Archive | Fossil Fuels

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South Africa’s Empty Promise

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

Sisiwe Khanyile from South African group Groundwork. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

Sisiwe Khanyile from South African group Groundwork. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Servaas van den Bosch

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) Powerhouse South Africa last week promised a reduction of growth in emissions, making it the momentary star of the negotiations. But the plan is ‘an absolute non-starter’, say environmental groups, as power utility Eskom fires up more fossil plants with five billion dollars of World Bank funding.

In a well-timed move, South Africa, responsible for half of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions, announced a reduction of CO2 emission growth – down 34 percent from business as usual in 2020 and 42 percent by 2025. The announcement, released the day before the start of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, predicts a decline in emissions in 2035. Continue Reading

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‘Cut Fossil Fuel Subsidies but Compensate the Poor’

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Cutting government subsidies for fossil energy could lead to a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as compared to 1990 levels, says a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That represents a fifth of the maximum global commitment of emission reductions envisaged by negotiators at the COP15, and could play an important part in keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Continue Reading

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Canada’s “Mordor” Ensures Climate Treaty Failure

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and Clayton Thomas Muller, tar sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network, speak at tar sands protest.

Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and Clayton Thomas Muller, tar sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network, speak at tar sands protest.

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Climate activists jammed a small square near the police-barricaded Canadian Embassy here Monday for the second day of protests over the country’s tar sands development.

Simultaneous protests were held at the Canadian Embassy in London because British oil companies and financial institutions are deeply invested in the Canadian mega-project. Continue Reading

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Writing a Climate Manifesto Aboard an Electric Scooter

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

The electric scooters used for R2C generate zero emissions and produce minimal noise. Credit: R2C

The electric scooters used for R2C generate zero emissions and produce minimal noise. Credit: R2C

By Liza Jansen

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/TerraViva) Composing a manifesto while driving towards a “green future” in Copenhagen is the goal of 300 Dutch student activists undertaking the Road to Copenhagen (R2C), a four-day trip on electric scooters.

“I want to show governments this generation’s youth cares about the future,” Peter Hardy, one of the drivers, told TerraViva. Continue Reading

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“Brasil es una economía baja en carbono”

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

José Miguez. Crédito: Cortesía de Itaipú Binacional

José Miguez. Crédito: Cortesía de Itaipú Binacional

Por Mario Osava

RIO DE JANERIO (IPS/TerraViva) Brasil busca mantener en Copenhague el papel de liderazgo que tuvo este país en las negociaciones sobre ambiente desde que acogió la llamada Cumbre de la Tierra en esta ciudad en 1992.

El gobierno de Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva anunció el 13 de noviembre el compromiso voluntario de reducir entre 36 y 39 por ciento los gases de efecto invernadero para 2020. Pero respecto de los volúmenes de 1990, como establece el Protocolo de Kyoto, significará un aumento de casi 21 por ciento. Continue Reading

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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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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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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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Construyendo un nuevo modelo

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

 

Cartel con Karl Marx. Crédito: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Cartel con Karl Marx. Crédito: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Por Daniela Estrada

 

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) “Hay que fortalecer una gran alianza mundial de los movimientos sociales que estamos luchando contra el calentamiento climático y el modelo agroexportador industrializado, y que defendemos la pequeña agricultura”, dijo a TerraViva el hondureño Rafael Alegría, de la coordinadora internacional de La Vía Campesina. Continue Reading

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Small Farmers Can Cool the World

Posted on 12 December 2009 by editor

Alicia Muñoz of La Via Campesina in Chile. Credit: TerraViva/A. Libisch

Alicia Muñoz of La Via Campesina in Chile. Credit: TerraViva/A. Libisch

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Industrial agriculture may emit nearly half of climate-heating greenhouse gases, but that reality has gone unrecognised by negotiators at the climate treaty talks here, say farmers with La Via Campesina, an international movement of hundreds of millions of small-scale peasant farmers.

“Small-scale farmers use 80 percent less energy than large monocultures,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian farmer with Mouvement de Paysan, through a translator.

“Peasant farmers from La Via Campesina and others can help cool the planet,” Jean-Baptiste told a press conference at the Klimaforum09, the alternative climate action talks being held here in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.

Unlike the official talks, set in a remote location surrounded by police and razor wire, Klimaforum09 is being held in the city’s community centre and is free and open to the public.

“System Change for Climate Change” – that’s the phrase most often heard at the Klimaforum09 and in parts of Copenhagen.

La Via Campesina’s claim that industrial agriculture is by far the biggest source of carbon emissions is based on a recent study that looked at all emissions from the global food system.

This includes oil-dependent industrial farming, together with the expansion of the meat industry, the destruction of world’s savannahs and forests to grow agricultural commodities, the use of fossil fuel energy to transport and process food, and the extensive use of chemical fertilisers.

The study was conducted by GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation that promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity to support local communities.

“These results are horrifying. So much carbon is lost from the soil using monoculture practices,” said Camila Montecinos, the lead GRAIN researcher from Santiago, Chile.

The study looked at all the available scientific literature and worked with soil scientists to arrive at this “rough” but thorough estimate, Montecinos told TerraViva.

The study does not include methane emissions from animals and their manure because studies conflict and incorporating manure into the soil increases fertility and soil carbon, she explained.

Surprisingly, one-third of the emissions come from food processing and transport, although the former is responsible for most. The bulk of emissions come from land use changes – conversions of forest and grasslands – and from direct agricultural production like fuel use, fertiliser and tillage.

Calculations in the report show that policies oriented towards agriculture in the hands of small farmers and focused on restoring soil fertility could, over the next 50 years, capture about 450 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is more than two-thirds of the current excess in the atmosphere.

“The evidence is irrefutable. If we can change the way we farm and the way we produce and distribute food, then we have a powerful solution for combating the climate crisis. There are no technical hurdles to achieving these results, it is only a matter of political will,” said Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, in a release.

Governmental policies and trade agreements the world over support industrial agriculture production and the study shows this must change in order to stabilise the climate, Montecinos said. “No governments are talking about this,” she noted.

Worse still, many of those policies are pushing small farmers off the land, the ones who are by far the most efficient in terms of carbon emissions and energy use, she said.

Ending such policies and giving the lands back to small farmers could result in major emission reductions on the order of 50 to 66 percent, said La Via Campesina in a news release.

“Such a transformation of world agriculture would not only greatly contribute to solving the climate crisis – it would also provide healthy food for all – as well as provide livelihoods to millions of women and men,” the group said.

When asked what he would like to tell the negotiators at the official climate talks, Jean-Baptiste said: “We have to change the model of production and consumption, especially in the northern half of the world.”

“Corporate control and concentration has not provided any solutions. Instead people suffering more than ever,” Alicia Muñoz from Via Campesina in Chile told TerraViva. “The men standing up there [at the official negotiations] will never solve the problems of poverty and climate change.”

“Women need to be involved and part of the solution,” she stressed.

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El mundo se hunde en Copenhague

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Delegados de los principales grupos negociadores en la tensa conferencia de prensa. Crédito: Raúl Pierri/IPS

Delegados de los principales grupos negociadores en la tensa conferencia de prensa. Crédito: Raúl Pierri/IPS

Por Raúl Pierri

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) Los más pobres del mundo sufrirán un “horrible” impacto si no se logra un acuerdo en los días que quedan de la COP-15. Ese fue el reclamo lanzado por el Sur el viernes en unas negociaciones que, al terminar su primera semana, no logran salir de la ciénaga.

El viernes se difundió el borrador de un acuerdo para la COP-15, que permite apreciar cuáles son los elementos en discordia, sobre todo cifras y años, colocados en el texto entre corchetes. Continue Reading

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East Europe, Developed or Developing?

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Poland takes fossil of the day award. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

Poland takes fossil of the day award. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS.

By Claudia Ciobanu

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – The European Union (EU) is presenting itself as a united front during negotiations in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. But East European countries insist that they are developing nations and prefer to limit their aid and emissions commitments.

“All the EU aid money comes from every country, even the poorest one,” said Andres Turesson, negotiator for Sweden (the country currently holding the presidency of the EU). This statement was a show of EU unity.

But at the end of October, nine East European leaders negotiated with the rest of the EU to reduce the amounts they would contribute to the total aid amount to be committed by the union to the developing world during the Copenhagen summit. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov declared that his country had “saved” 40-50 million euros (60 – 73 million US dollars) in this way.

It is still not clear whether this “saving” for Eastern Europe lowered the total aid amount the EU decided to commit (2.4 billion euros or 3.5 billion dollars annually, as announced in Brussels on Friday).

The prevalent view in the region is that the former communist countries are too heavily burdened by their own development needs to be able to send aid to countries in the global South.

Even environmental groups agree that the contributions made by the various EU members to external aid should be differentiated. Friends of the Earth (FoE) calls for a scheme in which the share of aid to be contributed by every country would be calculated taking in to account the levels of emissions produced and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

At Copenhagen, Poland, the largest and most influential East European country in the EU, argues that if it makes any financial pledges they must be purely voluntary. Under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, Poland and the other East European states are included in Annex 1 of industrialised countries, but not in Annex 2 of industrialised countries which must pay for the costs of developing ones.

“East European countries do have a historical responsibility towards the global South which cannot be ignored,” Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of FoE Europe and a Pole herself, told TerraViva. Eastern Europe industrialised at the same pace as Western Europe during the 20th century – albeit under state socialist rather than capitalist system – so it is an equal contributor to global warming.

“But it is also true that they are less developed, so they cannot pay as much as Western Europe,” added Stoczkiewicz. “It is important to build up more solidarity inside the EU,” she explained. This would allow for the total aid given by the EU not to be lowered while not overburdening the still developing Eastern Europe.

East European countries are also posing problems in terms of greenhouse gas (GhG) emission reductions. During the fourth day of the Copenhagen talks, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, head of the European Committee of the Polish council of ministers, declared in Brussels that the EU’s plan to reduce GhG emissions by 30 percent by 2020 on 1990 levels has no chance of being accepted by all members of the EU.

Over 90 percent of Poland’s electricity comes from coal.

Poland took the “Fossil of the Day” award in Copenhagen Thursday for actively blocking the proposed upgrade of the EU’s emissions reduction target to 30 percent from 20 percent.

“Poland is afraid of committing to 30 percent emission reductions because this would mean they will have to slow down their economy,” said Stoczkiewicz.

The FoE director said that most Polish leaders think that they can only reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2020 on 1990 levels if they start developing nuclear power.

“That is because the leaders have not done their work properly over the last 20 years,” Stoczkiewicz thinks. “The knowledge on renewables was there 20 years ago but it was not applied in Poland. And the development vision which dominates most political heads is one of continuous economic growth.”

And Poland is no exception. GhG emissions decreased in the region in the early 1990s, but they are estimated to have risen by 11 percent between 2004 and 2010. Increased car ownership and consumerism are largely to blame for this.

East Europe is unlikely to be a serious obstacle to a Copenhagen agreement. But its positions might make it difficult in the future for the EU to stick to its commitments of emission reduction.
(END/2009)

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Systematic Suppression of Systemic Solutions?

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Credit: Claudius

Credit: Claudius

By Ashok Khosla *

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) Systemic failures, such as sudden changes in climate, accelerated loss of biodiversity and rapid growth of poverty and population, can only be solved by systemic solutions that address the deeper, underlying causes of these failures.

Moreover, since many of these problems are inter-related, they generally have to be solved together – where possible – to get maximum all-round benefits at least cost; when necessary, to minimize the likelihood of ameliorating one while worsening the others. Continue Reading

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Act Now to Save The Planet

Posted on 11 December 2009 by editor

Danish children planting trees. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

Danish children planting trees. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

By Mohan Munasinghe*

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) The climate is changing faster than forecast only two years ago: 2,700 experts at the IARU Climate Congress in March 2009 warned that the IPCC predictions made in 2007 are already out of date, for example 3 degrees C global temperature rise by 2100. The latest information indicates more severe warming exceeding 4-5 C.

Rising temperatures are already penalising the poor most, who ironically contributed least to the problem. Global warming is impacting global food and water supplies, raising sea levels, melting ice sheets and increasing the number and intensity of severe weather events. Continue Reading

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