1.1. Less than 300 days
20 February 2009, FOEE
Friends of the Earth Europe and more than 50 other organisations have written an open letter to European Heads of State and Government stressing that they have less than 300 days to secure a strong international agreement on climate change.
The letter – signed by more than 50 environment and development groups and published today in the European edition of the Economist magazine – comes less than 300 days before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen this December. It demands that any response to the economic crisis promotes sustainable recovery, and not outdated polluting technologies. It calls on European governments to accept their historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, and also demands that governments provide $35 billion to tackle climate change in the developing world.
As you and political leaders across the world strive to counter today’s financial meltdown, it is imperative that you do not lose sight of the climate crisis, which poses an even bigger threat to the world’s citizens and economies.
Its impact is already being felt by millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – through floods, droughts, increased extreme weather phenomena and rising sea levels.
You and other world leaders have less than 300 days to secure a strong agreement to tackle climate change at the UN summit in Copenhagen. If you get it right, this deal could save the world from the enormous costs of catastrophic global warming and protect the lives of poor people in developing countries. It could boost economic growth; create millions of high quality green collar jobs; and secure a safe energy supply for generations to come.
But there will be no agreement if rich countries, who have caused the climate crisis, fail to show a strong commitment to investing public money in climate protection, at home and in developing countries.
The European Union’s position for the Copenhagen summit will be determined in the next few weeks. At the next summit of EU leaders on 19-20 March, you must:
– Agree to use today’s fiscal stimulus measures to invest in the climate-friendly and environmentally safe industries of tomorrow. Taxpayers’ money should be used to support a ‘green new deal’ to ensure a sustainable economic recovery – instead of bailing out polluting industries;
– Champion the creation of a new international financial mechanism to support adaptation to climate change, clean energy and forest protection in developing countries. Government contributions should be based on historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, and ability to pay;
– Commit to pay Europe’s fair share – a minimum commitment now in the order of €35bn per year. This money must be additional to existing aid targets, and to any purchasing of carbon credits that offset EU emissions.
More at: http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2009/Feb20_Less_than_300_days.html
1.2. China says willing to work with US on climate change
20 February 2009, AFP
China said Thursday it was willing to work with the United States on addressing climate change, saying such efforts were vital to fighting global warming.
"Strengthening cooperation on climate change is in the interest of the two countries and conducive to our two nations contributing to international climate change cooperation," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
"We would like to work with the US to make concrete progress on this issue."
Jiang was speaking ahead of a visit to China beginning Friday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on her first overseas trip since taking on the role.
Clinton has said closer ties with China on fighting climate change was one of her priorities on her tree-day trip, during which she will meet President Hu Jintao.
Todd Stern, Clinton’s special envoy on climate change and a veteran negotiator on global warming, is accompanying her.
China and the United States are the world’s two largest emitters of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and they have traded accusations in recent years on who should shoulder the responsibility for the problem.
But US President Barack Obama has pledged to shred the climate policies of his predecessor George W. Bush and has vowed to lead an international fight against global warming.
In 2001, Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol that sought to forge a global deal on fighting climate change, with his administration blaming the pull-out on the fact developing nations such as China did not have to commit to emission cuts.
Cooperation between the two giants is essential for the success of negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December on a new global pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, Greenpeace China said.
"Strong leadership from the US and China, acting together, is essential to reaching an agreement in Copenhagen," the environmental group said in an open letter released Thursday to Clinton and her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
"We urge China and the US to explore deeper collaboration between their energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, to create a new development model that meets energy demands… and generates millions of green jobs without sacrificing human health or the environment."
1.3. Africa most afflicted by climate change – Czech minister
19 February 2009, Czech News
Africa is the region which is afflicted by climate change and other environmental problems such as erosion, growing deserts, disappearance of forests and air pollution more than any other world part, Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik said in Nairobi today.
Bursik said it was easy for the European and African countries to name common problems. "All these problems have a clear negative impact on the lives of millions of people," he said in a press statement.
Bursik, who is also Czech deputy prime minister, chaired a meeting of the European Union environment ministers and their African colleagues who discussed today in Nairobi climate change and partnership between the European Union and Africa in Nairobi today.
The Czech Republic is presiding over the EU in the current half of the year.
The meeting in Kenya was held within the 25th session of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council.
Bursik said partnership between the EU and Africa played the key role in a search for joint solutions to the above mentioned problems.
Support for adaptation measures and transfer of modern technologies to the developing countries is necessary for their success, he said.
The Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), defined in the Kyoto Protocol aimed at the greenhouse gas reduction as well as part of the profits from carbon credits trading and money from the EU adaptation funds should be used to finance adaptation projects and the introduction of modern technologies, Bursik said.
Under the Czech EU presidency, the EU will prepare plans that it will present to the international environment conference in Copenhagen in December.
The Kyoto Protocol designed to prevent climate change and global warming will expire in 2012. There is an urgent need for a new climate protocol and the conference in Copenhagen is expected to work it out.
At a conference in Potsdam, Germany, in December politicians agreed on the establishment of an international adaptation fund from which the developing countries that are the most threatened with climate change will draw financial aid.
Climate protection is impossible without the advanced countries’ aid to the developing countries, Bursik said.
2.1. Parliament paves way for wider eco-design product list
17 February 2009, EurActiv
The European Parliament’s environment committee voted on a report to cover all products with an impact on energy use, such as windows, insulation materials and water-using devices, in the EU’s Eco-design Directive (EurActiv 24/10/08). Currently, only devices that directly use energy are part of the scheme.
MEPs, however, rejected a proposal from the rapporteur, Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE), to go as far as including all products except means of transport. This would have effectively mandated the Commission to set minimum energy requirements for food and clothes, for example.
The committee consequently requested the Commission to come up with a proposal by 2012, extending the scope only to "non-energy-related products" with "significant potential for reducing their environmental impacts throughout their whole life-cycle".
Backing on traditional light bulb ban
At the same time, MEPs also voted on whether to block the Commission’s implementing measure to phase out incandescent and inefficient halogen light bulbs by 2012. The EU executive proposed the measure under the Eco-design Directive in December 2008 (EurActiv 09/12/08).
German MEPs Holger Krahmer (ALDE) and Anja Weisgerber (EPP-ED) had drafted a resolution arguing that the regulatory committee’s procedure, which excludes the Parliament from decision-making, was not justified for the banning of a product like light bulbs. An overwhelming majority of MEPs nevertheless voted against it, effectively endorsing the Commission’s proposal.
Cutting red tape on Ecolabel scheme
MEPs also backed the Commission’s proposal of July 2008 to make the voluntary EU Ecolabel less bureaucratic and less expensive. The Parliament wants to ensure that the Commission and member states provide proper funding for awareness-raising campaigns and that particularly small and medium-sized enterprises have better access to the flower label.
Although the committee voted in favour of bringing new goods within the scope of the directive, which currently covers more than 3,000 products, like detergents and paper, it decided to leave out processed food and products containing dangerous chemicals.
MEPs insisted that the Commission should conduct a study to establish whether reliable environmental criteria can be defined for food, fisheries and aquaculture products. They also took a firm stance against awarding the Ecolabel to toxic or carcinogenic products. However, they left out an option of making exemptions in certain product categories.
Moreover, the Parliament urged the Commission to consider the inclusion of reduced animal testing and better environmental performance as criteria for awarding the label.
3.1. Biofuels may speed up, not slow global warming: study
14 February 2008, AFP
The use of crop-based biofuels could speed up rather than slow down global warming by fueling the destruction of rainforests, scientists warned Saturday.
Once heralded as the answer to oil, biofuels have become increasingly controversial because of their impact on food prices and the amount of energy it takes to produce them.
They could also be responsible for pumping far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they could possibly save as a replacement for fossil fuels, according to a study released Saturday.
"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks," warned Holly Gibbs, of Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.
Gibbs studied satellite photos of the tropics from 1980 to 2000 and found that half of new cropland came from intact rainforests and another 30 percent from disturbed forests.
"When trees are cut down to make room for new farmland, they are usually burned, sending their stored carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide," Gibbs said.
For high-yield crops like sugar cane it would take 40 to 120 years to pay back this carbon debt.
For lower yield crops like corn or soybeans it would take 300 to 1,500 years, she told reporters at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Biofuels have caused alarm because of how quickly production has been growing: Global ethanol production increased by four times and biodiesel by 10 times between 2000 and 2007," Gibbs said.
"Moreover, agricultural subsidies in Indonesia and in the United States are providing added incentives to increase production of these crops."
Gibbs estimates that anywhere from a third to two thirds of recent deforestation could be as a result of the increased demand for biofuels, but said an increased demand for food and feed also play a major role.
What is certain is that much of the expansion of cropland in response to growing demand and rising prices is occurring in the tropics where there is an abundance of arable land and climates ideal for growing biofuel crops like sugar cane, soy and oil palm.
Simply growing the biofuel crops in the United States or other non-tropical countries will not solve the problem, said Michael Coe of the Woods Hole Research Center.
Recent legislation mandating increased use of ethanol has already prompted US farmers to switch from soy to corn production. But since soy demand remains high, farmers in Brazil have responded by cutting down forests to expand soy production.
"Emissions from deforestation in Brazil — even under our best scenarios — still swamp any decrease in greenhouse gasses in the United States," Coe told reporters.
"We can’t find a way that it makes greenhouse gas sense to grow ethanol in the United States."
These findings do not mean that biofuels cannot be an important part of energy policy, Gibbs added.
Growing biofuel crops on marginal lands can have an overall positive environmental impact and there are enormous tracks of degraded land in the tropics.
But since fighting soil erosion or reversing nutrient leeching with fertilizers costs more than cutting down forests, farmers must be offered economic incentives to do so, Gibbs said.
And policy makers must also decide if the climate would be better served by returning degraded land to its natural forested state so it could act as a carbon sink and provide ecological services such as rainwater recycling, flood mitigation and habitat for endangered species.
"There are tradeoffs in all these decisions that need to be made on a case-by-case basis," she said. "We need to keep in mind that more cropland will be needed to meet the global demands for food, feed and fuel, so the best options will likely vary by circumstance."
3.2. Electric car charging stations power-up in San Francisco
19 February 2009, Physorg
Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations went live outside San Francisco’s City Hall this week as the mayor vowed that the area will lead the nation in steering away from gasoline-powered cars.
"Our goal is to transform the Bay Area into the EV capital of the United States, and a networked infrastructure is essential for the adoption of electric vehicles," said mayor Gavin Newsom.
"San Francisco is proud to be the first city to feature charging stations with technology to support our city’s clean electric fleet vehicles and car-share fleets."
Coulomb Technologies installed three charging stations unveiled Wednesday at a plaza across from the City Hall entrance.
The ChargePoint Network stations are part of a two-year public demonstration of the feasibility of using electric vehicles in cities.
Stations feature Fleet Management Portal technology that tracks amounts of gasoline saved and greenhouse gas emissions avoided by each electric vehicle.
The system sends text messages to drivers’ mobile telephones alerting them when electric vehicles need charging, or when ones that are parked have finished being charged.
"The Bay Area is the epicenter of the electric vehicle movement," said Coulomb chief executive Richard Lowenthal.
"A smart, networked infrastructure is an essential enabler of this movement and the City of San Francisco is leading by example."
Coulomb is based in the California city of Campbell and specializes in plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure.
4.1. Informing. Interpreting. Empowering.
The EEA’s new Strategy outlines our plans for the next five years. It is shaped around today’s and tomorrow’s information needs with an emphasis on a much wider use of the environmental information being collected. We are streamlining our activities, creating new ways of working and developing new methods to bring environmental thinking into the mainstream of economic and social policy-making.
5.1. Seventh session of the AWG-KP and fifth session of the AWG-LCA
29 March-08 April 2009,Bonn, Germany
The provisional agendas for the seventh session of the AWG-KP and the fifth session of the AWG-LCA are now available online.
More at: http://unfccc.int/2860.php
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