Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Thousands Descend on Doha for Global Climate Conference
The UN Climate Change Conference kicked off today at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar. Informally dubbed COP18/CMP8, the conference will last two weeks and attempt to assess progress in climate-change policy while creating a platform for the parties involved to adopt resolutions.
Thousands of delegates, experts and journalists from over 190 countries have descended upon Qatar, a country that is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change. Qatar is one of the 10 countries predicted to be most affected by a rising sea, and the country is nearly 100 per cent dependent on the sea for its water.
In another sense, Qatar is an odd choice to host a global climate change conference. The country, with a total area of less than 4,500 square miles, is home to over 15 per cent of Earth's proven gas reserves. Doha, the capital city, sports the largest carbon footprint per person in the entire world.
"As a developing country Qatar does not have fixed emission reduction targets, nor has it made any voluntary pledge to cut emissions," wrote The Telegraph's Louise Gray. "There will be pressure on Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries to announce targets during the UN meeting."
Despite its economic reliance on fossil fuels, Qataris claim that they have begun to wean themselves off of oil and gas.
"We are taking serious steps to reducing our own carbon footprint while dedicating unprecedented resources to research and technology that promise to shape an even better future for those who call Qatar home," wrote Fahad Al-Attiyah, chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Programme, in a recent op-ed.
The Qatari General Secretariat for Development Planning has created the Qatar National Vision 2030, which seeks to create legal structures and institutions for combatting climate change while promoting environmental awareness among the population.
The conference's 17,000 attendees include representatives from Greenpeace, one of the world's leading environmental NGOs. Greenpeace is attending the conference to push for much more drastic climate action from world governments, especially as the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding cap of greenhouse gas emissions, is set to expire at the end of this year.
"Climate change is no longer some distant threat for the future, but is with us today," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Martin Kaiser. "At the end of a year that has seen the impacts of climate change devastate homes and families around the world, the need for action is obvious and urgent."
Greenpeace will demand that the conference produce a new legally binding resolution that will call for much sharper reductions in carbon emissions. "The world's energy economy is not just going in the wrong direction, it is accelerating in the wrong direction," added Kaiser.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has also sent a delegation to Doha to push for stronger action from governments on addressing climate change.
"The global effort has to be a fair, shared effort if we are to get anywhere near the level of trust required to make progress," said Tasneem Essop, head of the WWF delegation. "In our view, this can make or break progress towards finalizing a new global agreement by 2015."
Image credit: Joi Ito, Flickr