Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Before it even starts, Qatar climate conference generates controversy

Environmentalists claim that going to a Climate Conference in a member of OPEC headquarters is like asking Dracula to take care of the blood bank. When Qatar was chosen to host the UN negotiations on climate change, environmentalists' hairs were standing. Negotiations were already problematic, with few results at the last conference held in South Africa in 2011.

When Qatar was chosen to host the UN negotiations on climate change, environmentalists' hairs were standing. Negotiations were already problematic, with few results at the last conference held in South Africa in 2011. However, now the high-level discussions will take place in one of the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), who showed little interest in climate change and, moreover, chose a former oil minister to lead negotiations that begin.


"Non-governmental organizations have a mixture of feelings about it," said Wael Hmaidan, Lebanese activist and director of the Climate Action Ntwork. "Some are very concerned and think it's a sign that Qatar is not committed to the climate negotiations. Other people believe that it is an opportunity to have a debate about climate higher on the political agenda in the region," he said.


Activists also complain that Qatar has shown little leadership and are being very transparent to the host countries of previous conferences. A non-governmental organization that is making the most noise is the Avaaz, which states: "Having one of the leaders of OPEC in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to take charge of the blood bank." They are also criticizing the leadership of Qatar by also accepting a big oil conference in the same year that they host the climate conference.


Publicly, delegates have avoided criticizing. The leaders at the UN Climate Conference afiram that preparations are underway. "I'm not worried," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change. "We are very grateful to Qatar not only for having offered as they literally have fought for the opportunity and privilege to host the conference," she said.


Hosting the conference is part of the campaign to project the country as a power after winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup and curb uprisings in Syria and Libya.


The conference can also give the royal family of the country the opportunity to change the world's perception about the region, which in the past was concerned only with protecting its vast oil reserves.


Apparently, Qatar and its Gulf neighbors believe that this framework is outdated. The UAE supported the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by industrialized countries. They were also the first among the Gulf countries to sign the Copenhagen agreement in 2009.


Even Saudi Arabia, which once led the opposition on climate change negotiations to protect its oil production, began to agitate the team of negotiators.


"I describe Qatar as the epicenter of climate change. No water, no food. It is a barren desert," said Fahad Bin Mohammed al-Attiya, director of the committee that organizes the COP18 in Doha. "Any problem in the harvest season or productivity outside the Gulf will impact directly on our access to food ..," he said.


Both Qatar and the UAE are working to build green buildings. Qatar says it will have 20% of its energy in renewables by 2024, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates announced plans for huge investments in solar energy.


"We do not want to continue being seen as exporting barrels of oil or as a gas pipeline," said Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, CEO of Masdar's office and special envoy for energy and climate change UAE.


However, activists want to see more of that in the climate conversations conference. The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, said they should make voluntary targets to cut emissions, as did Mexico, which hosted the conference in 2010. The total emissions of Gulf countries are a fraction of the emissions of China and the United States, but stipulate a goal eventually to inspire other countries to take the same attitude.
Activists also claim that the Gulf countries should do more to cut fuel subsidies, which make gasoline in many countries cheaper than bottled water.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova
Pravda.Ru