The selection of Qatar as a host for the UNFCCC COP 18 was met with a lot of controversy and surprise. Not only that the major climate change conference will be held for the first time in the Middle East, but in a country that is the top of the world in terms of carbon emissions per capita.
The massive meeting that will be held between 26 November- 7 December this year will be the first in the Post-Durban climate negotiation era where developing countries will have to rise up to their responsibilities in the global climate policy process. This event will need not only state-of-the-art logistical and infrastructure support from the host country but also visionary diplomacy and technical capacity that matches at least what Mexico showed in UNFCCC’s COP 16 in Cancun 2010.
This event will be a major opportunity for Arab countries, and especially the GCC to showcase their commitment to climate action by highlighting major investments and programmes in climate change mitigation and adaptation from the region. We just hope that such examples will not brag about how much money was allocated but what processes and ideas were deployed.
Qatar is emerging as one of the major influencing countries in the region, and it can utilize the main driving force that it has to support the climate cause. By this I mean Al Jazeera satellite channel. Al Jazeera is the most influential media outlet in the region and one of the most important at the global level. Al Jazeera not only brings news but it can change positions, ideas and perspectives. If Al Jazeera can invest time and resources in highlighting the climate concerns while approaching Doha 18 it can provide the most important breakthrough in climate change education and awareness in the region.
Al Jazeera’s English Channel is one of the most professional and exciting media sources and it has a wide audience all over the world. It can be a perfect vehicle for disseminating knowledge about climate change and sustainability issues from the region to the world at large. The Channel’s active list of correspondences in developing countries may also help in highlighting vulnerabilities and impacts of climate change in the developing world and provide a platform for key political messages prior to the COP meeting itself.
On the other hand, Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel is a sensationalist but still a powerful tool for changing/modifying Arab public opinion and if it provides a series of programmes and debates on climate change it will be able to increase the awareness of the general public in a way that no other advocacy and communication programme can achieve.
Qatar can provide much for the cause of climate change. Not only through remarkable resources in organizing conferences but also in spreading awareness and knowledge about climate change. In the meantime it would never hurt if Qatar can show evidence of a real willingness to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.