President of UN climate summit in Qatar says shale gas is “good news”

By Ed King

COP18 President Al-Attiyah is a former President of OPEC

The President of the forthcoming UN Climate Change Summit in Qatar says shale gas is “good news” and will ensure global energy security for the next 300 years.

In comments which raise serious questions over Qatar’s ambitions for the COP18 negotiations, which start in Doha on November 26, His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, deputy Prime Minister of the Gulf state, said the exploitation of unconventional sources of fossil fuels would be good for consumers.

“It’s good news because it gives the world trust and confidence in gas,” he told a TV reporter at the 2012 Oil and Money Conference.

“A few years ago there was uncertainty about enough supply to the world – today the gas will give the world 300 years of security. I believe this is good news and it will give the consumer more trust in gas.”

Al-Attiyah, who is a former President of OPEC and won the Petroleum Executive of the Year Award in 2008, was speaking a day after the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that “no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to avoid warming by 2°C, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology can be deployed”.

Earlier this year the IEA’s chief economist Fatih Birol said the world was on course to warm by 6°C, unless urgent action was taken to avoid carbon lock-in before 2017.

Qatari leadership

As President of the UN climate talks Al-Attiyah is expected to play a key role in ensuring negotiations run smoothly and that the stated ambition of all parties to avoid warming beyond 2°C is kept on course.

Despite the state’s activity in international diplomacy, there have been increasing concerns in recent weeks over Qatar’s ability to cope with this round of climate talks, which will be complex given the number of negotiating streams.

The UNFCCC says it is happy with preparations, but these comments will add to the view that the Emirate, which boasts the highest per-capita emissions in the world, is firmly committed to a high-carbon future.

Reacting to these comments, WWF-UK’s International Climate Change Policy Advisor Kat Watts said it was vital all Parties heading to Doha realised the world needed to move away from oil and gas as a source of energy.

“All governments need to realize that the future cannot be not fossil fuelled. There are massive greenhouse gas emissions in both production and consumption of coal, oil, gas, and the only way to minimize the climate crisis is to keep them in the groun,” she said.

“The IEA’s report is an important wake-up call – but even their scenario only has about a 50% chance of keeping below a global 2ºC temperature increase.”

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