DOHA, Qatar – The United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) has a new president, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah from Qatar, who took over from South Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the ongoing climate change conference in Qatar.
The 18th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, started on Monday November 26 and will run until December 07 at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar.
Al-Attiyah has identified climate change as a common challenge for humanity and said the conference was a golden opportunity to make the best use of it. He also emphasised Qatar’s continuing efforts as host country to foster an open, inclusive and transparent process.
“This is why we gather at the highest official levels in an international framework. This is our mission. If we do not make the changes we need to now, it will soon be too late. We must decide whether we let our lifestyles jeopardise our lives,” Al-Attiyah said.
Former COP president Nkoana-Mashabane, when handing the presidency to Al-Attiyah, said climate change is the most serious sustainable development challenge and nations cannot waver in their dedication to slow down climate change.
“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others,” she said, citing an African proverb highlighting the need for multilateral cooperation within the UNFCCC.
The UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres, who spoke at the opening ceremony in the plenary session, said the Doha COP is unique in its geo-political location, since it is the first time that it is held in the Gulf region. About 17 000 people have descended on the city of Doha from across the world to attend the conference.
COP 18/CMP8 will be environmentally friendly, because it will be the first UN Conference on Climate Change to implement the UN’s PaperSmart programme, whereby participants are provided with digital copies of documents, so that they print only the documents they need.
To cut down on traffic pollution, a fleet of buses shuttles delegates and other participants between hotels and the Qatar National Convention Centre, the Doha Exhibition Centre, as well as some of the city’s top tourist attractions. One hundred of the buses are running on gas-to-liquid fuel, a cleaner form of fuel. In addition there are two buses that run on compressed natural gas, as well as six hybrid buses that operate on a ‘green route’ between the convention centre and the Doha Exhibition Centre.
A Sustainability Expo highlights the green technology projects of local and international businesses, while a network of information pods is providing resources about climate change throughout Doha. Conference organisers have declared that the whole event will be carbon neutral and whatever carbon emissions are generated will be offset by investment in carbon reducing or absorbing projects.
Together, these and other initiatives intend to direct the attention of Qataris and visitors to the potentially dire consequences of climate change and the measures needed to fight it.
Like Namibia, as a coastal, dry land nation, Qatar is one of the 10 developing countries most affected by climate change through rising sea levels. But Namibia is more likely to be affected by floods and droughts.