Somewhere between the politicians, business interests, and media hype of the Copenhagen climate talks, the environmentalists seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Despite limited efforts to minimize the carbon emissions created by the conference, the UNFCC estimates that the two-week event will generate about 40,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Since the UNFCC sponsors the talks, this is probably a modest estimate. But it is still equivalent to the emissions of 10,000 cars over an entire year. It is also as much as much as Malawi’s 15 million inhabitants produce in two weeks.
This striking figure raises concern over whether the content of the talks are being guided by a pragmatic concern for stopping climate change. The UK’s The Mirror reports:
The Bella Centre, where the talks are being held, is like an enormous climate trade fair…the centre swarms with believers thrusting bags of goodies, tee shirts, badges leaflets and a forest of glossy brochures at every passer by.
Any environmentalist should question the sustainability passing out swag that will likely be thrown away after a brief glance. It would have been comforting to see organizers in Copenhagen take some leadership in cutting down on one of the primary culprits behind global warming – waste.
Instead, the government of Denmark is reverting to a tactic that has become central to the climate change battle – “carbon offseting.” In a partnership with the World Bank, Denmark plans to ‘neutralize’ the emissions of the conference by sponsoring the replacement of 20 brick kilns in Bangladesh.
The arrangement is less than ideal, since the massive emissions are happening now, and the reductions merely slated to happen sometime in the future. Also, the principle of cap-and-trade doesn’t work unless there is a strict ‘cap’ to reduce emissions at the outset; otherwise we (at best) simply break even. Even if the offset project is carried out as planned, this is a lot like taking one step forward and another step back.
By Mary Tharin