Inter Press Service » Energy http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:44:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Poland Uses Ukraine to Push Coal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 08:05:16 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133785 A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels. On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts […]

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Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Apr 20 2014 (IPS)

A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels.

On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts to ease the crisis in Ukraine. Notoriously, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski helped negotiate a February deal between then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders of Euromaidan, the name given to the pro-EU protests in Kiev.Asking for a prominent role for coal and shale gas is mostly a Polish game.

The Polish government’s assertiveness came with quick electoral gains. According to a poll conducted in early April by polling agency TNS Polska, Tusk’s Civic Platform for the first time in years took a lead in voters’ preferences over the conservative Peace and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“Not only is Civic Platform back in the lead, but also more Poles are ready to vote and vote for the government,” Lukasz Lipinski, an analyst at think tank Polityka Insight in Warsaw, told IPS. “All opposition parties now want to move the debate [ahead of the May 25 European elections] to domestic issues because on those it is much easier to criticise the Civic Platform after six years of government.”

Yet Tusk’s executive insists on Ukraine because of the benefits the topic can still bring. In the last weekend of March, the prime minister announced a Polish proposal for a European energy union that would make Europe resilient to crises like the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

“The experience of the last few weeks [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] shows that Europe must strive towards solidarity when it comes to energy,” said Tusk speaking in Tychy, a city in the southern coal-producing Silesia region.

He went on to outline the six dimensions of the ‘energy union’: the creation of an effective gas solidarity mechanism in case of supply crises; financing from the European Union’s funds for infrastructure ensuring energy solidarity in particular in the east of the EU; collective energy purchasing; rehabilitation of coal as a source of energy; shale gas extraction; and radical diversification of gas supply to the EU.

“It is very disappointing to note the total absence of energy efficiency measures from this vision, even though it featured centrally in the March European Council on Crimea conclusions,” Julia Michalak, EU climate policy officer at the NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, told IPS. “If the Crimea crisis did not make the government realise that energy efficiency is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve real energy security for Europe, I’m not sure what would.”

While some of the measures proposed by Tusk would indeed lead (assuming they could be implemented) to increased European solidarity in the energy sector, asking for a prominent role for coal and shale gas is mostly a Polish game.

At the moment, the EU has no common binding EU policies on shale gas – various EU countries such as France and Bulgaria even have moratoriums on exploration. And the EU’s long-term climate objectives, primarily the 2050 decarbonisation goal, make a true coal resurrection unlikely.

According to Michalak, the coal and shale gas elements of the Polish six-point plan must be understood, on the one hand, as aimed at domestic audiences who want to see their government play hard ball and, on the other, as a negotiating tool meant to draw some specific gains out of Brussels.

The Tusk government has made herculean efforts to persuade foreign companies interested in shale gas to stick to the country, including firing environment minister Marcin Korolec during the climate change talks COP19 last year for reportedly not being shale gas friendly enough. Nevertheless, in April this year, France’s TOTAL became the fourth company to announce dropping exploratory works in Poland, as shale gas here is proving more scarce than initially thought.

The Polish national consensus on coal too is starting to show minor cracks.

Nearly 90 percent of electricity used in Poland comes from coal, and the government’s long-term energy strategy envisages a core role for coal up to 2060. Tusk’s executive has been unsuccessfully trying to torpedo the EU’s adoption of decarbonisation targets, so at the moment it is unclear how authorities will reconcile EU commitments with a coal-dependent economy.

Last year, the chief executive of state energy company PGE resigned, arguing that an expansion by 1,800 MW of Opole coal plant in south-western Poland is unprofitable. The government chose to go ahead with expansion plans anyway.

Despite the generalised perception in Poland that coal is a cheap form of energy, this month saw leading newspapers (including the conservative Rzeczpospolita) discussing externalities of coal following a study by think tank Warsaw Institute for Economic Studies showing that, between 1990-2012, Polish subsidies for coal amounted to 170 bn PLN (40 billion euros).

In 2013, a series of international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, announced significant restrictions to their financing of coal – lending to Polish coal, for instance, would be impossible for these institutions under the new guidelines.

Poland also has to implement the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive which calls for stricter pollution standards at energy producing units as of 2016 or closure of plants which do not comply. And it is potentially in this space that some of the benefits of Poland’s tough game on coal in Brussels could be seen.

In February, the European Commission allowed Poland to exempt 73 of its energy producing units from the requirements of the Directive, including two outdated units at Belchatow coal plant in central Poland, Europe’s largest thermal coal plant (5,298 MW) and biggest CO2 emitter.

Additionally, it has emerged this month that Poland intends to use regional funds meant for tackling urban air pollution from the next EU budget (2014-2020) to finance modernisation measures at the country’s biggest coal and gas producers, both private and state-owned.

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Deforestation in the Andes Triggers Amazon “Tsunami” http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/deforestation-andes-triggers-amazon-tsunami/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deforestation-andes-triggers-amazon-tsunami http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/deforestation-andes-triggers-amazon-tsunami/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 07:35:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133699 Deforestation, especially in the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru, was the main driver of this year’s disastrous flooding in the Madeira river watershed in Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest and the drainage basin across the border, in Brazil. That is the assessment of Marc Dourojeanni, professor emeritus at the National Agrarian University in Lima, Peru. His […]

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The Beni river, a tributary of the Madeira river, when it overflowed its banks in 2011 upstream of Cachuela Esperanza, where the Bolivian government is planning the construction of a hydropower dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Beni river, a tributary of the Madeira river, when it overflowed its banks in 2011 upstream of Cachuela Esperanza, where the Bolivian government is planning the construction of a hydropower dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Apr 16 2014 (IPS)

Deforestation, especially in the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru, was the main driver of this year’s disastrous flooding in the Madeira river watershed in Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest and the drainage basin across the border, in Brazil.

That is the assessment of Marc Dourojeanni, professor emeritus at the National Agrarian University in Lima, Peru.

His analysis stands in contrast with the views of environmentalists and authorities in Bolivia, who blame the Jirau and Santo Antônio hydroelectric dams built over the border in Brazil for the unprecedented flooding that has plagued the northern Bolivian department or region of Beni.

“That isn’t logical,” Dourojeanni told IPS. Citing the law of gravity and the topography, he pointed out that in this case Brazil would suffer the effects of what happens in Bolivia rather than the other way around – although he did not deny that the dams may have caused many other problems.

The Madeira river (known as the Madera in Bolivia and Peru, which it also runs across) is the biggest tributary of the Amazon river, receiving in its turn water from four large rivers of over 1,000 km in length.

The Madeira river’s watershed covers more than 900,000 square km – similar to the surface area of Venezuela and nearly twice the size of Spain.

In Bolivia, which contains 80 percent of the watershed, two-thirds of the territory receives water that runs into the Madeira from more than 250 rivers, in the form of a funnel that drains into Brazil.

To that vastness is added the steep gradient. Three of the Madeira’s biggest tributaries – the Beni, the Mamoré and the Madre de Dios, which rises in Peru – emerge in the Andes mountains, at 2,800 to 5,500 metres above sea level, and fall to less than 500 metres below sea level in Bolivia’s forested lowlands.

These slopes “were covered by forest 1,000 years ago, but now they’re bare,” largely because of the fires set to clear land for subsistence agriculture, said Dourojeanni, an agronomist and forest engineer who was head of the Inter-American Development Bank’s environment division in the 1990s.

The result: torrential flows of water that flood Bolivia’s lowlands before heading on to Brazil. A large part of the flatlands are floodplains even during times of normal rainfall.

This year, 60 people died and 68,000 families were displaced by the flooding, in a repeat of similar tragedies caused by the El Niño and La Niña climate phenomena before the Brazilian dams were built.

Deforestation on the slopes of the Andes between 500 metres above sea level and 3,800 metres above sea level – the tree line – is a huge problem in Bolivia and Peru. But it is not reflected in the official statistics, complained Dourojeanni, who is also the founder of the Peruvian Foundation for the Conservation of Nature, Pronaturaleza.

When the water does not run into barriers as it flows downhill, what happens is “a tsunami on land,” which in the first quarter of the year flooded six Bolivian departments and the Brazilian border state of Rondônia.

The homes of more than 5,000 Brazilian families were flooded when the Madeira river overflowed its banks, especially in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondônia, the state where the two dams are being completed.

BR-364 is a road across the rainforest that has been impassable since February, cutting off the neighbouring state of Acre by land and causing shortages in food and fuel supplies. Outbreaks of diseases like leptospirosis and cholera also claimed lives.

The dams have been blamed, in Brazil as well. The federal courts ordered the companies building the hydropower plants to provide flood victims with support, such as adequate housing, among other measures.

The companies will also have to carry out new studies on the impact of the dams, which are supposedly responsible for making the rivers overflow their banks more than normal.

Although the capacity of the two hydroelectric plants was increased beyond what was initially planned, no new environmental impact studies were carried out.

The companies and the authorities are trying to convince the angry local population that the flooding was not aggravated by the two dams, whose reservoirs were recently filled.

Such intense rainfall “only happens every 500 years,” and with such an extensive watershed it is only natural for the plains to flood, as also occurred in nearly the entire territory of Bolivia, argued Victor Paranhos, president of the Energia Sustentável do Brasil (ESBR), the consortium that is building the Jirau dam, which is closest to the Bolivian border.

The highest water level recorded in Porto Velho since the flow of the Madeira river started being monitored in 1967 was 17.52 metres in 1997, said Francisco de Assis Barbosa, the head of Brazil’s Geological Service in the state of Rondônia.

But a new record was set in late March: 19.68 metres, in a “totally atypical” year, he told IPS.

The counterpoint to the extremely heavy rainfall in the Madeira river basin was the severe drought in other parts of Brazil, which caused an energy crisis and water shortages in São Paulo.

A mass of hot dry air stationed itself over south-central Brazil between December and March, blocking winds that carry moisture from the Amazon jungle, which meant the precipitation was concentrated in Bolivia and Peru.

These events will tend to occur more frequently as a result of global climate change, according to climatologists.

Deforestation affects the climate and exacerbates its effects. Converting a forest into grassland multiplies by a factor of 26.7 the quantity of water that runs into the rivers and increases soil erosion by a factor of 10.8, according to a 1989 study by Philip Fearnside with the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA).

That means half of the rain that falls on the grasslands goes directly into the rivers, aggravating flooding and sedimentation.

The higher the vegetation and the deeper the roots, the less water runs off into the rivers, according to measurements by Fearnside on land with gradients of 20 percent in Ouro Preto D’Oeste, a municipality in Rondônia.

And clearing land for crops is worse than creating grassland because it bares the soil, eliminating even the grass used to feed livestock that retains at least some water, Dourojeanni said.

But grazing livestock compacts the soil and increases runoff, said Fearnside, a U.S.-born professor who has been researching the Amazon rainforest in Brazil since 1974.

In his view, deforestation “has not contributed much to the flooding in Bolivia, for now, because most of the forest is still standing.”

Bolivian hydrologist Jorge Molina at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, a university in La Paz, says the same thing.

But Bolivia is among the 12 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates, says a study by 15 research centres published by the journal Science in November 2013.

The country lost just under 30,000 sq km of forest cover between 2000 and 2012, according to an analysis of satellite maps.

Cattle ranching, one of the major drivers of deforestation, expanded mainly in Beni, which borders Rondônia. Some 290,000 head of cattle died in January and February, according to the local federation of cattle breeders.

The excess water even threatened the efficient operation of the hydropower plants. The Santo Antônio dam was forced to close down temporarily in February.

That explains Brazil’s interest in building additional dams upstream, “more to regulate the flow of the Madeira river than for the energy,” said Dourojeanni.

Besides a projected Brazilian-Bolivian dam on the border, and the Cachuela Esperanza dam in the Beni lowlands, plans include a hydropower plant in Peru, on the remote Inambari river, a tributary of the Madre de Dios river, he said.

But the plans for the Inambari dam and four other hydroelectric plants in Peru, to be built by Brazilian firms that won the concessions, were suspended in 2011 as a result of widespread protests.

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Uzbekistan’s Dying Aral Sea Resurrected as Tourist Attraction http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/uzbekistans-dying-aral-sea-resurrected-tourist-attraction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uzbekistans-dying-aral-sea-resurrected-tourist-attraction http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/uzbekistans-dying-aral-sea-resurrected-tourist-attraction/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:41:12 +0000 Adriane Lochner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133688 “I’m going for a swim,” says Pelle Bendz, a 52-year-old Swede, as he rummages in the jeep for his bathing trunks. The other tourists look at him, bewildered. What’s left of the Aral Sea is reputed to be a toxic stew, contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals. But the weather’s hot and Bendz insists his […]

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Rusting and stranded, ships that once operated on the Aral Sea now attract adventure tourists. Credit: Adriane Lochner/EurasiaNet

Rusting and stranded, ships that once operated on the Aral Sea now attract adventure tourists. Credit: Adriane Lochner/EurasiaNet

By Adriane Lochner
BISHKEK, Apr 15 2014 (EurasiaNet)

“I’m going for a swim,” says Pelle Bendz, a 52-year-old Swede, as he rummages in the jeep for his bathing trunks. The other tourists look at him, bewildered. What’s left of the Aral Sea is reputed to be a toxic stew, contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals.

But the weather’s hot and Bendz insists his travel agency told him “swimming” was part of the package.Activists have been jailed for exposing the disappearing sea’s impact on Karakalpakstan residents’ health.

In Nukus, the sleepy regional capital of western Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region, local tour operators say the number of sightseers is growing each year. Many come to this remote part of the Central Asian country to see the famous Savitsky art collection. There are excursions to ancient fortresses and historic Khiva, once an important stop on the Silk Road.

But the Aral Sea – one of the world’s most infamous, man-made ecological disasters – is probably the top attraction.

“Last year almost 300 foreigners went on camping trips to the coastline, and numbers are increasing,” says Tazabay Uteuliev, a local fixer who arranges transport for several Uzbek travel agencies.

Spring and autumn are most popular, but this year he even had a group in January. “More and more people seem to like it extreme,” Uteuliev tells EurasiaNet.org. The tourists are usually adventurous, not looking for a trip to the beach, but to see the famous lake before the last of the water is gone, he adds.

Bendz, the Swede, claims a special interest in unusual places. On a previous trip to Ukraine he visited Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear accident. As he runs toward the shore, his feet sink in mud. The other two tourists and their driver follow him with their eyes.

The driver explains that over the course of only one year, the coastline has receded about 50 metres. The former seabed is still damp and covered with clams.

“You don’t even have to swim,” Bendz shouts, giddily floating on the water. In 2007, one estimate put the Aral’s salinity at 10 percent. As the sea continues shrinking, salt content is believed to have risen to about 15 or 16 percent, or half the concentration in the famously salty Dead Sea.

For local activists, the swell of foreign interest offers a chance to educate, as well as entertain.

In a hotel in Nukus, a group of Swiss tourists listens to a seminar about the history of the Aral catastrophe as part of their tour programme. The lecturer asks EurasiaNet.org not to print his name because he is implicitly criticising Uzbekistan’s authoritarian government.

He has a legitimate fear: activists have been jailed for exposing the disappearing sea’s impact on Karakalpakstan residents’ health. In 2012, one activist said she was beaten and threatened with forced psychiatric care.

During his presentation, the speaker shows satellite images and videos of fishing boats from the time when the fish-packed Aral Sea was one of largest lakes in the world. He describes the consequences of the water loss for locals: extremely hot summers, freezing winters, dust storms and lung diseases.

“Only the government can do something about it,” the activist says, describing wasteful irrigation upstream on the Amu-Darya River.

In his opinion, poor government management of water resources is the main cause of the environmental problems. Only about 10 percent of the water diverted from the river makes it to the fields, he says. The rest evaporates or leaks out of aging irrigation canals.

“People should [be required to] pay for the water, then they would save it,” he says.

Uzbekistan’s centralised agricultural plan aims to produce three million tonnes of cotton annually. To meet this target, officials require farmers to grow the water-intensive plant and press-gang residents to help with the harvest each autumn.

Environmentalists are also concerned that powerful international interests have little reason to save the Aral: Energy companies from China, Russia, Uzbekistan and elsewhere are drilling in the former seabed for natural gas. The tour group drives past their rigs the next morning, across a salt desert, to visit Muynak.

A generation ago, this former fishing village was a port at the southern end of the sea. Now it is about 100 kilometres from the water’s edge. Ships once anchored offshore are now popular tourist attractions, rusting, leaning over into the desert sand. Local children play on the graffiti-covered wrecks.

Only a few hundred kilometres to the north, on the Kazakhstani side, there is hope for the Aral Sea. There, a dike built with assistance from the World Bank in 2005 catches water from the Syr-Darya River, helping bring a tiny portion of the lake back and spawning a renewed fishing industry.

But the Kazakh side does not attract as many visitors, says a representative at Tashkent-based OrexCA, a travel agency specialising in Central Asia.

The agent says she receives occasional inquiries but no bookings to visit the lake in Kazakhstan. She thinks visitors are discouraged by the higher prices and also because Kazakhstani officials have removed so-called ghost ships, selling them for scrap. Instead she touts OrexCA’s “shrinking Aral Sea tour” on the Uzbek side.

The package includes visits to historical sites and, according to the agency’s website, is “designed for admirers of extreme tourism, adventurers and fans of exotic photography.”

Editor’s note:  Adriane Lochner is a Bishkek-based writer. This story originally appeared on EurasiaNet.org.

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IPCC Climate Report Calls for “Major Institutional Change” http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/ipcc-climate-report-calls-major-institutional-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ipcc-climate-report-calls-major-institutional-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/ipcc-climate-report-calls-major-institutional-change/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:41:17 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133668 Greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than anytime during the previous three decades, the world’s top climate scientists say, despite a simultaneous strengthening of national legislation around the world aimed at reducing these emissions. The conclusions come in the third and final instalment in a series of updates by the Intergovernmental […]

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Mitigation goes most directly to the heart of what can make the UNFCCC negotiations contentious: how to pay for the expensive changes required to move into a new, low-carbon paradigm. Credit: Bigstock

Mitigation goes most directly to the heart of what can make the UNFCCC negotiations contentious: how to pay for the expensive changes required to move into a new, low-carbon paradigm. Credit: Bigstock

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Apr 14 2014 (IPS)

Greenhouse gas emissions rose more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than anytime during the previous three decades, the world’s top climate scientists say, despite a simultaneous strengthening of national legislation around the world aimed at reducing these emissions.

The conclusions come in the third and final instalment in a series of updates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-overseen body. The new update warns that “only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed” two degrees Celsius by the end of the century, an internationally agreed upon threshold."The report makes clear that if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get out of investing in fossil fuels." -- Oscar Reyes

The full report, which focuses on mitigation, is to be made public on Tuesday. But a widely watched summary for policymakers was released Sunday in Berlin, the site of a week of reportedly hectic negotiations between government representatives.

“We expect the full report to say that it is still possible to limit warming to two degrees Celsius, but that we’re not currently on a path to doing so,” Kelly Levin, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank here, told IPS.

“Others have found that we’re not on that pathway even if countries were to deliver on past pledges, and some countries aren’t on track to do so. A key message is that we need substantially more effort on mitigation, and that this is a critical decade for action.”

The previous IPCC report, released last month, assessed the impacts of climate change, which it said were already being felt in nearly every country around the world. The new one looks at what to do about it.

“This is a strong call for international action, particularly around the notion that this is a problem of the global commons,” Levin says.

“Every individual country needs to participate in the solution to climate change, yet this is complicated by the fact that countries have very different capabilities to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. We can now expect lots of conversation about the extent to which greater cooperation and collective action is perceived to be fair.”

Substantial investments

The full report, the work of 235 authors, represents the current scientific consensus around climate change and the potential response. Yet the policymakers’ summary is seen as a far more political document, mediating between the scientific findings and the varying constraints and motivations felt by national governments on the issue.

The latest report is likely to be particularly polarising. The three updates, constituting the IPCC’s fifth assessment, will be merged into a unified report in October, which in turn will form the basis for negotiations next year to agree on a new global response to climate change, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

While previous IPCC updates focused on the science behind climate change and its potential impacts, mitigation goes most directly to the heart of what can make the UNFCCC negotiations contentious: how to pay for the expensive changes required to move into a new, low-carbon paradigm.

In order to keep average global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius, the new report, examining some 1,200 potential scenarios, finds that global emissions will need to be brought down by anywhere from 40 to 70 percent within the next 35 years. Thereafter, they will need to be further reduced to near zero by the end of the century.

“Many different pathways lead to a future within the boundaries set by the two degrees Celsius goal,” Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the co-chairs of the working group that put out the new report, said Sunday. “All of these require substantial investments.”

The report does not put a specific number on those investments. It does, however, note that they would have a relatively minor impact on overall economic growth, with “ambitious mitigation” efforts reducing consumption growth by just 0.06 percent.

Yet they caution that “substantial reductions in emissions would require large changes in investment patterns.”

The IPCC estimates that investment in conventional fossil fuel technologies for the electricity sector – the most polluting – will likely decline by around 20 percent over the next two decades. At the same time, funding for “low cost” power supply – including renewables but also nuclear, natural gas and “carbon capture” technologies – will increase by 100 percent.

“The report makes clear that if we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get out of investing in fossil fuels. Yet the way the IPCC addresses this is problematic, and is a reflection of existing power dynamics,” Oscar Reyes, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank here, told IPS.

“While it’s positive that they point out that renewables are achievable at scale, they also talk about gas as a potential transition fuel. Yet many models say that doing so actually discourages investment in renewables. There are also problems with the tremendous costs of many of the technological fixes they’re putting forward.”

Equity and income

The policymakers’ summary is a consensus document, meaning that all 195 member countries have signed off on its findings. Yet it appears that last week’s negotiations in Berlin were arduous, particularly as countries position themselves ahead of the final UNFCCC negotiations next year.

Debate over how the financial onus for mitigation and adaptation costs will be parcelled out has played out in particular between middle-income and rich countries. While the latter are primarily responsible for the high greenhouse gas emissions of the past, today this is no longer the case.

Even as previous IPCC reports have categorised countries as simply “developing” or “developed” (similar to the UNFCCC approach), some rich countries have wanted to more fully differentiate the middle-income countries and their responsibility for current emissions. Apparently in response, the new IPCC report now characterises country economies on a four-part scale.

Yet some influential developing countries have pushed back on this. In a formal note of “substantial reservation” seen by IPS, the Saudi Arabian delegation warns that using “income-based country groupings” is overly vague, given that countries can shift between groups “regardless of their actual per capita emissions”.

Nine other countries, including Egypt, India, Malaysia, Qatar, Venezuela and others, reportedly signed on to the Saudi note of dissent.

Bolivia wrote a separate dissent that likewise disputes income-based classification. But it also decries the IPCC’s lack of focus on “non-market-based approaches to address international cooperation in climate change through the provision of finance and transfer of technology from developed to developing countries.”

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Yakama Nation Tells DOE to Clean Up Nuclear Waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/yakama-nation-tells-doe-clean-nuclear-waste/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 18:21:39 +0000 Michelle Tolson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133655 The Department of Energy (DOE), politicians and CEOs were discussing how to warn generations 125,000 years in the future about the radioactive waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, considered the most polluted site in the U.S., when Native American anti-nuclear activist Russell Jim interrupted their musings: “We’ll tell them.” He tells IPS “they looked around and […]

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At the perimetre of Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

At the perimetre of Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

By Michelle Tolson
YAKAMA NATION, Washington State, U.S. , Apr 14 2014 (IPS)

The Department of Energy (DOE), politicians and CEOs were discussing how to warn generations 125,000 years in the future about the radioactive waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, considered the most polluted site in the U.S., when Native American anti-nuclear activist Russell Jim interrupted their musings: “We’ll tell them.”

He tells IPS “they looked around and saw me. I said, ‘We’ve been here since the beginning of time, so we will be here then.’ That was when they knew they’d have a fight on their hands.”“Helen Caldicott told us in 1997 that if we eat fish from the Columbia, we’ll die." -- Yakama Elder Russell Jim

With his long braids, the 78-year-old director of the Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Programme (ERWM) for the Yakama tribes cuts a striking figure, sitting calmly in his office located on the arid lands of his sovereign nation.

The Yakama Reservation in southeast Washington has 1.2 million acres with 10,000 federally recognised tribal members and an estimated 12,000 feral horses roaming the desert steppe. Down from the 12 million acres ceded by force to the U.S. government in 1855, it is just 20 miles west from the Hanford nuclear site.

Though the nuclear arms race ended in 1989, radioactive waste is the legacy of the various sites of the former Manhattan Project spread across the U.S.

While the Yakama have successfully protected their sacred fishing grounds from becoming a repository for nuclear waste from other project sites by invoking the treaty of 1855 which promises access to their “usual and accustomed places,” Hanford is far from clean, though the DOE promised to restore the land.

“The DOE is trying to reclassify the waste as ‘low activity.’ They are trying to leave it here and bury it in shallow pits. Scientists are saying that it needs to be buried deep under the ground,” Jim explains.

Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge watchdog group tells IPS “it is a battle for Washington State and the tribes to get the feds to keep their promise to remove the waste. There are 42 miles of trenches that are 15 feet wide and 20 feet deep full of boxes, crates and vials of waste in unlined trenches.”

There are a further 177 underground tanks of radioactive waste and six are leaking. Waste is supposed to be moved within 24 hours from leak detection or whenever is “practicable” but the contractors say there is not enough space.

Three whistleblowers working on the cleanup raised concerns and were fired. Closely followed by a local news station, it is an issue that is largely neglected by mainstream media and the Yakama’s fight seems all but ignored.

“We used to have a media person on staff but the DOE says there is no need as ‘everything is going fine,” says Russell Jim. His department lost 80 percent of its funding in 2012 after cutbacks. His tribe doesn’t fund ERWM, the DOE does. “The DOE crapped it up, so they should pay for it.”

Russell Jim, Yakama Elder and Director of Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Program (ERWM) for the Yakama Nation. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

Russell Jim, Yakama Elder and Director of Environmental Restoration & Waste Management Program (ERWM) for the Yakama Nation. Credit: Jason E. Kaplan/IPS

But everything is not fine. With radioactive groundwater plumes making their way toward the river, the Yakama and watchdog groups says it is an emergency. Some plumes are just 400 yards from the river where the tribe accesses Hanford Reach monument, according to treaty rights.

Hanford Reach nature reserve, a buffer zone for the site, is the Columbia’s largest spawning grounds for wild fall Chinook salmon

Washington State reports highly toxic radioactive contamination from uranium, strontium 90 and chromium in the ground water has already entered the Columbia River.

“There are about 150 groundwater ‘upwellings’ in the gravel of the Columbia River coming from Hanford that young salmon swim around,” explains Russell Jim.

“Helen Caldicott [founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility] told us in 1997 that if we eat fish from the Columbia, we’ll die,” he adds.

Callie Ridolfi, environmental consultant to the Yakama, tells IPS their diet of 150 to 519 grammes of fish a day, nearly double regional tribal averages and far greater than the mainstream population, puts them at greater risk, with as much as a one in 50 chance of getting cancer from eating resident fish.

Migratory fish like salmon that live in the ocean most of their lives are less affected, unlike resident fish.

According to a 2002 EPA study on fish contaminants, resident sturgeon and white fish from Hanford Reach had some of the highest levels of PCBs.

Last year, Washington and Oregon states released an advisory for the 150-mile heavily dammed stretch of the Columbia from Bonneville to McNary Dam to limit eating resident fish to once a week due to PCB toxins.

Fisheries manager at Mike Matylewich at Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), says, “Lubricants containing PCBs were used for years, particularly in transformers, at hydroelectric dams because of the ability to withstand high temperatures.

“The ability to withstand high temperatures contributes to their persistence in the environment as a legacy contaminant,” he tells IPS.

While the advisory does not include the Hanford Reach, the longest undammed stretch of the Columbia, Russell Jim doubts it’s safe.

“The DOE tells congress the river corridor is clean. It’s not clean but they are afraid of damages being filed against them.” A cancer survivor, Jim’s tribe received no compensation for damages from radioactive releases from 1944 to 1971 into the Columbia as high as 6,300,000 curies of Neptunium-239.

Steven G. Gilbert, a toxicologist with Physicians for Social Responsbility, tells IPS there is a lack transparency and data on the Hanford cleanup. “It is a huge problem,” he says, adding that contaminated groundwater at Hanford still interacts with the Columbia River, based on water levels.

Though eight of the nine nuclear reactors next to the river were decommissioned, the 1,175-megawatt Energy Northwest Energy power plant is still functioning

“Many people don’t know there is a live nuclear reactor on the Columbia. It’s the same style as Fukushima,” Gilbert explains.

In the middle of the fight are the tribes, which are sovereign nations. Russell Jim says they are often erroneously described as “stakeholders” when they are separate governments.

“We were the only tribe to take on the nuclear issue and testify at the 1980 Senate subcommittee. In 1982 we immediately filed for affected tribe status. The Umatilla and the Nez Perce tribes later joined.”

Yucca Mountain was earmarked by congress as a nuclear storage repository for Hanford and other sites’ waste but the plan was struck down by the president. Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone in the region filed for affected status.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico was slated to take waste from Hanford but after a fire in February, the site is taking no more waste. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has expressed concern about the lack of storage options.

The U.S. has the largest stockpile of spent nuclear fuel globally – five times that of Russia.

“The best material to store waste in is granite and the northeast U.S. has a lot of granite. An ideal site was just 30 miles from the capital, but that is out,” says Russell Jim with a wry smile, considering its proximity to the White House.

He does not plan to give up. “We are the only people here who can’t pick up and move on.”

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The Iranian Nuclear Weapons Programme That Wasn’t http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/iranian-nuclear-weapons-programme-wasnt/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 01:07:26 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133622 When U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz unsealed the indictment of a Chinese citizen in the UK for violating the embargo against Iran, she made what appeared to be a new U.S. accusation of an Iran nuclear weapons programme. The press release on the indictment announced that between in November 2005 and 2012, Sihai […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Apr 12 2014 (IPS)

When U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz unsealed the indictment of a Chinese citizen in the UK for violating the embargo against Iran, she made what appeared to be a new U.S. accusation of an Iran nuclear weapons programme.

The press release on the indictment announced that between in November 2005 and 2012, Sihai Cheng had supplied parts that have nuclear applications, including U.S.-made goods, to an Iranian company, Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing, which it described as “involved in the development and procurement of parts for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”The text of the indictment ...was yet another iteration of a rhetorical device used often in the past to portray Iran’s gas centrifuge enrichment programme as equivalent to the development of nuclear weapons.

Reuters, Bloomberg, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and The Independent all reported that claim as fact. But the U.S. intelligence community, since its well-known November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, has continued to be very clear on the pubic record about its conclusion that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons programme since 2003.

Something was clearly amiss with the Justice Department’s claim.

The text of the indictment reveals that the reference to a “nuclear weapons program” was yet another iteration of a rhetorical device used often in the past to portray Iran’s gas centrifuge enrichment programme as equivalent to the development of nuclear weapons.

The indictment doesn’t actually refer to an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, as the Ortiz press release suggested. But it does say that the Iranian company in question, Eyvaz Tehnic Manufacturing, “has supplied parts for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.”

The indictment claims that Eyvaz provided “vacuum equipment” to Iran’s two uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow and “pressure transducers” to Kalaye Electric Company, which has worked on centrifuge research and development.

But even those claims are not supported by anything except a reference to a Dec. 2, 2011 decision by the Council of the European Union that did not offer any information supporting that claim.

The credibility of the EU claim was weakened, moreover, by the fact that the document describes Eyvaz as a “producer of vacuum equipment.” The company’s website shows that it produces equipment for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, including level controls and switches, control valves and steam traps.

Further revealing its political nature of indictment’s nuclear weapons claim, it cites two documents “designating” entities for their ties to the nuclear programme: the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 and a U.S. Treasury Department decision two months later.

Neither of those documents suggested any connection between Eyvaz and nuclear weapons. The UNSC Resolution, passed Dec. 23, 2006, referred to Iran’s enrichment as “proliferation sensitive nuclear activities” in 11 different places in the brief text and listed Eyvaz as one of the Iranian entities to be sanctioned for its involvement in those activities.

And in February 2007 the Treasury Department designated Kalaye Electric Company as a “proliferator of Weapons of Mass Destruction” merely because of its “research and development efforts in support of Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program.”

The designation by Treasury was carried out under an Executive Order 13382, issued by President George W. Bush, which is called “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters.” That title conveyed the impression to the casual observer that the people on the list had been caught in actual WMD proliferation activities.

But the order required allowed the U.S. government to sanction any foreign person merely because that person was determined to have engaged in activities that it argued “pose a risk of materially contributing” to “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery”.

The Obama administration’s brazen suggestion that it was indicting an individual for exporting U.S. products to a company that has been involved in Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” is simply a new version of the same linguistic trick used by the Bush administration.

The linguistic acrobatics began with the political position that Iran’s centrifuge programme posed a “risk” of WMD proliferation; that “risk” of proliferation was then conflated with nuclear proliferation activities, when than was transmuted into “development of nuclear weapons”.

The final linguistic shift was to convert “development of nuclear weapons” into a “nuclear weapons program”.

That kind of the deceptive rhetoric about the Iranian nuclear programme began with the Bill Clinton administration, which argued, in effect, that nuclear weapons development could be inferred from Iran’s enrichment programme.

Although Cheng and Jamili clearly violated U.S. statutes in purchasing and importing the pressure transducers from the United States and sending them to Eyvaz in Iran, a close reading of the indictment indicates that the evidence that Eyvaz provided the transducers to the Iranian nuclear programme is weak at best.

The indictment says Cheng began doing business with Jamili and his company Nicaro in November 2005, and that he sold thousands of Chinese parts “with nuclear applications” which had been requested by Eyvaz. But all the parts listed in the indictment are dual use items that Eyvaz could have ordered for production equipment for oil and gas industry customers.

The indictment insinuates that Eyvaz was ordering the parts to pass them on to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz, but provides no real evidence of that intent. It quotes Jamili as informing Cheng in 2007 that his unnamed customer needed the parts for “a very big project and a secret one”. In 2008, he told Cheng that the customer was “making a very dangerous system and gas leakage acts as a bomb!”

The authors do not connect either of those statements to Eyvaz, but they suggest that it was a reference to gas centrifuges and thus imply that it must have been Eyvaz. “During the enrichment of uranium using gas centrifuges,” the indictment explains, “extremely corrosive chemicals are produced that could cause fire and explosions.”

That statement is highly misleading, however. There is no real risk of gas leaks from centrifuges causing fires or explosions, as MIT nuclear expert Scott R. Kemp told IPS in an interview. “The only risk of a gas leak [in centrifuge enrichment] is to the centrifuge itself,” said Kemp, “because the gas could leak into the centrifuge and cause it to crash.”

On the other hand, substantial risk of explosion and fire from gas leaks exists in the natural gas industry. So even if the customer referred to in the quotes had been Eyvaz, they would have been consistent with that company’s sales to gas industry customers.

Pressure transducers are used to control risk in that industry, as Todd McPadden of Ashcroft Instruments in Stratford, Connecticut told IPS. The pressure transducer measures the gas pressure and responds to any indication of either loss of pressure from leaks or build up of excessive pressure, McPadden explained.

The indictment shows in detail that in 2009 Eyvaz ordered hundreds of pressure transducers, which came from the U.S. company MKS. But again the indictment cites no real evidence that Eyvaz was ordering them to supply Iran’s enrichment facilities.

It refers only to photographs showing that MKS parts ended up in the centrifuge cascades at Natanz, which does constitute evidence that they came from Eyvaz.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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OP-ED: The World Bank’s Waste of Energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/world-banks-waste-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-banks-waste-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/world-banks-waste-energy/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 17:31:23 +0000 Janet Redman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133566 The World Bank’s job is to fight poverty. Key to lifting people out of poverty is access to reliable modern energy. It makes sense. Kids do better in school when they can study at night. Microbusiness owners earn more if they can keep their shops open after sundown. And when women and children don’t have […]

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By Janet Redman
WASHINGTON, Apr 10 2014 (IPS)

The World Bank’s job is to fight poverty. Key to lifting people out of poverty is access to reliable modern energy. It makes sense.

Kids do better in school when they can study at night. Microbusiness owners earn more if they can keep their shops open after sundown. And when women and children don’t have to gather wood for cooking they’re healthier and have more time for other activities.The programme seems to be more about erecting scaffolding around the crumbling CDM than about getting renewable energy to impoverished families.

What doesn’t make sense is using a failed scheme — like carbon trading — to pay for it.

Carbon trading was developed as a way for industry to comply with laws limiting their greenhouse gas emissions more cheaply. Companies that can’t or won’t meet carbon caps can purchase surplus allowances from others that have kept pollution below legal limits.

The U.N. established an international system called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to make it even cheaper for businesses in rich countries to meet carbon regulations by paying for clean energy projects in developing nations. Purchasing these offsets through the CDM was promoted as a new way to provide financing to poorer countries.

But the poorest countries most in need of climate and development money generally don’t benefit from the CDM.

First, they often don’t have large industrial or fossil fuel-based energy sectors that generate significant volumes of carbon pollution. Also, it takes enormous time and effort to verify project plans, register with the CDM, and validate that emissions have been cut, making it impractical for investors to finance small projects that only generate a low number of carbon credits.

That was the case even before the CDM “essentially collapsed,” in the words of a U.N.-commissioned report on its future. Weak emissions targets and the economic downturn in wealthy nations had resulted in a 99-percent decline in the price paid for offsets between 2008 and 2013.

cdm graphThere was also evidence that the scheme’s largest projects actually increased greenhouse gas emissions. Add on the tax scandals, fraud, Interpol investigations, and human rights violations, and the scheme had fallen into disarray.

Ci-Dev to the rescue?

Given this record of failure, it’s odd that the World Bank is spending scarce donor resources to convince the world’s poorest countries to buy into the CDM. But that’s exactly what the Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) proposes to do.

Ci-Dev was launched in 2013 to increase energy access in “least developed” (LDCs) and African countries by funding projects that use clean and efficient technologies through “emission reduction-based performance payments” — in other words, by purchasing carbon credits from them.

But the programme seems to be more about erecting scaffolding around the crumbling CDM than about getting renewable energy to impoverished families.

The Bank lists the following as the initiative’s goals: extending the scope of the CDM in poor countries; demonstrating that carbon credit sales are part of a successful business model; developing “suppressed demand” accounting for LDCs to inflate their emissions baselines to earn more credits; and influencing future carbon market mechanisms so that LDCs get a greater share of the financing.

The Ci-Dev has one programme — the readiness fund — to build countries’ capacities to engage with the carbon market and to experiment with new methods for fast-tracking small-scale CDM projects. It channels millions of dollars into helping create offsets for which there are few buyers.

The initiative has a second programme — the carbon fund — to pay for carbon credits that are eventually produced but don’t sell on the market.

The Bank says it is prioritising support for community and household-level technologies like biogas, rooftop solar, and micro-hydro power. But it will also fund projects in “underrepresented” sectors such as waste management.

Because there’s no clear definition of what types of technologies it can and can’t fund, the Ci-Dev could end up financing electricity from natural gas and other controversial sources of “lower carbon” power.

A better approach

Regardless of technology, it’s irresponsible of the World Bank to spend development dollars on building carbon trading infrastructure in low-income countries for offset projects that have diminishing demand, and whose financial success is linked to a failing international market.

A better approach would be to directly build governance, operational, and financing capacity in the least developed countries for renewable energy infrastructure, alongside providing grant and concessional financing for distributed solar, wind, and small-scale hydropower projects.

The private sector can play a critical role, but the most important businesses to engage are small and medium-sized enterprises that provide mini- and off-grid services to the rural poor.

The paltry climate finance and development assistance being provided by wealthy countries should be spent on what people actually need. Women, children, and small business owners desperately need reliable energy that’s affordable and clean.

It’s a shame that the World Bank is wasting so much time, money, and energy on constructing a market that has little worth and attracts few investors.

Janet Redman is the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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As Planet Warms, Clean Energy Investments Take a Dive http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/planet-warms-clean-energy-investments-take-dive/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=planet-warms-clean-energy-investments-take-dive http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/planet-warms-clean-energy-investments-take-dive/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:28:58 +0000 Samuel Oakford http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133489 Policy uncertainty and plummeting solar prices led to a 14-percent decrease in investment in renewable energy in 2013, according to a report released Monday. Investment fell across the globe, even in high growth regions like China, India and Brazil. But it was severe cuts in Europe – until recently a pace-setter for the rest of […]

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A wind farm outside Tianjin. China is the world's leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. Credit: Mitch Moxley/IPS

A wind farm outside Tianjin. China is the world's leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. Credit: Mitch Moxley/IPS

By Samuel Oakford
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 7 2014 (IPS)

Policy uncertainty and plummeting solar prices led to a 14-percent decrease in investment in renewable energy in 2013, according to a report released Monday.

Investment fell across the globe, even in high growth regions like China, India and Brazil. But it was severe cuts in Europe – until recently a pace-setter for the rest of the world – that marked the retrenchment.“In the longer run, the market frameworks will have to change in order to integrate a large fraction of renewables into the grid.” -- Ulf Moslener

In 2013, the continent spent 48 billion dollars less than the year before.

The report, jointly released by the U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, painted a hopeful picture of an industry recuperating after a period of consolidation, but could only highlight a “trickle of significant” projects of the kind that possibly could supplant – not supplement – traditional power generation on a wide scale and curb carbon emissions.

“Lower costs, a return to profitability on the part of some leading manufacturers, the phenomenon of unsubsidized market uptake in a number of countries, and a warmer attitude to renewables among public market investors, were hopeful signs after several years of painful shake-out in the renewable energy sector,” said Michael Liebrich, chair of the Advisory Board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in a statement.

Renewables constituted 43 percent of new power capacity and increased their share of global power generation from 7.8 to 8.5 percent. Still, they have not been able to displace rising coal consumption in the developing world and continue to staunch carbon growth rather than reduce it overall.

Though last year renewables prevented an estimated 1.2 gigatonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere, global emissions still grew by 2.1 percent.

“On their own, renewables investment will certainly not grow fast enough to put the world on a two-degree compatibility path,” said Ulf Moslener, head of research at the Frankfurt-School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance, referring to the temperature threshold widely used by scientists.

A rise of more than two degrees centigrade over the year 1900 temperatures would have catastrophic consequences in much of the world.

Moslener says the post-crisis investment climate and the Basel III global regulatory framework makes investing in alternative energy less attractive to large funds and institutional investors who seek higher leverage to cover the higher up-front costs associated with renewable projects.

A study commissioned last year by the Norwegian government predicted “the capital and liquidity requirements of Basel III are likely to limit the amount of capital available for renewable energy financing from banks in the future.”

The Frankfurt report found that venture capitalists and private equity companies cut back considerably in 2013, reducing investments in specialist renewable energy companies to only two billion – their lowest levels since 2005.

But convincing global regulators to make room for the type of leveraged investments and bundled-and-chopped assets that caused the financial crisis will be a tough sell.

“It’s always faster for a government to say ‘we will put in a set price for energy’ than it is to change their financial regulations – which are essentially their entire financial system,” said Eric Usher, chief of the finance unit in UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics.

Despite uncertainty, Usher says larger investors are slowly – very slowly – starting to take notice as renewables increasingly become interchangeable with rent-paying assets like real estate.

“There’s been an uptick in green bonds and pension funds are starting to engage,” Usher told IPS. “In the U.S. and Canada you have tax-driven structures that group power plants together and sell them to investors. It provides very low cost financing.

“The investors with longer time horizons get interested in mature technologies,” he added.

Those companies that survived an extended period of consolidation and a recovery from over-capacity – primarily in the solar industry – saw their equity prices increase by 54 percent last year, roughly doubling gains in the market at large. But despite frothy returns for portfolio managers and a rash of IPOs, the main tracking index – The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index (NEX) – is still 60 percent below its 2007 peak.

“In the longer run, the market frameworks will have to change in order to integrate a large fraction of renewables into the grid,” Moslener told IPS. “That will also need government attention – I would expect renewables to be only part of the solution.”

Unless significant cuts are achieved in existing emissions, the goal of renewables risks changing from serving as an avant-garde solution to just another corollary low-cost fuel for increased growth. Though most models predict global energy use tapering off by mid-century, without cuts or a rethinking of axiomatic growth, it will be too late by then to head off climate change’s most cataclysmic impacts.

“The financial system we have today is based on a construct that is not helpful to sustainable development,” says Usher. “The reality is a huge challenge – it will take some time to solve. Renewables are not the solution on their own.”

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Going Green Without Sinking into the Red http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/going-green-without-sinking-red/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-green-without-sinking-red http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/going-green-without-sinking-red/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 16:34:57 +0000 Peter Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133485 Most Caribbean countries are famous for their sun, sand and warm sea breezes. Far fewer are known for their wide use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy. It is one of the failings of the region, which is characterised by high external debt, soaring energy costs, inequality, poverty and a lack of […]

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Dr. David Smith, coordinator of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI), believes the Caribbean and other small states should look into payments for ecosystem services. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

Dr. David Smith, coordinator of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI), believes the Caribbean and other small states should look into payments for ecosystem services. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

By Peter Richards
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Apr 7 2014 (IPS)

Most Caribbean countries are famous for their sun, sand and warm sea breezes. Far fewer are known for their wide use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.

It is one of the failings of the region, which is characterised by high external debt, soaring energy costs, inequality, poverty and a lack of human capital."Rather than have us just looking inside our own borders for solutions, we can look at other people’s solutions - or indeed other people’s mistakes." -- Dr. David Smith

The 53-member Commonwealth grouping is now trying to fill this knowledge gap with a new green growth analysis that circulated at last week’s third Biennial Conference on Small States in St. Lucia, although the formal launch is not until May.

Titled “Transitioning to a Green Economy-Political Economy of Approaches in Small States,” the 216-page document provides an in-depth study of eight countries and their efforts at building green economies.

Dr. David Smith, one of the authors, notes that none of the eight, which include three from the Caribbean – Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica – has managed on its own to solve the problem of balancing green growth with economic development.

The other case studies are Botswana, Mauritius, Nauru, Samoa and the Seychelles.

“What is useful about this book is that rather than have us just looking inside our own borders for solutions, we can look at other people’s solutions – or indeed other people’s mistakes – and learn from those and try to tailor those to our own situations,” said Smith, the coordinator of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Smith said that all the countries studied revealed that high dependence on imported energy and its associated costs are major factors constraining growth of any kind. Progress in greening the energy sector would have the great advantage of benefitting other sectors throughout the economy.

“Within our constraints we have to try and change that. We have to try and make sure we are much more energy sufficient and our diversity in terms of our sources of energy is increased,” he said.

St. Kitts residents welcome solar streetlights in areas they say have been too dark and prone to crime. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St. Kitts residents welcome solar streetlights in areas they say have been dark and prone to crime. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell wants his country to become a “centre of excellence” for a clean and green economy that will result in the dismantling of an electricity monopoly with a high fossil-fuel import bill.

He said that despite help under the Venezuela-led PetroCaribe initiative – an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Caracas to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment – Grenada has one of the highest electricity rates in the region.

“We are now engaging with partners on solar, wind and geothermal energy to make Grenada an exemplar for a sustainable planet,” he told IPS.

Mitchell believes that the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa this September must advance small states’ quest for energy that is accessible, affordable and sustainable.

“The threat of climate change is real and poses a clear and present danger to the survival of SIDS. We call on the international community to release long-promised resources to help small states like Grenada move more rapidly on our disaster risk mitigation and reduction efforts,” he added.

Last month, the University of Guyana announced that it was teaming up with Anton de Kom University of Suriname (AdeKUS) and the Beligium-based Catholic University of Leuven to be part of an 840,000-dollar programme geared at capacity-building in applied renewable energy technologies.

The overall objective is to improve the capacity of the Universities of Guyana and Suriname to deliver programmes and courses with the different technologies associated with applied renewable energy.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud says that one of the biggest needs for the local manufacturing sector is the availability of cheap energy.

“For us, it is an economic imperative that we develop not only clean energy, but affordable energy as well, and we are lucky that we possess the resources that we can have both,” he told IPS. “The low-hanging fruit in this regard is hydro.”

When he presented the country’s multi-billion-dollar budget to Parliament at the end of March, Guyana’s Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said that with the intensification of the adverse impacts of climate change, the government would continue to forge ahead with “our innovative climate resilient and low carbon approach to economic development backed by our unwavering commitment to good forest governance and stewardship”.

Guyana has so far earned 115 million dollars from Norway within the framework of its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). Singh said that this year, 90.6 million dollars have been allocated for continued implementation of the Guyana REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) + Investment Fund (GRIF).

“Guyana is on track to have the world’s first fully operational REDD+ mechanism in place by 2015. This will enable Guyana to earn considerably more from the sale of REDD+ credits than we do today,” he told legislators.

But the case studies showed that locating suitable and adequate financing for greening was a major constraint, even in those countries that had allocated government resources to green activities.

The study on Jamaica for example, noted that the country is still dependent on natural resource-based export industries and on imported energy, with debt servicing equalling more than 140 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It said all these factors also contributed to constraining implementation of new policies.

With regard to financing, Smith argues that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the World Bank to consider allowing countries to access concessional financing up and until their human development index hits 0.8.

“We want to look at renewable energy and lower cost energy. We want to make sure that the human and environmental capitals that we have within our countries are maintained,” he said.

Smith said the countries could look at the payment for ecosystem services, charging realistic rents for the use of their beaches and looking at ways debt can be used creatively.

He believes that the repayment should “not always [be] to reduce the stock of debt but at least to use the payments for something that will build either human capital or financial capital…that can be used for real growth and development.”

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Hard-Hit CDM Carbon Market Seeks New Buyers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/hard-hit-cdm-carbon-market-seeks-new-buyers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hard-hit-cdm-carbon-market-seeks-new-buyers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/hard-hit-cdm-carbon-market-seeks-new-buyers/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 21:21:19 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133457 Since they first emerged as a result of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, carbon offset markets have been a key part of international emissions reductions agreements, allowing rich countries in the North to invest in “emissions-saving projects” in the South while they continue to emit CO2. The biggest is the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for […]

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WindWatt Nevis Ltd uses eight wind turbines to produce a maximum capacity of about 2.2 megawatts, which works out to approximately 20 percent of the tiny island’s total energy needs.The increase in renewable energy projects means the Caribbean's energy generation mix is more diverse, making the region more resilient to the effects of natural disasters. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

WindWatt Nevis Ltd uses eight wind turbines to produce a maximum capacity of about 2.2 megawatts, which works out to approximately 20 percent of the tiny island’s total energy needs.The increase in renewable energy projects means the Caribbean's energy generation mix is more diverse, making the region more resilient to the effects of natural disasters. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 6 2014 (IPS)

Since they first emerged as a result of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, carbon offset markets have been a key part of international emissions reductions agreements, allowing rich countries in the North to invest in “emissions-saving projects” in the South while they continue to emit CO2.

The biggest is the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for verifying carbon emissions reduction projects in developing countries."At some point the developed countries will wake up and turn back to the one legal, internationally recognised, functioning market mechanism for reducing carbon emissions." -- Dr. Hugh Sealy

According to Dr. Hugh Sealy, chairman of the Executive Board of the CDM, it has generated 396 billion dollars in financial flows from developed to developing countries.

“We are fairly proud of that. Very few development banks can say they have had that kind of investment,” Dr. Sealy told IPS.

The CDM, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), validates and subsequently certifies the effectiveness of projects in reducing carbon emissions.

Such certification can then be used as a basis for obtaining Carbon Emission Reduction (CER) credits that are sold to developed countries seeking to meet emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The big problem for local entrepreneurs is that the market for CER credits has collapsed in recent years.

In the Caribbean, many of the emissions reductions projects tend to be in the area of windfarming, said Dr. Sealy, since wind technology is proven and banks understand the risks.

The Caribbean’s North-East trade winds make it a very viable one as well. Guyana also has a bagasse project for generating steam and electricity.

In the Caribbean, there are 18 CDM projects, but only one, the Wigton Windfarm project in Jamaica, has made an application for CER certification. Dr. Sealy said that Wigton, which was registered as a CDM project in 2006, reduced carbon emissions by more than 52,000 tonnes per year in its first phase, and then by 40,000 tonnes per year in its second phase.

The challenge facing the Wigton project, as with all CDM projects currently, is the steep decline in the value of CER credits over the past couple of years. Four years ago, Dr. Sealy said, the credits were worth about 104 each dollars. Now they are worth about 50 cents.

He said the actual value the Jamaican company obtains for its CERs “will depend on the contract between it and the buyer.”

Dr. Sealy said the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties agreed at a recent meeting to the sale of CERs to entities that do not have obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, in an effort to widen the market for CERs. Under this new arrangement, “anybody, whether private or government, if they are going to voluntarily cancel the CER credits” can buy them as their contribution to the fight against climate change, he said.

The Brazilian government bought 40,000 CER credits to “green” the Rio+ 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and has done the same for the upcoming World Cup Football championship in that country.

Microsoft has done something similar under a different UNFCCC scheme for reducing emissions, known as REDD+, by buying an unspecified number of carbon credits from Madagascar generated by a rainforest conservation project in that country, according to a report by environmental news website Mongabay.com.

According to the report, attributed to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Microsoft bought the credits as part of its carbon neutrality programme.

Dr. Sealy attributes the steep decline in CER values to the downturn in the developed countries’ economies since 2008 that led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and thus to a decline in the need for carbon offsets. At the same time, the target set by developed countries for carbon emissions reductions was too low in the first place, he said.

“The EU is saying it will aim for 20-30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. Science is saying we must peak emissions by 2020” in order to reach the target of less than two degrees global warming, Dr. Sealy said.

“At some point the developed countries will wake up to that and turn back to the one legal, internationally recognised, functioning market mechanism for reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

In the meantime, however, he said, the carbon reduction projects in the region are still bringing the Caribbean many benefits. He pointed out that the increase in renewable energy projects means the energy generation mix is more diverse, making the region more resilient to the effects of natural disasters.

Landfill gas mitigation projects in the region are bringing health and environmental benefits, and projects such as one in Haiti for improved cooking stoves are resulting in less soot and less smoke that saves lives.

The UNFCCC’s Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) in Grenada is working to create awareness in the region of current opportunities available to the region through CDM, said Karla Solis-Garcia, the RCC’s team leader.

So far, she told IPS, the RCC has provided support “to at least 60 CDM stakeholders with renewable energy (wind, solar and biomass), energy efficiency (improved cooking stoves, and efficient buildings) and landfill gas technology projects.

The RCC in Grenada is active in 16 Caribbean countries.

Solis-Garcia said the solid waste management sector and electricity sector were particular focuses of the RCC.

The solid waste sector was of particular interest since “Caribbean states share common challenges on how to deal with waste, considering especially the geographical limitations,” she said. “The waste challenge also represents an opportunity for investors, as emission reductions from landfill gas – methane gas – are significant.”

Regarding electricity, she said, the key issues are “the significant dependency on fossil fuels to generate electricity, the increase of electricity demand, and the potential for renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and wave/tidal.”

Dr. Sealy said that the region was in a good place with regard to deriving benefit from CDM projects, since it is accepted that failure to deal with climate change means that many islands will cease to exist.

For that reason, he said, countries with obligations under the Kyoto protocol “are quite willing to assist the small islands in any reasonable way they can.” Caribbean islands can, therefore, negotiate for a good price on CER credits, he said, especially if these are from renewable energy projects.

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OP-ED: “Cli-Fi” May Be No Stranger Than Reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-cli-fi-may-stranger-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-cli-fi-may-stranger-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-cli-fi-may-stranger-reality/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:34:40 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133427 When we read novels or short fiction in any language, we read to understand the story. We read to learn something new, and hopefully to get some kind of emotional uplift through the words on the page and the skills of the storyteller. So how to tell the “story” of climate change and global warming? […]

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Literature has a role to play in our discussions about global warming impacts worldwide. Credit: Karoly Czifra/cc by 2.0

Literature has a role to play in our discussions about global warming impacts worldwide. Credit: Karoly Czifra/cc by 2.0

By Dan Bloom
TAIWAN, Apr 4 2014 (IPS)

When we read novels or short fiction in any language, we read to understand the story. We read to learn something new, and hopefully to get some kind of emotional uplift through the words on the page and the skills of the storyteller.

So how to tell the “story” of climate change and global warming?The more we embrace the science behind climate change at a cultural level, the more effectively we can join together to avert the worst.

A new literary genre dubbed “cli-fi” has been evolving over the past few years, and while its name is a takeoff on sci-fi, this new genre is focused on stories that relate to climate change and how it impacts human life now and in the future.

Some insist that cli-fi is a just subgenre of sci-fi, and that makes sense on one level. But in other ways, cli-fi is a genre of its own, and it’s gaining momentum around the world not merely as escapism or entertainment – although it often has those elements – but also as a serious way of addressing the myriad complex, universal issues surrounding climate change.

I know a little about cli-fi because I have been working for the past few years to popularise it, not only in the English-speaking world but also among the billions of people who read in Spanish, Chinese, German or French, to name but a few. Cli-fi, as I see it, is a genre that should be tackled by writers in any nation in any language. It’s an international genre with an international readership.

A growing number of cli-fi novels are targeting a youthful audience – what’s called the YA (young adult) category – such as Mindy McGinnis’ “Not a Drop to Drink,” “The Carbon Diaries 2015” by Saci Lloyd, and “Floodland” by Marcus Sedgewick. For indeed, it is children and teenagers who will suffer the consequences of previous generations’ lifestyle choices.

In a world facing potentially catastrophic impacts from climate change, this new literary genre is now becoming part of our communal storytelling culture, imparting new ideas and insights about the future humanity might face, not only in 10 years, but in 100 or 500 years as well.

This is where cli-fi comes in. It can play an important role in bringing the emotions and feelings of characters in a well-written story or novel to the awareness of readers worldwide. Imagine a cli-fi novel that not only reached thousands of readers, but also touched them, and perhaps motivated them to become a louder voice in the raging international policy debate over carbon emissions.

That’s the potential of cli-fi.

One U.S. university is now offering a literature course on cli-fi novels and movies for graduate students working on degrees in environmental studies and literature. For Stephanie LeMenager, who is leading the class at the University of Oregon this year, the course gives her and her students a chance to explore the power of literature and film as writers and directors grapple with some of the difficult issues facing humankind as the 21st century unfolds.

LeMenager’s class is called “The Cultures of Climate Change.” It’s the first in North America, even the world, to focus on the arts and climate change this way. And I am sure that other universities around the world will follow this pioneering effort by adding new courses on climate fiction for their students as well.

Nathaniel Rich is a 34-year-old author who wrote the widely acclaimed novel “Odds Against Tomorrow,” a story set in near-future Manhattan which delves into the “mathematics of catastrophe”. A resident of New Orleans, he believes that more books like his will be published – not just in English, and not just from the perspective of Western writers in wealthy nations.

Writers from around the world also need to be encouraged to dip their toes into the cli-fi genre and use the literature of their own cultures to try to wake people up about the future that might await us all on a slowly-warming planet with no end in sight.

The plots can be scary, but cli-fi novels offer a chance to explore these issues with emotion and prose. Books matter. Literature has a role to play in our discussions about global warming impacts worldwide.

You might say that the climate-change canon dates back as far as a novel titled ”The Drowned World’. written in 1962 by British writer JG Ballard. Another early book about climate change was written in 1987 by Australian George Turner, titled “The Sea and Summer.”

Barbara Kingsolver, a U.S. novelist, published a very powerful cli-fi novel a few years ago titled “Flight Behavior.” It made a big impression on me when I read it last summer, and I recommend to readers here, too.

Canadian Mary Woodbury has created the webzine Cli-Fi Books that lists cli-fi novels past and present.

How do I see the future? I envision a world where humans cling to hope and optimism. I am an optimist. And I believe that the more we embrace the science behind climate change at a cultural level, the more effectively we can join together to avert the worst.

Dan Bloom is a freelance writer from Boston based in Taiwan. A 1971 graduate of Tufts University where he majored in French literature, he has been working as a climate activist and a literary activist since 2006. He can be found on Twitter @polarcityman

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Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/fracking-seismic-activity-grow-hand-hand-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fracking-seismic-activity-grow-hand-hand-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/fracking-seismic-activity-grow-hand-hand-mexico/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:08:39 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133399 Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico’s oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes. Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and […]

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Map of seismic activity from October 2013 to March 2014 in the state of Nuevo León in northeast Mexico. Credit: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León

Map of seismic activity from October 2013 to March 2014 in the state of Nuevo León in northeast Mexico. Credit: Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 3 2014 (IPS)

Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico’s oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes.

Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and Eagle Ford shale deposits – the latter of which is shared with the U.S. state of Texas.

Researcher Ruperto de la Garza found a link between seismic activity and fracking, a technique that involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, opening and extending fractures in the shale rock to release the natural gas.

“The final result is the dislocation of the geological structure which, when it is pulverised, allows the trapped gas to escape,” the expert with the environmental and risk consultancy Gestoría Ambiental y de Riesgos told IPS from Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila.

When the chemicals are injected “and the lutite particles [sedimentary rock] break down, the earth shifts,” he said. “It’s not surprising that the earth has been settling.”

De la Garza drew up an exhaustive map of the seismic movements in 2013 and the gas-producing areas.

His findings, published on Mar. 22, indicated a correlation between the seismic activity and fracking.

Statistics from Mexico’s National Seismological Service show an increase in intensity and frequency of seismic activity in Nuevo León, where at least 31 quakes between 3.1 and 4.3 on the Richter scale were registered.

Most of the quakes occurred in 2013. Of the ones registered this year, the highest intensity took place on Mar. 2-3, according to official records.

De la Garza said the number of quakes in that state increased in 2013 and the first few months of this year.

The Burgos basin, which extends through the northern states of Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila, holds huge reserves of conventional gas, which began to be tapped in the past decade.

Since 2011, PEMEX has drilled at least six wells for shale gas in the states of Nuevo León and Coahuila. It is also preparing for further exploration in the southeastern state of Veracruz.

The company has identified five regions with potential unconventional gas resources from the north of Veracruz to Chihuahua, on the U.S. border.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) ranks Mexico sixth in the world for technically recoverable gas, behind China, Argentina, Algeria, the United States and Canada, based on examination of 137 deposits in 42 countries.

The recovery of shale gas requires enormous quantities of water and a broad range of chemicals. The process generates large amounts of waste fluids, which contain dissolved chemicals and other contaminants that require treatment before recycling or disposal, according to the environmental watchdog Greenpeace.

The study “Sismicidad en el estado de Nuevo León”, published in January on seismic activity in that state, concluded that the quakes in northeast Mexico are associated with both natural structures and human actions that modify the rock layer and the pressure in the fluids near the surface.

The report, by academics at the Civil Engineering Faculty of the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, attributes several earthquakes that have occurred since 2004 to activities such as the extraction of unconventional natural gas in the Burgos basin.

Other factors mentioned by the study are the overexploitation of aquifers by potato producers along the border between Coahuila and Nuevo León and barite mining in Nuevo León.

The total number of water wells drilled in the basin has risen from just under 5,000 in 2004 to 7,000 today.

A study on the environmental impact of the Poza Rica Altamira y Aceite Terciario del Golfo 2013-2035 regional oil project, which extends across the states of Veracruz, Hidalgo (in the centre) and Puebla (in the south), anticipates a rise in demand for water for fracking in the north of the country, where water is scarce.

The 844-page document, to which IPS had access, was sent by Pemex to the environment ministry for approval on Mar. 10, and enumerates projected works like the construction of roads and installation of large steel water storage tanks.

The study states that over 12,700 cubic metres of water are needed for every 10 multi-stage fracking jobs.

It also estimates that Mexico’s natural gas production will reach 11.47 billion cubic feet a day by 2026, which would come from the higher levels of shale gas production at the Eagle Ford and La Casita deposits stretching across Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.

By 2026, non-associated natural gas will represent 55 percent of total gas production. The rest will come from unconventional deposits in the north of the country, whose production is projected to grow at a rate of 8.6 percent per year up to then.

Production of unconventional gas is expected to be in the hands of private companies, since the energy reform approved in December opened up the oil and electric industry to foreign investment.

Studies carried out in the United States have also attributed earthquakes in that country to fracking-linked wastewater injection

U.S. Geological Survey scientists have found that in some areas, an increase in seismic activity has coincided with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells.

“Earthquakes will increase as a result of the higher-scale shale gas production. The government is misguided. Fracking should be banned,” de la Garza argued.

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For Guyana, Energy Plus Efficiency Equals Common Sense Development http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/guyana-energy-plus-efficiency-equals-common-sense-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyana-energy-plus-efficiency-equals-common-sense-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/guyana-energy-plus-efficiency-equals-common-sense-development/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:55:24 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133346 Guyana is shaping up to set a gold standard for the Caribbean in implementing a national energy efficiency strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. “Energy efficiency is the main method of fighting climate change and its impact [is global] since unclean energy is the main contributor,” the associate director of the Energy […]

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The rice industry is the second most important agricultural sector in Guyana, second only to sugar in foreign exchange earnings. An Indian think tank is helping the country to reduce energy costs in its sugar and rice sectors. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The rice industry is the second most important agricultural sector in Guyana, second only to sugar in foreign exchange earnings. An Indian think tank is helping the country to reduce energy costs in its sugar and rice sectors. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Apr 1 2014 (IPS)

Guyana is shaping up to set a gold standard for the Caribbean in implementing a national energy efficiency strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

“Energy efficiency is the main method of fighting climate change and its impact [is global] since unclean energy is the main contributor,” the associate director of the Energy Resource Institute (TERI) of India, Dr. Rudra Narsimha Rao, told IPS.“The political leadership here has shown vision and a commitment to the communities to make sure that they know what was going on." -- Jan Hartke

“While inefficiencies in the energy sector are a global challenge, Guyana’s efforts can better position it to battle the devastating impacts of climate change,” added Rao, whose group is helping the country to reduce energy costs in its sugar and rice sectors.

TERI is collaborating with the government under the framework of its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to carry out an energy audit of the industrial agricultural sector. Findings and recommendations were handed over to key stakeholders on Mar. 24.

According to the World Bank, energy efficiency measures can reduce carbon emissions in some cases by as much as 65 percent.

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) researchers estimate that the region could reduce its energy consumption by 10 percent over the next decade and save tens of billions of dollars by adopting existing technologies to increase efficiency.

IDB-financed projects have proven that the return on investment for efficient lighting and electric motor programmes, for example, is higher than building new energy capacity.

Now, the Bank is helping specific sectors – such as biofuels and water utilities – to reduce operating costs through investments in more efficient technology. It is financing programmes that will boost the electricity output and prolong the life of existing hydroelectric complexes by upgrading their turbines.

And it is underwriting programmes to reduce electricity transmission losses and build smarter power grids within countries and across borders.

Rao warned that ignoring the potential of energy efficiency will result in greater risks, in particular for developing countries.

Guyana’s annual energy consumption accounts for approximately five million barrels of oil, equivalent from a variety of energy sources – diesel, fuel, gasoline, avgas, LPG, kerosene, bagasse, fuelwood, charcoal, solar, biodiesel, biogas and wind.

Over the past few months, TERI has been spearheading a two-phase project which gives technical support to the government in the areas of climate change and energy. This second phase of the project was aimed at improving the output of the rice, sugar and manufacturing sectors.

Agencies which participated in the project include the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA).

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Rao said that the studies were conducted with rice mills, sugar estates, sawmills and manufacturing agencies to promote energy management and conservation and increase outputs.

The head of the Office of Climate Change, Shyam Nokta, said energy efficiency should also be seen as a lifestyle and behavioural approach, a concept that is advanced under Guyana’s LCDS.

The LCDS, a brainchild of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, sets out a vision to forge a new low carbon economy in Guyana over the coming decade. It has received critical acclaim globally.

“No responsible country should ignore this issue since energy efficiency adds to the development trajectory of Guyana’s LCDS,” Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told IPS.

Ramsammy also believes that the region’s development trajectory must reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, reduce vulnerability to climate change, boost food security, and add to the energy stock through biofuel production.

He appealed to Caribbean nations to “consider climate-smart agriculture” if they want to sustain economic and social prosperity.

“Climate change is real, it is affecting our countries, it has already impacted on our countries,” Ramsammy told IPS.

Guyana is also benefitting from expert advice about all renewable energy possibilities through a pact with the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative.

The agreement includes a team of experts “to package programmes for renewable energy that have a commercial capability to attract major financing,” said Jan Hartke, global director of the Clinton Climate Initiative Clean Energy Project.

“We’re advisors, we recommend, we don’t make any decisions. The sovereign nation makes all of those decisions,” he stressed.

Hartke, who has travelled to Guyana on numerous occasions, said he is fully au-fait with the government’s renewable energy vision and the many interventions made through the LCDS.

Among them is a solar energy programme in the hinterland that has equipped about 15,000 households with photovoltaic systems that accumulate about two megawatts of power.

“The political leadership here has shown vision and has shown a commitment to the communities to make sure that they know what was going on… I think that kind of political leadership is one of the things that the Clinton Climate Initiative is all about,” Hartke said.

The Clinton Foundation had been a key supporter in the preliminary work on Guyana’s LCDS. The strategy seeks to strike a balance between sustained management of the country’s vast forests and unhindered economic development.

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) is a key component of the strategy that is projected to account for 90 percent of the country’s energy generation and reduce the need for fossil fuel consumption.

“We are very deeply interested in renewable energy,” President Donald Ramotar said.

“Now that we have developed to such a stage… I think that we can benefit in cutting down that cost and using clean energy with what is now demanded of the world today, with all the problems of climate change and other issues,” Ramotar added.

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What Nepal Doesn’t Know About Water http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/nepal-doesnt-know-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepal-doesnt-know-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/nepal-doesnt-know-water/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 06:00:30 +0000 Mallika Aryal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133337 Water is a critical resource in Nepal’s economic development as agriculture, industry, household use and even power generation depends on it. The good news is that the Himalayan nation has plenty of water. The bad news – water abundance is seasonal, related to the monsoon months from June to September. Nepal’s hydrologists, water experts, meteorologists […]

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Farming in the monsoon season in Nepal. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS.

Farming in the monsoon season in Nepal. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS.

By Mallika Aryal
KATHMANDU, Apr 1 2014 (IPS)

Water is a critical resource in Nepal’s economic development as agriculture, industry, household use and even power generation depends on it. The good news is that the Himalayan nation has plenty of water. The bad news – water abundance is seasonal, related to the monsoon months from June to September.

Nepal’s hydrologists, water experts, meteorologists and climate scientists all call for better management of water. But a vital element of water management – quality scientific data – is still missing.“If the information is lacking or if it is inaccurate, how is a poor farmer supposed to protect himself?” -- Shib Nandan Shah of the Ministry of Agricultural Development

Luna Bharati, who heads the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Kathmandu, tells IPS, “If we don’t know how much water there is, we cannot manage it or carry out good water resources assessment.”

Shib Nandan Shah of the Ministry of Agricultural Development agrees that accurate and timely data, especially rainfall data, is important to rural farming communities. Thirty-five percent of Nepal’s GDP and more than 74 percent of its 27 million people are dependent on agriculture. And most of Nepal’s agriculture is rain fed.

“Reliable data is especially important for a farmer who wants to insure his crops,” says Shah. “If the information is lacking or if it is inaccurate, how is a poor farmer supposed to protect himself?” Every year, floods and landslides cause 300 deaths in Nepal on average, and economic losses are estimated to exceed over 10 million dollars.

Data becomes important in a country like Nepal that has large, unutilised water resources. At the local level, development work becomes harder, and there’s a risk that development is being based on “guesstimates”.

“Simulations without data to verify against are meaningless,” Vladimir Smakhtin, theme leader at IWMI, tells IPS from Sri Lanka.

Experts also argue that water data cannot be studied in isolation. “Data on rainfall, water resources, weather are all interlinked with hydro power development, road building and also aviation,” says Rishi Ram Sharma, director of Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM).

One of the biggest challenges in Nepal, and the reason why collecting information is so difficult, is the country’s inaccessible terrain. About 86 percent of the land area is covered by hills, and steep, rugged mountains.

“Most of the high altitude data we have on water and climate change is not our own, it is based on global circulation models,” says Sanjay Dhungel at Nepal’s Water and Energy Commission Secretariat. “The more data we have the better, but in our context we don’t have much to compare with.”

Scientists believe it will take many years to establish better networks of measuring stations. Experts recommend the use of new technology such as remote sensing which can be used to measure evapo-transpiration, soil moisture and land use.

One of the most important reasons why scientists and Nepali policymakers need water and weather related statistics is to understand climate change.

“First of all we don’t have enough data, and what we do have is not analysed properly, which means a lot of climate change prediction relating to disappearing snow, glacial melt, water scarcity becomes misleading,” argues IWMI’s Bharati.

“If we find that glacial water is contributing to five percent of total water resources, then may be the effect is not as drastic as we have been made to believe,” says Bharati. “But we don’t know any of that because we don’t have reliable data.”

In one recent measure to address this problem, Nepal’s DHM introduced the climate data portal in 2012 where data relating to weather, water and geography is stored. Real-time information regarding flooding, water levels, precipitation is available through DHM’s website.

IWMI is also working on a portal to bring together data, including basic information on land use, census and migration, in order to aid researchers.

Anil Pokhrel, Kathmandu-based disaster risk management specialist with the World Bank agrees that making data public is a big and important step. This means that whoever is looking for information has access to it and can download it.

Pokhrel says data on water, climate change, weather and agriculture is so interlinked that it really needs to be open.

“We talk about ‘geo nodes’ – if DHM works on weather, water and climate change related data, the roads department can work on road data and mapping, another department can work on agriculture, but they have the ability to feed off each other,” says Pokhrel. “It is about creating synergies.”

For this he recommends that the portal be open source. “At the end of the day, there’s no other option – we have to make portals to consolidate data and make it accessible and user-friendly,” says Pokhrel.

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IPCC Climate Report Warns of “Growing Adaptation Deficit” http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/ipcc-climate-report-warns-growing-adaptation-deficit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ipcc-climate-report-warns-growing-adaptation-deficit http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/ipcc-climate-report-warns-growing-adaptation-deficit/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 22:53:56 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133328 The latest update of the world’s scientific consensus on climate change finds not only that impacts are already being felt on every continent, but also that adaptation investments are dangerously lagging. These investments constitute both a key demand by developing countries and a key pledge by the West. Nonetheless, the latest report by the Intergovernmental […]

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Workmen clear a road blocked by a landslide in Trinidad. Compensation for loss and damage from climate change has become a major demand of developing countries. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Workmen clear a road blocked by a landslide in Trinidad. Compensation for loss and damage from climate change has become a major demand of developing countries. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Mar 31 2014 (IPS)

The latest update of the world’s scientific consensus on climate change finds not only that impacts are already being felt on every continent, but also that adaptation investments are dangerously lagging.

These investments constitute both a key demand by developing countries and a key pledge by the West. Nonetheless, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on Monday in Japan, warns that these shortfalls are growing.

“Global adaptation cost estimates are substantially greater than current adaptation funding and investment, particularly in developing countries, suggesting a funding gap and a growing adaptation deficit,” the report states."We’re taking far too long to discuss these issues, and meanwhile a lot of poor people are becoming more and more vulnerable.” -- Pramod Aggarwal

“Comparison of the global cost estimates with the current level of adaptation funding shows the projected global needs to be orders of magnitude greater than current investment levels particularly in developing countries.”

Further, the report underscores that adaptation shortfalls, as with the broader impacts of climate change, would most significantly affect communities that are discriminated against, particularly in developing economies.

“The report makes very clear what a large adaptation deficit there is while also recognising that, though there’s been a lot of progress on vulnerability, people who are marginalised tend to be the most vulnerable,” Heather McGray, director of vulnerability and adaptation at the World Resources Institute, a think tank here, told IPS.

“This plays out in the debate between developing and developed countries, covering the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and fisherfolk, small farmers dependent on climate-sensitive environments, as well as children and the elderly, those with constrained mobility or higher health risks. More thorough and nuanced treatment of these issues is certainly a step forward.”

Medium agreement

The IPCC, which is overseen by the United Nations, has been publishing climate-related assessments since the early 1990s. The new report is the work of nearly 2,500 authors and reviewers, and constitutes part of the IPCC’s fifth such assessment.

The report is actually made of three sections, with the one released Monday, the second, focusing on impacts and adaptation. It differs from previous iterations in its far robust understanding of the current state of climate change, describing its ramifications as widespread and consequential.

Yet it also warns the world is “ill-prepared” for these changes, and places far more focus than in the past on adaptation. In part, this is because global mitigation efforts have thus far been relatively ineffectual, thus requiring planning for significant impact at least in the near term.

Risk evaluation is a first step towards a climate change adaptation plan. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Risk evaluation is a first step towards a climate change adaptation plan. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“The global community seems to be spending a lot of time on issues around mitigation issues, whereas many developing countries need significant investment in adaptation. We’re taking far too long to discuss these issues, and meanwhile a lot of poor people are becoming more and more vulnerable,” Pramod Aggarwal, an IPCC author and reviewer, told IPS.

“Governments [in developing countries] have been sensitised on this for some time, and where possible most are already taking action. But it’s been clear for some time that significant international support is also needed.”

For the moment, however, the IPCC report suggests little agreement on that assistance.

IPCC reports are consensus documents, and hence require meticulousness over both scientific evidence and concurrence around that evidence. For this reason, important points in the report include reference to a corresponding strength of agreement.

Yet such concord appears to have broken down over the amount of funding required for comprehensive global adaptation initiatives. The quoted material at the beginning of this story, on the adaptation-related “funding gap”, comes with the onerous warnings “limited evidence” and “medium agreement”.

Putting actual dollar figures on the issue of adaptation appears to have been particularly contentious. “The most recent global adaptation cost estimates suggest a range from $70 billion to $100 billion per year globally by 2050,” the report notes, “but there is little confidence in these numbers.”

Source: CCFAS

Source: CCFAS

Further, even these estimates and their caveats were removed completely from the widely read summary for global policymakers. This is almost certain to strengthen a fight at the next global climate summit, in September.

In 2009, leaders of developed countries pledged to make available 100 billion dollars a year for adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries by 2020. The United Nations flagship programme to facilitate this pledge, the Green Climate Fund, recently opened its new headquarters in South Korea.

Yet by all accounts, the initiative remains painfully slow in getting off the ground, and some analysts worry that momentum could soon wane. A series of procedural hurdles remains in coming months, including agreement on the particularly contentious role of private versus public funding.

Early warning

The new report suggests that agriculture and food security-related issues will likely see some of the most immediate and monumental impacts of a changing climate. Technical interventions thus hold out the opportunity to help the farmers that constitute the backbone of rural societies across the globe, as well as the societies that depend on them for food production.

“We really need to speed up our adaptation at the local scale, particularly with increased investments in climate monitoring,” Aggarwal, the agriculture expert who reviewed the IPCC report’s chapter on food security, told IPS.

“The IPCC emphasises that climate extremes will be the order of the day, so early-warning systems are critical so that entire farming communities can know what to expect and take action. That, however, requires a lot of infrastructure and capital investment.”

Aggarwal says that while certain governments have begun to start taking significant action on issues of adaptation, poorer countries have not been able to do so. (He contributed to a related analysis that will be released on Thursday by CGIAR, a global agriculture consortium.)

Yet echoing the debate over the type of funding that will fuel the Green Climate Fund, some groups are increasingly worried about the approach that will be adopted in reacting to the needs of agriculture in a changing climate.

The IPCC report “is a wake up call for governments to invest in agricultural systems that are effective and sustainable far into the future,” Emilie Johann, a policy officer with CIDSE, a global Catholic anti-poverty network, said Monday.

“So far, solutions pushed at the international level … will do more to increase company profits than provide lasting and achievable solutions for the small-scale farmers and their communities who produce the vast majority of the world’s food.”

The third part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report is to be released next month, focusing on pollution. A final synthesis of each of these three sections will be released in October.

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U.S. Rejected Israeli Demand for Iran Nuclear Confession http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/u-s-rejected-israeli-demand-iran-nuclear-confession/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:12:06 +0000 Gareth Porter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133320 The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement. Pro-Israeli commentators have openly criticised the Obama administration for failing to explicitly demand that Iran confess to charges by the International […]

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By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Mar 31 2014 (IPS)

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Pro-Israeli commentators have openly criticised the Obama administration for failing to explicitly demand that Iran confess to charges by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a covert nuclear weapons programme.All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated.

Demanding such a confession would be an obvious deal-breaker, because Iran has consistently denied those past charges and denounced the documents and intelligence reports on which they were based as fraudulent.  In fact, the failure of the talks appears to be precisely the Israeli intention in pressing Washington to make that demand.

All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated, as reported by IPS.

A “senior administration official” told reporters after the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action was announced that the United States had “made clear” in the negotiations that “the Security Council resolutions must still be addressed…and that Iran must come come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA.”

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 of Jun. 9, 2010 says Iran “shall cooperate with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme….”

The term “possible military dimensions” had been used by the IAEA in referring to the claims publicised by the agency over the past six years of covert Iranian nuclear weapons development projects, including an alleged facility at Parchin for testing nuclear weapons designs.

The administration thus seemed to suggest that some kind of Iranian admission to past nuclear weapons work is a condition for a final agreement.

But the Obama administration’s rhetoric on resolving IAEA claims of a nuclear weapons programme appears to be less about forcing Iran to confess than responding to pressures from Israel and its supporters in the United States.

The first explicit indication of Israeli pressure on Obama to demand an Iranian confession as part of any diplomatic settlement came in a September 2012 article by Patrick Clawson and David Makovsky, then both senior staff members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), whose analysis and recommendations reflect Israeli government policy.

“Given Iran’s past undeclared activities,” Clawson and Makovsky wrote, “a particular concern is that Iran will develop clandestine nuclear facilities.  Tehran’s coming clean about the past will therefore be an important determinant of whether it has any hidden capabilities.”

The demand that Iran “come clean” on its alleged nuclear weapons program entered into the Obama administration’s public posture for the first time after consultations with Israel in advance of the October 2013 round of negotiations with Iran.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

Secretary of State John Kerry declared in Tokyo Oct. 3 that Iran would “have to prove it’s willing to come clean about the nuclear programme”.

That same day, Ambassador James Jeffrey, a senior fellow at WINEP, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Iran “must come clean on its nuclear-related military research”.

By the time the negotiations on the joint Plan of Action were completed in November, however, the State Department adopted language on the issue that harkened back to Kerry’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearings in January 2013.  Kerry had said then that “questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear weapons programme” had to be “resolved”.

It quickly became apparent that Israel had wanted the United States to demand not only a pro forma confession by Iran but the details of its alleged work on nuclear weapons.  On the very day the agreement was announced, however, Robert Satloff, the executive director of WINEP, expressed his unhappiness that the deal did not include “getting Iran to come clean on all its past clandestine programmes….”

Also on Nov. 24, Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is well known for expressing Israeli policy on Iran, criticised the Joint Plan of Action in the Wall Street Journal for failing to “make clear reference to Iran revealing its past nuclear weapons research.”

The following day WINEP managing director Michael Singh complained in the Wall Street Journal objected again to the same U.S. failure to demand all the details of Iranian work on nuclear weapons. “Without insight into the full extent of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities,” Singh wrote, “no amount of monitoring and inspection can provide confidence that Iran lacks a parallel programme beyond the inspectors’ view.”

Along with Kerry’s initial adoption of the “come clean” rhetoric, these sharp criticisms of the U.S. refusal to call explicitly for a confession indicate that the Obama administration had initially went along with Israel’s  in calling for Iran to “come clean”, but concluded that such a demand risked a premature breakdown in the talks.

Since the interim agreement, moreover, the State Department has avoided language that would commit it to requiring anything resembling an Iranian confession.  In Israel Feb. 22, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is the primary negotiator with Iran, said, “What we have said to Iran is that [the 'possible military dimensions' issue] will have to be addressed in some way.”

Sherman suggested for the first time the possibility of a less than complete and clear-cut outcome of the process. The IAEA was “very much focused on working through PMD with Iran,” said Sherman. “And the more Iran can do with the IAEA, which is where this belongs, the more likely we will have successful comprehensive agreement.”

A former U.S. official who had worked on Iran suggested in a recent off-the-record meeting that the “possible military dimensions” issue could not be resolved completely, but that one or more parts could be clarified satisfactorily.  The rest could be left for resolution by the IAEA after the comprehensive agreement is signed, the ex-official said.

That possibility arises because Iran and the IAEA agreed in February to work on the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue – the claim published by the IAEA that Iran had carried out experiments on high explosives developed for the purpose of detonating a nuclear weapon.

That claim was based on a document that was part of the large collection originally said by anonymous intelligence sources to have come from the laptop computer of a participant in a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research project.

The documents were actually turned over to German intelligence by the Iranian terrorist organisation Mujahedin-E-Khalq, which had close links to Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.

Iran provided the IAEA with an account of its actual EBW development programme in 2008. The Iranian account, cited by the agency in its May 2008 report, indicated the rate of explosions in its experiments, which was just one-eighth the rate mentioned by then IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen in a briefing for member states in 2008.

But instead of acknowledging that fact in its report, the IAEA suggested repeatedly that Iran had acknowledged carrying out the EBW experiments described in the purported document from the secret weapons programme while claiming it was for non-nuclear applications.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel.

Such an agreement might be based on the IAEA’s stating accurately the Iranian explanation for the EBW – and thus implicitly admitting that the agency had distorted the issue in the past. Other issues might be left to be resolved quietly after the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement are completed.  

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

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Commonwealth Works to Raise Climate Resilience on Global Agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/commonwealth-works-push-climate-resiliance-global-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=commonwealth-works-push-climate-resiliance-global-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/commonwealth-works-push-climate-resiliance-global-agenda/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:07:50 +0000 Peter Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133315 As they fine-tune preparations for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Samoa and the United Nations post-2015 development framework meeting in September, Commonwealth states are focusing on getting the international community to pay more attention to the challenges they face. “One of the key reasons that climate change is actually a substantial topic […]

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Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adams (centre), flanked by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma (left) and another Commonwealth official. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adams (centre), flanked by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma (left) and another Commonwealth official. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

By Peter Richards
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 31 2014 (IPS)

As they fine-tune preparations for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Samoa and the United Nations post-2015 development framework meeting in September, Commonwealth states are focusing on getting the international community to pay more attention to the challenges they face.

“One of the key reasons that climate change is actually a substantial topic in terms of the international arena is because of the advocacy of island states,” Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adams told IPS at the 53-member Commonwealth‘s third Biennial Conference on Small States last week."We are vulnerable, but we are not weak." -- Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adams

“I think we are vulnerable, but we are not weak. We’ve got a lot to offer, we have a lot of strengths and we must use those strengths,” he said.

The two-day meeting targeted five key areas of concern for small states, including redirecting funding for climate change initiatives.

“Exposure to environmental shocks, together with the deeply integrated nature of small states’ economies, social wellbeing and the natural resource base, make environmental management an important element of resilience building in these countries,” the Commonwealth said in an outcome statement.

It said the meeting shared ideas on environmental governance indicators for resilience-building and reviewed approaches to ocean governance to maximise the benefits accruing to small states from their extensive marine areas.

St. Lucia’s Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste said it was impossible to speak about development “if we do not consider sustainability and protecting our patrimony for succeeding generations.

“Less than 20 years ago, some of the most powerful nations on the planet were trying to dodge the warnings about climate change because they felt it was a problem of poor countries, but today as the devastation of climate change continues its decimating march across Europe, North America and other parts of the globe, the inescapable reality seems to be finally hitting home,” he said.

“So America has acknowledged that colder winters are not climatic accidents. Russia has accepted its warmer winter as a phenomenon of climate change, and Europe has recognised its wetter rains as climate change in action,” he said.

“There must be a recognition, especially among the richer nations, that regardless of our GDP (gross domestic product) status, we are resource-poor and in need of financial resources to undertake resilience-building work,” he said.

Delegates also highlighted the need for ocean forecasting to predict impacts from climate change; action on land-based sources of pollution; and efforts to strengthen oceans and seas issues in the Third International Conference on SIDS process (SIDS 2014).

Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat has the capacity to represent small island states within the international community on their concerns.

“The Commonwealth is the preferred interlocutor for the group of 20 working group on development and they look forward to all the input that we can bring from the outer world,” he told IPS.

“We say very often that 90 percent of the world’s GDP is on the table of the G20, but 90 percent of the world’s countries are outside [that bloc of large economies]. So who is going to make available the dilemmas and the anxieties and the expectations of the outside world? The Commonwealth does it in a variety of ways.”

Sharma said the grouping is in the process of developing a financial instrument that would stem the economic “free-fall” of any economy should it suffer from the downsides of global development.

“The instruments that we are developing now…are both on the concept of resilience as well as the practical tool kit for various types of counter cyclical loans; which means that once an external shock is experienced, your financial obligations get naturally and immediately readjusted’, Sharma said, hinting at a debt swap for climate change, “a practical suggestion now being considered by the international community at large”.

Adams said that small island states are among the first to feel the impact of climate change “whether it be through extreme weather events or sea level rise or other issues that affect basically how we are able to create wealth that can be shared amongst our people.

“We don’t have huge natural resources that we can suddenly start exploiting. We don’t have huge populations to get economies of scale so we have to look at the things that we are able to offer…and create a framework which is more conducive for those issues,” he told IPS.

Recalling the devastation caused by heavy rains to his island, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the Christmas holidays, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said the question remains how much longer small states will have to lobby for an internationally accepted differentiated approach to aid for small states.

“You can turn to Grenada with Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004, where damages were well over a billion U.S. dollars, or nearly 200 percent of GDP,” he said. “You can go through nearly all the islands of the Caribbean and you would see the impact of such extreme weather events.”

The problems confronting the region are not limited to extreme weather events, he noted. Last week, the regional countries participated in a simulation for a tsunami.

“We have seen the earthquake destruction of Haiti in the year 2010 and the volcanic disaster of Montserrat. We have been warned to expect a ‘big one’, an earthquake of immense destructive power,” he added. “In response to these calamities, the pledges are often many; the delivery of the promises, not so many.”

He said the realities of climate change must catapult small states to be leaders in climate change adaptation, “because we exist largely as coastal populations threatened by sea-level rise, the bleaching of coral reefs and the desertification of some territories.”

“The economic and environmental imperative is that we commit more forcefully to renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Anthony said.

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ExxonMobil to Disclose Carbon Emissions Risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/exxonmobil-disclose-carbon-emissions-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exxonmobil-disclose-carbon-emissions-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/exxonmobil-disclose-carbon-emissions-risk/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 22:44:41 +0000 Bryant Harris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133214 As the international community and the U.S. government place a heightened emphasis on reducing carbon emissions as a way to combat global climate change, shareholders have convinced the oil-and gas giant ExxonMobil to publicly disclose the risk that strengthened regulation could pose to its profits. The Texas-based company announced its intentions last week and agreed […]

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Activist shareholders hope that publicly assessing and disclosing the financial risk associated with certain carbon-intensive operations will dissuade Exxon and other energy companies from extracting oil and natural gas in high-risk, environmentally sensitive areas like deep water and tar sands. Credit: Bigstock

Activist shareholders hope that publicly assessing and disclosing the financial risk associated with certain carbon-intensive operations will dissuade Exxon and other energy companies from extracting oil and natural gas in high-risk, environmentally sensitive areas like deep water and tar sands. Credit: Bigstock

By Bryant Harris
WASHINGTON, Mar 25 2014 (IPS)

As the international community and the U.S. government place a heightened emphasis on reducing carbon emissions as a way to combat global climate change, shareholders have convinced the oil-and gas giant ExxonMobil to publicly disclose the risk that strengthened regulation could pose to its profits.

The Texas-based company announced its intentions last week and agreed to publish a carbon asset risk report on its website by the end of the month.“If Big Oil can’t redirect capital to low-carbon energy alternatives, investors will.” -- Natasha Lamb

“Investors … are looking at the energy market and starting to see shifts that they’re concerned about,” Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, an advocacy group that spearheaded shareholder pressure on the issue, told IPS.

“Those range from the potential for carbon regulations to what happens if the world actually gets smart and works to limit carbon in order to prevent global warming. The investors are looking at increasing cost curves for non-conventional fuels.”

Activist shareholders hope that publicly assessing and disclosing the financial risk associated with certain carbon-intensive operations will dissuade Exxon and other energy companies from extracting oil and natural gas in high-risk, environmentally sensitive areas like deep water and tar sands.

Exxon’s decision was largely due to pressure from As You Sow and a key shareholder, Arjuna Capital. In return, Arjuna Capital and As You Sow dropped a shareholder resolution that would have put the issue to a vote at Exxon’s annual shareholder meeting.

“If we are going to avoid catastrophic climate change, we can only burn one third of [known] carbon reserves,” Natasha Lamb, the director of equity research and shareholder engagement at Arjuna Capital, told IPS. “So the big question is, if regulation market forces prevent oil companies from burning that other two-thirds, why are they spending so much in shareholder value exploiting more?

“As investors, we want to understand what kind of scenario analyses they’re running taking these huge risks into account, and if they’re profitably allocating shareholder capital.”

Investors ultimately hope that a combination of increased regulations on carbon emissions and subsequent shareholder concerns will prompt large energy firms to diversify their assets and invest in more sustainable forms of energy.

“Forward-thinking companies need to re-assess how they allocate shareholder capital and act strategically to shift their business models,” said Lamb. “If Big Oil can’t redirect capital to low-carbon energy alternatives, investors will.”

Lamb also believes that Exxon’s decision will set a precedent and encourage other companies to similarly disclose their carbon asset risks, lest they alienate their investors.

“There are 10 other shareholder proposals this year asking companies to report on carbon emissions risks,” Lamb said. “I would expect that, after Exxon’s announcement, you’ll see increasing disclosures from fossil fuel companies.”

The move also signifies that Exxon, which has a history of lobbying against climate change legislation, may start to take the issue more seriously in public – particularly as shareholders become concerned about the effects of carbon emissions regulations on the energy giant.

“I think it’s important that Exxon has questioned whether climate change is occurring, and I think the company’s finally saying, ‘Yes, climate change is real,’” said As You Sow’s Fugere.

While Exxon initially challenged the resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the country’s main corporate regulator, the SEC overruled the challenge. Although the SEC had instituted a requirement compelling companies to publicly report on the impacts of climate change on their businesses, Congress passed legislation that blocked that mandate in 2010.

Stranded assets

Along with the rest of the international community, the United States and European Union have agreed to limit the average increase in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Yet climate scientists calculate that if humans burn more than a third of the world’s current proven carbon reserves between 2000 and 2050, there is a 20 percent risk that the global temperature will rise beyond this level. Non-profit advocacy groups like the Carbon Tracker Initiative have thus coined the term “unburnable carbon” to describe the excess reserves that would raise the global temperature by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Nonetheless, in 2012, the 200 largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies invested approximately 674 billion dollars to discover and develop new carbon reserves. Because companies cannot utilise new reserves without breaking the international community’s agreed-upon standards, some shareholders consider the exploration and development of additional carbon reserves to be a “stranded asset”, an asset that is obsolete and must therefore be recorded as a loss on a company’s balance sheets.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative’s 2013 report on unburnable carbon and the large amount of shareholder money invested in new carbon reserves prompted Ceres, a group of 70 international investors with more than three trillion dollars in assets, to pressure the top 45 energy companies to assess and report on the risks that a global decrease in carbon demand could pose.

Such initiatives are already starting to have a public impact. Last January, for instance, Ceres’s shareholders successfully pressured FirstEnergy, an Ohio-based utility company, into studying and reporting on what it could do to reduce carbon emissions in line with President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing total U.S. carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Additionally, last year As You Sow filed a vote with shareholders at CONSOL Energy, a natural gas and coal firm, requesting that the company report on the risk of stranded assets derived from carbon emissions. While CONSOL was resistant to the request on the grounds that it already produces a corporate social responsibility report, nearly 20 percent of CONSOL shareholders voted in favour of the proposal, a figure that Fugere deems significant.

“Over a billion dollars in investor assets voted in favour of that,” said Fugere. “That was about a 20 to 22 percent ruling, depending on who you ask. When you have over 20 percent of your shareholders indicating it’s a concern, companies are going to take note.”

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Uruguay’s Public Transport Goes Electric http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/uruguays-public-transport-goes-electric/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uruguays-public-transport-goes-electric http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/uruguays-public-transport-goes-electric/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 19:39:36 +0000 Ines Acosta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133184 Uruguay plans to gradually replace oil-based fuels with electric energy in its public transport system, and is currently assessing the costs and benefits of the shift. Tests indicate that the running costs of electric buses can be six- to eight-fold lower than for diesel buses. For the last two years, studies have been under way […]

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A K9 electric bus parked on a street in downtown Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta/IPS

A K9 electric bus parked on a street in downtown Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta/IPS

By Inés Acosta
MONTEVIDEO, Mar 24 2014 (IPS)

Uruguay plans to gradually replace oil-based fuels with electric energy in its public transport system, and is currently assessing the costs and benefits of the shift.

Tests indicate that the running costs of electric buses can be six- to eight-fold lower than for diesel buses.

For the last two years, studies have been under way on the potential benefits of adding electric vehicles to the public transport fleet in Montevideo, where half the country’s 3.3 million people live.

In late 2013, performance and range trials were carried out on an E6 model car and a K9 model bus made by the Chinese company BYD. The results were presented on Mar. 13.

The economic analysis of the performance of the electric vehicles, carried out by the city government, was positive. But mechanisms must be designed to face the initial investment and redefine the scope of subsidies and taxes.

The overall economic advantage of an electric bus over one running on diesel is 1.7 to one, according to this study, which took into account costs of purchase, maintenance and operation of different types of vehicles under the present subsidies and taxes.

Taxis first

This year the first 50 electric taxis will ply the streets of the Uruguayan capital.

Taxi fleets in Bogotá and London are also incorporating electric vehicles, said Campal, and they are already in service in Hong Kong and the Chinese city of Shenzhen, where they are made.

But in Montevideo, it has not yet been defined how battery charging points for taxis and buses will operate, said Méndez.

The state electricity company has acquired 30 electric Kangoo Maxi Z.E. vans from the French auto company Renault for its work fleet.

For taxis, the difference is 1.8 to one between electric and gasoline-fuelled vehicles, and 1.4 to one between electric and diesel taxis.

Electric motors expend six times less energy than diesel motors. But there is a state subsidy of 65 percent on diesel fuel for buses, so unless the subsidy structure is changed, bus companies will not find it profitable to switch to electricity.

The initiative is part of Uruguay’s energy policy, which aims for half of the country’s energy mix to be made up of renewable sources by 2015, much of that wind energy.

The Electric Mobility Group, made up of several national bodies and the Montevideo city government, has worked since 2012 on the introduction of this technology, which has the advantage of zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The electric vehicles in question function with a bank of lithium iron phosphate batteries, which are biodegradable and do not include heavy metals. When fully charged, the cars and buses have ranges of 300 and 250 kilometres, respectively.

Charging them takes a 10-kilowatt power source, while Uruguayan homes are usually supplied with two to six kilowatts of power.

Electric vehicles cost up to five times more than those using conventional fuels in Uruguay. An electric bus costs 500,000 dollars and a car 60,000 dollars. But operating and maintenance costs are only 10 percent of those for diesel motors.

The national energy director, Ramón Méndez, told Tierramérica that fully charging a car battery would cost 10 dollars at standard Uruguayan rates.

He also said the country would be able to absorb the additional energy consumption, as by 2015 it would become an exporter of electricity.

Since 2005, “Uruguay has installed as much new electricity generating capacity as it did in the previous 100 years of history of its energy industry,” Méndez said.

Transport consumes one-third of the country’s energy resources. “Over two billion dollars a year are spent on fuel,” he said. For this reason, measures taken “in this sector could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in savings for the country,” Méndez said.

Electric vehicles “are the way ahead for the world in general and Uruguay in particular,” he said.

Transport is currently dependent on fossil fuels, but once electric vehicles are introduced it would be based on sources like wind energy, biomass and photovoltaic energy.

“That means lower costs and greater sovereignty,” stressed the head of the National Energy Directorate.

“Unless we strike oil in our country, instead of depending on what we have to import at high prices with complete uncertainty, we can guarantee our energy supply by installing more wind parks, and at the same time we can satisfy transport needs,” he said.

But further adjustments are also needed.

Uruguay spends 100 million dollars a year on diesel subsidies for public transport, Néstor Campal, the city government’s director of transport, told Tierramérica.

“If these funds were spent instead on, say, improving infrastructure for electric vehicles, which have lower operating costs, we would gain a technology with a great many environmental and other benefits,” he said.

In his view, the law should be changed “so that subsidies are applied in a balanced way to both systems.”

Transport Minister Enrique Pintado said “transport subsidies cannot be based on the contradiction that ‘the more you spend the more you are subsidised’; they should instead reward reductions in consumption.”

Bus fares “should come down not because of subsidies, but due to lower real prices. That means much more efficient management of bus companies and lower energy, parts and unit costs,” he said.

“We are laying the foundations for the next departmental (provincial) and national governments to be capable of bringing to fruition what we are launching today,” Pintado concluded at the presentation of the report on the evaluation of the electric vehicles.

Tax costs are another aspect that needs to be reviewed in order to promote electric transport.

Import duties on electric buses are 23 percent, compared to six percent for diesel buses. In addition, diesel buses are exempt from the domestic tax known as IMESI.

In contrast, imported electric taxis pay a preferential IMESI rate of 5.75 percent, compared to 11.5 percent for diesel taxis.

The Finance Ministry will be joining the Electric Mobility Group to contribute to decisions on tax benefits to promote the new technology.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

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Egypt Gets Muscular Over Nile Dam http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/egypt-prepares-force-nile-flow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=egypt-prepares-force-nile-flow http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/egypt-prepares-force-nile-flow/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 07:55:50 +0000 Cam McGrath http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133136 When Egypt’s then-president Mohamed Morsi said in June 2013 that “all options” including military intervention, were on the table if Ethiopia continued to develop dams on the Nile River, many dismissed it as posturing. But experts claim Cairo is deadly serious about defending its historic water allotment, and if Ethiopia proceeds with construction of what […]

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Houseboats line the Nile bank in Cairo. Some 85 million Egyptians depend on the Nile for water. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

Houseboats line the Nile bank in Cairo. Some 85 million Egyptians depend on the Nile for water. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Cam McGrath
CAIRO, Mar 21 2014 (IPS)

When Egypt’s then-president Mohamed Morsi said in June 2013 that “all options” including military intervention, were on the table if Ethiopia continued to develop dams on the Nile River, many dismissed it as posturing. But experts claim Cairo is deadly serious about defending its historic water allotment, and if Ethiopia proceeds with construction of what is set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, a military strike is not out of the question.

Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have soured since Ethiopia began construction on the 4.2 billion dollar Grand Renaissance Dam in 2011.

Egypt fears the new dam, slated to begin operation in 2017, will reduce the downstream flow of the Nile, which 85 million Egyptians rely on for almost all of their water needs. Officials in the Ministry of Irrigation claim Egypt will lose 20 to 30 percent of its share of Nile water and nearly a third of the electricity generated by its Aswan High Dam."Hydroelectric dams don’t work unless you let the water through.” -- Richard Tutwiler, a specialist in water resource management at the American University in Cairo

Ethiopia insists the Grand Renaissance Dam and its 74 billion cubic metre reservoir at the headwaters of the Blue Nile will have no adverse effect on Egypt’s water share. It hopes the 6,000 megawatt hydroelectric project will lead to energy self-sufficiency and catapult the country out of grinding poverty.

“Egypt sees its Nile water share as a matter of national security,” strategic analyst Ahmed Abdel Halim tells IPS. “To Ethiopia, the new dam is a source of national pride, and essential to its economic future.”

The dispute has heated up since Ethiopia began diverting a stretch of the Nile last May, with some Egyptian parliamentarians calling for sending commandos or arming local insurgents to sabotage the dam project unless Ethiopia halts construction.

Ethiopia’s state-run television responded last month with a report on a visit to the site by army commanders, who voiced their readiness to “pay the price” to defend the partially-built hydro project.

Citing a pair of colonial-era treaties, Egypt argues that it is entitled to no less than two-thirds of the Nile’s water and has veto power over any upstream water projects such as dams or irrigation networks.

Accords drawn up by the British in 1929 and amended in 1959 divvied up the Nile’s waters between Egypt and Sudan without ever consulting the upstream states that were the source of those waters.

The 1959 agreement awarded Egypt 55.5 billion cubic metres of the Nile’s 84 billion cubic metre average annual flow, while Sudan received 18.5 billion cubic metres. Another 10 billion cubic metres is lost to evaporation in Lake Nasser, which was created by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in the 1970s, leaving barely a drop for the nine other states that share the Nile’s waters.

While the treaty’s water allocations appear gravely unfair to upstream Nile states, analysts point out that unlike the mountainous equatorial nations, which have alternative sources of water, the desert countries of Egypt and Sudan rely almost entirely on the Nile for their water needs.

“One reason for the high level of anxiety is that nobody really knows how this dam is going to affect Egypt’s water share,” Richard Tutwiler, a specialist in water resource management at the American University in Cairo (AUC), tells IPS. “Egypt is totally dependent on the Nile. Without it, there is no Egypt.”

Egypt’s concerns appear warranted as its per capita water share is just 660 cubic metres, among the world’s lowest. The country’s population is forecast to double in the next 50 years, putting even further strain on scarce water resources.

But upstream African nations have their own growing populations to feed, and the thought of tapping the Nile for their agriculture or drinking water needs is all too tempting.

The desire for a more equitable distribution of Nile water rights resulted in the 2010 Entebbe Agreement, which replaces water quotas with a clause that permits all activities provided they do not “significantly” impact the water security of other Nile Basin states. Five upstream countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda – signed the accord. Burundi signed a year later.

Egypt rejected the new treaty outright. But after decades of wielding its political clout to quash the water projects of its impoverished upstream neighbours, Cairo now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of watching its mastery over the Nile’s waters slip through its fingers.

“Ethiopia’s move was unprecedented. Never before has an upstream state unilaterally built a dam without downstream approval,” Ayman Shabaana of the Cairo-based Institute for Africa Studies had told IPS last June. “If other upstream countries follow suit, Egypt will have a serious water emergency on its hands.”

Ethiopia has sought to assure its downstream neighbours that the Grand Renaissance Dam is a hydroelectric project, not an irrigation scheme. But the dam is part of a broader scheme that would see at least three more dams on the Nile.

Cairo has dubbed the proposal “provocative”.

Egypt has appealed to international bodies to force Ethiopia to halt construction of the dam until its downstream impact can be determined. And while officials here hope for a diplomatic solution to diffuse the crisis, security sources say Egypt’s military leadership is prepared to use force to protect its stake in the river.

Former president Hosni Mubarak floated plans for an air strike on any dam that Ethiopia built on the Nile, and in 2010 established an airbase in southeastern Sudan as a staging point for just such an operation, according to leaked emails from the global intelligence company Stratfor posted on Wikileaks.

Egypt’s position was weakened in 2012 when Sudan, its traditional ally on Nile water issues, rescinded its opposition to the Grand Renaissance Dam and instead threw its weight behind the project. Analysts attribute Khartoum’s change of heart to the country’s revised domestic priorities following the secession of South Sudan a year earlier.

According to AUC’s Tutwiler, once Sudan felt assured that the dam would have minimal impact on its water allotment, the mega-project’s other benefits became clear. The dam is expected to improve flood control, expand downstream irrigation capacity and, crucially, allow Ethiopia to export surplus electricity to power-hungry Sudan via a cross-border link.

Some studies indicate that properly managed hydroelectric dams in Ethiopia could mitigate damaging floods and increase Egypt’s overall water share. Storing water in the cooler climes of Ethiopia would ensure far less water is lost to evaporation than in the desert behind the Aswan High Dam.

Egypt, however, is particularly concerned about the loss of water share during the five to ten years it will take to fill the dam’s reservoir. Tutwiler says it is unlikely that Ethiopia will severely choke or stop the flow of water.

“Ethiopia needs the electricity…and hydroelectric dams don’t work unless you let the water through.”

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