Environment Forum

Taiwan seeks to participate in U.N. climate convention

Taiwan, hit by its worst typhoon in 50 years in August, has found a culprit for the disaster that killed about 770 people and begun using it to get precious attention overseas where the island is usually overlooked in favour of its giant political rival China.

Global warming is taking blame for Morakot, which was freakish as Taiwan’s only major typhoon of the year and because it lingered instead of blowing straight through. The island’s foreign ministry says that as global warming’s victim it should get to participate in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change  in time for its December talks in Copenhagen. Sixteen countries have already voiced support.

“We are a victim of this problem. It’s closely related to the public’s economic interests,” said Yang Kuo-tung, director general of the foreign ministry’s treaties and legal affairs. Morakot’s incessant rain caused agricultural losses of T$16.47 billion ($510 million).  ”It’s no laughing matter.”

But Taiwan’s bid for participation faces a new kind of storm despite recent detente with China, a powerful veto-wielding Security Council member. China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949 and blocked more than a decade worth of applications to enter the United Nations on grounds that the self-ruled island lacks statehood.

Taiwan dropped an the annual bid to join the whole United Nations this year  to avoid upsetting China, but figures that knocking at the door of a small U.N. agency would cause little stir, especially with the woes of Morakot in its back pocket. Taiwan would both teach and learn as a Convention participant, Yang said.

from Summit Notebook:

60-hour work weeks, all in the name of climate change

Some politicians may be accused of dragging their heels when it comes to dealing with climate change, but you can't say members of the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism's executive board aren't clocking in the hours.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an emissions trading scheme under the Kyoto Protocol worth $33 billion last year according to the World Bank, allows companies and countries to outsource their greenhouse gas reduction efforts by investing in clean energy projects in emerging countries like China and India, where making emissions cuts costs less.

Projects are submitted to the CDM for registration and a staff of over 100 examine and scrutinize each one to ensure environmental integrity.

Carbon ahoy! Who should pay to clean up ships, and what they carry?

The U.S.  is out to create a clean-air zone around its coastlines, targeting diesel ships that look pretty dirty from shore. The cost will be only a penny per pair of sneakers, the EPA advises. Of course the cost of shoes can sneak up on you — the total is $3.2 billion per year by 2020. Health savings will more than compensate for costs, they say.

The idea of who should pay for carbon in the course of trade is getting a bit hazier, it seems. China only a couple of weeks ago said importers should pay for the carbon costs of goods they buy which are produced in China. The thinking largely has been you-make-it-you-pay-for-the-carbon, but maybe it will become you-bought-it-you-bought-the-carbon. It’s all up for grabs as nations talk about what to do once the Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012. At least the U.S. and China are making nice noises at each other as discussions in Germany get under way.

BTW — to be fair that Reuters pic is of a cruise ship’s laundry room on fire.  Perhaps another issue to debate is how many changes of clothes should be allowed in international waters.

‘Borrowing’ water, Chinese style

“The south has plenty of water and the north lacks it, so if possible why not borrow some?” China’s revolutionary communist leader Mao Zedong said in 1952.

That probably seemed a great idea at the time.

But it is causing pollution as well as discontent among farmers facing forced resettlement to make way for a mammoth construction to help the parched north — the South-to-North Transfer Project. Much of the system, of dams, canals and tunnels, is due for completion in 2013-14.

Read my colleague Chris Buckley’s fascinating feature about the project as well as a related story and a factbox. The photo above left, by David Gray, shows a fisherman near the village of Shizigang, located on the Danjiangkou Dam that is part of the project in Henan province.

Will Obama see the forest for the trees?

A Chinese campaigner has urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to prove his green credentials, asking him to offset the emissions generated by his inauguration by funding a forest in China.

A carbon fund named “Obama, future” could invest in increased forest coverage in another country and Obama himself could plant a tree there, Lin Hui said in an open letter, published on www.ditan360.com. Lin hopes that country will be China.

Lin’s appeal is based on estimates by conservative U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Liberty, that people travelling to attend Tuesday’s inauguration would generate 220,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Obama honeymoon short-lived at U.N. climate talks

After one of the briefest honeymoons in history, developing nations at U.N. climate change talks in Poland are saying that President-elect Barack Obama’s goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions don’t go far enough.

Delegates from China and India told Reuters at the Dec. 1-12 talks that they welcomed Obama’s plan to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 compared to less ambitious goals set by President George W. Bush. (Emissions are now about 14 percent above 1990 ).

But they say Obama isn’t going far enough. See story here.

Developing nations want all developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by far more. That, they say, is the condition for the poor to start slowing their own rising emissions from factories, power plants and cars.

“Post 2012″ strikes fear in carbon market players

No pun intended but for the world’s carbon community, times are looking a little black.

The global financial crisis, or GFC as it is being called this week during Australia’s largest ever carbon market gathering, is deeply troubling many participants. But a larger, more worrying issue remains “post 2012″.

This is when the Clean Development Mechanism under the current phase of the U.N. Kyoto Protocol runs out, along with the hundreds of CDM projects already approved and the 3,000 still awaiting approval by a U.N. board.

Coal growth forecast to reign for decades

eia.jpgRenewable power sources like wind and solar are some of the fastest growing sectors in the energy business.

But this graph forecasts that coal, the dirtiest power source in terms of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, will still dominate global power generation growth for decades into the future.

The forecast, released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistics branch of the Department of Energy, shows that global power generated from coal will grow 115 percent to 15.36 trillion kilowatt hours from 2005 to 2030.  It assumes no changes in emissions laws or policy.

Chinese turtle species depends on two very old zoo guests


The fate of a Chinese species may rest on whether the turtles in this photo mate.   

Biologists believe only four Yangtze giant softshell turtles are left on the planet.  So this month they shipped a more than 80-year-old female that had been living in China’s Changsha Zoo more than 600 miles to the only known male in China, who is more than 100 years old and lives at the Suzhou Zoo.

“I hate to call this a desperation move, but it really was,” said Rick Hudson, a conservation biologist at the Fort Worth, Texas Zoo who helped coordinate the move. “With only one female known worldwide, and given that we have lost three captive specimens over the past two years, what choice did we have?”