Small Steps, Big Difference

Focus: STRATEGIES

The creators of small-scale environmental initiatives are increasingly turning to private investors and philanthropists to finance their projects, writes Tony Glover of The National.

Although major multibillion-dollar sustainable energy projects such as Abu Dhabi's Masdar City are in the ecological limelight, the green movement believes that the future lies in grassroots initiatives powered by small, private investors.

"We see small investors and the private sector in general playing an increasingly important role in sustainable development," says Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the United States Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

"One of GGGI's three main pillars is encouraging and fostering public-private cooperation. We often say that domestic and external private sources of finance are the missing link in infrastructure and climate finance."

This philosophy is already starting to take hold in countries such as the UAE, which last year became a GGGI partner.

"As the Middle East becomes a more important investment region, we expect to see sustainable investment opportunities grow. There are a growing number of sustainable investment initiatives in the UAE," Sullivan says.

"Sustainability" has become the green movement's watchword, and it means more than governments and large corporations paying lip-service to conservation. It also means changing attitudes towards energy use and environmental protection not only in the minds of today's consumers, but also in those of their children.

Many of today's green initiatives are aimed at changing attitudes. Hashim Al Sada, a Qatari entrepreneur, has created a clean-energy alternative to the traditional fuels that provide power for camping in the desert.

Like many Gulf residents, Qataris like to take modern, power-hungry conveniences—air conditioning, refrigerators, and televisions—with them when camping in the desert.