Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Banking on solar power
brings ray of hope

Amid all the din of negativity concerning environment, a ray of hope has emerged all the way from the sun and it is indeed pleasant news.

According to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report, released this week by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), solar energy dominated global investment in new power generation like never before in 2017.

Solar power attracted far more investment than any other technology, at $160.8 billion, up 18 per cent.

A driving power behind last year’s surge in solar was China, where an unprecedented boom saw some 53 gigawatts added — more than half the global total — and $86.5 billion invested, up 58 per cent.

The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and what the economic benefits are of such a shift, as UNEP chief Erik Solheim points out.

Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.

Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables exceeded $200 billion – and since 2004, the world has invested $2.9 trillion in these green energy sources.

The UAE too has been expediting the pace of clean and renewable energy projects in order to secure a happy future.

Incidentally, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, broke ground on the 700MW fourth phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the biggest Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project in the world last month.

The project advances the UAE’s global leadership in the use of clean and renewable energy.

Sheikh Mohammed made it clear that the UAE is developing a new model for sustainability and innovation and is keen to find creative solutions based on international best practices and benchmarks.

The CSP project, based on the Independent Power Producer model, will generate 700MW of clean energy at a single site.

The project, which features the world’s tallest solar tower measuring 260 metres and the world’s largest thermal energy storage capacity, will provide clean energy to over 270,000 residences in Dubai, reducing 1.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

This project has achieved the world’s lowest Levelised Cost of Electricity of USD 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h).

This is certainly a grand global achievement for the UAE.

Nothing can justify

a chemical attack

Barbaric is a mild word to describe the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the Syrian city of Douma during an attack that killed dozens of people, including women and children.

Renewed violence in Douma is a matter of serious concern as sustained airstrikes and shelling have killed civilians, destroyed infrastructure and damaged health facilities.

Pope Francis has rightly pointed out “there is not a good war and a bad one, and nothing, nothing can justify the use of such devices of extermination against defenceless people and populations.”

Just a week ago, Thomas Markram, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the UN Security Council, that the persistent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria underscore the need to identify solutions and reach agreement on an appropriate accountability mechanism.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN was created in 2015 by the Council, but its mandate expired in November 2017.

While allegations of the use of chemical weapons have not stopped, consideration of a mechanism for accountability has apparently slowed, if not come to a standstill, as Markram pointed out.

In November last year, the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution to renew the mandate of an international panel investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria, due to the use of the veto by permanent member, Russia.

An angry US President Donald Trump has already stated that there will be a "big price to pay" after what he called a "mindless chemical attack" in Syria.

"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world," the president tweeted.

With allegations and counter-allegations flying around, it is the helpless Syrian population that is paying the price.

Syria has been bleeding for long and the fighting has entered the eighth year. As per UN data, the conflict has produced more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees and 6.1 million internally displaced people, with more than 13 million people inside the country requiring humanitarian assistance, including nearly six million children.

The use of chemical weapons, under any circumstances, is totally unjustifiable. The international community cannot afford to remain silent. The perpetrators should not be allowed to get away with this kind of monstrous act.

UAE a humanitarian

role model for world

The naming of the UAE as the world's largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income (GNI) for the fifth consecutive year by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development is a matter of pride and honour for the entire nation.

The path of benevolence has effectively been laid down by the founding father of the nation, late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. To this day, his generous legacy has been kept alive, crossing all borders and barriers to touch the hearts of people in almost every country.

The UAE has exceeded the United Nations’ target of 0.7 per cent official development assistance in proportion to its GNI ratio by donating Dhs19.32 billion, a growth of 18.1 per cent over 2016, representing 1.31 per cent of its GNI for official development assistance in 2017.

It should be noted that up to 54 per cent of the value of the aid is non-refundable grants that are aimed at supporting the developmental plans of the beneficiaries, which totalled 147 countries, 40 of which are among the least developed in different world continents.

As Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, points out, the UAE support has helped secure the lives of millions of people around the world, establishing international peace and security, creating better opportunities and a brighter future for people in developing countries.

Right since its establishment, the UAE has been contributing tremendously to international sustainable development efforts and humanitarian response to global crises and disasters.

The nation’s commitment to philanthropy and humanitarian assistance is total and inspirational. In December 2016, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan declared 2017 as the “Year of Giving,” in which three key pillars were highlighted throughout the year: Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Volunteering, and Serving the Nation.

The Year of Giving saw the development of various comprehensive frameworks via various initiatives, strategies and programmes that cemented the values of giving and philanthropy amongst the UAE’s citizens and residents.

Sheikh Zayed once stated: “We believe that the benefit of the fortune granted to us by God should spread to cover our brothers and friends.” It is pleasing to note that the announcement on UAE being the world’s largest humanitarian donor coincides with the celebration of the centennial of Sheikh Zayed and marking of 2018 as the Year of Zayed.

If the words kindness and Emirati are considered synonymous, now one well knows the reason.

Accelerate efforts to

cut global emissions

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres’ warning that “climate change is still moving much faster than we are” calls for serious attention of the world community.

Climate change is a matter that affects each and every living organism on earth. Without rapid cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement.

Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems that could lead to severe ecological and economic disruptions.

The Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by world leaders in December 2015, aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase even further, to 1.5 degrees.

The year 2017 had been filled with climate chaos and 2018 has already brought more of the same.

Recent information from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the World Bank and the International Energy Agency shows the relentless pace of climate change.

For instance, as the UN chief points out, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4 per cent, to a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes.

Weather-related disasters caused some $320 billion in economic damage, making 2017 the costliest year ever for such losses.

In social as well as economic terms, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was devastating, washing away decades of development in an instant.

In South Asia, major monsoon floods affected 41 million people.

In Africa, severe drought drove nearly 900,000 people from their homes.

As if these were not enough, wildfires caused destruction across the world.

Arctic sea ice cover in winter is at its lowest level, and the oceans are warmer and more acidic than at any time in recorded history.

According to WMO officials, last year was one of the three warmest on record, and the warmest not influenced by an El Niño event. From November 2016 to December 2017, 892,000 drought-related displacements were recorded. Both the Artic and Antarctica are warming up fast.

Guterres is absolutely right in stating that this tsunami of data should create a storm of concern.

The international community has no choice but gear up and meet the level of the climate challenge.

It will be irresponsible for the present generation to leave an inhospitable planet for the future generations to inherit.

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