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 user 2007-10-15 at 10:03:00 am Views: 47
  • #19296

    European Cities Tackling Climate Change
    Sweden oct 07 – When this quiet city in southern Sweden decided in 1996
    to wean itself off fossil fuels, most people doubted the ambitious goal
    would have any impact beyond the town limits. A few melting glaciers
    later, Vaxjo is attracting a green pilgrimage of politicians,
    scientists and business leaders from as far afield as the United States
    and North Korea  seeking inspiration from a city program that has
    allowed it to cut CO2 emissions 30 percent since 1993.Vaxjo is a
    pioneer in a growing movement in dozens of European cities, large and
    small, that aren’t waiting for national or international measures to
    curb global warming .From London’s congestion charge to Paris’ city
    bike program and Barcelona’s solar power campaign, initiatives taken at
    the local level are being introduced across the continent – often
    influencing national policies instead of the other way around.”People
    used to ask: Isn’t it better to do this at a national or international
    level?” said Henrik Johansson, environmental controller in Vaxjo, a
    city of 78,000 on the shores of Lake Helga, surrounded by thick pine
    forest in the heart of Smaland province. “We want to show everyone else
    that you can accomplish a lot at the local level.”

    The European
    Union , mindful that many member states are failing to meet mandated
    emissions cuts under the Kyoto climate treaty, has taken notice of the
    trend and is encouraging cities to adopt their own emissions targets.
    The bloc awarded one of its inaugural Sustainable Energy Europe awards
    this year to Vaxjo, which aims to have cut emissions by 50 percent by
    2010 and 70 percent by 2025.”We are convinced that the cities are a key
    element to change behavior and get results,” said Pedro Ballesteros
    Torres, manager of the Sustainable Energy Europe campaign. “Climate
    change is a global problem but the origin of the problem is very
    local.”So far only a handful of European capitals have set emissions
    targets, including Stockholm, Copenhagen and London. Torres said he
    hopes to convince about 30 European cities to commit to targets next
    year.While such goals are welcome, they may not always be the best way
    forward, said Simon Reddy, who manages the C40 project, a global
    network of major cities exchanging ideas on tackling climate change.”At
    the moment a lot of cities don’t know what they’re emitting so it’s
    very difficult to set targets,” Reddy said.More important than
    emissions targets, he said, is that cities draft action plans,
    outlining specific goals needed to reduce emissions, like switching a
    certain percentage of the public transit system to alternative
    fuels.London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s Climate Action Plan calls for
    cutting the city’s CO2 emissions by 60 percent in 2025, compared to
    1990 levels. However, planners acknowledge the cuts are not realistic
    unless the government introduces a system of carbon pricing.Barcelona,
    Spain’s second biggest city, has, since 2006, required all new and
    renovated buildings to install solar panels to supply at least 60
    percent of the energy needed to heat water.The project has been
    emulated by dozens of Spanish cities and inspired national legislation
    with similar, though less stringent, requirements, said Angels Codina
    Relat of the Barcelona Energy Agency.

    It’s not only in Europe that cities are taking action on climate change.
    U.S. cities including Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle have
    launched programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Bogota, the capital
    of Colombia, has reduced emissions with the TransMilenio municipal bus
    system and an extensive network of bicycle paths.In Vaxjo, (pronounced
    VECK-shur), the vast majority of emissions cuts have been achieved at
    the heating and power plant, which replaced oil with wood chips from
    local sawmills as its main source of fuel. Ashes from the furnace are
    returned to the forest as nutrients.”This is the best fir in Sweden,”
    said plant manager Ulf Johnsson, scooping up a fistful of wood chips
    from a giant heap outside the factory.He had just led Michael Wood, the
    U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, on a guided tour of the facility, which is
    considered state of the art. Not only does it generate electricity, but
    the water that is warmed up in the process of cooling the plant is used
    to heat homes and offices in Vaxjo.Every week, foreign visitors arrive
    to see Vaxjo’s environmental campaign. Last year, even a delegation of
    10 energy officials from reclusive North Korea got a tour.A similar but
    much larger system is in place in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, where
    waste heat from incineration and combined heat and power plants is
    pumped through a purpose-built 800-mile network of pipes to 97 percent
    of city.

    Copenhagen is often cited as a climate pioneer among
    European cities. It cut CO2 emissions by 187,600 tons annually in the
    late ’90s by switching from coal to natural gas and biofuels at its
    energy plants. Its goal is to reduce emissions by 35 percent by 2010,
    compared to 1990 levels, even more ambitious than Denmark’s national
    target of 21 percent cuts under the Kyoto accord.In 1995, the city
    became one of the first European capitals to introduce a public bicycle
    service that lets people pick up and return bikes at dozens of stations
    citywide for a small fee. Similar initiatives have since taken root in
    Paris and several other European cities.Next, Copenhagen plans to spend
    about $38 million on various initiatives to get more residents to use
    bicycles instead of cars.Transport is one of the hardest areas for
    local leaders to control since traffic is not confined to a single
    city. Without stronger national policies promoting biofuels over
    gasoline, Vaxjo, for one, will never reach its long-term target of
    becoming free of fossil fuels.But it’s doing what it can locally.
    So-called “green cars” running on biofuels park for free anywhere in
    the city. About one-fifth of the city’s own fleet runs on biogas
    produced at the local sewage treatment plant.Using biofuels instead of
    gasoline in cars is generally considered to cut CO2 emissions, although
    some scientists say greenhouse gases released during the production of
    biofuel crops can offset those gains.Vaxjo has also invested in energy
    efficiency, from the light bulbs used in street lights to a new
    residential area with Europe’s tallest all-wood apartment buildings.
    Wood requires less energy to produce than steel or concrete, and also
    less transportation since Vaxjo is in the middle of forests.Although
    Vaxjo is tiny by comparison, the C40 group, including major
    metropolitan centers such as New York, Mexico City and Tokyo, has been
    impressed by the city’s progress and uses it as an example of “best
    practices” around the world.”They’re a small town,” Reddy said. “Apply
    that to 7 million? It’s doable but its going to take a lot longer.”