1.1. WTO Mini-Ministerial in Geneva: Why the EU’s trade agenda is doomed to fail
18 July2008, FOEE
Today, European civil society organisations and social movement members of the Seattle to Brussels Network have expressed deep concern about the EU’s position in the run-up to the upcoming WTO Mini-Ministerial meeting in Geneva.
Ministers from dozens of countries, including the US, EU, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Philippines, South Africa, Kenya and Egypt, will meet in Geneva from 21 July 2008 to push through the conclusion of the WTO’s Doha Round. After years of negotiations, failed Ministerials, and re-starts, this is their ‘last chance’ before President Bush leaves office. The Ministers are seeking to conclude this faltering round while pushing aside key global priorities like the food crisis, fuel prices, global warming, global poverty and debt.
If concluded, this falsely labelled ‘Development Round’ will benefit large corporations – but will have profoundly negative impacts on workers, farmers, women, consumers, and the environment.
Job loss and de-industrialization would increase and development space would be further hampered. Rich countries are demanding that developing countries provide ‘new market access’, meaning slashing protective tariffs on manufactured goods and natural resources.
Farmers’ livelihoods, food security, and rural development would come under even greater pressure. The United States and Europe continue to subsidize their agribusiness exporters, while at the same time fighting against key protections for millions of farmers in developing countries. This is outrageous in the face of a global food crisis.
Privatisation and deregulation of services would be exacerbated, including in key sectors such as finance and energy, thereby reducing access to and democratic control of these services. However recent instability in global markets demonstrates the need for increased intervention in and oversight of global financial and other markets, not more deregulation.
Global efforts to tackle climate change may be curtailed by the strengthening of WTO rules, which promote the expansion of world trade as an end in itself, without looking at possible adverse impacts on the world’s climate, biodiversity and natural resources.
The poorest countries would be the biggest losers. Economic projections of a potential Doha deal, by several think tanks and even by the World Bank, show that the costs of lost jobs, reduced policy space and lost tariff revenues far outweigh the supposed "benefits" of this so-called ‘Development’ Round.
For all these reasons, NGOs, movements and organisations members of the Seattle to Brussels Network  are deeply concerned with the upcoming mini-ministerial meeting in Geneva.
The EU, through the voice of its European Commissioner Peter Mandelson, is still making unfair and unsustainable requests to emerging and developing countries. On the other hand, beyond all the talk on ‘Europe that protects’ propagated by the current President of the Council Mr Sarkozy, the EU is still moving forward with an unsustainable agricultural system, which mainly serves the interests of the European agribusiness industry, without consideration for the livelihoods and the food sovereignty of European or Southern small-scale farmers. In the EU’s opinion, the few concessions accepted by the EU in the agricultural negotiations should be compensated by tariffs cuts in services and industrial goods in emerging countries. But these proposals will not create more decent jobs and sustainable development neither in Europe nor in the Global South but rather hurt the most fragile parts of the populations.
A deeper deregulation of food production and trade are not the answer to the current food, environmental and energy crisis; on the contrary they will worsen inequalities both at the global and the local levels.
The conclusion of the Doha Round would reinforce and legitimate approaches and policies that currently show their inefficiency and their destructive nature for farmers, workers, consumers, environment both in Europe and in the Global South.
In the perspective of the extraordinary GAERC foreseen on the 18th of July and during the following week in Geneva, we urge the European Commission and the European member states to accept the failure of the old ‘free trade’ and competitiveness mantra and start shaping new trade policies which support food sovereignty, sustainable societies and a fair share and access to global commons.
1.2. Warming Is Major Threat To Humans, EPA Warns
18 July 2008, washingtonpost.com
Climate change will pose "substantial" threats to human health in the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday — issuing its warnings about heat waves, hurricanes and pathogens just days after the agency declined to regulate the pollutants blamed for warming.
n a new report, the EPA said "it is very likely" that more people will die during extremely hot periods in future years — and that the elderly, the poor and those in inner cities will be most at risk.
Other possible dangers include more powerful hurricanes, shrinking supplies of fresh water in the West, and the increased spread of diseases contracted through food and water, the agency said.
The strong warnings highlighted the contorted position that the EPA has staked out on climate change. Last week, the agency decided not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, at least not until after President Bush’s term ends.
A former EPA official told a House panel this week that senior administration officials and several Cabinet members supported regulating the emissions before the White House changed course and barred the EPA from concluding that they endanger public welfare.
In a closed interview Tuesday, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that Joel D. Kaplan, Bush’s deputy chief of staff for policy, originally signed off on the decision to regulate emissions from both vehicles and stationary sources such as power plants and refineries. The decision came in response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that instructed the administration to determine whether carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
"There was a general belief that moving forward with a challenge and establishing a precedent in channeling regulation would serve the country better than leaving the challenge to the next administration," Burnett said in the interview, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post. "The chief of staff’s office then appears to have changed its mind."
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the House panel, said in a statement: "Today typifies the climate-change schizophrenia in the Bush administration. On one hand, government scientists are saying that global warming poses grave threats to our health and our welfare, and, on the other hand, [there] are White House political hacks following the oil industry’s bidding to do nothing."
The EPA report yesterday was less notable for its warnings — similar problems have been predicted by other scientists and by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — than for its source. The Bush administration has resisted the conclusion that increasing temperatures will harm human health, but in yesterday’s report, that finding was unmistakable.
"We . . . anticipate substantial human health impacts," the document said.
In the West, it found, changing weather patterns could thin snowpack that feeds rivers, affecting hydroelectric dams and water supplies. In coastal areas, it could bring a sea-level rise that eats away at dry land and storm surges that can wash it away in a flash.
In Washington and other Eastern cities, the report said, a warmer climate is likely to produce more bad-air days, because heat speeds up the process by which exhaust byproducts are cooked into smog. The report also found that rising temperatures are likely to mean more periods of sustained summer heat.
"It’s going to be hotter, it’s going to be hotter sooner in the year than it was in the past," said Kristie Ebi, an Alexandria-based consultant and one of the report’s authors.
She said that young people living in the D.C. area now will notice a difference before they reach middle age. "They’re going to look back and think back about how nice the summers used to be," she said. "Within 20, 30 years, on average, the [public] should notice that it’s warmer."
The report was prepared under the EPA’s leadership but released by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which coordinates research among several federal agencies. Joel D. Scheraga of the EPA’s Global Change Research Program said that there was no political interference in the report’s findings or the timing of its release.
"The answer is unequivocally ‘no,’ " he said.
EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said there was no conflict between the warnings in the report and the agency’s conclusion last week that regulation should be put off.
"Climate change is a serious problem that our nation needs to address. But we need to address it correctly," Shradar said.
Last Friday, the EPA announced that it would solicit comments on the idea of regulating greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act. But at the same time it released a lengthy preamble, with messages from EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson and four other Cabinet members, saying that this idea was ill-advised.
Burnett said that this, too, was ordered by administration officials: "We were told . . . that the [document] should not establish a path forward or a framework for regulation, but should emphasize the complexity of the challenge."
He also told the panel that senior EPA officials met with representatives from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, who argued that Bush should not undermine his legacy by regulating greenhouse gases.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday that the EPA administrator chose his course on his own.
"Steve Johnson, as he has said repeatedly, and in sworn testimony, made his own decision," Fratto said. "And so whatever anyone’s views were at that time are fairly irrelevant because the administrator chose to go a different route."
1.3. Warming health report: Poor, elderly to hurt most
17 July 2008, AP
WASHINGTON – Global warming will affect the health and welfare of every American, but the poor, elderly, and children will suffer the most, according to a new White House science report released Thursday.
The 284-page report, mostly written by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said every region of the country will be hit by worse health from heat waves and drought. It said all but a handful of states would have worse air quality and flooding. It predicts an increase in diseases spread by tainted food, bad water and bugs.
The report "concludes that climate change poses real risk to human health and human system that supports our way of life in the United States," EPA’s climate change research program director Joel Scheraga said at a news conference.
Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. At current emission levels, global temperatures are likely to rise by about 2 degrees by midcentury and about 7.5 degrees by the end of the century, according to an international panel of scientists.
Most of the ill effects of global warming have been mentioned in past federal and international reports, but this report details how climate change will "accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health care system."
The most vulnerable Americans — the poor, elderly, sick, very young, and immigrants — will suffer more, said Kristie Ebi, the lead author of the health sections of the report and a private public health consultant. That’s at least 10 percent of the country’s population, probably more, she said.
It will be tougher for these people to get adequate health care for climate-related illnesses, cool down in heat waves, escape extreme events such as Hurricane Katrina, and even get enough food, the report said.
"Even in the United States, the greatest health burdens related to climate change are likely to fall on those with the lowest socio-economic status," the report said. And it notes that global warming poses "significant risks for the elderly who often have frail health and limited mobility."
While every region of America is vulnerable to global warming’s health and welfare effects, more people are moving into coastal regions, which are most vulnerable to climate change because of drought and hurricanes, the report said.
Scheraga said the report wasn’t intended to make recommendations for curbing global warming. Just last week, the EPA said it would not use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, even though the U.S. Supreme Court said it could. The federal government does not regulate greenhouse gases.
This is one of 21 reports produced by the federal government’s climate change science program, which reports to the White House science office and taps the expertise of various government agencies.
2.1. Statement on Commission opinion on Mochovce nuclear project
15 July 2008, Greenpeace
Greenpeace condemns today’s Commission opinion that gives a green light to the outdated and dangerous Mochovce nuclear project in Slovakia.
“Today’s Commission opinion is a clear indication that there is something seriously wrong with European nuclear legislation. The Commission has just given the go-ahead to a nuclear project from the Cold War era that has no modern safety features. This is proof that the fifty-year-old Euratom treaty is totally inadequate and obsolete,” said Jan Beránek, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner.
“Greenpeace will continue to challenge the Mochovce nuclear project because of its serious safety and environmental implications.”
The Mochovce blueprint dates back to the 1970s and has never been subject to a full independent public assessment, as is required by the Espoo convention and European legislation. Investors and the Slovak government claim that the original construction permit issued by the communist regime in 1986 remains fully valid despite its gaping safety flaws.
Greenpeace filed a formal complaint on Mochovce with the European Commission earlier this year alleging the use of illegal state aid, in the form of various hidden subsidies, and breach of EU competition rules.
3.1. McCain, Obama, and hot air
16 July 2008, Daily News
Whatever the outcome of the United States’ presidential election, climate change policy will be transformed. Both candidates have placed great importance on global warming.
Republican John McCain believes that it presents “a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next,” while Democrat Barack Obama calls it “one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”
It remains far from clear, however, whether the shift in rhetoric and policy will move the planet any closer to embracing the best response. Both McCain and Obama could leave future generations lumbered with the costs of major cuts in carbon emissions – without major cuts in temperatures.
Both politicians are keen to tap into voters’ concerns about global warming. McCain launched a television commercial declaring that he had “stood up to President George Bush” on global warming. If elected, Obama plans to count on former vice president and passionate campaigner Al Gore to help “lead the fight” against warming.
Each would introduce aggressive targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Obama’s plan would reduce emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, while McCain aims to ensure that emissions are 60 percent lower by then.
Both would achieve these ambitious cuts by the same method: a cap-and-trade system that imposes limits on industry emissions and forces businesses to buy rights to any additional emissions.
A cap-and-trade system can seem like a neat market solution. In fact, it is worse than a straightforward carbon tax. With a tax, the costs are obvious. With a cap-and-trade system, the costs – in terms of jobs, household consumption, and economic growth – are hidden, shifted around, and not easy to estimate, though models indicate they will run into trillions of dollars.
Not everybody would lose. Some big businesses in privileged positions would make a fortune from exploiting this rather rigged market. And politicians would have an opportunity to control the number and distribution of emission permits and the flow of billions of dollars in subsidies and sweeteners. This is a very expensive, unwieldy way to achieve a very small reduction in temperatures.
The Warner-Lieberman bill on climate change – a piece of legislation which was recently abandoned in the US Senate but is seen as a precursor of future policy – would have postponed the temperature increase in 2050 by about two years.
Recently, the Copenhagen Consensus project gathered eight of the world’s top economists – including five Nobel laureates – to examine research on the best ways to tackle 10 global challenges: air pollution, conflict, disease, global warming, hunger and malnutrition, lack of education, gender inequity, lack of water and sanitation, terrorism, and trade barriers.
Their goal was to create a prioritised list showing how money could best be spent combating these problems. The panel concluded that the least-effective use of resources would come from simply cutting CO2 emissions.
A lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the group that shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Gore – told the experts that spending $800 billion over 100 years solely on mitigating emissions would reduce inevitable temperature increases by just 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.
Even accounting for the key environmental damage from warming, we would lose money, with avoided damages of just $685 billion for our $800 billion investment.
The expert panel concluded that investing in research and development into low-carbon energy would be a much sounder, more effective option – an effort that both McCain and Obama support. But this, not carbon emissions, should be the core of their climate change policy.
Currently, low-carbon energy solutions are prohibitively expensive. The typical cost of cutting a ton of CO2 is now about $20, but the damage from a ton of carbon in the atmosphere is about $2. So we need to reduce by roughly ten-fold the cost of cutting emissions. We can achieve this by spending dramatically more researching and developing low-carbon energy.
The US could provide leadership by committing to spending 0.05 percent of its GDP exploring non-carbon-emitting energy technologies – wind, wave, or solar power – or capturing CO2 emissions from power plants. It would then have the moral authority to demand that other nations do the same. By focusing more on research and development, and less in carbon cuts, both candidates could embrace a solution that encourages the best of the American innovative spirit and leaves the best possible legacy to future generations: a high-income, low-carbon energy world.
3.2. Bulgaria Prepares to Sell Spare Kyoto Carbon Credits
17 July 2008, Bloomberg.com
Bulgaria plans to sell spare greenhouse credits granted under the Kyoto Protocol through 2012, an Environment Ministry official said.
“The ministry is preparing a proposal for trade with the national surplus quota, which has to be approved by the cabinet,” Stefan Dishovski, head of the Bulgarian Environment Ministry’s climate department, said yesterday in a phone interview.
Bulgaria’s greenhouse gas output is about 35 million metric tons of carbon dioxide below its annual grant under the protocol, Dishovski said.
“There is serious interest in this resource by many countries including Japan, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark,” he said.
Nations that are emitting over their target can buy from those that are not reaching their goals, according to Kyoto’s trading rules. Japan, the world’s second-biggest economy, said July 14 it agreed to purchase emission credits from Ukraine. The first Kyoto compliance period for nations is the five years through 2012.
The price of credits sold by Bulgaria “will be negotiated on a bilateral basis with each country willing to buy,” Dishovski said.
About 1.9 billion tons of so-called assigned amount units may be sold by eastern European nations through 2012, the World Bank said in a May report on the carbon market.
4.1. Countdown to Poz’n’Hagen: The Young Friends of the Earth Climate Tour
More info and application here: http://www.youthclimatetour.eu/
4.2. Forty-first meeting of the CDM Executive Board – CDM EB 41
Date: 30 July – 02 August 2008
Venue: UN Campus, Langer Eugen, Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10, 53113 Bonn, Germany
More at: http://cdm.unfccc.int/EB/041/index.html
4.3. TWENTY-NINTH SESSION – 20 years IPCC
Geneva, 31August – 4 September 2008
More info at: http://www.ipcc.ch/meetings/session29/doc1.pdf
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