UK, US, and Norway to fund drive to save world's forests and encourage sustainable agriculture to cut deforestation
A new $280m initiative to help save the world's remaining forests was launched by the UK, the US and Norway at the United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw on Wednesday.
Deforested area in BhutanWorld Bank
The money is aimed at encouraging the sustainable use of land, including ensuring that fewer forests are lost to agriculture – the biggest cause of deforestation – and that there is a market for sustainably produced forestry goods, including food, fibre and timber.
Norway is earmarking up to $135m, the UK $120 million and the US $25m for the first year.
But the contributors to the fund acknowledged that the money was not new, as it came from existing climate aid budgets. The plan, called BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, is aimed at kickstarting the REDD+ scheme, for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, which has been in the works for more than six years but is still not fully operational. The World Bank will be involved in its implementation.
Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, told the conference: "Our global forests are the lungs of the world, and protecting them is fundamental for our survival. When we hand these forests to future generations, we must be able to say we exercised our stewardship wisely and responsibly. This century, tree-cover the size of Greenland has been destroyed by logging, fire, disease and storms. We have the opportunity now to pull forests back from the brink – reducing emissions and safeguarding the wildlife, agriculture and other livelihoods that depend on the forests. We must not let that opportunity pass us by."
John Kerry, US secretary of state, speaking by video link, said: [This is a] critical new tool to help us meet our responsibilities to future generations. It will help countries make progress on sustainable land use practices. The United States stands with willing partners in the fight against global climate change and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure a more secure future, not only forested countries but for the entire …more
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Oil giant pursues a “scorched earth” campaign against its most dogged critic
Steven Donziger is getting smashed into the concrete like a spent cigarette butt.
Since Donziger is a lawyer — and lawyers aren’t always the most sympathetic of characters — you might be excused for not caring too much about his fate. There are other things to worry about, after all: accelerating climate change, the people suffering in the Philippines, the mass extinction of plants and animals. But if you care about the health of the planet, you should pay attention to Donziger’s plight, because it’s a test of whether and how citizens will be able to use the law to hold corporations accountable for their behavior.
The attempted crushing of Steven Donziger comes courtesy of Chevron, one of largest oil companies in the world. For 20 years, Donzinger and Chevron have been locked in a sort of legal cage fight that has leapt from courtrooms in New York City to the remote forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon and back again. For most of that time, Donzinger was the pursuer as he sought to compel Chevron to pay for the cleanup of an oil spill in the jungle and damages to nearby communities. Now the script has been flipped, and Donzinger is the one under trial as Chevron accuses the plaintiff attorney of waging a “campaign of deceit and distortion.”
As you can already tell, the litigation in this matter is byzantine, so I’ll try to keep the background to the basics. Between 1964 and 1990, the oil company Texaco and the state-owned Petroecuador dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater and millions of gallons of crude oil into the jungles around the town of Lago Agrio. In 1993, lawyers in the US (soon joined by a young Donziger, fresh out of Harvard Law School) brought a suit against Texaco in US court. When Chevron bought Texaco in 2001, the California-based oil giant became the defendant. Chevron continued Texaco’s legal strategy of trying to get the case moved to Ecuador, and in 2003 the dispute was taken up by a court in Quito.
Agri-biotech companies will now have to disclose pesticide use details and GMO field locations on island
After a tense, two-day delay, the Kauai County Council finally voted 5-2 on Saturday to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of a bill that seeks to regulate the biotech industry on the Hawai‘ian island. A tumultuous month after the council initially approved it, Bill 2491 is finally law.
Photo by Pesticides on Kauai
The new law, which will go into effect in August 2014, requires agricultural companies and large farms to disclose the type and volume of restricted-use pesticides they are spraying, and the location of the fields being sprayed. It also requires them to disclose genetically modified crop field locations and set up buffer zones between those fields and public spaces like schools, hospitals, and parks. Companies have to notify the public before spraying pesticides. Failure to comply will be punishable by fines and jail sentences. The bill also requires the county to investigate the impact of these pesticides on local residents and the environment.
The proposed legislation primarily affects the four big biotech companies that have operations in Kauai — Dow, Syngenta, BASF, and DuPont-Pioneer — which are among the largest employers on the island.
That the bill managed to make it through, despite the roller coaster of challenges it has faced over the past few months, is a miracle of sorts for its supporters. In fact, if not for some creative last-minute maneuvering by pro-bill councilmembers, the bill would have died on Thursday — the initial day the council was to vote to override the mayor’s veto. (Read my earlier report leading up to the Thursday vote.)
In what supporters call a last-ditch effort to derail the bill, a day before the initial veto vote on Thursday, Hawai‘i state officials announced a new program via which companies could voluntarily build buffer zones and disclose information about pesticide use. The program doesn’t give the county any enforcement powers, nor does it outline any penalty for non-compliance.
On Thursday, about 100 people testified before the council mostly in support of the bill. Speakers included several residents from the west side of the island — where most of the biotech companies have their fields — who spoke movingly about a their health issues, such as …more
Technology could be used to restore oyster and coral reef habitats around the world, researchers say
Most of us learn at an early age that electricity and water don’t mix. It is just this combination, however, that has been used for decades to encourage growth of reef habitat around the world. New research from Texas A&M University – Corpus Cristi has built upon existing technology to determine the perfect combination of electrical current, polarity, and voltage to maximize oyster reef growth.
Photo by Durras North
“We knew carbonate accumulation could be stimulated using electrical currents,” explains Dr. Paul Zimba, director of the Center for Coastal Studies at the university. “But there wasn’t enough research done on specific polarity, voltage and electrical current types needed to maximize growth.”
There are two primary components to the technology used by Zimba and graduate student Eliane Oelho. The first is a metal frame, which becomes the base for reef growth. The second component is a low voltage electrical charge, which causes calcium carbonate to precipitate and stick to the metal frame. The calcium carbonate structure provides an ideal environment for reef growth.
The researchers put one foot by four foot sections of rebar in the water and charged them using solar panels. The results were impressive. “In three weeks, we were able to get a one foot by four foot intact reef,” Zimba says. “There were oysters at very high density… and they were growing very rapidly.”
This research could not have come soon enough. “Many of the coastal regions of south Texas, and for that matter many areas of the Gulf of Mexico, [have] declining oyster populations,” Zimba says. “In Texas, a major reason for that was the harvesting of oyster shell for use in road construction that occurred in the 1950s to 1980s. That decimated the population of oysters, and it changed the [Gulf oyster] community from a hard bottom community to one that is a softer mud community.”
Oysters are no longer harvested for road-building purposes, but they face ongoing threats. “Oysters have evolved over millennia to live in brackish type water,” says Mark Dumesnil, upper Golf Coast program manager at The Nature Conservancy in Texas, and “lack of fresh water inflow is an issue.” Unsustainable harvesting and increasing pollution also threaten oyster populations.
Oyster reefs hold both economic and environmental value. …more
Hawai’ian island has become latest battleground in fight over genetic modification
Lawmakers in Kauai today will decide the fate of a hotly debated bill that would require agri-biotech companies to disclose details about the pesticides they are using as well as the genetically modified crops they are growing on the Hawai‘ian island.
Photo by Shane O'Neill
The bill has had a rocky, emotionally charged ride so far. The Kauai County Council approved it on October 16 by an overwhelming six to one vote after a tortuous 19-hour-long hearing that went past 3 a.m. The hearing had been preceded by months of protests and debates on genetically modified crops and pesticides that set tempers flaring on the usually laid-back island. Then, 10 days after the council vote, much to the dismay of the bill’s supporters, Mayor Bernard Carvahlo, who had been skeptical about the bill from the start, vetoed it.
The councilmembers will vote on the bill again today, this time to override the mayor’s veto. The council needs five votes to override the mayor's veto. It could be a closer margin this time round, since Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura, who voted in favor of the bill last time, has stepped down and taken a job as the mayor's managing director.
Bill 2491 requires agricultural companies and farms to disclose the type and volume of pesticides they are spraying, as well as the location of the fields being sprayed. It also requires them to set up buffer zones between fields growing GM crops and public spaces like schools, hospitals, and parks. Companies have to notify the public before spraying pesticides.
“At the end of the day all we are asking for is disclosure of pesticides used and locations of GMO fields, not trade secrets or a total ban on GMOs,” says Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill in June. “All we are trying to do is to protect the health of our community. Frankly, the mayor hasn’t taken the time to understand the issue and he’s surrounded by industry, who are some of the largest employers in …more
The Philippines has been hit by 24 typhoons in the past year but the power of Haiyan was off the scale, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless. Is there even worse devastation to come?
Just as the world was beginning to take in the almost unimaginable devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan, a young Filipino diplomat, Naderev Sano, was getting ready to lead his country's negotiations in the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Yeb, as he is known, is a scientist and head of his country's national climate commission and had flown out of Manila just hours before the vastness of Haiyan had become apparent.
Photo by Nove foto da Firenze
By Monday morning, Sano knew that the Philippines had been struck by possibly the strongest storm ever measured, killing many thousands of people and making millions homeless. He took the floor and, in some trepidation in front of the delegates of 190 countries, gave an extraordinary, passionate speech in which he clearly linked super typhoon Haiyan to manmade climate change and urged the world to wake up to the reality of what he said was happening from latin America to south east Asia and the US. He lambasted the rich countries, and dared climate change deniers to go to his country to see for themselves what was happening.
When he sat down, sobbing, he was given a standing ovation.
This was not just diplomatic theatricals or righteous grandstanding by a developing-country diplomat about the snail-like speed of the climate talks, which have dragged on for years and are not likely to conclude until 2015. What few people in Warsaw knew until Sano had nearly finished his speech was that even as he was addressing the UN, his brother was digging people out of the rubble of the ruined city of Tacloban and he and his family still did not know the fate of other relatives.
Normally stone-hearted diplomats broke down, and Sano, who calls himself a "revolutionary" and a "philosopher" on Twitter [@yebsano], said later he would go on hunger strike for the whole of the two-week meeting. In the last 24 hours he has been joined by 30 activists.
Just as significantly, his speech has reopened the growing debate about whether the extreme weather events seen around the world over the past few years, including Hurricane Sandy, the melting of the Arctic sea ice and …more