(From left) 2015 Prize winner Liter of Light’s Illac Diaz, 2019 Zayed Prize winner Muntinlupa National High School superintendent Mauro de Gulan, project head and teacher Ragaele Olarte, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Joy Quintana, teacher Jason Albaro, student Mae Faldas and principal Florante Marmeto.
Choose green, live green
A SPIRITED SOUL - Jeannie Javelosa (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2019 - 12:00am

My first week in Abu Dhabi was supposed to be my chill week, a break, while attending the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Prodded by our co-earth warrior Illac Diaz, and a friend based there, I advanced my trip to attend the summit. I wasn’t disappointed. I learned so much in those four days of listening to international speakers from all over the globe discussing ways and means to take action with actual technologies to solve pressing issues brought on by climate change. The thrust was focused on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how to address them. There is so much innovation happening — in plans, programs and disruptive new inventions and technologies.

The vision of this summit was started 10 years ago by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and has grown since then with more than 160 countries represented this year. Its growth is not surprising due to the urgency of catastrophic climate change issues putting our planet and us in crisis.

The summit is dedicated to advancing future energy, energy efficiencies and clean technology. As a platform, the summit drew in all stakeholders with a mix of country leaders, international policy makers, business industry leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, academe, media and the youth. This summit actually restored my faith in humanity’s attempts to work together and really try to bring forward the best technological solutions available.

Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewables Forum (from left) the author, environmental engineer Mona Adel Salem, Globhe CEO and founder Helena Samsioe and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s Anca Westley.

I enjoyed listening to updates in space technology and real blueprint plans for beginning communities in Mars. There was so much to digest on issues of ecowaste/foodwaste, mobility and transportation, agriculture (for arid climates), green buildings, water, solar power, mobility and transportation, renewable energy technologies and the financing of these disruptive technologies.

A plus in this summit was that the Philippines won a prize! In 2015, the NGO Liter of Light of Illac Diaz won the Zayed Future Energy Prize. Illac was the first Asian and the first Filipino to win the award, which included prize money and support to expand his concept. The prize has been renamed to reach a broader spectrum of ideas. It is now called The Zayed Sustainability Prize and this continues to be an annual award celebrating achievements that is driving impact, innovation and inspiration across five distinct categories: Health, Food, Energy, Water and Global High Schools.

Over the past decade, the prize has seen 66 winners positively impact the lives of over 307 million people.  Well, this year, 2019, the Muntinlupa National High School won under the category of Global High Schools, a new category meant to push sustainability issues to the younger generation. Their winning project is called REVAMP  or revitalized algae microform project. They will build a micro farm to produce algae to be made into products like superfoods, medicinal purposes and biofuel. They will also build a community center. During the summit, we tried to bring them together with Exxon, whose innovation now is using algae as biogas source.

Aside from all the gega-scale projects happening in their region, UAE leaders are also very conscious on women’s involvement with renewable energy. At present, this sector employs only about 32 percent, and there is a direct push for women’s empowerment. This is clearly the ruling family’s vision as so many articulate and intelligent women lead ministries now in Abu Dhabi. The annual WISER Forum (Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy) was a pull-away session and I was asked to sit and join the round table discussions. Clearly, women economic empowerment issues are exactly the same all around the world: self-image, lack of access to finance, mentorship, training and technology, and yes, the lack of investments that are given to women in technology or women businesses.

With the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Hotel Filipino staff (from left) concierge Arwin Canlas, front office supervisor Hannah Moaje and cluster sales manager Yvette Lancion.

The main take-away I got from the WFES Summit was that everything is about consciousness. It was articulated over and over by many speakers in various ways. But it’s clearly that the hardest thing is to change consciousness — of policy makers, financial institutions, business leaders and the general consumer. People need to shift their mindset and understand that EACH of us cannot anymore just watch or fence sit. But it is each our responsibility to take conscious actions towards choosing sustainable lifestyles and solutions. There is no alternative and there is no more time. Every day, we each must make conscious choices in our own lives — how we live, eat, move and travel, what we buy and from who we buy.

When I travel, I always try to choose to stay in “green” hotels. In this trip, I chose the IHG Group, staying at Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, unpretentious, central and clean. Also, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi has so many Filipinos who work there that my stay there felt like home away from home. (Filipinos are everywhere! The UAE is home to 700,000 global Filipinos who send back precious dollars to their families.)

All the hotels under the IHG group use the IHG Green Engage system, an innovative online environmental sustainability system that measures and manage their impact on the environment. Each IHG hotel chooses from over 200 “Green Solutions” that are designed to help them reduce their energy, water and waste, and improve their impact on the environment. The IHG Green Engage system has four levels of certification that our hotels can achieve and those achieving Level 3 certification or above can reduce energy by up to 25 percent.

It’s really a no-brainer. We each have the power of choice. Just choose green, live green and sustainably! *

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