Vital UN climate change talks open in Doha

Published on Monday, 26 November 2012 14:48
Posted by Scott Buckler

The 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference has opened in Doha, with a call for action from the President of the sessions

Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Atttiyah told participants at the opening ceremony of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC that "climate change is a common challenge for humanity" and that the Conference was a "golden opportunity - we must make best use of it".

At the opening ceremony there were speeches from Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the outgoing President of the conference; Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary; and Mr. Al-Attiyah.

Mr. Al-Attiyah emphasised Qatar's continuing efforts as host country to foster an open, inclusive and transparent process.

"I stand ready to continue listening to you," Mr. Al-Attiyah said, noting that as President he continues to participate in numerous official and unofficial consultations with all parties and observers in an effort to push forward dialogue and to find a positive solution to climate change.

The ceremony marked the official hand over of the Presidency from South Africa to Qatar. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the COP17/CMP7 President, cited an African proverb highlighting the need for multilateral cooperation within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others," she said before the official election of Mr. Al-Attiyah as President of COP18/CMP8.

The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms. Figueres, also spoke at the opening ceremony in the plenary session, thanking the Qatar Presidency and Qatar Foundation.

"Thanks go to the people of Qatar, who have been so welcoming," she said.

The opening ceremony of COP18/CMP8 Doha comes after months of anticipation, planning and hard work, as Doha prepared to welcome the world to the vital meeting.

With 17,000 participants coming from across the world, the Conference has involved an immense organisational effort. Conscious of the responsibility that comes with hosting the world's most important climate change conference, organisers have endeavoured to ensure that this year's sessions will be environmentally friendly.

COP18/CMP8 in Doha will be the first UN Conference on Climate Change to implement the UN's PaperSmart programme. Participants will be 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 will take delegates and other participants from hotels to the Qatar National Convention Centre, the Doha Exhibition Centre, and some of the city's top tourist attractions. One hundred of the buses will run on gas-to-liquids fuel, a cleaner form of fuel. Additionally, two buses that run on compressed natural gas and six hybrid buses will operate on a "green route" between the QNCC and Doha Exhibition Centre.

In addition, COP18/CMP8 Doha will strive to leave a green legacy in Qatar. A Sustainability Expo will highlight the green technology projects of local and international businesses. A network of information pods will provide resources about climate change throughout Doha. And Conference organisers have declared that the whole event will be carbon neutral: whatever carbon emissions are generated will be offset by investment in carbon reducing or absorbing projects. Together, these and other initiatives intend to point the attention of Qataris and visitors to the potentially dire consequences of climate change and the measures needed to fight it.

Staff and volunteers at the Qatar National Convention Centre, where the Conference is being held, were ready from dawn to welcome the world. Up to 150 Liaison Officers were in place to act as VIP and protocol liaison points and escorts for high-level delegations and heads of state from around the world.

As a coastal, dry land nation, Qatar is one of the 10 developing countries predicted to be most affected by rising sea levels.

"Now more than ever, the issues at the heart of these negotiations are at the forefront of global debate and discourse. All seven billion people living on the planet share a single challenge: climate change," Mr Al-Attiyah has said. "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 life."

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