The Sahara Forest Project

Presenter: Dr. Patrick Brading

Dr. Patrick Brading is a Cultivation Coordinator for the Sahara Forest Project and holds a MSc and PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Essex and BSc in Zoology from the University of Nottingham. Dr. Brading has considerable international field experience. His research focuses on marine algal physiology and ecology, particularly in relation to the environmental control of photosynthesis, growth and productivity.

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Whale Shark Project

Presenter: Mohammed Al-Jaidah, Ministry of Environment

Mr. Mohammed Al-Jaidah is a Colonel in the Qatar Air Force. For the past 7 years he was seconded to the Ministry of Environment as head of Environmental Protection Department. In his position as marine specialist he advised the Minister and directed many special research project, including the Qatar Whale Shark project, a collaboration effort with Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre at QSTP. Mohammed helped identify, track and observe feeding habits of these fascinating creatures in the Arabian Gulf. He will share some research  findings and preservation efforts in his presentation.

Opportunities for the Sustainable Use of Camels in Qatar

Presenter:   Corby Elford, MFA Virginia Commonwealth University

Corby Elford recently completed her Masters in Fine Arts in Design Studies at Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy in Qatar. Corby promotes the use of unwanted and perceived low value resources which are readily available in Qatar, that would otherwise be wasted. ‘Opportunities for the Sustainable Use of the Camel in Qatar’ became the topic for her thesis research. Post graduation Corby continues to focus on creating a framework for a production line of a range of camel products and is exploring opportunities for commercialization.

Corby teaches two community classes at VCU; one about camel uses to raise awareness and on sustainable textiles. The purpose of these classes is to disseminate the knowledge gained through her research on animal husbandry in Qatar. The classes will serve to demonstrate the viability of sourcing local natural materials to sustainably produce a range of ‘cradle to cradle’ (Braungart, 2002) products.

Before moving into the field of Art and Design Education Corby began her career as a Graphic Designer and has over 20 years of expertise working in the UK, Kuwait and Qatar. She is now also working on completing a Masters in Art History.
This presentation will take the audience on a journey from conceptualization to the final outcome of the thesis design project from a design perspective.
Read the article from Qatar Tribune (5 March 2013).

Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation: A Well Hidden Secret In Qatar

Presenter: Dr. Tim Bouts, Director, Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation

Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, as Dr. Tim Bouts describes, as a “well hidden secret in Qatar” partly due to its remote location as well as wildlife preservation and conservation efforts in Qatar are relatively obscure.

Al Wabra, a 2.5 sq km conservation centre, started out as a hobby farm in the 1990s by Sheikh Saoud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al Thani, a Qatari national and hailed as one of the foremost art collectors in the world. The farm holds more than 480 cages, aviaries and enclosures. The animal collection includes 2006 animals of 90 different species. Many of the species are endangered and are managed through European Endangered Species programs (EEP) or regional and national species plans. These rare breeds live at the centre alongside the staff, who include vets, curators, biologists, wild animal keepers and their families.

The next step for Al Wabra is to increase public access so that the community can learn more about the important conservation work being carried out there.

About Tim Bouts
Tim Bouts works as the Director of the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, a breeding and conservation centre for endangered wildlife, and is actively involved in the reintroduction of spix’s macaws in the wild  in Qatar. 
Tim holds a Masters of Science degree in Wild Animal Health at the Royal Veterinary College in London and ZSL London Zoo. His undergraduate degree and first work experience stems from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Ghent, Belgium at the department of Surgery and Anesthesiology of large animals and also developed a new anesthetic table for Koi carps. 
He moved to South-West England to work at Duchy veterinary hospital in Newquay, Cornwall. This hospital was a referral centre for exotic pets. He also was the attending veterinarian for Newquay Zoo, The Cornish Bird of Prey Centre and Blue Reef Aquarium. 
In the United Arab Emirates he became the Head of Veterinary Department of the private collection of the UAE President (Management of Nature Conservation). He was also the chief vet in a private zoo specialized in breeding wild cats (e.g. cheetahs and clouded leopards). 
As the sole clinician at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Tim perfected his anesthesia skills in large herbivores (rhinoceroses and wild artiodactylids) where he lead research on elephant medicine including research into the lethal disease elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV).

Sustainable Development Initiatives in the Construction Sector

Presenter: Sheikha Athba Bint Thamer Al-Thani, QDVC

The building and construction sector is one of the key sectors for sustainable development, both in terms of the important benefits it contributes to society and the considerable negative impacts it may cause if appropriate considerations are not given to the entire life span of buildings.

“Everyone has to be involved in sustainable development,” stressed by Sheikha Athba as she starts her presentation on the sustainability initiatives that QDVC has been implementing in their various construction projects.

QDVC’s sustainable development policy is based on the definition of viable programmes and related key indicators. Socially, QDVC continues to implement an active recruitment policy, promoting equal opportunities to the community. Training programmes are made available to employees to challenge and improve their professional skills and personal development.

Sheikha Athba also presented the various community oriented projects initiated by QDVC which involved employees and their families, jointly with other community stakeholders.

On the environmental front, green practices are observed in the office and on site as well as in the supply chain. Here is an interesting video of QDVC’s green building practices applied in Lusail Light Rail Transit Project.



About Sheikha Athba Bint Thamer Al-Thani

Sheikha Athba Bint Thamer Al-Thani is the Chief Support Services and Sustainable Development Manager at QDVC. She was born in Qatar and studied science and art and graduated with Honors from Qatar University. She also studied carbon reduction and measurement in the United Kingdom.

Sheikha Athba joined QDVC in June 2010 to head the Sustainable Development Team. Sustainable Development is new to Qatar and therefore presented the right time for her to tackle the challenge, doing something for her country and the planet. Waste reduction was already a message she taught at schools to a younger generation and now she has the opportunity to raise awareness on a much bigger scale, for the whole population of Qatar.

Since 2012, she also assume responsibilities as the Chief Support Services Officer at QDVC and manages Human Resources, Health, safety and Environment, Sustainable Development and IT.

Sheikha Athba is currently preparing for the Masters in Business Administration.


Day 12 at the COP18/CMP8

288 hours to rewrite our climate legacy?

Conclusion of 288 hours?

It’s officially the last day of the UN climate talks in Qatar, where about 200 countries have spent the past fortnight working to agree the next steps to a future climate treaty to be clinched in 2015.

However, we have been hearing that a final agreement is not expected until Saturday, perhaps around noon.

To refresh my memory, I went through my notes during the Civil Society Capacity Building Workshop held in October 2012 facilitated by the Climate Action Network International Director, Wael Hmaidan, and to see where the negotiations are at now.

Here are the four key areas that officials are working to agree on:

  1. A continuation of the Kyoto protocol, the only existing legal international treaty for cutting emissions, by the EU, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia
  2. An end to the “twin track” negotiating process that the talks have operated under for several years – the “Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA)” and the Kyoto protocol group
  3. Principles around climate finance to see money transferred from rich to poor countries, though specific numbers are not expected
  4. Most crucially, a roadmap to a legal climate treaty to make all the countries in the talk cut emissions, to be agreed by 2015 and come into effect by 2020.

As of this writing, I am still not sure whether we, with NGO badges, can still enter the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) premises tomorrow (8 December 2012). According to a casual talk with Mr. Hmaidan, “we could still enter.” Nevertheless, there were announcements that Park n Ride and bus services to and from hotels will be extended until Sunday, 9 December 2012.

I wanted to listen to the President’s Informal Stock Taking happening at 1300 but was cancelled and moved to 1800 later today. The app on my iPhone was apparently not updated so was checking on TV screens for side events updates.


Sing for the Climate bracelet worn by youth activists.

Sing For the Climate

Maman, the huge steel spider occupying the central location of QNCC, apparently seems to be where a lot of civil action takes place, we were told that a flashmob is going to take place at 1230, so my fellow delegates from Qatar Sustainability Network (QSN) moved to have a “strategic” position before the flashmob commences. Well, we tried but the media were already in their places.

The flashmob protested at the lack of ambition shown by negotiators from the 194 countries present in Doha by singing a song by Sing For The Climate group based in Belgium entitled “Do It Now – Bella Ciao.” It is indeed a welcome bit of drama from the civil society. Check out the video below.


One Degree of Separation – Sort of

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being interviewed by the media

There are some informal theory by Doha residents that the degree of separation is only two but being inside the QNCC premises shortens it to one or so it seems. Got a chance to be two feet away from Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being interviewed by the media. We requested her PA for a photo op but was told to wait until her interviews are over – there were 2 more. We never had a chance as we got caught up with chatting and checking on updates with other fellow QSN delegates.


Qatar NGOs’ Role

As my first COP experience is coming to an end, the feeling of empowerment is overwhelming. As a delegate for SustainableQatar for this important conference I was able to wear my activist hat. As the only Filipino delegate as well, under the Qatar-based NGO umbrella, QSN, it is a consuming privilege to be on board and witness the steps being taken by the host country.

Rich Qatar, together with other developed countries, being pressured to come up with ways to help developing countries cope with climate change, through its young and new NGO delegation, is a  proof, albeit indirectly, that the country is working on it, and ultimately, towards a just and equitable outcome to COP18 and a sustainable Qatar and planet.

Click on the photos for a slideshow.


Day 11 at the COP18/CMP8

Liz Gallagher of E3G, Steve Herz of Sierra Club (2nd to the right) and Wael Hmaidan of CAN International (right)

I was early today at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) to catch up with fellow delegates as well as to listen to Climate Action Network (CAN) International’s Press Briefing on Non-Governmental Response to Negotiations. Another way to get a summary and impressions on the negotiations aside from the Stock Taking Plenary (happening tonight at 1800 chaired by the COP18 President, H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah) and hear it from dedicated NGOs through CAN who currently have an Arab (Lebanon) as its Director.

Liz Gallagher, senior policy from E3G, started “it’s fairly usual at this point of the COP for things to be a little chaotic. We are coming to a tipping point, nobody is driving the process and nobody is leading.” Even fears a “zombie outcome” for the Doha climate talks. The Long-term Cooperative Act (LCA) was described as a “mess and been taken hostage by the U.S., particularly on finance.”

As Steve Herz from the Sierra Club stressed that the US is blocking the negotiations in the long-term finance work program. Furthermore, “the LCA is closing that’s been where the main finance conversation have been taking place about scaling up assistance to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation….so there are a number of issues that need to be resolved to move forward toward a new regime.”

Wael Hmaidan, CAN International Director, noted that “the Arab leadership has failed us so far,” however, with two full days more in the negotiations, they are optimistic for pledges, bring spirits up, and help raise the ambition gap.


In Wake of Bopha

A photo grabbed from a video clip of emotional Saño.

Yesterday, an intense and uncharacteristic typhoon slammed into an island Mindanao, south of the Philippines, but still not sure as of this writing on the damage it has put again to my highly vulnerable country. I missed the plenary, nevertheless, able to watch it online and saw a senior diplomat breaks down in public. Was it a signal that other countries must pay attention? It happens rarely, but can it have a dramatic effect?

Naderev “Yeb” Saño, the lead negotiator for the Philippines delegation in Doha and the commissioner of the Philippines Climate Change Commission concluded his emotional plea:

“I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around.

Please, let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want.

I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”


Optimism is the Drive

Still a day or two towards the closing of this conference and having a roller coaster ride with my emotions – high, down, sideways – maybe due to my first ever COP, upcoming Christmas holidays with my family, Qatar Sustainability Network and SustainableQatar, whatever it is, I am optimistic that these climate talks will yield to the results we all want to achieve for the current and especially for the coming generations.

And, yes, I believe that Qatar will do its best to be remembered as the conference where it demonstrated a lead role in climate negotiations. They. Just. Will….and that is exactly why we (SustainableQatar and QSN) are here, too!


NB: For those of who cannot enter the QNCC premises but wish to watch open sessions, visit the UNFCCC site.