Looking forward to discussing issues related to energy production and policy frameworks that will enable the long-term goal of energy for all from sustainable energy sources, seven NYUAD students recently attended the World Energy Forum 2012 in Dubai. Held from October 22 to 24, the conference was attended by dozens of heads of state as well as experts in the field who led panel discussions on a wide range of issues. The Forum was unique this year as it was hosted outside the UN's New York headquarters for the first time.
Geared toward empowering developing nations with clean, reliable energy, the Forum's program also included the African Energy Summit and sessions that discussed the importance of economic investment and policies that incentivize public-private partnerships at local and global levels.
Heads of state and ministers spoke about energy-related issues that their individual nations faced, which differed greatly. In the Maldives, for instance, the fact that the country is made up of a number of islands has proved to be problematic in the production and transport of energy sources. Self-contained sources of energy production, such as solar power, have an advantage in this respect, however the cost remains prohibitive in many cases. In other nations, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, projects that promise to generate significant amounts of energy are awaiting investment. The Inga Dam, for example, is said to have the hydro-energy generating capacity to power large parts of Africa and a few European countries. However, there are concerns about the collateral damage of such projects as well as the associated social, environmental, economic, and political impacts that different energy sources may have on a local scale, as well as on the wider, international scale.
On the local level, a number of panels spoke to important developments and policy frameworks in the UAE on the conservation of energy and investment in projects that will provide energy solutions for years to come. Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of Masdar Institute, which is based in Abu Dhabi, spoke about the Institute's investments in sustainable energy projects around the world, and the goal of transforming the UAE economy into a "green economy" — a way of enabling growth and becoming a world leader in the sustainable energy sector.
The last few sessions saw a number of discussions held simultaneously on a diversity of issues, from sustainable architecture and cities, to water sustainability, during which experts gathered to speak on some of the most innovative developments. They explored the opportunities that are becoming apparent in urbanization, the growing consciousness of the impact on the environment, and the significant challenges that remain.
The two days that NYU Abu Dhabi students were able to attend the conference offered a fascinating, albeit brief, insight into some of the most pressing issues in sustainable development and will certainly inspire students to continue to have these important conversations as we look forward to the Sila Conference in a few weeks and the Global Issues Network Conference in late January, both hosted by NYUAD students.