UN to Launch Oil Contamination Assessment in Southern Region (All Africa)
UN Environment Programme to Assess 300 Oil-Polluted Sites in Nigeria's Ogoniland (Yuba Net)
Is water scarcity a reality or the work of scare-mongers? (Daily Nation)
Bringing water to Africa’s poor (All Africa)
Coughing up for climate change (News24)
Dyer shares dark predictions (Owen Sound Sun)
St Lucia represented at Fifth Trondheim Conference (Caribbean Net News)
DIP receives appreciation certificate from Dubai Municipality for adopting environment protection measures (AME Info)
Antigua hosts major climate change meeting (Antigua Sun)
Other Environment News
Experts say climate change threatens national security (Reuters)
Environment-US: Global Warming Is Biggest Security Threat (IPS)
Japan's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise 6.4% From 1990 Levels (Bloomberg)
Rich nations' climate emissions up, near record (Reuters)
U.S. Mayors Seek Federal Help to Protect Climate (ENS)
Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats (Washington Post)
Clinton Sees Opportunity in Climate Woes (AP)
Blair calls on US, Europe to engage with China on climate change, global issues (AP)
Egypt issues anti-pollution fatwa (Independent)
Rubbish plans flawed, says mayor (BBC News)
Bahrain to get tough on environment violators (Khaleej Times)
Central Africa's "Most Beautiful Waterfall" Under Threat (IPS)
Une conférence organisée par Heïnrich Böll pour tenter de sonder ce danger (L'Orient-Le Jour)
Les pompes à carbone s’essoufflent (Liberation)
Clean green NZ battles climate change threat to trade, tourism (AFP)
A heap where nothing is just trash (Los Angeles Times)
NW Chinese province invests billions to protect environment at Silk Road city (Xinhua)
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
Environment News from the UN Daily News of 5 November 2007
Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of 5 November 2007
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
Reuters: Henin concerned about Beijing pollution
By Simon Baskett
MADRID () - World number one Justin Henin is concerned about pollution levels at next year's Olympic Games after withdrawing from a tournament in Beijing earlier this season because she suffers from asthma.
"I have had asthma for a few months now and I felt very bad in New York at the end of the tournament so I was really concerned about Beijing," the Belgian told a news conference in Madrid on Monday.
Henin said had to withdraw from the China Open in Beijing in September because of her asthma.
"I had to go back and see a specialist to start other treatments but I'm feeling better now. I was pretty disappointed because I wanted to play the tournament and get used to the conditions."
The level of air pollution in Beijing and its possible effects on athletes' health has been one of the biggest issues facing organisers of next year's Olympics.
A recent report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) highlighted concerns about air quality in the city although organisers have said conditions will be improved by the time of the Games.
Henin said that she was hopeful the conditions would improve enough to allow her to take part in the Games to defend the gold medal she won in 2004 in Athens.
"It's true that Beijing is going to be tough at the Olympic Games with the problem I have but now it seems that everything is under control which is important because the Olympic Games are a very important goal for me in 2008," she said.
Henin begins the defence of her WTA Championships title in Madrid on Tuesday with a round-robin match against 20-year-old Russian Anna Chakvetadze.
All Africa: UN to Launch Oil Contamination Assessment in Southern Region UN News Service (New York)
5 November 2007
The United Nations environment and development agencies are joining forces to launch a comprehensive assessment of oil contamination in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta as part of a broader Nigerian Government-led peace and reconciliation programme.
Exploration and production of oil in the area, which began in the 1950s, were suspended in the 1990s due to public unrest. Spills from this period are still problematic, and the lack of maintenance and damage to infrastructure has led to further contamination in the past 15 years.
UN officials are in Abuja today to finalize details of the project, expected to be completed at the end of next year, which seeks to ascertain the nature and extent of oil contamination in Ogoniland.
They are meeting with other UN agencies in the country as well as the Nigerian Minister of Environment, representatives from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.
"The assessment will seek to identify, evaluate and minimize the immediate and long-term human, social, health and economic impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, as well as those related to environmentally and economically important ecosystems," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Teams of international and local experts will carry out assessments in more than 300 sites to determine oil's impacts on land, water, agriculture, fisheries and in the air, as well as its effects on biodiversity and human health.
The project, based in Port Harcourt with smaller offices in Eleme, Tai, Khana and Gokana, seeks to benefit the community through employment and capacity-building activities.
After the teams report their findings, environmentally acceptable recommendations will be made to remedy the situation.
The new initiative comes following a request from the Nigerian Government, and will be conducted by the Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It will operate within the Programme Framework for Improving Human Development in the Niger Delta, led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Yuba Net: UN Environment Programme to Assess 300 Oil-Polluted Sites in Nigeria's Ogoniland
A comprehensive environmental assessment of oil-impacted sites in the Ogoni region of Nigeria's Niger Delta is to be launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The move follows a request by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and forms part of the broader government-led peace and reconciliation process in Ogoniland. Local communities and partners will be supporting UNEP to undertake the evaluation.
Today senior officials from UNEP will be in Abuja to seal the final details of the assessment, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.
The UNEP team in Abuja will be holding talks with the Minister of Environment of Nigeria; the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency; the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), and officials of other UN agencies in the country.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The assessment will seek to identify, evaluate and minimize the immediate and long-term human, social, health and economic impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, as well as those related to environmentally and economically important ecosystems".
"We will be deploying several teams of international and local experts in order to conduct field-based assessments in over 300 sites to identify the impacts of oil on environmental systems such as land, water, agriculture, fisheries and air – as well as the direct and indirect effects on biodiversity and human health," he added.
On the basis of the assessment findings, UNEP will also make recommendations for the appropriate remediation activities needed to rehabilitate the land to a condition that is environmentally acceptable, according to international standards.
The project will be undertaken in a manner that maximizes benefits to the community – through employment, capacity-building activities, information and consultation.
The UNEP project in Ogoniland will be run from a main field office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but smaller Community Liaison offices will be opened in the communities of Eleme, Tai, Khana and Gokana.
The Post-Conflict & Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) has worked in post-conflict settings such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as in countries affected by major disasters such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Because conflicts and disasters are so closely intertwined with the environment, proper environmental management and governance is essential for long-term peace, stability and security in any conflict- or disaster-prone country.
Daily Nation: Is water scarcity a reality or the work of scare-mongers?
Story by COSMAS BUTUNYI
Publication Date: 2007/11/06
An interesting scenario is emerging as scientists clash over the gloomy projections of the water situation in the country.
The Water Management Programme argues that Kenya has enough water to support up to seven times its current population, disputing climate change experts’ predictions.
Mr Maimbo Malesu, the regional coordinator of the programme, which works under International Centre for Research on Agroforestry (Icraf), argues that projections by the climate change experts are mathematically wrong, as they do not take into consideration all the available volumes of water.
According to findings of a new study by Water Management Programme, what is required is only change of policy to embrace rainwater harvesting.
Mr Malesu dismisses the gloomy picture of future that is touted by climate change experts, saying: “Despite accounting for only a third of the global water capacity, blue water, which is made up of conventional sources of renewable surface and ground water, is all that is usually considered during planning.”
An important resource
The rest of the water - called green water - he explains, goes to waste and is taken up by plants. “It is the green water, which when exploited, can make a country rich.”
Rainwater is an important resource that most of the time is left to go to waste. Apart from stemming the perennial water shortage, rain water harvesting holds the promise of reducing incidences of floods.
Water is an emotive issue in Kenya and has been at the centre of conflicts in the arid and semi-arid areas. Scarcity of the resource has been known to fuel tension in some parts.
Slum dwellers in most parts of the country go for days without the commodity, but when they get it, are ripped off by water vendors. Lack of infrastructure, occasioned by the poor planning in slums, has been blamed for this.
In areas with sufficient rainfall, runoff develops into floods that unleash havoc. Residents of Budalang’i, Nyando and other regions that are routinely hit by floods, have vivid memories of their experiences with a mass of untamed water.
But the hostility arising from lack of water and the inconveniences of floods could soon be history, if policy makers heed the findings of this new study.
The findings, contained in a report titled Mapping the potential of rainwater harvesting technologies in Africa, recommend investment in rainwater harvesting technologies.
“Scarcity of water in Kenya and the rest of Africa has nothing to do with lack of water, but rather lack of investment in appropriate technologies,” Mr Malesu says.
Rainwater harvesting involves capturing rainwater and directing it into reservoirs, where it is stored for later use. Rainwater can be tapped from either roof tops or the ground and stored in ponds, earthen dams and cisterns.
The stored water can not only be used for agriculture and domestic purposes, but also for environmental eco-tourism and industrial purposes.
Rainwater harvesting is an ancient means of conservation in parts of Africa and Asia.
Apart from designing reservoirs for storage, he recommends, water saving technologies such as drip irrigation and conservation agriculture.
Conservation agriculture includes planting different crops that reduce loss of soil by erosion and evaporation of moisture. Rainwater can also be harvested off the farm and directed into the area with crops using channels.
Mr Malesu says that reservoirs, which should be steep-sloped to impede thriving of mosquito larvae, could also be used in flood-prone areas for irrigation and livestock management.
To sustain forests
According to the study, more than 10 per cent of Kenya receives above 400mm of rainfall.
This, Mr Malesu argues, is a lot of water, which if harvested and stored, can supply water to dry areas such as North Eastern Province with sufficient water.
However, he says, not all the water can be harvested for domestic use as over a third of rainfall is needed to sustain forests, grasslands and healthy river flows.
Rain water harvesting, he added, is an efficient coping strategy against climate change, which experts predict may increase water scarcity in Africa where a large proportion of inhabitants lack access to the resource.
The chairperson of the Water Services Regulatory Board, Ms Jane Njagi, concurs that rain water harvesting is a viable option since Kakamega, Kisii, Kericho and several other parts are endowed with sufficient rainfall.
“If all this water was harvested and stored, the country would make great strides towards provision of safe clean drinking water,” she adds.
Moreover, if harvested hygienically, rainwater does not need additional purification as it is in a natural form.
Apart from the traditional water reservoirs, even sand is usable.
In fact, experts say that more water can be extracted from sandy beds compared to riverbeds with fine textured sand. Sand dams are also a common water storage facility in Ukambani and other parts of Eastern Province.
Apart from conserving water, sand dams also help in rehabilitation of gullies and provide a base for construction of riverbed crossing.
In addition to this, the Water Resources Management Authority is also involved in an initiative to promote rainwater harvesting beyond the traditional roof catchments.
Ms Margaret Abira, the regional manager of the authority’s Lake Victoria South catchment area, says that the initiative, dubbed green-blue water initiative, encourages soil and water conservation.
“The initiative is promoting practices that encourage soil and water conservation on farms,” she adds.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body established by the World Meteorological Organisation and Unep, estimates that by 2020, up to 250 million people in Africa will be at risk of water stress, a figure that is expected to double three decades later.
Until six years ago, Eugenia Uwamahoro and several of her eight children had to trek 2 kilometres each day to a river to get about 140 litres of water for drinking, cooking, washing and feeding her four cows. There was a water pump in her village, Nyakabingo, in Rwanda’s Gicumbi district, but it hardly functioned. Then the Rwandan government, with financial support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), repaired the pump, and the community contracted a private manager to maintain it.
“It has improved my life,” Ms. Uwamahoro told African Renewal. “Now we can rest.” Not only has the pump saved her considerable time and effort, but she also gets her household’s daily water supply at lower cost than she would have from the private village water carriers who cart it up from the river.
Many villagers “are happy to pay for the improved service,” says Kamaru Tstoneste, who operates the pump. But some villagers cannot afford the cost. So community leaders compiled a list of the neediest households, and review it from time to time. “This group gets an agreed quantity of free supply,” Mr. Tstoneste told Africa Renewal. Still, he adds, “Old habits die hard. There are those who refuse to pay for water and still go to the river.”
Ms. Uwamahoro and her neighbours are fortunate. Not only do they have access to water, but they also have some choice as to its source and cost. Most Africans are not so lucky. Across the continent, half of all rural households do not have access to clean drinking water; they must rely on water sources that may be unhealthy. The situation is better in urban areas, where 80 per cent of the population is covered. Yet more than half of city and town dwellers do not have a tap in their house or yard, report the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
The irony is that Africa has abundant fresh water: large lakes, big rivers, vast wetlands and limited but widespread groundwater. Only 4 per cent of the continent’s available fresh water is currently being used.
African leaders have declared their commitment to achieving universal access to clean water, through their development blueprint, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and through their support for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted by world leaders in 2000.
The seventh MDG is to cut in half, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. In sub-Saharan Africa, that proportion was reduced from 52 per cent to 44 per cent between 1990 and 2004. But the target, 26 per cent, still remains very distant.
Some countries, such as Senegal, Gabon, Uganda and South Africa, are significantly increasing the number of new water connections and expanding delivery in urban areas, through both public and private investment. Senegal, reported the UN in a June 2007 assessment of progress towards the MDGs, “is on track to achieving the water and sanitation goals through a national investment programme financed with donor money.”
Africa faces a number of constraints in achieving expanded access to clean water. These include an insufficient number of skilled personnel and effective institutions. In some countries, water scarcity or pollution also pose particular challenges. The most common hindrance is the limited resources available to most countries. “Inadequate financing is the single most important factor affecting the continent’s fresh water delivery abilities,” Peter Akari, chief water policy officer of the African Water Facility at the African Development Bank (ADB), told Africa Renewal.
No single solution
From where will the money come? Donor assistance, as in Senegal, is one source. But donors are likely to provide only a portion of the estimated $5 bn needed annually to achieve the MDG target.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that total budgetary spending in the water and sanitation sectors in sub-Saharan Africa is currently around $800 mn a year. This amount could likely be increased to $2.5 bn through “cost recovery” measures by service providers (charging users for water) and financial mobilization by local communities. Governments should also be able to increase their own budgetary allocations somewhat. In addition, a number of countries, at the urging of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have sought to enlist private investment in expanding water facilities.
“There is not one single solution to ensuring everyone gains access to water,” says the UK charity WaterAid. “So it is impossible to say in general terms whether it is a good idea for private, public or community organizations to be involved in the delivery and management of services. Each circumstance should be looked at individually and a suitable pro-poor, affordable and sustainable solution found to fit each community.”
The UNDP, in its Human Development Report 2006, agrees. In seeking to expand access to clean water, the report comments: “Decisions about the appropriate public-private mix have to be taken case by case on [the basis of] local values and conditions.”
Ultimately, argues Henry Ndede, a water coordinator for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya, African governments have the responsibility to reach the over 300 million people who are currently deprived of improved drinking water. Governments, he told Africa Renewal, “must put in place the right water policies to embrace the participation of the private sector in water provision. With the absence of policies, it becomes difficult.”
He cites the example of Kenya, where a water policy developed in 1999 has led to improvements in the quality of water from the country’s public system, raised revenue collection and brought more boreholes to rural communities. A 2002 water act decentralized the management of water resources and delivery. Local public companies were formed to manage water in municipalities. They largely achieved their goal of increasing the number of customers served with improved water by 50 per cent and reducing water wastage by over 40 per cent, without raising tariffs.
Some publicly owned water utilities in Africa “are efficiently run using local management structures,” notes Stephen Donkor, a senior adviser on water issues for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their achievements, he says, counter the negative image held by some that African public utilities are inherently inefficient and can only be improved by the introduction of private owners or contractors. What these successful public utilities “do right should be shared with their sister institutions,” in other countries, Mr. Donkor told Africa Renewal.
Yet even in Kenya, equitable access remains a challenge. “In the urban areas, the infrastructure caters for the planned, but not the unplanned, settlements,” reports the Washington-based consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. “For those in planned settlements, there is access to piped water. [But the] reliable flow of water varies from area to area.”
Cutbacks and privatization
Into the 1980s, water provision was mainly a state activity, carried out by governments through public utilities. These were financed through government budgets, relying mainly on donor support and taxes. Since they were not run on a for-profit basis, tariffs were minimal for piped connections. Some of those without house connections in towns and in some rural communities got water from public standpipes, mostly for free. But these publicly run systems left out millions of people.
Economic crisis and the austerity policies promoted by the World Bank and IMF obliged African governments to cut back spending on public utilities, including water, and in a number of cases to privatize existing facilities.
“The expectation was that the private sector, mainly multinational water companies, will come in and take over public water companies, running them as profit-making entities while investing and expanding the network,” Mr. Donkor explains. “But this wasn’t the case. Private investors did not find the water sector in Africa financially attractive. The returns were not enough to justify their investments.”
In the 1990s, foreign companies were offered greater incentives, such as tax holidays and the full repatriation of profits, in an effort to draw them into the sector. But even then, private investors generally preferred Asia and Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa thus suffered from decades of under-investment in water facilities. Given this, and the poor management that afflicted utilities in many African countries, the largely publicly run sector could not maintain existing levels of service, let alone make new connections.
Pitfalls of ‘cost recovery’ As part of the push to promote private participation in the water sector in Africa and other developing regions, “cost recovery” became an increasingly common practice. For the private companies themselves, the application of higher water tariffs and user fees was central to turning a profit. But for the public utilities as well, increasing tariffs was also seen as a way to stem financial losses or increase resources for further investment.
For many people who never had access to piped water or had previously gotten water from private carters who charged exorbitant prices, the new tariffs may have seemed worth it. But for many of Africa’s poorest, the costs were prohibitive.
Overall, South Africa has achieved remarkable progress in expanding access to clean water. Under the old apartheid system, about one-third of the population, overwhelmingly in the country’s then-segregated black communities, did not have access to safe water. But when the African National Congress came to power in 1994, the new constitution proclaimed access to water as a basic human right. By 2004 about 88 per cent of the population had access to clean water.
As a matter of policy, all those with access to piped water are entitled to receive 25 litres per day at no charge. But beyond that threshold, users must pay, at a steeply graduated rate. Both private companies and local public water utilities have strictly enforced the cost-recovery practice, affecting poor households most severely. In 2002, the Johannesburg-based Rural Development Services Network, a non-governmental organization, estimated that some 10 million people had their water supply cut off at one point or another over the previous eight years for failing to pay their bills.
Two years earlier a major cholera outbreak swept the province of KwaZulu-Natal, killing some 300 people. Health officials found that many people in the most affected areas had resorted to using water from polluted rivers and lakes nearby, because they had been cut off from their water taps for non-payment of bills. The government responded by installing public standpipes in many low-income communities and by introducing flat low rates.
Summarizing the trade-off between expanded access and costs, the UNDP’s Human Development Report stated, “The challenge for all providers, public and private, is to extend access and overcome the price disadvantage faced by poor households.”
New management in Ghana
Ghana, in West Africa, attempted to solve its difficulties by bringing in new, outside managers for its water utility. The hope was that they would operate it more efficiently and along commercial lines.
The public water utility, the Ghana Water Company, Ltd. (GWCL), had previously been able to provide water to about half of the country’s population of 20 million. But it started losing money for a variety of reasons, including unpaid bills and illegal connections. As a result, it could not make any significant repairs or further extend the system. In 2005, officials in Accra estimated that the company lost half of its daily delivery of 450 mn litres through leakages from old pipes.
Ruby Amable of Ashongman, a middle-income residential area in Accra, was one of the utility’s many customers to lose service. The supply from her private connection worsened to three times a year, until it ran completely dry. She tried to fetch water from a neighbouring area. But that area also “hasn’t had working pipes for the past two years,” Ms. Amable told Africa Renewal. Yet she and her neighbours continue to receive regular monthly bills from the water company for simply having a connection in their homes.
To get water for her family of four, Ms. Amable had little option but to buy it from private water tanker operators. She has to spend the equivalent of $50 each month to fill her overhead tank.
At the urging of the World Bank, the government restructured the GWCL. In 2001 it increased water tariffs by more than 90 per cent. To make the GWCL more financially viable and to attract potential investors, the government also wrote off $100 mn in debts that the company owed.
In 2005, the government managed to secure a $103 mn grant from the World Bank, and bilateral donors provided an additional $17 mn. The government hoped that the fresh money would enable the GWCL to replace obsolete equipment and repair leaking pipes. It also set a goal of installing some 50,000 new household connections and 350 public standpipes by 2011 in Ghana’s main towns.
As a condition for the World Bank grant, the government had to agree to bring in a private water company to manage the GWCL. Through an international tender, Aqua Vitens Rand, Ltd. (AVRL), a joint subsidiary of two multinational water companies, Vittens of the Netherlands and Rand Water of South Africa, won a five-year management contract, and began running the GWCL’s delivery system in January 2006. Maintenance of the system and investments in new equipment and extensions continued to be the responsibility of the public company.
Nearly two years later, many customers are still looking at dry pipes. GWCL officials blame Ghana’s energy crisis, the result of low water levels in the reservoir of the Akosombo hydroelectric dam. AVRL’s managers emphasize investment problems. “The target of 50,000 new service connections is in progress, but it is slow because extension services in the target areas have not been done,” Stanley Martey, communications manager for AVRL, told Africa Renewal.
Domestic critics of the AVRL contract agree that investment is important, but go further to question the wisdom of bringing in outside managers. “The problem with Ghana’s water distribution system is not exactly that of management, but rather investment,” Steve Manteaw, an executive member of the Ghana National Coalition Against Water Privatization, told Africa Renewal . “The pipelines are old and there is a need to inject massive capital investment.”
The World Bank insists that improved management and investment are essential. “Turning around GWCL so it becomes a viable utility requires both investments and efficiency gains,” says the bank’s senior water specialist, Ventura Bengoechea. “The latter are expected as a result of the management contract, provided that the investments are made. Massive investments per se would not change the situation of the GWCL.”
For many African governments, the challenge is not only finding more money for vital investments. It is also acquiring the technical know-how to use the resources most effectively and the institutions capable of managing them properly.
In countries such as Uganda or Mozambique, each with a population of close to 20 million, explains Mr. Akari of the ADB, achieving the MDG goal will require installing “some 1,000 new point sources of hand-dug wells and drilled boreholes fitted with hand pumps, plus 30 piped systems every year, as well as establishing utility operators in five major cities and 15 secondary cities.”
To do that, says Mr. Akari, such countries will need professionals with the skills to plan, budget, design, supervise and construct the facilities, as well as engineering, drilling and construction equipment. In some African countries, especially those emerging from conflict, such capacity is simply not available. About a third of African countries have the capacity to implement investments, if direct financing can be secured. But in the rest, such capacity needs to be built, perhaps as a component of project financing.
Currently, explains Mr. Donkor of the ECA, “Most grants come with informal conditions attached which force African governments to hire experts — consultants, technical management and designers — from donor countries to implement the projects.” This in turn makes it hard for countries to retain national water professionals, he adds. “Leaving out local expertise in the implementation of such projects makes the water sector unattractive, compelling many of the professionals to leave.”
To address this problem, the UN-Water/Africa network — which comprises various UN agencies, the NEPAD Secretariat and the ADB — is setting up a directory of African water experts. By making it easier for such experts to serve in other African countries, the initiative will not only help foster regional integration, but also enhance the long-term maintenance of water projects in the continent.
The way forward towards achieving wider access to clean water, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated on 22 March, World Water Day, includes “strengthening institutional capacity and governance at all levels, promoting more technology transfer, mobilizing more financial resources and scaling up good practices and lessons learned.”
China.org: Environmental protection: priority for Chinese girl
"I want these four apples and I don't need a plastic bag," Wang Fengzhu, a junior at Huazhong Agricultural University said to the salesman working in the school's fruit store. The salesman is a little surprised so he still puts the apples in a plastic bag and hands them to her. Wang adroitly takes the apples out, puts them in her black duffel bag and returns the plastic bag to the salesman.
Another salesman sees Wang and smiles: "No plastic bag girl again!"
It's Wang's habit to go out shopping with her duffel bag. "It just came back from Japan with me," Wang says pointing at her black duffel bag. Every time Wang saves a plastic bag, she feels a sense of achievement.
Wang was born in 1986 and was elected to the Tunza Youth Advisory Council of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on 30 August 2007.
She attended the TUNZA-NEAYEN in Tokyo, Japan this September.
Wang speaks fluent English. She is also very talkative. More than 180 delegates from 145 countries participated in the UNEP's meeting held in Germany this August. Wang talked about the Korean star Rain with Koreans and the footballer Kaka with Brazilians… Most of the delegates got acquainted with her in less than a week.
Before the election for the Tunza Youth Advisory, each delegate had a last chance to give a speech. Wang happened to bump her head on the last night and had a bandage tied up around her head.
"I just donated my blood to this meeting and I believe that I can do much better in the future," Wang said. Her joke won everybody's applause; ultimately she was elected to the Tunza Youth Advisory Council of the UNEP.
Environmental protection has always been Wang's priority.
When she was in Japan this September, Disneyland could be seen from the window of her room. She gave up the opportunity to visit it even though it had been her childhood dream to go there. "I didn't want to miss the chance to communicate with other delegates about environmental protection," Wang said.
Wang likes reading books on environmental protection. She learned a lot about London fog and the Los Angeles photochemical smog episode when she was in elementary school.
A year and a half ago Wang became a member of the Green Association of HZAU (Huazhong Agricultural University, based in Wuhan City in central China.) And there she participated in her first environmental protection activity.
She spent her first college summer vacation near Liangzi Lake and Huama Lake in Ezhou, Hubei Province. She and her fellows taught local kids lessons on environmental protection for 11 days.
In the games section, Wang asked students to write down the names of the animals that they knew on the blackboard. And then she asked the kids: "We chop down trees everyday, where will the birds be if they lose their nests?" "They will be sad and then they will die," a kid said. Wang then erased the bird from the blackboard. "The kids were surprised. Many kids cried when the animals were all erased. They promised to protect animals and plants in the future," Wang said.
Those innocent tears moved Wang very much. "I decided to devote my strength to environmental protection so the kids wouldn't cry any more," she explained.
When Wang was in Germany for the meeting, an old German man sat beside her. Wang said to him using the German that she just learned: "Good morning, it is really fragrant here." The old man's answer shocked Wang. "That's because there's no pollution here. It's the fragrance of the nature." Wang thought for a moment, "China will have the same fragrance if you come to Beijing in 2008," she replied firmly.
Environmental protection is Wang's priority but she thinks that her environmental efforts start with small things.
She often takes a pair of chopsticks with her and uses them when eating in school's dining hall or eating off campus.
Once a student in her classroom tore up a piece of paper and dropped it on the floor. Wang picked it up quickly. The student was very embarrassed and put the wastepaper in his pocket. "What I did may change his view on environmental protection," Wang said proudly.
Greeting cards are everywhere with the advent of Christmas and the New Year. Wang and other volunteers in the Green Association advocated "sending fruits instead of cards." And they will deliver the fruits for free.
Wang is not alone. The Green Association has more than 1000 members. Most colleges in Wuhan have set up associations for environmental protection. These associations have good communications with each other and conduct joint activities.
Wang's aim is to become a postgraduate student in sociology to improve her theory and knowledge. After graduation, she wants to be a professional environmentalist to make China's mountains greener, China's water cleaner.
London - Millions of people around the world are willing to make personal sacrifices, including paying higher bills, to help redress climate change, a global survey said on Monday.
The survey found 83% of those questioned believed lifestyle changes would be necessary to cut emissions of climate warming carbon gases.
The survey, conducted by two polling organisations for the BBC World Service, covered 22 000 people in 21 countries.
In 14 of the 21 countries from Canada to Australia, 61% overall said it would be necessary to increase energy costs to encourage conservation and reduce carbon emissions.
"People around the world recognise that climate change requires that people change their behaviour," said Steven Kull, director of the Programme on International Policy Attitudes which conducted the poll with GlobeScan.
"And that to provide incentives for those changes there will need to be an increase in the cost of energy that contributes to climate change," he added.
Scientists say carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport will push global average temperatures up by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century, causing floods, famines and violent storms putting millions at risk.
The response to climate taxes was more muted than that on raised energy prices, but it swung in favour if the revenue from those taxes was ring-fenced for use solely on measures to raise energy efficiency or develop clean energy sources.
There was also a greater acceptance of higher green taxes if they were offset by cuts in taxation elsewhere so the net effect on the individual's pocket was neutral.
"While few citizens welcome higher taxes, the poll suggests that national leaders could succeed in introducing a carbon tax on energy," said GlobeScan President Doug Miller.
"The key requirement is that their citizens trust that the resulting tax revenues will be invested in addressing climate change by increasing energy efficiency and developing cleaner fuels," he added.
The survey said the findings applied equally in China, which is building a coal-fired power station a week to feed its booming economy, and in the United States, which is the world's biggest carbon polluter - although China is fast catching up.
They will be ammunition for UN environment ministers when they meet on the Indonesian island of Bali in December amid urgent calls to agree to start talks on a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions which expires in 2012.
If Canada doesn't start selling its water, the U.S. will take it, columnist says
Posted By Scott Dunn
Canada must start selling its water to the United States before the Americans decide to take it and the country should also pay Alberta to stop tar sands production amid an emerging global climate crisis, international affairs columnist Gwynne Dyer said Monday.Global warming and its calamitous fallout coming over the rest of this century is the subject of Dyer’s next book. He described the sober picture of what might happen in a lecture to a nearly full house at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound.
The London-based, Canadian-born syndicated columnist said British policy makers are secretly worried about a scenario in which even a 2 C increase in daily average global temperatures would turn today’s agricultural breadbaskets into deserts.
The American midwest, the Mediterranean basin, the north Indian plain, the Australian wheat belt, “those areas will suffer catastrophic losses of rainfall and will see crop yields fall drastically,” Dyer said, clad in his trademark worn brown leather jacket.
He said that global temperature forecast is on the low side of a range that predicts it could get up to 6.4 C hotter by the end of the century. “So we’re in trouble.”
The numbers come from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of some 2,000 scientists, approved by their governments, under the United Nations’ environmental program.
With prime agricultural zones no longer productive, the hardest hit countries won’t be able to import food to feed their people and “lucky” countries will just be able to feed themselves. When the world’s food supply is hit hard, countries which can use force will try to take what they need, Dyer said.
“So Southern European and Mediterranean countries will look north to feed themselves. And the United States will look to water in Canada, which has one-sixth of the world’s fresh water and also stands to gain agricultural land due to global warming.
“It reminds you that everything is ultimately about politics or geopolitics. And that we’re not just going to be dealing with climactic problems. We’re going to be dealing with famine, massive migration and war if we’re not very lucky.”
Dyer said Canada should set the terms of water sales to the United States now. It should be taken from river outflows before they reach the oceans where, he said, the fresh water would otherwise be wasted. “So as long as you take it from the right place, I don’t see what we’re losing.”
Better to get the U.S. to pay the transportation costs and charge them for the water than wait for the U.S. to “kick the door down.”
“But everybody is going to have to face these kinds of contingencies in the best possible circumstances, which is 2 C of global warming, global heating by the end of the century.”
Dyer said the industrialized world could probably cut the required 85 per cent of emission within 40 years through conservation, renewable energy, technological innovation and much greater dependence on nuclear energy.
But developing countries can’t and won’t cut greenhouse gas emission without enormous amounts of help.
That means countries like Canada have to do more than their “fair share,” Dyer said, and that must include ceasing tar sands production “because they’re not viable long-term if we have any serious kind of targets” to cut greenhouse gas emissions . . . Any serious emissions controls will be busted if you go on expanding the tar sands. There’s no way you can do both.”
Dyer said given the jobs and economic prosperity tar sands megaprojects in Alberta generate and the province’s constitutional control over its resources, “bribery is the only option.”
Likewise, taxes might have to increase by 15 per cent to subsidize the conversion of industrializing countries like China to nuclear energy instead of coal. The notion that a Canadian politician would get elected after promising that drew chuckles.
“But you have to. That has got to be a viable, saleable electoral platform in this country and countries like ours in the next 10 years or we’re doomed,” Dyer said.
Dyer said that is possible to achieve. The world’s great powers aren’t at war, international institutions exist to enable talks and mass media can spread information about the environmental crisis directly to voters, who can pressure politicians worldwide.
Leaning on a lectern with hands clasped, Dyer said technology will need to be developed to buy some time, maybe by extracting carbon from the atmosphere and blocking sunlight from reaching the earth.
“Good luck to us all,” he concluded, bringing strong and sustained applause.
His lecture was organized by the Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning in honour of Bob Greenberg, a respected and well-liked retired professor and BALL lecturer who died this year.
Caribbean Net News: St Lucia represented at Fifth Trondheim Conference
Published on Monday, November 5, 2007
By Anselma Aimable
St Lucia Correspondent
CASTRIES, St Lucia: The 5th Trondheim Conference was held October 29, 2007 - November 2, 2007, hosted by the Norwegian government, in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). St Lucia and three other Caribbean countries, Haiti, Antigua and Grenada were represented at this meeting.
The conference, which was organised in collaboration with UNEP and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) sought to help participants understand the important role of biodiversity for human well being and for sustainable development.
The conference was entitled "Ecosystems and people - biodiversity for development - the road to 2010 and beyond." Focus was on why biodiversity is important for fighting poverty and for sustainable development and on difficult trade-offs in this regard.
These are key strategic issues to be discussed at the 9th Conference of the Parties of the CBD in May 2008, and the conference will provide advice to the CBD and this meeting a statement produced by the meeting will be sent to Bali, Indonesia at the Climate Change Conference of Parties meeting in December 2007 and at the Subsidary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) and Conference of Parties meeting of the Convention on Biodiversity in 2008.
There were about 300 participants from governments, key International organisations and institutions working on the issues involved.
Since 1993, the Trondheim Conferences on Biodiversity have provided an opportunity for policy makers, managers and scientists to have open and constructive dialogue on key issues being discussed under the CBD.
AME Info: DIP receives appreciation certificate from Dubai Municipality for adopting environment protection measures
Dubai Investments Park (DIP), a wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai Investments, has received a certificate of appreciation from Dubai Municipality for the various environment protection measures it has been adopting over the years.
United Arab Emirates: Monday, November 05 - 2007
Dubai Investments Park has adopted stringent measures to ensure that all factories within the Park operate with minimal impact on the environment. Industrial facilities being set up within DIP are required to obtain the Environmental Clearance Certificate from Dubai Municipality, after specifying details of all the solid waste discharges, water discharges and air emissions that will be produced, in addition to stating the measures taken to reduce the environmental impact.
DIP also coordinates with the Municipality to schedule site visits by environmental inspectors to ensure that all the factories operating in the Park are complying with the regulations of the municipality and the Environmental Clearance Certificate requirements.
"We are glad to receive this certificate from Dubai Municipality that reaffirms our commitment to reduce all forms of environmental pollution. As responsible corporate company we believe it is our duty to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that the operations of our tenant companies do not have an adverse affect on the natural environment. Over the years, we have been involved in several major environment protection initiatives in Dubai, in line with our sustainable development objectives,'said Omar Al Mesmar, General Manager, Dubai Investments Park.
Engineer Hamdan Al Shaer, Environmental Department Manager, Dubai Municipality, said: 'Dubai Investments Park has always been setting an example for other companies and industrial zones with regard to their commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment. All factories in the Park have strictly adhered to the environmental guidelines that we have prescribed, and we are certain that this certificate of appreciation will stimulate DIP to further boost their environmental initiatives.'
Last year, DIP participated in the global environmental campaign 'Clean Up the World', organised by Clean Up the World Pty Ltd, Australia, with the support of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which saw volunteers from DIP joining a Dubai Municipality team to clean up several residential, industrial and commercial areas in the Park. Further, in 2006, DIP planted 10,000 trees along the west roads of the Park and plans to plant another 22,000 trees during 2008.
Antigua Sun: Antigua hosts major climate change meeting
Monday November 05 2007
By Nikisha Smith
Chief Environment Officer Diann Black-Layne said significant efforts must be made to strengthen capacity building initiatives to ensure that all countries, but especially small island states, survive and overcome the challenges related to the negative impact of climate change.
Antigua and Barbuda is currently hosting the two-day United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Expert Workshop on Monitoring and Evaluating Capacity Building in Developing Countries.
Over 35 countries from around the world are participating including Tunisia, Tanzania, Uzbekistan and China, as well as organisations like the Global Environment Fund (GEF), UNEP, UNDP and CREP.
The UNFCCC Secretariat was asked to organise such a meeting in collaboration with the GEF before the 13th Conference of Parties (COP 13) in Bali next month in order to facilitate shared experiences and to discuss enhancement of the effectiveness of capacity-building on monitoring and evaluation.
At the opening ceremony, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Environment Sharon Peters said climate change poses a significant threat to tourism, Antigua and Barbuda’s primary economic activity, but in other cases it threatens human existence.
She also said that it is therefore necessary to develop the capacity of countries to address all of the negative impacts of climate change.
Black-Layne added that with a population of less than 100,000 Antigua and Barbuda is one that lacks the economy of scale to support and develop the full cadre of experts to effectively plan and manage its sustainable development needs. She however said people must strive to overcome the challenges nonetheless and the most important step is capacity building.
According to the Convention, capacity building should assist developing countries to build, develop, strengthen, enhance, and improve their capabilities to achieve the objectives of the Convention.
Ambassador Badger Asadi, the chair of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation, said that it is common knowledge that the success of the climate change process, as is the case with any other multilateral process, depends in the final analysis on the active and meaningful participation of a wide range of stakeholders, thus helping lesser developed countries to participate on the same level as developed countries.
He said that their discussions should centre on best practices that would help to identify ‘concrete’ next steps, well thought out options that will help the discussions in Bali.