Masdar City at MaRS: The business of zero carbon

Masdar City
Masdar City: City of the zero-carbon future

Start in the Abu Dhabi desert. Plan a new city for 40,000 residents and 50,000 commuters. Ban cars. Build sustainable transit. Recycle all waste. Grow food organically. Generate power from 100% renewable sources. Eliminate fossil fuels. Design the highest quality amenities. Reduce energy, water and material consumption. Create Masdar City – the world’s first zero-carbon city – before 2020.

This was the vision shared by members of the Masdar City team at last week’s business-to-business seminar held at MaRS. An attentive audience in Toronto was joined by participants in Edmonton and Vancouver via videoconference, indicating strong interprovincial interest.

The seminar – sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, MaRS and the Masdar City team – attracted nearly 70 cleantech suppliers, green technology leaders, government policy makers and sector funders.

Consider this: Abu Dhabi ranks first in per capita carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions, with a footprint nearly five times the world average. Its economy is based on oil. Yet, its vision is to become the world leader in renewable energy and sustainable technologies – a breathtaking and audacious goal.

With an estimated $22 billion for development, a partnership with MIT and a project roadmap that covers building design, energy generation, transportation, recycling and carbon offsetting, Masdar City is attracting serious attention on a global scale from suppliers of sustainability solutions.

At the seminar, a unique “green-dating” format gave cleantech suppliers and members of the Masdar team 20-minute, one-on-one business meetings to discuss potential collaboration. From all accounts, the Masdar City team and suppliers got good value from the exchange.

There were other positive signals. Participants heard about public policy, program and funding initiatives affecting cleantech firms. Ontario’s environmental protection legislation, Green Energy Act, feed-in tariff for renewable energy projects and incentives for energy-efficient consumption are being coordinated to create a more favorable climate for cleantech suppliers. At the same time, early-stage funding at the provincial and federal levels is making a difference, even though the sector as a whole needs much greater involvement from private institutions.

Importantly for Canada, creating trade opportunities is a key driver for encouraging innovation and growth in cleantech. The challenge, more broadly, is that the sector is not yet robust in the domestic market, a factor which limits the number of companies capable of vying for positions in global projects.

Masdar City has an unprecedented need for clean technology partners. And it has the financial capacity and commitment to tackle an immense project. This has resulted in its team having a refreshingly open approach to finding solutions – whether they come from big players or small.

It takes an inspiring vision, a massive deliverable – and huge rewards – to engage the world in transformation. The business of zero carbon in Masdar City may be a game changer.

Stay tuned.

To view seminar presentations go to