The first solar-powered car to travel around the world ended its journey at the UN climate talks Thursday, arriving with the message that clean technologies are available now to stop global warming.
The small two-seater, hauling a trailer of solar cells and carrying chief United Nations climate official Yvo de Boer, glided up to a building in Poznan, Poland, where delegates from some 190 nations are working toward a new treaty to control climate change.
"This is the first time in history that a solar-powered car has travelled all the way around the world without using a single drop of petrol," said Louis Palmer, the 36-year-old Swiss schoolteacher and adventurer who made the trip.
"These new technologies are ready," he said. "It's ecological, it's economical, it is absolutely reliable. We can stop global warning."
Palmer's appearance at the conference marked the end of a 52,000-kilometre journey that began 17 months ago in Lucerne, Switzerland, and took him through 38 countries.
The car, which runs noiselessly, can travel up to 90 km/h and covers 300 kilometres on a fully charged battery.
Palmer said he lost only two days to breakdowns during the journey.
"This car runs like a Swiss clock," he said.
He calls his vehicle, which was developed by scientists at Swiss universities, a "solar taxi" because he has given rides to about 1,000 people — officials and regular folk alike — to convince them of the technology's viability.
Passengers have included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Delegates in Poznan are seeking an ambitious new climate treaty that would replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012 and has required that 37 countries slash emissions of heat-trapping gases by an average five per cent from 1990 levels.
The goal is for the new treaty to be finalized at the next UN climate meeting in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"Here at the conference, we are talking about reducing emissions by 10 or 20 per cent," Palmer said. "I want to show that we can reduce emissions by 100 per cent — and that's what we need for the future."