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Doha – the attitude gap between rich and poor nations, on climate change

climate-changeDoha Dispatches: Mind the gap… and the science REneweconomy, By  3 December 2012 DOHA: The first slogan to greet arrivals at Doha Airport in Qatar are as optimistic as those that greeted delegates to the climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009: “Welcome to 12 days that could have an everlasting effect,” it pronounces.

Not real catchy, and possibly a direct translation from Arabic. But worthy all the same. Sadly, judging by the lack of ambition, and the lack of progress of these talks, it’s not a likely outcome.

The second thing that attracted my attention on arrival were two payment booths at the exit of the parking lot. Barely big enough for one person to sit inside, they were each equipped with their own 1kW air conditioning system with a large hose attached, like a deep-sea diver with an oxygen supply.

They probably need it. Doha is a city that thrives because of its fossil fuel riches and it has built a western city of stunning shapes and proportions only because it is air conditioned. It has even promised to air condition the World Cup, which it aims to host in 2022 and will have to do exactly that if the competition is to run in the northern summer, where temperatures average 36°C from June to August and have peaked at 53°C, and could hit goodness-knows-what in a decade’s time. (Even the sea-water reached 37°C in 2008).

Qatar is one of a handful of Gulf states that deprives Australia of a most unwanted moniker – the highest emitting state in the world per capita. Australia gets the gong for the category of developed nations, but even it can’t compete with Qatar. Humankind would need more than two planets if the world lived like Australians do. If they lived like the Qataris – the massive buildings, the labyrinth of four lane highways that seem always often clogged, what must be the highest per capita penetration of Toyota Land Cruisers, and its need to desalinate its water – then we would need around five planets.

Apart from high emissions per capita, Australia has a few other things in common with Qatar. Both are making efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions – Australia has its carbon price, a 5 per cent emissions reduction target and a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. Qatar has a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, and has plans to build a major polysilicon plant to supply the global solar PV industry.

And finally both countries are competing – sometimes in football tournaments, but principally to export as many fossil fuels to international markets as they can. Qatar is currently the biggest exporter of LNG, and Australia is trying to knock it off its perch. And Australia wants to export enough coal to make any reductions elsewhere meaningless.

And therein lies the problem. Another less prominent slogan at these talks is “Not above 2°C”. But the host country and Australia – the developed nation that some would argue has done the most in the past 12 months to push climate policies – are in a rush to exploit what the science says is unexploitable. And so is the rest of the world.Numerous studies in the past few weeks have reinforced the direction in which the world is heading. The International Energy Agency spelled it out in the clearest of terms – if the world wants to match its climate change rhetoric and limit average global warming to a maximum 2°C, then it will have to leave two-thirds of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels in the ground. The difficulty is that countries like Australia and Qatar – as well as the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers of the world, and listed companies worth trillions of dollars – measure a vast part of their wealth by the value of the things they have not yet dug up.

Here in Doha, however, the difference between urgency of the need to act, and the inertia of international climate change negotiations has never been so marked, and neither has the gap in expectations between the developed and the developing world, particularly the poorer and more vulnerable nations.

Surprise has been expressed at the rising tensions in these talks, which the developed world had presumed would be merely procedural, tying up loose ends from the messy negotiations at Durban and Cancun so that a path could be cleared to an agreement forged by 2015, for a binding global treaty to come into force by 2020. Of course, this does not come anywhere close to the science. For the most vulnerable countries, as the Greens would say, it threatens to lock in failure, and the developed world appears to have completely misread the mood of its negotiating partners……. http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/doha-dispatches-mind-the-gap-and-the-science-47167

December 3, 2012 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change

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