Boston-Power CEO Sees “Immense” Pressure to Curb Carbon Emissions at Copenhagen Summit

Quite a few clean energy companies around Boston have a stake in the outcome of the international climate change talks that start this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. If nations set more aggressive goals for greenhouse-gas emissions cuts, after all, they’ll have a greater need for technologies to reduce their carbon emissions.

But only one local cleantech executive, as far as Xconomy can determine, is actually going to Scandinavia to participate in the discussions. It’s Christina Lampe-Onnerud, founder and CEO of Boston-Power, which makes green, longer-lasting batteries for HP laptops and other devices.

As a member of a non-governmental initiative called The Road to Copenhagen, Lampe-Onnerud attended climate change discussions in Brussels, Belgium in two years ago and Oslo, Norway, last year. She’s now heading to her native Sweden to take part in the group’s final conference in Malmö, just across the Oresund Strait from Copenhagen, on December 8 and 9.

Boston-Power is one of 13 corporate sponsors of the Road to Copenhagen meeting, alongside much larger companies such as Cargill, Procter & Gamble, and Whirlpool. Lampe-Onnerud, who trained as a chemist, says her most important job at the Malmö meeting will be to “bring some honesty to the scientific debate” around different options for dealing with climate change. “I have made it one of my personal and professional commitments to be a citizen of the Earth, and this is something I know something about, so I think I should volunteer some time,” she says.

The Road to Copenhagen group—an initiative of the Club de Madrid, a group of former presidents and prime ministers—consists largely of politicians, business leaders, and scientists who are not part of the formal negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. (That meeting starts today in Copenhagen and continues through December 18.) The group plans to develop a communiqué that will be delivered to representatives at the UN meeting. Its last communiqué, issued just before the 2008 UN climate change meeting in Poznań, Poland, called for a halt to further increases in greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050—goals that are far more ambitious than the emissions caps set out by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Developing a more aggressive, legally binding treaty to take the place of the Kyoto accord—which expires in 2012—was the original goal for the Copenhagen conference. But the U.S. Congress’s failure to pass energy legislation this fall committing the United States to emissions reductions means that President Obama is going to Copenhagen largely empty-handed. Many other nations have also been dragging their feet on climate legislation. In recent days, both the U.S. and China, the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases, have set informal reductions targets, but it’s too late for Copenhagen: UN negotiators have already scaled back their goals for the meeting to achieving an interim pact, with more negotiations over a binding agreement to follow in 2010.

Still, Lampe-Onnerud is upbeat (as always—she is perhaps Boston’s most cheerful technology CEO). “I know that there is disappointment in the setup [for Copenhagen], but I am going because I still think the time is now,” she says. “We have to take action, because the climate change threat is more severe than many want to depict. I will go in with a sense of urgency, and with the discipline of a measurable, milestone-driven agenda.”

One item on Lampe-Onnerud’s agenda will be to try to quash schemes for large-scale climate modification to dampen or … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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