Environmental Policy

Charting a new environmental course in China
May 22, 2012 09:41 AM - Mark Szotek, MONGABAY.COM

Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works in more than 30 countries and has projects in all 50 of the United States. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 119 million acres of wild-lands and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. TNC has taken an active interest in China, the world's most populated nation, and in many important ways, a critical center of global development. The following is an interview with multiple directors of The Nature Conservancy's China Program. Mongabay: Please tell our readers about the background and history of The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) work in China. Zhang Shuang, Director of TNC China Program: Though TNC is a big international organization, we started small in China, in the critically important Northwest corner of the province of Yunnan. We were invited by the Yunnan provincial government to help them complete a regional conservation plan. That was in 1998. We still operate a number of projects in Yunnan but now have also expanded site work into Sichuan, Inner Mongolia, and the Yangtze River Basin. While the opportunities and need for addressing environmental challenges in China are enormous, we still try to focus our work on select areas, where we can really have an impact. This includes addressing climate change (through restoring forests and creating adaptation strategies), introducing new models of protected areas while strengthening existing conservation landscapes, and minimizing the impact of hydropower and other development in the Yangtze River Basin, China's heartland.

Why the best world-changing ideas begin in your neighborhood
May 22, 2012 09:31 AM - John-Paul Flintoff, Ecologist

Your ideas for changing the world may be desperately important. But if you can't find a way to engage the interests of the people around you they may never take off, argues John-Paul Flintoff. The environmental movement has often been guilty of making people despondent, either by talking about 'problems' in a way that makes listeners feel powerless, or by presenting solutions as miserable duties. It needn't be that way. Instead, we could try to make doing the right thing appealing, rather than merely necessary - and one way to do that is to offer people a chance to say hello to their neighbours.

Charcoal for African Cookstoves, What's the Story?
May 21, 2012 07:10 AM - Jen Boynton, Triple Pundit

You may have seen pictures of women in Africa cooking their daily meals on a small cookstove. These cooking implements look remarkably similar to the portable charcoal grills an American family might bring to the beach for an afternoon of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Imagine using one of these at your kitchen table to prepare nearly every meal of your life. In Mozambique (a coastal nation in Southwest Africa, just north of South Africa), the average lifespan is 47 years, the average income is $1 per day — minimum wage is a little more than double that, but high unemployment cuts the average in half. Charcoal is the cooking element of choice. Among market shoppers and sellers we met, charcoal was deemed to be the best cooking option because it is easily available and "not dangerous."

Paper or Plastic?
May 18, 2012 06:49 AM - Lilia Casanova, SciDevNet

Cities in a number of Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan, are currently on the warpath against plastic shopping bags. The cities have passed local laws that ban such bags, on the basis that they clog sewers and drainage canals, cause street flooding, choke animals and are responsible for other forms of environmental damage. China and Taiwan, for example, impose heavy fines on violators. Other countries are appealing for a switch to the production and use of biodegradable bags. But this misses the point. People do not object to using biodegradable bags, and consider them a welcome return to the traditional practice of using shopping baskets and bags made from locally available materials — such as jute, abaca and cloth — that are less harmful to the environment.

Cars That Run on Natural Gas - Alternative Fuels
May 17, 2012 12:34 PM - Dale Cooper

Find out how an alternative fuel used all over the world may find its way into American vehicles. Natural gas is abundant, clean and already a part of our everyday lives—and it may be the next big alternative fuel. In the world of alternative fuels, electric, hydrogen and even hybrid vehicles get most of the attention. Not many people are aware of another alternative automotive fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline, is found abundantly in the United States and is already in heavy use around the world: natural gas. Natural gas is by no means a new fuel; it’s been used to heat homes and cook food in gas stoves for more than a century. But only recently have automotive technicians begun exploring the possibility of using natural gas as an alternative to gasoline in automobiles here in the United States. When used in automobiles, natural gas comes in two forms: Compressed natural gas (CNG) Liquefied natural gas (LNG) Both forms require storage in cylinders that are often located in the trunk of the vehicle. When being burned by an engine, natural gas works very similarly to gasoline; vehicles that run on natural gas will have spark plug timing and compression optimized for that type of fuel.

European Agricultural Ministers look to backtrack on Farm Carbon Program
May 17, 2012 06:29 AM - Editor

Conservation groups have condemned a move by European agricultural ministers to tone down some of the most controversial environmental proposals in the next phase of the EU's farm support programme. Agricultural and fisheries ministers from the 27 EU countries called yesterday (15 May) for replacing conservation measures recommended by the European Commission with a more flexible system. The decision was not a surprise — ministers have indicated in the past that there was little political appetite for creating requirements in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that tie direct payments to farmers to measures aimed at cutting carbon emissions and reducing other pollutants.

U.S. Military Not Retreating on Clean Energy
May 16, 2012 08:06 AM - John Gartner, Matter Network

While many government officials nervously await the outcome of the November elections and speculate as to its implications for the cleantech sector, one federal department is likely to be relatively unaffected regardless of the outcome: Defense. According to panelists at the recent "Mission Critical: Clean Energy and the U.S. Military" event in Denver, the military's growing commitment to reducing its use of fossil fuel, for both national security and economic reasons, will not waver regardless of who's in charge in the White House or the Congress.

European Airlines provide early data on carbon emissions, show slight reduction
May 16, 2012 07:42 AM - Staff, ClickGreen

Airlines operating in and out of European airports have complied with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and handed over data despite the refusal of carriers from China and India. The airlines have provided emission information ahead of the introduction of mandatory reporting. And according to the latest information provided by Member State registries released today, emissions of greenhouse gases from all installations participating in the ETS decreased by more than 2% last year.

Wind, Solar...Coconuts: Small Island Developing States Commit to Renewable, Sustainable Energy for All
May 15, 2012 03:20 PM - Andrew Burger, Global Warming is Real

Typically heavily reliant on the cost of high and volatile diesel and fossil fuel imports, small island developing states are also on the front line when it comes to having to cope with climate change. Now they're realizing there's a lot in the way of cleaner, more efficient and less costly power and fuel resources right at home. They're increasingly, if belatedly, establishing ambitious renewable energy programs and setting aggressive targets to employ local renewable energy resources to reduce CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, working with a range of international development agencies, public and private sector partners domestic and foreign, in doing so.

Africa may struggle to extract groundwater, experts say
May 15, 2012 01:10 PM - Hichem Boumedjout, SciDevNet

Vast groundwater resources have been revealed in Africa by the first continent-wide quantitative maps. But the resources may not be easily accessible because of political and technical challenges and costs, say experts.

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