Notes from Copenhagen – Day 2

By on 16/12/2009 in Blog

Sandy-Taylor-150x150Sandy Taylor, Head of Climate Change and Sustainability, blogs on the second day of activity during his trip to the UN Climate Change Summit in Copehagen, which he is attending with Deputy City Council Leader Cllr Paul Tilsley…


Today we started with yet more organisational uncertainty as it still was unclear if we would be allowed to enter the Copenhagen Bella Centre (the equivalent to our NEC).

So we entered into the Mayors Summit in the Future City Pavilion with a little feeling of trepidation. But we shouldn't have been as the mayors were real leaders of their cities and this shone through in their statements.

It was really encouraging as we heard hard evidence of what other cities are doing.

We heard Mayor Bloomberg of New York say that cities are acting positively and that parks and green spaces are vital for quality of life (this is our agenda in Birmingham as well!) and that he had learnt from Copenhagen and reduced the dominance of the car, put cycle lanes in, invested in hybrid cars, and put in place a Green Building Bill to create 18,000 jobs from retrofitting and deliver a five per cent cut in emissions.

His big message is that in a recession we need to be more environmentally friendly and create jobs - one of the key overarching aims of our very own Birmingham Declaration.

It was especially humbling to hear from Mayor Kimbisi (Dar es Salaam), who said that Africa is at the epicentre of injustice. For too long the needs of the poorer countries and cities have been ignored through inaction on climate change are now suffering more and more from its effects.

On behalf of Birmingham, Cllr Tilsley successfully presented to the mayors the Birmingham Declaration, making specific reference to the council's resolution to buy electric cars.

The Mayors of Los Angeles, Mexico City and London all endorsed the need for cities through key messages like the Birmingham Declaration to team up together and buy green vehicles. We were pleased to see this was reinforced during the rest of the day.

We witnessed Mayor Bjerregaard of Copenhagen and Mayor Miller of Toronto sign the Copenhagen Climate Communiqué which will be presented to the national delegations in COP15. Cllr Tilsley was amongst the first to sign this important statement.

We had a striking presentation on the Copenhagen Green Bike. This could be just the ideal solution for Birmingham as this bicycle regenerates its own power which the cyclist can use when climbing gradients.

I talked to the makers of the bike, and they expect it to retail for around $500 (approx £400) and I have asked them to come over to Birmingham next year to tell us more about their exciting product.

In the afternoon session we enjoyed a series of quick fire round table debates.

Cllr Tilsley spoke in the session on energy efficiency in buildings and outlined the progress we have made on district energy systems in the city.

I attended a group on climate change adaptation where the mayors from Tokyo, Rotterdam, Tehran, Abidjan the Hague and Nuuk (Greenland's capital) discussed the impact of climate change on their cities and their plans for adaptation.

For example, Mayor Inose (Tokyo) has built a storm water storm tunnel 40 times larger than the London tube system and Mayor Narup (Nuuk) described how their glaciers are melting and the worries they have about warming, although adaptation is nothing new to Greenlanders, something they have done so for centuries. They are very worried about toxins invading their waters, and affecting health including sterility.

The second round of workshops we attended was on green cars. All the mayors were clear that electric cars, buses and other vehicles were absolutely necessary.

Mayor Kadokawa (Kyoto) spoke on the importance on the Kyoto protocol and said he was very proud to be promoting the green agenda in green schools and through recycling cooking oils for biofuel transport, with almost 5,000 litres of biodiesel produced per day for the city's garbage trucks and city buses.

This is certainly something which we want to develop in Birmingham with all food waste, starting with anaerobic digestion facilities at the new Wholesale Market and then extending to restaurants, hotels, colleges, universities, and also ultimately to household collection.

At the end of the workshop sessions we were all taken by coach back to the Bella Centre for the opening ceremony.

Everyone was on edge about getting in as it was still not clear if we would get there in time to be registered before the registration desks closed at 6pm for the rest of the week.

Cllr Tilsley got through in time to get into the opening ceremony to hear Prince Charles and the Nobel Prize winner Waangai Thaarai speak about the absolute necessity of agreement being reached this week. Mrs Waangai's speech was emotional and heartfelt.

But due to a breakdown in my registration I had to queue for two hours to get my photo ID and I wasn't able to get into the opening ceremony. But while in the queue I gave an telephone radio interview on our activities out here - much thanks to Daryl at BRMB!

Once inside the COP15 it is an experience, with thousands of people looking for colleagues, people to influence, media interviews everywhere, and thousands of laptops on the go.

Today we will be hearing from more mayors and leaders and also join in with a Green Car parade.

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  1. Cyclechick says:

    Sandy might be interested in this film on bicycle facilities in New York. Electric bikes may appeal to a few but making Birmingham’s roads safer for cyclists is essential to get more people on bikes. Copenhagen is one of the best cities in the world for cycling, Birmingham is one of the worst (at least in Europe). Please change this.

  2. Chris Duggan says:

    Did anyone in the Birmingham delegation get a chance to check out Copenhagen’s cycling facilities and compare them with our city’s? There’s a chance here to improve health, increase community cohesion, reduce emissions and congestion and improve quality of life simply by reducing traffic speeds and providing more cycling routes and cycling education in schools.

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