Every year it’s the same thing. Hundreds of delegates from around the world fly somewhere to agree to climate change solutions. Journalists bemoan the lack of progress, environmentalists criticize the amount of carbon emissions spewed into the atmosphere as a result and the public at large completely loses faith in the process. The UN Convention of the Parties meetings are, in short, pretty darn depressing.
The United Nation’s Conference of the Parties or COP 18 is scheduled to take place in Qatar from November 26 to December 7, which is ironic given that this tiny Gulf nation has one of the worst environmental records per capita in the world. But Cleantechnica suggests there’s reason to have a little faith, and it starts with a partially solar-powered convention center.
First LEED Gold Building in the Middle East
An impressive 177,000 sq meter structure, the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) was the first in the Gulf region to receive the US Green Building Council’s Gold certificate in the Leadership in Energy Environment and Design (LEED) rating system.
It boasts a 3,500 square meter solar array that provides 12.5% of the overall energy demand and consumes just over 30% less energy than its counterparts, according to Cleantechnica.
Designed to host multiple events at once and equipped with various other energy and water conservation technologies, QNCC is good PR for COP18.
As it turns out, the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) is all too aware of the enormous toll these annual (and arguably ineffective) conventions exact on the environment, so a series of initiatives are in place to mitigate that impact.
Cutting COP carbon
“At last count, more than 95 percent of our total carbon footprint came from air travel,” the UNFCCC acknowledges on their website. “Bringing our travel emissions down requires significant changes in policies and practices affecting all aspects of travel. We are approaching this in two main ways.”
In addition to cutting down travel as much as possible, opting instead low-carbon meeting solutions such as tele-conferences, the UNFCCC also promotes rail travel and other forms of alternative transportation.
But there’s no getting around major conferences, which draws significant criticism each year.
“The secretariat is working on a more systematic approach to greening UNFCCC conferences and meetings,” according to a press release. “For example, one focus during COP 18 in Doha in December 2012 will be on making it paper-light. In the run-up to COP18, at the first 2012 UNFCCC meeting, the secretariat successfully reduced paper usage by over 50 percent compared to the meeting held in the same period the year before.”
But in order to reach climate neutrality, all participants will have to offset their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“Formerly, we had offset our travel-generated greenhouse gas emissions on a case-by-case basis, subject to availability of funding. Following the budgetary approval by the Conference of the Parties, the secretariat is about to implement a mechanism to offset GHG emissions from all of its travel activities, by buying and cancelling Certified Emissions Reductions certificates (CERs).”
For more information about how the UNFCCC hopes to clean up COPs, please visit their website.