Keith Curtis is a senior Foreign Service Officer currently based in the U.S. Commercial Service’s Office of International Operations. He is the Commercial Service’s senior advisor on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The atmosphere in Copenhagen is charged with activity. Nobody is saving on personal energy – and everyone seems to be filled with a passion to make their point and make things happen. At the U.S. Presence Center at Bright Green, the International Trade Administration (ITA) was making its point bright and early at the 9:00 Green Building Seminar and the 10:15 Bright Green, “Solutions at Your Doorstep” panel discussion. Bringing the momentum of the Green Build Road Show to Copenhagen, we laid out for the delegates, NGOs, and students the wide and deep variety of everything going on in the States on Green Buildings. The audience seemed to especially like the story of the Greening of the Empire State Building as told first hand by Clay Nesler,VP of Johnson Controls (did you know Johnson Controls produced the first commercial thermostat?). He described how the tens of thousands of windows would be replaced and lighting and installation changed office by office in the ¼ mile high icon of the American Industrial Age so that when done, they would be using 37% less electricity. Roger Platt, VP of the US Green Building Council talked about how Green Building was spreading around the world, and the Department of Energy talked about how they were creating the first net-zero (uses no electricity from the Grid overall) large scale commercial building for their NREL headquarters.
The Green Building panel was followed by a second discussion organized by ITA to explain the wide range of bio-fuels, energy efficient manufacturing, and renewable energy technologies that the U.S. is delivering to the world. Kirsty Mac Donald of Intel talked about the modernization of the grid and all the intelligent hardware that will go into homes and vehicles. Did you know that every wind turbine has a half a dozen IT chips in it? Honeywell told how their bio-fuels are now being tested in regular commercial airlines for trans-Atlantic flights. The audience was curious and impressed, but the students, who sported T-shirts saying, “How old will you be in 2050?” added a special sense of urgency to the challenges we were all talking about, but the industry presentations pointed them to ways that U.S. technology is already creating real change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
And we heard our second Cabinet official, Secretary of the Interior Salazar, speak to a full house as we looked forward to hearing our own Secretary Gary Locke speak tomorrow. There is certainly a lot going on already at the COP15 even before the 100 Heads of State arrive.
American students ages 10-14 provided a younger perspective on climate change today as they reported about their use of new web materials, Climate Change Wildlife and Wildlands: A Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators. The Toolkit was produced by an interagency group of educators and scientists to help middle school audiences investigate the impacts of climate change in eleven ecoregions around the United States. The two student teams represent classes that have partnered with NOAA and the U.S. Forest Service to investigate the impacts of climate change using the Toolkit. During their presentation, the students discussed what they have learned about the causes of climate change, how it is affecting habitats, and the resulting impacts on plant and animal species. A team of fifth graders from Clermont Elementary, in Alexandria, Virginia, discussed the Chesapeake Bay and the changing habitat of the diamondback terrapin. Students from Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. explained what they have learned about their school's energy use, solid waste and recycling; water, school site and air quality in order to create a greener school. As a result of their studies, the student groups have been inspired to take action in their local communities. A special guest at the videoconference event was Happy, the diamondback terrapin, on loan from the Terrapin Institute.