The Light Bulbs Come On In Cancun

Lofty discussion is not all there is at the 2010 climate meeting in Cancun. Representatives of the 190 nations in attendance also are talking light bulbs. Specifically, incandescent bulbs.

A United Nations study released at the conference concluded the world's electrical lighting demand would fall 2% - equivalent to saving 800 million tons of emissions - if every nation switched from incandescent lamps to more energy-efficient alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamps, according to this report in The Telegraph of London.

The study was designed to show how easy it is to cut emissions if nations took a unified approach. It also points out that simple, and often relatively inexpensive measures, can lead to big results. As we at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization tout, energy-efficiency is the low-hanging fruit of the green-energy movement.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu takes that analogy one step further: "When it comes to saving money and growing our economy, energy efficiency isn't just low hanging fruit; it's fruit laying on the ground," he has said in interviews.

The talks, which are expected to last through Dec. 10, are being held in a hotel resort under a solar-powered roof , near a new power-generating wind turbine and in a region where beaches are eroding in part due to global warming. However, all that may have little influence in a conference where progress comes in tiny increments.

Brazil's president has basically pooh-poohed the conference, Japan stunned participants when it opposed extending the Kyoto emissions protocol (which commits major emitting countries to 1990 emission levels) and observers say the U.S. position has been weakened by mid-term elections that rolled a slew of climate-change skeptics into office.

However, Mexico's environmental minister said he is confident that agreements will be reached for a financing fund and for protection of forests. And, late today, there was some indication that the gap between China and the United States over emissions monitoring may be narrowing.

Baby steps. But at least they are forward.