Saturday, February 28, 2004
Pentagon report on Abrupt Climate ChangeYou might like to read the US Pentagon's recent report entitled An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, which concludes:
It is quite plausible that within a decade the evidence of an imminent abrupt climate shift may become clear and reliable. It is also possible that our models will better enable us to predict the consequences. In that event the United States will need to take urgent action to prevent and mitigate some of the most significant impacts. Diplomatic action will be needed to minimize the likelihood of conflict in the most impacted areas, especially in the Caribbean and Asia. However, large population movements in this scenario are inevitable. Learning how to manage those populations, border tensions that arise and the resulting refugees will be critical. New forms of security agreements dealing specifically with energy, food and water will also be needed. In short, while the US itself will be relatively better off and with more adaptive capacity, it will find itself in a world where Europe will be struggling internally, large number so refugees washing up on its shores and Asia in serious crisis over food and water. Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life.
Posted 8:28 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Bush administration's environmental recordIn the US, the Natural Resources Defense Council has put together a detailed summary of the Bush administration's record when it comes to favouring short-term economic growth over long-term environmental health...
The attacks on hard-won environmental protection are wide-ranging + profound, and (to be frank!) difficult to believe...
I'll therefore let Bush's record on Air, Energy + Global Warming, Wildlands + Wildlife, Water + Oceans, Toxic Chemicals + Health, Nuclear Weapons + Waste and Other Issues speak for itself...
Read it and weep!
Posted 8:26 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Climate change could kill Great Barrier Reef by 2100A report, Implications of Climate Change for Australia's Great Barrier Reef, written for WWF Australia and the Queensland Tourism Industry Council has revealed that the long-term prospects for the Reef are bleak...
Under a best case scenario, global temperatures will increase by less than 2°C and, though seriously reduced in size by 2100, the Reef will slowly recover as the climate stabilises again - over the next century.
Under the worst case scenario, coral populations will collapse by 2100 and the re-establishment of coral reefs will be highly unlikely over the following 200-500 years...
Strong action to increase the reef's resilience, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions today, is therefore recommended in order to secure the future economic + environmental wealth of Australia.
Only if global average temperature change is kept to below 2°C can the Reef have any chance of recovering from the predicted damage.
The report highlights that this can best be achieved by replacing oil + coal-based energy with clean, renewable energy sources.
As things stand, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of 1200 international climate scientists, has predicted that the mean global temperature will increase by between 1.4 and 5.8°C by 2100... although it should be noted that the lower increase is based on us doing absolutely everything within our power to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, without delay.
This is of course not happening at present!
Posted 7:14 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Friday, February 27, 2004
Giant tortoises held hostage by fishermenThirty research staff + an unknown number of giant tortoises are being held hostage by fisherman at the Charles Darwin Research Centre on the Galapagos Islands.
The fishermen are unhappy that they are not allowed to fish for sharks using long lines, and that large cruise ships can no longer dock on the islands.
Environmental campaigners are urging the Ecuadorian government not to cave into this pressure...
Posted 5:23 p.m. by Matt Prescott
"Environment News" weblog establishedEarth-Info.Net has established a sister weblog called Environment News.
The new weblog offers direct links to daily news stories, from a wide selection of respected media organisations, and can be reached via the Latest News! link at the top of this page (above the picture of the globe).
The selection of stories is based on email alerts distributed by EarthWire - a service sponsored by the UNEP, Norway's Grid Arendal + the UK's DEFRA.
Any feedback you have would be most welcome...
Posted 4:59 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Commission for Africa to tackle "scar on the world's conscience"Prime Minister Tony Blair is to establish an international commission to propose solutions to Africa's problems and has pledged to make the fight against poverty an "absolute priority".
The commission, will consist of British politicians Tony Blair, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown and International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, activist Bob Geldof, as well as Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi + South African finance minister Trevor Manuel who will together deliver their comprehensive review by spring 2005, just before the UK takes over presidency of the G8.
DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), an organisation that campaigns on debt cancellation, trade reform and raising money to fight AIDS + poverty in Africa said "This is a bold and exciting move from the Prime Minister and puts Africa at the top of the international agenda where it desperately needs to be"
Unfortunately, it has already been acknowledged the commission wasn't guaranteeing to plug the emerging aid funding deficit, ease Africa's enormous debt obligations or create equitable trade rules - all seen as key to making the continent a competitive economic force.
It can only be hoped that this commission will not degenerate into being another talking shop as, Africa is poorer than it was 25 years ago, many of the UN's recent Millennium Development Goals show few signs of being achieved + ever since Willy Brandt's 1980 report North-South: A Programme for Survival, it has been argued that the rich north should help countries in the poor southern hemisphere.
Posted 11:05 a.m. by Matt Prescott
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Greenpeace blockade prevents illegally felled trees leaving KalimantanA blockade by Greenpeace's flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has resulted in the Indonesian navy escorting into international water a ship (owned by the Vietnamese government) which was attempting to load a cargo of illegally felled trees.
Find out more by visiting the live weblog being produced on the Rainbow Warrior.
Posted 9:45 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
BBC wins international environment prize for its reportingThe BBC has won the world's richest environment prize, the Zayed Prize, in recognition of its outstanding coverage of environment + sustainable development issues.
Programmes cited by the judges awarding the Zayed Prize include BBC World's one-to-one interview show, Hard Talk, which has developed an effective way of grilling those in position of authority as to why they are not doing their job and the Earth Report (produced in partnership with TVE) which specialises in taking complex issues such as child development, primary health, poverty or desertification, and translating them into mainstream TV programmes. Last but not least, there is the lifelong output of the BBC's Sir David Attenborough, which has brought the beauty + majesty of the natural world into the living rooms and minds of hundreds of millions of people...
This award is richly deserved, and is in part due to the exceptional efforts of a small core of environment correspondents, as well as their support staff + editors. In Earth-Info.Net's opinion some of the environment correspondents who deserve a special mention include:
* Alex Kirby, whose work first came to my attention while I was producing the www.earthsummit.info in the run up the UN's Johannesburg World Summit. In particular, Alex's "Disposable Planet" reports, which were compelling, clear + helped to expose the problems we face, as well as some of their potential solutions. It also happened to be about the best written coverage in the English speaking world, and certainly better than anything produced by the US media, who more-or-less ignored the entire event!
* Roger Harrabin is a radio correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Roger has established a formidable reputation for being able to tell the most worthy of stories in a dynamic + accessible way and of exposing the human cost of corruption, environment degradation + resource depletion, as perhaps exemplified by the Costing the Earth series, which he also helped to found.
Other correspondents who deserve a mention include Tim Hirsch + Jonathan Kent.
However, in the end, none of it would be possible without the BBC, the way it is funded + it's editorial standards... and this is why this recognition is so well deserved.
Posted 9:36 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Supermarket watchdog called for...Earth-Info.Net doesn't usually post entire press releases but the following one from Friends of the Earth is hard to improve + the details are interesting...
The Office of Fair Trading's (OFT) long awaited review of the Supermarkets Code of Practice, published today  is a blow to farmers and other suppliers hoping for action to give them greater protection from the bully behaviour of the big supermarkets.
 The Alliance: Banana Link, British Independent Fruit Growers Association, FARM, Farmers for Action, Farmers Link, Friends of the Earth, Grassroots Action for Food and Farming, IIED, National Federation of Women's Institutes, New Economics Foundation, Pesticide Action Network-UK, Soil Association, Small and Family Farms Alliance, WyeCycle.
 'No Cracking under the code' the Grocer 7 September 2002
Posted 4:59 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Making Gloablisation Work For AllA conference organised by the UK Treasury, to discuss "Making Globalisation Work For All", has heard speeches by Bono, Gordon Brown MP ( Chancellor of the Exchequer), James Wolfensohn (President of the World Bank), President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Hilary Benn MP (Secretary of State for International Development), Lord Carey (Former Archbishop of Canterbury) + Cardinal Cormac.
Key themes of the conference have included the need to broaden definitions of terrorism + failed states, and ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are adequately financed.
Interestingly, with the UK due to host the G8 and take over the Presidency of the EU in 2005, Gordon Brown is calling on rich countries to double their annual contributions to international development, and to help establish an International Finance Facility, which will work in the following way:
The Facility would be built on long-term donor commitments to make 'streams' of annual payments to the IFF, earmarked for specific countries.
Posted 4:16 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Monday, February 16, 2004
Export Credit Agencies and CorruptionA new report written by Dr Susan Hawley of The Corner House entitled Underwriting Bribery: Export Credit Agencies and Corruption highlights the hypocrisy of many of the developed world's demands for anti-corruption measures to be tightened in the developing world. This is especially the case while the same level of scutiny is not being applied to the rich world's own backyard. Extracts from the press release include:
The international community is adamant that corruption must be stopped. It is demanding that poorer countries eradicate corruption if they want to be considered eligible for Western aid.
Posted 1:51 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Babirusa.Org weblog launchedEarth-Info.Net has established a weblog co-operative designed to enable conservation + development fieldworkers to publicise, in their own words, the reasons for their work, as well as the ups + downs they experience.
The first of the conservation weblogs, called Babirusa.Org, has been built for Dr. Lynn Clayton, an ecologist who studies a rare + unusual species of pig, called a Babirusa, in the forests of Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Lynn has been studying Babirusa for 15 years and, in partnership with many local organisations + people, has done a great deal to help protect + understand these little known + enigmatic animals.
I hope you'll find this new weblog of interest...
I think it is one of the first of its kind!
Further weblogs covering the wildmeat trade in Central Africa, the interactions between predators + people in South Africa and the pollination of Australian plants will hopefully also be online before too long...
Posted 2:04 p.m. by Matt Prescott
England's lowlands deterioratingA report produced by English Nature entitled State Of Nature: Lowlands - Future Landscapes For Wildlife has called for improvements in the environmental standards of farming, better water management, and measures to reduce the impact of alien species.
Key recommendations include:
* Investment in environmental management + wildlife recovery on farms
Improved protection of the landscape will, however, benefit wildlife, the economy as well as people's health and their sense of wellbeing...
Dr Keith Duff, English Nature’s Chief Scientist said: "We don’t have some romantic notion about recreating the past, but believe we must move forward to sustainable land management in a modern context. We call on everyone to work with us to develop an integrated and landscape-scale approach across the whole of England to deliver benefits for all."
Posted 2:03 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Rich countries need to spend more to protect the global environmentThe Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has said that the rich world's record on protecting the global environment is appalling and that $25bn a year more will be needed to establish a proper working system of protected areas for wildlife.
In 1992, 200 countries signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity which commits rich countries to helping to fund conservation in poorer ones, and joint work by the RSPB and Cambridge University has calculated that a global network of protected areas could deliver goods + services worth between $4400bn + $5200bn annually, yet internationally governments are failing to live up to their promises...
Alistair Gammell told BBC News Online: "It's appalling. All the rich countries are foot-dragging: they are not giving money for conservation.
"The UK is probably worse than most. It provides money through the Darwin Initiative, about £6m ($11.1m), and that's almost the end of it"
Mr. Gammell also stated that "There is not point having a protected area plan without the money to fund it. Decisive action must be taken by world leaders now to secure a future for global biodiversity and provide the resources to protect it, as well as an agreed means of tackling longer-term problems such as misguided economic policies and the destructive use of natural resources"
Posted 2:02 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Commission on Sustainable Development's programme of work...At its 11th session, the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development decided that its multi-year programme of work beyond 2003 would be organized on the basis of seven two-year cycles, with each cycle focusing on selected thematic clusters of issues...
In each cycle, the thematic clusters of issues will be addressed in an integrated manner, taking into account economic, social + environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The Commission agreed that the implementation process should cover all these issues equally and noted that the selection of some issues for a given cycle did not diminish the importance of the commitments undertaken with respect to the issues to be considered in future cycles.
The Commission further agreed that means of implementation should be addressed in every cycle and for every relevant issue, action and commitment, and drew up the following set of (highly ambitious, wide-ranging) priorities for the next few years...
2004/2005 Water, Sanitation +Human Settlements
2006/2007 Energy for Sustainable Development, Industrial Development, Air Pollution / Atmosphere + Climate Change
2008/2009 Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Drought, Desertification + Africa
Earth-Info.Net feels that the issues contained within each of these two years cycles will take many, many years to improve significantly, and that the failure to focus longer term global effort on simpler, more achievable priorities is a major weakness, as it dilutes effort on entrenched problems, builds in excuses for failure + repeatedly leaves important work unfinished.
Posted 1:57 p.m. by Matt Prescott
World changing stuff...A team blog called World Changing is doing a great job of discussing ideas + practical steps that will enable us to achieve a more sustainable way of life using approaches that are already available and can be implemented straight away provided that the determination is there...
It's a great approach, and a blog well worth visiting!
Recent posts include a synopsis of a Pentagon report on the potential consequences of abrupt climate change, the precautionary principle + the production of hydrogen from ethanol.
Posted 1:52 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Bretton Woods Project... latest news update releasedThe Bretton Woods Project has released its latest Update (No. 38) of news which contains the usual range of fascinating insights and comments on, and criticism of, World Bank + the International Monetary Fund activities...
One report includes the following, highly evocative description of the proceedings at a meeting organised by the UK Department for International Development, the World Bank, IMF + UNDP...
...in the second panel when Kamal Malhotra, Head of UNDP's International Trade Department, just off a snow-delayed flight from New York, ran into an implacable Hans Pieter Lankes, the IMF's trade chief. The jumper-clad Malhotra, his luggage apparently still somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, was first off the mark, asserting that "trade liberalisation follows, rather than precedes growth". He demanded that "the multilateral trading regime must shift to an enabling rather than disabling policy environment", and pointed to four conditions that must be met: trade should be seen as a means to human development and not an end in itself; a diversity of trade strategies should be encouraged; governments must have the right to protect institutions; and, finally, no country has the right to impose institutions on others. Malhotra closed with a call for "asymmetric rules, where the principles of reciprocity should be limited to the more developed."
Posted 1:38 p.m. by Matt Prescott
DTI slips out nuclear consultationThe following extract comes from a newsletter produced by Globe UK, an all-party sustainable development group based in the UK's Houses of Parliament, and outlines how the UK's Department for Trade and Industry plans to change the way that the UK's nuclear waste is disposed of, and to establish Nuclear Decommissioning Authority...
"On the day that saw the news dominated by the Hutton Report, the DTI released a consultation paper on proposals for dealing with intermediate level nuclear waste (ILW).
For further details see www.dti.gov.uk/nuclearcleanup
Posted 1:26 p.m. by Matt Prescott
NAO report: The Nuclear Liabilities of British Energy plcThe UK's National Audit Office, which independently scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament, has produced a damning report which highlights the conflicts of interest, hidden costs and risks to the taxpayer/energy market that resulted from the way British Energy (and its associated nuclear liabilities) were privatised in 1996.
Responding to the National Audit Office Report into British Energy, Malcolm Bruce MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow DTI Secretary, said:
"This report shows that British Energy continued to pay dividends that the company's performance could not justify. At the same time the DTI failed to realise the effect the new market for electricity would have on British Energy's profitability and the exposure of taxpayers to the company's nuclear liabilities.
Posted 1:26 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Illegal logs passing through Malaysian port unhinderedRoger Harrabin, the environment correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, has teamed up with the Environmental Investigation Agency + Telapak to expose how thousands of tonnes of illegally logged Ramin timber from Indonesia are being laundered through Malaysian ports on to world markets...
You can listen to Roger's undercover interview with a middle man in the smuggling trade here...
Today, a new report has also been released by the EIA + Telapak entitled “Profiting From Plunder”, which details how endangered ramin wood from Indonesia, which is banned from international trade, is smuggled from Sumatra by sea to the Malaysian port of Pasir Gudang, in the state of Johor Baru. There the sawn timber is dried and given false certificates of origin, before being loaded into containers and shipped to Hong Kong + Shanghai. Once in China most of the ramin is manufactured into finished products such as picture frames + pool cues and exported to markets including the US and Europe.
Approximately, 3.8 million hectares of Indonesia is illegally logged each year and the EIA believes that (with the assistance of endemic corruption) one man, nicknamed “Jambi Lee”, is able to control much of the trade.
Ironically, between Feb 9 and 20, Malaysia will be hosting a conference of the parties (COP 7) to the Convention on Biological Diversity which will be discussing ambitious targets to achieve significant reductions in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
Posted 11:16 a.m. by Matt Prescott
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Fair trade company annouces share issueCafe Direct the UK's largest fair trade hot drinks company is launching a public share issue designed to raise £5 million ($9.1 million).
At the moment world coffee prices are extremely low and many developing country farmers are being forced to sell their produce at a loss.
Cafe Direct is unusual, however, in that it agrees to pay farmers a guaranteed minimum price, which can be 2 or 3 times the market price, and ensures that a percentage of profits go into long-term invesment in the organisations of producer partners...
For those interested in buying shares, the minimum investment for those interested in buying shares is £300 and you can find out more about the share prospectus by visiting the Triodos Bank website.
Note: The International Federation for Alternative Trade's (IFAT) definition of Fairtrade is:
'Fairtrade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency + respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers. Fairtrade organisations are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.'The goals of Fairtrade are:
* To improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of producers by improving market access, strengthening the producer organisations, paying a better price and providing continuity in the trading relationship.
Posted 5:50 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Kofi Annan calls for world to refocus on fighting povertyAt the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations announced that he will be convening a meeting to refocus attention on the problems faced by the worlds poor, and find practical solutions to their plight.
Mr. Annan expressed frustration that the world's attention had been diverted away from tackling global poverty over the past couple of years, and expressed hope that efforts to make global trade more equitable could be relaunched following the collapse of talks at the recent World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
Posted 5:38 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Intensive farming is harming bird species acrosss EuropeA report produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) + Birdlife International has found that, over the past 25 years, intensive farming practices have reduced the number of bird species found in Europe by one third.
The RSPB says that:
"These declines have been severest in countries in north-west Europe. In the UK, for example, between 1970 and 1999, the skylark declined by 52%, the yellowhammer by 53% and the corn bunting by 88%."
Posted 5:00 p.m. by Matt Prescott
EnvironmentalSustainability.Info, Earth Blog + News FeedGlen Barry the editor of the excellent www.environmentalsustainability.info website has launched a discussion forum, called Earth Talk, which aims to stimulate, and host, discussions of issues relating to environmental sustainability, forests, the climate + water.
Earth-Info.Net whole-heartedly recommends a visit to this site, and wishes Glen well with his mighty endeavours... which incidentally also include the Earth Blog and a very good environmental news feed service.
Posted 4:13 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Report urges greater aid effectiveness + reduced use of emotive language in campaignsAuditors Valid International have said that, in 2002 and 2003, British non-governmental organisations overstated the severity of a famine affecting southern Africa and should look at ways to improve the effectiveness of the aid they provide to those in need, and of reducing the use of emotive language in fund-raising campaigns.
You can access the full report on the Disaster Emergency Committee's website.
Posted 4:01 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Viva news...Many thanks to those of you who wished me well during the build up to my PhD viva... You know who you are!
The good news is that my examiners were firm but fair, and that I rather perversely enjoyed the experience! The bad news is that I now need to make quite a few corrections - though fortunately nothing too serious or daunting.
Preparing for my viva, which tested and challenged everthing I had done for the past few years was a terrifying process, so the encouragement and kind words I received during the build up to my big day were, and are, very greatly appreciated.
For the next couple of months I will be concentrating on making the corrections that have been asked of me. I will continue to post my thoughts on the most interesting + important stories I come across, but hope you will understand if I limit what I produce until I have safely secured my doctorate.
Posted 3:35 p.m. by Matt Prescott