Day 1 at COP21: Breakout Sessions and Conference Sustainability Efforts

by Kelsey MacEachern T’16

reusable cupArriving at COP21 after a delayed set of red-eye flights through Iceland, I was excited to register and dive right into the breakout sessions available for attendees. The first few sessions that I attended were focused on mitigation strategies, from introducing a carbon pricing strategy to discussing proven carbon capture & sequestration (CCS) efforts.  Most notably from the CCS discussion, the Premier of Saskatchewan and the CEO of SaskPower spoke, declaring Saskatchewan to be at the forefront of CCS technology implementation, something that even as a Canadian I was surprised to hear.

The conference itself has been making efforts to be sustainable, and Nell and I have been entertained by some of the novel ways COP21 has tackled sustainability at the individual level in terms of waste reduction, power usage and transportation.

  • Waste reduction: When you think of combining red-eye flights, jetlag and long days, what do you think as being top priority for conference visitors?  Coffee/espresso should be your first instinct, and there are vendors everywhere happily willing to provide attendees with their caffeine fix. To reduce the massive amount of waste from disposable cups, however, vendors can only serve beverages in reusable COP21 coffee/espresso cups, on which customers pay a euro deposit; return the cup, your euro is returned to you.  This eliminates trash bins full of waste and gives attendees a nice souvenir.bicycle charging station
  • Power usage:  While the lifecycle emissions of some of our favorite, most addictive electronics may be much higher than we would like to acknowledge (iPhone, I’m looking at you!), the electricity used to charge the phones does not have to be emissions-laden.  COP21 has introduced a charging station entirely powered by cycling.  You can charge your phone and get a (very insignificant) workout at the same time!  Beyond just charging your devices, however, the station helps bring attention to what other, more emissions intensive electricity generating activities could be enabling you to charge your devices on a daily basis.
  • Transportation: COP21 has made travel using public transportation almost a necessity for attendees. Hybrid buses take all attendees from Le Bourget to the train station, where you are able to easily take a commuter train into most areas in Paris.  What makes this a necessity, however, is not just the convenience of it, but the overall inconvenience of trying to travel to the site by car.  Two lanes on the highway approaching COP21 have been closed to cars, creating bumper to bumper traffic and making what is usually a short commute into an hours-long journey.  While these lanes have likely been closed due to security reasons, it has had the benefit of making public transit all the more appealing!

I’m very much looking forward to attending some negotiations and more breakout sessions throughout the rest of the week.

 

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