It is easy to be cynical. That was the overriding sentiment in 2011 when Doha was chosen as the venue for the 2012 UN climate change talks, which concluded in the city recently.
At the Doha talks, there was no clampdown on activists, just the usual issues over security passes. There were no signs of the fossil fuel industry pulling the strings of local governments either. Certainly, the business lobby was there, but they were present at climate change talks held in Bali and Cancun, too.
Following the now infamous collapse of the Copenhagen talks, no one accused Denmark of masterminding the downfall of the negotiations. If you put 195 governments in a room and ask them to agree on something, they are more than capable of wreaking havoc all by themselves. However, with a year to get used to the idea, most delegates went to Qatar with an open mind.
International talks are also fertile breeding grounds for rumours and gossip. Almost from day one of the climate change conference in Doha, the murmurs around the corridors of the conference venue were that a number of Arab countries were set to pledge their first greenhouse gas reductions through the UN. This time, the rumours turned out to be true. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar have started laying the groundwork for carbon emission reduction plans.
Jordan has already announced subsidies for renewable energy. Now, its Gulf neighbours have a public reason to explore similar opportunities, as well as those in energy efficiency, public transport and industrial infrastructure.
The changes in the region’s economy could be significant and many will ask why oil and gas-based economies would want to encourage less demand for their product. That, of course, is a very short-term point of view. As with anything new, there will be what Richard Gledhill, UK firm PricewaterhouseCooper’s global climate change head, calls inertia, but he is in no doubt that those who move first will finish in the lead.