by Staff Writers
Doha (AFP) Nov 26, 2012
Qatar on Monday shrugged off criticism of its record-busting carbon emissions and instead extolled the virtues of its key export, natural gas, as it opened a major UN conference on climate change.
At the start of the annual UN talks, Qatar's deputy prime minister Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah sought to deflect attention from his country's reputation as the world's biggest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases.
A key issue at the 12-day meeting in Doha will be to review countries' emissions targets to see if they align with the campaign to combat climate change.
As a result, some observers say the Gulf state of Qatar, as one of the planet's biggest producers of fossil fuels, is unsuitable to chair the conference.
"We should not concentrate on the 'per capita', we should concentrate on the amount... from each country, individually what they produce, because it goes to the air, open space," Attiya told journalists.
He said that "even countries that produce coal" had in the past hosted the UN talks, and sought to portray gas as a safer, more energy-efficient alternative.
"Gas is the right choice to reduce emissions," said Attiyah, a former energy minister who is also president of the talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Qatar is the world's fourth biggest natural gas exporter, according to the CIA world factbook.
The International Energy Agency says that in 2009, 20 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fuel combustion came from natural gas, after 43 percent from coal and 37 percent from oil.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, due to be extended in Doha, about 40 rich nations and the EU agreed to binding targets for reducing Earth-warming emissions by five percent on average from 2008-2012.
Developing countries were not given targets under that deal, but several have pledged voluntary caps.
Qatar is not among them and Attiyah doused expectations that it may do so as a symbolic gesture. One hundred percent of Qatar's electricity is derived from fossil fuels.
"We have a target in how to reduce our emissions very dramatically," he said, without giving any numbers.
"We have a lot of projects, we invest a lot of money (in technological research and development)... We are the country to do all the efforts. We don't do it only to show we are good boys, we do it for our nation, our country."
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