Capital to get climate tips

Scientists behind the Environmental Performance Index are coming to Abu Dhabi to develop a similar system for the emirate.

A sprinkler system on the roadside near Abu Dhabi airport. 
The capital's index will show how the emirate is doing in key areas, such as air, water, waste, biodiversity and environmental health and safety.
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The scientists behind one of the world's most authoritative methods of measuring environmental performance arrive in Abu Dhabi this month to help develop a tailor-made version of the system for the emirate. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) was developed by Yale and Columbia universities. The researchers will fly in for a three-day seminar at the end of the month organised by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).

They will be joined by experts from the UN Environmental Programme and Al Basama al Beeiya, an initiative to study the UAE's environmental footprint. The index is a diagnostic tool that takes account of 21 factors, such as natural resources and pollution levels. In 2005, when the index was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, it showed that the UAE was lagging behind and ranked it 110th out of 145 countries.

The Environmental Sustainability Index, as it was then known, has since been transformed into the EPI, which measures performance against a set of environmental goals. The 2008 edition of the index places the country 112th out of 149 participants and rates achievement of national goals at 64 per cent. Switzerland is in top place, with a rating of 95.5 per cent. Mohammad al Jawdar, the director for strategy management at the EAD, said part of the reason the country ranked poorly was the poor quality of the data used by international scientists.

"We do not report our data," he said. Instead, the scientists had to use information or estimates gathered from international agencies, much of which might be out of date. Now, however, the EAD would be sharing its own data with international experts - and seeking their advice. The workshop, said Mr Jawdar, would help the agency to decide which indicators to select for the local index, what data to seek and how it could be collected.

"We want to look at international practice but localise the index," he said, adding that the more a country's unique challenges were taken into account, the more accurate the index was. The Abu Dhabi index will show how the emirate is doing in key areas, such as air, water, waste, biodiversity and environmental health and safety. The tool will help the Government to keep track of its performance and identify whether its response to environmental challenges is adequate.

The index reports would be made public, said Mr Jawdar, to "help us be more transparent with our public".