Category Archives: Green Energy

Interview with Masdar’s Director of Sustainability – Nawal Al-Hosany

portrait of UAE national woman

In 2010, after eight days of hiking in freezing temperatures Nawal Al-Hosany reached the Uhuru Peak of Kilimanjaro Mountain. She explains that she underwent the challenging climb to highlight the impact of climate change which is melting the mountain’s snow and to encourage greater action in the Middle East. Al-Hosany who joined Masdar in 2008 as the sustainability associate director is now its director of sustainability. She also director of the influential Zayed Future Energy Prize. I caught up with her to talk about Masdar and how you incentivise renewables in a rich, oil-producing country.

Here’s a snippet of the interview which you can read in full at GreenProphet.com.

GreenProphet: A recent report titled “Prospects for Energy Technology Advancements in the Energy Sector,” written by yourself and IRENA highlights the opportunities available to MENA if they embrace renewables. Why is now such a good time to adopt renewable technologies?

Nawal Al-Hosany: The MENA region, and especially the Gulf States, has an opportunity to leverage its expertise in energy and move into new sectors, including wind and solar power. The future energy mix will include renewables, and we should embrace this transition. In addition, the region also has an abundant solar resource – an energy we should tap into to address energy security and our rising demands. Although the region’s renewable resources have been underexploited, technology advances and increased deployment are now making certain forms of clean energy economically viable across the region.

Who are some of the women working in the environmental sector that inspire you?

The lack of women working in the environmental sector, and the opportunity to do more, is what ultimately inspires and motivates me. We only have a handful of women across the globe that are participating in the discussion on renewable energy, sustainability and addressing climate change. These are global issues that impact us all, irrespective of the roles we play or that have been defined [for us] by society.

Green Prophet: Troubling Developments for the Jordanian Anti-Nuclear Movement

nuclear-power-jordan-Jordan’s King Abdullah says Israel has been trying to ‘distrupt’ its nuclear plans. Does placing Israel in the same camp as the anti-nuclear movement in Jordan have negative implications for the success and popularity of the campaign?

 Since 2009, when Jordan first announced its nuclear ambitions, the country has been through a parliamentary review of nuclear power, accusations of slander by the head of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission and dozens of  protests stating that the costs – both financial and environmental –  of nuclear power has not been sufficiently assessed. There is now a new plot twist in the Jordanian nuclear ambition saga. King Abdullah has accused Israel of disrupting Jordan’s nuclear programme. Speaking to Ynet News, he remarked: “When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us. And pretty soon we realized that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us.”
This statement is in my view hugely damaging to Jordan’s anti-nuclear movement. Firstly because support for nuclear power will no doubt be given a boost in retaliation to the news that Israel has been interfering. Secondly, because those trying to stop nuclear could now be seen as siding with a national enemy.
It’s a really tricky situation and one which the environmental movement is trying to downplay. I emailed a campaigner at Greenpeace Jordan, which has been actively campaigning against the nuclear plans for two years now, who said that this news won’t have any impact. “I think that the people who are concerned about the health and environmental consequences of the plant won’t stop the Anti-Nuclear campaign… We have the green alternative and even Japan announced that they will phase out the nuclear plant that they have.” They added, “I won’t lose hope.In 2009, it was announced that the country would begin construction of a nuclear plant in 2011 but one year later and there is nothing. Nuclear plants are notoriously difficult to plan but the delay could be one reason that King Abdullah II has chosen to highlight Israeli opposition to his nuclear ambitions now. At a time when support for nuclear is low, equating anti-nuclear sentiment with Israel does seem one cynical way to garner support for nuclear power.Back in June 2012, the nuclear programme was declared ‘hazardous and costly’ by a Jordanian parliamentary committee. A petition signed by hundreds of representatives of professional organisations, political parties and parliamentarians was also handed into the South Korean embassy in Amman asking them to halt work. A South Korean business consortium is tasked with building the nuclear reactor.

:: Originally published at GreenProphet.com on 17 Sept 2012.

Green Prophet: The Place of Politics in the Middle East’s Environment

I write about  the never-ending battle I have with myself when I’m writing on environmental issues in the Middle East about whether politics should be at the centre of my reporting or not…

A couple of weeks ago, Green Prophet reported on the news that Israelis and Palestinians were working together to build a restorative eco-park. It was a relatively feel-good piece showing that despite the political conflict, joint projects could be useful in building bridges between the two nations. One commentator, however, felt that our coverage was politically naïve.

H.Shaka remarked: “I appreciate that GP is trying to report on ‘green’ in the whole Middle East, including both Israel and the Arab world, and I have come to see this as a step in the right direction. However, given the strong political drivers in the region, I think GP should aim to be much more politically informed and balanced if it wishes to gain the respect of its readers, at least in the Arab world.”

From me personally, the comment struck a chord. I can see why the commentator would prefer that politics play a bigger role in the way we see green initiatives in the region. I am the first to admit that green campaigners can be a little idealistic about joint Israeli and Palestinian projects, and tend to ignore their political downsides. Continue reading

Big Issue North: Off-beam decision on solar panels

INTERVIEW: John Ashcroft and Manchester’s bid for the Green Investment Bank


Arwa Aburawa met up with John Ashcroft, the man leading Manchester’s bid to host the Green Investment Bank, to talk about the rainy city’s chances and whether it can see off competition from London

Manchester is one of over twenty cities which has made an official bid to host the Green Investment Bank (GIB) which will be government-funded to the tune of £3 billion. The bank is expected to funnel £15 billion of private finance into green projects over four years and employ up to 70 members of staff. Its main areas of work will be offshore wind, energy from waste, waste processing/recycling, non-domestic energy efficiency and supporting the Green Deal. The final decision on which city gets the bank will be made by Vince Cable, aided by an advisory panel, this February and the bank will be launched April 2012. Continue reading

Guardian: Churches take to the streets to press for coalition action on climate change

Christians march in Manchester on the eve of the Conservative conference to ask the coalition to live up to its promise to be the ‘greenest government ever.’ Arwa Aburawa was there.

A thousand supporters have been on the streets in Manchester for a march organised by Christian Aid, Tearfund and CAFOD. Their aim: to persuade the coalition government to work harder to deliver climate justice.

For many years, churches in the UK have campaigned to end global poverty. Now, Christian organisations are taking on climate change, on the grounds that much like the third world debt, global warming is a poverty-related issue. Continue reading

Guardian: Manchester should soon be eating fruit and veg from the UK’s very first Vertical Farm

Mmmm, where shall we plant the asparagus? Visitors study plans for a vertical farm in Manchester. Photograph Arwa Aburawa

When you can’t spread out, spread up. That’s what growers of everything from broccoli to strawberries are doing in a disused office block in Wythenshawe. By Arwa Aburawa.

The 18-day international festival which has swept through Manchesterhas sadly come to an end, but one project is only just starting, with long-term implications for the future of the rainy city. On the very last day of the Manchester International festival, a two-year project to build a vertical farm in an disused office building in Wythenshawe was launched with the aim of encouraging cities to more grow fresh food in a sustainable way.

The problem with cities is that whilst they have big populations that need feeding, there is usually very little space to grow food. Consequently produce is flown in for all over the world and brought into cities by the lorry-load causing much environmental harm due to fossil fuels being burnt for transport. Indeed, a typical UK supermarket trolley of food will have travelled a distance of 3,000 km before making it to your shelves at home.

The solution? Dickson Despommier, a parasitologist at Columbia in New York City who spoke at the MIF event, thinks that vertical farming can help. Vertical farming is a relatively new concept developed by Despommier and his students back in 1999, where farms are built indoors and on levels rather than horizontally on land. Some of the benefits of this hi-tech way of growing food is that abandoned buildings are put to use whilst precious (and expensive) land is saved. This farming technique also requires up to 70% less water and less fertilizer than traditional farming as crops grow in a controlled and sheltered environment. Continue reading

Green Prophet: Solar Power In The West Bank – Green Progress Or Bad Politics?

A recent GreenProphet blog which looks at the problem with green projects that are planned for the illegal Israeli settlements. 

Around a week ago, the Israeli government announced that 10% of its renewable energy quota would be going to the West Bank. This means that literally millions (some have put the estimate at $660 million) will be heading to the territories to encourage solar, wind and biofuel energy development.

Whilst this move has been welcomed by green activists in principle, there have been concerns over the fact that solar fields will be built in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. The continuing growth of the Jewish settlements across the West Bank is one of the most widely contested issues in the region and is considered to be a major barrier to Israel and Palestine reaching a peace deal. So does green progress outweigh these political downfalls? Continue reading

MRH: Unicorn Grocery – 15 years of Fresh Food, Fairtrade & Organic Farming

In 2011, Unicorn Grocery, based in Chorlton, is celebrating 15 years of trade in organic, fairtrade, low-carbon and ethical produce.

Set up in 1996 by a small group of people interested in sustainable food, Unicorn Grocery has flourished over the years and now has a turnover of almost £4 million. Selling everything from local vegetables to Palestinian olive oil, the grocery has become a sustainable alternative to supermarkets. “I think what we wanted to do was to run a shop that sold the kind of things we wanted to buy,” states Debbie Clarke, an environmental campaigner who has worked at Unicorn for 10 years. “[A shop] that had an ethical outlook, that was sourcing things carefully in terms of provenance and nutrition.” Continue reading

My New Green Column At Sisters Magazine

Yep, the title says it all. Sisters Magazine contacted me a couple of months ago about writing a green column for them and, of course, I said yes! So for the next couple of months I’ll be lovingly putting pen to paper (more like fingers to keyboard) on topics such as eco-mosques, solar power, meat-eating, growing your own veg and spreading the green Dawah. So keep an eye out and here’s my first on eco-mosques of the world. Read the full article here. Continue reading