Winning public support key to renewable energy drive, Abu Dhabi conference hears

Governments, the private sector and non-government organisations 'not doing a good job' of explaining the need to go green

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Leaders driving the green agenda are being urged to step up their efforts to get the public "on board" with the transition to renewable energy.

Engaging with consumers is crucial to global efforts to tackle climate change, experts said at an Abu Dhabi conference.

Last week almost 200 countries signed a deal to slow global warming after two weeks of negotiations at Cop26 in Glasgow.

Leaders agreed to swap the phrase “phase out” coal for “phase down” to try to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C after some countries objected to the wording.

You will never do it without consumers. So you need them on board.
João Galamba, Portugal’s deputy minister and secretary of state for energy

But speaking at a panel at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, speakers stressed the need to win public support.

They said some people are equally resistant to switch to renewable energy, which can be more expensive, and education will be key in persuading them.

Moderator John Defterios, professor of business at NYU Abu Dhabi, said governments had to get better at explaining the need to go green.

“If you asked them what happened at Cop26 the average consumer probably wouldn’t understand it,” he said.

“The average consumer who has to pay the household bills doesn’t understand the energy transition [from fossil-based fuels to carbon].”

Governments, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and others are not doing a good job of explaining there is a major shift, he added.

But the World Energy Council is working to change that, said the professor, by “humanising energy”.

That is important because consumers are key in the move to more renewables, said panelists.

“We all talk about the energy transition. But I think the trillion dollar question is how are we going to manage this transition?” said Dr Alparslan Bayraktar, Turkey’s deputy minister of energy and natural resources.


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“We need to talk smart. [We need to be] inclusive. And we need to engage with citizens.

“Let me give you an example from Turkey. We introduced, almost two years ago, a green tariff. We said to consumers, if you would like to switch your tariff from regular mix to only green, of course you have to pay a little bit of a premium.

“And guess what, the switching rate was extremely low, negligible. People don’t want to pay. So humanising energy and to include citizens and consumers into this important.”

Fellow panellist Joao Galamba, Portugal’s deputy minister and secretary of state for energy, agreed bringing consumers on board was crucial.

“For the simple reason you will never do it without consumers. So you need them on board. You need a good story to tell,” he said.

“In Portugal we have a good story to tell. There is a clear economic advantage. There is a clear advantage in terms of costs.

“This is entirely true of the power sector. It might not be true in airline travel.”

The UAE is set to be at the forefront of the climate change conversation for the coming years after clinching host status for Cop28 in 2023.

The Emirates has pledged to hit net zero emissions by 2050 as part of a wide-ranging strategy aimed at protecting the environment.

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Updated: November 16, 2021, 1:56 PM