Guardian (UK): Is environmentally sustainable water, energy and land for all possible?
Right-side News (US): Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory or Threat
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
Environment News from the UN Daily News of 18 May 2012
Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 17 May 2012 (None)
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News Vestnik Kavkaza (Russia): Monograph on ecology of Lake Sevan to be published 17 May 2012
Karine Daniyelyan, PhD in Geography, Chairman of the Association For Sustainable Human Development of the National Committee UNEP, said that a monograph entitled “Integral Evaluation of the Ecological Condition of Lake Sevan” will soon be published, ARKA reports.
The scientist said that his goal is to evaluate the genesis and evolution of the lake’s problems to find their solutions. The work was composed after a two-stage expedition in 2011. Additional studies of harm from mines in the area are still needed.
Daniyelyan said that the UN Development Program for ecology UNEP GRID Arendal supported the project. Experts of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Ministry for Ecology and Emergencies, Ministry for Healthcare and independent experts helped compose the monograph.
Vladimir Movsisyan, Chairman of the Presidential Commission for Lake Sevan Problems, Simon Papyan, Deputy Minister for Ecology, Yuri Javadyan, PhD in Techniques and Director of Armvodoproyekt, Alexey Tarverdyan, Chief Engineer of Armvodoproyekt and Knarik Ovannisyan, expert of the Public Ecological Coalition for Problems of Water Resources, contributed to the work. The monograph was reviewed by Aram Avakyan, head of the Subdepartment for Socio-Economic Geography of Yerevan State University, member of the Presidium of the Armenian Georgraphic Society, and Tigran Sarkisyan, member of the Presidium of the Association for Sustainable Human Development of the National Committee UNEP.
The book will be published in Armenian, Russian and English in 500 copies.
Lake Sevan is the highest lake in Europe and Asia at an altitude of 1914 meters. Its water level was 1900.1 m on January 1, 2012, just as in 1963. It covers 1500 square km. It is the main source of water in the region. The water level will increase to 1903.5 meters in 2030.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Daily Monitor (Uganda): Activists seek political will in environmental conservation 18 May 2012
Efforts to protect the environment can only be fruitful if there is political will, minister of state for environment Flavia Nabugere has said.
Ms Nabugere said since 1992, several policies guiding sustainable land management have been legislated, but are always ‘under looked’.
“For a country to achieve a green economy it will require political will to safeguard our environment and other livelihood options,” she said yesterday in Kampala during a civil society consultative workshop on the RIO+20.
A green economy, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
The RIO+20 workshop is aimed at soliciting views Uganda’s environmental activists will submit during the UN conference on sustainable development in Brazil next month. The conference also seeks to promote a green economy.
Ms Nabugere tasked her colleagues in government to consult environmental conservation laws before endorsing development activities.
The executive director of National Environmental Management Authority (Nema), Dr Tom Okurut, said the forest cover has continued to decline due to the high population growth rate (over 3.2 per cent annually) and a regional market for timber.
Wood for fuel
He said the fact that 90 per cent of Ugandans depend on biomass energy which provides an opportunity for increased investment in forest for wood fuel by providing for appropriate tree species.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Nam News Network (Malaysia): Kenya again voices support for unep to be upgraded to organization 17 May 2012
President Mwai Kibaki has against voiced Kenya's support for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is based here, to be upgraded to the status of an organization in order to tackle the world's emerging environmental challenges.
Pointing out that an enhanced international environmental organization would ensure universal membership and coherence of multilateral environmental agreements, he said here Wednesday that a stronger international environmental body would also be independent and secure increased and stable funding.
Speaking during a meeting at his Harambee House office here with UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, the president emphasized that Kenya supported a strong UNEP, embracing all the major organizations dealing with the environment across the globe as an effective and powerful voice to bring about the needed change.
President Kibaki also said Kenya had fully embraced a green economy in its implementation of economic growth and poverty reduction programmes which are friendly to the Earth's ecosystem.
The president, however, observed that like other developing countries, Kenya was concerned that the transformation to a green economy should not translate into trade barriers and imposition of environmental standards defined by developed countries.
Steiner briefed President Kibaki on the forthcoming Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Rio 20) to be held in Brazil next month. Kenya is expected to lead the lobbying for the upgrading of the UNEP during the summit.
Steiner agreed that environmental concerns should be placed at the same level with economic and social issues both at national and international fronts.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Swiss Info (Switzerland): Transforming Geneva into an environmental hub 17 May 2012
Newly installed in a 19th-century mansion in the leafy suburb of Versoix, a short hop from the city centre, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s non-profit environmental group R20 is the latest addition to International Geneva’s burgeoning green hub.
The R20, an alliance of 30 city and regional governments and partners developing low-carbon projects worldwide, joins some 250 NGOs and 32 international organisations - many in the environmental field - as well as the European headquarters of the United Nations and specialist agencies.
“It was quite a natural decision for us,” R20’s operations manager Liliane Ursache told swissinfo.ch.
“We have to follow up closely what's going on in the environmental field and not lose sight of international negotiations. One of the most important actors here is the world of finance and investors, who are very interested in new projects,“ she noted.
“Geneva is also an important place for clean tech. There has been much progress made in this area, and we work closely with the networks and partners based here.”
On top of operational arguments and potential synergies, Schwarzenegger’s very public move to establish the headquarters in Geneva was most likely eased by the canton reportedly agreeing to pay almost two years’ rent at Versoix’s Villa Grand-Montfleury, tax-free income, and Switzerland’s “unique aftersales service” that stretches to expertise in the capital Bern to help NGOs settle in.
Over recent years the Swiss and local authorities have been keen to develop Geneva as an international hub for both environmental and health matters.
The arrival of the R20 closely follows that of the secretariat of the Global Framework of Climate Services in 2011, and joins a long list of environmental institutions based there like the secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The next organization in Switzerland and Geneva’s sights is the permanent secretariat of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), an autonomous organization under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, designed to channel up to $100 billion of aid annually to poor, vulnerable countries by 2020 to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Switzerland announced its official candidacy to host the fund and to run for a seat on its executive board in April. It is up against the former German capital Bonn, which is the temporary home to the secretariat, as well as South Korea, Poland, Namibia and Mexico. A final decision is expected at the end of 2012.
Swiss officials are convinced Geneva offers the ideal location for the fund thanks to its growing environmental expertise, synergies and global financial centre.
“It also has a strong network of diplomatic missions, which is important if we want the GCF to grow and for countries to be able to follow up its activities,” Franz Perrez, head of international affairs at the Federal Environment Office, told swissinfo.ch.
Environmental consultant Yves Lador agreed that other international environmental centres, like Nairobi, headquarters to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Bonn or Montreal, could not compete on synergies.
“Geneva has lots of specialized environmental organisations and is a hub for economic and chemical questions with the three conventions, and there are other departments looking at this in the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and let’s not forget WMO and IPCC,” he said.
But the complex political decision over the GCF’s future is not in Switzerland or Geneva’s hands, he added.
Second global centre
Former Swiss ambassador François Nordmann echoed this: “I think the competition is fierce. Switzerland is up against five other countries, three of whom are G20 members, and one from Asia – a very attractive proposal. And Germany is so strong it can influence lots of votes. Also, there is the beginning of an environmental concentration at Bonn.”
Lador said one major problem for Switzerland was states’ resistance to global environmental governance, a topic for discussion at the forthcoming Rio climate talks in June.
“It faces a strategy of states breaking up environmental organizations. If politicians really wanted to do a serious job for the environment you could imagine them building hubs like climate, chemical or biodiversity. But in fact they splitting them up and sharing them between places like Bonn, Geneva and Montreal,” the consultant said.
Perrez said it was important to avoid a scattering of locations and to concentrate expertise, adding that it was not Switzerland’s wish to become “the” global centre for the environment.
“Nairobi is ‘the’ centre for environmental questions, as it is the headquarters of UNEP and it’s important that UNEP remains a strong institution there, but Nairobi cannot deliver on everything and there are strong benefits to have a second centre supporting Nairobi and that’s where Geneva comes in,” he added.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Balkans.com (Cyprus): The European Union at the G8 summit in the US 18 May 2012
What are the topics on the agenda?
Leaders at this year's G8 summit will address the following main topics:
regional and political developments and security issues;
economic and global issues;
energy and climate issues;
economic transition of Afghanistan;
transition in the Middle East and North Africa;
Is the European Union a full G8 member?
Yes. The history of the G8 Summits goes back to 1975, when the first G8 Summit was held in Rambouillet (France). Representatives of the then European Community began participating in the London Summit in 1977. Originally, the EU had a limited role to those areas in which it had exclusive competences, but the EU’s role has grown with time. The European Commission was gradually included in all political discussions on the summit agenda and took part in all summit working sessions, as of the Ottawa Summit (1981). Today the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council represent the EU who is a full member in the annual G8 Summits. Commission President Barroso, who attended the G8 for the first time in Gleneagles in 2005, is participating for the 8th time, while Council President Van Rompuy has been attending the G8 since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
Because the European Union is a unique supranational organisation – not a sovereign Member State – the name G8, 'Group of Eight Nations', still stands. For the same reason, the EU does not assume the rotating G8 presidency. The European Union has all the privileges and obligations of membership except the right to host and chair a Summit. The Commission and the Council have all the responsibilities of membership, and what the Presidents of the Commission and the Council endorse at the Summit is politically binding.
What is the EU's message on the economy?
A twin-track approach of stability and growth are key ingredients of the EU's response to the economic crisis, which is the only way to create confidence. Growth needs to come through a combination of structural reforms and targeted investments. It must not be debt-fuelled.
The EU believes the key lesson of the crisis is that you cannot have one without the other. Growth must come through stability, in combination with reform and investment.
As part of its crisis response, the EU has erected firewalls in the euro area to avoid contagion. The combined firepower of the EU's stabilisation instruments (EFSF and ESM) is about 1 trillion USD (or 700 billion EUR), which makes it the relatively strongest firewall in the world.
How does EU trade policy seeks to create growth and jobs?
Europe is the world's largest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and is itself the biggest export market for more than one hundred countries. Together, the European Union's 27 members account for 19% of world imports and exports. The EU is an attractive market for other countries to do business with:
We have 500 million consumers looking for quality goods.
We are the world's largest single market with transparent rules and regulations
We have a secure legal investment framework that is amongst the most open in the world.
We are the most open market to developing countries in the world
Roughly 1/4 of EU growth comes from international trade. The development of trade - if properly managed - is a real opportunity to create growth and jobs. It is in this context that the EU strongly insists on fighting protectionism.
What climate efforts does the EU make?
Science tells us that all developed countries would need to reduce emissions by 80-95% in order to have a fair chance of keeping global warming below 2°C. If we do not step up climate action, temperatures might increase by as much as 4°C by 2100.
The European Union is a global leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past two decades, emissions have gone down by 16%, whereas the economy has grown by 40% over the same period. If current policies are fully implemented, the EU is on track to achieve its targets for 2020 of reducing emissions to 20% below 1990 levels and raising the share of renewables in its energy mix to 20%.
With its 'Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050' the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades.
The EU fully welcomes the focus of this G8 Summit on global climate action and underlines the need for strong and urgent measures, in the UN context, to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to stay on track to meet the internationally agreed objectives and to speedily implement the Durban platform.
What is the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants?
This is the coalition launched in Washington on 16 February 2012 by the governments of Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the United States as well as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Coalition is open to countries and non-state actors that are committed to taking action on short lived climate pollutants, and wish to join in this global effort.
What are the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants?
Short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are agents that have relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere - a few days to a few decades - and tend to have a warming influence on climate. The main short lived climate pollutants are black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane, which are the most important contributors to the human enhancement of the global greenhouse effect after CO2. These short lived climate pollutants are also dangerous air pollutants, with various detrimental impacts on human health, agriculture and ecosystems. Other short lived climate pollutants include some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are currently present in small quantity in the atmosphere their contribution to climate forcing is projected to climb to as much as 19% of global CO2 emissions by 2050
Is the EU part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition?
The European Commission has joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. This was announced at a meeting of the Coalition in Stockholm on 24 April 2012 and takes the number of Coalition partners to 13. The Commission believes that this initiative should complement the efforts needed under the UN climate change convention to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit global temperature increase to below 2°C.
Food security is high on the agenda of this G8. What is the EU's message in this respect?
The EU has always been at the forefront in the area of food security. Not only when there were crisis and maximum media attention, but also on a day-to-day basis in our cooperation with our partner countries, especially those prone to food insecurity. 2012 is the closing year of the successful L'Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI). The EU did very well on the L'Aquila commitments. Not only did the EU make the largest pledge – close to USD 4 billion out of the total USD 22 billion, but it has met this pledge in merely 2 years. Moreover, the EU Food Facility, announced by President Barroso at the G8 Summit in Japan in 2008, has helped to feed 50 million people in 50 countries around the world, through over 200 projects.
In general, the EU is by far the world's biggest donor of development aid, spending 0.42% of its gross national income (€53 billion or $73.6 billion) in 2011. This accounts for more than half of the global aid. Where the EU remains committed to reach the 0.7% GNI on development aid by 2015, it has also set out its 'Agenda for Change', a strategic EU approach to reducing poverty, including through a more targeted allocation of funding.
What is the EU's strategy for Afghanistan?
For the EU, Afghanistan remains a priority: together, the EU and its Member States are one of Afghanistan's largest donors, providing around € 1 billion per year. The EU strives to coordinate more efficiently their assistance to Afghanistan and will also actively promote better use of international mechanisms. The EU agrees, following the Bonn Conference in December 2011, on the need of a clear commitment by all donors to remain engaged in Afghanistan after 2014.
What about the EU's support for the transition process in the Middle East and North Africa?
On 15 May, the Commission announced that the EU bolsters its support to reformers in its Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods (read the full press release) in the framework of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This instrument reinforces relations with neighbouring countries, including those where democratic and economic transitions were triggered by the Arab Spring. The policy is based upon a mutual commitment to common values: democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development; the goal is to promote prosperity, stability and security. One year after the G8 launch of the Deauville partnership, the EU re-oriented assistance programmes and made EUR 1 billion more available in 2011-2013 to be channelled through new innovative programmes, like SPRING for the Southern Neighbourhood. It increased the lending ceilings of the European Investment Bank by EUR 1.15 billion, and successfully proposed the extension of the mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the EU’s southern neighbours.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ German Embassy Nairobi News (Kenya): 40 Years of UNEP - Interview with Achim Steiner 10 May 2012
1. 40 years of UNEP - what are its greatest achievements?
There are numerous milestones that define UNEP's achievements in 40 years. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer---the protective shield that filters out dangerous levels of the sun's ultra violet rays---is a case in point.
Without the Montreal Protocol, which celebrates its 25^th anniversary this year, atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050 which in turn could have led to up to 20 million more cases of skin cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts, not to speak of damage to human immune systems, wildlife and agriculture.
In the late 1980s, as the world was struggling to understand the implications of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Its scientific work has become the premier risk assessment and reference work for governments on the likely trends and impacts of global warming and the Panel's findings played a key role in the decision to establish the UN climate convention and its emission reduction treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.
Following the Earth Summit of 1992, UNEP was given opportunities to evolve its work as an implementing agency of a new multibillion-dollar fund, the Global Environment Facility.
Since 2008, the organization has been championing the Green Economy as a way of generating development and employment but in a way that keeps humanity's footprint within ecological boundaries. Part of the Green Economy work has been to assess and communicate to governments the multi-trillion dollar services that nature provides, but which until recently have been all but invisible in national accounts of profit and loss.
2. What are your expectations for Rio+20?
Rio+20 may see the Green Economy initiative translated into a fresh and forward-looking way of finally realizing sustainable development for seven billion people, rising to over nine billion by 2050.
Some governments, including Germany, are also signaling that the time has come to strengthen UNEP itself perhaps into a World Environment Organization.
A transformational outcome in Rio may also provide some confidence to a global public that those responsible for managing the planet have indeed got solutions and the resolve of leadership to not only deliver economic progress, but social and environmental progress too.
3. Which environmental issues are important for Kenya, host state of UNEP?
Energy and ecosystems are two areas where Kenya is undertaking pioneering work, with assistance and input from UNEP. The expansion of Kenya's geothermal electricity potential in the Great Rift Valley has been made possible in part by a UNEP-led project to bring in new, more reliable and cost effective drilling techniques.
UNEP advised on feed--in tariffs, which Kenya introduced in 2008, to expand renewable energy power generation in the country. This will incentivize an estimated additional energy generation capacity of 1300 Megawatts (MW) alone in geothermal -- thereby doubling Kenya's total present capacity.
Kenya's strategy is not just about increased energy generation but also about increasing access to energy in rural areas, providing an important starting point for lifting people out of poverty and diversifying livelihoods.
UNEP has partnered with the government to assess the value of the Mau forest complex, which over the past few decades has lost some 30 per cent of its cover. It is estimated that the services this forest generates---water for around a dozen rivers systems that for example feed the Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru; moisture for the tea industry and carbon storage---are worth in total up to $1.5 billion a year to the Kenyan economy. These estimates have assisted in tipping the balance in favour of restoration rather than degradation of this key natural asset.
Back to Menu
============================================================= Other Environment News AP: China rejects US ruling in solar dumping case 18 May 2012
China's government on Friday rejected a U.S. antidumping ruling against its makers of solar power equipment and Chinese manufacturers warned proposed punitive tariffs might hurt efforts to promote clean energy.
The conflict has worsened U.S.-Chinese trade tensions. The two governments have pledged to cooperate in developing renewable energy but accuse each other of violating free-trade pledges by subsidizing their own manufacturers.
"The U.S. ruling is unfair, and the Chinese side expresses its extreme dissatisfaction," said a Commerce Ministry spokesman, Shen Danyang, in a statement.
Shen warned the ruling might harm U.S.-Chinese cooperation in clean energy but gave no indication how Beijing might respond. Some American manufacturers that oppose the trade probe have warned China might retaliate against U.S. suppliers.
Thursday's preliminary ruling by the Commerce Department said Chinese producers sold solar cells and panels below fair price and hurt American producers. If that is upheld, tariffs averaging 31 percent could be imposed on Chinese solar-panel imports.
Three major Chinese manufacturers — Yingli Green Energy Holdings Ltd., Suntech Power Holdings Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. — rejected accusations they were selling goods at improperly low prices.
Such duties "are not justified by fact," Suntech's chief commercial officer, Andrew Beebe, said in a statement.
China's producers of solar cells and equipment grew to be among the world's biggest over the past decade as they supplied demand from Germany, Spain and other markets that promoted solar power.
Foreign competitors complain Chinese manufacturers get improper government support in the form of low-cost access to land, bank loans and other resources. Beijing acknowledges giving research grants and tax breaks but says those are in line with its free-trade commitments and practices by other governments.
"Tariffs are disruptive and destructive for the entire solar industry," Yingli's chairman, Miao Liangsheng, said in a statement.
The Commerce Department launched its investigation in November following complaints by a group of U.S. producers led by Oregon-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc., a unit of Germany's SolarWorld AG.
The complaints were amplified by attention surrounding the bankruptcy of solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC after the California-based company received a $528 million U.S. government loan. Solyndra cited Chinese competition as one of the reasons behind its failure.
"These duties are unwarranted and serve as an impediment to the broader adoption of solar energy in a time of rising fuel costs," said Trina's chief commercial officer, Mark Kingsley, in a statement.
The Chinese government responded by launching its own probe last November into whether U.S. government support for producers of wind, solar and other renewable energy technology is an improper trade barrier.
Chinese solar equipment manufacturers warned earlier that sanctions could result in a loss of American jobs because U.S. companies are both buyers of Chinese products and suppliers of materials. They said Chinese manufacturers spend some $2 billion a year to buy materials such as polysilicon from U.S. suppliers.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Reuters: U.S. sets new tariffs on Chinese solar imports 18 may 2012
The United States hit Chinese solar companies with punitive import tariffs of 30 percent or more on Thursday, ruling they had dumped cut-price solar panels on the U.S. market.
In the latest in a series of trade disputes between Beijing and Washington, the U.S. Commerce Department said it had sided with U.S.-based solar companies that had complained a wave of Chinese imports had wrongly undercut their pricing and forced several renewable players out of business.
The size of the tariffs is larger than Chinese companies had expected and some analysts said it might prompt them to manufacture elsewhere or look for alternative markets.
It may also trigger retaliation by China.
Washington on Thursday set tariffs on shipments from most of the top Chinese exporters, including Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd and Trina Solar Ltd, at about 31 percent.
Several Chinese firms and a solar trade group opposed to the tariffs said it would push up costs for the clean energy source.
The ruling stems from a complaint filed last October by the U.S. subsidiary of Germany's SolarWorld AG, and six other U.S. companies that alleged unfair competition and had sought duties well above 100 percent.
China's solar companies hold over 60 percent of the global market. Their heavy reliance on subsidized U.S. and European markets has prompted criticism that loans from Chinese state-run banks and low prices gave the companies an unfair advantage.
Under the decision, 59 Chinese solar companies that petitioned Washington in the case will also face an import duty of about 31 percent, including Yingli Green Energy, LDK Solar, Canadian Solar, Hanwha solar One, JA Solar Holding and Jinko Solar.
Other Chinese companies could now face a 250 percent tariff, although those levels could be altered before the final ruling is issued from the Commerce Department in the coming months.
The U.S. ruling, retroactive to cover imports dating back 90 days, comes two months after Washington set more modest tariffs of less than 5 percent on imports from China because of what it deemed Beijing's unfair support for its solar industry.
Suntech, the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels, which also operates a panel plant in Arizona, denied it sold below its cost of production.
"All leading companies in the global solar industry want to see a trade war averted. We need more competition and innovation, not litigation," Andrew Beebe, Suntech's chief commercial officer, said in a statement.
Yingli Energy and Trina Solar said they would actively defend their position in administrative proceedings.
Shares of U.S.-based solar companies rose on the news, with First Solar Inc gaining 6.7 percent and Sunpower Corp gaining 10 percent. Sunpower Corp was already rallying after Apple Inc said it would use the company's solar panels for its solar farm.
U.S.-listed shares of Chinese solar companies dropped, particularly Yingli Green Energy, which slid 13 percent, while Suntech dropped 5.8 percent and Trina fell 7.9 percent.
TAIWAN SOLAR COMPANIES RALLY
It also lifted Taiwanese solar stocks on hope that solar cell and wafer suppliers there will fill the gap left by Chinese firms discouraged by the trade barriers, analysts said.
There was speculation that Chinese companies could circumvent the restrictions by buying Taiwan cells and wafers for panels and assembling them outside the mainland.
"This is positive for Taiwanese players which can come in and supply solar cells to U.S. panel makers that won't be buying from the Chinese," said Keith Li, analyst at CIMB Research.
Shares of Gintech Energy Corp rose nearly 6 percent, Neo Solar Power Corp gained 3.5 percent and Motech Industries climbed 3 percent.
But Chinese solar stocks in Hong Kong slumped. Wafer companies GCL-Poly Energy Holdings fell 8.3 percent, Solargiga Energy Holdings nearly 9 percent and Comtec Solar Systems Group 3.3 percent.
Chinese companies had been bracing for a punitive duty of 15 percent, analysts said. Some have already started to look for markets beyond Europe and the U.S.
"By late last year, we started shifting our focus away from the United States and into other growth markets like Japan," said Solargiga Energy chief financial officer Jason Chow.
"Japan has started offering attractive incentives for solar." The U.S. market accounted for more over 10 percent of Solargiga's sales in 2011.
SPARRING ON TRADE
President Barack Obama, running for re-election in November, has promised to crack down on what he said were unfair Chinese trade practices.
Chinese officials have threatened to impose trade duties on U.S. shipments of polysilicon, the key material used in solar panels, if the U.S. moved to penalize Chinese solar companies.
"The anti-dumping ruling increases the risk of retaliatory action by Chinese government on U.S. polysilicon imports into China," a Deutsche Bank analyst said in a report.
Solar panel prices have tumbled more than 50 percent since the beginning of 2011 amid a supply glut triggered by declining subsidies in Europe and rapid global growth in the production capacity of solar wafers, cells and panels.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ AFP: UN, Brazil to host Internet debate on green planet 17 May 2012
The United Nations and the Brazilian government are launching an Internet debate around 10 themes for a green planet to elicit suggestions from experts and the public for next month's Rio+20 summit.
"The objective of this initiative is to bring civil society closer to the negotiations" of Rio+20, the June 20-22 UN summit on sustainable development, Brazilian chief negotiator Andrea Correo do Lago said Thursday.
The site www.Riodialogues.org is open to all those who wish to make or vote on suggestions.
The 10 themes revolve around 10 sustainable development targets including unemployment, the economic and financial crisis, fighting poverty and food security and nutrition, among others issues.
The discussions will serve as a basis for a June 16 to 19 roundtable hosted by the United Nations and Brasilia, with invited guests to include various development experts, private sector representatives, non-governmental organizations and academics. Three suggestions from each theme will be submitted to the Rio+20 leaders.
The gathering, the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972, is expected to draw 115 global leaders and 50,000 participants from around the world.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Reuters: Apple to use only green power for main data center 18 May 2012
Apple Inc plans to power its main U.S. data center entirely with renewable energy by the end of this year, taking steps to address longstanding environmental concerns about the rapid expansion of high-consuming computer server farms.
The maker of the iPhone and iPad said on Thursday it was buying equipment from SunPower Corp and startup Bloom Energy to build two solar array installations in and around Maiden, North Carolina, near its core data center.
Once up, the solar farm will supply 84 million kWh of energy annually. The sites will employ high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system.
The two solar farms will cover 250 acres, among the largest in the industry, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters. Apple plans on using coal-free electricity in all three of its data centers, with the Maiden facility coal-free by the end of 2012.
"I'm not aware of any other company producing energy onsite at this scale," Oppenheimer said in a telephone interview.
"The plan we are releasing today includes two solar farms and together they will be twice as big as we previously announced, thanks to the purchase of some land very near to the data center in Maiden, which will help us meet this goal."
Shares in SunPower leaped more than 10 percent to close at $5.59 on Thursday, and tacked on a 6-cent after-hours trading gain on top of that.
Concerns about the ever-expanding power consumption of computer data centers have mounted in recent years, as technology giants build enormous facilities housing servers to cater to an explosion in Internet traffic, multimedia use and enterprise services hosting, via cloud computing.
"Our next facility will be in Prineville, Oregon. This is still in the planning stages and we have already identified plenty of renewable sources nearby," Oppenheimer said.
"We haven't finalized our plans for on-site generation, but any power we need to run our center in Prineville that we get from the grid will be 100 percent renewable and locally generated sources," the Apple CFO said.
SunPower, now majority-owned by France's Total SA , makes the most efficient solar panels in the world, according to industry analysts.
Prices for solar panels - particularly at large-scale solar plants like the one Apple envisions - have been dropping rapidly, narrowing the gap with the cost of fossil fuel power. Analysts say that may encourage some corporations to switch.
"SunPower will take a bite out of Apple's environmental impact with our highest efficiency solar at their North Carolina data center, the nation's largest privately-owned solar array," SunPower CEO Tom Werner said via email.
Several activist groups have expressed their concerns over the use of "dirty" power by Apple's data centers, which support its Internet storage and service-hosting service iCloud. Several members of Greenpeace staged a protest this week at Apple's Cupertino campus using a giant "iPod."
Greenpeace, which has also targeted Amazon.com and Microsoft with clean energy campaigns, saluted Apple's decision.
"Apple's announcement today is a great sign that Apple is taking seriously the hundreds of thousands of its customers who have asked for an iCloud powered by clean energy, not dirty coal," Greenpeace International Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ AFP: UN talks take first steps on 2015 climate deal 17 May 2012
UN members on Thursday took their first steps in a marathon to negotiate a new global pact by 2015 that for the first time will place rich and poor under a common legal regime to tackle climate change.
Meeting in Bonn, the 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began wrangling over how to work towards the target enshrined at their landmark conference in Durban, South Africa, last December.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of South Africa, who presided over the maiden session, urged countries as they embarked on the long road to set aside "old and unhelpful negotiating practices," a reference to the bickering that typically dogs climate talks.
"Time is limited and we need to take very seriously the desperate calls of some of our brethren, especially the small island states," she said, referring to low-lying nations threatened by rising seas.
The inaugural session of the ad-hoc working group, webcast over the Internet, took place in UNFCCC talks at senior level running in the former German capital to May 25.
If all goes well, a new accord will be wrapped up in 2015 and take effect in 2020, placing rich and poor under the same legal roof for tackling greenhouse-gas emissions that drive climate change.
At present, legal constraints under the UN's climate banner are divided among developed and developing countries -- a format dating back to the 1990s that critics say is badly out of date.
Rich countries bear most of the historical responsibility for global warming today.
But they say it is unfair to shoulder the burden for fixing the problem in the future.
Their places in the league table of emitters are being taken by emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil, which are massively burning coal, oil and gas as they battle to rise out of poverty.
Small-island states and African countries on Thursday sounded a loud alarm over the "ambition gap" -- the difference between pledges for cutting emissions and what is needed to avoid dangerous warming.
Scientist say current emissions are stoking possible warming of four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), twice the 2 C (3.6 F) goal set by UNFCCC parties in 2011 as a safe maximum.
"The inadequate mitigation pledges... risk temperature increases that will have catastrophic impacts worldwide, and particularly for Africa," said Seyni Nafo, spokesman for the African group.
Speaking for small island states, Marlene Moses of Nauru warned that the "ambitions gap" was now so wide that by 2015, the negotiations could be dealing with how to relocate people from countries that had become inhabitable.
So far, the 2015 canvas is blank, except for the requirement that it meets the UNFCCC principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." This term distinguishes between the demands that should be placed on poorer and richer economies respectively.
Who will curb their emissions and by how much, the pact's compliance regime and even its legal status are among the many issues that will have to be agreed in a hugely complex, multi-track arena.
Developing countries are demanding a show of goodwill from rich economies.
They want the European Union and its allies to renew and deepen their vows under the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only treaty that specifies cuts in greenhouse gases.
In contrast, the United States, which refuses to ratify Kyoto, is leading the charge for emerging giants to beef up their emissions pledges and open their vows to scrutiny.
In a sign of the tussles ahead, the UNFCCC said the first meeting of the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) -- an initiative designed to channel up to 100 billion dollars a year in aid to poorer countries -- had been postponed.
The May 31 meeting has been delayed "pending finalisation of the process for nominations" from countries seeking a place on the 24-seat panel, it said.
"The next window to meet will be the last week in June or first week in July, in Geneva," said Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC's executive secretary.
"There is great enthusiasm from countries to be represented on the Board. While I would have liked to see the Board get down to work immediately, a short postponement to reach full agreement on its membership means it can launch smoothly and push ahead with the tasks before it."
The GCF was launched at the ministerial-level meeting in Durban. Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Korea and Switzerland are bidding to host the fund.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ New York Times (US): Brazil’s Leader Faces Defining Decision on Bill Relaxing Protection of Forests 16 May 2012
President Dilma Rousseff is facing one of the defining moments of her presidency as pressure builds on her to veto a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming, potentially reversing Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation.
The Forest Code, which Congress approved in April at the urging of powerful agricultural groups, is an effort to overhaul Brazil’s 47-year-old legislation providing forest protection. The bill has emerged as a very delicate issue for Ms. Rousseff ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled to be held here next month.
The bill would effectively give amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested areas before 2008, drawing the ire of environmentalists. If the legislation goes into effect, it could allow landowners in the Amazon to reduce obligatory forest cover to 50 percent from 80 percent, and could lead to the loss of as much as 190 million acres of forest, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.
The bill’s arrival on the president’s agenda comes at a delicate time for Brazil’s government, forcing it to examine its alliances with parties that supported the bill. Brazil is already facing scrutiny over plans for huge energy projects in the Amazon, which Ms. Rousseff has defended. Worker revolts have recently flared at some dam construction sites, while strikes have slowed work at Brazil’s largest hydroelectric project, Belo Monte.
“Brazil cannot be allowed to take this step backward,” Marina Silva, a former environment minister and presidential candidate, said in an interview. “Obviously, giving amnesty to those who have destroyed forests heightens the risk of new deforestation.”
Equally adamant in their support of the bill are Brazil’s “ruralistas,” legislators representing agricultural interests. They are contending that the new Forest Code is needed to support Brazil’s economy, which draws strength from exports of agricultural products like beef, soybeans, sugar and poultry.
Kátia Abreu, a senator representing Tocantins State and the president of the National Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, lashed out at international environmental groups that have been pooling together to petition Ms. Rousseff to veto the bill.
“There are NGOs out there that are compromised with their countries of origin, particularly from Europe,” said Ms. Abreu, referring to nongovernmental organizations and describing their actions as an “attempt to paralyze the growth of Brazilian agribusiness.”
Still, other prominent voices in Brazil, which is home to about 40 percent of the world’s rain forests, have weighed in against the new Forest Code, including the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, two of the country’s leading scientific groups.
Anger over the bill has spread into popular culture. Exemplifying the sentiment in the entertainment industry, the actress Camila Pitanga broke protocol at an event here this month, calling on Ms. Rousseff, who was present, to veto the bill. Video images of Ms. Pitanga’s statement spread quickly on social media throughout Brazil.
Stunning some of the ruralistas, support for a veto has also emerged among some corporate leaders in São Paulo, Brazil’s business capital. Valor Econômico, the country’s top financial newspaper, likened the moment to the battle over President Obama’s sweeping health care law, calling Ms. Rousseff’s choice “one of those decisions which define a government.”
“This bill leaves Brazil in the Middle Ages,” said Paulo Nigro, president of Tetra Pak Brasil, a food packaging and processing company, who was one of several prominent São Paulo business leaders quoted by Valor voicing their opposition to the Forest Code.
Still, the dismay in some quarters over the approval of the bill weeks before thousands of environmentalists flock here for the United Nations’ sustainable development conference, called Rio Plus 20, belies an important shift in Brazilian politics, illustrated by the rising power of the ruralistas.
This voting bloc of more than 100 lawmakers chafed at Ms. Rousseff’s assertion during her campaign for president in 2010 that she would not support legislation that offered amnesty for illegal forestation. The ruralistas also lured lawmakers from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, a pillar of Ms. Rousseff’s coalition, to support the Forest Code.
“It’s embarrassing enough for the host country of Rio Plus 20 to be facing this kind of situation,” said David Fleischer, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Brasília. “But Dilma also underestimated the ruralistas, who are showing their clout,” Mr. Fleischer said, referring to Ms. Rousseff by her first name, as she is widely known in Brazil.
The bloc of lawmakers delayed another vote in Congress this month on a bill seeking to eradicate the contemporary exploitation of laborers toiling in slavelike conditions in Brazil. The ruralistas oppose the expropriation of properties on which such conditions are found.
In relation to the Forest Code, the lawmakers supporting it also say the legislation is needed to prevent food prices from climbing in Brazil. But agronomists and economists have responded that agriculture could easily be expanded by incorporating lands now used for pasture instead of razing new areas.
Fears over a backslide in protecting forests come after a crackdown on illegal logging and greater enforcement of environmental regulations have recently slowed the pace of deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon to its lowest level since government officials began monitoring in 1988.
Ms. Rousseff, who has until May 25 to make her decision, has not commented publicly on whether she will veto the bill. But senior officials, including Mendes Ribeiro Filho, the agriculture minister, have signaled that parts of the bill are unacceptable, suggesting that one option may be a line-item veto of parts of the bill.
Scientists and legal experts, however, say a partial veto could leave parts of the law unenforceable, while also potentially creating loopholes allowing some newly forested areas near rivers to be destroyed. “The entire bill must be vetoed,” said Ms. Silva, the former environment minister.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ BBC News: Seabed test mimics carbon dioxide release 16 May 2012
Scientists are beginning a month-long experiment in Scottish waters to study the impact of a possible leak from an undersea carbon dioxide storage site.
Working in Ardmucknish Bay near Oban, researchers will allow CO2 to bubble through sediments from a buried pipe and look for impacts on marine life.
Capturing CO2 from power stations and burying it under the seabed is viewed as an important global warming fix.
A number of countries have plants in operation, though the UK does not.
This is believed to be the first time that an impact of CO2 escape on seabed ecosystems has been investigated.
"We want to study what happens if there is a leak from a carbon capture and storage (CCS) reservoir - or more likely, from a fault in a pipe or at the injection site," said Henrik Stahl from the Scottish Marine Institute in Oban, who is in charge of the project.
"We'll study how this affects the ecosystem, the animals and microbes living in the sediments, and how the CO2 transforms in its passage through the upper layers of the sediment," he told BBC News.
Injection was due to begin on Monday, but late delivery of a part meant a postponement. It is now due to begin on Wednesday.
The scientists will release 80-800kg of CO2 per day from a pipe buried about 10m down in sediment.
They anticipate it will change the acidity of seawater in the immediate area from its current value of about pH 8.2 down as low as pH 6.5.
Studies in places where CO2 bubbles into the ocean naturally from vents on the sides of underwater volcanoes show that over long periods, this can substantially change the ecosystem.
Snails and coral cannot make shells; seagrasses take over.
But these sites are not reliable indicators of what would happen during a release from a CCS site. They tend to be in warmer waters, and the release is constant for many centuries, possibly longer.
Ideally the UK team would like to do tests nearer potential North Sea CCS sites. But these lie in far deeper water much further from the coast, rendering it prohibitively expensive.
The research team, which involves staff from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanography Centre and other UK institutions, will monitor polychaete worms, sea urchins and molluscs living in the bay's sediments.
They will be able to curb the release if they detect any serious impact.
Oil rigs Carbon capture and storage could make use of the UK's existing network of oil and gas rigs
They will also collect data that can be used to refine computer models of how CO2 spreads and disperses in sediment and water, and evaluate various bits of monitoring kit.
"It's not only about perturbing the system, but also studying how we can study it - how we detect and study a leak using state-of-the-art sensors," said Dr Stahl.
A number of reports conclude that fitting coal- and gas-fired power stations with CCS ought to be as important as renewables in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
But economic and political issues have impeded the take-up of the technology.
The UK has the best resources of any European country in terms of offshore storage capacity, but development of the industry has been curtailed by lack of consistent government support.
SSE and Shell are among companies bidding for £1bn of UK government funding to build the nation's first CCS plant. Their bid would see CO2 extracted from flue gas produced by SSE's Peterhead gas-fired power station and pumped under the seabed via Shell's Goldeneye offshore platform.
Back to Menu
_________________________________________________________________ Msnbc (US): 'Green Team' kids urge Crayola to recycle plastic markers 18 May 2012
They may be small in stature, but kids at a California elementary school have gotten more than 55,000 people to sign an online petition asking Crayola to "take back" and recycle used plastic markers.
Don't get these 1st to 5th graders wrong -- they say they love Crayola products and are just looking to educate the company on how to lead industry and inspire others.
"We're asking Crayola to make sure these markers don't end up in our landfills, incinerators and oceans," the children said in their petition at Change.org.
Just a week old, the "Crayola, Make Your Mark!" petition came about when the "Green Team" at the Sun Valley School in San Rafael, Calif., started looking for a new project.
"The idea evolved from conversations with kids about plastic waste and they immediately identified with how many Crayola plastic markers they had thrown away," Land Wilson, the adult volunteer who facilitates the efforts, told msnbc.com. "Forty students eagerly stepped up and wanted to do something about the problem."
"We simply want Crayola to establish an easy take back program that kids can partake in -- i.e. prepaid return envelopes with their products or dropoff locations at retail outlets and schools," he added.
One man's trash is another man's treasure. Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang are harvesting the plastic refuse littered on California's Kehoe Beach and turning it into beautiful, unique works of art. NBC's Mike Leonard reports.
Wilson said his own two children are huge Crayola marker fans. "Over the past 8 years, we have gone through approximately 500," he figured.
Crayola acknowledged the good intentions but said that, for now at least, there’s no practical way to take back and recycle entire markers.
"We value and encourage children to share their ideas and appreciate the suggestion that the students of Sun Valley brought to our attention," Crayola spokeswoman Stacy Gabrielle told msnbc.com. "At this time, we do not have the facilities or a process that will enable us to offer a take back program."
Gabrielle did note that the caps on each marker can be recycled at centers that take polypropylene, one of the least recyclable plastics.
Wilson said the children hoped Crayola would expand an internal program it has to recycle markers flawed on the production line.
Gabrielle did not address that directly, saying only that Crayola is not able "to take back and make new markers from used ones and provide consumers with a high quality marker that meets our rigorous safety standards for children."
So is an all-out boycott next? Don't hold your breath.
"We don't want to boycott because we love Crayola," Wilson said. "The environmental problems children hear about daily is long and they need a champion. What better champion than a company that they already know and love."
At Change.org, deputy campaign director Mike Jones said the petition has definitely caught on with users. "We've seen more than 15,000 petitions started on Change.org over the past month," he told msnbc.com, "and this campaign definitely ranks near the top this month in terms of how quickly it grew."
Back to Menu