Wednesday, December 16, our last day in the Bella Center due to NGO restrictions, was an intense day. In the first meeting, we witnessed the resignation of COP15 President Connie Hedegaard and several Heads of State statements, as well as the concern from developing countries regarding the imposition of the Danish text.
Senator Kerry at the Bella Center
I left the plenary to hear U.S. Senator John Kerry discuss the critical role of a global deal in advancing domestic legislation. Kerry is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the Senate’s climate bill.
As I was attempting to enter the meeting, I ran into Brice Lalonde, Kerry’s first cousin and French ambassador in charge of international climate change negotiations since 2007. I had the luck of finding a seat in the front row!
Denmark has been a leader in renewable and clean energy for over 40 years. While some policies were perhaps misguided, like banning car use on Sundays in the 1970’s, slow but steady expansion of the country’s renewable energy portfolio has allowed the country to maintain its emission levels while boasting of continuing healthy economic expansion. One of the best examples of the country’s advances in renewables technology is the Middelgrunden windfarm located just offshore in Copenhagen’s harbor. Built in 2000, it currently has twenty 2 MW turbines that generate a total of 40 MW of power (about 3% of Denmark’s total requirements). [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0Qi5xBA-ow] Continue reading →
The conversation about climate change revolves to a great extent around coal-fired power plants in the U.S., China, and around the world because of their enormous emissions of carbon dioxide and the alarming rate at which new plants are being proposed and constructed. Today was a day for absorbing many of the other ugly truths about coal. Some students and I toured coal country in Western Pennsylvania with the help of community activists fighting bravely against entrenched adversaries. We watched in horror as an arsenic-laden mist rained down on our car while we drove past an enormous coal plant in a small rural town. Our jaws dropped even further as we drove for miles around a 1,300-acre toxic fly ash dump that loomed behind soft earthen dams and threatened to bury entire neighborhoods with toxic sludge when heavy rains come. Continue reading →