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DOHA, Qatar – This oil- and gas-rich country, reputed to be one of the world‘s highest carbon emitters per capita, has shrugged off criticism on whether it is the best place to discuss solutions to climate change and help nations adapt to the changing climate.
At the start of the annual UN-backed climate talks on Monday attended by delegates from 194 nations, former Qatari oil minister Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said the new round of talks is “a golden opportunity” for countries to address climate change, and that Doha is the right choice to host the climate talks.
“I think Qatar is the right place to host the conference. I never believe in per-capita (emissions). We should not concentrate on the per capita, we should concentrate on the amount from each country,” said Al-Attiyah, who was also designated president of the conference under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He added that “gas is the right choice to reduce emissions.”
Qatar signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but, as a developing country, it does not have fixed emission reduction targets and has yet to indicate specific targets.
“Various sectors are worried on holding the climate change negotiations in Doha as it has not been engaged in climate change negotiations. But others found it an opportunity to level up climate debate in the political agenda,” Wael Humaidan, director of the Climate Action Network, said.
As the talks move forward, governments are expected to highlight the need for urgent action to avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change and redouble efforts to reach a global deal on curbing carbon emissions.
“Climate change is a challenge for all humanity, so we have to deploy serious efforts to mitigate its effects and secure a better future for us and for future generations. We have a precious opportunity over the coming days and we must make full use of it,” Al-Attiyah stressed.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), hopes that the conference will lead to strong commitments and actions among countries.
“Experts consistently say that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay,” Figueres said. “In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever. But the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution.”
Among the contentious issues being discussed is to ensure the seamless continuation of the world’s only legally binding deal for curbing carbon emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period expires this year. Under this agreement, developed countries are to commit to an average five percent greenhouse gas emission from 1990 levels.
Countries are also expected to reach a consensus on how to mobilize long-term finance to support mitigation and adaptation measures in poorer countries with about $100 billion a year by 2020.
Civil society organizations have expressed increasing concern that the climate talks come at a crucial year for the UN process to be able to yield a global, science-based, and legally binding agreement on climate change from now until 2020.
Aksyon Klima Pilipinas national coordinator Rowena Bolinas said the new round of climate talks will “define the very survival of the country.”
“We are already headed towards food and environmental crises. If we do not do enough, we will not be able to deal with the impacts of the changing climate,” Bolinas stressed.
“There is a widespread concern that the emission targets for developed countries will in fact represent no new action, and that climate finance goals will not be set. Also, the rules governing accounting of emissions will be weakened,” said Meena Raman, negotiations expert at the Third World Network.
Asad Rehman, head of the International Climate at the Friends of the Earth, said: “The conference represents a choice between action now or a decade of delay, locking in potentially irreversible changes to the Earth’s natural systems and devastation for vulnerable people everywhere.”