2017 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

I am so amazed by Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2017 — and so glad that I convinced my client, Global Mana Foundation, to come out here! I was fortunate to work with the leading people in Masdar, a Mubadala Company, on planning our visit. We shot an incredible documentary film with global leaders, such as former President of Iceland Grimsson, Bader Al Lamki of Masdar, Illac Diaz of Liter of Light based in the Philippines (2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize Winner), and Dr. Ibrahim Togola of Africa Power International based in Mali. I’ve also been working on building relationships for business development opportunities for clean tech in the Gulf and also figuring out how to raise capital for a new fund focused project finance and venture for green tech in the Pacific and other developing nations.

I am honestly blown away by Abu Dhabi’s commitment to sustainable development and finding the promise land — a climate resilient world — UAE was the first country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to commit to a clean energy target of 24% by 2021 (which has now been raised to 27%), and 44% by 2040. This leadership is really spectacular — hosting the Atlantic Council and IRENA here, and now bringing so many clean energy leaders together — across water, waste, transportation, and more.

This lies in stark contrast to what is going on back home in the USA, where Donald Trump is attempting to put climate change skeptics and deniers into high level Administration positions where they will try to undo the Paris Agreement and legislation attempting to curb emissions from coal fired power plants — the US under Obama committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by 26–28 % compared to 2005 levels by 2025 (this is the US’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which was further discussed in terms of implementation at COP-22 in Marrakech). This would require a massive investment in renewables and energy efficient technologies — not only commercializing new technologies, such as the carbon negative technology developed by Global Thermostat, but also deploying solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal at scale.

Masdar CEO Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi said at ADSW that the issue for the private sector is always with finding enough bankable projects — there is no shortage of capital. We know there are issues with bankability in places like India, where local governments do not have the creditworthiness to enable project financiers to provide low cost debt to support equity investment from developers and investors. Public private partnerships are still critical, but in developing countries the issues with corruption, political risk, and insurance risk abound.

But the US, the richest and most stable country in the world, should have major green energy potential — but now, if there is no real regulatory floor requiring GHG reductions and renewables deployment, I don’t see the incentives for many in the energy industry to divest from oil and gas and coal (including national gas, which has many harmful environmental effects) or even nuclear…