“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Thursday, 7 October 2010

October 7th Rotterdam Climate Initiative

It’s easier to wake up than I expect, even after being up late, on the internet and then lying awake with my head buzzing. I’m up before my alarm for a short walk to Holland-Spoor station at the end of the road, past the bakery, the sex shop, the bong emporium and the abeya (the long black head to floor covering considered suitable by some muslims for ladies) fashion house.
In the world trade centre I meet with Paul, a colleague at a company we have professional links to and Nicole who works for the Rotterdam Climate Initiative. This came into existence in 2007 in the wake of the Clinton climate initiative. Media hype for the topic was high then and Rotterdam’s green mayor and government boldly decided on a reduction target for carbon emissions of 50% on 1990 levels by 2025. This was before any studies had been conducted into how feasible it would be – it was almost arbitrarily chosen as a suitably high target. The project and it’s sister scheme, Rotterdam Climate Proof have calculated that this represents a reduction of 46Megatons of Carbon emissions per year, and that 85-90% of this will have to come from the docks area. Currently the largest chunk of this (around 20MT) is expected to be a carbon capture and storage scheme being developed by E-on for a replacement power plant for which three gas fields in the North sea are being investigated for suitability – storage, as with nuclear is turning out to be the greatest challenge with this technology.
The latest elections have seen a shift to a more democrat/right wing coalition and so it is uncertain what funding will continue but they are confident that they have enough to continue the scoping studies that are underway. In four years time when the real work begins of ensuring that all the so-far voluntary commitment shown by various companies makes it into reality. The biggest problem they’ve faced, Nicole tells me, was an initial reluctance by companies – fears that their ‘level playing field’ was to be removed - but that over the course of the scheme they’ve come round to it and even started proposing initiatives of their own, or working in conjunction with competitors on areas outside of their area of competition (heat supply for example to industrial processes). The aftermath of the ‘climate hype’ has affected them too but they’ve learnt from this and are careful to present the scheme as a whole package that will see Rotterdam as a world leader on climate mitigation specialists, especially in the area of sea level rises. As I’ve been told by the people working in the domestic housing market government subsidies or support for low carbon initiatives is unreliable and no one can allow for it in payback calculations. The majority of the port companies look for paybacks times of less than two years on investment. This combination makes any sort of renewable energy take up almost impossible.
The Stadhaven, ‘city port’ area is the nearest bit of the part to the city and the target of a future large re-development scheme. After the meeting Paul drops me off there and I wander around taking photos of the architecture – there’s a few different styles from the ‘lets make it look like a spaceship’ and the ‘I went to Pisa for my holidays’ school.

Not because it looks particularly nice but because I want to put it on a card and send it to all my architect friends with the slogan ‘When engineers rule the world’

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