Taking the green road to Kyoto

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The Independent Online
There is only one way for the truly dedicated environmentalist to get to the Kyoto climate summit in Japan - by train, ship and bicycle. Nicholas Schoon spoke to weary travellers who have done just that.

Exactly three weeks ago, eight young people set off from Waterloo Station, London, intent on reaching Kyoto without using any aircraft, and so producing less global-warming carbon dioxide on their journey.

Their numbers swelled to 30 on the way, and they are due to reach their destination tomorrow. The scientists and eco-activists were almost halted by visa problems en route and their satellite telephone was nearly confiscated at the Chinese border. But this morning they were due to set off from the Japanese port of Kobe for Kyoto, 50 miles away, by bicycle. Could they be sure that they had produced less global warming gas in 8,000 miles by land and sea than on a jet? ``Are you kidding?'' said one of the travellers, Dr Dietrich Brockhagen, a German physicist who works for the European Parliament's transport committee. ``It took me eight days and nights to work this out.'' Each traveller would have been responsible for four times as much carbon dioxide if they had flown, he said.

The idea came from Ben Matthews, a post-graduate scientist at the University of East Anglia. He and his partner, Michelle Valentine, spread the word by Internet and e-mail; most of the travellers had never met face to face. The journey began with the Eurostar at Waterloo, joined the Trans Siberian Express in Moscow, travelling to Peking, and crossed to Japan from China by sea.

Richard Scrase, a Green Party fundraiser from Bath, said in Kobe: ``... to prevent dangerous climate change, there will have to be changes in lifestyle - you can't do it all through technical fixes.'' The group will lobby delegates to back the idea of each nation and its citizens being given a quota of carbon emissions, which can be traded for money.