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Latest news from Greenpeace
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One of the many outrageous scandals surrounding the Fukushima nuclear crisis is the way the people of Japan have had to bail out TEPCO, the utility whose negligence allowed the accident to happen.
Who will pay if TEPCO continue to refuse to honour their obligations? The Japanese people, of course. When it comes to nuclear power, it’s always the people who pay and the companies that profit.
The Japanese people have already paid out 1 trillion yen to keep TEPCO afloat thanks to its incompetence at Fukushima. Further taxpayer trillions are budgeted to support the 160,000 victims who cannot go home. Yet the disaster was so huge those trillions are nowhere near enough to help people recover what they have lost.
However, this fight against the unwillingness to face responsibility is not over. Greenpeace continues to press for nuclear companies to be made fully liable for any accidents they cause.
Last week, together with other NGOs, Greenpeace Japan campaigners presented a proposal to amend the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage to the Chair of a government committee examining potential changes to the law in Japan.
They demanded changes that would give priority to protection of victims, which is currently stated as one of its double objectives with promotion of nuclear business. They also emphasised minimizing the burden on taxpayers while at the same time adequately compensating victims. The stockholders and creditors related to the Fukushima nuclear power plant must be liable for damages before the people are made to pay via increased tax or electricity charges.
Not only that but, nuclear reactors must be made subject to the Product Liability Law. This means the manufacturer of a nuclear reactor, along with all other companies supplying materials for it, must be held liable for damages above everyone else. Are you listening, General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba? Where has your ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ gone?
Basically, it’s the “if you break it, you bought it” principle. It’s about holding those who have been closely involved accountable and not punishing the innocent. Who could argue against that? The people of Japan have suffered enough since the events of March 11 2011 without having their pockets picked as well.
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” — Oscar Wilde
With so much at stake in the Arctic, and so much mind-boggling corporate ineptitude at play in places like Alaska, Greenpeace International has taken matters into its own hands — or rather, put the power back in the hands of the everyday workers who are confronted nearly daily with the reality that the industry is simply not Arctic Ready.
The new Arctic Truth website aims to encourage employees and subcontractors of oil companies involved in Arctic drilling to come forward and to help expose the incredible risks corporations are taking as they look to plunder the resources of this pristine region — particularly on issues such as operational safety, bad practices and potential breaches of environmental regulations.
Following the launch of www.arctictruth.org this morning, posters advertising the new website began appearing in the streets surrounding the London offices of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell — one of the biggest oil companies leading the Arctic resource rush. Flyers will also be handed out to employees outside the company's headquarters in the UK and the Netherlands. We are also launching an online charm offensive to reach Shell's staff through the professional networking site LinkedIn.
This latest initiative in our campaign to protect the Arctic from creeping industrialisation comes at a time of heightened concern over the safety of drilling operations in the region, where a series of recent incidents in places like Alaska have made it clear that major oil companies are not taking the necessary steps to prevent serious spills and accidents. Over the last year, Shell has lurched from one safety blunder to another — its oil spill containment was "crushed like a beer can" during tests; its barge failed to meet safety standards; one of its rigs ran aground in Alaska while the other had a fire in its engine, and both are now under federal, criminal investigation.
This list of blunders reads like a ‘how not-to’ of Arctic drilling. But if it hadn’t been for close public and media scrutiny, very little of the truth about Shell’s appalling safety practises would ever have come to light. That is why we are looking for information relating to oil drilling in the far north, which would usually be kept under wraps. The public deserves to know about the incredible risks these companies are taking each and every day as they gamble with the planet for just three years’ worth of oil.
Arctic Truth offers the opportunity to submit information securely and in confidence. Greenpeace International will treat all information with absolute respect and use it to challenge irresponsible practices in the Arctic, whilst ensuring that our sources are protected.
We hope employees, subcontractors and others will use this new website to help reveal the truth about the gamble oil companies like Shell are willing to take. Their bravery could be the key to help to Save the Arctic for future generations.
Greenpeace has campaigned against the expansion of coal exports from Queensland, through the Great Barrier Reef, using every legitimate means we can to stop them going ahead.
We’ve made detailed submissions, we’ve triggered Departmental inquiries, we’ve used Freedom of Information to expose holes in assessments, we’ve helped 25,000 people make submissions to processes, we’ve published full page advertisements and we’ve written large on a beach our call to protect the Reef from coal. All to no avail: the Australian government has not acted to protect the Reef and prevent the expansion of our biggest contribution to climate change.
Today Greenpeace has dramatically stepped up its campaign to stop Australia’s biggest contribution to climate change from getting any bigger, by boarding a bulk carrier filled with thermal coal, leaving Australia bound for Asia.
Plans are underway to roughly double the volume of coal exports from Australia. At the same time the big coal importing markets will increasingly be reluctant to get on board. The assumption that coal exports will provide energy access to millions in countries like India is not quite true. Within India, this debate is fast moving to decentralised Renewable Energy, as a quick and cheaper model. A sentiment echoed by the Chief Minister of India’s energy starved states, Bihar. It is also estimated that solar power will be as cheap as coal for retail purchasers in India by 2015.
The high likelihood of China’s new air pollution policies will mean an 18% drop in expected global coal trade in 2015.With up to 30% of imports reliant on China, this will drastically impact Australia. The question arises – why create and develop infrastructure that is susceptible to huge economic losses?
But the declining demand side is only one argument against Australian coal: such proposed expansion ridicules the country’s commitment to take action to limit global warming to below 2 degrees C. We’ve all seen what climate change is doing to Australia. In the past few months, Australia has suffered its "angry summer" with extreme with extreme heat, bushfires and floods across the country. Over ten thousand Australians, including the country’s most respected climate scientists and academics and over 40 non-government organisations from around the country have called for the expansion of coal to stop.
The activists are on board the bulk carrier, MV Meister, are not just Australian. Greenpeace is campaigning against the expansion of coal mining, power and exports in China, India and the United States, and the multinational team of volunteers peacefully occupying a coal shipment from Australia today are representative of a region-wide campaign to bring about the end of the age of coal.
It’s well known that most coral reefs around the world are unlikely to survive with more than 1.5 degrees of average global warming: right now, the planet is heading decisively for four degrees C of warming.
In the absence of any action being taken by the political or business leadership to tackle this problem, Greenpeace is calling for people around the world - in physically preventing the expansion of coal, through peaceful civil disobedience. If you support Greenpeace’s action, sign the statement we’ll be publishing in the Australian Financial Review here.
Today, six days before the key EU vote to ban bee-killer pesticides, Greenpeace is attending the annual general meeting (AGM) of Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland, in order to alert shareholders to the company’s role in the global decline in bee populations and ask them to challenge the chair of Syngenta board to stop marketing these deadly products.
Activists and beekeepers are demonstraing outside the shareholders’ assembly, while representatives of Greenpeace and the European Beekeeping Coordination are directing questions to the Syngenta board about the reputational and financial risk faced by the company in light of the probable ban. Last month, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a ban on bee-killer pesticides produced by Syngenta and Bayer.
But, even though peer-reviewed scientific studies say that several factors lead to bees decline (namely climate change, diseases, parasites, monocultures, loss of habitats and the widespread use of pesticides), Syngenta is trying to make us believe that bee populations can recover if we mainly fight one of the factors: the varroa mite. According to Syngenta, “there is (…) no direct correlation between neonicotinoids use and poor bee health, although a correlation can be drawn between bee losses and the presence of the Varroa mite”.
But bee decline is more complex and all factors that contribute to bee decline must be addressed. How long will Mr. Martin Taylor, Chairman of Syngenta, deny scientific evidence showing that Syngenta’s blockbuster pesticide thiamethoxam is linked to the global bee decline according to peer-reviewed scientific studies? Bees are running out of time.
A first crucial step that needs to be taken right now is banning bee-killer pesticides. On 15 March, a majority of EU countries backed a Commission proposal to ban three neonicotinoid pesticides (including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, and Bayer’s clothianidin and imidacloprid) at a vote but failed to achieve the necessary qualified majority. On the 29th of April, EU member states will vote for a second time through an appalate body composed by higher member states representatives. If the vote failed again because no qualified majority is reached, the European commission has the power to implement a ban.
The ban could enter into force as early as July 2013, once the proposal has been accepted by EU member states or put in place by the Commission, The pesticides industry is mounting a furious lobbying campaign, to avoid a ban and protect its profits at the cost of the bees and pollination. However, such behaviour is against the long term interest of Syngenta’ shareholders and in fact of any human beings, as our food production relies heavily on pollination services provided by bees and other pollinators.
Greenpeace asks the EU Member states to vote in favour of the commission’s plan which is a welcome first step to address the harmful effects of pesticides on bee. However, the commission has also to endorse ambitious Europe-wide action plans to ban all pesticides that are harmful to bees and other vital pollinators. The commission should also shift funding away from chemical-intensive agriculture and promote ecological farming.
While agriculture multinationals like Syngenta and Bayer care only about profits, their bee-killer pesticides put bees and other pollinators at risk. Without bees and their natural pollination global food production would be severely damaged.
The latest report by Greenpeace, "Bees in Decline", identified seven priority bee-killer pesticides that should be banned due to their toxic effect on bees. The list includes Bayer’s imidacloprid and clothianidin, Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, BASF’s fipronil and chlorpyriphos, and cypermethrin and deltamethrin, produced by other pesticides companies.
The elimination of these bee-killers is only the first step in protecting bees and agriculture in Europe. The only long-term solution is a shift away from chemical-intensive agriculture to ecological farming practices.
Marianne Kuenzle is an Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Switzerland
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
For the third time in five weeks, vital cooling functions at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors’ spent fuel pools were halted as a result of an ongoing rodent infestation, highlighting ongoing hazardous, fragile conditions at the plant. Workers intentionally disabled cooling at reactor #2’s spent fuel pool, after two dead rats were found near a transformer controlling the cooling system. One of the rats had been electrocuted. Earlier this month, cooling functions failed for more than 29 hours when another rat ran across wires of an outdoor control box, electrocuting itself and disabling the entire cooling system. Then, as workers were later trying to install rodent-proof netting around the control box, they accidentally touched the wires, once again shorting the cooling system. Checking the system was expected to take three to four hours, at which point workers planned to reconnect power. If fuel in the spent fuel pools overheats, it could eventually begin to melt down and release massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. TEPCO is now trying to rat-proof electrical equipment at the plant, but had not yet gotten to the transformer at pool #2.
Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment team inspecting the Fukushima Daiichi plant for the first time since the 2011 nuclear crisis began, announced that decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors may exceed 40 years, far longer than TEPCO’s projected timeline. “In my view, it will be near impossible to ensure the time for the decommissioning of such a complex facility in less than 30, 40 years, as is currently established in the roadmap,” Lentijo said. He noted the makeshift equipment being used there and the recent spate of accidents and and glitches that have plagued the plant, including multiple power losses, numerous leaks of highly radioactive water, and worker errors. Dealing with radioactive water storage, he said, needs to be TEPCO’s highest priority, calling it “the most challenging issue.” But, he pointed out that equipment malfunctions are likely to continue, and emphasized the importance of responding to accidents in a timely manner. The IAEA team will release a report on the decommissioning process, as well as the current state of affairs at the plant, sometime within the next month.
TEPCO has resumed efforts to remove highly radioactive water from several leaking belowground storage pits at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Over the last month, three of the seven storage pits began to leak, and efforts to transfer the water to aboveground tanks were further hampered when additional water began to leak from pipes connecting the tanks. Approximately 23,000 tons of water needs to be transferred, but the utility is struggling with where to put it. Each day, between 300 and 400 tons of water is poured into crippled reactors there, in an effort to keep them cool; the process results in highly contaminated water. Experts estimate that an additional 400 tons of groundwater seep into the reactor basements each day through cracks and holes in the damaged reactor buildings; that water must also be stored. The recent leaks have resulted in at least 32,000 tons of water spilling into the ground. TEPCO said that it will not be able to transfer all of the water until at least June; since the utility has been unable to find the source of the leaks, ground contamination will continue until then. Officials insist that none of the water has reached the ocean, which is only 800 meters away. However, in other news, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officials released a new report this week showing that radioactive strontium-90, which can cause bone cancer and leukemia, could reach legal limits in groundwater at the plant within 10 years. Strontium-90 has a half-life of 28.9 years.
The water storage issue continues to become more dire, prompting Toshimitsu Motegi, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), to announce that the ministry will partner with TEPCO to find better ways to address the crisis. TEPCO continues to try to build more storage tanks.
In the meantime, TEPCO is now admitting that 14 workers who were tasked with dealing with the highly radioactive water were working without dosimeters, meaning that it will be difficult to assess how much radiation exposure they received during the dangerous work. The infraction occurred on April 6, the day after the leaks were first discovered, and TEPCO became aware of the situation on April 8.
Despite the fact that Japan injected one trillion yen in government funding into TEPCO to keep it afloat, in effect nationalizing the utility, TEPCO officials are now refusing to reimburse the government’s Environment Ministry for 10.5 billion yen in costs required to decontaminate areas around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which were befouled in the wake of the nuclear disaster there. Under a Special Measures Act concerning decontamination, the government says that TEPCO is required to pay the costs, but officials are balking. “We don’t know if these costs are covered by the special measures law,” one said. The Ministry has already requested payment twice, but so far, TEPCO has refused to comply. Because the government did not specify any timelines in the legislation, no interest or fines can be levied against TEPCO for not paying, and if the utility refuses, those costs would be passed along to taxpayers.
TEPCO admitted this week that even more faultlines below its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture may be active, calling into question the future of the reactors there. Officials said that new data suggests that reactors #3, #5, #6, and #7 were built on top of active faultlines. Previous studies showed that reactors #1 and #2 also on top of active faults. In Japan, it is illegal to operate nuclear reactors that sit atop active fault lines. The NRA recently changed the definition of an active fault from that which has moved within the last 120,000 to 130,000 years to any movement within the last 400,000 years.
Other Nuclear Politics in Japan
Analysis by The Daily Yomiuri (which recently rebranded itself as The Japan News in its online English versions) reveals that over 40% of 389 radiation monitoring stations across Japan have no backup power sources. Experts say that if a tsunami, earthquake, or other disaster were to disable the monitoring stations, officials would be hard-pressed to make accurate decisions regarding evacuation routes in the case of a nuclear disaster. To compound the problem, local municipalities are in charge of the stations, rather than the central government, resulting in inconsistencies in the way they measure radioactivity. For example, in Shimane Prefecture, two new monitoring stations were recently installed, but they only measure up to 10 microsieverts per hour. The national standard for evacuation is 500 microsieverts per hour, but these stations have no capacity to measure that amount. In addition, local officials complain that inadequate government subsidies make upgrades difficult. “The subsidies provided by the government were not enough to cover the costs of a [backup] power generator,” complained Hisnobu Ishiyama, an official with Niigata Prefecture.
Local elections in Kakegawa and Fukuroi have resulted in two incumbent anti-nuclear mayors being re-elected, calling into question the future of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station. Both towns are located in Shizuoka Prefecture. In addition, the mayors of nearby Kikugawa and Yaizu said that they “will not recognize” requests to restart the Hamaoka reactors. In Japan, local consent has long been considered vital to restarting nuclear reactors, although that requirement is not codified into law. Fukuroi Mayor Hideyuki Harada declared, “Even when the new safety measures at the plant are completed, I still will not approve reactor restarts.” Kagegawa Mayor Saburo Matsui agreed: “It’s very hard to say that this is really the place for a nuclear plant.” Hamaoka operator Chubu Electric had no comment.
Tests performed by the Asahi Shimbun show that mud at the bottom of two school swimming pools, which have not been drained since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, contain as much as 100,000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium. A third pool contains at least 8,000 Bq/kg; Japanese law requires any waste containing more than 8,000 Bq/kg to be processed by the central government. Although water in the pool has prevented large amounts of radiation from escaping into the atmosphere, the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education reports that 63 other swimming pools, possibly also containing highly radioactive mud, were emptied into rivers and irrigation canals. Two years after the disaster first began to unfold, many lessons remain unlearned. One Fukushima official in charge of decontamination noted, “We have concentrated on decontamination of the pools and not thought about the mud.”
Oi Nuclear Reactors
Kansai Electric Power Company, which operates the only two online reactors in Japan, submitted a report to the NRA this week, insisting that the Oi reactors are safe and will meet upcoming operating regulations that the agency will formally unveil in July. Last week, NRA officials agreed to make a special exception for the Oi reactors, allowing inspectors to examine the plant for safety violations now rather than waiting until July. Kansai Electric insists that the plant does not require an anti-tsunami wall, and said that there are no active faults beneath the facility. Seismic experts have disputed that statement. The NRA is in the process of conducting its own assessment of the reactors, including field tests, and plans to release its findings by the end of June. “It is difficult to say what we will finally decide about the Oi plant,” said Shunichi Tanaka, Chair of the NRA.
Last Saturday, on April 20, more than 10,000 people came together all across the globe to take a stand for the Arctic. Organisers hosted human banners in the shape of a heart, spelling out 'I Love Arctic', in more than 280 cities in 38 countries from Chile to New Zealand and from Norway to South Africa. Looking at these beautiful photos, the results speak for themself.
A group of senior citizens from Portland, Oregon sent us a photo of themselves forming a human heart. In their email they wrote, "We sure hope this will make a difference — we may be old but we certainly still care." College students from St. James, Jamaica, sent us their photo with the words, "What happens in the Arctic affects us all, especially us small island states. We hope that this picture will help to deliver a strong message to the Arctic Council."
The congregation of the Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami, Florida sent us a photo of their whole congregation holding up hearts for the Arctic. On behalf of the congregation, Reverend Dr. Laurinda Hafner authored a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry saying, "Now is time to reach for every tool at your disposal to strengthen international efforts to tackle climate change, protect natural systems as well as those who depend upon them, and reaffirm your commitment to future generations."
We received a photo of a young boy who wrote "I Love Arctic" with brick stones on the ground, a photo of a 104-people-strong human banner organised by four 17-year old students in the Swedish city Kiruna, and we saw pictures of human banners formed by 500 people in Gent, Belgium. Many people who couldn't join a human banner submitted their individual photos through social media channels using the #ILoveArctic tag, and as of today, we have received more than 2,000 photos of people holding up an I Love Arctic speech bubble as a silent call for Arctic protection.
People stop to chat with Greenpeace UK volunteers in Norwich and show their love for the Arctic.
The I Love Arctic Global Day of Action brought people together from all walks of life — people who care, people who drive change.
Now it is up to our political leaders, and especially to the leaders of the Arctic Council, to listen to the public demand for Arctic protection and leave the Arctic off-limits for oil exploration and destructive industrial fishing.
We at Greenpeace will present these demands together with all the I Love Arctic photos from around the world to the Arctic Council Foreign Ministers when they meet on May 15 in Kiruna, in the very North of Sweden. Each of the Foreign Ministers, as well as the Arctic Council's Permanent Participants of the Arctic's Indigenous Peoples, will receive a book featuring the photos, to demonstrate to them the great demand and hope for strong Arctic protection.
Over 50 Greenpeace volunteers gather at the Melville Koppies in Johannesburg, for a 'I Love Arctic' human banner.
Over 300 Greenpeace volunteers create a ‘I Love Arctic’ human banner at the Red Square in Nørrebros, Copenhagen.
Over 60 Greenpeace volunteers created a 'I Love Arctic' human banner on Piha Beach, near Auckland, New Zealand.
The I Love Arctic Global Day of Action brought an ever growing movement to save the Arctic together for a day. Almost three million people have signed on to our Save the Arctic petition until now, and the list is growing by the day! Sign-on to our campaign today, and join the call for a global sanctuary at the top of the world!
After chasing the notorious South Korean ship Premier for several days, a group of Greenpeace International activists entered Port Louis in Mauritius on Sunday morning, determined to take action against the Dongwon Industries-owned purse seiner.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza had arrived in Mauritius late on Saturday night and as the morning sun shone on a calm sea the next day, three inflatable boats were launched to carry the activists to the Premier, moored in the Mauritius port.
As soon as they arrived inside Port Louis, I radioed the fishing vessel to let them know about our action. Unsurprisingly, the line was silent, but the Premier's crew were not. As the activists started to paint on the side of the blue and white boat, the crew on the South Korean ship made it clear they were unhappy.
Amid shouts, a couple of the crew sprayed the activists with water hoses, but using shields to keep the water away, the activists continued to paint and soon the mission was accomplished. The word 'illegal' was emblazoned in Korean and English on the side of the ship accused of illegal fishing in West African waters.
It was all very fast – a quick, peaceful protest – by the activists who had come from all over the world to raise the alarm about the Premier and its illegal fishing operations.
During the 45 minutes the activists were in the port, I made contact with the Mauritian port authorities, explaining that our action was a peaceful and non-violent protest against illegal fishing in the region, and nothing against their country’s government.
A few hours after our successful demonstration, the coast guard and several local officials boarded the Esperanza. Though very friendly, they criticised us for not properly asking permission to enter the port on our speedboats.
Despite this, the coast guard was positive about why we were here, in the Indian Ocean: investigating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, while promoting sustainable fisheries and equitable access to tuna for coastal states.
As the officials were leaving the Greenpeace ship, one turned to say, "We are doing the same as you. Goodbye and good luck."
This response is very important to the oceans campaign, as we want to work more with coastal states in order to improve how tuna is managed in the region.
Last year, officials from Mozambique and the Maldives joined us during the Rainbow Warrior tour in the Indian Ocean.
This time around, regional sentiment was echoed with an impromptu meeting at sea on the Esperanza with officials from Madagascar, Comorres, Mayotte and France. They spoke with me for over half an hour, expressing their concerns regarding a lack of resources and control, saying they wanted to work more closely with Greenpeace.
Overfishing and poor management of the Indian Ocean’s tuna fisheries cannot be solved without properly addressing the huge problem of illegal fishing. This can only be addressed at a regional level. So it is fitting that the annual Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting is set to take place in two weeks’ time in Mauritius.
Hopefully, our action against the Premier and lobbying in South Korea, complimented by our recent meetings at sea with regional officials, will reinforce how willing Greenpeace is to work with governments and organisations in the Indian Ocean.
Greenpeace will continue this campaign for sustainable tuna and against IUU fishing. There is no place in the Indian Ocean or any other ocean for illegally operating vessels like the Premier.
François Chartier, Greenpeace France Oceans Campaigner on board the Esperanza
You have seen air pollution before, but not in this way. Beijing’s hazardous air is changing the energy outlook of the country, and sending a warning to other countries on the human cost of heavy reliance on coal.
Beijing’s “airpocalypse” in last December and January was an exceptionally serious air pollution episode that is estimated to have caused a 3-fold increase in hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases and has drawn comparisons to London smog in 1952. In that time Greenpeace recruited 16 volunteers to wear a personal air pollution sampler several days each. The samplers simulate human breathing by drawing in air through a nozzle near the volunteer’s head, at a rate close to human breathing. They capture the smallest and most dangerous particles, known as PM2.5, into a filter that can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Image..The first thing we realized when we started the research was that the sampler actually enables you to see the pollution. The filters reveal the amount of toxic particles that enter your lungs during a single day in Beijing.
Then we got the results from the lab. Arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium... a neurotoxic and cancer-causing cocktail. The results are not pretty, and reveal clues to the reasons behind China’s lung cancer epidemic. The WHO recently released the results of a massive research project into what is making us sick, pointing out air pollution as the biggest environmental health risk in the world. The research estimated that 20% of lung cancer cases in China are caused by outdoor air pollution.
Zhong Yu, a marathon runner, is one of the volunteers who had her personal air pollution exposure tested. She was shocked to find out that her samples contained arsenic levels exceeding the national standard X-fold: ”No matter how good the training shoes you have, how nice the clothes you have, how good the coach you can hire; but without good air, and running with a mask, the meaning of running is gone.”
The dramatic air pollution problem is creating a lot of pressure to reduce coal consumption, changing the political landscape. A key source of PM2.5 pollution and the detected toxic metals is coal-burning – all the detected toxic metals are emitted by coal and more coal is burned within 600km of Beijing than in all of the U.S. Without addressing the massive and growing regional and national coal consumption, there is little chance of bringing the air pollution problem under control. While far from a done deal, a coal consumption peak within this decade has entered the political debate.
The future path of Chinese coal consumption is one of the make or break questions for action on climate change – for the future of all of us. The solutions that are put in place to protect people's health from air pollution – slowing coal use growth, more renewable energy, pushing for economic development less reliant on the most polluting industries – will also help shift China towards a lower CO2 pathway.
As the preparation of China’s next five-year plan, covering the period 2015-2020, is bound to begin in earnest later this year, the pressure to control air pollution and coal consumption can have far-reaching impacts.
An International Herald Tribune story today offers another example of how the air pollution problem is affecting quality of life and even China's competitiveness. According to the report, some middle- and upper-class Chinese parents and expatriates are beginning to leave China, a trend that executives say could result in a huge loss of talent and experience.
What appears at first glance to be a ‘pause’ in the warming of the climate has prompted much discussion in the media (and some ‘I told you so’ crowing from deniers) but can we really all heave a collective sigh of relief, assume we have dodged the climate bullet and get on with worrying about something else?
1998 was the hottest year on record according to surface temperature records and no year since has been hotter. This has caused some speculation that global warming has ‘stalled’. But 1998 was far from a typical year. An abnormally strong El Nino caused heat to transfer from the Pacific Ocean to the atmosphere. Consequently, we experienced above average surface temperatures. However, when scientists ‘remove’ the El Nino effect the trend from 1998 to 2007 is still one of warming.
This is not the full story though. Although global surface temperatures are generally used as a proxy for measuring the progress of global warming, ‘real’ global warming is far broader than this and includes the heat taken up by the oceans (which also melts sea ice) and the heat which melts ice on the land. Over 70% of the Earth's surface is actually ocean and around 93.4% of global warming has gone into heating the oceans. How that heat is then distributed and exchanged with the atmosphere is down to natural cycles that we are still learning about.
The global energy balance – the balance between incoming energy from the Sun and outgoing heat from the Earth – is what ultimately regulates our climate. The planet is currently in a ‘positive energy imbalance’ – more energy is coming in than radiating back into space – as a result of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from human activities. This energy imbalance is what is causing global warming.
Current scientific thinking is that in recent years, for reasons that are not fully understood, proportionally more heat has been taken up by the oceans. The excess heat has also gone into the melting of Arctic summer sea ice and glacier and ice cap retreat. Ice loss in all of these icy domains is accelerating. In short both land and sea have seen substantial warming, even though this is not necessarily reflected in the surface air temperatures.
In summary, global warming hasn’t ‘stopped’, ‘paused’ or ‘stalled’. Surface temperatures are still rising, albeit more slowly than at some points in the past. But with all the heat currently lurking in the ocean, surface warming could speed up again at any time.
So, we are not off the hook. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and continue to affect the global climate, risking catastrophic impacts to ecosystems and communities.
The fossil fuel industry and the governments that support and enable it are still planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US, and delay action on climate change for more than a decade, as the Greenpeace International report, Point of No Return, shows.
The global renewal energy scenario developed by Greenpeace – the Energy [R]evolution – shows we can deliver the power and mobility these dirty projects are promising without the emissions and the destruction ... not only faster, but also at a lower cost. But the clean energy future made possible by the development of renewable energy will only become a reality if governments rein in investments in dirty fossil fuels and support renewable energy.
It was the 5th of October last year when more than 20 of my colleagues and I met in Paris. We are all Volunteer Coordinators here at Greenpeace, and the question that took us to France on that day was "How can we take our demands for Arctic protection to the streets, and and make sure those in power hear the voices and creativity of an ever growing movement committed to saving the Arctic?"
So we started brainstorming. Ploi from Thailand, Sergio from Chile, Natalie from Canada, Raquel from Spain and many of my other colleagues from around the world.
When we made our way home the next day, all of us were thinking over the idea of tens of thousands of people coming together across the globe to show their love to the Arctic, to the planet, to the people. From then on we, together with the global network of Greenpeace volunteers and many friends and allies, worked towards a Global Day of Action that would send a loud and clear message to political decision makers: "People around the world love the Arctic and want to see it protected as a global sanctuary!"
That day is today - The I Love Arctic Global Day of Action! More than ten thousand people in 36 countries from Colombia to Taiwan and from Norway to South Africa are coming together in more than 280 cities to form human banners in the shape of a heart, spelling out I Love Arctic.
Volunteers in Bangkok, Thailand getting ready to form a heart shape this morning.
And as the photos and videos keep popping up in our I Love Arctic inbox, we see the absolutely amazing diversity, creativity and general awesomeness of the events all around the world.
Our friends in the UK are transforming an iconic building in London into the pristine Arctic, using a special 4D projection technique. Folks in Belgium are now finding out if the famous Belgian actress Francesca Vanthielen will jump in a tank of ice water, which she has promised to do if at least 1,000 people join the I Love Arctic day in Gent... (make sure you have a hot cup of chocolate ready for Francesca!)
Our Brazilian friends are at the beach in Rio de Janeiro with the Sugarloaf Mountain as a backdrop as they are doing a heart for the Arctic, and in Washington DC organisers have mobilised people into a big heart right in front of the Capitol! Activists in Thailand are taking a bike ride together and gathering in a central park in Bangkok to form a human banner, and in Sweden the I Love Arctic Day of Action goes alongside a high level Arctic Seminar in Stockholm, where politicians and scientists are discussing the future of the Arctic.
Volunteers in Rio, Brazil forming a heart shape to complete a massive banner on the beach
The plan of some governments and big oil companies - to drill for oil in the Arctic - puts the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the Indigenous Peoples who rely on the Arctic Ocean at great risk. If those plans become reality, one of the planet's largest carbon bombs will be tapped, setting us on a straight pathway to more and more extreme weather events and climate catastrophe across the globe. What happens in the Arctic affects us all - that's why we took joint action today and will continue to take action until we see the Arctic protected!
On Monday morning, I'll meet with Liv, a graphic designer. Liv will help us to gather all the impressive photographs from today's Global Day of Action in a big book that we will hand over to the top decision makers of the Arctic Council in just under a months time from now, when they meet in Kiruna, in the very North of Sweden.
Today's joint message of more than ten thousand people demanding Arctic protection is loud and clear - and we will make sure it is heard by those with the means and the power to save the Arctic for all of humanity.
Top photo: Over 100 school children create an I ♥ ARCTIC human banner in Warsaw, Poland
Image..Today, Brazil celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day. However, on a day that is supposed to celebrate their ancestors, culture and stories, many of Indigenous Peoples are instead fighting for their lands and their rights.
According to a survey by CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council), there are no less than 452 government development projects currently underway in Brazil, 201 of which directly impact Indigenous Lands. Illegal logging and ranching continues to encroach on Indigenous Lands and conflict and violence is prevalent in the Amazon region.
Accorind to CIMI, an average of 50 murders of Indigenous Peoples occur annually in Brazil. Even more shocking, in the state of Mato Grosso, a leading state for deforestation, there is an average of four deaths per month. From 2003 to 2012, 315 Indigenous Leaders were murdered in connection to forest destruction.
Earlier this week, several hundred Indigenous Peoples occupied the main plenary of Brazilian House of Deputies in protest of PEC-215, a constitutional amendment that would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands to the legislative branch of government.
Following hours of protest: the head of the House, Henrique Eduardo Alves, pledged to postpone, the selection of the Special Committee that would discuss PEC-215 for six months. Meanwhile, Alves created a Negotiating Committee, comprised of parliamentarians, representatives from Indigenous Peoples and government officials to discuss all issues related to indigenous peoples filed at the House of Deputies.
The leaders from the Indigenous Peoples communities considered the postponement and creation of the new committee a victory in an increasingly difficult battle for the rights guaranteed to Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities in Brazil. But the fight for their rights and an end to the violence associated with forest destruction is far from over.
"We are being attacked with proposals that aim to erase us from the history of Brasil. They are allowing the constiution to be torn apart, just like the Forest Code was torn apart. As long as there is one of us standing, there will be a fight to protect the forests' cried the Chief Ninawa, of the Huni Kui people of Acre.
As an African working for Greenpeace, I am often questioned when I speak out against the industrial exploitation of our continent’s natural resources, that is disguised as “development”.
The truth is that all too often, this actually creates huge profits for international corporations, but to the detriment of local communities and the environment. “What’s the alternative?” people ask me.
One alternative is up for debate in a crowded and noisy room in Kumba, in the Southwest region of Cameroon, where community representatives are discussing how to increase the productivity of local agriculture, to ensure their livelihoods while protecting the forests on which they depend.
Puttting food security and forest protection first in Cameroon
This workshop is the brainchild of ACDIC (Association Citoyenne pour la Defense des Interêts Collectifs), a Cameroonian NGO, that works to improve current agricultural methods in the country through training, better organisation and market access. The result is better yields and higher incomes.
People have travelled for miles to take part in. One, Chief Mbara Rils, is from the city of Toko. “The workshop was very successful,” he said. “Thanks to the discussions we had, we answered our questions ourselves. The outcomes will be very useful for the future. The workshop has enlightened me, and now I have an idea of what I should put in place when I get back to my city.”
80% of the population of this region live in rural communities. People make their livings from farming cacao, palm oil and other crops, hunting, and collecting non-timber forest products such as nuts and bush mangos.
But the amount of land available to them to make these livings is in continual decline. Large corporations, many of them international, are moving in to this fertile region and taking control of vast tracts of land for logging, mining and agro-industrial plantations.
This trend is worrying. “If we just grow cash crops for export, what will be left for us to eat?” asked the representative of a local women’s NGO. Since the most vulnerable of the subsistence farmers are women, who depend on the land to provide food for their families, they will bear the brunt of this change.
One such industrial plantation is proposed by US-based corporation Herakles Farms, which plans to destroy 73,000 hectares of rainforest, home to more than 14,000 people. This has been met with opposition by local communities, who are fearful of losing their lands and livelihoods.
Despite claiming that its palm oil plantation is being created in the name of “development”, the Herakles’ project would have a devastating impact on the forest and the lives of the people who depend on it.
In contrast, the development model proposed by ACDIC demonstrates how cacao or palm oil can be cultivated in agroforestry systems that have the advantage of also being able to supply many non-timber forest products and food.
Cacao is grown in the shade of trees which supply farmers with fruit and vegetables, while maintaining the forest canopy. This ensures food security yet at the same time protects the natural environment.
Industry players and investors coming to Cameroon and other African countries must commit to clear policies that respect of the rights and livelihood of local communities, ensure the protection of natural forest, in a way that is open and transparent.
Taking part in this workshop has at least given me hope that as a continent, we can establish our own development path, a path that puts our people and environment first.
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
TEPCO admitted that two more leaks of highly radioactive water were discovered at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant this week, bringing the total number of leaks that have been discovered within the last two weeks to at least five. Last week, the utility said that water was leaking from three of seven in-ground holding tanks. Initially leaks were discovered in tanks #2 and #3; over 120 tons of contaminated water (32,000 gallons so far) had seeped out of tank #2. Although workers tried to transfer that water to tank #1, they soon discovered that that tank was leaking as well, eventually prompting the NRA to forbid further use of belowground tanks. TEPCO has long struggled with where it will put the increasing amounts of contaminated water that are generated at the plant each day; approximately 400 tons of groundwater seeps through cracks of the damaged reactors each day, mixing with an additional 300 tons of water that the utility must pump in daily in order to keep melted fuel cool. All of the water is contaminated and must be stored, but TEPCO is running out of places to put it, and has finally admitted that the situation has reached a “crisis” stage.
This week, workers tried to move water from leaking tank #3 to tank #6, but their efforts were thwarted when they found that a pipe being used to transfer the water was also leaking. In just eight minutes, approximately 22 liters of contaminated water leaked out.
Then, a second pipe leak was discovered when water was being transferred from tank #2 to an aboveground tank. Although only six gallons of water leaked this time, the discovery is significant because it means that transferring contaminated water from tank #2 will once again be delayed, and the leak, which is considered significant, will continue. So far, TEPCO has not been able to locate the cause of the leaks, despite making considerable effort to do so. Workers are attempting to repair or replace the pipes.
In response, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose held a press conference, only the second since the leak crisis began, and apologized for the fiasco. He said that the utility is racing to build more aboveground tanks and promised that all water would be transferred by the end of June. A total of 23,600 tons of water needs to be relocated. Until then, radioactive water will continue to contaminate the ground near the tanks. Although officials insist that none of the water has reached the sea, the ocean is only 800 meters away.
A group of 12 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began investigating the Fukushima Daiichi plant this week, in an effort to assess decontamination efforts there. In addition, investigators are expected to question TEPCO officials about a recent spate of accidents at the plant, as well as to examine radiation levels and waste management issues, particularly those concerning water storage. In the past three weeks, there have been at least eight accidents, including multiple power losses, radiation monitoring malfunctions, accidental shutdown of a water decontamination system, and at least five leaks of radioactive water affecting both storage tanks and pipes. Three of the storage tank leaks are ongoing. Decontamination is expected to take at least 40 years, possibly longer, and many analysts have begun to question whether TEPCO can adequately manage the gargantuan task ahead. Equipment at the plant is steadily aging, and much of it is still makeshift and temporary, more than two years after the disaster first began to unfold. This is the first time that the IAEA has sent a team to evaluate the decommissioning process at Fukushima; they expect to produce a report within the next several months.
Other Nuclear Politics in Japan
On Wednesday, French nuclear supplier Areva sent a shipment of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel from the French port of Cherbourg, bound for Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant, which is still offline in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, in Fukui Prefecture. The move shows that Kansai hopes to restart reactors there soon; the fuel is slated to arrive in Japan within the next six to eight weeks. Despite the fact that 70% of the Japanese public opposes nuclear energy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is committed to restarting nuclear reactors there.
A group of children from Fukushima Prefecture are suing the town of Koriyama, charging that all children there should be evacuated in order to protect them for radiation contamination as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The case, originally filed in 2011 on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists, was rejected by a lower court and is now being heard by an appeals court. Japan’s annual radiation exposure limit is 20 millisieverts, and although most areas of the town measure lower than that, there are hot spots where contamination is more severe. However, plaintiffs charge that children should not be exposed to higher levels than international standards allow: 1 millisievert per year. The International Commission on Radiological Protection says that there is no safe threshold for radiation, but a lower court threw out the case, saying that there will be no danger to children unless exposure levels reach 100 millisieverts per year. Political activist Noam Chomsky, who is working to draw attention to the case, said, “There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none are more vulnerable, nor more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions.”
Oi Nuclear Reactors
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has announced that it will begin the process of assessing reactors #3 and #4 at Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture beginning on Friday. Although other offline reactors will not be assessed until at least July 18, when the agency formally releases new safety standards, officials agreed to make an exception for the Oi reactors, which are the only online reactors in Japan, so that they have continue running. Kansai Electric has promised that by the end of June, the reactors will meet the new standards.
Meanwhile, a Japanese court has rejected efforts to close the Oi reactors, after anti-nuclear activists filed suit claiming that the reactors are not safe to operate until investigators determine whether or not they sit atop active fault lines. The NRA recently decided to expand the definition of active faults from those that have moved within 130,000-140,000 years to any that have shown movement within the last 400,000 years, a far stricter definition.
Decontamination and Nuclear Waste
Officials in Yamagata Prefecture are refusing to accept soil from Fukushima Prefecture, which was destined for a local waste processing facility, out of concern by residents that it may be radioactive. The soil, which came from a former electronics component factory, is contaminated with high levels of lead; there are no waste facilities able to process it in Fukushima. This is the third time that Yamagata officials have refused waste from Fukushima Prefecture.
Responding to a recent spate of industrial palm oil projects in Cameroon, Greenpeace Africa is working with a Cameroonian NGO to show how small-scale farming projects are a better development option -- for communities on the ground and Cameroon's rainforests.
Life is about to get a whole lot harder for the slaughterhouses in Brazil who are still tied to a business model based on forest destruction and violation of indigenous and labor rights.
IBAMA, the Ministry of Labor, the Federal Public Ministry in the states of Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Rondônia, and the Federal Prosecutor in Amazonas and Rondônia sued 26 slaughterhouses for buying cattle from farms involved in illegalities. The fines for the slaughterhouses total US$ 280 million.
Brazilian slaughterhouse giant, BR foods, was cited for buying cattle from six farms in areas embargoed by IBAMA, according to the Federal Public Ministry.
In 2009, the three largest Brazilian slaughterhouses committed to zero deforestation with the Cattle Agreement, pledging a supply chain free of slavery and the invasion of indigenous lands and protected areas in the Amazon.
This latest legal action demonstrates Brazilian slaughterhouses still do not have a control system that ensures a clean and efficient production chain, without social and environmental crimes
Greenpeace is calling on all slaughterhouses in Brazil to implement a policy of zero deforestation.
More than 800,000 Brazilians have already signed onto a citizen’s initiative calling for a Zero Deforestation law that would offer full protection for the Amazon. With the president’s support this could become law. Greenpeace is calling on President Rousseff to support a law for Zero Deforestation in Brazil.
The law in any country can be a complex business. That said, the verdict on Tuesday by a court in Japan to allow the Ohi nuclear reactors to stay open is especially puzzling.
Green Action, a campaign group, filed a lawsuit asking the court to shut down the reactors, the only two currently operating in Japan. In addition to Green Action and co-plaintiff d Mihama no-Ka, more than 260 people from the area around the plants were represented in the case.
To recap: Reactors 3 and 4 at the Ohi nuclear power plant are operating without new safety measures designed in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. There are three active earthquake faults nearby and the plant may be sitting on another.
There was massive, local opposition when the reactors were restarted.
The court’s verdict this week? Nothing to worry about. Carry on, Ohi!
According to Green Action the court declared: “Ohi is prima facie safe (safe until proven otherwise)”.
Think about that. The Ohi nuclear reactors are “safe until proven otherwise”. Lots of things are safe until proven otherwise. A shark is perfectly safe until it bites you. A gun is perfectly safe until it shoots you.
Not only that…
The court ruling is stating there is no legal requirement in Japan to meet the first golden rule of nuclear safety, the ability to shut down a reactor within the required time in the event of an accident/earthquake. This is not true. Ohi received its licensing permit on the premise that it met this shut down time limit. The Fukushima Daiichi accident would have been much worse if the reactors had not shut down properly on 11 March 2011. It’s a travesty that after Fukushima, a court would say that Ohi is prima facie safe until it’s proven otherwise,” stated Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action and co-lead plaintiff of the lawsuit.
The verdict ignores the fact that nuclear power is inherently unsafe. Uranium mining to make nuclear fuel for reactors isn’t safe. The nuclear waste produced by reactors isn’t safe.
In between, you have accidents, leaks, incompetence and cover-up. The list is almost endless.
Green Action are, needless to say, appealing the court’s verdict. Our hopes and best wishes are with them.
Less than six months after sailing through the Indian Ocean last year, Greenpeace has returned to the region to help end overfishing and create sustainable tuna fisheries that bring real economic benefits to coastal communities.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza will be operating in the Indian Ocean for two months to document and record fishing vessels that are operating illegally or using highly destructive and wasteful fishing techniques.
An estimated 24% of the global tuna catch comes from this ocean alone, but the Indian Ocean and the tuna stocks within it are coming under increasing pressure as more and more vessels join the hunt in this multi-billion dollar fishery.
Fishing vessels from wealthier distant nations such as France, Spain, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere take close to 50% of the tuna catch, using destructive fishing techniques such as purse seines with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
This type of fishing results in a high level of bycatch of sharks, rays, turtles, whales and dolphins and juvenile tuna. Long-line fishing, also common in the Indian Ocean, has similar problems and is in need of urgent reform.
Compounding the overfishing problem, regional coastal states are investing more and more in expanding their own fishing fleets. But the catches from these fleets are poorly documented and it is not clear how many boats are targeting tuna in the region.
All tuna species in the Indian Ocean region are showing signs of decline as fishing powers have failed to agree to limit the size of their fleets. Regional management needs to be significantly improved if the region is have sustainable fishing in the future.
Globally, there is 2.5 times more fishing capacity in the world than there are fish. In the Indian Ocean in particular, there is a small window of opportunity to make changes and prevent some of the excessive overfishing that has taken place elsewhere.
This is why the Esperanza and her on board team will attend this year’s Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) meeting in Mauritius in May. There we will send a clear message to IOTC delegates – start managing this fishery effectively or risk destroying it!
You can keep track of the Esperanza's tour of the Indian Ocean here.
As published in The Guardian on the 18th of April 2013.
Last year $1.75tn was spent on the world's military, according to new estimates released this Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI). Seems like a lot? Let me put this into perspective. This amount is the equivalent of Canada's GDP or twice the GDP of the Netherlands.
Nato members together spent a trillion dollars on the military and despite a significant 6% decrease, the US remains firmly in the lead, accounting for about 40% of the global amount. With a considerable percentage of citizens' taxes both in America (where it's up to 47%) and across the globe going towards military expenses, surely people are entitled to question whether this is money well spent to ensure security. And how this spending is more justified than, say, investing in renewable energy, health care and education.
Consider this: every day 19,000 children under the age of five die around the world, mainly from preventable causes. The costs of reducing mortality rates by two-thirds, improving maternal health as well as combating Aids, malaria and other major diseases, are estimated to be $60bn (£39bn) a year. Meanwhile, $60bn is approximately the cost of buying and operating two nuclear ballistic missile submarines. The estimated total cost of achieving the six of the UN's millennium development goals related to poverty, education and health – eradicating hunger, universal primary education, child mortality reduction, disease prevention– is $120bn annually in additional resources, a fraction of what is spent every year on militaries.
We at Greenpeace join the outcry against excessive military spending. Rather than spending money preparing for conflict, governments must focus their efforts on avoiding conflict and achieving sustainability and equity in their countries.
Climate change is a major driver of conflict and threat to international and national peace and security, putting billions of people's future in jeopardy. It is not often the case that we find ourselves in agreement with the military and intelligence communities, but when it comes to the security implications of climate change, it seems we may have some similar concerns. In May 2012, US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said: "Climate change has a dramatic impact on national security: rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."
These impacts of climate change are already being felt. Climate change and a carbon-intensive economy are already responsible for 5 million deaths each year. By 2030, deaths could total 100 million. This is already costing about $1.2tn a year, which could double by 2030 if global temperatures are allowed to rise. So why is it that governments carry on spending $105bn a year on nuclear weapons, rather than diverting the amounts to mitigating the risks of the true WMD – "weather of mass destruction"?
Governments intent on spending taxpayers' money are fuelling the problem, rather than the solution. A new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reveals that worldwide subsidies to fossil fuels total $1.9tn annually. Almost 9% of all annual country budgets are spent on supporting oil, natural gas and coal industries. Subsidies result in overconsumption of dirty energy, which fuels climate change. Eliminating subsidies would lead to a 13% decrease in global energy related CO2 emissions.
Moving away from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy is the world's best hope for avoiding the most serious impacts of climate change. In 2011, renewable energy provided more than 30% of new electricity production globally, up from less than 5% in 2005. In 2012, investments in renewable energy approximated $250bn – which employed 5 million people worldwide, a win-win situation. An energy revolution in the power sector – moving away from climate-destroying fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power – would require additional annual investments of $280bn – investments that would not only pay back financially but would significantly reduce the security threats resulting from climate change.
More than $3.5tn is spent annually on the world's military and on subsidising fossil fuels. We can no longer stand by and allow governments to spend recklessly on the wrong things, when so many right things remain neglected. Eradicating poverty and child mortality, and mitigating the destructive impacts of climate change could all be achieved if governments got their priorities right.
Team Aurora has returned from the North Pole and is warming up in Svalbard. It's the perfect time to look back on their journey and celebrate what our movement has accomplished: bringing together nearly three million people who want to save the Arctic, taking their names to the North Pole and demanding a global sanctuary in the area around it.
So with out farther ado, here are some beautiful images from and about the journey:
And to close, here are the beautiful words spoken during the ceremony at the North Pole right before Team Aurora lowered the Flag for the Future - and capsule containing nearly 3 million signatures - to the seafloor.
In the big picture, renewable energy is doing pretty well. It’s our continued addiction to dirty energy that is the problem, and lack of interest towards energy efficiency. This can be concluded from the many reports published today, on the first day of the Clean Energy Ministerial, by IEA (International Energy Agency) and others.
Despite policy uncertainties and setbacks in many countries, renewable energy continues to grow and break new records globally.
Last year solar PV capacity grew globally by an amazing 42%, and wind by 19%. In the United States, almost half of all new power generation capacity was renewable energy. Europe did even better. More than 70% of its new capacity was renewables!
The most exciting trend is that renewable energy is now being installed around the world, with new markets opening up rapidly. It is no wonder, given how fast the costs of renewables have been declining – solar and wind in particular. They are now competitive with conventional energy in an increasing number of countries – despite the massive distorting subsidies fossil fuel industries are still enjoying.
While China has established itself as the clear leader in renewable energy investments, South Africa has become the fastest growing market. In Japan, clean energy investments, mostly solar, increased by 75% last year.
In the near future, the global wind industry sees strong markets for wind power in China, India and Brazil, as well as in new markets in Latin America, Africa and the rest of Asia. Also the IEA and PEW believe that in the emerging economies the future for renewables looks promising.
Despite the rapid growth of renewables, our whole energy mix is not getting cleaner fast enough. We are failing to capture all that potential that exists for massive energy savings, while King Coal keeps still growing faster than renewables, in absolute terms. As a result, the IEA finds, we are emitting as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy globally than we did in 1990. That’s where we’re stalling.
In 2011 China’s coal consumption represented 46% of global coal demand, while India’s share was 11%. Also Europe is turning to more coal now – thanks to its low climate goals and broken emission trading system. Last year coal’s share in Europe’s power generation mix increased at the expense of natural gas.
Moreover, policy uncertainties are threatening future renewable energy investments particularly in the US, the EU and other OECD countries. Today the European wind industry warned that by making policy changes that undermine investor confidence, European governments are driving up the cost of meeting their 2020 renewable energy targets. Yesterday the European Parliament voted against fixing Europe’s emission trading system, which isn’t helping either.
So our work is certainly not done yet, and we need to speed up big time. Let’s focus on three essentials.
1) Technology and costs are no longer a problem. It’s the policy uncertainty.
The renewables industry has done their homework in reducing technology costs faster than anticipated. The main investment risk is no longer in technology or costs, but policy. It’s time for governments to do their fair share, in creating secure investment conditions that encourage rapid uptake of renewables and energy efficiency and discourage investments into fossil fuels and nuclear. This means policies such as legally-binding targets, feed-in tariffs and priority access to the grid for renewables, combined with emission caps, efficiency standards, carbon pricing and subsidy reforms.
2) Eye on energy efficiency.
Renewable energy alone won’t solve our energy challenges. Improved energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, transport and industry is fundamental. These have potential to cut our energy needs by more than 40% by 2050. Yet, energy efficiency potential continues to be neglected, as shown by the IEA. This has got to change.
3) Confront the laggards.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency make economic sense, and come with huge benefits for our health, energy security and employment. But this doesn’t mean they will be deployed. There are powerful players who have invested in the centralized dirty energy infrastructure, and are benefiting from status quo. To challenge this, we need the clean energy revolution, where people are challenging – and winning – the dirty energy producers and even becoming renewable energy producers themselves in the modern decentralized energy system we will be transitioning to.