Articles Posted in the Green News category

Week that was: April 3 2009

April 3, 2009
Posted in Green News

climate-change-camp

Environmentalist protestors at the G20 summit in London by celesteh licensed under Creative Commons

  • LEADING BY EXAMPLE: The G20 summit disappointingly didn’t produce a green recovery package, but US President Barack Obama did say that the United States would lead by example in combating climate change. “If China and India with their populations had the same energy usage as the average American then we would all have melted by now,” he told a news conference. “China and India … justifiably chafe at the idea that they should somehow sacrifice their development for our efforts to control climate change.”
  • IT’S NOT ENOUGH: Draft climate legislation unveiled in the US this week was reportedly welcomed by green groups at the UN climate talks  in Bonn. The law calls for a cut of 3 percent from 2005 levels in greenhouse emissions by 2012, 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. The European Union has agreed cuts of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and of 30 percent if other developed nations followed suit. Obama’s cuts would to only take emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, say reports. The UN climate panel says developed countries would have to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change.
  • IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS: Scientists have trained a genetically engineered virus to make a more efficient and powerful lithium battery. More on and BBC
  • yellow-maize

  • GM MAIZE PROBLEM: Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto’s GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport. The plants, grown from three varieties of GM maize, apparently looked healthy but failed to produce seeds. According to the report, Monsanto said a mistake had been made in the laboratory and the company immediately offered to compensate farmers in Mpumalanga, Free State and North West. Marian Mayet, director of the anti-GM Africa Centre for Biosecurity, called for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods.
  • COTTONING ON TO ORGANIC: Global sales of organic cotton clothing and home textile products rose by 63 percent last year to $3.2 billion, according to the Organic Cotton Market Report. The amount of organic cotton farmers grew worldwide in 2007/08 increased by 152 percent. Organic cotton is grown without the use of fertilisers, pesticides or genetically modified seeds. (Reuters)
  • FISH OIL AND FLATULENCE: Researchers at an Irish university have found that adding fish oil to the diet of cattle reduces the methane emissions they emit via flatulence. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. More than a third of all methane emissions, about 900 billion tonnes every year, are produced by  bacteria in the digestive systems of ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats, the researchers say. (Science Daily)
  • DOLPHINS: THE GOOD NEWS: A stronghold of rare Irrawaddy fresh-water dolphins, numbering nearly 6,000 individuals, has been found in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest by researchers from the World Conservation Society. Last year the dolphins were listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.
  • ... AND THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS: Mass dolphin and whale beachings could become more frequent because of climate change, say researchers in Australia. More than 500 whales and dolphins have beached in southern Australia in the past four months. Scientists say that changing ocean current cycles are at the root of the beachings. (AFP)
  • SASOL CDM PROJECT GETS A NO: A United Nations panel has rejected a Clean Development Mechanism application for a Sasol project to replace coal with natural gas piped from Mozambique as a feedstock for its Secunda synthetic fuel plant. Sasol had argued that the project would result in a significant reduction of greenhouse gases. (Engineering News)
  • SA SETS CARBON CAPTURE TARGET: South Africa expects to build its first carbon capture and storage pilot by 2020, Bulyelwa Sonjica, the minister of minerals and energy, was reported as saying at the launch of a new carbon capture and storage centre. Sasol and Eskom, the country’s biggest emitters, Anglo American’s coal unit, Exxaro, Xstrata Coal and the British and Norwegian governments are all part of the project. The centre has R25-million in funds. (Reuters)

Budget: save energy or pay up

February 12, 2009
Posted in Business

Despite the challenges posed by the global economic crisis, energy efficiency and climate change feature prominently in this year’s national budget, presented by Trevor Manuel, the finance minister, in Cape Town on Wednesday.

South Africa is playing a key role in the post-Kyoto climate negotiations and there is increased government policy focus on “environmental initiatives that mitigate the impact of climate change and promote sustainable development, energy efficiency and investment in new technologies”, the National Treasury says in its Budget Review.

Among the main tax proposals outlined in the budget were a number that addressed environmental concerns, namely:

  • incentives for companies to invest in energy-efficient technologies and cleaner production;
  • implementation of the electricity levy announced in Budget 2008;
  • reforms on motor vehicle excise duties to include carbon emissions;
  • introducing a new tax on energy-intensive lightbulbs;
  • making certified emission reduction credits tax exempt or subject to capital gains tax, instead of normal income tax; and
  • increasing the levy on plastic shopping bags

Incentives for investments in energy-efficiency
A number of environmental statutes and regulations require the private sector to eliminate inefficiencies in the use of energy, water and raw materials. Incentives for energy efficient investments are seen as market-based measures to complement these regulations, states the Budget Review. Existing legislation allows for a three-year 50:30:20 percent accelerated depreciation allowance for investments in renewable energy and biofuels production. A supplementary depreciation allowance of up to 15 percent is proposed. This means that companies can write off 115 percent of the value of the equipment, says one report. To qualify for the additional allowance companies would need to provide documentary proof of the energy efficiencies (after a two- or three-year period), certified by the Energy Efficiency Agency. There will be a consultation process to establish which equipment will qualify for the tax perk, says the report.

Tax on incandescent lightbulbs
To encourage consumers to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) – thus reducing energy demand and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from power stations – an environmental levy of about R3 is proposed for old-fashioned incandescent bulbs to be implemented from October 1 2009. The levy is expected to generate an about R20-million.

Tax proposals for Clean Development Projects
Under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), projects in developing countries that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be issued carbon emission reductions (CERs). But South Africa is lagging behind other countries, such as India and China, in taking up CDM projects.

“South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions rank in the top 20 in the world, contribute 1.8 percent to global emissions and are responsible for 42 percent of Africa’s emissions”

To encourage South African companies to take up these projects it is proposed that income gained from the disposal of primary CERs be tax–exempt or subject to capital gains tax instead of normal income tax. Secondary CERs are to be classified as trading stock and taxed accordingly, says the Budget Review.

Excise duties on vehicles
To encourage improvements in fuel efficiency and curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, the Budget proposes that excise duties on motor vehicles be adjusted to take into account carbon emissions as of March 1 2010.

“Policy measures to address the environmental and social costs associated with the transport sector, such as reforms to vehicle and fuel taxation [an increase in the levy on both petrol and diesel has also been proposed], seek to promote fuel efficiency, limit the rapid growth of the number of vehicles on the roads and encourage the use of public transport,” says the Budget Review.

International air passenger departure tax
This tax proposal is also listed under the environmental fiscal reforms in the budget reviews, presumably because of the carbon emissions associated with air transport. International air passenger departure tax currently stands at R120 per passenger on international flights and R60 per passenger on flights to the Southern African countries, the proposal is to increase the taxes to R150 and R80 respectively from October 1.

Increased levy on plastic bags
The budget proposes increasing the levy on plastic shopping bags from 3 cents to 4 cents a bag. This levy was introduced in 2004/05 and it has reportedly helped to reduce waste. The plastic bag levy is expected to generate R15-million in revenue.

Electricity levy
A levy of 2c per kw/h for electricity generated from non-renewable sources was proposed in last year’s budget and this is expected to be implemented in July this year. The electricity tax is expected to generate R2,78-billion, according to this year’s Budget Review.

The National Treasury notes that South Africa’s natural resources need to be “adequately managed” or economic growth will worsen environmental problems such as “excessive greenhouse gas emissions, the large-scale release of pollutants that result in poor air quality, inappropriate land use that leads to land degradation and biodiversity loss, deteriorating water quality and increasing levels of solid waste generation”.

The Treasury is showing that it is trying to practice what it preaches. Last year it started to measure the Budget’s environmental impact. This year it reports that it has managed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from transport (flights and vehicle use) by more than 3,000kg; it reduced the amount of paper it used and in the process saved 119.5 trees; and it used 200MW less electricity than during last year’s budget period.

All we can say is, keep up the good work, and what about aiming for carbon neutral next year?

Africa ‘too risky’ for CDM investors

November 10, 2008
Posted in Business, Green News

African countries are not profiting from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects to tackle climate change in developing countries because of administrative and technical problems, according to climate specialists who met in Dakar last week. “People think it is too risky to invest in Africa,” a delegate was reported as saying. [AFP]

Africa has only 25 of the 1,192 CDM certified greenhouse gas cutting projects around the world – a mere 2.27 percent. Eleven of these projects are registered in South Africa. The CDM is a mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol through which developed countries can offset their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the European Union has put forward a proposal to share renewable energy technologies with African countries and may also offer funding to African countries to develop their economies sustainably, reports Bloomberg. The proposal, which will be discussed in Algeria later this month, is being viewed as a way to break the deadlock in global climate change talks.

It was also announced last week that the Western Cape provincial government has established a Clean Development Mechanism office in Cape Town which is working on €60-million public transport project with the Italian government. The department of transport deal project reportedly involves between 100 and 150 higher-efficiency diesel buses, of the sort used during the Beijing Olympics. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Italian government for the provision of the buses. [Engineering News]

Carbon credit check

May 29, 2008
Posted in Green News

The United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, which was set up as a way to fund carbon emission reduction projects in developing countries, has been criticised by Stanford University academics who found that a large number of the projects applying for credits should not qualify for assistance, the Guardian reports. “They would be built anyway,” says David Victor, law professor at the Californian university. “It looks like between one and two thirds of all the total CDM offsets do not represent actual emission cuts.” Read the full Guardian article

ExxonMobil boss outlines environment strategy
AFP reports that US oil giant ExxonMobil has been forced by its shareholders to consider its environmental impact. Chairman and chief executive Rex Tillerson said his environmental strategy was to improve the efficiency of the company’s operations and develop products to help customers use oil and gas more efficiently. He did not make any promises to invest in alternative fuels, saying oil and gas would be the primary source of energy for a long time yet. Alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass would grow dramatically, but would account for only 2 percent of global energy demand by 2030, he said. Read full report on Terra Daily