Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nations again try to bridge rich-poor climate gap


29 November, 2010.  Associated Press

 An aerostatics balloon of the environmental group Greenpeace is seen next to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.  - AP

 (AP) -- World governments begin another attempt Monday to overcome the disconnect between rich and poor nations on fighting global warming, with evidence mounting that the Earth's climate already is changing in ways that will affect both sides of the wealth divide.
During two weeks of talks, the 193-nation U.N. conference hopes to conclude agreements that will clear the way to mobilize billions of dollars for developing countries and give them to help them shift from affecting .
After a disappointing summit last year in Copenhagen, no hope remains of reaching an overarching deal this year setting legal limits on how much major countries would be allowed to pollute. Such an accord was meant to describe a path toward slashing by mid-century, when scientists say they should be half of today's levels.
Eighty-five countries have made specific pledges to reduce emissions or constrain their growth, but those promises amount to far less than required to keep temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels.
The recriminations that followed the Danish summit have raised questions over whether the unwieldy U.N. negotiations, which require at least tacit agreement from every nation, can ever work.
But Christiana Figueres, the top U.N. climate official, said world capitals are aware of both a growing environmental and political urgency. "Governments need to prove that the intergovernmental process can deliver," she said Sunday.
"They know that they can do it. They know that they need to compromise. I'm not saying it's a done deal. It's still going to be a heavy lift," she said.
About 15,000 negotiators, environmental activists, businessmen and journalists are convening at a resort complex under elaborate security precautions, including naval warships a few hundred yards (meters) offshore in the .
While delegates haggle over the wording, timing and dollar figures involved in any agreement, scientists and political activists at the conference will be offering the latest indications of the planet's warming. Some 250 presentations are planned on the sidelines of the negotiations.
Meteorologists are likely to report that 2010 will end up tied for the hottest year globally since records began 131 years ago.
The U.N. scientific body that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its climate change report, which called global warming "unequivocal" and almost certainly caused by human activity, is expected to tell the conference its findings and warnings of potential disasters are hopelessly out of date.
Agronomists are due to report on shifting weather patterns that are destabilizing the world's food supply and access to clean water, and that could lead to mass migrations as farmers flee drought or flood-prone regions.
As often during the three-year process, attention will focus on the United States and China, key protagonists representing the industrialized and developing world.
U.S. negotiators may feel further constrained from showing flexibility toward the Chinese after the Republican swing in this month's congressional elections, which brought dozens of new legislators who doubt the seriousness of climate change.
The U.S. has insisted it will agree to binding pollution limits only if China also accepts legal limitations. China, now the world's biggest polluter but also the biggest investor in renewable energy, rejects international limits, saying it still needs to overcome widespread poverty and bears no historic responsibility for the problem.
But Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who became head of the U.N. climate secretariat in July, said the public argument may appear more bitter than it really is. At the most recent round of talks last October, "they were working very constructively with each other inside the negotiations," she said.
©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mayors sign global pact to tackle urban emissions

By Matthew Knight for CNN
November 22, 2010 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)

World mayors met in Mexico City on Sunday to commit to regular reporting of urban emissions data and mitigation strategies.


* World Mayors Summit on Climate commits city leaders to coordinated climate fight

*138 mayors have signed the "Mexico City Pact" to combat urban emissions
* Pact "shows national governments that it's possible to have commitments"
* CNN iReporter interviews Mexico City's secretary for the environment

London, England (CNN) -- Mayors from around the world have signed a voluntary pact committing them to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions at a climate summit in Mexico City.

The "Mexico City Pact," which was signed at the World Mayors Summit on Climate, has attracted the signatures of 138 mayors from some the world's largest urban areas including Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Paris, Vancouver and Jakarta.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of the Mexico City and chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change said in a statement: "The world's cities must join together and put their data in the same pot."

With over half the world's population now living in cities, Ebrard says "mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet's fight against a changing climate."

"Mayors and urban leaders are on the frontline of the planet's fight against a changing climate
--Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City Mayor

A key component of the pact is the creation of a monitoring and verification mechanism called the "carbonn Cities Climate Registry" (cCCR) which will be operated by Germany's Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting.

The cCCR is designed to create uniformity in reporting of urban greenhouse gas emissions as well as keep track of local projects which combat climate change. City residents will be able to track how their city is performing and compare the results against other cities around the world.

Elizabeth Gateau, secretary general of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) said in a statement: "The cCCR is a platform wherein cities can work together. Cities are ahead of the game of nations and are leading the global process combating climate change. The cCCR will be the official reporting mechanism of this leadership."

Speaking at the Mexico City summit Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), welcomed the new cCCR mechanism saying it would "facilitate transparency and accountability of local climate actions and help local governments to demonstrate leadership in climate action."

She added that subjecting cities to open and independent reviews is a "critical step for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of emission reductions over long-term lines."

Five "pioneer" cities, including Mexico City and Cape Town, South Africa, have already begun reporting some of key actions, commitments and performances. Sample reports can be viewed here.

The summit, convened by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) and UCLG, took place just days before U.N. climate talks get underway in Cancun, Mexico.

On the eve of the mayors summit CNN iReporter Percy von Lipinski interviewed Martha Delgado, Mexico City's secretary for the environment.

"Last year in Copenhagen we realized that cities have a lot of opportunities and a lot of political will to fight against climate change. The Mayor of Mexico, as chairman of the World Mayors Council, asked his colleagues how to fight climate change and they decided to organize the World Mayor Climate Summit," Delgado told von Lipinski.

"Everyone is very excited to participate in this summit because they think that they are going to show national governments that it is possible to have commitments," Delgado said.

Cities have a great capacity to address climate change, despite the absence of a legally binding global treaty between nations, Delgado says. By convening the Mexico City summit mayors from all over the world are demonstrating leadership and their commitment to lowering emissions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll finds

The survey examined attitudes on such issues as global warming, air pollution and tainted soil and water.

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

November 20, 2010

California's Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll.

For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.

Times/USC poll: An article in the Nov. 20 LATExtra section about a Los Angeles Times/USC poll of Latino and Asian voters' views on environmental issues identified the Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters as David Smallwood. His name is David Allgood. —

Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites.

The poll surveyed 1,689 adults by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

"Latinos and Asians are far more likely to be registered as Democrats than whites, and Democrats hold these views more closely," said Peyton Craighill, who supervised the poll.

Beyond that, their feelings reflect a fact of life in California: "Environmental hazards are a part of the everyday lives of Asian American and Latino voters who are disproportionately represented in locations with high levels of pollution and contaminants," said Jane Junn, a professor of political science at USC and research director of the poll.

"While these results may at first seem surprising, this survey by the L.A. Times and USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences allowed voters to answer questions in their native languages — Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Korean," she added. "And a large number of Asian American and Latino voters were interviewed in order to increase the reliability of the findings."

California has one of the nation's largest concentrations of minorities living near hazardous chemical wastes and air pollution produced by refineries, port operations, freeway traffic and railroads. An analysis of census data by researchers at four universities for the United Church of Christ showed that 1.2 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, 91% of them minorities, live less than two miles from facilities handling hazardous materials such as chrome-plating businesses and battery recycling centers.

Latinos make up 37% of the state's population, Asians are 12.5%, whites are 41.5% and African Americans are 5.8%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African Americans were included in the survey, but the number of people questioned was too low to analyze reliably.

The survey's findings are no surprise to environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the California League of Conservation Voters. The groups' own surveys have shown that Latinos and Asians — two of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the state — share serious concerns about the environment.

These organizations have historically relied mostly on white constituencies for donations and influence in crafting and promoting legislation aimed at protecting the environment and cleaning up pollution.

Now they are aggressively reaching out to ethnically diverse communities to gain financial support and inspire a new generation of environmental stewards. Because these communities are more directly affected by pollution, the strategy makes sense, the groups say.

"We spend the vast majority of our resources in districts that are dominated by, or have substantial, Latino and Asian populations," said David Smallwood, Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters. "Their concerns will help us build broader support for aggressively dealing with global warming."

Dan Taylor, director of public policy for California Audubon, agreed.

"The poll's findings are a clear expression of the direct threat environmental carelessness presents to the health of these families and their communities," he said. "If we are going to get anywhere with an environmental or wildlife-focused agenda we have to partner with the Latino leadership in the Legislature, or we're not going to win. It's that simple."

State Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) suggested that Latinos and Asians are also concerned about environmental issues because "they either came from countries such as Mexico or China where there are serious pollution issues, or they have relatives who did. They don't want neighborhoods in our country to be like the ones they left back home."

Poll respondents who agreed in advance to be interviewed generally supported Mendoza's basic argument.

"It's getting bad out there when it comes to pollution, global warming and clean water," said Elizabeth Olivares, 24, of Stockton. "We are destroying our world little by little. I have a little brother and two nephews and worry about their future."

About 69% of Latino voters and 49% of Asian voters polled said they personally worry a great deal about having enough water to meet future needs, compared with 40% of white voters, the poll found.

Jason Padilla, 26, of Riverside said he was certain that minorities would become increasingly engaged in environmental issues.

"We're stepping up and saying, 'Hey, we live, hike, camp, fish and play here too,' " Padilla said. "We're getting involved to help make changes that are morally and ethically right and benefit everybody."


Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

RON 97 price hike hits high-end users

The Star Online

November 3, 2010

PETALING JAYA: The five-sen hike of RON 97 petrol to RM2.15 per litre from yesterday has mostly affected a small group of luxury car owners and those who favour its performance capabilities compared to the more affordable RON 95 which is still sold at RM1.85 per litre.

Animation designer Joey Khor, 32, who drives a 3.5-litre Nissan Fairlady sports car, said he might have to sell his car if the petrol cost becomes too hard to bear.

“I am already spending RM150 for a full tank, which will last me around three to four days. That means RM300 in a week, and RM1,200 spent on petrol in a month,” he added.

Car mechanic Novie Ismail, 34, said he spends about RM400 a month on petrol for his three cars: Volvo 24 SE, Proton Satria and Charade Aura.

“I’ll just have to bear with the RON 97 price hike as I feel that RON 95 affects the performance of my cars. The engines sound rougher and generate less power,” he said.

Meanwhile, Petrol Dealers Association Malaysia president Datuk Hashim Othman said the price increase was a natural consequence of rising oil prices in the international market.

He estimated that about 75% to 80% of motorists were RON 95 users and would thus remain unaffected.

“Don’t be too upset by the controlled float (of RON 97), as the Government plays an important role in ensuring that the oil companies do not hike petrol prices drastically,” said Hashim, pointing out that RON 97 sells for around RM3.80 per litre in Thailand.

“The public should be aware that the Government does not impose any tax on the sale of RON 97 but does not subsidise it either,” he said.

The previous petrol price hike, which took effect on July 16, was part of the Government’s effort to save an estimated RM750 million a year.

Deputy Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat that the price increase reflected the global price increase of fuel and announcements would not be made in the future about price changes.

She added that a committee comprising officials from the Finance Ministry and her ministry would monitor and determine the price since RON 97 was subjected to a managed float.
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