Copenhagen summit carbon footprint biggest ever: report
2009-12-16 0:00

By Sunanda Creagh |

The Copenhagen climate talks will generate more carbon emissions than any previous climate conference, equivalent to the annual output of over half a million Ethiopians, figures commissioned by hosts Denmark show.

Delegates, journalists, activists and observers from almost 200 countries have gathered at the Dec 7-18 summit and their travel and work will create 46,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, most of it from their flights.

This would fill nearly 10,000 Olympic swimming pools, and is the same amount produced each year by 2,300 Americans or 660,000 Ethiopians -- the vast difference is due to the huge gap in consumption patterns in the two countries -- according to U.S. government statistics about per person emissions in 2006.

Despite efforts by the Danish government to reduce the conference's carbon footprint, around 5,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be created by the summit and a further 40,500 tonnes created by attendees' flights to Copenhagen.

The figure for the flights was calculated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), while the domestic carbon footprint from the summit was calculated by accountants Deloitte, said Deloitte consultant Stine Balslev.

"This is much bigger than the last talks because there are many more people here," she said, adding that 18,000 people were expected to pass through the conference center every day.

"These are preliminary figures but we expect that when we do the final calculations after the conference is over, the carbon footprint will be about the same."

Deloitte included in their calculations emissions caused by accommodation, local transport, electricity and heating of the conference center, paper, security, transport of goods and services as well as energy used by computers, kitchens, photocopiers and printers inside the conference center.

Accommodation accounted for 23 percent of the summit's greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen, while transport caused 7 percent. Seventy percent came from activities inside the conference center, she said.

"We have been forced to put up some temporary buildings in order to provide the delegation rooms because the number of participants is so much larger than expected," said Balslev.

"For instance the U.S. delegation has ordered an area that's five times as big as last year."

The temporary buildings housing delegation offices are not well insulated and are warmed by oil heaters, so this area is the most energy-wasteful, she said.

The researchers assumed that 60 percent of conference participants would catch public transport to and from the conference but Balslev said that was probably optimistic.

Balslev said most of the energy used by the conference was from coal fired power stations that power the electricity grid, but some was from wind power.

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