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Big Wave of Support for Our Oceans

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and inheritor of Our Ocean legacy at the Our Ocean Conference, Blai, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Photo by Tekno Tempo.co) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NUSA DUA, Bali, Indonesia, October 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Financial contributions are rolling in to fund dozens of initiatives aimed at healing and protecting the oceans at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali October 29-30.

Our Ocean, Our Legacy is the theme of this year’s Our Ocean Conference, reflecting human choices and actions to maintain the sustainability of ocean resources and to preserve our ocean’s health as a heritage for future generations.

Opening the conference Monday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his government has met its commitment of conserving 20 million hectares of territorial seas two years earlier than the projected date of 2020.

“We must be brave in making commitments and in undertaking concrete actions that start from each of us,” President Widodo said in his opening address.

He said Earth’s maritime resources are valued at an estimated US$24 trillion.

In recognizing the importance of oceans to many lives and the future of the Earth, the president listed the challenges – illegal unregulated and undocumented (IUU) fishing, piracy, human trafficking, drug smuggling, pollution and slavery.

Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows about 26 million tons of fish worth US$10-23 billion have been caught illegally per year, Widodo said.

He worries that unless overlapping maritime claims are resolved through negotiations and based on international law, they may pose a threat to stability.

The president is concerned about ocean health. “Our ocean is threatened by plastic debris, water pollution, destruction of coral reefs, warming of sea temperature, the rise of sea-levels, and so forth,” he said.

“Do not be too late to take actions in protecting our ocean. One single country cannot resolve the challenges alone,” said Widodo. “All countries must collaborate in tackling the problems and in optimizing the benefits of the oceans for common good.”

The European Union made 23 new commitments at the conference, announcing €300 million of EU-funded initiatives. They include projects to tackle plastic pollution, make blue economy more sustainable and improve research and marine surveillance.

This contribution comes on top of the over €550 million committed by the European Union, when it hosted the Our Ocean conference last year in Malta.

“The state of our oceans calls for determined global action,” said High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini. “With 23 new commitments, the European Union stays engaged to ensure safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed oceans.”

“No country can succeed alone in this endeavour,” said Mogherini. “It requires determination, consistency and partnerships, within and outside our European Union, and it is in this spirit that today we renew the commitment to protect our oceans.”

The European contributions include €100 million for R&D projects to tackle plastic pollution and €82 million for marine and maritime research, such as ecosystem assessments, seafloor mapping and innovative aquaculture systems.

The new EU action also includes a €18.4 million investment to make the European blue economy – the economic sectors that rely on the ocean and its resources – more sustainable.

European Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said, “We need the oceans and the oceans need us. We have to urgently reduce marine litter and other sources of pollution, halt illegal fishing and support fragile marine ecosystems. We have to develop our blue economy – create sustainable jobs and growth – supported by cutting-edge research and new technologies. It is for this reason that we are making these commitments.”

The EU’s showpiece Earth observation program Copernicus is high on the list of new commitments. The program’s support will be enlarged with another €12.9 million for maritime security and for research dedicated to coastal environmental services, in addition to the €27 million Copernicus funds devoted at Our Ocean 2017 conference.

With its Maritime Surveillance System, Copernicus has supported EU commitments to reinforce maritime security and law enforcement.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska said, “Earth observation helps citizens around the globe to fight climate change, monitor the blue economy and marine pollution or to manage natural disasters.”

Marine litter in China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, will be fought with a €9 million EU-funded project. Another €7 million will go towards protection of marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia.

As one of its commitments, the European Commission is joining forces with United Nations Environment Programme and other international partners to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.

EU Delivers on 2017 Ocean Commitments

Two years ahead of the initial deadline set, 10 percent of all EU waters have already been designated as Marine Protected Areas. With effective management, adequate funding and robust enforcement, Marine Protected Areas can have both conservation and economic benefits.

The 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta was a game changer, mobilizing funding and ocean action at an unprecedented scale.

The European Union has already delivered on almost half of EU’s 35 commitments made at the last year’s conference, equalling €300 million.

The EU is now working with Indonesia and future hosts of Our Ocean conferences to keep the momentum going for cleaner and safer seas.

Previous conferences, hosted by the governments of Malta (2017), the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015), have seen a wide range of commitments and billions of euros pledged.

The commitments are only one of the ways by which the European Commission works to accelerate the shift towards circular economy.

On January 16 the EU adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

On May 28 new EU-wide rules were proposed to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The European Parliament endorsed the proposal on October 23. The endorsement was accompanied by the “Ready to change” awareness-raising campaign supported by many aquariums.

Bloomberg and Dalio Give US$185 Million

In a video message at the Our Ocean Conference, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action Michael Bloomberg and OceanX , founded by Dalio Philanthropies President Ray Dalio, announced their new partnership to align and increase their support for the oceans.

Bloomberg and OceanX’s first joint project will be an expedition to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on OceanX’s marine research and exploration vessel, the Alucia, to explore the region, demonstrate the importance of the marine national monument and illustrate the need for marine conservation across the globe at a time when the oceans require our critical attention.

The effort will be seeded by a combined four-year commitment of over US$185 million.

“More than three billion people depend on the oceans for food and their livelihoods. That means threats to marine ecosystems – like climate change and overfishing – also threaten lives around the world,” said Bloomberg. “We’re teaming up with OceanX to ensure that ocean conservation receives the attention it deserves.”

Focusing on key coral geographies and top fishing nations, over the next four years Bloomberg will support data-driven strategies in fisheries management, coral conservation and pollution reduction in 10 priority countries –  Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania, and the United States. The initiative will promote global action with government leaders, the private sector, and key NGO partners.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper commented, “The Our Ocean Conference provides a crucial forum for raising concern about the plight of the world’s marine realm and exploring ways we can protect this vast but limited source of biodiversity and sustenance.”

The nonprofit WCS is a partner of Bloomberg Philanthropies “Vibrant Oceans” coral reef initiative to protect a portfolio of reefs most likely to endure warming ocean temperatures.

“Protecting the health and vitality of coral reefs, among the most biodiverse habitats on earth, is crucial to conserving the earth’s marine biodiversity,” Samper said. “Over the next four years, WCS will leverage its scientific and conservation expertise to conserve coral reefs in nine sites in the coastal waters of Fiji, Indonesia, and Tanzania, hardy ecosystems that were chosen because their reefs exhibit a resilience to increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change.”

At the same time, WCS will work with communities and national authorities in these and other countries to strengthen monitoring, governance and build effective policies for managing coral reefs over the long term.

“Crucial to saving the world’s coral reefs will be successful partnerships with local community residents who rely on marine resources for health and well-being,” said Samper.

“WCS will continue to work with local partners to identify and reduce threats to reefs while maintaining livelihood options and food security for coastal towns and villages. By taking action at both regional and local levels, we can help preserve the ocean as an irreplaceable natural legacy for future generations.”

Young People Take Part in Ocean Solutions

The 2018 Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit was held on October 29-30 at the Tanjung Benoa Hall of the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

The summit was attended by 189 participants aged 17 to 35 who hail from 52 countries. They were selected from 500 candidates representing 56 countries.

The event featured seminars and interactive discussions at the breakout room, focusing on areas of action such as sustainable blue economy, marine pollution, marine protected areas and maritime security.

Featured Image: Surfing Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia, May 29, 2018 (Photo by Wavehaven) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Is Space Junk Polluting Space Before We Even Live There?

by Anna Kucirkova

August 2,2018 originally published (Industrial Ovens) – Scientists have predicted that the maximum number of people the Earth can sustain is somewhere between nine and ten billion. Current population is estimated to hit nine billion by the year 2050. So humans have roughly 32 years before overpopulation becomes a really, really big problem.

But, where else can we go?

People around the globe have developed space agencies for exploration (think Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc.). There are private companies sending rockets and satellites into low orbit. We’ve been to the moon and back.

It is clear that our intention is to colonize the only place left: space.

However, can it be that easy if we have already filled space with our junk?

The Problem Of Space Pollution

NASA scientist Donald Kessler warned in a paper written in 1978, that every collision of man-made objects in space generates more shrapnel and debris as pieces fly apart on impact. The effect is cumulative, as new debris collides with other objects it creates even more debris.

Ultimately, space will become impassable because of the continuous cascade of colliding debris, including destruction of telecommunications systems and nullifying of further space launches.

Twice every year, if not more frequently, the International Space Station moves to avoid a hypothetically disastrous crash with space junk.

Estimations vary, but there are approximately 4,000 active and inactive satellites in space. They could be hit by the 500,000 bits of floating space debris, some micro-millimeters in size, all the way up to pieces the size of two double-decker buses.

Space debris encompasses both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles. While meteoroids orbit the sun, most man-made debris orbits the Earth. Therefore, the man-made junk is usually called orbital debris.

These include broken spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicles, manned mission-related debris, and disintegration debris.

Estimates suggest that more than 20,000 items of debris larger than a softball currently orbit the Earth. They travel up to 17,500 mph, which would allow a relatively small piece of orbital debris to seriously damage a satellite or a spacecraft. Additionally, there are 500,000 pieces of debris marble-sized or larger. There are millions of pieces of debris too small to be tracked.

“The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris,” said Nicholas Johnson, NASA chief scientist for orbital debris. The Department of Defense sustains a hyper-accurate catalog on objects in Earth orbit bigger than a softball.

Are you starting to get the picture? There’s a lot of stuff in space that can cause serious problems for space travelers.

Space Debris and Human Spacecraft

More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth.

The increasing amount of space debris multiples the danger to space vehicles, but particularly the International Space Station, space shuttles, and other spacecraft with human passengers.

NASA monitors space debris to predict collisions and uses a long-standing set of guidelines to prepare for such events. These guidelines are part of the existing flight rules and specify that when a piece of debris becomes close enough to increase the probability of a collision, evasive action or other precautions are put in place to ensure the safety of crew members.

Often times, there is plenty of advance notice, which allows for time to move the station slightly (called a “debris avoidance maneuver”). Other times, the tracking data does not give a precise enough targeting of debris or a close pass isn’t identified in time to make orbital adjustments.

When that happens, the control centers around the world may agree to move the crew into the Soyuz spacecraft used to fly humans to and from the station. The crew would then have the ability to leave the station if a collision occurred and caused a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module or caused critical damage.

Debris avoidance moves are primarily small and occur between one and several hours prior to the predicted collision. These maneuvers with the shuttle can be planned and implemented in just a few hours. The space station requires nearly 30 hours to plan and execute moves because of the need to utilize the station’s Russian thrusters, or to activate the propulsion systems on one of the docked spacecraft.

In 2009, we witnessed the first major collision between two intact satellites — a U.S. Iridium satellite and an aging Russian Cosmos. The collision created 2,000 extra chunks of metal space debris orbiting the Earth.

A 2011 report by the National Research Council warned that Earth orbit paths may be reaching a “tipping point” where collisions will become more common. The researchers suggest that the immediate, orbital space around Earth could be 10 to 20 years away from severe issues.

The Space Pollution Facts

It is estimated that hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris float through our area of the solar system. Many are as big as trucks, while some are smaller than a fleck of paint.

NASA tracks rocket boosters, spacecraft pieces, and particles and fragments cause by space crashes or explosions are the kinds of space trash whirling around Earth up to 36,000 km per hour.

Earth’s gravitational field grabs lots of space trash and drags it into lower and lower orbits until it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. When space trash orbits at higher altitudes, it will remain in orbit years longer than space trash moving in orbits lower than 600 km. Scientists estimate that space trash at altitudes higher than 1,000 km above Earth’s atmosphere can continue orbiting for a hundred years or more.

Space Debris Removal

Jason Held is a scientist who has created a device he hopes will be useful in cleaning up space trash. He holds a PhD in robotics from the University of Sydney and founded the university’s space engineering laboratory. There, he built rocket engines and led space satellite development.

Held has high hopes that the device he and his team created will be able to drag space trash back down into the atmosphere for a fiery death. The module, called the DragEN, is a yo-yo like device weighing in at just under 100 grams. It can be attached to satellites and other spacecraft.

When used, DragEN unspools hundreds of meters of a conductive material that grabs onto electric and magnetic forces as it travels through the planet’s magnetic field. This force drags the trash back to Earth’s atmosphere, where it explodes.

Held cannot estimate the time it would take for a satellite in the DragEN to burn up. However, the Indian Space Research Organization will try it in space on a satellite launch planned soon.

“The satellite mission is to take photos of the earth and downlink photos,” Held says.

“At the end of its mission, the team will release the DragEN tether, which will start dragging the satellite back to Earth. We are all very interested to learn how DragEN unspools in space and how quickly or slowly it takes to come back down.”

Today, Held leads Saber Astronautics in Sydney, where he built DragEN, and he believes it will aid in the destruction of space of debris, a vital issue for space programs around the world.

And Held isn’t the only one racing to obliterate space junk. Though Australia doesn’t build spacecraft or satellite systems, it does collect data and information from space. Australian space researchers monitor roughly 29,000 pieces of space junk and warn human space dwellers of imminent collisions.

The international timeline for self-destruction of any space satellite or orbiting craft, originally set by NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, is 25 years after operational life of a satellite ends. This remains the goal for new launches in order to limit the growing pile of space trash.

Internationally, addressing this problem is urgent; satellites worth billions of dollars are constantly threatened with collisions. We are sending craft into space more frequently than they are being destroyed.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has worked with NASA and the European Space Agency to develop a set of guidelines on space debris mitigation. But, space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, of Flinders University in Adelaide, says the voluntary UN guidelines are followed in only 40% of all missions.

Humans filled waterways, landfills, and streets with trash, so it’s no surprise the same thing happened in Earth’s orbit. Some space trash removal missions focus on dead satellites, catching them with robotic arms, spearing them with harpoons, or slowing them with sails or tethers. Smaller pieces are targeted with lasers or collected through adhesives.

There are currently several space junk removal missions on the books:

  • RemoveDebris from Britain was planned for 2017
  • Japan’s just-launched Kounotori 6 satellite, carrying the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment
  • e.Deorbit from the ESA is scheduled for 2023 or 2024
  • Japanese startup Astroscale is designing a debris-removal satellite planned to launch this year

Astroscale plans to demonstrate its satellite, ELSA, in October 2019. Both NASA and the ESA continue to study and develop technologies to capture and safely de-orbit non-functioning objects.

Will Space Be Clean Enough in Time?

These great advances in tracking and eliminating space junk and debris will help clear out the orbital paths around the Earth.

The primary concern is if the clearance will happen in time for our population to successfully colonize outer space. As human population grows and grows, the only viable answer for expanding our world is in settling in outer space.

Smoky Cooking Kills Millions

Businesses sell cans of charcoal for cooking at a market near Kisumu, Kenya, March 11, 2015. (Photo by Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank)

Businesses sell cans of charcoal for cooking at a market near Kisumu, Kenya, March 11, 2015. (Photo by Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank)

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 3, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Cooking with charcoal indoors is fatal to millions of people every year, according to new data released Wednesday by the World Health Organization. WHO says, in total, household and outdoor air pollution result in “an alarming death toll” of eight million people a year.

Cooking with polluting fuels and technologies, the main source of household air pollution, caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in 2016, while outdoor air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths that same year, WHO’s new database shows.

WHO says these deaths are due to exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, and this fine particulate matter is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases.

The agency estimates exposure to polluted air causes 24 percent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 percent from stroke, 43 percent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 percent from lung cancer.

Major sources of particulates in the air include the inefficient use of energy by households, industry, the agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants.

In some regions, sand and desert dust, waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution. Air quality can also be influenced by natural elements such as geographic, meteorological and seasonal factors.

More than 90 percent of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by the low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, took office in July 2017. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, took office in July 2017. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

“Many of the world’s megacities exceed WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than five times, representing a major risk to people’s health,” warns Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health.

The new data that WHO is presenting is now the world’s most comprehensive database on ambient air pollution.

And more cities are responding to the need to save lives by limiting emissions – at least they’re monitoring air quality. Dr. Neira says WHO is seeing “an acceleration of political interest in this global public health challenge.”

More than 4,300 cities in 108 countries are now included in WHO’s ambient air quality database together with the summary of results, methodology used for compiling the data and WHO country groupings is online at: WHO databases 

Since 2016, more than 1,000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database, which shows that more countries than ever before are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution.

“The increase in cities recording air pollution data reflects a commitment to air quality assessment and monitoring,” said Dr. Neira. “Most of this increase has occurred in high-income countries, but we hope to see a similar scale-up of monitoring efforts worldwide.”

The database collects annual mean concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). PM2.5 includes pollutants, such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which pose the greatest risks to human health.

The concentration of an air pollutant is given in micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter of air or µg/m3.

WHO air quality recommendations call for countries to reduce their air pollution to annual mean values of 20 μg/m3 (for PM10) and 10 μg/m3 (for PM25).

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California Berkeley students have made a new wood/biomass burning cookstove for internally displaced people in Darfur, Sudan. Manufactured locally by artisan metalworkers, it saves enough fuel so that the purchase price is affordable.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California Berkeley students have made a new wood/biomass burning cookstove for internally displaced people in Darfur, Sudan.
Manufactured locally by artisan metalworkers, it saves enough fuel so that the purchase price is affordable.

“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian public health expert.

“It is unacceptable that over three billion people, most of them women and children, are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes,” he said.

“If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development,” he warned.

WHO has been monitoring household air pollution for more than a decade and,

while the rate of access to clean fuels and technologies is increasing everywhere, around three billion people – more than 40 percent of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes.

Improvements are not even keeping pace with population growth in many parts of the world, particularly in subSaharan Africa, WHO reports.

Because air pollution does not recognize borders, WHO says coordinated intergovernmental partnerships will be most effective in improving air quality. Countries need to work together on solutions for sustainable transport, more efficient and renewable energy production and use and waste management.

WHO works with many sectors – transport and energy, urban planning and rural development – to support countries in addressing their air quality problems.

“Political leaders at all levels of government, including city mayors, are now starting to pay attention and take action,” says Dr. Tedros. “The good news is that we are seeing more and more governments increasing commitments to monitor and reduce air pollution as well as more global action from the health sector and other sectors like transport, housing and energy.”

This year WHO will convene the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health to bring governments and partners together in a global effort to improve air quality and combat climate change. The conference is planned for October 30 – November 1 at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Remote participation will be facilitated by webcasting and live-streaming of the sessions.

Featured Image: Dinner is cooked on a three stone cook stove in Kisumu, Kenya. The EnDev Kenya Country Programme is helping to replace these older charcoal stoves with cleaner, less smoky wood-burning stoves. As of December 2015, 87,000 households had switched to the cleaner burning jiko kisasa (firewood stove). Nov. 16, 2016 (Photo by Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank)


World Leaders Pledge Pollution-free Planet

Assembly participants have fun with the #BeatPollution sculpture in front of the conference venue. December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

Assembly participants have fun with the #BeatPollution sculpture in front of the conference venue. December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, December 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Costa Rica’s minister of environment and energy and the president of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.

“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Gutiérrez.

More than 4,000 heads of state and government, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Nairobi, which ran for three days, through December 6.

They committed to a pollution-free planet, with resolutions and pledges promising to improve the lives of billions by cleaning up air, land and water.

Government ministers called for “rapid, large-scale and co-ordinated action against pollution” on Wednesday, capping the UN Environment Assembly with a strong commitment to protect human health and our common environment from an existential threat.

For the first time at a UN Environment Assembly, environment ministers issued a declaration. This declaration said nations would honor efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the pollution of air, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans, which harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.

“We the world’s ministers of the environment, believe that every one of us should be able to live in a clean environment. Any threat to our environment is a threat to our health, our society, our ecosystems, our economy, our security, our well-being and our very survival,” they said in a declaration after the three-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

The declaration committed to increasing research and development, targeting pollution through tailored actions, moving societies towards sustainable lifestyles based on a circular economy, promoting fiscal incentives to move markets and promote positive change, as well as strengthening and enforcing laws on pollution.

Environmental leaders, from left: Erik Solheim, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and UNEA President Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, take a selfie for the #BeatPollution campaign. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

Environmental leaders, from left: Erik Solheim, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and UNEA President Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, take a selfie for the #BeatPollution campaign. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

A large part of the impact from the assembly comes from global support. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign hit almost 2.5 million pledges during the event, with 88,000 personal commitments to act.

If every promise made in and around the summit comes is fulfilled, 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air, 480,000 kilometers, or around 30 percent, of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and US$18.6 billion for research and development and innovative programs to combat pollution will come online.

The assembly also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions. Among them were moves to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, cut out lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.

“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change.”

“It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though,” said Solheim. “The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”

Chile, Oman, South Africa and Sri Lanka all joined the #CleanSeas campaign during the Nairobi summit. Sri Lanka, an island nation south of India, promised to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from January 1, 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of freeing its ocean and coasts of pollution by 2030.

There are now 39 countries in the #CleanSeas campaign.

Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities that were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to safe levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.

The global momentum comes not a moment too soon, as the UN Environment report, “The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet,” sets forth.

Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Air pollution is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.

Exposure to lead in paint causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually.

The seas already contain 500 dead zones with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where food is grown and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people.

There is also a huge economic cost of pollution. A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over US$4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 percent of global economic output.

Curbing pollution is vital to protecting the natural systems that not only underpin the livelihoods of billions of people, but also sustain all life on Earth, wrote Executive Director Solheim in his report. “Biodiversity is under threat as never before.”

“Animals and plants, including species vital to many poorer communities, are suffering from the effects of pollution, including from the vast amounts of untreated waste emanating from households and industry. The excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture is having severe unintended effects, decimating the populations of beneficial insects such as bees and destroying the ecosystems of rivers and lakes and creating hundreds of coastal ‘dead zones’ devoid of fish,” wrote Solheim.

Pollution is not a new phenomenon nor is action to counter it, wrote Solheim. But now, he points out, “there is a need – and an opportunity – to dramatically step up our ambition.”

Science is delivering great advances in our understanding of pollution and its impacts on people, economies and the environment. Citizens are more aware than ever before of how pollution developing the technology to tackle these problems at all scales, from local to global. Financiers are increasingly ready to support them, while international bodies and forums, including the United Nations, stand ready to help channel this momentum and turn it into firm action.”

And firm action is built on a firm foundation of funding.

Solheim advocates “system-wide action to transform the economy,” building circularity and resource efficiency into production processes and supply chains.

The market for environmental goods and servicesm including pollution control, is expected to grow to more than US$2.2 trillion by 2020, Solheim said.

“Opening markets for these goods and services will allow international trade and investment, stimulate innovation, reduce costs and make pollution technologies more accessible to developing countries. Ecosystems can be harnessed to provide

many pollution control and management services.

“As consumption rises and populations grow, pollution increases,” wrote Solheim. “We need to find a way to live well and live lightly. All parts of society have a role to play.”

As the assembly closed on Wednesday, Solheim said the event was an “astonishing success.”

The challenge now is “how do we translate that into real changes in people’s lives. That is what matters,” Solheim said at the closing news conference. He identified plastic pollution, air quality and chemicals as priority areas for immediate action.

Download the Ministerial Declaration here  and the final resolutions here.

The next UN Environment Assembly is expected in two years’ time.


Featured Image: Participant in the UN Environment Assembly carries her message with her, December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UN Environment) posted for media use

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Abandoned Fishing Gear Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen www.miemo.net, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen www.miemo.net, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Contribution, GoGreen August 16, 2017

Since humans began casting their nets out to sea, fishing gear has been abandoned in the world’s oceans, either as forgotten equipment or left as trash. It is also common for gear to get lost or torn away from fishing boats. As a result, a phenomenon called ‘ghostfishing’ has wreaked havoc throughout much of the world’s oceans. What people are unaware of is that these abandoned fishing nets and traps ensnare marine life and cause them to drown or starve to death.

‘Ghost gear’ can come in many forms, anything from floating nets, lines or pots intended to catch crab, lobster or shrimp. In more technical terms, it’s known as Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG). Unfortunately, ALDFG is left in the sea and has the ability to capture fish, turtles, whales, sharks, rays, invertebrates, and even birds. Marine life often can’t escape and creatures live out the rest of their dying days in gear that’s recklessly left behind by humans. Hundreds of marine animals die daily from ghostfishing. According to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, ALDFG kill over half a million sea creatures each year in Puget Sound alone.

Harmful Effects of Ghost Gear

Nets stay afloat and move around the ocean, capturing all creatures in its path. From the weight of the catch, the net eventually sinks and shakes out some of the organisms, and then the net is light enough again to move upward. This cycle repeats itself and the net continues to trap the marine life that gets in its way. Lines and nets can also get caught on rocks, reefs or shipwrecks, which is again problematic because marine creatures can get trapped and be maimed, drown, or starve to death. Pot traps unfortunately catch more than just crab, lobster and shrimp. Many bottom dweller creatures make their way into these traps and never find a way out.

According to Earth Island, fifty or sixty years ago, nets were more commonly made out of biodegradable materials such as hemp or cotton. These materials break down more quickly than plastic-based nets that can remain in the ocean for up to 600 years. Today it is more common to find nets and fishing gear made out of synthetic, degrade-resistant materials such as nylon. ALDFG plastics are also harmful to the oceans because they break down into smaller plastic particles and are ingested by marine life. Polyurethane chemicals from ALDFG also end up leaching into the water.

The Fight Against Ghostfishing

As the fishing industry has grown throughout the centuries, more and more fishing gear has been lost, abandoned or thrown away at sea. Ghostfishing is now considered a global problem. The report ‘Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear‘ issued by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 640,000 tons of ALDFG are spread out across the world’s oceans. This makes up about 10 percent of the global oceanic litter. But now that the problem of ghostfishing is more widely known, there are more efforts to help address it.

One of the biggest impediments to dealing with ALDFG is that most fishing takes place in international waters. Implementing international regulations is not an easy endeavor and as a result, marine ecosystems continue to suffer. But there is work being done to put a price tag on the marine creatures that die from ALDFG. The California SeaDoc Initiative has found that, in one year one abandoned net can kill about $20,000 worth of Dungeness crabs. If some folks are not convinced by the environmental impacts of ghostfishing, perhaps they’ll change their mind when they start to see how it affects the economy of the seafood industry.

There is also a push for shoreline collection facilities or programs that take old or broken nets. Instead of throwing these nets out to sea as an ‘easy way’ to get rid of them, commercial and recreational fishers can take in their old or broken nets and have them recycled or repurposed. One initiative that tries to prevent gear from being thrown overboard is the Fishing for Energy program. They provide gear removal services at various ports throughout the United States and sort the gear into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Any material that can’t be recycled gets converted into energy by Covanta Energy. Old fishing gear is also being repurposed by Net-Works, a European company that turns ALDFG into carpet tiles.

There are also initiatives that help clean up the mess that’s already been made. Ghost Fishing is an organization that started out de-littering shipwrecks for aesthetics near the Netherlands, but soon they discovered the importance of removing abandoned fishing gear to help save the marine creatures they would find trapped in them. They’ve now created a Ghost Fishing Network to reach out to groups worldwide that are also tackling the issue of ALDFG in the seas.

At GoGreen, we are trying to raise the conscience of the community and the world about the importance of protecting our environment.


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How ocean pollution affects humans [Infographic]

How ocean pollution affects humans How ocean pollution affects humans – Graphic by the team at DIVE.in

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

What you do on land can change the fate of what goes on off shore – and small changes in habits can have a large impact on improving our oceans.

1. KEEP YOUR SEWER DRAINS CLEAR

Prevent rubbish and chemicals from flowing into the sea.  Keeping your property’s drains clear is your responsibility.

2. DISPOSE OF PRODUCTS PROPERLY

Household cleaning products, batteries, paint and pesticides can threaten water quality.

3. REUSE AND RECYCLE

And opt for no packaging when possible. Carry a reusable water bottle, carry a cotton tote bag and recycle when possible.

4. PLANT AN ORGANIC GARDEN

Pesticides from gardens and lawns can wash into the ocean.

5. EAT SUSTAINABLY

Overfishing, loss of habitat and market demand has decreased fish populations. When shopping or dining out, choose seafood that is sustainably sourced.

6. RESPECT THE BEACH

Take your rubbish with you after a day at the beach, and don’t remove rocks and coral.

7. EXPLORE RESPONSIBLY

Next time you’re off on a dive, cruise or kayak – be mindful of the marine life around you. Find some eco-friendly tours and packages that will respect the marine environment.

FROM SUSTENANCE, NATURAL BEAUTY TO ECONOMICS – THE OCEAN PROVIDES PLENTY FOR THE HUMAN RACE. RESPECT THE OCEAN BY KEEPING IT CLEAN FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

If you liked this you’ll also love our great infographic on 50 Amazing Facts About The Ocean

SOURCES

WHAT’S WORTH SAVING IF NOT OUR OCEAN?

If nothing else, this gives us some perspective regarding our role on Earth. We are treating our oceans like our own private junkyard dumping thousands and thousands of tonnes waist straight in – and what will the result be? More dead ocean areas, no more marine life or what? What do you think will become of our oceans and what can we do to stop this?

TorbenLonneTorben Lonne @TorbenLonne

Chief-editor at DIVE.in @divein_news
Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand – and dived most of his life in most of the world.

Extinction Stalks Meat-Eating Carnivores

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Polar bears on thin ice near the North Pole, June 30, 2015 (Photo by Christopher Michel) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, June 7, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The African lion faces extinction by the year 2050, wildlife experts project, at risk due to indiscriminate killing in defense of human life and livestock, habitat loss, and prey base depletion from poaching and illicit trade.

While the number of tigers living in the wild this year increased by a few hundred to 3,890 animals, the first uptick in the global wild tiger population in 100 years, there are still more tigers in captivity in the USA alone than tigers surviving in the wild. Tigers face the same threats as lions, with the added threat of poaching for the Asian medicinal trade.

The most carnivorous species of bear, polar bears are newly threatened by pollutants and by the increase in resource exploration and development, ice-breaking and shipping in the Arctic, along with loss of sea ice brought on by the warming climate.

Other carnivores – jaguars, leopards, lynx, cheetahs, foxes, wolves, wolverines, civets, hyenas, mongooses, weasels – are also vanishing.

“It is well documented that we are facing the world’s sixth great extinction. And there is no doubt that this extinction event is caused by human activity across the globe,” says Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace, and IUCN Patron of Nature. “For many endangered species, the impacts of climate change, such as increases in extreme weather patterns and irregular seasonal changes, conversion of habitat, pollution, disease and trafficking, are just a few of the threats that impact their survival.”

While the decline of all animal species is of concern to Dr. Goodall, a new study confirms that the global conservation of carnivores is at greatest risk.

Published in the journal “Scientific Reports – Global priorities for national carnivore conservation under land use change,” the study models future global land conversion and estimates this will lead to range loss and conflict with local people in regions critical for the survival of these threatened apex predators.

The study, organized by researchers from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with an international team of conservation and land use change scientists, concludes that immediate action is needed.

Lead author Dr. Enrico Di Minin of University of Helsinki explains, “We assessed how expected land use change will affect priority areas for carnivore conservation in the future. The analysis revealed that carnivores will suffer considerable range losses in the future. Worryingly, it seems that the most important areas for carnivore conservation are located in areas where human-carnivore conflicts are likely to be most severe.”

Di Minin said, “Presently, South American, African, and South East Asian countries, as well as India, were found to contribute mostly to carnivore conservation. While some of the most charismatic species, such as the tiger and giant panda were found to be at high risk under future land use change, smaller, less charismatic species, with small ranges were found to be equally threatened by habitat loss.”

Lions once ranged from Northern Africa through Southwest Asia, where it disappeared from most countries within the last 150 years, west into Europe, where it became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, and east into India.

WildTigerPhotographers

Wild tiger and photographers in India’s Ranthambore National Park (Photo courtesy Girish Arora)

Tigers once lived across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years tigers have disappeared from southwest and central Asia, from two Indonesian islands, Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Tigers inhabit less than six percent of their historic range, with a 42 percent decline since 2006.

Dr. Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and a co-author of the paper, said, “Carnivores like big cats have been squeezed out of their ranges at alarming rates for decades now, and we can now see that habitat loss and its shock waves on wildlife are only on the rise.”

Hunter says part of the answer to the carnivore extinction crisis is money. “In order to protect our planet’s landscape guardians, a far greater financial investment from the international community is needed for range-wide conservation approaches, both within and outside of protected areas where carnivores roam,” he said.

Co-author Professor Rob Slotow from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa says another crucial part of the equation is reducing conflict with humans outside of protected areas.

“Most priorities for carnivore conservation are in areas in the global south where human populations are increasing in size, agriculture is intensifying, and human development needs are the highest,” Slotow said. “There is need to implement conservation strategies that promote tolerance for carnivores outside protected areas and focus on the benefits that people derive from these species.”

Carnivores include some of the most iconic species that help generate funding for biodiversity conservation and deliver important benefits to humans. Conservationists argue that protecting carnivores will conserve many other bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal species that live in priority areas for carnivore conservation.

To prevent the sixth mass extinction, humans need to understand the threats to biodiversity, where they occur and how quickly change is happening. We need reliable and accessible data, but a separate study published in the journal “Science” shows we are lacking key information on important threats to biodiversity, such as invasive species, logging, bush meat harvesting, and illegal wildlife trade.

Over the past two years a consortium of 18 organizations, including: the University of Helsinki, UNEP-WCMC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a research hub at WWF International, and BirdLife International, compiled global data on biodiversity threats.

They reviewed nearly 300 data sets and marked them on five attributes required for conservation assessments. Datasets should be freely available, up to date, repeated, at appropriate spatial resolution, and validated for accuracy. Only five percent of the datasets satisfied all five attributes.

“We were surprised that so few datasets met all of the five attributes we believe are required for a gold standard of data,” says Lucas Joppa, who leads environmental research at Microsoft and was lead author on the data study. “We live in the age of Big Data, but are effectively flying blind when it comes to understanding what is threatening biodiversity around the world.”

One thing is for certain, the value of environmental crime today is 26 percent larger than previous estimates, having grown to US$91-258 billion today compared to US$70-213 billion in 2014, according to a rapid response report published June 4 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the international police force INTERPOL.

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Lionskin rug covers a floor at Werribee Mansion near Melbourne, Australia, 2010 (Photo by Rexness) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Rise of Environmental Crime,” released ahead of World Environment Day, June 5, finds that weak laws and poorly funded security forces have been unable to prevent international criminal networks and armed rebels from profiting from a trade that fuels conflicts, devastates ecosystems and is threatening carnivores and other species with extinction.

“Environmental crime is growing at an alarming pace,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “The complexity of this type of criminality requires a multi-sector response underpinned by collaboration across borders. Through its global policing capabilities, INTERPOL is resolutely committed to working with its [190] member countries to combat the organized crime networks active in environmental crime.”

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is grateful for the police support, saying, “The rise of environmental crime across the world is deeply troubling. The vast sums of money generated from these despicable crimes are fueling insecurity and keeping highly sophisticated international criminal gangs in business. It is essential the world acts now to combat this growing menace before it is too late.”


 

 

 

EU Warns of Toxic Toys, Clothes

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Workers assemble children’s wear in a textile factory in Huzhou, China. Greenpeace tested the garments for hazardous residues of nonylphenol ethoxylates, phthalates, antimony and other toxics and found plenty of chemical risks. (Photo by Greenpeace International)

@Maximpactdotcom

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Buyers beware! The European Commission has published new figures showing that last year more than 2,000 dangerous products triggered EU-wide alerts. Coping with the threats involves stemming the rising tide of products bought online from outside the European Union.

In 2015, there were 2,072 alerts and 2,745 follow-up actions registered in the Rapid Alert system. Since 2003, the system ensures that information about dangerous non-food products withdrawn from the market and/or recalled anywhere in Europe is quickly circulated between Member States and the European Commission.

Last year, the most frequently notified risk – 25 percent of the total of all notifications – was chemical risk, in toys, clothing and jewelry.

Last year, toys (27 percent) and clothing, textiles and fashion items (17 percent) were the two main product categories for which corrective measures had to be taken. These were also the most notified products in 2014, but that year the risk of injuries, rather than chemical risk, was the most frequently notified.

The most frequent chemical risks notified in 2015 related to products such as fashion jewelry, contaminated with harmful heavy metals like nickel and lead, and toys containing phthalates – a family of industrial chemicals used to soften PVC plastic. Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes.

With 62 percent of the notified dangerous products coming from China, this country remains the number one country of origin in the alert system. It is the EU’s largest source of imports.

The Commission, EU Member States and businesses are working together to ensure that these unsafe consumer goods are removed from the European market.

Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, says she plans to go to China in June to advance cooperation with the Chinese authorities on product safety.

“Two challenges lie ahead of us: online sales bringing products directly to consumer’s houses through mail, and the strong presence of Chinese products signaled through the Rapid Alert system,” said the commissioner.

“The Rapid Alert system has helped coordinate quick reactions between consumer protection authorities to remove dangerous products across Europe,” she said.

This way, appropriate follow-up action, such as a ban on sales, withdrawal, recall or import rejection by Customs authorities, can be taken anywhere in the EU.

Thirty-one countries – the 28 EU Member States together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, currently participate in the system.

When one Member State posts an alert on the system, other countries can spot the product on their market and react to this initial alert.

Over 65 percent of Europeans buy products online and the number of online shoppers has grown by 27 percent between 2006 and 2015. A new challenge is now to address the online channel, which also brings products from outside the EU through mail into consumers’ households that may not have been subjected to safety verification.

The Commission is working on further improving the Rapid Alert system to include online purchases.

Collaboration with the Chinese authorities continues to be a priority for the EU and, more specifically, takes place within the Rapid Alert System China mechanism.

Each notification concerning a product of Chinese origin is sent to the Chinese administration, so that they address the issue with the manufacturer or exporter directly if these economic operators are traceable.

To date, China has followed up on as many as 11,540 notifications and has been able to take corrective measures in 3,748 cases. In many cases, tracing the source of the product remains difficult.


Featured image: Soft plastic toys are softened with phthlates, exposure to which can cause serious health problems. (Photo by bergerbot)

 

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)

Nonprofit Lawyers: It’s not an Oxymoron, It’s ELAW

ELAWlawyersBy Sunny Lewis

EUGENE, Oregon, October 19, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The nonprofit Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) is the go-to organization for 300+ lawyers in more than 70 countries who act as environmental defenders.

Based in an historic house in downtown Eugene, the ELAW Secretariat helps its partners around the world gain skills and build strong organizations of their own that will work to protect the environment for years to come.

ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson says, “Our work is better known in Jakarta or Mexico City or New Delhi than it is in Eugene.”

Since 10 lawyers started ELAW in 1989, the organization has offered the legal tools to help associates strengthen existing environmental laws, bring enforcement actions, critique proposed statutes, and replicate model laws.

These advocates rely on ELAW staff scientists to critique plans for proposed developments, develop systems to monitor environmental conditions, provide expert testimony, and recommend cleaner alternatives.

ELAW has hosted more than 100 lawyers for fellowships. They come to Eugene to gain language skills, tap legal and scientific resources, work closely with ELAW staff, and learn from U.S. efforts to protect communities and the environment.

Funded by donations from foundations and private citizens, ELAW has a budget for helping lawyers challenging injustice, who often face serious legal or other consequences for their advocacy.

 

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Clearing India’s Ganges River of Industrial Polluters

For 30 years, ELAW partners in India, led by the pioneering Goldman Prize winner M.C. Mehta, have fought to clean up the Ganges River. Contamination in the Ganges far exceeds World Health Organization standards.

A case that began in 2013 when ELAW partners Rahul Choudhary and Ritwick Dutta filed a suit in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against a single polluter in the town of Simbhaoli has mushroomed into a case against some 1,000 industrial polluters along the Ganges River in five states.

Last fall, the Supreme Court gave the NGT exclusive jurisdiction to clean up the Ganges, and the NGT responded by sending teams of inspectors to investigate each polluting industry.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik is reviewing inspection reports and helping partners identify which polluters are violating the law and harming the Ganges.

This approach is yielding results. More than 60 industries that had been operating without wastewater pollution controls have been closed, including dozens of tanneries in the notorious Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur.

Read a report from ELAW on Cleaning up the Ganges.

 

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Ukraine’s Rivers Dammed to Trickles

Remote rivers in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains are among the world’s most beautiful, but ELAW advocates allege that “corrupt investors” are “installing small hydropower projects that are reducing rivers to a trickle, stranding fish.”

More than 300 small hydropower projects are proposed for the region.

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel traveled to Verkhovyna in the Ivano-Frakivsk region in August to help Ukrainian partners protect the rivers.

Joining her were staff scientist Petro Testov and staff attorneys Marta Pankevych and Nataliia Kuts from ELAW’s partner organization, Environment-People-Law.

“What we saw was devastating,” Weiskel exclaimed. “Dams and pipes were siphoning most of the water out of rivers, leaving small fish ladders so poorly constructed that fish had no chance of survival. Sediment-filled water dumped by powerhouses compromised water quality for hundreds of meters downstream.”

The Carpathians are being destroyed, she says. “In the wake of the new roads servicing the dams and powerhouses, we saw illegal logging, fragmented landscapes, and the disruption of natural migration for many species.”

At a September 7 roundtable in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Environment-People-Law Executive Director Olena Kravchenko called for a moratorium on small hydropower “until the government, investors, and developers can meet strict criteria to protect the viability of this watershed.”

Globally, water pollution is getting worse as the population grows.

The United Nations says 80 percent of all sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into waterways. There is the legacy pollution of abandoned mines and drill sites, and polluting industries, such as leather and chemicals, seek to set up shop in emerging economies.

Read the UN report “Sick Waters? – The Central Role of Wastewater Management in Sustainable Development”

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Safeguarding Guatemala’s Clean Water

The Motagua River flows from Guatemala’s Western Highlands, gathering the waters of 29 other rivers as it runs to the Gulf of Honduras. But today it does not flow as cleanly as it has for centuries.

“Tons of domestic and industrial waste, untreated effluent, and sewage from urban and rural communities go right into the river,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu who toured the Motagua this summer. “The neglect and level of contamination is appalling.”

In Guatemala, an ELAW staff scientist is working with the Guatemalan organization Environmental and Water Law Alliance to raise awareness about Motagua River pollution and engage citizens and government authorities in conservation

“Cleaning up the Motagua is not just about protecting nature, it’s about giving local people dignity,” says Lu.

PeruOilCommunityMeeting

De-Oiling Peruvian Rivers

Since 2002 ELAW has helped advocates in Peru protect indigenous communities and rivers of the Peruvian Amazon – the Corrientes, the Tigre, the Pastaza, and the Marañón rivers – from toxic oil industry pollution.

In the early 1970s, multinational oil companies, such as Oxy and PlusPetrol, began drilling for oil in these watersheds. Many pipelines have ruptured and the companies have released contaminated by-products into the water.

The contamination has harmed Quechuea, Achuar, and Cocama Cocamilla indigenous communities, who rely on these rivers for clean water and fish.

The contamination in the four river basins has become so severe that Peruvian authorities declared an environmental emergency in September 2013.

Lu has been helping the indigenous federations in collaboration with PUINAMUDT, an umbrella organization formally named Observatorio Petrolero de la Amazonia Norte.

She has interpreted dozens of water quality reports containing evidence of how the Corrientes, Tigre, Pastaza, and Marañón rivers have been harmed by oil and gas activities and presented this evidence at workshops with community leaders and government representatives.

In April, after lengthy debate, the Peruvian Congress set aside US$50 million to clean up contamination in these watersheds and plan to prevent and respond to future spills.

Now Lu is helping ELAW’s Peruvian partners design and implement a health and toxicology assessment of the affected communities.

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Fuming Over Coal in Egypt’s Cement Industry

Egyptians are concerned that without citizen input their government is moving to allow multinational cement corporations to switch from clean burning gas to polluting coal-fired kilns.

The cement companies are facing lack of access to a reliable natural gas supply. The switch saves corporate dollars but threatens public health.

“Natural gas-fired cement plants do not emit any particulate matter or sulfur dioxide,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Chernaik. “By switching to coal, the plants will emit twice as much CO2 [carbon dioxide], and add particulates and SO2 [sulphur dioxide] on top.”

ELAW partners at the Habi Center for Environmental Rights say the plans by Lafarge and Suez Cement “violate the environmental rights of citizens, especially their right to health, healthy clean environment, right to information and participation.”

Habi and eight local organizations are demanding that the companies make public the environmental impacts of switching to coal.

Lafarge is experimenting with municipal waste as a fuel. There’s no access problem. Cairo produces 15,000 tons of municipal waste each day, while the El Sokhna Lafarge plant uses just 15-20 tons a day.

To ensure quality and regularity of supply, Lafarge involved the Zabbaleen, the local informal network who have sorted and resold Cairo’s recyclable waste for the past 80 years. A team of Zabbaleen people was hired and trained to collect, treat and recycle waste for Lafarge Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy agreed this month to assess the environmental impact of seven out of 19 cement companies that have conducted studies to use coal as an alternative source of energy.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: ELAW Logo
Header image: ELAW lawyers, partner advocates, scientists and staff at the 2015 ELAW Annual International Meeting, Yachats, Oregon, March 2015.  (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 01: Waterway in the Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur, India. (Photo by Mark Chernaik courtesy ELAW)
Image 02: One of the small hydropower dams being built in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 03: Children Washing Hands at School Handwashing Station in Pahuit, Guatemala photo by Cecilia Snyder photo courtesy Flicker – Water For People/Nancy Haws
Image 05:  Egyptian cement bags courtesy PEi

 

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

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By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

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In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

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Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)