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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Evening Standard, London, Letter From Dubai Column

Abu Dhabi is taking the green shoots of recovery a step further, winning the race to host the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Abu Dhabi hopes it will add fuel to its Masdar project -- a $15 billion (£9 billion) green city designed by Sir Norman Foster.

On the surface, it seems an absurd paradox. Abu Dhabi is home to about 8 percent of the world's oil, is a major oil and gas producer, and capital of the UAE -- a staunch member of oil cartel Opec. Irena, set up this year, strives to promote a "rapid transition" away from hydrocarbons. Surely this is the turkey voting for Christmas?

UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan says not. His government backed Abu Dhabi's effort to host Irena, fighting off Germany and Austria. A sovereign wealth fund has pledged to build a zero-carbon headquarters for the body, which will be given rent-free.