Annual Events, Awareness, Safindit Daily, Story of the Day|November 24, 2011 10:37 am

Durbs Looks Good in Green

Lots to Discuss

Durban is pulling out all the stops for COP17, which begins on Monday and we have to admit, it’s nice to see the world’s eyes focused squarely on our little patch for a change. With Cape Town continually in the media, winning awards and hosting major events, it’s exciting to see Durban rising to meet this rather large challenge.

For those who aren’t aware, COP17 is also known as the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference has been held and attended by participating countries since 1995 – hosted in a new city each year.

This is a big deal for little Durbs with just about every major world leader heading to her shores over the next few days. About 20 000 delegates representing 194 governments and representatives of non-governmental organisations are expected to attend the conference. Not to mention a host of A-list celebs including Leo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Sir Richard Branson, Bono and Arnold Schwarzenegger! So, expect the city to be buzzing with almost as many paparazzi as traditional journalists!

It’s a major logistical feat hosting an event of this nature, but unlike many other events, this one needs to also showcase what the city is doing to limit it’s carbon footprint. The Durban ICC, where the conference will be based, has just completed an ‘energy efficient retrofit’, which aims to reduce the energy requirements of the centre by around 215kW. Aside from this, organisers have indicated that there will bottled water will be minimised throughout the conference and visitors will be encouraged to sample the local water – which is both tasty and safe to drink. Research conducted by the Pacific Institute has estimated that producing bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy-intensive than tap water.

Another interesting little eco-touch is that about a dozen electric cars from the Renault-Nissan Alliance will be used to shuttle delegates during the conference.

The Nissan LEAF

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the only car group worldwide offering a range of vehicles that use no gasoline at all and they have plans to sell 1.5 million zero-emission cars by 2016.
Visitors to COP17 (and locals) will have the opportunity of test driving the Renault Twizy, a fun-to-drive commuter vehicle that can be plugged into many conventional wall sockets for the first time!
COP17 will also offer a sneak peek of the popular Nissan LEAF, named World Car of the Year 2011, and Renault Fluence Z.E., a luxury sedan, which will be used as shuttles for COP17 delegates.

You can see why COP17 would be a good thing for a city. Even places that aren’t directly involved in the conference are jumping on the green bandwagon – in the hopes of securing themselves a piece of the other green. Suncoast Casino, located nearby the ICC, has launched a multifaceted environmentally-friendly ‘Shine Green campaign’. The busy casino has re-evaluated its practicing and tried to reduce energy utilisation, reclaim water and recycle waste more responsibly. They’ve also opened a solar powered café on the premises where guests can soak up the Summer sun & enjoy refreshments served in biodegradable cups. A SUNeco Centre will be accessible to all guests and will highlight the exciting green initiatives and offering educational and useful tips on how the public can make their lives greener.

What about Kyoto?

Meanwhile the talks on climate change look set to be pretty stormy with the controversial Kyoto Protocol up for discussion. This agreement, signed by leaders in 1997 in Japan stipulates specific regulations on gas emissions for participating countries. But the agreement expires early in 2012 and the USA has already indicated it has no plans to sign an updated agreement. Now other major countries seem keen to follow suit, while many feel this is the only thing standing between the world and climate catastrophe.

South Africa’s leaders have been clear about their standpoint, saying that Durban should not be the place where Kyoto is buried. Rather, Premier Zweli Mkhize has said that ‘Durban should be remembered for having hosted a conference that resulted in ground-breaking decisions which would generate hope.’

Either way, COP17 looks set to change history – for better or worse. We can only wait and see whether true, positive change can come from this event…

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