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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 9 March 2021

Reporters refused entry to Masdar City

It was a red-faced pair of Masdar executives who on Monday evening arrived at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island to address a group of mainly German and Arab environmental writers assembled at the plush Radisson Blu hotel.

The group of about two dozen reporters and environmental experts were gathered for a three-day seminar on climate change and energy policy in the Arab region organised and paid for by the government of Germany. 

A media assemblage more inclined to be sympathetic to the corporate goals of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government's  clean-energy company, and its flagship project to build an eco-city in the desert, would have been hard to find anywhere in the world. Yet when the group travelled by bus a day earlier to the nearby Masdar City construction site, keen to get a first-hand view of the development's first installations, they were in for a disappointment: Their bus was turned away at the gate.

Perhaps it was the fault of an over-zealous security guard. At any rate, the environmentalist journalists were not allowed to ride the pod cars belonging to the personal rapid transit system under test at the project site. Nor were they shown around the Masdar Institute, the newly opened graduate-level university devoted to the study of low-carbon energy. Instead, their driver was told to turn around and go back the way he had come.

The hapless Masdar executives had a different explanation:
"It was probably just because your bus was too big. If you came individually in taxis, we would be happy to show you around."

The Masdar Institute was open to the public, they assured the group, its faculty keen to show off their gorgeous new headquarters - the first major building completed at Masdar City, and energy-positive due to the solar panels on its roof.

Judging from the stunned looks on a number of faces, several of the group were busy mentally computing the relative fuel consumption of a fleet of eight or more taxis versus one medium-sized bus. All must have concluded that the bus option contributed less greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and was therefore the more environmentally friendly.

Uncharacteristically for a gaggle of journalists, these environmental reporters politely refrained from making the invited speakers squirm more by belabouring the point. Perhaps they were worried they would not get the promised Masdar update.

The executives were clearly aware that Masdar had muffed a golden public relations opportunity. Inadvertently they conveyed another message: At least for now, environmental awareness in Abu Dhabi stops at the Masdar City gate.

Another awkward question that no one at the seminar raised, despite staying a stone's throw from Yas Island's new Ferrari World amusement park and the Yas Marina Formula-1 Grand Prix race circuit: Will Masdar City save more carbon emissions than Yas Island creates?

Pic courtesy of Masdar

Published: December 2, 2010 04:00 AM

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