I'm headed for Copenhagen, and I set off on my 'slow travel' trip on Sunday lunchtime, after a coffee and a 'danish' in the Ferry Terminal in Dún Laoghaire. Tonight I'm in a hotel on the Euston Road, and tomorrow I'll travel by Eurostar to Brussels, then on to Cologne where I'll board a night-sleeper to the Danish capital, hopefully in time to hear Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu address the United Nations Climate Change Conference. I'm also hoping to attend a session on family planning and climate change - a thorny subject, as well as workshops on planning and transportation
It'll be good to have some time to think, and to read on the journey, both of which seem to have become luxuries in the last few years.
I found my 1977 copy of Amory Lovin's "Soft Energy Paths" behind the washing machine the other night, and that's part of my reading material. I've also brought John Houghton's fourth edition of "Global Warming, the complete briefing". Herman Daly's "Beyond Growth" is also packed, along with David MacKay's "Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air". The Clerk from the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security has also provided me with extensive briefing material, ranging from a Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government summary, to the UN Review of Ireland's most recent submission, as well as the current US Senate position on Climate Change.
It's been a good week for tackling greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland. John Gormley delivered his third Carbon Budget, and published the framework for the Climate Change Bill 2010. Brian Lenihan's budget also introduced a carbon levy at €15 a tonne. That'll add around 5c to a litre of petrol. It won't change behaviour overnight, but it will send a market signal that we're beginning to take the issue seriously
The 1330 Dún Laoghaire-Holyhead ferry arrives into Holyhead just after the 1530 express train to Crewe leaves the platform. It's an annoying example of a lack of joined-up thinking, and helps explain why the sail-rail trip to London takes a similar amount of time as it did 100 years ago. Still, the trip was sociable: I ended up talking to a truck driver who was on his way back to Newport after delivering a second-hand driver unit to Holyhead for shipping to Ireland. There's great demand for them in Ireland in the last year or so, and apparently they sell for around £25,000 sterling- a bargain, or so I'm told.
The HSS ferry is scheduled to be withdrawn though from early January, and hopefully will be replaced with a decent alternative. Cheap air travel has sucked the passenger numbers off the ferries, partly because aviation has up to now been exempt from taxation. This is due to change though due to agreements hammered out at predecessors to the Copenhagen conference, so hopefully there'll shortly be a more level playing field between different types of travel that will take into account the carbon footprint. Interestingly the Arriva train down to Chester advertised its green credentials, as does the Virgin train service from there to London.
We may not get a binding political agreement in Copenhagen, but the presence of thousands of delegates (as well as protestors) shows that climate change has to be taken seriously.