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How the US and Other Wealthy Nations Are Pushing Us Toward a Climate Cliff

So far at the UN climate summit no large nation has announced new measures to slow rising temperatures and help avert projected floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.

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REPORTER: You think this will—this will be a movement in Qatar, there will be more people? Because—

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: I mean, first of all, it’s organized by local NGOs, and that’s the—that’s the—that’s the major difference. It is a catalyst for change. And so—

REPORTER: How much is changing in Qatar, has been changing?

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: A lot. I mean, there are a lot of government policies that are in the pipeline, and some are already in implementation. Over the next few days, you will get to—you will get to see some announcements that will happen. We—the conference comes to mark an important milestep—milestone into—into how this country wants to plan its growth in the future.

REPORTER: So, Qatar is one of the biggest polluters per capita, right?

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: Still—

REPORTER: Do you think this will change in the—

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: Of course. It has to change. There is no other option.

MIKE BURKE: How is the country cutting its emissions?

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: Through a series of programs. Carbon sequestration is one of them, capping these emissions through technologies, filtrations. There’s a whole range of systems that are going to be implemented over the next couple of years. And this is not just because the conference is in Doha. It’s just because we have—we are committed—we do have our social pressures, too, to address these issues. And so, if you look at the Qatar National Vision, it clearly says we have to—we have to do our environmental obligations. And it is enshrined in our constitution.

MIKE BURKE: Now, why—the country now has the highest emissions per capita of any country in the entire world.

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: That is because it’s a small population compared to the level of industry. I mean, it’s not because we consume that. A lot of that goes to the export markets. The population of this country is about two million people. Its industry—this is disproportionate to the number of people that live within it, hence the numbers that come up as the highest emissions per capita. Having said that, that is not a call for complacency, but it’s a call for more action.

MIKE BURKE: Now, I understand that you have free electricity in this country, which is unheard of—at least, you know, I’m from the United States, and it does not encourage consumers just to use an unlimited amount of power.

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: There isn’t free electricity. I think the part that you’re referring to is the electricity that goes to about 10 percent of the population, whom are the indigenous people, or the locals, as we will put them. These tariffs and electricity—if you look at how they lived before, they lived without water and electricity. So this is a transitional phase. One day or the other, they will be facing the prospect of putting a price to that service. And by all means, they, by their nature, by their desert culture, their—their value system supports them to protect that precious resource.

We have launched, six months ago, an initiative called Conserve, which is targeting a reduction of water and electrical consumption by 30 percent. There are measures that are being taken, not only that this is an initiative and a campaign, but it will be followed by regulations. It will be followed by a standardization of certain appliances. And hopefully, within the next five years, we should be cutting down on our consumption patterns.

MIKE BURKE: Do you have a record yet of actually cutting consumption?

FAHAD BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYAH: We have a record of cutting consumption in different industry—in the industry, but not at the household level, simply because we’re in the process of developing these standards. We have developed now what is called the—something compared to the LEED standards, which are local to this region. It’s called the GSAS. This is going to be going mainstream by 2012—not—June 2013, which means that every building that will be constructed from now on will have to apply these standards—water efficiency, electrical efficiency, construction material, where it should be sourced. So, there are measures that are being addressed by our policymakers.

 
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