Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Making climate talks 'carbon neutral' - in Bangladesh

By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Dhaka

Men working in a brick factory in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has thousands of brick kilns

The Danish government says it will ensure that the Copenhagen climate change conference is carbon neutral, by supporting a project in Bangladesh.

Denmark said it would invest about $1m in a project to replace traditional brick kilns with energy efficient ones.

Bangladesh is one of the countries likely to be worst affected by global warming. A sea level rise of one metre could make 20 million people homeless.

Dhaka is calling for developed nations to step up aid to the most vulnerable.

High pollution

"Bangladesh is one of the countries hardest hit by climate change and there's an enormous need to help the country with technology and capital transfers. This climate project is one way to help," Denmark's Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard said.

"For the people of Dhaka, it will also mean a noticeable reduction in the amount of particulate matter in the air. As it is, pollution from the existing brickworks is clearly visible."

According to a recent government study, the level of air pollution in Dhaka at this time of year is the worst in the world.

Locals repair a breach in the sea defences around Gabura island, south Bangladesh
Up to 20 million people could be affected by rising sea levels in Bangladesh

During the winter, cold weather and fog trap vehicle exhaust and the smoke of thousands of brick kilns.

At Dhaka's Chest Disease Hospital, doctors say that this causes the number of patients to increase two- or three-fold.

Denmark says that the scheme, which has been organised by the World Bank, will cut 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, offsetting the fuel spent by the 15,000 delegates flying to Copenhagen to take part in the talks.

The new kilns use technology brought from China, and then adapted to Bangladesh's uniquely humid conditions.

The main difference to the traditional kilns is that coal dust is mixed into the bricks with the clay.

When it burns the carbon stays embedded within the brick rather than coming out as smoke.

"Instead of burning 100 tonnes of coal, you burn, for the same number of bricks, 50 tonnes of coal," said Syed Tanvir Hussein of the Dhaka-based Industrial and Infrastructure Development Finance Company Limited, which has helped finance the scheme.

"They will show this as offsetting the huge number of planes flying into Denmark and Copenhagen, and the carbon they have created."

The new kilns are relatively expensive to build.

They can cost between $1.5m and $3m, which is 10-15 times more than the traditional brickworks.

According to the owner of the first in operation, Zaydul Abedin, it would be hard to get going without the carbon offsetting scheme.

"We are the initial players who took all the trouble to transfer the technology from a distant place, so I think that initially it helped us a lot," he said.

"And when you hear someone saying they will pay you for emitting less carbon, then that is a motivating factor."

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