23 Oct 2012

First Ladies Summit - World Energy Forum - Opening Speech

Your Highnesses,

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Good morning.

It is an honour and pleasure to welcome you to the United Arab Emirates and Dubai. I am delighted that so many of you could be here today.

The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The challenge to world leaders today is how to promote economic growth and preserve our environment at the same time. The outcome of this challenge will have tremendous impact on families, women and children all over the globe. 

Dubai is proud to host the World Energy Forum, for the first time ever outside of UN Headquarters in New York, in this magical and vibrant city in the very heart of modern Arabia.

The United Arab Emirates was created in 1971 by two great leaders with a vision. In just over 40 years, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum transformed this new nation from a pre-industrial society to a global competitor in the information age.

Today, under our president, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE is building a highly diverse and sustainable economy to provide the tools for our children to cope with new realities. We know that the world’s oil and gas reserves are not endless. They are a precious resource to be used and shared responsibly.

Respect for nature and the obligation to conserve its blessings are deeply ingrained in Bedouin culture.

When you live in the desert, you have to conserve the necessities of life to survive. Man and nature are one. 

The United Arab Emirates’ Vision for 2021 has outlined and begun to create the foundations for a green economy -- an economy that is sustainable yet focused on long-term economic growth.  The UAE is striving to develop and boost its rich resources and expertise in the international energy markets and enhance its leading role as a world center for renewable energy research and development. Our shared heritage of trade and interaction with other cultures tells us we can, in fact, have both economic growth and preserve resources for future generations. 

The latest world competitiveness analysis by IMD, the respected Swiss business school, concluded that the UAE has the most diverse economy in the entire Middle East, with significant activity in trade, tourism, aviation, banking, finance and infrastructure.  Today, less than 25 percent of UAE GDP comes from the oil industry. In the case of Dubai, the figure is only 5 percent —lower than the United States.

Not only is the UAE moving away from an oil dependent economy, it is actively embracing clean energy.

The Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park being built in Dubai is one of the biggest solar energy projects in the region. By 2030, the park will make a substantial contribution to meeting the UAE’s future energy needs. This is among a raft of initiatives adopted by the UAE to diversify energy resources by adopting clean and green energy solutions. 

The best known globally is Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, dedicated to the development of new technologies in the energy, water and food production sectors. Masdar -- including an independent, research-driven graduate university -- is set to lead in the renewable and clean energy fields, with a special focus on creating viable and sustainable businesses.

At Rio+20 and other recent meetings there has been a growing awareness of the nexus of energy, water and food.  What political leaders do about energy and water policy has a huge impact on what families pay for food.  How countries produce and use their food, in turn, affects energy and water supplies.  Food, water and energy are inextricably linked. Higher energy and water prices mean higher food prices. Wasting food means wasting water and energy.

Women have a big stake and a very important role to play in addressing these issues. Women are deeply affected by policies on energy, water and food.  They take the lead in families in buying and preparing food all over the world.  They also gather water and fuel in many societies. Eight out of ten farmers in Africa and six out of ten in Asia are women.

Reducing energy poverty among women is a wise investment.  It allows them to prepare food and purify water and would reduce the 4 million deaths that are caused by unclean water and poor hygiene every year.  Ending energy poverty will also give women access to the modern world and new educational possibilities -- radio, television and the Internet. 

Until there are coherent and coordinated approaches to energy, water and food, millions of women will struggle to feed their children and the hungry will teeter at the edge of catastrophe. High food prices today are devastating poor families.  The world economy can no longer afford to lose or waste a third of its food output -- yet a number of countries still do. Morally,the energy and water cost of this waste is intolerable. 

In a world of roughly 7 billion people, nearly 1 billion are hungry, 1.1 billion do not have access to clean drinking water and 1.3 billion live without electricity. By 2030, according to current projections, we’ll need 50 percent more food, 30 percent more water and 40 percent more energy.

That is why this World Energy Forum is so important. It is a platform to share ideas, expand horizons and participate in discussions about one of the most important challenges we face today. Together, we need to move forward and break the political stalemate that holds back progress. How this is done will decide the fate of future generations.

In closing, I will leave you with the wise words of the Mother of our Nation,Her Highness Sheikha Fatima, who said thata nation's greatness is not measured by wealth or urban development but rather through noble human values and the kindness of its people.

That is how we should all be judged. There is no value in development that tramples the human spirit and depletes the world’s resources. That is not the future we want for our children. Let us all leave this World Energy Forum determined to build a truly sustainable future that promotes growth and preserves our environment.

Thank you.