Thursday, February 27, 2014

Publication: Understanding Fossil-fuel Subsidies in India: Questions and answers (29 Feb 2014)

IISD Publications Centre

Understanding Fossil-fuel Subsidies in India: Questions and answers

» , Virginia Benninghoff, Shruti Sharma, Damon Vis-Dunbar, IISD, 2014.Paper, 24 pages, copyright: IISD
Fossil-fuel subsidies are significant drain on public finances. They are also bad for the environment, while benefitting higher income consumers more than poorer ones. This comic book provides an accessible and fun introduction to fossil-fuel subsidies in India. It details how the subsidies work, their impacts on people and the economy, and what the Indian government is doing to change these policies.

  • Hard copy not available.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

World News: Wildlife board to clear key projects this week (18 Feb 2014)

Wildlife board to clear key projects this week

World News: DRDO set to harness ocean power (18 Feb 2014)

DRDO set to harness ocean power
,TNN | Feb 15, 2014, 04.10 AM IST

CHANDIGARH: Given the pressure on land and limited sources which can be tapped for generation of electricity, the ministry of earth sciences is now focusing its attention on oceans to meet growing power demand. It has started working on developing wind farms in ocean, which have a potential of power generation for 300 days in a year. Coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are being studied for the purpose.

Shailesh Nayak, secretary, Union ministry of earth sciences, who was the chief guest for the 'National workshop on renewable energy systems for mountainous regions' in Chandigarh on Friday, informed about the new renewable sources of energy that were being tested. The workshop was jointly organized by the ministry of new and renewable energy and Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, SASE - a wing of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

"As land is not easily available for the purpose, we have thought of oceans. The coasts of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have shown a high potential of more than 6m/sec wind velocity. This can sustain power for 300 days in a year," said Dr Nayak. However, how much power in terms of wattage will be produced is yet to be worked upon. "That depends upon the number of wind turbines which will be installed," said the secretary.

Publication: Taking Advantage of ASEAN’s Free Trade Agreements: A guide for small and medium-sized enterprises (28 Feb 2014)

IISD Publications Centre

Taking Advantage of ASEAN’s Free Trade Agreements: A guide for small and medium-sized enterprises

» Paige McClanahan, Alexander Chandra, Ruben Hattari, Damon Vis-Dunbar, IISD, 2014.Paper, 82 pages, copyright: IISD
In the past decade, the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have taken significant steps to reduce the barriers to trade among the 10 nations among their membership. Over the same period, ASEAN officials have signed five major free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Such steps have helped to lower tariffs, streamline regulations, and generally simplify export and import processes. As such, these economic integration initiatives present significant opportunities for ASEAN-based businesses.
By using the opportunities that these FTAs provide, firms can find new markets for their products and potentially increase their output. Economic growth is good for businesses, but it is also good for the economies of the region. As such, by making full use of ASEAN’s economic integration initiatives, SMEs can expand their businesses, create new jobs, offer their customers more goods and services, and generally help to promote economic growth and sustainable development across the region.

  • Hard copy not available.

Publication: Converging Opportunities: Environmental compliance and citizen science (28 Feb 2014)

IISD Publications Centre

Converging Opportunities: Environmental compliance and citizen science

» Scott Vaughan, IISD, 2014.Paper, 10 pages, copyright: IISD
In this policy brief, IISD President Scott Vaughan argues that there is an implementation gap in Canada between numerous environmental regulations and the corporate stakeholders whose behaviour they are meant to oversee. He suggests that improved reporting systems (including citizen reporting linked with social media) can provide a more effective means of gathering data to hold industry accountable—and that this is an area IISD will be making a priority going forward.

  • Hard copy not available.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

China News: 17 more cement plants biting the dust (18 Feb 2014)

17 more cement plants biting the dust

China Daily, February 18, 2014
Work began in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, on Monday on the demolition of another 17 cement factories, two months after the first batch of demolitions to improve air quality.
A cement plant in Pingshan county, Hebei province, is demolished on Monday. The province has vowed to tear down more plants to improve air quality. [Photo/China Daily]
"After the second batch of demolitions is finished in March, we can meet the target of reducing excess capacity three years ahead of schedule, reducing production capacity by 40 percent," said Wang Liang, the mayor of Shijiazhuang. Hebei has been hit by many smoggy days in February, causing serious pollution. On Monday, the air quality index exceeded 200 in the morning.
To control pollution, the provincial government has announced goals for cutting excess capacity in high-polluting industries, including cement production in every city. Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, must dismantle 15 million metric tons of cement production capacity by 2017.
The demolition of 18 cement powder-making systems and 377 storage bins at the 17 plants will be completed by the end of March, reducing the production capacity by 9.1 million tons.
The 17 plants produced cement that met national standards, but have been forced to close to improve air quality, with cement production a high-polluting industry.
The two batches of demolitions have targeted 35 plants at major production bases, resulting in direct economic losses of 1.1 billion yuan ($180 million) and affecting 3,780 workers.
"We may suffer slow economic growth in the short term, but this will work in upgrading the economic structure and result in a good living environment for our people, so it is worthwhile," said Sun Ruibin, Party chief of Shijiazhuang.
Wang Jiangtao, marketing manager at Yuancheng Construction Material Co, one of plants being demolished in the city of Luquan, said, "We will follow the government project, and want to control air pollution as well, so we agreed to close the plant.

Monday, February 24, 2014

World News: Foundation to promote clean and green living (18 Feb 2014)

Foundation to promote clean and green living

World News: Dolphins 'suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill', researchers claim (18 Feb 2014)

Dolphins 'suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill', researchers claim

Dolphins 'suffering miscarriage, lung disease, losing teeth after BP oil spill', researchers claim

Scientists admitted that their study cannot prove that the dolphin's health problems were caused by the Deepwater spill because there were no studies of dolphin health prior to it.

World News: UP gets first automatic air monitoring system (18 Feb 2014)

UP gets first automatic air monitoring system

China News: China's water pollution will be more difficult to fix (18 Feb 2014)

China's water pollution will be more difficult to fix

China Dialogue, February 18, 2014
Although China's air pollution keeps making headlines, its water pollution is just as urgent a problem. One-fifth of the country's rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. In 2012 more than half of China's cities had water that was "poor" or "very poor". Last week China's ministry of environmental protection announced a trillion-yuan (US$163 billion) plan to start dealing with this urgent issue.
Worsening water pollution is fueling social discontent. Last week villagers in south-western Yunnan province attacked a factory that was discharging waste water. [Photo/Greenpeace]
The action plan, which is currently being drafted, will focus on curbing water pollution in the worst affected areas and preventing future pollution of the better conserved waters, deputy minister of environmental protection Zhai Qing said at a press conference.
Proposed measures reportedly include cutting industrial waste water discharge, improving sewage management in cities and introducing better treatment for polluted water in rural areas.
"The situation of China's water environment is still very grim," the deputy minister said, quoting the figures of China's annual volume of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and ammonia nitrogen emissions, common indicators of water quality. The current annual volumes of the two stands at 24 million tonnes and 2.45 million tonnes respectively, Zhai said.
According to China Business News, China will have to reduce its annual volumes of COD and ammonia nitrogen emissions by 30-50% before there's any significant improvement of its water.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based green NGO, told chinadialogue that China's waste water discharge has far exceeded the nation's environmental bearing capacity and hence the incoming action plan is "very necessary".

China News: Zambia sees rising trend in elephant poaching (18 Feb 2014)

Zambia sees rising trend in elephant poaching

Xinhua, February 18, 2014

Zambia has recorded a steady rise in elephant poaching in recent years, signifying that the country was still far from ending the fight against illegal trade in ivory, the Post of Zambia reported on Monday.
Last year, the southern African nation lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching as compared to 124 in 2012 and 96 in 2011, according to the country's position paper presented at an illegal Wildlife Trade Conference held in London, Britain last week.
Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo said the country currently has an ivory stockpile of 10, 031 pieces due to a surge in illegal trade and poaching of elephants, adding that Zambia has been affected by a surge of illegal trade and poaching.
The elephant population, she said, has dwindled from an estimation of over 200, 000 head of elephants in the 1970s and 1980s to about 26, 382 according to a 2008 survey.
"Current figures indicate that Zambia lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching in 2013 as compared to 124 elephants in 2012 and 96 elephants in 2011, respectively. This has been a stable but steady increase in poaching levels," she was quoted as saying by the paper.
The Zambian minister however said the steady rise in elephant poaching in Zambia was relatively low as compared to other neighboring countries that have seen unprecedented high levels of poaching.
Last year, the Zambian government banned the hunting of big cats and elephants and the Zambian minister said funding to a government agency that manages wildlife has been increased to help it improve the management of wildlife.
The high-level meeting in London was called to inject a new level of political commitment into efforts to tackle the problem of illegal wildlife trade.

Vietnam News: Locals outraged by polluting shrimp firm (18 Feb 2014)

Locals outraged by polluting shrimp firm 

Thứ ba, ngày 18 tháng 02 năm 2014 cập nhật lúc 10:43

Hundreds of households in southern SocTrangProvince's Thanh Phu Commune are demanding strong action against a local shrimp processing company that has continued to pollute their main water source despite being fined several times for the offence.
The Tan Nhat Phuong Aquaculture Company, commune residents say, has not stopped discharging untreated waste water into the CanDuoc Canal, their main water source for irrigation and daily life needs, forcing them to suffer a "horrible" odour and badly affecting rice production.
They say that the Can Duoc canal irrigates thousands of hectares of rice fields in the province.
Commune resident Thi Bich Nga said the enterprise usually released waste water from night until dawn, and the terrible smell it caused made it difficult for all those who lived along the canal to sleep and even breathe.
Nga said the polluted water had seriously affected her rice field. Productivity had fallen from 1000kg per sao (1,300sq.m) to 700kg.

The seafood processing firm has been fined several times, but it has continued to repeat its offence, and local authorities say they do not have the power to shut it down.
Two weeks ago, My Xuyen District's Department of Natural Resources and Environment had carried out an inspection, and fined the company VND50 million ($2350) for relapsing their action.
Three previous inspections had found the firm dumping untreated waste water containing toxic chemicals 10 times higher than the allowed levels, according to the department.
The firm was fined more than VND74 million ($3450) and ordered to take measures within 30 days to have its waste water treated.

However, the situation has not changed.
Mai Thanh Cau, Chairman of the Thanh Phu People's Committee, said that Tan Nhat Phuong had two factories in Can Duoc and Zone No2 hamlets with 100 workers who process raw shrimp.
Both factories were releasing foul smelling waste water, he said.
Cau said his administration was helpless and did not have the authority to shut down the firm.
Meanwhile, a company representative contacted local reporters with a report saying it is building a waste water treatment plant.

The VND500 million ($23,500) plant, with a capacity of 200 cubic metres per day, would be completed in July, the report said, but the representative refused to respond to any query.

source from: 

Publlication: The Green Goods Agreement: Neither green nor good? (25 Feb 2014)

IISD Publications Centre

The Green Goods Agreement: Neither green nor good?

» Aaron Cosbey, IISD, 2014.Commentary, copyright: IISD
In January 2014, 14 World Trade Organization members met on the sideline of a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos to launch talks aimed at lowering barriers to trade in environmental goods. This commentary critically assesses the chances that the agreement will achieve significant environmental impacts and argues that the institutional needs of such an agreement are challenging in ways that the parties do not seem to appreciate.

  • Hard copy not available.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

World News : UNEP: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade 2014 Thu (14 Feb 2014)

Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade 2014 Thu, Feb 13, 2014

London, 13 February 2014

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Over 30 years ago, the mighty African elephant went extinct in my homeland Mauritania, where it once roamed.
Elephants are intelligent and compassionate creatures, whose capacity for joy is only matched by that for grief. The emotional attachment elephants form may rival our own.
The gruesome images of slain herds of elephants across all regions in Africa are heart wrenching. And the surge in the killings continues.
Today, the demand for ivory is carving a bleak future for already vulnerable populations.
The world's rhinos and tigers, along with other species, face similarly bleak futures, unless we act now.
As His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales eloquently said, humanity is less than humanity without the rest of creation.
Today, the international community comes together in solidarity and resolve to consider critical action to curb the global poaching crisis and the illegal trade in wildlife.
Such criminality fuelled by demand and lawlessness is not only destroying species, habitats, and communities, but is also jeopardizing peace and security.
Organized criminal networks are cashing in on the poaching crisis, operating with relative impunity and with little fear of prosecution.
The rise in the illegal killing of species does not only threaten wildlife populations but the livelihoods of local communities and the lives of rangers in their fight to stem the illegal tide.
The illegal exploitation of wildlife exacerbates other long-term threats to the species' survival, such as the increased loss of habitat and climate variability.
In our search for solutions, it is important to realize that there is no "one size fits all" answer to the poaching crisis.
Fast-track measures must be implemented to address the current poaching crisis, taking into account the diverse socio-economic, legal and market dynamics across range, transit and consumer states.
Such measures will vary from strengthening law enforcement, building adequate human and financial capacity, raising public awareness, and fighting collusive corruption, to supporting national legislation and the overriding need to curb demand for wildlife products that are illegally sourced or unsustainably harvested.
However, in addition to short-term measures, longer-term considerations need to be given to natural resource management and sustainable economic development, based on sovereign priorities and choices.
Implementing nationally and internationally agreed biodiversity strategies and targets and other relevant existing commitments must be at the heart of such action.
The African Elephant Action Plan and and the African Elephant Fund, for example, were established under the CITES to support the long-term survival of African elephants.
But without adequate political and appropriate financial support, it is difficult for such mechanisms to become truly effective.

In the first ever UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which will convene in Nairobi in June, the environmental rule of law in relation to the illegal exploitation of wildlife and timber will feature as a key topic.
This will help maintain the political momentum following the London Conference and will provide an opportunity to galvanize the attention of the United Nations bodies on this critical issue.
Ladies and gentlemen,

The last two years have been momentous for many in this room who have worked tirelessly for years-on-end to combat the trafficking in wildlife: from the CITES COP in Bangkok to the Botswana Elephant Summit and the French Government-hosted Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, to the UNEP-INTERPOL Conference or the UNODC Conference and, most recently, the UN Security Council resolutions (21/34 and 21/36) which recognize the inter-linkages between the illegal exploitation of wildlife and ongoing conflicts in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Building on these initiatives and on many other ongoing positive undertakings, such as the most recent decision by the US Government made just yesterday , it is imperative that 2014 becomes a year of concrete and decisive action.
I would like to thank the UK Government for convening this important meeting - allowing us all to join hands for a more sustainable and humane future.

Thank you.

- See more at:

Friday, February 21, 2014

China News: US-Pacific trade deal disappoints environmentalists (16 Feb 2014)

US-Pacific trade deal disappoints environmentalists

Trade deal between the US and Pacific countries including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam would fail to protect against illegal logging, trade in endangered wildlife and overfishing
article image
The trade deal should enforce stronger rules on the trade in illegal animals parts, such as the Pacific Walrus, say campaigners (Image by USFWS)

Since 2010 a potentially massive free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been quietly taking shape. Though negotiations have been taking place behind closed doors, last monthWikileaks released a leaked version of the text of the TPP’s “Environment Chapter,” the latest of a handful of chapters to be brought to light.

While negotiators prepare to convene for another round of talks later this month, environmental advocates have been loudly criticising the lack of ambition and enforceability of the environmental provisions in the text.

“We were extremely disappointed with the status of the Environment Chapter,“ said Ilana Solomon, Director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “It is essentially so weak, it steps back from the trade agreements negotiated by George W. Bush in 2007.”

The trade deal

The expansive trade deal would govern roughly 40% of the world’s gross domestic product and one-third of global trade.

According to Kevin Gallagher, co-director of the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University and author of "Free Trade and the Environment,” the TPP would be the “the biggest North-South trade deal in world history.”

The deal today involves a cast of twelve Pacific Rim nations -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, and the United States -- and is seen in the US as a crucial component of President Obama’s so-called “Asia pivot” in foreign policy.

It is also supposed to represent an “ambitious, 21st-century trade agreement” that President Obama heralded in his first official speech on trade in 2009, one that prioritises labour rights and environmental protections.

Critics argue that the TPP falls far short on the environmental front, and actually backtracks and conflicts with a major recent piece of US domestic trade policy.

In 2007, President George W. Bush signed a landmark agreement with Congress that ushered in a new era of environmentally-conscious free trade. According to Solomon, the May 2007 deal stated that “all US free trade agreements should include an Environment Chapter that is not just aspirational but is legally enforceable and binding in the same way that are other commercial chapters of the agreement.”

The provisions in a deal’s Environment Chapter matter, says Solomon, because “as trade expands as a result of free trade agreements, there is often stress on natural resources and forests or wildlife or fisheries.”

Historically, as was the case in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), environmental protections were handled in a separate, non-binding aspirational side-agreement, that had no enforcement measures whatsoever. The May 2007 deal ensured that environmental provisions would be included in the agreement.

The May 2007 agreement also states that countries are required to uphold their own domestic environmental laws in the course of trade, and fulfill any commitments made in multilateral environmental agreements, like the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty.

The TPP, argues Vanessa Dick, a senior policy officer specialising in trade at World Wildlife Fund, sends the US “back to a pre-2007 world.” If one country raises a complaint about another’s compliance, explains Dick, “parties agree on a mutually satisfactory ‘action plan.’ And that’s the end of the text. There’s a final report, but no recourse.”

“Full enforceability,” says Dick, “would mean there are steps beyond that ... the extreme being sanctions.”

Illegal logging, wildlife trade and overfishing

The alleged purpose of the TPP’s Environment Chapter is to address the core conservation challenges of the Asia Pacific region, with regards to trade. In response to the leaked text, experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), identified three major problem areas.

First, illegal logging is rampant in many of the TPP countries, and the deal as written does little to curtail the trade of illegally harvested timber.

Second, there are major problems with the illegal wildlife trade. Solomon points to rhino horns and tiger pelts, both of which are supposedly protected by international endangered species laws, but are still vulnerable to black market trading. The TPP should, advocates say, introduce stronger enforcement of those laws.

Finally, the environmental groups say that the TPP does little to discourage overfishing, a serious omission considering that the countries engaged in these negotiations account for roughly one-third of global fish production. “There’s tremendous stress on fisheries” says Solomon, “and some of these countries offer subsidies that lead to overfishing.” Conservation advocates also want to see an outright ban on shark-finning to be included in the text.  

Though the text does mention these conservation challenges, Solomon says that in “all of the provisions that were supposedly designed to protect timber and wildlife and fisheries, the language is full of caveats like ‘shall strive to’ and ‘shall endeavor to’ that essentially make them meaningless,” as they are not legally enforceable.

Dick worries that without ambitious obligations that are fully enforceable, countries will actually suffer in the long term. “A fully ambitious and enforceable Environment Chapter is actually in the interest of all countries. It’s beneficial to the US. It’s beneficial to Vietnam. It’s beneficial to Chile. Ultimately, scarcity is not helpful for economic opportunity.”

There’s bad news for the environment beyond the Environment Chapter itself, warns Solomon. She points to the Investment Chapter, leaked in 2012, which includes provisions that allow foreign corporations to sue governments over laws and policies that allegedly reduce their profits or the value of their investments. “Similar language was included in NAFTA,” Solomon explains, “and it’s been used by ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Cargill, to challenge public interest and environmental policies.” She gives a recent example of a US energy firm, Lone Pine Resources that, citing NAFTA law, sued Canada for US$250 million over the Quebec moratorium on fracking.

The TPP would also legally require the US to automatically approve all exports of natural gas to other countries in the agreement, including Japan, the largest natural gas importer in the world. In the US, this little-publicised rule would eliminate the Department of Energy’s legally-mandated review of any potential natural gas exports.

US forced to back down?

The Obama administration has pushed back against some of the criticism of the leaked text. In a blog post, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman wrote that "environmental stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement."

According to Solomon, the US position going into the negotiations was indeed ambitious. Supplemental reports leaked alongside the negotiating text, says Solomon, “do show that the US put a stronger draft forward.” But when other countries pushed back on the environmental issues, the US didn’t hold firm.

“It just shows that the commitment really isn’t there,” says Gallagher, who also served on an advisory committee to President Obama on trade, and describes himself as “very familiar with these negotiations.”

“One of the key things that these countries want is a safeguard to prevent a financial crisis,” says Gallagher. “If [the US] gave them that, they’d be more than happy to take the environmental provisions.”

Gallagher believes that the Obama administration is now rushing to ratify the TPP as China works on the ASEAN+6 trade deal. “This is an attempt to get a foothold in Asia to put a counterweight against China.”

Although the TPP has notoriously missed a number of self-imposed deadlines, President Obama has said that he hopes to conclude the agreement this year, possibly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in April.