How 'Green' was COP-15?

The Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change faced a simple problem – how do you hold a global conference on the environment without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, wasting paper, and otherwise being un-green?

First, the United Nations started with a green city for the summit. The Economist Intelligence Unit just completed a survey of 30 European cities and found Copenhagen was the greenest based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; energy; buildings; transportation; water; air quality; waste and land use; and environmental governance.

Second, the meeting was designed to be green. The Danish Foreign Ministry said, "COP-15 is organized following BS8901, a sustainable management standard. BS8901 was developed for the sustainable organization of the 2012 Olympic Games in London." What was done and what effects it had will be published in March 2010 as the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol. This will be a case study that future meetings can use as a guide.

Third, the planners invested in carbon offsets. The Danish government has invested €700,000 in offsetting carbon emissions from transport to COP-15. "We were only required to compensate for local emissions, but Denmark voluntarily decided to compensate for all emissions to showcase our commitment to sustainability," said Jan-Christoph Napierski, head of section at the COP-15 logistic unit of the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We're also not only compensating for CO2 but other harmful greenhouse gases as well."

"This is probably one of the largest offsetting programs that has ever been done for an event," added Guy Bigwood, group sustainability director at MCI, which was involved in organizing and greening the event.

Fourth, organizers made sure that the supplies for the 180 member countries' delegations were as green as possible. For example, UPM supplied 9 million sheets of copy paper that relies on sustainable sourcing of wood raw material and carries the EU Eco-label, the official EU mark awarded to greener products. Konica Minolta's copiers use up to the 60 percent less energy than the latest Energy Star requirements, and most, if not all, of the toner cartridges are recycled. "Every compatible toner cartridge sold keeps one half-pound of waste out of landfills," says Chuck Mache, chief executive officer and president of American TonerServ.

Fifth, local businesses were involved. The number of hotels in Copenhagen with green certification has grown from 9 percent to 53 percent over the past 18 months in the run-up to COP-15. For example, hotels that had green accreditation, such as the Green Key, Green Globe Certificate or Nordic Swan Label, were placed higher on the online reservation page for the conference. What business wouldn't want to be at the top of that list?

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