Measuring the “ecological footprint” of towns and villages – even monastries…and then comparing them to best practices all over Europe..it’s one way of involving people from all over the European Union.
At stake: boosting renewable energies and energy efficiency. The Riedels live in the suburbs of the the Swedish capital Stockholm. Together with 39 other families, they took part in a study by the city to evaluate its citizens’ “ecological footprint”. Sune Riedel, Resident, Stockholm said: “To begin with we were to write down over three months, everything we bought; food, clothes, shoes, how much we used the car, where we travelled to. “The thing that was surprising was you think exclusively about your car or the goods you bought…but infact food production causes so many emissions, along with travel…” Having compiled the survey results, Stockholm published a brochure aimed at raising awareness and distributed it to all citizens. The objective: to reduce emissions from families by 10% within two years. The Riedel family modified their behaviour, including buying vegetables in season, eating less meat. The campaign also seems to be bearing fruit among the younger generation Melinda Riedel, Resident, Stockholm said: “I think this campaign is very important because it concerns the future for my generation. Those who don’t respect the future for my generation are squandering away the environment.” In Sweden as in the rest of Europe, citizens are becoming aware of the green lobby’s demand for lifestyle behaviour to change to adapt to new climate conditions. The message has been embraced by European leaders and to help combat global warming EU leaders have agreed to three objectives for 2020. They are: 20% more renewables in the final consumption of energy 20% more energy efficiency 20% fall in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990, rising to 30% if other developed countries agree to comparable efforts. In 2005, an emissions trading system for heavy industry was established. This system concerns approximately 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. For the remaining 60%, that is the emissions produced by sectors such as transport, agriculture and housing, the initiative is largely left up to the countries. Sweden’s ambitious objections for 2020: 17 percent less emissions and 49 percent renewable energy. The situation is different in Romania, which is undergoing great economic change. It is therefore authorised to increase its emissions to enable economic and social development. But Romania is taking measures to promote renewable energy:Mihail Faca, Director, Romanian Environmental Protection Agency said: “The Ministry of Environment is presently launching the “Green Home” programme. “ It is an improved version of the last year’s programme which seeks to encourage the development of alternative heating systems.” In Intorsura Buzaului a small town to the north of Bucharest, they are working with the Danish energy agency and the European Community to set up a project called: Sawdust 2000. This production unit supplies hot water and heating to more than a hundred apartment and office buildings. The fuel? Sawdust from the forestry industry which is plentiful. It is polluting waste, which was previously stored in illegal dumps where it gave off methane. Constantin Nicolae, Manager, Local Utilities Company Confort, Intorsura Buzaului said: “ Presently, the sawdust is used as fuel for the thermal power plant creating beneficial effects in terms of preventing pollution. “ We reduce CO2 emission by 10,000 tons per year. A pollutant is transformed into fuel.” Victoria Boritean is retired and owns a small apartment in a building connected to a biomass heating system. She said: “Since the previous heating system was outdated it broke down and we had to use wood, or other sources of heating. “We had no hot water either. “Right now , with the new central heating system, we have hot water, we have sufficient heating and on top of this it is less expensive and more environmentally friendly.” With 30% more sunlight compared to the northern Europe, Romania is also interested in solar energy. Under the Communist regime, solar panels were placed on buildings to heat water. But the installations became progressively dilapidated and were abandoned. Liviu Olteanu wants to revive the practice of harnessing solar energy. He installed solar panels in at an orthodox monastery in central Romania. The solar solution costs the monks at least 10 times less than connecting it to the National Electric grid. Mr Olteanu said: “The system has proven to be very reliable for this region where access to public utilities is extremly difficult. This solution can effectively be an ideal way to finalise the electrification in Romania.” “ There are still several thousand hamlets, small villages scattered in the mountains and this would be the ideal solution. In Romania, little by little, the population is becoming aware of conservation. Back in Sweden: Anders Hill is an engineer for an energy company. For about 15 years, this company has been installing a vast network of air conditioning systems for buildings using seawater. Anders Hill, Engineer, Fortum,said: “The process is based on taking cold water from the sea bed and as the water is sufficiently cold all through the summer we can use it to produce cooling. And you don’t need any cooling machines or cooling towers which use electricity; and no cooling agents that might leak.” The system supplies many office buildings in Stockholm with air conditioning, and offers considerable advantages: Mr Hill added: “A system of this type is a little more expensive in the beginning as the investment costs are higher. “ However, the operating costs are much lower and it is a lot better for the environment of course.” “ Sweden thinks it will have no problem achieving conservation goals set by European leaders. by 2020.” Sweden will hold the presidency of the Council during the next international climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. It will steer the EU through the international negotiations. Europe will push for an ambitious agreement in which all developed countries make substantial emissions reductions