World leaders converge on Copenhagen

Tension in Copenhagen was mounting by the hour early Friday as world leaders backed up by extremely heavy security converged on the huge Bella Center complex to see if they could come up with a new, strengthened agreement on reducing global greenhouse gasses.

By late Thursday, many commentators were suggesting that US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, whose countries are responsible for more than 50% of the world’s destructive greenhouse gas emissions, would have to reach an agreement on funding, targets and transparent monitoring if the UN climate change conference is to have a successful conclusion.

Earlier Thursday, the conference seemed set to grind to a halt until Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who is chairing the highly-contentious global gathering, promised participants there was no secret text being prepared that favoured the wealthy, industrialised world. Negotiations, which were by then joined by ministers, began shortly again.

The laborious talks, which have been fraught with continually changing texts and an increasingly sense of despair, later seemed to receive a burst of momentum after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced America would help create an annual $100 billion fund after 2020 so that poor developing nations could better deal with expected climate change consequences.

In making the announcement, however, Clinton warned that such a fund would only be made available if developing nations, including China, allowed for transparent international monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions. Her comments seemed particularly aimed at China, the fastest growing economy in the world, which has repeatedly said it would conduct its own monitoring tests.

A weary and somewhat relieved Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, welcomed Clinton’s announcement and other late-breaking diplomatic moves. “Hold tight. Mind the doors. The cable car is moving again,” de Boer said.

While Heads of State, including Obama who arrived in Copenhagen at 7 a.m. today, are trying to reach some sort of agreement, which almost certainly will not at this stage be legally binding, looming large in the background is a recently leaked confidential UN draft which indicated nations have to promise much deeper emissions reduction targets or the world is on a path to an unsustainable 3°C temperature rise.

Such an increase would have catastrophic results as most climate scientists believe global temperature rise should not be beyond 2°C by the end of the century if humankind as we know it is to have a chance of surviving.

As a bitterly cold wind swept through the icy streets of Copenhagen and noisy security helicopters continually hovered above, a non-governmental environmental group called ECO published its daily report on the climate change conference. Today’s edition was described as the “Precipice Issue.”

Wind power fights climate change

The wind is an abundant energy resource. Wind energy is a real alternative to emission producing fossil fuels and, crucially, can be deployed and begin reducing CO2 emissions immediately. Wind energy is already fighting climate change: in 2008, wind power in the EU avoided the emission of 91 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2.

Wind energy pushes polluting electricity producers out of the market

Wind power replaces fossil fuels and their sizeable CO2 emissions, and therefore helps combat climate change. Because wind turbines do not consume fuel and their operation and maintenance expenses are low, the marginal cost of wind power is minimal.

Therefore, an increase in the amount of wind power in the electricity mix means that more expensive and polluting technologies (oil, coal and gas) are pushed out of the market.

To calculate how much CO2 is avoided by producing electricity from wind power, it can be assumed that each kWh of wind power displaces a kWh created by the energy mix of coal, oil and gas at the time of production. On average in the EU in 2008, each kWh produced by wind energy saves approximately 666 grammes of CO2.

As soon as you turn the lights on you need a power plant, and all power plants have a CO2 impact during their construction. Lifecycle emissions include the building of the plant, fuel extraction and transport, operation and maintenance. A turbine reimburses the energy and CO2 it cost to build it in three to six months. Wind energy has the lowest lifecycle emissions of all energy production technologies.