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Zayed Future Energy Prize winner Al Gore gives optimistic speech in Abu Dhabi

posted on 20/01/2015: 1875 views



Humanity can and will deal with the challenge of man-made climate change, the Nobel laureate and former US vice president Al Gore told an audience in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

"It is a rare privilege to live in an era where individuals can have so much meaning in their lives and so much leverage over the future of not just the next decade or century or even millennium,” Mr Gore said as he accepted the Zayed Future Energy Prize for lifetime achievement.

"Those of us who are privileged to be alive during this extraordinary period of time have the opportunity to make an impact on the future of human civilisation, to affect what fraction of the species with which we share this planet will survive this extinction spasm that is brought about by the activities that now need to be changed.”

One of the world's most vocal campaigners on climate change, Mr Gore was vice president under Bill Clinton and was behind the Oscar-winning climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006. A year later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Mr Gore was optimistic about a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases at a conference in Paris at the end of the year, and about humanity's overall ability to deal with the issue.

"The younger generation particularly, but people of all ages, are now really coming into a full awareness of the fact that we have to change,” he said.

"There really is only one other question beyond that one: ‘Can we change?' … and the answer to that is provided by the people who are up here on this stage,” he said, pointing to the other award winners.

Among them was Jesse Moore, managing director of M-Kopa Solar, a Kenyan company that enables people in Africa to use electricity derived from solar power, while eliminating high upfront infrastructure costs. Users instead pay a daily rate via mobile phones.

Mr Moore's company won the small and medium enterprise category of the award. "We have only been selling for a little over two years and yet we have connected 150,000 homes in East Africa to affordable solar power, which is cheaper than what they were spending on kerosene,” he said.

"So it is an environmental win, it is a win for those customers and it is a great investment for our shareholders.

"We now sell over 500 solar cells a day and the momentum that we will get from winning this prize carries us well beyond 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 cells a day.

"There are millions of homes just waiting for affordable renewable energy in East Africa and the wider continent.”

The company will use the prize money, US$1.5 million, to build a training academy for staff and sales agents so that it can grow faster, reaching more users.

The Future Energy Prize has an award fund of US$4 million, nearly Dh15m. Mr Gore received US$500,000 for his lifetime achievement award.

Other winners included Japan's Panasonic Corporation, which was first in the large corporation category, and Liter of Light, a non-profit organisation that provides free solar-powered light to homes in impoverished communities.

The prize also recognised the efforts of five high schools – Addu High School in the Maldives, Australia's Melbourne Girls' College in Australia, the Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland, Munro Academy in Canada and Petru Rares National College in Romania – which all received $100,000 each.

Launched and managed by the Abu Dhabi clean energy company, Masdar, the award honours the late founding father and President, Sheikh Zayed. It is part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which continues until January 22. – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/uae/zayed-future-energy-prize-winner-al-gore-gives-optimistic-speech-in-abu-dhabi

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