Green City Project Masdar's Fate May Hinge on Dubai Debt

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Dubai’s debt woes could have an impact on a key experiment in the renewable energy sector.
In late November, Dubai indicated that its state-controlled investment firm Dubai World needed to restructure $26 billion in debt, sending a shock through global markets.
Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven city-states ruled by hereditary clans. It is largely bankrolled by neighboring Abu Dhabi, which uses Dubai as the UAE business center.
Of interest to CleanTechies in this is the potential impact on Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, the world’s first green city project, which is backed by Abu Dhabi. Masdar was envisioned as a prototype no-carbon city, and renewable energy companies and investors have been lobbying to gain a foothold in its planning.
The initial speculation is that in the intertwined and private world of UAE finances, the Masdar project may suffer as investors back off. But some speculate that Abu Dhabi is so heavily emotionally invested in the project that they will back it, seeing it as a future source of technological innovation that will reap intellectual property benefits when the oil wells run dry.
Guessing what will happen next in the murky world of this Middle Eastern city-state is impossible. But speculators look at the problems in Dubai, a nation build largely on real estate speculation (imploding), tourism (expats are fleeing, leaving behind their debts) and finance (see the small matter of restructuring that $26 billion) and worry that this is the next domino.
Unless Masdar is deemed too big to fail in the eyes of the oil players of the region.  And wouldn’t that be irony piled on irony.
[photo credit: The Library of Congress]

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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3 thoughts on “Green City Project Masdar's Fate May Hinge on Dubai Debt

  • I think you’ve already been proven right on that! Dubai’s debt is it’s own worst enemy. . .but you can say that about many developed countries I suppose.
    Great article!

  • It is Masdar City Project which makes an entire city carbon and waste free. Masdar means “source”, and this name is appropriate that the initiative hopes to achieve. The initiative hopes that the source of research and industry, which is Abu Dhabi as world leader in clean energy and sustainable development. Through the Masdar Institute and the Masdar Research Network, accelerating innovation and commercial development of promising technologies have been implemented. This project includes: photovoltaic (crystalline thin films and low-cost polysilicon), the management of water resources (desalination, membrane technology) solar thermal management of carbon (carbon capture and storage). Natural resources that Abu Dhabi has allowed the city to become an ideal place for such a movement to begin.

    10 Feb 2011
    The issue surrounding the proposed highrise development in Jalan Medang Serai, Bangsar,Malaysia is not something new(see ‘Residents : Don’t Toy With Our Safety’, New Straits Times/NST, 6 Nov.2009, p 10). However, this concern is only part of a larger tip of a submerged iceberg.
    It appears- as is always- that KL Cityhall had actually approved the Medang Serai project without taking into account proper environmental assessment analysis(‘assessment’).
    There is no indication that such assessment had been performed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders involved in the project, particularly the right of objection and ‘social participation’ by concerned residents.
    Even if it is claimed that the Medang Serai Project is in line with the KL Draft Plan 2020(‘KL Draft’), the KL Draft itself is flawed in several aspects. Of major concern is the lack of a comprehensive environmental assessment within the different stages/periods of implementation as proposed in the said KL Draft.
    Without an effective and competitive Green legislations(Green-laws) in place in Malaysia(and elsewhere in both developed and developing countries), green projects(Green-project) and green implementation (G-implementation) will remain mere rhetoric.
    Achieving green building index-GBI status is only a step, if not a beginning of a Long Walk. In order to create a true Green city (Green-city)status even by 2020 standard, competitive intelligence requires a development of an integrated National Green Policy which do away with current fragmented policies which are impediments towards achieving the ultimate goal of a true Green-city status.
    Jeong Chun-phuoc*
    An Advocate in Strategic Environment and Taxation Intelligence(SETI)
    And a Reader in Comparative Syariah Studies.
    He can be reached at

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