28 JUN 2020

Need to Know: Top 10 facts about World Environment Day

  • World Environment Day has been held every year on June 5 since 1974, and engages governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens in more than 100 countries
  • The UN General Assembly established World Environment Day in 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment
  • The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is “Time for Nature, which focuses on biodiversity
  • This year’s World Environment Day was hosted by Colombia, one of the most biodiverse countries on earth and home to more than 51,000 species
  • World Environment Day has its own anthem. Called Earth Anthem, it was written by poet Abbay K
  • Recent global events – from bushfires in Brazil, the United States and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic – have highlighted the importance of World Environment Day and the effects climate change is having on the environment
  • Biodiversity involves 8 million plant and animal species, the ecosystems that house them and the genetic diversity among them
  • In the past 150 years, the world’s live coral reef cover has been reduced by half
  • Within the next decade, the UN has warned that one out of every four known species face being wiped off the planet
  • According to the UN, it would take 1.6 earths to meet the demands that humans make on nature each year


Source: United Nations


01 SEP 2020

How the Middle East is using technology to go green

Energy systems around the world are undergoing fundamental transformations that will change the world as we know it.

The pace of change is accelerating significantly as more people, societies and governments become aware of the extent of damage that the emissions from fossil fuels have on our environment.

The Middle East and Africa are ideally placed to be at the forefront of this energy and technological revolution, but further bold leadership, investment, and decisiveness are required to capture the potential that this transformation will provide.

Renewables are expected to provide about 30 percent of global power demand in 2023, up from 24 percent in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency. That pace needs to pick up even more if we truly want to mitigate the effects of global warming.

As the cost of renewable energy drops, it becomes a more viable competitor to conventional energy production.

According to IRENA, solar photovoltaic prices based on competitive procurement could average US$0.039 per kilowatt-hour for projects commissioned next year, down 42 percent compared with last year and more than 20 percent less than the cheapest fossil-fuel competitor.

We have already seen record-low auction prices for solar PV systems in the UAE, Chile, Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru and Saudi Arabia, where values were as low as US$0.03/kWh.

Though each country is at a different stage in the energy transition journey, the ultimate goal is for zero emissions and 100 percent clean energy.

Such a transformation will not happen overnight and not all countries can realistically move straight to renewables.

We need to act now, accept interim solutions, always with the overarching goal in mind: creating a reliable, cheap and carbon dioxide-free energy supply for all people.

Coal currently accounts for around 40 percent of the world’s energy production. A shift from coal to gas can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Gas technology will play a fundamental role in energy transition to balance the fluctuating supply of renewable energy and stabilise electricity grids.

Gas turbines are a sustainable investment, running with natural gas now and with carbon-neutral hydrogen in the future. Industrial gas turbines can already today co-fire up to 60 percent of green hydrogen with modern dry low emission combustion systems.

Greater incentives from governments and partnerships with the private sector would help propel our transition towards a greener world. While some countries are still in the early phases of their energy transition, switching to cleaner gas burning for electricity as opposed to coal or oil burning, others are way ahead, proving the feasibility of renewable projects and new energy projects with industrial-scale projects.

The UAE is breaking ground with its green hydrogen project, the first in the Mena region. This collaboration between Siemens Energy, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and Expo 2020 Dubai, will be the region’s first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis plant.

Covering an area of 10,000 square meters, the plant aims to test and showcase an integrated megawatt-scale system to produce hydrogen using solar PV cells, store the gas and then use it for re-electrification, mobility or other industrial uses.

The UAE is using advanced technology to help reduce emissions and improve efficiency. A recent control system upgrade at Dewa’s Jebel Ali power plant, combining a digital twin with artificial intelligence, is ensuring that the gas turbines undergo constant performance rejuvenation.

This makes it possible, for the first time, to compensate for age-related performance losses in real time. As a result, the performance of the turbines has been increased by up to 3.5 megawatts each, and nitrogen oxide emissions have fallen by as much as 10 percent.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is another big regional player looking to diversify away from oil and move into the green hydrogen business. Its futuristic megacity of NEOM is set to be the world’s most advanced energy hub, which will be fully powered by renewable energy, with forward-looking storage and transport solutions.

In the interim, the kingdom is looking at gas solutions as it invests and puts into effect technology to upgrade its existing turbines and enable them to use gas and eventually hydrogen, instead of crude oil for fuel.

These are promising changes that are shaping the future of energy and the transformation to a greener world.

By Dietmar Siersdorfer / Middle East and UAE Managing Director, Siemens Energy


26 OCT 2020

Returning to pre-COVID world “not an option” former Unilever chief tells first ADSW Web Series

Failure to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic would be a “tragedy” and have catastrophic consequences for humanity, Paul Polman, former chief executive of Unilever, and a long-term campaigner for sustainable business practices, said during the first-ever ADSW Web Series this month. 

“COVID has shown that we cannot have healthy people on an unhealthy planet,” Polman said on the online seminar. COVID-19 has demonstrated the dangers of encroaching on the environment and threatening biodiversity through “the mixing of our wild life increasingly with our human life,” which has caused a series of health incidents, culminating in the pandemic, he said.

Polman, co-founder and Chair of IMAGINE, a for-benefit company and foundation that mobilizes business leaders around the UN Global Goals, was speaking on the inaugural ADSW Web Series, a year-round platform dedicated to continuing the dialogue around sustainability.. Hosted by Masdar, the ADSW Web Series discusses critical, relevant topics key to accelerating the world’s sustainable development and delivering a green recovery. 

The global response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis had failed to adequately address climate change issues, with less than 3 percent of total investment going on greening economies, Polman argued.

“We missed a huge opportunity: a lot of money was spent to keep the banks afloat but people felt that banks were too big to fail and that people were too small to matter,” he said. 

In the wake of COVID-19, “to simply go back to where we came from is not an option” as life pre-pandemic “wasn’t working,” Polman told the online audience. “Mother Nature is sending us the invoices,” he stated. 

“The biggest risk I see right now” is for governments to declare they have already spent too much money on tackling COVID-19 issues, and can’t afford to address climate change, he said. Failure to raise capital flows into green markets would be a tragedy, Polman declared, adding that “the cost of acting is significantly lower than the cost of not acting.” 

In his decade as CEO at Unilever, Polman oversaw the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, with the company championing brands that support positive change for people and the planet. In 2018, Unilever said its 28 Sustainable Living brands grew 69 percent faster than the rest of its brands, while delivering 75 percent of the company’s overall growth. 

Total shareholder returns over his tenure was almost 300 percent, Polman said, “well above the market” but the company hadn’t prioritized this, he added, but had focused on other measures. 

Businesses need to be aware that there are enormous costs of not being in balance with the planet, Polman said. “Business depends on nature for many of its activities – in fact nature provides around US$125 trillion of services, but we don’t pay for it, we don’t value it, we destroy nature, these costs are coming back in the business,” he declared. 


02 AUG 2020

10 Key Facts around World Youth Skills Day

World Youth Skills Day was celebrated July 15 under the theme of “Skills for a Resilient Youth.”

Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2014, World Youth Skills Day aims to highlight the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
Rising youth unemployment is a growing global problem, with a report showing a worldwide rise since 2017 in the number of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET).

In 2016, there were 259 million young people classified as NEET – rising to an estimated 267 million in 2019, with 273 million projected by 2021. 
Globally, one in five young people are NEET – three out of four young NEETs are women.

While the youth population grew by 139 million between 1997 and 2017, the youth labour force shrank by 58.7 million.

Almost two out of five young workers in emerging and developing economies live on less than US$3.10 a day.

Prior to the current crisis, youth were three times as likely as people age 25 or older to be unemployed. Currently, more than one in six young people are out of work due to COVID-19. 

School closures due to COVID-19 may have impacted 70 percent of the world’s learners across education levels. 

Distance training has become the most common way of imparting skills, according to research collected by UNESCO, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank.  By Source: United Nations