Today, world leaders call for urgent global action at the opening of the High Level Segment of the conference. Of course, I was not there but on the way to the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), I figured that there will be VVIP/VIP are in the conference premises as the main road leading to QNCC was blocked and motorists were waved to take an alternate route. Took me half an hour to reach Gate 2 for the Park n Ride.
I headed to Hall 4 to meet another delegate to catch up and bumped into Soham Baba. I missed his presentation but felt fortunate to have a photo op with him. I think this is the highest level I could get for the day.
Went to the bloggers area and enjoyed the free high-speed wifi and checked out the tweets and updates on the high level ceremony.
Fortunately, the COP18/CMP8 website provides free to use photos to be downloaded and shared.
In an online report, it said that the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said even though he had no means to compel member states to meet commitments, he would “morally” compel them, in particular developed countries to meet the commitment.
When it was announced that we could collect our badges for the COP18 at Sheraton Hotel a week before the conference, I was in the airport heading to Muscat. So I was really curious of how the badge would look like and since it is my first COP ever I was excited to get hold of them. Our president even kid that I could only claim it by then – so imagine, my “desire” to see and have them!
In the bus to the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) today, I was looking at those badges in different colors worn by those who could enter the conference building. There were grey, pink, green, blue, orange and yellow. Mine was yellow that represents non-government organizations (NGOs). Pink are for the delegate of country negotiation group, orange for the press/media, green for scientists and experts, and grey/blue are the technical staff.
Within an hour in the QNCC I was lucky to meet some nice folks and took a photo of their badges.
Side Event: President’s Stock Taking Plenary
When I first walked into the Qatar National Convention Center(QNCC) I had a picture in my mind on how the conference would be. I imagined delegates in suits and laptops bags speeding around, chatting with their colleagues, press/media folks conducting interviews left and right. I envisioned a lucid and taut atmosphere. This image quickly dissolved as I experienced the conference and looked for the hall where the Stock Taking Plenary is going to be held. With the overwhelming side events happening simultaneously, it was really cool to have the COP18/CMP8 app on my phone to be updated on what is happening and where.
I chose to listen to the stock taking plenary chaired by the COP18 President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah and Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), it would be a great summary of what I missed in the first week of the conference.
“Will it turn into fireworks,” I asked to myself and got lost in between when acronyms were used. Nevertheless, it seems that there will be a second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol. This is good. It was stressed by several countries that “we should not lose the progress in Kyoto.”
Bolivia expressed concern and said “some parties [countries] are more in the means and not the goals.”
Venezuela indicated “to make decisions now” and “there is no need to revisit commitments but to do them and commit.”
Bangladesh, a vulnerable country, raised ” we need more ambitions and be more courageous.”
Nicaragua argued, “we need a goal and not commitment…the two degree target is practically lost.” They called for avoiding a “lost decade for climate finance,” noting the lack of a road map to achieve the 2020 goal for finance.
Nauru said that finance was the missing element in Durban and it should not be a “take it or leave it text” and concerned about the extremely slow progress.
COP President Al-Attiyah urged parties to continue their efforts to find solutions to the various issues, so as to complete work by Friday. He confirmed that stock taking will be a regular exercise and hoping that interventions (country statements) will be limited to 3 minutes. The next stock taking is slated on December 5, 2012.
Kyoto Protocol in my head
Driving home, I was happy to experience the live action which I learned in grad school. Fulfilling, indeed.
With all these and coming from a non-Annex 1 country who are seriously affected and suffering with climate change, I have to be optimistic that even with our (developing countries) moral arguments we could take effective action. Insha Allah!
Today I explored the Qatar Sustainability EXPO at the Doha Exhibition Center (DEC).
The most striking exhibit was the “Suicide Penguin” by Taiwanese eco-artist Vincent J.F Huang. He represents the voice of the animal in the climate change negotiations who can not defend themselves. And, ironically, one of the smallest countries and the world and the least CO2 emitters, will be one of the first ‘victims’ of climate change.
There were also Qatari grown vegetables on display. I frequently buy my winter vegetables direct at the Arabic Qatari Agricultural Production Company for years and can confirm that Qatari grown food tastes great.
There was a also small booth chuck full of bold innovations. Dr. Isam Sidiq, of The Forgotten Food, turned traditional knowledge into food innovations that are more complicated to understand but with a massive potential. Sap, sustainable harvested from two special types of the Acacia tree family, is turned into a prebiotic drinking powder, similar to cool-aide, that supplies food for the good bacteria to maintain a healthy body. His motto is “Prevention with PreBiotic is better than Cure with Anti Biotic”. In the same booth, Ibrahim Alalim told me about his invention of Polykem, a polymer based soil amendment that will retain water and boost growth by an incredible rate. A third inventor, Khaled Al Dhyaei presented his ideas about replacing plastic seating (ie in stadiums) with 100% natural materials. All worth checking into.
Noor Al-Thani and Khalid with Doha Oasis were on hand to answer any inquiries about local civil society and environmental engagement and education.
The most contradicting of the day was the Saudi stand: “Managing emissions for all the right reasons” displayed the longest SUV I have seen to date. But I did my part to peddle away some emissions while creating artwork instead at the EcoQ booth.
The Hybrid Eco-car and some electric cars were also on display. The Qatari cultural performance was a welcome closing to a busy and bustling day day at the Qatar Sustainability Expo.
The Qatar National Convention Center was very busy today, Friday. I discovered flexible and innovative and comfortable furnitures – made of cardboard. They were popular and in heavy use. Check out all the pictures.
COP18/CMP8 President, His Excellency Mr. Abdullah Al-Attiyah had invited to an Open Dialog with Civil Society. The 1 1/2 hour dialog was the longest with Civil Society to be held at a COP conference. The president spoke from his heart when he pledged to strengthen relationships with NGOs. His expectations of the conference are to deliver a successful conference, the first COP in the Middle East, that delivers direct results for the public.
The environmental NGOs acknowledged and recognized that Qatar has shown great courage to host COP18 but also expressed the hope that Qatar will make a pledge toward emission reductions. The president mentioned that a national plan and strategy is already under way to produce desalinated water with renewables by end of 2013 with a longer-term plan to be delivered then. He said that Qatar needs to facilitate a marriage between the energy sector and the environment but acknowledged that a marriage can not be forced. Qatar is an energy country. Energy is Qatar’s resource. It’s a gift of god and we need to protect this country to live in this country. Nobody wants to go back to 1950s when there were no public schools in Qatar and 30% of women died in child labor.
There was great enthusiasm to the question about traditional knowledge by the indigenous people NGOs. Traditional knowledge lives with us and is not something of the past. Some problems of today exist because we did not take wisdom from the past and applied it. Traditional knowledge was cascaded from generation to generation, has served communities, and must be considered for future as well.
Some top negotiators have expressed great concern over the lack of urgency to combat climate change and suggested that it is often small countries that are most innovative and move quickly to overcome hurdles. What is Qatar’s COP18 Legacy plan? HE Al-Attiyah responded that Qatar has already shown ways to move fast as the only country with a woman president of a major university (referring to Dr. Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, President of Qatar University) but made no further promises.
I dared to ask whether the beautiful recycling bins and smooth bus transportation system can be put to use in Qatar post COP18. His staff later confirmed that a nation wide recycling program was launched in Qatar with the installation of bins in front of the Ministry of Environment and will be expanded on at major drop of points shortly. Fingers crossed.
Regarding private public partnerships, he mentioned that an independent power purchase program is in consideration to feed energy from renewable sources into the grid but also acknowledged that there is great potential when the current level of uncertainty can be overcome.
Next, I went to a discussion on the Role of Bamboo and Rattan for Carbon Sequestration. Bamboo, the fastest growing plant (1m/day up to 40m in 2 months), produces biomass and is of interest for carbon sequestration at comparable levels to other forests. There are 25-50 Mill hectare of bamboo forests worldwide (Asia, Africa and South America) with over 1,200 species. Bamboo regrows after it is cut every 5 years and used as timber in building and construction industry, supporting a wide bamboo industry. China Green Carbon Fund offers carbon credits.
One week into the conference, I am really excited to be part of it and about the potential for immediate impact in Qatar. There is will and sincerity. However, after all the meetings and little sleep I feel a bit cross-eyed. DOHA2012 – UN Climate Change Conference morphed into DOHA2012 – ULTIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE when I passed by the display screens tonight…. perhaps that’s where SustainableQatar and Qatar Sustainability Network come in, helping to make COP18 the ‘ultimate change’ conference. Our constituency is ready.
It is refreshing to see the amount of Qatari’s participating in COP18 at the QNCC with such great interest and reporting about it. Really reassuring.
I arrived at the conference at 7 pm today, and briefly peaked into two panel discussions:
“Green Economy and global climate change risks: Challenges and Opportunities” which discussed green economy as the pathway to sustainability and the overlooked risks in developing countries because of the lack of sciences and technology capacity from the perspective of China’s experience. The graph below shows the relationship and direct link between GDP growth and carbon emission increase. Data are displayed from Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) and include carbon emissions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation” – the panel discussion debated the cost of technology and concluded that the future cost and performance improvements of renewable energy and other mitigation options will remain unknown… don’t say!
Other discoveries and observations:
– The Eco Store has some pretty funky eco gadgets, including several solar powered chargers.
– The design of the Information Stand is fun and innovative. It proudly states: “This Pod is going to be recycled post event”. It looked as if it was made from recycled packing pallets but smelled of freshly cut wood. A bit of a let down, but great idea. Next time!
What stuck me today as amazing was how orderly transportation arrangements functions. There were lots of dedicated local volunteers to assist in the effort. It was heartwarming to watch how the rest of the world seems to contently stand in line to board a bus. Beautiful! The bus service may be another building block for a successful COP18 Legacy here in Doha. Hopefully these busses will be kept in operation to serve the Qatar community to further reduce transportation related carbon emissions more permanently.
In contrast, the hot, smelly and carbon emitting diesel generated flood lights around the bus parking offer opportunities for improvements. Perhaps renewables?
QNCC is displaying the finest recycling bins in Qatar. See pictures attached. Lets make sure that these remain in use and are placed into every residential development, every office building, every school, every park and mall after COP18 and lets not rest until this task is complete.
Highlight of the day was COP18 Gender Day with several panel discussions “Climate Justice in a Fierce New World: Breakthrough Changes to ensure Gender Equality in Climate Change, Policies and Practice”, including Christiana Figueres-executive secretary of UNFCCC; Mary Robinson-former President of Ireland; and HE Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani; Dr. Nawal Al Hosany-Director of Sustainability at Masdar; Julia Marton-Lefevre-IUCN Director General; Maite Nkoana-Mashabane-COP17 President in South Africa; Dr. Elena Manaenkova-Assit. Secretary General at the World Meteorological Organization; and Julia Duncan-Cassell-Director of Gender Development of Liberia.
H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President – Designate for. COP 18/CMP8 was in the audience. No pictures were allowed to be taken at that meeting.
HE Shk Al-Mayassa said: “Every journey starts with the first step in the right direction.” => SustainableQatar is on the right path…
I also participated in a side event, entitled: “Ecosystems Climate Alliance Experts discuss how forest protection goes forward under a new climate agreement, including what’s still to do for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” – a panel discussion about reforestation can reduce former emissions from former deforestation.
“Carbon Capture and Storage Capacity Building” – a panel discussion on the global status of educational opportunities and lessons learnt for knowledge transfer, which needs rapid employment.
Fossil of the Day Award – awarded to the countries that shun Kyoto Commitments:
– 2nd Place: Europe for having already reached their pledged 2020 target of 20% carbon emission reduction but having so far failed to increase the reduction commitment even though there are still almost 10 years to go.
– 1st (worst): Turkey for being the world’s fourth largest investor in coal, recording the largest relative increase in annual GHG emissions between 1990–2010 and declaring 2012 the year of coal AND THEN asking for more funds in the climate negotiations, though Turkey did not commit to any carbon emission reduction during the first commitment period and has already declared they won’t make a pledge for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Turkey is almost invisibly during the negotiations.
The opening ceremony was by invitation only, so I did not attend. But here are the main points from Christiana Figueres’ address:
There are more actions on the ground and more policy progress than in the past 10 years but the door is closing fast. There are three 3 key objectives for COP18 to adequately respond to climate change:
1) renewed commitment to Kyoto protocol for the first commitment period (2008-2012) going into the second commitment period til 2020,
– for developing countries to gain trust that developed countries will take the lead
– to maintain environmental integrity
2) march toward universal agreement to increase ambitions now because of the urgency of action
3) speed up technical and financial support to developing nations for negotiations to be pushed into action/implementation
I did listen in at one negotiation about indigenous people and the safeguarding of their livelihood, i.e. forests. Every word is carefully negotiated, see pictures below.
I also participated in a side event, called “Third World Network: What Doha must deliver for the pre- and post 2020 climate regime” – a panel discussion by participants
from Malaysia, China, US, and Europe. The message was loud and clear: COP18 negotiations and agreements are very important for the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto protocol (2013-2020) and requires increased pressure on governments by civil society – increased pressure to demand necessary steps that need to be taken, rather than accepting what can politically get done.