Echoes from Durban: Qatar to host the next Climate summit in 2012

Echoes from Durban: Qatar to host the next Climate summit in 2012

By Elodie Jacquet

November 30, 2011

Yesterday, the UN officially announced that Doha, the capital of tiny petro-state Qatar, will be the host of the next COP summit in 2012.

Qatar was competing with South Korea. Now how do these two countries compare? On one hand, South Korea has a population of 48.8 million people who emit 10.6 tons of CO2 annually per capita. South Korea is also a vocal advocate of policies in favour of a low-carbon economy and has invested massively in green industries all the while trying to reduce its current GHG emissions.

Qatar on other hand has a smaller population of 1.67 million people but boasts the largest per capita emissions of CO2 in the world with 53.4 tons annually per person (about three times the emissions of an average American). Similarly to Canada, Qatar is a big producer of oil and natural gas, it has some of the largest reserves of fossil fuels in the area. So how did Qatar win the honour of hosting the next COP summit?

A climate expert in Durban was quoted saying:

These considerations are financial and diplomatic and not ecological. Qatar has been lobbying actively to host the summit. It is a country which has large capacity and large financial liquidity. It can afford a COP as well as a football team.

I’m not quite sure as to why being able to afford soccer teams and world soccer cups makes you fit to host a climate summit but it seems like petrodollars can still buy pretty much anything. Or is it that the prospect of air-conditioned luxury suites in Doha was way too appealing in these times of rising temperatures?

In the defense of Qatar, according to Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the country has committed to lowering its GHG emissions and investing in developing countries, in particular island states, to help them mitigate the effects of climate change. Well that’s a relief…

South Korea may not be the poster-boy for climate solutions, but their approach and their commitment seem to be ahead of those of Qatar. When hosting talks about the realities of global climate change, do we really want to favour countries that cling to their rapidly declining oil reserves rather than countries that are massively investing in the future of clean technologies?

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