Qatar: Time to Lead

25 May 2012

Qatar must be really courageous to host the COP this year! There are seven negotiating tracks taking place during COP18, including having to adopt an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, trying to finalizing the mandate of the LCA, and agreeing on a workplan and milestones under the ADP for short-term ambition and the global deal. The job that Qatar has to do seems impossible. And those are just the highlights of elements that are lined up for development and agreement by COP18. To make things worse, Qatar had less than a year to prepare, since it took one extra year to resolve who would be the COP18 host.

On Wednesday, negotiators from various groupings told Qatar that they are willing to work with them to ensure success at COP18. Nevertheless, the upcoming COP President usually plays a leading political role to bring about an agreement. The Mexican and South African Presidencies in the past two COPs had to muster all their political skills and spend real political capital for a year in order to successfully reach agreements.

The strength of the political outcomes will only be ensured by strong political leadership from Qatar. The presidency will need to invest high-level diplomacy in bringing together the interests of all negotiating groups along all of the LCA, KP and ADP tracks through consensus. They will need to employ their history of conflict resolution and mediation skills in the Arab region. They should involve heads of state and reach out to royals from around the globe to provide more flexible mandates to their negotiators. Compromises and bottom lines of countries and regions should be determined, tested and challenged well before the COP. One idea to achieve this is to hold a Heads of State meeting in Doha after Ramadan. Another is to form a friends of the Presidency group that includes individuals at the ministerial level from the different negotiating groups, which meet several times between now and Doha, aiming at providing guidance to negotiators.

Failure in Doha, will mean failure for the whole Arab region. Therefore, all Arab countries need to support Qatar, and should also show leadership. This could be achieved by having all Arab countries submit NAMA pledges to the UNFCCC by COP18. This is the region's opportunity to show they are serious about tackling climate change and its impacts on future generations – including their own future descendants.

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