Ode to the Copenhagen conference center

EDF has been at the climate talks in Denmark for more than a week now.

We’ve learned a lot in that time – and not just about international climate policy. We’ve also learned a lot about the logistics and culture of the Bella Center – the conference center where the talks are taking place.

Main hall of the Bella Center, where the UN climate change conference is being held

Main hall of the Bella Center, where the UN climate change conference is being held

But the Bella Center is now off limits for many conference participants.  As of this morning, the UN is limiting entrance “for security reasons” to just 15,000 people, out of the 40,000+ people who signed up.

As many of us are now working offsite, in nearby apartments or cafes, we find ourselves reminiscing about the sprawling, confusing, but generally beautiful Bella Center.  Here are some of our insights:

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Most surprising sight

Beer, wine, and consumers of both: the food stands in the conference center serve alcohol all day long, and – surprising to us Americans – you pour your own beer from the tap.

Least surprising sight

Large crowds and VERY tight security – the combination of which led to six-hour-plus lines for admission and the eventual 15,000-person cap on entrance to the conference center.

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Best reminder we’re actually in the holiday season

The carolers dressed as elves, singing 12 Days of Christmas with climate-themed lyrics.

Worst reminder we’re actually in the holiday season

Temperatures hovering around freezing, sunrise at 8:30 am and sunset at 3:30 pm.

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Things that kept us going

  1. the FREE fair-trade dark chocolate squares: dangerously abundant and available at every food stand.
  2. Barista coffee stands: once we found them, we couldn’t go back to the automatic coffee machines. (Caffeine is utterly necessary in an environment where people are routinely working 15 or 16 hour days filled with tight deadlines.)
  3. Power strips: there’s brutal competition for places to plug in the computers, BlackBerries, cell phones, cameras, and other gadgets that are ubiquitous at the conference.  People often stake out a table with its own outlet and squat there all day. The lust for electric outlets might seem odd for a bunch of energy-saving environmentalists, but on the plus side, we’re saving a lot of paper.

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