Published December 07, 2009
World leaders and VIPs began pouring into Copenhagen Monday morning for the city's long-awaited climate summit, arriving in style in a fleet of gas-guzzling limos and luxury cars.
Most delegates to the climate change conference haven't exactly been hoofing their way to Denmark's capital, swarming the city's airport with 140 private jets, 1,200 hired limousines and a carbon footprint the size of a small country.
Video shot on the scene Monday shows squads of new arrivals at the green gathering pulling up in BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, sleek Volvos and plush Jaguars. A bus reserved for the delegates rode along empty outside the conference center.
The head of Copenhagen's biggest limo company says her business usually has a dozen cars on the road. But during the conference — which has been billed as the last best chance to save the environment — she'll have 200 vehicles churning out fumes, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"We thought they were not going to have many cars, due to it being a climate convention," Majken Friss Jorgensen told the newspaper. "But it seems that somebody last week looked at the weather report."
France alone has ordered 42 vehicles, she said, and the auto supply in Denmark is very quickly drying up. To make up for shortages, Jorgensen and her competitors are bringing in lines of limos from as far away as Germany and Sweden.
"We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfill the demand," she said, adding that just five cars in her fleet will be environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles, which are almost impossible to procure in tax-heavy Denmark.
Once the estimated 30,000 delegates, activists, protesters and members of the press arrive this week and next, they'll find a sumptuous and steeply priced spread awaiting them.
Expensive hotels are sold out, and the conference organizers have been busy laying 560 miles of computer cable and 50,000 square miles of carpet, according to the Times of London.
The conference center hosting the meetings has set up four "climate kitchens" to cook healthy, organic meals for attendees, but they aren't coming cheap.
Visitors ordering the regular meal will get finger sandwiches, a quiche, some cheese and dessert, but those going "deluxe" get a mini croissant, canape with smoked salmon, mini pizzas, fancy cheese and some pineapple in chocolate — all for an estimated $40 a person.
The whole conference rings up at just under $215 million, according to a report from the U.K.-based Taxpayers' Alliance, which argued that even though delegates to the climate conference don't expect to emerge with any signed commitments, they're still doing potential damage by making their two-week visit.
Conference organizers have gone the whole nine yards seeking to offset the Copenhagen carbon crunch (the U.N. estimates an output of 41,000 tons of gas), using energy-efficient lights, powering the proceedings with a giant wind turbine, and offering visitors recycled materials instead of wasteful plastic water bottles. They've also purchased carbon offsets to help manage the output from their 12-day affair.
But Matthew Sinclair, the research director for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said their presence means that "a huge amount of money is going to be spent on the summit, and thousands of tons of carbon dioxide emitted to get there, just to give the delegates a good photo opportunity."