Copenhagen Climate Conference: Day 2

by | Dec 8, 2009

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UNclimateThe second day of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen for a 12-day conference kicked off on a high note with encouraging words from UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer. He said negotiators must use the first week of the conference to lay the groundwork for adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology, capacity-building and forests. He also expects funding of at least $10 billion a year from now until 2012 to support developing countries.

Hopeful signs started to trickle in from various countries including the U.S. and India, until brewing disagreements between developed and developing reared their ugly heads again.

At a press briefing Dec. 8, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu reiterated China’s call for developed companies to significantly reduce their GHG emissions and to transfer funds and technology to developing nations, reports Xinhua News Agency.

India’s Prime Minister’s Climate Change envoy Shyam Saran announced that India was in favor of a legally binding climate change agreement — which carries more weight than a politically binding one — from developed countries, while stressing the importance of a treaty at Copenhagen, reports Business Standard. Saran said in the article it is too early to say that negotiations would fail and governments have to settle for a political agreement.

A hopeful sign from the U.S. came in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement that greenhouse gases endanger human health, which clears the way for regulation of emissions without new laws passed by Congress, reports Toronto Star.

Dr. Jonathan Pershing, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, discussed President Obama’s commitment to achieving the strongest possible outcome in Copenhagen and the country’s commitment to reduce emissions and move toward a clean energy economy, reports the News Market.

The New York Times provides a rundown on what the major players at the conference want and what they have promised. The roundup shows that China and India are still pushing for rich countries to cut carbon 40 percent below 1990 levels and make large financial commitments.

Alexei Kokorin, the head of WWF Russia Climate and Energy Program, said a new climate change deal is unlikely and they are now primarily negotiating the status of future talks, reports RIA Novosti.

Kokorin told RIA Novosti said that a group of developed countries, including Russia, are in favor of a comprehensive binding agreement that includes all countries.

In an attempt to influence negotiators, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released preliminary data of global average temperatures at the conference, which indicates that this decade has been the warmest on record and this year will likely be the fifth warmest, reports Times Online.

The timing of the release is also said to be an attempt to eliminate doubts about the scientific analysis of temperature records due to the release of stolen emails in the so-called “Climategate” scandal, according to the newspaper.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is also using the Copenhagen meeting as a backdrop for the release of its report that shows how the debate in Congress over climate change initiatives is being influenced by the President George W. Bush’s climate team.

CREW’s report, “Smoke Screen: How Bush Insiders Distorted – And Still Influence – America’s Debate Over Climate Change” (PDF), profiles many of these former Bush officials and the roles they are now playing on behalf of oil, gas, mining and other powerful energy interests.

Industry sectors want to participate in climate-change discussions and solutions. For example, the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) called on climate negotiators to include industry in its discussions to encourage participation at all levels, noting that industry has demonstrated that it can respond to GHG mitigation.

As an example, the aluminum industry reports key sustainability indicators in greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, environment, health & safety performance, recycling and use phase benefits of aluminum applications. The organization reports that the industry has saved 1 billion tons of CO2e emissions from recycling between 1990 to 2008 and its total PFC emissions (t CO2e) fell by 70 percent with no increase in total direct emissions between 1990 & 2008, while doubling production.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) announced the formation of a new task force to help develop a national roadmap and strategy for the United States to address climate change, drawing from both the government and private sectors. The plan would focus on three areas — climate-change understanding, mitigation and adaptation by using technology to monitor the environment and analyze the data collected.

The conference has also spurred new tools and resources. In addition to the Sustainability Institute’s climate tracker announced yesterday, Deutsche Bank has launched a free embeddable carbon counter widget version of its digital billboard in New York City that displays the running total of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Climate Central, a non-advocacy organization of scientists and journalists, has officially launched its Web site designed to help explain the science behind global warming. During the climate change conference the Web site will offer commentary and perspective on the proceedings.

Automotive suppliers and makers are also taking advantage of the conference to showcase their new technologies at the “Driving the Future” showcase.

As an example, Solazyme Inc., based in South San Francisco, Calif., is powering vehicles with its 100 percent SoladieselRD algae fuel at the conference.

Organized by Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the “Driving the Future” showcase will give journalists and delegates complementary rides in environmentally friendly vehicles, including Solazyme’s unmodified, algae-powered vehicle.

The green diesel fuel is produced via Solazyme’s microbial fermentation process that allows algae to produce oil in standard fermentation facilities efficiently and on a large scale, according to the company.

Used with Honeywell’s UOP/Eni Ecofining process technology, this process yields a biofuel that is said to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while complying with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-975 specifications.

The Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan running Solazyme’s fuel is a completely unmodified factory standard diesel, and will be powered by Soladiesel unblended (B100) for the duration of the event.

Tesla Motors, based in Silicon Valley, Calif., is offering test drives of its Roadster electric vehicles at the conference. The company is also hosting informational sessions about electric vehicles.

The Roadster is said to be twice as energy-efficient as the Toyota Prius and produces zero tailpipe emissions. The Roadster has a range of about 400 km per charge, enabling it to drive across Denmark without refueling. It can be fully recharged through wind energy or from solar panels on customers’ homes.

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