G-20 'Green' Pittsburgh Summit Surrounded by Protesters
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, September 24, 2009 (ENS) - Pittsburgh is a city that has transformed itself, from the city of steel to a city that is a center of high-tech innovation, including green technology, education and training, and research and development. Here, G-20 leaders are meeting for two days to take stock of progress on the path to economic recovery and discuss what can be done to lay the foundation for balanced and sustainable growth going forward.

"As the largest global economies, all of the G-20 countries will seek to demonstrate their commitment to doing what is necessary to address the climate change and so for the Pittsburgh Summit, planners sought to embrace green technology and use responsible materials produced in a manner that minimize the carbon footprint of the Summit," the White House said in a statement today.

Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Photo by Foo Conner)

The G-20 Summit began tonight at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed leaders, their spouses and officials to Pittsburgh.

Known as "Green Heart of Pittsburgh," Phipps' earth-sheltered Welcome Center was the first LEED-certified building in a public garden.

Phipps' Tropical Forest Conservatory, is the world's most energy efficient conservatory and the world's first public garden powered by a solid oxide fuel cell. Phipps uses the waste heat from the fuel cell to heat water for irrigation.

Phipps offsets the greenhouse gas emissions from the fuel cell with the purchase of carbon credits and offsets all of the other electricity used on the entire campus with renewable energy credits from wind power.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the G-20 dinner at the Phipps Conservatory. (Photo by Stephen Jaffe courtesy IMF)
After welcoming leaders and their spouses, President Obama and the other G-20 leaders sat down for a working dinner at tables made from salvaged wood from previously cut trees.

In total, 65 percent of the materials used for the Summit were environmentally friendly, the White House said. The Leaders' Plenary Table is made of a product that uses forest waste and includes no toxins, while organic dyes provide color. The other components of the table are made of recycled fiber board and wood veneers certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Throughout the Summit space, these techniques have been used for all decor. All carpeting and drapery will be reused and later recycled. Trees and other plants purchased for event will be donated to Phipps Conservatory.

Because conventional audiovisual equipment draws large amounts of power, LED lighting instruments and energy efficient audio and video equipment will be used that have a low thermal output, using less electricity for cooling.

On Friday, the leaders will convene in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The facility was the first green convention center in the world to be awarded the LEEDŽ Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for leadership in energy and environmental design.

The convention center is built on an urban brownfield, on the site of the original convention center to reduce the cost of infrastructure improvements and provide public transit by light-rail, water and buses.

Halls are flooded by natural light, 75 percent of the center is naturally lit. When electricity is needed, the convention center purchases part of its power from Pennsylvania wind farms. The convention center reclaims its gray water for reuse.

Five percent of the produce used in the food served at the convention center will come from the rooftop garden, the rest from local farms. Compostable dishes, cups and packaging will be used and food waste from the kitchens is composted. The convention center donates its leftover food.

Greenpeace activists hang their message for the G-20 leaders from the West End Bridge. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)

The Group of Twenty, G-20, was established in 1999 to bring together major industrialized and developing economies to discuss key issues of the global economy.

Demonstrators for and against a variety of causes had a welcome of their own for the G-20 leaders.

On Wednesday, Greenpeace activists hung a banner reading "Danger: Climate Destruction Ahead" from a heavily traveled bridge over the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh. Eight protesters were on the the 80x30-foot banner, four on the bottom, keeping it open with their weight.

After two hours hanging from the West End Bridge, the eight demonstrators plus one assistant surrendered to police. Meanwhile, five people wearing harnesses and getting ready to dangle from the Fort Pitt Bridge, also were arrested.

A rally Wednesday night drew several hundred people to downtown Point State Park to hear pro-green jobs speakers and music performed by Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The rally was backed by the Alliance for Climate Protection, a group founded by former Vice President Al Gore; the United Steelworkers union; and a Steelworkers-Sierra Club coalition.

Riot police clashed with an estimated 1,000 students on the University of Pittsburgh campus late last night, sending round after round of tear gas into fleeing crowds as they sought to take control of the streets.

Today, dozens of people were arrested marching through the streets, some for throwing rocks and trash cans. They were taken into custody by heavily armed riot police who used tear gas to subdue the crowds. Incidents of police brutality were documented on video and blogs. Most of the signs and chants were anti-capitalist or Free Tibet and had nothing to do with the environment.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.