This came on the heels of an announcement the previous week by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of a federal government strategy that will require new buildings in the emirate to be constructed in compliance with strict environmentally friendly standards.
The new resolution mandates that all owners of residential and commercial properties must comply with internationally recognised environmentally conscious specifications, established by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which was developed by the US Green Building Council. This is the international benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.
In meeting these requirements, Dubai would become the first city in the Middle East and one of only a few in the world to adopt green building codes.
With the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting an average increase in world temperature of 3 degrees Celsius within this century, many governments are looking to include environmentally friendly mandates.
Sheikh Mohammed said, "Environmental awareness should become a part of our lives and behaviour. We have to incorporate it in our educational curriculum and modify all of the specifications and standards of tools, equipment and means of transportation to become environmentally friendly."
Experts have said the new building specifications are expected produce a 30% savings in the energy required for cooling and air-conditioning, a 9% savings for lighting and a 6% savings for heating water. The new government mandate could also produce water conservation of up to 30%.
Sheikh Mohammed's directive will be implemented in three phases throughout Dubai with the first phase going into effect in January 2008.
Builders and developers have already started announcing their plans for environmentally friendly projects. On November 20, the environment, health and safety regulatory arm of the government holding company Dubai World announced it would complete design regulations for green building development in Dubai World by the end of November.
At present, nearly 70 buildings in Dubai are designed in accordance with the LEED rating system. Tecom Investments, based in Dubai, has launched some of these projects including the International Media Production Zone (IMPZ), the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech), Dubai Studio City and SmartCity.
The new headquarters of DuBiotech will be one of the world's largest green buildings at 22 stories. The two towers will house a centre for biotechnology education and research. The buildings have been designed to maximise natural light for energy efficiency. US-based architecture firm CUH2A designed the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2009.
Japan's Nikken Architects is launching the Dubai Maritime City Landmark Tower. The project, still in the design stage, is slated to be 240 metres high and aims to reduce energy use by 30% compared to standard buildings of its size.
Emirates Post recently awarded a contract to UAE-based Energy Management Services (UAE) to implement green solutions in its current offices as well as those under construction. This will make Emirates Post the first federal agency to receive LEED certification.
Other leaders in Dubai are contributing to the effort. Matar Al Tayer, executive director of the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA), signed an agreement with General Motors (GM) to introduce 10 environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles to be used as taxis by the RTA.
The agreement calls for the provision of five Chevrolet Tahoes and five Malibu hybrids that will be put into use beginning in January 2008. GM will provide technical training for 15 RTA technicians and 40 taxi drivers. During the programme, GM and the RTA will conduct a feasibility study on having a full fleet of hybrid automobiles. If successful, the Dubai RTA will consider the Chevrolet hybrids for its fleet plans scheduled for early 2009.
Other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region have taken an international leadership role in combating climate change.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz announced on November 17 the creation of a massive fund to study and reverse climate change. The Saudi king gave $300m to start the project while other Gulf states including Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar each pledged $150m.