Abu Dhabi will host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), participants said on Monday, despite criticism of its high carbon footprint."Abu Dhabi has won the seat of the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency after voting took place today on Monday in (Egypt's Red Sea resort of) Sharm el-Sheikh," the Egyptian official MENA agency said.The European cities of Bonn and Vienna withdrew their candidacy shortly before Abu Dhabi was chosen, one participant with the UAE delegation told AFP."Yes they withdrew their candidacies," a member of a Western delegation told AFP, adding that South Korea and Japan were displeased with how the decision came about.
"It was no longer a vote, Abu Dhabi was the only choice on the table," the delegate said.But the United States welcomed the choice of Abu Dhabi as "an excellent one.""It is also complementary that Germany and Austria stepped aside," Reno Harnish, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, told AFP.He added that an IRENA "innovation centre" would be located in Bonn and a liaison office in Vienna.The United States along with Japan and Australia signed onto IRENA shortly before the meetings began. "This is the first international organisation that the US is signing onto in many decades," Harnish said.The result came after intense lobbying by the UAE delegation following complaints that Abu Dhabi has the largest per capita carbon footprint in the world."Seven ministers from the Emirates participated in the conference in a notable effort to achieve a high proportion of the votes," MENA said.Delegates were still scheduled to vote for a secretary general.The UAE has insisted that it had every right to host the agency."Many see that there is a contradiction between us being one of the largest oil exporters in the world and our seeking to house the agency," Reem al-Hashemi, a state minister, told AFP in an interview last week."On the contrary, this confirms the commitment of a fossil fuel exporter to the enhancement of renewable energy. Since we export energy, we want to export all kinds of it," she added."The UAE is committed to environmental issues in the first place."The Gulf Arab states in the world's top oil exporting region have witnessed an economic boom as the oil price rallied over six years to an all-time high of 147 dollars per barrel in July 2008.The UAE has proposed to locate IRENA's headquarters in Masdar, a 22 billion-dollar city near Abu Dhabi that will have zero carbon emissions. It is scheduled for completion in 2015 with a capacity to house up to 50,000 people.It has vowed to offer loans worth 50 million dollars annually through the Abu Dhabi Fund For Development to promote the use of renewable energy in developing countries.Abu Dhabi said in January that renewable energy sources will make up seven percent of its total energy production by 2020.Representatives from 129 countries were gathered for IRENA's first working meeting.The agency, which was launched in Bonn in January, will advise governments on technical and financial issues linked to renewable energy and promote such technology in developing countries