By Paige Donner
“Environmental problems are business opportunities,” is the Globe Foundation's approach and that which underlies its ginormous Globe 2010 Conference, now in its 20th year, which just concluded on Friday in Vancouver.
Certainly one of the sexiest stories - and sponsors - to make its showing at Globe 2010 is Abu Dhabi's Masdar City. It takes the Globe approach even further by applying it to design and infrastructure as well as business opportunities.
Masdar City aims to be the world's first clean-technology cluster located in a zero-carbon, zero-waste and 100% renewable-energy-powered city. The city will be home to academics, companies, and inhabitants from across the globe where current and future technologies in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability will be funded, researched, developed, tested and commercialized.
This special economic zone of Abu Dhabi, a $22 billion economic zone, seeks to become a global center for innovation, research, product development and light manufacturing for renewable energy and environmental technologies.
Frank Wouters, Chief Executive of Masdar Power, introduced Globe 2010 attendees to the concept of Masdar City at the Opening Plenary speech, alongside John D. Wiebe, President and CEO, Globe Foundation, and James Suciu, President Global Sales Marketing, GE Energy, also a sponsor of Globe and an anchor partner of Masdar City where they will build its first EcoMagination Center. The Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, rounded out the opening statements.
The Globe Foundation was established in 1993 in Vancouver to promote the business case for sustainable development. This year, the conference boasted its most prominent speakers to date, with a total number of 200, and played host to 10,000 participants which included 2,000 conference delegates and 400 exhibitors including a range of countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany and Russia.
The Globe Foundation has three guiding principles:
- Environmental problems are business opportunities.
- Companies that can provide clean technologies and solutions will prosper.
- Proactive organizations that embrace environmental sustainability will be more competitive.
One of the Globe Foundation's projects it is championing is its Endless Energy project which is an exploration of the implications of energy self-sufficiency for British Columbia by 2025, based on indigenous renewable and clean energy sources and conservation measures.
This year's conference was organized around theme clusters: Corporate Sustainability Toolkit, Climate Change + Carbon Management, the Future of Energy, Financing the Low Carbon Economy, and the Urban Infrastructure Revolution.
Masdar City does a brilliant job of integrating all of these themes into one very handsome package.
The Arabic word, “masdar,” means source. Wouters pointed out that the former King of the UAE was, in fact, an environmentalist.
“We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in the environment. They were able to do so because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations." - Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1918-2004
Masdar City, a six-kilometer-square city, will be home to leading multinational companies in the cleantech sector as well as small- to medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurial startups. It is anchored by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an advanced research and educational facility, developed in collaboration with M.I.T. (Mass. Institute of Technology) which is focused entirely on education and research in alternative energy and sustainability. Its first 100 students began its curriculum this past September and will move into the city proper for the next year's term. They will be Masdar City's first official residents.
“At Masdar we have the intention all along the value chain for clean and renewable energy,” said Wouters who also quoted Bloomberg's projection for a $200 Billion worldwide investment in renewables for 2010, up from $155 Billion in 2008. For green building, there is a $1.4 trillion investment forecast by 2014. He emphasized that Masdar's philosophy is one of inclusivity. “We approach partnerships like a Catholic marriage: a long courtship and then once a partner is chosen, we are very loyal. In addition, because of the cultural heritage, we are not limited to one partner.”
Masdar's David Bonn, who works on the capital investment side, explained that Masdar seeks to be an exporter of renewable energy and education. He reiterated the rhetorical question about CleanTech heard often at the conference: Is it the new space race? He also mentioned that Masdar tends to invest in companies that can demonstrate proof of concept. Masdar City offers zero percent taxes on companies and individuals, illustrating that it definitely has "friend with benefits" characteristics.
Masdar City will be the world's largest test bed for new technologies by setting sustainability targets not attempted by any other project.
“A new era is upon us, challenging us to venture beyond the achievements of the past and meet the needs of the future. Masdar aims to become a source of energy, knowledge and innovation in order to maintain Abu Dhabi's position as a global energy leader.” - Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman, Masdar