United Nations climate summits have long been criticized for their large carbon footprints, but this year’s conference in Lima, Peru saw something even more bizarre: diplomats refusing to use solar power.
The UN climate talks took place in a temporary villages at the Peruvian military’s headquarters, but conference organizers rejected pleas to power the villages with solar panels because they were too unreliable, and instead have relied on diesel generators.
Peru did try to hook the villages onto the country’s electrical grid, which gets half its power from green energy, but even that proved to be too technically challenging, reports the UK Telegraph.
Solar power emits no carbon dioxide emissions when it generates power, but can only keep the lights on when the sun is shining and the panels are optimally situated. Grid operators generally classify solar energy as too intermittent to be reliable base load power.
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Ironically, UN delegates even pushed for a long-term goal to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. An awkward goal to achieve for a climate conference that is reported to have the largest carbon footprint of any to date.
“Experts say the Lima talks will have the biggest carbon footprint of any UN conference to date at more than 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide,” the Telegraph reports. It’s not just from diesel generators, the conference’s carbon footprint was raised by “the jet fuel burned by the estimated 11,000 people who flew in from abroad to attend – including roughly 4,000 from non-governmental organisations.”
Lima delegates also used a “fleet of coaches” (a British phrase for cars) to “crawl through Lima’s gridlocked streets to shuttle delegates to and from the venue,” notes the Telegraph.
UN organizers argue the conference’s carbon footprint will be “offset” thanks to Peru’s protection of its forests, reports NBC News. At the conference, eight latin American countries, including Peru, promised to plant 20 million hectares of forest to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
But NBC New notes that “the 580 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of forest must lie unperturbed for a half-century to neutralize all that carbon.”
The conference also lasted two days longer than had originally been planned due to huge disagreements over which countries should bear the brunt of emissions cuts and over how much rich countries should give to poor countries in “climate reparations.”
The Telegraph also notes that in “private many of the delegates grumbled that they were missing their planned trips to Machu Picchu, while in public NGOs berated the delegates for their failure.”
Not surprisingly, delegates left Lima after signing a non-binding agreement to meet again in 2015 to possibly hash out a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Environmentalists and climate skeptics alike hailed the summit as a failure.
“The ingredients for some progress in Lima are on the table, but negotiators need to have the courage to use them,” Jan Kowalzig, policy adviser for Oxfam, told the Telegraph.
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