The environment in the news friday, 14 October 2011



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Yonhap News Agency (S. Korea):Gwangju successfully hosts environment summit
14 October 2011
The Gwangju metropolitan government successfully hosted a three-day global urban environment summit, the biggest international gathering to date for the southwestern city, which came to a close this week, organizers said Friday.
The 2011 Gwangju Summit of the Urban Environmental Accords (UEA), hosted by the Gwangju metropolitan government, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the U.S. city of San Francisco, came to a close on Thursday in the city about 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
"This summit is meaningful as it was the place to reaffirm values such as sustainable development and coexistence been the environment and humans," Cheong Sang-hwoi, public relations manager of the organizing committee, said. "Most of all, the summit marked a milestone for Gwangju as an eco-friendly city."
The four-day summit, under the theme "Green City, Better City," brought together representatives from nearly 130 cities and international organizations.
A total of 115 cities, including Curitiba, Brazil, and Barcelona, Spain, joined for the event, with a record number of foreign officials and mayors discussing the future of the global environment. Mayors from 23 different cities and deputy mayors from 11 cities attended.
The 115 cities are comprised of 52 from Asia, 37 from South Korea, 12 from Europe, six from Africa, six from North and South America, and two from Oceania.
A dozen international organizations, including UN-Habitat; the World Bank; and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, also participated as sponsors.
In addition, a handful of well-known officials and activists joined the panel of keynote speakers during the summit. They include Achim Steiner, executive director of the UNEP; Joan Clos, executive director of U.N.-Habitat; and Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown.
Most of all, the participants praised the Gwangju government for its smooth operation of the event, along with perks such as eco-friendly amenities provided for use at participants' accommodations.
The summit delved into two major topics: developing a system to evaluate environmental policies and trying to revive a previous effort to set up an emissions trading framework.
Summit attendees developed a practical and universal index to evaluate cities' eco-friendly policies. The existing standards have been considered either outdated or too similar for developed and developing countries.
Also, the summit set up a framework for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as part of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A joint study with the UNEP has been under way since 2007.
The CDM was created under the Kyoto Protocol as one of several ways to facilitate carbon trading in an effort to get cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The 1997 protocol obliges nearly 40 developed countries to reduce their emissions over a five-year period through the end of 2012 by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels.
But the CDM has not led to a functional carbon trading system, and so summit attendees discussed the agreement and hammered out a new framework for emissions trading.
Meanwhile, the Gwangju metropolitan government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with nine different cities, including San Antonio of the United States and Maputo of Mozambique, to spread the use of its "carbon bank" policy. Under the deal, partner cities are to adopt Gwangju's so-called "carbon bank" policy, a reflection of Gwangju's unique environment policies that other international cities can use as a benchmark.
Enacted in 2008 by the Gwangju regional government, this unique policy provides households with points for reducing carbon emissions that can be exchanged for cash. The government awards carbon points based on the amount of a household's monthly reductions in electricity, gas and water usage. Nearly half of the households in Gwangju were participating in the program as of August.
Also, a handful of regional companies that produce renewable energy and eco-friendly products have inked MOUs worth 11.2 million won to export their products, contributing to boosting the local economy.
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allAfrica.com: Entries Open for 2011 UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award
13 October 2011
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is pleased to open entries for the 2011 UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award.
Following the successful launch of the competition last year, African journalists between 21 and 35 years, who are based on the continent and working for local, regional or international media organizations, are once again encouraged to apply.
Journalists entering the award may submit one radio, television, print or online report (in English or French) on an environmental issue.
The prize is an all-expenses-paid study visit to the USA, where the winner will follow a specially-designed "green itinerary", interacting with leading environmental projects, green economy projects, scientists and public figures.
Last year's UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award winner, radio journalist Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe from Uganda, is currently in the United States completing her study tour.
Visiting Washington DC, Seattle and Miami, Patricia will be meeting and working with Voice of America, National Public Radio, National Geographic and a host of other media organisations and environmental groups.
You can read about her experiences as the 2010 YEJA winner on her US blog, 'Patricia on the Road', at www.unep.org/yeja
Applications for the 2011 UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award can be made online at www.unep.org/yeja until 5pm (Nairobi time) on 16 December 2011.
Written articles must not exceed 3000 words and radio or television reports should be no longer than six minutes. The report must have been published or broadcast between 1 January and 31 December 2011.
Over 120 entries from 24 African countries were received for last year's award. The diverse subject matter covered by journalists included the role of traditional 'medicine men' in protecting biodiversity in Kenya, the need for improved sanitation in communities in Nigeria and the impact of climate change on weather patterns in Togo.
Among other criteria, judges for the 2011 UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award will assess entries on the strength of their environmental component, newsworthiness, originality, scientific accuracy, and relevance to local or regional communities in Africa.
The award is made possible through funding support from the Government of the United States of America.
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China dialogue (China): Why nuclear matters for China
13 October 2011
China must strive to become a major economic power, a developed nation and, as part of that, an even bigger manufacturer. To be any of these things, it must also be a major producer of energy or, more precisely, electricity.
In 2010, China generated 4.1413 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity, narrowly surpassing the United States by this measure for the first time. But in efficacy of that supply, it still lags behind. If China wants to reach the heights of US gross domestic product, it must generate 2.5 times as much electricity. This is a massive challenge for everyone working in China’s electricity-generation sector.
I believe energy should be divided into two categories: stable and unstable. Stable energy means that voltage and capacity are steady and supply to industry can be guaranteed. The first four months of 2011 saw a 12% rise in industrial energy use in mainland China on the same period last year. In those same four months, hydropower generation was down 20% due to lower water levels, and so we can hardly count hydropower as a stable energy source. Nor can we put wind and biofuels in this category. Strictly speaking, there are only two kinds of stable energy: thermal power and nuclear power. With both of these, we are able precisely to control the voltage and quantity of electricity generated.
If China wants its economy to keep expanding, it needs to make sure it has an effective and efficient energy supply. But how should that supply be generated? Let’s compare the merits of coal and nuclear, starting with their environmental impact.
A one-gigawatt nuclear-power plant needs only 20 to 30 tonnes of fuel a year, which can be easily moved by truck. A coal plant of the same generating capacity burns two to three million tonnes of coal annually – about 100 train-wagons worth a day. And that coal plant will produce 200,000 tonnes of coal ash a year, as well as releasing into the atmosphere large quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulates, causing global warming and acid rain. The contribution of nuclear power to greenhouse-gas emissions, meanwhile, is very small: United Nations Environment Programme figures from 2000 estimate total emissions of carbon-dioxide equivalent for nuclear power are around 39 grams per kilowatt hour.
Two hundred thousand tonnes of coal ash contains 400 tonnes of heavy metals (such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury) plus a small quantity of radioactive substances (such as uranium, thorium and radium). Although the radiation emitted by these is within the scope of background radiation, it is still higher than that produced by a nuclear power plant in normal operating circumstances.
Another important point of comparison is worker safety. Director of the State Administration of Work Safety Li Yizhong said in a report on labour conditions in China that the production of one million tonnes of coal results in three deaths – in the United States, the figure is 0.03, and in Poland and South Africa 0.3. Estimates for the number of deaths in Chinese coal-mining accidents between 2000 and 2005, cover a range between 5,700 and 6,900.
Since it started using nuclear as an energy source, the world has seen three major nuclear accidents: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Although the casualties of these events were much lower than those caused by mining disasters through the ages, the lessons and losses should not be underestimated. Even so, humanity has not, and should not halt the development of nuclear-power technology. The answer is rather to strive to improve standards.
We can also make an economic comparison between the different energy sources. The cost of constructing nuclear-power stations is indeed high. But operating costs are two thirds lower than those for coal. Generally speaking, nuclear-power plants earn back their construction costs after one decade, while they also have a longer lifespan than coal-burning plants.
The Daya Bay Phase 1 reactor in south China’s Guangdong province, for example, has a designed lifespan of 40 years: with construction costs recovered in the first decade, the money earned in the following 30 years will be largely profit. New reactors being built in China have a lifespan of 60 years, so have a further economic advantage.
I made a table comparing the costs of nuclear and coal power in 12 nations. On average, one kilowatt-hour of nuclear-generated electricity costs 5.13 US cents to generate, 2.6 US cents less than the same amount of power from burning coal. Over the 40-year lifespan of a reactor, that’s a total saving of more than US$7.8 billion (49.8 billion yuan), or US$11.7 billion (74.6 billion yuan) over a 60-year lifespan.
On the impact of construction and installation on nuclear-power costs, partly as a result of extra safety provisions and environmental-protection requirements placed on nuclear plants, construction costs are higher than in regular infrastructure schemes. Moreover, the 28 reactors that China is building now all started construction after 2005, when inflation began to rise again after a five-year flat period, and building costs are expected to be higher as a result.
Experience suggests that construction and reactor installation typically amount to around 30% of the total cost of a nuclear plant. Research by Geoffery Rothwell, senior lecturer in the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research indicates that, in the United States, the cost of nuclear-power construction is currently somewhere between US$3,318 (21,100 yuan) and US$5,000 (31,900 yuan) per kilowatt hour, and rising.
However, while rising construction costs are bound to increase the overall price tag of a reactor, in China, this is unlikely to be by too wide a margin. Chinese nuclear-power plants are now built entirely by domestic teams, and as working techniques, technology and management improve, construction costs will fall. In China, I believe construction costs of US$2,500 (15,900 yuan) per kilowatt hour are a reasonable expectation.
Gigawatt-scale reactors already completed or under construction in China are being built according to foreign-owned designs, and a large proportion of the equipment and materials are shipped in from overseas. There is nothing China can do to improve prices in these areas. The element that China has managed to gain expertise in is construction. Over the past 30 years, China’s nuclear-construction personnel have been steadily gaining experience, and the technical abilities fostered in that process guarantee that China can safely and efficiently develop its nuclear-power sector.
The cost of this labour is lower than in any other nation able to provide nuclear design, equipment and materials, reducing the capital required to build a plant, and helping to boost China’s nuclear development capabilities. In construction of the Taishan Phase Three plant in Guangdong province, for example, a China Nuclear Engineering Group subsidiary used experience gained in earlier phases to innovate in both management and technology, using advanced construction techniques and, remarkably, completing the project three months ahead of schedule, saving the project owner 1.17 billion yuan (US$183 million).
China is currently researching and developing its own proprietary nuclear-power plant designs, which will be complete in about five years. The country has invested heavily in the four major nuclear power manufacturing groups. If key equipment can be produced domestically, then the costs of construction could fall by a further US$100 from the US$2,500 per kilowatt hour I predicted earlier.
On March 11 this year, a natural disaster beyond all predictions triggered a radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant in eastern Japan, prompting nations worldwide to re-examine their own nuclear facilities.
China’s State Council called a temporary halt to approvals of new nuclear plants pending a safety review, demonstrating it recognises the great responsibility that comes with being a nuclear power. Germany and Switzerland, meanwhile, both announced plans to close all their nuclear plants in the next two decades.
But the fact remains that we need energy, and we need energy that’s clean and safe. If we can learn the lessons of previous nuclear disasters, continually improve the standard of design, manufacturing and construction, value safety and build secure nuclear plants, then nuclear energy is the inevitable choice for China and the world.
Mi Sen is deputy director of administration at China Nuclear Engineering Group and director of its Shanghai office. Mi has worked in the nuclear industry since 1997.
This article is adapted from a June 23 speech given at the conference Nuclear Energy and Climate Change: Solutions and Challenges.
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Business Ghana (Ghana): Adopt a more positive attitude towards the environment –Vice Chancellor
14 October 2011
Professor Dr Dr Daniel Bour, the Vice Chancellor of Valley View University (VVU), on Wednesday called on Ghanaians to adopt a more positive attitude towards the environment as it was fundamental to human survival.
Professor Dr Dr Bour made the call during a public discussion on the state of the environment, organized by VVU and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation, a German organisation which promotes good governance worldwide.
He called on policy makers to give more attention to the protection of the environment in their development planning as it was central to the socio-economic growth of every country.
“Environmental issues are central pivotal to the development and the perpetuation of the human race. They therefore need to assume central stage in development planning”.
He said the environment was seriously threatened especially in developing countries due to the inability to replace exploited resources because of weak technological platforms.
“Global environment keeps degrading; a deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water, soil and the destruction of the ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife,” he said.
He called for efforts in the fight against global climate change, deforestation, poor energy use as they were seriously militating against the environment.
Professor Dr Dr Bour appealed to developed countries that had taken entrenched positions on the need to protect the environment to soften their stands and sign unto protocols on climate change.
He expressed regret at the continuous destruction of the environment despite efforts world bodies to ensure their protection and sustenance.
“Despite efforts by the World Resource Institute, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, it is quite disheartening that people are still degrading the environment to the suffering of the masses”.
Speaking on the Ghanaian perspective of the state of the environment, Dr Charles Gyansa-Easmon, Environmental Consultant, lauded Ghana for adopting a mixed-model environmental policy which is largely in compliance with international conventions.
He praised the government for formulating a buffer zone policy with the intent to protect, regenerate and maintain established vegetation in Riparian buffer zones to improve water quality.
“The policy serves to clarify the requirements for water quality and to outline a national policy on buffer zones as part of managing Ghana’s river basins in an integrated manner”, he said.
A Riparian buffer zone encompasses undisturbed native strips of vegetation either original or established that borders streams and rivers, ponds and lakes and wetlands.
Madam Katherina Reiche, German Deputy Minister of Environment noted that due to Germany’s concern for the environment it had formulated guidelines which would ensure environmentally sound, reliable and affordable energy supply up to 2050.
“Our aim is to provide long term orientation while at the same time preserving the flexibility required for new technical and economic developments”.
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Prevention Web: SEI to work with UN on disaster risk and vulnerability
13 October 2011
As UN promotes International Day for Disaster Reduction, SEI to supply revised and improved guidance for assessing climate risk and vulnerability
According to the UN, disaster risk reduction is about understanding the personal and environmental risks of events like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and landslides, and finding ways to reduce these risks and to bounce back quickly if they hit.
Climate change adds to the risk people face from disasters. To effectively respond to climate change impacts, risk and vulnerability must be properly assessed. There are many tools and methods that could be applied, but there is a lack of clear guidance and it has become difficult to see the forest for the trees. Academic and political debate about priorities for assessment adds to the confusion.
In partnership with the UN, SEI will cut through the thicket of information to meet the strong demand for clear guidance on risk and vulnerability assessment at local, national and international levels.
As part of the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA), led by the UN Environment Programme, SEI leads the revision and improvement of existing guidance to produce an informative, non-prescriptive handbook for decision-makers and adaptation practitioners – a one-stop resource on assessing vulnerability to climate change impacts and available approaches to risk assessment.
The guidance will be available in time for COP18 in 2012.
PROVIA leader Richard Klein said, ‘Aside from the academic interest in assessing climate risk and vulnerability, the preparation of the guidance is of great political significance. Assessments of climate risk and vulnerability will be used, among other things, to set priorities for financial support to the most vulnerable countries and communities. The guidance we prepare should ensure that these assessments are based on the latest and most rigorous scientific knowledge.’
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Other Environment News
UN News Centre: UN meeting on desertification discusses effective approach to land management
13 October 2011
Experts attending a United Nations conference in the Republic of Korea on reversing desertification today focused their attention on the “landcare approach” to sustainable land management, a community-based way designed to improve people’s livelihoods while protecting natural resources.
“Landcare provides a sound, knowledge-based approach from the bottom up,” said Luc Gnacadja, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), whose Parties are attending its 10th session in Changwon, Republic of Korea.
“We must take action in order to fight desertification, land degradation and drought with a bottom up approach, otherwise we miss meeting important international targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said.
Dennis Garrity, Landcare International Chair and recently designated UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, told the gathering that “what people are doing on the ground is what it’s all about.”
“Landcare is all about grassroots support for land restoration and land regeneration, and that’s what makes it so valuable for the UNCCD, because we’ve learned over the years that bottom-up approaches of communities taking charge of their environment, grappling with their problems, and drawing in support from outside is the key to land regeneration throughout the world.”
Experts from Australia, Iceland, South Africa and the United States discussed the challenges and successes they have witnessed in the landcare approach.
Terry Hubbard and Horrie Poussard of the Australian Landcare International described a project to restore the King Parrot Creek area of Victoria that had seen an increase in soil erosion and loss of native plants and wildlife. Local landowners and others collectively began restorative efforts by volunteering their time and knowledge and saw significant improvements over several years.
For every one Australian dollar invested in landcare, there was a seven-fold benefit, said Michelle Lauder of Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The figure was based on calculations of volunteer efforts compared to the cost of paying workers and buying equipment.
Hafdís Hanna Aegistóttir, the Director of the Iceland-based UN University Land Restoration Training Programme, described efforts in that country to restore degraded land and noted that landcare may help Iceland to become a carbon-neutral country.
Describing the burgeoning landcare movement in the United States, Jeff Herrick of the US Department of Agriculture reiterated the importance volunteerism to conservation.
Richard Selemela, the Director of Natural Resource Management in South Africa, spoke of the significance of building landcare programmes to help meet the MDGs, the internationally agreed targets to eradicate extreme poverty and boost development in poorer countries by 2015.
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UN News Centre: As disasters increase, risk reduction should a be a concern for all – UN chief
13 October 2011
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed that disaster risk reduction should be a daily concern for everyone, noting that vulnerability to catastrophes is growing faster than the world’s capacity to strengthen resilience, as evidenced by the devastation wrought by the recent series of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts.
“The good news is that some countries have shown how to reduce risk from floods and cyclones,” Mr. Ban said in his message to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction, which is observed today. “Investments in early warning and other measures are paying dividends.”
The message is clear: Disaster risk reduction should be an everyday concern for everybody. Let us all invest today for a safer tomorrow.
To mark the Day, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and its partners invited children and young people to “Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction,” saying they were the groups most affected by disasters.
An estimated 100 million young people are affected by reported disasters each year and thousands of them are killed and injured.
“We know from many courageous stories which emerge post-disaster that young people are not passive victims of events beyond their control,” said Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of UNISDR.
“Around the world we have seen the evidence that young people are quick to respond to tragic events,” she said in her message. “There is ample evidence that wherever young people are empowered with information and skills training, they are important actors in disaster management and have a keen eye for where risk can be reduced in the community.”
In Nepal, for example, schoolchildren are taught the basics of building homes safely, while risk reduction and climate change adaptation activities involving children in Cuba are now being emulated in other parts of the world.
Recently, more than 600 young boys and girls in Africa, Asia and Latin America developed a Children’s Charter to reduce disaster risk, Mr. Ban pointed out.
At events across the around the world today, and in the next 12 months, UNISDR will work with its partners – the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Plan, Save the Children and World Vision – To promote the new Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction.
In the Charter, children identified five priorities to strengthen resilience in the face of disasters:
* Schools must be safe and education must not be interrupted;

* Child protection must be a priority before, during and after a disaster to avoid threats such as child labour and trafficking;

* Children have the right to participate and to access the information they need in order to protect their communities as well as themselves from disaster risks and climate change;

* Special attention must be paid to those who are more vulnerable due to disability, age, gender, location and social status.


“The message is clear: Disaster risk reduction should be an everyday concern for everybody. Let us all invest today for a safer tomorrow,” said the Secretary-General.
According to UNISDR, risk reduction includes disciplines such as disaster management, mitigation and preparedness. It is also crucial for sustainable development.
According to this year’s issue of the UNISDR Global Assessment Report, the proportion of the population living in flood-prone river basins has risen by 114 per cent over the last 30 years and those living on cyclone-exposed coastlines by 192 per cent.
It points outs that, more than half the world’s large cities, with populations ranging from two to 15 million, are located in areas at high risk of seismic activity.
Meanwhile, more than 50 children from 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region met in Bangkok today to mark the Day and discuss how they can play a more active role in preventing disasters.
Co-organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Committee on Disaster Management, the Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, the ASEAN Secretariat, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Asia Pacific Regional Office of UNISDR and other partners, the event highlighted the vital role that children can play in reducing disaster impacts.
“As we have seen in recent days in the newspapers, on television, or with our own eyes on the streets and fields around us, disasters disrupt the lives of millions of children, threatening their rights and their needs,” said Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia (ESCAP).
“Children and young people are particularly vulnerable. An estimated 66 million children are affected by disasters every year, and their vulnerability is expected to increase,” said Dr. Heyzer.
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9 News (USA): Energy, food security to dominate Rio + 20
14 October 2011
Boosting energy efficiency and renewables and providing food for a future world of eight billion will dominate next year's UN Rio+20 conference, the talks' co-coordinator said on Thursday.
The June 4-6 event in Rio de Janeiro is taking place 20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit that set down UN conventions for protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change.
In a meeting with journalists in Paris, envoy Brice Lalonde, a former French ecology minister, said nextyear's event "will probably confirm the principles of Rio".
But, he indicated it would not launch any top-down projects on a similar horizon-scanning scale.
"(The year) 1992 was just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, so the geopolitical situation was different compared with today," said Lalonde, saying many countries today fretted about their budgets and prospects for growth.
As a result, the focus in Rio will be on the "green economy" and on practical work to spur sustainable development, he said.
"At the top of the list is energy, which of course is the key for addressing climate change," Lalonde said.
The conference could endorse pledges to provide universal access to energy, halve "energy intensity" and double the share of renewables in the world's energy mix by 2030.
Food security would be another target. The world's population is officially set to reach seven billion on October 31, and is likely to reach eight billion within another two decades.
"With a billion more people coming onto the planet by 2030, how do we boost nutritional security but without using more water, land or energy?" said Lalonde.
Other likely "concrete" objectives will be cooperation on improving the quality of life in cities, saving the oceans from pollution and over-fishing, and strengthening international help in disasters, a request put forward by Japan, he said.
The UN is canvassing governments and non-governmental organisations for their views on what the conference's political document should contain.
These opinions will be condensed into a "zero draft" that will then be hammered out in negotiations due to finish in late May, said Lalonde.
Apart from the talks at political level, the conference will also host meetings gathering activists, businesses, donors and representatives from regions and cities.
"Action starts at the local and national level. Nothing will happen at UN level if nothing happens in individual countries," said Lalonde.
Rio+20 has not been designated a summit because heads of state and government have yet to say whether they will attend.
The last big environmental summit, in Copenhagen in December 2009, which sought to seal a global pact on a climate change, was a near-fiasco.
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Jakarta Post (Indonesia): A green economy: Is it possible?
14 October 2011
Next year is Rio+20. In 1992, leaders of the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to agree on a different way to develop, and signed the Earth Charter, as well as other international environmental agreements including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The so-called World Conference on Environment and Development was followed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to further the convergence of environment and development.
Next year, the 20th anniversary will bring us back to Rio de Janeiro. The theme will be “green economy”.
Indonesia has seen some interesting dynamics in green economics in the past couple of years. At the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a commitment to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions to 26 percent below its business-as-usual trajectory, and 41 percent if financial involvement from foreign countries was made available, by 2020.
The target is known as the “7/26” target: An emissions reduction of 26 percent below business-as-usual, while maintaining economic growth at 7 percent per year. These figures, in addition to targeting to reduce poverty levels to below 11 percent, reducing unemployment to below 14 percent, make up Indonesia’s “pro-growth, pro-poor, pro-job and pro-green” development targets. The “7/26” target is basically a green economy commitment.
Rhetoric aside, implementation will be challenging. Questions remain as to whether a green economy is possible. Can Indonesia reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to grow?
Integrating economic development and environmental protection is a classic challenge. But more recently, it has been shown that economic development not only affects but is also affected by the quality of the ecosystem. A green economy therefore offers the following methods: first, accounting for the costs associated with pollution and environmental degradation in black sectors. The traditional way of accounting economic growth omits environmental costs, although someone, somewhere, must pay them. Only by taking these costs into account can we understand the real growth of the economy.
Second, accounting for the benefits associated with protecting the environment and ecosystem services. As with costs, environmental benefits have also not been properly accounted for in traditional models used to project economic growth. At present, when duly unitized, ecosystem services can be monetized and thus provide real economic and financial benefits.
Third, shifting sources of growth from “black” to “green” sectors. Green growth does not aim to reduce growth. It aims to change the way growth is created and to shift sectors that are the sources of growth. By shifting the sources of growth from “black” (polluting) to the green (clean) sectors, pollution is minimized while ecosystem services are maximized.
Back to the “7/26” target. According to the most recent National Action Plan for the Reduction of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, Indonesia needs to cut 767 million tons of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gases unilaterally. Forestry and peat contributes the largest amount. About 672 million tons or 88 percent of the reduction is expected to come from the forestry and peat sectors. Taking a look at the development of the forestry sector may provide some insights on how a green economy can be applied in Indonesia.
Debatably, forestry contributes to the Indonesian economy significantly and has been a significant contributor to economic growth.
In the mid-1990s, the forestry sector contributed slightly less than 4 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, which in 1995 and 1996 was Rp 454 and Rp 532 trillion (about US$50 and $60 billion, subsequently). In 1995, of the 19 percent GDP growth (20 percent when oil is excluded), forestry contributed about 7 percent (about one-third of the total growth), according to the Indonesian Statistical Yearbook.
But degradation of forests is costly. The forest fires in the late 1990s cost the economy between $5 and $7 billion. Indonesia Corruption Watch estimates that Indonesia suffers losses of around Rp 14 trillion every year due to deforestation. Deforestation between 2005 and 2009 totaled 5.4 millon hectares, valued at about Rp 71.28 trillion. Illegal logging alone may cost Indonesia somewhere between $5 and $15 billion a year.
Avoiding deforestation comes at a cost, but presents a lot more benefits. Avoiding deforestation starts out at $1,800 and can go up to $2,240 per hectare by 2050. But preventing carbon emissions through the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Forests (REDD+) scheme has a significant value. Halving emissions from deforestation would cut about 1 billion tons of carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. With a $5 per ton shadow price for carbon, this means an additional income of $5 billion per year from stopping deforestation.
Some say that this might not be enough to compensate any lost income that would have been gained from exploiting forests. But carbon is not the only ecosystem service forests provide. Forests also serve as water catchment and purification areas, hubs of biodiversity, nutrients, recreation areas and others. Added together, they serve as quite a competitive economic argument against destructive and exploitative practices.
A recent study by the University of Padjadjaran in Bandung for the Environment Ministry found some very interesting results in regards to a green economy. The study ran a scenario that includes improvements in energy efficiency by 25 percent, reducing coal-based fuel use by 50 percent, reducing the rate of deforestation by 10 percent, and implementing shadow carbon tax of $50 per ton.
The result is that Indonesia would cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 177 million tons, increase its GDP by 2.7 percent (Rp 133 trillion) per year, create 3 million new jobs and reduce the number of poor people by more than 4 million per year.
If this model was put into practice, the President can be assured that his “7/26” target will be met. A green economy is not only possible, it is the only possibility.
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Civil Society (UK): Computer Aid produces e-waste guide for civil society organizations
13 October 2011
Computer Aid International has launched an e-waste guide to help other civil society organisations around the world campaign for policy change.
The 52-page guide, Electronics and e-waste a booklet for advocacy, was developed in partnership with the Balkans E-Waste Management Advocacy Network and was funded by the European Union. It outlines the issues and contains practical information about how to go about communicating these to politicians, the media and the public.
It was written by Computer Aid’s environmental advocacy officer, Hayley Bowcock and is available for free online in six languages; English, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Bulgarian.
Gladys Muhunyo, the charity's director of international programmes launched the guide at the UN’s Internet Governance Forum in Kenya and said: “We hope that this toolkit will enable civil society actors to push for change in their countries and bring about the essential first step in building the capacity to minimise the environmental, health and social impacts of electronics and e-waste.”
In the European Union the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (WEEE) aims to reduce the amount of electronic equipment produced and encourage reuse and recycling. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that 50m tonnes of e-waste is generated globally each year. Computer Aid has recently been lobbying the European Parliament on proposals to introduce a reuse target for its members.
Muhunyo said: “There are many countries yet to define similar legislation and we continue to see the flow of e-waste from wealthier countries which are able to deal with e-waste safely and fairly, to countries without this capacity.”
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Guardian (UK): Why is the government drifting so far from its green pledges?
14 October 2011
In 2006, as director of Friends of the Earth, I shared a platform with David Cameron. We issued a joint call for new legislation on climate change. The Conservative leader was passionate and knowledgeable. I believed then that he was sincere in advocating moves toward a greener future.
In 2008 the Climate Change Act was duly passed and it seemed that cross-party momentum for environmental action was unstoppable, no matter who was in power. On 14 May, a few days after the 2010 general election, David Cameron announced that he wanted the coalition to be the "greenest government ever". At that moment he also committed to reducing the government's own emissions by 10% within a year. That target was met and exceeded, but good news in progress towards the bolder aim has been very scarce.
Support for renewable energy has been reduced, the Sustainable Development Commission has been scrapped while the environment department suffered the deepest cuts in Whitehall. The natural environment white paper was good on words but short on actions and resources. The planning system and its decades-long process of honing finely tuned checks and balances that enable more sustainable development is under attack. As if to create the impression that these and other decisions not only demonstrate an indifference to environmental goals but outright hostility toward them, the Department for Transport is proposing to increase the motorway speed limit to 80 miles per hour.
At this rate, and with three and a half years to go, the coalition is not on course to be the greenest government ever. So why are we drifting so far off course, despite David Cameron's leadership signals? To whom must we look to take us in a better direction?
In recent months there has been a distinct 1980s feel to ministerial pronouncements on environmental goals, especially from George Osborne. His narrative that green policies are a drag on business and an alternative to economic recovery portrays a deep misunderstanding of where the debate is now at, including among business leaders. Many companies say they want clearer long-term frameworks from government, and know very well that environmental challenges could lead to greater economic risks in future. Many of them look to China, where the foundations are being laid for an eco-transformation that will deliver considerable competitive advantages, for example in renewable energy markets. Osborne's out-dated agenda has been bolstered by populist Daily Mail-style rhetoric from Eric Pickles.
There is also a question over the role of Nick Clegg. He is the senior figure with the strongest mandate in British politics to champion the green agenda, but has remained almost silent. His MPs know very well that a big proportion of their votes came from green-thinking people, who believed that among the main Westminster parties the Liberal Democrats had real passion and understanding.
Ed Miliband also needs to ask himself some questions. Where is the right focal point for the progressive left? Surely his narrative should be about how we can get the jobs and economic opportunities that lie in clean, renewable and more efficient technologies? He too says very little, provides no clear leadership or strong opposition policies.
It seems to me that several people need up their game (Clegg and Ed Miliband included), some need to be brought up to date with reality (Osborne and Pickles) while others who show leadership need to be given more space and support to do what is needed (for example Greg Barker and Chris Huhne in the Department for Energy and Climate Change). All of the above can be assisted through the delivery of clear leadership – and that needs to come from Cameron, assisted by key cabinet figures, especially Oliver Letwin. In order to connect a reinvigorated green agenda with the public, some high profile initiatives are needed, including on the global stage and on issues that people support. An ambitious intervention on rainforests would be good for that.
The world is getting into deep trouble. The symptoms are seen in rising greenhouse gas concentrations, deforestation, species extinction and the depletion of natural resources. As nature continues to decline, the collective human impact on the Earth only grows. This is not a good place to be. And while the economic crisis is serious, the prime minister, coalition and opposition must be reminded that nature does not do bailouts, and to behave as if they understand that basic reality.
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UPI: UNIDO: Green industry means green economy
13 October 2011
Industries, regardless of what they do, need to respect the global environment if responsible development is to continue, a U.N. official said in Denmark.
Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, told delegates in Copenhagen for a green-energy forum that the global economic future depends on clean industrial development.
He said his so-called green industry concept, in which industries across all sectors are called on to improve environmental performance, would be a stimulus to green economic growth.
"Green Industry and the Greening of Industries, concepts coined by UNIDO in the last few years, are helping place sustainable industrial development in the context of new global sustainability challenges," he said. "Together we can make the global transition to a green growth pathway work."
He noted that UNIDO was working to advance green technology and industrial practices in the developing world.
He added that UNIDO would team with the Korea Global Green Growth Institute to examine the effect that green industrial investment would have on global employment.
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Bernama (Malaysia): Ethiopia Working Towards Target Of Zero Carbon Emission By 2025, Says PM
13 October 2011
Ethiopia is striving to increase its clean renewable energy supply five-fold in the next five years and is working towards a target of zero carbon emission by 2025, says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
This was the message he delivered to two international green growth conferences in Europe this week -- the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) In Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday and a similar meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, on wednesday.
The two conferences drew attention to the fact that some 1.4 billion people around the world are devoid of electric power while 2.7 billion others utilise harmful traditional energy sources.
The 3GF aimed to ensure energy for those underprivileged communities in developing nations through providing financial support while the Copenhagen conference aimed to spur green growth by exploring, demonstrating and stimulating better public-private sector collaboration.
The success story of Ethiopia, which has set up its speedy economic development strategy on green growth, was repeatedly exemplified at both forums with Meles sharing Ethiopia's experience in green growth with participants.
Green growth is not a matter of choice but a matter of necessity for Africa, he told the participants. Although power provision is only about ensuring social justice, Africa is yet to do so because of problems related to finance, infrastructure and execution capacity.
The private sector should play an important role in the power supply sector while governments must take the leading role in the efforts to provide power for the needy at reasonable prices, Meles said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noting that the current seven billion world population would reach nine billion after 30 years, said sustained development would be unthinkable without adequate renewable energy supplies.
He praised the ongoing renewable energy development activities in Ethiopia and Kenya as exemplary endeavours to ensure pollution-free power supplies and sustained green growth, according to a report from the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency.
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Sun Star (Philippines): Sánchez: Governance in SMD
14 October 2011
DURING our last dinner in Luzern, Switzerland, Nepali Dr. Madhav Karki popped me a question over dinner: “Is there anyone with the DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources) who would be interested in sustainable mountain development (SMD) and the green economy?” Karki is the deputy director of the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development based in Nepal.
I replied, “I doubt it.” And I have three reasons why DENR cannot be the lead agency for implementing official development assistance from donor countries and multilateral agencies on large-scale green economy projects with an SMD footprint.
Have something to report? Tell us in text, photos or videos.
One, the DENR’s mandate is to preserve the country’s forests. That means that, when it talks of natural resources, many of its people see forests. And food crops and fruit trees in mountains? Oh, that’s agricultural. The implication is that food crops grown in farms and fruit trees are square pegs that don’t fit in the natural resource category. In fact, when its foresters see forests, they see timber trees, and many still condescendingly describe abaca, wild honey, grass and other non-timber forest products as “minor forest products” and therefore have very little economic value.
By the very nature of its mandate, the DENR would have a hard time looking beyond its noses. Its foresters tend to see the trees but not the forests, or see the forests but not the mountains when it comes to the green economy and its institutionalization, which the United Nations will be pushing next year as the global footprint for development.
Second, the DENR is a regulatory body on natural resources. It concentrates on banning natural resource use. That would include timber, rattan, and maybe even the wild honeybee Apis dorsata. Its mandate is therefore NOT on building technological skills for enhancing processing skills of various natural products.
Third, terms such as SMD and green economy generally focus on the green ecological side for sustainability but usually gloss over the economic side of development.
For livelihoods and businesses to be sustainable, harvesting and processing of rattan, abaca, wild honey and other non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as alternatives to timber harvesting have to be linked to the demand driven economy.
Thus, the appropriate body on the green economy would not be the DENR but the DTI and Industry or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
The agency in the early 2000s which pushed for the shift and conversion from conventional agriculture into organic production was the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the export promotions agency of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry.
The agency’s thrust is to promote DTI’s 10 priority sectors or revenue streams which were chosen for the inherent or proven competitiveness in the international market. Being connected with the export industry, CITEM can thus see beyond its nose and see the concern for health and wellness as a fast-growing emerging market, and therefore viewed natural, herbal, and organics as champion products.
In the pecking order of development, perhaps the Department of Science and Technology would rank next to DTI. I agree with DOST’s assertion that with the current arena of globalization, science and technology have become the most important factor for national economic growth and source of competitive advantage. No less than the President has identified science and technology (S&T) as a principal means to fuel the nation's economy and ensure the well-being of all Filipinos.
Coming in third would be the Department of Agriculture for food security on the basis of its promotion of the green economy. RA 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 assures us of that as agroforestry is part of it mandate.
Only then would I classify DENR as the fourth priority to make sure the demand-driven economy doesn’t go overboard, a victim of its own marketing success by overharvesting and depleting the country’s natural resources in the process. It can—and should—use the coercive powers of the state in ensuring that harvesting would not lead to exploitation of the natural resource. After all, there are the ecological values that should be factored in a green economy.
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Reuters (USA): Salvage of stricken ship off NZ resumes, owners apologize
13 October 2011
Oil tanks on a stricken container ship threatening to break in half off the New Zealand coast have survived a pounding by heavy seas, salvage experts said Thursday as the ship's owners apologized for the large clumps of oil washed up on beaches.
A second ship's officer appeared in court in connection with the running aground of the Liberian-flagged Rena 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island.
Large splits have opened up down the middle of the hull of the 236-meter (775-foot) vessel, which has been stuck for eight days on the reef and has lost up to 300 tonnes of heavy, thick, toxic fuel.
A salvage team was winched back on board the 47,230-tonne Rena and after an inspection reported the ship's rear tanks, holding around 1,000 tonnes of fuel, were intact. The ship was carrying 1,700 tonnes of fuel.
"The vessel again seems to have settled on the reef which is a good situation, so it's not getting that working that would be opening those cracks," salvage advisor Bruce Anderson told reporters.
Swells had eased to around one meter from five meters the day before, raising hopes that pumping will resume.
"This is not a simple process, there's been a considerable amount of damage on the vessel and they need to assess that first of all it's safe to operate and secondly that they can be operated," Anderson said.
Three tugs have been steadying the ship to keep it on the reef and stop the aft section breaking away and possibly sinking in water up to 90 meters deep.
The ship's owners, Greece-based Costamare Shipping Inc, said they were deeply sorry for the grounding and oil spill.
"For us, one drop of oil in the water is one drop too much. It is therefore a matter of great regret that a ship associated with us should be the cause of so much anguish," managing director Diamantis Manos said in a video statement.
He said the company was working with authorities to find the cause and liability for the clean up. Property damage would be settled in accordance with international conventions.
IN COURT
The ship's second officer, responsible for navigation at the time the Rena struck the reef, appeared in court on Thursday on a charge of "operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk."
The 37-year-old Philippine national was remanded without plea on bail. The ship's captain appeared on the same charge and was also bailed Wednesday. The charge carries a maximum fine of NZ$10,000 ($7,800) or 12 months in prison.
More containers had fallen into heaving seas from the ship, which is listing at about 20 degrees. Eighty-eight of the 1,368 containers have been lost and authorities said one was carrying a hazardous substance which can explode on contact with water.
Police patrolled to stop any looting of containers, but beaches were covered with deerskins, foam insulation, timber and hamburger meat patties.
Tauranga, the country's biggest export port, said it would suspend operations between 0800 and 1700 GMT to remove debris from inside the harbor and check shipping channels.
Maritime NZ closed around 40 km (25 miles) of coast to cope with overwhelming numbers of people wanting to help in the clean-up.
Crews numbering about 500 people, including soldiers, have been gathering clumps of oil, some as large as dinner trays. But hundreds of residents, some angry at the time taken to start a clean up, have joined in, ignoring warnings to stay away.
"This is our place, these are our beaches, it's natural we want to save them, never mind bureaucrats," Jim Kohu told Reuters.
More than 50 tonnes of oil have been recovered from long, golden beaches, a magnet for surfers. However, each high tide is washing more on the beaches, which experts have said could continue for weeks.
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Environment News Service: Louisiana Refinery Air Violations Draw Largest Criminal Fine
13 October 2011
Pelican Refining Company pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Clean Air Act at its refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and to obstruction of justice charges Wednesday in federal court in Lafayette.
If the court sentences according to the terms in the plea agreement, Pelican will pay $12 million in criminal penalties, the largest criminal fine ever imposed in Louisiana for violations of the Clean Air Act.
The fine includes $2 million in community service payments that will go toward environmental projects in Louisiana, including air pollution monitoring.
Pelican would be banned from future refinery operations at Lake Charles unless it implements an environmental compliance plan, which includes external auditing by independent firms and oversight by a court appointed monitor.

Pelican's refinery at Lake Charles, Louisiana (Photo courtesy U.S. EPA)


"Louisiana is the sportsman's paradise, and this corporation seriously jeopardized our precious environment. The citizens of our community should be appalled by such blatant environmental crimes. Going forward, this refinery will not be able to operate unless it is in full compliance with the law," said Stephanie Finley, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.
In pleading guilty, officials of Houston-based Pelican admitted that the company had violated numerous aspects of its permit to operate.
Pelican admitted that there was no company budget for environmental compliance, no environmental department and no environmental manager.
In order to comply with a permit issued under the Clean Air Act, the refinery was required to use certain pollution prevention equipment, but that equipment was either not functioning, poorly maintained, improperly installed, improperly placed into service and/or improperly calibrated, company officials admitted.
It was a routine practice for over a year to use an emergency flare gun to re-light the flare tower at the refinery which was designed to burn off toxic gases and provide for the safe combustion of potentially explosive chemicals. Because the pilot light was not functioning properly, employees would take turns trying to shoot the flare gun to relight the explosive gases.
Sour crude oil was stored in a tank that was not properly placed into service and remained in the tank after the roof sank.
A caustic scrubber designed to remove hydrogen sulfide from emissions was bypassed, and a continuous emission monitoring system designed to measure the hydrogen sulfide levels in refinery emissions was not working properly.
The violations were discovered during a March 2006 inspection by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. EPA, which identified numerous unsafe operating conditions.
"This case illustrates the level of cooperation between the investigative resources within our state and federal law enforcement partners," said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent.
"It's unfortunate that an individual or business would skirt the law and put human health and the environment at risk, especially given the progress the state has made in improving air quality," said Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch. "Hopefully, the efforts of LDEQ and its state, federal and local partners, will demonstrate that it can be very costly to put the people and environment at risk by disregarding state and federal regulations."
Pelican also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for submitting materially false deviation reports to LDEQ, the agency that administers the federal Clean Air Act in Louisiana.
Byron Hamilton, the Pelican vice president who oversaw operations at the Lake Charles refinery since 2005 from an office in Houston pleaded guilty on July 6, to negligently placing persons in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury as a result of negligent releases at the refinery.
Hamilton faces up to one year in prison and a $200,000 fine for each of the two Clean Air Act counts.
"Pelican had demonstrated a manifest disregard for accepted practices that are designed to protect human health and the environment," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. "Today, Pelican faces significant penalties for its egregious violations of its Clean Air Act permit and for submitting false information to state officials."
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Montréal Gazette (Canada): Animal-rights groups defined as terrorists on government website
13 October 2011
A government agency responsible for tracking financial transactions to ensure they aren't used for illicit purposes has identified animal rights activists and "environmental extremists" as terrorist groups on a website rife with references to al-Qaida.
The page is part of an online terrorism-financing tutorial hosted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre.
The government established FINTRAC in 2000 to detect and prevent money laundering and other illegal financial transactions by terrorists and organized crime groups.
Following a number of workshops, those taking the learning program are presented with a multiple-choice test with 13 questions. Questions include how terrorist financing differs from money laundering, and what constitutes a suspicious transaction.
Three of the questions specifically reference al-Qaida, while one reads: "Under which terrorist group do animal rights activists and environmental extremists fall?" The correct answer is single-issue terrorists, the website says.
According to FINTRAC spokesman Blaine Harvey, the learning module was produced to help train similar financial organizations in other countries.
"This is a foreign assistance project," he said.
"The test is not mandatory unless the foreign (organization) wants to make it so for their staff. We certainly have no power to compel anyone here or abroad to take the test."
The test was accessed 1,529 times between Sept. 1, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2011, Harvey said. He could not say how many times it had been used since being put up three years ago.
When asked why animal rights advocates and environment extremists were identified as terrorist groups, he said they were "given as examples (of organizations) who may be single-issue terrorists by virtue of choosing to use violence and criminal activities."
He said the question was drawn from a Canadian Security Intelligence Service report from winter 1998 in which a CSIS counter-terrorism specialist discussed extremist militancy associated with animal rights, environmentalism and abortion in North America and the U.K.
Some environmental and animal rights groups have been known to adopt violent and illegal tactics. The Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, for example, have taken credit for destroying businesses.
"But the idea of a blanket statement about people who advocate for animals and who advocate for the protection of Planet Earth being terrorists is obviously absurd," said Michelle Cliffe, a spokeswoman at the International Federation of Animal Welfare.
Mike Hudema, a spokesman for Greenpeace Canada, noted Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver used the term "extremists" to describe more than 100 protesters from First Nations communities, social justice groups and environmental organizations crossed a police line and peacefully allowed themselves to be arrested on Parliament Hill last month.
"And if we take the minister's definition of what 'extremist' is when we're tracking these financial transactions, then that's a broad section of Canadian society," Hudema said.
"The more we use the term 'extremists,' the more we use the term 'terrorist,' then we start to water down these terms and there is the threat of erosion of our civil liberties."
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ROAP MEDIA UPDATE

THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS

Friday, 14 October 2011



UNEP or UN in the news




  • Bernama: Significant Slice Of Gdp Being Lost Through Poor Urban Planning‎

  • Voxy: Making the economic case for greening cities

  • UN News Centre: As disasters increase, risk reduction should a be a concern for all – UN chief

  • Bernama: Malaysia endorses proposed World Environment Organization

  • The Hindu: Two city students make it to UNEP event


General environment news


  • China.org: 63 injured in Bali's strong quake


Southeast Asia Floods






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