EmiratesGBC Congress highlights critical role of circular economy in driving sustainable growth
In its eighth annual edition, the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) Congress gathered regional and international experts to discuss for the first time the adoption of a circular economic model in the building industry and construction sector in a bid to advance the United Arab Emirate’s sustainable development goals of Vision 2021.
Organised by EmiratesGBC, an independent forum aimed at conserving the environment by strengthening and promoting green building practices, the Congress was held under the theme ‘Circling in on Zero: Circular Economy in the Built Environment,’ on 1 and 2 May at the Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre hotel.
On the opening day, Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of EmiratesGBC gave the welcome address, followed by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability, who delivered the Congress’ opening address. The inaugural session’s speakers included: H.E. Ahmed Muhairbi, Secretary General, Dubai Supreme Council of Energy; Andrea Di Gregorio, Director, Energy Efficiency and Renewables Administration, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, who spoke on behalf of H.E. Munther Mohammed bin Shaker, Director General, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality; and Shaima Al Aydarous, Ministry of Climate Change & Environment. The session closed with a pre-recorded message by Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Majid Al Futtaim, the Congress’ Platinum Partner.
Al Abbar said: “The necessity for the adoption of circular economy principles in the built environment is unquestionable if we are going to make significant changes in curbing the effects of climate change to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Circularity in the building industry will limit our use of valuable natural resources, encourage innovation and adoption of new sustainable technologies, and ensure a more sustainable approach to economic development. Our region has one of the highest carbon footprints in the world. Governments have the opportunity to make sweeping reforms and take decisive action on new policies and regulations that promote a circular economy while becoming a source of inspiration for businesses and industries to adapt as well.”
He cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which states that "limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being." The report also indicates that we are not making significant progress toward limiting temperature rise which can result in “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
The building industry and construction sector plays a central role in global energy consumption and associated emissions which account for more than 35 percent of global final energy use and 39 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions. In addition, the operational emissions from energy use in buildings account to 28 percent of the total emissions, which makes it imperative for the industry to transform its current operational standards.
According to the Strategy& Middle East’s report “Putting GCC Cities in the Loop,” if the GCC region transforms to a circular economy, the region can save almost US$138 billion by 2030 and reduce emissions by 150 million tons. The UAE recently became the first signatory to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Scale 360’ initiative that encourages the movement toward a circular economy, further highlighting the nation’s focus on driving a sustainable approach to economic development in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and the Centennial Strategy 2071.
Sheikha Shamma, said: “Mindsets around sustainability are changing, as awareness levels increase, and people opt for a less wasteful lifestyle. I believe that, here in the UAE, we have an opportunity to lead by example in the region and should encourage all sectors, more specifically the building industry, to cater to the demand for more sustainable homes, schools, and workplaces. Adopting a circular economy is a necessity to make this change a reality.”
The 2019 Congress’ discussions on Day 1 focused on two key sessions. The first session covered the role of a ‘Circular in the Building Sector’ which included a key note presentation by Lisa Bate, Chairperson, World Green Building Council, followed by a panel discussion on how a circular economy approach within the building and construction sector is critical for the industry to decarbonise and curb the increasing rate of climate change.
The second session titled ‘Applying Circular Economy Principles to Reduce Embodied Carbon of Buildings,’ highlighted the role of using sustainable materials in the industry and delved into the concept of embodied carbon, which refers to the carbon emissions created during a material’s lifecycle including manufacture, transport and construction phases of the building material.
The Congress’ participating speakers and panellists represented a diverse range of organisations and entities which included: Expo 2020 Dubai, Masdar, Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, Cundall, Jotun, Ramboll, and VITO.
On the final day, the Congress screened ‘Closing the Loop,’ an award-winning documentary highlighting the urgent need to switch to a circular economy to reduce waste globally. As the first feature-length documentary on the circular economy, it highlighted the five key strategies for achieving circularity – reduce, reuse, recycle, renew and reinvent – by showcasing business models, product innovations and customer solutions from around the world that support the change.
The Congress’ Government Partners were the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Ras Al Khaimah Municipality and Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA). The event has also received support from industry stakeholders with Majid Al Futtaim as Platinum Partner and Jotun as Gold Sponsor. The Clean Energy Business Council, Emirates Environmental Group, Emirates Nature-WWF, GBCI, Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA), and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) were the Supporting Associations to the Congress.
Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Majid Al Futtaim said: “The EmiratesGBC Congress is one of the key platforms for discussions on sustainability in the region to support government entities, organisations and other industry stakeholders to gain insights and understand how they can transform and join the movement toward sustainable growth. We value our partnership with Emirates Green Building Council which builds on Majid Al Futtaim’s core values of being a leader in sustainability and a socially and environmentally responsible entity.”
The 8th Annual EmiratesGBC Congress was a carbon-neutral event. All the emissions from power consumption, heat energy and refrigeration, among others, will be offset towards DEWA’s L Station’s Retrofit Program.
EmiratesGBC regularly hosts and participates in multinational events, conferences and forums. It has also developed a suite of activities, inclusive of networking events, technical workshops, focus days and facilitated training based around specific issues related to the built-environment that meet the needs of its members, of the UAE community, and the wider Middle East.