Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kenya's Tana River Delta under siege - BirdLife International


The Tana River Delta in Kenya's north coast is under unprecedented threat as corporations and foreign agencies scramble to exploit its riches for export crops, biofuels and minerals. NatureKenya (BirdLife Partner) – with support of RSPB (BirdLife in UK), Schweizer Vogelschutz SVS/BirdLife Schweiz (BirdLife in Switzerland) and DOF (BirdLife in Denmark) – are working with local communities to try and stop the proposed poorly planned developments which would result in tens of thousands of people losing their livelihoods.

The Tana Delta is a vast patchwork of palm savanna, seasonally flooded grassland, forest fragments, lakes, woodland, mangroves, beaches, sand dunes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and the river itself. Large assemblages of water birds qualify it as an Important Bird Area. A 1992–93 study recorded 22 different species of water birds occurring in significant numbers, including pelicans, storks, egrets and terns. In seasons of heavy rains, some 5,000 water birds of over 13 species nest in the Delta, and the young fly off to populate wetlands all over the country.  

The Delta is of international importance for the conservation of migratory species, and is home to the Endangered Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis, Vulnerable Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos and Near Threatened Malindi Pipit Anthus melindae, and 13 of Kenya's 30 East African Coast biome bird species.  

But Tana Delta has a history of poor environmental management and planning and failing development schemes. Attempts to grow irrigated rice, cotton, maize and shrimp on a commercial scale met with little success, although local farmers continue to grow rice, maize and other crops by traditional methods. Most recently, a rice scheme in the 1990s left a legacy of poverty and environmental damage.

"We spoke with pastoralists, farmers, fishermen and conservation groups who are very concerned" —Serah Munguti, Communication and Advocacy Coordinator NatureKenya

A number of worrying development projects are currently proposed in the Delta. This includes plans by the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA—a government agency), and the Mumias Sugar Company, who intend to convert about 20,000 ha of the Delta into a monoculture sugar cane plantation. The project came to public knowledge in 2007, and advocacy and awareness campaigns, including a court injunction, temporarily stopped it. However, in June 2009, Kenya's High Court ruled in favour of the developers on a technicality. Now the Government has given tenure rights and ownership of 40,000 ha of Delta land to TARDA, ostensibly to grow rice and maize as a response to Kenya's recent drought and food shortage. However, more than 25,000 people living in 30 villages stand to be evicted from their ancestral land that has now been given to TARDA.

"While we support emergency actions to improve short-term food security, these must not be used as an excuse to evict local people from their land or as a smokescreen to open up the Delta to poorly conceived development schemes which would threaten the long-term future of both the people and the nature of the area", said Dr Helen Byron - Senior International Site Casework Officer RSPB. "What is needed is a long-term plan for the area which builds on the rich biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Delta to provide sustainable livelihoods for the local people and is produced with strong input from the local communities".

Other threats to the delta include:

  • A second sugar company, Mat International, is acquiring over 30,000 ha of land in Tana Delta and another 90,000 ha in adjacent districts. The company has not carried out any environmental and social impact assessments.  
  • Bedford Biofuels Inc, a privately-held multinational company based in Canada, is in the process of acquiring land through 45-year lease agreements. Its intention is to transform over 90,000 ha of land in Tana River District into biofuel farms, mainly growing Jatropha curcas.  
  • Tiomin Kenya Ltd, a company incorporated in Canada, wants to mine titanium in the Tana Delta, and is in discussions with the local government authorities.  
  • Qatar has asked Kenya to lease it 40,000 ha of land in Tana Delta to grow crops, in exchange for support for a major new port in nearby Lamu town.

"one village has already been issued with an eviction notice" —Serah Munguti

The Tana Delta is the largest of several critical natural areas threatened by development in Kenya. NatureKenya is working with communities in the Delta who are opposed to these plans, and have positive proposals for enhancing their livelihoods through community-owned initiatives.

Recently Serah Munguti – NatureKenya's Communication and Advocacy Coordinator – visited the Tana Delta and spoke with people in the local communities. "We spoke with pastoralists, farmers, fishermen and conservation groups who are very concerned and are ready to file a new court case against the proposed plantation sugarcane", said Serah.

"We're moving forward very fast as one village has already been issued with an eviction notice", warned Serah. "Farmers in Wema and pastoralists in Dida Waride affirmed that they would die first before moving out of their land."

The Kenya Wildlife Service is spearheading efforts to get the Delta listed as a Ramsar wetland of international importance. It will take time to compile ecological, hydrological and socioeconomic data, and to map the Delta. Meanwhile, the current development proposals put the people, biodiversity and ecological functions of the Delta in great jeopardy.

An economic study has already shown that a master plan, which integrates better and more sustainable management of existing activities with a conservation-focused future development, could generate more income and better livelihoods than these large and ill thought out developments. NatureKenya hopes to facilitate production of such a plan by working closely with local communities.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ethanol plant to run on corn cobs (South Dakota, US)

From the Wall St. Journal:

• DECEMBER 30, 2009
Corn Cobs Have Energy Use

The corn cob could go from farmer trash to treasure if an effort by the world's largest ethanol maker takes root.

Poet, Sioux Falls, S.D., is readying production of a new cellulosic ethanol plant that uses the corn waste product, rather than corn itself, to make the biofuel. The plant, located in Emmitsburg, Iowa, where Poet already has a traditional corn-based ethanol refinery, is expected to produce 25 million gallons per year once it starts commercial production in 2011. Poet already has a pilot project in Scotland, S.D., that produced about 20,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol since it opened in November 2008.

The plant, called Project Liberty, could be a new revenue source for farmers, proponents say, although the future for the technology remains uncertain.

"We're looking at $30 to $60 per ton is what we'd be paying for the corn cobs," said Scott Weishaar, vice president of Commercial Development for Poet. "You take a look at a farmer who maybe has 1,000 or 2,000 acres of corn, that's pretty significant incremental income to his operation."

Currently, farmers have little use for the stripped-down corn cobs. The industry is moving toward cellulosic, as spelled out in the Environmental Protection Agency's renewable-fuel mandate. The mandate calls for cellulosic ethanol to account for 16 billion gallons of the total 36 billion gallons of production by 2022. Other sources for the cellulosic ethanol include wood waste, switchgrass and other corn "residue" besides the cob, such as the stalks. Corn cobs are currently the sole focus of Poet's cellulosic effort.

Unlike some of the other corn residue, the cobs are seen as having little if any value to the land and can be removed without depleting the soil. And the cob, unlike the grain, doesn't ignite the "food versus fuel" debate. Poet said that it is quickly finding ways to make cellulosic ethanol profitable. Since the pilot project started, it has cut costs almost in half, to $2.35 per gallon from $4.13, by reducing energy usage and enzyme costs, among other expenses. It costs roughly 50 to 80 cents more per gallon to make ethanol from corn cobs than from the grain, Poet said.

It hopes to have the costs per gallon below $2 by the start of commercial operation. Ethanol futures are trading around $1.90 at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Chief Executive Jeff Broin said that two years ago he would have considered cellulosic ethanol "a long shot" but that it is now a reality.

For farmers, harvesting the cobs requires additional equipment, and Poet is working with farm machine manufacturers to "accelerate their development" of equipment that will harvest cobs, Mr. Weishaar said.

The company hosted 16 different equipment makers in Emmitsburg for a field day in November, in which industry leaders showed off prototype machines to area farmers.

One of those companies, Agco Corp., has rarely before, if ever, taken a prototype machine to such a public event, said Agco spokesman Reid Hamre. The Duluth, Ga., company is probably at least several months away from deciding whether to mass-produce the equipment.

"It's a prototype machine, we've got some more testing and exhibiting and gathering of feedback for farmers and dealers we want to do," Mr. Hamre said.


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Biofuels & Aviation Forum 17th March 2010, Amsterdam

There will be a major conference on aviation and biofuels, in March in Amsterdam.

Details below. This came from something called GreenAir online.

Dear colleague

Next generation biofuels are seen to be a viable, scaleable solution for future sustainable air travel. Extensive research programmes are underway to develop low cost, high yield fuels with low environmental impact.

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Biofuels & Aviation Forum at the 2010 World Biofuels Markets Congress. Key representatives from the airline and the biofuel industries will come together to discuss strategies for the commercial deployment of aviation biofuels.

Congress Keynote Address:
Jan Ernst de Groot, Managing Director, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently carried out the first biofuel test flight with passengers – hear about their future plans for accelerating the development of bio-jet fuels.

Key speakers include:

Niels Eirik Nertun, Environment Director, SAS Group & Member Sustainable Aviation FuelUsers Group

Jonathon Counsell, Head of Environment, British Airways

Dr Lourdes Maurice, Chief Scientist,Office of Environment and Energy, FAA

Alan Epstein, Vice President, Technology & Environment, Pratt & Whitney

Sébastien Rémy, Head of Alternative Fuels Research Programme, Airbus

John Melo, Chief Executive Officer, Amyris Biotechnologies

Randy Cortright, Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Virent

Richard Penning, EVP-Technology and Commercial Affairs, Rentech

Jack Huttner, Executive Vice President, Commercial & Public Affairs, Gevo

Dr. Sgouris Sgouridis, Biofuel Team, Masdar Institute

Ruud van Eck, Director, Diligent Energy Systems

What will you gain from attending this event?
· Hear how airlines including British Airways, KLM and SAS are planning for bio-jet fuels
· Understand the potential, drivers and challenges for biofuels as an alternative aviation fuel
· Learn what policies are needed to support the development of aviation biofuels
· Find out how bio-SPK faired in testing trials for engine performance, operability and thermal stability
· Discuss the key challenges in fuel production and distribution
· Learn about the new routes being developed for cost effective fuel production
· Discover which feedstocks are most suitable for aviation fuel production
· Benefit from first class networking opportunities with over 1000 biofuels industry executives and a packed exhibition hall showcasing the latest biofuels technologies, products and services
· Take part in the highly acclaimed 2nd annual Sustainable Biofuels Awards ceremony

Click here to register now

This sponsored email was sent to you by GreenAir Online, which is a Media Partner to World Biofuels Markets 2010


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India: Biofuel policy gets govt approval

Biofuel policy gets govt approval
BS Reporter / New Delhi December 25, 2009, 1:06 IST

The national biofuel policy, aimed at facilitating development of indigenous biomass feedstock for production of biofuels, has been cleared by the Cabinet. The draft of the policy was prepared by the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), the coordinating ministry for biofuel development, last year.

Setting up of a National Biofuel Coordination Committee to provide policy guidance has also been approved. It is to be headed by the prime minister. A Biofuel Steering Committee chaired by the cabinet secretary will also be set up to oversee the implementation of the policy.

"The Indian approach to biofuels is based solely on non-food feedstock to be raised on degraded or waste lands that are not suitable for agriculture, thus avoiding a possible conflict of fuel versus food security," a statement issued by MNRE read.

Promotion of biofuels could meet India's energy needs in an environmentally-sustainable manner, while reducing its import dependence on fossil fuels.

The policy has proposed an indicative target of 20 per cent blending of biofuels — both biodiesel and bioethanol — by 2017. The government had already made 10 per cent ethanol blending with petrol effective from October last year.

The biofuel policy has also proposed financial incentives — including subsidies and grants — for second generation biofuels like cellulosic ethanol and algal biodiesel. "If it becomes necessary, a National Biofuel Fund could be considered," it says.

The policy also mentions that a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for non-edible oilseeds would be announced with periodic revision to provide fair price to the growers. A Minimum Purchase Price (MPP) for purchase of bioethanol and biodiesel would also be announced with periodic revision.


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Richard Branson interview in the Daily Telegraph

Sir Richard Branson: 'we need a low-carbon world capable of growth, otherwise society will fall apart'

Carbon is the enemy," says Sir Richard Branson. "Let's attack it in any possible way we can, or many people will die just like in any war."

ir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, unveiled the design of the Spaceship Two (L, under wing) and White Knight Two carrier aircraft 23 January 2008 at the America Museum of Natural History in New York
Richard Branson, pcitured with his spacecraft for the public, wants airlines to get together and set an example on lowering emissions Photo: AFP
With a certain sense of irony, the billionaire part-owner of five airlines has just jetted into Copenhagen, battleground of the international climate change talks, to warn fellow business leaders, politicians and campaigners about this apocalyptic scenario.

Sir Richard, who is due to give a speech at an event on saving the rainforests, has no sooner sat down than launched into a diatribe against carbon dioxide, of which his Virgin Atlantic airline emits 4.8m tonnes per year.

Every weapon in the arsenal must be deployed to reduce carbon dioxide, he argues, from biofuels to greener materials for aeroplane bodies, both through financial penalties for polluters and more funding for technology. Flying around the world for seven days and taking tourists into space have been among Sir Richard's well-documented – and carbon-intensive – thrill-seeking missions.

He claims that his current goal for the decade is not only to ensure that all his planes run on eco-friendly biofuel mixes by 2015, but to persuade others in the airline industry that they should do the same by 2020.

Relaxing in jeans and a shirt at a hotel conference centre in the greenest city in the world, Branson is showing no signs of nerves about being an airline owner about to share a stage with an array of environmentalists, from the governor of the Amazon to the president of the World Wildlife Fund.

But as the self-confessed owner of a "dirty business", doesn't he feel some responsibility for his key role in the transport industry that produces 20pc of the world's emissions each year?

A quick look at the website of Virgin Atlantic shows that this single airline emits more carbon dioxide than many entire countries – including Uganda, Paraguay and Albania.

Even within the industry it is not the greenest airline of them all. Per passenger-kilometre, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic emit substantially higher amounts of carbon dioxide than easyJet – and even Ryanair, the airline run by the famous environmental sceptic Michael O'Leary.
Budget airlines, with their newer fleets and passengers crammed into every seat, boast significantly lower emissions than the traditional flyers.

"We do owe it to the world to get our house in order, which is why I want airlines to get together and set an example on lowering emissions. Realising that flying was part of the problem is why we donate all the profits from Virgin Atlantic to environmental projects," Sir Richard says, ducking the low-flying question about whether consumers should simply be hopping on fewer planes.

Green activists have criticised this approach, which, like offsetting, assumes that business can simply pay to pollute – the corporate equivalent of trashing a hotel room and leaving a pile of cash at reception. Some also point out that these donations are only the dividends paid to Sir Richard's Virgin Group, with the bulk of profits injected back into the business. The sum total of his green philanthropy has so far failed to reach anywhere near the $3bn (£1.87bn) originally promised in 2006.

But as a businessman, it is hardly surprising that Sir Richard is desperate to find a means of spending his way out of the problem rather than stymie growth for the airline industry. His strong support for Heathrow's third runway makes it clear that he thinks that reducing consumption is not the answer.

"We have to make a low-carbon world capable of growth otherwise we won't have hospitals and schools, and society will start falling apart," Sir Richard claims, swinging from one Doomsday narrative to the next. "We're not going to get China and India to stop growing, so the challenge will be all about changing our ways."

Recognising that financial penalties on heavy carbon emissions could make huge dents in the future profits of the transport sector, he says, it also makes financial sense to pump some profits into researching new fuels.

Scientists regularly cast doubt on the idea that biofuels will be ready for air travel within the next decade, despite the ideal solution that one day petroleum will be replaced by algae or sugar. Virgin Atlantic pioneered the first biofuel flight last year, but the brief journey from London to Amsterdam had only 20pc coconut oil in one of four jet engines – and the technology is still a long way off being commercially viable.
With $75m spent on researching biochar, a charcoal that may be able to pump CO2 out of air, and more funding for geo-engineering to change the make-up of the earth's atmosphere, Sir Richard is at pains to show he is at least trying.

Top on his list of priorities is a global emissions trading system for aviation and shipping, which he would like to see go towards environmental causes.
"What we really want is a global agreement on aviation, where a percentage goes to the rainforests," he says, pointing out that under the European emissions trading scheme for airlines due to start in 2012, governments will be able to spend the proceeds on whatever they wish.

Another crusade is shipping and he has used his time in the Danish capital to meet the mayors and port authorities of Calgary and Los Angeles to try to show them how to "impose specific standards on ships coming into those ports".

"Business groups have done a good job in some areas like energy but some industries like shipping have done very little and that's where I can help," Sir Richard says. "I would love every industry in the world to be clear about what it has to do."

The plane manufacturers, such as Airbus and Boeing, are also crucial to cleaning up the industry's image, Sir Richard says, urging them to move from carbon-based plastics and titanium to new "composite" green materials.

However, at the mention of potential green taxes, rather than market-mechanisms, Sir Richard shifts from environmental fervour into a rage against the business-bashing policies of New Labour. "The airline industry has suffered a 100pc increase in taxes by this Labour Government, which are not going to environmental causes, and the danger is that this would tax the industry out of existence," he says. "But if they do end up taxing industry they need to make it absolutely clear that running planes on clean fuels would see taxes removed."

There is an argument that aviation's acceptance of emissions trading and offer to peak its emissions by 2020 is purely a move to pre-empt stricter potential curbs in the future. Sir Richard disagrees, but thinks the aviation industry could push itself harder by offering to cut emissions even further given the failure of the Copenhagen talks.

"If governments don't get their act together or make stupid, populistic decisions, businesses will have to take action on their own and we might as well do that now," he says.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Time running out for orangutans

Time running out for orangutans Print E-mail

Tuesday, 22 December 2009 10:19
KOTA KINABALU - The world has less than 20 years left to save the orangutan, according to conservationists who predict the charismatic red ape will become extinct if no action is taken to protect its jungle habitat.

There are thought to be 50-60,000 orangutans still living in the wild in Malaysia and Indonesia, but deforestation and the expansion of palm oil plantations have taken a heavy toll.

"The orangutans' habitat is fragmented and isolated by plantations, they can't migrate, they can't find mates to produce babies," said Tsubouchi Toshinori from the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT).

Environmentalists are calling for the creation of wildlife "corridors" in Malaysia to link the scraps of jungle where orangutans have become trapped by decades of encroachment by loggers and oil palm firms.

orang-utan-1.jpgTsubouchi said that although studies have predicted orangutans will disappear within 50 years if their habitat continues to vanish, action needs to be taken within the next two decades to stall that process.
Only 10 percent left

"We have to establish the corridors in 10 or 20 years, otherwise we won't be able to do anything later," he said.

Some 80 percent of the world's orangutans live in Borneo, which is split between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the rest are found in Indonesia's Sumatra province.

"What we have left today is maybe only 10 percent of what we used to have before," said Marc Ancrenaz from the environmental group Hutan which focuses on conserving the 11,000 orangutans in Malaysia's Sabah state in Borneo.

An aerial survey carried out by Hutan and wildlife authorities in Sabah last year revealed some 1,000 orangutan treetop "nests" located in 100 small patches of forest completely surrounded by palm oil plantations.

"If we are not able to establish connectivity in the next 10 or 20 years, there is a risk that this population will reach a stage which will make it impossible for us to enable them to survive," Ancrenaz warned.

But he said that if immediate action is taken, there is still a good chance of ensuring the long-term survival of the primate as there is still enough genetic diversity for it to thrive.

"Unlike the rhinoceros whose numbers are so few, we still have a decent size population for the orangutan. If they are going to become extinct, it will not be in the next 10 years," he said.

There are only about 250 Sumatran Rhinoceros left in Malaysia and Indonesia, making it the most highly endangered rhino species in the world.

Experts say that wildlife corridors would enable orangutans to move across the fragmented landscape and alongside rivers to seek food and mates.

The corridors could be used by other endangered species such as the pygmy elephant and rhinoceros, but progress on the initiative has been slow.

The Malaysian palm oil industry, often criticised for its poor environmental performance, pledged to fund the corridors at an October conference but nothing has yet been done.

orang-utan-3.jpgMalaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive Yusof Basiron said he was waiting for environmentalists to advise how much land would be needed, and denied that lack of action was threatening the species' future.

"Last time they said the orangutans will go extinct in 2012, now they say in 15 or 20 years -- why keep on shifting the goal posts?" he asked AFP.
Situation worse in Indonesia

Some in the industry have accused Western lobby groups of trying to smear palm oil - used extensively for biofuel and processed food like margarine - to boost rival products from developed countries.

Malaysia is the world's second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, and the industry is the country's third largest export earner, raking in 65.2 billion ringgit (19 billion dollars) last year.

Eric Meijaard, who studies orangutans in Indonesia, said the situation was even worse there and that deforestation was responsible for the loss of up to 3,000 orangutans a year in Borneo.

"If we are losing them at the rate that we are losing now, they are going to be pretty much gone in 15 to 20 years," said the ecologist from the Indonesia-based People and Nature Consulting International.

"In Indonesia, the whole process of conversion is still very rampant and the land use changes very fast -- what is still a natural forest concession today may be a plantation tomorrow."

Ancrenaz said he is "not convinced" that the the battle to save Asia's only great ape is a lost cause.

"There are still ways to rectify the issues and to find solutions, but we have to act very fast, we can't afford to wait too long." - AFP

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Bristol City Council leader faces flak from all sides in fuel row

Bristol City Council leader faces flak from all sides in fuel row

Saturday, December 19, 2009, 07:00

3 readers have commented on this story.
Click here to read their views.

Council leader Barbara Janke has been criticised by a councillor from her own party for speaking out on plans for a £70-million biofuel power plant.

Councillor Steve Comer (Lib Dem, Eastville) said her objections were based mostly on the type of fuel the power station was expected to use.

But he said councillors would have to decide whether the power station at Avonmouth should be allowed to go ahead on planning grounds alone.

Mr Comer, a member of the planning committee that will consider the issue next month, said he knew Mrs Janke's comments were "well-intentioned".

But he said: "If we can refuse this, we have to ensure that our reasons for refusal are robust and can be defended at an appeal."

He also wondered why it was that Mrs Janke saw fit to comment on the power station plan – yet steadfastly refused to comment on Bristol City FC's proposals for a new £92m stadium at Ashton Vale because any comments in advance could prejudice the proceedings.

Mr Comer said: "When the Ashton Vale football stadium application was being considered there was much discussion in the Liberal Democrat group about how this was 'a decision for the quasi-judicial planning process' and how we should be careful about commenting in advance.

"Why does different logic appear to apply in relation to this application?

"It is possible that our opponents will accuse of us of being subject to 'whipping' next month when this comes before the committee, and will (selectively) quote from the leader's press release to do so."

Mrs Janke said: "I made a statement last week about this proposed development when I learned that there may be no good planning reasons to turn it down. If this is the case, it flies in the face of everything Bristol is signing up to in terms of sustainable development.

"It seems to me that the substantive policies agreed by the council should be material to any decision such as this, but it seems they are not.

"I have just returned from the Mayors' Summit running alongside the UN conference on climate change at Copenhagen, where Bristol was the only UK city outside London invited to make a presentation.

"In Bristol we have fully supported the need for policies which do not discriminate against developing countries. Yet on our own doorstep we may be legally prevented from resisting developments which clearly do this."


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Malaysia, Indonesia reject planting curbs at Copenhagen

Malaysia, Indonesia reject planting curbs at Copenhagen

Published: 2009/12/21

WHILE the recently-ended climate talks in Denmark may have been met with dismay by environmentalists, oil palm planters are relieved that calls to curb planting have been rejected.

This comes under a scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing countries (REDD).

The World Bank had wanted this in place after the Kyoto Protocol, the current international pact to combat global warming, expires at the end of 2012.

Under the Kyoto Protocol palm oil millers can earn carbon credits if they install mini power plants at mills powered by biomass.

REDD promises to continue this, but with a condition to "avoid deforestation", a clause that could be interpreted to mean "no more expansion of oil palm plantations".

Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's top producers of palm oil, have rejected this proposal at the United Nations Copenhagen Climate Summit.

The World Bank scheme highlights how anti-palm oil lobby appears to have been inextricably linked to climate change issues.

But there are also bodies that are making attempts to show that non-governmental organisations like Greenpeace can't see the forest for the trees.

World Growth (WG), a pro-development NGO, is lobbying against any international binding agreements that seek to curb oil palm planting under the guise of "saving rainforest".

In an interview from Copenhagen, WG chairman Alan Oxley said Greenpeace, Wetlands International and Friends of the Earth's anti-palm oil lobby was "immoral" because their actions hurt the potential income of some five million oil palm planters in Malaysia and Indonesia.

At the Copenhagen conference, WG released a report titled "Collateral Damage: How the Bogus Campaign Against Palm Oil Harms the Poor".

It essentially found that palm oil production, a sustainable vegetable oil and essential food staple, raises living standards and reduces poverty in developing countries.

"Planting oil palm trees help alleviate poverty because palm oil can generate returns of about US$3,000 per hectare (RM10,320) while other food crop generates less than US$100 (RM340)," he said.

A former career diplomat, Oxley is also chairman of the national Australian APEC Study Centre, one of Australia's leading economic researcher based at RMIT University, Melbourne.

Malaysia's oil palm plantations, which directly employ 580,000 jobs, supports two million livelihoods.

"Based on the track record in Malaysia and Indonesia, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) is funding a project in Uganda to test the effectiveness of oil palm planting as a poverty eradication tool," he said.

Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of the Earth are currently running elaborate campaigns against palm oil, pressuring developing nations to reduce or even eliminate the land conversion necessary to cultivate this basic food ingredient.

These Europe-based activists allege that expansion of oil palm plantations into forest and peatland areas poses a serious threat to the global climate.

"No less than 10 million of Indonesia's 22.5 million ha of peatland have already been deforested and drained," Greenpeace said in a statement posted on its website.

It went on to say expansion plans in Riau province have the potential of triggering a "climate time bomb". Riau's peatland forests store a massive 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Without providing data that can be verified, Greenpeace also alleged destruction of Indonesia's peatland forests alone accounts for 4 per cent of global annual emissions. It placed Indonesia as the third biggest polluter, after the US and China.

Greenpeace's latest posting said it wants President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to submit to international civil society pressures and stop the further destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peat lands.

Washington-based WG, a non-governmental organisation that lobbies for free trade, say that not all within international civil society agree with Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of the Earth.

It considers these accusations and others levied by Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of the Earth as wrong, cannot be substantiated or severely exaggerated.

"Our finding reveal, at best, they're a misunderstandings of facts and economics and, at worst, intentional distortion of the truth in an attempt to advance radical efforts to halt any conversion of forested land," Oxley said.

In contrast to the green activists' claims, the fact is oil palm trees are highly sustainable - generating 10 times the amount of energy consumed. Compare that to rapeseed, which produces only three times the energy input; and soyabean which requires 10 times more land to yield the same amount of vegetable oil.

"And if these 'green' credentials aren't enough, the report also shows that oil palm plantations are very effective carbon sinks - a stark contrast to the propaganda by Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of the Earth".

In addition to these surprising revelations, WG's report demonstrates that poverty and not oil palm planting, is the major cause of deforestation and loss of orangutan habitat.

"This latest findings by forestry experts show two-thirds of forest clearance is driven by low income people in poor countries searching for land, habitation and food production," he said.

Oxley concluded that some green groups are willing to advance potentially devastating propositions so casually - especially when their implementation could cripple an industry that is able to reduce poverty and raise living standards - calls into question their morals.

"What Greenpeace, Wetlands and Friends of Earth are doing is not green, it's simply immoral and hurting the poor."

"If developed countries want developing nations to sign on to a new global strategy to reduce greenhouse gases, they must advance strategies that raise living standards and not regard poverty increase as unavoidable collateral damage," Oxley said.

Tim Wilson, founder of, shares the same view.

Making reference to an 11-paged report titled "Palming off livelihoods?: The misguided campaign against palm oil", Wilson said proposals at the UN Copenhagen Conference that stop forest conversion will only keep the world's poor trapped in poverty.

He talked about Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth's campaign activities ranging from protesting shipment of palm-based animal feed into New Zealand, to lobbying European officials to ban usage of palm oil as biofuel to getting palm oil advertisements taken off from television networks in the UK.

Although the lobby against palm oil is multi-faceted, it has one clear objective - to reduce palm oil consumption in western markets, like Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand.

"Deliberately reducing consumption of palm oil will only harm poor farmers' livelihoods and their capacity to lift themselves out of poverty," he said.

On nutrition, Wilson said palm oil is a necessary dietary staple for the poor because it is a rich source of Vitamin A.

"Since palm carotenes is essential in boosting children's immune system, any deficiency can lead to a million deaths per year among the poor in developing nations," he said.


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Green or Black? Bristol's biofuel dilemma

Green or Black? Bristol's biofuel dilemma

Dave Harvey | 12:48 UK time, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

If muck means brass, Avonmouth should be booming. For decades the port and its hinterland has been the mucky industrial heartland of the West. Giant oil depots, huge heaps of coal, acres of haulage. And everything, but everything, driven by carbon.

6m tonnes of coal comes into Bristol port every year

We never called it a "high carbon economy", but now that low carbon is the holy grail, an industrial zone like Avonmouth looks distinctly, well, twentieth century.

So plans for one old abandoned factory have captured people's imagination. The Sevalco plant used to make Carbon Black, the ultimate mucky industrial product. Vital to all sorts of industries, it makes car tyres black, amongst other things. I was there early in 2009 when the company closed it, costing 90 guys their jobs.

The old Sevalco works at AvonmouthWell now an entrepreneur plans to take this aging sooty factory and turn it into the ultimate green power station. The tangle of pipes will go, but the huge oil silos will remain, to be filled with vegetable oil. Enough to fry chips for all Bristol, but this oil will be burned for power. Giant turbines will turn, and 50 megawatts of electricity will feed the national grid. Without an ounce of fossil fuel, and - says the entrepreneur - with very little net carbon dioxide.

It's an attractive theory. You grow crops, which capture CO2 from the air. You crush their seeds or nuts and extract oil. You burn the oil and create electricity. You grow the next crop, and the cycle continues. Yes, there are inefficiencies: tractors on the farms and factories crushing the seeds will emit CO2. Crops will grow best in the tropics, so ships must bring the oil to Avonmouth, emitting more. But fossil fuels emit CO2 that has been trapped deep underground for hundreds of thousands of years; the fuel crops can't lose, can they?

I've been investigating the biofuel plans for Inside Out West, our documentary series. It will air in January, just days before Bristol councillors consider the plans on 20 January 2010. And this has to be one of the trickiest balancing acts they've had in a long time.

I went to a public meeting on a cold night in December, and it was packed. I counted 50 people, and there were apologies from dozens more. The opposition is implacable.

"Frankly, I'd rather see a coal power station," one activist tells me. "At least we know that's bad and needs limiting. This gives the illusion of clean energy, but is anything but."

Logging in Sumatra, IndonesiaThere are three big worries. First, much of the vegetable oil is Palm Oil, grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. Vast swathes of rainforest are being cut down and logged, and then palm plantations are grown. So increasing the demand for palm oil, say the activists, is a direct invitation to rip out more rainforest.

Second, the palm oil companies are accused of clearing villagers and wildlife from the land indiscriminately. Search the web on the subject, and you soon find films featuring indigenous people ejected from their homes. Gibbons and orang-utans are shot, it is claimed, so that the march of the palm can continue.

Third, the growth in palm oil is usurping food production in poor countries. Faced with the vast profits they can make on palm oil, why would an Indonesian company plant rice?

Doesn't look so green, all of a sudden, does it?

And yet ... "We aren't using any of that oil," the man behind the new power station tells me. "We're using sustainable oil, which has nothing to do with ripping out rainforests, shooting gibbons, or starving the third world."

Chris Slack is a new player in energy. His company, W4B, lists Salisbury as its head office, and has no previous experience. They are not an oil firm trying on new clothes, but project managers who've spotted an opportunity. Mr Slack himself worked on the original FairTrade project, helping small Caribbean banana farmers find a fair price for their crop.

"To qualify for the government's renewable subsidies, we have to use sustainable oil," he continues. He has great hopes for Jatropha, a new crop that grows on scrub-land and yields huge amounts of oil. And 'Sustainable Palm Oil', he tells me, is now bought and sold like organic coffee.

Problem solved then? Sadly, no. In south Bristol, I meet a wildlife film-maker who tells me she has seen first hand plantations growing so-called "Sustainable Palm Oil".

"I've seen them shooting gibbons right there," she tells me. "Villagers say the land was cleared right through their village. And when the oil arrives here, it is stamped "sustainable". It's a piece of greenwash, nothing more."

50 more wind turbines, or a biofuel plant?Mr Slack has offered an independent auditor to check the green credentials of his oil. And he points out that to make as much electricity from wind, Avonmouth would need 50 new windmills.

The arguments rage on, and I wonder if we have a new axiom for our times.

Where there's muck there's brass, maybe. But where there's green energy - there's an almighty row.

What do you think of the Avonmouth plans? Join the debate here, or if you want to be involved in the film, email me at And look out for Inside Out West, BBC One, Monday 18 Jan at 7:30pm.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do you want next generation biofuels? Have your say

Do you want next generation biofuels? Have your say


22nd December, 2009

New consultation to look at whether the next generation of biofuels will be more environmentally-sustainable than current food crop varieties

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has opened a public consultation on the potential of new types of biofuels, such as fuel produced by algae, to provide renewable energy.

As below more detail

Consultation on new approaches to biofuels

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics would like to hear your views on the ethical and social questions raised by new approaches to biofuels.

There have been concerns about the effect of biofuel production on, for example, food security and the environment, especially in the developing world. New types of biofuels are being developed with the expectation that they will avoid such problems. We want to explore their potential to meet our energy needs, address climate change and support economic development in an ethical and sustainable way.

The consultation paper includes background information and consultation questions. You can browse this online or download a PDF. When you are ready to start, you will need to register your details and then follow the instructions to input your views. Responses can be submitted anonymously....

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Biofuels can be sustainable, say less industrialised nations

Biofuels can be sustainable, say less industrialised nations


19th December, 2009

Greenpeace say biofuel crops are often grown on land which has been cleared of tropical rainforest, generating high carbon emissions

EU looking at the impact of land use changes on greenhouse gas emissions from moves to increase biofuel production

A group of developing countries has criticised the European Commission for its proposed method of calculating greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production - fearing it could block out their imports.

The EU has a target for each member state to meet 10 per cent of its transport fuel needs from renewable sources by 2020. This could include biofuels as well as green electricity or hydrogen.

To tackle concerns about the link between biofuels production, deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the EU also established strict sustainability rules that require biofuels to offer at least 35 per cent carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels. This figure will rise to 60 per cent in 2018.

It is currently putting together a report on the impact on greenhouse gas emissions of land being converted to growing biofuels.

EU lobbying

In response, a coalition of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, Mozambique and Sierra Leone has written to the EC complaining about its proposed methods for calculating emissions.

In specific, the countries argue that the EU's method does not take account of by-products of biofuel production, which it says offset the impact of deforestation.

'In many of our regions, biofuels' greenhouse gas savings thresholds already effectively offset the indirect impacts of land use change, especially when taking into account the generation of by-products, such as protein or energy.'


However, Greenpeace said it 'didn't buy into the argument'.

'These countries have been lobbying heavily on this issue for more than a year now,' said Jerome Frignet, Greenpeace forest campaigner, 'but we can't see how an increase in biofuel consumption can be sustainable.

'The amount of carbon dioxide released is in excess of the CO2 savings made by using biofuel instead of conventional fossil fuels, even if you include the by-products,' he said.

Greenpeace said biofuels from crops such as palm oil was often grown on land which had been cleared of tropical rainforest, generating high carbon emissions.

Frignet said there was also the indirect affect of a switch to biofuel production.

'For example sugarcane production in Brazil is currently not significantly encroaching on the Amazon rainforest but if demand for bioethanol pushes up sugarcane production that will push other types of crops and cattle further into the Amazon and increase levels of deforestation. Whatever you divert to the biofuel sector needs to be replaced,' he said.

Greenpeace say that the EU should focus on forcing through efficiency improvements in the transport sector before considering biofuels.

The EU is reported to be planning to publish its findings in March 2010.

Useful links

Letter sent to the EU Commission
EU Commission section on biofuels

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

New WRM article about oil palms in Colombia

World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, December 2009,

Colombia: oil-palm plantations, violation of human rights and Afro-descendent communities' quest for true dignity

When you talk about the violation of human rights, you must talk about Colombia. When you talk about the huge expansion of oil-palm plantations, you must talk about Colombia. Both issues go hand in hand in that country

One of the solutions put forward to face the climate change crisis is the promotion of agrofuels, including oil-palm. This proposal not only does not address the unsustainable production, marketing and consumption models that have landed us in this critical situation but also conceals the fact that the oil palm, far from being a "green" fuel, is a "red" one, tainted with blood.

In 1959 the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó basins in the Colombian Choco biogeographical region were designated as Natural Reserves. However, in 1996 the army and paramilitary forces launched an attack in the area and enabled oil palm growers, cattle ranchers and loggers to expand their agribusiness.

Oil palm plantations and cattle ranching took over 23 thousand hectares of collective territory belonging to Afro-descendent communities. Either through direct actions of the regular army or indirectly through paramilitary strategies, hundreds of crimes were committed: the massacre or forced disappearance of over 140 people, in addition to the ransacking and destruction of property, community members being persecuted, threatened and forced to abandon their land.

Human Rights organizations and families of forcibly disappeared people have provided figures for the whole of Colombia, amounting to more than 4 million people displaced from their lands by armed operations over the past 15 years together with over 15 thousand forced disappearances. Close on 7 million hectares of land have been illegally appropriated by paramilitary forces or drug traffickers over the same period, in most cases after forcing displacement of the inhabitants.

These State and paramilitary terrorist actions are all part of a strategy seeking not only to seize territories, but also to use them to establish destructive commercial processes. In the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó basins, dispossession of land was accompanied by vigorous felling of primary forests in an area covering over 10 thousand hectares, the drying up of five rivers, pollution of water courses from agrochemicals used in the oil palm plantations that also caused severe health problems, particularly in the case of women and children.

Over 120 years ago, the abolition of slavery led to a diaspora to what is known as the Bio Pacific Choco. People settled in tropical forests, places of great beauty hosting an enormous variety of species, plants, birds, butterflies, flowers, wild animals, primary tree vegetation and insects. These places became truly free spaces where the settlers mingled with the indigenous peoples and later with Mestizos. Finally they became a tribal people, recognized as such because their "social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations." (1) They are acknowledged as members of a "Black community" and "Afro-Colombians" or "Afro-descendents."

This identity embraces issues related with a sense of belonging to the community, which is linked by the river and rooted in an ancestral territory with which they have an almost umbilical relationship: the territory is their mother and father because it nourishes them. They understand it as a comprehensive web, not only involving the land but also the human beings, the social network, the community organization, ways of subsistence, of internal conflict solving, of mobility when facing events that threaten their lives, and their own relationship with biodiversity. Their territory guarantees their customs and ways of living, communal property and environmental protection.

Enforced displacement is therefore a violation of the integrity of these communities' existence and has caused injury in personal, family and collective terms. It has damaged social and cultural practices, ways of living and of territorial occupation, ways of relating with the earth, animals, water, cooking, organization and their interaction with the outside world.

Though facing innumerable violations of their human rights, even in the midst of an internal armed conflict and the implementation of illegal major works and agribusiness, in the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones Afro-descendent communities have developed innovative civil resistance processes.

Humanitarian Zones are places inhabited by a human group affirming their rights as part of the civilian population. These places, specifically intended for the protection of human and collective life as well as of ecosystems, are a means of returning to the territory and of confronting the criminal structure's claims. Humanitarian Zones' members freely share a Life Project to defend themselves from institutional militarization and from becoming victims of potential armed conflicts.

Biodiversity Zones are areas for the protection and rehabilitation of collective or private territory ecosystems and for the assertion of family groups' right to food when their lands have been devastated or are at risk of being destroyed by the agribusiness, major works or exploitation of natural resources.

In these places, the communities practice freedom of expression, democratic discussion involving women and children, and production methods that ensure food sovereignty. They repossess and heal their territories.

While at the Climate Summit all kinds of devices are being contrived – REDD, agrofuels, geo-engineering and others – to put off the real measure that sooner or later will have to be taken: that of halting the extraction of fossil fuels, with the recovery of their territories from the hands of agribusiness and mega-enterprises, these communities are truly contributing to curbing climate change.

At a time of large scale violations of human rights, of ecocide, starting by climate change itself, these criminalized, outcast, stigmatized Colombian communities bear witness to their rights in an autonomous and liberating practice of true dignity.

1. Article 1.1 of ILO Convention 169 and Convention Number 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples: a manual, Project to promote ILO policy on indigenous and tribal peoples. Geneva 2003, page 7.

Extracted and adapted from the reports: "Resiliencias colectivas. Se mata con hambre, se mata con balas, y se quiere matar el alma", (Collective resiliences. They kill by hunger, they kill with bullets and they want to kill the soul." Danilo Rueda, Comisión de Justicia y Paz,; and "Derechos Humanos y Palma Aceitera Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó" (Human Rights and the Oil Palm Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó). From Ver 236,


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Ecologist: Copenhagen may boost intensive farming; related protests


Copenhagen could lead to increase in intensive farming

Ed Hamer

14th December, 2009

All sectors must play their part in a global emissions deal, but could including agriculture in the mix lead to an intensification of farming and money for GM crops?

On Saturday 12 December, Copenhagen University hosted a meeting of the biggest names on the global agriculture scene; the Food Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, who all came together to discuss one thing: what does Copenhagen mean for agriculture?

Despite coming up with little in the way of concrete demands to present to the conference centre delegates, the meeting did highlight what could potentially be the make-or-break deal that seals Copenhagen's place in history: a decision on whether agriculture - or more specifically soil carbon sequestration - will be eligible for carbon trading under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) funding scheme.

Soil for sale

For a sector which the IPCC says is responsible for fully one-third of combined global greenhouse gas emissions, and as an industry charged with achieving cuts in the region of 800 megatonnes of carbon per year while at the same time doubling productivity to feed 9bn people by 2050, agriculture has played a surprisingly low-key role in negotiations so far.

This partly because the science is controversial. Ever since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit the potential of mitigation through agricultural services has been dogged by the lack of scientific consensus on mitigation figures. In 2007, however the IPCC recognised that the world's soils have the potential to sequester an estimated 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, opening the doors for agriculture's carbon-trading proponents to flood in.

And flood they have. Within the past two years, the UNFCCC has been lobbied by successive international organisations, governments and private companies - from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to Monsanto and the House of Saud - falling over themselves in anticipation of what trade in soil carbon credits could ultimately mean for their bottom lines.

And who can blame them? In 2008 4.9bn tonnes of CO2 were traded globally, an 83 per-cent increase on 2007 levels. With carbon trading tipped as the next boom economy, the world's 1.6bn hectares of cultivated land represent a mouth watering opportunity for future investors. It is estimated that the US could see an annual gross revenue of over $100bn from domestic carbon offsets alone, nearly 50 per-cent of its current agricultural GDP.

Farming under the UN

So what would the 'agricultural methods' recognised by the CDM as eligible for carbon credits look like? Subsidies for reducing the use of fossil fuels in agriculture perhaps, or for adopting organic farming? It seems unlikely.

Helena Paul from the public interest and scientific research organisation Econexus, which has recently released a policy document - Agriculture and Climate Change; Real Problems, False Solutions - summarises what's on the table this week:

'Firstly, some want no-till agriculture to be included in carbon trading, including the CDM, claiming soil carbon emissions are reduced by not tilling the soil. In reality however, the majority of no-till is carried out by large-scale producers using GM herbicide tolerant crops in combination with applications of herbicide, plus chemical fertilisers and insecticides.

'Secondly, biochar, which is basically charcoal, has been proposed as a method of locking the carbon from biomass into the soil. However, apart from doubts about its effectiveness at large and small scale, especially in the longterm, this would require immense plantations as a source of biomass for the charcoal. These would also feed the market for biofuel as a co-product, offering double subsidies but also twice the incentive for destruction of forests and biodiversity.

'Thirdly, some also propose further intensification of livestock farming, saying that emissions can be significantly reduced through housing stock and "managing" manure to produce biogas. Once again it is big industrial producers that already benefit to the exclusion of the small.'

Carbon money to fund GM

Among the most controversial suggestions currently under consideration is the possibility of awarding carbon credits for growing GM crops.

The biotech industry is keen to highlight the potential of GMOs to cut emissions through claimed higher yields. The industry is also lobbying strongly against plans to prohibit patents on genetic resources that are considered essential to climate change adaptation.

At present it is estimated that around six per-cent of CDM funding goes to agricultural services, however this funding is, as Helena points out, intrinsically biased towards large-scale operators. In 2007 for example 90 per-cent of all CDM projects approved in Malaysia were awarded to palm oil monocultures, while in Mexico over half of all CDM funding is claimed by industrial swine units producing biogas from manure.

Some believe that a decision by the the UN to include soil carbon in its remit will be met by an explosion of the intensive farming systems best suited to exploit it. They fear that such a scenario - which could see the UN pour $1.5bn of funding into further intensification scheme - could have serious consequences, barely 18-months on from a global food crisis that pushed an estimated 90m people into food poverty worldwide.

Ed Hamer is a freelance journalist specialising in agriculture and globalisation issues. He is reporting from the Copenhagen climate summit


Copenhagen: peasant farmers can save the planet

Ed Hamer

15th December, 2009

Carbon reduction potential of ecological farming methods is highlighted at Copenhagen, as protests against industrial agriculture gather strength

Small-scale peasant farmers from the global South are not just among the first to suffer the impacts of climate change: they also offer the most realistic solution to the climate crisis.

This was the message delivered to delegates and minister at the COP15 negotiations by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina today.

Speaking at the UNFCCC conference center, Henry Saragih, La Via Campesina's international coordinator, urged heads of state to recognise the role peasant agriculture can play in mitigating climate change while at the same time addressing food security.

'More than 150 peasant farmers have come to Copenhagen to claim that a radical change in the food system can reduce current global emissions from between 50-75 per-cent,' he said. 'We are not begging for carbon credits or other trade based solutions; we advocate a diverse food system that supports local markets and ultimately promotes food sovereignty.'

According to the La Via Campesina: 'Global warming has been taking place for decades but it has been only recently, once transnational corporations have been able to set up huge money-making schemes, that we hear about possible solutions designed and controlled by big companies and backed up by governments.'

Ecological approach needed

Current agricultural production is estimated to contribute 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than double that of its nearest rival, transport, at 13.5 per cent. Via Campesina argues however that simply rebuilding soil fertility to pre-industrial levels has the potential to sequester up to 330bn tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

'This could realistically be achieved through the ecological approach to agriculture which is already used by millions of peasant farmers across the world,' said Henry Saragih, 'however, the positive contribution of sustainable farming to the climate, the environment and employment has so far been overlooked by the Climate talks.'

Via Campesina's claims are supported by a recent report by the agricultural NGO GRAIN which calculates that sustainable farming techniques could progressively increase soil organic matter by 60 tonnes/hectare over the next 50 years. Soil organic matter has been recognised by, among others, the IPCC as a significant sink for sequestering atmospheric carbon.

Responding to the role of agriculture in the talks, Jonathan Scurlock, the chief climate change advisor to the NFU said:
'A climate deal without agriculture is "No Deal". Agriculture is where poverty reduction, food security and climate change intersect and we all want it included in the Copenhagen agreement. Much of the fine detail can await further development by the UN's subsidiary bodies.'

Petrol station shut down

Meanwhile, half a mile away from the conference centre, more than 600 farmers, activists, landless peasants and young people from around the world converged for a demonstration calling for politicians to 'change the food system, not the climate!'.

'Green-washed' rubbish was dumped outside the headquarters of Danish supermarket giant Danisco to highlight the superficial greening of large food retailers. An action outside the Danish Meat Council drew attention to Denmark's dependence upon imported soya and cereals to feed its 800,000 intensively farmed pigs.

The demonstration culminated in shutting down one of Copenhagen's central petrol stations. The protest was aimed at EU legislation introduced in 2007 requiring pump petrol and diesel to contain at least 10 per-cent biofuels by 2020. 'Agrofuels have been championed by agribusiness as a solution to climate change, however this is not the case,' said Marie Smekens, representing the European youth movement, Reclaim the Fields.

'By supporting large scale cereal farming, agrofuels directly encourage mechanisation and dependence on fossil fuel based fertilisers and pesticides - which are responsible for agriculture's massive carbon footprint. Demand for agrofuels is already competing for land that would otherwise be used for food production, in turn this results in a direct increase in food imports and carbon emissions.'

Despite the G77 group of developing nations staging a temporary walk-out on Monday in protest at the lack of concessions being made by G20 countries, negotiations have resumed today. While many still expect the conference to deliver a 'statement of intent' by Friday, the contributions of both small-scale and industrial agriculture in any agreement are likely to remain contentious.
Ed Hamer is a freelance journalist specialising in agriculture and globalisation issues. He is reporting from Copenhagen

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Deforestation and Land Grabs - new Kyoto Protocol draft proposals

Dear All,

Copenhagen Update:
Despite some success in getting soils and agriculture as sink enhancements out of the Longterm Cooperative Action (LCA) texts, it has reappeared with avengence in the form of new proposals for CDM methodologies in new KP draft text.

Press release below. Please forward to your lists and press contacts.

Best wishes


0045 5075 1636

New Copenhagen Draft Proposals Subsidize Forest Destruction and Land Grabs

Press release by Global Forest Coalition, Biofuelwatch, Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Gaia Foundation, Focus on the Global South, Noah (Friends of the Earth Denmark), Robin Wood, Campaign against Climate Change, Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group, Ecologistas en Accion, Corporate European Observatory, Econexus, ETC Group, Rettet den Regenwald.

For immediate release

Copenhagen, 17th December - The new draft proposals released yesterday at the Copenhagen Climate Conference will lead to large-scale destruction of ecosystems and unprecedented land grabs as spurious `offsets' will allow Northern countries to burn ever more fossil fuels say civil society groups who have been tracking negotiations.

Proposals (1) are expected to lead to huge carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for tree and crop monocultures, including for biochar production (2), `no-till' GM soya (3), and tree and shrub monocultures falsely classed as `carbon sinks'. Details are to be worked out by a technical UNFCCC meeting next year (4).

Stella Semino from Grupo de Reflexion Rural (Argentina) states: "If these new proposals are agreed upon we will see a massive boost for crop and tree plantations alike which, in the name of `climate change mitigation', will speed up the destruction of forests and other vital ecosystems, the spread of industrial agriculture, and land-grabbing against small-farmers, indigenous peoples and forest communities. Industrial monocultures are already a major cause of climate change and their expansion will make it worse."

Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, no CDM offsets are allowed for existing forests nor soil carbon although a very limited number of CDM credits can go towards industrial tree plantations. Current proposals for large-scale offsetting for `carbon sinks' closely resemble those contained in the US climate bill. Back in 2001, when the US proposed such offsets, the EU had refused them, warning that this would render a climate change agreement completely ineffective.

"The right kind of agriculture, such as organic and biodiversity-based farming, has the potential to store carbon in soils and increase resilience to climate change" said Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network, "But realistically, small-scale organic farmers in Africa are not going to be the ones participating and benefiting from the CDM or these complex UNFCCC market mechanisms. They will be locked out of the process, and their livelihoods will be threatened. If heads of state accept this language, it will lead to a destruction of the very same solutions we need to support."

Camila Moreno from Global Forest Coalition adds: "In Brazil we're seeing an obscene agribusiness lobby presenting themselves as the solution while they destroy Brazil 's unique rainforest and savannah habitats and contribute massively to climate change. Yet they continue too ply their trade in the highest political circles with impunity. Theses new CDM rules will further mandate this ransacking of the global South."


Deepak Rughani, Biofuelwatch

0045 5075 1636 (until 20th)

0044 7931 636 337 (from 21st)

Teresa Anderson, Gaia Foundation

0045 5075 1637 (until 20th)

0044 7984 932 655 (from 21st)


(1) The proposals can be found at I WOULD INCLUDE PRECISE PARAGRAPHS HERE

(2) Biochar is fine-grained charcoal applied to soils. It is being promoted widely as a means of sequestering carbon even though there are major scientific uncertainties over the amount of carbon in charcoal which will remain in soils for different periods, over possible losses of existing soil carbon as a result of charcoal additions and over the potential of charcoal dust to worsen global warming in the same way as a black soot from fossil fuel and biomass burning does.

(3) Monsanto has promoted the inclusion of no-till agriculture into the CDM since the late 1990s and they have just been awarded the Angry Mermaid Award for their lobbying ( Industrial no-till agriculture involves large-scale agro-chemical spraying to destroy weeds rather than ploughing the soil and herbicide-resistant GM crops are most commonly used with no-till, particularly in North and South America . The impacts on soil carbon are scientifically debated and uncertain, there is evidence that this method can lead to more emissions of the very powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and the introduction of no-till GM soya in Argentina has been shown to have accelerated the destruction of the Chaco forest.

(4) It is proposed that the 2010 SBSTA meeting of UNFCCC will recommend new CDM methodologies for example for tree plantations, `forest management', a term widely used for industrial logging, and soil carbon management.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BBC Business clip on jatropha, Tanzania

Here is the video clip that accompanies with the previously posted BBC article on jatropha, Tanzania in message #3625:

Supporters claim Biofuel crop is 'green gold'

An ancient plant is being cultivated in Tanzania as a lucrative biofuel crop.

The jatropha plant has even been used to fuel a 747, on an experimental flight.

But there are fresh doubts about whether it really is the "green gold" its supporters claim.

Egon Cossou reports.


Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Supporters claim Biofuel crop is 'green gold'

An ancient plant is being cultivated in Tanzania as a lucrative biofuel crop.
The jatropha plant has even been used to fuel a 747, on an experimental flight.
But there are fresh doubts about whether it really is the "green gold" its supporters claim.
Egon Cossou reports.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BBC report: Tanzania puts faith in jatropha plant

Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Tanzania puts faith in jatropha plant

By Egon Cossou
Africa Business Report, BBC World News, Tanzania

Jatropha plant
The jatropha plant can thrive in the harshest conditions
The small village of Miririnyi village lies in the sun-baked province of Arusha in northern Tanzania.
The ancient crop jatropha grows wild here. It is extremely hardy and can survive in dry, barren soil - even though other plants cannot.

It used to be considered as bush with no commercial potential.
But the global search for clean energy has changed all that.
That is because the seeds can be harvested to make biofuel. It has meant that farmers are now taking to the crop with gusto.

Child's play

Samson Nasary is one such farmer, and he is looking to jatropha as an important source of income.

He harvests the seed and takes it to a collection point where he meets an agent for a firm called Diligent Tanzania. The product is weighed and valued, then a deal is struck.
The government is shouting about this because some of the farmers they plant only jatropha without food production
Faustina Manang, Diligent
Mr Nasary says it was school children looking for extra pocket money who first led the way in raising awareness of the commercial potential.

"Initially, it was actually the kids who'd sell the seeds - and we really got interested and thought - why can't we get the seeds and sell them," he says.

"That's why we've been collecting the seeds and selling them to Diligent."
A few miles away from the farm, we come to a factory run by Diligent. The company doesn't grow jatropha itself.

It buys seeds from farmers through its local agents.

Many uses
The heart of the operation is a hot, noisy, sticky place. The seeds are crushed, processed and turned into crude jatropha oil.

Once its been refined it can be used to power electric generators and cars.
Diligent run some of their vehicles on the stuff. Jatropha oil from this factory has even been used as fuel in a 747 making an experimental flight.

It can also be used to make other products like soap and candles. Researchers are looking into possible medical applications.

But here is the rub.

The government is facing complaints that food production is being threatened because so many farmers are focusing on jatropha rather than edible crops .

And that's something a poor country like Tanzania can ill afford.

'Green gold'
Faustina Manang works for Diligent. Her job is to liaise with the farmers and encourage efficient management of the crop.

The company is facing real pressure from the government to make sure jatropha does not squeeze out food production.

"The government is shouting about this because some of the farmers they plant only jatropha without food production," she says.

"We try to tell them to to mix it with food production, like maize, like beans. They agree and they do that."

The message does seem to be getting through, at least to some farmers.

Mr Nasary says he's determined to continue growing food alongside his jatropha - and will only grow it where food cannot flourish.

But critics still question whether jatropha really can be the "green gold" its supporters claim.
Production is still small scale - most cultivation around the world is on plots of less than 12 acres.
Current production is certainly not enough to make a real dent in our demand for fossil fuels.
It can grow in poor conditions - but some scientists say that the amount of oil produced under such condition will also be poor.

So while the farmers of this small village continue to exploit this new source of income - the status of jatropha as wonder biofuel - remains uncertain.

Africa Business Report is a monthly programme on BBC World News. The next programme will be on Saturday, 12 December at 0230 GMT and 2230 GMT, and on Sunday, 13 December at 1330 GMT as well as 2130 GMT.

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GRFA: biofuels "offetting GHG emissions of Belgium or Greece"

Automotive Fleet Top News

December 15, 2009

Study: Biofuels Reduce GHGs by 123.5M Tons

TORONTO --- A new study concludes that world biofuels production in 2009 has reduced global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 123.5 million tons, representing an average reduction of 57 percent compared to the emissions that would have occurred from the production and use of equal quantities of petroleum fuels.

The study was conducted by (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., an energy and environmental consulting firm, and commissioned by the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, a biofuels trade association.

"This landmark report proves yet again that biofuels production and use is already playing a vital, yet too often overlooked, role in reducing harmful GHG emissions around the globe," said Bliss Baker, a spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. "In light of the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today's report is evidence that biofuels are and must continue to be on the front line of the climate change fight."

The report's findings included:
  • World biofuel production has surpassed 100 billion liters of annual production in 2009. After accounting for energy contents, this is displacing 1.15 million barrels of crude oil per day, which creates approximately 215 million tons of GHG emissions annually.
  • In 2009, world ethanol production of 73.7 billion liters is estimated to reduce GHG emissions by 87.6 million tons -- approximately the same as the total GHG emissions reported for Austria in 2007.
  • With respect to biodiesel, forecast global production of 16.4 billion liters will reduce GHG emissions by 35.9 million tons -- greater than the GHG emissions reported for Croatia in 2007.
  • The combined GHG emissions reduction from global ethanol and biodiesel production of 123.5 million tons represents an average reduction of 57 percent compared to the emissions that would have occurred from the production and use of equal quantities of petroleum fuels. This is equal to the national GHG emissions of Belguim or Greece, or the combined emissions of Monaco, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and Croatia.
The study used a "life cycle assessment" approach to estimate global GHG emissions reduction achieved through the production and use of biofuels from "cradle-to-grave," including the acquisition of raw materials, manufacture, transport, use, maintenance and final disposal.

The full study, titled GHG Emission Reductions from World Biofuel Production and Use, can be downloaded at Production data were compiled by FO Lichts.

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Major Airlines Seek To Buy Big Amounts Of Alternative Fuel

Major Airlines Seek To Buy Big Amounts Of Alternative Fuel

By Angel Gonzalez, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES HOUSTON -(Dow Jones)- In a bid to break the shackles of using petroleum fuel, 15 major airlines and air carriers on Tuesday announced that they are in talks to buy a significant quantity of alternative fuel from AltAir Fuels and Rentech Inc. (RTK).

The discussions, led by the Air Transport Association, a trade organization representing U.S. airlines, underscore how the aviation sector is still seeking alternatives to petroleum fuel. The high cost of crude oil has pinched airline profits for most of the decade--and the greenhouse-gas emissions produced from burning it have stoked environmental criticism of the industry.
The talks also build on successful testing of biofuel blends in several Boeing Co. (BA) jets over the past two years.

Alaska Airlines parent Alaska Air Group Inc. (ALK) and Hawaiian Airlines parent Hawaiian Holdings Inc. (HA) are in talks with Seattle-based AltAir, which seeks to build a facility producing about 75 million gallons per year of jet fuel and diesel at a Tesoro Corp. (TSO) facility in Anacortes, Wash. Tesoro, one of the largest independent refiners in the U.S., is a partner in AltAir, along with biofuel feedstock producer Sustainable Oils and refining technology company UOP LLC, a unit of Honeywell International Inc. (HON). The more than 50 million gallons per year of jet fuel produced at the facility, derived from camelina seeds, would provide about 10% of the annual fuel consumption of Seattle-Tacoma airport.

Orlando-based AirTran Airways, a unit of Airtran Holdings Inc. (AAI), is discussing a deal with Los Angeles-based Rentech, whose proposed Mississippi facility aims to produce 250 million gallons per year of synthetic jet fuel derived from coal or petroleum coke. The technique was invented in Germany during the 1920s and used in South Africa when the country was isolated by international sanctions. The carbon dioxide generated by the production process would be sequestered at an enhanced oil-recovery operation, Rentech said in a statement.

In addition, 12 airlines--Air Canada (AIDIF, AC.B), American Airlines Corp. ( AMR), Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (AAWW), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), FedEx Corp.'s (FDX) Fedex Express, Jetblue Airways Corp. (JBLU), Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA.XE), Mexicana Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, United Airlines parent UAL Corp. ( UAUA), United Parcel Service Inc.'s (UPS) UPS Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. (LCC)--signed memoranda of understanding with both AltAir Fuels and Rentech.

AltAir could end up negotiating the purchase of up to 750 million gallons of its renewable jet fuel and diesel, the company said in a statement.

Its proposed facility is still "on the drawing board," but could be ready in 2012, said Tesoro spokesman Alan Anderson. According to Anderson, "this is just one of several" business opportunities the company is looking at in the field of alternative fuels.

-By Angel Gonzalez, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-547-9214; angel.gonzalez@
  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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