First International Meeting - Task Force on Education for Sustainable Consumption
The first International Meeting of the Task Force on Education for Sustainable Consumption will be held from 16 to 17 April 2007 in Genoa, Italy. The event is coordinated by the Italian Ministry of the Environment Land Protection and Sea.
Following the recommendation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Chapter III of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation) on the thematic issue of "promotion of sustainable production and consumption patterns", the task force was launched by Italy during the fourtheenth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD 14) as tangible contribution to the "Marrakech Process".The event, as the future activities of the task force, is organized in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Since the Earth Summit in Rio, and then the WSSD in Johannesburg, the international community has repeatedly highlighted the role of education as essential tool to accelerate the shift towards sustainable production and consumption patterns. The task force aims to define appropriate synergies with the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development and related initiatives, as to enhance the role of education and improve the use of such a crosscutting instrument.
The meeting will serve to share best practices in the field of education for sustainable consumption and to develop an international work plan for the task force (2007-2009). The meeting will gather together experts from government agencies, national and international organisations working on policies and initiatives linked to education as well as a number of representatives of NGOs, academia and the private sector.
EU Green Paper on Environmental Taxation
The European Commission has adopted a Green Paper on the use of market-based instruments for environment and energy. The Green Paper is a joint project by Commissioners for Environment and Taxation, in association with the Commissioners for Transport and Energy. It covers a wide range of areas where instruments such as taxes and emissions trading rights can be further promoted, in particular in energy use, transports impact on the environment and in other specific areas of environmental policy such as sustainable management of water, waste management, protection of biodiversity and reduction of air pollution.
The Commission argues that in order to promote a new and greener industrial revolution, there is a clear need to use all the available instruments including the use of taxation because such market-based instruments would have an important impact on the behaviour of both manufacturers and consumers, discouraging environmental harming and encouraging the use of environment-friendly sources of energy.
G8 Biodiversity Initiative
Environment ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations and five major emerging countries agreed on 16 March 2007 to study the economic value of the Earth's biodiversity. The G8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States; the five big developing countries at Potsdam were Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.
The study on biodiversity will be modelled on the Stern Report. The report will analyse "the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation," according to the so-called Potsdam Initiative.
The proposal for the biodiversity report would be put to the G8 summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm from 6-8 June 2007. Experts from industrialised and developing countries would then be tasked with writing the report. No deadline has so far been set for when the document will be published.
As many as 150 species become extinct each day, or a thousand times faster than natural processes. Among other things, the report will analyze the profitability of the preservation of species for the pharmaceutical industry.
The Potsdam meeting also said it would help efforts to set up a global database of species, pledged closer cooperation on identifying and monitoring invasive species and vowed to intensify the illegal trade in wild plants and animals. It promised "concrete initiatives" to promote trade in sustainable timber to help prevent the plundering of virgin forests. Such measures would include a mix of regulations, market incentives, codes of conduct and certification about the sources of such timber.
Earth Day: Our Shared Responsibility for Environmental Stewardship
Earth Day is the name given to the annual observance that is intended to raise awareness about a wide range of environmental issues and problems, and to inspire people to take personal action to address them.
The first Earth Day celebration took place on March 21, 1970, the vernal equinox that year. It was the brainchild of John McConnell, a newspaper publisher and influential community activist, who proposed the idea of a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969.
McConnell suggested an annual observance to remind the people of Earth of their shared responsibility as environmental stewards. He chose the vernal equinoxthe first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, the first day of autumn in the southern hemispherebecause it is a day of renewal. At the vernal equinox (always March 20 or March 21), night and day are the same length everywhere on Earth, and McConnell believed that Earth Day should be a time of equilibrium when people could put aside their differences and recognize their common need to preserve Earths resources.
On February 26, 1971, U.N. Secretary-General U Thant signed a proclamation saying that the United Nations would celebrate Earth Day annually on the vernal equinox, thereby officially establishing the March date as the international Earth Day. In his Earth Day statement on March 21, 1971, U Thant said, May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life. The United Nations continues to celebrate Earth Day each year by ringing the Peace Bell at U.N. headquarters in New York at the precise moment of the vernal equinox.
Introduction to Energy Analysis
Liberalisation of energy markets, security of energy supply, and the threat of climate change are just three important current issues directly related to the world of energy.
Introduction to Energy Analysis is a thorough introduction into the analysis of energy systems and energy technologies. This textbook helps understand energy systems by giving a balanced treatment of both energy supply and energy demand systems. It provides a range of methodologies and tools for analysing real world energy systems, including energy management, life-cycle energy analysis, energy efficiency indicators, energy technology analysis, energy scenario analysis, and energy policy analysis.
Students with a background in natural sciences, engineering, environmental sciences and economics will find this a complete introduction to the challenging world of energy. The numerous exercises help apply the theory to practical problems. Introduction to Energy Analysis will help the reader understand developments in this rapidly changing field and analyse the options for the future.
Scientists from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory announced this month a new tool to monitor changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by region and source. The tool, called CarbonTracker, will enable its users to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to reduce or store carbon emissions.
CarbonTracker distills an accurate assessment of greenhouse-gas increases or decreases. The resolution will increase to observe differences in concentration on finer geographical scales over time as data become available. Using the limited data that currently exist, the model can characterize emissions each month among U.S. regions, such as the West or the Southeast. As the observation network becomes denser, however, policymakers will be able to check the CarbonTracker Web site to compare emissions from urban centers.
"CarbonTracker's potential is enormous," said Pieter Tans, head of the NOAA Earth System Research Labs Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases group, who developed the tool. "We are moving into an era where emissions could have a price tag. If carbon trading, emissions reduction and sequestration schemes become more common around the globe, society will need the ability to compare their relative value. Accurate and objective information on changing atmospheric concentrations will be essential for both research and impact assessments."
Dictionary and Introduction to Global Environmental Governance
The Dictionary and Introduction to Global Environmental Governance (GEG), written and compiled by two veterans of the international stage, provides a compilation of over 5000 terms, organizations and acronyms, drawn from hundreds of official sources. An introductory essay frames the major issues in GEG and outlines the pitfalls of talking past one another when discussing the most critical of issues facing the planet. It challenges those who are concerned with the management of our planet and its inhabitants to understand and accept a vocabulary common to the often-opposing objectives sought in the many GEG instruments.
The result is a practical tool that might find a central place on the desk of anyone involved in environmental management, development or sustainability issues anywhere in the world, including the United Nations, government policy makers, NGOs and other stakeholder groups, the business community, and students and professionals.
The No Impact Man
You hear of one study saying that the energy used washing ceramic coffee cups is as damaging to the environment as the use of disposable plastic cups that wont biodegrade for thousands of years. You hear of another that says destroying trees to make paper towels is no worse than using hot water and toxic detergent to wash cloth rags.
Everything, if you listen to conventional wisdom, is as bad as everything else. The spin merchants have got us believing that to try to make any difference is futile. You might as well give up. Throw away another plastic coffee cup. Dont bother with the hybrid car. Go on, guzzle.
Meanwhile, I mention to a very liberal friend, a guy who used to be spokesman for a Democratic senator, that Im trying to figure out how to live no impact here in New York. Forget it. Its impossible, he says. Its one thing to try it in the countryside, maybe in the woods, like Henry David Thoreau, or on a farm, where you grow your own food. But in New York City? No way.
The fact is that if city dwellers cant learn to live without reducing their ecological footprint then were in deep trouble because most of the worlds population now lives in cities. Saving the world cant be left to the country bumpkins. Its an urban problem.
Read more about the No Impact Man.
UK Introduces Legally Binding Carbon Reduction Targets
The United Kingdom could become the first country to set legally binding carbon reduction targets under plans unveiled by Environment Secretary David Miliband. The draft Climate Change Bill calls for an independent panel to set ministers a "carbon budget" every five years, in a bid to cut emissions by 60% by 2050.
The draft legislation will go to public and parliamentary consultation before becoming law next year, but environmental campaigners want to raise the 2050 target to 80% and set annual 3% cut targets to ensure compliance. The carbon reduction targets will be based on advice by an independent committee.
If future governments fail to achieve the targets, they could be taken to court, with a judicial review deciding what punishment - if any - to hand out. The draft bill does not stipulate how the cuts should be made, or give specific reduction targets for individual businesses, councils and households.
The government plans include:
- Targets to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050, from 1990 levels, and between 26% and 32% by 2020
- Greater energy efficiency, with more consumers becoming "producers" of their own energy at home
- Investment in low-carbon fuels and technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, wind, wave and solar power
- Carbon "budgets" - which cap emissions levels - set every five years
A full Climate Change Bill is set to be published in the autumn.
EU Challenges World With Climate Change Plan
European Union leaders resolved on 9 March 2007 to slash greenhouse gas emissions and switch to renewable fuels, challenging the world to follow their lead in fighting climate change.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the bloc's "ambitious and credible" decisions, including a binding target for renewable sources to make up a fifth of EU energy use by 2020, put it in the vanguard of the battle against global warming. The EU package set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, developing renewable energy sources, boosting energy efficiency and using biofuels.
In a move that will affect all of the bloc's 490-million citizens, the leaders called for energy-saving lighting to be required in homes, offices and streets by the end of the decade. The deal laid down Europe-wide goals for cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and developing renewable sources but national targets will require the consent of member states, presaging years of wrangling between Brussels and governments.
Leaders accepted the 20 percent target for renewable sources in return for flexibility on each country's contribution.
The United Nations, which has coordinated global efforts to tackle climate change, applauded the plan. "In the face of rising greenhouse gas emissions, committing to a substantial decrease for the next decade is ambitious," deputy United Nations spokesperson Marie Okabe said. "But ambition and leadership are just what is needed to respond to climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing humankind."
The leaders committed to a target of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and offered to go to 30 percent if major nations such as the United States, Russia, China and India follow suit. The statement also set a 10 percent target for biofuels in transport by 2020 to be implemented in a cost-efficient way.
Renewables now account for less than seven percent of the EU energy mix and the bloc is falling short of its existing targets both for renewable energy and cutting carbon dioxide emissions.
As chair of the Group of Eight industrialised powers, Merkel wants the EU to set the environmental agenda. The summit outcome will form the basis of the EU's position in international talks to replace the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Letter to the European Council from European Civil Society Organisations
As European leaders gathered in Brussels for the Spring Summit on 8 and 9 March, a row on renewable energy threatened to taint EU attempts to show that it leads the world in the fight against climate change.
Representatives from 16 civil society organisations have written a letter urging the European Council to show leadership and agree on ambitious measures on energy and climate change, linking these to democracy and human rights:
"As representatives of European civil society organisations on environment, development, human rights and peacebuilding we are writing to urge the European Council to agree ambitious measures to deliver energy and climate security on March 8-9th 2007. Resolving the challenge of energy and climate security is central to all our missions. Competition for energy resources increasingly underlies global conflicts, and is undermining democracy and human rights around the world. Climate change is already causing damage in Europe and suffering to poor people in the developing world.
None of this is inevitable. We have the technology and wealth to solve these challenges. We believe that a revitalised Europe is the only power capable of taking the lead in driving the transition to a clean and fair global energy economy. This can provide a truly popular focus for re-engaging European citizens in the project started 50 years ago by the Treaty of Rome.
The European Council must show leadership by agreeing a 30% binding cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and specific measures to accelerate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The EU must agree to speak with one voice on energy relations with other countries, and maintain fundamental European values on peace and human rights. Serious future action will also be needed to reduce EU oil demand from transport, and must be supported by a major shift in the European budget to support clean and secure energy infrastructure.
Delivering these goals will not happen overnight, and it will require public pressure to overcome vested interests. Our organisations are exploring the potential for building a broad public coalition for action across Europe to move this agenda forward over the coming years."
The American Meteorological Society, America's leading professional society for those in the atmospheric and related sciences, has launched a new weblog ("blog") to address the challenging policy issues related to climate change. The goal is to help decision makers at all levels make sound policy based on the best available information.
ClimatePolicy.org will encourage exchanges among experts, policy-makers, journalists, and the broader society. The blog will build on the knowledge of some of the world's leading climate experts who come from the United States' most renowned institutions. The core contributors include Joe Aldy (Resources for the Future), Scott Barrett (Johns Hopkins University), Dan Kammen (University of California, Berkeley), Mike MacCracken (Climate Institute), Mike Mastrandrea (Stanford University), and Michael Oppenheimer (Princeton University).
With this broad range of expertise, ClimatePolicy.org will explore and analyze society's options for reducing climate risks while also increasing economic opportunities and incorporating ethical values. These expert contributors, along with reader input from around the world, will help encourage a full assessment of potential responses to the threats posed by climate change.
Eurobarometer Survey on Perceptions of Nuclear Energy
At the beginning of the 21st century, energy has become one of the most challenging questions facing Europe. Demand for energy is increasing by 1-2% each year, the share of energy imports from non-EU countries has risen to over 50% and we are enormously dependent on fossil fuels. On the other hand, concerns about global warming are leading to calls for greener, more diverse and more efficient forms of energy.
The future of nuclear energy is uncertain. In many countries there are calls for a halt on developing nuclear power as long as the issue of managing radioactive waste is unresolved. European public opinion remains reticent towards nuclear energy and, in order to develop, the nuclear industry would need to achieve a consensus among the population.
Existing nuclear installations must be operated to strict safety standards and radioactive waste must be managed in a safe and sustainable manner. A number of European power plants are currently nearing the end of their lifespan and will need to be decommissioned safely. Furthermore it is necessary to ensure that nuclear materials are not misused and that common standards are implemented in order to maintain high nuclear safety standards across Europe.
Against this background, Directorate General for Energy and Transport, Directorate for Nuclear Energy launched the Eurobarometer study on European public opinion on nuclear safety. It follows two former studies on radioactive waste carried out in 2005 and 2001. This survey covers both the wider theme of nuclear issues in general and the topic of nuclear safety in particular.
The Earthrace is an attempt to break the world circumnavigation record in a powerboat. However the Earthrace is an attempt with a difference. The Earthrace team will be utilizing several groundbreaking technologies and promoting alternative fuels along the way.
The boat is the first wave piercing craft in the world designed to fully submarine beneath huge ocean waves. This ability is allowing it to cross oceans in conditions that would destroy typical ships and gives it an excellent chance at breaking a world record that has stood for almost 10 years.
This, however, is only the tip of the Earthrace project. This special boat is running on 100 percent biodiesel fuel - a renewable fuel produced mainly from plant crops. Before setting out on the race on March 10, 2007, the team will complete tours of New Zealand and North American to promote alternative fuels.
The world record attempt will begin on March 10, 2007. Circumnavigating the globe represents the pinnacle of powerboat challenges, and at 24,000 nautical miles, is also the world's longest race. The team hopes to smash the current world record of 75 days and is aiming to complete the circumnavigation within 65 days.
After racing the team will continue to promote renewable fuels. They will be touring Europe for the remainder of 2007, visiting schools and opening up the boat to the public.
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting of the UN CSD 15
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM) for the fifteenth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD 15) took place from 26 February to 2 March 2007, at UN headquarters in New York. The IPMs role was to provide a forum to discuss policy options and possible actions to enable the implementation of measures and policies concerning energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change the thematic issues under consideration during the CSD-14/CSD-15 two-year implementation cycle.
Building on CSD-14, which conducted a review of these issues, CSD-15 will be a policy session and will focus on expediting implementation of commitments in these four thematic areas. The IPM conducted broad-based discussions to help identify relevant policy options and actions. Throughout the week, delegates met in plenary to consider policy options for the four themes, as well as inter-linkages and cross-cutting issues. There was also a session on small island developing states. These deliberations were reflected in a preliminary draft Chairs negotiating document, which was distributed towards the end of the meeting.
Participants provided initial feedback on this text, which was revised and presented at the conclusion of the meeting. The document was developed with the expectation that it could form the basis for further discussions and negotiations during CSD-15, scheduled to meet from 30 April to 11 May 2007, in New York.
Back in January 2007, NGOs from 15 nations from Western Europe met for two days in Brussels and agreed a statement which calls for specific actions by the UN, national governments and by the EU. We invite all other NGOs from this region who share our concerns to sign up to this statement and to join us in lobbying governments before the UN CSD meeting to ensure that European governments push for real change, both individually and collectively through the EU.