Unfortunately, as the world leaders have collected in the Bella Center and the importance of the talks has escalated, our access has been decreased. Beginning today, NGO’s were designated a certain number of secondary badges in order to limit the amount of observers within the conference. For our group of 20, we were allocated eight.
In order to accommodate, we have split into shifts in order to make sure that we all have opportunities to continue to participate in the event. Shifts are 7am-1pm, 1pm-6pm and 6pm until close. This still allows us enough time to observe and follow some of the talks, but has made it much more difficult compared to last week.
It does not help that tens of thousands of people have now made their journey to Copenhagen and converged on the Bella Center, causing the ‘queueing’ to last hours outside in the sub-freezing temperatures. Our group being an NGO group that has already registered, we surpass the non-registered line which has extended up to eight hours according to some. Personally, I waited in a line that appeared it was going to take about four hours, but was sped up and only took one hour to get through security and enter the building.
I experienced many people who were scheduled to speak at events within the building, but were forced to stand in the hour-long lines, missing the event completely. Even yesterday, before the restrictions began, during a side event discussing REDD, the top speaker was an hour late do to the lines and the other did not make it all.
All that is going on makes me question the managing of the event. The Bella Center at full capacity holds around 15,000 people, yet there are thousands more of NGO participants alone, not accounting for party members. With knowledge of the capacity of the building, I find it hard to comprehend why so many people were allowed to participate. Not to mention, Thursday will be restricted to 1,000 observers total and Friday to a measley 90 observers. That leaves upwards of 25,000 people (numbers heard through discussion of other observers while waiting in line) with no access to the event that has attracted us all to Copenhagen.
While Al Gore’s presentation on melting ice stole the show for the afternoon, it was the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and The Woods Hole Research Center’s (WHRC) meeting on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degredation (REDD) that gave hope to those attending that dramatic change can be made about climate change.
The WHRC has created the Pan-Tropical Forrest Mapping project, which uses “cloud penetrating space images” that pick up biomass on the surface of the earth. These images help the group study and examine trends in deforestation, supplying the country of Brazil with vital information in their fight against deforestation.
And it is hard to argue that the Brazilian people aren’t winning that fight.
According to information given by different representatives from the two speaking groups, as well as Brazilian Senator Marina Silva, it was made clear that deforestation in Brazil is rapidly decreasing and could one day be a thing of the past. Currently, deforestation in order to service the meat and soy bean industries are leading the way in the loss of one of Brazil’s greatest resources. If trends continued on a business-as-usual path, it is predicted that by 2030 Brazil would have lost 50% of its forests. But with the help of government protection of 51% of the forrests and direct payments to those people who live in or near the forrests not to contribute to the deforestation, Brazil has actually found a decrease in the square kilometer area of deforrestation from 2005. In that year, it was recorded that 27,000 square kilometers were destroyed, while this year only 7,000 square kilometers have been removed.
In order to accomplish what they have, Brazil has adopted not only a national goal, but also allowed individual goals for each state within the country. This allows for individual discretion while still having one centric group to overlook the country’s progress as a whole.
Near the end of the meeting, one of the most surprising comments I have heard this entire time at the COP15 meetings came from Senator Silva. I would have liked to quote her, but quoting her translator is not the same. In basic terms, Senator Silva reported that the end of deforestation in Brazil is in their sights.
During the side event of ‘Smart Grids For Saving Energy and Protecting the Environment’, Mrs. Dian Gruineich, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, gave a talk about where the public utilities stand in the process of changing over to smart grids. While it is always good to find ways of cutting down on emissions, it does not appear the current plan for the state is not on the right path.
Mrs. Gruineich stated that they are still in the planning process, but have in place the technology to create a new market in which outside companies will provide home appliances to California residents that will work hand in hand with electrical meters in order to maximize the efficiency of electrical uses. For example, Mrs. Gruineich stated that using smart technology in a freezer will allow the freezer to run its defrost stage during the middle of the night when electrical prices are lower than during the day, when more residents are awake and utilizing electricity. She also declared that while a smart grid will be an evolution, not a revolution, it will still consist of copper and iron that the grid currently uses and will not show any physical difference.
This is where I question the path Mrs. Grueneich and California have chosen. One of the environmental problems facing the world today is transforming old, out-of-date technology that no longer is efficient enough to combat climate change. With this knowledge, why is a member of one of the most developed countries in the world simply cleaning up a system that will surely reach its time of being out-dated and will have to be faded out for room of better, more efficient technology? It is vital that we plan for the future, but in order to do this we must take into account what he have learned in the past.
As far as I know, there are no other real options other than the current grid we have. But shouldn’t that lead us to finding different options? It is not that I disagree with smart grids, I just feel as though it is being subsituted for a much harder, but neccessary, transformation. We need to stop looking for the quick fixes and finally take that large leap forward that will set us up for the future.
A group of us DePaul students decided to stake our spots for the Lisa Jackson talk about an hour and a half early today, and sat through the “Measurement and Reporting” meeting held before the EPA Administrator was slated to speak. The meeting ended up being very informational and interesting, specifically the discussion of Methane.
Carey Bylin, a member of the ‘Methane to Markets’ group(M2M)- an “international initiative that advances cost-effective, near-term methane recovery”- discussed the process and amount of Methane unknowingly released into the atmosphere in oil and natural gas facilities. She stated that the energy that could be created from the amount of natural gas lost would supply the entire country of Chile for two years with the amount of energy it currently uses. Such a high amount of this resource being simply released into the air is unacceptable and extremely inefficient.
Bylin went on to discuss how M2M is fighting these losses, a task that has been extremely difficult to this point. Currently, the environment in which the gas is leaking is loud, drowning out any auditory hints as to where the Methane is leaking from, as well as the Methane is usually odorless and invisible. With such factors hindering factory workers ability to find these spots, it was essential for M2M to find a tool that would allow for an easier method of discovering these leaking points. According Bylin, they have began using infrared cameras, which pick up the hydro carbon atoms found in Methane. A picture using the specific cameras was shown and turns the nearly-undetectable gas into a ‘visible smoke’ that will help facilities locate problematic spots. Tools such as this are vital in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as they allow for better management and recording of greenhouse gases.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, set to discuss the 4th Assessment Report (AR4) in a side event at COP15, calmly defended the IPCC while under scrutiny of the recent email scandal plaguing the group’s reputation.
To begin the meeting, Pachauri took the time to emphasize the number of qualified authors who contributed to AR4 as well as the 2,500 review editors who verify and evaluate all information in the report. He stated that because of the “robustness” of the AR4 contributors, the IPCC has been very forward and “transparent” in their actions and findings. Pachauri’s calmness and humor while discussing the topic delivered his confidence and reassurance that the information in the report is scientific fact.
After a few questions, it appeared that not everyone in the room was convinced to simply move on from the topic. Pachauri continued his defense, arguing that the IPCC does “not depend on one single set of data,” rather, all reports are based on a multitude of data sets pulled from various reliable sources that are checked and cross-checked through out the process. He then attempted to end the discussion, claiming the IPCC was not investigating the reports, proving they do not see a cause to believe there are flaws within their report. He did state that the IPCC was “looking into it”, but there would be no need to conduct an investigation.
Between his discussions of the email scandal to begin the side event and his opening ceremonies brief mentioning of them the day before, Pachauri has not faultered in his support and trust in the IPCC’s findings. His ability to openly discuss the topic can only be a sign of the transparency of which he claims is a characteristic of the IPCC and shows that the scandal does not encompass much more than a few emails.
In an attempt to conserve natural forests, a push made by at least 20 countries was shut down by EU members in the Bangkok climate talks. Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD) hoped to change policy wording to include “…safeguards against the conversion of natural forests to plantations”.
Instead, if/when REDD is implemented, countries will have no incentives to leave natural forests alone, rather turn them into plantations they can receive benefits from.
This becomes a problem environmentally as natural forests have stored within the soil green house gases which are then released into the atmosphere during deforestation and account for roughly 25% of the world’s total green house gases. This store of gases are not taken into account when giving credits to countries for a drop in emissions.
It appears that the EU’s decision to drop the specification is a sign of where the world stands on the environment. At this point in time, there is difficulty getting all industrialized countries on board with taking their fair share of responsibility. Had this text been added, it would take away a loop hole to the policy that allows industrialized countries to continue deforestation and only requires them to replant what they have destroyed. This does not help reduce emissions.
If these countries are still looking for loop holes, it shows they have not fully embraced the goal of the environmental movement. This means it is important that NGO’s and other such groups continue to push their respected governments in the right direction to help raise awareness of the severity of the topic.