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An Assessment of Public Awareness Campaigns on Renewable Energy Use in the United Arab Emirates
Paper Proposal Text :
An Assessment of Public Awareness Campaigns on Renewable Energy Use in the United Arab Emirates
Submitted to Workshop 16: The Political Economy of Clean Energy Solutions in the GCC
Gulf Energy Challenges - 3rd Annual Gulf Research Meeting, 11-14 July 2012

Date of Submission: 5th January 2012
Noor Ghazal-Aswad, Yasser Al Saleh, Hanan Taleb

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have recently shown a keen interest in pursuing more sustainable development paths, in which the renewable energy (RE) sector is expected to play a significant part. The drivers behind the adoption of RE in the GCC include environmental concern over the harmful effects of climate change in the region, the negative portrayal of GCC countries in the international community as a result of being among the major per capita emitters worldwide, the drive to achieve greater economic diversification as part of the GCC’s long-term development plans, and the realization of the GCC’s tremendous RE resource endowment, particularly solar energy. So far, in addition to the setting up of research and development (R&D) institutions and carrying out assessments of RE resource potential, numerous RE projects either been launched or are in the planning stages, demonstrating the commitment of GCC states to tap into their RE resources.

Furthermore, recognizing the importance of an informed public in supporting the transition to a clean energy future, GCC countries have shown a palpable willingness to generate awareness among consumers and suppliers of the benefits of renewable energy use and environmental conservation. However, public participation has been restricted to supporting government policies rather than influencing their direction or questioning the utility of these policies. GCC countries are now taking a pro-active approach, implementing awareness campaigns and to a lesser extent regulations, to change public behavior. These campaigns have targeted a variety of audiences, including the general public, media and educational institutions, and range from campaigns to discourage unnecessary waste to establishing a system to inform the consumers about the energy properties of goods purchased (energy labelling).

This paper provides an overview of recent public awareness campaigns on RE issues in the GCC, their objectives, the groups they have targeted, the institutions behind them, the level of support they have garnered and assessments of their impact. Using semi-structured interviews, the paper also provides an in-depth case study of the United Arab Emirates, examining the obstacles and successes such campaigns have encountered in the country. The paper concludes with a summary of key findings, and policy recommendations on the best ways to generate awareness on the benefits and applicability of RE as a means to achieve sustainable development goals and how to most effectively encourage public participation in the RE sector in the UAE.

Keywords: Gulf Cooperation Council; renewable energy; public awareness campaigns.