At the COP25 climate meeting in Madrid, a “green zone” will be dedicated to displaying new initiatives and stimulating debate among direct action organisations battling climate change.
All participants — from enterprises to indigenous organisations to local governments – must answer a single question: What steps are you taking to assist the United Nations reach its goal of a carbon-neutral planet by 2050?
From bladeless windpower to low-intensity cow ranching, Al Jazeera presents five of the most intriguing suggestions discussed inside the climate summit’s 3,000-square-metre “green zone” in the Spanish capital.
Bladeless wind turbines
The 1940 video of the Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsing in heavy winds led David J Yanez, a University of Valladolid graduate, to investigate the potential of creating bladeless windpower turbines.
These are wind turbines in which the entire structure oscillates in the wind, while the motor that converts wind to electricity is housed within its column.
“Not only is it very cheap to make, oil-free, and low-maintenance, but tests indicate that each structure will last longer than 15 or 20 years, all of which I think is a very useful contribution to the fight against climate change,” says Yanez, who hopes to commercialise bladeless windpower by launching his own company in the next two to three years.
“It’s also far quieter and does significantly less damage to birds than traditional wind turbines,” the 43-year-old says.
One million signatures
“2050 is too late!” exclaims Paola, a member of Juventud por el Clima, a Spanish youth climate campaign.
Instead, Paola adds, the organisation hopes to collect “a million signatures for the European Climate Emergency Declaration for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.”
Along with launching such initiatives, Juventud por el Clima also organises demonstrations every Friday, as well as talks in schools, street theatre performances, and workshops, according to its members, who are quick to point out that contributing to the creation of a carbon-neutral planet is far from boring.
Another member, Blanca, reminds out that while acting alone, it might be difficult to perceive the big picture. “However, when you’re in a large group and doing things like planting trees, assisting something living to flourish, and knowing that it’s going to use CO2 – it works.”
From biowaste to bioplastic
More than 100 million tonnes of biowaste are discarded in the European Union each year, with 75 percent being disposed of in landfills or burnt, causing greenhouse gases and costing 143 billion euros ($158 billion).
Rather than composting biowaste, one innovative solution proposed by the EU cities of Kozani, Madrid, Albano Laziale, and Lund, in collaboration with waste management companies and technology developers, is the conversion of biowaste products such as urban sewage into high-value-added products such as bioplastics and foodstuffs.
How does it function?
“We utilise microorganisms that break down the leftovers to develop while also acting as ‘factories’ to manufacture items that would otherwise originate from fossil fuels,” explains David Sanchez of Spain’s National Centre for Renewable Energies.
“Not all bioplastics are biodegradable in and of themselves, but we’re focusing our research on producing those that are.”
From streets to courts
Max Trejo, a Mexican activist in his early thirties, has been on “both sides of the fence”: protesting for the environment and civil rights outside official public buildings, but also, as he and his organisation do now, focusing on the creation of specific legal documents aimed at improving those rights within a country’s established constitution and legislation.
“Our core demand and proposition is to develop legally binding international accords [on the environment] determined by and for young people,” adds Trejo, secretary-general of the Organizmo Internacional de Juventud Iberoamerica (International Ibero-Americana Youth Organisation).
“Young people in our organisation want everything from climate change to human rights to be covered in a legislative framework because we believe that one cannot exist without the other.”
“In this sense, governments are also legally obligated to pay closer attention to our recommendations.”
Cows for climate change
Most individuals will likely mention modern-day renewable energy sources such as wind power when asked to describe a nature-based solution to climate change.
However, Ana Carricondo, the head of conservation at the Spanish NGO SEO-Birdlife, believes that some nature-based solutions that have been employed for centuries and are now returning to modern-day agriculture can also make a significant difference in the fight against climate change.
“To put it simply, the approach, which is receiving more EU funding, entails raising cattle and other livestock across numerous fields over several years, not just one,” Carricondo explains.
“By letting fields to lay fallow for at least two years, when the grass comes back, the land functions as a carbon’sink,’ increasing CO2 absorption.”
However, there is more to it than that.
By distributing cattle over larger regions of land, vegetation is preserved at a lower level in general, lowering the danger of forest fires and so aiding climate change.
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