Some more transport pics from COP15

1) It’s true, we really did go to Copenhagen. Here’s a greentomatocar by one of the many picturesque Danish canals. We tried to take it into the main conference centre, but some men with guns told us to go away.

2) As far as we could work out, this bicycle isn’t all that special in itself. However, it is part of the Perpignan bicycle scheme, one of many sprouting up throughout Europe. London’s very own scheme is up next, courtesy of our blonde bombshell, Boris.

3) And the boys in blue are keen not to be put in the shade - or is this just an example of Boris imposing his political will on the Met?

4) The Renault Twizy takes the prize for most unlikely car to be made…

5) The Fluence by Renault is much more “sensible”. This version is a fairly standard lithium ion conversion, but in future these vehicles will be the workhorse of the Project Better Place battery replacement networks.

6) As mentioned Project Better Place was at the conference, showing off the exciting vision they have for private car infrastructure. Their pilot in Denmark is already underway with charging points like these all over Copenhagen.

1) A (slightly blurred) Prius taxi. There’s quite a lot of activity around taxi emissions, with many companies claiming carbon neutrality (see pic 2 below). We even came across an ethanol-powered taxi (see pic 3)

2) Carbon neutral taxi sticker - all the cars of a particular company carry this sticker.

3) From our friends at Renault, some electric vehicles for real life.

4) Copenhagen’s preferred form of transport. It is amazing here how many people cycle; and what they ride.

5) Our royal friends - no joy trying to get them to ride in a greentomatocar.

6) Some shiny new Teslas showing off in the main square.

7) A Renault space ship in the flesh.

8) Another Renault, for the executive traveller.

COP15 is underway

The UN conference began in earnest today - for the main news stories, the BBC coverage is pretty comprehensive. We divided our time between a morning seminar at the University of Copenhagen and looking at some examples of low carbon transport in the city.

A few interesting facts came out of the morning’s talks, including:

1) 70-80% of all greenhouse gases are produced by just 15 countries. This causes some to ask why we don’t simply target all efforts at reducing the emissions of those 15? One reason is technical - the UN process began as a global, all-nation initiative and is now therefore tied into remaining as such. The second reason is more interesting - if restrictions were imposed on those 15 countries alone, the remaining countries would gain a huge competitive advantage and simply step into the shoes of the 15, bringing us back to square 1. So there you have it - we’re all in this together, no matter how difficult that makes things.

2) The chief negotiator for New Zealand confirmed what most of us strongly suspect - that nothing binding will come out of COP15. Instead, we will have a “decision text” setting out a broad political accord. This text is likely to call for early action in a couple of areas (which will almost certainly include reduction of methane emissions), to be supported by a small financial package as soon as possible after the conference has finished. Greenhouse gas reduction targets will come in at a later date…

3) Did you know that when sea levels rise, the rise is not evenly distributed around the world? Although average global sea level rise is 3-4mm per year, it is much higher in some places and lower in others. I always just thought that the water would flow to find an equal level everywhere, but apparently not! Sea level rise in the UK is less dramatic than in some parts of the world, most notably the coastlines of South-East Asia.

4) There are 13 1/2 billion hectares of land on the planet. 4 1/2 billion hectares are used for agriculture. Given that population is set to grow to 9 billion by 2050, a quick calculation in my head puts future agricultural land use at just under 7 billion hectares; more than half of all land. So not only will we have more people to find space for, but there will be less space available because we’ll be using it to feed all the extra people. Sounds to me like some clever people have to start coming up with some solutions. We’re on the edge of a construction renaissance, so why not have one in farming at the same time?

5) Talking of farming, one phrase I did find interesting was “farmers connect the sun to the earth.” Our growing interest in the sun will not just manifest itself in the form of solar panels, but also in a return to our connection with the land and a greater emphasis on understanding photosynthesis.

6) Ever heard of something called “MAD”? A play on the Cold War idea, it stands for “Mutually Assured Decarbonisation” and is a theme being explored by many at COP15. The idea is that just as the USSR and USA put themselves in a position where both would be wiped out by a nuclear war, the new form of MAD will allow countries to decarbonise without losing their competitive advantage on the world market. They won’t lose this advantage because the decarbonisation of their competitors will also be assured. Neat.

This post has gone on a bit, so I will post the transportation info as photos.

1) Hopenhagen - warriors of the future

2) Arctic Sunrise

3) “Funeral of the American Dream”

4) Some creative ambient messaging

Copenhagen Climate Conference

We’ve had a busy day in Copenhagen, soaking up the atmosphere in the numerous COP15 areas dotted around the city, chatting to Danish people about their views of climate change and even witnessing the more activist end of the climate change spectrum - a mock funeral for the American Dream. Have a look at the day 1 photos we took.

There’s a buzz about the city, undampened by the temperatures rapidly dropping to sub-zero levels. The people of Copenhagen are busy putting the final touches ahead of the start of the conference tomorrow, building exhibitions to engage locals andvisitors alike and generally going about their business in an extremely polite and professional manner.

They also appear to be building a fortress around the Bella Centre where the UN conference will be held - apparently someone is expecting the summit to turn into a warzone. This is disappointing given the central message that solutions to environmental degradation and climate change must be inclusive. Those who observe the dynamics of public protest around the world have noted a growing tendency for leaders to retreat behind closed doors and issue dictats from within their sealed chambers. Given that so many members of the public continue to be doubtful as to the science of climate change, you would have thought that a more open approach was one of the obvious changes  needed, regardless of the risks surrounding activist disruption and terrorism.

The subject of activism is one that came up today as we made our way around the Greenpeace campaign ship, Arctic Sunrise. We were shown a video portraying many years of Greenpeace activities relating to nuclear weapons, toxic waste, whaling etc - a portrayal of David against the Goliath of industry and pollution. Whilst it easy to see why many people object to the politics and tactics of activist organisations, one can’t help but feel grateful for the feats of daring carried out by them in attempting to protect our seas, forests and air from the effects of modern living.

The question in our mind continues to be when, if ever, the environmental movement will no longer be the exclusive preserve of activists, politicians and scientists. When will it move into the mainstream? The “funeral of the American Dream” was noteworthy for a small audience made up almost entirely of people who could quite possibly have been at Woodstock and the odd smattering of younger traveller types. It’s wrong to deny that there’s been any change in the composition of the environmental movement, but it needs to embrace a broader church.

We hope you enjoy the photos and will write again tomorrow with more substance from the first day of the conference.