Expo panel talks innovation - GulfToday

Expo panel talks innovation


Artists perform at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim, Gulf Today.

Staff Reporter, Gulf Today

The World Majlis, Earth 2.0,  Reengineering Planet Earth, presented in collaboration with the Maldives as part of Climate & Biodiversity Week at Expo 2020 Dubai, has been highlighting the strong sense of urgency to achieve the global sustainability objectives. Panellists shared insights on the importance of innovation and collaboration to deliver solutions that support these goals. The discussion sought to address the role of technology and engineering in a warming world, the risks associated with such efforts, and how to balance the interests of different stakeholders equitably.

Mohamed Nasheed Former President of the Maldives and Speaker of the People’s Majlis, said: “One of the most important things is not to lose hope.

There is a bit of gloom… we seem to feel that it is uncontrolled, but if we go with the pessimistic picture, it will be difficult for us to find solutions. I believe in human ingenuity and I think we do have solutions. The idea is to see if we can use nature as infrastructure.

The reef protects our shorelines to start with, it reduces wave energy and so stops coastal erosion.

Its biodiversity contains our livelihood [with fishing] and people coming to see it is also part of our livelihood – and it is all challenged because of global warming. The argument is to see how we can help nature grow faster.”

“Because of the erosion, we are having to build water breakers and embankments to protect our shoreline… but it costs $5,000 to protect one metre of the coastline, so it’s simply not feasible. Meanwhile, growing a reef, costs $20 a metre... It takes longer, and that’s why we have to get the science involved more rapidly. It’s very important that we find these solutions now… on how we can get the coral to grow faster, and how we may be able to restore. If we focus on the good news, we will be in a far better place than if we focus on the pessimistic stories.”

During the forum, Dr Abdulla Al Mandous, Director General of National Centre of Meteorology, UAE, spoke about the pioneering role the UAE played in cloud seeding – a prime example of technology that works for the benefit of the environment. His Excellency Dr Abdulla said: “The UAE has harsh weather and high evaporation… with weather modification, you can reengineer any of the weather elements… We do it for rain enhancement.” Dr Nawal, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), discussing the growth of the rain enhancement programme, added: “To be able to advance such a niche research and expand the use of it, and make it so attractive to so many universities… it is incredible.”

Explaining that the UAE is not an oil exporter, but an energy exporter, Dr Nawal Al Hosany said: “Our leadership has just announced a strategic initiative toward net zero… based on milestones and clear initiatives that aim to get us to that target, which is part of our global responsibility, while also providing opportunities for economic growth and job opportunities. These came out of a government accelerator, looking at what it means to be net zero.

“The UAE had a strong and leadership position in oil and gas, and we want to maintain it in renewables as well… and we have contributed to this around the world. When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed said that we will celebrate when we ship our last barrel of oil… it is because we will be ready… we are a responsible nation and our responsibility is to provide energy to the world.”

Inês dos Santos Costa, Secretary of State for the Environment, Portugal said: “If we think of technology as being the hardware of the system that we want to engineer, it’s not going to be enough… with the ‘software’ [we have].

We need to start changing our discourse… Firstly, we must recognise that the supply and demand curve doesn’t happen in a vacuum…. If the economy is not observant of those limits, it will fail.

Secondly, we need to find a different meaning for the word growth. We want it to be in health, in wellbeing, in regeneration, education…  we need to shift how we see economic development with new objectives, and that should be present when we think about new technologies. And finally, in order to reach our commitments… the IPCC states that we won’t get there, until we revise the way we extract, produce and consume. We are looking at technology as a saviour… without changing the status quo.” Professor Joaquin Ruiz, Vice President of Global Environmental Futures; Thomas R. Brown Chair and Director of Biosphere 2; Professor of Geosciences,

The University of Arizona, USA said: “We’ve engineered a world without thinking of the consequences of how we’ve engineered it…we all must remember the difference between science and engineering… we must speak to other disciplines deeply, because many of the engineering solutions we come up with have huge ethical and political consequences.”

Professor Ruiz also put forward the successful concept of growing food underneath solar panels – “harvesting the sun twice” – which has been found to provide energy security, water security and food security. He explained that doing so creates microclimates and allows potentially for up to three crop seasons per year (instead of two).

“The electricity generated can be used to clean up or pump water, and the shade of the solar panels means humidity remains in the soil longer, meaning less water is needed.

Professor Paolo Gali, Founder and Director of the Marine Research and High Education Center (MaRHE) and Full Professor of Ecology, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, said: “We have to speak with different people… merge different skills. Biologists have to speak with doctors, with veterinarians, with engineers… and sometimes you have to think in a crossword manner – horizontally, vertically, and with depth.

We have to share, and think in an ‘open source’ way. As a researcher, we have to give the best data and best solutions for the politicians. We have to give them the opportunity to do their best, by giving them the best data. If we do so, we can do the best thing for humanity: move very fast.”

Meanwhile, the 7th World Green Economy Summit (WGES), held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, concluded.

The summit, held under the theme, “Galvanising Action for a Sustainable Recovery,” brought together many prominent international speakers, in addition to dignitaries and representatives from government organisations, academics, experts and the media.

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, MD and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), and Chairman of WGES, announced the Dubai Declaration 2021 at the end of the summit.

He expressed his gratitude and appreciation at His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for his patronage of the event and thanked H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, for his presence at the summit’s opening ceremony. He also thanked everyone who contributed to the success of the summit.

“The summit’s seventh edition was held amidst exceptional events and activities, under the theme, ‘Galvanising Action for a Sustainable Recovery,’ in conjunction with the historic expo 2020 Dubai held under the theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’

These two themes are consistent with the UAE’s efforts to promote innovation and develop creative solutions to support the country’s sustainable development goals and overall economic growth,” Al Tayer said.

Due to the directives and tireless efforts of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Dubai has maintained its bid to become the global capital of the green economy.

The summit witnessed high-level dialogues, panel discussions and seminars on developing innovative sustainable solutions and stimulating innovation to support sustainable development.

These centred around its four main themes, the youth, innovation and small technologies, green economy and policies, and green finance,” he added.

“The UAE has served as a global model of resilience in times of crisis. This is evident in its immediate successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our leadership, the country has been steadily recovering from this global health crisis, with our nation emerging stronger and more resilient,” he further added.

Meanwhile, pilots and engineers of the future have been inspired by an interactive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) event held at the UK Pavilion in partnership with the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) aerobatic team the Red Arrows, and Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

Drones, robots, 3-D printing, and Formula One-style car building were featured during the learning session, providing an in-depth look at the field of engineering and the scale of opportunities for new generations.

Tadgh O’Donovan, Professor, Deputy Vice Principle and Head of Engineering, Heriot-Watt University Dubai told Expo News: “Sometimes people think engineering is all about maths and science, but there is so much more to it - and it’s so much fun. Engineers don’t do things twice. I always encourage my classes to play with the technology - it’s not an assignment. If students are not excited to get involved, then we’re doing it wrong! It’s for all ages; you’ll see kids here today as young as three years old looking up at the skies and seeing the amazing Red Arrows fly and they’ll wonder ‘how does that happen?’ and ‘how can I be a part of that?’”

O’Donovan added: “We have 60 members of the RAF here today; this entourage includes engineers and technicians - it’s not just one person flying the aircraft. It’s a great example of precision engineering.”

Abdulomonem Mohamed, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) student from the British University was on hand to help younger visitors tap into the possibilities: “I’m demonstrating how to drive drones, print 3-D cars and help them to connect the small pieces of the electric cars together.”

“I love the robots here,” Seth Garrity, an eight-year-old from Australia, told Expo News. “And I can’t wait to see the Red Arrow that’s being 3-D printed. They said it would be finished by 6pm, so we’ll come back later to see it.”

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