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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Summary & Opening Ceremony Highlights (Including Videos Of Kids’ Speeches)

The 6th Annual World Future Energy Summit (WFES) and first ever Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) just wrapped up. With approximately 30,000 participants from 150 countries attending ADSW, including a couple of us from CleanTechnica, the event brought in world leaders of all sorts — queens, princes, presidents, other top policymakers, academic leaders, scientists, business professionals, and more. The presentations and discussions covered pretty much all aspects of the energy sector. As the program guide we received noted, ADSW included the following: 

Policy: World leaders from over 70 countries attended the opening ceremony, which included excellent speakers such as President of France François Hollande and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan. The opening ceremony also included four very interesting ministerial panels.
Technology: Over 150 keynote and expert speakers in cleantech sectors such as solar power, wind power, microgrids, smart grids, energy storage, geothermal power, hydropower, desalination, and more.
Business: Exhibitions and side presentations from 600 companies. These included startups, medium-sized businesses, and some of the largest corporations in the world.
Investment: For project developers and financiers, ADSW was certainly a place for this sort of networking, as well. The exhibition area even included a “Project & Finance Village,” which was themed “Powering the Future of Cleantech and Renewable Energy Investment.”

Included as part of this notable and massive summit was also the International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC). “IREC acts as a common platform for government, private sector and civil society leaders to jointly address the goal of advancing renewable energy and has provided the impulse for several momentous initiatives over the past decade,” organizers noted. It is hosted in different countries every 2 years. It has previously been held in Delhi (2010), Washington, DC (2008), Beijing (2005), and Bonn (2004). Some of the significant issues addressed at this IREC were: 

  • What have been the recent global trends for each of the three goals of Sustainable Energy for All?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities in reaching the goals?
  • Which policies are needed to ensure a smooth transition towards the technical integration of large shares of renewables into energy systems?
  • How can policy design capture macro-economic benefits of renewable energy?
  • What new renewable energy support policies have developed recently? How to overcome the challenges of existing support mechanisms?
  • How is the water-energy nexus perspective best integrated into domestic policies? What can be learnt from existing initiatives with regards to best practice, common barriers?
  • What are the latest Renewable Energy policy developments, best practices and investment opportunities in the GCC, MENA region?
  • What inter-governmental opportunities are there in manufacturing, infrastructure sharing and knowledge sharing?
  • What is the global renewable energy outlook in view of existing economic instability and the range of credible possibilities for renewable energy in the long-term?
  • Energy system transformation and integration, looking at new actors and structures on the energy market.
  • What new financing mechanisms are being put in place to support renewable energy projects during the global economic crisis?
  • What is the role of multi-lateral and national development banks in filling the gap in private sector investment in the wake of the economic crisis and slowed commercial lending?
  • How are utilities responding to integrating renewable energy in their conventional energy mix? 

But that’s not the end!

Also included in Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week were the first ever International Water Summit (IWS), the Zayed Future Energy Prize Awards Ceremony, the 3rd session of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) General Assembly, and the 1st Energy Meeting of the Arab League and South American Energy Ministers. Needless to say, we couldn’t attend everything, but we did have a week jam-packed full of wonderful speeches, panel discussions, tours, and interviews. For the rest of this post, I’ll just run down some notable points from the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week opening ceremony. For more posts from our experiences, notable announcements made at the event, and exclusive CleanTechnica content from the week, check out the links on the bottom of this post.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony was reportedly attended by 3,200 delegates. As I think is increasingly the norm with these types of events, a young child — focused on changing the way the world works and protecting the planet — spoke in front of the world leaders in attendance in order to kick things off. Only following a song by a group of Arabic children, the young girl opened the ceremony by speaking about the future in a pessimistic way (to the surprise of most people in attendance, of course), and then turning around 180 degrees (figuratively speaking) and speaking about the same things in an optimistic way. I actually saw a video of this exact same speech about a year ago — it was going somewhat viral, but no one else I talked to had seen it before. Here’s a recording of most of the speech from the opening ceremony (just a little bit cut off at the beginning):

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Crown Prince Abu Dhabi

Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

France President

France President Françoise Hollande speaking at opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Francoise Hollande

France President Françoise Hollande. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and President of France François Hollande kept the ball rolling by giving forceful presentations on the need for renewable energy — the fact that we already have the technology we need today, and  that we simply have to gather the political will to deploy it at the scale needed. This was a theme through many of the speeches and presentations I saw this week. And as you’re well aware, if you’ve been reading CleanTechnica for long, this is one of the key points I try to emphasize whenever I speak to a more general audience. (Note: if you understand French and would like a couple videos of President Hollande speaking that I recorded, let me know in the comments below).

Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber

Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaking about water–energy nexus at opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Masdar CEO

Masdar CEO Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaking about water–energy nexus at opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. (Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Following those two great speakers, the CEO of Masdar, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, gave an extremely strong talk on the critical interdependency of water and energy, and the fact that we already face a water crisis globally, but that this will only increase in the years to come… unless we work decisively to address it. He noted that water is more important than oil (obvious, but significant coming from a leader in the UAE, the country with the 5th largest supply of oil in the world). Dr. Al Jaber duly noted that the water crisis needed to be addressed in two ways — by reducing demand (through water efficiency measures) and improving water technologies. In particular, Dr. Al Jaber emphasized the fact that about 50% of water demand is currently used for energy needs. Electricity production is one big part of that, and while not noted by Dr. Al Jaber in this particular speech, this is another key reason to choose solar PV and wind power rather than their competitors — because they are, by far, the lowest water users in the electricity production sector. This speech is really worth highlighting, and I was lucky enough to record it, so I intend to create a full article on this one in the coming days.

The President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, followed up with a focus on the need for fair and equitable distribution of energy. She discussed the effort to provide “sustainable energy for all,” universal access to clean energy. Beyond renewable energy, however, she impressed that there will be great demand for fossil fuel energy in order to “improve the lives of millions or billions of people from underdeveloped locations.” It’s actually quite clear, for most who follow climate science, that the use of fossil fuels in developing countries can only (at best) improve the lives of the citizens there for a short time, but that their lives will be threatened by the catastrophes of global warming to an even greater degree if we burn much more in the coming years.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner focused repeatedly and heavily on the need for developed countries to advance renewable energy and increase greener industrialization of countries and communities around the world. She also contended that nuclear energy was one of the cleanest and cheapest types of energy, two highly debatable points that CleanTechnica and many others have found to be entirely untrue (unless you are simply focusing on the topic of CO2 emissions). Beyond the issue of nuclear waste, it should be noted that nuclear power plants are not being built or even approved in any location where they aren’t heavily, heavily subsidized by the government (aka, taxpayers) or ratepayers. Apparently, Argentina and France just at the beginning of the week partnered to work on technology transfer for nuclear power in Argentina. It’s ironic, given France’s current focus on reducing its nuclear power share, and the decision from numerous countries to go completely nuclear free — in no small part due to economic reasons, as well as the more obvious nuclear waste issue. It’s unfortunate that Argentina is looking to adopt antiquated and extremely expensive nuclear technology at this moment in time.

Queen of Jordan, Rania Al Abdullah. (Photo courtesy of Masdar.)

The Queen of Jordan, Queen Rania Al Abdullah, gave what many considered the most forceful speech of the night. Focusing on the need to address climate change and the need for much more progress on the provision of reliable and clean energy for all, the Queen was forceful, yet elegant and beautiful at the same time. She garnered the attention of the audience and the urgency of the issues we face probably better than any other speaker.

Given the force and quality messages of Queen Rania Al Abdullah, plus the fact that I recorded a couple videos of the speech, I’m going to dedicate a full article on her speech in the coming days.

The opening ceremony’s final speech was by CEO of Siemens Peter Löscher. It was noted that this was the first time that a member of the business community spoke at the WFES opening ceremony. Siemens is a leader in a handful of clean technologies, warranting its presence on the stage. Nonetheless, there was practically a mass exodus from the audience as he began, and during his speech. It wasn’t clear if this was because he wasn’t a head of state or if it was because he was the last speaker before lunch. But it was certainly odd.

To completely close out the opening ceremony, there was this brief appeal to action from one young girl (I think she was a resident of Abu Dhabi) and an invitation to Abu Dhabi from a few youngsters:

For more content from the week, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.


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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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