The Spring Alliance is a participatory movement to ensure that the European Union puts people and the planet first.
It was created by three leading European civil society organisations: the European Environmental Bureau, the European Trade Union Confederation and Social Platform and was later joined by Concord. But the Alliance is much broader than that - it's supported by a network of organisations from all corners of civil society and beyond, including development NGOs, fair-trade associations, anti-poverty campaigners, consumer organisations and representatives from the research and business community.
The overarching strategy of the European Union for the past four years can be summed up in two words: "growth and jobs". As a result, EU policy has often prioritised economic expansion over the welfare of the people of Europe and the sustainability of our planet.
But it doesn't have to be this way. 2009 will see a new European Commission, a newly-elected Parliament and possibly the adoption of a new vision for the EU. The time to influence the strategic direction of EU, to ensure that it pursues simultaneously economic, environmental and social goals, is now. The Spring Alliance has been formed to do exactly that.
2009 is a crucial year to set such an agenda. A new European Commission will start its work by setting out its five year strategic objectives and budget. These will certainly include tackling climate and energy concerns, responding to changing global economic relations and addressing social and demographic changes.
The Spring Alliance will measure the success of its campaign by the number of proposals in the Spring Alliance Manifesto that are taken on board in the conclusions of the European Councils Spring Summit in March 2010.
The Fire Dogs of Climate Change
A new freely downloadable book, The Fire Dogs of Climate Change: An Inspirational Call to Action, contains stories, fact sheets and examples from around the world - of political action, sustainable living and technology - to inspire your heart, mind and hands to take action.
The intention of this portfolio of creative essays, real-life success stories, and hard-hitting facts about global warming is to investigate the emotional and spiritual components of humankind's relationship to the world. By making a connection between the states of heart and mind and the ability to act, the inner fire dogs - the guardians and watchdogs of the earth - are awakened, especially in those who do not specialize in activism or environmental concerns.
Through the stories' focus on hope and positive action, urgent climate-change issues are easily accessible, making this collection also ideal for organizations, conferences, and government groups looking for ways to inspire, educate, and take effective action.
You can also purchase the book.
Doubts over IMO's Commitment to Tackling Climate Change
At a key international meeting this month, the United Nations' International Maritime Organisation (IMO) failed to approve compulsory plans to reduce rising emissions from global shipping. Only voluntary reducing schemes were agreed, which left environmental groups unsatisfied.
Along with aviation, shipping is in fact the only industrial sectors not regulated under the Kyoto Protocol. IMO was commissioned to find a solution for the problem of shipping, but little progress has been made so far.
Shipping accounts for more than 90% of world trade, and ships are responsible for around 3% of global warming emissions. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that these emissions could increase by 150-250% by the year 2050 in line with the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.
But this month once more a resolution was delayed, including about the possibility to raise the cost of ships' fuel and use the money to help poor nations tackle climate change.
Delegates from around 90 Countries merely approved non-compulsory technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse emissions from ships by improving the efficiency of ships' designs and of shipping operations. The measures will be trialled until March 2010, when they will be addressed again by the IMO's marine environment protection committee. However, the measures should have been mandatory with set targets.
Shipping industry officials have highlighted some kind of market-based mechanism is needed, providing incentives for the industry to invest in more fuel-efficient technologies.
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos told delegates they should avoid the temptation to seek "overly ambitious results we cannot deliver".
The session of the IMO's marine environment protection committee discussed for the first time the issue of market-based measures and agreed on a work plan. It "could be in a position" to report progress made on the issue in 2011.
Seal the Deal!
Seal the Deal! is the United Nations-led campaign to promote a definitive agreement on climate change when governments meet in Copenhagen from 7-18 December 2009.
Endorsed by the UN Secretary General, this powerful campaign provides a framework for UN advocacy on climate change in 2009. Seal the Deal! is designed to mobilize everyone political leaders, the business sector and civil society, including NGOs, womens groups, and youth organizations on an ambitious, global scale to apply pressure for action on climate change.
Maximizing partnerships, the campaign has media, political, business and public outreach strands.
The campaign has one vital aim:
To encourage the governments of the world to agree on a deal that will protect people and the planet, and promote a global green economy when they meet to negotiate a new climate change agreement in Copenhagen this December.
The message to world leaders is simple and urgent: Seal the Deal! Unite to find a solution to climate change that is fair, effective and science-based. Seize this defining opportunity to protect people and the planet, and to power green growth.
High-profile spokespeople, including the UN Secretary-General and selected UN Goodwill Ambassadors, are leading the call for action. Any individual or organization wanting to add their voice to the Seal the Deal! global chorus is invited to take an active role in the campaign through participating in special events and online activities.
Campaign activities include:
- A global tree-planting drive for World Environment Day on 5 June 2009.
- A call to all organizations to make Seal the Deal! the theme or slogan of their planned campaigns on climate change in 2009.
- Seal the Deal! rallies around the world where supporters can dip the Peoples Seal in paint and add their stamp to a global petition. Or you can sign the petition online.
- Seal the Deal! Climate Action Week 20-26 September 2009 targeting 100 cities.
Impact of Transport Emissions on the Lower Atmosphere
Traffic emissions cause a number of damaging chemical changes in the atmosphere. A recent study has estimated the impact of road, aircraft and ship emissions on the atmosphere's chemical make-up in terms of ozone and the hydroxyl radical OH.
Traffic emissions form a large part of EU air pollution. Ozone pollution in the troposphere adversely affects human health and damages vegetation including crops, but it also behaves as a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). It occurs naturally but is also formed by the interaction of sunlight with pollutants emitted by transport and industry.
This recent study was conducted as part of the EU Integrated Project QUANTIFY. Six different atmospheric chemistry models were applied in order to estimate the impact of emissions from road transport, aviation and shipping on ozone. The impact on the hydroxyl radical OH was also estimated. OH is a natural constituent of the atmosphere which has been referred to as the 'detergent' of the troposphere because it removes pollutants and GHGs such as methane and carbon monoxide.
The results indicate that the largest impact from total traffic emissions on total ozone occurs in the summer in the northern hemisphere. The greatest impact extends from the eastern US over the Atlantic to western Europe. In the southern hemisphere, changes are about 50 per cent lower than in the northern hemisphere.
Ship emissions have the greatest effect on the lower troposphere, causing over half of transport-induced changes in ozone in some regions. Notably, the effect of aircraft emissions does not dominate globally at the upper troposphere, but dominates the effect of traffic on ozone in the tropopause region (the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere) north of 30°N. Road traffic also strongly affects the northern upper troposphere, especially during the northern summer. During northern winter, the relative contributions from each traffic sector are all about the same.
Ship emissions have the largest impact on global OH at the lower troposphere and, therefore, the largest impact on reducing methane lifetime as they are released in relatively clean regions over the sub-tropical and tropical oceans where OH is highly sensitive to traffic emissions.
The study also considered the possible impact of ozone and methane on climate change by quantifying the associated radiative forcing (RF). RF is a measure of the imbalance between incoming radiation and outgoing radiation caused by a disruption of the atmospheres composition. Positive RF leads to a warming and negative RF causes a cooling.
Road emissions and aircraft emissions both caused positive forcing overall, with road emissions having the largest impact. Shipping's effect on OH and methane caused negative RF, indicating that its climate forcing impact through additional ozone formation was more than compensated for by its impact on OH and the resulting destruction of atmospheric methane. However, shipping emissions have several adverse effects such as the impact of NOx, NO2 and SO2 emissions on eutrophication, health and acidification.
The Feature Length Documentary Deep Green highlights the best ideas and solutions that lower carbon energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions all over the world. It includes the best of governmental solutions in China, Europe and the United States as well as the best corporate/business ideas, ideas from NGOs, and especially individual, entrepreneurial, and academic environmental solution pioneers.
It tries to show the immediacy and the size and pace of change needed for a worldwide complete transition from burning fossil carbon for energy to other energy alternatives and practices that will stop man-made climate change and restore the Earth to an atmospheric stability that is conducive to life. It is an upbeat presentation---there is little doom and gloom. This is about building good bridges to solve our very biggest problem.
The movie contains some of the best voices worldwide on restorative forest, agriculture, ocean, and air public policy, green building, sustainable design of neighborhoods and cities, high and low tech solutions to energy efficiency, the coming electrification of transportation, and a deep analysis of the wide variety of key alternative energy solutions available now and in the near future: solar thermal, wind, solar PV and hot water, geothermal, combined heat and power, selective bio-mass, carbon sequestration, smart metering, smart electric grids, long distance HVDC transmission and others.
The crew discovered surprising energy efficiency policy and solutions in several months of unique high access shooting in China from April to August 2008, and mature policy and very advanced solutions in seven European countries in September and October of 2008. The story thread of what one person can do, and 12 diverse animation pieces from Bent Image Lab, meshes with an original musical score by Randy Porter to explain, inspire, and entertain.
UK Government Unveils Low Carbon Transition Plan
The UK government has unveiled detailed plans for transforming the UK to a low-carbon economy and meeting its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The measures, which touch on all aspects of life, from home insulation and power generation to electric cars and high-speed trains, are designed to achieve emissions cuts of 34% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
Under the plans, which are projected to create 1.2 million "green jobs", every government department will be required to meet a carbon budget alongside its financial budget. The announcement is the first time the government has laid out in detail where the carbon axe will fall and how much each department will be expected to cut.
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband warned, however, that domestic energy prices would rise in 2020 to pay for some of the required changes. He hoped this would be offset with energy efficiency savings in 7 million homes and financial help for the poorest consumers.
In the government's white paper on energy and climate, called the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and published this month, half of the proposed carbon cuts to 2020 would come from changes to the power sector, 15% from making homes more efficient, 10% from workplace improvements, 20% from changing how we travel and 5% from agriculture and land use.
This means that 40% of UK electricity by 2020 will come from low-carbon sources including renewables, nuclear and clean coal. The white paper also launches consultation on the details of the government's feed-in tariff, re-named the "clean energy cash-back" scheme, which will pay people and businesses a premium for generating low-carbon electricity. A similar scheme for renewable heat will follow in April 2011.
The white paper details plans for a "pay as you save" scheme for homeowners to receive loans to insulate their homes, with money repaid by savings in energy costs.
Other measures in the white paper and the industrial and transport strategies, also published this month, include:
- Up to £6 million to start development of a "smart grid", including a policy road map next year.
- Launch of the new Office for Renewable Energy Deployment in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to speed up the growth of renewables in the UK.
- DECC to take direct responsibility from Ofgem for establishing a new grid access regime within 12 months.
- Up to £180 million would be made available to promote wind and tidal power this includes setting up a low-carbon economic area in the south-west to promote marine technologies and money for up to 3,000 wind turbines off the UK's shores by 2020.
- £15 million to establish a Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre that will develop the next generation of nuclear power infrastructure.
- £10 million will go to improving infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.
- Challenging 15 villages, towns or cities to be test-beds for piloting future green initiatives.
Call for Papers on Sustainable Consumption and Production
The Natural Resources Forum, A United Nations Sustainable Development Journal that delivers cutting edge research on policy issues relevant to the sustainable development agenda, calls for papers for a special issue on sustainable consumption and production for the February 2010 issue.
Articles submitted for this special issue should consider sustainable consumption and production with a sustainable development perspective, i.e. one that focuses on economic, social, and environmental aspects in an integrated way. The special issue aims to highlight the need for drastic changes in consumption patterns and spur the discussion on policies necessary to achieve them, based on sound quantitative analysis.
The editorial team will consider papers focusing on the following aspects:
- Policy analysis
- Macroeconomic effects of regulations (national or regional trends): are we going fast enough?
- Understanding the differences in consumption across countries at comparable GDP levels and linking those to different sets of policies, including those targeted at consumers;
- Linking policy changes to changes in outcomes (e.g., effects of fuel taxes, environmental regulations and environmental tax reforms, consumer information, education and protection, etc.): cross-country comparisons or detailed country analyses;
- What are feasible SCP-friendly development pathways that developing countries could take?
- Vision for SCP - 2020 and beyond
Prospective visions based on scenarios or other modeling tools, with a view to exposing the current trajectory and the magnitude of the changes needed and ideally how those changes can be put in practice. For example:
- Looking at the most advanced countries in terms of sustainable production and consumption: where will there be in 2020? (to give a measure of the gap);
- Examples (economy-wide, local or sectoral) of the whole goals/policy/action chain, going from objectives, to implied efficiency targets, to actions implied at the lowest level, implementation, evaluation, and adjustments to policies.
- Develop something similar to the "7 wedges for climate change" for SCP?
Researchers and practitioners working on those issues are invited to submit articles. Articles must be original in nature and between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length.
Contributions are accepted at the journals online manuscript submission site. The deadline for submission of articles for this special section is August 15, 2009.
Low Carbon Jobs for Europe
Like other major economies, Europe finds itself facing a critical convergence of economic and climate crises. Both are similar in that they must be tackled with urgency combined with strong political leadership. Both are critically interconnected sharing the same roots, namely a narrow pre-occupation with short-term gain at the expense of long-term security. And solving both is likely to provide new opportunities to transition towards low carbon futures with new types of jobs.
2009 is the year in which the nations of the world must come together at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to agree a new Global Climate Deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
Since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, leading to the global economic downturn, the EU and several Member States have passed large-scale economic stimulus packages aimed at revitalizing their economies. However, economists and politicians are increasingly seeing the opportunity of using economic stimulus packages to green the economy. Through use of investment and public spending decisions to incentivise the development of green sectors, it is hoped that such packages could deliver the co-benefits of regenerating the economy, while at the same time establishing long-term structural changes which move economies towards a low-carbon, sustainable growth future.
In this context, a recent analysis suggests something of a missed opportunity - only a relatively small portion, 42 billion or less than 9 percent, of the combined stimulus funds allocated by EU members states and the European Commission are likely to help advance climate protection goals.
With its December 2008 climate and energy package, as well as an array of Directives and regulations, the European Union has been regarded as a leader in climate policy - and has created a considerable number of good quality green jobs in the process. Evidence to date suggests that green jobs span a wide array of occupations, skill-levels, and salaries, potentially offering opportunities for a broad sections of the workforce. The current economic crisis presents an opportunity to ensure that measures aimed at stimulating economic recovery also serve to set Europe on course towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
Although fears are sometimes expressed that climate policy will be a job killer, the job losses that have occurred in extractive and energy-intensive industries to date are largely due to the growing automation of these industries as well as market liberalization and outsourcing, rather than climate protection policies. Furthermore, in some cases, flexibility given to EU industries actually encourages them to invest their money outside the EU, which is more detrimental to the overall health of the EU economy and workforce. An example of this is the excessive amounts of international offsetting credits that are allowed into the EU Emissions Trading System and Effort Sharing Directives agreed in 2008. This is not to say that measures to reduce carbon emissions will not have an impact on these industries.
But in general, climate-friendly and energy-efficient industries and the products associated with those industries tend to be more labour-intensive than products associated with conventional and fossil fuel-based industries or less efficient products. In addition, saved fuels through energy efficiency do not only contribute to energy security but also increase the purchasing power of consumers.
The WWF report Low Carbon Jobs for Europe gathers evidence of already-existing green jobs and assessments of potential job growth. It provides emploment numbers, estimates, and projections in three core areas: the renewable energy sector, transport, and energy efficiency.
A European Eco-Efficient Economy
Europe and the world face a series of challenges including resource degradation, climate change, and a global economic crisis. Due to their integrated nature, they must be tackled at once, as one. The quest for an ecoefficient economy is about simultaneously addressing these challenges through an integrated policy agenda for climate change mitigation, resource efficiency, industrial renewal and innovation, and competitiveness. The aim is to exploit synergies and minimise trade-offs to help economic recovery while embarking on a more sustainable economic development path.
A new report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, A European Eco-Efficient Economy: Governing Climate, Energy and Competitiveness, is not merely about challenges but also describes the opportunities for Europe to become a leader in the global transformation to an eco-efficient economy. It discusses the imperative for this transformation, examines achievements and on-going efforts, and advances a set of agenda items for political discussion.
How can EU policy makers step up efforts to foster a European eco-efficient economy over the coming years? Three strategic areas should be in focus:
- Resource systems efficiency, in particular energy efficiency and sustainable city planning including infrastructure improvements and transport solutions this has a direct political and economic appeal in present times of economic crisis.
- New technology markets, including sustainable transportation and renewable and other carbonneutral energies these sectors need transforming, as they are the major contributors to climate change and resource degradation today.
- Global carbon pricing, to incentivise markets for investment and consumption this is the single strongest policy action and unavoidable to yield eco-efficient development globally in the long term.
It is technically possible as well as economically viable to pursue these strategies towards far-reaching climate, resource and development objectives. However, they are by no means automatic or easy. To the contrary they require profound policy actions and behavioural responses by companies and consumers globally.
A first necessary step is to initiate political debates at national, European and global levels, about how governance systems can be orchestrated to facilitate these strategies. Several linked policy agendas must be pursued.
- Adapting governance to innovation pathways: This concerns how to govern a transition to an economy based more on innovation and intensified knowledge input, which requires adapting governance measures to innovation systems and technology characteristics, and enhancing the use of hybrid governance and policy packages.
- International cooperation and carbon pricing: Because Europes economy (and climate) is interwoven with the rest of the world, international cooperation and global deals are absolutely central in the pursuit of the eco-efficient economy. Major challenges are ahead both in following through on domestic commitments despite the economic crisis, and in reaching comprehensive global commitments through the international frameworks. This entails vigorously pursuing a stepwise global expansion of carbon pricing and related means such asdevelopments of standards, R&D and early market support, trade policy, and technical cooperation.
- A systems approach for informed policy debates: Policy makers knowledge about how the eco-efficient economy can be governed is fragmented today. The agenda is complex and interconnected, and new systems analysis tools are needed to provide knowledge for informed decision making. This involves both developing new and better systems approaches to understanding technological innovation and combined policy impacts, and developing new platforms for evidence-based policy debates at national and European levels.
Summing up these agenda items, a six-point action plan is proposed.
Dirt! The Movie
DIRT! The Movie takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.
The opening scenes of the film dive into the wonderment of the soil. Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, "dirt is very much alive." Though, in modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted. "Drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt."
The film brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.
DIRT! the Movie is simply a movie about dirt. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. The movie teaches us: "When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked." But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action.
"The only remedy for disconnecting people from the natural world is connecting them to it again."
What we've destroyed, we can heal.
EPA Proposes Stringent Standards for Large Ships
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month announced the next steps in a coordinated strategy to slash harmful emissions from ocean-going vessels. EPA is proposing a rule under the Clean Air Act that sets tough engine and fuel standards for U.S. flagged ships that would harmonize with international standards and lead to significant air quality improvements throughout the country.
"These emissions are contributing to health, environmental and economic challenges for port communities and others that are miles inland. Building on our work to form an international agreement earlier this year, were taking the next steps to reduce significant amounts of harmful pollution from getting into the air we breathe," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Lowering emissions from American ships will help safeguard our port communities, and demonstrate American leadership in protecting our health and the environment around the globe."
The rule comes on the heels of a key part of EPAs strategy, a proposal last March by the United States and Canada to designate thousands of miles of the two countries coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA). The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, begins consideration of the ECA plan this month, which would result in stringent standards for large ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coasts of Canada and the United States.
Air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships, is expected to grow rapidly in line with port traffic increases. Shipping accounts for more than 90% of world trade. By 2030, the domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons. When fully implemented, the coordinated effort would reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent and PM emissions by 85 percent compared to current emissions.
The emission reductions from the proposed strategy would yield significant health and welfare benefits that would span beyond U.S. ports and coastlines, reaching inland areas. EPA estimates that in 2030, this effort would prevent between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million work days lost, and 10 million minor restricted-activity days. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030 as a result of reduced air pollution are valued between $110 and $280 billion at an annual projected cost of approximately $3.1 billion - as high as a 90-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.
The proposed rulemaking is designed to reflect the IMOs stringent ECA standards and broader worldwide program. The rule adds two new tiers of NOX standards and strengthens EPAs existing diesel fuel program for these ships. It represents another milestone in EPAs decade-long effort to reduce pollution from both new and existing diesel engines under the National Clean Diesel Campaign.