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As more than 17,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries converge in Doha for the historic two-week COP18/CMP8 summit being held at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), all eyes are on this country for two reasons. First, Doha is hosting a global conference once again. The current one is the largest this city has hosted with a galaxy of global leaders expected to descend here, and it will eloquently showcase Doha’s ability to organise such mega events. The newly built, state-of-the-art QNCC is sure to impress delegates who have embarked on the rigorous task of seeking solutions to the tough challenges facing global climate. The organisers also deserve credit for the meticulousness of their planning. This small city bore no signs of playing host to such a gargantuan number of delegates as normal life was unaffected.
The second reason for Doha being in the limelight has to do with the issue of climate change itself. There has been criticism of Qatar hosting the meet, being an emitter of more greenhouse gases per capita than any other nation. The conference provides an opportunity for the country to explain its stance, which the newly-elected President of the Conference H E Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah did yesterday. “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,” he said. Qatar is a small country with a tiny population of 1.8 million. As a country, the emission wouldn’t look so huge, but the practice of calculating it on per capita basis makes it so, and therefore needs to be reviewed.
The conference has tough challenges and the expectations are very high, though there are also doubts about possible progress. The Kyoto protocol is seen as the most important climate deal reached in the UN process so far. The first “commitment period” expires this year, and so delegates in Doha are will try to extend it as a stopgap arrangement until a comprehensive deal can be reached. The two-decade-old UN talks have not fulfilled their main objective: reducing greenhouse gas emissions which are warming the planet.
In the coming days, the negotiators will try intensely to arrive at some deal. Several key issues need to be resolved, including how to share the burden of emissions cuts between rich and poor nations. But that is unlikely to be decided in the current talks, where the focus is on extending the Kyoto protocol and try to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Doha will play its role as a wonderful host.