Archive | December 13th, 2009

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“Energy is an Instrument of Power”

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Luis Bérriz: Credit: DanielaEstrada/IPS

Luis Bérriz: Credit: DanielaEstrada/IPS

Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGEN (IPS/Terraviva) – “Energy is an instrument of power. Whoever has energy, controls the world,” Cuban expert Luis Bérriz said in an address to Klimaforum, the civil society meeting being held in parallel to the UN conference on climate change in the Danish capital.

Cuba ditched the pursuit of nuclear energy, not at the behest of countries like the United States, but because it discovered that the sun “is the energy of socialism,” Bérriz said Sunday. He was referring to an abandoned project, dating from the 1980s, for a nuclear plant in Juraguá, in the province of Cienfuegos.

Bérriz, the head of the Cuban Society for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and Respect for the Environment (CUBASOLAR), arrived in the Danish capital Dec. 8 to give several talks at Klimaforum and participate as an observer at the climate change summit.

“Hard energy, concentrated in coal, oil and nuclear power is imperialistic and capitalist,” said Bérriz in a talk on Cuba’s state energy policy.

In contrast, “the sun shines for everyone, even the rich. It belongs to no one, therefore solar energy is the energy of socialism, the peoples’ energy, the energy of the future,” added the Cuban scientist and expert on non-conventional renewable energy sources (NCRE).

To avoid a new form of “control” through the use of NCRE, countries must “develop their own know-how” and avoid importing equipment as well as technological capability from rich countries, said Bérriz, who was invited to Copenhagen by the Danish-Cuban Friendship Association.

Cuba has just completed the construction of a factory for manufacturing solar heaters, and is expanding another plant that produces solar panels.

At Klimaforum, held at a sports centre near Copenhagen’s central train station, NGOs from all over the world have warned that conversion to a low-carbon economy with reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as discussed by the states at COP 15, may become just another form of the prevailing economic system, or capitalism in a “green” garb.

“If we focused on developing NCRE, a conference like this (COP 15) would be totally unnecessary. We would not need to be concerned about global warming,” Bérriz said.

At present 96 percent of Cubans have full access to electricity in their homes, he said. The remainder have electricity for some hours a day, and some families have not yet been connected to any power grid.

But the Cuban government, according to Bérriz, will not rest until all of Cuba’s 11.2 million people have access to electricity, as they already do to health and education services.

The “energy revolution” in Cuba, which got under way in 2006 after a severe crisis which caused frequent, lengthy blackouts, is based on four pillars, said Bérriz.

The first is energy saving and efficiency, which has led to changing light bulbs and other inefficient domestic appliances for efficient ones, at low cost and with payment facilities for families, he said.

The second is “distributed electricity generation,” meaning multiple generation facilities throughout Cuban territory.

“A hard, concentrated energy policy would build very large power plants and distribute electricity from them to a wide area. It’s a problem of control. We are going to produce electricity in a lot of small plants that are close to consumers,” Bérriz told TerraViva.

He said this policy has a number of benefits. For instance, if a hurricane destroys a huge coal-fired thermoelectric plant, the chances are that most of the population will suffer a blackout. In contrast, if four or five small hydroelectric stations are damaged instead, power failures would be small and localised.

“Another advantage is in a war situation. Formerly, the United States (Cuba’s long-time adversary) could have sent over six or seven bombs and taken out the whole national electrical system. That’s no longer the case: we have thousands (of plants). It would have to send thousands of bombs,” the scientist said.

As in other Latin American countries, the remaining pillars of the Cuban energy revolution are the use of NCRE and promotion of an environmentally sustainable energy culture.

According to Bérriz, Cuba could make a contribution to the world, and especially the countries of the region, in terms of transfer of scientific knowledge. The difficulty, he says, are the country’s limited resources, compounded by the nearly half-century U.S. embargo, the global economic crisis and seasonal hurricane damage.

Cuban experts have been invited by the Chilean government to teach people how to make biogas digesters, and to Peru to make solar driers for industrial timber factories. In Ecuador, they have helped build small hydroelectric stations, and they have also helped electrify areas in Bolivia and Venezuela, he said.
(END/2009)

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REDD: No Clear Targets

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Jungle on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

Jungle on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

By Servaas van den Bosch

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) With five days to go at COP15 the REDD proposal no longer offers tangible targets for halting deforestation. A safeguard on the conversion of natural forest into plantations has been re-inserted though.

Reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) could lower global CO2 output by 15 percent, say scientists. Continue Reading

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Maurice: Une île verte dans l’océan Indien

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Une plage de Maurice, prise dans le nord de l'île. Crédit: Domaine public

Une plage de Maurice, prise dans le nord de l'île. Crédit: Domaine public

Par Nasseem Ackbarally

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TeraViva) Canne à sucre, soleil, eau, vents, vagues et déchets ménagers sont autant d’éléments naturels que les Mauriciens ont commencé à utiliser pour produire de l’énergie et rendre ainsi leur île durable. Maurice, moins de 2 000 kilomètres carrés de superficie, située dans le sud de l’océan Indien,  est elle aussi menacée par la montée du niveau de la mer.

“Notre île séquestre énormément de gaz à effet de serre avec sa plantation de cannes à sucre. Elle est d’une grande aide au monde dans ce combat contre le changement climatique”, déclare de Port-Louis, la capitale mauricienne, Kheshwar Beeharry-Panray, responsable de ‘Environmental Protection and Conservation Organisation’ (EPCO), une organisation non gouvernementale (ONG) locale. Continue Reading

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Scientists Turn to Inuit for Clues

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Stephen Schneider illustrating some of the latest NASA technology to study climate change effects in the Arctic. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Stephen Schneider illustrating some of the latest NASA technology to study climate change effects in the Arctic. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – The Inuit people who live in and around the Arctic are among the worst victims of global warming, and scientists are now turning to their experience and indigenous knowledge to understand the staggering effects of climate change.

“The Arctic is at the epicentre of climate change. Inuit traditions and subsistence practices have already been assaulted,” stated the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) in a call for action at the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, underway in the Danish capital.

“Government leaders at CoP15 must take the strongest possible measures to protect our Arctic homeland,” read the call for action from the ICC, which represents approximately 160,000 Inuit living in Greenland, Russia, Canada and the United States.

Not only are political leaders around the world not doing enough to limit global warming, but also the best of mainstream science still cannot properly predict the impact of climate change in the Arctic.

This is one reason why researchers are turning to the experience of the Inuit themselves to read the signs of global warming. ICC researchers and veteran polar explorers like Will Steger, among others, have started interviewing Inuit hunters, fishermen and farmers in an attempt to mix mainstream science with traditional knowledge to better understand nature.

The Inuit, who know the weather and relief patterns and see the alterations brought about by global warming with their own eyes, are also being included in mapping exercises to precisely gain local effects of climate change.

The involvement of the Inuit is crucial also because alterations brought on by climate change increase the chances of intervention in their lifestyle – impossible a decade ago.

Kasper Brandt, an Inuit hunter from Greenland, told researchers from ICC that a barometer used for generations in his family “does not have faith in the weather anymore.”

“The Inuit no longer have the same mobility that they used to, as a consequence of modernisation in their lifestyle, so they are not as flexible to adapt to the changes in weather patterns,” explained Lene Holm, ICC Greenland’s director for environment, here on Saturday.

Temperatures in the extreme North are rising faster than elsewhere around the world, causing ice to melt at an accelerated pace. In turn, this has led to a shortening of the hunting season, with negative impacts on livelihood provision. The air has become more humid in spring, making it more difficult to keep up with the traditional practice of drying fish

Changes in the Arctic region will affect not just the Inuit. Alarm bells are sounding about the melting of the Siberian permafrost, leading to the release of massive quantities of greenhouse gases (GhG) into the atmosphere, further accelerating anthropogenic global warming.

And the melting of the ice sheet in Greenland could raise sea levels by seven meters, explained environmental biologist Stephen Schneider from Stanford University, in Copenhagen on Saturday.

Schneider, also a leading climate change scientist, said current research is insufficient to clearly understand the correlation between global temperature increase and sea level rise, and said he doubted that drastic changes could be prevented.

Using a metaphor, Schneider said that reaching the tipping point at which a seven meter rise in sea level can occur is like going towards the top of a hill after which the bus will uncontrollably go down. “The problem is that while we assume that the bus is driven by a professional driver, it’s actually being driven by some quarrelling teenagers,” Schneider commented. (END/2009)

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Cuba: “La energía es un instrumento del poder”

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Luis Bérriz en Copenhague. Crédito: Daniela Estrada/IPS

Luis Bérriz en Copenhague. Crédito: Daniela Estrada/IPS

Por Daniela Estrada

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) “La energía es un instrumento de poder. Quien tiene energía domina el mundo”, dijo el cubano Luis Bérriz  en una charla en el Klimaforum, la reunión de la sociedad civil paralela a la conferencia de cambio climático que se celebra en la capital danesa. Continue Reading

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12 December Was a Tipping Point

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Please act and stop talking. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Please act and stop talking. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Saleemul Huq*

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) I have been working on climate change for many years, first as a researcher in my native Bangladesh and later as head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Continue Reading

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Vigilia por un acuerdo con rostro humano

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Vigilia en el atardecer danés. Crédito: Ana Libisch/IPS

Vigilia en el atardecer danés. Crédito: Ana Libisch/IPS

Por Raúl Pierri

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) Una pequeña agricultora indígena está desesperada porque no sabe cómo habrá de subsistir, cómo criará a sus hijos y cómo seguirá su vida cuando la isla en la que vive desaparezca. Continue Reading

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Canada’s Tar Sands – “Dirty, Toxic and Huge”

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

A small group protests Canada's tar sands outside of the Canadian Embassy. Credit: TerraViva/Stephen Leahy

A small group protests Canada's tar sands outside of the Canadian Embassy. Credit: TerraViva/Stephen Leahy

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) A small band of protesters stood in the cold outside the Canadian Embassy in Copenhagen Saturday night to shine a small spotlight of attention on the fact that Canada is home to the Alberta tar sands, the world’s largest and possibly most polluting industrial project on the planet.

“It’s not just the huge CO2 emissions, it’s the water pollution, destruction of the forests, impacts on the food supply and all of the cancers the native people are getting,” said Janet Payne, an activist from Britain. “It’s dirty, toxic and huge.”

Thousands of square kilometres of tar-laden soil and sands underlying Canada’s boreal forests are being mined, and then boiled with millions of litres of steaming water to extract the tar to produce 2.7 million barrels of oil a day, mostly to feed the insatiable appetite of the United States.

“I feel strongly Canada is getting away with this environmental catastrophe. It’s time to put a spotlight on this,” Payne said.

She had participated in the day’s big march, saying it was like a music festival but with a strong message to the world.

“Everyone should be here,” she said. “Climate change is affecting everything in the world – we all should be standing up.”

At the end of the interview, three vans of Danish police pulled up and surrounded the group of eight protesters, who were simply shivering on the sidewalk holding two small banners. The police, in full riot gear, demanded to know what was going on.

Assuming this reporter was the leader, they asked what the protest was about and were told about the tar sands project. After the mandatory identification checks, permission was given to continue the protest – and two officers said they’d join in once their shift was finished.

Maybe there is hope in Copenhagen.

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Climate Justice Now

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

Climate Justice Now from IPS Inter Press Service on Vimeo.

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Hope in 100,000 Flavours

Posted on 13 December 2009 by editor

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

One of many marches Saturday in Copenhagen: Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Terna Gyuse*

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) The midpoint of a conference on climate change in which tremendous hope has been invested; unsurprising then that demonstrations of popular desire for decisive action against global warming took place around the world. Continue Reading

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