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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Free Ride for Oil and Coal Industry May Be Over.
Stephen Leahy, back in Germany reporting on the Toronto G20 meeting.

 ipsterraviva.net/UN/currentNew.as…

BERLIN, Jun 29 (IPS) – Every day, governments give away an estimated two billion dollars of taxpayer money to the fossil fuel industry. This unmatched largesse to a highly profitable sector by countries verging on bankruptcy or unable to feed large numbers of their own people is “complete madness”, according to many experts.

In Toronto Sunday, at the conclusion of G20 summit, countries agreed the madness must be constrained if not stopped. “I was impressed. I think the commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies has finally arrived,” said Mark Halle, director of trade and investment at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) European office in Geneva.

“With countries committed to cutting their deficits, it is hard to ignore giving billions of real money away to the fossil fuel industry or to keep fuel prices low,” Halle said in an interview. The two-billion-dollars-a-day public subsidy for carbon- based fuels is a very conservative estimate based on the extensive research conducted by the IISD’s Global Subsidies Initiative, said Halle. Not only do such huge subsidies undermine policies on energy efficiency, they make it impossible for alternative energy sources to compete, he said.

“We can’t make the transition to low-carbon economies nor can the energy playing field be leveled without the elimination of fossil fuels. And time for that has finally come,” he said.

Others are less optimistic given the G8 and G20 track record for broken promises.

“It (the G20 commitment) fell short of vision and courage that is expected from global leaders in the light of the disastrous oil spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, said Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe. Urbaniak noted that BP, the company responsible for the spill, receives British and EU public subsidies.

Countries such as Canada and Australia sought to weaken the G20 commitment by making commitments voluntary, he said, but the U.S. stepped up and pushed for a stronger agreement. However, do-nothing clauses remain part of the agreement. It says that countries agree to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” but each country decides what those are. Some countries like Japan, Australia, Italy and others have already said they don’t have any.

“Australia wants to protect its coal mining sector …Canada wants to keep on going with its own subsidies to the tar sands – an environmental and climate disaster in the league of the BP oil spill only in slow motion,” Urbaniak told IPS.

“Our research shows that in the last two years Canada was spending as much on oil and gas subsidies as on climate programmes,” said Albert Koehl of Ecojustice, a Canadian environmental NGO.

“Taxpayers won’t be amused to find out that government spending on climate change is being nullified by spending on oil and gas subsidies,” Koehl told IPS.

He notes that Canada is now investing new billions of dollars into developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for the fossil fuel sector and primarily the enormous Alberta tar sands operations. “CCS a new way of massively subsidising the oil and gas industry, especially the tar sands,” he said.

Most industrialised countries subsidise oil, coal and natural gas production to reduce the cost of finding and producing oil for oil companies. Countries in the developing world subsidise the cost of buying fuel to the public. Experts agree that both forms of subsidies encourage consumption of fossil fuels and thus increase the price of oil.

U.S. President Barack Obama put these subsidies on the chopping block at the previous G20 summit in Pittsburgh last September. The Obama administration is looking for ways to cut its ballooning deficit and thinks taking three or four billion away from fossil fuel companies is achievable, said Halle.

Many other countries are now paying attention to their subsidies, seeing it as money they could put to much better use without increasing their deficits. India, China, Malaysia and others have cut their consumption subsidies, he said. However, this has to be done carefully and over time. While the poor are used to justify keeping fuel prices low, that only applies to heating and lighting fuels. The bulk of subsidies go to transportation fuels which benefits the middle class.

“Subsidy reduction is a new area for everyone and countries have to go carefully,” Halle said.

Since subsidies are deeply entrenched and difficult to get rid of, the G20 commitment provides an excuse and leverage needed in many countries to enact reforms, said Halle. “We’ve spoken to half of the G20 countries and they hadn’t really thought the issue through. Now they are seeing some opportunities.”

In addition to the G20, six or seven non-members have formed a “Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform” group to follow the same commitments. And the G20 did agree to have some plans for action in place for their next meeting in November this year.

There are an awful lot things that could be done with that annual expenditure of 700 to 800 billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies and countries are really beginning to think about that, Halle said. “The momentum for change is building but it still needs to grow.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From the reporting by IPS/TerraViva.   ipsterraviva.net/UN/currentNew.as…
The final communiques of the G8 and G20 did little to assuage the central grievances that were expressed before the events in Huntsville and Toronto, during the ‘People’s Summit’ held by activists Jun. 18-20, in Toronto, or in the many peaceful demonstrations held prior to and during the summits.

The major issues being protested – lack of commitment regarding climate change and clean energy, the mounting concerns regarding the development of the Albertan tar sands, ongoing wars and foreign occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the imposition of fiscal austerity measures on member states despite continuing fallout from the global economic crisis which began in 2008 – were not resolved.

And perhaps the core concern – that a select, if somewhat broadened, group of elites are making decisions that concern all peoples around the globe largely in secret – appeared to be flaunted by members of the corporate elite, dubbed the ‘B20’ (Business 20), who were on hand.

During the summit, several dozen of the globe’s most powerful CEOs were given exclusive, off-the-record meetings with the G20’s finance ministers and Prime Minister Harper.

The G20 includes the “world’s most industrialised nations” (which also comprise the G8): Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Its other members are Australia, Mexico, Turkey and South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, plus the 27-member European Union.

In concert with the eventual announcement by the G20 that they would seek to halve deficits by 2013 (with the exception of Japan), one business leader projected, “Stimulus is winding down and the private sector is going to have to come in and pick up the slack.”

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty praised the corporate leaders, saying “The advice we get from you is invaluable in terms of our deliberations and the deliberations of our leaders.”

Offering an indication of the B20’s influence, South Korean Finance Minister Jeung-Hyun Yoon told Toronto’s Globe and Mail, “I sincerely hope the business summit can serve as a platform for public-private collaboration and the starting point of the new normal in the global economic architecture.”

As the effects of the latest policy pronouncements begin to be felt, many fear that Toronto will become known also as the staging ground for the security model that will be deployed to protect this new architecture. {The B2o that is!}

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com

Mercer’s Quality of Living index list was revised and now covers 221 cities compared to 215 in 2009, which means direct trend comparison will not be possible until 2011. The new selection includes prominent capital and other major cities from across the world currently available in Mercer’s database, and better reflects where companies are sending their expatriate employees in the current business environment.

Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: “As the world economy becomes more globalised, cities beyond the traditional financial centres are emerging as attractive places in which to expand or establish a business. Cities in many emerging markets, such as in the Middle East or Asia, have seen a significant influx of foreign companies and their expatriate employees in recent years.”

“To ensure their expatriates are compensated appropriately and an adequate hardship allowance is included in their benefits package, companies seek a clear picture of the quality of living in these cities. We have reviewed our index to reflect these developments and it now better represents the cities that most interest our clients,” Mr Parakatil said.

————

THIS YEAR, FOR THE FIRST TIME, MERCER ESTABLISHED ALSO AN ECO-CITY CATEGORY IN ITS RANKINGS.

Eco-City Ranking 2010 includes the following criteria: Water availability, water potability, waste removal, sewage, air pollution and traffic congestion. As this list is only a partial list from Mercer’s more general lists of criteria, but they still retain New York City as the base figure with 100 as guide-line, obviously these figures are different then in their general listings.

In the more general list – Vienna retains the top spot as the city with the world’s best quality of living, according to the Mercer 2010 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Geneva follow in second and third position, respectively, while Vancouver and Auckland remain joint fourth in the rankings. Also there Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, with an index score of 100 – but that figure obviously means a different 100. In the US, the highest ranking entry is Honolulu at position 31, followed by San Francisco at position 32.  In the UK, London ranks at 39, while Birmingham  at 55 and Glasgow at 57. Singapore at 28 is the top-scoring Asian city, followed by Tokyo at 40.

Mercer conducts the general ranking to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. The rankings are based on a point-scoring index, which sees Vienna score 108.6 and Baghdad 14.7.

Top Top 52 Eco-Cities ranked:

Base City: New York, US (=100)

Rank 2010 City Country Eco-city index* 2010
1 CALGARY CANADA 145.7
2 HONOLULU UNITED STATES 145.1
3 OTTAWA CANADA 139.9
3 HELSINKI FINLAND 139.9
5 WELLINGTON NEW ZEALAND 138.9
6 MINNEAPOLIS UNITED STATES 137.8
7 ADELAIDE AUSTRALIA 137.5
8 COPENHAGEN DENMARK 137.4
9 KOBE JAPAN 135.6
9 OSLO NORWAY 135.6
9 STOCKHOLM SWEDEN 135.6
12 PERTH AUSTRALIA 135.3
13 MONTREAL CANADA 133.6
13 VANCOUVER CANADA 133.6
13 NURNBERG GERMANY 133.6
13 AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND 133.6
13 BERN SWITZERLAND 133.6
13 PITTSBURGH UNITED STATES 133.6
19 ZURICH SWITZERLAND 133.5
19 ABERDEEN UNITED KINGDOM 133.5
21 CANBERRA AUSTRALIA 133.3
22 SINGAPORE SINGAPORE 132.4
23 BRISBANE AUSTRALIA 131.6
23 WASHINGTON UNITED STATES 131.6
25 MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA 131.5
25 GENEVA SWITZERLAND 131.5
25 BOSTON UNITED STATES 131.5
28 DUSSELDORF GERMANY 130.7
28 MUNICH GERMANY 130.7
30 CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA 129.4
30 BELFAST UNITED KINGDOM 129.4
32 LYON FRANCE 129.3
33 DUBLIN IRELAND 128.9
34 HAMBURG GERMANY 128.8
34 STUTTGART GERMANY 128.8
34 PHILADELPHIA UNITED STATES 128.8
37 YOKOHAMA JAPAN 128.7
38 VICTORIA SEYCHELLES 128.5
39 TORONTO CANADA 127.1
39 AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS 127.1
41 BRUSSELS BELGIUM 126.8
41 LEIPZIG GERMANY 126.8
43 ST. LOUIS UNITED STATES 126.6
44 VIENNA AUSTRIA 126.2
44 LUXEMBOURG LUXEMBOURG 126.2
46 SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 125
47 GLASGOW UNITED KINGDOM 124.7
48 MUSCAT OMAN 124.2
49 POINT-A-PITRE GUADELOUPE 123.8
50 NAGOYA JAPAN 123.1
50 OSAKA JAPAN 123.1
50 FRANKFURT GERMANY 123.1

Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Activist says meeting with ‘Avatar’ director may spawn visit to oilsands.

 www.metronews.ca/edmonton/enterta…

April 25, 2010 4:49 p.m.

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – “Avatar” director James Cameron’s recent criticism of Alberta’s oilsands industry has generated another invitation to visit the province to see the situation first-hand.

An Alberta First Nations leader and environmental advocate says he hopes he has convinced Cameron to see the effects of the oilsands.

George Poitras, a long-time opponent of the oilsands, said he had a personal meeting with Cameron in the director’s hotel room in New York City on Saturday.

Both men attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where a special screening of Cameron’s environmental-themed blockbuster was arranged. The Ontario-born Cameron also took part in a panel discussion on indigenous issues.

Poitras, the former chief of the Mikisew Cree who live near Fort Chipewyan north of Edmonton, said he invited Cameron to visit Alberta to see what he calls the environmental “devastation” of the oilsands industry.

“He was happy to accept the invitation,” Poitras said Sunday in a phone interview from New York, though he noted that no formal arrangements for such a visit have been made.

“He was very interested and he wants to learn more about it.”

Cameron couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

It’s the second invitation Cameron has received to look at the oilsands. Premier Ed Stelmach recently said the director should come to the province to see areas of oilsands developments that have been reclaimed or hear about the careful monitoring of the industry – perhaps even take a canoe trip.

The famous director has said while he doesn’t know much about the oilsands, he knows they’re a “black eye” on Canada’s image as an environmental leader.

Cameron, who directed such hits as “Aliens,” “Titanic” and “The Terminator” also said during the recent DVD and Blu-Ray release of his latest epic that pursuing non-renewable energy sources was “dead-end…thinking.” He urged Alberta to pursue green initiatives such as wind power.

If given the chance, a fly-over of the giant chemical waste ponds created by oilsands pit mining would be on Cameron’s to-do list, Poitras said. The scale of the sprawling mines also has to be seen to be believed, he added.

“Obviously we’re going to want him to speak to the governments of Alberta and Canada and the oil companies. It’s important for him to hear all sides of the story and to arrive at his own decision on what he thinks about the tarsands.”

Poitras said he identified with the indigenous people depicted in the movie, who are trying to stop the exploitation of the lush planet Pandora by invaders who want to mine its resources.

Many in Poitras’ home community of about 1,200 north of Edmonton have other concerns they’d like to tell Cameron about, he says. They include possible health effects of the industry, decimation of the boreal forest, and the lack of consultation by energy companies with aboriginal communities.

The environmental activist hopes that Cameron was sincere when he said he wanted to visit.

“He was very genuine to me, he appeared very committed and motivated to learn more about the impacts on indigenous people’s land by oil and gas,” Poitras says. He insists Cameron’s mega-star status didn’t faze him. “He was very down-to-earth and open.”

Officials with the Alberta government couldn’t immediately be reached to comment on a possible visit by the famed director.

Stelmach has said the waste ponds, called “tailings ponds,” have got to go.

“Our goal is to ensure we eliminate tailings ponds. That’s what people are focusing on and that’s the direction we’re taking. It can’t be done overnight but the technology is there to start that process.”

-By Lisa Arrowsmith in Edmonton

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

James Cameron uses Earth Day release of ‘Avatar’ DVD to promote environmental crusade.
BY ETHAN SACKS, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Thursday, April 22nd 2010, 9:06 AM

 www.nydailynews.com/entertainment…

Fox: James Cameron is hoping the Earth Day release of ‘Avatar’ on DVD will draw attention to the real-life environmental issues that inspired his story.

The Sierra Club: Environmental groups paid for an add on CANADA’S AVATAR SANDS in Variety to draw attention to a strip mining operation in Canada. ?

Young-joon/AP: South Korean environmental activists have their faces painted as Na’vi for an Earth Day protest on April 22, 2010.

It’s not easy being green: Do you think ‘Avatar’s environmental message resonated with movie audiences?

Yes, it was a key reason behind the movie’s success.
No, movie-goers were just looking for a good popcorn flick.

Glenn Beck: ‘Avatar’ director is upset about 3-year-old ‘joke’ – The biggest battle of “Avatar” is happening a lot closer than the fictional planet of Pandora.

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It’s no coincidence that the film’s DVD is being released Thursday, on Earth Day. Director James Cameron has been on a crusade the last few weeks to tie the publicity surrounding the sci-fi blockbuster, the highest-grossing movie of all time, with the environmental issues that have fired him up since he was a teenager growing up in the turbulent 1960s.

“I certainly feel a personal sense of responsibility because I made a movie on these issues,” Cameron told the News. “Why? Because they were personally important to me. It’s not like the studio said, ‘Jim we want you to make a movie about the environment.’ No. … They said, ‘We really like the big epic science fiction story, but is there any way we can get this tree-hugging crap out of it?’ ”

Last week, he was in Brazil, bringing attention to the plight of the indigenous Kayapo communities — “real life Na’vi” he says — whose way of life is threatened by a massive dam project. By the weekend, he was at Brooklyn Tech high school, joining actress Sigourney Weaver to launch an essay contest on what the environmental message of ‘Avatar’ meant to them — for $12,000 scholarships. In a few days, he’ll be back in New York, speaking before a United Nations committee on aboriginal rights.

Coinciding with the DVD’s Earth Day release, Cameron announced an initiative to plant 1,000,000 trees around the world.

From opening night, the movie’s blunt anti-corporation – and arguably anti-military – allegories have had many conservative critics seeing red, not green. Those pundits dispute the idea that the film’s huge worldwide box office gross was a barometer of moviegoers’ political leanings.

“The environmental message might be too subtle for most audiences,” said Ben Lieberman, senior policy analyst on energy and environment for the Heritage Foundation. “How many people watching the movie wanted to go out afterwards to strip naked, paint themselves blue and run through the forest? “That Cameron has to go on tour and explain what it means is pretty telling.”

In his review, Big Hollywood’s John Nolte dismissed the movie as, “ ‘Death Wish’ for leftists.”

“Those are the guys that I’m attacking; of course they’re going to backlash,” Cameron said. “But backlash sort of implies that it has some impact. It has zero impact. The film made $2.7 billion. No one was dissuaded from seeing the movie.”

A number of environmental groups have quickly rallied around the Na’vi. Just before the Oscars, The Sierra Club teamed with other groups to splurge on a full-page ad in Variety. The ad ties the movie’s story about indigenous aliens battling strip miners to a real-life mining operation in Canada’s Tar Sands and ends with the tagline, “We See You, James Cameron,” a nod to a line from the film.

Green groups aren’t the only ones going blue: Palestinian protestors were photographed earlier this year dressed up in full Na’vi regalia as they clashed with Israeli police.

“The message has definitely been resonating with people,” said Cristina Johnson, spokesperson for the Sierra Club. “A large part of the appeal of the movie is it speaks to something that people know is true. It may take place on a fictional planet, but it’s a story that definitely happens on Earth.”

Six years ago, similar battle lines between advocates and deniers of global climate change were drawn around the sci-fi movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” At the time, several prominent Democrats referenced the Roland Emmerich film while bashing the Bush administration’s refusal to acknowledge global warming. Conservatives were quick to dismiss the movie’s storyline of pollution leading to a global superstorm as, well, the stuff of science fiction.

Cameron, however, blanched at the comparison.

“‘The Day After Tomorrow’ was crap science. It was ridiculous, so it was fairly easily dismissed,” Cameron said. “The thing about ‘Avatar’ is there is no science. There’s no attempt to teach you anything.

“The only thing that ‘Avatar’ does, and I think it does it very effectively, is it gives you a sense of moral outrage, a powerful emotional response to something that as any human being with a conscience you probably already feel.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Biggest Polluters Closer To Climate Deal: Canada
A Very Sorry Article – Brought to us via World Environment News from Thomson-Reuters’ Planet Ark.
Date: 29-May-09
Author: Peter Griffiths

The Protagonist here is Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice who reports to the journalist after the first two rounds of the new US Administration’s initiative – OK, he just mentions the first round – the Washington DC round – only. He speaks as if form could make up for content. As we really know very little from the meeting of the 16 (+ the EU), we thought at first that finally we will get here some inside information – but really, it is just as news-poor as the previous postings that we were able to glean out from some speakers that were also just tooting they own horns.

—————–

LONDON – The world’s biggest greenhouse gas producers have edged closer to agreement on a deal to fight global warming at crucial climate change talks in December, Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice said on Thursday.

Talks between the biggest economies, hosted last month by President Barack Obama in Washington, had helped to bridge gaps between countries ahead of the U.N. meeting in Copenhagen to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, he added.

“I am quite hopeful, optimistic about the prospects of reaching an agreement,” Prentice told Reuters. “My sense is there is a consensus amongst the G8 countries that we need to have specific targets in place.

“I was not always so optimistic, but the convenement of the Major Economies Forum (on Energy and Climate) by President Obama causes me to have considerable confidence.”

However, he warned there was “much work to be done” before any agreement can be reached on a pact to replace Kyoto, which limits climate-warming greenhouse emissions and expires in 2012.

Although G8 member Canada signed up to Kyoto, Prime Minister Stephen Harper abandoned it soon after he came to power in 2006. He said the country’s emissions had risen since it signed the treaty and the cuts now required would hurt the economy.

Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were 25.3 percent above the 1990 level in 2005, far above its Kyoto target of a 6 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Setting binding targets in Copenhagen would not be the most important goal of the talks, Prentice added.

“What is essential about reaching an agreement in Copenhagen is to have the United States as a full partner in the battle against climate change,” he said. “The question of target levels is important, but I think it is less important than having the United States as a fulsome partner.”

As well as a shared border, Canada and the United States have close energy links. Canada is the largest single supplier of energy to the United States, accounting for about 9 percent of U.S. oil consumption and 15 percent of its natural gas.

Extracting the heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands produces huge amounts of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Measures to help the environment must be balanced with steps to help the economy during the global recession, Prentice added.

“I have never seen that as a zero sum game where to advance your environmental objectives you do so at the detriment of your economy,” he said. “You have to have a certain amount of prosperity to drive environmental progress.”

Canada aims to boost its economy by investing in “green” technology, such as carbon capture and storage, which traps carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power stations and buries them underground, he added. “This is really a technology where Canada has led the way,” he said.

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