ASHRAE participates in High Performance Buildings Coalition Congressional Event
ATLANTA, Georgia, 9, June 2021: In recognition of High Performance Building Week, 2020-21 ASHRAE President Charles E Gulledge III, spoke on a panel, titled ‘Building Better: Congressional and Private Sector Efforts to Promote High Performance Buildings’. Congressman, Peter Welch (D-VT), Co-Chair, High Performance Buildings Caucus, and the High Performance Building Coalition organized the event. The Coalition comprises more than 200 manufacturers, trade associations and other stakeholders who support policies and legislation that advance the next generation of buildings.
Joining Gulledge on the panel were chief executives from the International Code Council (ICC), the Green Building Initiative (GBI) and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAMPO), ASHRAE said. This was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Lakisha A Woods, CAE, President and CEO, National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS).
In his remarks, Gulledge spoke from ASHRAE’s current Society theme, ‘The ASHRAE Digital Lighthouse and Industry 4.0’, which focuses on reimaging the building industry, ASHRAE said.
“With the technological transformation of how we design, build, and operate buildings, the lines within the built environment including energy and infrastructure are increasingly blurred,” Gulledge said. “We must think about how existing buildings fit into this transformation. About half of the commercial buildings in the U.S. were constructed more than 35 years ago. Revitalizing these existing buildings represents Congress’s single best opportunity for making a significant impact on sustainability, resiliency, and energy efficiency. ASHRAE is committed to working with Congress to provide resources and knowledge which continually drive the innovative and strategic improvements needed during this transformation of the built environment.”
According to ASHRAE, Gulledge highlighted the new ASHRAE Global Headquarters building to demonstrate how to transform older existing buildings into high-performance workplace environments in a cost-effective and practical way.
JCI named to FT European Climate Leaders list
CORK, Ireland, 18 May 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) said it has been named to the inaugural FT Climate Leaders in Europe list.
Europe’s Climate Leaders 2021 is a list of companies across Europe that have shown the highest reduction of their emission intensity – that is, core greenhouse gas emissions in relation to revenues, between 2014 and 2019. Johnson Controls reported that it was one of only 300 companies selected from 4,000 across Europe.
“We are extremely proud to be recognized by the Financial Times as a European climate leader,” said George Oliver, chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Sustainability has long been at the heart of everything we do, and it is an honor to be included on this prestigious list. With COP26 approaching at this critical moment in the battle against climate change, it is important that companies continue to play their part in cutting emissions and delivering clean, sustainable solutions across the entire value chain.”
According to JCI, companies on the list – compiled by research firm, Statista – were invited to submit emissions reported following the emission categories of the greenhouse gas protocol (scope 1, 2 and 3). In addition, Statista scrutinized publicly available data, mainly from financial and non-financial reports as well as from CDP (formerly the “Carbon Disclosure Project”).
Although JCI reports all three emissions scopes, the ranking only considers scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, since not all companies publish their scope 3 emissions, it said. Since 2002, JCI said, it has reduced its emissions intensity by more than 70% – equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 17,000 acres of forest. The company said it has also helped its customers save more than 30.6 million tonnes of CO2 globally and $6.6 million through guaranteed operational savings.
At the European level, JCI said, it has been effectively supporting the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission recently committed to at least 55% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 under the European Green Deal. Decarbonizing Europe’s building stock through the European Commission’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has a crucial role to play in this effort – 40% of greenhouse gases come from buildings, the company said.
According to JCI, digitalization has been recognized as a key enabler for the building renovation wave in Europe and the rest of the world. Already, JCI said, it has been deploying its OpenBlue digital platform for optimizing buildings sustainability across its entire value chain – drastically improving the company’s own environmental impact and helping customers consume less energy, conserve resources and identify pathways to achieving healthy, net zero carbon communities.
Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officers, JCI, said: “We are making positive change within our own corporation and believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals. By driving global change, we are ultimately creating an environment for healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.”
JCI said it is also helping meet the growing demand for energy-efficient technologies. It said it has provided heat pump solutions for customers at more than a dozen district heating and cooling applications in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Norway.
Heat pumps, it said, have an important role to play in decarbonizing buildings and industry. They have long been in the DNA of industrial refrigeration – utilised in food and beverage, dairy and other process industries for reclaiming low-temperature waste heat and turning it into low-cost, high-temperature heat.
VC funds, Hollywood stars invest heavily in climate change innovation
CHICAGO, Illinois, 18 May 2021: The year 2021 has already seen multiple climate-focused fund launches. London-based One Planet Capital launched a fund for green tech, fintech and sustainability-based B2C businesses, while Hollywood ‘Iron Man’ actor, Robert Downey Jr has founded FootPrint Coalition Ventures to invest in high-growth, sustainability-focused companies.
The financial world used to think environmental issues couldn’t generate viable rewards, but another climate-focused fund, Congruent Ventures, believes a tipping point has been passed.
Congruent raises investment specifically for Climate Change solution start-ups and, with USD 300 million under management after closing its second fund at USD 175 million, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Abe Yokell, said: “If you brought up the word ‘cleantech’ to any institutional investor allocating to venture 10 years ago, they would do their best to avoid the meeting, but now, there’s a fundamental belief there will be significant financial returns investing broadly in climate tech over time.”
Congruent’s portfolio includes electric vehicle-charging provider, Amply, which raised USD 13.2 million last year from investors, including Soros Fund Management and Siemens. Digitally controllable electrical panel company, Span raised USD 20 million in January through Congruent, with investors including Munich Re Ventures’ HSB Fund and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.
And Congruent itself is well-founded, with investors including UC Investments, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Three Cairns Group, Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and Surdna Foundation, among other institutions, foundations and family offices.
Regulation A+ crowdfunding companies are also seeing investment, such as digital twins company, Cityzenith, who recently launched their international ‘Clean Cities, Clean Future’ campaign as part of the Race to Zero movement.
Cities worldwide generate 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, but Cityzenith’s AI Digital Twin platform technology can help property asset management groups, city planners and developers reduce emissions and move to carbon neutrality in the next 10 years.
Michael Jansen, CEO, Cityzenith, said at the launch of the ‘Clean Cities – Clean Future’ initiative: “We have to help the most polluted urban centers become carbon neutral, and we plan to do this by donating the company’s Digital Twin platform, SmartWorldOS to key cities, one at a time, after every USD 1 million we raise. We’re able to do this because of the recent surge of investment we’ve had as part of our USD 15m raise.”
Cityzenith is already benefiting from the funding shift, reportedly attracting USD 2.5 million in investment since late 2020 through Regulation A+ crowdfunding and a surge in shares from USD 0.575 to USD 1.50 in just five months. The US company has raised USD 10 million to date.
Jansen said: “In the past decade, investors struggled to justify backing Climate Change solutions, but global demand for net-zero carbon by 2050 and a sustainable future means a tipping point has been passed.
“Products, such as our own SmartWorldOS™, which monitors and collects data on future and existing building assets, so construction and maintenance can occur at optimal efficiency, will be essential to reducing carbon emissions and energy waste. We must invest in climate solutions now so that we can protect our planet sooner and more effectively.
“We’ve seen a significant amount of interest in our current USD 15m raise from accredited investors in recent months, as there are tangible, financial upsides in the built-environment to going climate-friendly, and carbon credits are going to become an enormous part of this in the next few years.”
European-based fund 2150 also launched this year, investing €200m (USD 240 million) into start-ups developing sustainable technologies to lower carbon emissions in Europe’s cities.
Co-founder Christian Hernandez has seen a shift in perceptions, too. He said: “There are enough proof points now that those two (profitable investments and investing in climate solutions) can coexist.”
Johnson Controls releases 2021 Sustainability Report
CORK, Ireland, 10 April 2021: Johnson Controls on April 9 published its 2021 Sustainability Report, highlighting its new environmental, social and governance commitments and progress towards the company’s sustainability goals, the company said through a Press release.
George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls, said: “At Johnson Controls, sustainability is our business. This year saw us continue to pioneer new and important paths to sustainability, including our issuance of a green bond in the U.S. capital markets – among the very first industrials to do so.
“We welcome and embrace the enhanced attention and urgency around tackling climate change and making gains across environmental, social and governance pillars. We are determined to strengthen and further build our culture of diversity and inclusion.
“Our bold new sustainability commitments demonstrate we are all-in to help drive healthy buildings, healthy people and a healthy planet for our employees, shareholders, customers and all of our stakeholders.”
According to Johnson Controls, highlights of the report include:
- New ambitious sustainability commitments that outline the company’s priority to make positive changes in lowering its company footprint, such as achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2040.
- Its first-ever Sustainability Report that includes and fully integrates its first-ever diversity and inclusion report, highlighting its D&I commitment, mission, vision, pillars and progress.
- Its goal to double its customers’ emission reductions through implementation of its OpenBlue digitally enabled solutions by 2030.
- Its intention to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States over the next five years.
- Its green financing initiatives, including a green bond – one of the first industrial companies to issue a green bond in U.S. debt capital markets – and a senior revolving credit facility tied to specific sustainability metrics
- Executive compensation that is linked to sustainability and diversity performance goals
- The appointment of the company’s first Chief Sustainability Officer and the formation of a Governance and Sustainability board of directors’ committee
- Performance contracting projects that have helped its customers avoid more than 30.6 million metric tons CO2e and save USD 6.6 billion through energy and operational savings since January 2000.
- Greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction of more than 70% since 2002.
- Our commitment to The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, to reach net-zero
UAE, US commit to jointly tackle climate challenge
ABU DHABI, UAE, 5 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their joint commitment to tackle the climate challenge in a Joint Statement that stresses the importance and urgency of raising global climate ambition. Both countries announced their intent to cooperate on new investments in financing decarbonisation across the MENA region and beyond, and to focus on assisting the most vulnerable adapt to the effects of climate change.
H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: “Together with the US, the UAE has affirmed that decisive, proactive climate action can be an engine for economic growth and sustainable development. Building on the legacy and experience of the UAE, which has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable development and today operates three of the world’s largest solar facilities, we will focus, together with the US, on joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.
“The UAE is rich in opportunities with the world’s lowest solar power costs, and significant carbon capture investments. We look forward to sharing our experience with the international community to turn climate action into economic opportunity.”
Noting the progress made by many leading companies, both countries agreed to work closely with the private sector to mobilize the necessary investment and technology resources needed to stem the climate crisis and support the economy.
At the national level, the United States and the United Arab Emirates confirmed their intent to work towards decarbonising their economies according to their national circumstances and economic development plans, including reducing carbon emissions by 2030.
The United States and the United Arab Emirates stressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote the success of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
The Joint Statement emerges from the UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, held on April 4. The event convened climate leaders from across the MENA region and unveiled a new era of cooperation in the region for a future focused on prosperity through climate policy, investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth.
The Dialogue drew the participation of high-level dignitaries from across the region as well as critical global partners and organisations. Participants included COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma and US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, together with ministers and high-level representatives from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The event further reinforced the UAE’s regional climate leadership, providing a common ground for participating nations to build a shared vision for climate action ahead of COP26.
‘The cost of ignoring much-needed IAQ upgrades is far greater’
Amid the celebratory news of the roll-out of vaccination programs around the globe, we must all remember one of the biggest lessons that COVID-19 taught the world: Buildings – as they are designed, constructed, and operated and maintained – play a significant role in the health and wellbeing of not only their occupants but also the people and communities around them. These include our private commercial office buildings, residential buildings of all sizes, hospitals, entertainment venues, schools, public buildings and more.
We have also learned that infrastructure inequities in cities, states and countries across the globe – including those in transportation, healthcare, agriculture and housing – matter and have a big role to play when it comes to effectively managing a health crisis. And sadly, we learned that much like climate change, a pandemic will also disproportionately affect those with the least amount of resources.
The successful development of a vaccine for COVID-19 does not mean that we do not need to develop new practices when designing the places, spaces and communities around us. Why? Because vaccines are only one component of how we will recover and move forward. This is not a once-in-a-generation crisis. As a global community of sustainability and health professionals, we must embrace the lessons learned about virus transmission and apply them to ensure a permanent recovery and resiliency plan. History cannot repeat itself; the cost to humanity is too great.
This is a point in time when leadership matters. This is a point in time for deep inflection. And this is a point in time for purposeful and forward-looking action. We now have the opportunity – and a moral obligation – to completely re-think how our buildings and spaces should be designed, constructed, operated and maintained. We must turn our buildings and spaces into places that positively contribute to our health and wellbeing. That means that we have to take a fresh and honest look at the inequities in the communities around us and build back better with an eye toward achieving resiliency and equity. Multiple studies, including one just released by Oxfam, have found that the world’s richest people have made significant financial gains during COVID-19, while the world’s poor have fallen even further behind.
At USGBC and GBCI, we believe that better buildings and communities equal better lives. That’s why we are dedicated to continuing to invest in LEED, the world’s most widely used and trusted green building certification program. The success of LEED around the world is a testament to its effectiveness. As of this writing, we have more than 100,600 registered and certified LEED commercial projects, nearly two million registered and certified LEED residential units, projects in 181 countries and territories and nearly 205,000 LEED APs implementing the rating system around the world. Much like LEED’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human health and wellness strategies have been a foundation of the LEED program since its beginning, with over 70% of the rating system’s credits tying back both directly and indirectly to human health and wellness.
We know that addressing the systemic challenges revealed by COVID-19 won’t happen overnight and without significant planning. And while we know that addressing these systemic needs will not come without significant investment, we also know that healthy people, in healthy places and spaces, equal a healthy and robust global economy – and that the price we will pay for not addressing these needs will be far greater than addressing them now.
We can start by focusing our efforts on one of the primary targets of preventing virus spread: Indoor air quality (IAQ). Public health data has shown that buildings are safer to occupy when their mechanical systems, especially HVAC systems, promote good ventilation, air scrubbing and purification and enhanced outside air exchange. While these enhancements alone cannot eliminate the risk of virus transmission, they are a critical component of a larger mitigation strategy. Upgrades to outdated and inefficient HVAC systems in existing buildings across the world have been delayed for decades owing to cost concerns. However, the cost of ignoring these needed upgrades is far greater, as the pandemic has demonstrated in human lives lost, shuttered economies and schools and overburdened healthcare delivery platforms. Now is the time to invest in a resilient future and build back the trust between people and the buildings around them.
One way that USGBC and GBCI have strived to build back trust between people and the buildings around them is through our LEED Safety First Pilot Credit, related to managing IAQ as a component of our LEED green building rating system. The pilot credit builds on existing IAQ credits in LEED and helps building owners and managers ensure that IAQ systems are operating as designed. It also helps determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic has also called attention to the condition of schools. For well over a decade, USGBC has been advocating for a major and long overdue global investment in school buildings. We have already seen some of the adverse effects of schools being shut down and students being forced to learn from home for nearly a year, and the value placed on schools and in-person education is as high as ever. Now is the time to leverage that goodwill and invest in these facilities on a global scale, so that such disruptions never happen again. We need to ensure that every school across the globe has proper ventilation, air purification equipment, carbon dioxide monitors and proper outdoor air exchange in order to reduce the risk of spreading airborne pathogens as a key component in their back-to-school engagement strategy. Every student needs to have a chance to thrive, and a key component of that is a healthy school building.
These investments alone will not create a strong, healthy and resilient planet. We also need to look at cities and their infrastructures. Despite predictions of an exodus of people leaving dense urban population centers for the suburbs, we did not see the global abandonment of cities during the pandemic. Not everyone has the resources to simply pack up and leave, and many rely on the resources that cities provide. And many of those that did leave their cities simply relocated to other cities.
Cities that set themselves apart through substantial investments in sustainability, health and wellness, resiliency and equity will be the leaders of tomorrow. People by their very nature need to feel confident, comfortable and safe with the community around them. That’s why it is critical to provide a framework that communicates the importance of investing in urban infrastructure.
I am proud of the 114 cities and communities across the globe who have certified through the LEED for Cities and Communities rating systems, including the City of Dubai and the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) project. These rating systems revolutionize the way cities and communities are planned, developed and operated, in order to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. LEED for Cities and Communities is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and encompasses social, economic and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. The rating system also addresses pandemic-specific challenges with two LEED Safety First Pilot Credits, one addressing the preparedness for pandemic planning and the other ensuring social equity in pandemic planning.
At some point, we will enter a post-pandemic world. However, leaders must not then forget the lessons learned from COVID-19. We must remain focused on letting science, data and the health and wellness of future generations drive each and every decision that we make. Better buildings and communities do lead to better and healthier lives. Let’s make that our collective legacy.
Mahesh Ramanujam is President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). He may be contacted at email@example.com.
Biden regulatory moves will make ESG the ‘ultimate investment megatrend’
WASHINGTON DC, February 2 2021: US President Joe Biden’s expected regulatory changes will push environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing “to become the ultimate megatrend”, said Nigel Green, CEO and Founder, deVere Group.
The independent financial advisory and fintech firm, which has USD 12 billion under advisement, made the statement, quoting its CEO, against the backdrop of President Biden picking Gary Gensler to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. financial regulator.
Green said: “Joe Biden’s administration is going to usher in an era of serious momentum for responsible and sustainable investing. This is not just because of the likely tougher approach to the use of fossil fuels and his campaign’s vow to take swift action to tackle the climate emergency. It is also because of the expected appointment of Gary Gensler to lead the SEC, who is likely to heavily reform and broaden ESG investing and corporate disclosure rules in the U.S. In doing such, we can assume that Gensler would have the major support on the Commission.”
For instance, upon her appointment as Acting SEC Chair, Allison Herren Lee said that during her time as a Commissioner, “I have focused on climate and sustainability, and those issues will continue to be a priority for me.” In The New York Times, she wrote: “Both investors and the broader public need clear information about how businesses are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and how they are managing — or not managing — climate risks internally. Realistically, that can happen only through mandatory public disclosure.”
Green said: “Should the SEC push ahead with beefing-up green investment rules, as is expected, it will close the transatlantic gap that has emerged in recent years as the European watchdogs pushed ahead with increased stricter ESG investing and disclosure regulations.
“At the beginning of 2020, I described ESG investing as a ‘megatrend’ of the decade. And throughout the year inflow doubled and ESG funds outperformed the market. But the tag ‘megatrend’ would now seem somewhat underplayed if the U.S. moves towards ESG-related regulatory reforms and comes into line with Europe. Responsible investing will become the ultimate investment megatrend should this happen.”
According to the firm, in a move to encourage clients to consider the ESG opportunities, it announced in January that it is planning to offer free, independent advice on socially responsible investing, with the aim of positioning USD 1 billion in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments within five years. The company said:“The likely rule changes in the U.S. on ESG investing and corporate disclosures are not as yet heavily priced-in to markets. Investors should keep a keen eye on this area and move to take advantage of the opportunities.”
JCI unveils sustainability commitments
CORK, Ireland, 29 January 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced new environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, science-based targets as well as a net-zero-carbon pledge to support a healthy, more sustainable planet over the next two decades. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company said its emissions reduction drive and that of its customers will be powered by its OpenBlue technologies and innovations, which leverage big data and artificial intelligence to optimise buildings sustainability.
“Sustainability is at the heart of our business and fundamental to everything that we do as a company,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Today’s announcement reinforces our continued commitment to developing best-in-class climate solutions, and OpenBlue will empower our customers to streamline building operations and uncover energy efficiencies that will help meet their environmental goals. We continue to make sustainability a top priority for the company, our customers and our suppliers, and have set ambitious goals that will drive significant improvements in carbon emissions.”
The launch of the new commitments, the company said, will enable it to deliver quantifiable efforts to reduce carbon emissions, drive climate-focused innovation and work closely with customers and suppliers to meet sustainability goals as well as measurable impact against its three key OpenBlue healthy building pillars: healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet. These commitments, it added, are:
Environmental Sustainability Commitments:
- Set science-based targets consistent with the most ambitious 1.5 degrees C Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario
- Reduce Johnson Controls’ operational emissions by 55% and reduce customers’ emissions by 16% before 2030
- Achieve net-zero-carbon emissions before 2040, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees C criteria
- Invest 75% of new product development R&D in climate-related innovation to develop sustainable products and services
- Achieve 100% renewable electricity usage globally by 2040
Customer and supply chain commitments:
- Double annual avoided emissions by 2030 through customer use of Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue digitally enabled products and services
- Create a supplier sustainability council with cohorts of suppliers, and their tier-one suppliers, and provide suppliers with training on sustainability best practices and OpenBlue digital tools in order to meet ambitious, public sustainability goals
- Weight sustainability equal to other key metrics in supplier performance evaluations and provide a preference for suppliers with excellent sustainability ratings
Social and Governance Sustainability Commitments:
- Intends to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States within five years
- Launch an initiative to educate the next generation of diverse sustainable building industry leaders, in partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
- Include sustainability and diversity goals in senior leaders’ performance assessments, which are linked to executive compensation to drive accountability
- Launch an initiative focused on underserved markets and increase Johnson Controls’ spend with women- and minority-owned businesses
Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, JCI, said: “Our commitments reinforce the urgency to make positive changes that will improve the health of our planet, and we believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals, in addition to our own. We are excited to step up the role we play and will continue to innovate and uncover new pathways to meet our goals which will contribute to healthier people, healthier places and a healthier planet.”
Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launches policies to boost UAE’s sustainability agenda
ABU DHABI, UAE, 24 January 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, launched new initiatives and policies to boost the UAE’s sustainability agenda, the Ministry said through a Press release. The launch happened during the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the Ministry added.
The Minister highlighted the importance of driving coordinated action to expedite the energy transition and increase the share of renewables in the countries’ energy mix at the opening ceremony of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He reflected on the UAE’s journey in deploying renewables at home and abroad, leading to a considerable surge in its domestic production capacity, as well as playing an effective and distinct role in reducing the cost of renewable energy worldwide.
At the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition, Dr Al Nuaimi presented the UAE’s new climate ambitions, set out in its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. He noted that the NDC fell under the country’s national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in its current energy transition.
Moreover, Dr Al Nuaimi delivered the closing remarks at the first joint meeting to prepare for two landmark UN summits that will take place in New York in September 2021 – the Food Systems Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Energy. The participants proposed targets, policies, initiatives, and other outcomes for the summits that have simultaneous food, energy and climate benefits.
At a panel session, titled ‘COP26 – a Crucial Stepping Stone on the Path to a Sustainable Global Recovery’, the Minister stressed that the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) is a timely opportunity for leaders to resume climate negotiations and work on a shared vision for raising climate ambition in the context of a green recovery.
He pointed out that throughout the tough times posed by COVID-19, the UAE has remained dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy, as part of its recovery plans, and has taken great strides along this path, including moving forward with its renewables and nuclear projects.
At the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi announced the launch of the UAE Sustainable Finance Framework 2021-2031 in partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Pioneered by the Ministry, the national framework supports the mobilisation of private capital towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient investments.
With the aim of ensuring the UAE emerges as a leader in climate knowledge, the Minister launched the UAE Climate Change Research Network that brings together a group of committed scientists and researchers to advance climate data collection and policy-relevant research on climate change impacts and adaptation. The Network presents opportunities for climate scientists in the UAE to engage with one another and with their peers from other countries as well as to facilitate research collaborations.
Dr Al Nuaimi also unveiled the inaugural edition of The UAE State of Climate Report, which provides an overview of the state of knowledge on historical and projected climate changes and their impacts on the UAE and the wider Arabian Gulf region.
On the sidelines of ADSW 2021, the Minister opened the winners’ announcement of the third edition of the Global Innovation Award (GIA), organised by Globally on behalf of MOCCAE. The competition aims to attract innovations from around the world to the UAE to support the country in its quest to become a world leader in sustainable development. This year’s GIA received a record number of applications – more than 1,200 from 65 countries. The winner was Cambrian Innovation, from the United States, with its innovative waste-to-energy solution that purifies wastewater while producing energy from the contaminants.
‘The UAE leadership has a view of the future – and it is not just tomorrow’
Congratulations on your appointment as Denmark’s Climate Ambassador. Could you speak on the potential areas of cooperation between the UAE and Denmark?
I think it’s remarkable the far-sighted leadership the UAE has taken as an oil- and gas-producing country. The leaders have a view of the future – and the future that is not just tomorrow, not just five or 10 years, but they are thinking ahead to 20 or 50 years from now.
We are talking about the major transformation of energy systems. The largest solar farms in the world are in the UAE, and a lot of investment is being done in this area. The country is taking energy efficiency in buildings seriously and addressing the challenge of having had, years ago, the highest carbon footprint per inhabitant.
In that sense, cooperation between the UAE and Denmark on energy and other topics related to food and maritime issues makes imminent sense. We are the country in the EU with the largest oil -production. We have oil and gas in the North Sea. But we are slowly ending our exploration of that oil and gas, and in December 2020, the Danish Parliament decided to end fossil extraction in the North Sea by 2050 with a plan for the just transition of impacted workers and a conversion of the oil and gas fields to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)].
There is also a huge market for renewable energy, globally, as this transformation [can be seen] worldwide. In Denmark, we are building better and taller wind farms and offshore wind farms, including over the next two years in two new energy islands. As a result, there has been global interest surrounding Danish windfarm operators and wind constructors, many of whom are now in demand in a number of countries such as the US, Korea and Australia.
Could you speak more about the competitive advantage that countries such as the UAE can have from specialising in sustainable cooling solutions, both in terms of developing the expertise within the country and in terms of pioneering solutions? Do you see this to be a growing market?
The world is undergoing an energy transformation, and the UAE is also very well positioned to be part of it and, in some instances, to lead this transformation. As such, a partnership with a country like Denmark makes great sense.
When it comes to the development of cities, it’s clear that if you look at trends as a whole, [the population] is moving from the countryside to cities at an increased rate. I think the latest figures from UN Habitat and other global organisations is that almost half of the human population lives in cities. We have been going from 30-40% of the population to half, and the trajectory is pointing towards a world where most of the people are in cities.
There have been large movements in the Global South. In China, you have more than 70 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and many are newly constructed with poor quality of buildings that need to be retrofitted and rebuilt. In India, you have a growing middle-class population, and this has led to growth of new buildings in new cities or more modern buildings in new parts of the city. The same trend can be seen in the Gulf region. For a very long time, Dubai was home to most of the cranes in the world. In Africa, large cities that are already big, continue to grow. In Indonesia, we see a population in the process of moving Jakarta to a new island, because it is sinking.
Basically, in many places, the built-environment is not a done deal. We are at the beginning, not at the end. It’s only in older industrial countries in the West that the city structure is permanent. I would think the opportunities for both new buildings and retrofitting are very large, especially in warmer climates, where expertise is needed in challenging environments.
For us, in Denmark, it’s more about reverse engineering our experience with energy efficiency and insulation, and usinge and applying them in the UAE. Also, there would be solutions we need to develop from scratch, based on the circumstances and the physical environment.
It’s clear that cooling also has some attributes different from heating. [In Denmark], some companies are experimenting with district cooling, but most are district heating, with a lot of combined power and heat plants. Also, some of them are doing this with garbage waste disposal and heat and power. With the more recent climate law, because of the move towards circular economy, we are now looking at recycling and reusing our waste rather than incinerating it.
What can further drive the development of expertise and solutions in the sustainability arena in a country?
A combination of energy pricing and embedding efficiency in building codes and regulation by central and local governments are key here. The building owner and operator might not be interested in building more efficiently because of the perceived cost, and they will try to defer the cost onto the tenants. That means rent goes up, bills go up, and they are not too happy either. That’s always a question for the less well off, that’s also the question of the fair and equitable distribution of the cost and benefit, [[when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions.].
In Denmark, people have been investing in energy efficiency because of energy cost and due to strict regulation since the 1970’s. Because of the cost of energy, there are huge paybacks at a shorter time.
In what ways can the public sector in the GCC region incentivise sustainability initiatives in the built-environment, both in terms of introducing retrofit targets and also ensuring new buildings adhere to higher energy- efficiency goals?
For one, I would say that educating the general public is extremely important, in terms of the cost, economy, sustainability and potential social benefits.
The very practical education of engineers and economists, integrating energy efficiency into curricula in the built-environment, so that you have your own skilled engineers and technicians ¨to operate systems, do the buildings and learn from it. It is a mentality and way of thinking. We have done it for the last 50 or more years; we didn’t do it before that. It took us a long time and heavy regulation, strong incentives and a lot of private discussion among government and private sector and institutions of higher education to get that sector to operate in an efficient and integrated way. I would encourage public policy makers to think through different dimensions of how to establish a cluster of knowledge and expertise. The young students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they have to make it work 10-15 years down the road.
AESG in global expansion drive with 45% growth target for 2021
Dubai, UAE, 06 January 2021: Consultancy, engineering and advisory firm, AESG announced the appointment of global directors for each of its lines of business, as well as the expansion of the role of the company co-founder, Saeed Al Abbar, to group-wide CEO. Making the announcement through a Press release, the firm said the move follows the establishment of offices in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, and successful delivery of large-scale projects across the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The consolidation of service teams under unified global divisions, AESG said, will enable it to deploy the best skills and resources from all its international offices on projects worldwide.
Outlining how this strategy bolsters the company’s ambitious plans for the upcoming year, Al Abbar said: “2021 is set to be a significant growth year for AESG, as we build on the momentum we have established. While the Middle East will remain a focal market for us, we are also seeing steady growth in our business in the UK and Europe, as well as a surge in opportunities in Asia. Our reorganization perfectly positions us to capitalize on these opportunities, as we draw on the brightest and most qualified talent from each market to drive our success across the vast geography of our operations.”
AESG said that under the direction of its newly appointed global directors it is looking to further grow its teams. The company said it has budgeted for a 45% increase in headcount, with the objective of scaling to 140 professionals through 2021. The company also revealed its intention to replicate in Asia the strategy that has proven highly successful in the Middle East and Europe by establishing a regional headquarters in Singapore.
AESG said its newly appointed global directors will be tasked with leading teams, driving the growth of their service lines and ensuring best practices are implemented across regions. Two AESG Global Directors have been promoted from within the company, with Phillipa Grant and Nivine Issa now taking on the roles of Global Director of Sustainability and Global Director of Environment, respectively. Grant and Issa have also taken up equity partnership in the firm, demonstrating their long-term commitment to AESG and highlighting the company’s leadership in gender equality in the field.
With its appointment of Peter Downer to the position of Global Director of Fire and Life Safety, AESG said it is also looking to draw from the experience and expertise of a business leader who has worked with large multinational construction consultancy firms. An industry veteran of over 35 years – 15 of which have been in senior leadership positions – Downer has worked extensively on projects across the Middle East, Asia and Australia, AESG said. Prior to joining AESG, he served as the Senior VP at Jensen Hughes, where he led the Asia region, which included offices in China, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
Al Abbar said: “AESG has successfully navigated the challenges of 2020, and as developers look to enhance and optimize the efficiency, sustainability, safety and manageability of their investments, our comprehensive portfolio of specialist services is now more relevant than ever. We maintain a highly optimistic outlook with confidence that our commitment to maintaining service excellence through our ongoing expansion will further validate our position as a leading global consultancy firm.”