How Environmental Is the Climate Summit?

BY Larisa Epatko  December 18, 2009 at 3:15 PM EDT
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A truly environmentally friendly international climate summit would probably have to take place via the Internet, with all parties and observers comfortably parked in their favorite chairs at home. But that would mean no wheeling and dealing in the corridors, the hallmark of summits like Copenhagen and similar meetings.

The climate change summit organizers here have certainly made an effort to reduce the carbon footprint — paper napkins and tissues are nearly impossible to find in the Bella center, there are five types of recycling bins at every turn, and the bus service set up to deliver attendees to and from the center is frequent and usually packed with participants.

But even here, where food is served on biodegradable plates, and hands are wiped on cloth towel spools, there have been between 30,000 and 35,000 people at a minimum in the conference center each day in the past two weeks, according to U.N. meeting organizers, and many of those people are drinking out of plastic cups and soda bottles, eating fair trade cookies out of wrappers, and generating plenty of paper waste from documents that are outdated nearly as soon as they are printed. So how does the U.N. climate summit [measure up](http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121549568)? Not well when you consider how far the many participants traveled to get there. More than 45,000 delegates, negotiators, NGO members and protesters registered for the event. Here is a taste of what it took to get some of the participants to the frozen city of Copenhagen: **Mookho Monnapula**, Lesotho, party member: 4,911 lbs CO2 **Medha Promthep**, Bangkok, Thailand, party member: 2,626 lbs CO2 **Fanny Heros**, Paris, France, Alofa Tulvalu NGO: 96 lbs CO2 **Tina Magaia**, Maputo, Mozambique, Dream Academy, NGO: 4,936 lbs CO2 Of the people I spoke with, only Heros, from Paris, purchased any carbon offset for her trip. The average for these four participants is 3,142 and using the U.N. estimate of at least 35,000 in the summit center, that would make a rough estimate for travel footprint close to 110 million pounds of C02. As negotiations continue, the wait continues to see if the efforts lead to a fruitful conclusion.