As the United Nations Climate Change Conference kicks off this week in Copenhagen, Denmark, most of the media’s attention is rightfully focused on what will happen–more specifically, whether a binding international climate change agreement will be reached. But perhaps we should also consider the setting of the conference. Is Copenhagen really the best host city for a historical meeting about the future of our planet?
Despite a high rate of recycling and a low rate of trash tossed into landfills (5% versus 54% in the U.S.), Denmark actually generates more garbage than the U.S.–and every other country in the E.U. The country produced a whopping 1,762 pounds of trash per person in 2007, compared to 1,190 pounds in France, 1,258 pounds in the U.K., and 1,690 in the U.S.
Denmark is also guilty of consuming more than its fair share of meat–321 pounds per person in 2002 compared to 275 pounds in the U.S. That’s a big problem in the climate change arena since meat consumption is linked to deforestation and methane emissions from flatulent cows.
Of course, Denmark was chosen as the site of the COP15 conference for a reason. The country has kept its electricity consumption stable since 1980 despite economic growth, and 20% of all power comes from wind turbines. But the country has a long way to go before it can be idealized as a green role model. Let’s make sure we keep that in the back of our minds this week while the world’s attention is focused on Copenhagen.