UAE FIRST NATIONAL RAIL NETWORK TO ‘TRANSFORM THE ECONOMY’ AND KEY ROLE IN REDUCING CARBON FOOTPRINT
Engineers in the Hajar Mountains between Dubai and Fujairah are making way for 16 Kilometers of tunnel, which will one day see trains shooting through it on a journey that stretches from coast to coast, and even possibly further afield.
The UAE is known for its love of cars as well as its strategic ports and airports, but now is betting big on its first national rail network. The 1,2000-kilometre artery will connect the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf, down through the emirates, into Abu Dhabi’s interior and to Ghuweifat on the border of Saudi Arabia, a key step in a long-mooted rail network crossing the Arabia peninsula.
“The top line implication … is that it has the potential to transform the UAE economy — and not just the UAE, but potentially the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council],” says Richard Thompson, editorial director of the Middle East Economic Digest.
GOING GREEN WITH SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT
But the move also signals the country’s green ambitions. The UAE has one of the world’s largest footprints per capita, according to the World Bank, and sustainable transport is one way the government plans to reduce it.
The diesel rail line could save 2.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year through its freight capacity alone, says the developer. That’s equivalent to taking 375,000 vehicles off the road and even has the potential to electrify in the future, which would massively benefit the environment by cutting emissions further by using renewable energy.
“I think rail has a huge role to play in helping the UAE reduce its carbon footprint,” says Thompson. “Rail can provide a much more efficient mode of transport for goods and people movement around cities; it can help your cities function better.”
Led by Etihad Rail and funded by the UAE Ministry of Finance and the Abu Dhabi Department of Finance, it has been designed first for freight, and passenger capacity to follow. There is no completion date announced just yet, through “the network is growing as planned” with all contracts awarded, Etihad Rail told CNN.
The network will include links to Jebel Ali Port, Khalifa Port and the Port of Fujairah and industrial hubs in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. The route across the UAE, according to Thompson, when connected to an in-progress Saudi network could create a direct link from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea across the peninsula, bypassing the Straits of Hormuz to the north and the Horn of Africa to the south, with big repercussions for the movement of international cargo.
“You have a more efficient mode of transport, linking ports with each other and removing congestion on the roads and contributing to decarbonization,” he explains.
The executive director of commercial at Etihad Rail, Ahmed Al Musawa, expects 60 million metric tons of freight will move from road and sea to the rail network annually.
Beyond consolidating the UAE’s position as an international transport hub, there will be benefits at a national level too, Al Musawa says. Stage one of the network in Abu Dhabi has transported 33 million metric tons of sulfur since 2016 and has turned the UAE into the world’s largest exporter of the element, he says. Sulfur is used in the manufacturer of everything from fertiliser to paper.
Stage two, which stretches 367 miles began constructions earlier this year, could have even wider benefits.
Kevin Smith, the editor in chief of the International Railway Journal, identifies the railway as a “key strategy … to diversify (the UAE’s) economy slightly away from oil and gas.”
“I think the steel industry, oil and gas industry, then the mining and quarrying industry, should be the main beneficiaries,” says Thompson. “(The network) has the potential to integrate the northern emirate economies much closer into the national economy and accelerate growth and investment in those places.”
OFF THE ROADS TO THE RAILS?
It’s still unknown how the rail line will change the daily lives of the population. Passenger trains running at 124 miles per hour are touted by Etihad Rail – but no date has been announced. If the network follows through, it could change commuting forever.
“When you have direct, fast access, naturally that does change the way we perceive (distance), or we select where we live or work or study,” Al Musawa says. “The access to materials, services and markets can evolve around such a network.”
But will it convince Emiratis to swap their cars for trains? Thompson says there are some obstacles, including the “last mile problem” — getting people from their homes to train stations.
Walking in the summer sun isn’t an attractive option, but Al Musawa says ride-sharing and “other micro-mobility solutions” may be the answer, adding Etihad Rail is learning from other countries’ experiences.
“I think there’ll be great demand,” Smith argues. “Their whole cities are built around the car, but I think the popularity of the metro (in Dubai) has shown that people will use it if it’s there.”
Olivia Lazard is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. Her research focuses on the geopolitics of climate, the transition ushered by climate change and the risks of conflict and fragility associated with climate change and environmental collapse. Lazard has over twelve years of experience in the peacemaking sector at field and policy levels. With an original specialization in the political economy of conflicts, she has worked for various non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, the European Union, and donor states in the Middle East, Latin America, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, and parts of Asia. In her fieldwork, her focus was on understanding how globalization and the international political economy shaped patterns of violence and vulnerability. Diwan interviewed her in mid-November to examine how environmental issues are impacting the Middle East.
Michael Young: Climate change has been largely ignored by regimes and even societies in the Middle East, yet it is affecting them in fundamental ways. Can you outline some of the major effects of climate change and tell us why we in the region should pay attention.
Olivia Lazard: Climate change has been ignored the world over because we fail to understand that our governance and economic systems are exhausting nature’s capacity to function, and therefore to sustain us and other species. The challenge ahead is difficult to apprehend. It is not just a matter of energy transition; it is a matter of profound political and socioeconomic transformation. It is about disrupting the status quo. So it is easy to understand why this is not welcomed by autocratic regimes who may stand to lose grip on power, or by democratic societies where coordinated action can be even more complex. Even as certain parts of the world, such as Europe, move closer to a climate transition, we are still at the very early stages of a long journey toward the profound transformations that we are going to need in order to genuinely address the drivers of climate change and, more broadly, ecological disintegration that threaten our ability to survive as a species on this planet.
So, I agree with you that regimes in the Middle East ignore climate change, because they rarely like to talk about transformative change. But I wouldn’t say that the societies ignore climate change per se. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the Arab Spring was a climate-disrupted appetizer that upended the world’s understanding of the region, but also of the links between societal and environmental shocks. Arab societies were actually precursors in ringing the alarm bells on a combination of events that lead to disruption and protracted sociopolitical conflicts: drought, monoculture failings, speculation over staple goods leading to market failures, and worsening social disenfranchisement with no safety net in sight. Increasing temperatures, erratic weather patterns, the unreliability of rainfall, protracted drought, and increasing reliance on chemical inputs to grow crops were all the long-term backstory to these issues back in 2011, which few analysts picked up on. The biophysical factors that characterize climate change were already at play.
MY: How were the Arab uprisings climate-disrupted appetizers, as you’ve said?
OL: This is a side of the story that still doesn’t get told very often when we examine the Arab Spring and its aftermath, so let me dwell a bit on it by looking at Tunisia. In Tunisia, landscapes across the country are ecological deserts—export-oriented monocultures as far as the eye can see. It makes them very vulnerable to climate and economic shocks. Two years ago, I was traveling across the country and I could see that, between the touristy coast where inequalities could not be starker and the extractives regions of the south, decades-long agricultural and economic policies had turned a country which used to be fertile into a bare piece of rock and dust.
Today, a decade after the start of the Arab Spring, you have a country where unemployment is still soaring, where youths find no meaning or economic opportunities outside of the informal economy, where urban centers of the hinterland are boiling with anger and frustration, and where the free movement of people is extremely constricted from one governorate to another. Look around in a place such as Sidi Bouzid, and you either see depressing concrete in town or depressing desert as far as the eye can see. There is no life, there are no prospects. Both the land and the economy have come to a standstill. So people feel stuck. Local cultures have lost their vibrancy and intergenerational divides are growing wider. In this bare and inert environment, drug consumption, domestic violence, and radicalization are rising.
The land is actually the canvas of terrible policies that have favored extraction and predatory politics over resilient social fabrics, culture, and vibrant economies. And the problem is that climate change exacerbates problems that are already present. In Sidi Bouzid in 2010, the spark was Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. But his story was yet another reminder of problems running deeper and taking root in environmental exploitation, abuse of hard security at the expense of social and human security, enduring economic inequalities, poor governance, and rising violence. It is striking to see how national and international responses to these problems are missing out on the environmental story as a backdrop to social and economic violence. They just do not focus on it.
The picture that I am trying to paint here is one of interconnectedness between the environment and human security, which has always existed but that we really have only started noticing more as a result of climate disruption. Climate change will have two consequences—to exacerbate and disrupt. The Middle East knows this well. The history of landscapes in the region is one of abundance that cradled human civilization. But mismanagement of resources led to natural exhaustion and cycles of violence for centuries. Today, the region is in an advanced stage of desertification, with fewer and fewer resources to support human populations. The environmental degradation is coupled with an atmospheric accelerating force resulting in extreme natural shocks—floods, devastating droughts, and resulting fires. Unsurprisingly, the Middle East concentrates yet again all the ingredients that mark the history of our times.
Where human security is weakened by predatory and hard security-oriented regimes, economies tend to be more extractive toward nature. But nature can no longer sustain extraction. Resources are not just running lower—such as water or land fertility—they are also more erratic. The Middle East is now replete with foretellers of climate catastrophes—massive floods in the Arabian Peninsula, fires in the Levant, and drought everywhere.
These disasters are mostly showing one thing, namely that people have no safety nets to rely upon from their governance systems. There is no preparedness, no relief capacity. This means, once again, that Middle Eastern populations are left to struggle for their own dignity, or karama, the key word during the Arab Spring. It may well become a refrain of disruptions to come related to climate shocks.
Still, some regimes in the Middle East are talking about climate change. I am thinking particularly of the United Arab Emirates, but they do so in a “business as usual” way. They aim to demonstrate that economic power and technological innovation are a way to face the crisis. This is not going to work. Governance and socioeconomic systems need to be rethought in terms of their relationship with nature. We also have to look a lot more in the direction of nature-based solutions in order to navigate the unfolding disaster.
MY: There has been an argument that the Syrian uprising was caused by the drought between 2007 and 2010. Your thoughts?
OL: Without a doubt the drought played a role in the multidimensional uprising in Syria. But the drought itself has a story. It began in 2007 and became protracted over the years. Rainfall patterns were becoming more erratic. This was the result of two things: global warming resulting from excess carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere and changes in landscapes at the local level. Apart from the coastline, over time Syrian land was denuded of natural vegetation, which is responsible for stocking water underground and pumping it into the atmosphere.
In addition to breaking the ecological integrity of the land (which regulates local climates), there were other things that created additional stress for the agricultural capacity in the area of Dar‘a and elsewhere. The Assad regime relied on two main crops for export—wheat and cotton—both of which are highly water intensive. So, atmospheric conditions were not providing rain, and on top of it there were agricultural incentives, such as subsidies, pushing unsustainable ground water consumption. In parallel, the liberalization of the economy led to hikes in diesel prices which farmers could not afford. The crops eventually failed, collapsing an already fragile economy and pushing people into acute food insecurity and economic vulnerability, which they were left to navigate mostly by themselves.
What followed was a mass movement from rural to urban zones, as well as a boom in the informal economy, which is often accompanied by abuse and insecurity for all members of a family household. This is an extremely violent process of the disintegration of livelihoods and security that spirals out of control. In those cities to which people moved, the population influx led to unsustainable water consumption, which created tensions between “old” and “new” communities. The land was impossibly stretched, and the state only concentrated on containing a bubbling situation by unleashing the security forces. Populations were squeezed between scarcity and violence. No wonder communities revolted. So, again, this is a story of exacerbation and disruption.
I was in Syria in 2009, and I remember then that all the communities with which I spoke accepted President Bashar al-Assad as the “devil they knew.” They knew that the equilibrium between the central state, the clans, and the various communities was precarious, but it was an equilibrium to which they could adhere for lack of a better alternative. When mass displacement, impoverishment, and violence started increasing, this equilibrium was upset. The state reacted in a such a way that it broke irremediably the multiple contracts that Assad had with various constituencies.
When you look through the lens of the environment, you can actually retrace the story of peoples, economic policies, and governance structures. Ask any elder in the Middle East what the land was like 60–70 years ago, and they will spend hours telling you stories about fruits and vegetables tasting better, people being more resilient, and communities being more intertwined. The state of the land is usually a reflection of socioeconomic situations—either of resilience or destitution. With increasing liberalization over the last decades, especially through structural adjustments, there have been inequalities and social dislocation. In the Middle East, governance structures are highly centralized and informally organized according to ancestral cultural and identity groups. The mix between the two has led to politics of group benefits and zero-sum games. In modern economies, that means that land and other natural resources are mostly integrated in an economic trickle-up model in which resources accrue to a few at the expense of social and natural public goods.
Climate change is a systems-disruptive force. It will upset old equilibriums to which authoritarian states and inefficient bureaucracies are ill-adapted to respond. So, yes, climate change is tied in with politics in the region, and it will have exponential effects over the coming years.
MY: One consequence of drier climates is that it will exacerbate water scarcity. Can you outline potential scenarios if the question of water is not adequately addressed by Arab states? What might be some ways of resolving the issue?
OL: Let’s fix a slight misconception first. Water scarcity leads to climate disruption leads to water scarcity. In other words, climates become drier because of inadequate water and land management. When you do this globally, all the while burning fossil fuels, you end up with a global climate regime deregulation. Agricultural, energy, and extractive policies are the primary drivers of water scarcity. Climate change exacerbates an already existing state of water scarcity.
Now, on scenarios. It is very hard to lay these out, because they depend on water levels, water sources and flows, water infrastructure, and socioeconomic relationships to water. What I can tell you is that water scarcity is a process of man-made depletion. It is not an overnight shortage. So, necessarily, the disruptions and sociopolitical breakdowns that result from it also take place in a process of exacerbation until it reaches points of disruption.
We can look at two different countries to understand how water scarcity impacts stability. Jordan is currently experiencing its worst drought in 900 years. The consecutive refugee flows coming from Palestine, then Iraq, then Syria over the last decades have led to repeated sudden bursts of population concentration in various parts of the country. In recent years, Mafraq and Irbid Governorates have been under acute water stress every summer, leading to severe tensions between refugee and host communities, higher criminality, xenophobia, and the reinforcement of tough security measures on the part of the Jordanian state. As a result of water running low, people have dug random boreholes into local water tables, which tends to worsen water stress for everyone, but also can lead to water pollution.
At a more structural level, in and near those governorates you have intensive forms of agriculture that drain water tables further. In Amman, where the government is under more direct political pressure, the city has been moving toward more efficient water infrastructure, and it is looking at desalination plants to increase the availability of water. But it is not the same story across the country. Water vulnerability is increasing and is having a series of knock-on effects. These effects are so far contained, so the two questions we need to ask are “until when?” and “and then what?” Here, we need to look at policy responses and ecological interdependencies underpinning Jordan’s water resources. It gives us an idea of the type of violence that may emerge and how far it can go geographically.
From an ecological standpoint, technology can only get you so far. As long as Jordan can make up for water shortages that sustain its economies, it will maintain a level of stability and water conflicts may remain confined to social tensions or to geographically confined zones. But that will have a growing cost over time, which will destabilize the country’s economy and sociopolitical fabric. If Jordan also reacts with force rather than rethinks its investment in the social and environmental fabric, it will likely pay a heavy price in the coming decade.
Iraq, on the other hand, is moving into active water conflict, especially around the ancestral ecosystem of the southern marshes. The water branches feeding into this ecosystem are impacted by hydroelectric infrastructures reducing the flow of water, general pollution, growing salination, and the collapse of local biodiversity. Because of the environmental degradation, people are moving into cities, which are themselves facing water stress. This has led to greater demand for water imports, forcing all households, including vulnerable ones, to spend their income on making up for the lack of available water. This leads again to growing social tensions, but also growing frustration with a central state that remains crippled by its inability to provide basic services, and therefore needs to constantly find ways of legitimizing itself.
Iraq is dependent for its water supply on Turkey and Iran. The more the Iraqi government fails to deliver at home, the more it is likely to escalate tensions with its neighbors. Over time, if this doesn’t lead to open warfare—which it probably won’t given Iraq’s weak defense capacity—it will reduce the chances for water-based cooperation to stop water depletion. This will impact all countries’ stability negatively, and will make them more vulnerable to climate change. The more individual states prioritize their national needs first, rather than cooperating on the basis of ecological integrity and environmental regeneration, the more they will undermine their own stability and cause environmental degradation. In other words within decades this region of the world may simply become uninhabitable.
In terms of solutions, there are a few. But I’ll focus on broad strokes. First, states and regions would need to transition away from activities that deplete water tables. This is no small feat as it is multisectoral. You need a shift toward regenerative agriculture, energy-efficient systems, and infrastructure development that do not encroach on ecosystems. The process does not just require an economic transition at the country level, it also requires a change in economic infrastructures and frameworks at the international level. Agricultural produce for example should be isolated from international speculation, and production should primarily serve for internal consumption and to reinforce resilience. Countries should encourage a diversity of cultures, including a return to indigenous seeds and crops, rather than systematized crops that are simply not suited to the ecological make-up of areas undergoing desertification.
Secondly, Middle East states need to adopt regenerative landscaping practices that literally help them to plant rain into the soil again. Globally, we need to harness the hydrological cycle in order to recover livable climates at local and global levels again, and preemptively manage floods. The interesting thing is that this is a sector that requires new competencies and which is also labor intensive. It is about redesigning landscapes so that they retain water, leading them to again become productive. This is a message that particularly resonates in the Middle East because rebooting functional ecosystems is also about rebooting local soil-related cultures. The Middle East was the cradle of civilization and culture as a result of its agricultural might for an enormous part of its history. There is the potential to recover for the future.
MY: Do you envisage a time when governments in the region will be able to wean themselves off the extractive policies that have damaged their environments? Or are they not thinking in these terms?
OL: They are not. Nor is it just governments in the region. Extractive policies are a function of growth-oriented economies that require energy. As long as we don’t change what extractive policies are used for, extraction will not cease. A tree will be worth more dead than alive. Underground resources will be more valuable unearthed and used than buried. Aggressive underground resource extraction made the Middle East what it is today. It came with economic growth as well as economic predation, inequalities, disenfranchisement, corruption, violence, and war. It also came with authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, we are likely to see the same type of story develop over the new scramble for resources related to renewable energy. For a long time, the Middle East played a central part in the global economic march that led us to where we are. But the Middle East won’t hold the same importance in tomorrow’s energy competition because it is not endowed with the needed resources such as rare earths and related materials. Admittedly, Middle Eastern countries are endowed in natural sunlight that can help their power transition, but the materials and technology used to harness this renewable energy is where the resource competition will play out, and give rise to new drivers of instability globally. These materials and technology are not located in the Middle East, which means that the center of gravity in energy politics will incrementally shift. This transition will be unsettling, but it may also represent an opportunity to try out different economic models on the basis of ecosystems regeneration. The European Union has already indicated its readiness to work with Middle Eastern partners on multiple transitions. It is however necessary to have a hard look at which type of governance systems are needed to usher in truly resilient transitions in a way that revive local and national economies from the ground up—literally.
MY: What for you are the top three most pressing environmental problems that countries in the region will need to prioritize in the coming decade?
OL: Water scarcity and land degradation will lead to crop failures. Floods will create more humanitarian and economic disasters, and will damage infrastructures that are already fragile. Urbanization is likely to increase, depleting water tables even more. Global energy shifts will lead to changes in oil price structures that may actually lead to more revenues in the short term and, possibly, more investments in security forces. The most pressing environmental problem is that we are entering an era of vicious cycles rather than isolated shocks. But this is not inevitable and what’s at stake is to break those cycles.
The overall challenge across the Middle East, like elsewhere in the world, is to rebuild ecological integrity. That means recreating landscapes that can hold carbon and water, and therefore sustain human activity again. It is about restoring equilibriums that help both to chart another socioeconomic path forward as well as to adapt to climate change and reverse it over time.
So that requires two tempos of change: adaptation and transformation. With respect to adaptation, climate-related disasters are already locked into the planet’s system due to past emissions and environmental degradation. The most pressing thing is to anticipate where and how disasters will hit and prepare accordingly. It requires ensuring continuous and shock absorption relief capacity in the future, which will demand internationally and regionally pooled resources. In addition, it will require redesigning landscapes in such a way that they can buffer the impact of disasters and store as much flood water as possible. This sounds abstract when you are not familiar with ecological design, but if you have a look at projects such as Greening the Desert in Jordan or regenerative projects in Saudi Arabia, you can get a sense of how to work with landscapes to adapt to new challenges.
On transformation, achieving this is hard work. Climate change calls for a profound redesign of political and socioeconomic systems. It is about transforming the way in which agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and other economic systems are set up and relate to the environment. And it is about investigating which governance systems best deliver on a safe operating space for human populations in a viable environment.
Reducing the environmental impact of the global built environment sector by Chalmers University of Technology enlighten us on we currently stand in terms of reducing or lowering all built environment related human activities from impacting the Earth’s climate and how “powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals.” and as a consequence, ‘The global built environment sector must think in new, radical ways, and act quickly’. The above feature picture is only for illustrative purpose.
The construction sector, the real estate industry and city planners must give high priority to the same goal—to drastically reduce their climate impacts. Powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals. And what’s more—everything has to happen very quickly. These are the cornerstones to the roadmap presented at the Beyond 2020 World Conference.
Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that figure is estimated to have risen to 68%, according to the UN. Cities already produce 70% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Buildings and construction account for 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Rapid urbanization is bringing new demands that need to be met in ecologically, economically and socially sustainable ways.
“If we continue as before, we have no chance of even getting close to the climate goals. Now we need to act with new radical thinking and we need to do it fast and increase the pace at which we work to reduce cities’ climate impact. We must look for innovative ways to build our societies so that we move towards the sustainability goals, and not away from them,”
says Colin Fudge, Visiting Professor of urban futures and design at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
As an outcome of the Beyond 2020 World Conference, Colin Fudge and his colleague Holger Wallbaum have established a “Framework for a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment.” The framework aims to lay the foundation for regional strategies that can guide the entire sector in working towards sustainable cities and communities, and the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.
“The conference clearly demonstrated the growing awareness of sustainability issues among more and more actors in the sector. But it’s not enough. Achieving the sustainability goals will require a common understanding among all actors of how they can be achieved—and, not least, real action. That is what we want to contribute to now,”
says Holger Wallbaum, Professor in Sustainable Building at Chalmers University of Technology, and host of Beyond 2020.
Chair of Sweden’s Council for sustainable cities, Helena Bjarnegård, is welcoming their initiative.
“We are aware that we have to deliver change to address the climate, biodiversity, lack of resources and segregation. We need to develop sustainable living environments, not least for the sake of human health. The framework of a transformational plan for the built environment provides a provocative but necessary suggestion on concrete actions to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for one of the most important sectors,”
says Helena Bjarnegård, National architect of Sweden.
In the framework, Wallbaum and Fudge have added a detailed action plan for northwestern Europe that contains 72 concrete proposals for measures—intended as an inspiration for the rest of the world.
The proposals cover everything from energy efficiency improvements, research into new building materials, digital tools and renovation methods, to free public transport, more green spaces and cycle paths. They involve all actors from the entire sector—such as architects, builders, real estate companies, material producers and urban planners.
Several of the high-priority measures in northwestern Europe are under direct governmental responsibility:
Higher taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and utilization of land and natural resources—lower taxes on labor
State support for energy-efficient renovation works
A plan for large-scale production of sustainable, affordable housing
Increased pace in the phasing out of fossil fuels in favor of electric power from renewables
“Here, governments, in collaboration with towns, cities and other sectors, have a key role, as it is political decisions such as taxation, targeted support and national strategies that can pave the way for the radical changes we propose. But all actors with influence over the built environment must contribute to change. In other parts of the world, it may be the business community that plays the corresponding main role,”
says Holger Wallbaum.
Wallbaum and Fudge are clear that their proposed measures are specifically intended for the countries of northwestern Europe, and that their work should be seen as an invitation to discussion. Different actors around the world are best placed to propose which measures are most urgent and relevant in their respective regions, based on local conditions, they claim.
“Key people and institutions in different parts of the world have accepted the challenge of establishing nodes for the development of regional strategies. From Chalmers’ side, we have offered to support global coordination. Our proposal is that all these nodes present their progress for evaluation and further development at a world conference every three years—next in Montreal, in 2023,”
says Colin Fudge.
A thousand participants followed the Beyond 2020 conference, which was arranged by Chalmers 2-4 November in collaboration with Johanneberg Science Park, Rise (Research Institutes of Sweden), and the City of Gothenburg. As a result of the Corona pandemic, it was held online. The conference discussed methods for reducing climate footprints, lowering resource consumption, digital development and innovative transport. Among the speakers were authorities in sustainable construction, digitization and financing from around the world.
Beyond 2020 has the status of a World Sustainable Built Environment Conference (WSBE). Organizers are appointed by iiSBE, a worldwide non-profit organization whose overall goal is to actively work for initiatives that can contribute to a more sustainable built environment. The next WSBE will be held in Montreal in 2023.
More about: A roadmap for the built environment
In their newly established framework, Wallbaum and Fudge establish a general approach that each individual region in the world can use to identify the measures that are most urgent and relevant to achieving the goals of the UN Agenda 2030, based on local conditions. They identify the key questions that must be answered by all societal actors, the obstacles that need to be overcome and the opportunities that will be crucial for the sector over the next decade.
More about: Action plan for the built environment sector in northwestern Europe
Wallbaum and Fudge have specified 72 acute sustainability measures in northwestern Europe (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland). A selection:
Establish renovation plans which focus on energy efficiencies for all existing property by 2023. Avoid demolition and new construction when it is possible to renovate.
Halve emissions from production of building materials by 2025. The transition to greater usage of materials with lower climate impact needs to accelerate.
Accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels in the transport sector in favor of electric power—with, for example, a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Double the amount of pedestrian and cycle paths in cities by 2030.
Offer free municipal public transport for all school children and for everyone over the age of 70.
Introduce the climate perspective as a mandatory element of the architectural industry’s ethical guidelines.
Increase the proportion of green spaces by 20% in all cities by 2030.
Concentrate research on the development of new building materials with lower carbon footprints, digital tools for the built environment and new energy-efficient renovation methods.
Read the entire action plan on the pages 20-23 in the Framework document on a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment
Fresh off from a Guinness World Record for thelargest water fountain, Dubai is now looking to set the benchmark in architecture after completing the ‘longest cantilevered building.’
Simply put, cantilevered buildings are structures built horizontally and are supported only from one end, with the other half left suspended. Chances are you have spotted these gravity-defying architectural marvels in science-fiction or superhero movies.
Spanning a whopping 226 metres and standing tall at 100 metes above ground level, the aptly-named ‘The Link’ is set to break the world record for the ‘longest cantilevered building.’ The structure will connect the two towers of Dubai’s hotly-anticipated mega project, ‘One Za’abeel’ and is slated to complete construction in 2022.
Once completed, ‘The Link’ will play host to observation decks, Michelin-star restaurants, an infinity pool, a luxury spa and panoramic views of Dubai. The best part, ‘The Link’ will feature a glass-floor and glass-wall section where you can feel like you’re floating mid-air.
Ithra Dubai is the developer behind ‘The Link.’ Lifting the structure took over a span of 12 days and was “one of the heaviest lifting operations in the region” weight more than 8,500 tons. 55 jacks and 1.2 km of strands were used in lifting the building.
“The completion of The Link at One Za’abeel is the sum of effort, imagination, collaboration and the desire to create a meaningful and timeless contribution to Dubai. We are thrilled to be part of the city’s narrative and to join its long list of firsts.”
Today, social responsibility goes beyond its old concepts, such as altruism and humanitarian aid, and covers the range of government activities at the local, national, and international levels. Since the social responsibility of the government exists in different areas; Therefore, economic policy-making should be done in relation to issues such as social rights, health, private sector activity and the role of companies in economic development. Each of these areas is part of the process of social responsibility and economic policy of governments. Therefore, the government can take more responsibility in the social sphere if, first, it has infrastructural capabilities; Second, to be able to use its capabilities in relation to its social responsibility to society and the power structure in the country.
Moreover, economic development, driven by the promise of eradicating poverty and increasing the well-being of societies, not only failed to overcome poverty, according to statistics; Rather, it had trapped many social classes and nations in the trap of institutionalized and structured poverty. The wealth of the world is increasing by year; But this increase in wealth is not something that is felt by all sections of society, and often, certain groups benefit from it. Another problem of economic development related to social issues has been and is the destruction of the environment. In the 1970s, various voices were heard in human societies about another scandal involving economic development. In fact, it has become widely known that this growth, dependent on increased production and consumption, requires more use of “natural resources” and produces a vicious cycle that results in the destruction of natural resources, environmental pollution, population growth, and so on. It will reduce the quality of life and endanger life on earth, which is contrary to the three principles of sustainable development. Levels related to social responsibilities in a developed society, starting from the individual, reach large government departments, and as we move from individual responsibilities to government social responsibilities, these responsibilities go from components and micro-indicators to Towards the components and macro indicators are inclined.
Levels related to social responsibilities in a developed society
The first level of involvement of social responsibilities in a developed society is individual levels: Individual social responsibility includes the participation of each individual in the society in which he lives and can be attributed to the interest in what happens in society and active participation. Defined to solve some local problems. Citizenship is a concept that is associated with the responsibility and accountability of individuals in society. In civil society, every citizen realizes that the irresponsibility of the people around him puts him on a path of fluctuation, and if he is irresponsible about the phenomena of the environment, he damages his own environment and the lives of others. The most beautiful pleasant feeling in the category of citizenship is the effort to cooperate and bear the responsibility of oneself and others.
Being socially responsible; That is, individuals and organizations must be ethical and sensitive to social, cultural, and environmental issues. Striving for social responsibility helps individuals, organizations, and governments make a positive impact on achieving sustainable development. The life-giving school of Islam, as a complete religion, has moral laws and advice for various aspects of human life, including social life, which every Muslim is required to follow in social relations and behaviors. “Purposefulness”, “being responsible”, “authority”, “having eternal life” and “being two-dimensional” are among the most important anthropological foundations in the school of Islam that make a Muslim a responsible and committed citizen to society can be one of the most important elements in improving the quality of life in the urban structure or sustainable urban development. Of course, every society is changing and has its own life, and every human being can determine his / her responsibility in the society according to the beliefs and culture of his / her society, available hardware and software facilities, governing laws and other variables.
The second level of involvement of social responsibilities in a developed society is the corporate and organizational levels: In many developed countries of the world, companies are more successful that value their corporate social responsibility. These companies are always striving to create shared value by implementing creative and practical ideas. These ideas are implemented with the support of long-term and very accurate plans that these companies have in the past set goals related to their corporate social responsibility. Sometimes these programs are made available to citizens so that they know what happen, for example, a company will create a common value for society in the next five years and what interests will protect society. The role of companies in sustainable development is divided into three categories: social, environmental and economic. In fact, it is a “sustainable” development in which, in addition to the economic dimension, its environmental and social consequences are also positively managed. With such a view, the exploitation of natural resources and human capital today should not jeopardize the earth, life, benefit and happiness of present and future generations. In fact, demanding organizations to “act responsibly” towards society is an issue that, as their influence grows on the pillars of sustainable development; That is, “economy”, “society” and “environment” intensified in the last decades of the twentieth century and led to the emergence of a concept called corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the world of management to understand the impact of organizations and businesses on sustainable development, it is enough to note that among the top 100 economies in the world, there are more than ten companies. Therefore, the issue of “corporate social responsibility” or CSR has become particularly important in guiding the development process towards sustainability. CSR in a nutshell; That is, organizations are accountable to the community in which they operate; Because they use its human, natural and economic resources. Contrary to the traditional view of management and business, organizations are no longer responsible only to shareholders and should not look only at the profitability of shareholders and based on short-term benefits. Thus, organizations that are in contact with other stakeholders are expected to consider their legitimate demands as well. Beneficiaries; Entities are groups and individuals that affect or are influenced by the organization and cover a wide range; From employees, customers, business partners and local communities to the environment, the media, public institutions, citizens and the government. From this perspective, CSR can be called the integration of social and environmental goals with the organization’s operations and the inclusion of those issues in interactions between the organization and related groups. In general, corporate social responsibility, in a simple definition, includes the responsibilities that firms have towards the community in which they operate. Thus, social responsibility is a voluntary activity based on the ethics of an organization or institution that goes beyond the legal requirements and aims to meet the expectations of stakeholders. In addition, one of the most important features considered for this concept is the emphasis that organizations place on the social system of communities. On the other hand, activities should be such that they have the least adverse effect on society.
The third level of involvement of social responsibilities in a developed society is government levels and the involvement of politics in social responsibilities to create a developed society: The attractiveness of government social policy has no boundaries and relates to all aspects of life at the local level. National, regional and global are considered. All issues related to social security, housing, education, health and social care fall into this area. Planning to achieve such goals will not be achieved through social processes alone. The economic components must also be formed in parallel with the social goals of the government. Topics such as health, education, livelihoods, jobs and money are vital issues that, with the help of government, officials, companies, social groups, economic groups, charities, local associations and other non-governmental are research groups.
In general, the government is not only concerned with social welfare; Rather, it is accountable to economic classes, the mechanism of action of multinational corporations, trade unions, financial institutions, importers, exporters, shareholders, owners of economic enterprises, and other social forces. Theorists believe that economic policy-making in the present age is formed by various government authorities and groups. In other words, various sectors are involved in the economic policy-making process. Each of these sections is a symbol of social activities in communities. Therefore, economic policy-making must be done in a way that meets social needs. Any possible scenario in social policies that lead to the welfare, comfort and cooperation of different social strata; It is part of the governance necessity. In other words, for the welfare of the society, the economic growth of the country, the promotion of the income of various industrial and economic complexes, as well as the reconstruction of the national and global economy, there is no choice but to play the role of government in economic policy; Therefore, it is not possible to consider conditions in which social welfare, economic development and technological advancement can be done without considering the role of government in social accountability and economic policy-making.
If the government fails to pay effective attention to goals such as social welfare and the promotion of national incomes in the economic policy-making process, then there will be manifestations of a welfare state as well as a non-developmental government. In such a process, some theorists emphasize that the main function of the state can not be overshadowed by any other issue. If economic development takes shape; In those conditions, a platform will be provided to increase the level of welfare of the society. That is why in the period of economic growth, the income of the government, society and economic groups increases in parallel. Also, the reduced government budget deficit provides a platform for economic prosperity, investment and the of development infrastructure.
Project Insight: The Museum of the Future is a seven-storey, 177m tall pillar-less Building with a facade comprising 1,024 robot-made pieces. It is yet another miracle in the UAE as most will be inclined to say.
The Museum of the Future is considered an engineering miracle at 30,000 square meters and 77 meters in height. The building consists of seven floors and characterized by the absence of columns inside, making its engineering design a milestone in urban engineering. The Museum is also linked by two bridges, the first extending to Jumeirah Emirates Towers, with a length of 69 meters, and the second linking it to the Emirates Towers metro station, with a length of 212 meters. The building is powered by 4,000 Mega Watts of electricity produced through solar energy by a new station connected to the Museum. The station was built in collaboration with Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), making the Museum upon completion, the first Museum in the Middle East to obtain a Platinum certification from LEED, the highest rating for green buildings in the world. The park surrounding the Museum of the Future contains 80 species of plants, equipped with a state-of-the-art intelligent and automatic irrigation system.
The facade of the Museum consists of 1,024 pieces entirely manufactured by robots. The facade panels are produced using automated robotic arms. Each plate consists of four layers, and each layer has been created after following 16 process steps. The installation period of the external facade lasted for more than 18 months, and each of the panels installed separately. The facade area is 17,600 square meters. The facade, which extends over more than 17 thousand square meters, is illuminated by 14 thousand meters of lighting calligraphy. The writings are inspiring quotes of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai “May God protect him” in Arabic calligraphy.
The Arabic calligraphy was designed by the Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej. Among the quotes of His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid engraved on the external walls of the Museum are: “We may not live for hundreds of years, but the products of our creativity can leave a legacy long after we are gone. “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it… The future does not wait… The future can be designed and built today.”
International Awards The Museum of the Future is considered an unparalleled urban icon around the world. It won the Tikla International Building Award as a unique architectural model. There is no other building in the world constructed on superior technologies, thereby distinguishing it from other landmarks. Autodesk Design Software stated that the Museum of the Future is one of the most innovative buildings in the world. The building was designed by Engineer Sean Keila to offer visitors an interactive experience that is the first of its kind. The Museum of the Future is a real engineering miracle, as is evident after the completion of its external façade. It floats without foundations, pillars, or columns, thanks to the use of the latest technologies. In the design of its iconic exterior, meticulous engineering calculations were used through advanced software on giant computers with ultra-fast processors to calculate the best, most durable, and responsive curve formulas to design its foundations, solid metal structure, and its unique external interface.
Contrary to the usual concept of traditional museums based behind closed windows displaying eras of the past, masterpieces, and encounters, the Museum of the Future is distinguished by being an incubator for innovative ideas, technology, and future projects. It is a global destination for inventors and entrepreneurs. The Museum also provides its patrons with a set of immersive experiences. It enables them to learn about future technology that will change people’s lives.
Unique design style The Museum of the Future, with its unique design in the flow of Arabic artistic calligraphy and the luster of liquid metal, is one of the most famous, modern, and urban designs in the world. It is most distinctive in terms of architecture and in the unique elements designed using exceptional engineering employing the latest advanced technologies in the design and construction processes. The Museum’s engineering infrastructure was developed in cooperation between “BAM International,” the main contractor, and “Borough Happold Engineering Consultants,” which designed the engineering structure. An immersive experience, the Museum has seven floors that employ the latest technologies of virtual and augmented reality, big data analysis, artificial intelligence, and human-machine interaction to provide immersive experiences for visitors answering several pressing questions related to the future of humanity, cities, human societies, and life on planet Earth.
Sustainability The Museum’s design is a model of sustainability in future creative design. Its exterior façade was designed from advanced glass manufactured with new technologies to improve the quality of interior lighting and external thermal insulation. The use of energy-saving LED light bulbs extending into the exterior panels of 14 km long gives the facade of the Museum of the Future an attractive appearance, even more so at night. The Museum also provides an integrated infrastructure to supply electric vehicles with clean energy. The building generates its renewable energy from sunlight through an independent station for the Museum to collect solar energy. The lighting systems can be fully controlled, adding an aesthetic touch to the Arabic calligraphy design and enhancing the splendor of the exterior design from various sides. With complete fluidity and unprecedented advanced technology, the structure of the Museum of the Future is unique in a whole flow in which the glass facades, thermal, air, and water insulation systems and the metal structure merge as a single homogeneous mass like a giant shiny drop of the metal mercury.
Future technologies During the construction of the Museum of the Future, futuristic technologies were used in various stages of design, foundation, construction, and cladding. The requirements for completing the internal structure were calculated using advanced mathematical algorithms to include 2,400 crossed steel pieces and thousands of triangular pieces that enhance the durability of the external structure.
Eye on the future The Museum of the Future is situated in a strategic location in the very heart of Dubai.
With an eye on the future, the Museum is situated at the “Dubai Future District” that includes the Emirates Towers, the 2071 area of the Dubai Future Foundation, the Dubai World Trade Center, and the Dubai International Financial Center.
It is an area that is the largest in the region committed to exploring the future.
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