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Green Thinking Takes Root in Midst of Desert in Doha Climate Talks

Green Lifestyle  (tags: middle-east, world, unitednations, UnitedNations, ethics, green, greenliving, sustainable, Sustainabililty, society, eco-friendly, business, energy, CoolStuff )

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Are oil-rich Gulf states, once a byword for waste and excess, really now leading the world on sustainable development?

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JL A (281)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 1:37 pm

Green thinking takes root in midst of desert in Doha climate talks

Are oil-rich Gulf states, once a byword for waste and excess, really now leading the world on sustainable development?

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COP18 Doha : Qatar environmental policy , partnership with the Potsdam Institute
The signing of a partnership between the Qatar Foundation and the Postdam Institute for a new climate change research institute in Qatar. Photograph: IISD

One of the great surprises for the 15,000 negotiators and others here in Doha for the climate talks is not the breakneck speed of development in the gas-rich emirate, or the displays of wealth and the giant construction projects, but the possible dawn of reality.

Until recently, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states were the epicentre of unsustainable global development, a byword for waste, excess and ecological irresponsibility. Their huge consumption of natural resources and flouting of nature on the back of oil and gas production shocked even hard-nosed observers of global oil wealth.

Well, we may have to change our views. From my hotel window, I can see 14 monster buildings being built, each to a much higher energy standard than the law demands in the US or most of Europe. Down the road is a new $70m (43m) test-bed for carbon capture, the beginnings of a 200 megawatt solar power station, a $1bn photovoltaic manufacturing plant, new waste treatment plants, a pilot project to grow food in the desert with saltwater, and a fledgling construction industry with waste plastic.

Green baubles for the super-rich perhaps, but there is evidence that a real change of thinking is taking place. Schools, local authorities and mosques are now teaching about water and energy saving, and Gulf state governments are committing themselves to deeper cuts in emissions than the US or much of Europe.

Britain hopes to generate 20% of its electricity with renewables by 2030. But the Qataris will do that by 2020. Britain, with a population of more than 60 million, built about 100,000 new homes last year. Qatar, with 1.4 million people, will build a whole city to the highest green specifications for 200,000 people in not much more time.

And it's not just Qatar. Other Gulf states are racing each other to rethink their development paths. The renewable energy world is moving to Abu Dhabi. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invested billions of dollars in projects there, as well as in Europe and north Africa. Even Dubai, which has indulged in a 20-year construction frenzy, is aiming at 7% renewables in 12 years similar to Belgium. Even more remarkably, Saudi Arabia, fearful of its own escalating domestic electricity needs, will meet one-third of its electricity demand from solar by 2032.

None of this would have been conceivable even a few years ago. So what has changed? One senior adviser to the Qatari government put it like this: "There is a new direction. The GCC countries all move together like a herd. A desperate search is going on to find new ways of doing things. They need to find the answer for when the oil and gas is not there. They have seen the future and now they have fire in their arse.

"But they also know that the Arab spring countries all neglected people during development. They are learning. Education, health and welfare were all neglected. Environment has risen up the agenda. In the past, it was of no interest. Now it is a global necessity. Money is not the problem."

The thirst for what Qatar, Abu Dhabi and other oil-rich states call a new "knowledge economy" would partly explain why Qatar on Wednesday committed to set up a global climate change centre in Doha with the German Potsdam Institute. It will employ around 200 researchers and sit beside a dozen other prestigious US, British and other academic centres, including Imperial College, which is now at Doha.

The founder of the institute, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, spelled out what was at stake: "Qatar is the only true desert state in the world with no surface water and 500km of flat coastline, where temperatures are already 45C in summer. With sea level rise expected to be up to 90cm by 2100 in the Gulf region and temperatures expected to rise [by] 5-8C, this place will be unlivable [if climate change is not brought under control]."

The Gulf states' change of direction, he suggested, is being undertaken not out of any desire to be green but sheer pragmatism. What happens here could shape all our futures, says the adviser. "The next stage of modern civilisation can be blueprinted here. Qatar can be a role model for the region and the whole planet."

Kit B (276)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 3:05 pm

I saw an interview some months ago with one of Oil Royals( from one of the 7 Emirates - don't remember who it was) but at that point in time they were well aware of the limits of their own OIL dollars and resources, while stating that Peak Oil had long ago been reached. This particular Royal held advanced degrees in geology and he stated unequivocally that the end for their participation in oil was within sight. The new focus would be on solar and wind energy and owning more of that market than anyone else.

Conveniently, we have a conference in Qatar to "address" world concerns of "green energy" a Secret Conference. This is about owning the future, not protecting the future. Call me a skeptic, but I'm not buying the "good will" aspect of any thing that goes on without full transparency.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 4:22 pm
Thanks for helping us all remember the undercurrents to be watching for Kit.You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

. (0)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 6:10 pm
Noted & posted.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 6:26 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 12:01 am
It's a big step in the right direction - I hope that countries all over will cooperate in saving this poor abused earth...

Ingo Schreiner (8)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 12:31 am

Frans Badenhorst (582)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 12:34 am
thanks for posting - always a good thing when issues like this gets the attention it deserves on a global discussion platform... good start, let's just hope the momentum gained keeps going in the right direction...

David C (133)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 2:21 am
thanks.....its a start, may the world community keep going in the correct direction.....

Christeen A (370)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 6:34 am
This sounds like a good thing to me. I'll keep investigating it. Thank you.

Patricia H. (440)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 12:06 pm

JL A (281)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 3:45 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Giana because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Frans because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star toDave because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Friday December 14, 2012, 4:47 am

JL A (281)
Friday December 14, 2012, 7:42 am
You are welcome Jennifer
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