The environment in the news

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ROAP Media Update 18 September 2006

UN or UNEP in the news

Investors wage on potential H20 crisis

TVNZ, New Zealand, Sep 18, 2006


Investors who have seen energy prices rocket due to scarce supplies are starting to wager that forecasted shortages will cause the value of water to skyrocket, offering big gains to companies active in the sector.
Unlike globally traded commodities like oil, gold or wheat, water tends to be priced locally by authorities who provide it as a public good, generally drawing from nearby sources such as lakes or river basins.
"Water is not treated like oil because you usually do not transport it over very long distances," said Wolfgang Grabs, who heads the water resources division of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the United Nations weather agency.
In the absence of a futures market in water, speculators have bought shares in utilities and water-related companies such as Waste Management , ITT Corp. , American States Water and Suez , expecting them to profit from intensified efforts to tackle water scarcity.
Investors can also track stock market water indices like the Dow Jones U.S. Water Index , the International Securities Exchange ISE-B&S Water Index and the Palisades Water Index .
Philippe Rohner, who manages a 1.7 billion euro ($NZ3.24 billion) water equity fund for the Swiss bank Pictet , said water had been "essentially overlooked" during the recent commodities boom, despite clear warnings over shortages that would require sizeable investments to overcome.
"It is an industry that requires capital, and where the returns can be quite attractive for investors in equities," he said in a recent interview at Pictet's Geneva headquarters.
Major investments
According to United Nations estimates, one third of the world's population lives in areas with water shortages and 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water.

Climate change has also provoked more frequent and intense droughts in sub-tropical areas of Asia and Africa, exacerbating shortages in some of the world's poorest countries.

The WMO's Grabs said big investments will be required to improve the way households, manufacturers and farmers use water.
Without substantial changes, he said "hot spots" for water scarcity - including parts of the United States, Spain, China, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Namibia, Botswana, and elsewhere - will stretch existing water resources to the limit.
From a financial perspective, this could translate into more business for the companies that maintain, fix and improve water pipelines and storage systems, as well as specialists in dams, irrigation and desalination technologies.
The price of fresh water - which the bank Pictet has estimated at 0.2% its equivalent volume in crude oil - may also need to rise to discourage waste, Grabs said.
"We may need to find a better water pricing system to make people conscious of the value of water," he said.
"One of the inevitable consequence of water scarcity is that its price in monetary terms will go up," said Achim Steiner, executive director at the United Nations Environment Programme. South Africa's tariff system may be a model for other countries, because it is designed to discourage heavy water use but guarantee minimum supplies for the poor, he said.
Some countries may also need to stop making water-intensive products like cotton, steel, paper and cement and instead import these goods from countries with more plentiful water resources.
Others could be forced to restrict agricultural activity or stop using energy from water-demanding sources such as nuclear power to ensure household and other priority needs are met.
Those living in poor nations are likely to be squeezed most by any shift toward more expensive water, Grabs said, as they have the least scope to cut already low water consumption.
"The biggest competition will be in countries where agricultural production for food security is directly in competition with other areas," he said.

China and "Montreal Protocol"

China Radio International, China - Sep 15, 2006


For the past 10 years, China has been actively involved in various international programs to protect the ozone layer. China sent representatives to participate as part of the ozone protection team sign the "Protocol" in 1986 and 1987. In 1989, China joined the "Pact" formally, and put forward a document titled "Regarding Establishment of Ozonosphere Protection Multi-border Foundation" at the fist treaty meeting. In 1990, China took part in the modification of the "Protocol" with other countries. China joined to amend the London "Protocol" in 1991 and set up the China Ozonosphere Protection Leader Committee that is responsible for the implementation of the "Protocol" in 1991. China initially composed the "National Scheme of Gradual Elimination of Ozone Consuming Substances" that was approved by the State Council and the Multi-border Foundation Executive Committee in early 1993. In 1994, the "Complementary Scheme of Gradual Elimination of Ozone Consuming Substances in Cigarette Industry" was composed. China constructed strategic research of controlled substances of 8 industries--- aerosol, foam, home appliances, industry refrigeration, auto air conditioning, Halon -CF3CHFCF3 fire extinguishers, electronic parts cleaning and controlled substance manufacturing. The research has been approved by the Multi-border Foundation Executive Committee.
Until now, China has applied for and been approved to build 156 projects and has acquired $105 million USD from the Multi-border Fund through four executive organizations including the World Bank, UNDP, UNIDO and UNEP. The United States, Canada, Germany, and Denmark have also been contributing partners. Once the projects are completed, 31.8 thousand tons of controlled substances will be eliminated (calculated according to potential consumption of ozonosphere).

Environmental surveys in Mathiveri and Mahibadhoo

Haveeru Daily - Male', Maldives, 17 September 2006


Surveys were conducted in Alifu Alifu atoll Mathiveri and Alifu Dhaalu atoll Mahibadhoo to determine the extent of diesel contamination.

The Environment Research Centre revealed in a press release that the survey was a joint effort carried out with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The survey was made after the discovery of large contaminated areas in the islands.

Soil samples were taken from the contaminated areas to study the extent the waters lens of both islands have been contaminated. The survey was conducted from the 10th to the 13th of this month. Laboratory analysis is currently in progress.

In the ERC’s press release, they said that they would conclude the extent of damage and determine the treatment required based on the final reports of the analysis. They also said that they were considering conducting surveys in other islands as well.

Illegal Logging Costing Nations Billions - World Bank

Planet Ark


SINGAPORE: September 18, 2006

SINGAPORE - Illegal logging is threatening the livelihoods of millions of the world's poor, robbing governments of billions of dollars in revenue and undermining legitimate logging businesses, the World Bank said on Saturday.

In developing countries, illegal logging of public lands alone causes estimated losses in assets and revenue in excess of $10 billion a year, the Bank said in a report released on the sidelines of the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore.

A further $5 billion in revenue was lost each year through tax evasion and loss of royalties on legal logging.

Katherine Sierra, the Bank's vice president for sustainable development, said nearly a fifth of humanity was dependent on forests for some part of their livelihoods.
Better law enforcement and land management were essential to protect their futures and lift them out of poverty, she said on Saturday.
"Forests are a global public good, and their degradation imposes global costs such as climate change and species loss," said the report.
"Despite the magnitude of the problem, there are few instances of prosecution and punishment," the report said. "In fact, if there are prosecutions it is the poor, looking to supplement their meagre livelihoods, who are victimised and sent to jail. Large-scale operators continue with impunity."
It said illicit cash from illegal logging needed to be targetted and that anti-money laundering and asset forfeiture laws were important tools to fight forest clearing, corruption and organised crime.
The report includes estimates of illegal logging rates as a percentage of total production in 17 countries, from Bolivia to Myanmar and Vietnam.
Approximately two-thirds of those countries have illegal logging rates of at least 50 percent. In Indonesia, between 70 and 80 percent of all logging was illegal, in Bolivia it was 80 percent, while in Cambodia it was estimated at 90 percent.
Law enforcement in Indonesia, where large areas of tropical forests are being destroyed each year, was a particular problem, the report said.
Indonesian investigators had limited capacity to collect evidence and press for prosecution because they had insufficient understanding about recent forest laws and sanctions, court procedures and forest crimes.
Such work was also dangerous.
"There have been numerous cases where forest police, park rangers, and members of NGOs have been injured or killed for attempting to suppress illegal timber theft," the report said.
The report also highlighted China's huge appetite for timber, with imports rising from US$6 billion in 1996 to US$16 billion in 2005. The timber came principally from Russia's far east, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Thailand.
"It is feared that the Chinese demand, which does not currently distinguish between legally and illegally produced timber for imports, is escalating the problem of illegal logging," the report said.
China has denied it is plundering the world's forests to feed exports to the West but many conservation groups dispute this.
While the fate of the world's forests looks bleak, the Bank said that in recent years, illegal logging had shifted from an almost taboo subject to now being part of an open dialogue between governments on sustainable forest management.
Underscoring this, officials launched the G8 Illegal Logging Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday that comprises lawmakers from G8 nations, plus China, India and other top timber producting nations, along with timber companies and NGOs.
The dialogue aims to agree on a practical plan of action to address illegal logging and will present a set of recommendations to the G8 in 2008.

Critics Call World Bank Energy Scheme Misguided

Planet Ark


SINGAPORE: September 18, 2006

SINGAPORE - A World Bank scheme to bring electricity to the world's poor is short-sighted and won't curb climate change or help the people it's aimed at, environmental groups said on Sunday.

The Bank released a progress report on Sunday looking at ways to fund cleaner energy projects in some of the world's poorest regions and drive economic growth in those areas.

The report, entitled Investment Framework on Clean Energy and Development, says an estimated 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity.

Environmental groups said the Bank was missing a huge opportunity to promote the use of renewable energy by instead backing conventional fossil-fuel based generation.
"We certainly agree that renewable energy is a very good way to reduce energy poverty," said Peter Bosshard of International Rivers Network. "We just wonder why the World Bank doesn't do more of it," he said in Singapore.
The idea of fresh cash for cleaner energy was first raised in April by British finance minister Gordon Brown, who called for a seed fund of $20 billion for alternative energy.
The World Bank has now prepared a draft of two proposed funds and these are being presented to its members in Singapore during the IMF-World Bank meetings that end on Sept. 20.
The Clean Energy Financing Vehicle proposal consists of low-interest loans and the Clean Energy Support Fund grants.
The proposed Clean Energy Financing Vehicle calls for an initial capitalization of $10 billion and both ideas endorse low-carbon technologies and carbon emission reductions.
The World Bank says it has invested $1.4 billion, or nearly three times as much as planned, in energy efficiency and renewable energy since 2004.
Green groups said the Bank should do more and issued their own report on Sunday in response to the global body's draft energy framework.
"The Bank continues to invest $2 billion and $3 billion a year in greenhouse gas-producing energy projects, which fuel climate change and fail to help the world's poor," said the report, which is backed by groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Institute for Policy Studies.
"Financing for renewable energy projects makes up less than 5 percent of the Bank's overall energy financing in fiscal year 2005," it added.
That placed the Bank in a confusing position, one activist said.
"You can't actively subsidise fossil fuels and effectively fight climate change at the same time. The institution is working at cross purposes with itself," said Graham Saul of Oil Change International.
But Jamal Saghir, the Bank's director of Water and Energy, believes the world will still be heavily reliant on fossil fuels for energy for decades to come and that the Bank's energy framework was practical and the way to cut poverty.
"In South Asia, 670 million people don't have access to electricity," he said on Sunday during a panel discussion. In sub-Saharan Africa, it was more than 500 million.
"In Sub-Saharan Africa, basically we see stagnation. The annual rate of connection is less than one percent."
He pointed to the importance of providing reliable electricity supplies to clinics, schools and businesses to reduce poverty and to do this, further funding and attracting private sector cash were crucial.
Even cleaner energy for cooking could improve people's lives he said, adding that indoor air pollution caused by use of wood and other biomass for cooking was responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths a year. (Additional reporting by Gilbert Le Gras in Singapore)

Story by David Fogarty

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