UN Climate Change Conference Breaks Carbon Footprint Record

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Dec 10, 2014 3:40 PM
UN Climate Change Conference Breaks Carbon Footprint Record

U.N. climate meetings have always been a prime example of green hypocrisy at its finest. For example, its participants believe air travel is one of the "most serious environmental sins" yet they continue traveling to the international meetings by air. However, that sort of hypocrisy has been taken to a whole new level with their climate talks in Lima, Peru, December 1-12. 

Factoring in new construction, air and ground travel, utilities, and security, the conference’s carbon footprint will be one and a half times greater than the norm.

The Associated Press has the details:

At more than 50,000 metric tons of carfb/phbon dioxide, the negotiations' burden on global warming will be about 1 1/2 times the norm, said Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the U.N. Development Program.

The venue is one big reason. It had to be built.

Eleven football fields of temporary structures arose for the 13-day negotiations from what three months ago was an empty field behind Peru's army's headquarters. Concrete was laid, plumbing installed, components flown in from as far as France and Brazil.

Standing in the midday sun here can get downright uncomfortable, but the Lima sun is not reliable. That's one reason solar panels were not used.

For electricity, the talks are relying exclusively on diesel generators.

Organizers had planned to draw power from Peru's grid, which is about 52 percent fed by non-polluting hydroelectric power. "We worked to upgrade transformers and generators but for some reason it didn't work," said Alvarez.

Peru's hydroelectric power could be in danger by mid-century, anyway. Much of that water comes from glaciers that are melting at an accelerated pace. Peru is hardly on a green trajectory. Though it emits in a year the greenhouse gases that China spews in three days it has doubled its carbon output in the past decade.

Nor is there a guarantee that the 580 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of forest — the size of Houston, Texas — offsetting the talks' carbon pollution won't someday be gone. It must lie unperturbed for a half century in order to neutralize carbon emitted at the conference.

If the participants of the U.N.’s climate meetings cared so much for the environment and their impact on it, why not hold the meeting in a location that already has the infrastructure in place to support an event of this magnitude, or—gasp—virtually?