Pirates catch illegal gillnet and 200 toothfish

They are misunderstood as pirates, but they are not. The Sea Shepherd and its crew of volunteers are activists guarding the oceans from illegal poachers. And since the Japanese whalers cannot be spotted in the Southern Ocean this season, the crew has been all out to go against illegal hunters of Patagonian and AntarcticToothfish.

Sea Shepherd crew works on the deadly gillnet (Photo: Jeff Wirth)

Sea Shepherd crew works on the deadly gillnet (Photo: Jeff Wirth)

The Bob Barker ship has been in pursuit of the African vessel, Thunder, since the vessel first fled on December 17. And for five days, the Sam Simon ship chased the poaching vessel. Thunder fled leaving behind a 25-km-long gillnet with a haul of over 200 toothfish and other sea creatures. Majority of which are dead and the surviving crabs have been thrown back into the waters.

Sid Chakravarty, captain of the Sam Simon, said the retrieval of the illegally laid gillnet set, combined with the pursuit of the Thunder, Operation Icefish has achieved what it had set out to do in less than a month since it kicked-off. The operation has been unstoppable despite criticism on the legality of the ‘pirates”operation in the international waters. Read full story HERE as well as Bob Brown’s press statement on Sea Shepherd’s toothfish operation.

 

 

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Australia caves in to global pressure, supports climate fund

Australia must realise time has changed and it has to abandon its recalcitrant stance on climate change especially when the world is moving away from dirty fossil fuels. Re-blogging:

Once again, Australia could not elude international pressure at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru.  It finally pledged to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The government’s representative to the summit, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop,announced on Wednesday the country has committed it will give $200 million to the fund designed to help poorer nations to tackle climate change.

With Australia’s commitment, the GCF has already reached a threshold pledge of approximately $10.14 billion equivalent contributed by 24 countries. The UN’s CGF is raising $10 billion.

A dramatic turn around, Abbott has been notorious in his anti-climate change stance. A self-confessed climate skeptic, Australia became the first country in the world to have scrapped the carbon tax under his leadership. He did not show up in the UN climate summit in September and he we was also adamant not to include climate change in the G20 agenda which Brisbane hosted last month.

The meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping ahead of the Brisbane summit sealed a historic deal on carbon emissions cuts within the next decade by the two countries. Political observers said the deal is a game changer ushering in a new leadership to step up action on climate change. Abbott battled to ignore the subject throughout the G20 summit, but a communique to culminate the event pressed Abbott to back down. Majority prevailed.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

President of COP20, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

In Lima, participants from around 190 countries did it again. Developing countries and conservation groups said it is time for the Abbott camp to admit the urgency of the issue..

Canada,  Australia’s partner in climate denial, also recently pledged about $US250 million.

The money which Australia pledged, will be paid over four years. It will be sourced out from Australia’s aid program budget.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the backflip was evidence of the intense international pressure Australia had been under to commit to the fund. She added there is no way Australia could have continued with its stand against global finance and be viewed as negotiating in good faith,

Blog Link here

‘Big 4′ banks under pressure to rule out funding of coal projects

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released a report calling on Australia’s “big four” banks to rule out involvement in financing controversial coal projects proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

The report called ‘The Equator Principles and financing of coal projects in the Galilee Basin‘ names Australia’s “big four” banks   – Australia-New Zealand Banking Corp (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac Banking Corp – as signatories to the Equator Principles (EPs) and calls on all four to rule out any involvement in the Galilee Basin projects.

The report is a result of research undertaken by ACF energy analyst Tristan Knowles which investigates how Australian banks should deal with financing coal projects in the area. The EPs are a voluntary framework the banks have signed up to guide them in the assessment and management of environmental and social risk in the projects they consider financing.

Anti-coal activists hang a huge banner in front of Commonwealth Bank's headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-coal activists hang a banner in front of Commonwealth Bank’s headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. (Photo: Market Forces)

The EPs serve as a guide to the best practices and a “gold standard” in environmental and social risk management. ACF said the EPs are relevant to proposed coal projects in the Galilee Basin because mines and infrastructure require project finance and advisory services to proceed. More notably, the project value is well over US$10 million – the current threshold for coverage by the EPs.

ACF insists that coal projects in the Galilee Basin are a litmus test for the EPs stating, “If they’re truly a gold standard for environmental and social risk management, Australian banks should rule out further financing of these projects because they will result in serious damage to the environment… We hope this report focuses the debate about Galilee Basin Coal projects back on the banks’ commitments to be environmental leaders.”

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Several foreign banks have already backed out from financing Adani Group’s coal port expansion, including US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase.

Prior to those banks’ rejection, the Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays all ruled out funding the development of the Adani’s $16.5bn project

The report said the massive projects will destroy tens of thousands of hectares of land, consume huge amounts of water and potentially impact on the Great Artesian Basin, and result in significant greenhouse gas pollution.

The UN World Heritage Committee, which visited the site in 2013, also said coal projects will cause irreparable damage to the World Heritage Area and warned the Australian government to delist the site.

News blog link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent

Pacific Ocean floor, the new mining ‘frontier’

Environmental defenders are waging another war in the Pacific– this time, against deep sea mining. As land-based resources continue to deplete amid growing demand for natural resources, private companies are relentless in their quest for minerals beyond the frontier.

Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus), with corporate office in Toronto Canada and project office in Brisbane, Australia, got a green light to drill the ocean floor in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to extract polymetallic seafloor sulphide deposits.

The company has also plans to extend its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand as well as other areas outside the Western Pacific.

A pioneering project, Nautilus went through rigorous negotiations with the PNG government, including settlement of  commercial dispute for equity participation. The company applied for Mining Lease (ML), along with the submission of development proposal, in 2008 and was granted in 2011. The Environmental Permit was also given in 2009 by the PNG’s Department of Environment and Conservation. The lease term covers 25 years until 2035 to exploit the seabed for the prospect of copper, gold and silver.

Nautilus deploys heavy machinery equipment to extract vast mineral deposits on the sea floor. (Photo: Nautilus)

Under the agreement, the State of PNG takes an initial 15 percent interest in the project with an option to take up to a further 15 percent interest within 12 months of the Agreement. PNG paid Nautilus a non-refundable deposit for its initial 15 percent interest of US$7,000,000.

Support from resource industry

The mining industry admits the challenges in the world market and thus supports this development. In Sydney, 13th Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference is being held for three days, Dec.1-3, to discuss prospects of mining.

SOLWARA-img1

The theme, “PNG Resources – Expanding Horizons”, articulates the optimism of the PNG oil and gas sector which has been facing challenging times in the world market.  Commodity prices are falling amid rising costs and falling productivity.

The conference highlights how the mining industry can address the changing conditions and significant progress which is being made in responding to the new environment.

Solwara 1 offers a bright prospect. “Development is well under way on the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project and several of PNG’s world class mineral prospects have made further substantial progress,” its conference website reads.

The conference also offers a wide range of prestigious sponsorship opportunities and the large trade exhibition which presents an exclusive opportunity to showcase the company to a very large audience.

Protest in Sydney

On Tuesday noon this week, human rights and environmental activists staged a PNG mining and pollution divestment protest on George Street in Sydney juxtaposing the conference being held at the Hilton Hotel. They said mining has been destroying communities and the environment since 1972.

Dan Jones, Melanesian Studies advocate said, “From Bougainville to Ok Tedi, to Porgera and Ramu Nickel in Madang, the extractive industry continues to cut corners purely to maximise profits causing massive environmental damage and social upheaval which continues to spark social uprising, ecocide and serious conflicts.”

"The Great Commission" arrives in PNG, an image being used by Nautilus in its deep sea mining gallery.

Nautilus is one of the speakers at the conference and organizers want the message to get across.

Natalie Lowrey, acting coordinator for Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “The Nautilus Environmental Impact Assessment is deeply flawed, neither the Precautionary Principle or Free Prior and Informed Consent has been adhered to despite growing opposition in PNG. This only further disenfranchises communities in PNG who have not yet made an informed decision on whether they want to be the guinea pigs of such a new industry.”

PNG locals are gathered to brief them of what is to  happen in their community. (Photo: Nautilus)

Protesters also decry Bank of South Pacific which provided Nautilus funding for Solwara 1. The bank is a sponsor and presenter at the conference. BSP is  criticised for allowing the project to progress after it stalled.

BSP, who considers itself the ‘greenest’ bank in the Pacific provided a loan of $120 million (2 percent of BSP’s total assets) to PNG for a 15 percent stake. Those finances are due to be released to Nautilus from an escrow account on Dec. 11.

The Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a joint letter with PNG-based NGO Bismarck Ramu Group to BSP asking if they have undertaken a full risk analysis on its loan to the PNG government that is allowing this project to advance. However, the groups had not received an answer.

Jones explained that most Papua New Guineans do  not see any benefit of mining, coal, and gas explorations to the community. They only see exploitation of their land and damage being done to their spiritual connection to land and sea. Jonas said culturally diverse subsistence agricultural communities rely on clean environments and waterways for survival. He added:

“Papua New Guineans want support for their own initiatives, like value adding to existing cocoa and coconut industries. There is an increasing demand for organic health food export markets utilising fair-trade virgin coconut and cocoa in recent years is an industry PNG is failing to tap into.”

“Development to Papua New Guineans is much more than an expedient cash cow benefiting foreign investors and local officials. Real development includes cultural development including environmentally custodial customs, responsibilities and spiritual connections to land and sea.”

Meanwhile, Mining Australia admitted that while deep sea mining generates enormous profits, the risks associated with it cannot be ignored. Potential consequences may include pollution, accidental spillage which may release toxic substance into the surrounding area, and a fear that could damage uncharted area of the sea — just to name a few.

News blog link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent