Inter Press Service » Energy http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 Opinion: How Will Wall Street Greet the Pope?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-how-will-wall-street-greet-the-pope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-how-will-wall-street-greet-the-pope http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-how-will-wall-street-greet-the-pope/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:14:17 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142152

Hazel Henderson, author of 'Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age' and other books, is President of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil), Certified B Corporation

By Hazel Henderson
ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, Aug 27 2015 (IPS)

Millions in the New York City area are excited about Pope Francis’ visit on Sep. 25 to address the U.N. General Assembly as worldwide consensus grows on the need to shift global investments from fossil fuels to clean, efficient, renewable energy in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) scheduled to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Private investments worldwide in the clean energy transition now total 6.22 trillion dollars while successful U.S. students’ divestment networks have forced over 30 college endowments to divest.  Over 200 institutions have divested worldwide, including the U.S. cities of Minneapolis and Seattle, Oxford in the United Kingdom and Dunedin in New Zealand.

Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson

The Episcopal Church and the Church of England, in a faith-based consortium, are calling on Pope Francis to urge divestment for all religious and civic groups.  Islamic Climate Change Symposium leaders cited the Quran earlier this month in calling 1.6 billion Muslims to act in phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.

Backlash from traditional Wall Streeters has joined some U.S. Catholic organisations with millions still invested in fossil energy, fracking and oil sands.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has guidelines against investing in abortion, contraception, pornography, tobacco and war but is silent on energy stocks.

Reuters reports that Catholic dioceses in Boston, Baltimore, Toledo and much of Minnesota in the United States have millions of dollars in oil and gas stocks, making up between 5-10 percent of their holdings.  It has been reported that Chicago’s Archbishop Blasé Cupich, appointed by Pope Francis, will re-examine over 100 million dollars in fossil fuel investments.

Wall Street is also re-examining its positions on fossil fuels.  A survey of asset managers in Institutional Investor, July 2015, found that 77 percent expected the carbon-divestiture movement to continue and gain momentum.  Yet, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has claimed that the models on climate change “aren’t that good” and has no plans to invest in renewable energy.

Recently, many large companies have been calling for and budgeting for carbon pricing – favoured by most economists.  Britain’s BG Group, BP, Italy’s ENI, Shell, Norway’s Statoil and France’s Total sent an open letter to world governments and the United Nations in June asking them to accelerate carbon pricing schemes.The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has guidelines against investing in abortion, contraception, pornography, tobacco and war but is silent on energy stocks

The ethical investing movement now accounts for one-sixth of all holdings on Wall Street and the U.N. Principles of Responsible Investing counts signatory institutions with 59 trillion dollars in assets under management.

Hybrid approaches include venture philanthropy and “impact” investing, while a recent CFA Institute survey found almost three quarters of investment professionals use environmental, social and governance information in their investment decisions.

Against this backdrop, Timothy Smith, pioneer founder of the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and now Senior Vice-President of Walden Asset Management, says that the “visit of the Pope in the wake of his prophetic Encyclical on climate is a clarion call – to ramp up our efforts to combat climate change with concrete actions,” adding that “it’s not the Pope’s job to present a specific game plan for Americans.  That is our job.”

Through ICCR, religious investors have worked for two decades on these issues.  Firms like Walden, Ceres and others have joined up to combat climate change, promoting efficiency and renewable resources.  All this new activity within the climate debate provides the greatest challenge yet to business-as-usual capitalism.

Many financiers in the global casino still see themselves as “masters of the universe” because they control capital flows, most investments, pension funds, influence monetary policies, capture politicians and regulators, while funding friendly academics and think tanks.

The recent jitters of stock markets have again revealed their fragility and the increasing turbulence and volatility caused by computerized algorithms accounting for over half of all activity.  High-frequency trading (HFT), “flash crashes”, are continuing with little regulation.  Foundations are crumbling from these many new challenges as small investors flee. 

Crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, local and cryptocurrencies, credit unions and cooperative enterprises are flowering along with hybrid start-ups in the “shareconomy” – AirBnB, Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit and the growth of farmers markets, swap sites for tools, clothes and second-hand exchanges.

Many reformers of capitalism try to change its culture, of short term gain and speculative trading.  The U.N. Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System will release its report to the General Assembly on Sep. 25, with global research on current practices and potential reforms.

A promising new effort to mobilise U.S. public opinion is JUSTCapital, founded by luminaries Deepak Chopra, Arianna Huffington and hedge fund philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones.  CEO Martin Whittaker says: “We are addressing some of the core questions affecting capitalism and corporations in the 21st century.  We are applying policy, research and surveys to define ‘just business behaviour’ in the eye of the public, using this definition to evaluate and rank the performance of the largest publicly traded American companies.”

While such caring financiers are quietly exploring reforms, the biggest threat is the fragility of global market structures from automation, algorithms, HFT and artificial intelligence which financiers still believe they can control.

Yet these same computers can now run markets more efficiently than humans.  Matching and trading buy and sell orders in transparent computerised black boxes makes human traders redundant, as well as reducing insider trading, speculating, front-running, naked short-selling, fixing interest rates and today’s widespread greed and corruption.

Capitalism’s greatest challenge is its reliance on rollercoaster national money systems and currencies.  Central bankers and governments’ tools fail along with economic theories as social movements are now aware of money-printing and the politics of money creation and credit-allocation, revealed in all its favouritism and inequalities.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Plant in Chile Opens South America’s Doors to Geothermal Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:44:20 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142140 The El Tatio geyser field in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. Geothermal energy comes from the earth’s internal heat, and the steam is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The El Tatio geyser field in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. Geothermal energy comes from the earth’s internal heat, and the steam is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
OLLAGÜE, Chile, Aug 26 2015 (IPS)

Chile, a land of volcanoes and geysers, has started building South America’s first geothermal plant, which would open a door to this kind of renewable energy in this country that depends largely on fossil fuels.

The Cerro Pabellón geothermal project is “immensely important for the Chilean state, which started geothermal exploration and drilling over 40 years ago,” but no initiative had taken concrete shape until now, Marcelo Tokman, general manager of the state oil company, ENAP, told IPS.

Located in the rural municipality of Ollagüe, 1,380 km north of Santiago, in the Andes highlands in the region of Antofagasta, Cerro Pabellón “will not only be the first geothermal plant in Chile and South America, but will also be the first in the world to be built at 4,500 metres above sea level,” Tokman added.

The Italian company Enel Green Power has a 51 percent stake in the project and ENAP owns 49 percent. The plant consists of two units of 24 MW each for a total gross installed capacity of 48 MW in the first phase, but with the advantage of being able to generate electricity around-the-clock.

That makes it equivalent, in terms of annual generating capacity, to a 200-MW solar or wind power plant.

The first stage would enter into operation in the first quarter of 2017 and a year later another 24 MW would be added. But the plant could be generating around 100 MW in the medium term, on 136 hectares of land.

Tokman said that once the plant is fully operational, it will be able to produce some 340 megatwatt-hours (MWh) a year that would go into the national power grid and would meet the consumption needs of 154,000 households in this country of 17.6 million people.

He also said it would avoid over 155,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, by reducing fossil fuel consumption.

The Atacama desert, the most arid in the world, has a large part of Chile’s geothermal potential and is the location of the first South American plant to tap into this source of energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The Atacama desert, the most arid in the world, has a large part of Chile’s geothermal potential and is the location of the first South American plant to tap into this source of energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Sixty million dollars were invested in the exploratory phase, and an estimated 320 million dollars more will go into the plant and the construction of a 73-km power line.

Geothermal energy is obtained by tapping underground reservoirs of heat, generally near volcanoes, geysers or other hotspots on the surface of the earth. If well-managed, the geothermal reservoirs can produce clean energy indefinitely. The steam generated is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator.

Advances in South America

Brazil has the world’s two largest freshwater reserves: the Guarani and Alter do Chão aquifers. But it does not have geothermal potential, according to a 1984 study, which is currently being revised. Geothermal energy is included in an agreement with Germany to search for alternative sources.

Six South American countries form part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity with virgin territory for geothermal exploration: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

In 1988, Argentina built Copahue I, an experimental geothermal plant constructed with Japanese capital, which supplied 0.67 MW but stopped operating. Currently, the country’s energy projects include the construction of the Copahue II geothermal plant in the hot springs of Copahue in the southern province of Neuquén, which would generate 100 MW.

In Peru, a preliminary study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of Energy and Mines found in 2013 that the country has 3,000 MWh of geothermal potential. But so far there are no plans for geothermal plants.

In February, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that starting in 2019 the country would begin to export electricity to neighbouring countries, from the Laguna Colorada geothermal plant. The project, financed by Japan, will consist of two stages, of 50 MW each.

The Philippines is home to three of the world’s 10 biggest geothermal plants, followed by the United States and Indonesia, with two each, and Italy, Mexico and Iceland, with one each.

Studies indicate that Chile is one of the countries with the greatest geothermal potential in Latin America.

This long, narrow country, which forms part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, stretches 4,270 km along the Andes mountains, the earth’s largest volcanic chain.

Environmentalists say geothermal energy has a relatively low impact, as long as questions of scale and location are respected.

“Geothermal is an unconventional renewable energy source to the extent that it is carried out in accordance with territorial and cultural needs. The energy source in and of itself does not guarantee social and environmental sustainability,” land surveyor Lucio Cuenca, director of the Santiago-based Latin American Observatory on Environmental Conflicts, told IPS.

Respecting these parameters, geothermal energy “is a very good alternative for this country,” he said.

In the case of the Cerro Pabellón plant, the surrounding communities form part of the Alto El Loa nature reserve, made up of the villages and communities of Caspana, Ayquina, Turi, Chiu Chiu, Cupo, Valle de Lasana, Taira and Ollagüe, which have a combined total population of just over 1,000, most of them Atacameño and Quechua indigenous people.

The Alto El Loa Indigenous Peoples Council got ENAP and ENEL to sign a series of agreements for the implementation of social development projects in the local communities in compensation for the impact of the geothermal project, and especially the power line.

For the inhabitants of Alto El Loa, scattered in remote areas in the Atacama desert, if the project is sustainable and benefits their communities, it will be a positive thing. But they say they are concerned that their way of life may not be respected.

“I would like to see more help, and if this is a good thing, then it’s welcome,” Luisa Terán, a member of the Atacameño indigenous group from the village of Caspana, told IPS. “Sometimes we feel a bit neglected and isolated.

“But it has to come with respect for our traditions, and it is our elders who are demanding that most strongly,” she added.

Others, however, reject the project as “anti-natural” and “violent” towards the local habitat.

“If you hurt the earth, she will in one way or another get back at you,” tourist guide Víctor Arque, of San Pedro de Atacama, a highlands village 290 km from Ollagüe, told IPS. “It can’t be possible to drill kilometres below ground without something happening.”

A photo taken at dawn in the middle of the steam from the El Tatio geysers in northern Chile, where this clean, unlimited source of energy will begin to be harnessed with the construction of the Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant in the rural municipality of Ollagüe. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

A photo taken at dawn in the middle of the steam from the El Tatio geysers in northern Chile, where this clean, unlimited source of energy will begin to be harnessed with the construction of the Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant in the rural municipality of Ollagüe. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The El Tatio precedent

Chile was a pioneer in research on geothermal potential. The first exploration was carried out in 1907 in El Tatio, a geyser field located some 200 km from Cerro Pabellón and 4,300 metres above sea level. This country was the third to explore geothermal energy, after the United States and Russia.

Two wells were drilled in that area in 1931, and in the late 1960s the government carried out more systematic exploration, which was later abandoned.

In 2008, the Geotérmica del Norte company, which belonged to the Italian consortium ENEL, began exploration in Quebrada del Zoquete, a few km from El Tatio, using the equipment already installed in the geyser field.

In September 2009, a 60-metre high column of steam shot up from one of the wells where the company was extracting and reinjecting geothermal fluids. The anomaly, caused by a failed valve, lasted more than three weeks and led to the government’s cancellation of the permit for further operations.

Tokman, energy minister at the time, remembered the incident. “Fortunately all of the safeguards had been taken to demand different instruments of measurement for the project, to ensure that the reservoir was deeper and distinct from the reservoir in the El Tatio geyser field,” he said.

Cuenca said the mistake was “having restarted a geothermal programme in Chile doing everything that shouldn’t be done: that is, interfering in a place where there are indigenous communities, an area with a high tourist and economic value, simply to take advantage of the infrastructure that was already installed there.”

Experts warn that geothermal power is not a panacea for Chile’s energy deficit, because if there is one thing this country has learned, it is that a diversified energy mix is essential.

But if Chile’s potential is confirmed, Cerro Pabellón could open the door to geothermal development not only in this country but in South America.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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UAE Wins Hearts and Minds at World Exhibition in Milanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:44:36 +0000 Jaya Ramachandran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142091 Courtesy of UAE Expo Milano 2015.

Courtesy of UAE Expo Milano 2015.

By Jaya Ramachandran
MILAN, Aug 21 2015 (IPS)

She only turned nine last June. But Mahra Mustafa has become a celebrity at the Expo Milan. She stars as Sara in ‘The Family Tree’, a short film on the UAE’s heritage being screened at the United Arab Emirates pavilion. Sara is in fact the face of young, dynamic and innovative Emirates.

Thousands of Italians and foreign visitors, who throng the UAE pavilion day in and day out, are enchanted by the 12-metre tall sinuous rippled walls that provide an unforgettable experience and give an idea of what the Emirates would offer during the Dubai Expo in 2020.“People get mesmerised with how the UAE has grown from facing challenges like lack of water, coping with heat, humidity, lack of natural resources and still managed to create beautiful cities and communities.” -- Nawal Al Hosany

The Dubai Expo from Oct 20, 2020 through Apr 10, 2021, will launch the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebration and “serve as a springboard from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades”, according to information posted on its website.

The organisers proudly announce: “This will be the first time that a World Expo is staged in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region.”

While Expo Milan from May 1 to Oct 31 is focussing on ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, Dubai’s World Expo will have ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ as its theme, echoing the powerful spirit of partnership and co-operation that has driven the UAE’s success in pioneering new paths of development and innovation, the organisers say.

“Through this theme, Expo 2020 Dubai will serve as a catalyst, connecting minds from around the world and inspiring participants to mobilise around shared challenges during a World Expo of unprecedented global scope,” the organisers add.

As compared to Expo Milan, which expects to welcome 20 million visitors during six months, Expo 2020 Dubai awaits 25 million visits, 70 per cent from abroad – if only to feel and experience Sara’s ‘The Family Tree’.

“People got so excited seeing movies on Dubai, the feedback we got was that people want to visit before Expo 2020,” ‘The National’, UAE’s English-language publication, quoted Amal Al Kuwaiti, a contract engineer with the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company who worked as a volunteer at the UAE pavilion in Milan.

The architects worked closely with the UAE’s National Media Council to create the pavilion and connect it to the Milan theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, notes The National.

“Many were surprised to see the country with not much water, how people searched for food. Then suddenly they see videos of the Burj Khalifa (a skyscraper in Dubai) and they are thrilled. Even people who have been to Dubai long ago want to see the changes,” he added.

“People get mesmerised with how the UAE has grown from facing challenges like lack of water, coping with heat, humidity, lack of natural resources and still managed to create beautiful cities and communities,” Nawal Al Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar, told The National newspaper. He was involved in building the UAE pavilion.

Describing the highlights of the ‘The Family Tree’, the Gulf News writes: Sara is transported back in time, during the generation of her grandparents. Sara gets to live and witness what life was like before modernisation and development in the area, living in the harsh desert conditions, facing many challenges such as finding food and water, and dealing with sandstorms and wild animals.

“The movie’s special effects, story, and professional direction is on par with any Hollywood major production,” claims the Gulf News with some justification.

It is not only the film but also Sara’s rap song that ties in to the Milan Expo theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life: “We have land and food and energy/The sun, the sand and the big blue sea/The people, the animals/I’m beginning to see/Are all interconnected like a tapestry . . .”

The song is for sale on iTunes and the proceeds are going to victims of Nepal’s earthquakes.

When the film The Family Tree ends, visitors are invited to switch to an interactive  ‘Future Talk’, with the presentation being delivered by Sara. The main message of the talk is to encourage people to live their lives in a more sustainable and energy-friendly manner, so that we can have a better future in feeding the planet.

The UAE pavilion also highlights the importance of date palms, a major component of Emirati culture and tradition. The exhibition, ‘The Secret Life of Date Palms’, informs about the date palm features, its form, fruit, hydration, metamorphosis, shade and shadow. As part of the exhibition visitors also get to experience and see the date palms for themselves, with an oasis garden and date palm trees present at the pavilion.

Walking along the sinuous rippled walls, visitors pass by 12 media cubes. These refer to 12 challenges the UAE faces in respect of land, energy, water and food. Then follow the 12 media cubes with 12 solutions. One of the challenges the Emirates face is that it barely gets any rain, and so the solution in providing clean drinking water to its population is through new methods of desalinated seawater using renewable energy.

The media cubes also offer visitors an insight into the UAE and its culture, with five short Discovery films about the UAE. ‘Flavors of the Emirates’ is a short film about the traditional and cultural foods of the UAE.

Another short film, “Helping Feed the Planet”, touches on the UAE’s generous contribution in giving aid to 140 countries around the world, with the short movie going to Ethiopia where schoolchildren are provided with healthy food thanks to a programme funded and organised by Dubai Cares.

Emiratis acting as volunteers and ambassadors at the pavilion are also present to help guide and further explain the culture and history of the UAE, making the tour as interactive as possible for visitors.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Iran Deal a ‘Net-Plus’ for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/iran-deal-a-net-plus-for-nuclear-non-proliferation-worldwide/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 21:17:28 +0000 S. Chandra http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142040 By S. Chandra
WASHINGTON, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

As the U.S. Congress prepares to vote next month on the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was agreed on July 14 between the world’s leading powers and Iran, and has been approved by the U.N. Security Council, eminent nuclear non-proliferation experts are mobilising international support for its immediate implementation.

In a joint statement, more than 70 of the world’s leading nuclear non-proliferation specialists outline why the JCPOA “is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”

The non-proliferation specialists’ statement, organised by Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, point out that the July 14 agreement, “ … advances the security interests of the P5+1 nations (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, their allies and partners in the Middle East, and the international community.”

The joint statement is endorsed by former U.S. nuclear negotiators, former senior U.S. non-proliferation officials, a former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a former member of the U.N. Panel of Experts on Iran, and leading nuclear specialists from the United States and around the globe.

The experts “… urge the leaders of the P5+1 states, the European Union, and Iran to take the steps necessary to ensure timely implementation and rigorous compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

The statement concludes: “… we believe the JCPOA meets key nonproliferation and security objectives and see no realistic prospect for a better nuclear agreement.”

“This statement … underscores, as President Barack Obama recently noted, the majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support the P5+1 and Iran nuclear deal,” said the Arms Control Association’s executive director Daryl G. Kimball in a new release on Tuesday.

It said: “The JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, many of which will last for 10 years, some for 15 years, some for 25 years, with enhanced IAEA monitoring under Iran’s additional protocol agreement with the IAEA and modified code 3.1 safeguards provisions lasting indefinitely.”

When implemented, eminent nuclear non-proliferation experts say, the JCPOA will establish long-term, verifiable restrictions on Iran’s enrichment facilities and research and development, including advanced centrifuge research and deployment.

“Taken in combination with stringent limitations on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile, these restrictions ensure that Iran’s capability to produce enough bomb-grade uranium sufficient for one weapon would be extended to approximately 12 months for a decade or more,” they add.

“Moreover,” the experts say in a joint statement, “the JCPOA will effectively eliminate Iran’s ability to produce and separate plutonium for a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years, including by permanently modifying the Arak reactor, Iran’s major potential source for weapons grade plutonium, committing Iran not to reprocess spent fuel, and shipping spent fuel out of the country.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Presalt Oil Drives Technological Development in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/presalt-oil-drives-technological-development-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=presalt-oil-drives-technological-development-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/presalt-oil-drives-technological-development-in-brazil/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:40:34 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142026 The third floor of the central building of Petrobras’s R&D centre, CENPES, built in 2010 on University City Island. On the right, a scale model of an oil rig. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The third floor of the central building of Petrobras’s R&D centre, CENPES, built in 2010 on University City Island. On the right, a scale model of an oil rig. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 18 2015 (IPS)

The extraction of deepwater oil, the most abundant kind in Brazil, is costly but foments technological and industrial development, requiring increasingly complex production equipment and techniques.

One challenge is the water extracted with the oil, the proportion of which grows with the age of the well, reducing productivity by using up an increasing proportion of the transport and processing capacity of the productive installations.

“Since two years ago we’ve had a separator of oil and water that operates at a depth of 2,000 metres,” said Oscar Chamberlain, head of supplies and biofuels in the Research and Development Centre (CENPES) of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company. “That water, in time, can represent 80 percent of the volume extracted, which is why it has to be separated deep down in order to not overtax the rig.”

Rio de Janeiro has become a centre of know-how and innovation in offshore oil, thanks to CENPES, which has 227 laboratories and a technological park where 52 institutions and companies have set up shop so far, including 12 multinational corporations.“There are no longer any technological barriers to the production of oil in the presalt layer; all of the challenges identified – involving the distance, depth and complexity posed by the layer of salt - have been overcome.” -- Luiz Felipe Rego

University City Island, widely known as Fundão Island, is the epicentre of that transformation. It is the campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), near the international airport of this city that is more famous for its beaches and carnival.

This development has been driven by Petrobras’s 2006 discovery of oil deposits in what is known as the presalt area, under a two-kilometre-thick salt layer more than 5,000 metres below the surface in the Atlantic ocean.

The new reserves brought Brazil new oil wealth as well as new challenges.

The presalt reserves are at least 250 km from the coast of southeast Brazil, which poses logistical difficulties.

“There are no longer any technological barriers to the production of oil in the presalt layer; all of the challenges identified – involving the distance, depth and complexity posed by the layer of salt – have been overcome,” Luiz Felipe Rego, Petrobras general manager of well engineering, told IPS.

As a result, just eight years after they were discovered, the presalt reserves account for 23 percent of Petrobras production in Brazil, which in October climbed to 2.58 million barrels a day of oil-equivalent, including natural gas.

But the constant battle to reduce costs has fuelled the effort to do as much as possible deep below the surface, with underwater systems that require electrification, robots and remote maintenance services in a corrosive, high-pressure atmosphere with wildly varying temperatures, said Chamberlain, a Nicaraguan who has been with Petrobras for 30 years.

Corrosion is a threat at every stage of the process, all the way up to the refinery where the petroleum can damage the equipment if the excess salt is not previously removed.

CENPES was founded in 1963 when Petrobras, a state company created to explore for oil and reduce the imports that Brazil depended on, was 10 years old. Its 1,930 researchers, 36 percent of whom hold masters’ or doctoral degrees, are now carrying out 862 R&D projects.

“Thanks to their work, Petrobras is the Brazilian company that has applied for the most patents in Brazil and abroad,” the executive manager of CENPES, André Cordeiro, told IPS. “In 2013 alone 56 new applications were made.”

Petrobras’s investment in R&D, administered by CENPES, has increased nearly eight-fold so far this century. The annual average, which stood at 160 million dollars from 2001 to 2003, climbed to 1.2 billion dollars in the last three years.

A circular laboratory and office building in CENPES, built in 1973 on University City Island in Rio de Janeiro. The Maré and Floresta de Tijuca favelas or shantytowns can be seen in the background. CENPES is the R&D arm of Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, whose symbol is BR. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A circular laboratory and office building in CENPES, built in 1973 on University City Island in Rio de Janeiro. The Maré and Floresta de Tijuca favelas or shantytowns can be seen in the background. CENPES is the R&D arm of Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, whose symbol is BR. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“We currently work with 122 Brazilian universities and research institutes, organised in 49 thematic networks – a model that has fomented partnerships between Petrobras and academia in strategic questions in the area of oil and gas,” Cordeiro said.

The closest partnership began 46 years ago with the UFRJ’s Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE), which is also a technology business incubator.

For example, Ambidados, which emerged there in 2006, provides oil companies with environmental assessments and data. And with just 11 staff members in its office in the UFRJ’s Technological Park, it created its own buoys and devices to monitor wind, tides, ocean currents and rainfall, which affect operations out at sea.

“We also study the ocean bottom relief, the water temperature at different depths, the salinity, and the amount of algae,” oceanographer Leonardo Kuniyoshi told IPS.

There are another 31 small and medium-sized companies in the Technological Park, along with seven laboratories, and R&D centres of global leaders in oil industry services and equipment, such as Schlumberger, FMC Technologies and Halliburton, which recently acquired Baker Hughes, another oilfield services provider with offices on Fundão Island.

The U.S.-based GE opened its new Global Research Centre in the park on Aug. 13, joining other multinationals outside the oil industry, such as France’s L’Oreal cosmetics company and Brazilian beer maker Ambev.

“This coexistence among different industries is fascinating,” said the director of the Technological Park, Mauricio Guedes. “The coming together of knowledge from different areas constitutes the wealth of the Technological Park, which will generate innovations.”

That also requires “bringing companies and the university together in the same place, to generate knowledge that gives rise to products and services, because without business, technology and know-how are lost,” he said.

The park was designed to hold 200 companies in its 350,000-square-metre area at the southeastern tip of the island, which belongs to the UFRJ. The area was flood-prone and had to be filled in before the Technological Park opened in 2003. One hundred thousand truckloads of soil and rubble, dumped over the space of four years, raised the ground level two metres, Guedes said.

After the discovery of the presalt reserves, which meant Brazil could become one of the world’s leading oil producers and exporters, the park began to attract major international firms like the British multinational oil and gas company BG Group or Germany’s Siemens.

The list includes information technology companies that are not limited to oil industry services, such as EMC2, which opened “its first research centre outside of the United States” in the UFRJ park, according to Karin Breitman, the company’s local chief scientist.

The future of the Technological Park and oil industry research is ensured in Brazil. Contracts to exploit the country’s oilfields require that the companies must invest one percent of their revenue in R&D.

That adds up to some 12 billion dollars over the next 10 years. “The combination of technological challenges and resources to tackle them promises success,” said Guedes.

Besides boosting the oil industry’s productivity, the R&D contributes to the development of other sectors, with oceanographic and environmental knowledge and multiple-use technologies.

One example is the hyperbaric chamber, a steel vessel in which atmospheric pressure can be raised or lowered by air compressors, which is being used to generate electric power from waves, in a plant developed by Coppe. New materials, new inputs and energy solutions will emerge from the bottom of the sea, said Guedes.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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World’s Nuclear Facilities Vulnerable to Cyber-Attackshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/worlds-nuclear-facilities-vulnerable-to-cyber-attacks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worlds-nuclear-facilities-vulnerable-to-cyber-attacks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/worlds-nuclear-facilities-vulnerable-to-cyber-attacks/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 18:13:19 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142016 Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France. The IAEA has reported cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear plants. Credit: Stefan Kühn/cc by 2.0

Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France. The IAEA has reported cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear plants. Credit: Stefan Kühn/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2015 (IPS)

As hackers continue to rampage through closely-guarded information systems and databases with monotonous regularity, there is a tempting new target for cyber-attacks: the world’s nuclear facilities.

A warning has already been sounded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has urged the world community to intensify efforts to protect nuclear facilities from possible attacks.“We need to drain the swamp and stop developing technologies that are vulnerable to catastrophic attacks." -- Randy Rydell

Pointing out the nuclear industry was not immune to such attacks, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano says there should be a serious attempt at protecting nuclear and radioactive material – since “reports of actual or attempted cyber-attacks are now virtually a daily occurrence.”

The United States, whose defence networks at the Pentagon and also its intelligence agencies have already been compromised by hackers largely from Russia and China, is increasingly concerned about possible cyber-attacks by terrorist organisations – specifically the Islamic State (IS) with its heavy and sophisticated presence on social media.

Ironically, the United States reportedly collaborated with Israel to launch a virus attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme years ago.

Tariq Rauf, director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS nuclear power plants and the nuclear industry rely intensively on computer systems and computer codes.

“Any corruption, malware or targeted attacks potentially could have catastrophic consequences for nuclear safety and security,” he warned.

In this regard, he said, it is deplorable that Israel and the United States targeted Iran’s uranium enrichment programme in past years with malware and viruses, thus initiating unprovoked cyber warfare, he added.

Stuxnet, the computer virus introduced into the Iranian nuclear programme by these two countries, has now escaped into other programmes in other countries, said Rauf, the former head of IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination unit.

“This clearly demonstrates that cyber warfare agents cannot be contained, can spread uncontrollably and can potentially create many hazards for critical infrastructure in the nuclear field,” he said.

He said cyber warfare at the state level is much more dangerous and difficult to defend against than cyber-attacks by hackers, though the hacking of nuclear safety and security systems by amateurs or criminals also pose major risks for radioactive and nuclear materials.

Randy Rydell, a former senior political officer at the U.N’s Office of Disarmament Affairs (ODA), told IPS the real question here is not capabilities but motivation: “Why would someone wish to launch such an attack?”

The answer, he said, is political.

“We need to drain the swamp and stop developing technologies that are vulnerable to catastrophic attacks,” said Rydell, former senior counsellor and Report Director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission.

IAEA’s Amano pointed out that last year alone there were cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear power plants, with such facilities being specifically targeted.

He said staff responsible for nuclear security should know how to repel cyber-attacks and to limit the damage, if systems are actually penetrated.

“The IAEA is doing what it can to help governments, organisations, and individuals adapt to evolving technology-driven threats from skilled cyber adversaries,” he added.

At the next IAEA ministerial conference, scheduled for December 2016, one of topics for discussion would be how best to elaborate a Code of Conduct for Cyber Security for the Nuclear Industry.

Asked about the cyber capability of terrorist groups and their use of social media, Admiral Cecil Haney, commander U.S. Strategic Command, told reporters last March the Islamic State (IS) and various other organisations have been able to recruit and threaten – “and so we see more and more sophistication associated with that.”

“This is something that we look at very, very closely,” he said, pointing out that U.S. Cyber Command, as well as its interagency team, is working on this.

“And, quite frankly, it is looked at on a day-to-day basis,” he added.

In one of the major breaches of security, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which maintains security clearance for millions of federal employees, was one of the targets of hackers last year.

“The threat we face is ever-evolving,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters last June. “We understand that there is persistent risk out there and we take it seriously,” he added.

But cyber-attacks are also increasingly a policy decision by governments in the United States, Western Europe, Russia and China, as a means of fighting back when attacked.

SIPRI’s Rauf said the IAEA is recognised as playing the central role in setting nuclear security standards for peaceful nuclear activities and has issued guidance documents in this regards for operators of nuclear facilities.

Addressing the IAEA International Conference on Computer Security in a Nuclear World, held in Vienna on June 1, Amano correctly drew attention to the risks and dangers of actual or attempted cyber-attacks against nuclear power plants and the nuclear industry, he noted.

Amano said that “computers play an essential role in all aspects of the management and safe and secure operation of nuclear facilities, including maintaining physical protection, and thus it is vitally important that all such systems are properly secured against malicious intrusions”.

In a statement released last month, the White House said that from the beginning of his current administration, President Barack Obama “has made it clear that cyber security is one of the most important challenges we face as a nation.”

In response, “the U.S. Government has implemented a wide range of policies, both domestic and international, to improve our cyber defences, enhance our response capabilities, and upgrade our incident management tools.”

As the cyber threat continues to increase in severity and sophistication, so does the pace of the Administration’s efforts, the White House noted.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Zimbabwe’s Forest Carbon Programme Not All It Seemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-forest-carbon-programme-not-all-it-seems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-forest-carbon-programme-not-all-it-seems http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-forest-carbon-programme-not-all-it-seems/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 10:47:42 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141986 Rain forest in Zimbabwe, where the politics of access and control over forests and their carbon is challenging conventional understanding, and comes down to the question of land and whether local rural communities can benefit if they are not the owners of land. Credit: By Ninara/CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Rain forest in Zimbabwe, where the politics of access and control over forests and their carbon is challenging conventional understanding, and comes down to the question of land and whether local rural communities can benefit if they are not the owners of land. Credit: By Ninara/CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 14 2015 (IPS)

The efficacy of attempts to sustainably manage forests and conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks in Zimbabwe is increasingly coming under scrutiny as new research warns that the politics of access and control over forests and their carbon is challenging conventional understanding.

It all comes down to the question of land and of whether local rural communities can benefit if they are not the owners of land.

Even where they do “own” land, say researchers, these communities often find themselves competing with other players driven by different economic considerations, nullifying the very ideals being pushed under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

“Carbon forestry projects – as previous interventions in forest use, ownership and management – have not been the panacea some had expected … multiple conflicts have emerged between landowners, forest users and project developers” – Ian Scones
Despite the country’s agrarian reform programme, under which land was redistributed to millions of landless local communities, the state remains the biggest landowner, raising questions about community empowerment and the ownership of forests.

With researchers pointing to a spike in the demand for land based not only on rural population growth but also on people reportedly moving to rural areas, there is no doubt that any increase in the rural population brings with it increased demand for natural resources.

“The demand on natural resources for land is growing year on year at a rate which is not sustainable,” says Steve Wentzel, director of Carbon Green Africa, and this will mean reforestation in the millions, with these trees being planted on plots that do not belong to local communities at a time when some farmers are decimating forest cover by using firewood to cure their tobacco.

The promise held out by REDD+ was that through reforestation and by reducing emissions, communities would then have access to or earn certified emission reduction credits to be sold to or traded with the worst polluters to meet their own emission reduction targets, yet it is clear that like any economic transaction, those who owns the means of production profit most.

Land is still owned either by the state or big business, with little cascading to the “bottom billion” as some economists have called the world’s poor, and landowners and the rich industrialised countries benefit at the expense of rural communities.

According to Ian Scoones, co-editor with Melissa Leach of a recently published book titled Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa, “carbon forestry projects – as previous interventions in forest use, ownership and management – have not been the panacea some had expected.”

Scoones says that “multiple conflicts have emerged between landowners, forest users and project developers. Achieving a neat market-based solution to climate mitigation through forest carbon projects is not straightforward.”

On Zimbabwe’s REDD+ project, which has covered 1.4 million hectares under Carbon Green Africa, Scoones says that “as notional ‘traditional’ and ‘administrative’ owners of the land, they [rural communities] should have the authority. But they are pitched against powerful forces with other ideas about resource and economic priorities.”

Civil society organisations (CSOs) here argue that this explains why rural communities get the shorter end of the stick.

Meanwhile, a recent brief from Zimbabwe’s climate ministry noted that “rich countries have barely kept the promise” of meeting their pledges, casting doubts on whether rural communities will in fact trade any anticipated carbon credits for cash.

The rural poor could well be saying “show us the money” by 2020, the year targeted in Cancun, Mexico, for emission reduction pledges.

Climate and environment ministry officials agree that land ownership under REDD+ has remained a sticking point in its dialogue with CSOs on how local communities may derive premium dividend from forest carbon projects.

“CSOs represent the interests of local communities and lack of safeguards has made this issue an area of divergence between governments and CSOs,” says Veronica Gundu, acting deputy director in the Climate Change Management Department of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

“They (CSOs) are pushing for clarity on land ownership and the benefits to the local communities because they view the current regime of implementation to be beneficial only to the project implementers and leaving out the locals,” Gundu told IPS.

However, Wentzel of Carbon Green Africa which is implementing Zimbabwe’s sole REDD+ project in the Zambezi valley, told IPS: “As it stands the people of these districts are the rightful beneficiaries of revenue generated from their natural resources even if they are not titled land owners.”

Edited by Phil Harris 

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Tiny Island Nation Pleads for Global Moratorium on New Coal Mineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 16:03:21 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141976 Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-level Event on climate change in July 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-level Event on climate change in July 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 13 2015 (IPS)

The tiny island of Kiribati in the Central Pacific, with a population of about 103,000, has long been identified as one of the U.N. member states threatened with physical extinction due to sea-level rise triggered largely by climate change.

Expressing these fears, Kiribati President Anote Tong has called on world leaders, on the eve of a summit meeting at the United Nations next month, for “a global and immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions.”“I have now seen first-hand what a sea level rise means for the people of Kiribati. It is not some scientific modelling or projection - it is real, it is happening now and it will only get worse." -- Kumi Naidoo

In a letter to the leaders of the 193 member states, he has urged them to back his call to action in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks in December.

Speaking on behalf of “a nation faced with a very uncertain future”, he says: “It would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour.”

“The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 (Conference of Parties) in Paris, whilst stopping new coal mine constructions now will make any agreement reached in Paris truly historical,” he says in the letter.

The president, who is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on September 30, already has strong backing from Greenpeace International,

Asked how coal and coal mining impacts on climate change, Leanne Minshull, Senior Portfolio Manager, Climate and Energy at Greenpeace International, told IPS a third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal.

“And it’s used to produce nearly 40 percent of the world’s power,” she pointed out.

Coal mining, the first step in the dirty lifecycle of coal, causes deforestation and releases toxic amounts of minerals and heavy metals into the soil and water, she said.

“Coal mining’s effects persist for years after coal is removed. Coal also causes damage to people’s health and communities around the world. While the coal industry itself isn’t paying for the damage it causes, the world at large is,” said Minshull.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including widespread drought, flooding and massive population displacement caused by rising sea levels, she noted, “we need to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (compared to pre-industrial levels). To do this, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 and from there go down to zero.”

The world’s top hard coal producers include China, the United States, India, Australia and South Africa.

Speaking from Kiribati, where is currently on a visit, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Dr. Kumi Naidoo, said the people of Kiribati are refusing to be silenced by reckless governments and corporations that are perpetuating climate change, and which in turn is causing rising sea levels.

“I join President Tong in calling on all leaders of similarly threatened islands to stand together and demand climate justice,” Naidoo said.

“I have now seen first-hand what a sea level rise means for the people of Kiribati. It is not some scientific modelling or projection – it is real, it is happening now and it will only get worse,” he added.

Asked about the power wielded by the coal mining lobby and corporations that are in the coal mining business, Minshull told IPS the fossil fuel industry as a whole has a long history in the U.S. of disseminating misinformation on the impacts of climate change and using underhanded tactics to gain positive legislative outcomes for their industry.

She said Greenpeace put out an excellent report last year exposing the influence of the fossil fuel industry including coal.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says “for nearly three decades, many of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to deceive the public about the realities and risks of climate change.”

Their deceptive tactics are now highlighted in seven “deception dossiers“— collections of internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests.

Naidoo said, “We know the science and we know the end of the age of coal is coming. Scrambling to dig up more dirty coal can only be driven by ignorance or sheer disregard for the millions of people at risk from burning it.”

“We need international leadership on this issue and a planned retreat from coal involving a just transition for existing workers and developed in consultation with affected communities,” he declared.

An assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stressed that the sea level rise projected for this century will present ‘severe flood and erosion risks’ for low-lying islands, with the potential also for degradation of freshwater resources.

Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. In some places the sea level is rising by 1.2 centimetres a year, four times faster than the global average.

This means that 80 per cent of coal reserves must remain unused if we are to have any chance at protecting nations like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines, according to Greenpeace.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Latin America Has Enormous Untapped Potential for Green Infrastructurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:59:07 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141964 One of the 31 wind parks operating in Mexico. By 2020 installed wind power capacity should have climbed to 15,000 MW. Credit: Courtesy of Dforcesolar

One of the 31 wind parks operating in Mexico. By 2020 installed wind power capacity should have climbed to 15,000 MW. Credit: Courtesy of Dforcesolar

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Aug 12 2015 (IPS)

Latin America is facing a two-pronged challenge: double power generation by 2050 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The only solution? Green energy.

Studies show that these two goals could be within the reach of Latin America, because this region still has huge untapped potential in terms of renewable energy.

Along with transportation and land-use change, electricity generation is one of the region’s unresolved challenges in the fight against climate change.

With regard to energy production, Latin America is the planet’s greenest region, due to its long-time emphasis on hydroelectricity. But the question now is how to keep increasing the proportion of renewable energies in the face of growing domestic demand. “When you look at it as a whole, the region’s infrastructure continues to be built like in the 20th century, even though the 21st century has a completely different outlook and requirements.” --- Joseluis Samaniego

“When you look at it as a whole, the region’s infrastructure continues to be built like in the 20th century, even though the 21st century has a completely different outlook and requirements,” Joseluis Samaniego, a Mexican expert who is the director of the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.

Electricity is key to the design of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – the commitments that each nation assumes to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank study “Rethinking Our Energy Future”, the region will need to increase its installed power capacity two-fold by 2050.
However, it remains dependent on fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas which generate greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

This raises the question of what kind of infrastructure Latin America will include in its energy future. According to the IDB study, Latin America’s renewable energy generation capacity – wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass – is so extensive that only four percent of the total technical potential would be needed to meet the region’s needs by 2050.

But in recent years, the region has invested in dirtier energy sources. Although hydroelectric plants have been the main source of electricity across much of Latin America for decades, the latest figures show that its share is shrinking.

The Itaipú hydropower dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay is the second-largest in the world, after China’s Three Gorges. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Itaipú hydropower dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay is the second-largest in the world, after China’s Three Gorges. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE) reported that it represented just 38 percent in 2013, surpassed by natural gas, which now provides 40 percent.

The countries of Latin America will have to revert that process if they want to set forth more ambitious and realistic targets in their INDCs. Only a robust energy policy will make it possible to set adequate goals, experts agree.

Untapped clean energy potential

Latin America only uses 22 percent of its hydropower potential. Experts say that in the future, countries in the region will need to do more to tap the potential of their rivers and other clean energy sources, to make their energy mix more sustainable and diversified.

A study published in 2008 by REN21, a global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network, said hydropower could be overtaken by other sources in the region, like solar and wind.

The countries in the region have a hydroelectric potential of 2.8PWh (petawatt-hour), surpassed by geothermal (nearly three PWh), wind (11 PWh) and solar (close to 31 PWh).

That potential is enormous compared to regional demand. In 2014 the countries of Latin America consumed a total of 1.3 PWh of electricity and experts expect demand to be less than 3.5 PWh by 2050.

So far, only Mexico has formally presented its INDCs, while Chile, Colombia and Peru have shown progress.

All countries must present their national commitments by Oct. 1, to be incorporated in the new binding universal treaty to be approved at the December climate summit in Paris.

“Latin America, like the rest of the world, should focus on developing electric power infrastructure with renewable sources and with the least possible environmental impact, in an attempt to depend less and less on fossil fuels,” Santiago Ortega, a Colombian engineer who specialises in renewable energy sources, told IPS.

Ortega, who is also a professor at the Engineering School in the northwest Colombian region of Antioquia, called for a balance in renewable energy generation between local, less-invasive projects and megaprojects like large dams that make it possible to store up energy, providing a reliable supply.

“Financial resources will always be scarce, and they must be invested in the most intelligent way possible,” said Ortega.

Otherwise, the global energy future will be costly. With a business-as-usual high-carbon economy, about 90 trillion dollars, or an average of six trillion a year, will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems over the next 15 years, according to the New Climate Economy report “Better Growth, Better Climate”.

But the report adds that only around 270 billion dollars a year would be needed to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy, through clean energy, more compact cities, better public transport systems and smarter land use.

Experts like Costa Rican economist Mónica Araya say “the shift that is happening around the world, and we won’t be an exception, is towards energy diversification and decentralisation.”

But electricity is only part of the region’s energy mix, where fossil fuels still reign supreme.

OLADE figures from 2013 indicate that oil represents 49 percent of primary energy in the region, natural gas 26 percent, and coal seven percent.

Only six percent of primary energy comes from hydropower. Biomass, nuclear and other renewable sources complete the picture.

What does Latin America do with 80 percent fossil fuels, if the electricity supply is largely green?

According to Pablo Bertinat, director of the Observatory of Energy and Sustainability at the National Technological University in Argentina, nearly half of that energy goes to the transport sector.

“In transport, infrastructure is key,” Bertinat told IPS. “A large part of the public monies in the region goes into infrastructure works largely aimed at consolidating energy-intensive modes of transportation.”

As an example, Bertinat pointed out that while 75 percent of cargo in Argentina is moved by truck, the proportion is just 20 percent in France or the United States, which put a priority on rivers or railways.

Changes are also needed in cities, and Araya calls for modern, clean collective public transport, with electrification of private fleets of taxis or cargo vehicles.

“We lack imagination,” Araya, who heads the Costa Rican think tank Nivela, told IPS. “Neither the political class nor the business community have woken up to the need to invest in clean, modern public transit and cargo transport.”

These efforts in the energy industry will also require proposals from other fields. The main regional sources of greenhouse gases are land use and forestry (47 percent), followed by the energy industry (22 percent), agriculture (20 percent), and garbage (three percent).

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Protests Greet Japan’s Relaunch of Nuke Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/protests-greet-japans-relaunch-of-nuke-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-greet-japans-relaunch-of-nuke-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/protests-greet-japans-relaunch-of-nuke-power/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 22:41:50 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141937 A reporter stands at a roadblock outside Fukushima's 20 kilometre exclusive zone in March 2011. Credit: Suvendrini Kakuchi/IPS

A reporter stands at a roadblock outside Fukushima's 20 kilometre exclusive zone in March 2011. Credit: Suvendrini Kakuchi/IPS

By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

Protesters rallied outside Japan’s Sendai nuclear plant a day ahead of its planned opening and four years after the Fukushima disaster galvanised opposition to nuclear power in the country.

In a statement, Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it will begin bringing online the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai facility on Aug. 11, start power generation as early as Aug. 14 and return it to normal operations next month.

“We will continue to seriously and carefully cooperate with the country’s inspections, making safety our top priority, cautiously advancing the restart process,” the company said in the statement.

However, local activists say that there is no adequate plan in place to quickly evacuate tens of thousands of residents in the event of a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Triggered by a massive March 2011 earthquake, Fukushima was the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and the second disaster (along with Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

It led to a complete shutdown of Japan’s nuclear power plants in 2013, which will end Tuesday, if the Sendai facility opens as planned.

Nuclear power had previously provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity.

Although the new plant meets overhauled safety regulations, opponents point out that Japan records more earthquakes than any other country — and the reactor that opens tomorrow is 60 kilometres from an active volcano in the country’s northwest.

“There are schools and hospitals near the plant, but no one has told us how children and the elderly would be evacuated,” Yoshitaka Mukohara, a representative of a group opposing the Sendai restart, told the Guardian.

“Naturally there will be gridlock caused by the sheer number of vehicles, landslides, and damaged roads and bridges.”

The Shinzo Abe government’s energy plan relies heavily on nuclear power, setting a goal to have it meet more than 20 per cent of the country’s energy needs by 2030.

“We believe it is important for our energy policy to push forward restarts of reactors that are deemed safe,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

But Jan Vande Putte, a specialist in radiation safety and an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium, notes that, “Japan has been nuclear-free for over a year, and no electricity blackouts have occurred. The Japanese government should turn its back on nuclear power and instead opt for an energy policy based on improving energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy.

“This would protect its citizens from a repetition of the horrors of Fukushima and set the country on track to meet its climate commitments by 2020.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Caribbean Artists Raise Their Voices for Climate Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:13:37 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141924 Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

Award-winning St. Lucian poet and playwright Kendel Hippolyte thinks that Caribbean nationals should view the Earth as their mother.

“For me, the whole thing is so basic: the earth that we are living on and in is our mother and there are ways that we are supposed to treat our mother and relate to our mother,” the 64-year-old, who has won the St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts, told IPS.“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us -- 1.5 to Stay Alive!" -- Didacus Jules

Caribbean residents are expected to accord the highest levels of respect to their mothers. Therefore, Hippolyte’s approach could see many of the region’s nationals engaged in more individual actions to adapt to and mitigate against climate change.

“And if we deal with our mother as a person is supposed to deal with his or her mother, then so much falls into place,” Hippolyte tells told at a climate change conference last month dubbed “Voices and Imagination United for Climate Justice”.

Hippolyte is one of several artists from across the Caribbean who have agreed to use their social and other influences to educate Caribbean residents about climate change and what actions that they can take as individuals.

The conference focused on the establishment of an informal grouping of Caribbean artists and journalists who will be suitably briefed and prepared to add their voice — individually or collectively — to advocacy and awareness campaigns, with an initial focus on the climate change talks in Paris in December.

The artists include Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian David Michael Rudder, who is celebrated for songs like “Haiti”, a tribute to the glory and suffering of Haiti, and “Rally ‘Round the West Indies”, which became the anthem of Caribbean’s cricket.

British-born, Barbados-based soca artist Alison Hinds and Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also signed on to the effort.

Ahead of the 2015 climate change summit in Paris this year, Caribbean negotiators are seeking the support of the region’s artists in spreading the message of climate justice.

They say that the region has contributed minimally to climate change, but, as small island developing states (SIDS), is being most affected most its negative impacts.

Countries that have contributed most to climate change, the argument goes, must help SIDS to finance mitigation and adaption efforts.

St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, James Fletcher, told IPS that at the world climate change talks in Paris this year, SIDS will be pushing for a strong, legally-binding climate accord that will keep global temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels.

Caribbean negotiators have put this redline into very stark terms, using the rubric “1.5 to stay alive”.

If global temperature rise is capped at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation temperatures, most countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — a 15-member bloc running including Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland, Jamaica in the northern Caribbean, and Belize in Central America — will still see their total annual rainfall decrease between 10 and 20 per cent, Fletcher says.

And even with a 2-degree Celsius cap, the Caribbean is projected to experience greater sea level rise than most areas of the world, he tells IPS.

He says that some models predict that a 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures will lead to a one-metre sea level rise in the Caribbean.

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

This will translate to the loss of 1,300 square kilometres of land — equivalent to the areas of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines combined, Fletcher told IPS.

Over 110,000 people, a number equivalent to the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will be displaced.

In a region highly dependent on tourism, 149 tourism resorts will be damaged, five power plants will be either damaged or destroyed, 1 per cent of all agricultural land will be lost, 21 airports will be damaged or destroyed, land surrounding 21 CARICOM airports will be damaged or destroyed, and 567 kilometres of roads will be lost.

The countries of the Caribbean, famous for sun, sea and sand, have at the national level been rushing to implement mitigation and adaptation measures.

But Hippolyte believes that there is much that can be done at the individual level and says while a lot of information is available to Caribbean nationals, there needs to be a shift in attitude.

“A lot of the information about what we need to do is out there, but in a way, it is here, it is in the brain,” he says, pointing to his head.

“And to me, where I see the arts coming in, and where I see myself and other artists coming in to take the information, the knowledge,” he says, pointing again to his head, “and to bring it here — into the heart,” he says.

“And if that information goes into the heart, then it goes out into the hands and into the body into what we do and what we actually don’t do,” Hippolyte tells IPS.

Speaking at the climate justice event, Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a nine-member political and economic sub-group within CARICOM, told IPS that “justice lies in the protection of the vulnerable whether they be the individual poor or the marginal state”.

Most of the infrastructure in small island development states is along the coast and threatened by sea level rise, Jules points out.

“The negative impacts of climate change are also influencing how we interact with each other as a people given that we have to compete for limited resources,” he tells IPS.

“The climate justice message must therefore be spread in every corner of this region (the Caribbean) and not only promoted by global media that does not always have the interests of SIDS at the forefront.”

He says that Caribbean artists can play a role in spreading the message of climate justice.

“We have seen the power of our Caribbean artists and musicians. Caribbean music is a global force with an impact outlasting any hurricane that we have experienced,” Jules said.

He said that despite the vulnerabilities and challenges that SIDS face, “rallying in the region by using our voices can send a strong signal to let the world know that we are fully aware of the implications of not having a legally binding international agreement on climate change and the impacts it can have on SIDS in our region.

“The bottom line is that the impacts of climate change threaten our very existence,” Jules tells IPS.

“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us — 1.5 to Stay Alive! The Alliance of Small Island States has made it clear that it wants below 1.5° Celcius reflected as a long-term temperature goal and benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year,” Jules said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: The Road to Paris and the Path to Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:33:25 +0000 Jed Alegado http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141917

Jed Alegado (@jedalegado) is a climate campaigner based in the Philippines. He holds a master's degree in Public Management from the Ateneo School of Government and is also one of the climate trackers for Adopt a Negotiator's #Call4Climate campaign.

By Jed Alegado
MANILA, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

Renewable energy is now being seen by many people around the world as a cost-effective development solution both for developed and developing nations. Countries have slowly been realising that the use of coal and the huge amount of carbon emissions it generates harms the environment and impacts our daily activities.

Jed Alegado

Jed Alegado

In fact, according to Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, “last year, for the first time in 40 years, economic and emissions growth have decoupled”.

“If you look back 10 years ago, renewable energies were providing 3 per cent of global energy, and now they provide something close to 22 per cent, so that has really sky-rocketed,” noted Lins.

This is being led most obviously by countries like Uruguay, which aims to generate 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and Costa Rica, which maintained 100 percent renewable energy generation for the first 100 days of this year.

These countries are not alone and are fast becoming the norm rather than the ‘alternative’. Even small developing countries such as Burundi, Jordan and Kenya are leading the world in investments in renewable energies as a percentage of GDP.Recently, the Philippine government gave the go-ahead for the construction of 21 coal-powered projects despite President Aquino’s promise in 2011 to “nearly triple the country’s renewables-based capacity."

Philippines’ dependence on coal

In 2008, the Philippines has enacted the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 aiming to “increase the utilization of renewable energy by institutionalizing the development of national and local capabilities in the use of renewable energy system…and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

However, after seven years of its implementation, the Philippines hasn’t yet fully maximised the use of renewable energy, according to Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), an NGO based in the Philippines promoting the use of local science and technology practices.

Recently, the Philippine government gave the go-ahead for the construction of 21 coal-powered projects despite President Aquino’s promise in 2011 during the launch of the Philippine government’s National Renewable Energy Plan to “nearly triple the country’s renewables-based capacity from around 5,400 MW in 2010 to 15,300 MW in 2030.”

In the next five years, the new coal plants that are expected to be constructed are the following: Aboitiz company Therma South Inc.’s 300-megawatt(MW) plant in Davao City (2016); the 400-MW expansion of Team Energy’s Pagbilao coal-fired power plant in Quezon (2017); the 600-MW Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. plant in Subic, Zambales (2018); San Miguel Corp. Global’s 300-MW plant in Davao (2017) and a 600-MW plant in Bataan (2016).

While the government has provided incentives to companies to make use of renewable energy, the private sector is not keen on doing so because of the profit generated by coal. Furthermore, they are also looking at the short-term gain of using it – the relatively cheaper price of harnessing the so-called “dirty energy.”

The path to low-carbon development

A report titled “Powering up against Poverty: Why Renewable Energy is the Future” released last week by the international development organisation Oxfam argues that renewable energy is in fact a more affordable energy source than coal for poor people in developing countries.

The report argues that as a result of the changing energy landscape around the world, the decreasing price of renewable energies, and the often remote location of the majority of people who don’t have access to electricity, renewable energy may actually offer a more reliable and effective energy source.

Furthermore, the report stated that, “Four out of five people without electricity live in rural areas that are often not connected to a centralized energy grid, so local, renewable energy solutions offer a much more affordable, practical and healthy solution than coal.”

“But as well as failing to improve energy access for the world’s poorest people, burning coal contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year due to air pollution and is the single biggest contributor to climate change.”

This supports statements made this year by the World Bank, IMF and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who have all argued that renewable energy and not fossil fuels are key to improving energy access and reducing inequality, especially in developing countries.

The road to Paris and beyond

If the Philippines wants to show to the world that our country is the rallying point against climate change especially in the global climate talks, our government needs to walk the talk on renewable energy. Indeed, climate adaptation practices are not enough. We need to show other countries and lead the way towards climate change mitigation by leading the path to sustainable development and use of renewable energy.

Similarly, countries under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Conference of the Parties must agree on a fair and legally binding agreement in Paris on December. We cannot afford another failed climate negotiations like the one in Copenhagen in 2009 to happen again.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Obama Takes Lead on Climate Change Ahead of U.N. Talks in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 18:38:32 +0000 Nora Happel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141914 The Clean Power Plan could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Credit: Bigstock

The Clean Power Plan could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Credit: Bigstock

By Nora Happel
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled the details of his Clean Power Plan (CPP), a comprehensive carbon-cutting strategy he described as “the biggest and most important step…ever taken to combat climate change” in a prior video address posted on Facebook.

As set down in the final rule from Aug. 3 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPP requires power plant owners to reduce their CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2013, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 15 percent, meaning the U.S. is about halfway to the target."These polluters are resorting to the same dirty and desperate playbook of doomsday predictions they have used since President Nixon first signed the Clean Air Act in 1970." -- Sara Chieffo

States are allowed to create their own plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Initial versions of these plans will have to be submitted by 2016, final versions by 2018.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, told journalists at a U.N. press conference in New York: “The Plan is an example of the visionary leadership necessary to reduce emissions and to tackle climate change.”

At a meeting between President Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Oval Office on Tuesday, the U.N. chief commended Obama’s leadership role in addressing climate change: “I would like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and forward leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan. […] The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing [the] climate phenomenon.”

The U.S. is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter after China. Yet, the praise given to Obama for his efforts in cutting CO2 emissions seems to suggest a shift in the perception of the U.S. as one of the largest climate offenders to a model and leader in combating climate change.

The announcement of the plan follows a series of recent diplomatic achievements by the U.S. government such as the Iranian nuclear deal and the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many observers attribute these significant moves by the U.S. president shortly ahead of the end of his presidency to his endeavors in building a legacy on the foreign policy front.

The CPP could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Sara Chieffo, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), told IPS: “This historic plan puts in place the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the nation’s single largest source of the pollution fueling climate change.

“When taken together with other major advancements by the Obama Administration, like increasing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and investments in renewable energy, the Clean Power Plan represents a significant reduction in carbon pollution by 2030, as well as a boon to public health.

“By taking these steps the Obama Administration is demonstrating true leadership in reducing carbon pollution, strengthening the growing movement for global action.”

However, as for the Iran nuclear deal and the agreement with Cuba, Obama’s success in implementing the CPP and the legacy built upon it will be largely dependent on Congress and the courts.

Following widespread criticism, the CPP underwent various modifications until the final rule was published on Monday. Compared to former versions, the final rule is now focusing much more on fossil fuel-fired power plants as CO2 emitters and less on states achieving their targets, as explained by Jody Freeman in an article for Politico.

“[R]evisions to the final rule will make it harder for opponents to argue it intrudes on state sovereignty. This has been one of the highest-profile claims against the draft plan, which asked states to meet individual, state-level emissions targets. But the new structure of the final version lets states meet their obligation simply by applying the EPA’s uniform national rates for coal and gas units to the power plants in their jurisdiction—the most straightforward compliance plan imaginable.”

Prior to the announcement of the Clean Power Plan, legal discussions have centered on another EPA regulation already in place since 2011, the mercury and air toxic standards (MATS) meant to limit hazardous air pollutant emissions from fuel-fired power plants.

In a June 29 ruling on Michigan vs. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the EPA regulation with a 5-4 majority, stating the EPA did not properly consider the costs of the regulation as required by the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit for further consultations and proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

The 2011 initiative by EPA to regulate emissions of toxic air pollutants has been challenged by industry groups and about 20 states. Although the Supreme Court decision can be seen as a major setback for the EPA and its environmental initiative, it also facilitates the Clean Power Plan by preventing the existence of a double-regulation, “[o]ne of the challengers’ primary legal arguments against the Plan”, as pointed out by Brian Potts and Abigail Barnes in a recent Forbes article.

“Ironically, this decision could pave the way for another landmark (and nearly just as expensive) EPA regulation, the Clean Power Plan—but only if the agency lets its beloved mercury rule die on the vine.”

Indeed, there is optimism that the Clean Power Plan in its final version will be able to stand firm in the face of the lawsuits expected to be brought against it.

Sara Chieffo told IPS, “With a coalition of public health officials, faith leaders, businesses, and the millions of concerned citizens from across the country calling for climate action, the only ones challenging the Clean Power Plan are big polluters and their allies in Congress and state legislatures.

“These polluters are resorting to the same dirty and desperate playbook of doomsday predictions they have used since President Nixon first signed the Clean Air Act in 1970. But time and again, history has proven that cleaning up our air is good for our health and our economy.

“We are confident that elected officials across the country are going to side with their constituents’ overwhelming support for climate action, instead of polluters who are putting their profits ahead of our health,” she added.

The announcement of Obama’s Clean Power Plan comes a few months ahead of the much anticipated Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris. As stated by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the U.S. government’s initiative will play a vital role in turning the Conference in Paris into a success.

“President Obama’s leadership by example is essential for bringing other key countries on board and securing a universal, durable and meaningful agreement in Paris in December,” he said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis, Vows U.N. Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/no-more-hiroshimas-no-more-nagasakis-vows-u-n-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-more-hiroshimas-no-more-nagasakis-vows-u-n-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/no-more-hiroshimas-no-more-nagasakis-vows-u-n-chief/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 22:29:45 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141890 A Hibakusha, one of the survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, speaks at a special event commemorating Disarmament Week in October 2011. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

A Hibakusha, one of the survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, speaks at a special event commemorating Disarmament Week in October 2011. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6 2015 (IPS)

Speaking at a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a vociferous advocate of nuclear disarmament, echoed the rallying cry worldwide: “No more Hiroshimas, No more Nagasakis.”

Providing grim figures, he said more than 200,000 people died of nuclear radiation, shock waves from the blasts, and thermal radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later.

Additionally, over 400,000 more people have died – and are continuing to die – since the end of the Second World War from the impacts of the attacks.

“As you keep the memory of the bombing alive, so too, must the international community persist until we have ensured that nuclear weapons are eliminated,” he said Thursday.

Ban said the United Nations, since its establishment 70 years ago, has been seeking to eliminate  weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

The U.N. General Assembly’s first resolution, adopted in January 1946, set the goal of eliminating all WMDs.

“Until I realise this goal, I will continue to use every opportunity to raise global awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and demand an urgent international response,” he vowed.

A Tacit Taboo, But Fragile

Dr. John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, told IPS the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shockingly demonstrated the awful nature of nuclear arms.

That surely is one reason that in the 70 years since then nuclear weapons have not been detonated in war. Some even speak of a “taboo” on use, and a norm does seem to be emerging.

The International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross have confirmed that use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with humanitarian law protecting civilians from the effects of warfare.

And while in the end a Final Document was not adopted, at the recently concluded 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, all states – including the NPT nuclear weapon states – appeared ready to declare that “it in the interest of humanity and the security of all peoples that nuclear weapons never be used again.”

But the taboo is fragile, as illustrated by the nuclear saber-rattling over Ukraine, and there are other reasons nuclear weapons have not exploded in conflict since 1945.

Among them are war weariness after the general devastation of World War II, the positive role of the United Nations and other international institutions built in the aftermath of that war, and the caution typically but not always induced by the deployment of nuclear weapons.

There is no reason whatever to be complacent. The developing norm of non-use must be codified in a global treaty joined by all states that would prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance and provide for their elimination, he said.

Alice Slater, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and who serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000, told IPS: “On this fateful day, 70 years ago, the first of the only two atomic bombs ever used was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, with a second catastrophic detonation wreaked on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing over 220,000 people by the end of 1945, with many tens of thousands of more dying from radiation poisoning and its lethal after effects over the years.”

Yet despite these horrendous cataclysms in Japan, there are still 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, all but 1,000 of them held by the U.S. and Russia, she pointed out.

“Our legal structures to control and eliminate the bomb are in tatters, as the five recognized nuclear weapons states in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—the U.S., UK, Russia, France, China–cling to their nuclear deterrents, asserting they are needed for their ‘security’ despite the promises they made in 1970, 45 long years ago, to make good faith efforts to eliminate their nuclear arms,” she added.

This “security” in the form of nuclear “deterrence” is extended by the United States to many more countries in the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) nuclear alliances, as well as to the Pacific states of Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Non-NPT states, India, Pakistan and Israel, as well as North Korea which left the NPT, taking advantage of its Faustian bargain for “peaceful” nuclear power, to make nuclear weapons similarly claim their reliance on nuclear “deterrence” for their security, Slater said.

She said the rest of the world is appalled, not only at the lack of progress to fulfill promises for nuclear disarmament, but the constant modernization and “improvement” of nuclear arsenals with the U.S. announcing a plan to spend one trillion dollars over the next 30 years for two new bomb factories, delivery systems and warheads, having just tested a dummy nuclear bunker-buster warhead last month in Nevada, its B-61-12 nuclear gravity bomb.

In Northern California, peace advocates marked the 70th anniversary at the Livermore Lab, where the U.S. is presently spending billions of dollars to create new and modified nuclear weapons.

The Lawrence Livermore Lab is one of the two national laboratories that have designed every warhead in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

In a press advisory, the Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF), a longstanding advocate for nuclear disarmament, said 70 years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, preparations for nuclear war are ongoing at the Livermore Lab.

Over 85 percent of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for the Lab is dedicated to Nuclear Weapons Activities.

Scientists at Livermore are developing a modified nuclear warhead for a new long-range stand-off weapon to replace the air-launched cruise missile.

Nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons – 94 percent of them held by the U.S. and Russia – continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity, she said, pointing out that nuclear weapons have again taken center stage on the borderlands of Europe, one of several potential nuclear flashpoints.

Whether a nuclear exchange is initiated by accident, miscalculation or madness, the radiation and soot will know no boundaries.

The statement also said the U.S. plans to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years “modernising” its nuclear bombs, warheads, delivery systems and infrastructure to sustain them for decades to come. The human cost is immeasurable—to our health, environment, ethics, and democracy, to our prospects for global peace, and to our confidence in human survival.

“We gather at Livermore Lab to demand that nuclear weapons spending be slashed and redirected to meet human needs. On this 70th anniversary date, we welcome the Iran deal and call on the U.S. government to now lead a process, with a timetable, to achieve the universal elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Slater told IPS that at the last NPT Review Conference in May, which broke up when the U.S., UK and Canada refused to agree to an Egyptian proposal for a conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone — made to fulfill a 1995 promise as part of the commitments from the nuclear weapons states for an indefinite extension of the 25 year old NPT — the non- nuclear weapons states took a bold step.

South Africa expressed its outrage at the unacceptable nuclear apartheid apparent in the current “security” system of nuclear haves and have nots—a system holding the whole world hostage to the security doctrine of the few.

In the past two years, after three major conferences with governments and civil society in Norway, Mexico and Austria to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, over 100 nations signed up at the end of the NPT to the Austrian government’s Humanitarian Pledge to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

There are now 113 countries willing to move forward to negotiate a prohibition and ban on nuclear weapons to stigmatise and delegitimise these weapons of horror, just at the world has done for chemical and biological weapons.  See www.icanw.org

Slater said it is hoped that countries harbouring under their nuclear umbrellas will also be pressured by civil society to give up their alliance with the nuclear devil and join the Humanitarian Pledge.

“This August, as we remember and commemorate around the world the horrendous events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it’s long past time to ban the bomb!  Let the talks begin.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Humanitarian Crisis Looming Over Venezuela, Says ICGhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/humanitarian-crisis-looming-over-venezuela-says-icg/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crisis-looming-over-venezuela-says-icg http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/humanitarian-crisis-looming-over-venezuela-says-icg/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 18:37:10 +0000 Jaya Ramachandran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141873 Children playing in Karañakaek, Venezuela. Credit: Fidel Márquez/IPS

Children playing in Karañakaek, Venezuela. Credit: Fidel Márquez/IPS

By Jaya Ramachandran
BRUSSELS, Aug 5 2015 (IPS)

A Brussels-based think-tank has warned Venezuela of an impending humanitarian calamity in tandem with growing political instability.

While the accelerating deterioration of the South American country’s political crisis is cause for growing concern, says the International Crisis Group, there is a less widely appreciated side of the dramatic situation: “A sharp fall in real incomes, major shortages of essential foods, medicines and other basic goods and breakdown of the health service are elements of a looming social crisis.”

In a recent briefing, the Crisis Group says: “If not tackled decisively and soon, it will become a humanitarian disaster with a seismic impact on domestic politics and society, and on Venezuela’s neighbours. This situation results from poor policy choices, incompetence and corruption.”

The Group points to another aspect of the impending humanitarian crisis: “Those with ailments such as cancer, HIV-AIDS or cardiovascular disease can go months without medicines they require to survive. Hospitals and even private clinics cannot maintain stocks of medicines and other basic supplies, including spare parts to repair equipment.”

The think-tank headed by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a former French diplomat, refers to “some economists” who predict a sudden collapse in food consumption and widespread hunger. It adds: “Public health specialists already say that some surveys are showing chronic malnutrition, although the country is not yet on the verge of famine.

The collapse of the health service, however, can have pernicious short-term effects, including uncontrolled spread of communicable diseases and thousands of preventable deaths, warns the Crisis Group.

However, it adds, the severest consequences can be avoided by ending the political deadlock since 2014 between the government and opposition, which in turn would require “strong engagement of foreign governments and multilateral bodies”.

Venezuela is the 12th largest oil producer in the world, with the largest reserves, and a beneficiary of the most sustained oil price boom in history. In view of this, argues the Crisis Group, it should be well placed to ride out the recent collapse of the international price of crude.

It points out that the oil boom, combined in the early years at least with the government’s redistribution policies, brought about a significant decrease in poverty under the administration of the late Hugo Chávez, during 1999-2013.

But well before the 50 per cent fall in prices at the end of 2014, a year in which Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank by more than 4 per cent and inflation rose to 62 per cent, the economy was showing signs of strain, says the Crisis Group.

It adds: “Expropriations of private land and businesses, stringent price and exchange controls and inefficient, often corruptly-run state enterprises undermined the nation’s production of basic goods and services.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 

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U.N. Targets Trillions of Dollars to Implement Sustainable Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-targets-trillions-of-dollars-to-implement-sustainable-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-targets-trillions-of-dollars-to-implement-sustainable-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/u-n-targets-trillions-of-dollars-to-implement-sustainable-development-agenda/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 23:34:53 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141857 Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the U.N., addresses a press conference on the agreement achieved on 2 August by Member States on the outcome document of the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the U.N., addresses a press conference on the agreement achieved on 2 August by Member States on the outcome document of the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2015 (IPS)

After more than two years of intense negotiations, the U.N.’s 193 member states have unanimously agreed on a new Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA) with 17 goals — including the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger — to be reached by 2030.

At a press briefing Monday, Ambassador Macharia Kamau of Kenya, one of the co-facilitators of the intergovernmental consultative process, told reporters the implementation of the agenda could cost a staggering 3.5 trillion to 5.0 trillion dollars per year.“Women and girls everywhere have much to gain from the SDGs. But to make this a reality, we have to keep pressure on governments to follow through on their commitments." -- Shannon Kowalski

This looks like “an astronomical figure”, he said, compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars – not trillions – the United Nations has been traditionally seeking for development aid.

“It is ambitious, but not unattainable,” he said, and could come mostly from domestic resources, both public and private.

“All countries have to rise to the occasion,” he said, adding that it was imperative for the business sector to get on board.

Still, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo of China struck a more cautious note when he told reporters “it will be very difficult to give specific figures.”

But all 193 member states, he said, are expected to mobilise domestic sources to help attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015

The SDGs are a successor to the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were approved by heads of state in 2000, and will end in December this year.

The new goals, which will be part of the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda and to be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders Sep. 25-27, cover a wide range of political and socio-economic issues, including poverty, hunger, gender equality, industrialisation, sustainable development, full employment, human rights, quality education, climate change and sustainable energy for all.

Jens Martens, director of the Bonn-based Global Policy Forum, who has been closely monitoring the negotiations, told IPS the new Sustainable Development Agenda is a compromise and the result of a painful consensus building process.

“The new Agenda is unique, as it is universal and contains goals and responsibilities for all countries in the world, including the rich and powerful,” he noted.

The Agenda addresses the raising inequalities within and among countries and the enormous disparities of opportunities, wealth and power, Martens pointed out.

Some of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are highly ambitious, like the first goal to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

However, the Agenda is far less ambitious when it comes to the means of implementation, he warned.

“The implementation of the SDGs will require fundamental changes in fiscal policy, regulation and global governance. But what we find in the new Agenda is vague and by far not sufficient to trigger the proclaimed transformational change. But goals without sufficient means are meaningless,” he declared.

Bhumika Muchhala, senior policy analyst, finance and development at the Third World Network, told IPS the SDGs are indeed significantly more ambitious than the MDGs, but that much of this money is going to come from two key sources.

One, private money, through the “multi-stakeholder partnerships” that the U.N. has enshrined in the SDG Goal 17 as well as through various other processes, such as the Sustainable Energy for All initiative or the Global Financing Facility.

And second, from domestic money straight from developing country coffers, as no new international money is being committed.

She said the glaring absence of any intergovernmental process or model of governance over these proliferating multi-stakeholder partnerships renders them void of accountability and transparency, much less rigorous due diligence practices such as ex-ante and independent assessments, monitoring and oversight and third-party evaluation processes.

Such provisions and principles, she noted, are even integrated into the World Bank Group’s architecture, where the Ombudsman and even the IEO (Independent Evaluation Office) in the IMF serve as monitoring agencies.

For example, it has been demonstrated that the decision-making taking place in a fund like the Global Financing Facility will be done behind closed doors, by a small group of elite financial investors and private sector actors who contribute to the Facility, she added.

Shannon Kowalski, Director of Advocacy and Policy, International Women’s Health Coalition, told IPS the SDGs signal a major step forward, especially for women and girls.

With this new framework there is potential to really change the game and advance gender equality—which has been recognised as absolutely essential to sustainable development, she added.

“Women and girls everywhere have much to gain from the SDGs. But to make this a reality, we have to keep pressure on governments to follow through on their commitments. In the end, the promise of this historic development agenda is really up to us,” Kowalski declared.

Ian Koski, a spokesperson for the ONE Campaign, said the new global goals are a major landmark in the effort to end extreme poverty.

They lay out a global contract for a world where nobody lives in hunger or dies of preventable diseases, and while their formal adoption in September will rightly be cause for celebration, goals alone will not end poverty, he said.

It’s going to take a significant amount of hard work to turn these aspirations into reality. It’s going to take national blueprints for delivery that will improve the lives of the poorest people and the poorest countries, he cautioned.

“The monitoring of the goals will need a sharp focus on accountability, backed by investments in data collection and use so that citizens have the information they need to ensure that leaders keep their promises,” Koski declared.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the new development agenda “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.”

“This is the People’s Agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity, and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core.”

He said the integrated, interlinked and indivisible 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the people’s goals and demonstrate the scale, universality and ambition of this new Agenda.

Ban said the September Summit, where the new agenda will be adopted, “will chart a new era of Sustainable Development in which poverty will be eradicated, prosperity shared and the core drivers of climate change tackled.”

Deon Nel, international acting executive director for conservation at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said: “We congratulate negotiators on their bold action. This is an essential move toward realizing our dream of shaping a world where people, planet and prosperity come together.”

He said SDGs are universal goals that will commit all countries to take action both within their own borders and in support of wider international efforts.

Individual national commitments must add up to a worldwide result that helps all people and ensures a healthy environment.

He said the new development plan represents significant improvement from the U.N.’s MDGs as it recognises the interlinkages between sustainability of ecosystem services, poverty eradication, economic development and human well-being.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Zimbabwe’s Climate Change Ambitions May be Too Tallhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 13:12:03 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141841 These Zimbabwean farmers with their harvested sorghum are at the mercy of climate change, while the government struggles with meagre financing and tall ambitions to take adequate action. Credit: UNDP-ALM

These Zimbabwean farmers with their harvested sorghum are at the mercy of climate change, while the government struggles with meagre financing and tall ambitions to take adequate action. Credit: UNDP-ALM

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Aug 2 2015 (IPS)

With the U.N. Climate Change conference later this year in Paris fast approaching, Zimbabwe’s climate change commitments face the slow progress on an issue that continues to stalk other developing countries – climate finance.

As it prepares for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21), Zimbabwe – like many others in the global South – is grappling with radical climate shifts that have seen devastating exchanges of floods and droughts every year, and still awaits green bailout funds from developed nations, with officials here telling IPS, “this support should come in the forms of technology.”

The country’s halting progress on the climate front is being blamed by local climate researchers on the country’s failure to invest in state-of-the-art climate monitoring technology. More still needs to be done as the country heads to Paris, says Sherpard Zvigadza, Programmes Manager, Climate Change and Energy, for the Harare-based ZERO Regional Environment Organisation (ZERO)."The country [Zimbabwe] needs to partner with those in the private sector who are making an effort to develop projects or reduce their footprint, and implement a reward-based strategy so that both individuals and corporates are encouraged to support the government’s policies" – Steve Wentzel, director of Carbon Green Africa

“Zimbabwe should strengthen systematic observation, ensuring improved real-time observations and availability of meteorological data for research,” Zvigadza told IPS.

These concerns arise from what is seen here as repeated failure by the poorly-funded Meteorological Services Department to adequately monitor climate patterns and put in place effective early warning systems for disaster preparedness.

However, these constraints have not stopped Zimbabwe, which for the past two decades has seen a wilting of international financial support for crafting ambitious climate change interventions.

Recurrent climate-induced disasters have shown that this not the time to treat anything as “business as usual”, says Elisha Moyo, principal climate change researcher in the Climate Change Management Department of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

And these efforts have brought together civic society organisations (CSOs), farmers and ordinary Zimbabweans in what is expected to shape the country’s negotiations in Paris.

CSOs point to the fact that Zimbabwe has been identified by GLOBE International, which brings together legislators from all over the world, as having on the most comprehensive environmental laws in southern Africa, and say that this should be a stimulus for helping the country make greater strides in climate governance.

According to a climate ministry brief issued last month, Zimbabwe’s climate policy seeks, among others, weather and climate modelling, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, mitigation and low carbon development.

However, as tall as these ambitions sound, the climate ministry has acknowledged that in the absence of adequate financing the country could still be far from meeting its United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) commitments.

“There is a need to expand current projects as well as develop new projects throughout the country for the country to position itself to be able to raise funding for these developments,” said Steve Wentzel, director of Carbon Green Africa, a Zimbabwe-based company established to facilitate the generation of carbon credits through validating Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects.

“The country needs to partner with those in the private sector who are making an effort to develop projects or reduce their footprint, and implement a reward-based strategy so that both individuals and corporates are encouraged to support the government’s policies,” Wentzel told IPS.

“If the country is serious about moving away from business as usual, awareness raising is key for all stakeholders, including the general population as well as industry,” Zvigadza told IPS. “A vigorous campaign is needed across the country. More importantly, Zimbabwe’s national climate change response strategy has to be operationalised so that the challenges are addressed according to different local circumstances.”

Yet, by the climate ministry’s own admission, progress has remained slow due to the continuing problem of lack of funds, which Moyo believes should be tapped from the richer nations.

“As Africa, and supported by other developing countries from other regions, we believe the rich countries have not yet shouldered a fair share of the burden and should lead by example, in terms of cutting emissions and also providing financial support to poorer nations as stated in the Climate Change Convention,” Moyo told IPS.

And Zimbabwe certainly does need the money. The climate ministry is already wallowing in reduced state funding after the Finance Ministry slashed its national budget from 93 million dollars in 2014 to 52 million this year.

Meanwhile, domestic economic considerations are one of the obstacles to implementation of the country’s troubled climate change policy. Despite seeking to promote clean energy, power generation is still largely fossil fuel-based, where instead of cutting emissions, relatively cheaper coal feeds power generation.

The climate ministry policy brief says the country needs to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy production transmission and use”, but economic hardships have made this a tall order where millions also rely on highly-polluting firewood for fuel.

“We are compiling the “intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and have been conducting consultations and data collection around the country especially with reference to the energy sector, which has a high potential of emission reductions through adoption of
renewable energy wherever possible,” Moyo told IPS.

INDCS are the post-2020 climate actions that countries say they will take under a new international agreement to be reached at COP21 in Paris, and to be submitted to the United Nations by September.

For its climate change ambitions to succeed, Zimbabwe must go back to the grassroots, says Wentzel, but unfortunately “there is a lack of knowledge of climate changes issues,” he told IPS.

As Washington Zhakata, Zimbabwe’s lead climate change negotiator put it: “The road to the Paris summit remains unclear with many stumbling blocks on the road.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Nigeria to Balance GHG Emission Cuts with Development Peculiaritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/nigeria-to-balance-ghg-emission-cuts-with-development-peculiarities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigeria-to-balance-ghg-emission-cuts-with-development-peculiarities http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/nigeria-to-balance-ghg-emission-cuts-with-development-peculiarities/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 11:13:43 +0000 Ini Ekott http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141838 Flooding in Nigerian villages is just one of the effects of climate change that the country will have to address in drawing up its “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) for the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris in December: Credit: Courtesy of NDWPD, 2011

Flooding in Nigerian villages is just one of the effects of climate change that the country will have to address in drawing up its “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) for the U.N. Climate Conference in Paris in December: Credit: Courtesy of NDWPD, 2011

By Ini Ekott
LAGOS, Aug 2 2015 (IPS)

Nigeria seems in no haste to unveil its climate pledge with just four months to go before the U.N. Climate Conference scheduled for December in Paris.

However, unlike Gabon, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya – the only African nations yet to submit their commitments – Nigeria has just commissioned a committee of experts to draw up targets and responses for its “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs).

INDCS are the post-2020 climate actions that countries say they will take under a new international agreement to be reached at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, and to be submitted to the United Nations by September."The whole exercise [of preparing INDCs] will consider some priority sectors, look at the baseline and look at our needs for development and see what we can put on the table that we are going to strive to mitigate in terms of greenhouse gases” – Samuel Adejuwon, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment

Ahead of that date, Nigeria says its goals are clear: balancing post-2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cut projections with its development peculiarities, according to Samuel Adejuwon, deputy director of the Federal Ministry of Environment’s Department of Climate Change in Abuja.

Nigeria is Africa’s fourth largest emitter of CO2, and there is no doubt climate change is already a problem it faces.

From the north, encroachment of the Sahara is helping to fuel a bloody insurgency by the jihadist group Boko Haram, as well as resource conflict between farmers and pastoralists in its central region, while the rise in ocean levels and flooding are affecting the south.

In a report issued in October 2014, the Mapelcroft global analytics company said that Nigeria, along with Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines, were the countries facing the greatest risk of climate change-fuelled conflict today.

Nigeria’s hopes for slashing its emission levels as part of its INDCs face several tests.

One is that for an economy almost solely dependent on oil – which accounts for a major portion of its 500 billion dollar gross domestic product (GDP), Africa’s highest – the commitment it takes to Paris will reflect how jettisoning fossil fuel cannot be an urgent priority and why doing so will require significant time and resources.

“The whole exercise will consider some priority sectors, look at the baseline and look at our needs for development and see what we can put on the table that we are going to strive to mitigate in terms of greenhouse gases,” says Adejuwon.

Another test is Nigeria’s energy shortage. The country produces about 4,000 megawatts for 170 million people, leaving much of the population reliant on wood, charcoal and waste to fulfil household energy needs such as cooking, heating and lighting.

In 2014, Nigerians used at least 12 million litres of diesel and petrol every day to drive back-up generators, according to former power Minister Chinedu Nebo. The country’s daily petrol consumption (cars included) stands at about 40 million litres, according to the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Cutting the level of pollution that this consumption causes will require big investments in renewable and cleaner energy, says Professor Olukayode Oladipo, a climate change expert and one of three consultants drawing up the INDCs for the government.

Last year, former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the country needed 14 billion dollars each year in energy investments and related infrastructure.

Oladipo argues that the key to the issue lies in striking a balance between a future of lower greenhouse emissions and immediate developmental realities.

“Every country is now exploring how to use less energy … in an efficient manner, how to rely on renewable energy sources.” In Nigeria, we are looking at “how to be able to drive our economy through reduced energy consumption without actually reducing the rate at which our economy is growing.”

Last year, minister of power Chinedu Nebo said that while solar panels were welcome for use in shoring up generation in distant communities, the government will deploy coal in addition to the hydro power currently in use.

“There is no doubt that the potential is there. Clean coal technology can give us good electricity and minimum pollution at the same time,” he said.

Insecurity

Oladipo also stresses that besides fuel, Nigeria’s climate plans will focus on agriculture, partly to diversify from oil and also as a response to growing resource conflict.

“We are not saying it is the only determinant of crisis,” he says of climate change stoking conflict over resources, “but at least it is adding to the degree and the frequency of the occurrence of these conflicts.

Apart from Boko Haram activities in the north which have been responsible for at least 20,000 deaths, clashes between pastoralists and farmers over land has killed thousands in Nigeria’s central region in recent years.

In the latest attack in May this year, herdsmen from the Fulani tribe slaughtered at least 96 people in the central state of Benue, Nigeria’s Punch newspaper reported.

The government agrees that climate change is one of the causes of the frequent bloodletting, alongside factors like urbanisation, but not much has been done to address the problem.

Oladipo says he believes that Nigeria’s new leader, Muhammadu Buhari, will do more to address fundamental climate change issues, point out that in his inaugural address on May 29, Buhari pledged to be a more “forceful and constructive player in the global fight against climate change.”

However, Nnimmo Bassey of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation argues that proposals put forward by Nigeria and Africa can barely be achieved if the developed nations – the biggest polluters – fail to act more to meet their commitments and cut down on their emissions.

“Nigeria should insist that industrialised nations cut emissions at source and not place the burden on vulnerable nations,” says Bassey.

Urging action from those nations, including the United States, will form a key element of Nigerian and African INDCs, adds Oladipo.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Belo Monte Dam Marks a Before and After for Energy Projects in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/belo-monte-dam-marks-a-before-and-after-for-energy-projects-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belo-monte-dam-marks-a-before-and-after-for-energy-projects-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/belo-monte-dam-marks-a-before-and-after-for-energy-projects-in-brazil/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 20:20:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141821 A street in the Jatobá neighbourhood, the first of the five settlements built by the company Norte Energía to resettle families displaced from the city of Altamira by the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the northern state of Pará in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A street in the Jatobá neighbourhood, the first of the five settlements built by the company Norte Energía to resettle families displaced from the city of Altamira by the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the northern state of Pará in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTAMIRA, Brazil, Jul 31 2015 (IPS)

Paulo de Oliveira drives a taxi in the northern Brazilian city of Altamira, but only when he is out of work in what he considers his true profession: operator of heavy vehicles like trucks, mixers or tractor loaders.

For the past few months he has been driving a friend’s taxi at night, while waiting for a job on the construction site of the Belo Monte dam – a giant hydroelectric plant on the Xingú river in the Amazon rainforest which has given rise to sharply divided opinions in Brazil.

Oliveira, whose small stature contrasts with the enormous vehicles he drives, has lived in many different parts of the Amazon jungle. “I started in the Air Force, a civilian among military personnel, building airports, barracks and roads in Itaituba, Jacareacanga, Oriximiná, Humaitá and other municipalities,” he told IPS.

His sister’s death in a traffic accident brought him back to Altamira, where he became a garimpeiro or informal miner. “I was buried once in a tunnel 10 metres below ground,” he said.

He survived this and other risks and earned a lot of money mining gold and ferrying miners – who paid him a fortune – in a taxi back and forth from the city to the illegal mine. “But I spent it all on women,” he confessed.

He then moved to Manaus, the Amazon region’s capital of two million people, to work on the construction of the monumental bridge over the Negro river. After that he headed to Porto Velho, near the border with Bolivia. But he had a feeling that something would go wrong at the Jirau hydropower construction site and quit after a few months.

Just a few days later, in March 2011, the workers rioted, setting fire to 60 buses and almost all of the lodgings for 16,000 employees, and bringing to a halt construction on the Jirau dam and another nearby large hydropower plant, Santo Antônio, both of which are on the Madeira river.

After bouncing between jobs on different construction sites, at the age of 50 Oliveira found himself back in Altamira, a city of 140,000 people located 55 km from Belo Monte, where he already worked in 2013 and is trying to get a job again. But things are difficult, because the amount of work there is in decline, as construction of the cement structures is winding up.

And it is possible that workers like him, specialised in heavy construction, no longer have a future in building large hydroelectric dams. The controversy triggered by Belo Monte will make it hard for the country to carry out similar projects after this.

A bridge being built in a neighbourhood of the northern Amazon city of Altamira, because a small local river floods during rainy season. Works like these form part of the basic environmental plan designed to mitigate and compensate the impacts of the giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, 55 km away. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A bridge being built in a neighbourhood of the northern Amazon city of Altamira, because a small local river floods during rainy season. Works like these form part of the basic environmental plan designed to mitigate and compensate the impacts of the giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, 55 km away. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The final assessment of the Belo Monte experience will determine the fate of the government’s plans to harness the energy of the Amazon rivers, the only ones that still have a strong enough flow to offer large-scale hydropower potential, which has been exhausted on rivers elsewhere in Brazil.

A study by the non-governmental Socioenvironmental Institute states that if the government’s construction plans for the 2005-2030 period are implemented, the hydropower dams in the Amazon will account for 67.5 percent of the new power generation in this country of 203 million people.

The next project of this magnitude, the São Luiz dam on the Tapajós river to the west of the Xingú river, is facing an apparently insurmountable obstacle: it would flood indigenous territory, which is protected by the constitution.

Belo Monte, whose original plan was modified to avoid flooding indigenous land, has drawn fierce criticism for affecting the way of life of native and riverbank communities. The public prosecutor’s office accuses the company that is building the dam, Norte Energía, of ethnocide and of failing to live up to requirements regarding indigenous communities, who in protest occupied and damaged some of the dam’s installations on several occasions.

São Luiz, designed to generate 8,040 MW, and other hydropower dams planned on the Tapajós river, are facing potentially more effective resistance, led by a large indigenous community that lives in the river basin – the Munduruku, who number around 12,000.

Just over 6,000 indigenous people belonging to nine different ethnic groups live in the Belo Monte area of influence, with nearly half of them living in towns and cities, Francisco Brasil de Moraes, in charge of the middle stretch of the Xingú river in Brazil’s national indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, told IPS.

Francisco Assis Cardoso (dark tank top, centre), in his new supermarket. The young entrepreneur opened the grocery store and a pharmacy in Jatobá, the new neighbourhood in the city of Altamira where his entire family was relocated due to the construction of the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Francisco Assis Cardoso (dark tank top, centre), in his new supermarket. The young entrepreneur opened the grocery store and a pharmacy in Jatobá, the new neighbourhood in the city of Altamira where his entire family was relocated due to the construction of the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Another battle, for local development, has had less international repercussions than the indigenous question. But it could also be decisive when it comes to overcoming resistance to future hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.

Norte Energía, a consortium of 10 public and private companies and investment funds, has channeled some 1.1 billion dollars into activities aimed at mitigating and compensating for social and environmental impacts in 11 municipalities surrounding the megaproject.

This sum, unprecedented in a project of this kind, is equivalent to 12 percent of the total investment.

The company resettled 4,100 families displaced from their homes by the construction project and reservoir, and indemnified thousands more. It rebuilt part of Altamira and the town of Vitoria de Xingú, including basic sanitation works, and built or remodeled six hospitals, 30 health centres and 270 classrooms.

Nevertheless, complaints have rained down from all sides.

Norte Energía installed modern water and sewage treatment plants, and sewers and water networks in Altamira. But there was a 10-month delay before an agreement was signed in June to connect the water and sewer networks to the housing units, which the local government will administer and the company will finance.

And it will take even longer for the city council to create a municipal sanitation company and for the service to begin to operate.

“My family was promised three houses, because we have two married sons,” said José de Ribamar do Nascimento, 62, resettled in the neighbourhood of Jatobá, on the north side of Altamira, the first one built for families relocated from areas to be flooded by the reservoir. “But then they took away our right to two of them, maybe because I was unable to protest, since I’m ill.”

A water treatment station built in Altamira by Norte Energía, the consortium building the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon. It is not yet operating, because the sewage network installed in the city is not connected to the buildings. Urban sanitation is one part of the development works which the company was required to provide. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A water treatment station built in Altamira by Norte Energía, the consortium building the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon. It is not yet operating, because the sewage network installed in the city is not connected to the buildings. Urban sanitation is one part of the development works which the company was required to provide. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Each 63-square-metre housing unit has three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom, and is built on 300 square metres of land in a neat new housing development with paved streets.

Nascimento, who has prostate cancer, has a hard time walking and survives on a small pension. But he is confident that the future will be more promising for the local population, thanks to the jobs generated by the hydropower plant.

“We live much better here,” said his wife, 61-year-old Anerita Trindade. “Our old house would get cut off by the water when it rained; we had to wade through the water, on little walkways made of rotten boards. Sometimes there’s no water or transportation to get downtown, but now we’re on dry land.”

The move especially benefited Francisco Assis Cardoso, who at the age of 32 has become the leading shopkeeper in Jatobá. His family of four siblings was assigned five houses in a row. That enabled him to build a supermarket and a pharmacy together with his mother. “I worked in a pharmacy, it’s what I know how to do,” he said.

But Norte Energía has been criticised for delays in providing the promised schools, buses and health posts in the five new neighbourhoods, and for what many say was an unfair distribution of new housing.

A Plan for Sustainable Regional Development of the Xingú aims to go beyond compensation for relocation and other impacts of the dams. Together, society and governments choose projects that are financed with contributions from Norte Energía.

The Territorial Development Agenda was drafted on the basis of studies and consultations with a team hired by the government’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development, which financed 80 percent of the construction of the Belo Monte dam.

A third challenge for Belo Monte is to effectively combat criticism from voices within the power industry itself, who are opposed to run-of-the-river hydroelectric plants, where water flows in and out quickly, the reservoirs are small, and during the dry season the power generation is low.

Belo Monte will generate on average only 40 percent of its 11,233 MW of installed capacity. To avoid flooding indigenous lands, it reduced the size of the reservoir to 478 square kilometres – 39 percent of what was envisaged in the original plan drawn up in the 1980s.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Kenyan Pastoralists Fighting Climate Change Through Food Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/kenyan-pastoralists-fighting-climate-change-through-food-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-pastoralists-fighting-climate-change-through-food-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/kenyan-pastoralists-fighting-climate-change-through-food-forests/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:56:14 +0000 Robert Kibet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141811 Sipian Lesan, a semi-nomadic pastoralist from Lekuru village in Samburu County, Kenya, taking care of one of his edible fruit-producing plants. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

Sipian Lesan, a semi-nomadic pastoralist from Lekuru village in Samburu County, Kenya, taking care of one of his edible fruit-producing plants. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

By Robert Kibet
SAMBURU, Kenya, Jul 30 2015 (IPS)

Sipian Lesan bends to attend to the Vangueria infausta or African medlar plant that he planted almost two years ago. He takes great care not to damage the soft, velvety, acorn-shaped buds of this hardy and drought-resistant plant. ”All over here it is dry,” says the 51-year-old Samburu semi-nomadic pastoralist.

“We hope that every manyatta [homestead] will have a small food forest and that these will grow in concentric circles until they meet and touch each other and expand, creating a continuous food forest" – Aviram Rozin, founder of Sadhana Forest
Sipian is from Lekuru, a remote village located in the lower ranges of the Samburu Hills, an area dotted by Samburu homesteads commonly known as ‘manyattas’, some 358 km north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Here, the small villages are hot and arid, dominated by thorny acacia and patches of bare red earth that signify overgrazed land.

Samburu County is one of the regions in Kenya ravaged by recurrent drought, with most of the population living below the poverty line.

Climate change has made pastoralism an increasingly unsustainable livelihood option, leaving many households in Samburu without access to a daily meal, let alone a balanced diet.

“Animals have and will continue to die due to severe drought,” said Joshua Leparashau, a Samburu community leader. “The community still wants to hold on to the concept that having many livestock is a source of pride. This must change. If we as a community do not become proactive in curbing the menace, then we must be prepared for nature to destroy us without any mercy.”

As he looks after his fruit-producing sapling, Sipian tells IPS that some decades ago, before people he calls “greedy” started felling trees to satisfy the growing demand for indigenous forest products, his community used to feed on their readily available wild fruits during extreme hunger.

Now, through a concept new to them – dubbed food or garden forest, and brought to Kenya by Israeli environmentalist Aviram Rozin, founder of Sadhana Forest, an organisation dedicated to ecological revival and sustainable living work – the locals here are adopting planting of trees and shrubs that are favourable to the harsh local weather in their manyattas.

Community tree-planting in semi-arid Samburu County, Kenya. Robert Kibet/IPS

Community tree-planting in semi-arid Samburu County, Kenya. Robert Kibet/IPS

On a voluntary mission to help alleviate the degraded land and food insecurity in this part of northern Kenya, Rozin said that his vision would be to see at least each manyatta owning a food forest.

“The rate at which the community is embracing the concept is positive,” he said. “We hope that every manyatta will have a small food forest and that these will grow in concentric circles until they meet and touch each other and expand, creating a continuous food forest.”

However, the work of Sadhana Forest is not limited to forestation, as 35-year-old Resinoi Ewapere, who has eight children, explained.

“I used to leave early in the morning in search of water and return after noon. My children frequently missed school owing to the shortage of water and food.” But this daily routine came to an end after Sadhana Forest drilled a borehole from which water is now pumped using green energy – a combined windmill and solar energy system.

“Apart from the training we receive on planting fruit-producing trees and practising low-cost permaculture farming, we currently receive water from this centre at no cost,” Ewapere told IPS.

According to Rozin, Sadhana Forest’s initiative to help the Samburu community plant the 18 species of indigenous fruit trees which are drought-resistant and rich in nutrients is also part of a major conservation effort in that the combination of “small-scale food security and conservation of indigenous trees. will also create a linkage between people and trees and they will protect them.”

“We produce the seedlings and then supply them to the locals at no charge for them to plant in their manyattas,” said Rozin. Then, with careful management of the land and water-harvesting structures (swales or ditches dug on contours), water is fed directly into the plants.

The quality of the soil on the swales is improved by planting nitrogen-fixing plants such as beans, while the soil is watered and covered with mulch to prevent evaporation, thus remaining fertile.

One of the tree species being planted to create the food forests is Afzelia africana or African oak, the fruits of which are said to be rich in proteins and iron.  Its seed flour is used for baking. Another species is Moringa stenopetala, known locally as ‘mother’s helper’ because its fruit helps increase milk in lactating mothers and reduces malnutrition among infants.

“Residents here understand that their semi-nomadic life has to be slightly adjusted for survival,” noted George Obondo, coordinator of the NGO Coordination Board, who played a role in ensuring that Sadhana received 50,000 dollars from the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) to jump start its Samburu project.

The money was used to set up a training centre with over 35 volunteers from various countries, including Haiti, to train locals and at the same time produce seedlings, and to build the green energy system for pumping water from the borehole it drilled.

“Things are changing,” said Obondo, “and Samburus know that their lifestyle needs to be altered and also tied to greater dependence on plant growing and not just livestock.” This is why the Sadhana Forest initiative is important, he added, because it is training people and giving them the knowledge and ability to create the resilience that they will need to avoid a harsh future.

Edited by Phil Harris

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