Sorry about the look of the blog. My scanner did not do a very good job and I tossed
the piece before I put this up. The point is that if we had not wasted the last 7 years on
two of the worst leaders we have ever elected at the worst time we could do it. George
Bush and Dick Cheney could be remembered as the Americans that killed the Planet.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
CLEANUP in EUROPE
Cities act to prevent more climate
By KARL HITTER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AXJO, Sweden—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
A few melting glaciers later, Vaxjo is attracting a green pilgrimage of politicians, scientists and
business leaders from as far afield as the U.S. 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
, 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
environmental controller in Vaxjo, a city of 78,000 on the shores of Lake Helga, surrounded
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
awards this year to Vaxjo, which aims to have cut emissions by 50 percent by 2010 and
70 percent by 2025.
Stepping up for a cleaner Europe
There is a growing green movement afoot in European cities to curb global- warming
without waiting for national or international programs.
Cities controlling carbon dioxide emissions
Vaxjo, Sweden stoppedusing fossil fuels in
1996; wood chips from sawmills replaced oil at
Barcelona, Spain required new buildings in 2006 to install solar
panelsto generate 100 percent of energy for hot water.
Copenhagen, Denmarkintroduced apublic bike service
in 1995, allowing fine pick up and return of bikes at
dozens of stations
Stockholm, Copenhagen and London have set targets to cut CO2
emissions by 60 percent by 2025
SOURCES: City of Vaxjo; AP reporting
Bogota, the capital of Colombia, has reduced emissions with the Trans-Mileni
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.
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 free anywhere in the city. About one-fifth of the city’s fleet runs on biogas
produced at the sewage treatment plant.
Using biofuels instead of gasoline in cars is generally considered to
cut C02 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. 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.”
“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 i
deas 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 C02
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. It’s not only in Europe that cities are taking action o
n climate change.
Several U.S. cities including Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle
have launched programs to emulate Europe.
We run on local resources 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 warms up as it cools the plant is used to heating homes and offices
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 the city.
Copenhagen is often cited as a climate pioneer among European cities. It cut (f02 emissions
by 187,600 tons annually in the late ’90s by switching from coal to natural gas and friofuels
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 city-wide 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 area.