Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Acting on Our Global Energy and Climate Change Challenges

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 27, 2010

The G-20 Summit in Toronto: Acting on Our Global Energy and Climate Change Challenges

At the Toronto Summit, G-20 Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, a groundbreaking agreement at the Pittsburgh Summit which will encourage the conservation of energy, improve our energy security, reduce economically inefficient burdens on budgets, and provide a down-payment on our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Leaders reviewed the significant work that has been done this past year to develop implementation strategies and timeframes, and committed themselves to continued and full implementation of this effort.

Background on the Pittsburgh Commitment and Implementation Process
At the Pittsburgh Summit, the G-20 Leaders committed to rationalizing and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. Since Pittsburgh, the G-20 countries have focused on the following activities:

Developed Country Strategies and Timeframes for Review: In January 2010, the G-20 established an experts working group on energy, in which all 20 countries participate in an open and constructive manner. The G20 energy experts, under the supervision of the Finance and Energy Ministers, have taken initial steps to review fossil fuel subsidy programs in their own countries, and develop strategies and timeframes for rationalizing and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

Joint Report on the Scope and Impact of Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies: As requested by the G-20 leaders, the International Energy Agency (IEA), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and World Bank will soon publish a Joint Report analyzing the scope of global energy subsidies and offering recommendations for rationalization and phase out. Their report has found that fossil fuel subsidies displace important public investments and drain government finances, worsen balance of payments, lead to underinvestment in infrastructure, and can contribute to energy shortages. The report estimates that fossil fuel consumption subsidies cost the the global economy $557 billion in 2008, and unless eliminated can be expected to impose similar costs in the future. Additionally, the report found that subsidies do not provide meaningful, widespread benefits to low-income households, and that other types of targeted support for low-income families serve as a more effective social safety net.

Recent Successes: On June 25, India announced its decision to deregulate retail gasoline prices. In addition, the government decided to raise the prices for diesel, kerosene, and liquid petroleum gases (LPG), with a further commitment to phase out the diesel subsidy over time. This is a difficult decision in the short-run due to concerns about price inflation, but will provide long-term benefits to the country. In Mexico the government has begun phasing out motor fuel subsidies while conducting a household-level census of fuel consumption that will allow the government to implement a well-targeted support program to compensate low-income households. These models from India and Mexico are important examples of how the G-20, and countries around the world, can implement this pledge to the benefit of their national economies and most vulnerable citizens.

Achieving Additional Progress
At Toronto, the G-20 Leaders welcomed the work to date of the Finance and Energy Ministers to fulfill the Pittsburgh fossil fuel subsidies pledge, and encouraged continued and full implementation of country-specific strategies. The G-20 also committed to review progress towards this pledge at upcoming Leaders Summits.

Global Action on Climate Change
The G-20 Leaders who have associated with the Copenhagen Accord reaffirmed their commitment to implementation of the Accord, and are working with countries around the world to carry out the Accord’s provisions on cutting emissions, promoting clean technologies, mobilizing financing, and ensuring the transparency of national efforts. The G-20 countries are scaling up their domestic efforts to reduce emissions, and working to mobilize financing internationally so that developing countries can better adapt to climate change and invest in clean energy technologies.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Replanting Forests in Africa

One man returned to his home in Ethiopia to find the land deforested and bare. So he started a movement that culminated in the planting of a million trees!

Gashaw Tahir was shocked when he returned to his native Ethiopia after living overseas and saw how the land had been degraded, as well as the effects of deforestation on the climate and quality of life for his community, which overwhelmingly relies on farming.

“You did not use to be able to see the sky when I was there.” Now the landscape is mostly rocks, he told America.gov. When he was growing up there were 10 or 15 rivers near his hometown. “Maybe today one or two exist. That is how bad it is.” In addition, wild animals were scarce, the average temperature had significantly risen and malaria was spreading. People are now dying from it “more than HIV/AIDS,” he said.

The solution, Tahir decided, was to restore the forests on the local mountains. Along with environmental recovery, his project would provide income opportunities and empower the youth in his struggling community. Hiring young people from both Muslim and Christian communities to plant the seedlings, Tahir also saw it as an opportunity to promote religious co-existence as well as give them a way to earn money for clothes and schoolbooks.

He first asked his city council for a two-acre area and employed 450 children for two to five months in which they collected fertilizer to mix with the depleted soil and then packed and planted the seedlings he started in time for the summer rainy season.

The project, known as the Greenland Development Foundation, grew exponentially from there as he acquired more and more land and employed more young workers. He and his crew have now planted more than 1 million trees, and media coverage has inspired similar projects elsewhere in Ethiopia.

Tahir, now recognized by the Ethiopian government as a “national green hero,” says his biggest role is “just being a model.”

Photo courtest www.america.gov

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Investing in Carbon Capture

Capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them away from the atmosphere is an important means of mitigating environmental damage caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Capturing carbon dioxide emissions from sources, such as large power plants, and storing those emissions away from the atmosphere is an important means of mitigating environmental damage caused by the burning of fossil fuels. This month, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that three projects have been selected to receive up to $612 million in federal government money – matched by $368 million in private funding – to demonstrate large-scale carbon capture and storage from industrial sources.

The projects – located in Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana – were initially selected in October 2009 for phase one research and development grants. Following successful completion of the first phase, these three projects were identified as the most promising industrial carbon capture and storage projects through a competitive process and will now enter into the second phase with additional funding to begin design, construction, and operation.The projects selected are aimed at testing large-scale industrial carbon capture and storage, an important step in moving this technology towards eventual commercial deployment. President Barack Obama has made it a goal of his administration to bring about the development of cost-effective carbon capture and storage within ten years, with an objective of bringing five to ten commercial demonstration projects into being by 2016."Capturing carbon emissions and storing them underground is a crucial technology as we build a clean energy future and address the threat of climate change," said Secretary Chu. "These investments will create jobs and help ensure that America can lead the world in the clean energy economy."The projects announced this month include large-scale projects that capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources and store the carbon dioxide in either a deep saline formation or via enhanced oil recovery (where carbon dioxide is pumped into oil pipelines to facilitate the recovery of more oil).

The projects are expected to capture and store 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year – the equivalent of removing nearly one million automobiles from road – and increase domestic production of oil by more than 10 million barrels per year by the end of the demonstration period in September 2015.Carbon capture and storage is one of a number of strategies to achieve clean, safe, sustainable, and affordable energy for the U.S. and the world. The United States is committed to achieving this goal.

Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is the US doing to address climate change, promote sustainable development and find cleaner sources of energy?

Under President Obama's leadership, the United States has joined the world in efforts to address the challenges of climate change. We believe it is possible to address climate change while promoting sustainable development and finding cleaner sources of energy. The White House Office of Science and Technology, in particular, has outlined the steps the US is taking. Below are exerpts from their website.

Of all the challenges we face as a nation and as a planet, none is as pressing as the three-pronged challenge of climate change, sustainable development and the need to foster new and cleaner sources of energy. The Obama administration and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are committed to addressing this looming issue aggressively, intelligently and in a way that will not only minimize the negative impacts of past policy failings but also strengthen our economy and enhance our national security.

That is why we have set a goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It takes harnessing the best science and technology and ensuring evidence-based policy decisions. To get there, OSTP and the Obama Administration will:
- Implement a market-based cap-and-trade system and invest $150 billion over 10 years in advanced energy technologies
- Establish a national low carbon fuel standard and institute a national portfolio standard that requires 25 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025
- Double fuel economy standards within 18 years and get 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015.
- Set an example—and help support new markets—by demanding that the federal government use renewable sources of electricity and by making federal buildings “zero-emission” by 2025.
- Develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But climate change and environmental degradation requires a global perspective and international action. So at the same time we will reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, eliminating imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within ten years; re-engage with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and create a Global Energy Forum based on the G8+5, which includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues.

And recognizing that the oceans are one of the most important buffers of climate change and a key source of biodiversity and economic stability, the Administration and OSTP will also promulgate policies that propel the United States into a leadership position in marine stewardship. Among other priorities, we will:
- Work to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention—an agreement supported by more than 150 countries, which will protect our economic and security interests
- Boost regional and bilateral research and oceans preservation efforts with other nations and reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act in ways that strengthen the collaboration between federal agencies and state and local organizations.
- Strengthen and reauthorize the National Marine Sanctuaries and the Oceans and Human Health Acts.

Finally, we will make sure that the benefits of these important initiatives do not remain at arm’s length but are brought home to directly benefit all Americans by:
- Creating millions of green jobs

- Improving the quality of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and drinking water, in part by strictly monitoring and regulating pollution from large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
- Protecting the public from nuclear material
- Encouraging organic and sustainable agriculture

For more information, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/divisions/energyenvironment

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Moving rhinos really is a lot like moving mountains,” says U.S. official

Five eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli), a critically endangered species, recently were returned to the Serengeti National Park as part of an ambitious initiative to boost the viability of Tanzania’s rhino population.

The May 21 flight and five future flights to deliver the rhinos to Serengeti National Park are sponsored by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Nduna Foundation and the Wildlife Without Borders program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The rhinos’ safe arrival is a remarkable achievement for rhino conservation and for cooperation between nations, according to the USFWS. During the next two years, a total of 32 eastern black rhinos will be returned as part of the Serengeti Rhino Repatriation Project, more than doubling the number of rhinos in the Serengeti.

“The Serengeti Rhino Repatriation Project is an unprecedented collaboration among African nations and the United States of America for the good of conservation,” Michelle Gadd, the program coordinator for the USFWS African rhino conservation program, told America.gov June 11. “At a time when so many wildlife species are under threat, it is fantastic to see a population being restored.”

The project aims to restore biodiversity in northern Tanzania by doubling the existing population of black rhinos in the Serengeti and by re‐establishing connections among rhino populations in Tanzania and Kenya. The project is the culmination of years of work led by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, Tanzania National Parks, the Singita Grumeti Fund and the governments of Tanzania and South Africa.

Photo credit: AP Images

Friday, June 18, 2010

US Embassy Sponsors BirdLife Botswana's World Migratory Bird Day

BirdLife Botswana in collaboration with Department of Wildlife and National Parks celebrated World Migratory Bird Day with more than five hundred school children, forty-eight teachers and over fifty Mogobane community members on Saturday 29th May 2010 at Mogobane village kgotla. The theme for the celebration was Migratory Birds: Promoting Cultural Diversity in Botswana. The event was sponsored by the US Embassy in Gaborone.

In the main address Ms Arabang Kanego of the Department of Environmental Affairs mentioned that this World Migratory Bird Day Celebration was appropriate as it contributed to mark the year 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. She also said that it is good that BirdLife Botswana is developing Botswana’s future ornithologists by making school children the key role players in celebrating World Migratory Bird Day.

The celebration was sponsored by Embassy of The United States of America which was represented by Mrs Victoria O’Connell who gave a speech on behalf of the Ambassador. In her speech she mentioned that each year hundreds of thousands of people observe International Migratory Bird Day. She continued that this year we join people throughout the world who are connecting with nature by celebrating International Migratory Bird Day in town squares, community centres, schools, parks, and refuges across the planet to learn more about wild birds, to take action to conserve birds and their habitats, and to simply have fun.

She also said that increasingly, birds are teaching us more and more about our environment. For example, migratory bird patterns can teach us much about climate change and changes in weather patterns. She gave an example of what is happening currently in the United States, and said that we are all learning more and more about the extent of the damage of the Gulf oil spill to the Gulf Coast, but US Fish and Wildlife Service experts are working around the clock to rescue the birds affected by the spill in order to release them back to a safer habitat.

In concluding her speech Mrs O’Connell mentioned that abundant and diverse birdlife enriches our cultures, provides immeasurable eco- system services that benefit our economies, and serves as a sensitive barometer of changes to our environments. And lastly she said today we have the opportunity to interact with our friends, our neighbours, our educators, and the wonderful experts of BirdLife Botswana as we all connect with nature through birds.
The audience was then wonderfully entertained by twenty-four school environmental clubs including AIDS schools and associations, three youth groups and one tertiary club. They performed traditional dances, acted out bird dramas which they had produced, recited poetry, played on their marimbas and brought messages depicting the culture and migratory birds of Botswana. What was particularly enjoyable were the many songs written specially for the occasion and then sung delightfully by the children. Importantly, the day was educational in that all twenty eight participants performed their acts in both Setswana (local language) and English. The acts sent various messages on migratory species of Botswana, how birds are associated with culture and messages on AIDS prevention. All present were given World Migratory Bird Day promotional t-shirts which featured the Woodland Kingfisher, one of Botswana’s beautiful migrants.

The event was closed by Mogobane village councillor, Mr Samuel Nong who thanked the children for their active participation in their migratory bird, culture and AIDS educational acts. The councillor acknowledged BirdLife Botswana for celebrating the event in his village and the community for their attendance. He noted that the celebration was very important in the sense that it highlighted the need for him and his community to take note of birds around them. He was pleased that BirdLife Botswana had combined with the Mogobane community to arrange a popular event at the Kgotla because of birds, which he considered unusual. To conclude, the Chairman of BirdLife Botswana, Mr Harold Hester, presented certificates of participation to all the performers.
Photo credit: BirdLife Botswana

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Discarded Electronics Pose Global Threat to Health and Safety

Recently, several media outlets throughout southern Africa have noted the growing problem with e-waste throughout the region. The U.S. EPA Administrator recently highlighted the environmental danger posed to communities throughout the world by "e-waste." E-Waste is a term used to describe waste produced from discarded cell phones, televisions, computers, and other electrical components.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson addressed a meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, of Interpol’s Global E-Waste Crime Group May 25. Jackson noted, “I don’t need to go to Africa or China or India to know about the electronics that are discarded at open dumpsites, the copper wires burning in open-air incinerators, or the acid used to strip gold and other metals for resale. I don’t need to go there to know about the ash-blackened rivers or the toxic fumes polluting the air. And I don’t need to go there to know that workers are getting sick, and so are their children. I know all this, and so do each of you.”

However, Jackson pointed out, “While it poses serious challenges, the problem of e-waste also presents opportunities,” Jackson said. “Opportunities here in America and other developed countries to promote green jobs, spur innovation and jump-start a responsible domestic recycling industry. Opportunities to partner with developing countries to create safe jobs, a healthy environment to raise a family, and better infrastructure and training programs — and to showcase the environmental and economic benefits of responsible reuse, recycling and disposal.”

For more information on this topic, please visit:


Photo caption: A worker at an e-waste company sits behind a pile of computer keyboards slated for recycling at a factory in Manesar, India.

Photo courtesy AP Images.