‘Brazil, SA, India and China want Kyoto Protocol extended’

Engineering News, 30 May 2011 

As Ministers of the Brazil, South Africa, India, China (Basic) grouping met to firm their position before further global climate change negotiating sessions, they reiterated that a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol was central to a comprehensive outcome at the 17th conference of the parties (COP17) in Durban in November.

They added that the legally binding Kyoto Protocol, which outlined greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for developed country signatories, was critical to the environmental integrity of the climate change regime.

The first commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012, and there is not yet any clarity on how the protocol will be taken forward, if at all.

The Basic Ministers met over the weekend in Durban after climate change experts and negotiators from these countries held meetings for the two days prior. Officials attending the meeting included Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Chinese National Development and Reform vice-chairperson Liu Zhenmin, Indian Environment and Forests special secretary JM Mauskar, and Brazilian Environment Ministry deputy Minister Francisco Gaetani, and incoming COP17 president Maite Nkoane-Mashabane.

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‘Brazil, SA, India and China climate meeting under way in Durban’

Engineering News, 26 May 2011

Climate change experts and negotiators from Brazil, South Africa, India and China, the ‘Basic’ grouping, are meeting in Durban over the next two days, to discuss a common negotiating position for the 17th conference of the parties (COP17) in December.

The meeting would be followed by a Ministerial meeting on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29, which would be attended by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, Chinese National Development and Reform vice-Minister Xie Zhenhua, Indian Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, and Brazilian Environment Ministry executive secretary Francisco Gaetani.

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‘Some light, and heat, as SA debates fracking moratorium’

Engineering News, 25 May 2011 

South Africa is correct to exercise caution before formulating its policy relating to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and should be wary of moving ahead until thorough scientific study of the possible risks have been undertaken, a geological expert cautioned on Wednesday. But proponents of fracking believe South Africa has much to gain, particularly on the economic and energy fronts, by pressing ahead with exploration, arguing that the risks are limited and can be mitigated.

Addressing a debate on the appropriateness of South Africa’s current moratorium on the issuance of exploration licences for shale gas in the Karoo, Dr Chris Hartnady, a former University of Cape Town Geological Sciences associate professor and current technical director at groundwater consultancy Umvoto, said that there were serious questions still to be answered about what he termed a relatively recent technology innovation.

These included whether the full-cycle emissions, or fugitive emissions, were indeed lower than that of coal. Whether the economics, as measured on the basis of energy return on energy invested, made sense. Whether the well casings and cement sheaths used to extract the gas while maintaining the integrity of sub-surface water resources, were in fact fail-safe. And, whether “poking holes” in the Karoo region could affect the stability of a region already prone to earthquakes. Hartnady noted that the most recent earthquake in the region took place on May 14, 2011.

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‘Food system sustainability: Questions of environmental governance in the new world (dis)order’

Abstract: In a time of climate emergency, the question of environmental governance is not only critical, but also epistemic. How ‘environment’ is represented is as critical as how environmental crisis is managed. This essay addresses a debate of this kind by considering the complementary and contradictory relations between the concepts of ‘multi-functionality’ and ‘food sovereignty,’ as they define the global landscape. The juxtaposition of these concepts and their practical implications for political economy and ecology has its formative origins in a European-led debate over the role of agriculture, as a critical dimension of environmental governance. In this chapter I examine this debate as posing questions with broader, global significance.

Full Citation: McMichael, P. (2011). Food System Sustainability: Questions of Environmental Governance in the New World (dis)Order, Global Environmental Change, doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.03.016 (Available with Subscription from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378011000434#FCANote)



‘Global Food Losses and Food Waste’

The document, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, was commissioned by FAO from the Swedish Institute for  Food and Biotechnology (SIK) for Save Food!, an international congress that was held in Düsseldorf 16-17 May at the fair trade of the international packaging industry Interpack 2011.

The report distinguishes between food loss and food waste. Food losses — occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases — are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems.

Key finding of the report include:

  • Industrialised and developed countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food – respective 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countires waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

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NEW Report – ‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published  the, ‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation’.

Summary:  The Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN), agreed and released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on May 9th in Abu Dhabi, assesses existing literature on the future potential of renewable energy for the mitigation of climate change. It covers the six most important renewable energy technologies, as well as their integration into present and future energy systems. It also takes into consideration the environmental and social consequences associated with these technologies, the cost and strategies to overcome technical as well as non-technical obstacles to their application and diffusion.

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NEW UNEP Report – ‘Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth’

On 12 May 2011, The United Nations Environment Programme launched a new report: Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth.

Brief Summary: The dilemma of expanding economic activities equitably while attempting to stabilise the rate of resource use and reducing the environmental impacts poses an unprecedented opportunity and challenge to society. In this report, the International Resource Panel has sought to apply the concept of decoupling economic growth and human wellbeing from negative environmental impacts and escalating resource use to address this challenge.

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‘Corruption could undermine climate remedy actions, TI report states’

Engineering News, 3 May 2011 

Global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International (TI) has released the ‘Global Corruption Report: Climate Change’, which presented guidelines to prevent corruption which could undermine climate change remedy actions.

“Where huge amounts of money flow through new and untested financial markets and mechanisms, there is always a risk of corruption. Some estimate total climate change investments in mitigation efforts alone at almost $700-billion by 2020. Public investments of no less than $250-billion a year will eventually flow through new, relatively uncoordinated and untested channels. In addition, pressure already exists to ‘fast-track’ solutions, further enhancing the risk of corruption,” said the report.

It called on governments, international organisations, businesses and civil society to ensure good governance in climate policy, because under global climate agreements, substantial funding would be gathered to finance mitigation of emissions, such as renewable energy projects, and adaptation to impacts, such as construction of sea walls, irrigation systems and disaster-ready housing.

TI noted that a robust system of climate governance – the processes and relationships at the international, national, corporate and local levels – would be essential for ensuring that the political, social and financial investments by both the public and private sectors for climate change mitigation and adaptation were properly and equitably managed, so that responses to climate change were successful.

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‘Food Security in Africa’

By: Heinrich Böll Foundation – Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest demographic growth in the world, 239 million people continue to suffer from severe hunger, representing a staggering 30 percent of its total population. While the proportion of undernourished people varies widely at the country level, many of the current and predicted challenges to ensuring food availability, food access and food adequacy for all are similar across the continent.

If left unchecked, uncertain climatic conditions, coupled with population growth, political mismanagement and agricultural commodification, are likely to cause extremely volatile food prices in the coming decades. The global food crisis of 2007/8, during which prices of many staple foods doubled, led to riots in more than thirty countries and an additional one hundred million people starving worldwide. However, this might have been a mere warning sign of what is yet to come.

By looking at case studies from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, the authors in this issue of Perspectives examine some of these complex problems and suggest appropriate measures for ensuring food security, fighting hunger and promoting sustainable approaches to natural resources management.

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