Over Polluted Qatar Hosts UN Climate Conference

qatar city skyline

This month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) will be hosted by Qatar, the tiny peninsula nation in the Persian Gulf that holds the world record for per capita CO2 emissions.

According to a report entitled Indicators of Sustainable Development 2011 released by Qatar’s statistics’ authority, the state has experienced a 27% annual increase in ozone-depleting substances, 9.3% increase in nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 3.6% increase in carbon dioxide (CO2). Qatar has held the emissions world record for two decades. To understand the scale of these figures, consider that Qatar doubles the next highest per-capita emitting country, Kuwait, and trebles the United States.

In Doha, particulate air pollution is also increasing from 128.7 micrograms per square meter (μg/m²) in 2007 to 155.7 μg/m² three years later. Cars are the likely culprit behind the damning data: in the last decade, the number of registered vehicles in country doubled from approximately 280,000 cars to 660, 000 (as per 2010 records).

Qatar possesses the third largest natural gas reserve worldwide after Russia and Iran.  Stratospheric emissions are likely due to high energy consumption by natural gas processing, water desalination, and electricity production to support ubiquitous air conditioning.

Creating habitable conditions for large urban populations in such an inhospitable natural environment comes with a big price tag.  Qataris do not pay for water or electricity supplies, which further encourages a high rate of use.  They’re also one of the highest consumers of water, consuming about 400 liters per capita per day.

Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, director of the authority in charge of administrative control and transparency in Qatar and president of COP 18, has said that hosting the UN conference in Qatar is an occasion for Qatar to show its progress in protecting the environment, according to a report on ANSAMed.

According to Doha daily Gulf Times, over 17,000 people from 195 country will travel to Doha for the event, which will be an opportunity for the Emirate to publicize its long-term strategy.

Forward-thinking Qatar, with its vast financial resources, is in a unique position to capitalize on the green economic revolution. Let’s watch to see if this nation often tagged as the richest, fattest, and most polluting place on earth can also emerge as the fastest to convert to the cleanest and leanest on planetary resources.

Image of Doha skyline by Shutterstock

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