By Suzanne Maxx
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, December 15, 2009 (ENS) – The CO2 E-Race was among the many extraordinary events in Copenhagen this week intended to wake up the world to a low-carbon reality. It was held Saturday to remind the public that the automotive industry is growing without fossil-fueled internal combustion engines. Electric vehicles are here, now – this time to stay.
Facilitated by the Danish Cultural Institute, the CO2 E-Race featured 70 cars. Most were electric, and there were some fueled by second generation ethanol made from straw, and one vehicle driving on air.
The vehicles drove a route through the streets of Copenhagen designed to make aerial art of the letters and number that spell out “CO2,” the chemical symbol for carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas.
People did not need to be airborne and viewing the CO2 E-Race from above to have seen this glowing display, the race organizers explained. The race was shown on large monitors at the Bright Green Expo, in the Klimaforum09 and on the globe monitor at City Hall Square where each color-coded GPS point was digitally displayed on a map of Copenhagen.
Photographers of the race vehicles were all encouraged to upload their pictures to Google Maps/Earth.
An alternative energy project in more ways than one, the CO2 E-Race project came to life without any money involved. Instead, collaborators Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen, a photographer and a self proclaimed relational artist, and Michael Wolffhechel, a lawyer and environmental activist, worked together to produce the event.
Mikkelsen said, “The meaning of relational art is that carrying it out is as much a work of art as the art itself. I had an idea in my mind for two years, knowing it is impossible to make it happen, but still continuing against all odds, without any money – no budget, and now look it happened.”
“Especially in the climate issue, as an individual I can do something by leading by example,” Mikkelsen said.
Finn Andersen, secretary-general of the Danish Cultural Institute assisted the project by giving Mikkelsen and Wolffhechel an office where they conducted the preparation and coordination of the CO2 E-Race.
The electric vehicles are charged by renewable and alternative energy – here in Copenhagen it comes from wind power – there is no fossil fuel used, and the vehicles move without emitting a sound or any exhaust gases. There were the sexy Teslas, mini electric Hummers, EV scooters and electric buses.
A bus driver since 1975, Thorkild Nielsen resigned his job because he was was tired of breathing diesel exhaust and compromising his health to keep driving. He explained, “I was number 29 in the parade, should be last one, as I was the last one on to drive the actual route. Almost a year ago I had resigned.”
But now a new generation of fuel efficient and environmentally friendly Volvo Hybrid buses is operated by Arriva, the largest private bus operator in Denmark. This recent transformation from diesel to electric has turned Nielsen back into a bus driver who loves his work.
The public is just beginning to realize that electric vehicles are here, they’re on the market, practical and fun, and can be charged by alternative energy sources.
Many other innovative solutions were on display at the Bright Green Expo, hosted by the Confederation of Danish Industry, the largest parallel event during the United Nations climate summit.
Held December 12 and 13 at Forum Copenhagen, the Bright Green Expo featured exhibits by more than 170 companies from 19 countries showing their cutting-edge products. “There is no need to wait for the technological revolution that will provide the remedies to climate problems. It is already here, and it is bright and green,” said Thomas Bustrup, deputy director general of Danish Industry.
The Bright Green Expo featured speeches by political leaders, the Danish Crown Prince and climate experts. Cities, Energy, Business and Living were the four exhibition themes. Visitors enjoyed the Energy Aware House, the test track for Segway personal transporters, a Rocking Silver physics experiments show, and a Water to Life 3D movie.
Swedish exhibitor Green & Cool produces environmental friendly and energy efficient ready-to-go refrigeration units and systems that use ordinary CO2 as a refrigerant, turning the greenhouse gas from an environmental burden to a replacement for ozone-destroying refrigerant gases.
Among the speakers at the Bright Green Expo were Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and American entrepreneur Dean Kamen.
The Confederation of Danish Industry today signed a cooperation agreement with the National Confederation of Industry of Brazil at the Bella Center, in the exhibition hall of Climate Consortium Denmark.
“We enter into this collaboration agreement because our two business sectors have a lot to offer each other – both in the technological and commercial fields,” said Thomas Bustrup, deputy director general of Danish Industry. “We as business representatives stand together behind a comprehensive, global and binding agreement here at COP15.”
Green Party leaders were onstage this weekend at Klimaforum09, the alternative climate summit, the global civil society counterpart of the official UN conference taking place in the Bella Center.
Leaders of the Green Party came together at KlimaForum09. They included: Marina Silva of Brazil, Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya, MEP Jose Bove of France, Senator Christine Milne of Australia, Elizabeth May of Canada and MEP Rebecca Harms of Germany, co-president of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. The event was the only time they have shared a stage, outlining their views on what a meaningful climate agreement is and how it can be achieved.
“The Global Greens are concerned that rich nations are building loopholes into the official agreement to give the appearance of strong targets without the reality,” said Senator Milne.
“Land-use and forestry in particular are being used as let-out clauses to avoid actual emission reductions,” she said.
“Copenhagen is up against real deadline, not just those set by international diplomats,” said Elizabeth May leader of the Green Party of Canada. “The real deadlines are in the risk of run-away global warming.”
“The atmosphere is not negotiating with humanity,” said May. “To save ourselves and future generations, greenhouse gas levels globally must stop rising no later than 2016. Copenhagen cannot be allowed to fail.”
While the official UN climate conference ends Friday, December 18, Klimaforum09 continues through December 20. The last two days are reserved for movement building, with the ambition to build the foundation for a new global climate movement capable of taking the struggle for a socially just, sustainable future into the 21th century.