Environmental Policy

Hearing on overturning NY fracking ban draws huge turnout
November 30, 2011 06:57 AM - Edward McAllister, Reuters, LOCH SHELDRAKE, New York

The final hearings on regulations that would end a ban on drilling for natural gas in New York state got under way on Tuesday in a packed auditorium at Sullivan County Community College. In a last chance for communities to voice their views for and against a controversial drilling technique called fracking, about 300 people turned up, many of whom were left in the rain as the house spilled above capacity. Advocates of fracking, which involves blasting chemical-laced water and sand into shale rock to release gas, told a rowdy, polarized audience that drilling would create jobs and boost New York's ailing economy. Those against blamed it for contaminating water wells and threatening the safety of local communities. Outside, signs read "Don't frack with our water" and "Jail the frackers". Others disagreed. "We fight wars and import oil to get resources that we have at home," said Edward Allees, 88, from Jeffersonville, New York. "What is so special about New York that we can't drill here?" New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, the largest U.S. deposit of natural gas, which also stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Kyoto Protocol a "Thing of the Past", says Canada
November 29, 2011 07:02 AM - David Ljunggren, Reuters, OTTAWA

Canada dismissed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change on Monday as a thing of the past, but declined to confirm a media report it will formally pull out of the international treaty before the end of this year. Although the Conservative government walked away from its Kyoto obligations years ago, a formal withdrawal would deal a symbolic blow to global talks to save the agreement, which opened in Durban, South Africa on Monday. Canada says it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations, including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets. Although Japan and Russia share Canada's view, and the United States never ratified Kyoto, no nation has yet formally renounced the treaty. "Kyoto is the past," Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters in Ottawa, describing the decision by Canada's previous Liberal government to sign on to the protocol as "one of the biggest blunders they made." The Conservatives - who green groups say are recklessly pushing development of the Alberta oil sands and ignoring the environment - complain the Liberals signed Kyoto and then did nothing to stop the country's emissions from soaring.

Can the Kyoto Protocol be saved?
November 28, 2011 06:36 AM - Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, DURBAN

Countries will make a last ditch effort to save a dying Kyoto Protocol at global climate talks starting on Monday aimed at cutting the greenhouse gas emissions blamed by scientists for rising sea levels, intense storms and crop failures. Kyoto, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, commits most developed states to binding emissions targets. The talks are the last chance to set another round of targets before the first commitment period ends in 2012. Major parties have been at loggerheads for years, warnings of climate disaster are becoming more dire and diplomats worry whether host South Africa is up to the challenge of brokering the tough discussions among nearly 200 countries that run from Monday to December 9 in the coastal city of Durban. There is hope for a deal to help developing countries most hurt by global warming and a stop-gap measure to save the protocol. There is also a chance advanced economies responsible for most emissions will pledge deeper cuts at the talks known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP 17.

Australia setting up world's largest marine preserve
November 25, 2011 08:32 AM - Reuters, CANBERRA

Australia moved to set up the world's biggest marine park on Friday to protect vast areas of the Coral Sea off the country's northeast coast and the site of fierce naval battles during World War Two. Environment Minister Tony Burke said the park would cover almost 1 million square km -- an area the size of France and Germany combined -- and would help protect fish, pristine coral reefs and nesting sites for sea birds and the green turtle. "The environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its diverse array of coral reefs, sandy cays, deep sea plains and canyons," Burke said. "It contains more than 20 outstanding examples of isolated tropical reefs, sandy cays and islands." The new park would also cover ships sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea, a series of naval engagements between Japanese, American and Australian forces in 1942, considered the world's first aircraft carrier battle.

Air pollution costs Europe billions
November 24, 2011 08:39 AM - Christopher Le Coq, Reuters, BRUSSELS

Air pollution caused more than 100 billion euros ($134.95 billion) in health and environmental damage, highlighting the need for more renewables sources of energy, a report published on Thursday by the European Environment Agency found. Europe's 10,000 largest factories and energy facilities resulted in 102-169 billion euros in health issues, such as respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and environmental costs because of air pollution in 2009, the most recent available data. Per citizen, the cost was between 200-300 euros. "This analysis shows the significant impact of fossil-fueled power stations and the very high costs they impose on people's health and the environment, making the case for introducing cleaner types of energy even more urgent," European Environment Agency Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said in a statement. The power generation sector was the biggest contributor of damage costs, with 66-112 billion euros, the study showed. It covered the EU 27 member states as well as Norway and Switzerland. A small number of facilities, 622 or 6 percent of the total number, represented 75 percent of the total damage costs resulting from air pollutants, such as heavy metals, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide greenhouse gases.

UN Climate Chief warns Science, not politics must drive Durban climate talks
November 23, 2011 06:52 AM - Frank Jack Daniel, Reuters, NEW DELHI

Global climate talks need to focus on the growing threat from extreme weather and shift away from political squabbles that hobble progress toward a tougher pact to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the U.N. climate panel said. Negotiators from nearly 200 countries meet in Durban, South Africa, on Monday for two-week talks, with minimal expectations of major progress toward an agreement that will eventually bind all major economies to emissions caps. Rajendra Pachauri warned the latest round of talks risked being bogged down by "short-term and narrow political considerations." "It is absolutely essential that the negotiators get a continuous and repeated exposure to the science of climate change," Pachauri told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday. "If we were to do that it will definitely have an impact on the quality and outcome of the negotiations, after all these are human beings, they have families, they are people also worried about what is going to happen to the next generations."

The Chevrolet Carbon Stories, Part 3 Metrolina Greenhouse
November 22, 2011 04:50 PM - R Greenway, ENN

It's no secret that all buildings, whether residential or business, need energy for heat. No building is a better example than a greenhouse, which traditionally uses fossil fuels to create enough heat to grow plants. That's a lot of energy expended. But what if we can substitute fossil fuel for biomass, especially waste wood or tree trimmings / waste from forests in place of fossil fuels? As part of its Carbon Reduction Initiative, Chevrolet is supporting Metrolina Greenhouse in North Carolina. Metrolina grows over 70 million plants a year and is one of four greenhouse projects from the same developer that is utilizing biomass burners for heating the greenhouse instead of fossil fuel burners. The greenhouses grow plant materials that are shipped all over the U.S. The biomass fuel is mostly wood that would otherwise be destined for the landfill, or low value wood from forest thinnings. This type of biomass meets the United Nation's Clean Development Mechanism’s "Definition of Renewable Biomass." This project will reduce fossil fuel consumption, divert waste from landfills and improve the quality of air for the community surrounding it.

Economic woes no excuse for climate inaction, says China
November 22, 2011 07:15 AM - David Stanway, Reuters, BEIJING

Economic problems in Europe and elsewhere should not get in the way of a new pact to fight global warming, China's top climate official said on Tuesday ahead of major climate talks in South Africa. Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet from Monday till Dec 9 in Durban as part of marathon U.N.-led negotiations on a broader pact to curb growing greenhouse gas emissions as the world faces rising sea levels and greater weather extremes. "After the financial crisis, every country has had its problems, but these problems are just temporary," Xie Zhenhua, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters on Tuesday. Officials in Beijing have suggested economic turmoil in Europe and political unrest in North Africa have pushed climate change far down the list of global priorities, overshadowing next week's talks and undermining plans to provide cash and technical support to poor nations to adapt to climate change.

Markets drive conservation in Central Africa
November 21, 2011 08:39 AM - Editor, World Wildlife Fund

Madrid, Spain — Certification has shown that commercial forestry can co-exist with conservation objectives in the Congo Basin, according to conclusions reached at an international seminar "Forest management as a tool for cooperation and rural development in Central Africa", organized yesterday in Madrid by WWF/Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain.

African nations show leadership for action against climate change
November 21, 2011 06:29 AM - Katy Migiro, Reuters, NAIROBI

Africa is leading the push for clean energy policy-making as climate change turns millions of its people into "food refugees," the head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Achim Steiner said. "On the African continent, there is sometimes more leadership being shown by countries, by governments, than we see in some of the industrialized nations," Steiner told Reuters. "Kenya is currently doubling its energy and electricity generating infrastructure largely using renewables. These are policies that are pioneering, that are innovative," he said. Kenya generates most of its energy from hydroelectric dams but water levels have fallen due to recurring drought. It is now investing heavily in geothermal and wind power. The African Development Bank is financing Africa's biggest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana, one of the windiest places on Earth. The $819-million project aims to produce 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, boosting Kenya's energy supply by 30 percent.

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