Critics are quick to criticize Qatar’s environmental performance, but the nation with the highest per capital carbon emissions has made great progress during 2012. As someone who has followed Qatar’s moves almost weekly this past year--not to mention the fact that I had the opportunity to visit this past February--I see Qatar becoming a leading sustainability laboratory in the coming decade.

The top 10 highlights in Doha and beyond in Qatar include:

COP18: The annual meeting the UN holds on climate change will not leave any memorable progress, but this does not diminish Doha’s hosting of the event. The Kyoto Protocol was extended another eight years to 2020; otherwise the event itself was rather pallid. But the big winner was Qatar for having the opportunity to showcase its work in green building and solar power development.

Solar and Sustainability at Education City: Next year a new student complex will open that will run off of solar energy and was built out of relatively local building materials. The LEED certified dormitory will also become a living classroom for students where they will learn about energy efficiency and sustainable living.

Msheireb: The 31 hectare LEED development will be a showpiece starting next year, when its first phase should be completed. From adopting elements of traditional Arabian architecture through installing a concrete batching plant onsite to reduce emissions, Msheireb is a living example about a new future unfolding in Qatar.

Islamic Finance Goes Green: A $1 billion polysilicon manufacturing plant is going up just outside of Doha. And traditional Islamic finance is in part making the project popular.

The World Cup is Only 10 Years Away: The 2022 World Cup is sneaking up on the Arabian Gulf, so there should be some amazing cutting edge stadiums going up. For now there is only a 500 seat model stadium--but it has turned heads by scoring a nomination for a prestigious architecture award.

TEDx Sets The Bar High for Environmentally Responsible Events: In late April Doha sponsored a meeting of 700+ TEDx organizers--a tough crowd! For a country where recycling has much room to to scale, the event showed local event organizers how to get it done and go green.

Sustainable Petroleum and Natural Gas? Qatar’s fossil fuels are amongst the reasons why this small Gulf state as one of the highest per-capital income levels on Earth. Nevertheless, Qatargas and other energy firms have pledged to improve their environmental and human rights records. Even Chevron is getting into the act!

Investing in Agricultural Land: The global land grab has become the next human rights dilemma for multinationals, but some countries have also purchased land in Africa. Qatar is one huge example, though the country claims it is to increase farm production nationwide. Expect such transactions and land management plans to gain more scrutiny over the coming decade.

Green Hotels and a More Conscious Hospitality Industry. The Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) has been aggressive about developing new building standards so that buildings in the Middle East can thrive. Now the QCBC has launched a green hotels group; in a country where the thermometer can reach 110F in the summer, more responsible hotels will soon pop up on Doha’s horizon.

Imams tout sustainability: Imams throughout Qatar offered sermons focused on environment issues in the weeks leading up to COP18. How’s that for getting the message to the people??

Image Credit: Leon Kaye

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.