Optimizing energy use is beneficial for everyone. Reducing energy consumption reduces fuel bills, reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. Achieving these reductions by optimizing energy use, rather than simply cutting back, means that there are no detrimental effects on the users.
Buildings are responsible for 60 percent of the world’s electricity consumption and one third of GHG emissions from energy use, which makes them the single largest source of GHGs produced by human activity. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has stated that “no other sector has such a high potential for drastic emission reductions”, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified buildings as providing opportunities to reduce GHG emissions that are particularly cost-effective and easy to implement. Innovative approaches to reducing emissions from buildings can stimulate economic growth. Given that the global economy is going through the worst recession in living memory it is important to seize this win-win opportunity to tackle global climate change and support economic recovery.
The United Nations Environment Programme has set up a Sustainable Buildings Initiative with the aim of supporting national initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and their contribution to climate change. Such initiatives have been set up in many developed countries, including the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program developed by the US green building council as well as Estidama, a green building rating system developed in Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has consistently held the bottom spot in World Wildlife Fund (WWF) league tables of world per capita energy consumption. The UAE is in this position because of reliance on fossil fuels to run cooling systems all year round and use of desalination plants to produce drinking water. Given the current concerns about climate change, and the rising cost of oil, the Ministry of Environment is keen to reduce energy use wherever possible.