THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Wednesday, 10 August, 2011 UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
UNEP Ogoniland Report • Leadership (Nigeria): Ogoni Oil Spill: FG To Review Report – Orubebe • Nigeria Bulletin (Nigeria): Ogoniland Clean-up: Shell’s Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja – ThisDay • allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Next Step - Clean Up the Niger Delta • Nigerian Tribune (Nigeria): UNEP report on Ogoni: Saro-Wiwa's vindication • allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Serap to Sue FG Over Unep Report On Ogoniland • allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Ogoniland Clean-Up - Shell's Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja • Guardian (Nigeria): UN to monitor Ogoni spill up • Punch (Nigeria): Jonathan’ll speak on Ogoni oil spills soon — Orubebe • This Day Live (Nigeria): Ogoniland Clean-up: Shell’s Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja • Legalbrief Today (South Africa): Shell admits liability for huge oil spills in Niger delta • Guardian (UK): Nigeria: Oil-polluted Ogoniland could become environmental model • Guardian (UK): UN report on the Ogoniland oil spills could be catalyst for change • Mena FN (Jordan): Father Kukah Urges Jonathan to Implement Report on Ogoniland Others • Huffington Post (USA): Is the Beauty Industry "Green-Washing" Sustainability? • Trend (Azerbaijan): Protocols to Tehran Convention on Caspian Sea expected to be signed in Aktau • IEWY (USA): Sustainable Development and Volunteerism Take Centre Stage as NGOs Prepare for 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn • Miller McCune (USA): ‘Safe Planet’ Uses the Arts to Explain Chemical Threat • UB Post (Mongolia): One drop can make a difference
Other Environment News
Ogoniland Report • China Dialogue (China): “Nowhere and no one has escaped” • Daily Independent (Nigeria): Why we prosecute Shell in London – Ogoni community • UPI: Nigeria eyes natural gas infrastructure • CTA (Belgium): Nigeria: Oil Spills - Shell to Pay $410m to Ogoniland Others • UN News Centre: UN urges greater appreciation of indigenous culture and creativity • Guardian (UK): How this government can turn its green vision into reality • Standard (Zimbabwe): Going green— everyone’s duty
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New York Times (USA): Fuel Economy: It’s Not Just for Cars Anymore Wall Street Journal (USA): DiNapoli Proposes 'Fracking' Fund Irish Environmental Network (Ireland): RIO +20 Stakeholder Consultation Irish Weather Online (Ireland): Invasive Species Inflict Massive Environmental And Economic Damage Atlantic (USA): Cities Are the Environmental Solution, Not the Problem Mongbay.com: Uncontacted tribe missing after armed drug dealers storm their forest
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
• • • • ROA ROLAC RONA ROWA
Other UN News
• • Environment News from the UN Daily News of 10 August 2011 Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 9 August 2011
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News UNEP Ogoniland Report Leadership (Nigeria): Ogoni Oil Spill: FG To Review Report – Orubebe
10 August 2011 Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Peter Orubebe, yesterday appealed to Nigerians to exercise patience over what he termed slow response by the federal government to the recent report on massive oil pollution by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Ogoni land, Rivers State. He said that government wanted to study it critically, before keying into the recommendations outlined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Elder Orubebe, who explained that due consultation with all local and international stakeholders was necessary before the next action plan and noted that Jonathan’s administration was not ignorant of the implication of oil spillage on human life and the ecosystem. The Minister who made this plea while fielding questions from newsmen after playing host to a delegation from the multinational oil giant Shell , said that the report must be carefully considered and properly reviewed , if the objective of sponsoring the in-depth research must be accomplished. The Niger Delta boss further advised the delegation from Shell to subscribe to dialogue to settle the lingering battle with Bonny Community in Port- Harcourt, as issues so far
resolved through dialogue between the federal government and aggressive communities have brought about lasting peace in the once restive region. On his part, Shell’s Executive vice president, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Ian Craig reiterated oil major’s commitment to work with Nigerian government and other stakeholders to ensure that the region was hooked to the trend of socio-economic growth and development. Craig who admitted that the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report on the devastating impact of its oil production activities gave a better understanding about the oil spill in Ogoni land , said, it would give them an opportunity to actually set about the whole reconciliation agenda in the affected areas with other stakeholders. He said, “I acknowledge that the UNEP report which we whole -heartedly welcome, will give us the opportunity to set out the needed strategies for restoring the village to its lost glory. We are committed to working out the recommendations”. He, however, pleaded with the Ogoni People to bear with his company and said that they would, as a matter of fact , take time out to study the about 1,000 page report. He pledged his company’s commitment to, after due consultation with all stakeholders, collaborate with federal government to address the emergency measures listed in the report.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Nigeria Bulletin (Nigeria): Ogoniland Clean-up: Shell’s Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja – ThisDay
10 August 2011 As a follow-up to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) indictment of Shell Company on the pollution of Ogoniland, Dutch Royal Shell Sub-Saharan Africa Vice President, Ian Craig and other top executives Tuesday stormed Abuja seeking clearance on government’s position on the UNEP report. At a meeting with the Minister of Environment Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya, the Shell team said the visit was meant to seek possible ways of partnership as it concerns environmental degradation through oil exploration in the Niger-Delta. Though the meeting was held behind close doors, THISDAY gathered that it may not be unconnected with the UNEP indictment of both Shell and the Federal Government on the pollution of Ogoniland. Sources within the ministry told THISDAY that though Shell executives came for a courtesy visit to congratulate the minister on her appointment, most of the talks centred on the recent report by UNEP which was submitted last week to President Goodluck Jonathan. When approached by journalists on the UNEP indictment, Shell’s Country Chairman and Managing Director in Nigeria, Mutiu Summonu, declined any comment.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Next Step - Clean Up the Niger Delta
10 August 2011 The recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme's study on oil pollution in Ogoniland point to the need for a genuine shift in the priorities and practices of the oil industry and government regulatory agencies in the Niger Delta, writes AllAfrica guest columnist Deirdre LaPin. The study makes clear that nothing less than ending pollution and full remediation of Ogoniland and the whole Niger Delta region should be accepted as an end point, she says. The long-awaited report from the United National Environmental Program (UNEP) on oil damage in the Ogoni area was presented to President Goodluck Jonathan on August 4 in Abuja. This important study, the first of its kind in the Niger Delta, was conceived well before 2006 by the Federal Government as part of the Ogoni reconciliation and peace process led by Father Matthew Kukah (recently named Bishop of Sokoto). Intended as a major assessment of the impacts of oil production in the Ogoni region, UNEP in an early statement described the aim as to "clarify and de-mystify concerns expressed by local communities". Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) suspended active production in Ogoniland in late 1993 as a response to growing resistance to industry presence led by the martyred freedom fighter and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. However, the company remained responsible during its withdrawal for monitoring and maintaining its installations, and especially the critical Trans-Niger pipeline serving Bonny Terminal. It also left behind a number of spill sites. Over the years the Company had mixed success in negotiating with local communities access to spills sites or achieving their complete remediation. The impoverished local population also pursued informal oil production that centered on bunkering (oil pipeline tapping) and bush refining - increasing opportunities for further spills and pollution. In keeping with the "polluter pays" principle, the operator SPDC joint venture funded the U.S. $9.5 million UNEP study. Last week the press had a field day with the freshly unveiled report. Journalists whisked together highlights and added spice from the region's contested history. Some articles cooked in the press kitchen missed key ingredients or simply got them mixed up. The best among them focused on the findings from the study's careful scientific analysis, which led UNEP to the conclusion that "pollution has perhaps gone further and penetrated deeper than many may have previously supposed."
This forceful opinion stated in the foreword by UNEP's executive director Achim Steiner represents a long step beyond the study's original technical terms of reference or the limited policy aims supporting reconciliation and "de-mystification." Now in 2011 UNEP's thoughtful recommendations, while not assigning blame, point clearly to the need for a genuine shift in the priorities and practices of the oil industry and governmental regulatory agencies operating throughout the Niger Delta. The muscular sub-text rippling throughout the report makes clear that nothing less than ending pollution and full remediation of Ogoniland (and indeed the whole Niger Delta region) should be accepted as an end point. The report offers guidance to address this aim. Steps include (a) a transition phase for detailed remediation and environmental management planning; (b) an immediate end to bunkering and artisanal refining; (c) creation of a Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Center, which could employ hundreds of local youth; (d) improved remediation management and harmonization and strengthening of various regulatory guidelines; and (e) implementation of eight emergency measures to protect the health and well being of residents in Ogoniland. In an earlier interview, Mr. Steiner vowed, "I can assure you this report will get the world's attention For the first time we can actually begin to build a plan for remediation". It would indeed be a wonderful thing to see future action that goes beyond ink and rhetoric, but the path will not be easy. Its course will require a huge measure of political will. What the report does not fully reveal are the hazards and missteps that threatened to upend the study itself. President Jonathan rightly notes that "an environmental war" has been waged in the region for 50 years. Anyone familiar with the long, tortuous history of UNEP study will be moved to commend the agency and the presidential committee under Father Kukah for their perseverance and courage in seeking to bring the truth to light. Their success was no less due to the peaceful and patient support of the long suffering residents of Ogoniland. The technical and political processes driving the study were intrusive, time-consuming, and at times unclear. For more than four years many strangers were welcomed into Ogoniland and facilitated by men and women in countless ways, despite deep felt grievances born of repeated past injustices from both public and private authorities. Mr. Steiner has described UNEP's decision to undertake the study a "calculated risk" in the hope of spurring action to rectify what he perceives as a "scandal." Aware that they were entering a "contested area," the project team from UNEP's Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch in Geneva packed its toolkit of technical acumen and good intentions and walked, somewhat naively, straight into a minefield. The polemical dimension of the environmental war had created a seasoned cadre of Ogoni activists wary of good intentions. Past experience made them quick to see a hidden agenda behind nearly every initiative. They had also become masters of the message, raising their suspicions in public statements and in the press. Field-level preparations in the first phase of the environmental study gained some momentum in late 2006. Almost immediately, it proved to be a false start. At a stakeholder engagement meeting in Gokana in November 2006, Rivers State Governor Peter Odili
alluded to a lingering problem when he noted that "the exercise had nothing to do with Shell's re-entry into Ogoni." For some years a rumor had circulated throughout the area that the reconciliation sought by Father Kukah's committee was in fact meant to pave the way for SPDC to resume production in the area. Adding to this suspicion was the discovery that the UNEP Project Coordinator based in Geneva was an environmental assessment specialist who had previously been employed in Oman by a national oil company advised by Shell. For these and other reasons, the study was temporarily suspended until a revised agreement was signed with the Federal Government on November 5, 2007. By October 2009 UNEP opened a project office in Port Harcourt for its second phase under the direction of a field project coordinator, Mike Cowing. He was assisted by 23 international, national and local staff. A spirit of goodwill and transparency seemed to infuse the project. A web page at the UNEP site offered regular "field news updates" and reported the official "relaunch" of UNEP's environmental assessment in Ogoniland in November 2009. By May 2010 the scientific sampling of oil contaminated sites had begun in collaboration with the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. In early August 2010 Mr. Cowing shared preliminary results from the field study at a UNEP press conference. His comments, among others, observed that 10 percent of oil spills at the sites studied could be attributed to SPDC, implying that the others were related to the illicit local oil activity. This assessment was not inconceivable for a region that had no formal oil production since 1993 but which did have an active ongoing informal oil bunkering and refining. However, given that the study had not been completed, the comment was premature. It was also unwise because it failed to underscore the significance of industry responsibility for its ageing infrastructure and slow remediation. Instead it appeared to blame the victim. On August 23 2010 UNEP apologized for the statement. MOSOP withdrew its support for the study and complained of inadequate stakeholder engagement. (The report, however, says that 264 meetings attended by 23,000 people were held.) Nevertheless, the project continued undeterred. Its team studied over 4,000 samples of sediments from creeks, surface water, rainwater, fish and air - including 142 samples from groundwater wells drilled specifically for the project and soil samples from 780 boreholes. In addition, over 5,000 medical records were examined. Last week both MOSOP and Amnesty International voiced reservations about the study (which they had not yet seen) on the eve of its submission to the Nigerian president. Overall, the report seems to have won over most skeptics. Its scientific grounding is unprecedented for the Niger Delta and its careful wording reflects a desire to avoid blame and serve as a force for good. Shell announced that it welcomed the study. What Shell did not welcome was the (perhaps) coincidental timing of a judgment. In a British High Court on the day before the release of the UNEP report, SPDC was ordered to pay compensation of about $410 million to the Bodo community in Ogoniland for two large operational spills in 2008. They resulted in water and soil contamination from 4,000 barrels spilled.
In an open letter, the SPDC managing director Mutiu Sunmonu called the spills a "tragedy," saying that SPDC had always accepted responsibility for paying compensation for spills when they occur as a result of operational failure. At the same time he reminded his audience of the damage to the environment being done by the illegal oil economy. Remediation of Ogoniland must be the next step. President Jonathan has made muscular statements about the government's position. In accepting the report he vowed it would "not be put in a drawer." But faced with an estimated $1 billion price tag for what may become the world's "most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up," he has also requested UN and industry support in pursuing the remediation plan proposed. It will take more than money. The president will need to firmly demonstrate his political will. UNEP's call to improve government regulations and oversight will require honest effort and continuous monitoring, ideally with some external involvement. Its eight "emergency" recommendations - to ensure safe water supply, signpost unsafe polluted areas, and mobilize the community to halt bunkering and artisanal refining - will require swift and concerted government effort at all levels. Ending bunkering and refining in the well developed informal oil industry will present a special challenge. The report notes that these activities are typically conducted in collusion with government, current or former industry staff, and security forces. Persuading youth into the legitimate economy could be significantly helped by UNEP's proposal for establishing an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Center. Run properly on a commercial basis, this business could employ large numbers of local workers, especially the young unemployed men most likely to be attracted by the illicit oil economy. The center represents a huge opportunity, as treatment of contaminated soil, bioremediation, and protecting ground water is needed throughout the Niger Delta, well beyond the Ogoni region. Last week the Minister of the Environment, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya, assured reporters that the government was prepared to implement the report and that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) would be responsible for cleaning up Ogoniland. If NOSDRA were to take on such a complex technical and political exercise, it will need to make sharp improvements over its past performance. Instead, the report proposes the creation of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority, supported by an extrabudgetary Restoration Fund, to oversee the implementation of its recommendations over the next ten years. Perhaps the first step the government needs to take is to read, digest, and carefully plan its response to the report. The time of vague assurances has long passed. Dr. Deirdre LaPin is a senior fellow at the African Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant on development and corporate responsibility. She was previously a research associate and lecturer at the University of Ife, Nigeria, and served with Shell from 1997 to 2003 in helping establish sustainable community development programs.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Nigerian Tribune (Nigeria): UNEP report on Ogoni: Saro-Wiwa's vindication
10 August 2011 The United Nations Environment Protection (UNEP) assessment report on environmental degradation in Ogoniland presented in Abuja last week indicted both the Federal Government and Shell. Sulaimon Olanrewaju reports that the damning report is a vindication of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was handed a violent death while embarking on a non-violent protest against environmental pollution in the area. IF the dead could laugh, Ken Saro-Wiwa would be having a guttural laughter, beaming from ear to ear over the report presented by the United Nations Environment Protection (UNEP) last Thursday to the Federal Government on the assessment of environmental degradation in Ogoniland. The report, an extensive one on the extent of pollution and degradation in the area, came as a vindication for the late Ken Saro-Wiwa who was permanently silenced on November 10, 1995, by the military administration of General Sani Abacha over his determination to attract global attention to the deplorable extent of environmental degradation in Ogoniland. And if the dead could talk, Saro-Wiwa would be thumping his chest saying, “I have the last laugh.” Following sustained agitation by the people of Ogoni, the Federal Government had about two years ago, requested the UNEP to carry out an assessment of environmental contamination and threat to life in the area. Shell partnered with the FG for the exercise by agreeing to provide funding of up to $9.2m. The result of the assessment presented to President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja last Thursday is alarming. According to the report, “In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened. “In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene- a known carcinogen-at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline. “UNEP scientists found an 8 cm layer of refined oil floating on the groundwater which serves the wells. This was reportedly linked to an oil spill which occurred more than six years ago.” It adds that, “The Ogoni community is exposed to hydrocarbons every day through multiple routes. While the impact of individual contaminated land sites tends to be localised, air pollution related to oil industry operations is all pervasive and affecting the quality of life of close to one million people.” The report also observes that control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland has been inadequate with the Shell Petroleum Development Company failing to comply with its own procedures, thus creating public health and safety issues.
It also states that fire outbreak usually follows an oil spill with the fire often resulting in the burning of vegetation and creating a crust over the land, making remediation or revegetation difficult. The report then suggests that while clean up in the area could take five years through a combination of approaches, the restoration of heavily-impacted mangrove stands and swamplands might take up to 30 years. The FG has said that it would take up the cleaning up of Ogoniland and would require the assistance of the United Nations for this. According to the Minister of the Environment, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya; during a visit to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), in Abuja last Saturday, the organisation would be responsible for the exercise on behalf of the FG. She said, “With the release of the report on oil pollution in Ogoniland, it is the responsibility of NOSDRA to handle such reasonability. The case of Ogoni is an international case; we have to look at the report, it was just submitted to Mr. President, until we look at the report, it will be pre-emptive to say more,” she added. These extreme environmental damages were the focus of Saro-Wiwa's campaigns. Starting from 1990, following a very successful career as a writer and a television producer, he decided to devote his time and resources to fight against environmental degradation that his homeland was facing. He started out by teaming up with others to form the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), which advocated for the rights of Ogoni people. When he became the president of MOSOP, he tried to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the plight of the area. When all efforts to make the FG reverse the trend in Ogoniland failed, he decided to attract global attention to their plight. Being a writer, he chose the non-violent approach to the campaign. Rather than take up arms against the state, he deployed poetry, prose and peaceful protest. In January 1993, Saro-Wiwa led MOSOP to organise peaceful marches of about 300,000 Ogoni people through four Ogoni centers, drawing international attention to his people's plight. With that he drew the ire of the government, which moved the military to occupy the region. In May 1994, a meeting, from which Saro-Wiwa had been barred, took place in Ogoni. At the meeting, there was an outbreak of violence which resulted in the killing of four elders of Ogoni. Despite that he stayed away from the meeting because he had been barred from it and was denied entry into Ogoni, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders; Baribor Bera, Saturday Doobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levura and Felix Nuate; were held responsible for the outbreak of violence and were arrested. The arrested men were accused of murder. They were detained for over a year without trial. Later, there was a trial by a special military tribunal but the defence counsel all withdrew from the tribunal in protest against government's intervention in the trial.
With the withdrawal of the counsel, the tribunal panel found it so easy to do the government's bidding. The men were found guilty and were sentenced to death but refused right of appeal. Despite global outrage against the manner of the trial and pleas from eminent world leaders for the sentence to be commuted, Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders were hanged on November 10, 1995. His death attracted worldwide condemnation with many countries recalling their envoys while the Commonwealth of Nations suspended Nigeria's membership. The death of Saro-Wiwa cast a pall on the agitation of Ogoni people but now with the report of UNEP on threat to life in Ogoni and the resolve of the Federal Government to take up the task of cleaning up the area, it is a bright new day for Ogoniland.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Serap to Sue FG Over Unep Report On Ogoniland
10 August 2011 A group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has said it will drag the Federal Government before the ECOWAS Court over the recent United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, findings on the environmental assessment of Ogoniland. The group said the report was in support of its case on the complicity of the government in oil pollution and the resulting violations of the human rights of the people of the area. SERAP's Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, who spoke in Lagos, said the group had initially challenged the Federal Government but was rebuffed. He added that it was not every inch of the land in the Niger Delta that has oil, hence poverty level in such places should not be attributed to lawful oil exploration in the region, and by extension, failure of government. Mumuni said: "The UNEP report clearly contradicts the arguments put forward by the government before the ECOWAS Court. We shall be filing soon on the UNEP report before the ECOWAS Court in support of our case on the complicity of the government in oil pollution and the resulting violations of the human rights of the people."
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Ogoniland Clean-Up - Shell's Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja
10 August 2011 As a follow-up to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) indictment of Shell Company on the pollution of Ogoniland, Dutch Royal Shell Sub-Saharan Africa
Vice President, Ian Craig and other top executives Tuesday stormed Abuja seeking clearance on government's position on the UNEP report. At a meeting with the Minister of Environment Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya, the Shell team said the visit was meant to seek possible ways of partnership as it concerns environmental degradation through oil exploration in the Niger-Delta. Though the meeting was held behind close doors, THISDAY gathered that it may not be unconnected with the UNEP indictment of both Shell and the Federal Government on the pollution of Ogoniland. Sources within the ministry told THISDAY that though Shell executives came for a courtesy visit to congratulate the minister on her appointment, most of the talks centred on the recent report by UNEP which was submitted last week to President Goodluck Jonathan. When approached by journalists on the UNEP indictment, Shell's Country Chairman and Managing Director in Nigeria, Mutiu Summonu, declined any comment. He said Shell would rather make its comment public soon and at the appropriate time. The visit came on the heels of government's statement that it would clean up Ogoniland. According to the report, the country would spend about N150 billion to clean up Ogoniland over a period of 30 years.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Guardian (Nigeria): UN to monitor Ogoni spill up
9 August 2011 THE United Nations (UN) is said to be planning a close monitoring of the cleanup of Ogoni oil spill recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its report last week. According to Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson to the UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, the UN leader is being briefed about the details of the UNEP report, which called for the biggest oil spill cleanup ever recommended. Although Nesirky did not state what the initial reaction of the secretary-general was to the report, UN sources say the matter is high up on Ban’s agenda considering his global concern against pollution generally. The UN sources added that the entire UN system especially the UNEP and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would be deployed with specific instructions to help Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and the oil companies involved, especially Shell to conduct an acceptable cleanup that is to last several years.
The resolve of the UN to conduct an effective follow-up according to sources is because the UNEP report itself detailed how oil companies and the Nigerian government failed to meet their own standards, and how the stipulated process of investigation, reporting and cleanup was deeply flawed in favour of the oil firms and against the victims. For instance, while in the United States (U.S.), oil spills get immediate responses in order to avert community and media uproar, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where there are far more incidents of pollution, response if it comes at all can take as long as months. Besides, sources say it would take a concerted effort to ensure that local contaminated areas in Ogoni are cleaned up in as long as five years, and the heavily-impacted mangrove areas and swamplands could even take a much longer number of years - as much as up to 30 years. Short of an international focus and monitoring from a credible body like the UN, the cleanup may easily become a mirage, a source stated. Equally, the report itself asked that all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to an end before the cleanup of the creeks, sediments and mangroves can begin. Indeed, western media outlets and non-governmental organisations have since been awash with comments on the findings of the UNEP, which has called for what is deemed as the biggest ever oil cleanup in world record. For instance, Amnesty International while commenting on the UNEP report said “oil companies have been exploiting Nigeria’s weak regulatory system for too long.” According to Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International, the process of reporting and investigation of spills in Nigeria do not “adequately prevent environmental damage and they frequently fail to properly address the devastating impact that their bad practice has on people’s lives.” Regarding follow-up measures, the UNEP report recommends establishing three new institutions in Nigeria to support a comprehensive environmental restoration. A proposed Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority would oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and should be set up during a transition phase, which UNEP suggests should begin as soon as possible. The authority’s activities should be funded by an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, to be set up with an initial capital injection of $1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the government, to cover the first five years of the clean-up.
A recommended Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, to be built in Ogoniland and supported by potentially hundreds of mini-treatment centres, would treat contaminated soil and provide hundreds of job opportunities.
The report also recommends creating a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland to promote learning and benefit other communities impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world. Reforms of environmental government regulation, monitoring and enforcement, and improved practices by the oil industry are also recommended in the report. The UNEP report stated already that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland oil region could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up ever, if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and other ecosystems are to be brought back to full health, according to a UN report. It could take 25 years to 30 years, with an initial investment of $1 billion just for the first five years, to clean up pollution from more than 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta, ranging from the “disastrous” impact on mangrove vegetation to the contamination of wells with potentially cancer-causing chemicals in a region that is home to some one million people. The independent scientific assessment, carried out by the UNEP over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Punch (Nigeria): Jonathan’ll speak on Ogoni oil spills soon — Orubebe
10 August 2011 Godsday Orubebe, has said President Goodluck Jonathan will soon make a formal pronouncement on the United Nations Programmes report on the indictment of Shell Petroleum Development Company for pollution in Ogoni in Rivers State. He said the Federal Government would meet the multinational oil firms and all the stakeholders to hold discussions on how to tackle the emerging issues in the region. The UNEP, which did a two-year study on the pollution in Ogoni in a report released on Thursday, confirmed that the SPDC activities caused massive damage to the area The magnitude of the pollution has made the Environmental Rights Action to demand for the establishment of a $100bn environmental restoration fund for the region. The minister said this after a visit by the Vice-President of the Company for Sub Saharan Africa, Mr. Ian Craig, and the Managing Director, Nigeria, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu. Orubebe said it would not be proper for Jonathan to make a pronouncement on the report since he just received it and would make a policy statement after due consultations.
He said, “Well, I think that a presentation has been made and government will study what is being presented, and government will have further meetings with shell and other oil companies and agree on the best way to tackle the issues that are so mentioned.
“And you also know that Mr. President is committed to the development of the Niger Delta, so, he will discuss with all stakeholders and agree on what should be done for us to take care of the issues of the Niger Delta. “And that is what I have just said; that Mr. President will in due course make a pronouncement on what they submitted to him after due consultation.” Craig and Sunmonu told journalists after a closed door meeting with Orubebe that the report was a welcome development. Sunmonu said the report would put the company in a better position to understand the spills in Ogoni and to work with the relevant agencies to pursue the restoration of the devastated environment. Sunmonu said, “I acknowledge that the UNEP report which we whole heartedly welcome, will give us the opportunity to set out the needed strategies of restoring the villages to their lost glory. We are committed to working out the recommendations. “We also think it will also give us the opportunity to actually set about the reconciliation agenda in Ogoni, working with government agencies to restore the environment of the Ogoni people to its natural state.” Orubebe who also spoke on the ongoing training programme organised for the youths in the Niger Delta, called on the Federal Government and the oil firms to prepare an agenda for those that were being trained. He said it was important to come up with an agenda for those trained to avert a situation where they could become a problem to the government, the oil firms and the society if not duly engaged. The minister said, “A lot of trainings are going on. And I believe that there is need for the oil companies led by Shell to prepare an agenda for these people that are being trained. I think that we need to meet, we need to talk and considering your position, you need to lead the oil companies to have a partnership so that we can plan ahead for tomorrow. “We also know that the oil companies cannot absorb all these people that are trained and so what we should be looking at should be how we can make them to be employers of labour themselves; how we can support them to be on their own and I think it needs careful planning.” The minister urged the leadership of the oil firms in the Niger Delta to give a priority to the resolution of emerging conflicts with the producing communities through dialogue.
He said that only dialogue and not government directives and the courts would bring about lasting peace in the region.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ This Day Live (Nigeria): Ogoniland Clean-up: Shell’s Africa VP, Executives Storm Abuja
10 August 2011 As a follow-up to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) indictment of Shell Company on the pollution of Ogoniland, Dutch Royal Shell Sub-Saharan Africa Vice President, Ian Craig and other top executives Tuesday stormed Abuja seeking clearance on government's position on the UNEP report. At a meeting with the Minister of Environment Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya, the Shell team said the visit was meant to seek possible ways of partnership as it concerns environmental degradation through oil exploration in the Niger-Delta. Though the meeting was held behind close doors, THISDAY gathered that it may not be unconnected with the UNEP indictment of both Shell and the Federal Government on the pollution of Ogoniland. Sources within the ministry told THISDAY that though Shell executives came for a courtesy visit to congratulate the minister on her appointment, most of the talks centred on the recent report by UNEP which was submitted last week to President Goodluck Jonathan. When approached by journalists on the UNEP indictment, Shell’s Country Chairman and Managing Director in Nigeria, Mutiu Summonu, declined any comment. He said Shell would rather make its comment public soon and at the appropriate time. The visit came on the heels of government’s statement that it would clean up Ogoniland. According to the report, the country would spend about N150 billion to clean up Ogoniland over a period of 30 years.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Legalbrief Today (South Africa): Shell admits liability for huge oil spills in Niger delta
10 August 2011 A report in The Independent notes that the agreement comes after the community in the Delta region of Nigeria brought a class-action lawsuit against Shell in the UK, alleging that spills in 2008 and 2009 had destroyed the environment and ruined their livelihoods. Until now, says the report, Shell has claimed that less than 151 146 litres were spilt in the accidents. But experts who have studied the spills in Bodo, Ogoniland, said the amount leaked into the local environment could be as much as 37 854 117 litres. Locals claimed the spills devastated the Bodo community, which relies on fishing and is surrounded by water. The report notes that Martyn Day, the lawyer acting for the 69 000-
strong Bodo community, called the disaster 'one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen', and said the settlement could set a precedent for other communities in the Niger Delta to seek damages for oil spills. The report states that Day added that he would be seeking 'adequate compensation immediately' for the community. A landmark report released last week backs up the Bodo community's claim. Decades of oil pollution in Nigeria's Ogoniland region may require the world's biggest clean-up, the UN environmental agency said last week as it released a landmark report on the issue. The Cape Times states that the UN Environment Programme (Unep) also called for the oil industry and the Nigerian Government to contribute $1bn to a clean-up fund for the region that activists say has been devastated by pollution. Full restoration of the region could take up to 30 years, Unep said. Activists reacted to the report by issuing harsh criticism of oil giant Shell, historically Nigeria's largest producer, which operated in Ogoniland until it was forced to withdraw amid unrest there in 1993. Shell maintained its stance that oil theft, sabotage and illegal refining were the main causes of pollution. The study of the effects of pollution in Ogoniland, part of the Niger Delta, the country's main oil-producing region, follows a two-year assessment by the Unep. A report on the News24 site notes that The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, which has long pushed for action in the region, welcomed the report, but said it was not nearly enough. It said that 'what is needed and the Ogoni expectation is the cleanup of our devastated environment and not a mere study to tell us what we know'. The group also called for Shell's licence in Nigeria to be revoked.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Guardian (UK): Nigeria: Oil-polluted Ogoniland could become environmental model
9 August 2011 Ogoniland is one of the most oil-polluted places on earth but it could become a model for other countries wanting to clean up their environments or avoid making the same mistakes, the UN has said. "This could be the world's biggest oil contamination clean-up," said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the UN's environment programme (UNEP) director, Achim Steiner. "It is up to the government of Nigeria what happens now, but [from talks with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja this week] there appears to be a willingness to act," he said while in London. Preliminary cost estimates to decontaminate and restore the devastated ecology of the 1,000 sq km of land and water are nearly $1bn for the first five years, with much more money possibly needed over the full 30 years it will take to clean up the region, said UNEP chief scientist Joseph Alcamo in London. But he said that if governments and oil companies were prepared to put up the money to act, it could provide work to train tens of thousands of Ogonis, leave the area "pristine" and
help many other African countries that were on the point of commercially developing their oil reserves. São Tomé, Ghana, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia all expect to produce oil in the next 10 years. "One in 10 barrels of oil in the world presently comes from Africa. It is very likely that oil production will increase on the continent. Countries can learn from this painful experience," said Alcamo. As well as immediate measures, such as warning Ogoni people if they are drinking from polluted wells and proposing that the oil companies rethink their clean-up procedures, the UN recommended that a global centre for excellence for environmental restoration be set up in Ogoniland. This would run courses in environmental monitoring, promote learning about pollution and decontamination of land in Nigeria and abroad, and become a model for restoration, attracting people from around the world, said Alcamo. It would like to see Nigeria declare its intention to make the extensive wetlands around Ogoniland a "Ramsar site" – the highest classification of wetland. "This would provide the government with a roadmap for restoration and bring the site into the global spotlight, which will make the many agencies and companies focus on their task," said the report. Shell Nigeria said it was willing to act. "Shell Petroleum Development Company is already reviewing its remediation practices and looking to involve independent international experts in assessing how it can improve. The company is also examining ways to bring third-party verification to the oil spill investigation process, bringing further transparency to the assessment of causes and volumes," said managing director Mutiu Sunmonu. "We pledge to work with the government, UNEP and others on the next steps." Sunmonu urged the Nigerian government to take concerted action to curb oil theft by communities and others. "Unless these activities are brought to a halt, any action we take will be of limited impact," he said. But the Movement for the Survival of the Ogonio People (Mosop), which was founded by Ogoni writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and has been a powerful political voice in the region, rejected the UN report, saying it was compromised because it was mostly paid for by Shell. "Who determined that restoration of Ogoniland would last for 30 years? What is the extent or estimate of overall damage? Everything is dictated to us, the Ogoni people, who have lost our means of livelihood, [and been] subjected to economic burden and poverty," said Mosop president Goodluck Diigbo. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria called for the creation of a $100bn environmental restoration fund for the whole Niger Delta, parts of which they said were just as polluted as Ogoniland. "The $1bn initial restoration fund that the report has proposed is negligible compared with the mammoth ecological disaster caused by Shell," said director Nnimmo Bassey. "Other communities must now also be considered for a comprehensive environmental audit," he said.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ 17
Guardian (UK): UN report on the Ogoniland oil spills could be catalyst for change
10 August 2011 It's not often that 275 pages of bald facts and figures, measurements and dry data changes anything. But the UN environment programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland published on Friday, has genuinely shocked people around the world and gives hope to impoverished communities on the delta that their struggle for human rights against pollution and poverty is at least being recognised. Ogonis and others say there was little new in the report, and it has been argued well by US oil-spill expert Richard Steiner that it was not complete. But it is far and away the most thorough UN study yet done on the legacy of oil pollution. From now on, nobody, anywhere, will ever again be able to deny, play down or ignore what is happening on the delta. Until now, there has been a tacit conspiracy of silence and inaction by the governments closest to the oil companies. Americans, who buy one-fifth of Nigeria's oil – and squeal loudly when just a fraction is spilt on their shores – remain ignorant of the reality of life on the delta and, as far as I can tell, give no aid at all to Igbo or Ijaw communities affected by their companies' spills. Last year, USAid gave only $2m to the whole of Nigeria for the environment, even as their companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron continued to see their oil massively pollute the land and sea. Shell is primarily a Dutch company, but beyond taking many billions of dollars in taxes, the Dutch government gives no direct aid to oil-affected communities. Britain, which also reaps vast taxes from Shell, has increased its bilateral aid to Nigeria, but in the next five years plans to give nothing directly to people affected by oil pollution in the delta. Instead, in 2010 it gave nearly £10m to "improve transparency and accountability in oil sector governance" and last month the prime minister, David Cameron, pledged to "help reduce the theft of oil on the delta" – a move designed to help Shell and the Nigerian government, but not the people who are so poor they have to steal the oil taken from their land to run their generators. When Cameron called Nigeria "a dream waiting to happen", the people on the delta only laughed louder. But could the UN report mark a tipping point? Certainly it will concentrate minds, and here are some of the benefits that may follow: • Shell and other oil company shareholders in Europe and the US now have tangible evidence of their companies' work practices and will demand changes • other polluted communities across the delta will demand audits and clean-ups
• The Nigerian federal government can now demand better practice from the oil companies and can more easily reform its own oil-spill and pollution agencies such as Nosdra, Nesrea and the Ministry of Environment • international groups such as Amnesty, Friends of the Earth International and Platform, which have done extraordinary work to bring the human rights and environment scandal of the delta to world attention, have a new legitimacy to partner organisations in the delta and press for change • other African oil countries can demand change Even Nigeria, which has 10,000 other major problems to contend with, is waking up to the disaster of the delta. An editorial in the Vanguard, a major Nigerian paper, published on Monday 8 August appears to admit that the country has not paid enough attention: Nearly 16 years after he and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged by the Sani Abacha regime, the truth has finally come out that Ken Saro-Wiwa was not merely shouting wolf about environmental degradation in his native Ogoniland. If anything, independently verified facts have shown that, perhaps, Saro-Wiwa and his fellow travellers possibly underestimated the magnitude of the disaster they fought to draw the world's attention to ... One day, we as a nation will honour Saro-Wiwa and co for their sacrifices.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Mena FN (Jordan): Father Kukah Urges Jonathan to Implement Report on Ogoniland
9 August 2011 The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, and chairman of both the Ogoni -Shell Reconciliation Committee and Presidential Implementation committee Msgr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, has urged the Federal Government to implement the report on Ogoniland. Father Kukah, while speaking during the presentation of the final report of the United Nations Environmental Programme on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland to President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday, said successive governments in the country had failed the citizens over the issue of Ogoniland. He enjoined President Jonathan to boldly take on the moral burden of bringing life back to the people of Ogoniland. "You are on the threshold of history and I hope that the government that you lead will find the heart to appreciate that the life and security of a single citizen is more than all the oil wells in this country. I call on you to quickly move on to put in place the necessary human architecture recommended by the report, to equip the relevant government agencies to take up the challenge of restoring Ogoniland," the Catholic priest said. Kukah added that the United Nations Environmental Programme, which undertook the scientific assessment worked for over a period of two years, visited the length and breadth of Ogoniland through vehicular, physical and aerial surveillance. In the course of the work,
he said UNEP identified 69 sites across Ogoniland, took samples from community drinking water, sediments from creeks, surface water, rainfall and fish. According to him, the report is a metaphor for the degree of responsibility or lack of it by successive governments, for elites who have presided over the resources of Nigeria and a judgment day for oil companies who have been doing business in the country as the report is a pure scientific evidence of the footprints of Shell Petroleum Development Company, which has been engaged in oil exploration on behalf of the Federal Government. Father Kukah, who said report on Ogoniland marked the final phase of the assignment given to him by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005, remarked that it had been difficult but rewarding, in terms of its necessity, urgency and historic significance for the country. "We realized that there could be no reconciliation without justice and that the best template for justice has to be careful assessment of everything that has diminished sacred, Godgiven life in Ogoniland. This report will put an end to innuendo, guesswork, name-calling, bias or any other form of evaluation of the environmental situation in Ogoniland," he said.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Others Huffington Post (USA): Is the Beauty Industry "Green-Washing" Sustainability?
9 August 2011 On the Beauty Brains, we've fielded countless questions about whether so-called "natural" and "organic" beauty products are better for hair and skin. But we've never been asked what is, in our opinion, a far more important question: how can you tell if your beauty products are made sustainably? The answer to that question must include some assurance that claims of sustainability are not just a form of greenwashing. Is there substance behind the sustainability claims of the beauty business? Aligned definitions At first glance, sustainability seems just as confusing as other green claims. Everyone seems to have their own spin. Consider these definitions from a governmental agency, a major US retailer, and three global consumer products manufacturers. US EPA: "Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.." Walmart: "Our broad environmental goals at Walmart are simple and straightforward: To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; to sell products that sustain people and the environment." P&G: "Sustainability is about ensuring a better quality of life, now and for generations to come."
Unilever: "By 2020, we will halve the environmental footprint of our products, help more than 1 billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, and source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably." Aveda: "We see the sustainability challenge as one of protecting biodiversity. We believe that the following issues are the main threats to biodiversity: Global climate change, water pollution, loss of species and habitat destruction, air pollution, toxins in the environment, and waste generation." While there's a bit of scatter in the specifics, the tone of these definitions is similar: "Don't screw up stuff we're going to need in the future." Meaningful metrics Of course it's easy for a company to give lip service to sustainability; it's another thing to take actions whose impact can be measured. Sustainability reporting is a strong indication that the beauty industry is not treating sustainability as just another greenwashed marketing campaign. While the industry still lacks universal guidelines around natural products, broadly accepted sustainability reporting guidelines, known as G3, have been established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). As of 2010, nearly 1900 companies in 60 countries filed reports using this format. Many of these companies, like Unilever, P&G, and Estee Lauder, are in the cosmetic sector. Cosmetic ingredient suppliers, including Akzo Nobel, Evonik, and Nalco, also use G3 standards. (GRI Reports List) What is the GRI G3 report? The Global Reporting Initiative is a non-government organization formed in 1997 by two US based non-profit organizations (the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and the Tellus Institute) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP ). They are currently headquartered in the Netherlands and they produce "the most widely used standardized sustainability reporting framework in the world." (GRI History) The G3, or "Third Generation," guidelines were launched in October 2006. The G2 version dates back to 2002, following the original guidelines which were released in 2000. The G3 Guidelines provide universal guidance for reporting on sustainability performance.
Reporting standards G3 guidelines are far too lengthy to republish here, but the following examples will give you a flavor for the depth of information required in the report. Materials: The types used, their sources, and how much material is recycled. Energy: How much was consumed (as well as how much was conserved) and was the primary source direct or indirect. EN6 initiatives the company has to improve energy efficiency or generate renewable energy. Water: Source of water, the total amount withdrawn, and the amount that was recycled and reused. Biodiversity: Amount of land owned/used by the company that is located near areas of high biodiversity value. Description of significant impact of activities, products and
services on biodiversity. impacts on biodiversity.
Strategies, current actions, and future plans for managing
Greenhouse gases: Total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and initiatives to reduce greenhouse and emissions of ozone depleting substances. Chemical waste: Total amount of waste by type and disposal method; Total number and volume of significant spills; initiatives to mitigate environmental impacts of products and services and extent of impact mitigation. As you can see, this form of sustainability reporting goes far deeper than asking "Are you using plant-derived ingredients instead of petroleum-based chemicals?" Opportunity for abuse While the G3 guidelines are the most widely accepted reporting structure, GRI is not without its critics. As Moneva, et al, point out in "GRI and the Camouflaging of Corporate Unsustainabilty", "some organizations that label themselves as GRI reporters do not behave in a responsible way concerning sustainability question, like gas emissions, social equity or human rights." While we acknowledge that the G3 is not without legitimate criticism, we still agree with Ed Lawler's assessment that we "support the direction we're moving in...we need to pick up the pace." While there may be issues with GRI's approach, they provide the best independent corroboration of sustainability that is currently available. Are your favorite beauty products made sustainably? The G3 report provides a tangible alternative to the hollow "natural" and "organic" claims that constantly bombards us all. If you'd like to find out if your favorite beauty products are made by companies who have a real commitment to sustainability, you can download this list of companies who have filed G3 reports. (Of course, finding any given company presumes you actually know who REALLY makes your beauty products. For example, in the 2010 list of reports you won't find natural product czar Burt's Bees but you will find parent company, Clorox. The shell game of which company makes what product is a discussion for another day!)
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Trend (Azerbaijan): Protocols to Tehran Convention on Caspian Sea expected to be signed in Aktau
9 August 2011 Delegations from all five Caspian littoral states will today arrive in the Kazakh city of Aktau to attend the third session of the Conference on Tehran Convention, the Kazakh Ecology and Environmental Protection Ministry spokesman Aida Abenova told Trend.
"Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan’s authorized representatives will sign a protocol on regional readiness, response and cooperation in case of incidents causing oil pollution and a protocol on environmental impact assessment in transboundary context," Abenova said.
She said cooperation of the Caspian countries to ensure ecological security of the Caspian Sea will move to a new level by signing two protocols to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea (Tehran Convention). The third session of the Conference on Tehran Convention will be held on Aug.10-12. "The signing ceremony of the two protocols will be held on Aug.11 during the working meetings of the session," Abenova said. She underlined that the conference will also consider the location of the Permanent Secretariat of the Tehran Convention. "At present, the Secretariat’s functions are temporarily fulfilled by the European Office of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)," Abenova said. Ministers will issue a declaration following the conference in Aktau. It will be attended by representatives of international organizations, NGOs and the private sector.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ IEWY (USA): Sustainable Development and Volunteerism Take Centre Stage as NGOs Prepare for 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn
9 August 2011 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gearing up for the sixty-forth annual United Nations DPI/NGO meeting in Bonn, Germany, have chosen sustainable development and volunteerism as their major topics of discussion. The meeting, which will take place from 3-5 September, has as its theme, “Sustainable Societies: Responsive Citizens”. Nongovernmental organizations will use these twin themes to showcase the impact that volunteers and engaged citizens make on sustainable livelihoods and communities. The Conference will also give the global NGO community the opportunity to prepare a consensus statement containing their input on sustainable development and its relationship to volunteerism, as well as reflecting their views on the upcoming major United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for 4-6 June 2012 in Brazil, known as Rio+20, and the General Assembly’s discussion in December 2011 on the International Year of Volunteers + 10. In addition, with its important overarching theme on the role of volunteerism in promoting sustainability, the DPI/NGO Conference is expected to influence those talks in the Assembly. The DPI/NGO Conference is expected to secure renewed commitment from the NGO community on the issue of sustainable development by assessing the progress made to date, specifically around the issue of building sustainable societies through responsive citizenship. Through four round tables, 38 NGO-led workshops, and some 23 exhibits, the Conference will offer NGOs and civil society activists in the fields of both environment and
development and volunteerism an opportunity to examine emerging issues. They will also have the chance to raise questions on such critical issues as the green economy and its link with social equity, as well as to identify challenges and obstacles as the global NGO community prepares its position on Rio+20. Some 20 internationally renowned speakers on the environment, sustainability and volunteerism, including Achim Steiner, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, will address the annual DPI/NGO gathering. Mr. Steiner notes that this meeting will be an important moment for building NGO consensus around key sustainable development issues ahead Rio+20. “The urgent need to implement and evolve sustainable development onto a resourceefficient, employment-generating, green economy path is among the central issues for Rio+20,” says Mr. Steiner. “These and the other central challenges of the twenty-first century urgently require the analysis, input, vision and support of civil society — the Bonn meeting is the moment for a broad alliance of non-governmental organizations to sharpen and focus their unique contribution to a successful outcome in Brazil next June”. One of the partners in this year’s event is the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV). Looking forward to the Bonn meeting, UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri says, “The themes we’ll be discussing are more significant than ever. NGOs and responsive citizens — the people — act at the heart of societies. They are key to transforming development, since grass-roots voluntary action reaches into the long-term and is more responsive to community needs, giving it real sustainability.” “The development debate is shifting,” she warns, and adds: “Sustainability and human well-being are finally coming to centre stage.” In calling for the global NGO community to seize the opportunity Bonn presents as UNV marks the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, and in the run-up to Rio+20, she suggests that “volunteering is a truly sustainable and people-centred approach, so let’s join together and seize the chance to move it up the international agenda through this conference.” The United Nations DPI/NGO Conference will also attract a large number of speakers from both the sustainable development community and the world of volunteerism, some of international renown and others with highly regarded reputations in specific regions. Among the keynote speakers, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a trained physicist and activist from India, will discuss sustainability. In comments ahead of the Bonn meeting, she captures the essence of the discussions that will be held on the green economy. Stressing that green economics needs to be an “authentic green”, she underscores that: “It cannot be the brown of desertification and deforestation. It cannot be the red of violence against nature and people, or the unnecessary conflicts over natural resources – the land and water, seeds and food.” The plenary speakers at the round tables that will be held during the DPI/NGO Conference will come from all backgrounds and walks of life and will share their wisdom and visions on a broad range of issues related to sustainability and volunteerism. Dr. Grace Aguiling– Dalisay of the Philippines, a former volunteer psychologist trainer and selector for the VSO Bahaginan in the Philippines, has spent some 35 years in the joint worlds of academia and
civil society. Her hope for the Bonn Conference is “that Governments, civil societies, NGOs and international bodies will tap volunteerism much more vigorously and deliberately, taking stock of the contribution of volunteering to engendering societies with empowered citizens who know and claim their rights, are involved in the development of their own communities, and are able to hold their leaders to account for a socially equitable world.” Among the first timers to the annual meeting are Ukrainian environmental activist Anna Golubovska-Onisimova of Mama-86 [which promotes protection of the environment in Ukraine], and Dr. Eden Mamut, a Romanian professor at the Black Sea Universities Network [a conglomeration of universities that deal with Black sea ecological issues], who will bring the unique perspective of Eastern Europe. As for the African region, another firstparticipant will be Rose de Lima Ramanankavana, an environmental activist from Madagascar. The NGO Section of the Department of Public Information has also reached out this year to the corporate world, and as a result of that effort, Daniel Bena, Director of Sustainable development at PepsiCo will also be a contributor. Among the numerous speakers set to participate in the Conference workshops will not only by Laureates of the Alternative Nobel Prize — Abser Kamal from Bangladesh, and Pat Mooney from Canada — and World Food Prize Laureate Hans Herren, but also inspirational leaders of the environmental, peace, volunteer and social movements, including Dr. Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive of the NGO Volunteering England, of the United Kingdom. As in previous years, the Conference is expected to produce an NGO Declaration and a Call to Action for civil society, United Nations Member States and the international community. In previous years, the outcome document adopted by the Conference has been introduced by the respective host country Government in the competent United Nations forums, including the General Assembly and the Security Council. This year, those forums would be the Rio+20 preparatory process, which kicks off in December 2011, and the General Assembly’s two-day meeting on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. Bernward Geier, Coordinator of the German NGO Focal Group in encouraging European NGOs to register for the Conference says NGOS in Germany are looking forward to welcoming their colleagues from around the world “for three days of learning, listening, debating, networking and […] the joy in being part of such a monumental conference”. Registration ends on 16 August. Kiyo Akasaka Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information who is excited by the growing number of registrants says, “The Bonn Conference is a unique occasion to bring together passionate volunteers, civil society and UN experts from all over the world to focus on Rio+20 and concrete ways to save our planet — today, and for future generations.” As in previous years, the Conference will also feature a number of side events, including the launch of two major United Nations reports, as well as regional NGO consultations, and a public town hall meeting. More details on the programme can be found on the Conference website: www.undpingoconference.org.
The Conference, organized annually by the Department of Public Information, will be held this year in partnership with the Government of Germany, the United Nations Volunteer Programme and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Miller McCune (USA): ‘Safe Planet’ Uses the Arts to Explain Chemical Threat
9 August 2011 The U.N. enlists the arts to bring home the arcane but vital necessity of reducing the phalanx of chemicals saturating our bodies. Telling someone they’ve been poisoned in ways that could reshape their DNA and be carried on to their descendants — possibly causing cancer, neurological illness, mental deficiency, birth defects, brain damage and death — isn’t easy. But that’s Michael StanleyJones’ job. As public information officer for the United Nations Environment Programme, he’s tasked with engaging the public with initiatives established during the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions. While not exactly breakfast-table topics, those gatherings saw world leaders convene to address the dangers of synthetic petrochemicals that saturate our air, soil and water, including the meat and plants we eat. The World Health Organization reported last year that more than 5 million deaths from chemical exposure occur annually — more than 8 percent of all deaths — and most are among children 15 and younger. The United Nations Environment Programme is charged by the conventions with achieving sound management of chemicals and reducing child mortality. The challenge in bringing those weighty and complex topics to life for an often-apathetic world is to make the information delivery memorable without frightening people. “It’s a strange feeling that we’re there to bring good news about solutions to very difficult problems,” Stanley-Jones said, “but some in the audience are first having to absorb the harsh news before they can understand the good news. It’s important we not leave them with a sense of shock and despair. We’re all about mobilizing solutions and eliminating the worst substances from mankind.” So he and his colleagues conceived the Safe Planet campaign. “I don’t want to paint over problems,” he said, “but the record of how we’ve been able to deal with chemical challenges historically, such as lead and brominated flame retardants which have been taken off the market, is very encouraging. Safe Planet contributes through awarenessraising of the risk and solutions to protect people and the environment from exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes.” In an effort to move from the tediously bureaucratic and slow-to-move talks among nations, Safe Planet showcases the films Silent Snow, Submission (or Underkastelsen in its original Swedish) and Body Burden, all of which detail the degree to which unnatural
chemicals are accumulating inside us. In Body Burden, for example, organizers recruited celebrities such as actor Ed Begley Jr. and Olympic gold medal skier Stine Hattestad to undergo blood analysis and share their results and personal reactions. The method seems to pay off. “People stood rapt,” Stanley-Jones said of a crowd gathered to watch Submission when it screened in conjunction with June’s Fifth Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva. “Some were just amazed; they hadn’t realized the extent to which [persistent organic pollutants] and organic chemicals are building up in the body and didn’t know about the transference from mother to child.” Reining in these chemicals will require public support, and the public needs to understand the problem and potential solutions before they’ll be motivated to push industry and government regulators to implement protective measures. One leg of sustainability calls for industry to take greater responsibility for the health and safety of products. Changing the mindset of big business that requires sacrificing potential profits is a challenge. As Stanley-Jones points out, some positive movement is happening, as chemical companies explore green chemistry solutions and governments tighten regulations. Europe instituted Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals regulation in 2007, which takes a tough stance on production and use of dangerous chemicals by applying the precautionary principle, requiring that chemicals be proven safe before they’re allowed to be used. In the U.S., the rule is the opposite; chemicals are allowed into production until they are proven unsafe, which can be a long and litigious process, even when anecdotal evidence seems clear, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a stronger stance toward regulation under the Obama administration. Safe Planet has held more than 40 events worldwide since it launched a year and a half ago. The team uses social media to reach high-school and college students, offering film screenings, art contests and other events that appeal to cultural interests. “Art has given the campaign a new vocabulary for expressing the challenges we face globally from toxic chemicals and wastes. Some of our material is produced by students, and we rely on younger members of our staff, and even on some of their children, to keep us informed about what’s meaningful for young people,” said Jacqueline Alvarez, UN programme officer with the secretariat of the Stockholm Convention. “They are the leaders of tomorrow, and tomorrow is right around the corner.” Alvarez says she’s talked with many young women after the film screenings who want to know what they can do to protect themselves and their ability to have healthy children. “It can be disturbing to learn about chemicals being passed down from mother to child in the womb,” she said. “Hazardous chemicals and wastes threaten all that we hold dear to us, both as humans and in the environment: living long, healthy lives, human achievement, performance and intelligence and the right to know what is good for us and what is harmful. “By measuring chemical body burden, the loading of hazardous chemicals building up in our bodies, and making this information more widely known, we help people understand
the risks and actions they can take — lifestyle choices and political ones — which will protect our futures.” Part of the art revolves around how to frame these messages. “Should we be talking about 50 million possible deaths from chemical exposure over the next 10 years or about 2.5 million children’s lives saved over the next five years?” Stanley-Jones asks. “I argue for lives saved; I want this to be made quantifiable and translated into a lives-saved metric.” Safe Planet wants to leave behind working partners who will continue to reach out to their communities, spreading information and mobilizing support for reforms in chemical policy and practice. “People care about their own health and the health of their families,” Alvarez said. “Many care about the health of the planet, and work hard to preserve endangered species and protect animals from harm. Hopefully, we will live with less and less exposure to hazardous chemicals, lead healthier lives, cut the incidence of child mortality and morbidity caused by toxic exposures, encourage a greener economy with more sustainable forms of production and consumption, and sound management of what we leave behind for the next generation. “Most of all, we need strong voices and people who will share their stories, stand up and speak out. Safe Planet is a campaign of people who want to make a difference. We rely on them to step forward and demand we all take responsibility: individuals, communities, governments, industry … everyone.”
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ UB Post (Mongolia): One drop can make a difference
10 August Access to water and its efficient use will be a major global challenge of this century. Water shortage is both a national and international issue, which is being fueled by many factors such as increasing population, urbanisation, climate change, deforestation and water mismanagement. Statistics show that 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, about half of the world’s population lack adequate water sanitation and half of the people who are hospitalised globally suffer from water-related diseases. These statistics are accepted by the United Nations, World Health Organisation and Millennium Development Goals and are just a few of many more statistics proving that there are many problems associated with access to fresh water and its availability. When it comes to problems associated with water, Mongolia is no exception. Mongolia is regarded as a country with limited water resources and those water resources seem to be becoming more and more “limited”. According to the report “Urban Water Vulnerability to Climate Change in Mongolia”, which was published by the Mongolian Water Authority in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme, climate change is causing a decrease in Mongolia’s annual water resources, which will contribute to water shortage in the future. The annual mean temperature of Mongolia has risen by 2.140C since the 1940s and a temperature increase of one degree causes annual river flow to decrease by at least 2 percent.
Moreover, higher temperatures and droughts will result in increased evapotranspiration, the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth's land surface to the atmosphere. Excessive evapotranspiration leads to a decrease in the recharge rate of underground water, which is the primary source of water supply for major urban and industrial centres. Furthermore, extreme temperatures and natural disasters such as droughts, fl ooding and heavy snowfalls are becoming more frequent and the Mongolian climate is likely to change dramatically over the next century. Study results suggest that there will be higher temperatures all year round with more snow in winter and less rain in summer. Therefore, it looks like Mongolia has to get used to having much less water in the future. Mongolia is becoming more populated and urbanised. This population growth, along with rapid urbanisation, will result in an increasing demand of water. Cities, especially Ulaanbaatar, will soon struggle to provide water to its new residents under pressure of decreasing water resources. Ulaanbaatar is the biggest urban centre in Mongolia with a population of around 1.1 million, which is approximately 40 percent of the total Mongolian population. The average annual growth rate of Ulaanbaatar’s population during 2003–2008 was around 3.6%, which was three times the growth rate of the total population (1.2%) of Mongolia. The daily water consumption of Ulaanbaatar is about 150-170 thousand m3, which exceeds the average of that in developed countries. The water supplied to homes in Ulaanbaatar is pumped from four well fi elds located alongside the Tuul River. There is a huge water supply disparity between apartments and ger districts. The daily water consumption of a ger area is between 5–10 litres per person while that of apartments exceeds 250 litres per person. Very few of those ger districts are connected to the distribution network of pipes. Therefore, Ulaanbaatar needs better urban land use planning that ensures effi ciency and regular water supply. Seventy percent of Ulaanbaatar’s sewage is treated and no water is recycled in Mongolia. Moreover, domestic waste-water in rural areas is discharged into the environment without any treatment. The main purpose of water treatment is to remove existing contaminants in the water or reduce the concentration of such contaminants so that the water becomes fi t for its desired use. The central core of all major urban areas are served by sewer collection systems and waste water treatment plants. Many of those sewage treatment plants and collection systems were built before 1995 and they are generally not functioning as they are supposed to due to a lack of proper operation and maintenance. As a result, wastewater is often discharged into a river or onto the ground. Furthermore, many industries discharge their waste into rivers, which causes water pollution. Also, as the mining industry rapidly develops in Mongolia, mines threaten the natural environment causing water pollution and deforestation. Water pollution is always a threat because it decreases the amount of water that can be used. Therefore, signifi cant investments are needed in urban water infrastructure systems and water management should be improved by introducing wastewater recycling plants and increasing performances of other existing water management facilities. All in all, water shortage in the future is almost unavoidable in Mongolia. Environmental problems such as climate change and water pollution are rising as Mongolia develops. Even though it could be a long, long time before Mongolia faces water shortage, actions and policies should be introduced to prevent it from happening or to be ready when it happens. There are many factors contributing to the future water shortage such as climate change, increasing
population and urbanisation, most of which are not likely to disappear. Therefore, the government should introduce new, appropriate policies to manage Mongolian water resource properly and ensure its availability for future generations. It requires an understanding of current condition of water resources and those policies should be made to sustain development while sustaining water resources. Moreover, the simplest things such as taking a shower instead of having a bath or turning off the tap while brushing teeth can contribute to saving water. The more water you save, the more water is there to use. 2.7 million drops are enough to make a difference. If everyone in Mongolia saves one drop of water a day, 945 litres of water will be saved a week, which is equal to the recommended amount of consumption per day of 630 people.
Back to Menu ============================================================= Other Environment News Ogonialnd China Dialogue (China): “Nowhere and no one has escaped”
9 August 2011 In the wake of Shell’s admission of liability for two massive oil spills in the Niger delta in 2008, John Vidal examines their social and environment impacts on 69,000 people in the Ogoni district. (On August 3, 2011, Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary accepted full liability for oil spills that devastated the environment and local livelihoods in Ogoniland, a Niger delta region. The case was the first in which the companies faced claims in the United Kingdom for damage resulting from its operations in Nigeria, and opens the way for a series of similar claims in British courts. Compensation is to be set later this year.) The air stinks, the water stinks, and even the fish and crabs caught in Bodo creek smell of pure “sweet bonny” light crude oil. The oil has found its way deep into the village wells, it lies thick in the mudflats and there are brown and yellow slicks all along the lengthy network of creeks, swamps, mangrove forests and rivers that surround Bodo in the Niger delta. The first oil ever exported from Nigeria was found just eight kilometres away from Bodo in 1958. But chief Tella James, chair of Bodo’s maritime workers, says life for the 69,000 people who live in the vicinity changed dramatically in August 2008 when a greasy sheen was first seen deep in the Bodo swamps kilometres from the nearest houses. Shell disputes that, saying that a weld broke in September 2008 in the 50-year-old transNiger pipeline that takes 120,000 barrels of oil a day at high speed across the Niger delta. Either way the spill was not stopped until November 7, 2008. By that time, as much as 2,000 barrels a day may have been spilled directly into the water. A month later, in December 2008, the same pipeline broke again in the swamps. This time Shell did not send anyone to inspect or repair it until February 19, 2009. According to oil
spill assessment experts who have studied evidence of the two spills on the ground and on film, more than 280,000 barrels may have been spilled. Bodo is at the epicentre of several pipelines that collect oil from nearly 100 wells in the Ogoni district and there have been plenty of minor spills in and around the communities over the years. But this was far more serious, says Nenibarini Zabby, head of conservation at the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) in Port Harcourt. “This was an exceptionally sensitive ecosystem,” said Zabby. “The spill lasted a very long time and it spread with the tides. The health of people is at risk. The company needs to compensate the people but they must also recover the environment.” Chief James, assistant secretary to the Bodo council of chiefs and elders, said every family had been affected by the disaster. “Nowhere and no one has escaped,” he said. “This has caused serious poverty to everyone. Nearly 80% of people here are fishermen or they depend on the water. They have lost their livelihoods. People are leaving the community in their hundreds to search for greener pastures. We used to live beautifully. People caught so much fish we could sell it to the cities. Now we have no hope.” A Bodo woman said social problems had followed the environmental ones. “People go hungry; there is more petty stealing,” she said. According to the community leaders, youths from the area started to steal oil and refine it in illegal camps only after the two spills occurred. “It was the negligence of Shell which compelled people to steal,” says Groobadi Petta, president of the Bodo city youth federation. “When our livelihoods were destroyed, the youth went to places where they learned how do bunkering [often used as a euphemism for theft]. They were desperate. They learned from others to steal. It was to survive.” Sylvester Vikpee, a barrister and legal adviser to the council of chiefs, said Shell had not responded humanely to the disaster. “They do not know the scale of the devastation. One of the richest companies in the world has done this to us. We have tried to talk to them and asked them what they plan. They have told us nothing.” The Niger delta is one of the most polluted regions in the world, with more oil spilled across the region each year than in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. According to Nigerian government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillage sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller spills still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone, but while the company has been fined many times by courts in Nigeria for pollution incidents, appeals can take years and communities complain that proper clean-ups and compensation money never reaches them. “For decades claims have swirled around in the Nigerian courts getting nowhere,” said Martyn Day of the UK law firm Leigh Day and Co. “Having a venue to bring claims in a proper structured way will revolutionise the process and hopefully ensure that the
Nigerians who have suffered loss from the many, many spills, will have a much more ready outlet for their grievances and claims.” Shell, which admitted to spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil in 2009, works in partnership with the Nigerian government in the delta, but argues that that 98% of all its oil spills are caused by vandalism, theft or sabotage by militants and communities and only a minimal amount by deteriorating infrastructure. No one from the Shell petroleum development company in Nigeria was available to comment on the Bodo spills [at the time of writing], and a spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell in London said the company could not say anything while the case was ongoing. “That Shell has now accepted responsibility for the massive spill at Bodo is surprising only in the sense that it is out of place for polluters of this sort to bow to the truth,” said Nimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International from Lagos. “We only hope that now they will wake up and accept responsibility for other places in the Niger delta.” A history of spills, fines and fights for rights Oil was first found in Nigeria, then a British protectorate, in 1956 by a joint operation between Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum. The two begun production in 1958, and were soon joined by a host of other foreign oil companies in the 1960s after the country gained independence and, shortly after, fell into civil war. The rapidly expanding oil industry was dogged in controversy from early on, with criticism that its financial proceeds were being exported or lost in corruption rather than used to help the millions living on US$1 a day in the Niger delta or to reduce its impact on the local environment. A major 1970 oil spill in Ogoniland in the south-east of Nigeria led to thousands of gallons being spilt on farmland and rivers, ultimately leading to a fine for Shell in Nigerian courts 30 years later amounting to four billion naira [at the time in 2000, equivalent to 26 million UK pounds, or about US$44 million]. According to the Nigerian government, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000. In 1990, the government announced a new round of oil-field licensing, the largest since the 1960s. Non-violent opposition to the oil companies by the Ogoni people in the early 1990s over the contamination of their land and lack of financial benefit from the oil revenues attracted international attention. Then, in 1995, Ogoni author and campaigner Ken SaroWiwa was charged with incitement to murder and executed by Nigeria’s military government. In 2009, Shell agreed to pay US$15.5 million out of court, in a US settlement of a legal action accusing it of collaborating in the execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight other tribal leaders. In an escalation of opposition to the environmental degradation and underdevelopment, armed groups began sabotaging pipelines and kidnapping oil company staff from 2006, with a ceasefire called in 2009 by one group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). A year later it announced an "all-out oil war" after a crackdown by the Nigerian military.
Hundreds of minor court cases are brought each year in Nigeria over oil spills and pollution. Last year, Shell admitted spilling 14,000 tonnes of crude oil in the creeks of the Niger delta in 2009, double the amount in the year before and quadruple that of 2007.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Daily Independent (Nigeria): Why we prosecute Shell in London – Ogoni community
8 August 2011 The indigenes of Bodo community in Ogoni land area of the Niger Delta declared at the weekend that they chose a British High Court over the Nigerian court to prosecute Shell to avert sluggish delivery of justice. Barrister Martyn Day, of the law firm Leigh Day which held brief for the community, disclosed this in a chat with the newsmen adding that he was pleased Shell had admitted liability relatively early and also agreed to concede to the English jurisdiction and court system, over what he described as “one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen.” According to him, there was an increasing trend for these types of compensation claims to be brought in London High Court rather than being fought out in local courts where litigation could last for years. “The Nigerian courts have found it very difficult to deal with these cases speedily and the claimants have rarely received compensation as a result,” he added. The compensation set to be paid to the 69,000 Nigerians affected by damage caused by the leaks is thought to be in excess of £250m. Most of those who brought claims are fishermen who typically earn about $4000 to $7000 a year on average. Mr. Day’s office said that the money awarded will compensate the Niger Delta residents for their loss of livelihood over the past three years and also reflects the fact that it could still take a year or even two years to complete the clean-up during which time they may be unable to fish. Mr. Day added Mr. Day welcomed the approach taken by Shell: “This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country. I am pleased that having been notified of the claims Shell has been acting speedily to put right the terrible damage that has resulted. I would hope that we will see urgent work being carried out to remediate the local environment. “The Bodo people are a fishing community surrounded by water. What was the source of their livelihood now cannot sustain even the smallest of fish. The spills have caused severe poverty amongst the community. We will be pressing Shell to provide them with adequate compensation immediately.” The Niger Delta victims were able to file the case thanks to the 2005 European Court of Justice ruling that made it easier for groups of litigants to launch legal action in the
European courts and gives claimants an automatic right to sue in the defendant’s home country. The court, it would be recalled ordered the oil major, Royal Dutch Shell to pay compensation of N61.5 billion (potentially more than £250m or $410m) after the AngloDutch oil group admitted liability for two spills in the Niger Delta. This ruling follows a class-action lawsuit brought in England by the Bodo Community in the region. The damage is estimated to have affected an area of 20 km2 in the Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State in Nigeria. It was the first time these companies have faced claims in England for damages resulting from their operations in Nigeria . The lawsuit was filed in England in April this year over two oil leaks in 2008 and 2009 that caused devastating damage to the environment and the waterways in particular to the fishing community of the Bodo community.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ UPI: Nigeria eyes natural gas infrastructure
9 August 2011 A Nigerian energy company said it was paving the way for the construction of one of the largest natural gas pipeline grids in the region. Oando announced it would expand natural gas infrastructure in Port Harcourt in the country's Niger Delta. The company plans to update and expand the gas infrastructure the city's industrial sector, paving the way for one of the largest gas pipeline grids in the region, the Platts news service reports. Nigeria has the eighth largest natural gas reserves in the world with an estimated 185 trillion cubic feet. A significant portion of that remains untapped, however. Royal Dutch Shell admitted last week it was responsible for two oil spills in the Niger Delta. The Bodo community in Nigeria filed a class-action lawsuit in London for an oil spill in the Niger Delta. That suit involves a leak believed to be from a pipeline that dumped crude oil into the Bodo creek for about four months in summer 2008. Shell said it didn't know of the problem for several months. The United Nations estimated that at least 6,800 oil spills occurred in Nigeria from 19762001. Shell said some of the spills were the result of sabotage of national pipelines.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________
CTA (Belgium): Nigeria: Oil Spills - Shell to Pay $410m to Ogoniland
10 August 2011 In the first case of its kind, a British high court sitting in London has ordered oil major, Royal Dutch Shell to pay compensation of potentially more than £250m ($410m) to the Bodo community of Rivers State, after the Anglo-Dutch oil group admitted liability for two spills around the community, following a class-action lawsuit brought in England by the Niger Delta community. Martyn Day of the London-based law firm Leigh Day & Co. represented the Bodo Community and brought the legal claim for damages against Royal Dutch Shell plc. (RDS) and its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (Nigeria) ltd. (SPDC). It was the first time the companies faced claims in England for damages resulting from their operations in Nigeria. The lawsuit was filed in England in April this year over two oil leaks in 2008 and 2009 that caused devastating damage to the environment and the waterways in particular to the fishing community of Bodo.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Others UN News Centre: UN urges greater appreciation of indigenous culture and creativity
9 August 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the world to recognize the right of indigenous peoples to control their intellectual property, saying they needed help to protect, develop and receive fair compensation for their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge. “Indigenous peoples face many challenges in maintaining their identity, traditions and customs, and their cultural contributions are at times exploited and commercialized, with little or no recognition,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. “I encourage all Member States to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing indigenous peoples – including marginalization, extreme poverty and loss of lands, territories and resources. Countries should also commit to ending the grave human rights abuses that indigenous peoples encounter in many parts of the world,” he said. He noted that there were 5,000 distinct groups of indigenous peoples in some 90 countries, who make up more than five per cent of the world's population – some 370 million people in total. They are custodians of valuable and often fast-disappearing cultural heritage, the Secretary-General said.
“We see their creativity and innovations in the arts, literature and the sciences,” said Mr. Ban, noting that those contributions were highlighted by the theme of this year's observance of the Day, which is “Indigenous designs: Celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future.” “As we look forward to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014, I urge all Member States to work in full partnership with indigenous people to identify practical ideas and proposals for action at this important gathering,” he said, calling for concerted efforts to strengthen their rights and support their aspirations. In her statement to mark the Day, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that indigenous peoples around the world have lost, or are under imminent threat of losing, their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources as a result of unfair exploitation for the sake of “development.” She said natural resource extraction projects such as mining are land-intensive and waterintensive and often directly affect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories. “All too often we see conflict between corporations, indigenous peoples and the State over development projects which are initiated without consultation or consent of the very people who are dispossessed of their land,” said Ms. Pillay. “The right to development is a human right for all, and indigenous peoples have the right to define and determine their own development. On this International Day of the World's Indigenous People, let us ensure that development for some is not to the detriment of the human rights of others,” she said. Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), said the agency was partnering with indigenous peoples in various places – including the Arctic, Africa and so-called small island developing States – to highlight the fact that more than two-thirds of the Earth's biological resources are also the traditional territories of most indigenous peoples. The Director of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said indigenous peoples hold some of the solutions to global challenges. They speak the majority of humanity's languages and have crafted livelihoods that combine cultural and biological diversity. “They have developed knowledge systems with unique insight to sustainable development,” she said. Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), called for concerted efforts to overcome barriers that prevent the children of indigenous communities from access to services they need to survive and thrive. He pointed out that indigenous children have lower school enrolment rates, higher drop-out rates and lower educational attainment than non-indigenous children. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed its commitment to working with indigenous peoples and other partners to advancing those communities' right to health, while Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, stressed the need to end gender-based violence and improve the economic status of all women, including the most marginalized in indigenous communities.
Francis Gurry, the Director-General of UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in his message said traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions hold potential economic value which can form the basis for community enterprises and cultural industries and contribute to economic development and poverty reduction. The Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmed Djoghlaf, and Jan McAlpine, the Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, also highlighted the important role that indigenous communities play in global conservation efforts. Patricia Velasquez, an indigenous model and actress from Venezuela, will today address a special event at UN Headquarters via video message, highlighting the work of her own Wayuu Taya Foundation to help improve the lives of Latin American indigenous communities, while maintaining and respecting their traditions, culture and beliefs. “In every indigenous design there is a story representing the heritage, traditions and the spirituality of an individual or a community. Protecting these works, the artists who create them and the knowledge behind them from misuse or exploitation is essential to preserving indigenous cultures. “At Wayuu Taya we have seen how indigenous crafts can be developed into a sustainable business that celebrates as well as preserves the traditions of the community. The full participation of indigenous peoples in decisions that affect them and their communities is key,” said Ms. Velasquez.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Guardian (UK): How this government can turn its green vision into reality
9 August 2011 You would be forgiven for missing the launch last week of the government's vision for "Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy". In the midst of the turmoil on global stock markets, it was published not with a bang but a whimper. There was no press release or media briefing, just a few generic Ministers statements posted on departmental websites. This is a real shame as the vision is a step in the right direction. The suite of reports provide a very credible foundation on which the government can rebuild a tarnished image of striving towards being the greenest ever. The content is broad and coherent and explains why acting early would be good for business, good for the economy and good for the planet. The one page overview of all planned policies over the next ten years will be particularly useful for corporate directors and sustainability professionals. This is accompanied by a range of pledges about what the government will do and what businesses could do.
Whether there is sufficient trust to ensure that these commitments will be kept is another matter. Above all, the vision is testament to the view shared by those at the top of government that it must engage more with businesses to grasp the opportunities of the green economy. Accordingly, the initiative was informed by genuinely open and frank dialogue with the business community that has benefited all parties. As the title of the vision demonstrates, this is about "Government and business working together." The most formal aspect of this new partnership is the Green Economy Council, which meets quarterly to discuss how the economy can rise to the low carbon challenge. Its membership include three cabinet ministers, chief executives from a cross-section of industries and sectors, such as Ford, Centrica, Tata Steal, Siemens and IBM, and representatives from business organisations such as the chairman of the Aldersgate Group, Peter Young. Whilst its membership has been criticised in some quarters for representing too many heavy polluters, it is consistent with the government's characterisation of green growth. In stating that "the green economy is not a subset of the economy at large", it recognises that this is a transition which all parts of business, government and society must take part in. Some of the biggest opportunities are not in traditional environmental sectors but through the greening of high impact industries, such as automotive, aerospace, ICT and construction. The Aldersgate Group have long campaigned for this broader definition which recognises that the whole economy needs to be green. Through our own collaboration with business and NGOs, we have demonstrated that political action is required across the board, including robust regulation, fiscal measures, enabling innovation, building new skills and greening public procurement. It is extremely encouraging that all these areas are reflected in the government's vision. This provides a robust framework for further action. The only problem is that it does not go far enough. In particular, there are no new policy announcements despite the fact that this will be essential to turn the vision into reality on the ground. Most ominous of all is the absence of a ringing endorsement form No 10 or the Treasury. The gloves are now off in the global green economy race and whilst Defra, DECC and BIS have run an excellent first leg, they must now hand over the baton with equal endeavour to their departmental colleagues. A lack of teamwork would result in the UK continuing to drag its heels compared to international competitors. For example, fiscal measures must increasingly reform the whole taxation system to align with new economic imperatives. It is not enough for the government to commit to increase the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by environmental taxes without providing an indication of how far and how fast it will go. Similarly, if procurement and business initiatives are to succeed, the government must set market signals in all that it does and not just from the departments who are directly tasked with green policy making.
That is why the ultimate test of the vision is whether its thinking becomes mainstream. Shared responsibility for action will only come about if it is driven right from the top with radical new policies to ensure that British businesses can pull ahead of the pack.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Standard (Zimbabwe): Going green— everyone’s duty
10 August 2011 So much excitement has been generated about the “going green” concept that it is now in serious danger of soon becoming another cliché. But just how many people really comprehend what “going green” is all about, or what it involves?
In June we carried a report on a major environmental expo that took place at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) to mark this year’s World Environment Day celebrations. The expo was themed Greening the Economy and it attracted a large number of internationally recognised organisations that put on display efforts they are making to “green” things up in their business operations. Just as they wrapped things up at the HICC, another expo kicked off at Mukuvisi Woodland, attracting an equally large number of participants. This one was themed Ecosystems Management and the Green Economy — Education for Sustainable Development. Although the latter’s theme was more detailed, it was hard to miss the trending environmental catch phrase at both expos: going green. Looking at the direction the “going green” campaign is going, it would seem the companies that are serious about building a positive company image and care about good publicity have had to join the bandwagon. Those that have been left out are in danger of being labelled laggards and irresponsible. This explains why more companies continue to join in the campaign and more continue to show an interest in issues to do with the environment. However, this has resulted in some companies being accused of using the “going green” line as a marketing gimmick, which of course they continue to passionately deny maintaining that their zeal has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with their love and sense of responsibility for the environment. Big companies must not take all the blame for pollution
Perhaps the question that the ordinary people on the streets might really want an answer to is: What is going green and why is everyone the world over suddenly so concerned about it? According to the Living Green website, going green “is to live life as an individual as well as a community, in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth.” On the website, it goes on to describe the concept as “taking steps, whether big or small, to minimise the harm you do to the environment (including the carbon footprints you leave behind) as a result of inhabiting this planet.” The fact that organisations have taken the front seat in the going green campaign has evidently left many people convinced that taking the going green initiative is a preserve for organisations.
But this is very far from the truth because the going green campaign was formulated as a result of the panic that gripped the world following the full realisation of the overwhelming damage that everyone was causing on the environment. Making things right will only be a possibility when every individual does what they can in their different capacities to go green. Reduction of pollution and conserving resources are important principles in going green and it involves reducing consumption and waste and making efforts to protect the earth’s ecological balance. When it comes to polluting the environment, it’s about time everyone knew it does not only take industrial work and heavy operations to pollute the environment as such seemingly harmless day-to-day activities like shampooing one’s hair or simply having a meal in a fast food place can cause a fair share of damage. The fight is not for the corporate world, NGOs or the Environment ministry alone, it is everyone’s responsibility. It starts by making an effort each day to do things differently, in a way that does not adversely affect the environment, but enhances it. There are so many things that each of us can do in the fight to go green and better our environment. Just think of all the wrappers used for the food and all the resources used to process them, among other considerations. Think of the type of car you drive everyday and how much it emits into the atmosphere. Couldn’t you possibly acquire one that lets out less emissions and is more environmentally friendly?
And do you really need to drive everywhere you go, even to a nearby shopping mall? Couldn’t you walk once in a while? After all, your body will thank you for it. And how about switching to organically engineered products?
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ New York Times (USA): Fuel Economy: It’s Not Just for Cars Anymore
9 August 2011 The Obama administration issued fuel economy standards on Tuesday for medium and heavy trucks, the first time the government has regulated vehicles over 8,500 pounds. The vehicles in this category range from the very largest S.U.V.’s, and pickup trucks that are too big to be household vehicles, all the way to 18-wheelers, which have a maximum loaded weight of 80,000 pounds. But in one sense the economics are the same for a 4,000-pound car or a truck weighing 20 times that much: better fuel economy usually means paying more for the new vehicle but also saving money at the pump. One argument for government fuel economy standards is that car buyers almost always focus on the purchase price as opposed to the total cost, including the operating cost. Yet medium and heavy trucks are mostly owned by companies, which often have accountants, engineers and other professionals who can compare the value of a gallon of fuel saved against the higher price for a more efficient engine and make the right decision. (Fuel-efficient models already exist.) The government says that the extra costs are paid back in a year or two. So why do fleet buyers, who are perfectly capable of making such calculations, need government standards to help tell them how to make the best buy? Advocates give several reasons. One is that at the lower end of the weight scale, many of the vehicles are owned by very small businesses or individuals. “They may not have the staff of number crunchers that FedEx does,’’ said Zoe Lipman, the senior manager of transportation solutions at the National Wildlife Federation. The other is that a lot of the big trucks are operated by small companies. According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which says it has 115,000 members, “nearly 96 percent of registered motor carriers in the U.S. operate 20 or fewer trucks.’’ The association opposed the new rule. It argued that it would drive up costs for small businesses and that the government should have focused on training drivers to use less fuel. In fact, many of the small companies buy used trucks. Eventually the most efficient trucks in the rule published on Tuesday — the ones in the 2018 model year — will be old and will end up in the hands of companies that buy them used. But the association said that higher prices for trucks would encourage companies to
keep their older ones longer. That would have negative implications for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as well as fuel economy. The medium trucks will use a lot of the technologies that cars do already — hybridization, for example, especially for urban delivery vehicles. Over-the-road trucks could undergo some bigger changes. Allen R. Schaeffer, the director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a trade group, predicted that some big trucks would begin carrying a tiny extra engine called an auxiliary power unit that could run the air-conditioning in the cabin while the truck was parked. The main engine uses a half a gallon or more of fuel for each hour of idling, he said. Big trucks might also get more sophisticated fuel injection systems, and electric motors to run the power steering. Trucks do little steering on the highway, but a conventional power steering system pulls energy continuously from the engine through a drive belt.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Wall Street Journal (USA): DiNapoli Proposes 'Fracking' Fund
10 August 2011 New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli proposed Tuesday establishing a fund supported by fees from drillers to clean up environmental damage from natural gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The program, which would require legislation and also apply to current drilling operations, would be similar to the existing state fund for oil spills financed by an eight-cent-a-barrel fee on the first transfer of petroleum to a major petroleum facility in the state, as well as recoveries and penalties from those responsible. Mr. DiNapoli hasn't specified amounts for the gas-drilling fund and fees, decisions that would be left to the Department of Environmental Conservation. His proposed bill would also require anyone engaging in natural gas production in New York to post a bond to cover potential contamination liability. The DEC last month proposed regulations to permit hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in most of the state's potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale formation across the state's Southern Tier, but prohibited in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, on state land and within primary aquifers. The technology extracts natural gas from shale by pumping water, chemicals and sand into the ground to create fissures in the rock and release the gas. Most drilling will be at least 2,000 feet deep and can reach 4,000 both vertically and horizontally, officials said. The DEC plans to issue revised draft rules by late August, accept more public comments for 60 days, and issue final rules, now expected next year.
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Irish Environmental Network (Ireland): RIO +20 Stakeholder Consultation
10 August 2011 The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 4-6 June 2012. This major conference is being hosted by the Government of Brazil to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is the lead Department in coordinating Ireland’s contribution to the Conference. The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges. The Conference will focus on two interrelated themes: * A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and * The institutional framework for sustainable development. In response to a call in the UN resolution that ‘there be efficient and effective preparations at the local, national, regional and international levels by Governments and the United Nations system so as to ensure high-quality inputs without placing undue strain on Member States’ the input is now invited from organisations and individuals as part of Irelands’ national contribution to the Rio +20 preparatory process. The attached stakeholder consultation document on the themes on the Conference also includes a note prepared by the Conference Co-Chairs to guide member states, civil society and the UN System in preparing their inputs. While the Co-Chairs stress that the note is meant to facilitate the preparation of inputs, and is not intended to be binding in any way; Member States, Major Groups and UN system organizations are invited to use this guidance note as appropriate. In this context they have invited contributions which address the specific questions and these and some additional questions from an Irish perspective are contained in the consultation document. You can forward your response to email: RIOP...@environ.ie, or Environment International and Sustainable Development Section, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government by close of business on Wednesday 21 September 2011 Please note that all submissions and comments submitted to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for this purpose are subject to release under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Irish Weather Online (Ireland): Invasive Environmental And Economic Damage
10 August 2011 Invasive species cost an estimated $1.4 trillion (€0.94 trillion) annually in their environmental and economic impacts worldwide and are second only to habitat loss as a threat to biodiversity. As scientists struggle with the challenge of controlling invasive species, the question of why some species are so successful continually arises. Recent research conducted by Dr. Alison Bennett and Dr. Sharon Strauss at the University of California, Davis and Dr. Meredith Thomsen at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse has shed some light on this complex question. Most previous studies addressing the issue of species success have focused on the effect of individual factors, such as release from native enemies, disturbance, or allelopathy, but the interactions among these factors have not been taken into consideration. Bennett and colleagues investigated the effects of four primary mechanisms that potentially contribute to the success of invasive velvetgrass, Holcus lanatus. Their findings are published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Botany. Bennett and colleagues focused on the effects of H. lanatus on a native daisy, Erigeron glaucus, at the Bodega Marine Reserve in Bodega Bay, California. In a series of greenhouse and field experiments, these researchers studied the effects of direct competition, changes to the soil community, indirect competition due to changes in herbivore feeding, and interference competition due to allelopathy. They found that H. lanatus clearly hindered the germination, growth, and establishment of E. glaucus. Bennett and colleagues discovered that direct competition between the two species was responsible for much of the negative impact on E. glaucus. H. lanatus primarily effects E. glaucus due to the dense growth of H. lanatus as well as the dense litter layer and high propagule pressure associated with this invasive species. “Direct competitive effects of H. lanatus are most important during the invasion process, and they have the greatest effect on plant community structure,” Bennett said. “Reduction of the direct competitive effects of H. lanatus should aid in native plant community conservation.” However, Bennett and colleagues also found that the presence of H. lanatusaltered soil communities. Due to the overwhelming effects of direct competition, this did not have a large role on the current interactions between H. lanatus and E. glaucus, but these changes likely have a negative impact on E. glaucus and other native species after H. lanatus is removed. Invasive plants are known to affect soil communities as a result of negatively affecting arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, which can have damaging impacts on nearby native plants. Holcus lanatus changes the soil AM fungal community in a manner that reduces
the benefit of association with AM fungi for E. glaucus, without reducing the benefit for itself. Bennett and colleagues observed a reduction in germination and growth of E. glaucus in soil in which H. lanatus had previously grown, demonstrating that the effects of H. lanatus may linger even after removal of the species. “Invasive species can strongly influence plant communities while they are present via multiple mechanisms,” Bennett commented, “but the effects of invasive species on plant communities can persist long after they have been removed because they can negatively alter soil communities.” This has important implications for mitigating the effects of invasive species. Bennett’s future work may focus on how to revert the negative effects of invasive species on soil communities that persist long after the removal of invasive species.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Atlantic (USA): Cities Are the Environmental Solution, Not the Problem
9 August 2011 For a long time, America's environmental community celebrated wilderness and the rural landscape while disdaining cities and towns. Thoreau's Walden Pond and John Muir's Yosemite Valley were seen as the ideal, while cities were seen as sources of dirt and pollution, something to get away from. If environmentalists were involved with cities at all, it was likely to be in efforts to oppose development, with the effect of making our built environment more spread out, and less urban. We've come a long way since then, if still not far enough. We were and remain right to uphold nature and the rural landscape as places critical to celebrate and preserve. But what we realize now, many of us anyway, is that cities and towns - the communities where for millennia people have aggregated in search of more efficient commerce and sharing of resources and social networks - are really the environmental solution, not the problem: the best way to save wilderness is through strong, compact, beautiful communities that are more, not less, urban and do not encroach on places of significant natural value. As my friend who works long and hard for a wildlife advocacy organization puts it, to save wildlife habitat we need people to stay in "people habitat." For our cities and towns to function as successful people habitat, they must be communities where people want to live, work, and play. We must make them great, but always within a decidedly urban, nonsprawling form. As it turns out, compact living - in communities of streets, homes, shops, workplaces, schools, and the like assembled at a walkable scale - not only helps to save the landscape; it also reduces pollution and consumption of resources. We don't drive as far or as often; we share infrastructure. While recent authors such as Edward Glaeser and David Owen are sometimes excessive in extolling the virtues of urban density without giving attention to the other things that make cities attractive and successful, they are absolutely right that city living reduces energy consumption, carbon emissions, and other environmental impacts.
A lot of my professional friends are committed urbanists as well as committed environmentalists. We understand the environmental advantages of urban living so thoroughly that we take it for granted that other people do, too. But we make that mistake at our - and the planet's - peril. The increased development and maintenance of strong, sustainable cities and towns will not happen without a concerted effort. A lot is riding on the outcome: 83 percent of America's population - some 259 million people - live in cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas. Somewhat astoundingly (and as I have written previously), 37 of the world's 100 largest economies are U.S. metros. New York, for example, ranks 13th, with a $1.8 trillion economy equivalent to that of Switzerland and the Netherlands combined; Los Angeles (18th) has an economy that is bigger than Turkey's; Chicago's (21st) is larger than Switzerland's, Poland's, or Belgium's. With so much population and economic activity, it can be no wonder that our working and living patterns in cities and suburbs have enormous environmental consequences, both for community residents and for the planet. And the implications are going to intensify: over the next 25 years, America's population will increase by 70 million people and 50 million households, the equivalent of adding France or Germany to the U.S. With a combination of building new homes, workplaces, shops, and schools and replacing those that will reach the end of their functional lives, fully half the built environment that we will have on the ground in 25 years does not now exist. These circumstances provide not just a formidable challenge but also a tremendous opportunity to get things right. Unfortunately, past practices have done a lot of damage, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, when America severely disinvested our inner cities and traditional towns while population, investment and tax base fled for (quite literally) greener pastures. The result, as we now know all too well, has been desecration of the natural and rural landscape while leaving behind decaying infrastructure, polluted air and waterways, and distressed populations. Older cities and towns with shrinking revenues did what they could, but critical issues such as waste, public transportation, street and sidewalk maintenance, parks, libraries, and neighborhood schools - issues where attention and investment could have made a difference - were back-burnered or neglected altogether. Meanwhile, sprawl caused driving rates to grow three times faster than population, sending carbon and other emissions through the roof while requiring still more costly new infrastructure that was built while we neglected the old. We cannot allow the future to mimic the recent past. We need our inner cities and traditional communities to absorb as much of our anticipated growth as possible, to keep the impacts per increment of growth as low as possible. And, to do that, we need cities to be brought back to life, with great neighborhoods and complete streets, with walkability and well-functioning public transit, with clean parks and rivers, with air that is safe to breathe and water that is safe to drink. This, I believe, leads to some imperatives: where cities have been disinvested, we must rebuild them; where populations have been neglected, we must provide them with opportunity; where suburbs have been allowed to sprawl nonsensically, we must retrofit them and make them better. These are not just economic and social matters. These are environmental issues, every bit as deserving of the environmental community's attention as the preservation of nature.
Back to Menu _________________________________________________________________ Mongbay.com: Uncontacted tribe missing after armed drug dealers storm their forest
9 August 2011 Concern is rising for the welfare of uncontacted natives in the Brazilian Amazon after armed marauders stormed the area where they were last documented. Last week men with rifles and machine guns, believed to be drug traffickers from Peru, overran a remote government guard post run by FUNAI (Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Department) on the Envira River, near the uncontacted indigenous people's location on the border of Brazil and Peru. The uncontacted indigenous people in question made headlines worldwide earlier this year after photos and film of them were released from flyovers. "There is no knowing how many tribal peoples the drugs trade has wiped out in the past, but all possible measures should be taken to stop it happening again. The world’s attention should be on these uncontacted Indians, just as it was at the beginning of this year when they were first captured on film," Stephen Corry, the head of indigenous rights group Survival International, said in a press release. Brazilian officials found a broken arrow in one of the drug traffickers backpack, which added to fears that the armed men had run into the uncontacted tribe. "Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians. We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee. Now we have good proof. We are more worried than ever," Carlos Travassos, the head of Brazil's isolated Indians department, explained, before adding that, "This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It’s a catastrophe." FUNAI officials say the men may have been targeting the uncontacted tribe deliberately in order to make way for illegal logging or drug trafficking from Peru to Brazil. Officials have estimated the uncontacted tribe contained around 200 people. However, following the drug traffickers invasion a rapid survey of the area revealed no one from the tribe. Earlier this year, when the photos of the uncontacted people were released, Survival International stated that the photos "reveal a thriving, healthy community with baskets full of manioc and papaya fresh from their gardens", but warned that the indigenous community was imperiled by illegal loggers from Peru. When known about uncontacted indigenous groups are usually monitored from afar, however some governments and corporations simply deny their existence if their presence upsets their plans.
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ROA MEDIA UPDATE THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Wednesday, 10th August, 2011 Addis Fortune (Ethiopia): Nation Continues Dam Construction over UN Objections
The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) has rejected calls by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, urging Ethiopia to immediately halt all construction on the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric Dam that is being constructed at a cost of 1.7 billion dollars. The dam is expected to generate 1,870 mw of electricity. The Heritage Committee, in its 35th session held in Paris, from June 19 to 29, 2011, expressed its concern about the construction of the Gibe III Dam, and its likely impacts on Lake Turkana. It warned that the Gibe III Dam is likely to significantly alter Lake Turkana's fragile hydrological regime, and threaten its aquatic species and associated biological systems, and may pose an imminent danger. Nonetheless, the Ethiopian government reaffirmed its previous position that the project has no harm to Lake Turkana, noting that the project has been thoroughly studied by both domestic and international experts who showed that it is economically valuable and environmentally friendly. "The decision from UNESCO based on the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is not made by the entire UN," stated one legal analyst. "It is just a decision passed by one of many UN agencies. Even if ratified, the decision made by the World Heritage Committee clearly states the word "urge" which is not mandatory," argued the legal expert. The world cultural and natural heritage does not have an enforcement clause to implement the decisions made by the committee, explained the expert.
The Citizen (Tanzania): Success Stories of Restoration of Badly Degraded Natural Forests
In a village where most of its natural forests have been destroyed to provide firewood, charcoal and for other economic ventures, restoration of the landscape has always been taken as an impossible venture without involving huge amount of funds. But for Katumba Azimio Village, the story is different. The villagers have vividly proved that apart from money, commitment, sacrifice, determination coupled with little knowledge on environmental conservation can offset the pernicious effects of deforestation. A total amount of Sh5 million, which Kikundi Cha Kulinda Mazingira Katumba (Kimakuka) was granted early this year by the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), has already shown impact around the village and restored hope among other Tanzanians that there is still a way of restoring the natural forests at the village level only if there is a will, and the people of Katumba have shown the way. NEMC initiated the programme that aims at technically supporting some non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) which work at grassroots level to conserve the environment. The good thing about the project is that many villagers have the feeling of ownership of the project and are ready to dedicate their time and resources on the campaign. NEMC's acting director of Environmental Information and Communication, Dr Vedast Makota says the council believes that giving a hand to small environmental groups remains the best way of mitigating growing climate change and environmental degradation threats.
Bua News (South Africa): Global Warming a Threat to Livelihoods
The right to food, health and shelter is threatened due to global warming, International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said recently "Climate change affects the economic and social rights of countless individuals. This includes their rights to food, health and shelter," she said. The minister was speaking at a consultative dialogue on Women and Climate Change in Limpopo. She said that as climate change will continue to affect humanity, it was key to safeguard the lives of the people that are adversely affected, which are women. The minister said climate challenges cannot be solved without empowering and educating women. Meaningful interventions to address climate change were now required and Africa needed to adapt in a way which was conducive to the advancement of the emancipation of its women. Nkoana-Mashabane also stated that the participation of women in climate change initiatives must be ensured and the role of women's groups and networks strengthened, as women are currently under-represented in the decision making process of environmental governance. South Africa will host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Durban in November.
Nairobi Star (Kenya): The UN Partners with Government to Tackle Drought
The UN humanitarian aid community has partnered with the government to launch a two year initiative to promote drought mitigation efforts in the country. The United Nations and the Joint Political Parties Forum will highlight long term strategies to address the current humanitarian crisis with specific roles to be adopted by the political parties jointly with the development partners in Kenya.
Back to Menu ============================================================= ROLAC MEDIA UPDATE THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
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UNEP - Message from Achim Steiner on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples Colombia - Gas Natural Fenosa registra ante la ONU un proyecto de mecanismo de desarrollo limpio en Colombia Perú - Líderes de comunidades altoandinas plantean medidas de adaptación frente al cambio climático en Perú México - Llamado a no comer transgénicos Brasil - Portal permitirá que brasileños conozcan preparación de la Río+20 Brasil - Tala amenaza 7.000 kilómetros de Amazonia Chile - Gobierno chileno lanza programa para medir huella de carbono México - Morelos ha perdido 3% de sus áreas naturales protegidas Panamá - “Cambio Climático: Una Visión de Darién”. Argentina - La Universidad de La Plata apuesta a la temática ambiental Argentina - Alpargatas que se transforman en árboles Brazil - Leading wind turbine maker to establish assembly plant in Brazil Brazil - Sugar Cane-to-Jet Fuel Pathway Analyzed for Sustainability Cuba - Desafío petroquímico para Cienfuegos Global - Researching Safer Nuclear Energy
UNEP - Message from Achim Steiner on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
08-09-2011 The inextricable link between cultural and linguistic diversity and biodiversity is today celebrated on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples under the theme "Indigenous Designs: Celebrating Stories and Cultures, Crafting our own Futures". This link is underlined by the fact that the 17 most biologically rich countries, home to more than two-thirds of the Earth's biological resources, are also the traditional territories of most of the world's indigenous peoples. These are among many reasons why UNEP is partnering with indigenous peoples in for example the Arctic, Africa and Small Island Developing States in order to bring to the attention of the global community these enduring and unique perspectives-ones that offer practical and inspiring solutions at a time of growing pressure on the finite natural resources and accelerating environmental change. This year's international day comes less than 12 months before Rio+20: almost two decades after governments met in Brazil for the Earth Summit of 1992, nations are engaging on how to evolve sustainable development to meet the challenges but also realize the opportunities of the 21st century.
Regional meetings have or are being held where countries are shaping and sharpening their positions on the two twin themes-a Green Economy in respect to sustainable development and poverty eradication and an institutional framework on sustainable development. Major groups, including indigenous peoples, farmers and trades unions, gather in Bonn, Germany in September and later in Cordoba, Spain, to forge their aims and aspirations for June 2012. The momentum is building, in part because of a growing understanding of the urgent need to re-think our economies and reform an international system that is falling short of what is required. A range of creative proposals, upon which governments could cooperate are also emerging ranging from redefining indicators of wealth beyond current GDP to reevaluating perverse or harmful subsidies. The missing link to date is wide-ranging political support. Brazil, as the host nation is signaling its determination to provide that leadership as are several heads of state in Africa, Asia and Europe. The diversity of ideas and creative solutions of indigenous peoples needs to be part of this leadership given the inextricable link to improved management of the planet's nature-based assets. Only with the broadest engagement can the promise of Rio+20 be transformed into the kinds of profound and fundamental outcomes that reflect the urgency of a new age.
Colombia - Gas Natural Fenosa registra ante la ONU un proyecto de mecanismo de desarrollo limpio en Colombia
08-08-2011 Gas Natural Fenosa ha obtenido el registro de una central hidroeléctrica en Colombia como proyecto de Mecanismo de Desarrollo Limpio (MDL) por parte de la junta ejecutiva de Naciones Unidas para el Cambio Climático, de modo que la planta Bajo Tuluá es el noveno proyecto de estas características que registra la compañía ante la ONU. Según ha informado en un comunicado, la central permitirá reducir las emisiones equivalentes de dióxido de carbono en 41.430 toneladas anuales cuando esté en funcionamiento. Los proyectos de MDL proporcionan a las empresas Certificados de Reducciones de Emisiones (CER) que pueden comercializar en el mercado de derechos de emisión o ser utilizados para cumplir con su cuota de emisiones. El proyecto de esta central consiste en la construcción y operación de una planta de filo de agua de 20 MW de potencia instalada, que estará conectada a la red y aprovechará las aguas del río Tuluá para generar 117,4 GWh al año. Gas Natural fue la primera firma española que logró un registro de este tipo con la central hidroeléctrica de Los Algarrobos en Panamá.
Perú - Líderes de comunidades altoandinas plantean medidas de adaptación frente al cambio climático en Perú
08-08-2011 Más de 250 representantes y líderes de las comunidades altoandinas y originarias de la Provincia de Chumbivilcas, en Cusco-Perú, analizaron los potenciales efectos del cambio climático en la salud humana y la actividad agropecuaria, durante el Primer Foro Provincial de Cambio Climático realizado el pasado 28 de julio. Los líderes de las comunidades campesinas manifestaron la importancia y la urgencia de abordar los retos que la población y las autoridades deben asumir frente a los desafios que representa el cambio climático en las comunidades altoandinas, donde la pobreza, los altos niveles de desnutrición y un alto porcentaje de suelos erosionados, hacen más vulnerables a las familias. Este importante evento fue organizado por la Mesa Técnica de Medio Ambiente que está conformada por diferentes instituciones públicas y privadas, entre ellas la Municipalidad Provincia de Chumbivilcas y el Programa Conjunto de Naciones Unidas frente al Cambio Climático. Los líderes y lideresas comunales manifestaron la necesidad de identificar y adoptar medidas de adaptación y mitigación frente al cambio climático, así como la importancia de volver a practicar las costumbres ancestrales de agradecimiento a la Pachamama o Madre Tierra, valores y costumbres que se vienen perdiendo en las nuevas generaciones. Es necesario señalar que en la Sub Cuenca de Santo Tomás, zona de intervención del Programa Conjunto de Naciones Unidas frente al Cambio Climático (programa liderado por el MINAM, y por parte del Sistema de Naciones Unidas: FAO, PNUD, PNUMA y OPS/OMS), se viene organizando el Segundo Foro de Cambio Climático en las Comunidades Altoandinas, y está vez el escenario será la Provincia de Cotabambas, donde participarán las comunidades campesinas para analizar y plantear las principales medidas de adaptación y mitigación frente al cambio climático.
México - Llamado a no comer transgénicos
08-08-2011 La organización ecologista Greenpeace lanzó la aplicación electrónica "Limpia tu alacena", una guía para suprimir los productos industrializados y que contienen ingredientes genéticamente modificados. "Ya informamos qué es un transgénico, cómo afecta la salud, al campo, al ambiente y en qué productos están. Ya dimos alternativas para un consumo sustentable, ahora los invitamos a pasar a la acción, eliminar realmente estos productos de nuestra alacena", dijo a Tierramérica la coordinadora de la campaña agricultura sustentable y transgénicos de Greenpeace, Aleira Lara.
En la aplicación, los usuarios eligen las marcas de los productos que consumen y el programa indica si contienen transgénicos o son alimentos que provienen de una agricultura sustentable. En su sesión de julio, la Comisión del Codex Alimentarius dictaminó que los gobiernos nacionales son libres de decidir si etiquetan o no los productos que contienen organismos genéticamente modificados.
Brasil - Portal permitirá que brasileños conozcan preparación de la Río+20
09-08-2011 El gobierno brasileño pretende crear un portal en internet para facilitar el acceso de la población a los debates preparatorios para la "Río+20", la nueva edición de la Conferencia de las Naciones unidas para el Desarrollo Sustentable que se realizará en Río de Janeiro en junio del próximo año. La creación del portal fue anunciada hoy por el ministro brasileño de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Aloizio Mercadante, durante la segunda reunión de los miembros de la Comisión Nacional preparatoria de la Río+20, que agrupa a representantes del Gobierno, organizaciones no gubernamentales y grupos sociales. "Es importante la construcción de un portal bilingüe desde ahora", afirmó Mercadante, quien manifestó la disposición de su cartera a desarrollar herramientas que permitan la interacción de la sociedad con los debates de los negociadores internacionales. "Necesitamos democratizar la información y proporcionar la convergencia de la agenda de todos los ministerios y participantes involucrados en la preparación de la Río+20", agregó. "La intención es que cada ministerio coloque en sus respectivas páginas en internet un link que le permita al internauta tener acceso al portal, para que las personas puedan acompañar toda la preparación del evento desde sus casas o locales de trabajo", dijo. La Río+20 se realizará en Río de Janeiro entre el 28 de mayo y el 6 de junio de 2012, exactamente veinte años después de la llamada Cumbre de la Tierra, que reunió en Río de Janeiro a un centenar de jefes de Estado y permitió la firma de dos convenciones internacionales sobre desarrollo sustentable. Los principales temas de la nueva Conferencia son economía verde en el contexto del desarrollo sustentable y de la erradicación de la pobreza y la estructura institucional para el nuevo modelo de desarrollo. En la reunión de la Comisión Nacional de la Río+20 este lunes fueron discutidas las herramientas de comunicación que serán usadas para divulgar el evento antes y durante su realización, la importancia de la participación de jefes de Estado y el proceso de preparación a partir de seminarios. Mercadante dijo que, para aumentar la transparencia y la divulgación de las informaciones sobre la Conferencia, su cartera aprovechará la Semana Nacional de
Ciencia y Tecnología, que se realizará en octubre próximo, para impulsar debates sobre la Río+20. "Será una forma de preparación para la Conferencia y de concienciar a los escolares sobre el desarrollo sustentable", dijo. Agregó que el Ministerio también pretende aprovechar el evento para organizar una exposición sobre innovaciones tecnológicas brasileñas y economía verde. "Necesitamos mostrar las tecnologías más avanzadas que tenemos y también nuestros proyectos de economía verde", afirmó.
Brasil - Tala amenaza 7.000 kilómetros de Amazonia
08-08-2011 La Amazonia puede perder más de 7.000 kilómetros cuadrados de bosques antes de julio de 2012, según el informe "Riesgo de deforestación", divulgado por el Instituto del Hombre y el Medio Ambiente de la Amazonia (Imazon). Las cifras tienen una precisión de 95 por ciento y se basan en técnicas geoestadísticas que determinan el riesgo futuro a partir de la distribución espacial de la deforestación pasada y de factores como la topografía y la cercanía de carreteras y ríos, entre otros. El estado más amenazado es el norteño Pará, con 72 por ciento de su vegetación en peligro. Le siguen Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Amazonas y Acre con, 11, ocho, cinco y cuatro por ciento, respectivamente. Las tierras privadas, desocupadas o en disputa presentan riesgos de 65 por ciento y las áreas para asentamientos de la reforma agraria 24 por ciento. "Las estadísticas son importantes para reforzar puntos donde el gobierno debe intensificar la inspección", dijo a Tierramérica el investigador de Imazon, Márcio Sales.
Chile - Gobierno chileno lanza programa para medir huella de carbono
09-08-2011 El gobierno chileno, a través del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, lanzó hoy el Programa de Medición y Verificación de la Huella de Carbono, que podrá medir los Gases de Efecto Invernadero (GEI) producidos en 2010 en varias de sus dependencias dentro y fuera del país. La actividad fue encabezada por el subsecretario de Relaciones Exteriores, Fernando Schmidt, quien estuvo acompañado por el presidente de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas, Joseph Deiss. Respecto de esta iniciativa, Schmidt señaló que "hoy diplomacia verde es sinónimo de diplomacia moderna, y que la huella de carbono significa un nuevo estándar, que ya se está haciendo exigible en diversas áreas, como son nuestras exportaciones".
Por su parte, el representante de la ONU destacó la iniciativa, señalando que "el Programa de Medición de la Huella de Carbono muestra la intención de Chile de moverse hacia una economía verde y la voluntad de contribuir a la reducción del 0,2 por ciento de emisiones mundiales de gases de efecto invernadero, participando activamente en la respuesta global al cambio climático". Los lugares escogidos para aplicar el proyecto son el Edificio Carrera (sede de Cancillería), el Palacio Septiembre, Misión de Chile ante la ONU, Misión de Chile ante la Unión Europea, las embajadas de Chile en Brasil y China, y el Consulado General de Chile en San Francisco (California, Estados Unidos). En la elección de estas representaciones se consideraron diversos criterios, como son la distribución geográfica, el peso específico, el tamaño relativo y, en el caso del Consulado General en San Francisco, su conexión con el Plan Chile-California. Con este programa, "estamos reafirmando nuestro compromiso más íntimo con el cuidado al medio ambiente, y estamos dando cuenta de nuestras responsabilidades internacionales como Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores", expresó. Así, la cancillería chilena se convierte en el segundo ministerio chileno en medir su huella de carbono, ya que antes sólo lo hacía el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente.
México - Morelos ha perdido 3% de sus áreas naturales protegidas
08-08-2011 El 26.7 por ciento de la superficie total del estado de Morelos, lo que representa 131 mil 924 hectáreas, son áreas naturales protegidas Cuautla, Mor. (México).— El crecimiento desmedido de la mancha urbana, tiraderos de basura clandestinos, ampliación de frontera agrícola, incendios y tala clandestina han contribuido a que el estado de Morelos haya perdido hasta 3 por ciento de sus áreas naturales protegidas. José Iván Fernández Galván, titular la Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (Profepa) en Morelos, calificó como urgente la intervención de los municipios del estado para evitar la expedición de licencias de construcción en estas áreas, sobre todo aquellas que son zonas de recarga de agua, así como vigilar que no sean ocupadas por asentamientos humanos irregulares. Destacó que en las zonas naturales donde la mancha urbana ha crecido de manera desproporcionada y sin control, es casi imposible su regeneración y recuperación mediante campañas de reforestación, de ahí que este problema sea más grave que la tala clandestina. “Hay que trabajar mucho en no permitir obras de infraestructura, casas-habitación en zonas forestales que son recargas de agua; la tala clandestina lo que nos genera son grandes predios sin árboles que se pueden recuperar con las campañas de reforestación, sin embargo donde está creciendo la mancha urbana, ahí no podemos regenerar”, advirtió el funcionario.
Agregó que en la zona oriente del estado, que tiene en su mayoría selva baja caducifolia, la cual tiene una capacidad de regeneración muy rápida, mucho más que en el bosque, el problema de la tala no es tan alarmante como en otras regiones de la entidad, aunque sí es un asunto que la Profepa atiende, aseguró. Estimó el funcionario que 26.7 por ciento de la superficie total del estado de Morelos, lo que representa 131 mil 924 hectáreas, son áreas naturales protegidas por ley que se encuentran en 13 municipios, de éstas se ha perdido 3 por ciento como consecuencia del crecimiento urbano agresivo y desmedido, de ahí el llamado a los ayuntamientos para actuar en consecuencia. Cabe señalar que Morelos cuenta actualmente con diez áreas naturales protegidas, cuatro de carácter federal y seis de carácter estatal, convirtiéndolo en uno de los estados con mayor proporción de superficie protegida (cuarto lugar a escala nacional). Las áreas naturales de carácter federal son el Tepozteco, las Lagunas de Cempoala, Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl, el Corredor Biológico Chichinautzin y la Sierra de Huautla; las estatales son el Texcal, Los Sabinos, Santa Rosa y San Cristóbal (en el río Cuautla), la Sierra Montenegro y Las Estacas.
Panamá - “Cambio Climático: Una Visión de Darién”.
08-08-2011 La Asociación Nacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (ANCON) y la embajada de Gran Bretaña presentaron anoche el documental “Cambio Climático: Una Visión de Darién”. La directora ejecutiva de ANCON, Alida Spadafora, explicó ante el variado público que aceptó la invitación a la actividad, y entre el que había niños, jóvenes y adultos, que el video presentado es el resultado de un proyecto que requirió meses de trabajo, ante la urgencia de hacer algo frente a un tema crucial como el del cambio climático y en una de las regiones con mayor biodiversidad del planeta. “Agradezco a quienes trabajan en la defensa del ambiente, ante la necesidad de reducir las emisiones de los gases de efecto invernadero”, manifestó la ambientalista al denunciar que desafortunadamente alrededor de 50 por ciento de la madera que producimos en el país proviene de fuentes ilegales”. La además presidenta del Comité Panameño de la Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (UICN) recordó la función de los bosques para la captura y albergue de Dióxido de Carbono (Co2), además de ser retenedores de agua, “lo cual contribuye a contrarrestar el cambio climático y evitar inundaciones”, según expuso. Resaltó que trabajos como el de la Evaluación Sobre el Estado de la Región, que se dará a conocer próximamente, ayudarán a prepararse ante los cambios en el clima, fenómeno frente al cual reconoció que es preciso actuar ahora. Clive Hughes, segundo secretario de la embajada de Gran Bretaña en Panamá, destacó la importancia del documental para transmitir el mensaje sobre la relevancia de proteger los bosques que aún le quedan al planeta.
Señaló que desafortunadamente en su país no hay bosques como los que tiene Panamá, pero destacó que existe sin embargo especial interés en la conservación, y que se han puesto en marcha proyectos para la reforestación de millones de árboles. Tras la exhibición del documental se abrió un compás para que los presentes expusieran su punto de vista, y sobre la urgencia de educar y hacer algo por la conservación en la provincia de Darién. Catherine Potvin, científica asociada del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales, reveló, al destacar la importancia del documental para generar conciencia, que Panamá será sede entre los próximos 1 y 7 de octubre de una reunión de la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas Sobre Cambio Climático, que congregará a representantes de los grupos que buscan una solución para reemplazar el Protocolo de Kyoto, acuerdo internacional sobre la reducción de los gases de efecto invernadero.
Argentina - La Universidad de La Plata apuesta a la temática ambiental
08-08-2011 Hace poco te contamos sobre el crecimiento de los proyectos verdes en la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP), donde se busca fomentar la relación entre los estudiantes y la comunidad con la problemática medioambiental. En sintonía con esta propuesta, durante esta semana la casa de estudios será sede del III Congreso Internacional sobre Cambio Climático, donde participarán más de un centenar de científicos y especialistas de todo el mundo. En paralelo, el sábado pasado se inauguró en el Pasaje Dardo Rocha de La Plata (50 e/ 6 y 7) la Expo Universidad- Comunidad 2011, que por primera vez en su historia está dedicada exclusivamente a los proyectos verdes que son gestionados por docentes y alumnos. Se trata, entonces, de una propuesta en crecimiento que ve a la Universidad como un lugar estratégico para abordar la problemática ambiental, generando un espacio de encuentro, reflexión e intercambio con todos los actores de la sociedad. La exposición, que estará montada hasta el 13 de agosto, se viene desarrollando desde hace 10 años con el objetivo de difundir las propuestas universitarias en la comunidad. Sin embargo, aprovechando la realización del III Congreso Internacional de Cambio Climático, es la primera vez que se proyecta de manera temática y pone el foco en la situación medioambiental. Así, el público puede acceder a muestras, proyectos audiovisuales, presentaciones de libros, charlas, talleres para chicos y exposiciones fotográficas vinculadas con propuestas verdes que surgen desde la propia Universidad. Los ejes principales de la muestra son el cuidado del medio ambiente, los eventos naturales y los fenómenos ocasionados por el cambio climático, proponiendo estrategias para prevenir y paliar los efectos. Resulta interesante cómo desde aquí se puede ver el trabajo a partir de múltiples disciplinas, entendiendo la problemática medioambiental como algo transversal que debe tratarse desde todos los ámbitos de la sociedad. Así, por ejemplo, no sólo se muestran proyectos científicos de la Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, sino que además se abordan propuestas comunicacionales desde la
Facultad de Periodismo y Comunicación Social, reciclaje de residuos electrónicos en la Facultad de Informática, contaminación acústica desde la Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, la problemática de la infraestructura y el impacto ambiental en la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales, el uso del suelo en la Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias, conciertos y obras teatrales “verdes” desde el Bachillerato de Bellas Artes, entre otras iniciativas. En lo que respecta al Congreso, que se inició hoy y terminará el próximo jueves, se realizará en distintas sedes de la UNLP y propone trabajar sobre las causas del cambio climático, las consecuencias y las formas y herramientas para combatir sus efectos. Habrá presentación de trabajos, conferencias, mesas redondas y plenarios donde se reflexionará y debatirá sobre la situación actual, para luego generar propuestas tendientes a mejorar el futuro. Teniendo en cuenta que conservar el medio ambiente es uno de los mayores desafíos de la actualidad, resulta fundamental que el cambio se proponga desde el ámbito educativo, generando propuestas que lleguen a la mayor cantidad de gente posible. Hay que comprender que todos los ciudadanos, más allá de las áreas educativas, las edades y los niveles de formación, son un eslabón fundamental en la lucha contra el calentamiento global.
Argentina - Alpargatas que se transforman en árboles
09-08-2011 Decidimos armar un producto que nos representara y que, a la vez, fuera nuestro vehículo para poder ayudar al planeta La sensibilidad de tres hermanas argentinas por el medio ambiente las llevó a crear una iniciativa fantástica en donde literalmente, por cada compra de zapatos de su firma Ombu Lifestyle, siembran un árbol. Hasta la fecha, gracias a los consumidores, llevan más de 2000 árboles plantados. La organización Trees for the Future las apoya y orienta sobre el lugar en el que se requiere con más urgencia la reforestación. Nada dentro de esta empresa es casual, todo tiene un vínculo ambientalista directo. Materiales reciclados, técnicas ecológicas, sentido humanitario, optimismo y buena voluntad, son las premisas de este trío de jóvenes innovadoras. “El Ombu es un árbol autóctono oriundo de las Pampas (Argentina) que es muy significativo para nosotras ya que representa refugio, casa, protección, perseverancia y fortaleza. Nuestro objetivo es educar a través del ejemplo”, comentó en relación con el nombre de la marca, María Laura Alemann, una de las tres socias. Ella conversó con Analitica.com sobre esta curiosa idea que, cada vez más, llama la atención de los compradores responsables. -Cómo surge la idea de crear Ombu Lifestyle? -Nuestra historia surge a raíz de un viaje a Honduras en el 2008 en el cual visitábamos a chicos de un orfanato y donamos pares de alpargatas que traíamos de Argentina. En este mismo viaje aprendimos de la deforestación que ocurre en toda Centroamérica a causa de la falta de recursos. Se talan miles de árboles para crear leña y así poder cocinar y sobrevivir, incluso para ‘limpiar’ espacio y practicar ganadería o cultivar
vegetales; parte de los parques nacionales están siendo destruidos por estas razones. Es realmente triste observar esta realidad y sentirse impotente. Por eso creamos este estilo de vida; en donde intentamos educar y contagiar a la gente de una buena causa que nos beneficiara a todos. Las 3 hermanas creadoras de esta empresa, decidimos armar un producto que nos representara y que, a la vez, fuera nuestro vehículo para poder ayudar al planeta. Por eso elegimos la alpargata, un calzado que es usado hace más de 500 años por nuestros gauchos en Argentina e incluso, hoy en día, por muchos argentinos. Un producto que representa la humildad y simpleza de la gente de campo; lo autóctono y las raíces de nuestra cultura; lo que nos reconecta con nuestra tierra. -Por qué el nombre de Ombu? -El Ombu es un árbol autóctono oriundo de las Pampas, Argentina. Este es un árbol inmenso que provee refugio y casa a muchas especies. Su nombre proviene de la lengua guaraní refiriéndose a ‘sombra’. Este árbol es muy significativo para nosotras ya que representa refugio, casa, protección, perseverancia y fortaleza. Nuestro objetivo es educar a través del ejemplo. Nosotras gracias a este producto podemos sembrar árboles y ayudar a proyectos alrededor del mundo a través de Trees for the Future: http://treesforthefuture.org/ -Qué otras prácticas ambientalistas realizan en su negocio? -A nivel local, armamos un evento que se llama Leave No Waste (No Dejes Desechos) en el cual caminamos por la playa en la hora más concurrida, limpiando la basura y con la idea de que la gente entienda que no deben dejar desechos en ningún lugar público y, menos, en nuestras playas porque todo va directamente al océano.
Brazil - Leading wind turbine maker to establish assembly plant in Brazil
09-08-2011 Danish wind turbine maker Vestas is to establish its first assembly plant in Brazil and expects it to be operational in the fourth quarter. In ten years Brazil’s wind should represent 7% of total installed energy In ten years Brazil’s wind should represent 7% of total installed energy “The investment is included in Vestas's CAPEX program for 2011,” Vestas Wind Systems A/S said on Monday. The assembly plant and a new service operations cluster will be situated in a new 10,000 square metre facility, including building and land, in Fortaleza, Ceara in the northeast of Brazil.
The plant will be dedicated to assembly of nacelles, the hub which sits atop a wind turbine tower and encases the gear box, drive train and other components at the centre of the rotor. ”When fully operational, the facility will have an annual production capacity of approximately 400 nacelles of the V90 and V100 turbine type representing an initially estimated annual capacity of 800 (megawatts),” Vestas said. By the end of 2010, Vestas, which has been operating in Brazil for a decade, had delivered to the Brazilian market turbines with a total capacity of 204 MW, it said. This year Vestas has announced orders for 380 MW of new capacity in Brazil taking the current total capacity of announced firm and unconditional orders in Brazil to more than 600 MW, the company Having reached a total installed base of 1,000 MW, wind represents today only one per cent of all installed energy capacity in Brazil. The Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy presented in June this year a 10-year energy plan, in which wind has been targeted for the greatest growth rate over the next decade with the ultimate goal of reaching around 12,000 MW by 2020 – representing approx 7% of Brazil’s total installed energy base. After PROINFA and two auctions in December 2009 and August 2010 for wind energy projects for a total capacity of 5,200 MW, on 17-18 August 2011, project awards will be assigned for the development of additional new wind capacity.
Brazil - Sugar Cane-to-Jet Fuel Pathway Analyzed for Sustainability
08-08-2011 Two publicly traded aircraft manufacturers and the Inter-American Development Bank will jointly fund a sustainability analysis of renewable jet fuel sourced from Brazilian sugar cane. Last month, the bank announced a regional cooperation grant to help public and private institutions develop a sustainable biojet fuels industry. The Amyris study is the first to be financed under that grant. Shouldering the funding with the bank are The Boeing Company and Embraer S.A., the world's largest manufacturer of commercial jets up to 120 seats. For the first time, the study will evaluate environmental and market conditions associated with the use of renewable jet fuel produced by Amyris Brasil S.A., a majority-owned Brazilian company, a subsidiary of California-based Amyris. Amyris is a renewable products company that uses its industrial synthetic biology technology to convert plant sugars into a variety of hydrocarbon molecules that can provide sustainable alternatives to petroleum-sourced products.
The global conservation organization World Wildlife Fund will serve as an independent reviewer and advisor for the analysis. "Emerging renewable jet fuel technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, as sugarcane ethanol in Brazil has already proven," said Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho, leader of the IDB Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Initiative.
"This study will examine the overall potential for sustainable, large-scale production of alternative jet fuels made from sugarcane," he said. In 2010, the U.S. EPA designated Brazilian sugarcane ethanol as an advanced biofuel due to its 61 percent reduction of total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, including direct and indirect land use change emissions. The jet fuel study will be led by ICONE, a research think-tank in Brazil with extensive experience in agriculture and biofuels analysis, and reviewed by WWF. "Climate change is threatening biodiversity and the critical habitats of some the world's most iconic species," said Kevin Ogorzalek, program officer at World Wildlife Fund. "As renewable jet fuel production increases, it must be done in a transparent and sustainable way." "We're eager to contribute to this study as one part of a growing international effort to reduce the fast-growing emissions from aviation and protect the critical resources on which we all depend," Ogorzalek said.
Cuba - Desafío petroquímico para Cienfuegos
08-08-2011 Cuba apronta una batería de instrumentos ambientales para que la bahía de Cienfuegos asimile, sin intoxicarse, su inminente desarrollo petroquímico. CIENFUEGOS, Cuba (Tierramérica).- Abocada a convertirse en emporio petroquímico estratégico de proyección regional, la ciudad cubana de Cienfuegos está ante el trance de hacer sostenible un desarrollo que podría comprometer la salud de la bahía, su principal recurso natural. Casi 85 por ciento de las cuencas del territorio de la provincia de Cienfuegos vierten sus aguas al ecosistema marino en torno al cual se vincula todo el desarrollo industrial y urbanístico de su capital homónima, desde que colonos franceses la fundaron en 1819 bajo el nombre de Fernandina de Jagua. Situada unos 250 kilómetros al sudeste de La Habana, Cienfuegos fue declarada en 2005 Patrimonio Cultural de la Humanidad por las Naciones Unidas. "Yo veo ahora estas aguas bastante limpias. Hubo tiempos en que, cuando llovía, los ríos aliviaban hacia el mar y luego veíamos muchos peces muertos. Parece que esa agua dulce venía contaminada", dijo a Tierramérica Jaime Pérez, quien habla desde la experiencia de sus 80 años, casi todos dedicados al oficio de pescador.
Los desafíos de hoy son otros: la contaminante industria petroquímica. El megaproyecto parte de la refinería de petróleo Camilo Cienfuegos, modernizada con financiamiento venezolano tras 14 años de paralización y que procesa 65.000 barriles diarios de crudo. Es inminente el comienzo de nuevas labores para ampliarla y elevar su capacidad de refino a 150.000 barriles (de 159 litros). Para abastecer la refinería, a cargo de la empresa de capitales cubanos y venezolanos Cuvenpetrol, 200 buques tanque de Venezuela pasaron en los primeros seis meses de este año por el estrecho canal que une el mar Caribe y la bahía. "La refinería está ubicada en el lugar más adecuado, más al este y al sur", precisó el ingeniero Reynaldo Acosta, del Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente. Para localizar las obras se tuvo en cuenta, entre otros criterios, las corrientes marinas, los procesos erosivos y las aguas subterráneas que pueden contaminarse, aseveró. El complejo incluye plantas de amoníaco, de urea, de policloruro de vinilo (PVC, empleado en la fabricación de "petrocasas" de iniciativa venezolana), y una regasificadora. La expansión cuenta además con inversiones de China, aunque los montos no se han divulgado. La obra hace además una apuesta estratégica: el crudo que Cuba encuentre en yacimientos de aguas profundas que empezará a perforar este año en el Golfo de México. La fábrica de amoníaco –que se destinará a las industrias del níquel, frigorífica y de fertilizantes– está ubicada en una zona cercana a la que procesará gas natural licuado, necesario para su funcionamiento.
Global - Researching Safer Nuclear Energy
09-08-2011 The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township, N.J., where some nuclear waste is stored in dry casks. A federal grant will pay for research on how the canisters hold up in salty air.The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township, N.J., where some nuclear waste is stored in dry casks. A federal grant will pay for research on how such canisters hold up in salty air. The nuclear power industry faces hard times, with tough competition from natural gas for meeting new electricity needs and a prevailing nervousness about nuclear safety after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March. On Tuesday, the Energy Department, handing out research grants in all kinds of energy fields that are low in carbon dioxide emissions, is announcing that it will give $39 million to university programs around the country to try to solve various nuclear problems. The money will go to a variety of projects at 31 universities in 20 states. Several focus on nuclear waste. Two researchers at Clemson University, for example, will get $1 million to study the behavior of particles of nuclear waste when buried in clay in metal canisters that have
rusted. One open question, according to the researchers, is how a high temperature, which would be generated by the waste itself, affects the interactions. These are important to understanding how the waste would spread over time. The goal is to “reduce uncertainty” about the life expectancy of atomic particles. With the cancellation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, many nuclear operators are loading older fuel into sealed metal casks filled with inert gas. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will get a grant to study how such “dry casks” perform in salt environments. “Storage casks will be stored mostly in coastal or lakeside regions where a salt air environment exists,’’ a summary of the grant says. Cracking related to corrosion could occur in 30 years or less, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is studying whether the casks can be used for 100 years as some hope. Another important concern in the nuclear power field is the aging of reactors. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University will get $456,000 to plan a system that will use ultrasonic waves to look for cracks and other defects in hot metal parts. The idea is to find “microscale” defects that lead to big cracks. Some of the work is aimed at helping to improve new reactors. For example, a researcher at the University of Houston, with collaborators at two other universities, will study a “base isolation system” that would protect reactors against earthquakes. In an earthquake, the ground moves back and forth at a certain frequency, similar to the way a gong struck by a mallet vibrates at a given frequency. But plants could be built atop materials with “frequency band gaps,” that do not vibrate at the frequency that is characteristic of earthquakes, the Energy Department suggests. In a statement, Steven Chu, the energy secretary, said that nuclear energy had an important role to play in a low-carbon energy future and that the grants would help the country “maintain global leadership in the field.”
Back to Menu ============================================================= RONA MEDIA UPDATE THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Tuesday, 9th August, 2011
UNEP or UN in the News • • UN News Centre: Soccer stars encourage children at UN-organized event in Texas The Brookings Institute: Global Environmental Quality: Recommendations for Rio+20 and Beyond
General Environment News
United States • Reuters: Obama to set fuel standards for heavy vehicles • PlanetArk: Groups Ask Appeals Court To Restore Wolf Protections • PlanetArk: Orange Goo Washing Ashore In Alaska Is Egg Mass, Scientists Say • PlanetArk: Exxon Selling Indonesia Assets Linked To Lawsuit • Battle Creek Enquirer: Pipeline decision must protect environment, lives • ClimateWire: RISK: Debt deal reopens debate on climate catastrophes • ClimateWire: POLITICS: Gore flings barnyard epithet at 'organized' climate change critics • ClimateWire: AGRICULTURE: Cellulosic biofuel could revive USDA conservation program -- study • ClimateWire: MARKETS: Carbon offsets at an all-time low • The Washington Post: Obama calls for first-ever fuel standards for work trucks, buses, other heavy duty vehicles • The Washington Post: OPEC cuts oil demand forecasts for 2011, 2012 as economy falters • The New York Times: Researching Safer Nuclear Energy • The New York Times: Oil Sands to Raise Emissions, Canadian Report Says Canada • ClimateWire: OIL SANDS: Canadian emissions reductions to be dwarfed by oil sands expansion • The Hill Times: Environment Canada in 'complete and utter turmoil' as feds prepare to slash 776 jobs • The Globe and Mail: Debt is the new carbon • The National Post: U.S. EPA pushed on fracking rules
UNEP or UN in the News UN News Centre: Soccer stars encourage children at UN-organized event in Texas
8 August 2011. Two teammates of FC Barcelona, the Spanish soccer club that supports the efforts of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to improve the lives of children in Africa, made themselves available to young fans in the United States city of Dallas, telling them that with passion and love of the game, they too can become star players. Striker David Villa and midfielder Thiago Alcántara, who were accompanied by Ramon Pont, the FC Barcelona Vice President, participated in the UNICEF-hosted event in Dallas on Friday, talking candidly to the more than 30 youngsters who turned up to seek advice on how to improve their skills.
Both players encouraged the children by telling them that “as long as you are happy and passionate about what you are doing, you will always develop your skills to be the best you can be.” Through the sport, the two FC Barcelona players had learned values such as respect for others and hard work to achieve their goals, they said. Sport is incorporated in UNICEF-supported programmes for specific development objectives such as improving the health of children, increasing their chances of survival, and ensuring that every child has access to basic education, HIV-AIDS prevention and protection from exploitation and abuse. The agency also believes that sport teaches important life lessons about respect, leadership and cooperation, and promotes equality for all. “UNICEF and FC Barcelona are here… to continue their successful collaboration on behalf of the world’s children,” said Mr. Pont. “For the last five years FC Barcelona has been supporting UNICEF’s efforts to save and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. “In the next phase of the partnership we will focus on supporting a global movement for quality education and sport that will deliver tangible results for children.” Lawrence Picard, UNICEF’s Deputy Director for Operations, said: “UNICEF is extremely proud of its partnership with FC Barcelona, which has helped improve the lives of more than 400,000 children, many in sub-Saharan Africa. “We believe this partnership is a leading example of sport contributing to social change for children. We are looking forward to taking this ground-breaking partnership to the next stage in the new season by utilizing the social assets of the club to engage many more people in support of a global movement for education and sport,” said Mr. Picard.
The Brookings Institute: Global Environmental Quality: Recommendations for Rio+20 and Beyond
8 August 2011 In June 1972, the United Nations convened the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. The conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and produced a declaration whose first principle states: "Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations." Each decade since Stockholm and its lofty principles, the UN has held a conference to review the past 10 years and make plans for the future: 1982 in Nairobi, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro (the "Earth Summit"), and 2002 in Johannesburg. If there has been a trend over the past 40 years, it is greater emphasis on development and social issues and less on simply protecting the environment where humans live. But this trend is not black and white. The Stockholm declaration, for example, states that in developing countries "most of the environmental problems are caused by under-development." The principal commonality of these four UN conferences is that they have expressed big ideas and big
plans, with not so much to show for them in the aftermath. The next conference is scheduled for June 2012, once again in Rio de Janeiro. This conference is formally titled the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and known informally as Rio+20. One hopes for the best next summer, but expectations are low. Not only are the past 40 years an unpromising history, including the de-railing of emission limitations addressing climate change, but the current financial and political climate is a bear-trap for action, whose most pointed jaws extend from the world's largest economy - the United States of America. The agenda for Rio+20 is guided by a UN Secretary-General (SG) report on objectives and themes. The report instructs that the two principal themes will be "green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development — in relation to the objective of renewed political commitment to sustainable development, reviewing progress and implementation gaps and addressing new and emerging challenges." The SG's report has 123 paragraphs but does not specify any particular conference objectives. The report ends with seven "messages" under the heading "The Way Forward." Some of these have recommendations. For example, the last of these messages states: "Member States should have an active role in providing political guidance to the United Nations system for overcoming the institutional fragmentation and lack of integration of the three pillars of sustainable development [environmental, economic, and social]." This and the other recommendations acknowledge problems, but they offer little guidance for action in Rio. The history of multilateral environmental initiatives is one of growing complexity in the number of agencies and organizations involved and in the purposes served. It is also is a history of jargon. What does it mean to say that a theme of Rio+20 is the "green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication"? Does this mean an economy where resources are managed to provide high environmental and other living standards for everyone? What is meant by the term "green economy?" Is it simply a reference to doing business in ways that are best for environmental quality? That's an old story and a work in progress. Does it mean something else? The governments participating in Rio+20 need a short list of actions that will advance environmental quality. Nine recommendations are offered below for consideration. It is stipulated, but not repeated in these, that environmental quality should be equitable and sustainable, pursued in conjunction with economic and social objectives, and undertaken with priority for poverty alleviation: 1. Commission a new, independent, credible assessment of environmental status and trends. This is needed and would inform the measures recommended in paragraph 2. The assessment should include a critical evaluation of limits on progress-to-date on both environmental measures, such as those reported by the World Bank, and related, broader Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It's time to take a fresh, fair look at where we are and why we haven't gone further, and to make sure we use good measures of success in the future. Failure to achieve the MDGs throws a wrench into any form of global cooperation, so we need to figure out how to move those goals forward. 2. Agree to develop common measures for monitoring status and trends in
environmental quality. It is evident the GDP does not fully address the well-being of people or, particularly, environmental quality. Several general approaches have been developed by international organizations, NGOs, and by individual governments that give a more accurate assessment than GDP. Representatives at Rio+20 should agree to develop common measures for national and global environmental quality drawing from work-to-date and how that work could be potentially incorporated into broader measures of well-being. These measures should be updated regularly and transparently on a Web site maintained by the United Nations and open to everyone. 3. Establish a new organizational framework for international environmental leadership. Few would disagree that we lack the strong, adequately funded, organization for the environmental leadership required to meet Earth's challenges. Some have proposed to establish a World Environmental Organization or Global Environmental Organization (proponents distinguish between these two), and these proposals warrant discussion. A more modest but feasible step that could be taken at Rio+20 would be to establish a coordinating framework around UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and perhaps other international organizations with bearing on the global environment. A permanent committee of these agencies (Committee) could be tasked with providing a single voice on fundamental information and measures, such as those referenced above in paragraphs 1 and 2, and with providing unified recommendations for actions. Establishing this Committee need not require new policy obligations for the national governments participating in Rio+20. It could save money if the Committee consolidates overlapping structures and functions, and if most work is done through online collaboration. A further step might be for the Committee to support and advance the work of the various secretariats established under multilateral environmental agreements. 4. Agree that national governments will take steps to redress any degradation in environmental quality demonstrated in measures developed pursuant to paragraph 2 and to upload a description of those measures to the UN Website. This commitment should be kept general at this time to facilitate its adoption, with potential for future refinement left open. 5. Agree to launch a global initiative to freeze and preserve the DNA and viable tissue of all known species and new species as they are discovered. Species are disappearing every day, and DNA has been preserved for just a fraction of the 1.8 million known. Establishing a frozen tissue culture costs no more than $300 per species, with negligible maintenance costs, hence preserving DNA and tissue of all known species would cost no more than $540 million, or less than the United States pays in a single day on its debt. This particular, concrete step would assure that the genetic footprints of life will not disappear as humans plow and heat the Earth. Its agreement at Rio+20 and execution after would much more than make the meeting a success. 6. Agree to promote and invest in science and cultural education for environmental quality by funding educational programs of environmental agencies. Knowledge is the preamble to useful action, and issues concerning environmental quality are complex. Nothing is more important to progress on governmental policy and investment than the education of the people who are represented by governments. Two educational priorities stand out in the quest for global environmental quality and Rio+20. One is science. The "greenhouse" effect, for example, is not a surprise to those who understand a little
Physics. The other priority is better understanding of the different cultures and languages of the world. It is well demonstrated that people interpret information through the lenses of the cultures they embody. Effective communication requires appreciation not just of information shared but of how that information is received. Hence investment in education on the different world cultures, including time spent living in different cultures and training in languages, is key to actually communicating and potentially agreeing on ways forward for global environmental quality. A good and cost-effective way to link educational funding to environmental quality is to provide the funding through environmental agencies. In the United States these are agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These agencies currently develop curricula for formal education (e.g. weather courses from NOAA) and provide a range of informal educational offerings (e.g. student fellowships for work on environmental issues at school or at the agencies, agency websites, exhibits at natural history and science museums, and interpretation at parks and marine protected areas. Cultural education and exchange can be made part of the program - for example, fellowships can include international exchange, websites are international and can be multilingual, and exhibits can travel internationally. Nations with development assistance agencies can support such programs abroad through the environmental agencies of the developing nations they are working with. In the United States, this is often and usefully done with the guidance, and in some cases, management of funds by the donor nation environmental agencies. For example, the international program of the FWS has long received and disseminated funds provided to it by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Capacity building is, and should, be a priority in development funding. 7. Agree to promote and invest in education for women. In many places girls and women are excluded from formal educational opportunities offered to boys and men. Yet women have a central role in environmental, economic, and social life. Many are proven public leaders in environmental concerns, and many more affect the environment through their roles in families and groups. Furthermore, some research suggests that women on the whole cooperate better than men, and none would dispute that they are less engaged in armed conflict, except as bystanders or victims. The participants in Rio+20 should make involvement of girls and women a top priority as they promote and invest in education and cultural exchange as recommended in paragraph 6. 8. Agree to invest in the conduct and dissemination of research and the recruitment of talent applied to environmental quality. Advances in science and technology complement and may well exceed government regulation in contributing to future environmental quality. Avenues with great potential for progress include biotechnology, nuclear and solar energy, carbon sequestration, and water desalinization. Research depends heavily on government investment, which is in danger of restriction rather than growth in the next decade. The nations participating in Rio+20 should take a stand in support of increased research funding for the topics above and other environmental priorities and should articulate the economic leverage that government research investment has found in the past, such as in development of the Internet. In addition, the Rio+20 participants should agree to reduce barriers to travel and immigration for the talent that drives research. Such individuals should go wherever their abilities will be best expressed, and their work should be made available globally.
9. Agree to develop and invest in physical and regulatory infrastructure promoting environmental quality. Aging, outdated infrastructure is the bane of global environmental quality. Electrical power requires a grid for delivery, but current grids are tailored to fossil fuels. Many existing power plants are dated, less efficient, and more polluting than new technologies for the same fuels. Transportation remains dependent on energy-intensive cars and trucks, and work-forces remain dependent on using them. On average, existing residential and commercial structures use far more energy than necessary. Many cities, with multiple dimensions of infrastructure, continue to grow without planning, and bordering natural and agricultural areas are converted to suburban and urban satellites when city cores fail to provide space and services. Regulatory infrastructure -the laws and procedures for approval of investment in the physical - is also antiquated and flawed, delaying good actions and allowing bad. These nine recommendations cover much ground, and Rio+20 is admittedly one of many venues where policy and investment for education, research and infrastructure are being considered. But these enterprises are probably the most fundamental to making Earth's future environment a place worth living in. Policies may come and go with an election or a coup, but education, research and infrastructure set longer-term directions. The participants in Rio+20 are well advised to side-step the textual sophistry that international diplomacy chronically entails and be concrete. But that doesn't mean think small.
General Environment News Reuters: Obama to set fuel standards for heavy vehicles
9 August 2011 The Obama administration on Tuesday will finalize the first ever fuel efficiency and emissions standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses, which is expected to save owners $50 billion in fuel costs over four years. The standards are expected to save the United States some 530 million barrels of oil over the same period beginning in 2014, according to senior administration officials. "Increasing efficiency standards over the last 30 years has not been something that our country has particularly excelled at, but it has been a priority of the Obama administration to move forward with aggressive new standards," said an official in a telephone news conference. The president will announce the standards to an audience of auto company executives, green groups and workers in Springfield, Virginia. The announcement comes a week after President Obama declared aggressive fuel economy standards for personal cars and light trucks. The program for commercial vehicles, like last week's, is part of the administration's goal of reducing the country's dependency on foreign oil by one third by 2025.
Standards apply to vehicles divided into three categories and to all models made between 2014 and 2018. By the end of that period, long-haul trucks will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent. Vocational vehicles -- delivery trucks, school buses and the like -- will reduce consumption and emissions by 9 percent. Regulations for heavy duty pickup trucks and vans will differ for those powered by gas and those by diesel. Gas-fueled vehicles will reduce fuel use by 10 percent and carbon emissions by 12 percent. Diesel-powered trucks and vans are to reduce oil use by 15 percent and emissions by 17 percent. Regulators shifted targets slightly in the final plan. The fuel reduction target is slightly higher for long-haul trucks and lower for vocational vehicles than was unveiled in the plan last year. The government also estimates more in oil savings. The measure has "very aggressive support" from the heavy duty auto industry, a senior official said. Expected to attend the event on Tuesday are truck and parts manufacturers Navistar, Eaton, Daimler AG, Volvo, Chrysler (which is run by Fiat) and General Motors. Truckers are projected to haul about 14 billion tons of freight by 2018, compared with nearly 11 billion tons in 2006, industry figures show. Commercial trucks represent about 11 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. Companies will get bonuses from the government for emission credits gained from using clean technology. Administration officials say the costs to the industry are negligible. To upgrade a tractor trailer truck, for example, will cost $6,220 but will save an estimated $73,000 dollars in the lifetime of the truck. For pickup trucks and vans the costs could be around $1,050, and for vocational vehicles just $380. "One of the reasons there is much support ... is that people recognize that, one, these costs pay for themselves quickly," said a senior administration official.
PlanetArk: Groups Ask Appeals Court To Restore Wolf Protections
9 August 2011 Conservation groups asked an appeals court on Monday to strike down a move by Congress to strip more than 1,500 wolves in Idaho and Montana of federal endangered species protections. In a petition to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the groups sought to overturn a ruling last week by a federal judge that found Congress did not exceed its authority in April when it allowed a measure removing wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana. That ruling, by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, came days after Idaho announced plans to cut its wolf population from about 1,000 to no fewer than 150 by extensive
hunting and trapping and less than a month after Montana set a wolf hunting quota of 220 out of a population of 566. "The states want to decimate the wolf population in the Northern Rockies," said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "We want to stop this massive killing that is about to occur." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the mid-1990s reintroduced fewer than 100 wolves to the region after hunting, trapping and poisoning programs had pushed western wolves nearly to extinction. The Department of Interior, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, had no immediate comment on the appeal. As wolf numbers climbed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, those states have argued in recent years the animals no longer needed Endangered Species Act protections to survive. The federal government agreed, but plans to delist wolves were blocked by conservationists' lawsuits. Wolves were most recently delisted in Idaho and Montana in 2009 when the Fish and Wildlife Service approved wolf management plans by those two states but rejected one in Wyoming, where it was legal to kill most wolves. Environmentalists sued, arguing Northern Rockies wolves were part of a single population and could not be delisted in Idaho and Montana while remaining protected in Wyoming. In August, Molloy sided with conservationists, and federal protections were restored to wolves in Idaho and Montana. Outrage over that decision prompted lawmakers from Western states to attach a provision delisting wolves in the two states to a stopgap budget bill that Congress passed in April. Conservationists again sued, this time claiming Congress violated the constitutional separation of powers among branches of government by intervening in an ongoing legal dispute. Government attorneys successfully argued that Congress, within its powers, had effectively amended the Endangered Species Act, something lawmakers like Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho and U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana strongly denied at the time. It was the first time an animal had been delisted by a political process rather than scientific review. In his ruling upholding the congressional action, Molloy said it represented "a tearing away, an undermining, and a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law." But he said his hands were tied by a prior Ninth Circuit decision which found Congress did not overstep its bounds when it amended law by implication rather than legislation.
PlanetArk: Orange Goo Washing Ashore In Alaska Is Egg Mass, Scientists Say
9 August 2011 A mysterious orange goo that washed ashore in an Alaska village last week and sparked pollution concerns turns out to be a mass of crustacean eggs or embryos, government scientists said on Monday. Tests of a sample sent by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation produced the results, officials at a laboratory belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Alaska Fisheries Service Center said. "We now think these are some sort of small crustacean egg or embryo, with the lipid oil droplet in the middle causing the orange color," Jeep Rice, a lead scientist at the Juneau laboratory, said in a news release. "So this is natural. It is not chemical pollution; it is not a man-made substance," Rice said. Last week's appearance of the orange substance in the Alaska village of Kivalina initially baffled villagers and experts. Residents of the Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's northwest coast said they had never seen anything like it before, and U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska environmental officials examined it and determined that it was not a petroleum product or other known pollutant. The material is sticky, but becomes a powder when dried, said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for NOAA's Fisheries Service in Alaska. Scientists who made the preliminary identification are confident that they are correct, Speegle said. "I would say we're pretty darn sure that they're microscopic eggs," she said. "We just don't know what species." To get a more precise identification, Speegle said, scientists at the Auke Bay lab have sent samples to NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, South Carolina. "As soon as they receive a sample, they will be doing a more in-depth analysis," she said. Kivalina, a village of nearly 400 people, is located at the tip of a barrier reef jutting out into the Chukchi Sea.
PlanetArk: Exxon Selling Indonesia Assets Linked To Lawsuit
9 August 2011 Exxon Mobil Corp said it is selling natural gas assets in Indonesia associated with a recently revived lawsuit alleging human rights violations in that country.
Exxon is selling its stake in three companies associated with the Aceh gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) operation in Indonesia, the company said in a statement on Monday. The decision to sell is part of Exxon's practice of "continually reviewing assets for their contribution to ExxonMobil's operating and financial objectives," it said. In July, a federal appeals court reinstated the right of a group of Indonesian villagers to sue Exxon in the United States. The villagers accuse Exxon security forces of murder, torture and other atrocities in Aceh province between 1999 and 2001. The court ruled that companies are not immune from liability under a 1789 U.S. law known as the Alien Tort Statute for "heinous conduct" committed by their agents in violation of human rights norms.
Battle Creek Enquierer: Pipeline decision must protect environment, lives
8 August 2011. It's been a little more than a year since Calhoun County residents redefined "oil spill" in a much more personal way. The 800,000 or so gallons of oil that flowed into the Kalamazoo River after a pipeline broke near Marshall in July 2010 continues to have an impact on the county's environment and economy. But we're not alone. Last month, about 50,000 gallons of oil befouled the pristine Yellowstone River in Montana because of another pipeline break. The consequences often are deadly when pipelines carrying natural gas give way. Eight people died and 38 homes were destroyed last Sept. 9 when a natural gas pipeline leak ignited an explosion that incinerated a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. On Feb. 9, a gasline rupture in Allentown, Pa., resulted in a fiery blast that killed five people. These are just the most notorious cases of pipeline failures over the past year, but they indicate the challenge of keeping our nation's pipeline infrastructure in good repair not only to ensure the safe delivery of much needed energy, but also to protect lives and the environment. As officials at the U.S. State Department mull whether to approve construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, it is imperative that they give the highest priority to ensuring that any such venture safeguard both lives and the environment. In addition to the State Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration must also review the planned pipeline with a keen eye on upholding safety and environmental protections. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week vowed to help develop safety standards that go beyond current law to ensure that, if approved, the 1,900-mile Keystone XL pipeline would be "as safe as it could possibly be."
The company behind the project, Calgary-based TransCanada, already has agreed to exceed industry standards in dozens of aspects of the pipeline, including building it 4 feet underground instead of 3 feet. But the real key to ensuring the pipeline's safety is strict government standards that are properly enforced. That means making sure that government regulators monitor construction closely and hold contractors accountable to meeting the standards that are set. Oversight must be independent of industrial influence. Supporters of Keystone XL say the pipeline would greatly reduce U.S. dependence on Mideast oil by doubling the capacity of an existing pipeline from Canada. They say if the trans-U.S. pipeline is not built, much of the oil produced in Canada will end up being shipped to the West Coast and exported to China. While our nation would benefit from more non-Mideast oil, most Americans are not willing to sacrifice a healthy environment and the safety of their families to get it. If a pipeline is to be built, they want strong safeguards against another disaster.
ClimateWire: RISK: Debt deal reopens debate on climate catastrophes
9 August 2011 A provision tucked into the debt ceiling legislation is rekindling debate about the nation's ability to pay for soaring catastrophe losses as coastal development and carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. The nation has struggled for years to find an effective way to help communities rebuild homes, businesses and infrastructure after natural disasters. Now, in a collision between downward federal spending and an upward presence of catastrophes, Congress is moving to pre-fund disasters. The last-minute legislation approved by Congress last week to raise the debt ceiling creates a disaster fund that will carry billions of dollars for recovery in hard-hit areas. The fund is a money-saving effort proposed by the president's bipartisan fiscal commission last December in its report "The Moment of Truth." The fund could reduce stress on the deficit by preventing the need for emergency supplemental appropriations made in the wake of a crisis. Those unplanned expenses are not included in the budget, so it amounts to new debt. But the provision's emphasis on savings is seen by some as a pathway to reduced disaster funding, even as Americans are witnessing a historic period of active hurricanes, intensifying floods and more violent thunderstorms. "They're dumbing down, if you will, the dollar value," said retired Adm. James Loy, who held senior posts overseeing national security during the George W. Bush administration. "What they're really suggesting is the federal government is going to spend less in the future, when in fact every projection that we see suggests more storms."
The fund's balance will be determined by averaging the cost of disasters over the past 10 years, minus the least and most expensive events. That rules out mega-outliers like Hurricane Katrina, which required an emergency outlay from Congress amounting to $122 billion. But some observers are concerned by the fund's reliance on past disasters to determine future damage. Catastrophes a decade ago threatened fewer developments along coastlines, and damage from thunderstorms has broken records every year since 2008. Plan 'falls short' For those reasons, the funding formula is "flawed," said Joshua Saks, who works on water resource issues for the National Wildlife Federation. "It won't be enough money," he added. "When you calculate backwards, you won't see what you need for the future." The disaster fund is being described as a boilerplate attempt at reducing the cost of inevitable disasters. But it fails to answer the most complicated questions related to preparedness for climate change, observers say. It doesn't provide policies, for example, to encourage stronger building standards, or to prevent construction in the first place. There is no related mitigation funding to help residents in dangerous areas harden their homes, a key to preventing death and injury, and also taxpayer expenses. "It falls short of actually planning in a smart way [to] reduce the taxpayers' exposure," said former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), who championed legislation to create a federal reinsurance program paid for by coastal states, rather than taxpayers nationwide. The idea, however, was met with controversy by environmentalists and conservatives. Climate advocates claim that a national program aiming to establish governmentbacked, low-cost insurance could encourage more building in areas prone to hurricane damage and sea level rise. That might degrade natural areas that diminish storm damage. But supporters, like Loy and protectingamerica.org, believe government reinsurance is the answer to years of haphazard -- and expensive -- disaster funding. The federal premiums paid by homeowners in states that voluntarily establish state-based catastrophe reinsurance programs would reduce the cost of emergency funding on taxpayers who live in safer places, Loy said. The perfect time for federal reinsurance? The state programs would cover smaller disasters, and federal reinsurance would pay out during the mega-catastrophes seen once every five or 10 years, he said. Either way, the funding would be provided by people who live in harm's way, not by taxpayers at large, he added. The program's premiums would be structured to avoid appropriations by Congress. In addition, those premiums would provide at least $15 million annually for mitigation efforts to harden homes.
Loy is hopeful that the 12-member commission created by the debt ceiling legislation to find $1.2 trillion in deficit savings by Thanksgiving will consider his draft bill for federal reinsurance. "It just seems that it's an absolutely perfect time for the Congress as it's contemplating the second phase of the deficit legislation," Loy said. "This way, taxpayers living in Idaho or Montana or wherever who are hardly ever confronted by these nightmares ... are not all of a sudden watching those appropriated funds go to simple storm relief." But it's likely that the nation's debate about responding to catastrophes will endure beyond this session of Congress. The House, which passed a version of Klein's reinsurance bill, the "Homeowners' Defense Act," in the last Congress, is increasingly conservative. Many members are hostile toward large government programs that interfere with personal decisions, perhaps including where and how to build a home. Moreover, opponents say federal reinsurance could cloud the nation's credit rating even if the program successfully pays for damages from collected premiums. Eli Lehrer, vice president of the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, claims that the program would increase the nation's liability after Standard & Poor's knocked the United States' credit score down a notch. "It's just foolish to take on a massive new contingent liability, even if in the long run you're positive you can cover it. It's enormously irresponsible at this point," Lehrer said. "The almost certain reaction is a further downgrade in debt."
ClimateWire: POLITICS: Gore flings barnyard epithet at 'organized' climate change critics
9 August 2011 Climate skeptics have "polluted" public debate on global warming using the same tactics tobacco companies once employed to deny the health risks of smoking, former Vice President Al Gore said last week. "Some of the exact same people -- by name, I can go down a list of their names -- are involved in this," Gore said Thursday at an Aspen Institute forum in Aspen, Colo. "And so what do they do? They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message: 'This climate thing, it's nonsense. Man-made CO2 doesn't trap heat. It's not -It may be volcanoes.' Bullshit! 'It may be sun spots.' Bullshit! 'It's not getting warmer.' Bullshit!" He continued: "There are about 10 other memes that are out there, and when you go and talk to any audience about climate, you hear them washing back at you the same crap, over and over and over again. They have polluted this shit. There is no longer shared reality on an issue like climate, even though the very existence of our civilization is threatened." Gore's remarks were reported Friday by news website RealAspen.com and Carbondale, Colo., NPR affiliate KDNK.
Both news organizations have posted partial audio of Gore's remarks, but the Aspen Institute does not plan to make a full recording or transcript available. Climate 'no longer acceptable in mixed company' Gore "was at another conference and came over to speak to our group at late notice (at the request of a friend)," said Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute's Communications and Society Program. "He was not a regular participant, so did not know, as the others did, that the conference was being streamed. ... We are according our normal rule of 'not for attribution.'" Gore spent more than an hour addressing the institute's Forum on Communications and Society, Firestone said, "covering topics of the history of communication, neurobiology and civic discourse." But it was the former vice president-turned-environmental activist's comments on climate skeptics that drew news coverage -- and subsequently lit up the conservative blogosphere this weekend. "It's no longer acceptable in mixed company, meaning bipartisan company, to use the goddamned word 'climate,'" Gore said. "It's not acceptable. They have polluted this to the point where we cannot possibly come to an agreement on it because of this organized activity." The same tactics used by climate skeptics and the tobacco industry were also deployed during the recent debt-ceiling debate, Gore added. "During the debt-ceiling debate, Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity and a collection of smaller groups did exactly the same thing," Gore said. "Unnoticed in Washington and New York, as the debt-ceiling debate was going on, the ratio of television advertisements was 9-to-1 -- 9-to-1! -- on the 'Don't-lift-the-debt-ceiling' debate. 'Spending is the problem. We have to shrink government.' And now we're going to tip the country back into recession. It's absolutely insane."
ClimateWire: AGRICULTURE: Cellulosic biofuel could revive USDA conservation program – study
9 August 2011 Growing cellulosic feedstocks on federally subsidized conservation land could balance the biofuels emissions equation to be completely carbon-neutral, a study suggests. For conventional bioenergy feedstocks like corn and soy, using a no-till method to remove weeds can shrink the number of years needing to balance the carbon budget by one-third. The research is centered on the Agriculture Department's Conservation Reserve Program, a voluntary program that rewards farmers who save a portion of their land for conservation of watersheds and wildlife. In past years, the number of acres enrolled in the CRP has dwindled from a peak of 36.8 million in 2007 to 31 million today, according to a Farm Service Agency spokesman. Rising prices for conventional crops have lured
farmers back into production farming, with significant consequences for overall greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. "Incentives for permanent no till and especially permission to harvest CRP biomass for cellulosic biofuel would help to blunt the climate impact of future CRP conversion," states the study's abstract, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Most importantly, it provides a market income to farmers. This could encourage them to keep land under the CRP that may have gone to growing crops through conventional methods. This hinges, however, on cellulosic biofuels' ability to become profitable. "Farmers will rationally want to maximize their economic returns on their land," said Philip Robertson, one of the study's authors and a professor of ecosystem science at Michigan State University. "As the price of corn stays high ... there will be more pressure on the farmer to turn that into cropland." Balancing the carbon budget "One might hope that a market in cellulosic will develop quickly enough," he added. That market, once touted as a win-win solution to the thirst for alternative fuels, has been subject to increasing pessimism. U.S. EPA has suggested drastically lowering the cellulosic target in the renewable fuels standard, which sets biofuel goals for 2022. Critics say the technology to turn fibrous, waste plant matter into fuel has been much slower than industry projections (ClimateWire, July 29). As a renewable source of energy, biofuels have suffered ongoing criticism for their hefty carbon debt. Like bankers do for financial debt, climate scientists assume that the greenhouse gas expense of burning biofuels will be paid back eventually as the crops that make fuel "earn" carbon through sequestering it throughout their life cycle. But biomass energy critics say this doesn't happen fast enough to really offset the greenhouse gases. It could take up to 100 years for bioenergy acres to pay off their debt. In addition, changing the land use from wild grasslands to cropland can minimize the carbon benefits of biofuels (ClimateWire, April 6). Growing cellulosic feedstocks, however, neutralizes the carbon debt, said lead author Ilya Gelfand, a researcher at Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station. The land use doesn't change, and the reduction of fossil fuels adds to the climate mitigation potential. "However, I need to say that we are not including indirect land-use change, and [have] intentionally restricted our analysis to make our findings less uncertain," he said. Indirect land-use change refers to the opportunity lost had the biofuel feedstock acres been set aside for other uses. Digging up emissions Given that farmers have taken on conventional farming in favor of keeping conservation land fallow, the scientists also looked at reducing emissions through no-till methods. Research has indicated that no-till methods could reduce emissions of nitrous oxide -- a gas with 300 times the greenhouse potency of carbon dioxide -- by 57 percent (ClimateWire, Jan. 6).
The researchers found that no-till management in combination corn-soybean fields and corn-only fields created a carbon debt lasting 29 and 40 years, respectively. Soil tillage nearly tripled the debt: 89 to 123 years. No-till farming on the conventional farm can have other environmental consequences. To avoid digging up the soil to remove weeds, farmers spray the herbicide glyphosate, best known as Roundup, in conjunction with glyphosate-resistant crops. Robertson asserts that no-till methods need not be limited to spraying. Planting perennial, rather than annual, crops could outcompete weeds, removing the need for glyphosate. Making a case for CRP At the peak of CRP enrollment in 2007, the program was enabling the sequestration of 50 million metric tons of CO2, said Kent Politsch, chief of public affairs for the Farm Service Agency. In 2010, that figure dropped to 44 million metric tons. As it stands, farmers who receive payments under the CRP are not allowed to harvest and profit from production on those lands. But alterations to the program are not impossible. Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced changes in CRP rules to allow drought-stricken farmers to use harvested hay from expiring conservation land. The farmers could use the hay to feed cattle in exchange for a 25 percent reduction in their CRP benefit. Combining the CRP with the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, another Farm Service Agency endeavor, could combine resources for both energy production and conservation, suggested Politsch. "Congress would look at something like that as a solution to both issues," he said.
ClimateWire: MARKETS: Carbon offsets at an all-time low
9 August 2011. Carbon offsets are now the world's lowest-performing commodity as prices reached an all-time low. The drop-off resulted from slowing demand, stalled by a weak global economic outlook. As production slowed, less carbon was produced, reducing the need for offsets. In addition, there is an oversupply of permits, as a U.N. climate panel has continued to produce them in spite of the slowing market. The permit market is valued at $18.3 billion, down from its $26.3 billion peak in 2008. "If the European economy goes through a double dip [recession] it could be a lethal threat for the carbon market," said Marius-Cristian Frunza, an analyst at Schwarzthal Kapital.
Bureaucratic hurdles have hindered the market, as well, since countries have not reached an agreement for carbon caps after 2012. The European Union has also banned one of the most common offsets after 2013, prompting holders to unload these permits (Wynn/Chestney, Reuters, Aug. 5). -- UI
The Washington Post: Obama calls for first-ever fuel standards for work trucks, buses, other heavy duty vehicles
9 August 2011 Fire trucks and concrete mixers, semis, heavy-duty pickups and all trucks in between will, for the first time, have to trim fuel consumption and emissions of heat-trapping gases under new efficiency standards announced Tuesday by President Barack Obama. The White House said the standards will save businesses billions of dollars in fuel costs, help reduce oil consumption and cut air pollution. The standards apply to vehicle model years 2014 to 2018. The new targets affect three categories of vehicles. Big rigs or semis will have to slash fuel consumption and production of heat-trapping gases by up to 23 percent. Gasolinepowered heavy-duty pickups and vans will have to cut consumption by 10 percent, or by 15 percent if the vehicles run on diesel fuel. The standards also prescribe a 9 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for work trucks, which include everything from fire trucks and concrete mixers to garbage trucks and buses. In a statement, Obama said the new standards had the support of companies that build, buy and drive medium and heavy-duty trucks. The president had planned to unveil the standards at a trucking business in Virginia, a state crucial to his re-election hopes, but the White House canceled the trip Tuesday morning without explanation. Instead, the president he met privately at the White House with industry officials to discuss the initiative. The White House projected savings of 530 million barrels of oil and $50 billion in fuel costs over the expected lives of the vehicles covered by the new standards, along with improved air quality and public health. The administration released no miles-per-gallon equivalent for the new standards, saying that doing so would be confusing given the different categories of vehicles, the different types of vehicles in each category and the varying payloads that each one carries. Officials did stress that the costs of making the trucks more fuel-efficient — ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per vehicle — will be recouped through reduced fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicles. It’s the second round of fuel efficiency standards in the past month.
Last month, Obama announced a deal with automakers to double overall fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025, starting in model year 2017. Cars and light trucks now on the road average 27 mpg. That followed a 2009 deal committing cars and trucks to averaging 35.5 mpg by model year 2016.
The Washington Post: OPEC cuts oil demand forecasts for 2011, 2012 as economy falters
9 August 2011 The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut its oil demand forecasts for 2011 and next year as the global economic recovery loses momentum. OPEC, responsible for about 40 percent of world oil supply, reduced its consumption estimate for this year by 150,000 barrels a day. That means global demand will rise by 1.2 million a day, or 1.4 percent, to 88.1 million a day. Next year it will increase by 1.5 percent to 89.4 million, following a “minor downward revision,” the organization said today in its monthly market report. “Dark clouds over the economy are already impacting the market’s direction” while developed nations “are struggling with rising sovereign debt and high unemployment,” the organization’s Vienna-based secretariat said. “Industrial activity is evidently slowing down at the global level.” Oil fell to the lowest in more than 10 months in New York today and Brent dipped below $100 a barrel in London following the U.S. credit-rating cut and amid signs of rising crude stockpiles. OPEC has no plans “so far” to hold an emergency meeting, a delegate, who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly, said today. OPEC’s 12 members boosted production by 400,000 barrels a day last month to an average of 30.07 million a day, according to the report. That’s nearly 1 million a day less than the average amount the group forecasts its members will need to provide during the third quarter. This “call on OPEC” is estimated at 31 million a day in this quarter and 30.74 million in the fourth. Output Gain Most of the output gain in July was accounted for by Saudi Arabia, the group’s largest member, and Angola. Production declined in Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria. Saudi Arabia, which has pledged to help compensate for the loss of exports during the conflict in Libya, bolstered supplies by 255,000 barrels a day to 9.75 million last month, the group’s data showed. OPEC trimmed its estimates for supplies from outside the organization this year, and kept them unchanged for 2012. Non- OPEC nations will bolster production by 600,000 barrels a day to 52.8 million, it said. That’s 50,000 a day less than predicted last month, as a result of lower projections for Canada, Norway, the U.K., Malaysia, Vietnam and Brazil. Next year non-OPEC nations will raise output by 730,000 a barrels a day to 53.57 million, according to the report.
OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The organization is next due to meet on Dec. 14 in Vienna. The International Energy Agency, an adviser to oil- consuming nations, will release its own monthly report on supply and demand tomorrow.
The New York Times: Researching Safer Nuclear Energy
9 August 2011 The nuclear power industry faces hard times, with tough competition from natural gas for meeting new electricity needs and a prevailing nervousness about nuclear safety after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March. On Tuesday, the Energy Department, handing out research grants in all kinds of energy fields that are low in carbon dioxide emissions, is announcing that it will give $39 million to university programs around the country to try to solve various nuclear problems. The money will go to a variety of projects at 31 universities in 20 states. Several focus on nuclear waste. Two researchers at Clemson University, for example, will get $1 million to study the behavior of particles of nuclear waste when buried in clay in metal canisters that have rusted. One open question, according to the researchers, is how a high temperature, which would be generated by the waste itself, affects the interactions. These are important to understanding how the waste would spread over time. The goal is to “reduce uncertainty” about the life expectancy of atomic particles. With the cancellation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, many nuclear operators are loading older fuel into sealed metal casks filled with inert gas. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will get a grant to study how such “dry casks” perform in salt environments. “Storage casks will be stored mostly in coastal or lakeside regions where a salt air environment exists,’’ a summary of the grant says. Cracking related to corrosion could occur in 30 years or less, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is studying whether the casks can be used for 100 years as some hope. Another important concern in the nuclear power field is the aging of reactors. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University will get $456,000 to plan a system that will use ultrasonic waves to look for cracks and other defects in hot metal parts. The idea is to find “microscale” defects that lead to big cracks. Some of the work is aimed at helping to improve new reactors. For example, a researcher at the University of Houston, with collaborators at two other universities, will study a “base isolation system” that would protect reactors against earthquakes. In an earthquake, the ground moves back and forth at a certain frequency, similar to the way a gong struck by a mallet vibrates at a given frequency. But plants could be built atop materials with “frequency band gaps,” that do not vibrate at the frequency that is characteristic of earthquakes, the Energy Department suggests.
In a statement, Steven Chu, the energy secretary, said that nuclear energy had an important role to play in a low-carbon energy future and that the grants would help the country “maintain global leadership in the field.”
The New York Times: Oil Sands to Raise Emissions, Canadian Report Says
8 August 2011 The Canadian government has long fought efforts by politicians and environmentalists in other countries, including the United States, to characterize oil sands production as “dirty oil.” But an analysis quietly released late last month by its environmental agency indicates that the tar-like deposits will become an increasingly significant source of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade. “Canada’s Emissions Trends,” a peer-reviewed report by the agency, Environment Canada, forecasts that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands will triple to 92 million metric tons, or 101 million short tons, by 2020 from a base level of 30 million metric tons, or 33 million short tons, in 2005. The vast majority of oil produced from the deposits is shipped to the United States. The study indicates increased emissions from oil sands will more than offset emission reductions in other areas like electricity generation. “Environment Canada’s projections make it crystal clear that the oil sands will only continue to be one of this country’s most urgent emissions problems in the coming decade and beyond,” Simon Dyer, policy director at the Pembina Institute, which studies energy and environmental issues, wrote in an e-mail. Mr. Dyer’s group began drawing attention to the study late last week. The current Conservative government abandoned ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets set by a Liberal predecessor government that had endorsed the Kyoto Protocol. In December 2009 Canada agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, using 2005 as the base year for measurements. The new study, however, concludes that the country will fall well short of that modest target even without further changes. Current measures by the federal government and provinces will create only about one-quarter of the necessary reductions, it found. Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, disputed the report’s findings. Although he did not provide any specific emissions forecast for oil sands, Mr. Davies said the industry expected oil sands production to only roughly double by 2020. Measures like more efficient removal and processing of the oilcontaining bitumen will reduce the rate at which oil sands plants create greenhouse gases, he added. “At the end of the day, the goal is to be similar to conventional crude,” he said, although he declined to name a corresponding time frame. Last week the government notified 776 employees at Environment Canada that they might be transferred to other departments or laid off. A union representing professional
employees said that many of its affected members work on meteorological and climate change issues.
ClimateWire: OIL SANDS: Canadian emissions reductions to be dwarfed by oil sands expansion
9 August 2011 Emissions from the development of the Alberta oil sands are predicted to exceed greenhouse gas reductions, according to a government study, making it increasingly difficult for Canada to meet its commitments under the Copenhagen Accord. "It's clear Canada doesn't have a plan in place to come anywhere close to our Copenhagen goals; that's not new," said Simon Dyer, policy director with the Pembina Institute, a promoter of sustainable energy. "What a disproportionate role the oil sands are playing is something new." The "Canada's Emissions Trends" report released in late July found that national electricity emissions are projected to fall by 31 megatonnes (Mt) between 2005 and 2020, but that oil sands emissions are expected to rise by 62 Mt, tripling 2005 levels over the same period. This will result in an overall 46 Mt (30 percent) increase in oil and gas emissions. Savings from improved pipeline transportation and conventional crude and natural gas production will be outstripped by emissions from the oil sands extractions, the report says, with an increase of 25 Mt from the process of injecting steam underground to recover the crude oil, 11 Mt from oil sands mining and 26 Mt from crude bitumen upgrading. Dyer said that although the report was "released quite quietly," Environment Canada should be commended for making the information public. The report cuts through the public relations battle surrounding the development of the oil sands, he said, and presents important factual data broken down by industrial sector. "You can clearly see where most emissions are generally flat or declining or increasing only slightly, while the oil sands are on this significant upswing," said Dyer. "Responsible oil sands development is possible, but it would be at a much slower pace than the current projections." Challenges of meeting Canada's Copenhagen targets Under the Copenhagen Accord, the document that emerged from the 2009 U.N. climate negotiations in the Danish capital, Canada committed to reducing national emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels, to 607 Mt by 2020. To reach that goal, the government must cut 178 Mt of greenhouse gas emissions in addition to actions already in place to lower emissions. But Albertan Minister of Energy Ron Liepert said his province isn't supportive of international greenhouse gas regulations. "I'm not interested in Kyoto-style policies. That's something that was the previous Liberal government. We're working with the current government to ensure that we do what we
can, but at the same time we're not going to cripple the Canadian economy," he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. The Alberta government does have its own target of cutting emissions by 50 Mt by 2020 from "business as usual" projections. But that only amounts to a 14 percent drop below 2005 levels by 2050. Chris Bourdeau, a spokesman for Alberta's environment department, said the province also has a $15 per tonne price on carbon on all large emitters. Every facility that emits over 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year must also meet a baseline target or buy offset credits or pay into a clean energy technology fund, he said. Plus, the province is dedicating $2 billion to carbon capture and sequestration research over 15 years. Bourdeau added that more needs to be done to improve Alberta's emissions performance, but that the report highlights the difficulties of enforcing reductions programs at home while developing an internationally significant industry. The predicted doubling in oil sands production over the coming decade will be largely attributed to sales to the United States, he said. He also referenced a report by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, which found that the Alberta oil sands will "create or preserve an average of between 93,000 and 175,000 jobs per year in the U.S." "I think what the report does is it gives us snapshot of the challenges that the oil sands and the entire country face in reducing greenhouse gases and considering growth in the economy," said Bourdeau. "The world will continue to demand energy, and Alberta is one place where we can increase production to meet that demands." For Dyer, the report shows that international players are wise to investigate the regulations in place to curb oil sands emissions. "The U.S. is right to demand more information around greenhouse has management in Canada and the role of the emissions associated with the Keystone XL," said Dyer, referring to the proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian oil-sands crude into the United States. "The data clearly shows the oil sands are severely inhibiting Canada's ability to meet its Copenhagen commitments." The European Union has also been questioning the environmental impacts of the oil sands while considering legislation against crude oil imports from Alberta (ClimateWire, Aug. 5). Bourdeau said, however, that the Canadian oil sands are one of the most regulated industrial developments in the world. Domestic tensions over emissions reductions According to Matt Price, campaign director for Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental action organization, the increase in oil sands emissions creates a tension between Alberta and the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec, where most of the 31 Mt in greenhouse gas reductions are predicted to take place. "The Ontario government is closing coal-fired power plants, and they estimate that's about a 30-million-tonne reduction, and now you see the tar sands growth to be double that in the opposite direction," said Price. Price said that counteraction does not set Canada on a path to progress. He also questioned the economic benefits of the oil sands. A high Canadian dollar, bolstered by
oil prices, makes it difficult for manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec to sell their products internationally, he said. The responsibility now falls on the federal government to mediate regional needs. Price said he also wants to see the central government take an active role in implementing new regulations for oil sands that deal directly with emissions. "Yes, they can do a better job of mitigating the worst impacts [of oil sands]," said Price. "But I don't think they'll get there on this current projection of mindless growth."
The Hill Time: Environment Canada in 'complete and utter turmoil' as feds prepare to slash 776 jobs
8 August 2011 Environment Canada workers are in "complete and utter turmoil" as 776 public servants wait to learn where they will be working, or if they will be working for the government at all in 90 days, says Bill Pynn, national president of the Union of Environmental Workers, which represents 476 of the workers affected. Inside the department, "people are questioning, 'Why you, not me?' " said Mr. Pynn. The department's announcement on Aug. 4 that it is putting 776 workers on notice, with plans cut 300 of their positions in the next three months, caught public service unions by surprise, Mr. Pynn told The Hill Times last week. Among the affected workers are almost 100 physical scientists, 19 meteorologists, 45 computer scientists, chemists, biologists and engineers. The restructuring at Environment Canada affects 11 per cent of the department's 7,000person workforce. "I've never seen a cut like this in my 15 years as president of the Union of Environment Workers," said Mr. Pynn, whose union is a branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and represents 5,700 workers. Environment Canada's announcement brings the total job cuts announced in the public service since early June to more than 1,500. Public Works announced it would cut 678 jobs over the next three years, while Fisheries and Oceans has said it would cut 275 positions. The Bank of Canada, Industry Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat are also among the other departments and agencies that have said they are cutting staff. "This is a big shock. We weren't expecting this to happen so soon," said Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union that represents 57,000 workers across Canada. PIPSC represents 227 of the affected workers at Environment Canada. Mr. Corbett said the union was not expecting a cut of this size, especially prior to any decisions on the federal government's "Strategic and Operating Review," in which departments have to come up with five to 10 per cent in cuts to their operating budgets. The federal deficit is $32-billion, and the government has committed to balancing the budget by 2014-2015. Much of the savings will come from the Strategic and Operating
Review, which aims to cut five per cent, across 67 departments and agencies, from the public service's $80-billion operating budget. Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) told reporters last week in Ottawa that the cuts at Environment Canada have nothing to do with the review, which he is helming with the help of a dedicated Cabinet committee. Instead, the cut is a response to the department's current financial reality, he said. According to Environment Canada's Report on Plans and Priorities, which was tabled this spring, the department's budget for 2011-2013 is $1.1-billion. This is set to decline by about $228-million to $936.8-million in 2011-2012. Environment Canada's budget will shrink to $883-million by 2013-2014. Environment Canada took "a hard look at its spending to ensure the department is spending its resources on priorities like improving air quality and cleaner water for Canadians," said spokesperson Mark Johnson in a statement that was issued to all media. In its notice to the 776 affected workers, Mr. Corbett said the department made it clear that it didn't have the money to keep the employees on. Some of the affected employees will go into the Workforce Adjustment Program, where they will be re-trained, said Mr. Johnson. From there, they will be moved to another job, either in Environment Canada or in another government department. "As a government, we go out of our way to work with each individual to try to see through attrition whether there is another position available within the Government of Canada, or at least work with them for re-training," Mr. Clement told reporters last week. An average of 520 people leave Environment Canada every year due to attrition. It's into these vacated jobs that the department hopes to move some of its affected workers. Mr. Corbett said he is hopeful that some of his members will be relocated to new jobs within the public service, but that in the long-term he doesn't think there will be enough spaces to go around. "I'm very hopeful in the early stages, but as they go through this with department after department, especially considering the Strategic and Operating Review, we're concerned that there are going to be more people than there are positions," he explained. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) said that Environment Minister Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.) needs to be transparent about how his department will cope without so many workers. Mr. Pynn said that after a meeting with departmental officials, he doesn't know how work will continue to get done. "That is a question that I posed to the deputy and his team yesterday. I don't think they have a plan," he said. Mr. Corbett said he hopes that the department re-focuses its priorities so scientists can concentrate on their programs.
"The work just has to get done with the people who are there, that's just the way it works, and there's more work to be done with fewer and fewer people," he said. Ms. May said she doesn't buy into the idea that cutting jobs means savings the government money. "Over the years I've seen it done, not just under the Harper government but under other governments, and you have people say, 'Okay, I'll take that nice buyout package,' and then they come back as consultants to the same departments at a higher price, because the work still needs to be done," she said. Both she and Mr. Pynn noted that Environment Canada is still obligated to carry out a number of monitoring services as mandated by legislation. "These cuts will diminish the ability of Environment Canada to provide the quality that, number one, Canadians expect and deserve, and number two, what they're mandated to do through legislation," said Mr. Pynn. Both union leaders said that with the Strategic and Operating Review on the horizon, they don't think this is the last of the cuts headed Environment Canada's way. Departments are coming up with their savings' proposals now and results from the SOR will be announced in Budget 2012. "It's too soon to say what impacts [the review] will have on the job totals in the public service," said Mr. Clement. Mr. Corbett said he thinks the SOR will cause "lasting damage" to the public service. While Mr. Clement said last week that the Strategic and Operating Review will put him in a situation to make difficult decisions, he drew attention to the United States' own fiscal crisis to offer some perspective on Canada's situation. "The targets that the Congress and the U.S. administration has to deal with over a multiyear period is $4-trillion dollars. Our target is $4-billion [...]let's face it, our order paper is a lot lighter than what the Americans have to deal with," he said. The SOR can succeed in saving money without pummeling the public service but it's all about where the government finds the money, said Ms. May. "If you're going to do it through slashing staffing levels, it's a huge cut to capacity. Cutting staffing cuts into the bone," she said. Ms. May said she would rather the government work with Parliament, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the auditor general to find instances of large-scale waste. "If you're going to look at the evidence in various auditor general's reports over the years, where does the auditor general find the kind of waste that gets headlines? It's not based on 'There's nine meteorologists working that we don't need any more.' It's based on, 'They just spent $15-million on stuff that we don't need in procurement in the G8 Legacy fund,'" she said.
The Globe and Mail: Debt is the new carbon
9 August 2011
Our collective attention spans are short. Public enemies are forgotten or ignored, and we move on to our next societal nemesis. In the 1980s, it was the war on drugs and communism. In the 1990s, it was AIDS and holes in the ozone. In the 2000s, it was terrorism. Most recently, it was global warming. But now we have a new enemy: government debt. Not a single issue on this list has really been solved (well, communism’s threat has waned, but don’t tell North Korea). Yet, judging from the U.S. debt-ceiling crisis – and the unsatisfying deal that only papers over the problem – government addiction to borrowing has landed in the world’s lap as the new crisis du jour. Debt is the new carbon. Environmentalists won’t be happy with this because nothing has really been achieved on the climate-change front, at least not in North America. A few U.S. states have some sensible policies in place, as do a couple of provinces. But Washington’s attention has turned to other priorities, and the environment isn’t one of them. It’s not to say climate change should fall off the agenda. But it will. There are some striking similarities between the old enemy (carbon) and the new one (government debt). First, like the proliferation of carbon in the atmosphere, government debt has skyrocketed in the U.S., Europe and other G20 countries. Indeed, most economists urged governments to take on more debt to stimulate their economies during the credit crisis in 2009. From Washington to Athens, and London to Ottawa, spend, baby, spend! was the rally cry. This has led to a shocking run-up in the level of total government debt. But also like the carbon debate, no one can agree on how serious the debt problem is. With the fervour of alarmist environmental groups, some suggest the debt crisis will hasten the end of Western civilization. Europe will disintegrate, the U.S. dollar will be toppled as the international reserve currency, and China will rule all. But, as with the climate debate, there are deniers, too. They say this is more of a rough patch than the end of the world. Debt levels will come down gradually, and all will be fine. Finally, the debt issue mirrors the carbon issue because no one can agree on a solution. Slash spending? Raise taxes? No one wants any of that talk. The Achilles heel that could deny Barack Obama a second term is debt. Tea Partiers insist the only way to tame the debt is through constitutionally mandated balanced budgets. This is equivalent to an overweight person amputating his legs so he can’t get to the fridge. Some Democrats, on the other hand, believe four scoops of ice cream instead of five is a legitimate weight-loss program. Clearly, neither is the way to lose weight or deal with government debt. Canada is in much better shape than most and, for that, we should congratulate ourselves – a bit. On the debt story, we can say: “Been there, done that.” In the 90s, we were the G7 bad boy of public debt; today, we’re the best of the best. Provincially, though, our biggest provinces have serious deficit and debt problems. And while Ottawa’s on track to balancing the budget, any major tremors south of the border could derail that. Economic growth is slowing, and a U.S. double-dip recession is looking more likely by the minute.
Sorry, carbon, you’ve been replaced. We hope you’ll keep in touch since we haven’t really solved you as a problem. But we trust you’ll understand. We only have so much attention to go around. National Post: U.S. EPA pushed on fracking rules 9 August 2011 U.S. law-makers pressed the Environmental Protection Agency Monday to adopt a broad definition of diesel for its upcoming guidance on use of the fuel in a natural gas drilling practice that critics say can taint water supplies. The EPA is developing a framework to oversee the use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing, the only area where the practice is subject to federal oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act. A narrow definition of diesel fuel could provide drillers with a loophole that would allow them to use some forms of diesel containing toxic chemicals without obtaining a permit, the lawmakers warned in a letter. "We urge you to craft a definition that provides consistency to industry while serving to protect public health and the environment," said the letter, signed by House Democrats Henry Waxman, Edward Markey, Diana DeGette and Rush Holt. Mr. Waxman, the top Democrat on the House energy and commerce committee, along with Mr. Markey and Ms. DeGette, sponsored a probe that found 12 oil services firms, including Halliburton and BJ Services Co., injected millions of gallons of fluids containing the fuel into wells between 2005 and 2009. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, injects a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas. Innovations in the decadesold practice have allowed drillers to tap vast shale gas reserves that previously were out of reach. But the spread of the technique to new areas has prompted a backlash from homeowners near shale gas developments who complain the practice has contaminated their drinking water. Drillers say fracking is safe, noting that it is carried out thousands of feet below ground, much deeper than most water sources. Seeking to allay public concerns, the Obama administration set up a panel to weigh in on what immediate steps are needed to improve the public and environmental safety of fracking. That panel's initial report is due this week.
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ROWA MEDIA UPDATE THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS Wednesday, 10th August, 2011 Jordan: Kheyouf designated as special conservation area
The Cabinet has approved the declaration of Kheyouf in Balqa Governorate as a special conservation area (SCA) due to its ecological significance and integration of nature protection with development. The Kheyouf area, which is part of Zarqa River's lower watershed, located to the west of the King Talal Dam, was selected as an SCA due to the integration of land usage for development purposes with protection of unique ecosystems, Minister of Environment Taher Shakhshir said on Tuesday. "The quality of Zarqa River water in the Kheyouf area improved in recent years after treated wastewater discharged from the Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant improved. This has resulted in a revival of vital ecosystems, as well as animal and plant species living around freshwater sources in the area," Shakhshir said in a statement released by the ministry yesterday. The minister underscored that Kheyouf’s designation as an SCA will support sustainable development projects in the agricultural area. Special conservation areas are geographically defined sites characterised by unique natural and cultural heritage. Generally smaller than nature reserves, SCAs have more specific ecological roles and aim to integrate local development with sustainable management of natural resources. Ministry of Environment Spokesperson Isa Shboul said Kheyouf represents a natural habitat for several animal and plant species. "Initial studies indicate that the area is home to the Buckthorn shrub, Black Iris and wild thyme among other plants. Kheyouf is also home to different kinds of mammals such as the red fox, striped hyena and wolves," he told The Jordan Times yesterday. In addition, several bird species also inhabit the area including partridges, nightingales and different types of doves, Shboul noted. During last week’s session, the Cabinet authorised the Ministry of Environment to manage the Kheyouf special conservation area through a committee comprising a local society, the Jordan Valley Authority, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.
UAE: Recycling laws catch up with our rubbish habits
Having two chutes instead of one could make recycling much easier for residents who could segregate their waste at home, according to a manufacturer anxious for recycling laws to be passed in the UAE.
"Segregating waste at home and being able to just put it down the chute in your building would make it very easy for everyone to sort their plastics and paper from the food waste," said Satih Jyoti, managing director, Hi Tech Equipments in Sharjah. Rubbish chutes were incorporated into residential buildings about 20 years ago. However the current basic shafts carry all types of waste together to a large rubbish container, often in the basement or a ‘rubbish room'. The rubbish can then be sorted at waste management plants. The problem lies in contaminated waste, said Jyoti. Getting liquids, juices, sauces or any food waste onto paper or cardboard reduces its value on the recyclables market. The cleaner the items, the better and easier they are to recycle. "Soiled materials are harder to sell to recyclers because they have to be cleaned, which costs more," he said. Having up to three chutes in a new building would cost approximately Dh11,000 per floor, said Jyoti. Another cheaper solution is to add a ‘diverter' to a single chute that directs waste in the basement to several trash bins, at a cost of Dh9000 per floor. Before throwing the rubbish down the chute, residents can choose what type of waste they are about to dump via easy to use buttons for paper, food or plastics for example. The diverter would position the chute above the correct trash bin and seal the chute on all other floors magnetically while it is in use. Hi Tech Equipments has already built a three-floor multiple chute system in the Pullman Hotel, Mall of the Emirates but up to five chutes can be incorporated into a building, said Jyoti. Until multiple chutes are made mandatory in residential and commercial towers, Dubai Municipality has announced that by September 4, industrial facilities, shopping centres and commercial towers must provide several bins to segregate recyclables from general waste. Plastic, metal cans, glass, paper and wood have to be separated from other waste. Non-compliance will result in fines.
Arabian cobra bred in captivity for first time
In a scientific breakthrough, the Arabian cobra has been bred in captivity for the first time in the world. Researchers at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (BCEAW), part of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), Government of Sharjah, have achieved this feat. A female cobra laid 19 eggs, which were placed by researchers in an incubator so as to monitor and collect the data on temperature, humidity and growth of embryos. After 59 days of monitoring, 16 babies were hatched from those eggs — something that happened in captivity for the first time in the world. Measuring up to two metres in length, the cobra is considered to be one of the largest venomous snakes in Arabia and is found in the highlands of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. The BCEAW's key objective is to breed this endangered wildlife creature.
However, its initiative also serves as a base for research into various types of mammals, reptiles, freshwater fish, amphibians and invertebrates which are commonly found in the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi Arabia: Top experts to take part in Solar Arabia
Top experts in the field of solar energy will take part in a key initiative to be held in Saudi Arabia in October. The Solar Arabia 2011 event will be held in Riyadh on Ocotber 23 and 24. The two days will see a range of industry experts discussing the future of Saudi Arabia in this field. Government officials, policy makers, business conglomerates and potential investors are attending the pioneering platform which is being co-organised by French business information group Naseba and King Saud University, Riyadh. With a target to generate 5 GW of solar-generated power by the year 2020, the government is trying to reduce the country’s dependence on crude oil and is investing at least $100 billion in clean energy over the next 10 years for the same, said a statement. Senior officials representing the Ministry of Water and Electricity, as well as the Saudi Electricity Company have extended their support for the summit which will facilitate strategic discussions in order to help the Kingdom achieve its goal, it said. In addition, leading global research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan has been announced as the ‘Official Growth Partner’ for the conference. “The Middle East is seeing huge interest in investment in renewable energy, and Saudi Arabia’s true potential is yet to be realised. The Solar Arabia platform will allow leading players to contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s alternative energy sector,” Nic Watson, managing director of sales and marketing, Naseba. Influential decision makers from prominent international solar energy companies are participating, and will showcase their technology and expertise. Those already confirmed as event sponsors include Alstom Power, Solairedirect, Sequel Power and Conergy. Senior representatives from ABB Group and Naizak Global Engineering Systems are also attending, to gain an insight into the Saudi’s solar energy sector and how they can contribute to its development, the statement said.
Back to Menu ============================================================= ENVIRONMENT NEWS FROM THE UN DAILY NEWS
10 August 2011
UN News Centre: Enhanced cooperation vital to protect forests from extreme weather – UN
9 August 2011
Several United Nations agencies and their partners are calling for greater cooperation to tackle the threat posed to the world’s forests from extreme weather events and natural disasters. Extreme weather events that greatly impact the health of forests include cyclones, floods, landslides, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – so-called “abiotic disturbances,” according to a news release issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is among 14 international bodies that form the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. “Disturbances are expected to continue to increase in intensity, quantity and frequency,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry and Chair of the Partnership. “Adaptive forest management involving all sectors and stakeholders is therefore essential to protect the world’s forest resources. And since such disturbances do not respect borders, regional or international cooperation is badly required,” he stated. According to the FAO report – “Abiotic disturbances and their influence on forest health” – almost 4,000 abiotic disturbances occurred between 2000 and 2009 worldwide, and recently they have also included man-made events such as radioactive contamination and oil spills. Examples of abiotic disturbances and their impacts on forests include: a major storm in Sweden in 2005, which uprooted or damaged trees in over 1.2 million hectares of forest, and Tropical Cyclone Sidr, which hit Bangladesh in 2007 and affected almost nine million people and damaged nearly 1.5 million houses and some four million trees. Another example is the 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in central Chile, which killed more than 700 people and caused up to $30 billion in economic losses to the country. To tackle the threat from such events, the partnership is calling on forest managers to apply forest policies such as diversifying species, using windbreaks and mixed cropping patterns to protect forests from disasters, minimizing the risks and impacts of extreme events. In November, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is scheduled to release a special report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. In advance of the report, the partnership is calling on forest managers to develop strategies to adapt to future drought events by reducing tree density to ease competition, selecting plants with improved drought resistance, and shifting from monoculture plantations to species-rich forests.
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ENVIRONMENT NEWS FROM THE S.G’s SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING 9 August 2011
UN News Centre: Secretary General urges strengthening of rights of indigenous peoples
• • • The United Nation is observing the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples today. On this day, the Secretary-General has urged for the strengthening of the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. He said that indigenous peoples are the custodians of a valuable and fastdisappearing cultural heritage. They must be supported to protect and develop their traditional knowledge, which benefits everybody. In the lead-up to a World Conference in 2014, the Secretary-General has also urged Member States to take concrete steps to address the challenges that indigenous people face and commit to ending the human rights abuses they encounter in many parts of the world.
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