By Pablo Fernandez
City dwellers create massive amounts of garbage every day, which are collected for disposal - if they're lucky. In many countries, rubbish is dumped in landfills or uncontrolled sites and covered with earth. This creates conditions under which fungi and bacteria produce methane gas as the waste breaks down, accelerating global warming.
I work with the NovaGerar project in Rio de Janeiro - where we capture the methane gas before it escapes from the ground, and burn it to power a generator. Begun in 2003, the project combats climate change - but that's not all. Burning the gas produces heat and electricity for the city. The generator is close to the urban centre, reducing losses suffered during long-distance transmissions of electricity, and increasing the city's amount of self-supplied energy. Last, but not least, we are creating electricity from resources that would otherwise be considered waste and discarded.
NovaGerar is one of the world's first ventures promoting sustainable development in developing countries under the Kyoto Protocol - the international agreement to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions - that entered into force on 16 February 2005. It established the Clean Development Mechanism, a flexible economic mechanism that permits and encourages industrialized countries to invest in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the developing world, and claim the net savings achieved as 'carbon credits'. It lets them meet their emissions reduction targets without carrying out costly overhauls to their infrastructures, by helping developing countries to introduce green technologies.
Our project, which generates credits for the Dutch government, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over 21 years - which is like taking 150,000 cars (travelling 15,000 kilometres each) off the road for a year. And, starting in 2006, it will also generate up to 12 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the daily power needs of 100,000 city dwellers.
Pablo Fernandez is a 2004 Bayer Young Environmental Envoy.
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