Climate Change Negotiations in a Petroleum State

A hot topic right now involves a global scrutiny of COP18’s host country, Qatar. For example, Qatar has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Qataris also have the highest ecological footprints. Thirdly, Qatar has the third largest natural gas reserves on the planet, and is one of the world’s main exporters of liquefied natural gas.

By hosting COP18, Qatar has definitely shone a bit of a spotlight on itself. However, this topic is like a double-edged sword. Regardless of the fact that Qatar’s per capita GDP deems it the richest country in the world, Qatar is still a country in transition. I suspect a part of the reason Qatar is so deeply dependent on the extraction of oil and other finite resources is because of the indoctrination of a westernized economic model. Western ideals are deeply rooted in consumption and capitalism, yet people seem to think it sounds pretty damn good. Why else would it be called “The American Dream”?

On top of all that, the UN process systematically enables Qatar’s ability to emit hydrocarbons and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Because Qatar is considered a developing country under the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol, it doesn’t have any emissions targets. This plays into the larger global picture because, in some twisted way, by exporting natural gas in a form that can be burned “cleanly” (emphasis on the quotation marks), developed countries claim they are cutting their emissions while Qatar picks up their slack. It might look good on paper, but the reality is that global emissions are rising and global temperatures are increasing at an alarming and deadly rate.

It is still worth reflecting on whether or not Qatar has the diplomatic and political ability to play a positive role in the outcomes of this year’s negotiations, and there is a degree of irony and absurdity related therein with holding this year’s climate negotiations in a petroleum state. However, there are other things we should be talking about. Rather than seeing Qatar only under the black and white lens of facts and figures, we should be looking at the greater picture: without fundamental shifts in the western world agenda, how can anyone expect transitional countries or developing countries to make real, tangible, and positive changes in respect to climate change that can fundamentally alter global temperature increase? It is time to redefine progress and redefine our worldview. Only then can we help pave the way towards a paradigm shift that includes a global perspective.

Only then will we achieve justice for all.

by Megan Van Buskirk

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