Countries should prioritise sustainable energy in spite of the global economic downturn, according to business and political leaders from the UAE and China.

In his opening address at the World Future Energy Summit on 16 January, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), said that while countries must define their priorities and cut spending, “every credible rescue package has to include sustainability [spending]”.

“Incentive schemes must be deployed for renewable energy,” said Al-Jaber, “[and governments] must ensure that it makes strategic and commercial sense [to invest].”

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao similarly cited the need to invest in renewable energy as a way to achieve economic stability in his address. “[It] is essential for world economic prosperity,” he said.

According to Wen, 80GW of coal-fired electricity generating capacity has already been taken off the Chinese grid and labour has been shifted to building up renewable energy. By the end of 2011, China had 200GW of hydropower in operation as well as 47GW of wind power and 3GW of solar power.

This demonstrates the country’s commitment to a move to clean power, according to Wen, and he urged countries in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region to take advantage of their advantageous renewable natural resources.