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A global warning

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Ahmad Bin Shafar

We are living in a world where climate change has evolved from a theory to a reality. From annual typhoons in the Philippines, to the flooding in North India and Pakistan earlier this year, to the recent snowstorm in the eastern United States — global warming is fast becoming the new norm for thousands of people who have had to grapple with losses in life and livelihood.

There is solid evidence that links climate change to man-made activities: a compendium of international scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that global warming is being caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, research by the Paris- based think tank, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that global temperatures will rise by 3.6 to 5.3 degrees Celsius due to a rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Overcoming climate change is everyone’s problem, regardless of belief, language, location or nationality.

However, this is a man-made problem that has a man-made solutions. Ceasing to use fossil fuels altogether may be a tempting answer, but alas, it is not the right resolution as oil and gas is woven into the very fabric of life: from earning valuable revenues for the economies, to running people’s cars and even providing electricity that powers their homes.

While oil and gas is the lifeblood for the world, and indeed the Middle East, it is also a finite resource. Governments, academia and businesses will need to plan how to use this precious resource effectively. The solution, therefore, to mitigating global climate change will be energy efficient technologies.

The IPCC has further stated that the implementation of energy efficiency, as well as renewable energy, has the potential to be the biggest contributor to keeping global temperatures rise under 2 degrees Celsius. With cities accounting for over 70 per cent of global energy use and up to 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, urban energy efficiency initiatives can keep global temperatures down, while helping to develop a dynamic green economy.

The government of Dubai has recognised the link between reducing carbon emissions and the potential for developing a green economy. Our leadership has issued a 20 per cent reduction target of carbon emissions from all buildings by 2030.

Similarly, district cooling systems can support this developmental goal. District cooling facilities use 0.85kW to produce one refrigeration ton (RT), whereas traditional air-conditioning units use more than twice that amount. This technology, therefore, results in fuel savings and displaces carbon dioxide emissions.

A recent audit of Empower’s 63 district cooling systems in Dubai found that its facilities contributed an energy savings of 777MW of electricity, as well as a reduction of 891,607 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Empower’s facilities, therefore, resulted in electricity savings that has the potential to power 8 per cent of Dubai and displaced up to  383,506 passenger cars off the road.

Energy efficiency has great prospects as it finds innovative answers to issues surrounding scarce resources, while simultaneously supporting the global fight against climate change.

Being energy efficient is especially relevant today as we witness a continued decrease in oil prices globally. Consuming more oil today does not only mean that less is left for future generations, it also restricts the amount left over for export.

As a country that is blessed with a hydrocarbon abundant economy, we should lead by example by treating energy as an ever precious resource, and do our best to use it wisely. The UAE has set precedents in several fields including economic development, healthcare and education. By integrating a balanced approach to energy management and consumption, we can each play our part in building a sustainable and prosperous economy for years to come.

While we cannot wave a magic wand to fix all of the myriad problems we face on a global scale, there is hope. Certainly, we in this region are well on our way to implementing proven technologies in our continued journey towards sustainable long-term development.

The time is now, and it our individual and collective responsibility to shape our own future.

Ahmad Bin Shafar is the Chief Executive Officer, Empower.