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Challenges face UN climate summit in Qatar

Nearly 200 countries meet in oil-rich Qatar to discuss how to raise climate aid for poor countries.

Clone of Doha skyline Enlarge
A view of Doha's skyline. Nearly 200 nations will meet in the Qatari capital Doha for the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

Nearly 200 countries will meet in oil-rich Qatar starting Monday to make progress in the ongoing challenge of slowing global warming.

Poorer countries are facing an uphill battle to raise funds to fight against climate change. Wealthier nations have given nearly $30 billion in grants and loans since 2009 but those commitments expire this year, reports AP.

Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries stand before a "climate fiscal cliff".

"So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change," he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Nations will also have to negotiate an expansion of the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire at the end of the year.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only binding treaty designed to limit carbon emissions that scientists say are responsible for melting ice caps, glaciers, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.

Several countries want to carry over unused carbon allowances after Kyoto expires but environmental campaigners say that could make new carbon cuts meaningless.

"Many (delegates) are unhappy about the carry-over," Dr Quamrul Chowdhury, a negotiator from Bangladesh who speaks for the developing countries group told BBC News. "It could be a difficult issue."

The conference has been attracting criticism since it was announced that it would be held in Qatar. The Middle East country is rich in oil and gas and has some of the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, reports the BBC.

Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme told the BBC that he was pleased Qatar had the "courage" to host the meeting.

"Some of these countries that we thought in the past were not serious about climate change, were not into renewable energy, are now signaling very strongly that they want to be part of the solution," he said.

"The signals we are getting from the Qatari administration is that they now want to start doing things on climate change and this is maybe their first big step."

Others, such as Jamie Henn, co-founder of the environment group 350.org, were a bit blunter about the venue choice.

"This is a little bit like McDonald's hosting a conference on obesity," Henn told Al Jazeera. "If anything, it shines a bit more spotlight on Qatar and on the steps that can be taken to address the problem."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/121125/challenges-face-un-climate-summit-qatar