Experts highlight urgent need to plan for net zero cities

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Regional and international experts on sustainable built environments came together earlier this week in Dubai at the 7th Annual Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) Congress to discuss best practices and immediate strategies to transition to net zero cities within the coming decade to curb the damaging effects of carbon emissions.

Organised by EmiratesGBC, an independent forum aimed at conserving the environment by strengthening and promoting green building practices, the Congress was held under the theme ‘Targeting Zero: A Vision for Future Cities’.

The Congress hosted several regional and international experts who agreed that the world is currently at a point of no return, and that all stakeholders, including the public, have to take bold, immediate steps to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change.

The Congress commenced with welcome addresses by Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of EmiratesGBC, Ahmed Muhairbi, Secretary General, Dubai Supreme Council of Energy; and Eng. Hussain Hassan Khansaheb, Director of Partnerships & Special Projects, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

The opening session concluded with a video message by Terri Wills, CEO, World Green Building Council, urging industry stakeholders to formally endorse and sign the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, which is a significant step aimed at generating the next wave of high momentum to cut down global greenhouse gas emissions.

During his welcome note Al Abbar, referenced the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which states that “the planet could pass the 1.5 degree C threshold as early as 2030, which would result in severe consequences to the planet,” if there are no concrete efforts made to tackle the current state of carbon emissions worldwide.

Al Abbar said: “The Congress this year is by far the most important one to date as we face the unprecedented challenge of securing a prosperous future for upcoming generations. We have a small window of opportunity over the next 12 years, to make a significant change and confidently look to our children and future generations and tell them that we did our best and overcame this challenge. Change is achievable if we start today. We have come a long way in the past 10 years to get to the level of awareness and commitment we have today on sustainability. I believe that with the ingenuity of human spirit, the great minds we have in our industry and the leadership of the government sector that we can rise to the challenge and deliver on our global net zero emissions targets.”

Three sub-themes

The 2018 Congress’ discussions focused on three sub-themes that were closely related to honouring and promoting the values associated with the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the UAE marks the Year of Zayed this year to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary. These are: Inspired Cities reflecting the Wisdom of Sheikh Zayed; Collaborative Cities focusing on the value of Respect; and Holistic Cities mirroring the value of Sustainability which caters to the needs of future generations.

The speakers at the Congress presented and discussed strategies for promoting sustainable built environments for the cities of the future within the objectives of the Paris COP21 Climate Agreement.

Through compelling presentations and case studies the Congress further highlighted the urgency to influence sustainable practices in the UAE’s built environment and to help identify key industry challenges and solutions as well as catalyse innovation in green building practices to create new models that support the country’s efforts to be more sustainable in accordance with Vision 2021.

According to the IPCC report, governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" to stem climate change. The Congress mirrored this message and concluded with a general agreement that actionable measures must be taken that go beyond the conversation to influence fundamental change. There was also a consensus that in addition to governments and the private sector, the public must play a more significant role for this change to take effect.

Net Zero Centre of Excellence

Following the Congress, EmiratesGBC aims to further develop the conversation and encourage the increased participation of the industry through its recently established Net Zero Centre of Excellence. The Centre is a think tank and accelerator, which provides an important platform for the government, academia and the private sector to learn and share knowledge on how to advance net zero carbon buildings and push toward net zero carbon cities within the next decade.

The Congress was held for the second consecutive year under the patronage of the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, mandated to promote advancements toward a green economy in the UAE.

The event also received support from industry stakeholders with Majid Al Futtaim as Venue Sponsor. The Supporting Associations were: Clean Energy Business Council, Emirates Environmental Group, Emirates Nature-WWF, Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA), Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Energy Institute.

The 7th Annual EmiratesGBC Congress was a carbon-neutral event. All the emissions from power consumption, heat energy and refrigeration, among others, will be offset towards DEWA’s Clean Development Mechanism Project: Chiller Station L in partnership with FARNEK.