On a brief stop at Cologne station, the Climate Express was greeted by hordes of climate campaigners and some colourful Sesame Street characters – Ernie and Bert. They were there to make the point that the world leaders attending the Copenhagen climate change summit will be muppets if they don’t agree a global framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The chances of success at the Copenhagen summit have been boosted considerably by President Obama’s decision to attend the final days, when a deal on emissions could be forged among world leaders.
Before Cologne, there was a much longer – and unscheduled – stop at Aachen. It seems changes had to be made to the train to cope with the different voltage in use in Germany.
The emails from climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia did not constitute evidence against established climate change science, the vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told reporters on Saturday, on board the Climate Express from Brussels to Copenhagen.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele said the emails at the heart of the “climategate” affair dated from 1999 and discussed a branch of climate science that traces past temperatures from tree rings.
At that time, scientists were puzzled by the fact that although air temperatures were rising in the 1960s, tree ring data did not appear to reflect this.
Hence, he said, the phrase “hide the decline”, which sceptics have seized on as evidence that scientists were manipulating data.
Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said the emails should not be allowed to derail the Copenhagen summit.
Dr van Ypersele suggested that the emails may have been obtained from Russian hackers, who might have been paid for their services.
Hopes for Copenhagen have risen as President Obama of the US confirmed on Friday night that he would attend the crucial closing stages of the talks, at which world leaders are expected to forge a settlement that would require developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions sharply, and developing countries to curb the future growth of their emissions.
Brussels Midi station had never seen anything like it. At 8am on Saturday morning, scores of people were excitedly milling around platform 3 in a hubbub of noise, as a strangely decorated train waited to set off. The train indicator read “Climate Express to Copenhagen”. Bemused Belgian railway officials tried in vain to keep some kind of order on the platform as squads of TV crews surrounded VIPs in suits, including members of the Belgian government and European officials, and photographers snapped. An old man in a fake white beard and robes – looking like a cross between Father Christmas and an archbishop – posed with a large blow up globe. Children watched in fascination. A small band played. There were a small knot of cyclists, en route from Barcelona.
Eventually, the railway officials got their way and everyone climbed on board. The whistle blew, the engines started up, and people on the platform waved as the train slowly gathered speed. The Climate Express – run by the UIC union of European railways, and Deutsche Bahn – with its carriages filled with politicians, government officials, business people, railway company executives, climate change activists, and journalists from all over Europe, was on its way.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has promised to look “in detail” at the notorious “climategate” emails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The commitment, made by Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, in an interview on BBC Radio 4, marks something of a reversal from his previous position, showing how the pressure on scientists created by the emails has grown rather than abated since the leak was first revealed three weeks ago.
The leak has overshadowed the Copenhagen climate talks, which start properly on Monday. Which makes it particularly striking that president Obama has said he will attend the talks at the end, when there will be real bargaining to be done and a real deal could be reached. For those who want an agreement at Copenhagen, this is the best news they have had for a while.