Abu Dhabi unveils carbon-neutral city

Oil-rich emirate Abu Dhabi unveiled its plans for a car-less, zero-carbon, zero-waste city in the desert.

Oil-rich emirate Abu Dhabi has unveiled its plans for a car-less, zero-carbon, zero-waste city in the desert.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, second from right, gives U.S. President George W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and U.S. Ambassador to UAE Michele Sison a tour of the Masdar Exhibition at the Emirates Palace Hotel on Jan. 14. ((Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press))

A model of Masdar City was formally unveiled at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The city, designed by British architect Norman Foster, is designed to house 1,500 businesses and 50,000 people.

The location of the six-square-kilometre site, close to Abu Dhabi's airport, is a harsh environment, with no access to fresh water and temperatures that reach 50 C in the summer. But the project's sponsors, who include the World Wildlife Federation, said the project would incorporate a mix of current technology and ancient methods to beat the heat.

Masdar City's electricity will be generated by solar panels, with solar power driving the city's cooling systems and a desalination plant needed to produce fresh water. The city's layout will also create micro-climates, or zones of different temperatures, to encourage air circulation.

Masdar City has also been designed to be car-free, with public transportation — through a light railway and personalized rapid transport pods — never more than 200 metres away, according to architecture firm Foster + Partners.

Landscaping in the city and in the surrounding area will be irrigated with recycled and treated waste water.

"Masdar is an example of the paradigm shift that is needed and the strategic vision of the Abu Dhabi government is a case study in global leadership," Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, director of WWF International’s One Planet Living initiative, said in a statement.

"We hope that Masdar City will prove that sustainable living can be affordable and attractive in all aspects of human living — from businesses and manufacturing facilities to universities and private homes," he said.

The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, capital of the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation, said Monday that ground would be broken on the project later this year. The cost of the project was not revealed.

The city plans were part of Abu Dhabi's larger strategy to embrace green technologies and change the perception of Abu Dhabi, home to most of the United Arab Emirates oil reserves.

Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on Monday his emirate would make an initial investment of $15 billion US in projects targeting solar, wind and hydrogen power, carbon reduction and management and sustainable development.

The UAE produced 149 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, or 34.1 tonnes per person, according to a 2007 UN Development Program report. The per capita rate is the third highest in the world after Qatar and Kuwait.