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“The political ideas were sometimes doubted, but my personal impression was that Qatar was not impressed by big countries or by rich countries,” said Germany’s Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier, one of those appointed by Qatar to move talks forward. “Qatar was interested in reaching and achieving a compromise in the interest of climate protection.”

Others said Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries demonstrated how their attitudes about climate change are radically changing in the face of mounting evidence that water shortages, rising seas and droughts are linked to global warming. Rather than defending their oil and blocking progress as some had done in the past, the Gulf countries repeatedly spoke up at the conference in support of a climate change deal, and even Saudi Arabia _ which has long been a thorn in the U.N.’s climate control side _ praised the final deal as historic.

Reinforcing their newfound ideals, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia announced for the first time that they will eventually make emissions pledges and work to diversify their economies. They also held regular workshops and set up huge exhibits to demonstrate their plans to invest in solar and other renewables in the coming decade.

Thani al-Zeyoudi, director of Energy and Climate Change of the UAE’s Foreign Ministry, said the deal was a change for the oil-rich country “to get full recognition” of its efforts to battle climate change.

“I am sure that the region’s image, especially the Gulf region, has changed a lot,” said Mohamed Abdel Raouf, a research fellow in the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center. “It improved, in fact, from being just a rich oil and gas producing region that is blocking climate talks to a very positive one that cares about the future of the planet.”