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Market News

 October 08, 2009
EU mayors look to Masdar as first zero-carbon city

 EurActive - Masdar, a 100% renewable energy and zero-carbon city to be built in the United Arab Emirates, could provide inspiration for European cities, according to mayors and industry representatives gathered for a conference on regional policy in Brussels.

Masdar, a city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, is to become the new ’Silicon Valley’ for clean, green and alternative energy, according to its promoters. It will house around 1,500 clean tech companies, with 40,000 residents and 50,000 commuters.

The city’s concept was presented to local representatives and business leaders attending the European Commission’s ’Open Days’ in Brussels.

"Masdar will be an example of environmental best practice, a demonstration of what is possible," explained Sanad Ahmed, the city’s senior project manager. Masdar’s main objectives are achieving 100% reliance on renewable energies, becoming entirely carbon neutral and generating zero waste. The city will also host the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

The EU is increasingly looking at its urban areas to deliver its ambitious climate agenda. Cities are responsible for two-thirds of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, which makes them a key element in achieving the EU’s goal of slashing its greenhouse gases by 20% in 2020.

"Lots of technologies which will be used in Masdar can be applied to existing cities," said Steve Fludder, vice-president of General Electric. "The only difference is that most European cities need a transition," he added.

Others pointed out that Europe’s old cities would require expensive refurbishment to match Masdar’s ambitions. Michel Delebarre, mayor of Dunkerque, the third biggest port in France, and Jaroslaw Kochaniak, deputy mayor of Warsaw, cautioned that many EU cities had been completely destroyed during World War II. "If my predecessors had had the same means and preoccupations that we have nowadays, my city would have been reconstructed differently," said Delebarre.

Many European cities have nevertheless taken initiatives to curtail their energy waste according to local conditions. Kochaniak said Warsaw had already been working on cutting its energy use for the last 5-7 years, especially in the areas of public transport and waste infrastructure.

On the other hand, Carlos Rojas Garcia, mayor of the Spanish town of Motril, noted that his city intended to source at least 20% of its energy from solar and wind by 2020. All the street lights have been replaced, he said, reducing their energy consumption by 45%. And more energy will be saved on cooling during the summer, when temperatures in public buildings are never pushed below 20°C.

Key role for local authorities

The mayors stressed that educating citizens on energy efficiency was a key task at local level. "The Lisbon Strategy has forgotten to engage people," deplored Klaus Klipp, general-secretary of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), which gathers 270 regions from 33 countries.

The mayor of Dunkerque spoke of a public education stunt in his city in 2004, when a helicopter photographed all of the city’s buildings for a thermographic analysis. Residents could then come to see the level of energy consumption of their houses, and get subsidies for deciding to take measures to reduce energy waste.

Warsaw’s Kochaniak stressed the role of EU funding. "Even if the EU does not have direct competence in urban affairs, its cohesion and sectoral policies in the areas of transport, environment and social affairs can have impacts on cities’ capacity to deal with these challenges," he said. 

Energy efficiency for urban areas will be a featured topic at GLOBE-2010 - the upcoming world conference on the business of the environment taking place in Vancouver Canada on March 24-26, 2010. Check out GLOBE 2010 at http://www.globe2010.com

For More Information: EurActiv