Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Ecological credit crunch potentially more damaging than financial crisis, says WWF

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 29/10/2008
The world is in the grip of an ecological credit crunch potentially far more damaging than the financial crisis, conservationists have warned.

The Earth's natural resources are being used up to 30 per cent faster than they can be replaced in a reckless environmental spending spree, according to a WWF report.
Thuya forest, in Morocco, which is not managed (left) foot prints in Sahara desert sand dunes (middle) and a paper mill in Hlsingland, Sweden (right)
As a result half the countries in the world are in ecological debt and unless the trend is reversed by 2030 it will take the equivalent of two planets to keep pace with demand.
The WWF Living Planet report, produced every two years, provides a stock take of natural resources and an update on the health of the planet's living systems.
It warns world leaders that they need to tackle the problems of depleted eco systems in the same way as they have co-ordinated efforts to revive financial institutions.
WWF international director general James Leape said people - whether they live in the forest or in big cities - depend on the services provided free by natural systems but the resources are being used up faster than they can be replenished.

"The recent downturn in the global economy is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means. But the possibility of financial recession pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch," he said.
"Just as reckless spending is causing recession so reckless consumption is depleting the world's natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity."
The Living Planet report claims that species and wildlife are being pushed to extinction and that since 1970 there has been a 30 per cent decline in the wildlife populations of measured species mostly because of damage caused decades ago in temperate northern regions.
But now tropical zones are suffering and wildlife numbers have been cut by 50 per cent in 35 years mainly because of deforestation and loss of habitat.
Three-quarters of the world's population are living in countries that are ecological debtors and consuming more than their land can produce and 50 countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water loss.
"Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles and our economic growth by drawing -and increasingly overdrawing - on the ecological capital of other countries," Mr Leape added.
The report said fossil fuels and the need for land are responsible for most of humanity's footprint which underlined the threat of climate change.
The people of the US and the United Arab Emirates have the biggest ecological footprint while Malawi and Afghanistan the smallest.
The UK's national ecological footprint is the 15th biggest in the world, and is the same size as that of 33 African countries put together, WWF said.
A Chinese person has an ecological footprint equivalent to 2.1 hectares per person while an American needs 9.4 hectares and a Briton 5.3 hectares to support their lifestyle.
On average each person needs 1.24m litres of water annually but in the US the average use is 2.48m litres and in the Yemen 619,000 litres.
But the report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Netwrok (GFN), claims that it is not too late to reverse the ecological credit crunch by more efficient energy use, cutting greenhouse gases and by investing and preserving the Earth's ecosystems.

Eco-tourism key to protecting Karpaz

By Agnieszka Rakoczy
Published: October 29 2008 02:00

On a Saturday afternoon in Buyukkonuk, a small village at the entrance to the remote Karpaz peninsula in north Cyprus, Lois Cemal is teaching three women how to make samsi, a traditional Cypriot almond baklava.
"We don't only promote eco-tourism, we live it," says Mrs Cemal, a Canadian who runs a bed-and-breakfast establishment and a craft shop with her Turkish Cypriot husband. The couple also work to conserve local crafts, from basket making, spinning and weaving to adobe-style brick-making.
Since being selected two years ago for a pilot eco-tourism project in north Cyprus, Buyukkonuk's 800 residents have used €1.8m in grants from Turkey, USAID and the United Nations Development Programme to renovate landmark buildings and convert others into restaurants and guesthouses. They have also created several nature trails.
Turkish Cypriot officials say eco-tourism projects are an important way of protecting the Karpaz, an 80km-long peninsula that narrows from a 20km-wide base to a rocky headland marking Cyprus's north-eastern tip.
The Karpaz "panhandle" hosts a wealth of wildlife. Pine trees, cypress and scrub cover its rolling hills. As many as 300 species of birds pass through each year, flying along one of the main migration routes. Endangered sea turtles use its isolated beaches as nesting grounds.
The peninsula's 25 villages have about 15,000 residents, both Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turks, mainly from the Black Sea coast. The Greek Cypriot population has dwindled to around 370 people, living separately in small enclaves.
After the island's forcible division in 1974, most Greek Cypriots moved to the south. Families who remained to protect their property and continue farming their land have gradually left as their children reached high-school age. Only one Greek Cypriot school is still open, with fewer than 30 pupils.
Hasan Kilic, tourism undersecretary, says: "We want to protect the area but also bring in more tourists and create jobs for local people. But we don't want big hotels. We prefer to develop projects like Buyukkonuk that involve agro-tourism."
He says $3m has been spent in the past three years on 13 village eco-tourism projects, with another 11 underway.
But more intrusive development could threaten the Karpaz, following the construction of a road linking the peninsula with Kyrenia, the main tourist centre in the north, and a recently completed electrification scheme stretching along its length to the Apostolos Andreas monastery close to the tip.
About €200m of private investment is being poured into several resort complexes at Bafra, on the southern edge of the Karpaz. A €15m marina with more than 500 berths is being built at Yeni Erenkoy on the north coast.
Mr Kilic says there has been pressure from potential investors for permits to build more hotels. He says north Cyprus will try to avoid what happened in the south where "the Greek Cypriots lost many beautiful places" because of poorly-managed tourist development,
But more buildings are appearing along the Karpaz coastline, such as a collection of wooden cabins, overlooking the main turtle-nesting beach, that are used by weekend visitors.
Turkish Cypriot environmental officials have been trying to secure the creation of a Karpaz National Park that would be regulated by the environment ministry. A draft law provides for bringing the different bodies responsible for the area under a single umbrella and for restricting development.
Dogan Sahir, an environmental activist, says the proposed legislation is "vague and inconsistent". It would allow development as far as Dipkarpaz, a large village close to the northern tip. While the village itself would be protected, new building would be allowed nearby. Foreigners are already buying land around the village in anticipation of development, according to residents.
Archaeologists are also seeking tighter protection for the Karpaz, which is believed to have been densely populated in antiquity because of its sheltered valleys and large areas of pastureland.
Uwe Muller, director of Eastern Mediterranean University's Dakmar Research Centre, says: "No research excavations have been done in this area for 80 years, but when our centre conducted a small-scale survey last year, we found over 100 sites."
Turkish Cypriot legislation protects registered ancient sites, but few in the Karpaz have been registered, mainly because exploration by the antiquities department has lagged, according to Tuncer Bagiskan, a member of the north Cyprus Supreme Monuments Council, which oversees the protection of historic sites.
"I'm concerned about the Karpaz. When we talk about the environment and protected areas, this means a place that you can't touch. You can't combine protection with investment," Mr Bagiskan says.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion

The climate change expert Mark Lynas has been scorned by eco-colleagues for daring to speak up for atomic power

I know I should be furious. The EDF takeover of British Energy means that four nuclear power stations could now be built around the UK, the first nuclear new build in a generation. As a long-standing Green party member, one who chops his own wood, grows his own leeks, keeps chickens and puts the kids in washable nappies, antinuclear indignation should spring easily to my lips.
After all, energy is something I care about. The last time I checked my carbon budget, I came in at a fifth of the national average. I rarely fly, even when booked to address faraway audiences about my personal obsession, climate change – a subject I’ve covered in three books. Whenever the word “nuclear” comes up at my talks, a shudder runs through the room. Because everyone knows that real environmentalists loathe nuclear power. It is just evil. Full stop.
Except, well, I don’t believe that any more. Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation “fast-breeder” reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be “walk-away safe”.
Best of all, these new reactors – prototypes of which have already been tested – can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: “Thus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of.” Who could object to that?
Just about everyone on the eco-scene, it turned out. I began to receive e-mails from friends and colleagues warning me off the topic. Did I really want to risk my entire reputation by alienating the green movement? The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.
A former Greenpeace campaigner posted on my website that I needed to show “a bit of humility” and “less arrogance”. On Greenpeace’s blog my views were mocked as “wishful thinking of the day”. On Radio 4’s Today programme, Green party leader Caroline Lucas accused me of having “lost the plot”. When I argued back, she accused me of “just being silly”. I was a traitor.
This was a moment I had been dreading for nearly three years, ever since I first suspected that much of what I had been brought up to believe about nuclear power – that it is, without exception, dirty, dangerous and unnecessary – was untrue. Science has moved on. The old figures just don’t stack up any more.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear is just as low-carbon a power source as wind and solar: the world’s 439 operating nuclear reactors save the planet from 2 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which would have been emitted had coal been used instead.
And those dangers? They’re still there but we need to discuss them truthfully. Take Chernobyl. We all know it was a disaster: the Greenpeace website states a death toll of 60,000 already and predicts another 140,000 deaths in the future. But these statistics fly in the face of mainstream science: according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 28 people died in the initial phase and several thousand more have suffered from nonfatal thyroid cancer because of the accident. The UN report concludes that “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident” – so the real death toll from the world’s worst nuclear accident is tiny. On a deaths per gigawatt-year basis, nuclear is safer than coal and oil.
Curiosity whetted, I searched the scientific literature for evidence to support the other great green charge levelled at nuclear power: it kills its neighbours. I sifted through piles of rigorous epidemiological studies from all over the world, searching for proof that people who live near nuclear sites are more prone to cancer and leukaemia. None of the reputable journals turned up a link.
These are just two examples of eco-myths: there are many more. If only we were allowed to discuss them without being flayed for heresy.
When I e-mailed a senior ecological scientist with my conclusions, he agreed, but only privately. “Do not cite me as promoting nuclear,” he begged. I am still shocked that people of his stature are too intimidated to speak out. The result of this fear is that the public is dangerously misinformed about nuclear power.
I have finally thought of something useful that I can do with my Green party membership card: I’ll auction it on eBay and send the money to EDF – with a suggestion that it beefs up its marketing department. Any bids?

Ford to build green engine in Wales

By John Willman, Business Editor
Published: October 28 2008 18:05

Ford of Europe is defying the gloom hanging over the motor industry with a £70m investment in Wales to produce the first of a generation of green petrol engines.
The EcoBoost engines, which are 20 per cent more fuel efficient and emit 15 per cent less carbon dioxide, will be made for the global Ford network only at the carmaker’s Bridgend factory.

The investment was secured with £13.4m in support from the Welsh assembly and will raise output above 1m units a year. It will also increase jobs at the Bridgend factory, the third-largest private sector employer in Wales, to more than 2,000.
The announcement follows a series of profit warnings from the big global car manufacturers, which have been cutting output and staff after a sharp decline in sales caused by the credit crunch.
Component manufacturers have followed suit, with GKN this week saying it would close plants and introduce short-time working for many of its 30,000 staff worldwide. Sales in its automotive division would be 15 per cent below last year in the final three months of 2008, GKN said – and predicted sales would fall 8 per cent next year.
All the UK’s large carmakers have revealed plans to reduce output for the rest of the year, with Ford introducing a four-day week at its Southampton Transit van factory. But its engine plants at Bridgend and Dagenham have not faced cuts, as demand remains buoyant for their smaller engines as drivers trade down to more fuel-efficient cars.
The Ford investment was welcomed by Rhodri Morgan, Wales’s first minister, as a tribute to the technical skills developed at Bridgend and the good working relations in the plant.
“The factory was opened 28 years ago amid the doom and gloom of the early 1980s. This investment probably means Ford will be making engines here for another 28 years.”
Mr Morgan said it was particularly pleasing that Bridgend would be the only source of the the EcoBoost, a new category for Ford. The 1.6-litre engines, which go into production in two years, provide an environmentally friendly alternative to hybrid engines and diesels, and utilise a range of fuel-efficiency technologies.
Unemployment in Wales, once a blackspot after the closure of the mines and much of the steel industry, is now 5.9 per cent, only slightly above the UK average of 5.7 per cent. Other car component manufacturers to have come to Wales include Takao, the Japanese company which has invested £15m in a plant acquired last year at Ebbw Vale and created about 100 jobs.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

MPs support tough bill on CO2 reporting

By Alex Barker and Fiona Harvey
Published: October 29 2008 02:00

Mid-sized companies face mandatory reporting of their carbon emissions from 2012 after MPs last night passed sweeping legislation setting ambitious targets to tackle climate change.
The climate change bill, approved by a clear Commons majority, commits Britain to slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, in what is the world's first legally binding national emissions reduction target.
The measures passed relatively smoothly after the government defused controversy through a series of critical concessions to placate backbenchers and environmental campaigners.
Most significantly, ministers halted a growing revolt over the proposed exemption of aviation and shipping from the targets by saying the sectors would be "taken into account" once a method of measuring "international" emissions was found.
Ed Miliband, energy secretary, also gave ground by raising the emissions reduction target from 60 to 80 per cent and including all six of the main greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.
The law places new responsibilities on large and medium-sized companies to disclose their carbon emissions and sets out a process for establishing more rigorous common reporting standards. It does not define exactly how big a company has to be to fall within the rules.
Under the bill, corporate reporting will be mandated from 2012. But before then ministers plan to review how it should be implemented and will retain the power to introduce a voluntary scheme, if that is considered more effective. A consultation will also begin on whether smaller businesses should face the same reporting requirements.
Many companies already disclose their carbon dioxide output, either under existing regulations or voluntarily. Heavy industry covered by the European Union's emissions trading scheme must monitor their discharges, while thousands of retail outlets, banks and other commercial premises will have to begin emissions trading from 2010 under government regulations called the "carbon reduction commitment".
Joan Ruddock, minister for energy and climate change, said the move would be valuable to shareholders by allowing companies to demonstrate "their green credentials".
The CBI employers' organisation welcomed the move. Neil Bentley, director of business environment, said reporting would help provide "a clear picture of . . . environmental impact" to company stakeholders.
But he added: "There will inevitably be a cost associated with mandating carbon reporting and that is why it is so important that a simple and standard method is devised."
The inclusion of aviation and shipping in the emissions targets was attacked by the airline industry. Michelle Di Leo, director of the pro-aviation group FlyingMatters, described it as a "hollow victory" for environmentalists that was both "ineffective and unfair".
* Companies should find it easier to put carbon labels on their products with the publication of a new standard today.
The government has worked with BSI British Standards to create a labelling formula, by which companies can work out the emissions resulting from the manufacture of their goods.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

China wants more help from West on curbing emissions

Published: October 28, 2008

BEIJING: China wants rich countries to commit 1 percent of their economic worth to help poor nations fight global warming and will press for a new international mechanism to spread "green" technology worldwide.
Unveiling the proposals on Tuesday, a senior Chinese official for climate change policy, Gao Guangsheng, said the global financial turmoil should not deter developed countries from increasing their contributions of funds and technology to poor nations.
"Developing countries should take action, but a prerequisite for this action is that developed countries provide funds and transfer technology," Gao said at a news conference.
Gao said current funds to help fight climate change are "virtually nothing." He said China would detail its proposal at a conference next week that will assemble representatives from the United States, Europe and many rich and poor countries.
Gao is the chief of the climate change office in the National Development and Reform Commission, a super-ministry steering Chinese economic policy. His call may signal that Beijing wants to take a more active role in climate change talks.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, felling forests and farming are trapping growing levels of solar radiation in the atmosphere, which may result in dangerous rises in average global temperatures.
China, with 1.3 billion people, a fast-growing economy and bulging exports, has pushed its emissions of greenhouse gases above those of the United States, which had long been the world's biggest emitter, according to many experts.
But under the Kyoto Protocol, China and other Third World economies have no required goals to contain emissions.
Washington has refused to ratify the Kyoto pact, saying that the lack of caps on China and other big developing emitters make it ineffective. Many foreign officials and experts say that in a new pact, which is the subject of ongoing talks sponsored by the United Nations, China should accept some binding goals.
These pressures put China at the heart of the accelerating negotiations for a treaty to replace the current Kyoto pact, which expires in 2012. Those negotiations culminate in Copenhagen late next year.
Gao indicated that in those talks China would not only resist calls for it to accept emissions targets, but would also press its demand for a huge increase in the flow of technology and funds to China and other developing nations.
Current climate change agreements provide for funds for technology and adaptation steps. But Chinese officials have long said that their country's ability to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from power plants, factories and vehicles, is hampered by a lack of promised technology from wealthy Western nations.
"The present mechanism is unsuited to the needs of addressing climate change," Gao said. "Developed countries have not carried out their relevant commitments."
Western officials and experts have attributed the delays to worries about patent theft and sacrificed competitiveness. Some have also said China's demands for technology transfers have been too vague to negotiate.
Gao said China's proposal would address those worries and offer stronger protection for intellectual property.
At the two-day conference starting Friday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will give a keynote speech, underscoring the seriousness of the government's technology demands, Gao said.
On Wednesday, China is to issue a report detailing its policies and concerns on climate change.