Copenhagen goes green for climate summit

A wind turbine will whir away outside the conference centre, powering the lights for the delegates holed up inside.

Top-ranking negotiators will ride bikes to the first day of the conference on Monday; TV stations will have to use the cool tones of low energy LED lighting.

US president Barack Obama might travel in a limo running on algae diesel or electricity when he drops in next week.

Even the pens are made of recycled plastic bottles.

Welcome to the Copenhagen climate summit. It might not strike a deal to save the planet, but at least the conference itself is about as green as can be.

Svend Olling, who's in charge of conference logistics for the Danish government, says it's imperative that a summit on tackling climate change does not itself contribute to the problem.

"There are expectations that when we host a conference like this, we deliver it in a green, sustainable way," Mr Olling told AAP from his office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Copenhagen.

"The whole country is mobilising around that."

The 11-day summit, which runs from December 7 to 18, will be carbon neutral - no mean feat for a relatively long meeting of more than 12,000 delegates.

Organisers have calculated the event's greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from people flying to Denmark, and will offset them by funding energy efficient brick factories in Bangladesh to replace 20 dirty ones. The US$1 million deal is being overseen by the World Bank.

Mr Olling says zero net emissions is the easy part. Organisers have also scrapped conference trimmings which pollute but are deemed not essential, and reduced the carbon footprint of things the delegates can't do without.

So delegates won't get showbags containing frisbees, caps and USB trinkets when they arrive at the conference venue, the Bella Center, south of the city centre. The gift budget of one million danish kroner has been spent instead on scholarships for 11 students to study climate change at Danish institutions.

There will be few conference buses ferrying delegates around; instead they get a free pass for public transport and access to 300 bikes and helmets.

This praise-worthy initiative might be more popular if the global warming conference was not being held in northern Europe in winter.

Copenhagen is cold, wet and cops 18 hours of darkness at this time of year. So it will be interesting to see who is brave enough to hop on one of the communal bikes and ride into the drizzle and gloom.

But then the public transport can be bewildering in Copenhagen, with two separate train systems, the metro and the s-train, neither of which has many stops in the city centre. The clean, shiny train stations are so imbued with Scandinavian designer minimalism that there are few maps.

So dutiful low-carbon conference delegates may need to bring their cycling gear after all.

For the highbrow participants, some of the conference fleet of 150 limos will run on bioethanol (from waste organic material), algae diesel or hydrogen, or they may be electric or hybrid models.

And there will be no water bottles in sight.

Delegates will fill up their biodegradable corn starch cups from water fountains dotted around the Bella Center.

"We have banned the use of plastic bottles in the conference centre ... this country is blessed with excellent drinking water coming out of every faucet, we will drink that please," Mr Olling said.

And if delegates are feeling peckish, they can duck into the conference food court, where 65 per cent of the food will be organic. Every outlet must serve one fully organic meal and one vegetarian meal. Steaks will still be available, Mr Olling admitted - cows are a greenhouse no-no because they emit methane. Coffee and tea will be fair trade certified.

Hotels - which are fully booked - have been encouraged to cut their pollution. The number of certified green rooms has soared in recent months, Mr Olling says, and organisers will monitor and publish the green credentials of each hotel.

The Bella Center has cut its power use by 20 per cent for the conference, and some of what it does use will come from the wind turbine outside. 30 per cent of Denmark's general electricity supply comes from renewable energy, mainly wind.

So will this be the greenest conference of its size ever?

"I don't know about that ... but we're certainly doing our best to make this as green as possible," Mr Olling says.

"It's a tough job getting out to every corner, making sure that every square inch of carpeting that you've chosen ... every type of temporary wall structure that's put up, everything is thought through."

"We do our best, but I'm sure that some people would find some things which are not (green)."

AAP ca/it/jlw 03-12-09 1257