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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.

Climate activists rally in Doha on Saturday.
Photo Credit: AFP


AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate change summit here in Doha. Yes, this is  Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,  The War and Peace Report. This U.N. conference, the two-week conference, is here in Doha, Qatar, the talks taking place at a critical time. The two-week conference comes at the end of the last year that the binding emissions cuts agreed to under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are in effect. Despite the Kyoto Protocol, a new scientific report out Sunday found global emissions of carbon dioxide reached a record high in 2011 and are likely to take a similar jump in 2012. Last month was the 333rd consecutive month that global temperatures were above the 20th century average.

Here at the summit, there seems to be little hope that the world’s nations will agree to new binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. So far, no large nation has announced new measures to slow rising temperatures and help avert projected floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.

The summit is being held in Qatar. The oil-rich nation has the highest per capita emissions in the world and the highest per capita GDP in the world. Qatar is also the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas.

On Saturday, the newly formed Arab Youth Climate Movement organized the first-ever climate march in the country. Later in the show, we’ll bring you voices from that march, but we’re going to begin today with two guests here in Doha. Wael Hmaidan is the director of the Climate Action Network International, also founder of IndyAct, an organization that started in Lebanon in 2007. Asad Rehman is a campaigner with Friends of the Earth England.

And we welcome you both to  Democracy Now!

ASAD REHMAN: Thank you.

WAEL HMAIDAN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Asad Rehman, I want to begin with you. Tell us—this is the 18th COP, as they call it, COP18, the climate change summit, yet people feel more frustrated this year than we have ever seen coming to these conferences. Democracy Now! was in Copenhagen. We were in Cancun. We were in Durban last year. What do you expect will happen? What do you want to see happen?

ASAD REHMAN: Well, what we expect to happen, unfortunately, is a lack of an action by rich, developed countries. You’re right, this Qatar COP is a critical COP, because what it will do will decide the level of climate action that we will see over the next decade. And we are seeing, with our own eyes, with the reports, countless reports every single day, it seems, showing that the planet is in a planetary emergency, and we need deep emissions reductions. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen here is that the main developed countries, such as the European Union, have come here with emissions targets of 20 percent, which sounds like a lot, except for when you realize that they’ve already reached that target. So on the two critical issues of both emissions reductions and climate finance, rich, developed countries are offering nothing. And that really is a critical issue that we hope to resolve, but unfortunately the voices in these negotiating rooms are telling us it’s not going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Wael Hmaidan, this is the first time the U.N. conference has taken place in the Arab world, and it’s here in Qatar, which has the largest greenhouse gas emissions of any place on earth—also happens to be the wealthiest nation. But lay out for us, for people who don’t believe that climate change exists, what exactly is at stake.

WAEL HMAIDAN: Well, as you mentioned, at the end of the century, we are—might face a 6-degree warming world. There is a wide scientific view that a 4-degree world will mean the collapse of human civilization. So, facing a 6-degree world is even—it’s not any hope for having a safe climate. If we don’t do rapid action in the coming five to seven years, we are not going to meet our 2-degree target and come closer to a 4-degree world.

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