The Tuck team (officially designated as Observers by the UN) checked into COP18 this afternoon, at the magnificent Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC). Check-in was very painless this year and we were able to get our badges in just a few minutes, unlike previous years, where Prof. Sundaram said that there was a multi-hour wait just to get badges. On the contrary, attendance seemed to be quite light this afternoon, as you can see in the picture below.
From Left to Right – Vijai Krishnan, Betsabeh Madani, Sarah Stern, Prof. Anant Sundaram, Joya Zuber and Pat Palmiotto – all checked in and ready to go.
After checking in and clearing security (lots of security around the place), we went into the lobby of the QNCC to meet this strange creature (picture below). It reminded me of Shelob from Lord Of The Rings, and given that I am severely arachnophobic, I tried to ignore it as best as I could while smiling for the picture below!
The Tuck team and Shelob face off in the lobby of the QNCC
We headed into the center and spent some time becoming familiar with the layout of the absolutely humongous QNCC building. While Dr. Sundaram and Pat went off to find the room where Tuck will host our side event on Wednesday evening, the rest of us went off to attend the plenary session where the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister was presiding. En-route, we saw some eye catching interior design elements in the QNCC (two pictures below) –
The glass leaves in the ceiling reminded me of the Fiori di Como glass flower sculpture at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but given that Qatar is an Islamic country, where gambling is strictly forbidden, I am sure any resemblance was strictly coincidental and all in my imagination!
Finally, we made our way into the massive plenary chamber. After trying our luck at entering through the Delegate entrance (Delegates are official representatives of the various UN organizations such as FAO, UNICEF, ILO etc. and member states such as the US or India), we then headed upstairs to the entrance reserved for NGOs/Observers where we were given translators. However, we did not need these, as the Qatari Deputy Prime Minister, HE Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, delivered his presiding remarks in English and declared COP 18 open. There were plenty of empty seats in the Delegates hall, so it was perhaps too early for the real action to start. Nobody objected to anything he had to say, so there was a lot of gavel banging as he went through the administrative motions of outlining the agenda for COP 18.
After listening to the speeches from a couple of additional members on the panel (one of whom talked about the importance of not letting the Kyoto protocol lapse without securing a second commitment period), we decided to head back to the lobby to catch the bus back to the hotel.
As we headed out, we could not help but notice the massive amount of construction still happening in and around the convention center. Qatar is clearly a country in transition.