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Introduction

Over the last couple of years, the issue of energy, particularly renewable energy, has been under discussion across the world with concerns ranging from environmental to political and financial. At the same time, governments worldwide have recognized the need to break the current unsustainable energy trends, which result in more harm than benefit (Boyle, 2004). After intense debates over the years, various governments, scholars, scientists, academicians, and agencies related to the energy sector have stressed the importance of embracing renewable sources of energy. All of them hope to attain more sustainability and security in the energy sector (Liserre, Sauter, & Hung, 2010; Kristoferson & Bokalders, 2013). They have also suggested that the use of renewable forms of energy such as wind energy, hydroelectric power, and solar energy can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse emissions (Boyle, 2004; Panwar, Kaushik, & Kothari, 2011). As the issue becomes more and more vital day by day, many governmental and intergovernmental agencies have come up with an idea of promoting the adoption and continued use of renewable sources of energy. The aim of the current paper is to discuss the issue of renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region. At the same time, the paper will investigate the work of the International Renewable Energy Agency and its relation to the United Arab Emirates.

The Issue of Renewable Energy in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Region

The energy sector in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region has played and continues to play a vital role in both regional and global economies. The countries in this region have for a long time heavily relied on oil and gas exploration for the sake of economic and social development. The persistent reliance on fossil fuel sources coupled with rapid industrialization rates has seen the environment suffer considerably because of increased greenhouse gas emissions and allied climate change scenarios. As the devastating effects continue to intensify, the regional governments and international environmental lobbying groups have expressed their concerns. All of them have called for swift transition and development of policies and strategies to promote the harnessing of potential renewable energy sources and encouraging their continued use.

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Unlike other regions of the world where renewable energy sources have been of great importance, the case is different in the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the Gulf region. Continued efforts have been bearing little success seeing that the countries have continually ignored offers to transit to renewable energy sources in place of the fossil fuels on which they over-rely. Besides, the region has been characterized by low renewable technology development rates because of the lack of relative legal and policy frameworks for enacting the use of renewable energy sources (Angelis-Dimakis et al., 2011). Further, there have been challenges in terms of lack of commercial skills and information coupled with high initial costs of implementing renewable energy projects. Moreover, the countries in these regions have been blinded by their rich oil reserves. They consider them more profitable and beneficial than the renewable forms of energy such as hydroelectricity, solar energy, biomass, and wind energy.

After a long struggle and intense awareness creation campaigns, many changes started taking place in the United Arab Emirates and other countries of the Gulf Region. The countries in the region have embraced efforts to adopt renewable forms of energy. They have also taken definite steps in developing strategies to produce and use clean energy on a large scale. These developments have been greatly influenced by policy transfers and the formation of international intergovernmental renewable energy organizations such as the International Renewable Energy Agency located in Abu Dhabi (Mathiesen, Lund, & Karlsson, 2011). As such, the countries in these regions have become aware of the potential benefits and are motivated towards lowering the carbon emission levels and fostering sustainable development.

The hallmark for the new developments is apparent. Over the last couple of years, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other states in the Gulf region have initiated multi-billion projects aimed at improving alternative energy scenarios in the respective countries. One of the most admirable and iconic projects is the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. The project has embraced a holistic approach to tackling the epidemic of global warming and making efforts to implement sustainable energy technologies (Angelis-Dimakis et al., 2011). Also, Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading producer of oil is investing heavily in renewable energy projects aimed at ensuring a prospective future for the sustainable use of clean forms of energy. The country has tremendously put in efforts to extensively harness solar and wind energies, which have a wide potential throughout the country. These two projects among many others act as morale-boosters and challenges for other countries to develop ambitious renewable energy programs.

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Aims and Functions of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

The primary aim for which IRENA had been established was to encourage countries to turn to the use of renewable energy worldwide. The agency was to act as a global voice for renewable energies while providing practical approaches and advice to both the developed and developing democracies. These aims were coupled with several functions, which were conferred to IRENA upon its inception in 2009.

Firstly, IRENA provides data and statistics on the sources of energy and methods of conserving energy. In conjunction with the International Agency, IEA, IRENA maintains a comprehensive database, which provides data and statistics on various aspects of renewable energy and policies. Such data is easily accessible and helpful to member states, policymakers, researchers, and the general public. It informs and gives an in-depth insight into the extent of the problem, and why there is a need for faster action in the formulation of policies and measures to promote the use of renewable energy.

Secondly, IRENA provides practical tools and policy advice on how to swiftly transit to the sustainable use of renewable energy, as well as how to adopt best practices. The agency guides the member states on the best approaches with the help of which energy sustainability can be achieved by offering them financial support and technical expertise (Popp, Hascic, & Medhi, 2011). Besides, the information is distributed through publications and other resources. Undoubtedly, being furnished with information is the first step towards enhancing awareness and becoming motivated to use reliable renewable energy sources. Finally, the agency mobilizes other international institutions to promote the adoption of renewable energy and continue using it. Other services include the provision of insights on financial mechanisms and technological expertise, as well as capacity building.

The International Renewable Energy Agency in the United Arab Emirates

Over the previous six years starting from 2009, the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, has had a great impact in terms of promoting the use of renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region. The organization serves as the principal platform for international cooperation and a channel for promoting sustainable energy for the future. It also “serves as the center of excellence and a repository of policy, technology, resource, and financial knowledge on renewable energy” (Da Rosa, 2012). IRENA is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. It stands out amongst other relatively new organizations in the renewable energy sector. IRENA has already achieved a high ratification rate and has made some overly effective steps. Its achievements can be attributed to three key mechanisms.

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The first is the epistemic services. IRENA has always focused on resolving the informational barriers and asymmetries. It has dedicated vast resources to gathering and disseminating information to member states. Also, it has significantly engaged itself in comparing and evaluating national and regulatory frameworks while trying to identify the best practices in renewable energy governance. IRENA’s approach as an epistemic organization has significantly defined its role in encouraging countries to turn to the use of the more secure and affordable renewable energy sources.

Secondly, IRENA has acted as a focal point for the renewable energy sector. Even though IRENA is a relatively young and small organization with restrained financial and technological resources, it has greater visibility than any other organization in the renewable energy sector (Da Rosa, 2012). IRENA clearly and strategically steers issues on climate change and the related distributional conflict. It fully focuses on renewable forms of energy and promotes the benefits that member states can accrue. At the same time, IRENA has helped to form more political consensus in communities where intense debates on renewable energy technologies remain. Such conflicts are evident in Canada and Brazil.

Finally, it calls for international collaboration. IRENA has successfully shaped the global policy landscape by attracting the attention of equally capable institutions on renewable energy. Being an important focal point, IRENA has managed to influence international organizations and has persuaded them to embrace renewable energy in their daily operations (Da Rosa, 2012). Its success is further influenced by its high ratification rates, which signify the importance of renewable energy technology and the reasons why international organizations should not miss out. Therefore, its focal point is seen to shape the behavior of other organizations in an emerging regime complex for renewable energy.

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Conclusion

The paper has discussed the issue of renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and the entire Gulf region. Apparently, the region has for many years over-relied on oil and gas exploration to support their social and economic development. The continued exploration of fossil fuels has led to devastating outcomes such as climate change and increased greenhouse gas emission rates. These effects have led to immense concerns, which have subsequently ignited serious debates on what the probable solutions are. Various governments, scholars, scientists, academicians, and agencies related to the energy sector have stressed the importance of embracing renewable sources of energy in a bid to attain more energy sustainability and security. These suggestions have been promoted by various international and intergovernmental renewable energy agencies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. It is an intergovernmental organization primarily engaged in supporting countries in terms of the transition from traditional energy sources to renewable energy sources. The paper suggests that countries should adopt sustainable forms of renewable energy such as bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar, and wind. This would facilitate the sustainable development of renewable energy, energy access, low-carbon economic growth, prosperity, and energy security.