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Paris climate talks report lower than expected carbon footprint

Cop21 event organisers say the 2015 conference itself left less than half the carbon footprint they had expected
Cop21 event organisers say the 2015 conference itself left less than half the carbon footprint they had expected Reuters/Christian Hartmann

The chief event organiser of the Cop21 United Nations-backed climate conference held in France last year has reported the conference itself bested most of its predecessors by emitting fewer greenhouse gases.

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COP21 organiser Pierre-Henri Guignard told journalists in Paris on Thursday that excluding foreign travel, the near two-week huddle left a carbon footprint of 9,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). The figure is equal to the carbon footprint of about 800 French people over a one-year period, and less than half the 21,000 tonnes organisers had expected.

"We went above and beyond what the United Nations expect of us," said Guignard.

The Paris event, dubbed COP21 for the 21st Conference of Parties, fared better than many of its predecessors. For example, COP15 in Copenhagen emitted an estimated 26,276 tCO2e, COP17 in Durban in 2011 25,048 tCO2e, and COP18 in Doha the following year 11,538 tCO2e, according to UN estimates.

Guignard said France had "prevented" some 6,800 tCO2e in emissions through projects that included issuing 26,000 free public transport cards to delegates, recycling 11 tonnes of paper and 20 tonnes of organic waste, and issuing reusable coffee and water cups. At the same time he added that with transport emissions for getting everyone to Paris, the COP21 footprint grows to 43,000 tCO2e.

Some 35,000 people were accredited as conference participants, with another 32,000 day visitors attending side events.

Like previous conference hosts, France intends to "offset" or cancel out emissions by financing carbon-reduction programmes in the developing world, at a price of about 10 euros per tonne of CO2e, Guignard said.

Under UN agreement, the host of the yearly climate COP undertakes to make the event "climate neutral" by reducing emissions as much as possible.

The nations of the world agreed in Paris in December to limit average global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Countries submitted pledges to curb emissions from burning coal, oil and gas which are blamed for warming the planet -- already estimated to be about 1.0 C hotter. 

- with AFP

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