Archive | December 10th, 2009

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“The G77 Is More United Than Ever”

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Tuvalu took "Ray of the Day" award. Credit: Ana Libisch

Tuvalu took "Ray of the Day" award. Credit: Ana Libisch

Raúl Pierri

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) “If there’s ever been a time in which the G77 has been more united than ever, that time is right now,” was the categorical statement made by Venezuelan negotiator Claudia Salerno to TerraViva, after a tiny island nation in the south Pacific stirred things up at the COP15 climate meetings.

The voice of the small island states of the Pacific was heard loudly in the Danish capital when the delegation of Tuvalu, a nation of 11,810 people and just 26 sq. km., firmly demanded the approval of a treaty setting a ceiling of a one to 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, rather than the two degree limit being discussed in the negotiations.

Tuvalu’s outspoken stance won it the first-ever “Ray of the Day” prize, awarded to a country making an outstanding contribution to advancing negotiations towards an internationally legally binding agreement.

“Developed country Parties which have not taken commitments prescribed in Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol, and other Parties who voluntarily elect to do so, shall individually or jointly undertake verifiable, nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions in the form of quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments,” says paragraph 1, article 3 of Tuvalu’s proposal.

The United States is the main industrial country that is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, “Parties undertaking (such) commitments or actions”…”shall not use these commitments to fulfill obligations established under the Kyoto Protocol,” opening up the possibility for a two-pronged scheme.

Article 3 of the proposal includes a detailed three-tier initiative for developing countries to also adopt emissions cuts, although it does not say they should be legally binding.

“Developing country Parties, notwithstanding paragraph 1 above, shall undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” it adds.

The Kyoto Protocol does not include binding targets for nations of the South, and the so-called emerging economies are resisting a new agreement that will commit them to reduce their emissions, arguing that the climate debt must be paid by the nations that have achieved growth through centuries of industrialisation at the expense of polluting the environment, and that emerging nations are entitled to their own development now that they can finally grow.

The problem is that today these emerging nations account for more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Nobody expected the discordant note in the G77 (the Group of 77, which represents 130 developing countries) to come from the small island nations, although there were reasons to believe it would, since they are without a doubt the most affected by climate change.

The United Nations has said that global warming has already caused several islands to disappear, and warned that in the next 40 years it will displace one billion people. Tuvalu could be wiped right off the map.

Salerno, head of international cooperation and management in Venezuela’s Environment Ministry, said that the responsibility lies with the industrialised North, and not with emerging nations.

“The problem we’re facing today is not the result of recent industrialisation processes. The right to development is not at issue here. What are at issue are the countries that for 200 years have been destroying our planet,” she said to TerraViva.

“They are the ones that have to stop. Scientifically the issue is critical, because no amount of effort from developing countries is going to be enough to repair the damage. There are 20 countries with the power to make a difference for the whole world,” she added.

Salerno, who participated in a joint conference of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, bloc in Copenhagen, contended that despite appearances, the G77 is firmly united, especially in its common rejection of certain moves by some countries of the North at the COP15.

“I think that, contrary to what certain media have said, all the actions by developed countries that have been aimed at undermining the process have only served to bring us closer together,” she said, in reference to a leaked draft agreement prepared by Denmark.

“We think it’s best that this document came out now and not on the 18th, because we would’ve been working without a clue of what was going on in back-room negotiations. The countries that are committed to the process are paying no attention to that paper. It means absolutely nothing to us, not to the G77 countries and not to the ALBA countries,” she said.

ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

For his part, Cuban delegate Pedro Luis Pedroso told TerraViva that, pursuant to the Convention, Tuvalu has the right to present its own proposals in line with its national concerns.

The assistant director of Multilateral Matters of Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the G77 had not yet examined the island nation’s initiative as a group.

The ALBA members have so far shown a demanding and ambitious front at Copenhagen. This Thursday, in addition to requesting the approval of a legally binding treaty that will put all the responsibility on the industrialised North, ALBA countries called on the international community to “change consumption patterns” in order to “address the causes of climate change, and not just the consequences.”

However, its positions have not been fully backed by the rest of the Latin American community. Several other countries in the region, including Brazil, have announced their willingness to make voluntary cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Each country has its own national perspective, but I think that in essence we all basically share the same concerns and positions. How these concerns and positions are incorporated varies depending on the approach, but I think in essence we have a common stance,” Pedroso told TerraViva.

The heads of state of the ALBA members that will attend the COP15 summit are Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.
(END/2009)

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Portraits: Quechua Women from Peru Attuned to Pachamama

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Irma Luz Poma Canchumani, a Quechua woman from Peru, at Klimaforum. Credit: Daniela Estrada/IPS

Irma Luz Poma Canchumani, a Quechua woman from Peru, at Klimaforum. Credit: Daniela Estrada/IPS

“We came to Copenhagen to bring harmony to the whole world,” Irma Luz Poma Canchumani, a Quechua woman from Peru, told TerraViva. Her village participated with others in five countries – Canada, Cameroon, Kenya, Panama and the Philippines – in making a documentary produced by the British organisation InsightShare, which was shown at Klimaforum.

“In the video (called ‘Conversations with the Earth’) you can see reality. We did not come to accuse, we came to show that Pachamama (Mother Earth) is life, that water is life, not money. We want to show how we live,” said Poma, who travelled to Copenhagen with her mother, funded by InsightShare.

They both live in the town of Cochas Grande, where they say the climate is already changing. “For example, the water is disappearing. It comes from the snow and ice on the Huaytapallana mountain, which is gradually losing its ice cap. We need rain at seed time (for potatoes, maize, wheat, barley and beans) and there isn’t any,” she said.

“We want to infuse harmony and make the whole world aware that we must care for Pachamama, because Pachamama gives us life. You may have a lot of money, but what are you going to eat? Money?” asked María, who has also visited the Bella Center, where the official COP 15 negotiations are taking place.

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Portraits: Brazilian Girl Teaches Danish Children about the Amazon

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

María Colares came from Brazil to teach Danish children about the Amazon. Credit: Daniela Estrada/IPS

María Colares came from Brazil to teach Danish children about the Amazon. Credit: Daniela Estrada/IPS

Eleven-year-old María Colares and her mother travelled from the northern Brazilian city of Espíritu Santo to Copenhagen to teach Danish children about the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, located mostly in Brazil, as well as in seven other countries in South America.

“I came here to give talks in schools about how to take care of the Amazon,” María told TerraViva at Klimaforum, the main civil society meeting parallel to COP 15.

“Danish children are really nice and very interested. They ask me what Brazil is like, and what the Amazon is like,” said Colares, who with her mother founded the organisation Keep Amazon Alive a month ago, in conjunction with Denmark’s Casa Latinoamericana (Latin American House).

“The Amazon is the lungs of the world. If we destroy the Amazon we won’t have any more fruit, just deserts,” said the girl, who suggested European schoolchildren take a trip to Brazil to see with their own eyes how the Amazon is being deforested by logging and burning.

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Reducing Emissions With Improved Charcoal Stoves

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Charcoal stoves made of recycled metal.

Charcoal stoves made of recycled metal. Credit: Impact Carbon

By Joshua Kyalimpa

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) When Impact Carbon’s team leader Evan Haigler got involved with a stove improvement project for Uganda, his dream was to make efficient and affordable wood and charcoal stoves that created less smoke.

Six years later, his dream has come to fruition, and a cleverly-designed clay and steel stove is on the market.

The compact centre of the improved stove is made of clay, which contains and concentrates a maximum amount of heat from a smaller amount of charcoal than a standard recycled metal stove.

The stoves also improve indoor air quality by producing less black carbon or soot due to inefficient combustion.

Traditional charcoal stoves produce large amounts of black carbon or soot produced during cooking. This is particularly dangerous to the health of the women and children who spend long hours in kitchens in Africa. Globally, indoor air pollution from burning of biomass in smoky, inefficient stoves leads to nearly three million premature deaths each year.

This is according to David Hanrahan, formerly head of environment programs and the World Bank, and now head of operations for Blacksmith Institute, an independent environmental group working on pollution in the developing world.

Haigler and other scientists have been speaking about the benefits of using the improved charcoal stoves at the U.N Conference on Climate Change conference here in Copenhagen.

His group, Impact Carbon, works to develop and distribute improved stoves and other clean energy technologies at the household level. The aim is to protect the environment and people’s health as well as save income that would otherwise be spent on fuel.

The holder of an MS in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, Evan Haigler at Impact Carbon partnered with a local business, UGASTOVES, and carbon offset group JP Morgan Climate Care to develop the Efficient Cooking with Ugastoves project.

The outcome was a stove that reduced charcoal and wood use by up to two-thirds.

“UGASTOVES aim not only at reducing the carbon emissions, but the cutting down of trees to get the charcoal.”

The UGASTOVES have so far reached 300,000 families in Uganda’s major towns who Haigler says are now saving over 80 U.S. dollars each on charcoal a year, enough to buy a bicycle.

A similar project run jointly by Enterprise Works Ghana, the Shell Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development is building and installing high-efficiency cooking stoves to replace the stones that are traditionally used to support a pot above an open fire in Ghana.

In 2008, 68,000 new stoves, each costing 30 to 50 dollars, were sold in Accra and Kumasi, potentially providing cleaner kitchen air for approximately 400,000 women, including 160,000 children.

The locally made Gyapa Charcoal and Wood Stoves reduce levels of harmful soot in homes by 40 to 45 percent. Since 2002, the joint project has worked to create a network of local craftspeople and entrepreneurs who can profitably manufacture the metal stoves and their ceramic liners.

Demand for the stoves is strong, driven by a public awareness campaign on the health effects of cooking fire.

By the end of the year what started as small charcoal stove improvement idea will have sold at least 100,000 stoves in Ghana alone, and thousands others in Uganda and other parts of the world.

The version of this story uploaded Dec. 10 2009 incorrectly the potential reduction in carbon emissions by the UGASTOVE model, as well as implying Impact Carbon was involved in a similar initiative in Ghana. IPS regrets the errors.

(END/2009)

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Women Not Just ‘Vulnerable Group’

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Dorah Lebelo: women should not be perceived only as victims of climate change. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi

Dorah Lebelo: women should not be perceived only as victims of climate change. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi

By Mantoe Phakathi

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva)  While climate change affects everyone, women bear a heavier burden – and gender activists say they should have a greater say in planning the response to climate change.

Dorah Lebelo says millions of women around the world are subsistence farmers and erratic weather patterns have affected their ability to feed themselves, let alone produce a surplus to sell. Women, Lebelo continues, are very much dependent on natural resources such as water, firewood, or wild fruits which sell.

Lebelo is a member of Gender CC, a global women’s rights network that is lobbying for the incorporation of a gender perspective into the final document of the climate change meeting at the Danish capital.

“The advancement of women, their leadership and meaningful participation, and their engagement as equal stakeholders in all climate-related processes and implementation must be guaranteed,” she says.

Gender CC wants the deal to explicitly highlight the rights of women and children in the context of climate change.

Gotelind Alber, a researcher for the U.N.’s agency for housing, UN-HABITAT, has studied climate change policies in many countries including South Africa and Kenya and found them silent on gender. Women, she says, are classed “as just vulnerable groups in the policies, something that is vague.”

Alber, who presented her findings at a workshop on gender, cities and climate change, said women in city slums are more vulnerable after natural disasters – women are often last to hear warnings of coming disasters, unable to move quickly while safeguarding children in their care, and in the breakdown of order that typically follows, exposed to violence.

“We need to acknowledge the special vulnerabilities of women which are caused by climate change,” said Alber.

Gender CC – Women for Climate Justice wants the negotiated agreement to fully account for gendered questions on adaptation, mitigation, technology sharing, financing and capacity building.

This, according to Catherine Mungai from Kenya, will ensure that local and national governments in every country explicitly plan for women and children in their climate change policies. Right now, said Mungai, women and children’s protection are very much absent in the most climate change policies.

“A declaration with a clear stand on women and children’s rights is going to help us NGOs hold our governments accountable,” said Mungai.

For now, said Lebelo, the negotiations on climate change are not reflecting the issues that are affecting women and children’s rights which is a serious oversight in the whole process. She said although issues such as loss of biodiversity, loss of forest tenure, rising temperatures, disease, agriculture, and food insecurity are discussed, nobody seems to be acknowledging the effects on women and children these matters have.

“We’ll continue lobbying right up to the end of this conference because we want justice,” she said.

Lebelo said women should not be perceived only as victims of climate change; they should also be part of making decisions about this global phenomenon.

“Women have been able to adapt through the use of indigenous knowledge. They just need to be involved from the lowest to the highest level of decision making,” said Lebelo.

A deal that fails to account for gender, concluded the activists, will be no deal at all.

(END/2009)

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Portraits: Developing a Global Platform for Carbon Trading

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Nathan Rotkliffe, legal council with London-based Carbon Trade Exchange. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Nathan Rotkliffe, legal council with London-based Carbon Trade Exchange. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Nathan Rotkliffe is a legal council with London-based Carbon Trade Exchange. His company is aiming to develop a global platform for carbon trading in an end-to-end electronic process, initially for voluntary carbon markets.

Rotkliffe told TerraViva his company is hoping to launch the trading platform in February 2010 and that it will help ensure full transparency on the international carbon market.

“For now, we do not move into the regulated sector because of its fragmentation, but we intend to do so in the future,” Rotkliffe said.

Even though his company works on developing an electronic platform for global trade, Rotkliffe thinks that, if an agreement is reached in Copengahen, ETS (the European Unions’ Emissions Trading Mechanism) will no longer be the only regulated system, but more will emerge, for example in the US.

“I am here in Copenhagen to try to gather as much information as possible and to network with people,” he told IPS. “Everyone here wants something to happen, everyone hopes for progress, but it would be hard for me to influence negotiations since I am not at the political level.”

As for reaching out to political leaders, Rotkliffe said that “each night we are attending a climate event at the Nasa Club in central Copenhagen, where speakers come from the private sector and from the governments. It’s on every night, it costs 15 euros to get in, there are 5-6 speakers, a Q&A session and then everyone has a few drinks and talks.”

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Portraits: “I Came to See What Will Happen with CO2 and Energy Policies”

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

 

 

 

Peter Sprengers, analyst with Norwegian company Statkraft. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Peter Sprengers, analyst with Norwegian company Statkraft. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Peter Sprengers is a Carbon Business Analyst with Norwegian company Statkraft, Europe’s largest renewable energy company. Statkraft invests in hydro and wind power and in the novel osmotic power (the energy retrieved from the difference in salt concentration between sea water and river water).

 

“I came to Copenhagen to get a feeling about what is going to happen with CO2 and energy policies, because it has a huge impact on our business,” Sprengers told IPS.

“We are also trading in the carbon market. We are using CDM, developing projects in South Africa and in other countries in the world, and we get credits for them, so developments in the carbon market and the changing of the rules is very important for us,” he added.

Sprengers says he did not come to Copenhagen to lobby or to make an impact because he does not think he can have an impact. “The main decision-makers are the US and China at the moment,” he believes.

“I fear that the carbon market is becoming more and more complex,” Sprenger says. “What we were hoping for a few years ago was a global CO2 market, so all countries trade under one regime, but now it looks like it’s becoming more fragmented with different regimes in place.

“You have CDM and JI, but in the future there will be more new mechanisms. It is becoming so complicated that no one understands how it works.”

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Portraits: Consultancy Firm Gives Advice on CDM, JI

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Irma Lubrecht runs the IR-ON consultancy firm in the Netherlands. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Irma Lubrecht runs the IR-ON consultancy firm in the Netherlands. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Irma Lubrecht runs her own consultancy firm, IR-ON (The Netherlands), giving advice on climate change to certification companies and private developers.

“I have been in the climate change business for 10 years, I am in Copenhagen to see how the carbon market is developing,” she told IPS.

“I just want to see what is the future of Kyoto, and if there is a future, because I am pretty sure the project-based mechanisms will not continue for a long time.”

Lubrecht advises about the feasibility of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects and gives trainings on CDM and JI (Joint Implementation), two of the main mechanisms established by the Kyoto Protocol through which governments and businesses in countries which have to reduce emissions can invest in emission-reduction projects in developing countries and gain carbon credits in return.

“The way it is going now, CDM cannot continue,” she thinks. “It is too small, it costs too much money and involves too many people. And the bureaucratic mechanism behind it produces too many delays.”

“When CDM was born, we thought it was going to save the world. Now, there is so much bias, so much opposition against it,” Lubrecht thinks.

“In my opinion, it is more efficient to have national emission targets which become stricter and stricter every year and also national emissions trading schemes. And I am very much in favor of personal limits to emitting GhG: you get a personal card at the beginning of the year and each time you put gas in your car or book a trip to Turkey, you get charged. People have to understand that we each have to be energy efficient.”

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Q&A: “We’re Here to Insert Some Reality into an Unreal Situation”

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Bill McKibben is a U.S. journalist, writer and environmentalist and the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. Credit: TerraViva/Stephen Leahy

Bill McKibben is a U.S. journalist, writer and environmentalist and the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. Credit: TerraViva/Stephen Leahy

Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Bill McKibben is a U.S. writer, environmentalist and the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. His first book, “The End of Nature”, was published in 1989 and is regarded as the first book written for a general audience about climate change.

350.org is credited with organising the most widespread political action in history when more than 5,200 public demonstrations were held on Oct. 24 in 181 countries.

The organisation’s goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of climate change and the need to return carbon concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm).

Currently, concentrations are 387 ppm and increasing at 2.0 to 3.0 ppm per year. Recent science suggests that a maximum of 350 ppm may be what is needed to keep overall global temperatures from increasing more than 2.0 degrees C.

TERRAVIVA: Why are you here?

BILL MCKIBBEN: I wrote a book on climate change 20 years ago and you could say I’m just following the trail to its end. We’ve also brought 350 young people from all over the world to make sure negotiators hear their voice and insert a little reality into an unreal situation.

TV: What needs to happen in Copenhagen?

BM: Science has already told us what we need to do: reduce CO2 [carbon dioxide] concentrations to 350 (ppm). There should be real urgency here, this is not just another problem and it’s happening right now.

TV: Negotiators here talk about what is politically feasible, not about the science.

BM: Few people here realise the extent and urgency of the climate crisis. They treat it as one more negotiating game. Tiny countries like Tuvalu are leading the world and speaking from the basis of climate science. It’s embarrassing that the poorest countries understand the science and are leading the way.

We have to move the “political reality” to the scientific reality. There is no mystery which will win in the end. The goal for humanity is to keep the global temperature from rising much further.

TV: You covered the final negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. How is this different?

BM: It’s more complicated because countries like China, Brazil and India are no longer poor developing countries and are more interested in maintaining economic growth.

TV: Are you disappointed with the U.S. position and President Obama?

BM: I worked hard to help Obama get elected. While Obama has moved on climate, the physics of carbon in the atmosphere is unlikely to be impressed with U.S. proposals. God knows how Obama officials can walk in here with a straight face after approving construction of a new pipeline to bring Alberta sludge – oil from Alberta’s tar sands – into the U.S. The tar sands project is the most environmentally damaging on the entire planet.

TV: Were you surprised that Australia, which is suffering badly from drought, heat waves and brush fires, recently failed to pass legislation to reduce its emissions?

BM: That speaks directly to the power of the coal industry there. The fossil fuel industry has a vested interest in the status quo and they are the most powerful force in the world.

TV: How do we deal with our fossil fuel addiction?

BM: The easiest thing to do is raise the price of fossil fuels. If that had been done decades ago in the U.S., it would look more like Denmark with its excellent public transport system, bicycle networks, low-energy buildings and reliance on low-carbon energy sources. It would have also shifted our thinking and habits towards being and working together.

TV: What will you do after Copenhagen?

BM: We will continue to build a global movement to push governments out of their comfort zones to take the actions that the science dictates. But first I’ll go home and sleep for a month.

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Willingly or Not, We Must Prepare for Geoengineering

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

John Shepard speaking on geoengineering. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

John Shepard speaking on geoengineering. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) So what do we do if COP15 does not bring adequate emission reduction targets or if the targets are not implemented by countries? What if we are faced with an ecological crisis in the next 15-20 years?

In that case, we need to be prepared for climate geoengineering, say scientists meeting on the sides of the fourth day of negotiations in Copenhagen.

“Do we need geoengineering?” asked oceanographer John Shepard from Southampton University, one of the authors of the report “Geoengineering the Climate. Science, Governance and Uncertainty” published by the UK Royal Society in November this year.

“It depends on COP15,” was his answer. “If we cannot reduce emissions as fast and as much as needed, what else can we do?”

Shepard, who is working on modeling geoengineering solutions for addressing a climate crisis, explained that he is not keen to see humanity having to resort to such solutions. “I find it scary myself,” he confessed.

But the scientist added that, whether we agree or not with such massive technological interventions to address climate change, we have a responsibility to work them out because it is possible we might need them soon.

Geoengineering basically translates into deliberate large-scale interventions in the earth’s climate system. Unlike the unintended irreversible alteration of the climate that humanity has brought about through its actions particularly since the beginning of industrialization, in the case of geoengineering, humanity would consciously produce climate alterations. And humanity would also have to figure out a just system to manage and control such massive interventions.

Given the current state of research, geoengineering can be divided into two types. One option is CO2 Removal (CDR), done through ocean iron fertilization, the use of scrubbers or artificial trees, enhanced weathering or biochars. CDR can be applied locally and it is considered to come with low risks.

The downfall to this technique is that it would take a long time to absorb the enormous amounts of carbon already released and which will continue to be released in the atmosphere.

The other option is Solar Radiation Management (SRM) involving reflecting the sunlight to reduce global warming, through such technologies as mirrors in space, stratospheric aerosols or clouds enhancement.

This method does not reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, nor does it address the consequences of these emissions, such as ocean acidification. On the other hand, it is considered to be a solution which can be activated fast, “a quick fix.” In terms of degree of riskiness of SRM, scientists declare themselves wary of the unpredictable effects SRM might have on weather patterns and ecosystems.

Jason Blackstock, a physicist and fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, spoke about geoengineering as a “very uncertain gamble that we do not want to take.”

He echoed the views of Shepard who insisted that “reducing emissions remains the priority, as the safest and most predictable option.”

Blackstock said that the scientific community working on geoengineering is keen to combat views such as the one presented in the bestseller “Super Freakonomics”, in which authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make the point that humanity should not bother to reduce emissions and just place mirrors in space.

Indeed, a panel of scientists from US and UK research centers speaking in Copenhagen on Thursday were very keen to emphasize that research must be done responsibly and that global society must become aware of how geoengineering works.

Even more, governments, international organizations, research groups and citizens from all over the world must have a word to say on geoengineering, the scientists said, issuing a general call for suggestions on how to answer questions about the regulation of research, the control of climate manipulation tools once they become functional and knowledge sharing.

There are no answers to these questions. But scientists like Shepard and Blackstock were making the point that these answers must be found through broad international dialogue as fast as possible, going hand in hand with the evolution of research on geoengineering.

The world must have “a plan B,” said Shepard.

Heavy questions loom large over geoengineering. How can such solutions be applied without being tested? And will not a large test practically mean the deployment of climate manipulation mechanisms?

Who should control research and deployment is another question. And, while the scientists were very keen to open up this process and even their research to public discussion, they also declared themselves aware that there are already interests in place that argue for stopping mitigation and relying solely on geoengineering.

“Geoengineering is likely to become technically possible, but the technology is barely formed,” said Shepard. It will all play out in the following decades, he explained.

When they do become deployable though, technologies of CO2 Removal or Solar Radiation Management will not be very expensive. It is likely that 50 to 100 countries in the world could afford to deploy stratospheric aerosols for example, said Blackstock.

“Imagine a situation in 10-15 years when a small island state is tired of seeing that the G8 or the G2 (US and China) are not doing enough to address climate change and it decides to deploy the technology unilaterally,” Blackstock continues.

The implication is that proper governance frameworks must be put in place before a climate crisis emerges so that the technologies are not captured by corporations nor used unilaterally by nation states.

But looking at the intricate and troubled Copenhagen negotiations on emission reductions makes it almost impossible to imagine how humanity could figure out such governance tools.
(END/2009)

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CLIMATE CHANGE: Negotiators Told to Update Their Science

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Estimates for greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions being used by the UNFCCC and negotiators during the COP15 are too low, argue scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), the body responsible for the first historical calculations of carbon emissions.

“It is not a matter of bad will, it’s that science has moved on considerably since Kyoto,” Tony Haymet, the director of the SIO, told TerraViva.

The scientists are at Copenhagen to let the decision-makers know that better estimates can now be made. They stress that precise measurements of emissions are crucial if regulatory legislation and carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes are to succeed.

“At the moment, the situation of the negotiators is comparable to that of people who go on a diet without first weighing themselves,” commented geochemistry researcher Ray Weiss, who is working on measurements of industrial gas emissions for SIO.

Weiss explained that estimates used by UNFCCC for industrial gases such as carbon tetrafluoride (CF4), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) or sulphur hexafluoride (SH6 considered the most potent GhG by the IPCC) are lower than real emissions. In the case of NF3 for instance, the real emissions can be as much as four times higher than the UNFCCC figures.  

Even more, in some cases (such as that of CF4), UNFCCC numbers show that the trend of emissions is decreasing while real numbers show that emissions have been rising over the past few years.

The reasons for these errors, explained the scientists, are that UNFCCC data relies on bottom-up reports (provided by different regional monitoring centres around the world), which by themselves are not reliable enough.

“It is possible that some people may want to underreport emissions, especially if they are given financial incentives to do so,” said Ray Weiss, “or that measurements are tuned to meet standards before inspections”.

For such reasons, the scientists argued that it is very important to combine bottom-up reporting of emissions with top-down reporting, which is being developed at the moment.

Top-down methods which are developed by people like Weiss involve high-frequency measurements coupled with modelling of atmospheric transport. The scientists from SIO added that an important role in better estimates can be played by spatial measurements of GhG, as experimented with in the United States for CO2 and in Japan for methane.

All of these methods must be combined in order to get correct estimates. But the good news from Weiss and Haymet is that such precise measurements are now possible.
To provide a clear incentive for using better measurements, the scientists stressed that precise calculations can play an important role in stabilising the volatile carbon-equivalent trading market, now worth 100 billion dollars.

“If we have the precise numbers for how much emissions are being produced or saved, it will act like a certification seal, leading to increased investor confidence,” Haymet told TerraViva.
(END/2009)

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Chevron and Cultural Genocide in Ecuador

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudius

Credit: Claudius

By Kerry Kennedy, from Lago Agrio, Ecuador *

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador (IPS/TerraViva) Traces of paradise are still visible. From the air, the rainforest region in northern Ecuador – known as the Oriente – appears as silvery mist and swaths of verdant green.

But beneath the cloud cover and canopy, the jungle is a tangle of oil slicks, festering sludge, and rusted pipeline. Smokestacks sprout from the ground, spewing throat-burning fumes into the air. Wastewater from unlined pits seeps into the groundwater and flows into the rivers and streams. Continue Reading

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L’Afrique observe: Côte d’Ivoire

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Albertine Dramé

Albertine Dramé (38 ans, agricultrice) : "J’aurais voulu arroser Copenhague

By Fulgence Zamblé
ABIDJAN (IPS/TerraViva) Dans un bas-fond situé à environ cinq kilomètres de la capitale économique ivoirienne, Abidjan, Albertine Dramé (38 ans), est occupée à arroser ses plants de tomates, d’aubergines et de patates. Selon elle, la maîtrise du cycle des pluies est devenue impossible, ce pourquoi elle a abandonné la culture de masse (riz, igname) pour se consacrer aux bas-fonds. Mais là aussi, l’eau manque souvent.

IPS: Savez-vous que le monde entier est réuni actuellement au Danemark pour discuter de la question du changement climatique ?

Albertine Dramé: Je ne sais véritablement rien d’où se tient cette réunion, encore moins du contenu de ce qui se discute. Je ne pense pas aussi que cela puisse m’apporter grand-chose. La saison des pluies, la saison sèche, la chaleur, la fraîcheur… Tout leurs cycles ont commencé à changer depuis quelques années et cela m’a personnellement causé d’énormes désagréments. J’ai laissé tomber la culture de riz et d’igname pour me consacrer à des choses qui n’ont aucune certitude à la production parce qu’il manque de la régularité à la pluie. Mon lendemain est chaque fois fait de craintes et de peur. Je n’attends que ce qui peut me permettre de sauver la situation.

IPS: C’est pourtant ce qui se discute à Copenhague…

AD: Peut-être parce que je ne suis pas une décideuse que j’ai été ignorée et donc pas suffisamment informée de la chose. Mais je dis qu’il urge de trouver des solutions aux problèmes que nous vivons.

Par le passé, à cette période, nous étions dans la période de l’harmattan en décembre qui débouchait sur une courte saison sèche (entre fin janvier de mars) et nous entrions dans la petite saison des pluies. Aujourd’hui, il pleut sans arrêt. Et après c’est une forte chaleur qui s’empare de nous.

De l’autre côté, c’est le niveau de la mer qui ne cesse de grimper et détruire les habitations en bordure. Nous ne maitrisons plus rien et c’est très inquiétant.

Alors qu’attendez-vous de cette rencontre ?

AD: Je l’ai dit, je n’attends pas grand-chose, pas par pessimisme. Nos gouvernants, eux  sont allés au Danemark, sans passés me voir avant. S’ils l’avaient fait, je leur aurais remis mon arrosoir pour arroser les discussions. Mais, il faut espérer que chacun fasse l’effort au niveau des pays puissants pour sauver le monde. Il ne s’agit pas d’un problème unique aux pays pauvres pour que l’on traîne les pieds.

Chaque continent à au moins une fois subit les conséquences du changement climatique et je crois que les différentes alertes en Amérique, en Asie, en Afrique (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire) vont faire réfléchir plus d’une fois. S’ils pensent que des décisions judicieuses et applicables peuvent être prises pour atténuer les effets du changement, il n’y a pas de raison à hésiter.

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Indigenous Peoples Raise Their Voice

Posted on 10 December 2009 by editor

Indigenous participants. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

Indigenous participants. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

By Nasseem Ackburally

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Indigenous peoples from many parts of the world are losing their lands and cultures due to climate change. And they want their voices to be heard in the debate on arresting global warming.

“We have rights to our lands, to our territories and our environment,” says Malia Nobrega from the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC).”This climate crisis,” the IIPFCC states in its proposal to the climate summit in Copenhagen, “threatens the very survival of indigenous peoples, particularly forest- and ice-dependent peoples, and the indigenous peoples of small island states and local communities.”

Forests mean more than just carbon to indigenous peoples and local communities. They have historical, cultural and spiritual significance.

Joan Carling, secretary-general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), says indigenous people across the globe know that climate change is largely caused by developed countries.

“They know also that they have the smallest carbon footprint but are the most severely affected by climate change,” she adds.

Since developed countries are primarily responsible for causing global warming, the AIPP believes they have the duty to commit to ambitious cuts and to financing the mitigation and transfer of technology to developing countries.

“This is to recognise and acknowledge their historical debt,” she said.

Indigenous peoples also provide solutions, drawing on traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples, especially relating to mitigation and climate change.

On this point, they argue that they have managed the ecosystems for generations, nurturing their integrity and complexity in sustainable and culturally diverse ways.

These include mobile pastoralism in drylands and rangelands, rotational agriculture and ecological agriculture in tropical forest regions and the conservation, management and restoration of other natural ecosystems such as mangroves, savannahs, wetlands and others.

But Carling says this is not acknowledged or recognised.

Malia Nobrega believes development should not be stopped but should be guided by the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.

“Our ancestors have taken care of Mother Earth for a long time. Now, we should make sure that we can have Mother Earth here for generations to come,” she says.

Ecuadorean Johnson Cerda, an advisor to Conservation International’s Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Programme, says that when speaking of technology, the developed countries talk only about the transfer of technology from the West to small countries.

“We also have knowledge in our communities. See the forests, do you know how we have been working to keep them for centuries?”

According to him, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation is something that the indigenous communities have done for centuries.

“The others are now trying to re-invent it because there is money there,” he insists.

“Indigenous peoples have the knowledge for adaptation and mitigation but they don’t have access to the funds,” Cerda adds.

But Joan Carling is alarmed by the fact that REDD (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) is being implemented in certain countries with no consultation and no information given to indigenous communities, assigning this responsibility to the funders, including the World Bank.

Joseph Ole Simel, executive director of Manyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organisation from Kenya, feels the text does not even recognize them as human beings.

“Therefore, we do not enjoy rights,” he says, insisting that the indigenous peoples are in Copenhagen, “because they have a right and because they are experiencing a serious impact on their lives from climate change.”

Any negotiation, according to him, must take into account the rights of indigenous peoples “so that we do not become victims and subjects of mitigation.”
(END/2009)

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