GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The Political Economy of Clean Energy in the GCC: A UAE Perspective
Paper Proposal Text :
The main purpose of this study is to establish the extent to which the sustainable energy debate could be advanced in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, GCC)region. Only recently in June 2011, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General, urged ministers from around the world to “act boldly” to meet the social and economic targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline. According to him, “The agreed deadline of 2015 is fast approaching. We must live up to the promises we made at the turn of the millennium.” Stressing on the urgency for call to arms, he adds that “we do not have a moment to lose. We need to make greater strides towards balanced and sustainable development […] we need to act boldly and urgently by investing the resources...”

While there are eight pillars of the MDGs, the focus of this study is on two: environmental sustainability; and )global partnerships). In the light of the former, the diversification into alternative energy sources for the oil-rich economies of the GCC is something worthy of investigation and further exploration. Indeed as Palmer (2011) recently reported, “there’s no escaping it – fresh water is a scarce commodity in this part of the world. The Middle East and North Africa region is home to 6.3% of the world’s population, but just 1.4% of the world’s renewable fresh water. Faced with an ever-steepening struggle to meet burgeoning demand in rapidly expanding region, water-stressed states are turning to innovative methods to quench their thirst.
In addition to tackling the water shortage problem, the clamour for alternative energy by a fossil fuel/ hydrocarbon endowed countries. A recent notable example of the latter topic on global partnerships, is the Masdar City project on renewal energy where the UAE was only recently “confirmed as the permanent headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the first time a major international organisation has been based in an Arab country” (see Attwood, 2011; Madichie, 2011a).

As the GCC strives to become a regional hub for renewable energy coinciding with the mounting concerns over global warming and exploding urban populations (coupled with the ever growing list of challenges including waning of natural resources; increasing energy demand; rising energy prices; and the unequal distribution of energy sources), the race to design and build the model ‘green city of the future’ is on full throttle (Vella, 2008; Madichie, 2011b). Indeed with the plethora of business clusters in the region from the education cities, health cities and women foundations to the sustainable cities (see Madichie, 2011c) – (i) to what extent is the Middle East poised to be the champion of the next decade? (ii) What are the challenges and how can these be addressed?

As Nassir Al-Nasser, President of the UN General Assembly, recently pointed out (27 September 2011), it is time to focus on tackling the range of issues from climate change and sustainable development to the reform of the UN. Quoting him, “coming together is only the start; working together will get us to the end.” That end is only less than four years away – which leads us to the third question – (iii) to what extent is the GCC prepared for an evaluation of readiness?

Keywords – Gulf Energy Challenges, IRENA, Masdar City, GCC, United Arab Emirates