I woke up to sirens and helicopters buzzing overhead. Today was the big protest day everyone had circle on their calendar. Especially the local Danes who had apparently been cautioned by their leaders to seek refuge outside of Copenhagen with relatives and friends lest the unrest get out of control. Civil society organizations led by TckTckTck and 350.org had organized a march starting in the town centre of town and ending at the Bella Conference Centre approximately 6 km away. Organizers claimed they had 100,000 participants while police put the figure at around 30,000. Happily for all involved, “only” 350-400 protesters were arrested.
My personal participation was slightly more circumscribed. I skipped the march in 2 degree Celsius temperatures in favour of an early morning run, relaxing latte on-the-go and attendance at a candlelight vigil at the Bella Centre. Inbetween, I joined a few delegates in the Bella Centre watching the flatscreens beam in the march to the conference.
Tutu was quite the elf as he spoke about the responsibility of rich nations to clean up the “mess” they created with their emissions over the years, but also told rich people that they are “beautiful” and that “poor people want to become rich too!” He punctuated his speech with yelps and whoops that animated the crowd and was in contrast to the passionate yet rather professional speech provided by Robinson. Perhaps his message could be distilled to this one point: “We have only one world.”
Tuvalu Keeps Pleading
In the COP plenary today, Tuvalu clarified to all assembled that it was not attempting to embarrass the Danish government. However, the delegate reminded everyone that its entire population lives below 2 meters above sea level and the highest point on the island is 4 meters above sea level. Its delegate expressed frustration that it appears the COP is basically waiting for some US senators to conclude their business before any decisions can be made.
Renewable Energy in Europe
On a professional note, I attended a side event put on by the European Renewable Energy Council entitled “Renewable Energy – The Key Solution to Mitigate Climate Change.” Besides EREC, Greenpeace also had a panel speaker and both groups were singing from the same songbook. They provided an overview of the renewable energy industry in the EU and a path forward to enhance its role in mitigation.
The renewable energy industry in the EU now boasts 450,000 jobs and has annual revenues of 45 Billion Euro per year. Globally, that job figure jumps to 1.3 million. Wind is obviously the technology of choice, but the rate of solar PV uptake (60%/yr.) is the highest and power generated from the latter should eventually surpass the former by 2020. Renewable energy’s share of the overall EU electricity generation is currently pegged at 16.4% and should hit 24.4% by 2020, thus easily surpassing the 20-20-20 goal of 20% by 2020.
The Way Forward
The panel provided a basic three-step process forward to ensure the benefits of renewable energy are maximized. These steps are:
- Energy Efficiency: A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt that doesn’t need to be generated. This is the low-hanging fruit in reducing our emissions and should be tackled first.
- Structural Changes: The big changes to the energy industry will be more decentralized energy generation (e.g. solar PV) and greater use of large-scale renewables. A smart grid will be the prerequisite to the successful exploitation of these options.
- Energy Efficient Transport: The final step will be a transportation revolution where the focus is on mass transit investment, more efficient personal vehicles and the use of sustainable biofuels.
My Morning on the Town
(Big) Picture of the Day