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Al Shaheen oil field

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Al Shaheen oil field

Qatar, the world’s largest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter, is not making any promises to reduce emissions ahead of next month’s international climate change conference in Paris.

World leaders will be discussing how to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C. In preparation, countries were asked to submit reports formally known as intended nationally determined contributions to explain what actions they’re taking.

In its report to the UN – submitted Friday, some seven weeks after the deadline – Qatar does not say how much carbon it emits or set any specific environmental goals for itself.

As a developing country, Qatar is not legally bound to reduce its emissions. Nevertheless, France’s ambassador to Qatar, Eric Chevallier, said in May that the conference host was “looking for an ambitious contribution from all countries,” the Gulf Times quoted him as saying.

In a recent academic paper, researchers predicted Doha and several other Gulf cities could become too hot for human survival during the summer if climate change forecasts prove accurate.

Doha Skyline

Antony Satheesh/Flickr

Doha Skyline

Qatar concedes that the country is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels could flood 18.2 percent of the country’s land area while wiping out species of whales, sea turtles and dolphins, the state says in its report.

At the same time, the country’s economy is dependent on exporting oil and gas. Efforts by other countries to fight climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels could hurt Qatar residents’ quality of life, the Ministry of Environment said.

Qatar is responsible for less than 0.25 percent of the world’s overall carbon dioxide emissions, according to previously published government data.

Some argue that the country’s small population makes per-capita carbon emission rankings misleading. However, critics still use the dubious distinction – as well as Doha playing host to climate change talks in 2012 – to argue that Qatar should do more to reduce emissions.

Fighting climate change

Oman is the only GCC country to quantify its emissions and set a target. It expects its output of greenhouse gas emissions to keep rising over the next 15 years, but has pledged to implement several measures such as increasing the use of renewable energy so that its increase in emissions will be 2 percent lower than it would be without any action.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia is promising to “avoid” emitting the equivalent of 130 million tons of carbon dioxide between now and 2030 but does not quantify its overall current or projected emissions.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s only goal is a repeated pledge to generate 24 percent of its energy from nuclear and renewable sources by 2021. Neither Bahrain or Kuwait have filed reports.

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Lesley Walker

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For its part, Qatar says it is indirectly contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change by exporting liquefied natural gas as a clean energy. It also said it was promoting energy efficiency within Qatar, but that its efforts were held back by “the existing capacity and technology,” without elaborating.

Figures released last year by Qatar General Electricity and Water Co. (Kahramaa) showed power demand had increased by 12 percent, suggesting that ambitious plans to cut energy use in Qatar were falling short.

More recently, the utility quietly increased electricity rates without explanation, a move that’s prompted several local malls to explore ways of reducing power consumption to save money.

Qatar also noted in its report that it is attempting to increase its use of clean energy and renewable sources such as solar and wind.

The government has previously set a goal to produce 200MW of solar energy – enough to power 66,000 homes – by 2020, and has announced plans to construct a pilot facility in Duhail.

Those goals were not mentioned in Qatar’s UN report, which said the country’s harsh environment and weather conditions presented challenges to increasing the amount of solar power generated in Qatar and called on other countries to give it more advanced technology.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Peter Dowley/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Also not mentioned in the report were efforts by both RasGas and Qatar Gas to reduce flaring. In what was billed as the biggest project of its kind, Qatar Gas inaugurated a massive project in April to recover the gas flared during liquefied natural gas loading at Ras Laffan Port.

That initiative alone was estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or roughly 1.9 percent of the country’s 2011 emissions.

Other efforts to fight climate change highlighted by Qatar in its UN report include introducing public transit and attempts to diversify the economy away from oil and gas through spending on education and marketing Qatar as a tourist destination.

Thoughts?

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Dan A'Vard/Flickr

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With many private animal rescue shelters in Qatar stretched to capacity, a new government facility initially scheduled to open north of Doha this December now appears to be several years away.

Last month, the Ministry of Environment and Ashghal issued a tender for a firm to provide consulting services, including pre-design work as well as to oversee the construction tendering and contract award.

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Dogs in Doha/Facebook

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Few details were published, apart from an expectation that the contractor would complete the work within 827 days of being awarded the job, likely pushing the project into 2018.

Past reports said construction of the facility, which is to be located in Umm Salal north of Duhail, was to begin in January 2014 and wrap up by the end of this year.

However, an animal welfare volunteer told Doha News that it was her understanding that the project was still in the planning stages.

The initial vision for the facility was to build some 120 kennels over 3,000 sqm of land.

Ministry of Environment officials were not immediately available to provide more details on the tender.

Currently, animal rescue services are largely decentralized and led by several volunteer-run organizations that have struggled at times to handle the influx of stray and abandoned animals brought to their premises, as well as pay for food, vaccinations and other operations.

Charitable status

While authorities in Qatar appear to moving ahead with construction of a new shelter, many other governments around the world opt to support privately run non-profit animal welfare centers rather than operate their own facilities, according to Janet Berry, the co-founder of the Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS).

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Peter Kovessy

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She said the money being allocated to construct the new shelter could go a long way towards supporting and stabilizing the country’s five existing facilities.

“We have a volunteer base, we have the facilities and the know-how,” she said.

Other organizations, such as Paws Rescue Qatar (PAWS), say they’ve offered
to run a government-funded pound where rescued animals could be held until they are adopted or relocated, but that authorities have so far been unresponsive to the idea.

In addition to financial support, Derry said the government could help organizations such as QAWS by granting them charitable status so that they can more easily solicit donations.

“We do what we do, and love what we do. It could just be that much easier if we could sit down with the authorities. We want to help them as much as we would like some help,” she said, adding that even though QAWS is “treading water” it still has a positive working relationship with the government.

Derry said QAWS is currently caring for some 160 dogs, 100 cats and a handful of farm animals. The 13-year-old organization has a waiting list of other animals waiting to be dropped off.

Thoughts?

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By Ryan Russell/ Flickr

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Qatar’s Ministry of Environment has issued a decree banning several kinds of fishing nets, including bottom trawl nets and cast nets, as part of ongoing efforts to protect and boost its dwindling fish supply.

The use of pneumatic spearguns – which utilize compressed pressure – have also been prohibited, according to the new legislation, which Doha News was given a copy of by the MOE.

Certain types of equipment, including harpoons or spears, can now only be used at specific times of the year. They are banned from December to April, to safeguard the reproduction season for many species.

The decree will take effect once it’s published in Qatar’s Official Gazette next month.

Dangers

Several of the banned pieces of equipment have been used as a means of fishing throughout the world for centuries. But many of them, while successful at catching large amounts of fish, can also unintentionally scoop up “bycatch.”

For example, bottom trawl nets operate by dragging a large, heavy net across the seafloor to catch shrimp, cod and flounder.

But they also end up gathering deep sea coral, plants, endangered fish and other creatures that are later discarded.

According to the Marine Conservation Institute:

“This collateral damage, called bycatch, can amount to 90 percent of a trawl’s total catch. In addition, the weight and width of a bottom trawl can destroy large areas of seafloor habitats that give marine species food and shelter. Such habitat destructions can leave the marine ecosystem permanently damaged.”

Other fishing nets, like the three-layer trammel and the nylon monofilament, which is almost invisible underwater, have also been listed as part under the banned equipment.

Cormorants rescue

John Reeves

Cormorants rescue

But an official at the Ministry of Environment told Doha News earlier this year that they are already illegal in Qatar.

The MOE official was commenting on an incident in January in which around 100 birds died as they flew inadvertently into 150m of vertical gill nets, in waters off of the Pearl-Qatar.

According to the WWF, gill nets can also inadvertently capture larger species.

“Gillnets are responsible for the by-catch related deaths of most threatened dolphin and porpoise species,” the group has said.

As a result, the United Nations has banned the use of large-scale (defined as greater than 2.5km) drift nets in international waters, and the EU has placed a ban on drift nets of any length.

Spearguns

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Yousif Al Mulla/Flickr

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In terms of speargun usage, the MOE has said that the use of non-pneumatic powered tools such as banded spearguns is only prohibited to catch hamour during the reproduction season of April and May each year.

According to Brig. Ali Ahmed Al Bedeed, director of Qatar’s Coasts and Borders Security Department, foreign anglers who fish in Qatar have been putting hamour and other domestic fish stocks at risk.

He added:

“If we don’t protect our fish, in one year’s time there won’t be any fish left in the Qatari waters.”

The new legislation also sets criteria for legal fishing nets, stating that the height of a net should be between 8-100m, depending on its type.

Other efforts

Mindful of its dwindling supply, Qatar officials announced last year plans to establish a QR230million ($63.16m) aquatic research center.

The center, which will comprise of massive fish and prawn hatcheries, is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

In recent years, authorities have also required Qatari owners of fishing boats to accompany their employees on expeditions – vastly decreasing the number of fishing trips taken by these boats.

A couple of years ago, officials also announced that the government had stoped issuing new fishing licenses for the next decade.

Thoughts?