Monster boats: more than an environmental injustice

Low Impact Fisheries near Heiligenhafen in the Baltic Sea © Bente Stachowske / Greenpeace

Inspired by the touching stories of the small low impact fishers around the globe being impacted by monster boats, I recently decided to look into the definition of environmental justice. While I discovered that there is no universally accepted term, there is a general acceptance that it revolves around local, low income communities being disproportionally subjected to higher levels of environmental risks and it usually involves social conflicts over resource sharing.  It was also very interesting to read that environmental justice can only be achieved when everyone has equal access to the decision- making process to have a healthy environment in which they live and work.

These lines have definitely rung a bell as they so accurately describe what is wrong in the European fisheries. Let us examine some of the best examples. Is it just that one single monster, the Dutch Cornelis Vrolijk, holds 23% of the English quota and about 6% of the entire fishing quota for the UK, while 5.000 traditional UK fishing families with small boats are marginalized holding just the 4% of the whole UK quota between them? Is it just that five vessels hold 20% of the UK quota? Is it fair that low impact fishers, making up approximately 80% of the fleet, get only 4% of the “pie”?

And what about the Swedish monster, the Atlantic? Was it fair that it received 170.000 Euros in indirect subsidies due to tax exemption of fuel, while fishing in Bratten, a vulnerable Natura 2000 site? Are the Danish small scale fishers equally treated when they receive only 5% of the quota, but represent 72% of the vessels, while 105 vessels (only 15% of the fleet) enjoy the profits from catching 90% of the fish?

I realize that overfishing in Europe is first and foremost a matter of injustice, and not just an environmental one.  For too long the European fisheries legislation and political system has favored the large scale industrial vessels, giving them more quotas, increasing their catching capacity and subsidizing with public money the depletion of common fish resources. All these to the expense of small fishers and their communities, who have been struggling for years to get their voices heard by politicians, even though they represent 80% of the fishing fleet.

I also realize that L.I.F.E, the new organization of Low Impact Fishers in Europe, has an historical role to restore justice in fisheries as it carries a heavy responsibility, not only of fighting to achieve sustainable fisheries, but also of reestablishing what is morally correct.

Now more than ever, there is an opportunity to achieve this. The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), for the first time, offers the chance to put an end to overfishing by reducing fleet capacity starting with eliminating the most destructive vessels, and promote access to resources for those engaged in sustainable fishing. Now more than ever, European fisheries ministers must apply these rules.

It is the just thing to do.

Angela Lazou Dean, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Greece

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Oh, we get by with a little help from our friends (all 2 million of them)

Thank you to our 2,000,000 Facebook fans! Over the last six years together we’ve done some pretty awesome things together.

We’ve shared some good times and some rough times. Thanks to you there’s been a lot more of the good. Here are a few things we’re glad you shared…

 

You showed Nestlé the power of social media

Nestle Break

1.1 million views, 200,000 emails and a global Facebook siege. That’s what it took to persuade Nestlé to stop purchasing palm oil from sources that destroy Indonesian rainforests.

 

You made LEGO listen

1 Million LEGO

Recently, more than 1 million of you pitched in to Save the Arctic. Together we convinced LEGO end its 50-year partnership with Shell. That’s kind of a big deal.

You also helped make this video all kinds of viral and get it 7 million views.

 

You got Barbie to put down her chainsaw

Barbie manufacturer, Mattel, made its packaging deforestation-free, after a VERY public online break-up between the ultimate power couple, Barbie and Ken.

 

The Force has always been with you

Darth Vader celebrating

Together, we made Volkswagen do a handbrake turn, and improve the fuel efficiency of its cars. Something they said they couldn’t do until you cried foul and made VW turn away from the Dark Side.

 

You made green fashionable

Fashion brands Detox thanks to people power.

This is just one of the Detox campaign’s many victories. Primark, Levi’s and Burberry also bowed to massive public pressure from our amazing supporters.

Every time you like, share, comment on, or promote one of Greenpeace’s videos it increases the pressure on companies to change their ways. A toxic-free world is possible. Together we can help create it.

 

You changed Facebook itself

Unfriend Coal

Facebook ‘unfriended’ coal after you set the world record for the most Facebook comments on a single post in one day. The global campaign involved user-made videos, photo messages and an impressive amount of commenting.

Together, we’ve celebrated the massive growth in green energy. Since we joined Facebook in 2008, global investment in renewables has gone from $130 billion to $214 billion.

 

You’ve been there for the bad times.

The reasons why we do what we do are clear. Together, we’ve stood in solidarity with the victims of some of the worst impacts of climate change.

We’ve also helped to expose some of the worst environmental crimes on the planet.

Action against Petit Navire at MWBrands HQ in Paris. 10/31/2014 © Micha Patault / Greenpeace

 

We’ve scaled new heights together

Ice Climb

We mean literally. Four women climbed the Shard, London’s tallest building, but it was the thousands of you watching the live stream, and sharing the news with your friends, that made Shell pay attention.

 

You’ve helped get 6 million to rally for the Arctic

And we delivered your signatures to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN.

UN Climate Summit

 

And cried for joy when the Arctic 30 were set free.

 

You’ve supported activism across the globe

We’ve helped people all over the world stand up to the coal industry. Like the time 250,000 people joined hands (virtually) to tell the Indian Prime Minister ‘NO’ to coal.

And when thousands of you LITERALLY joined hands in a massive human chain across the German-Polish border to protest against a planned coal mine.

Human Chain Against Coal. 08/23/2014 © Christian Mang / Greenpeace

 

We’ve gotten naked together

On more than one occasion… (Hey, you do what it takes for the future of our planet)

 

And occasionally we’ve looked a little bit silly too…

(Yeah, it’s hard to dress humans up as renewable energy)

 

You’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly

Including some sad things…

 

….but you’ve also shared hope for the future.

we love renewables

 

You’ve been incredible and courageous

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You’re the best people to save the world with.
Image.. 

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To carry on the David and Goliath battle we must stand together

© CARE/PETER CATON

On November 8, 2013 the world stood still and witnessed the largest tropical cyclone ever recorded in history make landfall in Tacloban, Philippines. The scale and magnitude of the damage it left behind was unprecedented and shocking, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless. It was  hell on earth.

Survivors from Typhoon Haiyan could not even begin to understand the fate that befell them. “My family is all gone … Why did this happen to me?” Loss, misery and desolation engulfed everyone as stories of terrifying experiences were told.

Calls for help came quickly, with an outpouring of aid and relief from all over the world. It was overwhelming how the world came together in providing support for the Philippines.

As we commemorate the first year’s anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, we remember the lives of the six thousand that have passed on; we recall the horrific encounter of the survivors.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. 11/12/2013 © Matimtiman / Greenpeace

But most importantly, we remind the rest of the world that this is what the future will look like for innocent victims that are on the frontline in the biggest environmental, humanitarian and security war.

Climate change.

The planet is warming. The ice is melting. The sea is rising. These are the symptoms of a sick planet. The urgency for this climate crisis is clear and present, but we should not allow the mad doctors in the guise of the fossil fuel industry to steer the planet to its demise – for it has survived for over 4 billion years. But will WE survive along with it?

We will rise up from being victims of climate oppression. We  will fight back to reclaim our climate and stand in solidarity together with our friends in the Marshall

Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

There is no denying anthropogenic climate change. Since the industrial age, fossil fuel industries have been polluting and pillaging the planet indiscriminately, thinking they are invincible. We are putting a stop to that and pulling them off their high horses. The big polluters will be made to  pay for the damage  they have caused.

Climate Walk in Manila. 10/02/2014 © Nathaniel Garcia / Greenpeace

Stand with us as we carry on this David and Goliath battle. We need your voice to reach the world leaders to hold the big polluters to account.

Together, we will be empowered and be the heroes of this planet. Together we will make history in ensuring a habitable planet for our children and the future generations.

Join us: http://grnpc.org/IgHB9

Anna Abad is a Climate Justice Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines.

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Too eager to drill for Arctic oil

Esperanza and Crew Protest Statoil Commissioned. 08/27/2014 © Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

Greenpeace’s ship, the Esperanza, is still on station in the Arctic to expose renewed Norwegian efforts to drill for oil in this pristine environment.

Last week we successfully headed off attempts by an oil company to complete controversial seismic testing, commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate in the absence of any political discussion, by revealing it in prime time TV news.

Norwegian oil interests are persistent but we’re determined to stop them. This week the Esperanza approached the Statoil oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen located over the Isfjell well, just south of Bear Island in the Barents Sea. Here’s a video of Professor Richard Steiner speaking to the rig that explains why drilling in the Barents Sea is such a risky business.

Raw HTML.. 

They are really eager to drill. Too eager. When the Esperanza arrived on site, drilling was about to begin despite an ongoing official complaints procedure that should rule out any drilling until 18 September.

It’s not the only time that oil companies have started drilling before the official complaints procedure is concluded. In fact, it’s how they go about their business. The major Norwegian newspaper VG reported this week that in 156 cases out of 162 the Environment Directorate gave permission to drill before complaints procedures had been concluded.

The sneaky and scandalous tactic the oil companies are using to put pressure on the Environment Directorate is to apply late for permission to drill while they get their rigs early into the drilling position. The head of the directorate has admitted that the department has been put under undue pressure.

This dirty game needs to end. That is the message that the Esperanza is sending to Norwegian politicians and particularly to the Minister of Environment, Tine Sundtoft.

Erlend Tellnes is an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.

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Don’t forget about the people

Human Chain against Coal Neisse River Crossing. 08/23/2014 © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

This past weekend thousands of people joined hands to form an eight-kilometer Human Chain across the border of Germany and Poland to protest against lignite coal mining in the area.

30 different nationalities traveled from cities all over Europe to be there. It was an extraordinary event that brought together Greenpeace volunteers, environmental grassroots organisations and thousands of members of the local community.

I left Amsterdam for the Human Chain early Friday morning, joining a bus of Belgian and Dutch Greenpeace volunteers. We traveled for more than half a day and reached the campsite in Kerkwitz, Germany on Friday night. Our camping neighbours were other volunteers from Luxembourg, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Austria. The rest of the volunteers were staying at another campsite, just two kilometers away. Other activists were camping separately in the surrounding forests, across the Polish border.

The region of Lusatia lies at the border between Germany and Poland and has massive deposits of lignite buried beneath the beautiful countryside. The Swedish company, Vattenfall and Polish energy group, PGE are planning the continued mining of billions of tons of dirty brown coal to burn in their coal-fired power plants. Walking through the forests of Lusatia, you won’t find one piece of property that is disrespectful to nature…

Aside from Vattenfall’s giant open pit mine at Cottbus-Nord.

Vattenfall plans on building five more plants in the area. This means that dozens of villages will be bulldozed and some 6000 people will lose their homes and livelihoods.

The activists are told about this the morning of the event, at a briefing given by a Greenpeace campaigner at the campsite. Then the owner of the campsite stepped forward with a piece of paper in his hands. He wants to say a few words, but his English is not very good and he is very nervous about standing up and talking in front of hundreds of people. His voice is shaky and his eyes are pointed towards his feet.

He wants to tell us “thank you” for coming. He is truly impressed by the fact that we’ve all come from our warm homes, hundreds and thousands of kilometers away, to this remote part of Germany, in the middle of a chilly forest. This chilly forest is his home and he has lived there for the past 40 years and wishes to live there for 40 more years together with his family. His voice breaks completely and his eyes tear up. So does everyone else’s in the audience.

This is just one of the thousands of people who risk losing their homes in Lusatia because reckless governments and greedy companies play with people’s lives and the climate. The urgency of what is happening in Lusatia isn’t just about the environment; it’s about the people that call that place home.

Yes, there were 7,500 people who joined hands and formed a Human Chain on August 23rd. Yes, many of them were activists from Greenpeace and other environmental organisations. But most of them were the people of Lusatia who welcomed us and took care of us and treated us like family. This past weekend in Lusatia, we all felt like we were home. It was the people who lived here who made us feel at home.

Let’s not forget about the people.

Madalina Preda is the Programme Functions Assistant at Greenpeace International and the Communications Manager of Beats Against Coal.

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Norway in sneak attack on the Arctic

Greenpeace Esperanza - Arctic Ship Tour 2014. 06/02/2014 © Greenpeace

The Esperanza has been in Svalbard, in the Arctic, for a few weeks now and we recently became aware of something urgent and disturbing. A seismic company called Dolphin Geophysical, commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, has begun seismic mapping in the far north of the Barents Sea.

Seismic mapping is the very first step of oil exploration. Before the oil rigs even arrive, before the drills go in the seabed, companies must first determine where to find the precious pockets of oil. So, right now, we’re en route to intercept a vessel conducting these tests to expose this sneak attack on the Arctic by the Norwegian state.

Seismic tests are done from a ship at the surface. An air gun shoots low-frequency sound pulses that penetrate the seafloor and the reflected sound waves are then recorded by sensors dragged on long cables after the ship. The data collected is used to map the seafloor so that oil companies can look for positions where they can drill for oil.

These air blasts can be as loud as 260 dB. As a comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki reached 248 dB. A sound wave of 202 dB would kill a human and the noise a jet taking off is around 165dB.

Sound travels extremely well under water and the noises from seismic vessels have been recorded thousands of kilometres away. Marine mammals depend on sounds to navigate and feed and they are incredibly vulnerable to these loud noises. The air gun shots are issued with an interval of less than a minute – sometimes over weeks or months – and they mean that animals like whales and dolphins are unable to hear one another or find food. In extreme cases, it could cause physical damage or severe disorientation that can lead to strandings and death.

Now, you would think that a country like Norway would have regulations in place to protect marine mammals from seismic mapping. After all, Norway likes to point out that when it comes to oil exploration and production they are the best of the best. The elite. But that is simply not true. There are no regulations in place, no guidelines to protect marine mammals in this vulnerable area.

Other Arctic countries like Greenland, the US and Canada, however, do have some regulations in place that require the air blasts to stop if marine mammals are spotted within a certain distance of the ship. Of course, this is still a long way off from actually preventing harm to marine animals, but at least it’s a better environmental standard than what Norway can present. Norway is once again falling short of its promise of applying only the best environmental standards.

The area designated for the mapping this summer stretches from south of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard to the east of the islands close to Russian Barents Sea. It goes as far as 80° North, an area that is covered by sea ice during the winter months and even now, in the middle of August, has parts covered by ice. Teeming with wildlife like polar bears, whales, walruses and seals, an oil spill here would be an absolute catastrophe.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate says that it will neither publish nor sell the results of this seismic testing work. On top of that, Norway has regulations in place that don’t allow oil drilling this far north and ice covered waters. Yet, the fact that the tests are being conducted at all indicates a desire to begin oil drilling up here, too. It’s step in the wrong direction, in so many ways. Fortunately, the news around the seismic testing has caused more than just raised eyebrows from both the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. Both political parties back the existing agreement that prohibits petroleum activities in ice covered waters.

The Esperanza will follow the vessel for a few days, documenting and exposing the seismic tests being carried out. Norway is party to the OSPAR Convention, which obliges parties to adopt the best available technology and best environmental practice. Not having any regulation for the protection of marine mammals in relation to seismic testing puts Norway at direct odds with the OSPAR convention and in potential breach of international law.

Danish Communication Officer Sune Schelle, during an action in the Arctic. 05/27/2014 © GreenpeaceFollow this story on Twitter @gp_espy.

Sune Scheller is an Arctic campaigner on board the Esperanza.

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A glimmer of hope?

Russia Oil Spill Patrol in Komi Republic. 08/14/2014 © Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

Two years have passed since I last visited Komi, a region in the Northern part of Russia. Throughout my years at Greenpeace, very few places – if any – have left such a lasting impression on me. I am certain other places across our fragile planet are suffering as much as Komi. In fact, within Russia alone there are places that struggle as much as Komi.

But that doesn’t change the fact that being confronted with this amount of recklessness in this beautiful region and the corresponding stress on the people living here, has left me feeling, not only angry and desperate, but guilty. The amount of spills here are so ubiquitous it almost feels as if the oil companies are more interested in destroying the area than making a profit.

As both the oil companies and the administration fail to localize, report and act on the almost daily spills, Greenpeace together with local groups such as the Save Pechora Committee are the only ones trying to document this ongoing disaster. Even though it is impossible to get a precise overview of the magnitude, the best estimates are appalling. Every 18 months, the same amount of British Petroleum oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 goes into the Arctic Ocean via Russian rivers. On its way, it wreaks havoc on rivers and soil with dire consequences for fish, animals and humans. And this is only the amount that goes into the Arctic Ocean.

I had tried to brace myself before facing the spills. Even though I had been at oil spills before and even though we all have witnessed disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion on television, I don’t think I’ll ever truly ever be able to completely prepare myself for it. One recalls the feelings and the sight, but to stand in it, the stench is overwhelming and all the small details – trees crumbling and withering, oil on branches and leaves, dead animals smeared in oil – all these things suddenly comes to life again and slowly erodes the wall I have tried to build to protect myself.

My Russian colleagues and the local Indigenous Peoples have been fighting this uphill struggle for more than two thirds of my lifespan. In that time the devastation and destruction has done nothing but continue to spread throughout huge parts of Northern Russia. But something is changing.

In the last couple of years, even though the oil companies have gotten unprecedented freedom and power under Putin, the local administration has started to take action. After Greenpeace and the Pechora Committee documented many hundreds of spills, two Russian oil companies were penalized with fines of more than 20 million US dollars each (one fine was later revoked). After local protests spread throughout the region, the administration organized a local committee to inspect the spills and have agreed to participate in a round-table discussion with Greenpeace and others next week.

This is of course is only a plaster on a gaping wound and not anywhere near sufficient to solve the ongoing catastrophe. The oil spill patrol, which is part of a larger Greenpeace project, has in just this past week confirmed more than 50 spills, which hadn’t have been registered yet. We need more than a piecemeal handling of the situation. We need to ensure the proper protection of nature and stop the oil companies from their destruction. This is largely for the sake of the people who live in this dystopia. It is also because, if this does not make us stand up and say enough is enough, then what will?

The battle might seem like a losing one, but we need to carry on. We must not allow ourselves to sit idly by while this crime against nature and humanity takes place. It is not an easy battle, but that must never be an excuse – as long as there is just a glimmer of hope, we must carry on and if we stand together, I am certain that we will prevail.

Jon Burgwald is an Arctic Campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic

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China’s planned coal-to-gas plants to emit over one billion tons of CO2

Dead Young Pine Trees in Inner Mongolia. 05/04/2013 © Bo Qiu / Greenpeace

There is a potential storm on the horizon of China’s energy policy: coal-to-gas.

There could be 50 coal-to-gas projects operational within the next decade, producing 225 billion cubic metres of synthetic natural gas [SNG] per year, if all of the planned ones go ahead, according to comprehensive new research by Greenpeace China.

These 50 would emit around 1.087 billion tons of CO2 per year if they are developed, according to the new analysis. To put this in perspective, it is around one eighth of China’s CO2 emissions in 2011 (8.71 billion tons), and much more than the CO2 cuts from coal control measures by 2020 (655 million tons).

If China builds all 50 coal-to-gas plants without carbon capture and storage, and isn’t prevented from doing so by a global climate deal, the world’s largest emitter of CO2 will put out a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Read more:

It will also exceed its own targets set out by the National Energy Administration’s (NEA) for coal-to-gas, which is 50 billion cubic metres of SNG by the end 2020.

This comes as the NEA warns operators against “blind development” of coal-to-gas [in Chinese] projects with disregard for the environment, highlighting the need for regulatory approval covering environmental and water standards.

Carbon emissions could balloon

There are only two existing coal-to-gas pilot projects in China currently – Datang’s Inner Mongolia Keqi plant and Qinghua’s Xinjiang plant. Beijing is investing in the Datang plant in a bid to get dispose of their air pollution and get gas in return, but a study by Tsinghua University found this would increase net carbon emissions – as well as coal and water consumption.

There are around 48 in the pipeline. This includes three under construction, 16 that have been given the green light to go ahead, and 11 that have been newly signed between mid-2013 amid new regulations to get the plants approved faster in June this year.

Even if only the plants that are operational, under construction and have been given the green light to go ahead (21 in total – see map above) become operational, Greenpeace projects CO2 emissions of around 0.402 billion tons per year (from 83.3 billion cubic metres of gas). To put that into context, the US’s CO2 reduction target by 2020 is 0.396 tons.

In contrast, NEA’s 2020 target for coal-to-gas is equivalent to around 0.242 billion tons of CO2 per year – hinting at a potential uncontrolled boom in the sector.

These sound like huge amounts of CO2. But how much is it relative to burning the same amount of regular natural gas or your run-of-the-mill coal-firing? Quite a bit, it turns out (and obviously a lot more than clean energy).

In a 2013 paper published in Nature Climate Change researchers from Duke University highlighted that nine newly signed coal-to-gas deals would mean seven times more CO2 emissions than if they were from burning natural gas.

The same study states that when SNG is used to generate electricity its greenhouse gas emissions from the whole process from start to finish are around 36-82% higher than coal power.

A peer-reviewed modelling study in the journal Energy Policy from earlier in 2013 found that life-cycle CO2 emissions are 20-108% higher than coal when SNG is used for cooking, heating, and power generation. The authors concluded that coal-to-gas expansion was not compatible with China’s 2020 carbon reduction targets.

Datang’s Inner Mongolia plant, one of the demonstrator projects, is contracted to provide Beijing with four billion cubic metres of SNG a year – as a result of Beijing having to adhere to a strict coal cap to curb its air pollution problem. This will result in a significant net increase in coal consumption – and thus of CO2 emissions by around 3.77 million tons – according to research by Tsinghua University (Report on China’s Low-carbon Development, 2014 [in Chinese]).

All of this analysis hinges on the fact that carbon capture and storage or carbon capture, use, and storage are at the extremely early stages of development – though the process of turning coal-to-gas is suited to capturing the CO2. It’s just the storage that’s then the issue – both technically and financially.

Coal consumption up

Coal-to-gas uses more coal than regular coal burning to produce the same amount of power.

Much of the reduction in coal consumption in the provinces fighting air pollution (0.118 billion tons) could be offset by increased coal consumption by the coal-to-gas industry(0.103 billion tons) in 2017 – or could even surpass it if the industry overshoots the NEA’s targets, according to the Greenpeace analysis.

Coal-to-gas would therefore be a significant reverse for the biggest coal consumer in the world – its demand for the black stuff has been slightly reducing recently.

Furthermore, China may set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions from 2016 as a result of severe air pollution, and its health impacts. This would be on top of China’s 2013 National Air Pollution Plan, which resulted in various provinces and cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei committing to coal consumption reduction targets.

Air pollution and water scarcity in the northwest

The need to reduce smog in the eastern part of China has resulted in the idea that coal should be turned to gas in remote regions to the west, such as Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. Unfortunately this shift has (at least) two consequences: it transfers air pollution to remote communities in northwestern China and sucks up loads of water from what is an already dry and arid region.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (March 2013)

Proponents of coal-to-gas tend to argue it reduces air pollution emissions, including the stuff that makes up smog such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

But researchers at Tsinghua University have warned (Report on China’s Low-carbon Development, 2014 [in Chinese]) that the coal-to-gas technology may not effectively lower the emission of air pollutants such as NOx  – the main contributor to China’s smog problem.

In Xinjiang province, near Qinghua’s Xinjiang pilot coal-to-gas plant, there have been reports of health impacts from air pollution – and protests.

The dean of the Research Institute of Coal Industry Planning and Design, Zhou Tong, commented [in Chinese]: “This is a process of pollution transfer which I feel is not rational… It is neither desirable nor feasible to keep yourself clean by piling the garbage at your neighbor’s door.”

Coal-to-gas also results in huge issues for water since it uses a lot of it in its processes. Five to six tonnes of water is needed for each 1,000 cubic metres of SNG produced.

Around 80% of the predicted output of SNG from the 50 plants will come from areas of high or extremely high water risk – areas of high demand or low supply – according to a Greenpeace analysis using a map from World Resources Institute.

Christine Ottery EU Energy and Climate Reporter at Greenpeace UK.

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Costa, we are watching you

Costa Concordia

As the wrecked Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia is towed to its home port of Genoa, Greenpeace Italy and the Italian environmental group Legambiente will monitor for pollution and spills. We’re particularly concerned about impacts on the Pelagos sanctuary, which protects whales and other marine life in the area.

The Costa Concordia struck a reef off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 and capsized, killing 32 people. Latest reports suggest that towing the ship to Genoa – 160 nautical miles (300km) away – is expected to begin on 21 July and take about five days.

In a joint operation, Costa, We are Watching You, Greenpeace Italy and Legambiente will follow the stricken ship in a chartered boat, Maria Teresa.

We have repeatedly asked the government to consider alternative, nearer ports, and to provide details on the safety measures being taken. We have asked how possible pollution will be monitored and water quality assured.  But Special Commissary Franco Gabrielli, responsible for the operation, never agreed to meet us, and our requests for information have gone unmet.

The wreck still contains around 263,000 cubic metres of polluted water. Analysis by the Regional Environmental Agency (ARPAT) shows the presence of hydrocarbons (mainly fuel), heavy metals and organic material.

As Costa Concordia will pass through Europe’s biggest marine protected area, the Pelagos Sanctuary, there is a considerable risk that part of these dangerous substances will leak into the sea during the transfer.

The worst-case scenario is that the wreck could break apart and sink. Environmental impacts could be significant, as the wreck will transit a very sensitive area rich in marine biodiversity and specifically important for cetaceans.

Pelagos extends over 87,500 square kilometres of sea surface in a portion of the north-western Mediterranean Sea comprising areas between south-eastern France, Monaco, north-western Italy and northern Sardinia, and encompassing Corsica and the Tuscan Archipelago.

It is home to dolphins and sperm whales, as well as fin whales which bring their young there at this time of year to feed in the rich waters off Genoa.

Spills and debris from the wreckage could be harmful to marine life, with even the smallest of flotsam such as cables, varnished furniture or electrical appliances releasing substances such as phthalates and alkylphenols, which can harm the reproductive system in mammals.

The sanctuary ecosystem is preserved by an international agreement ratified in 1994 by Italy, France, and Monaco. It is also protected under the Barcelona Convention, but so far no specific regulations have been adopted to protect the areas marine biodiversity, and the tragic disaster of the Costa Concordia is an example of its failure.

The only safety restriction in the sanctuary is a decree that limits transport of hazardous substances “to prevent accidental losses”. It was established by Italy’s Ministry of Transport after the Concordia disaster.

We are also concerned that the hull of the damaged ship may not withstand the stress of the journey, potentially rupturing and spilling a noxious brew of heavy metals, oils, plastics, sewage, and chemicals into the sea.

What is more likely is that it will remain intact but shed debris and leak some of the estimated 263,000 cubic metres of polluted water inside it, or the 100 tonnes or so of fuel left behind when the tanks were emptied.

We can only hope that the transit proceeds without incident. But we wish the government were doing more to ensure that. We will play our part by monitoring the transit’s impact on the environment, and by continuing the fight for greater respect and protection for the sea and its living inhabitants.

Giorgia Monti is an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Italy.

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Pushing for transparency in Congo Basin palm oil

The global palm oil industry is at a critical juncture. In 2012 we published a report that outlined how Africa is a new frontier for industrial palm oil production. This may bring much needed development to the continent, but it could also just as easily come at a great social and environmental cost.

The expansion of palm oil production is one of the fastest growing drivers of deforestation in the tropics, emitting tons of greenhouse gases as a result. It too often leads to conflict with local communities over rights and access to land and forest resources, upon which they are highly dependent.

Oil Palm Nursery in Cameroon. 07/29/2013 © Jan-Joseph Stok / Greenpeace

Much of the public work from Greenpeace on this campaign has been dedicated to stopping the illegal and irresponsible Herakles Farms project in the Southwest of Cameroon.

The “wrong project in the wrong place” is planned in an area of High Conservation Value (HCV) and will destroy the habitat of endangered wildlife including the chimpanzee. The company has not followed best practices by failing to obtain the free prior and informed consent of local communities and we have shown how Herakles Farms has resorted to “intimidation and corruption” to acquire land and silence any opposition. Additionally just last month we revealed how Herakles Farms colluded with the Government of Cameroon to illegally sell timber in order to save their financially struggling company.

The Herakles Farms project is a toxic one, so we have spent much of our time trying our utmost to stop it. However it is equally important to ensure that other investors in the region do not in any way replicate these mistakes or such an environmentally and socially damaging project.

Accordingly we have been pressuring all corporations and investors to be fully transparent about both their current and potential investments, to ensure there is accountability from the very beginning.

It’s a simple equation; avoiding damage being done is far better than having to repair damage after it has been done. A palm oil project developed with full transparency and with the consent of all stakeholders involved has a better chance of becoming sustainable and socially responsible than projects negotiated in secret in murky back rooms.

Palm Fruits at Palm Oil Farm in Cameroon. 07/20/2013 © Jan-Joseph Stok / Greenpeace

This is why recently Greenpeace contacted a number of leading industrial palm oil companies. Our monitoring work in the Congo Basin region picked up evidence that these companies are either already developing a palm oil plantation, expanding an existing plantation or prospecting for a site for a future plantation in the area.

We asked them for a variety of information about their plans such as if the plantation expansion will impact the forest and what environmental safeguards they intend to put in place.

Such information should be public and available to a range of stakeholders, not just Greenpeace. So we have published the letters sent to these companies below. We also vow to publish any response we get from these companies. Transparency is the bedrock to responsible businesses and something that any company interested in truly responsibly investing in Africa would practice.

Some companies such as Sime Darby we are still to write to and some we are still waiting on a response.

Letters sent:
Cameroon Development Corporation
Pamol
BioPalm
SudCam Hevea
SocaPalm
Louis Dreyfus
Carsons Cumberbatch
Azur
Smart Holdings

Responses received thus far:
Carsons Cumberbatch
Louis Dreyfus
BioPalm page 1, page 2

Greenpeace is not against palm oil, but we stand for palm oil that is produced in a responsible way without leading to deforestation, threatening endangered wildlife, and without fuelling land use conflicts or undermining people’s rights and livelihoods.

You can also help achieve this and begin now by signing up to help stop Herakles Farms project in Cameroon.

Amy Moas is a Forests Campaigner with Greenpeace USA.

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