COP18, or the 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference, has opened in Doha. For two weeks, over 17,000 people will meet at the Qatar National Convention Center and negotiate for a new global deal on climate change. As usual, tensions will be high between richer and poorer countries, with the NGO Oxfam complaining that promises for a “green climate fund” targeted to help developing countries adapt to climate volatility have been unfulfilled. Meanwhile a central issue over “hot air” carbon permits is adding to further tension between developed and developing countries.

And of course, global criticism have shined like a laser on Qatar, which has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints on Earth. Never mind the fact that Qatar and its neighboring countries are only extracting energy for which the world is thirsty, but the pressure is on this tiny Gulf country to do more.

But whether this two week event–which seems absurdly long–will result with some concrete proposals on climate change is out of Qatar’s hands. The Copenhagen talks of 2009 launched with high expectations and ended up as a disappointment. What is more important about having these climate talks in the Middle East for the first time is that these countries will not start to feel included and engaged. Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and their neighbors are in a unique position to make a difference on climate change, clean energy and international development–because let’s face it, they have the cash. So let’s work with these countries by offering them rhetorical carrots–beating them with the proverbial sticks of obvious data will get society no where.

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Photo of Katara Cultural Center in Doha courtesy Leon Kaye.

About Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of and its advisory division, GGP Media. Contact him to discuss how he can work with your organization or event. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). He writes for San Francisco-based Triple Pundit, Inhabitat and now The Guardian, for which he writes about waste, water, and green building. He has also written for AIA's Architect Magazine. Leon lives in Los Angeles, and when he has free time, he enjoys hiking, gardening, cooking, weightlifting, and planning his next trip to one of the 50+ countries he has visited. He has an MBA from USC's Marshall School of Business and is also a proud graduate of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) and Cal State-Fresno.