Environment, Carbon and Forests
By Ben Garside, Reuters, 14 July 2014 | The European Union handed out too many free carbon permits in its Emissions Trading System and did not set a deep enough emission reduction goal, China's top climate negotiator said on Monday. China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, is testing its own carbon markets and aims to set up a national programme by 2017 to help curb its emissions. Prices in Beijing's pilot carbon market became the highest in the world last week, rising to 74.07 yuan per tonne following a crackdown on compliance after some companies had ignored a key reporting deadline.
AP, 14 July 2014 | Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed former Irish president Mary Robinson as his special envoy for climate change. She has a mandate to mobilize world leaders to take action at the climate summit the U.N. chief is hosting in September. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday the Sept. 23 summit will be "an important milestone" to mobilize political commitment for a global climate agreement by 2015 and spur action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build "climate resilient communities."
By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 15 June 2014 | Aid group Oxfam has called on other rich nations to follow the example of Germany, which has promised €750 million ($1 billion) for the U.N.'s fledgling Green Climate Fund. "This announcement ends the deafening silence we've had so far around the empty Green Climate Fund that is supposed to support poor countries in the battle against climate change. Now others must follow suit," Oxfam Germany's Jan Kowalzig said. "If rich countries such as the U.S., France, the UK, Japan and others manage to collect at least $15 billion in pledges ahead of the upcoming U.N. climate negotiations in Lima at the end of the year, this could give the talks a significant boost," he added in a statement.
By Stian Reklev and Kathy Chen, Reuters, 15 July 2014 | Nearly every carbon emitter covered by China's largest pilot emissions scheme met Tuesday's compliance deadline, a government official said, as permit prices slipped to an all-time low amid ample supply and with no last-minute scramble for allowances. The Guangdong scheme - one of China's seven pilot carbon markets aimed at controlling greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming - caps the carbon output of 202 electricity generators and manufacturers. The pilot markets are to prepare China for the launch of a national emissions scheme later in the decade that is expected to be the world's largest. The country is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter and is under increasing international pressure to slow down the rapid growth in its emissions.
By Gavin O'Toole, The Guardian, 17 July 2014 | The market for green bonds has grown 60% this year compared to 2013, surpassing expectations and leading experts to say a niche has now become mainstream. The climate bonds initiative (CBI) and HSBC said on Thursday that green bonds with a total value of $18.3bn (£10.7bn) were issued in the first half of 2014. The figure greatly exceed issuance of $11bn in 2013 and have been fuelled by the activity of corporations, investment banks and even local authorities that are now piling into a market previously dominated by multilateral banks and agencies. So-called green bonds are designed to raise capital for the low-carbon economy, and agreement by banks on a set of “green bond principles” in January has been seen as a major boost to growth.
By Charlotta Lomas, Deutsche Welle, 17 July 2014 | This week, Germany hosted the fifth Petersberg Climate Dialogue in preparation for the Climate Change Conference in Peru at the end of this year. Christoph Bals from Germanwatch gives his verdict on how the talks went. "Big players for climate policy, and the EU too, are willing to get an ambitious deal next year in Paris for a new climate deal which is so necessary. China has, for the first time, announced a commitment about the peak year of China's emission. China is the biggest emitter by far in the world and soon China will have twice as much emissions as the US, the second biggest emitter. And this announcement, that they will relatively soon stop increasing their emissions, would be a turning point for the international climate debate."
By Andrew Bolger, Financial Times, 17 July 2014 | The era of green bonds that finance environmentally friendly projects has begun, with the market forecast to grow by $40bn this year and $100bn next year. This prediction is in a report by the Climate Bonds Initiative, an international non-profiit organisation set up in 2010 to promote investments that combat climate change. “Significant growth from a very low base will occur in new markets such as Germany, catalysed by a recently announced KfW bond, and China, where the government has called for the growth of a corporate green bonds market,” the report said. While the market has come a long way, the CBI said there was still a way to go to meet International Energy Agency projections of the capital flows needed to address dangerous climate change. The agency estimates the finance requirement to be about $1tn per year above business as usual.
By Frank Bajak, AP, 20 July 2014 | Dozens of international groups, the United Nations, and even Peru's own citizen ombudsman are objecting to a new law that weakens environmental protections in the Andean nation even as it prepares to host international climate talks this year. The law, aimed at increasing investment, strips Peru's six-year-old environment ministry of jurisdiction over air, soil and water quality standards, as well as its ability to set limits for harmful substances. It also eliminates the ministry's power to establish nature reserves exempt from mining and oil-drilling. The nation pocked by more than 300 major mines already offers the industry incentives unmatched in the Americas, even by mining-friendly Chile and Mexico.
By Paolo Cerutti, Robert Nasi and Plinio Sist, CIFOR Forests News Blog, 16 July 2014 | If we are to continue to use the term “forest” to describe a wide variety of states, as we do now, future environmental endeavors will suffer. Natural forest values, for instance, are jeopardized when land-use decisions are informed by remote-sensing analyses that distinguish only forest and non-forest, and when “forest” is defined solely on the basis of tree cover. These practices engender a somewhat false sense of accomplishment when the forests that are reported to cover substantial portions of tropical landscapes barely resemble “old growth.”
Out-Law.com, 17 July 2014 | The British High Commission in Pretoria has confirmed it is supporting the programme to help companies prepare for the introduction of the 120-rand (ZAR) ($11.21) per tonne carbon dioxide (CO2) tax. A pilot trade of carbon credits on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will be included in the programme to show how businesses can “optimise the use of relief measures for carbon tax”, according to carbon and climate change advisory firm Promethium Carbon, which is conducting the programme. Robbie Louw, a director of South African energy consultancy Promethium, said: “The testing of the trading platform will demonstrate how business can optimise the use of relief measures for carbon tax.” According to Promethium, “a number of mitigation projects are currently stranded or parked due to a low carbon price and non-existing market”. The new UK funding will help to “fast track” development of a local carbon trading system, Promethium said.
By Leigh Dayton, Science/AAAS, 18 July 2014 | Bucking global efforts to curtail carbon pollution, Australia’s conservative government yesterday abolished a national carbon tax that it had long opposed. The move to “ax the tax”—as Prime Minister Tony Abbott is fond of saying—makes Australia the first country in the world to abolish a functioning carbon pricing scheme. In 2009, Abbott, then leader of the opposition, dismissed climate change as “absolute crap.” The centerpiece of Australia’s Clean Energy Act passed in 2012, the carbon tax required 350 of the nation’s biggest polluters to purchase carbon credits, valued at AU$23 per ton, if they exceeded their allotted targets. At a press conference on Thursday, Abbott hailed the demise of the “useless, destructive tax.”
By Simon Bain, Herald Scotland, 19 July 2014 | A company involved in the sale to private investors of overpriced carbon credits and diamonds is to be reported to the Insolvency Service for posing as a reputable UK business whilst operating offshore from the Marshall Islands, The Herald has discovered. Abacus Advisory, one of whose clients was Scottish investor Craig Jamieson, ran a website giving the impression of a substantial company with global departments and a head office in the heart of London. It was illustrated by a smiling girl in a busy call centre. The real business had no office in London and was based in the Marshall Islands. The UK-registered company called Abacus Advisory had one director, Philip Clarke, who set the company up in September 2012 and applied for it to be struck off in March 2014.
By Janaki Lenin, mongabay.com, 15 July 2014 | In 1983, Sri Lanka became embroiled in a 26-year-long civil war in which a rebel militant organization fought to establish an independent state called Tamil Eelam. The war took an enormous human toll; unknown numbers disappeared and millions more were displaced. Economic development stagnated in the rebel-held north and east of the country, while foreign investment shied away from the country. During the latter half of the war, between 1990 and 2005, Sri Lanka suffered one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world as government soldiers burned vast tracts to flush rebels out of their forest strongholds.As a result, the country lost about 35 percent of its old growth forest and almost 18 percent of its total forest cover. The conflict ended in 2009, and while deforestation has slowed somewhat, Sri Lanka is still losing forest cover at a fast clip. Global Forest Watch figures show 49,652 hectares were lost between 2009 and 2012.
By Scott Poynton, mongabay.com, 15 July 2014 | It was just after lunch, Monday, November 8th 2010 when it all began. At the time, it was innocent enough; there were certainly no ill intentions. Yet, looking back, I now see it as the moment that kicked off the polarizing debate that today splits the palm oil industry and that drowns out much needed sensible discussion around how forest protection and palm oil expansion might go hand in hand. The debate, with all its spin and tension, has become the focus rather than that more important, bigger question. What happened? I was in a meeting room in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Jakarta with folk from Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and Greenpeace. We were meeting for the second time in three days and we were struggling together to define “forest”.
By Nezir Sinani, Huffington Post, 17 July 2014 | While by no means uniform, the World Bank has been applying its Indigenous Peoples Policy in Africa for well over a decade. Now, the Bank is poised to introduce an "opt-out clause" for African governments who, for their own political calculations, prefer it not be applied. This would represent a huge reversal in what has been steady progress in favor of the rights of Africa's indigenous communities, including the seminal work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and legislative efforts in several African countries. At the same time, the proposed opt-out clause would constitute a significant dilution of World Bank policy, which Bank President Jim Kim pledged would not happen at the outset of the safeguard review.
By Adam Whitmore, The Energy Collective, 14 July 2014 | International aviation sector is likely to require a substantial number of offsets to meet its goal of achieving carbon neutrality above a 2020 baseline. If these offsets are forestry related there is the possibility of generating substantial biodiversity co-benefits... One source of offsets that looks particularly promising is reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD)... For a satisfactory scheme any offsets will of course need to be high quality, including meeting the usual tests of additionally, permanence and so forth, with adequate governance a prerequisite. Buffers, exchange rates or risk premiums may be necessary to account for residual risks around permanence, leakage and other factors, or to realise an explicit goal of generating net benefits, with (for illustration) 1.5 tonnes of REDD offsets required for every tonne of aviation emissions.
Legal Futures, 17 July 2014 | A solicitor involved in boiler-room scams has been suspended from practising for 18 months by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Andrew Lawrence Greystoke, of Atlantic Law, London, had already been found guilty by the then Financial Services Authority (FSA) to have recklessly signed off the approval of 50 UK investment advertisements issued by unregulated Spanish stockbroker firms. He did so without taking reasonable steps to ensure the advertisements were clear, fair and not misleading, and despite having reason to doubt that the Spanish firms would deal with UK consumers in an honest and reliable way.
Vientiane Times, 6 July 2014 | Officials are unsure when Laos will be able to start selling its carbon credits as the state agencies in charge of preparing for the sale have been working far too slowly. Carbon credits are permits representing the amount of carbon that has not been emitted, showing that the owner has the right to offset that amount of carbon dioxide. The country’s extensive forest cover can be sold to other countries as carbon credits. Laos would have started selling carbon credits last year had work progressed well, deputy director general of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Forest Department Khamphay Manivong told Vientiane Times at the recent meeting of the REDD + Task Force. "Up until now Laos has not been able to sell its carbon credits as officials from state agencies in charge of the work do not understand what they were supposed to do, which has affected preparations," he said.
Ecosystem Marketplace, 16 July 2014 | As Steve Zwick reports, though, REDD didn't create an "incentive" to save the forests. A typical palm-oil plantation generates $1,000 per hectare in pure profit – more than twenty-fold the income that could be generated from the sale of offsets. So REDD will not sway those responding to purely economic incentives, but it does create a financing mechanism that may make it possible for people who want to save forests to do so. The Rimba Raya project has sold five million tonnes of offsets since 2010 and verified another five million tonnes of emissions reductions, more than four million of which remain unsold.
By Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com, 16 July 2014 | More than 30 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island's forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo's lowland forests remain intact. The study, which involved an international team of scientists led by David Gaveau and Erik Meijaard, is based on satellite data and aerial photographs. That approach enabled the researchers to separate industrial plantations from selectively-logged natural forests, while also mapping the extent of logging roads for various elevations, distinguishing between highly endangered lowland forests and inaccessible high-elevation forests.