-way at the star-studded opening session of the World Future Energy Summit 2011 this morning. The summit is taking place not far from the emerging city of Masdar – designed to be a showpiece of cleantech innovation and green urban planning. I’ll be touring Masdar tomorrow, but for now – some thoughts to kick off the week:
Hot on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s visit last week, heads of states from Iceland, Portugal, Pakistan, Georgia & Bangladesh all went to great lengths today to emphasize the need for clean energy development over sustained fossil fuel dependency. They all also explained key projects in their own countries that can serve as examples of sustainable development – the most impressive being Iceland’s near-100% geothermal electricity generation. Also interesting, from an American perspective is that no one who took the stage questioned the reality of climate change or humanity’s roll in exacerbating it. Such skepticism seems to remain a primarily American trait.
Ban Ki-Moon, secretary general of the UN, was the biggest honcho in the room and, in addition to calls for a green energy transition, lavished praise on the UAE for taking a leadership roll in clean energy development despite their incredible oil wealth. Such praise continued througout the morning with Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari calling UAE “the model” for sustainable energy development, and Masdar “the jewel.” He went on to add urgency to the equation by stating that humanity had “assaulted the balance of nature” and there would be no “cutting deals” with the planet.
All these words may come from politicians talking to an audience with little intention whatsoever of slowing down oil extraction, production, and consumption. But the fact that top level conversation and legitimate, large scale investment is taking place proves to me that the next industrial revolution has very much started. The kinds of investments we’ll learn about this week should bolster optimism that business and governments around the world are beginning to “get it” in terms of the need to build a truly sustainable future. I find that pretty inspiring.
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