Dubai Carbon

Dubai Carbon

The United Arab Emirates, the land mostly known as ‘the country were oil comes from.’ In many peoples perception oil will be pumped out of the ground until the desert has evaporated and solar panels will remain science-fiction. During my time in the UAE I discovered that this is definitely not the case and many efforts are made to switch to renewable energy sources and have I seen more initiatives who find it highly important to reduces their carbon footprint.

To hear more about how sustainable the country is and efforts that will be made in the future I contacted Dubai Carbon, a think-tank in environmental econmocis which is a co-operation between the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In 2011 this agreement was signed by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. Dubai Carbon’s stakeholders are both public and private and DC helps them include efficiency and best practices within environmental, social and the generic sustainability value chain in their business model.

I interviewed Dubai Carbon’s CEO Ivano Iannelli, who build up a reputation as one of the world’s foremost expert in the fields of sustainability and carbon emissions management.

Q. In a country not well-known for sustainable efforts, how was Dubai Carbon founded?
Mr. Iannelli:
“There is a very large culture of excellence in this country and even though it might not be perceived as such from the outside, the sustainability credentials for the UAE are actually extremely high. There is a willingness to excel, there is a willingness to be best in class, there is a culture of corporate excellence. They wouldn’t go for the inefficiënt approach but they want to make sure the resources are looked upon for their preciousness, for their value. Not only in short-term but also a long term-approach.” Referring to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s visionary ideas on the country.

Q. How is the mix of energy in the UAE?
Mr. Iannelli: 
“At the moment we have a very minimal solar power but this is only because the large PV-plants will be commissioned in a span of a few months. Dubai has the largest single side PV-plant in the world and has been gradually growing simply because of its success. In a span of 2 years Dubai broke 2 times the world record for lowest tariff for solar, bringing the price down to 2.9 cents, Adu Dhabi even managed to bring it down to 2.4 cents per kWh. These are signs that times are changing and that renewables are becoming cost-effective.”

“When you look at the energy mix you can not rely on only wind or solar but you need to have a balanced approach and Dubai is doing exactly this. By 2050 we will scale up renewables to 75% together with all the other sources who are being tested and launched as we speak.”

“In the current situation we have a very efficient gas-powered combined cycle power plant. Dubai produces power at 0.42 tons of CO2 per MWh produced, the next in-line is Germany, producing at 0.39 tons of CO2 per MWh but Germany add a very large amount of renewables in their mix. To give you an idea of how efficient the fossil fuel based energy production in Dubai is compared to the globe.

Mr. Ianelli add thats the misconception of Dubai being inneficient or not sustainable is very superficial. “If people understand what this city has achieved within a short span of time than they would be able to understand what there is. First of all there is a fantastic playing field of sustainability because not a single played in this city has not looked at sustainability in their scope of work. The second element of it is that to do what Dubai has done, they need to be highly efficient, they need to be very pragmatic in the way they use resources because they would otherwise upset the normally economic close of supply and demand. So to build this much you don’t put too much strain on the market because prices would escalate. So this balance what the city has achieved in economic term is a fantastic example of economic success in terms of sustainability, that should be looked upon and replicated whenever possible.

During my journey I started to wonder if it’s possible for a country to become carbon-neutral, and is it necessary? I saw Norway were they produce 98% of their energy from renewables but still have a lot of offset because of their richness in oil. I heard from South-American countries who generate their power 100% from renewables.

Q. Can Dubai or any other country achieve to be carbon-neutral?
Mr. Iannelli: “I don’t think any country in the world can achieve carbon-neutrality because there is always a resource consumption, and we don’t want carbon-neutrality as it will alter the balance of the eco-system. What we want is to run within the global CO2 budget. There are natural sorts of CO2 things in the world, soil, trees, water etc. So we don’t need to actually achieve carbon-neutrality. What we have is a global-warming potential which equates all sorts of greenhouse-gasses to CO2 according to the time it takes the globe to metabolize them. In the 21st century the number is 1466 gigatons of CO2. What we need to reach is that countries not consume more than the world can metabolize. Currently the world is consuming at an alarming rate. The herd offshoot day (the days we consumed all the resources for the year) last year was on September 26. So as an impact we don’t need to achieve carbon-neutrality, we just need to stat within the carbon-budget that we have been given.

Electric Vehicles

Of course I needed to know how electric cars fit in to the bigger picture. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is also involved in Dubai Carbon and has place already 100 charging stations in Dubai and just announced the second phase of stations which will double the amount. With only 57 users so far they definitely see a big future for electric mobility.

Mr. Iannelli: “The vehicles that are being brought here are being stresstest against a different kind of environment. Dubai as a city is stretched along the coast it’s a lot less dense and longer distances are needed to be covered by EV’s.


Full interview
Watch the full interview here

Dubai CarbonDubai Carbon




Tuup is a digital solution for peoples everyday mobility. This app makes it possible to travel around without owning your own car or vehicle. Integrated in the app are all possible ways of transport, including car-sharing. On the routeplanner you select where you want to start and finish and Tuup tells you how you can get there and you pay up-front for all the services through this app. It’s even possible to select the most environmental friendly route or if you are in a hurry you can select the most efficient way to travel. To give a more exact estimation of the travel time Tuup uses open data for example delays during peak hour.

Why is Tuup necessary in the future?

Tuup makes it possible to travel everywhere you want using just a single app and there is no need to own a vehicle. It’s a more sustainable way of everyday life and mobility. It even allows you to rent out your bike or car while you are not using it. A great idea as your vehicle is not used for 99% of the time. During this time your vehicle can make money for you.


Watch the full interview with CEO of Tuup Pekka Möttö.

Interview | TuupInterview | Tuup


When thinking of polluting industries the packaging industry is not the first that pops up in the mind. Yet with trillions of packages being sent every year which are only used once and than thrown away, you can imagine there is a lot of unnecessary trash.

Finish startup RePack has the solution to this problem: a sexy and clever package which is reusable. The customer orders a product online, companies who use RePack sent the product in this packaging. Once the package is delivered and opened the customer drops the empty packaging in the mailbox and it returns to the company. To motivate the customer to actually return the packaging he receives a coupon which gives discounts to all brands who are using RePack.

When new sustainable products are introduced, at least it has to be better than the original product to be a succes. RePack is one of those, it looks better than a grey box and it adds value for the customer.

Watch the full interview I had with Jonne Hellgren, founder of RePack.


Interview | RepackInterview | Repack


And a short clip about RePack:


RePack - Sustainable packagingRePack – Sustainable packaging


Touche Streetlight

Touché is a street light designed by architect Bjarne Schläger from Copenhagen, Denmark. This sophisticated light is completely carbon neutral and made from 100 per cent recyclable material. It is fitted with solar cells that completely cover the aluminium column, allowing it to generate its power from sunlight.

Touché has a sleek design, with solar panels discreetly covering the surface from top to bottom. It requires no electrical connection, so it can work both in urban and rural areas. What’s more, it produces about two to three times its consumption so it can actually contribute energy if connected to the grid.

Not only would the Touché streetlight reduce CO2 emission significantly, but it would also save municipalities a lot of money spent on the cost of maintenance and replacement of streetlights. It’s already being used in 15 countries, including Russia, Netherlands, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Bjarne Schlager & Touche StreetlightBjarne Schlager & Touche Streetlight

UN City (United Nations)

UN City

The United Nations doesn’t need much introduction. The organization is maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights since 1945.

In Copenhagen many different branches of the UN such as UNHCR, Unicef and WHO where spread over the city. After the Millennium Summit it was decided that all ten in Copenhagen based UN agencies where moved into one compound. This will not only obtain savings on economic scale but also facilitate the co-operation between the different agencies. The plans where formed in 2002, in 2005 the location Marmormolen was decided and in 2013 UN City was put into operation. The location houses around 1.300 employees from 100 different nationalities.
A bit further, in the container port, a second building (Campus 2) was constructed. This is UNICEF’s new state of the art high bay warehouse and is currently the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world.

Sustainable building

What got my interest in this building is that it received many awards for their sustainable efforts. Amongst the awards are the European Commission’s Green Building Award for New Buildings and the platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification which is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. UN City is one the most sustainable buildings of it’s kind in Scandinavia. Because of their involvement with LEED they have looked at sustainability since the drawings were being made and they looked at 5 environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources & Indoor Environmental Quality plus an additional category: Innovation in Design. From this categories I will highlight some of the most interesting ones.


From solar panels to sea water cooling and external metal blinds to regulate light and heat. UN City shows wat can be achieved.
– UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon



UN City captures around 3 million liters of rain water each year. This is enough to flush the toilets 5300 times a day. Low-flow taps and toilets reduce the water usage. Combined, the use of innovative taps, toilets and rainwater reduce the consumption of water in the building’s kitchens, toilets and showers by 61%.

Use of natural resources

Sophisticated solar shade’s on the building’s facade can be openend and closed to either trap or reflect heat from the sun. UN City is entirely ventilated with filtered, outside air. Cold sea water is used to cool the building down.
To produce electricity 1.400 solar panels are installed on the roof. The panels produce 297,000 kWh/year, this significantly reduces the electricity needed from the grid.
The roof of the UN City has been coated with a white, recyclable membrane, made from plant-based materials. The environmentally-friendly coating reflects much more sunlight than the usual dark layer.

UN City Solar Panels

Cycling & accessibility  

To reduce pollution from transportation, UN City encourages cycling to work. There are 680 bicycle racks across the site, including 225 which are covered, and a further 115 in the basement. Fifteen showers and changing rooms are also available to freshen up after your ride. To ensure access for everyone, parking spaces for people with disabilities can be found in front of the lobby.


UN City recycles its waste wherever possible. Organic waste from the canteen is pumped through a vacuum system to a container in the basement. This food-based waste is then removed by a company that recycles it for use as fertilizer or to create biogas. Other materials, such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal, are separated in different bins to be collected and recycled by the City of Copenhagen.

The tour through the building was most interesting. I haven’t been in a building of this size and being it the United Nations was special. It was interesting to learn that a a location of this size can reduce their carbon footprint enormously.

Source: interview with Flemming Johannesen and UN City website



Building Tomorrow

Building Tomorrow is an initiative by Darius Fleming and 8 other students at the VIA University in Horsens, Denmark. They where inspired by the earthship movement and especially the documentary the Garbage Warrior by Michael Reynolds. An earthship is an off-grid house made from recycled materials. Darius put a team together with the right people. Architects, designers, project leaders etc. They convinced their uni and they allowed them to build at their site. So the adventure began. It took them two years of designing and another year to build it.

To make the accommodation completely off-grid they needed a few things: electricity which comes from wind turbines and solar panels. Heating, this comes mainly from the sun. The house is designed towards the sun so it warms and cools itself. And then there is water. Water is collected by rain and filtered by plants in the building.
A small side note has to be made that the current house still takes some energy from the network as it’s not big enough to produce all the power on it’s own but version 2.0 is going to be fully off-grid.

During the process Darius and his teammates learned a lot, they had no experience and did a lot of things that hadn’t been done before. The current house is the first prototype and with their experiences from the last years and their mistakes they will build a new Building Tomorrow.

Watch the full interview with Darius for all information about this project.


Building TomorrowBuilding Tomorrow




Resilient City Vejle

Vejle: Resilient City

The Rockefeller Foundation founded “100 Resilient City’s” in 2013. Their goal is to help cities around the world to become more resilient to the physical, social and economical challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Vejle, Denmark is one of those 100 cities.
100RC supports the adoption and incorporation of a view of resilience that includes not just the shocks—earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.—but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day or cyclical basis.
Examples of these stresses include high unemployment; an overtaxed or inefficient public transportation system; endemic violence; or chronic food and water shortages. By addressing both the shocks and the stresses, a city becomes more able to respond to adverse events, and is overall better able to deliver basic functions in both good times and bad, to all populations.

The city of Velje is the only resilient city in Scandinavia and the first in Europe to come with a strategy. Other resilient cities around the world include Washington, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam and Singapore. The CRO (Chief Resilience Officer) of Vejle is Jonas Kroustrup and I interviewed Charlotte Holm Andersen & Jette Vindum.

Charlotte & Jette showed welcomed me at the municipality in Vejle where they have an exhibition which explains the all aspects the RC Vejle is working on. The main problem of this city is water. The city is surrounded by mountains and is build around a lake. When it rains a lot the water rises and this can lead to floods. They don’t see this as a problem but as an opportunity. The exhibition is very well designed and interactive. A 3D map shows the history of the city, by sliding through the different years on an iPad the model changes form and shows the growth of the city throughout the years. Also the level of water is indicated and shows how it affects the city.

The way they handle sustainability is something to learn from. They don’t just inform or try to keep everyone to strict rules. They involve the whole community and let everyone have their say in all the projects they are working on. All the gathered input is used in the endproduct.

Green Tech Center

One of these projects is the Green Tech Center. I was welcome by an very enthusiastic woman named Jeanette. Wat really strikes me is that everyone in the community is very proud of the resilient city and all the projects.
The Green Tech Center is based on the triple helix basic: the municipality, university and private sector working closely together. Their goal is to help startups and medium sized companies grow and develop their products within the green field. The green field could be anything from energy production (wind power, geothermal), energy storage and energy usage.
Jeanette introduced me to some to the companies who are working here on innovative ideas. For example she showed Orogenic ApS who makes batteries for electric cars and  there was a company who made the solar panels for the award winning new headquarter of the United Nations in Copenhagen.

Green Tech CenterGreen Tech Center


Green Music Initiative

The Green Music Initiative is a think tank for the creative industry, trying to understand how to create a sustainable future for this sector. It was founded by Jacob Bilabel in Berlin. They look at sustainability in three different angles: economic, ecologic and social. All of these three aspects have to work closely together, you can’t focus on the economic part without looking at the other two. What is interesting about the creative industry is that there is not much need for resources, the only needed resource is creativity and energy. In other sectors resources are needed and the more you need, the less you have. In the creative sector it’s the other way around, the more creativity you use, the more you have.


The biggest issue in the sector is the need and storage of energy. Mainly for festivals it’s hard to organize this in a sustainable way. They are mainly organized on temporary locations with no fixed solutions so diesel generators are a solution which are impossible to get around. Other issues occur with the handling of waste. It all lands on one pile and it’s hard to separate it, which is a ‘waste’ as 25% is re-usable. Think of plastic, aluminium and paper. Finding a way to separate this would be better in many ways. To re-use materials or sell them and for the organizer it’s less expensive as they have smaller piles to transport from the festival.

Challenges are found in the whole sector, for example music labels. Music labels stream their music in the cloud which is basically a network of computers and servers who run 24/7 and consume huge amounts of energy. If the energy price goes up, the price of streaming goes up too. This is a good example of the three aspects economic, ecologic and social that need to work closely together.


Most of the solutions are not yet available at the moment. The Green Music Initiative is mainly focusing on creating awareness about the problems. A solution for the energy problem at festivals can be found in the future and I think it’s an interesting one. Niels van Loo, an intern and student at the VU University in Amsterdam is working on this. They have the idea to ask visitors to come to the festival with their electric car. The cars are then connected to the grid and this way the festival is powered. An EV is basically a battery on wheels and this way the festival’s energy can be fully sustainable. Visitors can park their car at select at what time they leave. An intelligent software system makes sure that the car is charged when you leave and between that electricity can be used from the car.


Green Music InitiativeGreen Music Initiative

Watch the full interview with Jacob Bilabel & Niels van Loo of the Green Music Initiative.

Younited Cultures

Younited Cultures was founded by Andra Slaats and Iulia Mugescu. Andra is a Romanian immigrant who moved to Vienna. She encountered lots of struggles moving here and with Younited Cultures they want to shine a positive light on immigrants and show that they have value. They are doing this by selling colorful scarfs with a message. Each scarf tells a succes story of an immigrant.

In Austria there is a big debat going on at the moment about the new minister of the country. With the elections recently two candidates where facing each other, one extreme right wing and one left wing. Migration (the refugee crisis) is also a topic of discussion in the election program so it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do.
Andra believes that immigrants have a positive impact on the society and economy, it brings in a lot of youth and human capital. The scarfs can contribute to better understanding of the migrants and hopefully to a good end of the debate going on in Austria.

Interview | Younited CulturesInterview | Younited Cultures





The Vollpension is a unique lunchroom in the center of Vienna, Austria. The employees are all elderly people (65+) who otherwise have no chance on the labour market.

The idea started in 2012 after an idea by the Stitch brothers. The brothers came from the countryside of Austria to Vienna for studies. They saw two things: young and older people don’t go together in Vienna and good cake’s are not available in the city, you get that at your grandma’s place. I don’t know what the topic of their research was but finding out that there are no decent cake in the city is an important finding. The answer to this is the Vollpension.

The start

It started as a try-out tour in a foodtruck through Austria. Grandma’s used to sell their best cake’s at festivals, meetings etc. It was a huge succes and people wanted more. So they started a pop-up restaurant in Vienna. Again the succes was overwhelming but the contract for their temporary location ended. Fans started Facebook groups and petitions to ask for a permanent location. And so it happened.


Right in the middel of the center they found a location which suited their needs. The Vollpension feels and looks like your grandmothers house, it’s warm, antique, spacey and cosey. The decoration consists of photo frames, puzzle paintings and medicine boxes. The cake’s are delicious. They come in many sizes and varieties and are freshly baked by the grandma’s.


So what has this lunchroom to do with sustainability? A lot. Sustainability is not only about saving energy of recycling waste but the social side (or human sustainability as they call it) is also a huge aspect. The Vollpension brings people back to the labour market where normally they wouldn’t have a chance anymore. Most of the employees have low pensions or no employeer wants to take them. Some of them just feel like they still want to do something. At the Vollpension they give those people a chance to get an income or do something they really like.


Interview | VollpensionInterview | Vollpension