Reflections from COP18, Monday 26 November

Luke McGreevy, Australian student delegate

As COP18 started today in Doha, it became clear that this is a symbolically unique event. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, stated in her opening address to the Conference that Qatar has an "unequalled world stage" to set the tone for a constructive set of talks that can make real progress on a number of key issues after the breakthrough discussions at COP17 in Durban.

Firstly, the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire at the end of the year, and establishing a second commitment period will be crucial. The first and only treaty for carbon emissions will need renewed ambition in order to survive.

Secondly, the fact that this is the first time a COP has been hosted by a founding member State of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), should not be ignored. COP18 places a spotlight on how oil-exporting countries operate in the negotiations, and gives them a chance to capitalise on their recent renewable energy investment. This is especially important, given their questionable record of cooperation on climate negations in the past.

It is also the first time the COP has been hosted by a Gulf state more broadly. Qatar worked hard to be able to host this conference, and this represents not only an opportunity for Qatar to show its growth as a nation, but for it also to be a leader for the region on climate change. As the Executive Secretary stated, there is a need to put the Gulf’s "regional energy growth on a more sustainable path".

So far, Qatar has presented a professional and efficient face to the COP. The opening comments have highlighted the symbolism of COP18 – time will tell if countries use it to the advantage of the talks.