Beirut/Oxford, 21 May 2013

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) announced, at the conclusion of a consultation meeting it held in Oxford, UK, that its annual conference for 2013 will be held in Sharjah, UAE, on 28-29 October. The conference will be held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Sultan Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah. The meeting, hosted by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), was an expert conclave to discuss the drafts of a report on sustainable energy in the Arab region, which AFED is preparing to release at its anticipated annual conference, which became a unique landmark.

Disclosing that Sharjah will be the host of the widely acclaimed conference, after four consecutive years in Beirut, AFED’s Secretary General Najib Saab explained that the organization’s Board of Trustees thought that the Gulf was a suitable setting for a conference on energy. “We are not abandoning Beirut, but AFED is a regional organization keen on involving different Arab countries, as well as providing the right setting and facilities which secure the widest participation from across the world,” Saab said. He praised “the commitment of the Ruler of Sharjah to advance science and education, and his stride for human development and regional cooperation as the best means to tackle challenges facing Arab societies.” Moreover, Saab added, Sharjah is the host of two major AFED corporate members, Crescent Petroleum and Petrofac, and a prominent academic associate, the American University of Sharjah (AUS), which secures the conference will be supported by strong partners.

Alongside the report’s editors and authors, a host of experts attended the Oxford meeting, including Jassem Beshara, Director of the Training Center at the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Fuad Siala, Special Programs and Energy Poverty Consultant at OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Bill Farren-Price, CEO of Petroleum Policy Intelligence, Peter Stewart, Chief Energy Analyst at Interfax Europe, Richard Mallinson, Chieh Policy Analyst at Energy Aspects, Leila Dagher, Professor of Energy Economy at the American University of Beirut, Andrew James Cooke, Business Director for Renewables at Petrofac, and Cyrille Jabbour, Project Manager at Averda.

In his introductory statement, Saab explained that the report aims at helping to find answers to questions such as: What are the consequences of shifting global energy demand due to climate change? What are the prospects of developing Arab renewable energy and energy efficiency markets? What is the future of nuclear energy in Arab countries and what are the challenges? Are there adequate policies conducive to the private sector role in financing energy supply? Ultimately, Saab said, we need to know how oil and gas can support Arab sustainable future, and the transition to clean energy.

During five sessions, authors presented main findings of their chapters, followed by in-depth discussion with the participants. The report co-editor, Dr. Ibrahim Abdelgelil of Arabian Gulf University, presented his chapter on resilience of the energy sector to Climate Risk; Dr. Holger Rogner, former Head of Nuclear Planning at IAEA, discussed nuclear power option; Dr. Bassam Fattouh, Director of Oil and Middle East Program at OIES, talked about oil and beyond; Dr. Hakim Darbouche, Research Associate at OIES, discussed the role of gas in the transition to clean fuel; and the paper of Christine Lins, Executive Director of REN 21, covered status and prospects of renewable energy in the Arab region.

Authors and editors will be conducting the last revisions based on the discussions and comments received. Five other chapters were discussed in consultation meetings held in Amman, Kuwait and Manama. This will be the sixth annual report on the state of Arab environment produced by AFED since 2008. AFED reports have been applauded as the most credible source of information on environment in the Arab region. Policy makers, corporate executives and experts from around the world look forward to AFED’s annual conference, during which the report is released, as the most significant environment gathering in the Arab region.