Copenhagen — Industry officials are arriving in droves today to take part in what’s being pegged as the seminal global event on climate change. The place is expected to fill with representatives of traditional carbon-intensive industries, like oil and coal. But the first to set up their exhibit booths at the conference center in Copenhagen are largely those whose voices have been drowned out — the people representing wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.
The Global Wind Energy Council wants the talks to produce targets for emission reductions. “The higher the better, because wind turbines help reduce emissions,” says Rune Birk Nielsen, speaking on behalf of the council. For the first time, wind has followed more established industries in coordinating a global message among its member companies.
“We’ve got almost every large manufacturer in the world, including the Chinese and the Americans,” Nielsen said. “For the first time you see these companies stick together with the global voice. The message is, ‘wind power works.’”
While the wind industry tries to makes itself heard at the UN talks, it’s having more success at the national level. “On the UN level it’s so blurry — there are so many delegates and representatives,” Nielsen says. “On the national level it’s much easier. We know who we want to talk to. They’re much more accessible.” The countries most receptive to the industry lobby: China, India, Brazil, and the United States — the very countries so key to achieving a binding agreement at the Copenhagen talks, which conclude Dec. 17.
Pete Gorton, director of the International Solar Energy Society, said his industry can’t compete with the cash-backed lobbying of the big carbon emitters. It depends, instead, largely on grassroots advocacy at a national level. “We believe it’s effective,” he explained. “If we had more money, we could do more. But we’re optimistic. I’m paying my own way here. I’m here out of interest."