THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Wednesday 10 September 2008
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News ; New Agency of Nigeria: Mitigating climate change with trees ; Science News: New Rules Needed To Govern World's Fragile Polar Regions
; The Greenbang Special Report : Producing the start up index
; Antigua Sun: Officials gather in Antigua to discuss environmental concerns
; National Press Club: Leadership for a Comprehensive Energy Roadmap: The First 100
; Tehran Times: UN chief to demand Israel pay Lebanon $1bn in reparations
; UNEP join hands with Google in creating the ―Environment Map‖
Other Environment News
; The Independent: Pollution can make you fat, study claims
; The Guardian: Forecast: dry, becoming drier
; BBC News: Hurricane Ike blows past Havana
; The Tampa Tribune: Devastation Throughout Haiti Offers Valuable Lessons
; Gulf Times: Mixing e-waste with rubbish could be dangerous
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
; Environment News from the UN Daily News of 9 September 2008 (None)
; Environment News from the S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of
9 September 2008 (None)
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
New Agency of Nigeria: Mitigating climate change with trees
Wednesday, Sep 10, 2008
After decades of scepticism about global warming and its after effects, the world has come face-to-face with the realities of that danger.
With reports of extreme floods in Kenya, Canada, Indonesia and Southern Africa, the world has been jolted with the stark reality that it is headed toward something worse if urgent steps are not taken.
Also manifest are increased cases of drought in the Sahelian region of Africa and the now common incidence of hurricanes in the U.S.
In central Nigeria, excessive warming is being blamed for the consistent violence between nomadic cattle herders and farmers.
The duo have been locked in battle for the scarce green areas as the desert creeps southwards.
Similarly, deforestation, dwindling water supplies and rising sea levels are already sparking mass migrations, provoking ethnic conflicts.
UN reports on climate change indicate that humanity may have to brace for more challenges as they predict a rise in temperature by 1.4 degrees Celsius to 5.8 degrees Celsius by 2010 in Africa.
―Regions that are already least secure in food production, like sub-Saharan Africa, stand
to be the worst victims of global warming as wet areas become wetter and dry areas become drier,‖ says a recent global report on climate change.
Speaking on the issue, Ms Jennifer Morgan, the Director, Global Climate Change Programme at the WWF, describes Africa as the ‗‘most vulnerable continent to climate change‖.
Pointing to its ‗‘extreme poverty‘‘, she says that the continent will find it increasingly difficult to cope as desertification is threatening to drive millions of Africans from their homes.
Morgan says that her comments are drawn from a recent international report on the work of 1,360 scientists in 95 nations.
She particularly cites an instance in Uganda where researchers and the government found that the climate has become hotter.
‗‘It also found that the rains were becoming even more erratic in the last decade, posing a threat to its key coffee crop.‘‘
To justify their fears of the worst for Africa, environmentalists point to gullies of eroded, barren earth scarring the shoreline of Lake Victoria, which borders Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Rising sea temperatures are also among the threats to Africa‘s lush east coast, the main survival line of poor coastal communities who depend solely on fisheries and tourism. Morgan sums up the effects: ‗‘On the whole, the results have been loss of lives, destruction of property, injury and hardship inflicted on humanity, underscoring the fact that global warming is both a reality and a phenomenon that begs for collective action.‘‘
It is against this backdrop that stakeholders continue to evolve strategies to contend with the challenges of how to mitigate the effects of global warming.
Expectedly, more attention has been on such vulnerable areas as Africa, already scarred by deforestation, poor soil health and drought.
The strategies are contained in some protocols and conventions among which are the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, targeted at reducing the emission of carbon dioxide globally.
The Kyoto Protocol, for instance, aims at curbing the air pollution blamed for global warming, requiring countries to cut the emission of carbon dioxide and other green house gases.
Kyoto, which became legally binding on February 16, 2005, demands a 5.2 per cent cut in gas emissions from the industrialised world by 2012.
But observers say that the protocols have in most cases failed to achieve set emission targets because the countries adopted a laid back approach to meeting set objectives. In particular, countries, notably the worst polluters, have continued to place their economies above the commitments to the protocols, thereby jeopardising their realisation, much to the chagrin of most developing countries and environmentalists. But for many environmental experts, the new initiative tagged ‗‘Plant a billion trees,‘‘
launched at the 12th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto
Protocol in Nairobi in 2006, seems to hold the key to checking devastation by global warming.
The campaign, fashioned after the works of a Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wangari Maathai, and sponsored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), hopes to realise the target of planting one billion trees by the end of 2007.
Maathai said that the vital importance of voluntary collective action in the fight against climate change was being undertaken with the launch of the campaign which, she noted, was an action the world must take today to preserve the climate for future generations.
She said that the target of 2007 was achievable if one billion people out of the world‘s
estimated population of six billion ‗‘dig a hole, put a tree in it and water it.‘‘
The campaign is premised on the science of using trees as ‗carbon sinks‘ whereby they soak up carbon dioxide and release it into the atmosphere as oxygen.
According to UNEP, rainforests cover only seven per cent of the land on earth but contain nearly half of all the trees on earth and generate about 40 per cent of the world‘s oxygen.
‗‘In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kg (26 pounds) of carbon dioxide and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year,‘‘ UNEP says.
Recognising that there were many tree planting schemes round the world, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said recently that achieving set targets under the campaign must not be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls. ‗‘They must offer a direct and straight forward path toward recreating lost forests and developing new ones.‘‘
He said that the focus should also be on addressing other concerns such as the loss of bio-diversity, improving water availability, stemming desertification and reducing erosion. Steiner spoke further: ‗‘The billion tree campaign is an acronym, but it can also be practically and symbolically a significant expression of our common determination to make a difference in developing and developed countries alike.‘‘
According to him, the world has a short time to avert serious consequences as a result of climate change.
Under the initiative, people, communities, businesses and industry, the civil society and government are being encouraged to make commitments to planting trees. Prince Albert 11 of Monaco says one of the primary aims of the campaign is to create an unprecedented mobilisation in favour of the environment.
Albert, who is the patron of the initiative, says that the project will encourage and coordinate the planting of local species initiated by governments, NGOs, communities and even children.
‗‘The campaign is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol of sustainable development,‘‘ he says.
Al Gore, former U.S. Vice-President, lent credence to the efficacy of tree planting last year when he said that ‗‘the symbolism and substantive significance of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on earth.
‗‘It is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions to the environmental crisis.‘‘
In Nigeria, governments at various levels have in the past two decades embraced tree planting campaigns aimed at greening the desert, checking desertification, degradation and erosion in most parts of the country.
However, the campaign, experts note, has degenerated into an annual fanfare without sustainable strategies to ensure that the campaign succeeds.
Dr Tony Nyong, an environmentalist with the International Development Research Centre, describes the tree planting campaign in Nigeria as ‗‘a mere jamboree‘‘.
Nyong says that the present campaign needs to be overhauled and plants such as palm trees be included in the campaign in view of their economic potential. On a debit side, however, a recent research by scientists at the Nairobi-based World Agro Forestry Centre, appears to question the benefits of the ‗plant a billion tree campaign‘ as it claims that trees utilise more water than hitherto believed.
The research notes that trees such as Eucalyptus consume as much as 2,000 litres of water daily while Pinus Patula consumes between 500 and 1,000 litres daily. Thus, the implication of planting trees such as Eucalyptus under the campaign is that watershed management will be under serious threat if one million of such species are included in the campaign, the research says.
Plantations of thirsty trees, according to the research, funded by the Swedish International Developmental Agency, will only be viable in high rainfall areas where ground water is more readily available.
One of the lead scientists in the research, Dr Chin Ong, says that the ‗plant one billion tree campaign‘ must, therefore, target local species that will not pose any threat to the watershed.
He advises stakeholders to identify such local tree species that will not only conserve water for the needs of the rural populace, but also assist in scaling up their livelihood. While environmentalists are not in a hurry to dismiss the findings of this research, they still insist that the world will be better off with more trees and challenge humanity to plant as many as possible.
Abutu writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
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Science News: New Rules Needed To Govern World's Fragile Polar Regions
ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — A new co-ordinated international set of rules to govern
commercial and research activities in both of Earth's polar regions is urgently needed to reflect new environmental realities and to temper pressure building on these highly
fragile ecosystems, according to several of the experts convening in Iceland for a UN-affiliated conference marking the International Polar Year.
Due to climate change, the ancient ice lid on the Arctic Ocean is fast disappearing, creating new opportunities for fishers and resource companies, and opening a potential new, far shorter ocean route between Europe and Asia, a prospect already drawing billions of dollars in investment in ice-class ships.
Antarctica, meanwhile, is witnessing a growing parade of tourists (40,000, including tour staff, in 2007), as well as researchers (now about 4,000 in summer occupying 37 permanent stations and numerous field camps) and companies interested in exploiting the biological properties of that continent's "extremophiles."
However, "many experts believe this new rush to the polar regions is not manageable within existing international law," says A.H. Zakri, Director of the United Nations University's Yokohama-based Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), co-organizers of the conference with Iceland's University of Akureyri, in partnership with Tilburg University (Netherlands), and the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland (Finland).
"Pressure on Earth's unique and highly vulnerable polar areas is mounting quickly and an internationally-agreed set of rules built on new realities appears needed to many observers. In Iceland, leading scholars will detail fast-emerging issues in international law and policy in the polar regions caused by such developments as the opening up of the Northwest Passage. They will identify priorities for law-making and research and offer their best advice to decision makers, who clearly need to act even faster than the changing environment."
Rising Arctic economic activity
Problems forecast for the Arctic as its ice recedes include:
2. Pollution from ships and offshore extraction of oil and gas
3. Oil spills
4. Invasion of alien species carried by ships' ballast water
"Overfishing, the result in part of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, is already occurring in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas," says conference presenter Dr. Tatiana Saksina of the World Wildlife Fund's International Arctic Programme.
"Agreements are needed now to regulate shared and straddling fish stocks and to protect fish migrating to higher latitudes in search of colder waters," she says. "Arctic sea routes are among the world's most hazardous due to lack of natural light, extreme cold, moving ice floes, high wind and low visibility and the Arctic marine environment is particularly susceptible to the effects of pollution (as demonstrated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill). The same conditions that contribute to high oil spill risks can also make response operations extremely difficult or totally ineffective," she adds. "Yet there are no internationally binding rules to regulate operational pollution from offshore
installations. Strict standards for the transportation of Arctic oil are also urgently needed."
National marine environmental protection regimes that cover significant portions of Arctic waters constitute a fragmented system of governance, with large gaps in jurisdiction, implementation and effectiveness. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), meanwhile, includes environmental rules inadequate to protect the ice oceans, she says.
"Despite the applicability of many global and regional treaties concerned with the protection of the arctic marine environment and effective management of shipping issues by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there are many problems that require attention. There is a need for an arctic ship routing system, traffic separation schemes, and use of Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT). Due to their vulnerability, arctic waters require very strict standards for ballast water exchange, fuel content, discharge and emission. There should be internationally binding standards for construction, design, equipment and manning of ships," says Dr. Saksina.
"There is an urgent need for a comprehensive international environmental regime specially tailored for the unique arctic conditions. This regime is needed before natural resource development expands widely. The earliest date of summer Arctic Ocean without ice may be 2013. The longer the delay in developing international environmental rules, the more likely it is that unplanned and unregulated development will damage the very resources most necessary for a sustainable future in the Arctic. There is no time to waste and no reason to wait."
Antarctic Tourists and Researchers
Conference chairman Dr. David Leary of UNU-IAS notes that the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty commits signatories to avoid changing distribution, abundance or productivity of Antarctica's fauna and flora, to jeopardize endangered or threatened species or to degrade or create substantial risk to areas of biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance.
It also commits signatories to guard against importation of non-sterile soil and the introduction of non-native species and micro-organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria, parasites, yeasts, fungi).
In the Antarctic, however, tourist activities can compromise the region due to seeds, invertebrates and soil in their clothing and footwear, and in their provisions and equipment, says Dr. Leary. As well, visitors may introduce and spread infectious disease-causing agents through, for example, interactions with wildlife and leaving behind organic wastes.
According to a 2005 UNEP report: "Governments may be reluctant to impose thorough quarantine controls on tourists for fear of damaging the industry … [and] tourists are
likely to be moving between similar sites (for example, wildlife viewing areas), increasing the risk of spreading invasive alien species."
It also notes that "researchers may pose a particular risk to biodiversity because they have access to sites of high conservation value that may be closed to the general public, and may carry equipment or organisms to those sites."
Law professor Tullio Scovazzi of the University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, says States should make full use of existing provisions under maritime law to establish measures to protect polar regions from harm, including shipping traffic separation schemes, recommended routes, deep- water routes, areas to be avoided, compulsory pilotage and other vessel traffic services.
He notes a UNCLOS provision devoted to "ice-covered areas" which refers to the right of coastal states to adopt and enforce laws and regulations within their exclusive economic zones, "where particularly severe climatic conditions and the presence of ice covering such areas for most of the year creates obstructions or exceptional hazards to navigation and pollution of the marine environment could cause major harm or irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance."
Given changing environmental circumstances, however, he anticipates potential new questions arising, such as:
At what temperature are climatic conditions considered particularly severe? Do laws and regulations adopted by the coastal States for ice-covered areas apply also in the part of the year when the areas are not covered by ice?
What happens if in certain years the waters are ice-covered for most of the year, but in other years they are not, also considering that the precise calculation of the duration of ice-coverage can only be made at the end of the year?
Bioprospecting is also emerging as an issue in both polar regions, says Dr. Leary of UNU-IAS.
"Bioprospecting in Antarctica in particular raises new questions about its impact on freedom of scientific research and the unique framework of international co-operation and governance in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which is built upon the ideals of Antarctica as a region devoted to science and peace.
"Similar questions arise in the Arctic as well. It is quite suprising but it looks like bioprospecting is already a well established commercial activity in the Arctic, perhaps exceeding the level of activity in Antarctica. Both biotechnology companies and government funded research projects alike see the potential of the Arctic's unique biodiversity for new developments in biotechnology.
"The neural stem cells of Arctic squirrels for example offer interesting new possibilities for the treatment of strokes in humans, while some Arctic fish species have already yielded new interesting enzymes useful in industrial and manufacturing processes." "But can these new commercial activities, often occurring on the high seas, be sustainably managed? That is but one new challenge for international law we are considering at this conference", says Dr. Leary.
Thorsteinn Gunnarsson, rector of the University of Akureyri says: "As the impact of climate change is increasing, it is highly important to discuss leadership and governance in the Arctic regions. The academic community should provide a platform to explore and openly debate these issues. University of Akureyri is very proud to offer this platform by holding this conference in international law and policy in the polar regions in cooperation with UN institutions and other partners."
Says Konrad Ostrerwalder, UN Under Secretary-General and Rector of UNU: "As the ecosystems of the Arctic are affected by climate change, so too will the inhabitants be affected, because of their heavy reliance on the natural resources of the Arctic. "It is important that voices of the indigenous and other peoples of the Arctic be heard in the course of the development of government policies at all levels."
Conference funding has been provided by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Monaco Permanent Representation to Scientific, Environmental and Humanitarian International Bodies, the Dutch International Polar Year Committee, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNU-IAS, the University of Akureyri and the Town of Akureyri.
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_________________________________________________________________ The Greenbang Special Report : Producing the start up index
Posted by Greenbang on September 9th, 2008
Take one planet. Add a rising human population. Stir in a food crisis, a growing dependence on fossil fuels and devices that feed off them. Whisk in some fears of energy security, price hikes, and sprinkle with some shrinking supplies of oil. Add a lot of carbon and cook for 50 years.
It‘s not exactly a recipe for success…
There‘s much work to be done to slow or perhaps reverse the effects of this mess. We at
Greenbang look at the business, technology and innovation approach to answering just a few of these problems.
There has been an explosion in alternative energy technologies and green business that has kicked off the clean tech revolution. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme says that investment in energy-efficiency technology reached a record $1.8 billion in 2007, a 78 percent increase on 2006.
The main drivers for this impressive growth are: climate change is real and business and society
know it - so being green is cool (at the moment). At the same time energy prices are soaring, yet businesses still need to be profitable, so that means cutting costs while
increasing sales. As a result, people are looking for technologies that cut energy bills, on economic and ecological grounds.
Looking forward, the demand to make the world a cleaner place isn‘t slowing. By 2020, the sector will be worth over $600 billion, says the UNEP. Meanwhile global temperatures and fossil-fuel prices show no signs of cooling so investment in innovative startups will be crucial to cleaning up our recipe for disaster set out above. We wanted a snap shot of the industry in the UK before looking at other countries. Assessing the health of this industry has highlighted some fantastic opportunities but major potential downfalls.
We published a call for submissions from clean tech start-ups on our website (greenbang.com). To qualify, the company had to be less than two-years old; be privately owned (i.e. not publically listed); have a strategic path to profit or be an obvious target for investment; and sell a product or service with a clear environmental benefit (that was hard to measure as in many cases there is no standard process for this, so we have offered our opinion).
Some of this was a bit of a tall order. There was also some confusion around the definition of start-up, which we would like to point out does not simply equal ‗idea‘. It soon became clear that the less-than-two-years criterion ruled out a lot of companies of substance. By this we mean companies with a solid revenue pipeline, some kind of infrastructure, a website (so many companies we looked at didn‘t have one) and so on.
Granted, a lot of companies probably won‘t have backing after just two years. There are
exceptions: DeepStream Technologies secured ?2.8 million in venture capital the year it launched.
That said, we decided to extend the age of qualifying companies to five years, to show the growth trajectory from start-up to substance and the lessons to be learned from that. After searching the country and putting out feelers to a wide range of contacts, our list of UK clean tech start-ups began to take shape. The shortlist…
Producing this report
The most difficult part of compiling this report was narrowing the shortlist. Clean tech spans a cross-section of industries as diverse as companies making waves in marine energy generation, to those who design pipelines inspired by the movement of blood-flow.
And even within individual sectors there were a number of issues to get to grips with. There is, for example, a difference between wave energy and tidal energy – but more on
Although these companies fall into our categories – carbon, construction, energy,
resources, technology and transport – many fall into more than one area. And we didn‘t
want to hamper the chances of any company by putting a label on them now. So we put them in alphabetical order.