Monday, June 23, 2008

City planning could reduce car use, says Masdar chief

Innovative planning could alter climate change and oil dependence, the chief executive of Masdar City told US lawmakers this week.

In testimony before the US congress on Wednesday, Dr Sultan al Jaber shared his experience in building Masdar City with the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Masdar City is the Abu Dhabi Government's sustainability initiative that will be the world's first carbon-neutral city when completed.

"For the first time in history, more than half of the world's population now lives in cities, with their traditional energy inefficiencies, waste and pollution," Mr Jaber told the committee. "We must fundamentally rethink how cities can conserve energy and other resources. We must heavily employ new technologies and even create new urban models, as we are doing in Masdar City."

With one car for every two people, the US is highly dependant on oil, which represents 40 per cent of the country's energy consumption. Demand is expected to grow from 19.7 million barrels per day in 2002 to more than 26m in 2020.

Hearings at the US congress are designed to help decision makers formulate national policy.

Dr Jaber told the committee that sustainable town planning would help to reduce dependence on cars and make cities more environmentally friendly.

Masdar, with a high density of 135 people per hectare, will eventually accommodate 90,000 people. Shading and green corridors will make walking a comfortable experience. Cars will not be allowed and a personal rapid transit system will carry people from one point to another.

It will derive its energy from renewable sources such as photovoltaic panels on the roofs of buildings and the use of concentrated solar power. The city will also generate energy by burning waste produced by its residents.

"At this historic moment and under the support and guidance of our leadership, I am articulating Abu Dhabi's strategic vision of a new partnership on clean energy and sustainable human development ... We seek to partner with the US, and the global community at large, in championing these important issues through extensive bilateral ties and investment," said Mr Jaber.

"I believe that my appearance here today will lead to more partnerships with American companies and institutions."

In a statement, Masdar said Mr Jaber's testimony was well received by members of congress. Ed Markey, the committee chairman, said: "Masdar City and Abu Dhabi represent the future of sustainable communities."

The congressman Emanuel Cleaver said: "Masdar is one of the most amazing projects in the world."

Mr Jaber invited the committee to visit Abu Dhabi to witness Masdar's efforts first hand.

Following the testimony, he met with elected officials and industry leaders and also addressed the US-UAE Business Council.

In January, US President George W Bush reviewed Masdar.

Masdar is driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a wholly owned company of the Abu Dhabi Government through the Mubadala Development Company. Developed at a cost of Dh80 billion (US$22bn), the city will act as a hub for renewable energy and sustainability research and technology companies. But it also aims to prove that it is possible to live in agreement with nature while still enjoying the comforts of modern living.

The city will be carbon-neutral, meaning that no carbon dioxide (CO2) will be released into the atmosphere because of the activities of its inhabitants.

CO2 and other greenhouse gases are widely considered responsible for changes to the global climate.

The committee, which meets in Washington DC, heard a variety of perspectives on the issue, with testimony from the American Highway Users Alliance, an advocacy group of motorists and automobile-related businesses, Smart Growth America, a sustainability advocacy, and the Center for Clean Air Policy, an environmental organisation focusing on climate change.

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