In the past month Abu Dhabi grabbed a ton of the green spotlight. It played host to many energy company bigwigs at a Future Energy Summit a few weeks ago, and prior to that the New York Times ran a story about Masdar City, a planned zero carbon emission city in Dubai. Both are part of a seemingly concerted effort by the Gulf states to recast their global image as a friend, not foe, of the environment.
Certainly, with their big oil dollars, the Gulf states are building up some eco-friendly projects. However, these projects take their toll on the environment. And as a result, Fred Pearce of the Guardian writes, “It’s like changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs, but driving a Hummer to the shops to buy them.”
While Dubai and its neighbours can afford to pour money into alternative energy projects as opposed to the rest of the economically crippled world, it doesn’t mean they’re leading the way on new energy initiatives. It simply means they’re doing some reseach.
Fred Pearce: To give you an idea how far the Gulf states have to go before they can claim “leadership”, look at their current carbon dioxide emissions. The emissions of the United Arab Emirates, which include Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have more than doubled since 1990. Right now, per head of population, they are above the US. Down the coast, Kuwait has double the per capita carbon emissions of the US.
Top of the tree is neighbouring Qatar, which has quadrupled its emissions since 1990 to a per capita level more than three times those of the US. How do they do it? It’s not even as if they have anywhere to drive.
Carbon emissions aren’t the only environmental issue, of course. I checked the WWF Living Planet index (pdf), which takes account of the total environmental footprint of countries, including land use. Last year it singled out the United Arab Emirates as having the highest per capita footprint on the planet.
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