Environment Forum

Forget polar bears, who will save the prostitutes?

Among the many messages sent out by politicians during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, “Be sustainable — don’t buy sex” has to be one of the least expected. This was the advice circulated by Ritt Bjeregaard, the city’s mayor and a former EU Environment Commissioner, sent via postcard to all the hotels in the city to tell them to stamp down on conference-goers looking to patronise prostitutes on their premises.

Prostitution is legal in Denmark (though brothels and pimping are not), and sex workers had been expecting to do a roaring trade during the two-week conference.

Mayor Bjeregaard’s note sparked an angry response from the Sex Workers Interest Group, which pointed out that its members are not breaking the law and promised free sex to any attendees who produced one of the postcards along with their conference accreditation.

“This is sheer discrimination. Ritt Bjerregaard is abusing her position as mayor in using power to prevent us carrying out our perfectly legal job. I don’t understand how she can be allowed to contact people in this way,” the group’s spokeswoman Susanne Møller told website avisen.dk.

Youth groups bending the ear of business at COP15

There are numerous youth groups at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (they are known as ‘Youngos’, short for young non-governmental organisations) and they have all come here to make sure their collective voice is heard as delegates negotiate an agreement on how to tackle climate change.

Youngos represent a significant portion of the 34,000 people who have registered to attend the conference, and some have even managed to gain access to politicans and business leaders to put pressure on them on ethical business strategies.

One of these unfailingly vocal groups is the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC), which has travelled to Copenhagen to lobby businesses, investors and world leaders to adopt practices which would safeguard the environment for future generations.

from Mario Di Simine:

For rent: COP15 apartment, $5,000 for 2 weeks

DENMARK CHRISTIANIA

In a country where income taxes can run as high as 60 percent and the word most used to describe almost everything is "expensive", it's little wonder the locals are eager to pocket a few extra Danish kroner during the COP15 Copenhagen climate conference.

And if the extra money comes in under the table, even better.

With the hotels and hostels booked solid, some Danes have opened their homes to some of the 34,000 delegates who were tardy in their bookings.

A waiter told me that he and his roommate had rented out their two-bedroom apartment for the two-week duration of the conference for a whopping $5,000. He didn't want his name used, of course. That money will not make it into the country's coffers.

from Mario Di Simine:

WWF, businesses deal on emissions

The debate over lowering greenhouse gas emissions is sometimes depicted as a fight between environmental groups concerned over the health of the planet and businesses concerned about economic growth and bottom-line erosion.

Occasionally, though, there is a meeting of like minds between the two.

The WWF has a program in which it partners with companies to target emissions reductions. The Climate Savers program is an agreement between the WWF and its partner companies to lay out targets and set out projects to meet those goals.

"We want to show that doing business and reducing emissions go hand in hand," said Matthew Banks, a senior program officer at the WWF and an economist.

from The Great Debate:

For real results on climate, look beyond Copenhagen

-- Aron Cramer is the president and CEO of BSR, a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Sustainable Excellence (Rodale 2010). The views expressed are his own.  --

(Updated on December 17th to correct figure in McKinsey study in paragraph 7.)

As world leaders seem uncertain about whether a binding treaty is even possible at Copenhagen, it’s important to remember what was already clear: Twelve days in Copenhagen were never going to solve climate change anyway.

No doubt, these negotiations, now extending into 2010, are crucial. The sooner we can seal a global deal to reduce emissions, the sooner we can avoid catastrophic climate change. But as important as the treaty negotiations in Copenhagen’s Bella Centre are, even a successful outcome will be for naught if boardroom decisions and factory processes aren’t reoriented toward a low-carbon future.

Setting up home on the ice

Aerial shot of ice cracking on the Cape Denison coastline, East Antarctica

I am now standing on Antarctica, my icy home for the next six weeks and it’s minus five degrees Celsius and majestic. My new address is Commonwealth Bay, Cape Denison, 67 degrees South, East Antarctica.

A group of curious penguins greeted us as we unpacked our gear, but our nearest human neighbours are 200 kms west at the French Antarctic base Dumont D’Urville.

Commonwealth Bay looks like a tourism postcard. A curved bay with a coastline of ice cliffs. The isolation is stark. Apart from Sir Douglas Mawson’s huts, which we are here to restore, a radio mast and our portacabins, there is nothing but ice.

Is China getting serious about tracking emissions?

beijingAt a major global climate summit in Copenhagen this week, China slammed rich nations for having weak and unambitious goals to cut carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, back at home, China’s main government group charged with monitoring greenhouse gases struck a new contract with Picarro, a California-based company that makes gas analyzers. The deal will double the number of Picarro analyzers that the Chinese Meteorological Administration uses.

We wanted to know if readers think this is a sign that China —- the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, followed by the United States — is getting serious about tracking its carbon emissions.

The answer could be blowing in the wind

wind2

Well into the first week of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, the haves and have nots of the world are still divided over who should pay for the cleanup of the planet. Poor countries want rich countries to cough up more ambitious goals for emissions cuts and developing technologies.

From emerging wind and solar industries to geothermal advances, the technologies being tested for adaptability in the fight against climate change are still quite new and in some cases revolutionary.

To kick off today’s discussion, we posed the question to our panel of climate experts:  What technology could be the most successful solution to global warming?

from Mario Di Simine:

JohnsonDiversey exec sees CO2 reductions good for businesses

Some businesses in the United States will have to reinvent themselves as the Obama administration moves to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but they'll be  better off in the long run, Pedro Chidichimo, president of JohnsonDiversey EMA, told Reuters.com on Thursday.

Despite the inevitable short-term pain, Chidichimo said that carbon footprint reductions simply have good bottom-line implications for businesses.

"Of course there are a lot of investments that need to be done, not only financial investments but resources and capabilities investments that need to be done to do that but this will generate significant bottom-line improvement for the business landscape," he said.

Reporter’s video notebook: Day Four

Reuters environmental markets correspondent Gerard Wynn is at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. In this video log, he previews what to expect on the fourth day of talks.

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