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Qatari Bright Lights Prompt EU’s Hedegaard to Urge Climate Plan

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she’s pushing Qatar to adopt a green growth program before it hosts the annual round of United Nations climate treaty talks in November.

Qatar, the first member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to host the discussions aimed at limiting global warming, illustrates the scale of the challenge the world faces to cut greenhouse gases, Hedegaard said today in a phone interview. She spoke from Doha after meeting Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah.

“When you drive through the city of Doha at night, you just think, ‘Wow, look how big our challenges are when we’re talking about more energy efficiency, less energy consumption and a low-carbon world,’” Hedegaard said. “The bright lights are all over. It would send a strong signal if Qatar came forward with concrete proposals on how they will pursue a more climate-friendly growth strategy.”

Qatar is the world’s largest emitter per capita of carbon dioxide and will host two weeks of meetings that start Nov. 26 in Doha. The nation is the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, and oil and gas accounted for 58 percent of the country’s economic output in 2011.

“You have these tall, tall skyscrapers, and there are lights literally in every window because why turn off the lights when energy is for free,” Hedegaard said.

Durban Agenda

At the last round of discussions in Durban, South Africa, delegates agreed to devise by the end of 2015 a new climate deal that would set legal targets to limit greenhouse gases for almost 200 nations and enter into force in 2020 at the latest.

Priorities for this year’s discussions include how to reduce the “ambition gap” in emissions reductions between now and 2020, Hedegaard said. The UN Environment Program in November said that current pledges to reduce greenhouse gases by 2020 need to double in order to keep the planet on a trajectory that limits warming since industrialization to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The 27-nation EU will include its longstanding goal of a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gases in the 30 years through 2020 as its pledge in an eight-year second commitment period under the the existing climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, Hedegaard said. The EU also maintains its willingness to cut by 30 percent if other nations follow, she said. The first commitment period, lasting five years, ends this year.

Aviation and Shipping

“It’s important to have this discussion about increasing the numbers, but parallel to that there is also another way: simply to look at specific issues,” Hedegaard said. “Could we do something with aviation and shipping? Could we do something with other sorts of gases?”

Another priority for Doha is to ensure funds for emission-cutting programs and defenses against the effects of climate change in developing nations don’t dry up in 2013, Hedegaard said. A three-year period of “fast-start” climate aid ends in 2012, and developed nations must begin ramping up to the $100 billion of annual climate aid they’ve pledged by 2020, she said. In Durban, nations set up a Green Climate Fund to channel part of that aid, and this year are working to get it up and running.

“I’m absolutely confident there will be money in the fund next year because there have already been European member states who have said they will put the funds in,” Hedegaard said. “If the world community is going to deliver what they agreed in Copenhagen (in 2009) to have reached not less than $100 billion by 2020, then it’s clear substantial money has to come in 2013.”

Meeting Ministers

As well as meeting Al-Attiyah, who will preside over of the climate discussions in November and December, Hedegaard spoke with Qatari Environment Minister Abdulla bin Mubarak Al Madadi, according to her office.

“I have stressed in my conversations here the importance of a presidency showing willingness to pursue a more green kind of growth, a climate-friendly kind of growth,” Hedegaard said.

The commissioner said that while she had toured a research institute in Doha that was examining issues of climate, food and water security, the government should aim to “come forward with a more coherent strategy as to how they will embrace the challenges of the future.”

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