Environment News from the UN Daily News of 14 October 2011
Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 13 October 2011
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News UNPO: Ogoni: UNEP Content With Air Study Despite Concerns 13 October 2011
The United Nations Environment Programme, which last month [date] released a report assessing the impact of oil spills in Shell's operating area in Ogoni land, has said it will only do follow-up work in the wake of its study at the request of the Nigerian government.
UNEP was reacting to a call by a pressure group calling for a separate investigation of air pollution by oil industry activities in Eleme council area of Rivers state.
The group, Asama Eleme Organisation, charged that UNEP's report on the region was "lopsided", focused mostly on on-site spills, and failed to consider air pollution.
Refineries, a petrochemical company and fertiliser plant, all sited in Eleme, continue to emit contaminants into the air on daily basis, said the organisation's coordinator Jonah Chujor.
In reaction to the claims, UNEP's chief of Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, Henrik Slotte, said, "air quality survey was part of UNEP's overall assessment and Eleme was included."
Slotte added, "Any follow-up work by UNEP, including as part of planning for the environmental restoration of Ogoniland, will be done at the request of the Government of Nigeria."
In an emailed response to Daily Trust Online, Slotte said all stakeholders, local communities, the oil firm Shell and federal government, reached agreement on technical details and what the scope of UNEP's investigation into oil spills in Shell's operational sites across four local government areas of Tai, Gokana, Khana and Eleme should be.
UNEP's report shows high concentration of benzene from petroleum activities in the region. It sampled for various volatile compounds, but focused its report on benzene, because it was "detected in both soil and groundwater investigations in Ogoniland."
Benzene is known to be carcinogenic--causing cancer. Its concentration ranged reached as low as 0.155 microgrammes per cubic-metre of air, but reached as high as 48.2 microgrammes per cubic-metre in some places.
Air quality standards set by WHO were used for comparison but the WHO does not recommend any safe concentration of benzene in the air since the compound is a genotoxic carcinogen--able to cause cancer and alter DNA molecules, inducing mutations.
The highest concentration of benzene on WHO's guidelines is 17 microgrammes per cubic-metre, corresponding to a 1-in-10,000 risk of excess lifetime cancer. Guidelines by the US Environmental Protection Agency uses a threshold between 13 and 45 for the same level of risk.
But UNEP reported that some 10% of samples it studied showed concentrations of benzene higher than thresholds set in both WHO and USEPA guidelines.
It also said nearly all were higher than the concentrations corresponding to a 1-in-1,000,000 cancer risk.
The UNEP also measured concentration of respirable particulate matter, generated when oil burns.
The contaminants have been linked to significant to significant health problems, such as aggravated asthma and premature death in people with lung and heart disease, according to the UNEP report, though they are not the consequence of oil spills.
WHO uses the lowest concentration possible as guidelines since there is uncertainty regarding what extent can have adverse health effects.
UNEP investigators measured two categories of contaminants--particulates smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter and those smaller than 10 micrometres--over one-hour periods and compared them to WHO averages for 24-hour periods.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Environmental Expert (USA): Financing a sustainable future - is the financial community listening 13 October 2011
The global financial system is still recovering from the near collapse of the international banking system and major economic upheavals that have brought several countries to the brink of insolvency.
Investor confidence in many sectors has been profoundly shaken, contributing to forced closures and takeovers of many industry giants in the automotive and manufacturing sectors.
The unprecedented occupation of Wall Street that began in September is becoming a nation-wide expression of frustration over perceived failings of established financial institutions.
Is the financial community listening?
'The financial services community has many serious lessons to learn and internalize in the wake of the shocking destruction of value resulting from the recent financial market crisis', states Paul Clements-Hunt, Head of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
Even though the aftershocks of that crisis are still being felt, he notes, there is another finance and capital market story to tell - essentially a positive narrative that must be told collectively in the run up to, during, and following the UN's Rio+20 Conference.
That narrative is that the global banking, insurance, and investment communities are becoming more active in the fields of sustainable finance and responsible investment.
Indeed, at the upcoming UNEP FI Global Roundtable taking place in Washington D.C., October 19-20, 2011, the case can be made that
the decades-long discussion over sustainable finance is paying off, that sustainability is finally becoming part of mainstream business and policy-making. The tipping point, in other words, has been crossed, and there is no turning back. (See 'The Tipping Point: Sustained stability in the next economy')
Still, it is an unfolding story as the relationships between sustainable development, investment financing, capital markets, and the green economy are undergoing profound, and some would argue, irreversible changes.
For example, risk reduction has become a major preoccupation of the financial, banking, and insurance sectors, particularly in the wake of recent devastating climate and weather related disasters and overall uncertainty in capital markets.
Financial institutions, venture capital firms, and governments recognize the bottom line benefits of risk avoidance and responsible investment strategies are increasingly focused on job-creating green projects and clean technology.
The insurance industry, in particular, in anticipation of corporate needs for access to capital and investment financing, is providing new products and services that help address risk reduction and emerging sustainability issues.
But these measures often come at a higher cost and this is affecting the pace of clean technology deployment.
Investments in renewable energy technologies have been the one bright light in an otherwise dark and financially troubled global marketplace over the past decade.
Bolstered in part by recovery spending programs of major industrialized economies, there has been a marked increase in clean energy investments, with China the clear leader in terms of the scope of technology development and deployment. (See 'Global Clean Technology Investment Continues to Rise')
However, the widespread global deployment of renewable energy will require the development of creative financing mechanisms to fund green projects and clean technology ventures and doing away with systemic impediments to technology innovation and commercialization.
Some leaders say new financing structures, such as public-private partnerships, are required to unlock clean energy investment and to stimulate economic growth.
Clean technologies are finding capital, but the pace of market forces that foster widespread adoption is producing change at a rate far below what is required for the material job growth and carbon remediation that industrial and developing nations are seeking.
Discussions now underway at the UN are looking at new measures to narrow the gap between the risks that the private sector can afford in deploying new technologies and the rates of deployment needed to meet the global growth targets.
These are among the many issues about financing a sustainable future that will be the subject of intense discussion at GLOBE 2012, taking place in Vancouver, Canada, March 14-16, 2012.
In partnership with UNEP FI, GLOBE 2012 will unite experts from global financial institutions, investment firms, and governments to explore the relationship between sustainable development and finance, with a focus on regulation and policy, capital markets, clean technology development and deployment, and responsible investment.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Guardian (UK): Leading NGOs lobby for guidelines to protect 'land grab' victims 14 October 2011
Victims of "land grabbing" have joined 800 of the world's leading environment and development groups to press the UN to establish strong guidelines to protect communities affected by large-scale land investments.
Countries meeting at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome this week are due to adopt a voluntary code on 17 October in response to growing alarm about the scale of international investments being made in poor countries, and the alleged human rights abuses that have followed.
La Via Campesina, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth International and more than 800 other organisations presented a petition against land grabbing to the chair of the FAO's committee on world food security.
"Mounting evidence shows that land grabbing violates human rights and is placing the survival of billions in peril, while corporations and private interests reap the benefits. We urgently need governments to oppose land grabs. They must instead enforce binding human rights instruments and take responsibility for their companies' actions abroad," said Friends of the Earth International's food sovereignty co-ordinator, Kirtana Chandrasekaran. "Ensuring communities access to land and investing in local small-scale food producers is essential to feed the world sustainably in the future."
The EU is leading calls for human rights to be emphasised in the guidelines, but observers said the US was resisting attempts to place too many conditions on large-scale acquisitions.
Faliry Boly, secretary general of Sexagon, a peasant organisation in Mali, said: "Agribusiness projects such as the ones comprising thousands of hectares in the Office du Niger, Mali, do great harm and are profoundly illegitimate. We call on parliaments and national governments to immediately cease all massive land grabs current or future and return the plundered land."
The meetings to establish voluntary guidelines take place as a new United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) analysis paper shows that British companies are the third largest investors after China and Saudi Arabia buying, or leasing, more than 1m hectares of land in Ethiopia, Angola, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Ukraine and Sierra Leone. China has acquired 6.5m hectares, and Saudi Arabia 5.5m.
The paper, from the Unep's global environmental alert service, attributes the rush for land partly to a lack of water in some countries. "The desire to capture water resources to irrigate farmlands has motivated the rush for land," it says. "Middle Eastern states are among the biggest land investors in Africa, driven not by a lack of land, but a lack of water. Between 2004 and 2009 Saudi Arabia leased 376,000 hectares of land in Sudan to grow wheat and rice following declining underground domestic water. China and India have leased thousands of hectares of farmland in Ethiopia; both countries have well-developed irrigation systems but, in the case of China, for example, moving water from the water-rich south to northern China is likely to cost more than leasing land in Africa."
The paper also outlines the potential ecological consequences of large-scale farming and growing biofuel crops. "Monoculture has been widely accepted as the most efficient type of large-scale agriculture," it says. "High yields may result, at least for a time, but growing one crop, such as biofuels, over a large area for several years has a number of negative environmental impacts. Studies in Malaysia and Indonesia have shown that 80%-100% of fauna species in tropical rainforests cannot survive in oil-palm monocultures due to increased pressures from various crop diseases and pests, often requiring large-scale use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. In addition, increased fertiliser use to safeguard crop yield may increase pollutant levels in downstream waters and nitrous oxide emissions.
"Semi-mechanised sorghum and sesame production in Sudan illustrates the risks of large-scale farming and holds lessons for current investors. In an agro-ecological environment comparable to Australia, where yields are four tonnes per hectare, sorghum yields are only 0.5 tonnes per hectare and have been stagnant or declining."
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ World Resources Institute (USA): ADVISORY: Press Teleconference on Decision Making in a Changing Climate 13 October 2011
Global Partners to Launch Major New Report on Climate Adaptation
In the face of extreme weather events and other environmental changes related to climate change, international partners are releasing: Decision Making in a Changing Climate, the latest edition of the World Resources Report. The report, by the World Resources Institute, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, focuses on climate change adaptation and decisions by national leaders with a focus on developing countries. The report will be launched via a press teleconference on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. ET.
From massive droughts in the Horn of Africa to record rainfall in the United States to wildfires in Brazil demonstrate, the world is witnessing the types of challenges national leaders face in adapting to climate change. According to global insurance company, Munich Re, there were more than 950 natural disasters in 2010, 90 percent of which were weather-related, costing a total of at least $130 billion.
The report draws on real-world case studies from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mali, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Vietnam.
The press call is open to international media and will feature remarks and a two-way Q&A session with media.
Launch of the World Resources Report 2010-2011: Decision Making in a Changing Climate
Manish Bapna, Interim President, World Resources Institute
Olav Kjorven, Director of the Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP
Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change, World Bank Group (from South Africa)
Kaveh Zahedi, Coordinator, Climate Change Program, UNEP
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
9:00 a.m. ET
Note: Media should call-in 5-10 minutes prior to the start time
To participate, media should dial:
United States: (888) 942-9261
International: + (415) 228-4959
Conference code: WRR
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Malibu Patch (USA): Malibu City Council Passes Landmark Resolution 13 October 2011
he Malibu City Council passed a landmark resolution Monday for the reduction, stewardship and supporting efforts to reduce sources of anthropogenic mercury worldwide.
The environmental toxin, the effects of which can be compared to lead poisoning, is in many commonly used products today, including dental amalgam fillings and fluorescent light bulbs.
Mayor John Sibert, a former chemistry professor at Yale University and the California Institute of Technology, sponsored the resolution as a response to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) suggestion that cities take an official position in the phase-out or global ban of mercury. The coastal community is only the third city in the U.S. to have taken such a stance.
“It is a major environmental issue that is below the radar for most people,” Sibert told Malibu Patch. “By passing this type of resolution we are hoping to raise awareness of the issue.”
He said he sponsored the resolution with the hopes of sending a signal to other legislating bodies, including the United Nations and other cities that are concerned with the toxic effects of mercury in the environment.
When anthropogenic or human-released inorganic mercury ends up in landfills – which are abundant with methane producing anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive in environments with no oxygen) – a process or reaction between the two converts mercury to methylmercury, said Sibert.
Methylmercury is the most toxic form of the liquid metal, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A good example of the toxic impact of methylmercury poisoning is Minimata dissease, said Sibert. The dissease is named after an occurence of methylmercury poisoning among a portion of the population in Minimata, Japan. See attached video to learn more about the Minimata incident. WARNING: The video contains graphic images which some may find disturbing.
Sibert, who has been studying how Mercury moves though the environment since he was at Yale, said he doesn't believe local governments should tell dentists or other professionals who may use mercury-based products how to do their jobs. However, he said governments should provide the public the means to properly dispose of the toxin.
He said he hopes the city will provide venues to eduate the public and make a point that will resonate across the country.
Most at risk to the adverse effects of the neurotoxin are fetuses, infants and children, and the main impact of methylmercury to one's health is impaired neurological development, according to the EPA.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Afrique en ligne: Environment-Nigeria: How banks tackle environmental degradation 13 October 2011
Banks tackle environmental degradation - As Nigerian banks moves to revolutionize environmental conservation through lending, our correspondent examines the initiative. The war against environment degradation is set to witness a revolution in Nigeria. Fighting for the integrity of the ecosystem would no longer be the preserve of environmentalists, civil society groups, government departments and agencies.
Nigerian banks too are taking a walk from just doing core banking businesses to make a bold commitment to preserve the environment. In unambiguous terms the banks have said; going forward, we will stop lending to firms that destroy the environment with their operations. We will not lend to firms that do not protect the integrity of the ecosystem in their operations. The banks are saying if you want the funding lines to remain open, you must change your operations to be more environmentally friendly. This statement is simple but bold and profound.
This formed core of a 3 days symposium (September 7 and 9, 2011)in Lagos on sustainable finance sponsored by Access Bank, in partnership withthe Netherlands Development Bank (FMO), the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) with support from International Finance Corporation, UNDP, Chartered Institute of Bankers among others.
Though this commitment has been previously subtly promoted by Access Bank, several other Nigerian banks are joining the pack.
The symposium tagged Nigeria Sustainable Finance week had bankers, government environment officials, risk managers, agricultural researchers, investment analysts and UN advisors attending. It climaxed with a CEO round table with the CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi attending and commenting.
The conference discussed the trends, opportunities, challenges and best practices in the fields of finance and sustainability, with a particular focus on the social and environmental issues in Nigeria.
It also featured high level discussions on Sustainable finance, with a focus on incorporating environmental exigencies into risks financing; agriculture financing; new trends in financing environmental issues; emerging business opportunities in global carbon trading and carbon credit offset investments inAfrica.
Participants agreed other banks in Nigeria, like Access Bank have done, should subscribe to the Equator Principles in lending.
The Equator Principles (EPs) are a credit risk management framework for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in project finance transactions. Project finance is often used to fund the development and construction of major infrastructure and industrial projects. The EPs are adopted voluntarily by financial institutions and are applied where total project capital costs exceed US$10 million (N1.6 billion). The EPs are primarily intended to provide a minimum standard for due diligence to support responsible risk decision-making.
Different markets can develop their rules based on their environment but bearing in mind the spirit of the convention.
Signatories to this commitment included Access Bank Plc, Citibank Nigeria Limited, Diamond Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, GTBank Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank Limited and Zenith Bank Plc with Nigeria's central bank governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi witnessing.
Thus at the conference a working group was constituted to immediately commence the work on the agreed initiatives. Members of the working group are Access Bank, Diamond Bank, GTBank, Standard Chartered Bank, Citibank and Zenith Bank. The working group will work in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) and develop ways on how sustainable financing can be driven in Nigeria.
The Sustainability Working Group will function on the platform of the Banker's Committee's Economic Development sub-committee led by Access Bank's Group Managing Director/CEO, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said shortly after witnessing the signing that "We need to understand that as an industry, we will not continue to take savings and deposits from Nigerians and then lend to companies that will use the funds to destroy the environment. The long term survival of the system depends on the protection of the ecosystem."
"The banking industry will now start setting standards and foundations for protecting the environment and ecosystem in our lending; we are going to play an advocacy role to make sure that government takes the environment very seriously and confront the vested interest that are bent on destroying the environment" he concluded.
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, GMD/CEO, Access Bank said that "going forward companies that deplete the environment in their operations would need to change the way they do things if they want to continue to get financing and we want the entirety of Nigerian banking sectors to take that position."
Recounted the atmosphere in the CEOs round table thus; "in our meetings with the CEOs, we had an intellectual discussion and we had frank discussions. I saw passion, I saw buying into sustainable financing, I saw collaboration, I saw understanding, I saw courage, I saw people speak with the courage to do things, and I saw urgency that exceeded my expectation."
He explained that Access Bank had embarked on a sustainability journey some five years ago. "I don't look at it as a campaign, it is a way of life; how Access Bank conducts and run its business with the society in mind, with doing good in mind and with a believe that we are more than just a bank. We are a responsible corporate citizen that is expected to add value to the environment" he noted.
"We've been journeying alone with support of certain development finance institutions, but we need much more people on this train. This is the clarion call to the banking industry. Access Bank can be the catalysts but the entire banking industry would be driving it" he explained.
FMO CEO Nanno Kleiterp with the commitment Nigerian banks have recognised that they are not in a competition but to join forces, on the economic development in Nigeria. "I have been impressed with the commitment of the banks, the regulator, in fact the entire financial sector, to promote sustainable development and to create local standards which are adequate for Nigeria. The learning principles are international principles that Nigeria has to adopt based on its circumstances" he said.
Meanwhile industry watchers are baring their minds on the new thinking by Nigerian banks. Moses Awuhe, a public affairs analyst said that going green is the best way now and Nigerians should support it. "The issue here is sustainable development. The banks have taken the right step in the right direction. I am not a finance expert but I do understand the issues around going green and sustainable development. Financing therefore has a very key role to play" he said adding that he is happy the "banks are blazing the trail in this direction. Your information is a wakeup call for us all. We really have no choice."
Terseer has a more critical view. He noted that "while going green is obviously the way to go, this new approach by the banks might not yield the desired result. Firstly, the banks themselves cannot be said to be going green. Their offices still burn tonnes of diesel annually, releasing GHG into the atmosphere."
"Secondly, how will the banks measure the environmental impact of businesses? They are not specialists in this and their decision will at best be subjective. More so in an economy where credit is already very difficult to obtain, this will be another reason for our loan shy banks not to give loans" he said.
To him, he "will rather we strenghten our environmental regulatory agencies and leave out lending to be a strictly business decision made by the banks. After all, the US refused to sign the Kyoto convention."
But one thing is certain; the Nigeria financial space will never remain the same again with this new initiative.
Back to Menu