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Central Chronicle: Climate change India's grave concern - UNEP

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Central Chronicle: Climate change India's grave concern - UNEPCent

    THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS

    Monday 28 May, 2007

    UNEP and the Executive Director in the News

; Climate change India's grave concern (Central Chronicle)

    ; Save world plea to MPs (Gulf Daily News)

    Other Environment News

    ; U.S. Rebuffs Germany on Greenhouse Gas Cuts (New York Times) ; Climate change activists plan Heathrow camp (The Guardian) ; Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline (The New York Times) ; European President Says Climate Change EU's Top Priority (Enviroment News Service)

    ; Uganda Scraps Plan to Cut Rainforest for Palm Oil (Reuters) ; Unilever to Sell Environmentally Sustainable Tea (Reuters) ; Church of Norway on crusade to save the planet (AFP)

     Environmental News from the UNEP Regions

; ROA

    ; ROWA

    ; ROAP

     Other UN News

; UN Daily News (not available)

    ; S.G.‘s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 25 May 2007

_____________________________________________________________________________

    _____________________________________________________________________________

    Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya

    Tel: (254-2) 623292/93, Fax: [254-2] 62 3927/623692, Email:cpiinfo@unep.org, http://www.unep.org

Central Chronicle: Climate change India's grave concern

    The signs of global climate change are clear: melting glaciers, earlier blooms and rising temperatures. In fact, 11 of the past 12 years rank among the hottest ever recorded by the scientists and diplomats of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who issued their long-anticipated warning in a report in February. The report suggests ways by which countries can stop the already worsening conditions. Fighting global warming has to become a world-wide movement, warns IPCC before 2030, the time by which the gloom on the mankind may befall if the green house effects are not controlled globally.

    India is faced with grave concern following melting glaciers, change in rainfall pattern, falling food production, rising sea level and other climate changes due to global warming, say experts. According to Achim Steiner, Chief of the United Nations Environment Programme, global warming should be seen as a security issue as well as shortage of water and fertile land may lead to conflicts in the next 10 to 20 years.

    India is particularly vulnerable, Steiner said, adding that global warming will cause the Himalayan glaciers to melt. This will lead to mass migration and possible conflicts over valuable resources such as agricultural land and fresh water. As the heat-trapping gases warm the atmosphere, glaciers melt at a faster rate, sea levels are pushed up, and the consequences are as diverse as drought, flooding, violent storms and increased hunger, diseases and deaths. In the next couple of decades, the Himalayan glacier can shrink to a fifth of its present size of 500,000 sq kilometers and many others, including the ones feeding the Ganges, can disappear, if the current pace of global warming persists.

    Actually, thousands of Himalayan glaciers are shriveling up in varying degrees. Gangotri glacier is receding by 25 meters a year, Pindari glacier by 23 meters, Dokriani by 18 meters, Bera Shingri by 36 meters, Meola by 36 meters, Sona Pani by 17 meters, Milam by 13 meters, Zemu by 28 meters a year to name a few. Cumulatively, this melt could change the way we know our world. If global warming is not arrested, rivers will first flood and then dry up; seas will rise and fertile lands will turn dry.

    The devastating impact of melting snows, rising seas and drying rivers is virtually upon us. Within the lifetime of many of us, the Ganges could be a pale shadow of its current glory; shoreline cities and town and, including Mumbai, could be compelled to build dykes to keep out the invading seas; agricultural yield in the fecund Gangetic plains could become insufficient to feed our one billion populations, unless we act now.

    Here is how the disaster scenario could pan out. As temperatures rise due to global warming on account of increased pollutants in the atmosphere, glaciers will melt faster and receive less snowfall. The snowfall in the upper reaches of glacier adds weight on top, and the pace of melt at its mouth creates a delicate balance, keeping the ice mass in place. When this balance is upset, the glacier either recedes or comes forward dramatically or simply bursts resulting in the serious calamity.

    This calls for consensus, lifestyle changes and innovative technologies. The first may be elusive but lifestyle changes can be people's initiatives such as curbing the compulsion to excessively heat/cool homes, or avoiding long commutes. Happily, technological solutions are already appearing - for instance, the Compact Fluorescent Lamp that saves energy, or the hybrid vehicle that could change the transport sector's image of being a major polluter.

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    More importantly, such clean technologies, created usually by the West, must be freely made available to the developing world. The West must not baulk at this but see it as repentance for past sins against nature. All this requires political will to implement them. This assessment must be taken very seriously in India. There should be a drastic shift from fossil fuels like coal and oil. As a country we have to choose our own pathways and develop and start using energy efficient technologies well within our means. More important, there should be a political will to discuss and resolve the issue. Every citizen has to be made aware of the effects of global warming and a course of action drawn out right from the primary school levels.

    The issue has to catch the attention of the common people especially rural poor whose day to day life depends on the wood from the jungles for cooking, warming, survival and even the cremation after death. The depletion of forests that is deforestation should be ruthlessly curbed and aforestation encouraged at all levels. Introduction of good public transportation system can control vehicle pollution to quite an extent.

    _____________________________________________________________________________ Gulf Daily News: Save world plea to MPs

By REBECCA TORR

    DECISION-makers in Bahrain were yesterday urged to play a role in halting climate change and its impact on the environment.

    A group of around 40 MPs, Shura Council members and executives met scientists to discuss the latest issues in renewable energy at a one-day seminar at the Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort, in Sakhir.

    Scientists urged policy-makers to approach the issue of climate change by studying mitigation (reducing global warming by reducing emissions) and adaptation (preparing the country for climate change).

    Participants were advised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by developing "green buildings" that use less energy, introduce renewable energy systems and make contingency plans in the event of climate change.

    If decision-makers don't take these steps now they risk sea level rise, global warming, drought, poverty, loss of wildlife and habitats, among other things, warned scientists. Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) Global Environment Facility (GEF) liaison officer Dr Abdul Majeid Haddad highlighted the impact a sea level rise could have in Bahrain. He said according to a study conducted by Unep, Arabian Gulf University and the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife in 2002, a one-metre rise in sea level would cover a minimum of 10 per cent of Bahrain's coastal land. This is equal to 40 years of reclamation, explained Dr Haddad.

    "In Bahrain, a sea level rise will have an impact on coastal developments," he said. "So we have to go back and not build immediately on the water's edge and build houses and infrastructure in a way that a sea level rise will not cause damage.

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    "In case of a drought we must be prepared. If villagers depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and if there are more frequent droughts, their livelihoods will be affected so we must look for alternatives.

    "A sea level rise, especially for Bahrain, means more intrusion in the groundwater, which means it can't be used immediately for drinking - it must be desalinated.

    "In terms of coral reef, this part of the world will be hit. If we don't have coral reefs, fisheries will be disturbed and so we might want to start thinking of introducing artificial coral reefs to compensate any loss."

    Dr Haddad said mitigation was crucial and he urged participants to join hands and try to reduce, or at least halt, greenhouse gas emissions.

    He said decision-makers must look at developing green buildings that have a minimum impact on the environment.

    "These buildings should minimise energy consumption and waste and maximise the use of sunlight," he said.

    Dr Haddad said a study would be conducted this year by Unep and the Public Commission to look at the impact of climate change and the level and type of greenhouse gas emissions in Bahrain.

    World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) for West Asia, Bahrain, representative Dr Jaser Rabadi said that between 1970 and 2004, global greenhouse gas emission increased by 70 per cent.

    This resulted in an increase in hot days, heat waves, droughts, sea level rises, the melting of the world's ice caps and an increase in earth and sea temperatures.

    "According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the sea levels had risen by 17cm during the 20th century," he said.

    "If temperatures increased by one degree, crop yields would increase, but if there is a three or four degree rise, it will have a catastrophic impact."

    Renewable Energy for Executives and Decision-Makers was organised by Bahrain University's College of Science in collaboration with the International Solar Energy Society (ISES), Arab Section and Germany.

    Other keynote speakers were Bahrain University applied physics professor and ISES chairman Professor Dr Waheeb Alnaser and Emirate Green Building Council primary founder Professor Dr Mohsen Aboulnaja.

    The event was co-sponsored by Unep, Gulf Finance House, GPIC, WMO, Bapco, Alba, Al Baraka Islamic Bank and the Electricity and Water Ministry.

    ====================================================================

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    Other Environment News

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New York Times: U.S. Rebuffs Germany on Greenhouse Gas Cuts

{Story feaured on Lemonde}

By HELENE COOPER and ANDREW C. REVKIN

    Published: May 26, 2007

    WASHINGTON, May 25 The United States has rejected Germany‘s proposal for deep long-

    term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, setting the stage for a battle that will pit President Bush against his European allies at next month‘s meeting of the world‘s richest countries.

    In unusually harsh language, Bush administration negotiators took issue with the German draft of the communiqué for the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, complaining that the proposal ―crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to.‖

    ―We have tried to tread lightly, but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position,‖ the American response said.

    Germany, backed by Britain and now Japan, has proposed cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who will be the host of the meeting in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm next month, has been pushing hard to get the Group of 8 to take significant action on climate change.

    It had been a foregone conclusion that the Western European members of the Group of 8

    Germany, Italy, France and Britain would back the reductions. But on Thursday, Prime

    Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan threw his lot in with the Europeans, and proposed cutting carbon emissions as part of a new framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol, whose mandatory caps on gases end in 2012.

    ―The Kyoto Protocol was the first, concrete step for the human race to tackle global warming, but we must admit that it has limitations,‖ Mr. Abe said at a conference in Tokyo. He specifically called on the United States and China, the biggest producers of carbon emissions, to lead the fight against global warming.

    The United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because of concerns about damage to the American economy. Bush administration officials have also balked because China and India are not part of it.

    The push back by the Bush administration over the German proposal has left many European diplomats furious. ―The United States, on this issue, is virtually isolated,‖ one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules, and then added, ―with the exception of other big polluters.‖

    Both Ms. Merkel and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain have, in private talks with President Bush, pushed for the United States to agree to the European proposal.

    Kristen A. Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House on environmental issues, said: ―All

    the G-8 countries are committed to pursuing an agreement. We just come at it from different perspectives.‖

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    A clearly disappointed Ms. Merkel, speaking to Germany‘s lower house of Parliament on Thursday, sought to lower expectations that Mr. Bush would agree to the more ambitious agenda sought by Europe and Japan. ―I can say quite openly that, today, I don‘t know whether we will succeed in that at Heiligendamm,‖ she said.

    The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world‘s population, produces between a fifth

    and a quarter of the world‘s emissions, according to government data.

    Emissions in Europe and the United States have been slowing of late, with a slight drop in the United States in 2006. But much more growth is forecast by various agencies on both sides of the Atlantic and particularly in Asia.

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    The Guardian : Climate change activists plan Heathrow camp

Friday May 25, 2007

    Climate change activists said yesterday that they expected more than 2,000 people from all over Britain to join west London residents in a mass direct action against plans to expand Heathrow airport.

    The activists announced that they would set up a "high impact" climate camp near the airport between August 14-21.

    "We are simply not going to sit by and let emissions from binge-flying make dangerous climate change become inevitable," said Leo Murray, a spokesman for the activist group Plane Stupid, one of the groups which is helping to organise the camp.

    Last summer, 600 people camped in Yorkshire in an attempt to shut down the Drax power station, the UK's single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. Since then, groups have invaded an airport runway, occupied airline offices and chained themselves to the coal belts at a power station.

    Geraldine Nicholson, chair of the west London No Third Runway action group, said: "BAA [which runs Heathrow] should not be surprised that people are planning to come from all over the country to protest at their expansion plans. This community will be destroyed if a third runway is built at Heathrow."

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    The New York Times: Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline

Charles Mason for the New York Times

    Newtok, Alaska, in spring, as viewed from its water tower. Boardwalks squish into the muck in Newtok, which erosion has turned into an island.

    Published: May 27, 2007

    NEWTOK, Alaska The sturdy little Cessnas land whenever the fog lifts, delivering children‘s bicycles, boxes of bullets, outboard motors and cans of dried oats. And then, with a

    rumble down a gravel strip, the planes are gone, the outside world recedes and this subarctic outpost steels itself once again to face the frontier of climate change.

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    ―I don‘t want to live in permafrost no more,‖ said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother‘s house. ―It‘s too muddy.

    Everything is crooked around here.‖

    The earth beneath much of Alaska is not what it used to be. The permanently frozen subsoil, known as permafrost, upon which Newtok and so many other Native Alaskan villages rest, is melting, yielding to warming air temperatures and a warming ocean. Sea ice that would normally protect coastal villages is forming later in the year, allowing fall storms to pound away at the shoreline.

    Erosion has made Newtok an island, caught between the ever widening Ninglick River and a slough to the north. The village is below sea level, and sinking. Boardwalks squish into the spring muck. Human waste, collected in ―honey buckets‖ that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyeshot in a village where no point is more than a five-minute walk from any other. The ragged wooden houses have to be adjusted regularly to level them on the shifting soil.

    Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion.

    Some villages plan to hunker down behind sea walls built or planned by the Army Corps of

    Engineers, at least for now. Others, like Newtok, have no choice but to abandon their patch of tundra. The corps has estimated that to move Newtok could cost $130 million because of its remoteness, climate and topography. That comes to almost $413,000 for each of the 315 residents.

    Not that anyone is offering to pay.

    After all, climate change is raising questions about how to deal with drought, wildfires, hurricanes and other threats that affect so many more people and involve large sums of money. ―We haven‘t sat down as a society and said, ‗How are we going to adapt to this?‘ ‖ said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University and a lead author of a recent report by

    a United Nations panel on the impacts and vulnerability presented by climate change. ―Just like we haven‘t sat down and said, ‗How are we going to reduce emissions?‘ And both have to be done.‖

    Amid the uncertainty, the residents of Newtok hear the skeptics, who question the price tag for moving such a small, seemingly inconsequential place. But residents here emphasize that they are a federally recognized American Indian tribe, and they shudder when asked why they cannot just move to an existing village or a city like Fairbanks.

    They say their identity is rooted in their isolation, however qualified it has become over the last century by outside influences. It was the government, they say, that insisted decades ago that they and so many other villages abandon their nomadic ways and pick a place to call home. The current village site was once only a winter camp, and the people of Newtok say they are not to blame just because they are now among the first climate refugees in the United States.

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    ―The federal government, they‘re the ones who came into our lives and took away some of our values,‖ said Nick Tom Jr., 49, the former Newtok tribal administrator. ―They came in and said, ‗You aren‘t civilized. We‘re going to educate you.‘ That was hard for our grandparents.‖

    Newtok‘s leaders say the corps‘ relocation estimates are inflated, that they intend to move piecemeal rather than in one collective migration, which they say will save money. But they say government should pay, no matter the cost if only there were a government agency charged

    with doing so. There is not a formal process by which a village can apply to the government to relocate.

    ―They grossly overestimate it, and that‘s why federal and state agencies are afraid to step in,‖ said Stanley Tom, the current tribal administrator and the brother of Nick Tom Jr. ―They don‘t want to spend that much money.‖

    Still, Newtok has made far more progress toward moving than other villages, piecing together its move grant by grant.

    Through a land swap with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, it has secured a new site,

    on Nelson Island, nine miles south. It is safe from the waves on a windy rise above the Ninglick River. They call it Mertarvik, which means ―getting water from the spring.‖ They tell their children they will grow up in a place where E. coli does not thrive in every puddle, the way it does here.

    With the help of state agencies, it won a grant of about $1 million to build a barge landing at the new site. Bids go out this summer, and construction could be complete next year, providing a platform to unload equipment for building roads, water and sewer systems, houses and a new landing strip.

    Village Safe Water, part of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, plans to use money budgeted for repairs at the existing village to drill for water this summer at the new site. The corps is drafting a plan to build initial roads and an emergency center that would serve as a base of operations during construction. But the plan, for which the corps has not yet released a budget, needs financing from Congress.

    There is no plan yet for how the village would move entire buildings, such as the Newtok School, which is relatively new and serves the village‘s 125 children, preschool through high

    school.

    So far, said Sally Russell Cox, a planner with the state division of community advocacy, ―This is all on sticky notes.‖

    Senator Ted Stevens, the lion of Alaska politics, is now the ranking minority member on the Senate‘s new Disaster Recovery subcommittee.

    His aides say that, while he has yet to push for money to move specific villages, he was instrumental in passing legislation in 2005 that gave the corps broader authority to help. Despite the state‘s past success at winning federal money, they say Alaska lawmakers are hemmed in by new scrutiny of so-called earmarks for special projects, Mr. Stevens‘s status in the minority of the new Congress, public detachment from issues facing rural Alaska and needs in other places, like New Orleans.

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And village relocation in Alaska is not a priority at the White House. The president‘s proposed

    budget includes $1 million that could go to that purpose, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Saturday.

    Bruce Sexauer, a senior planner with the corps in Alaska who wrote a report assessing the needs of various villages, said the residents of Newtok are descendants of the people who came across the land bridge from Asia. ―They are the very first of the people that were inhabiting North America thousands of years ago. Talk about a rich and unique American culture. Is it worth it? There‘s more to it than just economics.‖

    The administrative leaders of Newtok are mostly men in their 40s, nearly all of them related. They are widely praised by outsiders for their initiative and determination to relocate. Yet nearly any place would seem an improvement over Newtok as it exists today, and not all of its problems are rooted in climate change. Some are almost universal to Alaskan villages, which have struggled for decades to reconcile their culture of subsistence hunting and fishing with the expectations and temptations of the world outside.

    Excrement dumped from honey buckets is piled on the banks of the slow-flowing Newtok River, not far from wooden shacks where residents take nightly steam baths. An elderly man drains kerosene into a puddle of snowmelt. Children pedal past a walrus skull left to rot, tusks intact, in the mud beside a boardwalk that serves as a main thoroughfare. There are no cars here, just snow machines, boats and all-terrain vehicles that tear up the tundra.

    Village elders speak their native Yupik more often than they speak English. They remember when the village was a collection of families who moved with the seasons, making houses from sod, fishing from Nelson Island in the summer, hunting caribou far away in the winter. But, said Agnes Tommy, ―It‘s getting hard to remember.‖

    On a recent afternoon, Ms. Tommy, 84, watched a DVD of ―The Day After‖ while her 17-year-

    old granddaughter, Nicole, a high school dropout, sat across the room with Eminem‘s ―Encore‖

    thumping in her headphones. Nicole mused about moving to Anchorage, although she has never been there.

    Many men still travel with the seasons to hunt and fish. Some will take boats into Bristol Bay this summer to catch salmon alongside commercial fishermen from out of state. But the waterproof jacket sewn from seal gut that Stanley Tom once wore is now stuffed inside a display case at Newtok School next to other relics.

    Now Mr. Tom puts on a puffy parka to walk the few hundred feet he travels to work. He checks his e-mail messages to see if there is news from the corps or from Senator Stevens while his brother, Nick, sketches out a budget proposal for a nonprofit corporation to help manage the relocation, presuming the money arrives.

    Nick Tom said the move could bring jobs for young people who may otherwise be tempted to leave. Other young people talk only of leaving for the new village.

    ―They‘re going to move us to a mountain,‖ said Annie Kassaiuli, 11, eating a burrito in the school cafeteria. ―We can pick berries.‖

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Enviroment News Service: European President Says Climate Change EU's Top Priority

    BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 25, 2007 (ENS) - The European Union has put the inter-linked challenges of energy and climate change at the very top of its agenda, European Commission President Jose Barroso told an international audience gathered to consider European policy in preparation for the G8 Summit in Germany in June.

    Held Thursday in Brussels, the public conversation with President Barroso was sponsored by the French Institute of International Relations - Institut français des relations internationales, IFRI - France's independent international relations center which conducts policy-oriented research and analysis of global political affairs.

    "What we have to ask ourselves, as Europeans," said Barroso, "is where these issues are in the global agenda. Are they at the top? If not, how do we get them there?"

    "I am not saying action to fight climate change is free. It has costs," the President said. "What I am saying is that the cost of action, of taking out a collective insurance policy, is small compared to the risks we face." And, he reiterated, "the longer we wait the higher the price we will have to pay."

    Barroso said climate change requires a "collective" response, a "grand bargain" with several key elements - the use of market mechanisms, with connections between different markets; technology, including its transfer; public investment; research and development; and trade policy.

    The G8 meeting hosted by Germany at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm June 6 through 8 is one milestone "on the way to that grand bargain," Barroso said.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is eager to forge an international agreement on combating climate change at the G8 summit, despite the opposition of the United States. She has the strong support of the European President. "We will get there I have no doubts

    about that - because the facts on the ground and our publics will force the issue if we do not move ourselves ... And we have no time to waste," Barroso said.

    The Barroso-led European Commission is mid-way through its five year term of office. During a mid-term assessment in April, a coalition of 10 environmental groups that the Commission "could try harder" to lead the world in addressing the challenge of climate change. "We conclude that this Commission made a poor start, paying lip-service to or marginalizing the environment agenda," said the Green 10 Coalition which includes BirdLife International, Climate Action Network Europe, CEE Bankwatch, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, the Health and Environment Alliance, Greenpeace Europe, International Friends of Nature, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, and the WWF European Policy Office.

    The Coalition expressed worry that the Barroso-led European Commission "appears to lack vision on how to ensure peace and prosperity in the face of climate change and ecosystem breakdown, and how to prepare Europe for the related economic, social and environmental challenges ahead."

    "Its increased attention to climate change in recent months arouses some hope," the Coalition said, "although there is still no sign of a coherent agenda to make the EU the world‘s most energy and resource-efficient economy."

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