THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Tuesday, July 22, 2009
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
• Cop15.dk (Denmark): Youngsters of the world: Climate action now, please!
• CSRWire (US): New Report Says Advisors have Fiduciary Responsibility to
Proactively Raise Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Issues with
• Scientific American (US): Will Global Warming Melt the Permafrost Supporting the
• All Africa (Kenya): Sudan: Blue Helmets Think Green - Unamid Embarks on Tree-
Other Environment News
• AFP: US moving toward strong climate action
• AFP: Climate change: Bye-bye, black sheep?
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
Other UN News
• Environment News from the UN Daily News of July 21st 2009 (None)
• Environment News from the S.G.’s Spokesman Daily Press Briefing of
July 21st 2009 (None)
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
Cop15.dk (Denmark): Youngsters of the world: Climate action now, please!
When representatives of three billion children meet in the Republic of Korea next month,
the message is clear: They demand that their governments reach a scientifically credible
and far-reaching new climate agreement in Copenhagen.
800 participants from over 100 countries, representing three billion children and young
people, will meet 17-23 August in the Republic of Korea to present their demands for
action at the UN climate conference in December in Copenhagen.
The Tunza International Children and Youth Conference will be the biggest youth
gathering on climate change ever. And the generation that will inherit the planet requires
a low-carbon, resource efficient, environmentally sustainable future.
“It will be in the lifetime of the three billion children and young people alive today that the
glaciers of the Himalayas will either persist or melt away; that the sea levels will stabilize
or rise, swamping a third of Africa's coastal infrastructure; that the Amazon will remain
the lungs of the planet or become an increasingly dried-out and disappearing
ecosystem, and the polar bear will continue as the iconic species of the Arctic or, like the
Dodo and the dinosaurs, merely an artifact in the world's natural history museums," says
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN
Environment Programme (UNEP).
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CSRWire (US): New Report Says Advisors have Fiduciary Responsibility to
Proactively Raise Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Issues with
Jul 21, 2009 – 12:30 PM EST
A group of asset managers, representing approximately $2 trillion in assets under
management, say that integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG)
considerations into investment decisions should be a legal responsibility, as outlined in a
new report: Fiduciary Responsibility - Legal and Practical Aspects of Integrating
Environmental, Social and Governance Issue into Institutional Investment, produced by
the Asset Management Working Group of United Nations Environment Programme
Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), a unique partnership between the UN's environmental arm
and over 180 financial institutions worldwide.
During today's news briefing, Calvert Investments, ClearBridge Advisors, Pax World
Investments, and UNEP FI experts revealed key findings of the report and discussed the
responsibility fiduciaries have to incorporate ESG factors into investment decisions.
The streaming audio of the press event will be available today at 2pm ET at
"We finally made the case that prudent fiduciaries should consider material ESG issues
as an integral part of their investment decisions. This report takes the next step by
making the case that advisors must be proactive in raising ESG issues with their clients,
and by collectively calling on the investment industry, policymakers and civil society to
move toward responsible and sustainable capital markets to help avert a 'Natural
Resources Crisis'," said Paul Hilton, Director of Advanced Equities Research at Calvert,
and the Fiduciary II Co-Project Lead.
"This new report on Fiduciary Duty provides a significant, multi-faceted analysis of the
legal and practical ESG developments in the global investment arena, including updated
legal views from North America. With forward-looking commentary and
recommendations from leading legal experts, investment consultants, and asset
managers, it appears that institutional investors will have an easier time allocating to
well-managed sustainable investments," said Mary Jane McQuillen, Director & Portfolio
Manager, Socially Aware Investment, ClearBridge Advisors, and the Fiduciary II Co-
"In order for our economy to advance in a responsible, sustainable way, ESG criteria
should be incorporated into every investment decision," said Dr. Julie Fox Gorte, Senior
Vice President, PAX World Management Corp., Co-Chair of UNEP FI Asset
Management Working Group. "This report makes a powerful case that investment
managers may be putting clients at risk if ESG issues aren't considered, and should be
held responsible for those decisions. There must be a shift in investment philosophy to
focus more on long-term, sustainable options, rather than short-term gains."
Professional investment advisors and service providers - such as investment consultants
and asset managers--may have a legal obligation to incorporate ESG issues into their
investment services or face a very real risk that they may open themselves up to legal
liabilities if they do not, cites the report.
"The worst financial and economic crisis in generations pales in comparison to a looming
'Natural Resources Crisis.' Investors and financial markets should put an end to 'short-
termism' and embed inherently longer-term ESG issues in their organizational DNA.
Fiduciary II offers a legal roadmap for responsible investing and marks an enlightened
step towards a green, inclusive and sustainable global economy," said Butch Bacani,
Programme Officer, Insurance & Investment, UNEP Finance Initiative, and the Fiduciary
II Project Manager & Chief Editor.
The report also provides indicative legal language that can be used to embed ESG
considerations in the investment management agreements and related legal contracts
between institutional investors and their asset managers.
KEY HIGHTLIGHTS OF THE REPORT:
• The global economy has now reached the point where ESG issues are a critical
consideration for all institutional investors and their agents.
• Investment consultants and asset managers have a duty to proactively raise
ESG issues within their advice and services to institutional investors.
• ESG issues must be embedded in the legal contracts between institutional
investors and their asset managers to hold asset managers to account, and that
ESG issues should be included in periodic reporting by asset managers. Equally,
the performance of asset managers should be assessed on a longer-term basis
and linked to long-term incentives.
• Institutional investors will increasingly come to understand the financial
materiality of ESG issues and the systemic risk they pose, and the profound
long-term costs of unsustainable development and the consequent impacts on
the long-term value of their investment portfolios.
• Institutional investors will increasingly apply pressure to their asset managers to
develop robust investment strategies that integrate ESG issues into financial
analysis, and to engage with companies in order to encourage more responsible
and sustainable business practices.
• Policymakers should ensure prudential regulatory frameworks that enable
greater transparency and disclosure from institutional investors and their agents
on the integration of ESG issues into their investment process--as well as from
companies on their performance on ESG issues.
• Civil society institutions should collectively bolster their understanding of capital
markets such that they can play a full role in ensuring that capital markets are
sustainable and delivering responsible ownership practices.
• Market incentives that reward long-term investment must be made to help create
responsible and sustainable capital markets that would help identify future
challenges in the financial system, reduce the chances of further crises and help
avert a "Natural Resources Crisis"--and accelerate the transformational process
to a green, inclusive and sustainable global economy.
The 120-page report titled: Fiduciary Responsibility - Legal and Practical Aspects of
Integrating Environmental, Social and Governance Issue into Institutional Investment
can be found at http://www.unepfi.org/fileadmin/documents/fiduciaryII.pdf.
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Scientific American (US): Will Global Warming Melt the Permafrost Supporting the
July 21, 2009
This crucial line of transportation crosses the Tibetan Plateau, parts of which are barely
below freezing. Will any added warmth--either from climate change or the railway itself--
destabilize the track's frozen foundation?
Building a railway across the unstable soil of the Tibetan Plateau was an improbable
endeavor from the start, but an army of Chinese government engineers did it anyway.
Now, with the frozen soil disturbed by the process of laying down the rail and a warming
climate on the plateau, some scientists question whether the $4-billion rail line will
survive as is or require major reconstruction.
Three years after the railway opened in 2006, international research shows that the
Tibetan territories are among the fastest warming, and fastest melting, on the planet.
The research into the fate of glaciers and the permafrost soils—done by the United
Nations, China's scientific agencies, and several independent scientists—is not focused
on the railway. But the work raises concerns that the warming ground could lead to a
buckling of the railway.
According to a 2007 global outlook from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), the
frozen soil of the Tibetan plateau has warmed about 0.3 degree Celsius over the past 30
years—after the poles, faster than anywhere else on the planet. Where human activity
has disturbed the soil, such as during the construction of the railway, the rate is double,
0.6 degree C.
That might not seem like much, but it is enough to outpace the rate predicted by railway
construction engineers for the landmark rail line, which has carried some six million
passengers and five million tons of cargo since opening day. And the news would seem
to get worse: UNEP says the permafrost area surrounding the nearby Qinghai–Tibet
Highway decreased some 36 percent in size in the 20 years leading up to 1995, the
period for which data were recorded. By the end of this century, the report says, China's
permafrost (which is almost entirely on the Tibetan plateau) could decrease by half
again. By 2050, another U.N. report predicts, the glaciers on the plateau will have shrunk
by one third.
Perhaps that outlook can explain the warning offered by the China Meteorological
Administration at a meeting in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in early May that Tibet was
warming faster than anywhere else in China. According to an account published by the
Xinhua News Agency, China's state media service, the administration's chief, Zheng
Guoguang, said that the railway may be in jeopardy and that the region must "tackle" the
effects of climate change. Zheng warned that, where the railway crosses plateau
regions, the thickness of the permafrost had been decreasing by as much as 25
centimeters each decade.
Other research points to the railway itself as a contributing factor. A 2007 paper
published by the University of Colorado at Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine
Research indicated that the more delicate, warm permafrost areas are more affected by
the climate warming because their natural balance has been upset by the construction's
disturbance of the land. Whereas it would take about 20 years for the warm permafrost
regions to thaw under present climate change conditions, the paper says it could take
just five years for that permafrost underneath the disturbed land to reach the melting
point. The study, published in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, was written in part
by Chinese scientists close to the railway project.
That research, however, is general to the region and does not examine the railway itself.
Nor does it account for effectiveness of the methods that engineers used to cool the soil
while they built the tracks. Methods included using pipes called thermosiphons along the
sides of the tracks to refrigerate vulnerable parts of the soil along the highest parts of the
plateau, an area that comprises the largest continuous sub-Arctic permafrost region on
the planet. These cooling sticks are 7.6-meter-long steel tubes drilled into the soil; they
contain ammonia, which draws latent heat out of the soil as it evaporates. The technique
has been used along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and in Siberia, although those projects
relied on the cooling sticks to a far lesser extent than the Tibet project and were built in
The railway, which connects Lhasa to the China's national railway network, the largest in
the world, traverses the Tibetan Plateau 5,182 meters above sea level and crosses
about 550 kilometers of some of the most delicate and treacherous frozen soil regions
on Earth. Half of the permafrost beneath the rails is within –1 degree C, meaning that it
could melt with just a degree of climate change.
Some question whether the engineers who planned the railway made the proper
calculations to account for long-term climate change. The project's chief engineers
counted on cooling sticks and other tricks to help the rails withstand soil warming of 0.2
degree C and air warming of 2 degrees C on the plateau over the next 50 years. The
figures—decided on in early 2003—were the least conservative, and thus the least
expensive, to accommodate.
In early 2006, as the five-year construction project finally neared completion, a Chinese
Academy of Sciences (CAS) engineer named Wu Ziwang predicted that the rate of
change was more serious, concluding that the frozen ground supporting the railway
could be soaked with puddles within a decade. A lone voice at the time, the researcher
was admonished for his candor, rebuked by his department, and later declined to be
interviewed for this story when I visited his CAS office in Lanzhou, located deep in
Out of danger?
Clearly, not everyone believes the railway is in imminent danger. According to Cheng
Guodong, one of the project's master scientists, the permafrost directly under the rail
bed may be thinning, but it is holding firm, and that bodes well for its ability to withstand
further warming. In his 2006 paper published in the journal Cold Regions Science and
Technology, he wrote, "The temperature of the permafrost under the duct…decreased
remarkably." As a result of this, according to the paper, the frozen layers have spread
upward in some places, freezing the dirt infill of the rail bed itself.
Guodong explains that the construction impact posed a greater threat to the plateau
permafrost than global warming. "The first two to three years might be the most
dangerous period," he wrote in a translated e-mail in May. "If we had not considered the
influencing factors well enough, thermal and stress adjustments would tell us."
If the railway has done well this far, as he says it has, then it will likely withstand
whatever stresses the climate throws at it next—at least for awhile.
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All Africa (Kenya): Sudan: Blue Helmets Think Green - Unamid Embarks on Tree-
21 July 2009
As part of its efforts to enhance and develop the physical environment in the Mission
area, UNAMID today commenced planting trees at its headquarters in El Fasher. An
initial 50 seedlings were planted during today's exercise and it is expected that the
project will culminate in December when the goal of 1,000 trees will be planted in all
Deputy Joint Special Representative, General Henry K. Anyidoho, noted that, in addition
to bringing peace and security to Darfur, UNAMID was demonstrating through this
initiative that it was committed to contributing to the enhancement of the environment in
the area. He pointed out that the area's vegetation had been subject to further
desertification, but the Mission was helping to improve those environmental conditions
through its tree-planting project.
The exercise is being undertaken following a recommendation by the UN Environmental
Programme (UNEP) on engaging ways to address the impact of the conflict in Darfur on
The saplings used for today's exercise were provided by the national non-governmental
organization, Practical Action and the project is being led by UNAMID's Gender Advisory
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7sur7 (Belgium): Les derniers gorilles rwandais menacés par un incendie
mercredi 22 juillet 2009
Le parc national des Volcans, situé dans le nord du Rwanda et qui abrite l'espèce en
danger des gorilles de montagnes, est la proie d'un incendie depuis samedi qui ne
menace pas pour l'instant les primates, ont rapporté mardi les autorités sur Radio
"Le feu continue mais tout le monde est mobilisé", a déclaré sur Radio Rwanda
(gouvernementale), Rosette Chantal Rugambwa, directrice de l'Office rwandais du
tourisme et des parcs nationaux (ORTPN). Elle a indiqué que l'incendie, qui a détruit
"entre 100 et 200 hectares", n'avait pas affecté le tourisme dans la région car "les
gorilles sont éloignés" de la zone en proie à l'incendie. Ces gorilles sont la principale
attraction du parc des Volcans.
Selon Radio Rwanda, des hélicoptères de l'armée ont prêté main forte à la police pour
tenter de maîtriser l'incendie. L'incendie, qui s'est déclaré au pied du volcan Muhabura,
serait le fait d'un paysan qui n'a pas réussi à éteindre le feu qu'il avait allumé alors qu'il
extrayait du miel d'une ruche, a ajouté la radio.
Mme Rugambwa a appelé les riverains des parcs à redoubler de prudence lorsqu'ils
allument des feux en cette saison sèche. Les derniers gorilles des montagnes sont
concentrés dans les chaînes de montagnes traversant le Rwanda, l'Ouganda et la
République démocratique du Congo (RDC). Leur population totale serait d'environ 700,
selon le Programme des Nations unies pour l'environnement (PNUE).
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Other Environment News
AFP: US moving toward strong climate action
Tue Jul 21, 2:39 pm ET
The United States has undergone an important mood-shift on climate change and is on
the path toward "strong climate action," a key UN official said here Tuesday.
"The mood is completely different now... There's a sense that the country's on the move
toward strong climate action," Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) working group on long-term cooperative
action, told reporters.
The US House of Representatives last month approved a bill that sets long-term limits
on greenhouse gas emissions, a prime contributing factor to global warming, and aims to
shift the US economy to one that runs on cleaner energy.
The proposed law, called Waxman-Markey after the lawmakers who introduced it, calls
on the United States to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from the level they
were at four years ago when the Kyoto Protocol on climate change came into effect.
But in a move that Zammit Cutajar said breaks with the previous US stance on climate
change, the bill also takes a longer view and calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be
slashed to just 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.
"Previous US negotiators have always made it clear that they are not bound to any
action following the target year," he said.
"I find positively striking the idea in Waxman-Markey that this country could commit itself
over a 40-year period," he said.
"This time you have a view that gets the country onto the path that keeps going in the
Under the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated in 1997, developed countries agreed to
reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 to an average of around five percent
below 1990 levels.
The United States negotiated an emissions cut of seven percent below 1990 levels for
itself, but then famously rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.
The cuts set by the American Clean Energy and Security Act for 2020 are the equivalent
of a four-percent cut from 1990 levels.
The US Senate has yet to vote on the bill.
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AFP: Climate change: Bye-bye, black sheep?
Tue Jul 21, 7:36 pm ET
Another clue has been found in the Case of the Shrinking Sheep, an animal mystery in
which climate change features as the principal culprit.
The tale of scientific sleuthing is unfolding on two Scottish islands, Soay and Hirta, in the
remote Outer Hebrides.
Their sole inhabitants are wild sheep which probably arrived there with the first human
settlers some 4,000 years ago.
The sheep's isolation and lack of predators make them terrific candidates for studying
the impact of weather, food and genetics on a wild animal population. The flock,
suffering occasional surges and crashes in numbers, has been closely scrutinised since
Two years ago, researchers came across a strange thing: The average size of the Soay
sheep was progressively falling.
That finding ran counter to Darwinian intuition. Evolutionary theory said that, given the
cold, rough winter on the islands, bigger sheep had the better chance of survival, so their
genes should progressively dominate the flock.
The solution to this enigma, suggested Imperial College London scientists earlier this
month, lies in global warming.
Milder winters in recent decades have enabled smaller lambs, which otherwise would
have died after birth, to survive into adulthood and then reproduce, they said.
The climate whodunnit has now been backed by a trio of Australian experts, who have
matched weather and population records with the colour of the sheep's coats.
The smaller sheep that now dominate the flock are also lighter-haired ones, a link that
has been proven by gene analysis. Bigger sheep tend to be darker.
Why would coat colour make a difference?
The answer, suggests the team led by University of Western Australia's Shane Maloney,
is that, in colder times, sheep with darker coats have an advantage.
Mammals with darker coats absorb more solar radiation and thus need to expend less
food energy to keep warm than do their lighter counterparts.
But, as the climate has warmed in the North Atlantic, this advantage has diminished,
which gives more of a chance for lighter-haired (and smaller) rivals in the struggle to
"If environmental effects are the cause of the decline, then we can expect the proportion
of dark-coloured Soay sheep to decrease further," the fleece police add soberly.
The study appears on Wednesday in Biology Letters, published by the Royal Society,
Britain's de-facto academy of sciences.
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RONA MEDIA UPDATE
THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
UNEP or UN in the News
• Washington Post: Top UN climate expert faults G-8 goal without deed
• Washington Post: Tiny Tuvalu says all its energy renewable by 2020
• Deutsche Welle: Sarkozy calls for a global organization on the environment
• Business Wire: United Nations Identifies Agriculture as a Solution to Soaring CO2
Emissions — Approves First Agricultural CDM Methodology
Top UN climate expert faults G-8 goal without deed
By JOHN HEILPRIN, The Associated Press, Monday, July 20, 2009 7:00 PM
UNITED NATIONS -- The chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change said Monday that the Group of Eight nations had "clearly ignored" taking any
concrete action to accomplish its new goal of limiting climate change.
Rajendra Pachauri, whose scientific panel shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former
vice president Al Gore in 2007, praised the G-8 summit in Italy this month for taking "a
big step forward" by agreeing to limit the planet's average temperature rise to 2 degrees
Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above levels recorded 150 years ago.
He faulted the world's wealthiest countries, however, because he said they "clearly
ignored what the IPCC came up with" to reach that goal.
"It's interesting that the G-8 leaders agreed on this aspirational goal of (limiting) a
temperature increase of (no more than) 2 degrees Celsius, which certainly is a big step
forward in my view," he told reporters at U.N. headquarters. "But what I find as a
dichotomy in this position is the fact that they clearly ignored what the IPCC came up
The question of which nations will agree to limit their heat-trapping gases mainly from
fossil fuels is taking on increasing urgency at the United Nations, which is sponsoring the
key round of talks in December to achieve a climate deal in Copenhagen, Denmark.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made it his No. 1 priority to persuade nations
to agree to a successor treaty to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for reducing greenhouse
gases, which expires at the end of 2012.
Pachauri said the G-8 leaders also should have accepted the panel's conclusion that
greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than 2015 and then rich countries must
reduce emissions from 2005 levels by between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020.
Doing that, climate scientists say, may help the world avoid the worst effects of warming,
which they say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening
"Now if the G-8 leaders agreed on this 2 degree increase as being the limit that could be
accepted, then I think they should have also accepted the attendant requirement of
global emissions peaking by 2015," he said. "And if that were to be the case, then they
should most categorically have said that ... by 2020 there would have to be deep cuts in
He said it also would have been helpful "if they had also spelled out what these deep
cuts would be, but I'm afraid they haven't talked either about the deep cuts."
Pachauri, who also is director-general of India-based TERI, The Energy and Resources
Institute, praised President Barack Obama for making it a priority of his administration to
achieve a climate deal in Copenhagen. The Bush administration had been opposed to
the Kyoto climate pact, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and unfairly excluded
cuts by developing nations such as India and China - the latter of which is overtaking the
U.S. as the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. and India had
at least acknowledged their "different perspectives" on climate change. An Indian official
told Clinton that India won't accept limits on its greenhouse gases.
Tiny Tuvalu says all its energy renewable by 2020
By MICHAEL CASEY, The Associated Press, Monday, July 20, 2009 10:00 AM
BANGKOK -- The tiny island nation of Tuvalu, already under threat from rising seas
caused by global warming, vowed Sunday to do its part for climate change by fueling its
economy entirely from renewable sources by 2020.
The South Pacific nation of 12,000 people is part of a movement of countries and cities
committed to going climate neutral. Since February 2008, 10 nations including New
Zealand, Pakistan, Iceland and Costa Rica have vowed to reduce their emissions of
greenhouse gases as part of a goal of reaching zero emissions in the next decade.
None of these commitments alone is expected to make a significant difference in the
fight to cut heat-trapping gases. But the United Nations and many environmentalists say
the moves can inspire bigger emitters like the United States and China to take bolder
steps to limit their carbon footprints.
"In a sense, they are paving the way for medium and larger economies which have to
move if we are going combat climate change," said Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the
United Nations Environment Programme. It sponsors the Climate Neutral Network, a
group of 100 governments, nongovernment groups and companies looking to cut their
greenhouse gas emissions. "These smaller economies are out to prove you can do it,
and do it faster than some people previously thought."
Major polluters at the Group of Eight nations' summit earlier this month failed to agree on
commitments to reduce carbon emissions. That indicates how difficult it will be to craft a
new climate treaty later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark, one that would be a
successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Climate scientists have urged rich countries to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by
between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of warming, which
they say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening
For its part, Tuvalu hopes to replace the fossil fuels that it imports by ship with solar
energy and wind power, a project that it expects will cost $20 million.
Tuvalu already releases almost no greenhouse gases. But because of climate change,
many South Pacific islands see worsening flooding amid predictions of a large sea level
rise this century.
The country is just 10 square miles (26 square kilometers) in size, with most of its land
less than a yard (meter) above sea level.
So far, Tuvalu has installed a 40 kilowatt solar energy system with the help of Japan's
Kansai Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8,
an international nonprofit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.
"There may be other, larger solar power installations in the world, but none could be
more meaningful to customers than this one," Takao Shiraishi, general manager of the
Kansai Electric Power Co., said in a statement.
"The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early
consequence of climate change," he added. "For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the
success of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of
The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial $410,000 project from 40 to 60
kilowatts, and will extend solar power to outer islands, starting later this year with the
commission of a $800,000, 46 kilowatt solar power system for a secondary school. The
Italian government is supporting the project.
"We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen
our voice in those international negotiations," Public Utilities and Industries Minister
Kausea Natano said in a statement. "And we look forward to the day when our nation
offers an example to all - powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the
Sarkozy calls for a global organization on the environment
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has stressed the need for a global environmental
organization to help countries fight climate change. Sarkozy is in New York to attend a
concert honoring Nelson Mandela.
Deutsche Welle Online, 18.07.2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the call for a global environmental organization
after a working lunch at the French consulate in New York City with United Nations
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, where the two took part in wide-ranging discussions on
global issues, with climate change topping the agenda. Speaking on French television
after the meeting, Sarkozy called for new action on environmental issues, which were a
major part of discussions at this month's G8 summit in Italy. Sarkozy didn't give any
indication of how he thought this new global organization should be laid out.
"We will fight, hand in hand, a battle against the consequences of climate change. We
must create a global organization on the environment," he added.
The key decision of the G8 summit was an agreement that world efforts should be
directed towards limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
above eighteenth-century levels, to prevent catastrophic climate and weather changes
around the world.
Ban said he was grateful for Sarkozy's "full commitment to work together to seal the deal
in Copenhagen on a globally acceptable" climate change agreement.
UNEP left out?
The world already has a global environmental organization. It's called the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), established in June1972 as a result of the UN
Conference on the Human Environment.
Part of the mandate of the UNEP is "to promote international co-operation in the field of
the environment and to recommend, as appropriate, policies to this end."
Almost every international agreement on the environment has come under the auspices
of the UNEP, including the Kyoto Protocol. It is unclear how a new global environmental
organization would really be different.
At an international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December,
governments are to agree on goals to fight climate change under a new Kyoto Protocol.
The current protocol will expire in 2012.
Sarkozy is in New York with his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to attend a fund raising concert
to celebrate the 91st birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Bruni-
Sarkozy, the model turned singer turned first lady, will be performing at the concert.
United Nations Identifies Agriculture as a Solution to Soaring CO2 Emissions —
Approves First Agricultural CDM Methodology
Bacteria to Replace Nitrogen Fertilizer to Create a More Sustainable Agricultural
Production System in Developing Countries
DES MOINES, Iowa--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The United Nations, at its June meeting, gave
approval for the broad application of the first agricultural methodology for Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) projects for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
“The UN’s decision highlights how agriculture can provide solutions to climate change
issues while feeding a growing world population,” said Peg Armstrong-Gustafson, owner
and founder, Amson Technology, LC, of Des Moines, Iowa, which, together with Becker
Underwood, Inc., of Ames, Iowa, and Perspectives GmbH of Hamburg, Germany, is
responsible for the agricultural methodology used to design projects that eliminate the
use of synthetic nitrogen on legumes like soybeans and cowpeas.
“By using a unique bacterium to stimulate the creation of nitrogen by the plant for its own
use, called biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), the plant eliminates the need for the
application of nitrogen fertilizer,” added Dr. Peter Innes, CEO, Becker Underwood. “We
believe there are many bio-agronomic solutions to reducing CO2 emissions that could be
implemented around the world to mitigate climate change.”
“The methodology is pioneering,” said Matthias Krey, managing director, Perspectives
GmbH. “Never before has the UN approved a CDM methodology for agriculture. We are
unique in the marketplace in proposing a biological approach to reducing greenhouse
gases. Through the UN process of methodology approval and revisions, we were able to
craft a broad agricultural methodology that will bring new technology to farmers in
emerging and developing countries.”
“The production of nitrogen fertilizer is very energy intensive and releases considerable
CO2 emissions,” Armstrong-Gustafson noted. “If we can eliminate the application of
nitrogen fertilizer on legume crops, we can permanently reduce the amount of nitrogen
fertilizer produced and avoid the CO2 it creates.”
“We have identified the key countries where the methodology fits and will soon begin
implementing local CDM projects,” Innes stated. “The unique bacteria from Becker
Underwood will bring great benefit to the farmers enrolled in the projects and great
benefit to the environment.”
The three firms launched the project more than three years ago. “With the CDM
methodology that we have developed, we are making an active contribution to climate
protection and developing a sustainable transfer model for technology to emerging and
developing countries,” Armstrong-Gustafson commented. “It is an environmentally and
economically sensible model.”
“CDM projects run for up to 21 years and operate under the terms of the methodology
for measuring and monitoring the reduction of CO2 emissions,” Krey explained. “The
long-term goal is to see the new technology expand beyond the borders of the project
and be adopted by all farmers to create a more sustainable and productive farming
Amson Technology, LC, is a greenhouse-gas-reduction and sustainability consulting
Becker Underwood, Inc., is a leading developer of bio-agronomic and specialty products.
Perspectives GmbH, a Point Carbon company, is a high-quality greenhouse gas
reduction market solutions provider.
Background: Clean Development Mechanism
The clean development mechanism (CDM) is part of the Kyoto Protocol, which
industrialized countries have signed as a commitment to reduce their emissions of
greenhouse gases. CDM enables the industrialized nations to meet their targets flexibly
and cost effectively. Under the CDM, industrialized countries can purchase emission
reduction certificates, called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), from projects
reducing emissions in developing countries that do not have a reduction commitment
under the Kyoto Protocol. Stringent eligibility criteria and a robust emission reduction
accounting mechanism is an important feature of CDM. This quality assurance is vital
because CERs can be bought and sold globally, are eligible under the EU Emissions
Trading Scheme (ETS), and will very likely be accountable in the proposed federal U.S.
General Environment News
• Reuters: Some Shrinking U.S. Cities Find Splendor in Green
• Reuters: U.S. says China must "pay" to cut greenhouse gases
• Reuters: Obama feels the heat, changes the play
• New York Times: How Accurate Is Emissions Reporting?
• New York Times: Maritime Group Seeks Cleaner Fuel for Ships
• Washington Post: Chemicals That Eased One Woe Worsen Another
• New York Times: 137 Years Later
• San Francisco Chronicle: Scientists zoom in on carbon dioxide in NYC
• San Francisco Chronicle: HOT ISSUE: Should we deliberately move species?
• Globe and Mail: TransAlta signals green intentions with Canadian Hydro bid
• Globe and Mail: Prairie lakes drying up
• Globe and Mail: Despite the recession, many are still spending green to be green
• Globe and Mail: Green makeovers all the rage in an ugly market
• Vancouver Sun: End of plastic bag era means relearning some old skills
• Bloomberg: Bye Bye, Birdie: Global Warming Pushes Migratory Species North
• Vancouver Sun: San Francisco on cutting edge of the carbon credit culture
• Financial Post: Renewable Solutions to Energy, Manufacturing, and Consumer
• Ottawa Citizen: Good-news stories shine amid sorry environmental policy
Some Shrinking U.S. Cities Find Splendor in Green
Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:59am EDT, By Andy Sullivan and Kevin Krolicki
WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - For some U.S. Rust Belt cities, the future will be
smaller and greener.
As communities from Buffalo to Milwaukee struggle with shuttered factories and vacant
neighborhoods, some have turned abandoned properties into parks, gardens and other
open space, even going so far as to plow under entire neighborhoods.
A recognition that the glory days of factory-powered prosperity will not return any time
soon, this "shrinking cities" strategy aims to consolidate what remains into denser
neighborhoods and more vibrant downtowns.
In Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, a pioneering program that allows
local government to capture profits from tax foreclosures has generated funds to
demolish over 1,000 abandoned homes in the past five years.
"There's a gravitational pull that we're a part of and it's toward a smaller city," said Dan
Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County surrounding Flint. "This is not a plan to shrink Flint,
it's an acknowledgment that we've lost half our population."
Flint's fortunes -- like those of GM -- have been on the decline for decades. In the late
1970s, there were more than 80,000 GM workers in Flint centered on a sprawling
industrial complex known as Buick City.
GM's city-within-a-city covered 235 acres (951,000 square meters) and employed more
than 25,000 people. Foremen had to ride bicycles to cover the distances between
But GM had cut over 90 percent of its jobs in Flint even before it filed for bankruptcy in
June. All that remains of Buick City is a bulldozed and fenced-in field and almost a third
of the surrounding neighborhoods are abandoned.
The solution Kildee is promoting is a county "land bank" that sells off more valuable
foreclosed properties in the surrounding suburbs to generate cash to pay for demolition
and create inner-city gardens and parks.
THE WAY FORWARD
A tour of one of the hardest-hit Flint neighborhoods just north of downtown shows the
depth of the problem: The only occupied house on the block has a spray-painted
warning to stay off the yard. Across the street, patches of grass are waist high and
strewn with empty liquor bottles and broken glass.
"It's really personal to me," Kildee said. "This is the neighborhood where my
grandmother lived for 60 years."
Other land bank funds, supported by grants from charities including the Mott Foundation,
have underwritten an effort to reclaim and restore buildings in Flint's once largely
"It's hard for political leaders to acknowledge that maybe we're just not going to grow,"
Kildee said. "This is a radical experiment in that it's accepting that it's okay to be smaller
-- and to be better."
Urban planners say Kildee has shown the way forward for other struggling cities.
"He's really forced folks in Flint to really make some hard decisions and accept some
difficult realities," said Charles Smith, a planner with the Michigan-based firm Wade
But this smaller-city approach risks a backlash from voters who may see it as an
admission of defeat, planners say.
"Nobody wants to admit that -- it's in part tied up with this American ideology of growth
being good," said Jess Zimbabwe, executive director at the Urban Land Institute Rose
Center, a nonprofit focused on sustainable land use.
The concept was pioneered in former East German cities like Leipzig that emptied out
when the Berlin Wall fell. Development efforts were concentrated on downtown areas,
waterfronts and other pedestrian-friendly sites to foster a sense of vibrancy and density
for those who remained, said Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution's
Metropolitan Policy Program.
In the United States' older industrial areas, several cities are starting to take a similar
* Youngstown, Ohio, the poorest mid-size city in the United States, plans to knock down
2,000 abandoned buildings by next year as part of a citywide rezoning effort that aims to
concentrate redevelopment on viable neighborhoods and commercial districts.
* Cleveland is encouraging neighborhood-level experiments to turn vacant lots into
parks, commercial vegetable gardens, orchards and other useful open space. The city
does not plan to raze entire neighborhoods, even those where 80 percent of the housing
stock is abandoned. "We're not at that point yet," said Bobbi Reichtel of the nonprofit
group Neighborhood Progress, which has been directing federal money to these
* Highland Park, just north of downtown Detroit, has applied for federal money to
demolish several largely abandoned neighborhoods and let them lie fallow until a new
use can be found. Home to Henry Ford's first assembly line, the city has experienced a
drop in population to a third of its 1940 level. Unemployment is at 22 percent.
* Philadelphia has cleaned up 11 million square feet (1.02 million square meters) of
vacant land since 2003 and plans to convert some lots into parks or community gardens.
AVOIDING THE PROBLEM
Other cities, however, have avoided tackling the problem.
Planners say Detroit could reinvent itself as a network of vibrant neighborhoods
connected by parks or agricultural space, but scandal has racked the city's leadership
and surrounding suburbs have no inclination to help fund the effort.
New Orleans likewise rejected a proposal to raze some neighborhoods that Hurricane
Katrina devastated in 2005. Now the city struggles to deliver services to sparsely
populated "jack o'lantern" neighborhoods, so named because only a few rebuilt houses
on some blocks light up at night.
States and the U.S. government can help. Michigan has passed "land bank" legislation
that makes it easier for cities like Flint to take control of abandoned property and
consolidate it into larger parcels.
Instead of spending federal highway funds to encourage suburban sprawl, states could
use that money to knock down underused freeways that carve barriers through cities
such as Syracuse, New York, Katz said.
The recession and the foreclosure crisis have forced many cities to take a second look
at a policy they may have initially rejected, Katz said.
"I think we're on the verge of something very different in many of these places," said
Katz, who has urged other Ohio cities to follow Youngstown's lead. "I see a much
greater openness to this than I did even five years ago."
U.S. says China must "pay" to cut greenhouse gases
Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:22pm EDT, By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China and other developing nations must help "pay" for the
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, U.S. Commerce
Secretary Gary Locke said on Monday, backing off a recent statement that put a greater
burden on the United States.
As the United States and other developed countries make costly commitments to
address climate change, "developing countries like China must do the same," Locke told
members of the Manufacturing Council, a private sector advisory group.
"They've got to step up. They've got to pay for the cost of complying with global climate
change. They've got to invest in energy efficiency and conservation, but also very
definitive steps in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Locke said.
The comment followed Locke's statement last week in China that U.S. consumers
should pay for the carbon content of goods they consume from countries around the
"It's important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to
the benefit of America -- and it's our own consumption activity that's causing the
emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that," Locke
told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai after meetings with Chinese
officials in Beijing.
A Commerce Department spokesman said Locke was not endorsing a tax on imports or
any other particular policy option to reduce the carbon content of imported goods.
Instead, Locke was trying to say U.S. companies must not be put at a trade
disadvantage as the United States moves to pass legislation to rein in greenhouse gas
emissions that come primarily from burning fossil fuels, the spokesman said.
"There's an obvious concern that U.S. companies compete on a level playing field. As
the voice in the cabinet for American business, that's the concern the secretary was
trying to convey," the spokesman said.
China recently passed the United States as the largest overall greenhouse gas emitter,
though U.S. per capita emissions still far exceed China's.
Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu were in China last week to discuss how
the two countries could work together on clean energy technologies to reduce carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
At a closing press conference in Beijing, the two cabinet secretaries praised China for
the steps it was already taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and said it was a
model for other developing countries to follow.
The Commerce spokesman said Locke had in fact stressed to Chinese leaders
throughout his visit that they needed to take further steps to reduce the country's "carbon
Obama feels the heat, changes the play
Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:26pm EDT, By BEN SMITH
POLITICO (Washington) -- Finally, we're starting to see him sweat. President Barack
Obama made his personal icy cool the trademark of his campaign, the tenor of his White
House and the hallmark of an early run of successes at home and abroad. But as the
glamour wears off and a long, frustrating summer wears on, he is being forced to
improvise — stooping to respond to political foes and adjusting his tactics and demeanor
for the trench warfare of a legislative agenda.
The root of the change is one that faces every president: Economic and international
realities that resist political charm. Iran and North Korea have shown no interest in the
president's outstretched hand. The economy has delivered a double-whammy, with
rising unemployment stirring voters' concerns while sluggish growth deprives the
government of tax revenues Obama would like to spend on new programs.
Health care reform, which once appeared flush with momentum from earlier
congressional victories, is now on a slog through no less than five committees, which
include Democrats who either aren't sold on Obama's expansive vision or can't figure out
how to convince voters to pay for it.
"This is when it gets harder," the president told supporters June 30.
And so it has.
In turn, Obama has adjusted, deviating from the playbook on every front.
The cool president has turned hot on the stump, stripping to shirtsleeves to lambaste
doubters in New Jersey Thursday. He departed from his prepared remarks last week to
accept a Republican challenge to take personal ownership of the economy: "That's fine.
Give it to me," he said.
Even Obama's scripted speeches are deliberately more forceful, aggressive and direct in
taking on critics, aides say. Friday remarks at the White House had a trash-talk edge -
count me out and you'll be sorry.
Obama's political operation has dispensed with its post-inauguration cocktails for
Republicans - or more often, ignoring them outright — in favor of the old politics of
engage, attack and cajole. Obama's even engaging in a little Democrat-on-Democrat
politics, as his ex-campaign arm is beaming TV ads into the home states of moderate
fence-sitters on health care.
The tightly programed White House also is champing at the bit, kicking off what officials
say will be a relentless three-week push on health care, starting with the hastily
scheduled Friday address. But its first event might have backfired a bit. Its main
consequence was proving that the magnetism of Obama's personal appearances has
worn off, as it drew little media attention and a dismissive tweet from the key Senate
Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa: "Waste of time."
The sum has been a new sense of uncertainty and strain, and a growing murmur among
Democrats in Washington nervous about the White House's tactics, and a rising tide of
concern in the states as local Democratic parties eye midterm elections that are
traditionally a challenge for a new president.
"That honeymoon period is over, " said Chris Redfern, the chairman of the Ohio
Democratic Party. "Now they're having to push back, and push back hard."
White House officials and allies brush off any notion that this new sense of unease is
meaningful. The only true test, they say, will be results. Obama still might win major
health care reform legislation this year that could be the most important new government
program in decades. He has a fighting chance to pass regulations on greenhouse gases,
in the form of a "cap and trade" mechanism, through the Senate. And Obama continues
to press hard, if with no clear progress, for a breakthrough in the Middle East.
"It's the third quarter, he's down by a point, and he's got his best player on the bench -
what really is going to be important is the fall," said James Carville, the veteran
"If he gets what's perceived to be some kind of a major health care thing, gets the
climate bill through, if the economy recovers, then we'll all say he had a hell of a
summer. Conversely, if the thing falls apart, we'll say that by July the 19th we could tell
the thing was going bad."
White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer dismissed the suggestion
that Obama should be expected to succeed effortlessly - or that he's on a path toward
failure on any of these varied fronts.
"Obama and his team have been down this road dozens of times and been declared
dead many times and always succeeded," he said. "No one gets rich betting against
The most visible aspect of the White House's new feistiness is an increasing willingness
to engage Republican legislators whose criticisms Obama earlier had been happier to
overlook. Relentless criticism of the stimulus package from a House Republican leader,
Eric Cantor of Virginia, drew a furious barrage from the Democratic National Committee
and a visit from no smaller figure than the Vice President of the United States. Rank and
file Republicans who criticize the stimulus have also suddenly found themselves under a
concerted DNC assault that asks if they'd prefer the federal funding left their districts out.
And criticism from Sen Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) drew letters from no fewer than four Cabinet
secretaries to his state's governor, asking if she would prefer they withheld stimulus
That pushback has been urged, and welcomed, by state leaders like Redfern and
Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer.
"The DNC has been and we were quickly able to rebut and demonstrate all the money
that is being spent in their respective districts," said Brewer of two GOP congressmen
attacking the stimulus. "They've backed off."
Still, many Democrats say the Republican attacks on spending are taking their toll.
"The rhetoric is so empty, but it is fairly consistent and I think it's had an impact on those
in middle," said Ohio's Redfern.
But when the White House pushback focused not on Republicans but Democrats on
health-care - in the form of Organizing for America ads running in the home states of
moderate senators -- some in the party called foul, including Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
The vote last month in the House on the American Clean Energy Security Act showed a
willingness to get White House hands dirty in a different way.
Wrangling votes for the "cap and trade" legislation in the House, Obama backed off a
campaign promise to auction off all "allowances" - permits to release a set amount of
greenhouse gases. Instead of selling them to raise money for other environmental
initiatives, the White House allowed congressional Democratic leaders to trade them for
votes, assigning allowances to the refinery-heavy district of, for instance, Texas Rep.
Gene Green in exchange for his support.
The battle over health care, the centerpiece of the President's summer, has also
hardened into a fairly conventional Washington fight, a new president's sweeping
agenda colliding with congressional caution. Obscure Washington figures like
Congressional Budget Office chief Doug Elmendorf and Senate Finance Committee
Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have shown the ability to pose a real threat to the
White House juggernaut. And some of the White House's close allies have grown jittery
about what they say is a strategy to spend the three weeks leading up to the Senate's
August recess - the insecure deadline for health care votes in both houses - with a
series of events aimed at building public pressure on Congress.
"They're great at campaigns, but legislative battles are different," said a senior Democrat
close to the White House. "It's not about persuading 51 percent of the American people -
it's about seven senators."
In another mark of Obama's constant adjustments, his latest remarks didn't mention the
White House allies acknowledge the new strains, but say the hard work will pay off.
"A lot of the hard stuff he's doing now will pay dividends," said John Del Cecato, a former
Obama campaign aide.
Meanwhile, admiration of Obama's personal qualities has been tempered, even among
sympathetic observers, with anxiety for where his agenda will stand at summer's end.
Comedy Central's Jon Stewart noted recently that Obama told a Pakistani interviewer
that he is an accomplished chef of Pakistani cuisines and reads the great Urdu poets.
"Mr. President," Stewart said, "while I am impressed with your Renaissance Man-level of
knowledge in a plethora of subjects, may I humbly say: That's great. Just fix the
How Accurate Is Emissions Reporting?
New York Times, July 20, 2009, 11:37 am ,By Kate Galbraith
The Carbon Disclosure Project said that about 59 percent of Fortune 500 companies
that voluntarily conduct emissions assessments have their numbers independently
Each day, more companies claim to have slashed their carbon footprints or achieved
other sustainability goals. But how meaningful are these claims, and are they
The short answer: It’s murky.
In the United States, which does not yet require companies to reduce their greenhouse
gas emissions, experts say there is no clear standard for reporting carbon footprints, and
not every company gets their numbers verified by a third party.
“There’s a lack of standardization, and that’s the biggest issue right now,” said Eric
Israel, who heads the sustainability practice at KPMG, an auditing firm.
Andrea Moffat of CERES, a group of investors and environmentalists, said that the
World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
have come up with a methodology for reporting emissions related to a company’s on-site
However, she said, there is no agreed-on protocol for emissions drawn from a
company’s supply chain.
Mr. Israel said that even the existing emissions guidelines from those groups were not
enough. “It gives some very high-level guidance about how to measure your greenhouse
gases, but it doesn’t really provide the kind of detail you need,” he said.
As for information contained in corporate sustainability reports, Mr. Israel said, these
tend to be “company-specific standards.” Look to the fine print, he advised, for details of
At the Carbon Disclosure Project, which claims the “largest database of corporate
climate change information in the world,” 59 percent of the Fortune 500 companies that
voluntarily reported their emissions got those numbers externally verified, according to
Andrea Lee, a spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the clamor for emissions reporting continues to increase. Last week, Wal-
Mart announced that it would ask its suppliers 15 questions about their emissions of
greenhouse gases (among other factors), in order to give items sold in Wal-Mart stores
an overall sustainability rating.
“We expect our suppliers to answers these questions honestly,” said Kory Lundberg, a
media manager at Wal-Mart, in an e-mail message. “We will have ways to verify, both
internally and through independent third parties, the responses to our questions, but we
don’t plan to audit every answer from every supplier.”
Mr. Israel of KPMG said that climate legislation in the United States could prompt
improved reporting and verification. “If we have a cap-and-trade system in place, we
have to be very clear about what’s included and what’s not included in greenhouse gas
emissions,” he said. “Right now there’s no consistency.”
Maritime Group Seeks Cleaner Fuel for Ships
Washington Post, By HENRY FOUNTAIN, July 21, 2009, Observatory
Oceangoing ships are not the cleanest form of transportation. Their fuels usually have
high sulfur content, which leads to high particulate emissions. And air that is high in
particulates has been linked to health problems like asthma, heart attacks and lung
cancer, particularly among people who live in coastal areas.
As a result, the International Maritime Organization has adopted policies calling for
reducing the sulfur content of marine fuels, from an average of about 3 percent currently
to 0.5 percent by 2020. A few areas have been created, notably in the Baltic and North
seas, that will require use of fuel with even less sulfur.
A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that such
reductions, if enforced, would cut the number of potential premature deaths due to ship
emissions in half in some cases.
James J. Winebrake of the Rochester Institute of Technology and colleagues modeled
the impact of reducing sulfur content globally, and within 200 miles of coastal areas,
versus maintaining the status quo. They found that by 2012, with no reduction in sulfur
content, about 87,000 premature deaths annually could be attributed to ship emissions.
Reducing sulfur content to half of one percent worldwide would cut that number by about
41,000, they said.
Chemicals That Eased One Woe Worsen Another
By David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, July 20, 2009
This is not the funny kind of irony: Scientists say the chemicals that helped solve the last
global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer -- are making the current one
The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced widely in the 1990s
to replace ozone-depleting gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating
They worked: The earth's protective shield seems to be recovering.
But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere,
these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping
power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide.
Now, scientists say, the world must find replacements for the replacements -- or these
super-emissions could cancel out other efforts to stop global warming.
"Whatever targets you thought you were going to make," said David Fahey, a physicist
at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "it will be undermined by the
fact that you have . . . additional emissions that you hadn't planned on."
The colorless, odorless replacement chemicals enter the atmosphere in tiny amounts,
often leaking out of refrigerators and air conditioners, or escaping when those machines
break and are improperly dumped. They now account for about 2 percent of the climate-
warming power of U.S. emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
That is still far less than carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning fossil fuels and
accounts for about 85 percent of the problem. And it is less than the roughly 10 percent
of warming from methane, which comes from sources including farm animals and
But in recent weeks, these obscure gases have been given a higher profile in the
carbon-dominated debate on climate change.
Last month, a group of scientists published a paper projecting that, if unchecked, the
emissions would rise rapidly over the next 40 years. By 2050, they found, the amount of
super greenhouse gases in the atmosphere might be equal to six or more years' worth of
carbon dioxide emissions.
And last week, diplomats met in Geneva to discuss ideas for a worldwide reduction in
"You have this moment when you could nip this problem in the bud and avoid this very
large growth of a dangerous chemical," said David Doniger, policy director at the Natural
Resources Defense Council's climate center, from Geneva. "Now, in the next couple of
years, is when you have to do this."
The roots of the problem go back to the 1970s, when scientists theorized that chemicals
called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were slowly eroding stratospheric ozone. That was a
dangerous thing, since the ozone layer protects the planet from harmful UV radiation.
In 1987, governments signed the Montreal Protocol, agreeing to reduce CFCs. Since
then, this agreement has been a kind of bureaucratic miracle: Ninety-six percent of
ozone-depleting substances have been phased out, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations says there is still a hole in the ozone above the South Pole, but
global ozone levels are expected to return to their pre-1980 level by about 2050.
"If this were a soccer team . . . it's won every single game," said Durwood Zaelke,
president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. "That's
astounding in the international environmental field."
It worked because chemists engineered substitutes for CFCs, new gases without the
propensity to chemically unlock ozone molecules. The replacements could still chill cold
cuts and Chevrolets -- in refrigerators and under car hoods, they are compressed and
uncompressed in a process that sucks heat out of passing air.
But the chemicals' strong bonds also cause them to act as heat sponges in Earth's
atmosphere, absorbing energy from the sun and keeping it from being reflected out into
space. In the "blanket" created by heat-trapping gases, that makes them especially
"Pound for pound, they're much more powerful than CO2, you know -- hundreds or
thousands of times more powerful," said NOAA physicist Fahey.
Exactly how powerful depends on the makeup of the gases. One, common in fridges and
auto air conditioners, lasts 12 to 14 years in the atmosphere and has 1,430 times the
global warming impact of carbon dioxide. Another has a 52-year life and 4,470 times the
According to the recent paper, there will soon be many more of them, as developing
countries become more prosperous and their people buy vehicles and air conditioners.
Even if the world makes significant progress in reducing carbon dioxide and methane --
still a big if, since recent negotiations on the topic have produced little -- the scientists
said the growth in HFCs could undo a significant part of their work.
Internationally, the gases are still supposed to be dealt with in the same vast and balky
negotiations that will reduce carbon dioxide. So they will probably be on the table when
diplomats gather in Copenhagen in December to create a successor to the Kyoto
Protocol of 1997.
But many environmental groups, including the nonprofit Environmental Investigation
Agency, say they would like to see the gases regulated using the Montreal Protocol,
because the framework succeeded in dealing with other pollutants.
"The climate problem is not one global problem. It's a package of global problems," said
Zaelke, of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. "You can reach in
and pull out a piece."
Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chair two powerful
committees, urged this approach in a letter to President Obama in April. Last week, an
official said the administration was still deciding what approach to support.
A bigger question: What will replace these chemicals? Experts say that some
substitutes, with less global warming impact, can be made with new HFCs or by using
ammonia or butane. But others are needed. "We don't know all of them yet," said Mack
McFarland, global environmental manager for DuPont Fluoroproducts, a division of
137 Years Later
New York Times, July 21, 2009, Editorial
It’s hard to believe that the 1872 mining law is still with us. Signed by Ulysses S. Grant
four years before the invention of the telephone, the law sets the rules for mining
hardrock minerals like gold and copper. Useful in the days of westward expansion, it is a
disaster now. It demands no royalties from the mining companies and provides minimal
Its legacy, if it can be called that, is a battered landscape of abandoned mines and
Republican and Democratic presidents alike have urged Congress to reform the law. Yet
it survives, thanks largely to Congressional inertia and friends in high places. At the
moment, that friend is Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who resists reform
because mining is big business in his home state of Nevada.
Still there is hope for change. In 2007, the House passed a good bill that would require
mining companies to pay royalties, just like oil and coal producers do. The money would
help pay for cleanups of abandoned mines. The bill would also strengthen environmental
safeguards and allow the secretary of the interior to block mines that pose a clear
danger to the environment.
Senator Jeff Bingaman, the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
introduced a comparable bill in April. This is the first comprehensive reform bill the
Senate has seen in years. But what really encourages those who seek a better law is the
Obama administration’s ardent and public support.
Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told Mr. Bingaman’s committee last week that he saw
mining law reform as a “top-tier issue” that he hoped would not be buried under other
Congressional priorities. And this week, using his emergency authority under another
law, Mr. Salazar placed a temporary hold on any new mines on about one million acres
surrounding the Grand Canyon. These are enormously encouraging gestures from a
department that resisted reform during the Bush years.
It bears repeating that these reforms do no more than subject the mining industry to
practices that oil and gas operators, coal miners and other intensive users of the public
lands — including ski areas — have operated under without strain for decades. Our
hope is that Mr. Bingaman’s leadership and Mr. Salazar’s enthusiasm for change will
command the attention of Mr. Reid and, in time, force a vote on the Senate floor. One
can live in the 19th century for only so long.
Scientists zoom in on carbon dioxide in NYC
By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press Writer, San Francisco Chronicle,
Sunday, July 19, 2009
(07-19) 09:39 PDT New York (AP) --
Wade McGillis peered up at the structure propped like a high-tech stick figure — minus
the head — on an elementary school roof. Then he examined the electronics attached to
its spindly metal frame, looking out over the Harlem brownstones nearby and the
skyscrapers farther away.
Within 15 minutes, a graph spiked in his office eight blocks away. The abrupt peak
marked the carbon dioxide the Columbia University environmental engineering professor
and three visitors had exhaled.
The spike was an anomaly, but it proved the rooftop device had done its job, helping to
break down questions about global warming to a local level.
"We're unraveling the story of how carbon (dioxide) changes over the day, changes from
neighborhood to neighborhood, and changes from the country to the city," said McGillis,
who has set up seven sensors in and around New York City. The newest, in Central
Park, was installed this spring.
The urban experiment shows a growing interest by researchers in tracking how much of
the heat-trapping gas a city, neighborhood or building puts in the atmosphere, and how
much the urban environment can suck out.
Some scientists hope the data might eventually help shape efforts to curb emissions of
carbon dioxide — one of the main contributors to global warming — and measure
whether such efforts are effective.
Carbon dioxide is emitted by various natural processes, including animals' breathing. But
human activities — especially burning coal, oil natural gas and other fossil fuels — have
greatly increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the
federal Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases
trap heat on the planet's surface, causing a range of climate effects, many scientists and
The rise of greenhouse gases already has increased temperatures, sea levels and
heavy rains enough to affect water supplies, agriculture and health, and the effects are
expected to worsen, scientists told the Obama administration in a report released last
month. The report calls for more work on distinguishing human and natural factors in
climate change and scaling the information down to local levels.
McGillis' monitors are in locales ranging from Harlem to rural eastern Long Island, about
80 miles away. The sensors measure carbon dioxide levels, wind speeds and other
weather data every 15 minutes, submitting the data wirelessly. Readings are posted
online soon after they're taken.
The monitors in Central Park and Harlem are only about two miles apart but often show
notable differences in carbon dioxide levels, he said, and reflect how people and nature
intertwine to affect the gases' ebb and flow.
McGillis' three-year-old project joins a growing list of efforts to keep tabs on carbon
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now has about 70 carbon dioxide
sensors around the world, many in remote areas. The agency hopes to do more carbon
dioxide monitoring in cities to help test whether efforts to curb carbon emissions are
effective, said Pieter Tans, who runs the monitor network.
Most power plants have been required to monitor their carbon dioxide emissions since
the 1990s. Scientists have done carbon monitoring experiments of their own in Chicago,
Salt Lake City and southern California, among other places.
Purdue University researcher Kevin Gurney sends a low-flying plane over Indianapolis to
sample the gas in an attempt to gauge carbon dioxide emissions building by building. He
combines air samples with a range of emissions, traffic and other data.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is seeking more local specifics on
greenhouse gas emissions, and proposed requiring annual reports from about 13,000
fuel refineries, car manufacturers and other large industrial facilities.
The reporting could involve some monitoring but would largely rely on calculating
emissions from burning fuel, said Bill Irving, an official in the EPA's climate change
"Our view is, at this stage, the advanced, rigorous calculation approaches are justified,"
Coal industry lobbyist Scott Segal says industrial emissions calculations are refined
enough that more monitoring wouldn't add much information.
HOT ISSUE: Should we deliberately move species?
By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer, Monday, July 20, 2009, San Francisco
Chronicle, (07-20) 12:52 PDT LOS ANGELES, (AP) --
On naked patches of land in western Canada and United States, scientists are planting
trees that don't belong there. It's a bold experiment to move trees threatened by global
warming into places where they may thrive amid a changing climate.
Take the Western larch with its thick grooved bark and green needles. It grows in the
valleys and lower mountain slopes in British Columbia's southern interior. Canadian
foresters are testing how its seeds will fare when planted farther north — just below the
Something similar will be tried in the Lower 48. Researchers will uproot moisture-loving
Sitka spruce and Western redcedar that grace British Columbia's coastal rainforests and
drop their seedlings in the dry ponderosa pine forests of Idaho.
All of this swapping begs the question: Should humans lend nature a helping hand?
With global warming threatening the livelihoods of certain plants and animals, this radical
idea once dismissed in scientific circles has moved to the forefront of debate and
triggered strong emotions among conservationists.
About 20 to 30 percent of species worldwide face a high risk of becoming extinct
possibly by 2100 as global temperatures rise, estimated a 2007 report by the Nobel-
winning international climate change panel. The group noted that current conservation
practices are "generally poorly prepared to adapt to this level of change."
Deliberating moving a species has long been opposed by some, who believe we should
not play God with nature and worry that introducing an exotic species — intentionally or
not — could upset the natural balance and cause unforeseen ripple effects. It has
happened before with dire results. Two decades ago, zebra mussels were accidentally
introduced into the Great Lakes and millions are now spent every year removing the pest
from water pipes.
Others counter that given the grim realities of a warming planet, it would be irresponsible
not to intervene as a conservation strategy. Otherwise, trees may suffer from ravaging
disease epidemics while critters unable to head north may find themselves trapped in a
"A tree that we plant today better damn well be adapted to the climate for 80 years, not
just the climate today," said Greg O'Neill, a geneticist with the British Columbia Ministry
of Forests and Range. "We really have to think long-term."
O'Neill is heading the government-funded experiment that will transform certain North
American forests into climate change laboratories. The large-scale, first-of-its-kind test
involves purposely planting seeds from more a dozen timber species outside their
normal comfort zone to see how well they survive decades from now.
It's more than just a brainy exercise. The findings are expected to guide the British
Columbia government on forest management policies. While the experiment deals with
moving seeds long distances into unaccustomed climates, O'Neill said any real-life
action will not be as drastic.
Outsiders are also keenly watching the experiment as a test case for what is
professionally known as "assisted migration."
"We'd all prefer species to move naturally," said Duke conservation biologist Stuart
Pimm. But "sometimes you just can't get there from here. Some species are going to be
isolated and they're going to get stuck."
The notion of relocating species as a pre-emptive strike against climate change has
been largely theoretical. In recent years, some groups have tried assisted migration on a
limited basis, most notably the effort by volunteers who last year planted seedlings of the
endangered Torreya tree found in Florida to the cooler southern Appalachians.
The Canadian experiment currently under way will cover a broad swath, with tree
plantings dotting the Yukon near Alaska to southern Oregon.
Past warmings have forced species to migrate to survive without human help. While
some have learned to adapt to new surroundings, other have gone extinct. Faced with
the possibility of much more rapid climate change, scientists say, some species may not
be able to move fast enough to their new destinations and may need a little power boost
to preserve biodiversity.
In North America, some critters have already started their march north. The Edith's
checkerspot butterfly, which vanished from its southern range, is now fluttering 75 miles
higher in elevation. Red foxes have encroached farther into northern Canada and
evicted the arctic foxes.
On the plant side, spruce forests are invading the Arctic tundra and impacting caribou
and sheep that live there. In the past century, aspen trees in Colorado have moved into
the cold-loving spruce fir forests.
How trees will fare in a warmer world is a concern because they tend to be less flighty
than animals. Trees depend on wind and pollinators to spread their seeds. And once a
tree is planted, it's harder to move it.
Last year, the British Columbia government took the first steps toward ensuring that
trees in the province are adapted to future climates by relaxing its seed rules for timber
companies when they replant on logged land. Seeds of most tree species can now be
planted up to 1,600 feet higher than their current location.
The government's latest experiment will study how humans can help trees move to more
northerly spots where they do not currently grow, but may find themselves existing there
years from now. It will not deal with introducing foreign tree species, O'Neill said.
This spring, crews fanned across rugged mountains and began the first dozen plantings
on cleared forest land in British Columbia's southern interior and on a private plot near
Mount St. Helens in Washington state.
Each test site contains some 3,000 seedlings, on average a foot tall, planted side-by-
side on five acres. Fluorescent pin-flags and aluminum stakes dot the corners so that
scientists can come back every five years to document their health.
The project will eventually include 48 plots around British Columbia, Washington state,
Oregon, Montana and Idaho. It will test the ability of 15 tree species to survive in
environments colder and hotter than they're used to.
O'Neill knows that some trees will die and others will go through erratic growth cycles. In
fact, he estimates about 50 percent of the plantings may die, but he needs to collect the
data to get an idea of how much they can tolerate.
"It will take several extreme climatic events to find out the winners and losers," he said.
TransAlta signals green intentions with Canadian Hydro bid
$653-million offer would give the heavily coal-based company one of the largest wind
and renewable portfolios in the country
By Shawn McCarthy, Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update Last updated on Tuesday, Jul.
21, 2009 04:39AM EDT
TransAlta Corp. (TA-T20.950.150.72%) is sending a clear signal that it is counting on
renewable power to fuel its growth for at least the next decade, unveiling a hostile offer
for Canada's largest independent alternative energy producer.
TransAlta, whose traditional coal-fired power business faces years of government-
imposed stagnation as a result of pending climate change regulations, Monday launched
a $653-million bid for Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., (KHD-T4.980.081.63%) which
has a stable of operating and planned wind, hydro and biomass projects.
Analysts said they expect TransAlta, one of Canada's largest electricity producers, will
have to boost its $4.55-a-share offer after Canadian Hydro rebuffed TransAlta's earlier,
seven-month courtship aimed at securing a friendly deal.
Faced with burdensome climate change regulations, the company doesn't expect to
build any new coal plants once it completes its Keephills 3 plant, scheduled to open in
TransAlta chief executive officer Steve Snyder said the industry has to find commercially
viable means to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions for new coal- and
“Thermal energy, and coal in particular, are going to have to develop cost-competitive
technologies to fundamentally reduce their carbon footprint in order to be a viable part of
the electricity mix,” Mr. Snyder said in a telephone interview.
“Do I think it is going to happen? Yes. Do I think it is going to happen in the next 10
years? No. But it will happen.”
In the meantime, power producers like TransAlta will have to turn to renewable sources
– including wind, hydro and biomass – to meet electricity demand that is expected to
grow again once the recession ends.
TransAlta now relies on renewables for 15 per cent of its power output. That share would
climb to 22 per cent with the acquisition of Canadian Hydro Developers.
TransAlta would also reduce its emissions of greenhouse gas on a per-megawatt basis.
It could use new projects planned by Canadian Hydro – as well as those TransAlta is
currently developing – to offset emissions from its coal- and natural-gas-fired plants in
order to meet federal climate change regulations that are expected to be announced
later this year. However, until the federal government unveils its regulatory framework for
the power sector, the value of the credits generated by renewable power sources
Mr. Snyder began courting Canadian Hydro in December, but received no indication that
the company would entertain a takeover offer.
John Keating, who founded Canadian Hydro with his brother Ross in 1989, recently
retired as CEO, and some analysts believe TransAlta waited for the transition before
making the hostile bid directly to shareholders.
Canadian Hydro's board, which includes the founders, was meeting late yesterday to
discuss the bid, but did not issue any response prior to deadline. Under a shareholders'
rights plan adopted by Canadian Hydro, TransAlta would have to win the support of two-
thirds of equity holders in order to succeed.
TransAlta argues that the smaller independent faces a tough future given the depressed
market for electricity in Canada, and the difficulties in credit markets. The cash offer of
$4.55 a share represents a 25-per-cent premium over Friday's closing price. Including
the assumption of Canadian Hydro's debt, the deal would be worth $1.5-billion.
Investors clearly expect TransAlta to sweeten its bid, as Canadian Hydro jumped $1.25
– or 34 per cent – to $4.90 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Monday.
TransAlta's offer provides a decent valuation of Canadian Hydro's assets compared with
some recent deals in the power sector, but could be enriched, said analyst Ben Isaacson
of Scotia Capital Inc.
Mr. Isaacson said Canadian Hydro has been able to secure financing for its projects in
the past and, with credit markets easing, will be able do so again. “I don't think the offer
price is fairly valuing Canadian Hydro's potential value to TransAlta, and I think there is
quite a bit more upside to go,” Mr. Isaacson said.
Mr. Snyder said the market typically overinflates share prices in companies that are
targets of acquisition, and insisted he is prepared to walk away before exceeding
TransAlta's expected rate of return on the investment.
“This offer provides Canadian Hydro Developers shareholders with significant,
immediate and certain value for the company's existing assets, as well as its future
growth potential,” he said in a morning conference call.
“For TransAlta, this transaction accelerates our current strategy and extends our
leadership position to become the largest publicly traded provider of renewable energy in
Canada,” he said.
Canadian Hydro operates 694 megawatts of wind, hydro and biomass facilities in
Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, including the recently commissioned
Wolfe Island wind farm near Kingston. It also has 252 megawatts in advanced stage of
development elsewhere in Canada.
TransAlta, which operates in Canada, the United States and Australia, has been
expanding its own renewable portfolio in recently years, primarily through wind projects
in southern Alberta.
Prairie lakes drying up
EDMONTON — Globe and Mail
Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2009 03:19AM EDT
Every spring, wardens at Elk Island National Park just east of Edmonton patrol the
shores of Astotin Lake to clean up debris exposed by receding water. The junk that
shows up on the ever-lengthening beach provides a kind of index for just how long it has
been since water levels were that low.
"This year, I found a tire from a Model A car," Clayton Szafron said. "It's kind of
Astotin isn't alone. The verdant parkland between Edmonton and Saskatoon was once
home to dozens of so-called "prairie pothole" lakes - a type of lake unique to the Prairies
that is fed only by rainwater and snowmelt. Now, whether from natural precipitation
cycles, land use changes or as a consequence of climate change, most are drying up.
At Cooking Lake, southeast of Edmonton, float plane pilots who have safely landed for
decades are warned to watch for obstacles created by low water levels. In Tofield, Alta.,
the annual Snow Goose Festival - a popular tourist event based on the arrival of tens of
thousands of migrating snow geese - had to be scrubbed a couple of years ago, after
Beaverhill Lake nearly disappeared.
Six out of the 10 such lakes in Central Alberta that are monitored by Alberta
Environment are below normal levels by an average of a metre. That doesn't include
Beaverhill or Astotin, which have lost more than one-quarter of their depth over the last
"Most of the lakes have been going down quite significantly pretty much over the whole
Prairie region," said Garth van der Kamp, an Environment Canada scientist. Eight of the
10 lakes he examined in Alberta and Saskatchewan are in long-term decline, some
since the 1920s.
Experts hasten to point out that water in these types of lakes has always fluctuated.
"We've got some [lakes] that are reaching historic lows for recorded history," said Martin
Grajczyk of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. "But we're uncovering tree stumps
that show they were a lot lower in the past."
Many of these lakes are on the mid-continent flyway, a major highway for hundreds of
thousands of migratory birds.
Despite the recession, many are still spending green to be green
While the last economic downturn stopped the environmental movement in its tracks,
Canadians are now proving that eco-consciousness can actually buck a recession
By Roma Luciw, Globe and Mail, Monday, Jul. 20, 2009 07:37PM EDT
When Mark Carli replaced the appliances, furnace and electric boiler in his North
Toronto home, he spent an extra $700 for the energy-efficient options. He forked out a
further $1,000 to insulate the basement, replace the windows and install water-efficient
toilets and shower heads. Those hefty investments have paid off, chopping as much as
$1,350 a year from his energy and hydro bills.
“We are not necessarily tree-huggers but we try to make informed decisions regarding
the environment,” Mr. Carli said of his family. They use cloth shopping bags, walk to the
grocery store and try to buy local produce. Ultimately, however, their household buying
decisions are decided by price.
At a time when the economic recession is straining many household budgets, families
such as the Carlis are looking for ways to marry their need to be frugal with their desire
to be green. Turns out, a reduction in income does not automatically mean a drop in
eco-consciousness as people continue to stop and consider the true cost –
environmental and monetary – of their purchases. Unlike the 1980s, when the economic
downturn stopped the environmental movement in its tracks, concern over the fate of our
planet is still going strong, says Rick Smith, executive director of advocacy group
Environmental Defence. “The environmental movement has proven to be recession-
Ela Beres, a Toronto-based consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, interviewed
several Canadian families on the impact green choices were having on their everyday
spending. People are definitely interested in helping the environment if it costs the same
or less, she says. “That's a no-brainer. But when it comes to saying I want to spend
more money to protect the environment, that is more iffy.”
Although it calls for a large initial investment, many people understand the value in
starting with their house. “Families are going green from the outside in,” Ms. Beres said.
“That is where the savings are most significant and most quantifiable, both financially
Allison Wallis, a manager with GreenSaver, says government incentives are enticing
home owners to undertake residential energy efficiency improvements in these tough
economic times. (The federal home-renovation tax credit provides a credit of up to
$1,350 for renovations costing between $1,000 and $10,000. Ottawa is also providing
rebates of up to $5,000 for energy efficiency upgrades.) Sales at GreenSaver, a non-
profit that performs energy and electricity audits, have risen by around 35 per cent from
But when it comes to smaller goods, Boston Consulting Group research found that
purchases of green, local or organic products are more sporadic and depend on whether
there is a clear and compelling reason to buy them: People need to be sure that the
purchase will have a positive impact on the planet.
“There are situations where environmental effects of consumer green products are not
clear,” Ms. Beres said. “Everyone knows that if you use energy-efficient appliances, it
translates into clear environmental benefits. That same research and data is not
available for the effect of buying products made from recycled materials.”
Mohamed Oqab is one Canadian who does his own research. “If there is a new product,
we always read the package.” His 13-year-old son is a die-hard environmentalist who
drew his father into the fold. Two years ago Mr. Oqab was laid off from his job as an IT
consultant in Mississauga. Now that he is self-employed, finances are tighter. “We are
much more aware of how much we spend,” he said. But the family still buys green
cleaning products, composts part of their garbage and shops for local food.
Consumers who don't have the time or passion to do their own homework can feel lost
amid the dizzying selection of green, natural and organic products. Indeed, a walk down
the aisle of a large Toronto grocery store found that prices varied among products, with
organic and non-organic peaches carrying the same price tag while organic broccoli cost
nearly twice as much as its non-organic counterpart. Diapers claiming to be
environmentally responsible were $3 cheaper than the regular ones.
Mr. Smith acknowledges that the explosion of new green products makes it confusing for
shoppers to know whether they are making the right choice. “What we have at the
moment is a lack of adequate labelling requirements, a lack of government oversight of
company claims of greenness and an avalanche of information that is hard to sift though
if you are a consumer.”
There has been some progress. A national Canadian organic products standard came
into effect on July 1. But in many cases, the onus is on the consumer to go and search
for the information they need to make an informed decision.
Claudio Gemmiti, vice-president responsible for the PC Green brand and Loblaw Brands
at Loblaw Companies Ltd., says they are taking steps to address customer confusion.
“We try to be as specific as we can. To provide real scientific facts on how each product
will help the Earth.” Sales of both green and organic products at their stores are growing
quickly, he added, despite a comparatively small amount of promotion.
In the meantime, Canadians continue to weigh the pros and cons of where – and on
what – they spend their hard-earned dollars. Mr. Oqab says he would have loved to buy