Top polluter defends right to host climate talks

Last updated 08:59 27/11/2012

Qatar becomes the first Gulf country to host climate summit, although few feel the 200 participating nations will agree on meaningful strategy to tackle rising temperatures.

Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah speaks at the opening session of the United Nations Climate Change (COP18) Conference in Doha.
POLLUTION TALKS: Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah speaks at the opening session of the United Nations Climate Change (COP18) Conference in Doha.

Relevant offers


Dreamworld accident: victims' family furious with claims company 'reached out' Dreamworld accident: Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, shuts rapids ride 'White people should stay with white people!': vile message sent to Western Australian woman 'Not in the public interest': Farnells escape perjury charge over baby Gammy lie Wildlife populations plunge almost 60 per cent since 1970 -WWF Fake Germanwings relative guilty of fraud Could Dreamworld face same fate as world's abandoned theme parks? Helen urges Americans to learn from Britain's mistake and vote Ditch the tube and get a unicorn cab to work if you're in London Dreamworld accident: Theme park questions 'nature and timing' of union claims

Qatar has defended its right to host UN talks on slowing global warming even though its greenhouse gas output per capita is the highest in the world and it has made no pledge to cut it.

Qataris produce almost three times as many carbon emissions on average as Americans and campaigners attending the two-week talks among 200 nations which started overnight (NZ time) say the first Opec nation to host them is doing little to avert climate change other than provide a venue.

The Gulf state, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas with one of the highest per capital incomes, has yet to indicate it will set specific targets for emissions cuts.

"The problem with Qatar is that they have not proven they are taking climate change seriously," Climate Action Network Director Wael Hmaidan said. "Negotiators and governments are coming here not knowing where the Qataris stand."

Navigating divisions between developed and developing nations in terms of who should be responsible for emissions reductions will be a key challenge for the hosts, analysts say.

"Part of the reason Copenhagen was seen as a failure was because the Danish chairing of it was disastrous," a Doha-based analyst said, referring to a UN climate summit in 2009 in the Danish capital that fell short of a deal.

Qatar, with 1.8 million inhabitants - of which only about 250,000 are Qatari - says its emissions are small overall.

"Our CO2 comes mainly from the energy sector. I never believe in per-capita as a measure for distribution. I think it's calculated to show the small countries as the bad boys," former oil minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, presiding over the talks, told a news conference.

"I believe Qatar is a good place (for the conference). Other host countries produce coal," Attiyah said.

Coal emits roughly twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced as gas.


Qatar points to green efforts including a 90-per cent reduction in wasteful gas flaring from 2007 to 2011.

It recently said it would reduce its dependency on imported food by 60 per cent in 12 years, enabling it to meet two thirds of its food requirements. It is also building a US$1 billion plant to produce polysilicon, a material used in solar energy technologies that is expected to begin operating next year.

And it plans to build solar-powered air-conditioned stadiums for the 2022 Cup football tournament, which it will host. Attiyah said desert dust - that can cover solar panels - was an impediment for rolling out more solar power.

But in a region where fuel-guzzling SUVs fill the roads, air conditioning blasts 365 days a year and public transport is still in embryonic stages, the importance of climate change on the list of the country's priorities is questioned by many.

Led by a ruling family that does not shy away from taking controversial positions on world affairs, the tiny state in recent years has tried to cast itself as a diplomatic arbiter and peace broker, interceding in conflicts from Lebanon to Sudan, as well as backing revolutions in Libya and Syria.

Ad Feedback

Much of the impetus behind the country's pursuit of the limelight in the past decade is a wish to differentiate itself from regional neighbours - specifically Saudi Arabia, with which Qatar has had sporadically acrimonious relations for decades.

Saudi Arabia has sometimes in the past argued that Opec producers should receive compensation from developed nations if fighting climate change means less demand for its oil exports.

"The Qataris will have a range of issues to deal with. Historically, they've been close to the Saudi obstructionist line," said one Doha-based analyst, declining to be named.

- Reuters

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content