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A climate-friendly future? Impressions of Masdar City

Today I paid a visit to Masdar City 17km from the centre of Abu Dhabi, set up in 2006 with the aim of being “one of the most sustainable cities in the world”, according to Masdar. Masdar was set up as a commercially driven renewable energy company and a strategic government initiative. The city is powered entirely by renewable energy and the buildings are designed to maximize energy efficiency.

This is an impression of the iconic architecture of Masdar around a pleasantly cool courtyard. (The modest gentleman on the couch is Sultan Aal Ali, in charge of Masdar’s development).

In the years since the vision of a sustainable, purpose-built city at the heart of a desert state was first launched, a lot of the enthusiasm seemed to have gone out of the project, at least in the view of a lot of media. That is one reason why I was keen to have a look at what is happening there today. I will be writing an article for our website on this in the next couple  of weeks, so for today I’d just like to share some pictures, thoughts and impressions with you.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Director General of the Zayed Future Energy Prize with President Grimsson

Incidentally, as part of the World Future Energy Summit and at the ceremony   announcing the 2013 Zayed Future Energy Prize here last night, the ICE connection was brought up again by the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragran Grimsson.

He was chairman of the prize jury and was talking about those connections between the record melt of the Arctic ice and the push for renewables here in the oil-rich Gulf region. Yes! The message seems to have arrived on the global stage.

 

Anyway, to Masdar City:

 

Using the sun to cool Masdar. Normally, air-conditioning would be one of the highest electricity-guzzlers and emissions producers. The architecture uses window-to-wall ratio, insulating building materials, shading and other means to keep buildings cool – and uses sun power to do the rest.

A modern version of a cooling wind-tower, to bring cold air to the courtyard. These towers have a long tradition in the region. They look great as well.

 

Hi-tech lab for nano-technology research at the Masdar Institute. The city is developing around the university complex.

This is the centre-piece of the brand-new 2nd phase of the Masdar Institute. The city is a work in progress. Today I was one of the first journalists to be allowed into the new development without safety helmet and boots for construction site safety.

Beautiful places, beautiful people! One of my guides from Masdar’s communications department against the background of a wall constructed from desert sand. Thanks!!!

Driverless public transport, using magnetic technology. Felt a little like sci-fi, but definitely got us across the complex. Not sure if it will catch on, but it was quite an experience.

I could go on all night, but will save the rest for a later date. There is plenty of building work going on.  The German company Siemens will soon be moving in to its new headquarters in Masdar. Other companies are also planning to move in. The International Renewable Energy Association IRENA will ultimately have its headquarters here.

So far, students are the only residents. Seems a bit extravagant, which is one of the criticisms levelled at the eco-city in the past. But from what I saw today, things seem to be finally moving forward. EU Commissioner Connie Hedegard, who also visited Masdar today, told me Masdar was  “leading by example”. She’s very positive about what’s happening in the region in terms of the growing interest in renewables. There’s a long way to go, she says – but stresses that applies to all of us.

Still seats available at this Masdar café today.

Date

January 16, 2013 | 6:08 pm

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Polar bear in Abu Dhabi

Abdallah al Shami sees a clear connection between what happens in the Gulf and the melting Arctic – and vice-versa

Yes, the ice-blogger has indeed found a polar bear in Abu Dhabi. I was standing in front of ‘Wendy’, an eco-art creation by US-based artists and architects Marc Kushner and Matthias Hollwich, set up in downtown Abu Dhabi as part of Sustainability Week, when I was handed a magazine with a 3D picture of the climate impact icon, looking lost on a chunk of melting ice. Abdallah al Shami is the project editor of a spezial edition of the Abu Dhabi culture magazine Shawati in conjunction with Masdar to mark this week dedicated to sustainability, clean energy and water.

The picture  showcases what our actions can do to the environment, he says. We can save it – or it will go. ‘We wanted to have a global message, not just address local issues’, says Abdallah. ‘With all the ice that has been melting in the Arctic, Abu Dhabi wants to address global issues and their interconnections’.  And those connections between our actions anywhere in the globe and what’s happening in the Arctic are exactly why the ice blog is coming to you from this part of the world this week. Couldn’t have put it better myself, Abdallah.

 

 

 

Date

January 14, 2013 | 7:09 pm

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“First foot” for the “space” penguins

Penguins galore – Photographed by the International Polar Foundation team in Antarctica, December 2012

You may remember a report a couple of years ago about how satellite images revealed the existence of a hitherto unknown large colony of penguins in an area of Antarctica. AT that time, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the UK National Environment Research Council attracted a fair bit attention with the “penguins from space” story. Now three members of a team from Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica polar research station have become the first humans to visit and photograph the colony of around 9,000 emperor penguins on Antarctica’s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

Date

January 10, 2013 | 12:00 pm

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”Tis the Season… to drill ice cores!”

Alain Hubert, expedition team leader for the IceCon and Be:Wise projects investigating the Antarctic ice sheet. Courtesy of International Polar Foundation

As the year draws towards an end, winter officially starts and the longest night is before us here in the northern hemisphere,  I have been entranced by photos from the Antarctic, full of light and white and 90 shades of blue. With a holiday break ahead of me, let me direct you to some more of these spectactular pictures and the stories of the hard work behind them, with the scientists from the International Polar Foundation out there examining the ice sheet. As I’ve been writing here on the Ice Blog recently, the Antarctic is also being affected by climate change, but to a different extent in different places. We only know this thanks to the work of scientists like Reinhard Drews and others who make their way down there and carry out the hard work.

Glaciologist and InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctic Fellowship recipient Reinhard Drews installing a GPS station on the Roi Baudoin ice shelf as part of the Be:Wise scientific project. (Copyright: International Polar Foundation)

A happy new year to you scientists out there in the field – and all ice blog followers. More from me on January 9th!! Comments welcome in the meantime.

Date

December 21, 2012 | 3:07 pm

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More snow less ice in the Antarctic

Princess Elisabeth Station  & windturbines - Copyright René Robert - International Polar Foundation

Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, Belgium’s research station
Copyright Ren̩ Robert РInternational Polar Foundation

Regular ice blog followers may remember a recent post including an Interview with Andrew Shepherd from Leeds University, UK, about ice melt in the Antarctic. One of the factors he explained was that increasing precipitation as a result of warming was falling on the East Antarctic ice sheet as snow and so increasing its mass. Although that particular study showed that the Antarctic has indeed been losing ice over the past 20 years, (contrary to popular opinion), increasing snow was balancing this loss to some extent. Now a study published in Nature shows that a lot of the ice increase from this snow is being lost again, because the extra snow puts pressure on the ice, making it flow faster towards the coast.

Date

December 14, 2012 | 9:41 am

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