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Biomass schemes will boost destructive timber imports, claims wood industry
Wood companies and green campaigners say subsidies to power companies threaten both jobs and rainforests
Terry Macalister Sunday 11 September 2011
Big wood companies are trying to halt Drax, RWE and others pressing ahead with a raft of lower-carbon energy schemes which would see large power stations switch from burning coal to timber.
The wood industry fears thousands of jobs in its factories will be threatened by the "green" power plans and wants government to remove the subsidies facilitating them.
Wildlife and environmental groups are also alarmed that the new biomass schemes could trigger a huge escalation in wood imports and threaten rainforests.
The Wood Panel Industries Association said: "We have already seen a 50% increase in wood prices over the last three years because of these kinds of energy developments and we do not think they should be receiving subsidies for schemes which we believe are not carbon-friendly and which will require a huge amount of imported wood to support a tenfold increase in planned capacity."
The lobbying has started ahead of a planned consultation by the Department of Energy and Climate Change into the future level of subsidy through the renewable obligation certificate (ROC) system.
The current subsidy regime for biomass and other clean technology such as wind power runs until 2013. New "banding" is being considered that will run until 2017.
A DECC spokesman said the department was aware of concerns from interest groups about a major escalation in biomass but said it had safeguards in place. "The very clear sustainability criteria we now have in place under the renewables obligation will mean we know where biomass has come from and how it has been grown.
"The UK criteria also include a minimum greenhouse gas emission saving of 60% compared with EU average fossil-fuel use, and restrictions to prevent use of land, such a primary forest and other land important on carbon or biodiversity grounds, from being converted to grow biomass. These criteria apply to both imported and UK biomass."
It is not just companies such as Canada's Norbord and Austria's Egger which are worried about the future of the British factories they run to supply the construction industry and others with wood.
The RSPB wildlife campaign group also says it is "by no means certain" biomass is a low-carbon energy source. Its new report , Bioenergy: a burning issue, says the power companies will move from a 74% dependency on British wood to an 80% dependency on imports where sustainability will be far harder to verify.
Friends of the Earth says it is also concerned about the large-scale imports of biomass wood from overseas which would be "impossible" to control and could create terrible damage through deforestation in the developing world.
The RSPB claims there are 31 biomass plants in operation but 14 more have been approved, 16 are in the planning stage and a further nine have been proposed.
Drax has been co-firing its main 4,000-megawatt plant using coal and a small amount of biomass but has talked about introducing three standalone biomass plants on the same Yorkshire site if the right subsidy regime is in place.
RWE has plans to convert its 1,050-megawatt coal-fired power station at Tilbury in Essex to run entirely on wood pellets, which would make it the UK's largest biomass plant. The German company has made clear it will import most of the wood supplies from the US.
The Biomass Energy Centre, run by the UK Forestry Commission, argues that wood derived from sustainable forests, where new trees are planted when others are cut down, releases far less carbon than traditional fossil fuels.
"The critical difference between biomass fuels and fossil fuel is that of fossil and contemporary carbon," it says. "Burning fossil fuels results in converting stable carbon sequestered millions of years ago into atmospheric carbon dioxide when the global environment has adapted to current levels.
"Burning biomass fuels, however, returns to the atmosphere contemporary carbon recently taken up by the growing plant, and currently being taken up by replacement growth."
Link found between increased crops and deforestation in Amazon, but Issue Not So Cut and Dry
Thursday, 08 September 2011
A Kansas State University geographer is part of a research team out to prove what environmental scientists have suspected for years: Increasing the production of soybean and biofuel crops in Brazil increases deforestation in the Amazon. Although this cause-and-effect finding seems fairly straightforward, the issue of deforestation in the Amazon is more complex and more devastating than previously believed, said Marcelus Caldas, an assistant professor of geography at Kansas State University.
Caldas and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin and Michigan State University published their findings in a recent issue of the environmental science journal, Environmental Research Letters. Their study, "Statistical confirmation of indirect land use change in the Brazilian Amazon," looks at how mechanized agriculture in Brazil affects the country's forest in the Amazon, which is the second largest forest in the world.
Using data from 2003-2008, the team statistically linked the loss of forest area as the indirect effect of changing pastureland into space for soybean and biofuel crops in counties bordering the Amazon. Caldas, who grew up in Brazil, said this finding wasn't too surprising as most Brazilians are aware of the issue. What is shocking, however, is how much of an effect this is having on forests, he said.
"Between 2003-2008 soy production expanded in Brazil by 39,000 square kilometers - Caldas said - Of this 39,000 square kilometers, our study shows that reducing soybean production by 10 percent in these pasture areas could decrease deforestation in heavily forested counties of the Brazilian Amazon by almost 26,000 square kilometers -- or 40 percent."
Caldas said he hopes this link between crops and deforestation will motivate Brazil's environmental policymakers to develop more dynamic agricultural regulations to slow deforestation.
Although the numbers and data back this connection, the notion that deforestation will cease completely is unlikely because of other complexities like money and livestock. Demand for Brazil's crops is high and there's a desire to produce more for buyers.
"In the international market, China is buying a lot of soybeans from Brazil," Caldas said. The research, which analyzed changes in forest cover across the 761 municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon, found that deforestation in the forest frontiers of the basin is strongly related to soy expansion in its settled agricultural areas, to the south and east.
Despite moratorium on Amazon soay, this commodity still contributes indirectly to Amazon deforestation. The Brazilian government says soybean and sugarcane are grown largely in degraded pasture, but data from the team's work with geographic information systems, or GIS, shows that many of these crops have crept into the Brazilian savanna, a large area bordering the Amazon that's used for cattle. Consequently, this has created deforestation in the savanna, driving cattle inside the Amazon.
"Our data shows that the Amazon now has 79 million heads of cattle - Caldas said - Fifteen years ago, it had less than 10 million. That means that there's a problem with cattle moving inside the forest."
A problem is brewing in the near future, too. As the world's population grows and buyers look for countries where food is produced less expensively, more grain crops are expected to transition to Brazil because it is a breadbasket, according to Caldas.
"Because of that, Brazil is going to say they can increase crops here because there's going to be a demand for food," he said. "So if they start to increase food production, it's all going to directly affect deforestation in the Amazon."
Funding for the team's work has come from the National Science Foundation and NASA. Caldas and his colleagues have spent more than 15 years studying Brazil's countryside
La Via Campesina: Call to Durban
Peasant and indigenous people have thousands of solutions to confront climate change!
La Via Campesina calls on social movements and all people to mobilize around the world
The international peasant's movement La Via Campesina and its South African member the Landless Peoples Movement are mobilizing for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.
Caravans of African farmers from Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other countries will reach Durban to join other farmers and social movements from all parts of the world to demand climate justice.
African women farmers, members of La Via Campesina, will participate in the 2nd Southern Africa Rural Women Assembly, from November 30 to December 2, in Durban (co-organized by la Via Campesina Africa 1, TCOE, Women on Farms Project, Lamosa, ESAFF, UNAC, Namibian National Farmers Union, among others).
La Via Campesina will also take part in the Global Day of Action on December 3, with thousands of other activists to demand climate justice.
La Via Campesina and other African food and farmers groups in Africa are also inviting all movements, allies and activists to a special Mobilization Day for Agroecology and Food sovereignty on December 5 in Durban and around the world. (co-organised by ESAFF regional, ESAFF Uganda, ESAFF Zimbabwe, ROPPA, TCOE, Surplus People Project, etc.)
Climate negotiations are turned into a market place
At COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico, most of the world's governments, with the notable exception of Bolivia, met not to seriously address climate, but rather do business with transnational corporations that traffic in false solutions to climate change like REDD and other carbon market mechanisms, agrofuels and GMOs. They have turned the climate negotiations into a huge market place.
Our governments accepted a "business as usual" framework that condemns Africa and South Asia to virtual incineration, in which the very first victims are the farmers of these two continents, as rising temperatures create an even more hostile environment for crops, livestock and human beings. Most governments ignored the Cochabamba Principles, which provide a clear framework for seriously addressing global warming and protecting the Earth.
Under the UNFCCC, Developed Countries and polluting corporations, historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions, are allowed all possible tricks to avoid reducing their own emissions. For example, the carbon market and carbon offset mechanisms allow countries and companies to continue polluting and consuming as usual, while paying small amounts of money to help poor people in developing countries reduce their emissions. What actually occurs is that companies profit doubly: by continuing to contaminate and by selling false solutions. Meanwhile, under REDD, poor people are stripped of many of their multiple rights to use communal forest lands, even as new land-grabbers emerge to consolidate large tracts by evicting farmers in order to traffic in carbon credits.
We know that the keys sources of climate-altering emissions are the globalized corporate food system based on industrial agriculture for export and for agrofuels, a transportation system based on private automobiles instead of public transport, and the polluting industries of transnational corporations. Without real and enforceable commitments to transform this, , there is no hope to prevent the virtual incineration of our farm lands and ability to feed the world.
We are peasants, small holders and family farmers, who today produce the vast majority of food consumed on this planet. We, and the food we produce, are being placed in danger, as temperatures rise, planting dates become unpredictable and there are ever more severe droughts, hurricanes and monsoons. Yet we also offer the most important, clear and scientifically-proven solutions to climate change through localized agroecological production of food by small holder farmers under the Food Sovereignty paradigm.
The global food system currently generates at least 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions, through long-distance transport of food that could easily have been grown locally, by excessive use of petroleum and petroleum-based agrochemical inputs, by monoculture, and by forest clearing for the industrial plantations we call "green deserts."
We can drastically reduce or even eliminate these emissions by transforming the food system based on food sovereignty, i.e. producing locally for local consumption, a diverse production based on peasant families and communities, with sustainable practices
Agroecology is Not for Sale!
We reject any attempt to extend the carbon market and offset mechanisms of REDD to soil carbon, even when this comes dressed up by the World Bank as support for small farmer agroecology or "Climate Smart Agriculture," because:
Just as in the case of REDD for forests, the carbon in our soil will essentially become the property of polluting corporations in the North. This amounts to the sale and privatization of our carbon. "Our Carbon in Not for Sale"!
The voluntary soil carbon market will be just another space for financial speculation, and while farmers receive pennies, speculators will make any real profits.
This is just another way for polluting industries and countries to evade real reductions in emissions.
It is also a way to divert attention from the massive carbon emissions produced by industrial farming and agribusiness, especially in the North, and place the burden of reducing emissions on peasants in the South, while nothing is done about carbon emissions from industrial agriculture.
If we as farmers sign a soil carbon agreement we lose autonomy and control over our farming systems. Some bureaucrat on the other side of the world, who knows nothing about our soil, rainfall, slope, local food systems, family economy, etc., will decide what practices we should use or not use.
Agroecology provides a wealth of benefits to the environment and farmer livelihoods, but by reducing the value of agroecology practices to the value of the carbon sequestered, not only are these other benefits devalued, but it can create perverse incentives to alter the agroecological practices (and opens the door to technologies like GMOs) to only maximize carbon rather than provide all the other benefits of agroecology.
It is inseparable from the neoliberal trend to convert absolutely everything (land, air, biodiversity, culture, genes, carbon, etc.) into capital, which in turn can be placed in some kind of speculative market.
If the currently low value of soil carbon were to rise on the speculative market, this could generate new land grabbing to charge soil carbon credits, as land consolidation is a prerequisite for making soil carbon credits profitable.
How peasant's agriculture Should be Supported by Public Policy
Support farmer-to-farmer training programs administered by farmer organizations
Support the agroecology training schools of farmer organizations
End all open and hidden subsidies to industrial farming
Ban GMOs and dangerous farm chemicals
Offer production credit to small farmers who produce agroecologically
Direct government food procurement for hospitals, schools, etc., toward buying ecological food at fair prices from peasant farmers
Support ecological farmer's markets for direct sale to consumers
Transform agronomy curricula to emphasize agroecology and farmer-to-farmer methodology
Create fair price incentives for locally produced ecological food
Commitments of La Via Campesina
While we make many legitimate and urgent demands on our governments to seriously address climate change, we pledge to continue to build agroecology and Food Sovereignty from below. We pledge to take the following practical steps:
We continue to strengthen the movement of agroecology in the grassroots level to adapt to changing climate patterns.
We will work to "keep carbon in the ground and in trees" in the areas under our control, by promoting agroforestry, tree planting, agroecology, energy conservation, and by fighting land grabs for mining and industrial plantations.
We will engage and pressure governments at all levels to adopt food sovereignty as the solution to the climate change.
We will fight the inclusion of peasant agriculture in carbon financing mechanisms.
We will continue our struggle for agrarian reform to distribute land to family farmers and to oppose all forms of land grabbing.
We will build a powerful smallholder farmer and peasant voice to be present with other sectors of civil society at COP-17 in Durban, and at Rio +20 in Brazil, with the message that we oppose false solutions to climate change and demand the adoption of the Cochabamba Principles. We will insist on Small Holder Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty as the most important true solutions to climate change.
No to Climate Land Grabbing!
Our Carbon is Not for Sale!
Peasant agriculture is Not for Sale!
Agroecological Production by Small Farmers Cools the Planet!
Globalize the Struggle! Globalize Hope!
Exclusive - EU to delay action on biofuels' indirect impact
BRUSSELS | Thu Sep 8, 2011
(Reuters) - The European Union's top climate and energy officials have agreed to delay by up to seven years rules that would penalise individual biofuels for their indirect climate impacts, details of the deal showed.
The political compromise is designed to protect EU farmers' incomes and existing investments in the bloc's 17 billion euro-a-year (14.8 billion pound) biofuel sector, while discouraging new investments in biofuels that do nothing to fight climate change.
At issue is an emerging concept known as indirect land use change (ILUC), which states that if you divert food crops to biofuel production, someone, somewhere, will go hungry unless those missing tonnes of grain are grown elsewhere.
"The introduction of feedstock-specific factors would seem to be the most effective solution to address ILUC... However, scientific uncertainties still exist with regard to the exact level of such factors," said the internal minutes of the July meeting, seen by Reuters.
(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Rex Merrifield)
To ask the Secretary of State
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Rapid Response Forum of G20 agriculture ministers plans to consider a temporary adjustment of biofuels policies.
(Citation: HC Deb, 5 September 2011, c45W)Photo of James Paice
(Minister of State (Agriculture and Food), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; South East Cambridgeshire, Conservative)
The Rapid Response Forum, which is a body of senior officials, will respond to particular crises as and when they occur or threaten to occur. It is thus not possible to say in advance what measures might be considered, since particular measures are likely to be relevant to some situations and not others. However, the action plan agreed by G20 Agriculture Ministers provides for further work on the relationship between biofuels production and the response of agriculture to price increase and volatility, and I expect the results of that work to be available to the forum in due course.
Indians of the Guarani tribe in Brazil have demanded that energy giant Shell stop using their ancestral land for ethanol production.
Ambrosio Vilhalva, a Guarani man from one of the communities affected, told Survival, `Shell must leave our land… the companies must stop using indigenous land. We want justice, we want our land to be mapped out and protected for us'.
Shell is united with Brazilian ethanol company Cosan, in a joint venture company called Raizen. Some of Raizen's ethanol, sold as a biofuel, is produced from sugarcane grown on the Guarani's ancestral land.
In a letter to the companies, the Indians warn that, `Since the factory began to operate, all our health has deteriorated – children, adults and animals'.
The chemicals used on the sugarcane plantations are thought to be causing acute diarrhoea amongst Guarani children, and killing fish and plants.
The Guarani state, `We can no longer find many of the medicines which used to grow in the forest… the plants have died because of the poison'.
They continue, `The growers never asked our permission or consulted us before planting on our land'.
Download the Guarani's letter (pdf, 266 kb).
The Brazilian government's failure to uphold its own laws and map out and protect the Guarani's land for their exclusive use has left it vulnerable to exploitation by sugarcane plantations.
Meanwhile, many Guarani live in appalling conditions, in overcrowded reserves or camped on roadsides.
Dozens of Guarani have been assassinated after trying to reoccupy their ancestral land, and many more subjected to violence. The Guarani of Pueblito Kuê are the latest to suffer attacks, since they reoccupied their land last month.
Survival's Director, Stephen Corry, said today, `It's a sad irony that people buy Shell's ethanol as an `ethical' alternative to fossil fuels: there's certainly nothing ethical about its horrendous treatment of the Guarani. The Brazilian government needs to enforce its laws, and stop the wholesale destruction of the Indians' land'.
Mit den Public Eye Awards setzen die Erklärung von Bern und Greenpeace einen kritischen Kontrapunkt zum Weltwirtschaftsforum (WEF). Den unsozialsten und umweltschädlichsten Unternehmen des Jahres werden am 27.1.2010 in Davos vier Schmähpreise verliehen. Der Gewinner des «People's Award» wird auf die.....
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Mus Jamo Greenpeace is kind of racist, look at all their activities covering all parts of the world except Africa.
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When: Saturday 22nd October, 12.00 noonBring a friend, your banners and placards to the Department of Environment & Climate Change on the 22nd.
The public meeting and protest will coincide with and discuss a forthcoming government consultation about subsidies – Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) – for `renewable electricity', including biofuels and biomass, which have led to many biofuel and biomass power stations being proposed across the UK. Under government plans, annual subsidies for those could top £3 billion, paid out of all our fuel bill.
Biofuelwatch is actively campaigning for ROCs to be withdrawn for both biofuels and biomass and information about how to get involved will be available at the meeting.
Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), have led to a large number of planning applications, many of which approved already, for biofuel and biomass (mainly wood) power stations across the UK.
For example, in Bristol and Portland, W4B has had plans for two large palm oil power stations approved despite strong local and national opposition, including local authority opposition in Bristol. The Bristol power station alone would, if built, double the use of palm oil in UK biofuels overnight.
Companies such as MGT Power, Prenergy, Helius Energy and Forth Energy are planning to build biomass power stations which could be larger than any that exist worldwide today. Virtually all of the wood will be imported, which will directly or indirectly, lead to more logging and more industrial tree plantations at the expense of tropical forests, grasslands and communities in countries such as Brazil, the Republic of Congo or Ghana.
For more information about the impacts of ROCs for biofuels and biomass click here.
By Fred Ojambo - Sep 5, 2011
Ugandan lawmakers will decide whether to allow part of the Mabira Forest Reserve to be used for sugar production, President Yoweri Museveni said.
Museveni said on Aug. 14 that a portion of the rainforest, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) east of Kampala, should be given to Sugar Corp. of Uganda Ltd., the nation's third-largest producer.
"This is not an executive order, it will be a parliamentary decision," he said in a statement e-mailed by his office yesterday.
Uganda is seeking to boost sugar output after prices for the sweetener more than doubled in the past two months amid reduced cane supplies, forcing the government to abolish an import tax on the commodity to cover the shortfall.
Sugar Corp. is jointly owned by the Mumbai-based Mehta Group and the Ugandan government. Environmental groups including Nature Uganda oppose the allocation of the land because the forest is home to endangered monkey species and 300 types of birds, as well as being a catchment area for Lake Victoria.
The initial allocation of part of the forest to the company in 2007 led to protests in Kampala in which at least six people died, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.
Dying for Land
By Thelma Mejía
TEGUCIGALPA, Sept 6, 2011 (IPS) - The deployment of large numbers of troops in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras is reviving the age-old conflict over land in an area torn between organised crime groups capable of undertaking armed actions, wealthy landowners and peasants demanding further land reform.
Violence grew in the second half of August in the fertile Bajo Aguán valley, in the country's northeastern Caribbean region. Fourteen people were killed, including the leader of the Authentic Movement for Peasant Resistance (MARCA) and a leader of the United Campesino Movement of Aguán (MUCA).
The first victim was MARCA president Secundino Ruiz, murdered Saturday Aug. 20 after withdrawing money from the bank to pay MARCA cooperative workers their week's wages. A day later, MUCA vice president Pedro Salgado and his wife, Reyna Mejía, were murdered in their home.
Apparently carried out by hired killers, the murders were committed days after the authorities had mounted a military and police operation called Xatruch II that involved about 1,000 soldiers and police carrying out strict road checkpoint controls, among other actions.
The authorities are treating the killing of Ruiz as a robbery, although there is little evidence to support this motive, while in the case of Salgado they have no leads.
According to the Platform for Human Rights, a coalition that includes several Honduran human rights organisations, the problem in Bajo Aguán is so complex that "the state itself could fall into a trap if a structure of death squads in the service of the landowners is created, as seems to be the trend," one of the activists, Andrés Pavón, told IPS.
Pavón's fears are shared by sociologist Eugenio Sosa, who visited the conflict zone and reckons that, while there is no evidence to prove paramilitary groups are acting on behalf of the state, as they did in the 1980s, "there is evidence that drug trafficking mafias are being used, as these groups will make deals with anyone if it suits their business interests."
Sosa told IPS that land conflicts in Honduras are nothing new; they simply recur every so often, and this time the violence is greater because of the presence of outside agents unrelated to the local conflict.
The Aguán region, like the rest of the northern department (province) of Colón, is a "zone where democratic institutions have not worked and the state has always been weak in regard to solving problems," he said.
In the view of retired colonel Agustín Avelar, the military and police presence "by itself cannot solve this conflict, because what is needed is for the state to provide comprehensive solutions.
"The conflict in this zone is escalating into a full-blown crisis, and if it is not controlled, there will be no turning back. Anything could happen," Avelar told IPS.
Land problems in Honduras have a long and violent history. The agrarian reform half a century ago, which distributed over 409,000 hectares of land, temporarily pacified the situation but did not halt the process of concentration of land ownership that has intensified in the past two decades. An estimated 126,000 campesino (peasant) families have access neither to land, nor to permanent employment.
The government of rightwing President Porfirio Lobo, who took office in January 2010, presented an opportunity to negotiate a new agrarian reform, but the recent events "could complicate everything, because the landowners show no signs of giving way," Sosa said.
Violence is recurring in Bajo Aguán just as the government was on the brink of handing over to MARCA, MUCA and the Movimiento Campesino de Rigores (MCR), a campesino movement in the village of Rigores in Colón province, nearly 4,000 hectares of land under purchase contract after difficult negotiations lasting 18 months with Miguel Facussé, the chief landowner in the area and head of Corporación Dinant, a palm oil and food company.
Facussé reneged on the agreement, causing the land handover to be suspended, after accusing the campesinos of murdering six of his company's private security guards and a crop production expert.
In the Bajo Aguán area, campesinos have been clashing with landowners since 2009. Corporate business owners Facussé and René Morales are the biggest landowners in the district, but the campesinos allege their lands were illegally appropriated.
However, lawsuits accusing Facussé, who owns 20,000 hectares on Honduras' northern Caribbean coast alone, of obtaining his lands by violence have not prospered in the courts.
In the context of the latest killings, Facussé has managed to muster support from the economic elites in the entire country to support his demand for "an end" to the violence in rural areas and respect for his, Facussé's, "rights."
Using his influential support base, the business magnate was able to have hints dropped Aug. 17 that the campesino organisations are being trained by foreigners from Venezuela and Nicaragua, in an attempt to implicate leftwing governments and give the land conflict an ideological twist.
But Gilberto López of the MCR denied these accusations, and confidently stated that "it is 'Tío Mike' (Uncle Mike - Miguel Facussé) who has alliances - with the drug traffickers who operate in the area, for the purpose of exterminating campesinos."
"I say this without fear, because death follows us closely around here. The authorities know what we are talking about," said López. "Where would we get weapons from? It's Facussé who is hiring killers to commit the murders," he told IPS.
In López's view, the militarisation of the zone "will not lessen the conflict; it may make things worse. What we need is a new agrarian reform in which landowners like Facussé and the others return the land they stole from the campesinos by trickery." (END)
|Guatemala:Food Crisis in the Polochic Exacerbates as Government Repression Continues|
|Written by Tristan Call and Katy Savage|
|Thursday, 11 August 2011 21:35|
Honduras: Aguán Massacres Continue to Support Production of Biodiesel
Written by Annie Bird, Rights Action
Sunday, 28 August 2011 19:19
Campesinos Killed, August 20th and 21st, Following on Massacre of 11 People, August 14th and 15th
As Canada Signs "Free Trade" Agreement with the repressive Honduran regime
As the US names a Biofuel Specialist as Ambassador to Honduras, and
As the UN Clean Development Mechanism Certifies Dinant Carbon Credits
According to reports, around noon on Saturday, August 20, 2011 Secundino Ruiz Vallecillo, vice president of the Movimiento Campesion Unificado del Aguan del a Margen Derecha (MUCA-MD), and president of the San Isidro Empresa Campesina Cooperative, was shot and killed while in a taxi in the town of Tocoa by a masked gunman aboard a passing motorcycle.
That afternoon Arnoldo Portillo, member of the 5 de Enero Empresa Campesino Cooperative, of the La Concepcion community, left his home, and did not return. His neighbors began a search early the morning of August 21, 2011. His badly brutalized body was found in the dump of the La Lempira campesino community; he had been killed by machete strikes and gunfire.
Later on August 21, 2011, at approximately 8pm, Pedro Salgado, the president of the 5 de Enero cooperative and his wife, Irene Licona, were murdered in their home by machetes and gunfire. Salgado, like the presidents of all the cooperatives claiming rights to land used by African palm oil businessmen in the Aguan, had been subject to constant death threats. Salgado had recently met with the commander of the Xatruch operation, asking for protection.
OVER 50 CAMPESINOS KILLED, & counting ...
These killings occurred amidst a military occupation, called the "Xatruch II" operation, that was launched after two massacres on August 14th and August 15th that left 11 dead.
Since training of African palm oil company paramilitary security forces reportedly began in January 2010, over 50 campesinos have been killed, the majority in drive-by shootings.
On July 21, 2011 it was reported that the United Nation's CDM board "undertook an investigation and after full consideration found that the consultation met the CDM requirements under the parameters of its mandate. It's a matter for Honduras to deal with outstanding land disputes and responsibility for violence in the region."
This decision is a complete abdication by the United Nations of the United Nations' mandate to protect human rights - the UN is complicit in violence in the Aguán.
The complicity - direct or indirect - extends to the governments of Canada and the US. Just days before the August 14 massacre, Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper signed a so-called "free" trade agreement on August 12th with Honduras, ignoring the systemic repression carried out by the Honduran regime since the June 2009 military coup. The newly appointed US ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, has focused her career on promoting biofuel investment and free trade agreements.
ARMED FORCES "TRAIN" PRIVATE SECURITY FORCES!
Witnesses report that African palm plantation security forces are trained at the 15th Battalion of the Honduran Armed Forces and in private African palm plantations by men in Honduran military uniforms.
There are reports that 40 to 60 Colombians, who wear Honduran army uniforms, are training the paramilitaries. There are reports that US Army Rangers have engaged in training activities, and that the US donated military equipment that has been used in the repression.
Poor campesinos in the Aguán region, in need of a means of survival, are reclaiming lands that have been illegally and violently taken from them by wealthy land-owners backed by the regime. These campesino communities are thus in direct conflict not only with police, military and paramilitary forces, but also organized crime networks (including drug traffickers) who reportedly maintain close collaboration with the police, military, and private security forces.
Extreme corruption of the justice system has not only helped create the conflicts that exist today, by not resolving the legal actions through which campesinos have attempted to regain land rights for over 15 years, but also contributes to the repression through the criminalization of land rights defenders and enforcing total impunity for killers.
Study exposes green failings of wood fuel power plans
02 September 2011
The rush to build new power stations in the UK which rely on imported wood fuel will destroy forest habitats overseas and add to climate chaos, a new report reveals.
The RSPB report Bioenergy: A Burning Issue has analysed the emerging UK biomass sector which uses wood and organic waste to generate energy. Biomass has been hailed by the Government and the energy sector as a `renewable' fuel of the future.
The results paint a picture of an impending environmental disaster, with swathes of forests overseas being logged as the industry exploits renewable energy subsidies.
There are currently 31 biomass power stations operating in the UK with 39 more in various stages of planning and construction including the conversion of Tilbury B in Essex which will be the biggest biomass plant in the country. If all of these are approved and built, the total amount of biomass being burnt per year will increase tenfold from 5 million tonnes, to nearly 50 million tonnes.
But the statistic which is causing conservationists the most concern is the rise in imported wood. Analysing the detailed proposals for new power stations reveals that the percentage of biomass fuel which will be sourced from imported wood will rise from 13 per cent to 68 per cent. This would lead to imports at levels more than three times higher than the UK's total current wood production.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: "Our research has shown that biomass power generation is set for a meteoric rise – and one that could have a major impact on wildlife and the climate.
"This massive expected increase in wood imports has been fuelled by `green' subsidies. Ministers must act now and cut these subsidies in favour of supporting genuinely sustainable bioenergy and other sources of renewable energy, such as wind power
"Biomass power stations should be using wood fuel produced in the UK from better management of our forests and woodlands. We must also use the large amounts of unused waste and agricultural by-products the UK produces.
"Instead, the biomass power stations currently being planned across the UK will require up to 33 million tonnes of imported wood which will come from forestry markets in Canada, Russia and the US.
"We are looking at an extraordinary situation where the UK will be encouraging a major increase in logging of wildlife-rich forests overseas.
"It is essential that we find renewable sources of energy in order to wean ourselves off fossil fuels like coal and gas – but the figures in our report clearly show that when it comes to the rise of bioenergy from burning imported wood we are being led blindly into an environmental con."
As well as the threat to wildlife, the rise of biomass power will also add to our greenhouse gas emissions. Flawed international carbon accounting rules mean the UK Government will not have to declare emissions from biomass when it is burnt in power stations – and neither will logging countries like the US which have not signed up to the Kyoto agreement.
The report concludes by proposing an increase in the use of domestic wood fuel as a result of thinning out poorly managed and overly dense woodlands. This would have the additional benefit of improving habitats for woodland birds like nightingales, willow warblers and marsh tits as well as woodland butterflies.
There is also a major potential for an increase in the use of domestic waste wood as well as food and garden waste and agricultural by-products such as straw and manure in order to help reach bioenergy targets. In 2009 alone 6 million tonnes of waste wood and 9 million tonnes of waste food ended up in landfill sites.
The RSPB is urging Government ministers to use an impending review of renewable energy subsidies to avert this potential disaster and cut back subsidies for bioenergy using imported wood, whilst increasing support for biomass fuel sourced from within the UK. There must also be a new set of sustainability rules covering the import of wood fuel and a better system of accounting for carbon emissions from biomass plants.
The study was based on data published by the energy companies behind current and proposed biomass energy plants in the UK.
[The report itself can be downloaded from www.rspb.org.uk/Images/Bioenergy_a_burning_issue_1_tcm9-288702.pdf - it's 3.4 MB]
By Christina Wright, Worldwatch Research Intern
Global production of biofuels increased 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters, up from 90 billion liters in 2009. High oil prices, a global economic rebound, and new laws and mandates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States, among other countries, are contributing to the surge in production, according to research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute's Climate and Energy Program for the website Vital Signs Online.
The United States and Brazil remain the two largest producers of ethanol. In 2010, the United States generated 49 billion liters, or 57 percent of global output, and Brazil produced 28 billion liters, or 33 percent of the total. Corn is the primary feedstock for U.S. ethanol, and sugarcane is the dominant source of ethanol in Brazil.
In the United States, the record production of Biofuels is attributed in part to high oil prices, which encouraged several large fuel companies, including Sunoco, Valero, Flint Hills, and Murphy Oil, to enter the ethanol industry. High oil prices were also a factor in Brazil, where every third car-owner drives a "flex-fuel" vehicle that can run on either fossil or bio-based fuels. Many Brazilian drivers have switched to sugarcane ethanol because it is cheaper than gasoline.
Although the U.S. and Brazil are the world leaders in ethanol, the largest producer of biodiesel is the European Union, which generated 53 percent of all biodiesel in 2010. However, some European countries may switch from biodiesel to ethanol because a recent report from the European Commission states that ethanol crops have a higher energy content than biodiesel crops, making them more efficient sources of fuel.
In the United States, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the decision to dramatically lower the country's production target for cellulosic ethanol, a Biofuel that is made from woody plants or crop waste and that can be converted to ethanol much more efficiently than conventional ethanol, resulting in lower associated greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA's target reduction reflects the technical challenges and high costs of commercializing so-called 'second-generation' biofuels. Instead of the 950 million liters required initially under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the final target will be a much smaller 25 million liters.
Proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate would cut current ethanol production subsidies while maintaining tax credits for related infrastructure such as refilling stations. If supports like subsidies and tariffs are removed, sugarcane ethanol from Brazil will likely become more prevalent in the United States. Although sugarcane ethanol has the benefit of being cheaper and more efficient to produce, there are concerns that increased production will speed deforestation in Brazil as more land is cleared for feedstock cultivation.
The new Vital Signs Online article highlights both the increases in global production of biofuels and the factors behind this growth. It presents the latest facts and figures on the major biofuels producers and outlines new laws and mandates that will affect production of the fuels.