Thursday, December 10, 2009

Danish capital celebrates a carbon Christmas

by Ben O’Halloran
COPENHAGEN is a city of carbon contradictions.
As the host of the UN climate change conference, the Danish capital has gone out of its way to be environmentally friendly to the tens of thousands of visitors who are attending the COP15. Even the bikes are free during the conference.
But below the surface is a city largely dependent on dirty coal and, to a lesser extent, imported nuclear power.
Hoping to become the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2025, Copenhagen homes and offices at this time of year are dressed in tinsel and blinking lights.
Lots of lights.
So how green is Copenhagen?
With a population of about 1.1 million people, the city has enjoyed strong economic growth, Denmark boasting a GDP of more than $300 billion.
Fossil fuels account for 85 per cent of the country’s energy use, but the Government recognises the need to increase the use of alternative energy sources and plans to further reduce its carbon footprint by 2025.
In 2007, Denmark used more coal per capita than China, something Climate Change Minister Connie Hedegaard hopes to change.
Hedegaard, who is the president of COP15, wants to cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent to 1990 levels.
But while the Danes take a tough stance on nuclear energy, the country imports eight per cent of its energy from nuclear power sources.
The Government’s energy strategy also includes a renewable energy target of 30 per cent by 2025. Presently, about 15 per cent of the country’s total energy use comes from renewable sources, which supply 27 per cent of its electricity.
Denmark became one of the first countries to establish offshore wind farms, with up to 5500 wind turbines spread across the country. They produce 20 per cent of power in Denmark, which plans to increase this to 50 per cent by 2025.
Copenhagen also has more than 350km of bike paths used by 37 per cent of the city’s population. By 2015, about half of the city is expected to use bikes.
The low carbon message also adorns the public transport system. Train passengers on the Metro line to the COP15 cannot avoid the wall-to-wall Oceana posters which warn of impending doom for the world’s reefs, fish and shellfish.
‘The price of oysters in 2050 will total 350ppm of carbon dioxide,’ one poster warns.
The transport sector now accounts for about 25 per cent of Denmark’s carbon dioxide emissions. This is expected to increase over the next few years, having increased by more than 50 per cent over the past 20 years.
Copenhagen mayor Ritt Bjerregaard told the COP15 this week the city had adopted a range of energy efficiency measures to cut energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
“Next week, mayors from more than 70 cities will come to Copenhagen to stand side by side to fight climate change,” she said.
“Today, cities are responsible for 75 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Cities also contain 50 per cent of the world’s populations and some of the world’s largest economies.
“We may be part of the problem but we are definitely part of the solution.”
Bjerregaard said Copenhagen had 50 specific initiatives to achieve a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2015.
It’s a good start.

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