It’s day one of COP 18 and I must say it is difficult to describe all the emotions I am currently experiencing. I am very excited to be here, and to be involved. But, I am also very nervous and aware of the looming sense of urgency. The Kyoto protocol, which is the only global agreement that is action oriented and focuses on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, is set to expire at the end of this year. If that doesn't spell out the urgency of the matter enough for you, UNEP’s recently launched report on the ever-increasing emissions gap surely will. The report has inputs by 55 scientists from more than 20 countries. Essentially the key point it makes is that greenhouse gas emissions levels are now around 14 percent above where they need to be… in 2020. So instead of declining, the concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide are actually increasing in the atmosphere, up around 20 percent since 2000. Another report released by the World Bank painted a rather stark picture of what a 4-degree increase in global temperatures would look like for our planet, including the serious implications for economic development. With both reports floating around everyone’s mind, the sense of urgency in the atmosphere is well defined.
In a nutshell, since UNFCCC came into force in 1992, we have not been doing nearly enough and with Kyoto coming to a close, the need for a new agreement is significantly important. For UNEP and UNFCCC, the Emissions Gap report is a reminder that time is running out. However at the same time, it is a call to recognize that the technical means and policy tools to allow the world to stay below a maximum 2 degrees Celsius are still available to governments and societies. The gap can be bridged if not closed, and our marching orders here in Doha are to make that known to the delegates as much as possible.
Having said all that, my highlight of the day was the official opening ceremony held at the Doha Sustainability Expo. We worked rather tirelessly to put the UNEP booth together and I was happy to see it in full operation. Furthermore, the exhibition featured some remarkable technological innovations including sustainable cities and eco friendly SUV’s that I found rather remarkable!
The Hybrid Eco-Car
In the coming week as negotiations begin for the new convention, what is becoming increasingly apparent is that the new agreement will have to capitalize on these already existing tools and motivate action from all the parties. The agreement will also have to take on an immediate time line – another five-year wait for it to come into force could be tragic. This is by no means a time to give up and I am optimistic that no one in Doha is ready to hand in the towel just yet.
Lusail City - The Sustainable City of the Future