IPCC keen to avoid old ghosts

The roof of the waste-to-energy facility will be turned into a ski slope


(escort 16) — IPCC scientists and government officials meeting here in Copenhagen are likely to work late into the night to deal with some very heavy questions.

And it won’t just be queries about the “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts of climate change.

In those quiet corners they will huddle to answer philosophical challenges such as How long is ever? posed by the US in a response to one part of the Synthesis draft report.

One or two are likely to look over their shoulders this chilly Halloween, and keep an eye out for the spooky presence that no delegate dares to name.

Yes the ghost of Hopenhagen still sends shivers through the timbers of the most seasoned IPCC’er.

Back in 2009, greens and others went blue from the cold as they queued to get into the not-very Bella centre, site of the UN talks that were meant to deliver a new global deal.

Being frozen out was an apt metaphor for what was to come.

Copenhagen, or Hopenhagen as it was cloyingly dubbed, was a meeting that was meant to “save the planet”.

It ended in farce and failure.

Now, the IPCC is separate from the UN’s internal climate process – but the ghosts of 2009 still echo here.

The Danish government is very keen to show the world that things have really changed over the past 5 years.

They have been organising tours of some of the country’s greenest facilities, to emphasise once again, that they are still the “good guys”, despite the failings of 2009.

There’s no clang of cowbells just yet on a giant building site some four kilometres from the heart of Copenhagen.

However, in two years time skiers will be swishing their way around the rooftop of this new facility that’s starting to emerge on the water’s edge near the Danish capital.

The Amager Bakke project will see the construction of a massive waste to energy plant that will tower over most other buildings in the city.

As well as producing 60MW of electricity entirely from old rubbish, the facility has been designed to incorporate an artificial ski slope on the roof

Looking down on the emerging structure, managing director Ulla Rottger is buzzing with enthusiasm for the project, which is costing around 500 million euros

It will replace the current plant that dates from the 1970s.

The neighbours see that as a positive she says, pointing to apartments just 250 metres from the site.

There will be no noise and no smell from the garbage. We are just 4km from the mayor’s office but, yes, it’s possible to treat waste in an environmentally friendly way in the middle of the city

But not everyone is convinced of Denmark’s green sheen.

WWF International produced a report in recent weeks that measured the ecological footprint of countries

Denmark finished fourth on the list of shame, just behind environmental outliers such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates

If everyone on the planet lived like a Dane, the report said, then we’d need 4.5 Earth-like planets to sustain us

The problem is they grow a lot of crops here, often to feed the pig industry, and there is little in the way of untouched natural space. So their footprint per capita is high by these measures

Back at Amager Bakke, there are plans to install a chimney that will emit a symbolic, environmentally friendly smoke ring for every tonne of carbon dioxide that’s emitted

Is this just Danish greenwash?

Yes, says writer and journalist Michael Booth, who has covered the country extensively.

We have the highest energy costs in Europe, the majority of those costs are taxes imposed by the government he says.

So I get kind of annoyed by Danish politicians swanning around the world preaching about how green Denmark is. I think it is rank hypocrisy

Questions of taxes and hypocrisy are not for the IPCC – their job is to outline the parameters of the climate problem and how it might be tackled, globally

The process requires complete consensus. Over 190 governments have to agree and so do the scientists

Hence the late nights, and ghostly huddles

The problem is that because of that consensus, everyone goes home believing the report supports their own interpretation of how to tackle climate change

If we are backed up by the science, they think, why should we compromise

That’s partly why Copenhagen 2009 came a cropper

It is no wonder that some accuse the poor old IPCC of finding refuge in discombobulation

How long is ever? How soon is now

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