on 1st December 2012

Marching against climate change in Doha

Amidst a backdrop of skyscrapers and hotels, Peter With, of CARE Denmark and the Southern Voices programme, reflects on Qatar’s first public demonstration on climate change.

Today, I marched with the most unusual crowd of people against climate change. The middle Saturday, during the two-week climate talks in Doha, is often an opportunity to demonstrate and put pressure on the negotiators – while providing a few pictures for the press.

This year, in Doha, I get off the bus at the Sheraton hotel, a posh looking, 10-storey pyramid structure. This is the starting point for the first demo in the history of Qatar. I put on my CARE t-shirt and join the many pandas from the World Wildlife Fund and polar bears from Greenpeace. An Oxfam colleague hands me a placard emblazoned with ‘Extreme Weather – Extreme Food Prices.’ This message fits perfectly with our own concerns at CARE. Last year, doubling food-prices dramatically increased food bills for poor people in Africa, many of whom depend on food imports.

It is nice to see so many colleagues, many of whom I haven’t seen for years. Habte from Ethiopia, Vitumbiko from Malawi. Many of us have marched together before. What is new here in Doha is the many Arabs who join us: bearded men in long white ghallabia dresses, many women in black, from top to toe – some with jewels and fancy designer handbags.

Though there are not that many locals, their messages are still important: ‘Arabs, take the lead! Qatar – do the right thing!’ After so many days in the conference centre, it is nice to get outside and join the protest – and join the call for climate action and climate justice. With our present pace of ambition, global emissions are heading towards a 4 degree temperature rise by the end of the century which will bring devastating effects for the planet and human civilization.

Poor people in poor nations will be particularly badly hit. If we do not reverse this trend, I ask myself if civillizations here in Qatar will survive the next 200 years? Will the Sheraton pyramid end up like those of the Atzecs and Mayans – as traces of civilizations long gone?

Activists march against climate change at the UN's COP 18 in Doha

Peter With

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