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When Martha Stewart – an American icon of domestic bliss and wholesome values – was caught up in a stock scandal, she was convicted of four felonies, including a felony charge of making false statements to the U.S. government. The case left the U.S. reeling – and landed Martha in a federal correctional institute.
Most people would agree that Martha’s stock scandal would pale in comparison to, say, GE Hitachi – a nuclear supplier – taking taxpayer money to pay up to half the costs of developing, engineering and obtaining design certification for a new reactor – and then being charged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) with lying to federal government agencies about known flaws in their analysis for that design – flaws which could have potentially resulted in safety problems.
With the ongoing specter of the triple reactor core meltdowns and exploded containment buildings of the GE-designed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors nearing its third year, nuclear safety should be of upmost importance. Both nuclear suppliers and operators should be held liable for risks they create.
Yet, on 23 January 2014, the DOJ announced it accepted $2.7 million dollars to settle the government’s lawsuit against GE Hitachi for false statements to both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for their new design, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). GE Hitachi says the allegations haven’t been proven and that it settled to resolve the matter.
The U.S. government accused GE Hitachi of, “conceal[ing] known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and falsely represented that it had properly analyzed the steam dryer in accordance with applicable standards and had verified the accuracy of its modeling using reliable data.” This analysis specifically related to demonstrating that vibrations of the steam dryer wouldn’t cause damage to the nuclear reactor.
A steam dryer is not considered a primary safety component, and therefore receives a lot less attention. Yet, the nuclear industry itself admits that maintaining the structural integrity of this component is essential to ensure vibrations don’t cause cracking and loose debris that can enter the reactor pressure vessel and steam lines and compromise the operation of the reactor.
The current allegations eerily echo cover up allegations from the 1970 and 80s involving the work of GE and Hitachi at Fukushima.
In the 1970s, Dale Bridenbaugh and other top GE engineers resigned from their prestigious positions within GE over the company’s failure to address critical design flaws with their Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor – the same reactor design that catastrophically failed at Fukushima Daiichi in March, 2011 causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Hitachi, too, failed to address a safety issue during the construction of one of the crippled, GE-designed Fukushima reactors, actively flaunted Japanese law during the fabrication of the reactor pressure vessel – a critical component which contains the reactor core. Instead of scrapping the pressure vessel after a deformation was discovered, Hitachi attempted to correct it ad hoc and cover up the problem – in the interest of money. The integrity of the pressure vessel could never be guaranteed. Legally Hitachi was required to discard it, but as Mitsuhiko Tankana, the Babcock-Hitachi leader for the reactor pressure vessel project, stated in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe, “When the stakes are raised to such a height, a company will not do what is safe and what is legal.”
Four decades later, it seems –according to the U.S. government’s charges – that the same corporate culture at Fukushima Daiichi – including dismissing design flaws and covering up problems – has continued.
The situation highlights one of the core problems with the nuclear industry – in many countries liability laws and regimes exempt nuclear suppliers from all liability for the risks they create. That means, even when a supplier is negligent, they are not liable for a dollar in damages.
GE, for example, has so far walked away from the Fukushima disaster – in spite of the fact the corporation had ignored warnings from its own engineers about the problems in the design – without paying anything. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of Fukushima nuclear evacuees are still struggling to obtain adequate compensation for destroyed lives, livelihoods, and communities that many will never be able to return home to.
Shielding nuclear suppliers, like GE Hitachi, from all liability for risk – and unfairly shifting that financial burden to taxpayers and consumers – only increases the likelihood that flaws will be ignored or concealed and accident risks increased.
Helping to protect the public, both financially and from the potential health impacts of a nuclear accident, requires addressing one of the main roots of the problem: the economic incentive to downplay flaws and problems must be removed and the financial burden must be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who have created them – nuclear suppliers.
Kendra Ulrich is an Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace International.
(Fukushima Anniversary Protest in Hong Kong, 03/08/2013. In the lead up to the second anniversary of the Fukushima meltdowns Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner reading: "Hitachi: Inspire the Next Fukushima?", at the company's Hong Kong office. Companies Hitachi, GE and Toshiba have paid nothing for the nuclear disaster despite designing, building and maintaining the known dangerous Fukushima Daiichi plant. Greenpeace is calling for laws to be changed to ensure all companies involved to be accountable for nuclear disasters. © Clement Tang / Greenpeace)
There have been a number of news stories recently about the radiation escaping into the ocean at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that have raised great concern. Some are worried about how escaping radiation may or may not be affecting ocean eco-systems around the world.
Since Greenpeace has been working on the Fukushima nuclear crisis since it first began in March 2011, we can offer some thoughts on people’s concerns.
We have sampled sealife along the Japanese coastline, both from the Rainbow Warrior and in conjunction with local fishermen and Japan's food cooperatives.
You can find some of the results of our independent measurements on our Radiation Surveys – Fukushima webpage.
While we don’t have a marine biologist on our team, we have a number of radiation specialists whose findings and assessments we share with scientists and academic researchers.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the continuing impacts of the disaster on people and the environment. These include the ongoing leaks of contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima reactors into the ground and ocean, the unresolved issue of how to reliably store huge volumes of contaminated water, as well as the massive amounts of radioactive material produced by the decontamination efforts in FukushimaPrefecture.
Then there is the plight of over 100,000 evacuees. Their lives are in limbo. After nearly three years, they still have not received proper compensation from either the government or the corporations responsible for the accident.
Many people have been exposed to significantly elevated levels of radiation. Thousands of square kilometers have been contaminated and will be for many decades to come by radioactive fallout from the accident.
Then there are the challenges of dismantling the whole crippled nuclear power plant whose melted reactors still have lethally dangerous nuclear fuel inside them.
These alone are enough to conclude that the situation is really, really bad.
However, there are also stories that exaggerate the risks and create news of potential catastrophies that are well beyond reality. Given that people's trust in public authorities has been shaken (and not without a reason!), one can often find alarming but unconfirmed information on social media.
Most recent have been the stories of rumours about ongoing nuclear reactions inside the crippled Fukushima reactors and vast radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean and US West Coast.
We have checked these stories and our conclusion is clear: these are not stories based in fact. For example, while unprecedented amounts of radioactive cesium have ended up in the Pacific Ocean, significantly contaminating sediments and fisheries along the Japanese coastline, there is no plausible mechanism that could transport significant levels of contamination across the Pacific to reach beaches in the US or Australia.
Yes, there are detectable traces of those radioactive isotopes in US waters, but they are at very low levels, and their contribution to radiation doses is far below the natural background radiation level.
This does not necessarily mean they are completely safe (no radiation dose is low enough to be 100% safe), but the additional risks they present to living organisms, including humans, are negligible. Certainly, these levels are not causing radiation sickness, deformities or mass deaths of ocean life.
That is why we continue to focus on the big post-Fukushima problems in Japan itself. This is where you can occasionally still catch a fish whose contamination exceeds the official standards.
While the frequency of such catches has indeed fallen since 2011, they still occur and send a reminder of the ongoing risks and need for precautionary measures when it comes to seafood from Japan's northeastern coastline.
But to repeat: the idea that contamination from Fukushima presents a risk to the coastal waters and their ecosystems of the US or Australia is seriously over-stretched.
Jan Beránek is the leader of Greenpeace International’s Energy Campaign
Image: Greenpeace experts examine fish samples on the Rainbow Warrior to monitor radiation levels as the ship sails up the eastern coast of Japan on her way to Fukushima in May 2011. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Greenpeace.
A mind-boggling sum of about $800 for each person on the planet is invested into fossil fuel companies through the global capital markets alone. That’s roughly 10% of the total capital invested in listed companies. The amount of money invested into the 200 biggest fossil fuel companies through financial markets is estimated at 5.5 trillion dollars. This should be an impressive amount of money for anyone reading this.
By keeping their money in coal and oil companies, investors are betting a vast amount of wealth, including the pensions and savings of millions of people, on high future demand for dirty fuels. The investment has enabled fossil fuel companies to massively raise their spending on expanding extractable reserves, with oil and gas companies alone (state-owned ones included) spending the combined GDP of Netherlands and Belgium a year, in belief that there will be demand for ever more dirty fuel.
This assumption is being challenged by recent developments, which is good news for climate but bad news for anyone who thought investing in fossil fuel industries was a safe bet. Frantic growth in coal consumption seems to be coming to an end much sooner than predicted just a few years ago, with China’s aggressive clean air policies, rapidly dropping coal consumption in the U.S. and upcoming closures of many coal plants in Europe. At the same time the oil industry is also facing slowing demand growth and the financial and share performance of oil majors is disappointing for shareholders.
Nevertheless, even faced with weakening demand prospects, outdated investment patterns are driving fossil fuel companies to waste trillions of dollars in developing reserves and infrastructure that will be stranded as the world moves beyond 20th century energy.
A good example is coal export developments. The large recent investment in coal export capacity in all key exporter countries was based on the assumption of unlimited growth of Chinese demand. When public outrage over air pollution reached a new level in 2012-2013, the Chinese leadership moved swiftly to mandate absolute reductions in coal consumption, and banned new coal-fired power plants in key economic regions. A growing chorus of financial analysts is now projecting a peak in Chinese coal demand in the near future, which seemed unimaginable just a couple of years ago. This new reality has already reduced market capitalization of export focused coal companies. Even in China itself, investment in coal-fired power plants has now outpaced demand growth, leading to drops in capacity utilization.
Another example of potentially stranded assets is found in Europe, where large utilities ignored the writing on the wall about EU moves to price carbon and boost renewable energy. Betting on old business models and the fossil-fuel generation, they built a massive 80 gigawatts of new fossil power generation capacity in the last 10 years, much of which is already generating losses and now risk becoming stranded assets.
Arctic oil drilling is possibly the ultimate example of fossil companies’ unfounded confidence in high future demand. Any significant production and revenue is unlikely until 2030, and in the meanwhile Arctic drilling faces high and uncertain costs, extremely demanding and risky operations, as well as the prospect of heavy regulation and liabilities when (not if) the first major blowout happens in the region. No wonder the International Energy Agency is skeptical about Arctic oil, assuming hardly any production in the next 20 years. Regardless, Shell has already burnt $5 billion of shareholders’ money on their Arctic gamble.
Those investing in coal and oil have perhaps felt secure seeing the global climate negotiations proceed at a disappointing pace. However, the initial carbon crunch is being delivered by increasingly market-driven renewable energy development, and by national level clean energy and energy efficiency policies – such as renewable energy support schemes and emission regulation in Europe, or clean air policies in the U.S. and in China. Global coal demand, and possibly even oil demand, could peak even before a strong climate treaty is agreed.
Investors often underestimate their exposure to fossil fuels, particularly indirect exposure through e.g. passively managed pension funds and sovereign debt of strongly fossil fuel dependent states. Assessing exposure, requiring fossil energy companies to disclose and reduce carbon risks, and reducing investments in sunset energy technologies will lead to profitable investment in a world that moves to cleaner and smarter energy systems.
Improving competitiveness of renewable energy, growing opposition to destructive fossil fuel projects, concerns on water shortage and the imperative of cutting global CO2 emissions all point in the same direction: Governments, companies and investors should all be planning for a world with declining fossil fuel consumption – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it makes economic sense. It is the direction the world will be moving to – faster than many yet anticipate.
Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
When I read the daily newspaper here in Indonesia, it’s rare that there is not at least one big scandal or exposé related to the forest sector. Just this last weekend, land conflicts in a Kalimantan palm oil plantation made regional headlines, and the week before that, the dailies in Jakarta exposed new corruption cases in the logging industry. Forests are big business here. And for a country where forests still cover around half of the landmass, there is a lot at stake.
This is where you come in.
Greenpeace supporters in Indonesia and around the world have transformed how we are talking about forest protection, linking a national issue to global corporations, governments and power players. Forest destruction continues to inflame social conflict, drive biodiversity loss and fuel climate change, which is why we will continue putting the heat on those who are responsible.
Here’s a snapshot of where we stand.
Success #1: 2013 ended with a bang, when the world’s largest palm oil trader, Singapore-based Wilmar International, committed to a No Deforestation Policy.
This was a landmark win for forests. To put this into perspective, palm oil is the single biggest cause of deforestation in Indonesia and a growing threat in places like Africa. Wilmar controls over a third of the global palm oil trade. If this policy is properly implemented, we are looking at what could be game changer. Following months of investigations into tiger habitat loss, orangutan “graveyards” and public pressure in Indonesia and globally, we have turned the heat up on other traders and producer such as Sime Darby, KLK and Musim Mas to follow Wilmar’s path.
While Ferrero, a relatively small player, is ambitious with a 2015 timeline, Mondelez still have some way to go in terms of when they will actually implement the policy. Don’t expect us to take our eyes off them till they achieve what they have set out to do! But one thing is sure: without support from the growing movement demanding clean palm oil, we could not have gotten the best policy possible. See how the companies line up here.
Success #3: Political will for forest protection grows.
Not only did Indonesia’s President commit to a moratorium on further deforestation for two more years (for some forests, however this is still pretty good news!), but he actually told the country’s biggest national palm oil association (GAPKI) to “collaborate” with NGOs like Greenpeace to find solutions to deforestation. When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono joined us on the Rainbow Warrior as it docked in Jakarta, he said similar words, and we can only hope that this sets a precedent for renewed political will to strengthen and enforce forest protection.
For decades, corporations have pillaged our forests, packaging them up and reducing them down to the value for which they’ll sell on our supermarket shelves. But we know forests are worth more than the dollar sign assigned to them.
It’s time that the products we find on our supermarket shelves don’t destroy tiger habitat, kill orangutans or create a carbon time bomb when peatlands are cleared or razed. We need your support so we can hold companies like Wilmar, Unilever and Nestlé to the strong commitment they’ve made to save our forests, while also pushing those that continue to greenwash and drag their feet to finally become leaders in forest protection – companies that make everyday products such as Heads & Shoulders, Colgate toothpaste and Clearasil, as well as big producers and traders in palm oil like Sime Darby and Musim Mas. Our message is clear: commit to forest protection.
Now the next chapter in forest protection is about to start. Join us now and see where the story goes next.
Bustar Maitar is head of the Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International
A team from Greenpeace East Asia's Detox campaign recently discovered an unsettling sight off the coast of South Eastern China. Next to the city of Shishi, a centre for children's clothing production, they discovered a huge black plume of wastewater around the size of 50 Olympic swimming pools on the sea's surface; a large dark scar on the water easily visible via satellite imagery.
One of the most challenging weeks of my working life starts today: the week of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
Over 2,500 Presidents, Prime Minsters, CEOs, Celebrities and Academics with a smattering of civil society, will be holed up in a small and posh mountain resort in Switzerland to discuss, in the words of the WEF, “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.”
At a moment when 20th century power structures typified by the Davos devotees, try to squeeze the last buck out of a denuded environment and a failing industrial complex, new power structures are emerging, together with new threats, new solutions and new opportunities.
Many pay up to 250,000 US dollars for their membership and entrance fee to the WEF. As a civil society representative I have been invited to attend the WEF over the last decade or so, without paying a fee, obviously. Why do I get invited, why are big corporates actually seeking meetings with us?
I know that, like other civil society leaders, I am there to add a pinch of public participation – there are many meetings in penthouse suites that we have no access to. Climbing an oil rig in the cold Russian Arctic to protect a critical part of the world’s climate regulation system is uncomfortable, but rubbing shoulders with Davos’ thousand dollar suits is equally uncomfortable. You’re probably wondering why I still do it?
Well if there is any chance to have a positive influence on the business community, then I should leave my feelings of discomfort at the Davos train station and give it my best. Winning over some of the key business leaders is critical if we are to succeed in tackling the multiple challenges facing the world.
Normally, these people exist behind a maze of staff, inside near impenetrable walls tens of floors high. Having the chance to speak truth to power, appeal to them as parents, grandparents and human beings, not just powerful politicians and business leaders is something worth pursuing.
If we manage to shift the consciousness of one CEO or senior political leader, who may do the same with a couple of his peers – then I think it is worth it. It is also worth being there, listening and observing, understanding some of the forces that shape our world and importantly feeding that information back to the rest of Greenpeace and other civil society allies.
As I have said before, the WEF is still unfortunately dedicated to system maintenance, protecting the fundamentals of the current system, broken and unjust as it is. What we need is system change. And it is changing, no amount of tinkering will hold it back for ever.
This year’s theme is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. A few words from the preamble make me raise my eye brows: “political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces… are shifting power from traditional hierarchies to networked heterarchies”. That means the false idea of reducing democracy to the singular act of voting every few years is over. People are begging to assert participatory democracy and exercise people power, using many new technologies and methods of interconnection, as levels of confidence in political leadership are dangerously declining around the world.
The WEF warns its members that we are witnessing a shift of power. But those attending the WEF are largely focused on the symptoms of various crises not the causes or the cures. Dealing with global challenges especially in the face of new, seismic trends requires a global mindset that is a comprehensive and an interconnected way of understanding how different crises intersect with one another.
WEF founder Professor Klaus Schwab warns of the ‘shifting nature of power’, but he got a couple of words in the wrong order, the real threat to all of us, including those in the cozy Davos conclave, is the shifting power of nature.
Scientists argue that most of the known fossil fuels reserves need to be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Last year carbon dioxide concentrations breached 400ppm (parts per million) - that’s the highest level in human history and means we are hitting the accelerator towards mass extinctions, mass migration and mass starvation. In 2012 we saw the lowest levels of Arctic sea ice. And a frightening slew of extreme weather events: heat waves, hurricanes, droughts and record low temperatures.
Business elites and politicians continue to suffer from an acute case of cognitive dissonance. All the facts are there, we need to re-think and re-design our economies, yet they are largely in denial about the scale and pace of the necessary change.
The WEF’s 2014 Global Report helps set the agenda and prioritization for the great and the good to discuss. Financial risk, unsurprisingly, still ranks at number one, followed by high unemployment or underemployment. Water crises come in third place with climate at fifth, behind severe income disparity. There is therefore a growing recognition that economy, ecology and equity are all in crisis; that they are all fundamentally interconnected. None can be solved without solving the others. None can be solved without accepting the physical boundaries of a resource-constrained world. The water scarcity crisis is driven - from South Africa to China – in part by coal expansion, which is also driving climate change. While many in Davos keep us addicted to coal, an energy revolution based on renewables could generate many more jobs than business as usual.
We know that we need to break the carbon-corporate control over politics. The last UN climate negotiations in November took place in Poland, one of the most coal dependent countries in the world. If that wasn’t bad enough, fossil fuel companies sponsored the conference. The Polish government also hosted a summit for the coal industry at the same time. That’s not ironic, it’s simply outrageous. It shows us how much work we have ahead to shift our sources of power.
While the WEF suggests it’s members deal with the cause of the crisis, not just the symptoms, we know that we are running out of time and that the window of opportunity to avoid an ecological catastrophe is quickly closing.
Yes, some progressive corporate players, either for fear of consumer pressure or because they truly get it, are changing. Only last year we saw two of the biggest paper and palm oil companies commit to end forest destruction. Our Detox campaign is helping shift the clothing industry onto a path of clean production, backed by active and networked consumers, who are seeking a new relationship with the brands they buy.
The emerging horizontal power structures can work and a large part of that will be down to whether the kind of people who go to Davos understand not only the shifting nature of power but equally important they need to understand the shifting power of nature and embrace the change that is critically necessary if we are to secure this planet for human survival into the future. If they simply adopt a green front to defend their ‘greenbacks’ they can slow the change, perhaps enough to ensure catastrophe for all.
So, off to Davos I go, armed with a copy of the 2014 Global Crisis report, a thick skin, and the support of many millions of people around the world who want to have a say in their own future and that of their children and grandchildren.
Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
Climate change returned to the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. And I expect the all-too-familiar placatory phrases will be back as well: it is very urgent and very serious; it is getting worse, and "we" or "the world" must act now.
Business leaders will say that governments need to do more. Political leaders will say that the role of the private sector is crucial. Everybody will 'agree' that it would be great to have robust carbon pricing and the phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, but nobody will address the real reasons why it's not happening. Then each will outline how they themselves are already doing a lot, because it’s always somebody else who needs to do more.
We've heard it all before.
But this time Davos will also provide a convenient platform for José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission (EC), to tout the EC's new proposal for Europe's climate and energy policies up to 2030. The package, launched today (22 January), will be sold by Barroso in Davos as a sign of European leadership.
I wish this were true, as a European citizen who wants a clean energy future. But it's not. The package renders the EC an Emperor proud of its new clothes - but nakedly lacking in ambition.
The proposed targets aren't enough to drive transformational change in the EU's energy sector. On the contrary, they seem designed to please those heavy industry and utilities companies that have been calling for low climate targets and no binding national renewable energy targets – which is what the commission is now proposing.
The climate target doesn't reflect the urgency of climate change or the EU's fair share of the global effort. With all the surplus emission allowances in the European Emission Trading Scheme, the proposed 40% target could signify just 33% real emission cuts. A fair contribution from the EU would be at least 55% cuts by 2030, which would put Europe on track to decarbonize its economy by mid-century.
Meanwhile, the proposal for a meagre target of at least 27% for renewable energy would actually slow down the modernisation of Europe's energy system. In addition, despite calling the EU-wide target for renewables binding, the Commission is actually suggesting to discontinue binding renewable energy targets at the member-state level at a time when Europe's energy system needs them most. So far these targets have been a success in advancing clean, domestically-sourced energy in Europe. In the midst of the worst recession in a century, 1.2 million jobs have been created or maintained and fossil fuel imports cut, building resilience in European companies.
Households are no longer just passive consumers, but increasingly active producers of their own clean energy with solar panels. Europe is now ready to take the clean energy revolution to the next level, but the lack of long-term policy certainty has led to a slump in renewables investments. The renewables industry has been calling for a 45% binding target for 2030, but all they are getting from the commission is business-as-usual.
Why is this? The rapid cost cuts and deployment of decentralised renewable energy has freaked out the big and influential utilities - including GDF-Suez, RWE, Eon, ENEL and Vattenfall - who are becoming the dinosaurs of the energy world and now want renewable targets to be discontinued to protect their fossil assets.
Betting on old business models, large European utilities built a massive 85 gigawatts of new fossil fuel plants during the last decade, while peak demand lowered and renewables blossomed. Now much of this capacity is already generating losses, while renewables are lowering wholesale energy prices. Utilities want to shift the burden of their own strategic mistakes to consumers, renewables investors and taxpayers.
Not everyone agrees with these strategies, however, which are a recipe for stagnation. Over 70 energy companies and associations, such as Dong Energy, EnBW, Alstom and Vestas, want binding renewable targets alongside binding climate targets. Some of them have warned that the EU should reduce its exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices, which is still the main driver of EU's energy prices.
Luckily, it's not a done deal with the targets. The EU governments can and must fundamentally improve the 2030 package when they meet in Brussels this spring, with higher ambition and binding national targets for renewables.
Prolonging the necessary transition away from centralised production and fossil fuels would only keep Europe stuck in the past, digging its own grave.
Instead, Greenpeace urges EU leaders to speed up the transition to a smart, clean and distributed energy system by backing progressive and binding 2030 targets.
What we expect from all those political and business leaders attending Davos this week is a little less conversation and much more action. No more greenwash and feel-good partnerships, but transformational political leadership and business models that free us from fossil fuels.
PS. Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International will be in Davos. You can follow him on Twitter: @kuminaidoo
Kaisa Kosonen is a Senior political advisor for Greenpeace International.
In August 2013, activists from a local NGO reported an oil spill in the north of the Tomsk region, Siberia. Two months later, Rosprirodnadzor (Russia's environmental supervision agency) examined the area in Gazprom's Urmanskoe oil field and reported that no oil contamination was found.
Gazprom itself stated that the spill was very small (only 90 kilograms of oil leaked) and that this oil had already been fully recovered. Rospriradnadzor was satisfied with this information. At that point, Gazprom was fined 10,000 roubles (about 300 US dollars) for not having reported the accident on time.
However, Greenpeace Russia's analysis of satellite images of the same oil field revealed 71 oil spills, a total area of 3.1 hectares. This is far more than the 90 kilograms of oil which Gazprom claimed it had spilled.
Greenpeace Russia has strong reasons not to trust the conclusions of Gazprom and Rosprirodnadzor, as it appears that both the company and state agency attempted to downplay the scale of the spill. It is very possible that after the company learned state inspectors had been informed of the accident they covered the spills with soil to hide them.
Therefore Greenpeace Russia has made an official request to prosecutors to examine the area, where experts have identified 71 points of possible oil contamination using high-resolution satellite images. The prosecutor has also been sent these images showing the exact location of every potential spill.
Gazprom is among the five dirtiest companies in Russia; on a yearly basis it is responsible for approximately 2,000 spills of oil and associated toxic products, as a result of its old and rusty pipelines.
"In most cases, paying a paltry fine and covering the spill with sand is the only responsibility Gazprom bears for all the damage it causes to the environment," explains Vladimir Chuprov, head of the Energy Department of Greenpeace Russia. "With outdated oil pipeline infrastructure and lax state control, it's not surprising that concealing oil spills rather than cleaning them up is the common practice in Russia."
The punishment for spills, failing to clean them up, and concealing accidents must be significant enough that it becomes too expensive for companies to take this risk. For instance, a Russian court recently ruled that Lukoil should pay 20 million USD for its spills in Komi region — an unprecedented fine in Russia.
That is why dirty companies like Gazprom should be kept far away from the icy Arctic shelf. There is no reason to believe Gazprom's reassurances that "spills during oil production and storage are absolutely impossible" at the Prirazlomnaya rig in the Barents Sea. If drilling in the extreme conditions of the Arctic shelf is allowed to continue an oil spill there is just a matter of time.
Maria Favorskaya is a Press Officer at Greenpeace Russia.
The Indigenous Peoples of Russia’s Komi Republic are celebrating a rare victory today, after one of the oil companies that has been polluting their traditional land, was finally held to account.
Lukoil, one of the oil companies behind most of the spills in the region, has been ordered by a Russian court to pay a fine of 20 million USD for the destruction their spills have caused. The oil spills were investigated and identified by Greenpeace Russia, and then confirmed by a local nature protection prosecutor.
The prosecutor brought the case to the court and won, and now the bad guys are facing a hefty fine and a rare reminder that they are not above the law.
The fine doesn’t make it right, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction for the Komi Peoples who have long been ignored or forgotten by the Russian government.
I still remember the first time I travelled to the Komi Republic, in the far, far north of Russia in the spring of 2012. At the time, feelings of hopelessness and guilt almost overtook me.
I felt hopeless because the problems seemed impossible to overcome — I could literally smell the oil and chemicals and no matter where I went, and almost everywhere I looked, I was met by the sight of dead trees and earth covered in oil. All the fish were gone, and the ice on the rivers was painted black — the same rivers the locals get their drinking water from.
And I felt guilty because I had the option to leave again, whereas the kind people, who let me into their homes and shared their scarce food with me, don’t have that luxury. They are tied to the region, as Russians aren’t allowed to travel freely. That leaves most of them with a depressing choice: either starve or work for the very oil companies that are destroying their lands, their nature and their livelihoods.
This disaster has been ongoing for more than 30 years now, with no consequences for the oil companies that have created it. This finally changed this week.
Even though this is only a small victory in the larger picture, it is a big victory for the Komi Peoples.
And it will mean that I can think back to my visits to the region not with hopelessness and guilt — but with hope for a better future for a region suffering some of the worst impacts of Arctic oil.
Jon Burgwald is an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace Denmark.
Here's the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
A new leak of contaminated water has been found at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Officials for TEPCO, the plant's operator, say the water is leaking from a 30-centimeter opening on the first floor of the reactor #3 building and into the basement. "The leaked water is highly likely to have come from the water that was already used to cool fuel rods, and not from leaked rainwater or cooling water (on its way to the reactor)," a TEPCO official said. The company used a robot to take a water sample as radiation levels are too high inside the building for humans. The sample measured 2.4 million Becquerels per liter of radioactive cesium and 24 million Becquerels per liter for beta-ray emitting substances including strontium. Strontium accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer. When the leak began and how much water has leaked is currently unknown.
Meanwhile, the work continues to remove nuclear fuel from the storage pool in the unstable reactor #4 building and place it in a more secure location. As of January 20, 198 of the 1,533 fuel assembles have been transferred.
TEPCO president Naomi Hirose announced this week that his company plans to spend 2.67 trillion yen in an attempt to rebuild its fortunes. "For the sake of Fukushima's reconstruction, we have to seek growth. To fulfill our responsibilities in Fukushima, we will need a lot of money and are being granted a goodly amount of the government's money. We have to repay it by improving corporate value," he said. To boost the company's growth, it is looking to invest in shale gas projects, "upstream energy projects and overseas electricity businesses", as well as restarting the reactors at its currently idle Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
Mr Hirose also said that although he opposed the idea, setting up a separate entity to deal with the Fukushima clean up could and would be contingent on a successful decommissioning process - if worker shortages and working conditions improved. "Paying compensation (to evacuees), decontamination, and the work at the Fukushima plant; there is a lot of work to be done ... We have to continue doing this, while maintaining the workers' safety, their sense of responsibility, duty and keeping up their morale," he said.
Other Nuclear News in Japan
Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is to pledge to set out plans for a phase out of nuclear power in Japan by 2020 in his bid to become governor of Tokyo in the forthcoming election according to reports. "By making 2020 his target year, he will change Tokyo and Japan, with the focus on a complete end to nuclear energy. Japan will never be able to restart nuclear reactors. No restart of reactors means 'zero' nuclear power generation." said Shusei Tanaka, Mr Hosowaka's former special adviser. Mr Hosowaka, who has the support of another former prime minister, the still-popular Junichiro Koizumi, said: "Japan has faced many problems, and the issue of nuclear power generation leads to the fate of this country." Yet another former prime minister, Naoto Kan, who was in office at the time of the catastrophic March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, calls Mr Hosowaka "a nightmare for the [ruling] Liberal Democratic Party."
Elsewhere, anti-nuclear sentiment was a factor in the re-election of Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture. ''I am aspiring to realize a nuclear-free society and build a Minamisoma that we can boast about to the world,'' said Mr Sakurai on the news of his victory. His actions in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster saw him named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in 2011.
Meanwhile, nearly one third of Japan's local assemblies have called for an end to nuclear power in the country. Statements from 455 assemblies have been submitted to the country's parliament. As well as calling for the abolition of nuclear, the statements also call for the wider adoption of renewable energy technologies. The Kochi municipal assembly called for a "review of dependence on nuclear power plants whose safety is not established," the Kunitachi municipal assembly for a "switch to a society not relying on nuclear power," and the Fukaya municipal assembly for an "immediate halt to nuclear power generation." Such statements are expressions of opinion submitted to the Diet but are not legally binding.
Japan's Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi has denied that consumers will see electricity rates rise if TEPCO is unsuccessful in restarting idle reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. "TEPCO has said it will make every effort (before seeking electricity rate hikes), such as cost-cutting, if the resumption of the plant falls behind schedule," he said. TEPCO is hoping to receive permission from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to restart the reactors in July this year.
Meanwhile, NRA investigators are reinvestigating the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture after the watchdog found last May that one of the plant's reactors is sitting on an active fault and therefore unlikely to ever be restarted. In July last year, Japan Atomic Power, the plant's operator, issued a report last July saying the reactor is not built on a fault.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
The Fukushima Prefecture Dental Association along with other dental associations across Japan is to begin a large-scale study into whether the radioactive isotope strontium-90 has accumulated in children's teeth in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As stated above, strontium accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer. To begin with, children's teeth with be tested for radioactive cesium and other isotopes with tests for strontium conducted if these readings are found to be high. The study hopes to examine the teeth of 1,000-2,000 children in the next financial year. "We'd like to provide a source of relief by disclosing the research data," said Hitoshi Unno, executive director of the dental association. "Based on past radiation data, any detected amount would be extremely small. If that is proved by the research, people will feel relief. I want the researchers to take the time to explain the results to the children whose teeth will be examined," said Professor Noboru Takamura, a radiation specialist at Nagasaki University.
Radioactive Waste Disposal
Senior Vice Minister Shinji Inoue from Japan's Environment Ministry has visited three municipalities being considered as storage sites for radioactive debris from the Fukushima cleanup operation to ask their permission to begin geological surveys. The mayors of two of the municipalities, Kami and Kurihara, have expressed concerns about the selection process. Kami's mayor, Hirobumi Inomata says 1 million tourists visit a mountain nearby despite the ministry saying tourist attractions visited by more than 500,000 a year should be exempt for storing radioactive waste. Mayor of Kurihara City, Isamu Sato, said water flowing from a site there may run into a reservoir. (Source: NHK)
Since ancient times food has not only been about eating, but also about sharing. Whether it's the same plate, the same table, or the same central Berlin square; food is an important force for social gathering. Sharing conversations, ideas, laughter, emotions or songs over a meal; food unites hearts. And this is exactly what more than thirty thousand people experienced this weekend in Berlin.
A huge colourful gathering of farmers and people of all ages, with an impressive seventy tractor escort, from all corners of Germany and Europe united under the declaration "We are fed up with agribusiness". They marched in rhythm through the streets of Berlin, right up to Chancellor Merkel's office, expressing their indignation and calling for healthy food and sustainable farming.
Among the crowds marching and mingling were flags and banners of over one hundred organisations, including those representing farmers, beekeepers and consumers, environmental, animal welfare, development and food organisations, as well as public and youth initiatives.
They were united under the common call for shifting agriculture policies away from destructive chemical intensive farming, mass food production and food waste, genetically engineered crops, seed piracy and cruel animal farming towards a more environmental, animal-friendly and socially fair agriculture that ensures food for all. Their message was not only for Chancellor Merkel, but also for all the European agriculture ministers who were also in Berlin – not to march with us, but rather to attend the agricultural fair of the German national green week.
Demonstrators made their point with an entire farmyard of colourful animal costumes. While marching, I spotted cows, pigs, chickens, bees and flowers bearing placards calling for "Farms and Not Factories" , "No Pesticides" , "No GMOs" , "No Cloned Meat"; in short, for healthy and ecological farming, for more support for small scale farmers, for saving the bees, saving the seeds … and much, much more. One notable issue for many of those marching was the new free trade agreement between the US and EU which is threatening to lower European food and agriculture standards to match those of the US.
One hundred and fifty Greenpeace activists were also there, making their protest against GMOs and corporate monopolized agriculture visible, holding up genetically engineered (GE) maize cobs. On one hand, emphasising the message that Europe and Germany should remain GE free and on the other hand, highlighting the fact that, although GE crops may not be grown in Germany, GE animal feed still gets imported; continuing to drive the destructive environmental impacts from growing them in far away places - vast monocultures, deforestation, heavy pesticide use and ever deepening corporate control of farming.
Spirits were high, and you could almost see the movement blossoming before your eyes as people shared their experiences, campaigns and new ideas. Inspired by interventions from such hugely diverse and experienced campaigners and experts as Jochen Fritz, from the German CAP focused umbrella group, Meine Landwirtschaft; Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement and Dr. Hans Herren, co-chair of the respected International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, to name a few. Many no doubt sustained by the Slow Food Youth Network 'disco soup' prepared the night before by hundreds of joyful young hands dancing and cutting vegetables, taking a stand against food waste.
Berlin's annual 'Fed Up with Agribusiness' demonstration has clearly become a trend to watch and is growing every year.
People in Europe and all over the world become more and more conscious that what matters is what they eat, where it comes from and who is in control of farming it, and they are having their say on how their food is produced. It is a global food movement which demands alternative solutions to produce food – such as small scale ecological farming. A modern solution that is in our hands.
As Carlo Petrini so eloquently put it in his closing speech, "Small scale farming is not anti-progress, poor or underdeveloped. It is a sustainable agricultural model that uses natural and human resources respectfully and therefore guarantees social and food security."
Myrto Pispini is a freelance food and agriculture activist.
If "Detox" was on your list of New Year's Resolutions, but you already found it falling to the bottom of your hopelessly long "to-do" list then fear not!
You can still Detox - but instead of beginning with yourself, why not start with one of the world’s leading fashion brands?Burberry: A trendsetter within fashion?
Burberry might have a reputation as a forward-thinking brand but when it comes to hazardous chemicals, this luxury label is hiding something in that iconic Burberry check.
Our latest investigations reveal that children's clothes sold by Burberry come infested with hazardous Little Monsters. All but one children's clothing items tested for this brand contained hazardous substances including Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) and nonylphenol ethoxylates, which can break down in the environment to form toxic and hormone-disrupting substances.
Activists, fashion-lovers and concerned consumers from all corners of the globe have come together on many occasions to convince these big brands that toxic chemicals are not an accessory that will ever be in fashion. And these big brands have listened.What can you do?
You can help us give Burberry’s toxic love story a happy ending by taking action right now.
Today, we are taking to twitter, where Burberry has over 2.5 million followers, to get their attention.
Do you have a twitter account? Here are some things you can tweet:
… and of course, feel free to write your own messages on top of that.
And whether you’re on twitter or not, be sure to come back tomorrow for more ways to convince this British fashion icon that the only way to remain fashion-forward it to leave the toxic chemicals behind.
Juliette is a Digital Mobilisation Specialist at Greenpeace International.
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
Radiation measurements taken from an observation well at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are increasing, according to reports. Groundwater in the well measured 2.4 million Becquerels per liter for strontium-90 and other emitting beta particles. Strontium accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer. The well is close to the building of reactor #2, which suffered a meltdown in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and 40 meters from the ocean. Readings from the well have been increasing since last autumn.
Meanwhile, the plant’s operator TEPCO has removed 10 percent of the nuclear fuel assemblies from the unstable reactor #4 building at the site and transferred them to a more secure storage pool. Of the 1,533 fuel assemblies, 154 have been moved. The work is expected to take until the end of the year to complete. TEPCO is keeping a running total of transferred fuel assemblies on its website ands explains the process involved:
(1)Relocate the fuel assemblies stored in the fuel rack inside the spent fuel pool, one by one, into a transportation container (cask) underwater using a fuel handling machine.
(2)Lift up the cask from the spent fuel pool using a crane.
(3)Conduct, on the floor as high as the operating floor, such works as closing the lid of the cask and decontaminating the cask.
(4)Lift down the cask toward the ground using the crane to lay it on a trailer.
(5)Transport the cask to the common pool using the trailer.
The Japanese government this week approved a 10-year business plan it is hoped will turn around the fortunes of Fukushima Daiichi’s beleaguered operator TEPCO. The plan sees four reactors being restarted at the company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant this year. TEPCO say that restarting just one reactor would cut its operating costs by between 100 billion and 145 billion yen. "This new plan is a promise with the nation. You are being given the opportunity to remain operating so that you can complete paying compensation, decommissioning the facility and providing a stable electricity supply," industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi told TEPCO president Naomi Hirose. The plan will also see an additional 4 trillion yen in government funds given to the company.
|However, the plan has met with criticism from some quarters and may hit a snag with opposition to the restarting of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors. Hirohiko Izumida, the governor of Niigata Prefecture which hosts the power plant, called TEPCO’s plan “pie in the sky”. At a meeting with TEPCO president Naomi Hirose, Mr Izumida said: “Shareholders and banks have not taken responsibility (for the accident), and it is a ridiculous plan from a safety standpoint.” He has said that he would only give permission for restarts at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa after the completion of an investigation into the Fukushima disaster. “A major point of the review of the accident is to determine if (TEPCO) is a company that can be trusted,” he said. The mayors of two municipalities close to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant have also expressed concerns. “A major precondition will be the implementation of measures to secure the safety of the plant,” said Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida. “The rebuilding plan is the basis for injecting public funds by the central government, while the resumption of operations at the plant is a completely different issue,” Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada.
Other Nuclear News in Japan
Japan’s government has delayed unveiling its long-term energy strategy as public concerns over nuclear power continue to grow, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We are hoping to proceed as soon as possible, but we have received about 19,000 public comments. We shouldn’t decide on it too hastily. We also have to think more about nuclear waste,” said industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi. A poll taken earlier this month by the Fuji television broadcaster found 60 percent of 1,000 respondents opposed restarting any of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors.
This opposition to nuclear power has found a focus with former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa who this week announced his candidacy in the race to become Tokyo’s next governor. His platform will include a call for Japan to abandon nuclear power. "I have a sense of crisis myself that the country's various problems, especially nuclear power plants, are matters of survival for the country," said Mr Hosokawa. His announcement was endorsed by another former Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who has also spoken out against nuclear power in recent months. "The election will be a battle between a group of people who say Japan cannot advance without nuclear power plants and another group of people who say Japan can," he said.
Mr Hosokawa’s announcement has been met with a lukewarm response from some of the evacuees from Fukushima currently living in Tokyo. “Honestly, I'd prefer the candidates in the gubernatorial race to talk about what they'll do for evacuees, rather than about nuclear power plants," said one evacuee. However, another said: "Until now, Tokyo used as much electricity from the Fukushima power plant as it liked. This (gubernatorial race, in which nuclear power is an issue) will provide a good chance for people in Tokyo to think about their responsibility for having used that power and the dangers of nuclear plants."
Elsewhere, the sit-in protest outside the head office of Kyushu Electric Power Co in Fukuoka has marked its 1,000th day. “Humans cannot live side by side with nuclear energy. Never again should lives be threatened and livelihoods deprived. Human dignity is important to me,” said the protest’s organizer Yukinobu Aoyagi.
A study by Kankyo Keizai Kenkyujo, the research institute on environmental economics, has found at least 12 hours would be needed to complete an evacuation of everyone living within 30 kilometers of a nuclear power plant suffering an accident. People within 30 kilometers of the Tokai No. 2 Power Station would need five and a half days, whereas people within 30 kilometers of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station would need six. The study shows “that it is almost impossible for all of the residents near a nuclear power station to evacuate fast enough to avoid radiation exposure in the event of an accident,” Head of the research institute, Naomi Kamioka, said: "Although activities aimed at restarting nuclear reactors are shifting into high gear, road conditions around the nuclear power plants have not been drastically improved even after the Fukushima nuclear accident."
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has begun safety screening of a reactor at the Onagawa nuclear power plant with a view to the reactor being restarted. Power switchboards and emergency generators at the plant were damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The plant’s operator, Tohoku Electric Power Company, is building seawalls to defend against tsunamis 10 meters higher than previously expected. The NRA is also reviewing an application for safety screening by Chugoku Electric Power Company for one of its reactors at the Shimane nuclear plant. Both the Shimane and Onagawa reactors share the same design as those that suffered meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. All of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors are currently idle. (Source: NHK)
Q&A published in Yale Environment 360.
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, the outspoken executive director of Greenpeace discusses why his organization’s activists braved imprisonment in Russia to stop Arctic oil drilling and what needs to be done to make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward a green energy economy.
by Diane Toomey
Kumi Naidoo, the international executive director of Greenpeace, is intimately familiar with the Prirazlomnaya drilling platform in the Russian Arctic. In August 2012, he and five other Greenpeace activists were hosed down with frigid water and pelted with pieces of metal as they attempted to climb aboard the platform, which recently became the first offshore installation to begin producing oil in the Arctic Ocean.
Greenpeace and Prirazlomnaya were back in the news last fall when 28 Greenpeace members and two journalists — dubbed the "Arctic 30" — were arrested and held for several months for storming the rig before being released in December by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Diane Toomey, Naidoo talks about the latest Greenpeace actions, what’s needed to get global climate talks off the ground and launch a green energy revolution, why the industrialized world owes a deep "carbon debt" to the developing world, and the reasons his activist organization has decided to take such a strong stand against oil drilling in the rapidly melting Arctic Ocean.
"We went back [to Prirazlomnaya]," says Naidoo, "because we’re trying to draw a line in the ice, because once this starts it will have breached another threshold of meeting our rapacious appetite for unconventional oil and gas in the most fragile of environments."
Yale Environment 360: The Artic 30 have been granted amnesty by the Russian government. What are your thoughts regarding their release?
Kumi Naidoo: Well, firstly, the instrument of amnesty is normally exercised when people have been convicted of a crime, and we maintain that our activists have been granted amnesty not having been convicted of anything. And we will maintain, as the United Nations Law of the Sea tribunal ruled, that in fact the Russian authorities have acted illegally in seizing the ship and arresting our people. So on the one hand, while we are relieved, we also think that a grave injustice has been done here in terms of recognizing the rights of peaceful protest.
e360: The demonstration the Arctic 30 participated in was not the first action Greenpeace took against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. In 2012 you and other activists climbed the platform and managed to unfurl a banner that read "Save the Artic." Why multiple actions against this particular platform?
Naidoo: So basically this is the first platform in the upper Artic, deep in the Artic Ocean, that has started drilling. Last year’s action actually was very important in terms of raising awareness amongst the Russian public itself. A survey done after our action showed that about 65 percent of Russian people support the idea that the Artic should be declared a global sanctuary, which is the demand of Greenpeace and the indigenous peoples that live in the Arctic. Now the fact that we did not succeed in our goal to get Gazprom [the Kremlin-controlled oil and gas company] to halt was the reason we went back — because we’re trying to draw a line in the ice, because once this starts it will have breached another threshold of meeting our rapacious appetite for unconventional oil and gas in the most fragile of environments.
And this particular rig, by the way, if there was an oil spill, it would be virtually impossible to clean up because assuming, for example, the oil spill happens towards the end of summer period when the ocean is frozen, the ice will be locked in for 6 months or more and Murmansk, which is the nearest town, is about three-and-a-half days of sailing away. So given the implications for the climate, but also given the implications for the biodiversity of this fragile part of the world, we felt we needed to keep the pressure on. And by the way the amount of oil Gazprom will extract from that particular rig is equivalent to what Gazprom spills in terms of its onshore oil operations. If a company has such a bad record in terms of onshore oil drilling, why should anybody have any confidence in terms of offshore drilling in this fragile place, especially since they’ve not even produced and shared with the public an oil spill response plan?
e360: President Putin issued a statement shortly after the amnesty announcement in which he said Greenpeace should not "raise a clamor but work to minimize ecological risks should they appear." What’s your reaction to that statement?
Naidoo: Well the ecological risk has appeared. Even the conservative IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is saying we are running out of time, we need to act fast, and, importantly, we need to leave between 60 to 80 percent of known fossil fuels reserves where they are. So we would argue that in fact that’s what the science is saying, and what is being planned here is against what the science is saying, and therefore we are acting against it because doing it itself constitutes an ecological risk.
e360: When you staged the 2012 protests, you and your fellow activists were allowed to go on your way, albeit after you were attacked with water hoses. Given that, what do you make of the Russian government's much more heavy-handed reaction to this year’s protest?
Naidoo: Well, this is only speculation, but it seems that as they are getting closer to the point at which they actually start pumping oil, they are determined not to have any delays. I also think this was driven by Gazprom. Gazprom is a very, very powerful company within the political system in Russia, and I think Gazprom after last year probably wanted to send a message that if you take action you will pay a very high price.
e360: I’d like to turn toward climate talks and ask a few questions regarding that topic. At the end of the recent climate talks in Warsaw, you released a statement calling the negotiations a sham, in part because "of the complete failure of rich countries to deliver on existing promises on long-term finance, which is putting the most vulnerable people at risk." Make the case for why developed countries have a responsibility to help developing nations mitigate the effects of climate change, even as greenhouse gas emissions from the developing world are on the rise.
Naidoo: When we look at the cumulative figure of what carbon has been emitted, then clearly it’s obvious. And developed nations, by the way, accept this — even the United States accepts this, that they carry a carbon debt to the developing world. And to be fair, it’s only in the last 20 years that it began to be clear that burning oil, coal, and gas is detrimental to the global climate. So the historical accumulation of greenhouse gases, and particularly carbon dioxide, has been driven by the developed world. They built their economies on the basis of that. Developing countries are not asking for charity; they are asking for developed nations to pay their carbon debt.
Secondly, there’s also the reason of self-interest. It’s clear if developing countries follow the same dirty fossil fuel-driven economy, we will be very, very quickly at the point of even more extreme climate impacts. Let’s be very clear. It’s not as if climate impacts are something of the future — it is happening now. People in Africa, for example, don’t need the IPCC to tell them that the climate is changing. Now if China, India, and other big developing countries continue on the path of emulating what the developed world did in terms of how it built its economy, it’s going to have an impact on rich and poor countries alike.
When I met with the chief climate negotiator of the Chinese government in Beijing in October 2010, he said, "Listen, I agree with you. We are of course increasing our renewable energy, but it’s really hard for us to give up on cheap coal, for example, when the countries that built their economies on coal and other fossil fuels continue down that path." Bear in mind that people who are paying the most brutal price for carbon emissions are those that actually emit virtually no carbon themselves. If you take the genocide in Darfur, which is probably the first major resource war brought about as a result of climate impacts, those folks in Darfur are not burning coal or oil or gas. So it’s a terrible injustice, and that’s why this term climate justice has become a really important term over the last ten years. When we say climate justice, we’re saying let’s have those that carry the greatest burden of responsibility act in a way that compensates those that carry a little, but lesser, burdens, and do it in a way that also encourages developing countries not to follow the same path that rich countries followed to build their economies.
e360: You mentioned China and India. Those countries are now the number 1 and number 4 emitters of carbon pollution, respectively, and both countries, almost until the very end of the Warsaw climate talks, were demanding that only developed countries should be made to commit to greenhouse gas emissions limits. You said that Greenpeace expects to see a new kind of leadership from emerging economies. Are you seeing that?
Naidoo: We are seeing some signs of it. For example, in China today, every two hours a wind turbine is going up. We’re seeing massive investments in public transport, in rail. They have now made commitments on closing certain coal plants in Beijing, Shanghai, and so on. But this is too little yet to have impact. But what we are saying to these countries is, yes, it’s true that rich countries carry a bigger responsibility, but you cannot bury your head in the sand and say, "Well, we didn’t create the problem so unless those folks act we won’t act."
So what we are saying to them is turn this into an opportunity. Because we’re convinced that if we had a serious political commitment on the part of the majority governments in the world to say we need an energy revolution on the scale that the industrial revolution was — where we seriously reconfigure our economies, where we maximize all the renewable energy potential — we can do it in a way that also is sensitive to economic development, and we can have a double win for the climate and the environment on the one hand, as well as job creation and addressing poverty and development on the other. So we at Greenpeace are calling for an energy revolution on a massive scale. We’ve done studies in various countries and regions as to how, by 2050, with a serious commitment moving forward, we can actually meet our energy needs, generate tens of thousands of new jobs in a new, green, inclusive economy, and meet our climate and environmental concerns but also do it in a way that it’s good for the economy.
However, the reason we do not have the kind of progress that we need is because the current oil, coal, and gas companies make so much money at the moment that they are very, very unlikely to give up on that commitment [to fossil fuels.] All the governments in the world together, they are subsidizing oil, coal, and gas companies with taxpayers’ money to the tune of 1.4 trillion dollars annually. If that same amount of money went into solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and so on, we would very quickly start seeing massive changes, massive reorientations of our economy. So that is what are we saying to both developed and developing countries.
e360: Considering your take on the outcome in Warsaw, how do you work toward climate talks in Lima and then ultimately Paris in 2015? And do you still believe in the U.N. climate negotiations process?
Naidoo: Well, if the U.N. climate process didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. Warts and all it’s the best option we have for a global deal to happen. So we cannot walk away from it, but what we need to do differently now is we need to generate enough public pressure in every single country around the world so that when governments go to these climate negotiations in Lima and Paris, they go there with science-driven, ambitious levels of commitment. Our political leaders need to understand that, firstly, nature does not negotiate, and, secondly, that they cannot change the science. The only thing that they have the power to change is the political will to make the transition that science says we need to make. So what we are doing is we are reducing, and have been reducing, as Greenpeace our level of investment in the climate negotiations itself, instead building pressure from below and ensuring that when governments come to the climate negotiations they come with ambitious targets.
There is what is called the "Gigaton Gap." The "Gigaton Gap" is what the science says we need to reduce in terms of carbon and what the governments are saying we need to do, and there’s a huge gap between them. The reality is if we don’t start working now and getting progressive, ambitious positions taken by national governments in the different capitals, you can’t get magic then to emerge out of the climate negotiations because those negotiators go there with mandates from their different countries. And if they go with the typically low emissions reduction targets, for example, nothing can happen. So that’s why we have to be fighting on an ongoing basis to mobilize as much public pressure as we can to ensure that the national positions that go to Lima and Paris are in line with the science and are imbued with the appropriate level of ambition and urgency.
Earlier this week Greenpeace launched the latest chapter of the Detox campaign for toxic-free fashion, revealing how hazardous Little Monsters are lurking in all kinds of kid's clothes - from luxury to budget - and calling on big brands like Burberry, adidas and Disney to act now on behalf of our future generations.In the beginning...
Just a few hours later activists in Hungary set up a workshop infested with toxic monsters outside adidas’ flagship store in Budapest, revealing the dangerous beasts hidden in the fabric used to make our clothes. Following adidas' commitment to Detox their supply chains, the world is still watching and waiting for the brand to go all in for fashion without pollution.Until finally...
The day was brought to a close in Mexico where nearly 1,000 children came together in schools across the country to send a strong message to these polluting brands and the rest of the world – Detox our future. The highlight was on a pristine beach in Puerto Vallarta where 100 children made a human banner in the sand as the iconic Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior sailed in the background. Watch how the events unfolded here.
Meanwhile, back on dry land Greenpeace offices around the world were telling our supporters a Detox Fairy Tale on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, revealing each new chapter on the hour throughout the day alongside the Detox Fairy Tale website.
Activists, parents, bloggers and fashionistas joined us to help tell this toxic tale, with thousands tweeting the story and using social media to tell Burberry, adidas and Disney to ensure our children can live happily ever after.A Happy Ending?
Over the past two years here at Greenpeace I have been proud to be part of an ever-growing global movement creating change in the fashion industry. The Detox campaign has proven just how much big brands listen to their customers and to public opinion.
As a result of people power 17 brands have committed to Detox, and agreed to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals in our clothes and stop polluting our rivers by 2020. What’s more, most of them are already doing something about it (see which brands are Leaders and which are Greenwashers on the Detox Catwalk).
Following in the footsteps of their competitors, brands like Burberry, adidas and Disney can still become the heroes in this chemical nightmare by ridding us of these monsters forever - taking steps to make their supply chains more transparent, eliminate the worst hazardous chemicals and become pioneers of toxic free fashion.
Parents, shoppers and people standing up for what they believe in can make these brands listen.Make your voice heard
Join the movement and help spread the Detox message even further to ensure the clothes we buy for ourselves and our children tell a story we can all be proud of.
Tell these polluters to stop making and releasing these Little Monsters:
- Read the Detox Fairy Tale
- Read A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet
- Find out more about the Detox campaign
Ilze Smit is a Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace International. You can follow her on twitter: @ilze_gp
We know that forests are biodiversity-rich, and we know they provide us with essential ecosystem services, such as regulating water flows and influencing weather patterns. One ecosystem service often discussed these days is the role of forests in helping regulate the amount of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. A new analysis in Nature, one of the top scientific journals, demonstrates that big, mature trees play an important part in this role.
Forests store large amounts of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change. They store nearly 300 billion tonnes of carbon in their living parts (biomass) – roughly 30 times the annual amount of emissions created by burning fossil fuels . But when forests are degraded or destroyed, this carbon is released into the atmosphere.
It used to be thought that only young forests captured (or sequestered) carbon from the atmosphere whilst they were growing, and that ancient (also called primary or old-growth) forests simply stored this carbon. However, several recent studies have now shown that intact ancient forests also take up carbon from the atmosphere . This new study could help explain how ancient forests continue to take up carbon.
The researchers have found that carbon uptake of trees (as measured by growth rates) continuously increases with their size because the overall leaf area increases as they grow. This enables bigger trees to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere. Thus, the oldest trees in a forest capture the most carbon from the atmosphere. These oldest trees are to be found in ancient forests. Importantly, older trees are also more valuable for biodiversity than younger trees because they support a wider range of species. For example, hollows and snags provide habitats for nesting birds.
The authors warn, however, that forest dynamics are complex: large trees are subject to higher mortality rates than young trees and the number of trees in a given area may be higher in a young forest. These factors may offset the increased growth of mature trees in a forest. Nonetheless, it is now evident that big, old trees are highly important components of ancient forests, in terms of biodiversity and both carbon uptake and storage.
Selective logging in forests usually removes the bigger trees, and much deforestation occurs in ancient forests, which contains these older trees. This new study emphasises the double whammy of removing these trees: removal releases carbon into the atmosphere where it contributes to climate change, but also removes an important sink that would take up some of mankind's carbon emissions from the atmosphere. That’s why Greenpeace is campaigning for zero (gross) deforestation, globally, by 2020.
 Stephens et al. 2007. Science 316: 1732-1735; Luyssaert et al. 2008. Nature 455: 213-215; Lewis 2009. Nature 457: 1003-1007.
Marie Bohlen, a consummate artist known for her nature illustrations and a founding matriarch of Greenpeace, died January 5th at age 89, passing away peacefully at her home in Courtenay, British Columbia.
Besides a distinguished career as an illustrator and her seminal role in the founding of Greenpeace, Marie will be remembered for her deeply-lived testimony as a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) to the values of pacifism, simplicity, social activism and speaking truth to power.
Born in Pennsylvania on July 4th, 1924, she graduated from the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia and became a well-known illustrator of children's and nature books. "North American Birds" -- first published in 1963 by Women's Day magazine and later reissued by Prentice-Hall in 1969 -- includes 300 full-color paintings and earned acclaim from art critics. The Pittsburgh Press noted: "In addition to their striking beauty, Mrs. Bohlen's portraits give details of plumage and marking seldom captured by even the most accurate cameras."
A lifelong pacifist, Marie vowed the day her son Paul Nonnast was born that he would never go to war. Her profound reverence for all living creatures informed her daily existence on the Greenpeace farm which she and second husband Jim Bohlen founded on Denman Island. She'd sit on the deck waiting patiently as deer approached to eat apples from her hands. Later, in the Courtenay, British Columbia home where the couple spent their final years, she kept the blinds drawn lest a bird mistake the clean windows for clear sky. Bill Darnell, who coined the phrase "green peace," remembers Marie caring for spiders and wild rodents.
Tall and broad-shouldered with an upright posture and chignon-styled hair, Marie was a beautiful, dignified woman who was always simply dressed -- often in jeans. Her outward appearance was congruent with an inner strength and the simplicity she embraced, right down to the spare Shaker chairs and benches that furnished the Bohlens' house. Bob Hunter, another early Greenpeacer who went on to become first president of the organisation once it went global, wrote that Marie had an "iron will" and "radiated power;" qualities which were softened by the warmth that exploded in her broad smile, resonant laugh and nurturing spirit.
Marie's dedication to social activism and pacifism resonated with Jim when the two met in 1957 at a local meeting. They married in 1965, on July 4th: Jim's birthday as well as Marie's. She convinced him to join the Sierra Club, and brought him to his first Quaker meeting. Her influence sharpened his growing commitment to peace and environmentalism and he resigned his job as an engineer for a defense contractor to seek employment that paralleled his values.
In 1967, with the Vietnam War raging, the couple left the United States for Canada to shelter Marie's 19-year-old son Paul Nonnast (from her first marriage) from the Vietnam war draft. They also brought with them two other children, Margot (14) and Lance (11), from Jim's first marriage. Arriving in Vancouver, the Bohlens went to an antiwar march, looked for the Quaker banner, and found two other former east coast Americans, Irving and Dorothy Stowe, holding it. The couples bonded, beginning a lifelong friendship rooted in activism, and in 1969 -- together with UBC law student Paul Cote and several activists including Bill Darnell -- they founded the "Don't Make a Wave Committee" to protest atomic blasts on Amchitka Island. The group soon expanded to include Bob and Zoe Hunter, journalists Ben and Dorothy Metcalfe, and a diverse base of other like-minded souls. The Committee changed its name to Greenpeace several years later, and an international eco-phenomenon was born.
Marie and Jim were also prime founders of the first chapter of the Sierra Club of BC. Avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, they brought an experience-based passion to early environmental causes. And at a time when men still predominated in activist circles in North America, Marie's strong and resonant voice set a bold example, empowering succeeding generations of women.
Marie's further contributions to the founding of Greenpeace have been well documented. She and son Paul created the first Greenpeace button, which bore the stamp of her artistry. Forbidding black outlines and funky font characterized many buttons of the Sixties, but this one spoke with a softer tongue, sandwiching the word "Greenpeace" between forest-green ecology and peace symbols rendered in an elegant clarity against a soft unbordered yellow background. Marie, Jim, Lance, and friends sold these buttons for 25 cents as an initial fundraising effort towards chartering a boat to sail to Amchitka Island to protest the atomic blasts.
It was also Marie -- inspired by 1950's Quaker anti-nuclear protest voyages to Bikini Atoll -- who had the vision to propose that the Don't Make a Wave Committee sail a boat to "confront the bomb." This bold strategy of seagoing "bearing witness" voyages remains a vital part of Greenpeace International campaigns today, as per the 2013 voyage of the Arctic 30 to expose Russian preparations to drill in the Arctic. Marie was also slated to sail on the voyage to Amchitka, along with Lou Hogan, but in the final cull women were disallowed. Captain Cormack held the traditional view that women were bad luck.
As an artist, Marie walked in beauty, and she epitomized the Quaker expression to "walk in the light." Her artistry and passionate commitment to the Earth have earned her a singular place in the annals of history. She will be well missed.
She is survived by two stepchildren, Lance Bohlen of Seattle, Washington and Margot Bradley of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, as well as three grandchildren.
Barbara Stowe is the daughter of Irving and Dorothy Stowe, founding members of Greenpeace.
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has asked TEPCO, the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to address rising radiation levels at the plant’s boundaries. Radiation levels of 8 millisieverts per year were found in December in a southern area of the site close to storage tanks containing highly radioactive water. In fact, the tanks are generating X-rays which have contributed to the jump in radiation levels from the limit of 1 millisieverts per year to 8 millisieverts per year. TEPCO officials told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, “Beta rays released from radioactive strontium and other substances in the water reacted with iron and other elements in the storage tank containers to generate the X-rays.” Strontium accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer. NRA officials say TEPCO should set a timeline for bringing radiation levels back within limits.
In a sign that the Japanese government is moving to take more control of the situation at Fukushima, the industry ministry has announced that it is creating a new decommissioning team and putting it inside the government body responsible for compensating the victims of disaster, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund (NDLFF). “I was surprised when I heard (about it) from an official of the industry ministry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy at the end of last year. Compensation and decommissioning are two different worlds,” said Hajimu Yamana, who it is expected will lead this new team. “A positive development is that (the new division) will be able to hire decommissioning experts and supervise TEPCO’s work,” he added. The new body will oversee TEPCO’s decommissioning work on the Fukushima reactors as well as the ongoing contaminated water crisis and decontamination of areas affected by radiation.
This comes with the news that the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, which supports the government with decommissioning the Fukushima reactors, is to consult three foreign experts on the process. One of the experts will be Luis Echavarri, the Director-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency. Currently, work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the reactors at Fukushima is expected to start in 2020.
Other Nuclear News in Japan
Commenting on the upcoming vote to elect Tokyo’s governor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he does not want nuclear issues to unbalance any debates to be had. Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is running for the governorship and is seen by some as seeking to join with another former Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi (who has recently been vocal on the need for the country to end its reliance on nuclear power) and call for a nuclear-free Japan.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
A black sea bream caught in waters near the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been found to be contaminated with 12,400 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. This is 124 times the government’s safety standard for food. The Fisheries Research Agency said the fish was caught on November 17, 37 kilometers south of the plant. Two other fish measured 426 becquerels and 197 becquerels. The agency is now studying the fish.
Evacuation and Repopulation Efforts
The evacuation order for Tamura in Fukushima Prefecture may be lifted in April. This would be the first such order to be lifted since the Fukushima disaster began in March 2011. Residents have called for the order to be lifted at the same time as schools reopen. Families with children are asking for more decontamination work to be carried out, however. When they visited Tamura in October last year, Greenpeace radiation experts found bags of radioactive waste overgrown by plants and next to a kindergarten.
The New York Times has interviewed Masami Yoshizawa, a rancher whose cattle farm sits in the evacuation zone for the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture. Mr Yoshizawa returned to his ranch to tend his herd after the government ordered contaminated livestock slaughtered. “These cows are living testimony to the human folly here in Fukushima. The government wants to kill them because it wants to erase what happened here, and lure Japan back to its pre-accident nuclear status quo. I am not going to let them,” he said. He now looks after 360 cows including those abandoned by other ranchers and still searches the evacuation zone for other surviving cattle.
Today we told the world a story, a story about the Little Monsters in children's clothes and shoes. As the mother of a young daughter this is one story I had to read and one that revealed a shocking truth about the clothes we buy for our kids.
Our latest investigation has revealed the presence of hazardous chemicals in clothing made by 12 very well known brands; from the iconic kid's label Disney, to sportswear brands like adidas, and even top-end luxury labels like Burberry.
The shocking truth is that no matter what type of kid's clothes we shop for, there's no safe haven – all of the tested brands had at least one product containing hazardous toxic monsters.
For parents everywhere, this is a toxic nightmare.
Most parents don't realise it but these brands are making us unwitting accomplices in the industry's toxic scandal. These chemicals are not only impacting on local communities – when they are released into rivers from the polluting factories in production centers like China and Indonesia – they are also escaping from people's clothes and through their washing machines to also pollute our local waterways.
Once released into the environment, the cocktail of hazardous chemicals found in this study can have seriously adverse effects on wildlife – some have even been known to make male fish take on female characteristics! What's more they can contaminate our bodies via food, air and water and pose health risks to humans, particularly to our immune, reproductive and hormonal systems.
It's bad enough that even though there are safer alternatives out there, many brands continue to use these hazardous chemicals to make adult's clothes. But this study showed no significant difference between the level of hazardous chemicals found in children's clothes and those found in garments made for adults.
Our little ones are especially vulnerable to the presence of certain Little Monsters in our environment. My daughter is now four-years old and I'm always amazed how fast she learns and develops day-by-day. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals tested for are known to disrupt our hormone systems, and mess with the normal development of our bodies. We may only see these adverse effects much later in lives of our little ones.
But all is not lost!
Some of you reading this may already be part of the global movement that made 18 global brands commit to Detox – agreeing to phase out all hazardous chemicals by 2020. The movement is proof that people power works. What’s more, progress is already being made with most of the brands taking steps to eliminate the worst chemicals and make their supply chains more transparent.
However, it shocks me to see other brands like adidas with global reach and vast profit margins refusing to take this issue seriously, failing to follow through on their public commitment with any credible actions. Meanwhile, other big players in the clothing industry, like Disney and American Apparel, still haven't taken responsibility for their involvement in this toxic tale that is affecting people across the globe.
Join the Movement.
We have already made 18 big brands commit to change their ways and we can do it again.
This is an issue close to my heart and one I believe we can all do something about. On behalf of my daughter, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and put pen to paper, adding my voice millions of others by writing this, my very first blog. The Detox campaign has shown that when we as parents, fashion lovers and activists speak out, big clothing brands do listen.
By making ourselves heard, we can push the industry to commit to change in the name of our own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and the generations to come.
1. Use twitter, Facebook or instagram? Today we are telling the story of these toxic little monsters in the style of a fairytale. Please help share within your networks and give this story a happy ending
2. Want to talk to the brands directly? Tell big brands like adidas, Burberry and Disney to clean up their act by taking action here.
Nadia Haiama is a Senior Policy Advisor for the Greenpeace International global Detox campaign.
The latest report by Greenpeace East Asia revealed the presence of hazardous chemicals in clothing items bought from 12 global brands, from fast fashion giants like Primark, to sportswear brands like adidas and luxury labels like Burberry.