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Sun 15 Jul 2007 12:00 AM

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Change the tune

James Bennett says he was distinctly unimpressed with Live Earth - "the concerts for a climate in crisis".

I'm not sure about you, but I was distinctly unimpressed with Live Earth - "the concerts for a climate in crisis" - the supposedly global seven-continent musical event held last week with the aim of triggering a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Perhaps my indifferent mood was made all the greater by not a single event being held in the Middle East, little television coverage being aired and none of the countries even hinting any interest to the event whatsoever.

New York, London, Johannesburg, Rio, Shanghai, Tokyo, all huge cities, but then came Hamburg; yes, you heard me correctly, Hamburg. The city where burgers originate from managed to sneak onto the menu. But where were the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan even? These countries hold massive multi-national events every year, hundreds of major business conferences, the Asian Games, Formula One motorsport, and attract millions of tourists from around the world, so what ever happened to the Middle East caring about the climate?

We all know that the region as a whole has one of the largest carbon emission footprints on the planet. Millions of cars billow out tonnes of toxic emissions on dusty roads everyday of the week; scores of mega malls, offices and luxury hotels pump out air conditioning from vast units 24 hours a day; millions of gallons of water is desalinated to keep the population clean and healthy; and commercial airlines, as well as private high net worth individuals, are buying hundreds of new airliners and jets. Fair enough, cities are growing, populations are rising and so are the number of visitors - and for this regional cities and governments should be commended, however, with the rest of the globe turning its attention to climate change, the Middle East must follow suit or be left behind.

Slowly but surely, the region is reacting and looking further afield than simply relying on the ever-increasing price of black gold. This might not be on the scale of hosting a series of international concerts (which in itself created a massive carbon footprint), but it has plans for some major developments that will see it inject some well overdue eco-friendliness into the way we live and behave in the Middle East.

Wind turbines, solar power, alternative energy and green building regulations are being planned and in some cases implemented in projects including Green City in Abu Dhabi; Dubai's Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), and London-listed company EcoSecurities have signed a deal in an attempt to make Dubai the regional centre for trading carbon offsets - in essence trading greenhouse gas emissions permits; while, the emirate of Qatar is aiming to slash its reliance on oil and gas to 25% by 2015 and to reduce this to zero reliance five years later in 2020.

One step at a time though - should there be another similar event, let's try and at least pip Hamburg to the post of being a Live Earth concert destination. That's the least we can do.

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