Tokyo 2020 Olympics at what cost?

Japan marks the 50th  anniversary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games with grand festivities. The hosting of the games brought prestige and national pride — a benchmark of economic development following the World War II.

This year’s grand event, however, is marred with controversies. Conservation groups accused the Olympic committee of causing forest destruction in the province of Sarawak, Malaysia where the timber used to construct Olympic venues are sourced out by a giant logging company, Shin Yang.

Last month, about 47 civil society organisations asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities to stop exploiting tropical forests and violating human rights in the construction and implementation of the games. The groups are calling for full transparency and to end the use of rainforest wood to construct Olympic facilities, including the new National Olympic Stadium.

But the appeal does not stop the construction of venues.

Amid the games’ golden anniversary, Malaysia’s indigenous leader appealed to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Matu Tugang, head of the Indigenous Penan community of Long Jaik from Sarawak, asked Abe to help stop Japan’s use of controversial wood from Shin Yang.

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The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee during a ceremony on Oct 10 to celebrate the 50th year since the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Games.

NGOs gathered evidence at the construction site in April which confirmed the use of plywood supplied by Shin Yang. The company has been allegedly logging in the area of Long Jaik for almost two decades and has previously been implicated in illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and human rights abuses.

The community of Long Jaik has been fighting with blockades to protect their forests against Shin Yang’s logging and conversion to oil palm plantations. The community has also an ongoing lawsuit against Shin Yang for violating their customary rights.

In a last attempt to save their remaining forests, the headman is turning to Shin Yang’s buyers in Japan and asking Abe to intervene.

SEE ALSO: Japan’s bid to go smoke-free for 2020 Olympics faces strong resistance

In the letter, headman Tugang said Shin Yang had destructive logging practices and the company disregarded community’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Tugang accused Shin Yang to have been logging aggressively in their village.

“When their tractors extract a log, they just bulldoze everything around… Shin Yang has been logging our ancestral forests without our permission or consent. They have never asked us for our opinion or needs,” Tugang said.

 Olympic Committee non-adherence to environmental practices

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) promised to adopt environmentally sound practices and to contribute to global environmental protection through continual efforts to improve its environmental management system.

In its action agenda, it aimed to support green products when making purchases, to obey environmental laws and guidelines, and to promote internal environmental educational initiatives to ensure that all JOC staff fully understand.

The basic principles for sustainable sourcing are shown giving utmost importance on how products and services are supplied, the origins of products and services and the resources from which they are made, compliance with the sourcing code throughout the supply chains, and the effective use of resources.

Olympic Committee Criticized

However, the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Olympic authorities have been the subject of relentless criticism from an international coalition of civil society organisations critical of Tokyo 2020’s poor timber sourcing standards and lack of transparency in their timber supply chain. Despite repeated demands to disclose the origin of the timber in use for the Olympics and to end the use of Shin Yang wood and other

Despite repeated demands to disclose the origin of the timber in use for the Olympics and to end the use of Shin Yang wood and other high-risk timber, authorities have failed to respond to NGO concerns.

NGOs civic action against Tokyo for lack of transparency

Last month, about 47 civil society organisations have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic authorities to stop exploit tropical forests.

At the IOC Executive Board Meeting in Lima, Peru, the groups sent a letter reiterating grave and mounting concerns about the legitimacy and accountability of IOC’s sustainability commitments and the reputation and credibility of the Olympic games.

Hana Heineken of Rainforest Action Network, along with other NGOs, said the Tokyo Olympic authorities are not transparent about the use of massive volumes of tropical wood to construct the new National Olympic Stadium.

SEE ALSO: JJapan: 2020 Olympics brings baseball event to recovering Fukushima

They claim that the IOC’s failure to address the obvious risk of unsustainability is a clear breach of its own commitment to “include sustainability in all aspects of the Olympic Games.”

In particular, they point to a major loophole in the Tokyo 2020 procurement policy that allows wood used for concrete formwork to be exempted from the policy’s environmental, labour and human rights requirements, despite the majority of this type of wood in Japan coming from the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia where problems of illegal logging, rainforest destruction, and land rights violations persist.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 and economic powerhouse

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Japanese torchbearers with the 1964 Olympic flame relay team run through the rain on their way to the Olympic Stadium in October 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. (Pic: AP)

The Tokyo Summer Olympics in 1964 gave Japan a chance to present itself to the world as a friendly, tech leader redeeming itself from the transgressions of war. Japan will host the prestigious event for the fourth time in 2020, another opportunity for Tokyo to showcase the innovation of new technologies.

Tokyo’s organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said plans were underway to show off high-tech features like hydrogen-powered vehicles for athlete transportation and smartphone tools to aid tourists. “We have the potential to make this Olympic Games wonderful that the people of the world are going to admire.”

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The Japanese government will showcase hydrogen fuel-cell technology to the world in 2020. Source: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Japan Sport Council

Many redevelopment projects are underway in central Tokyo and elsewhere, as the capital prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, the games will not go without mention of the environmental impacts.

In the construction of venues and other facilities, there is a shortage of wood. Hard tropical plywood is essential to making concrete formwork. Even though the quality of formwork plywood made from Japan-grown trees is improving, it is not enough to fully compensate for reduced shipments from Malaysia.

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Climate champ Leonardo DiCaprio mired in Malaysian 1MDB scandal

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Lately, his foundation made headlines announcing US$15.6 million in grants that have been awarded for various causes including wildlife and habitat conservation, indigenous rights, climate change and solving complex environmental issues.

Grant receivers and partners are happy… but not everyone.

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) suspects the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has received bribe money from Malaysians who are connected to the high-profile 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, namely Riza Aziz, Low Taek Jho (“Jho Low”), Tan Kim Loong and Riza Aziz’s film production company, Red Granite Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

The BMF has already written Swiss bank Julius Baer, the main bank linked to DiCaprio’s foundation and asked to provide information on their due diligence when it comes to the acceptance of donations from Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Malaysia.

The bank responded it expects the LDF to conduct due diligence and prevent damage to its charitable goals.  The bank subtly distanced itself from donations the foundation had received from individuals connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal. DiCaprio, however, is yet to answer questions.

Citing legal reasons, Julius Baer’s Co-Head of Marketing, Marco Perroni, said he couldn’t disclose if the bank managed accounts on behalf of the LDF. However, he stated that all transactions handled by the bank were carefully examined and that it also expected its partners to accept and handle donations with due care.

The Julius Baer Group supports charitable goals via the Julius Baer Foundation and via partner organizations.

“In case of problems, we discuss appropriate measures with our partners in order not to affect or damage the charitable goals and the beneficiaries. Naturally, we also expect from our partners to conduct due diligence and take measures. […]”

We can assure you that transactions and financial flows handled by our bank are generally subject to scrutiny with respect to their origin and use and that, in case of suspicion, reports would be made to the authorities in charge.

Last month, the BMF wrote to DiCaprio, calling for transparency on his financial ties with Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Jho Low, a key person behind the US$3.5 billion 1MDB scandal.

najib razak waving

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

The BMF said it recognizes the LDF’s important role in supporting rainforest protection and indigenous rights.

However, the organization also said DiCaprio and his foundation should never have accepted funds that proceed from corruption in Malaysia.

“Our long-term experience in Malaysian Borneo, as outlined in the book Money Logging, has shown that corruption has become of of the main drivers of rainforest destruction in South East Asia,”the BMF added.

The call for transparency has been taken up by numerous media around the world, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Fox News, CBS News, El Pais, La Repubblica, Milliyet and others.French TV station TF1 broadcast a special eight-minute piece during its 50 minutes inside Saturday night prime time show.

The BMF has called on DiCaprio and his foundation to disclose their full financial relationship with all Malaysians connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal and to pay back all the money to the Malaysian people.

The suspicion, if true, could mar the integrity of the actor’s foundation and his advocacy.

The Guardian noted DiCaprio has joined high-caliber personalities in the fight to address climate change and various global issues.

[He became] a fixture at events focused on global challenges since 2014, dropping in at the Davos economic forum to pick up an award last January, and holding a private chat on the sidelines with Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general, on the sidelines of the Paris climate negotiations last December.

DiCaprio joined the climate march alongisde 400,000 through the streets of Manhattan and was named as a UN climate change ambassador in 2014 where he delivered an address at the UN climate summit.

He has had private tutorials in climate science from some of the world’s best researchers including Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

DiCaprio’s transformation as a climate champion began with his meeting with then vice-president Al Gore at the White House in 1998. DiCaprio, who has cited that meeting as the beginning of his climate activism, set up his foundation that same year.

This year, the LDF announces through its website the foundation’s largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants, increasing the organization’s total direct financial giving to over $59 million since 1998. Additionally, after a period of increased grantmaking and a goal of expanding its global impact, the foundation warmly welcomes veteran environmental leader Terry Tamminen as CEO.

US$15.6 million in grants have been awarded to the foundation’s partners.

The grants support works which range from major environmental conservation organizations to local partners who are fighting to protect and defend vital ecosystems and species that are gravely impacted by the global environmental crisis caused by climate change.

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TPP irreconcilable with UN sustainable development goals, say critics

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP. (Photo: Supplied)

Trade Ministers agreed on TPP Monday. (Photo: Supplied)

Last week, leaders from around the world announced their commitment to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals which outlined the solutions to address global climate change, environmental degradation, poor health, and poverty. In juxtaposition to this historic announcement, trade ministers from 12 countries reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday which sets the economic rules for 40 percent of the world economy in Atlanta, Georgia.

The historic pact was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said in a statement that the TPP will drive Australia’s integration in a region that underpins Australia’s prosperity.  The deal cemented Australia’s successes in concluding trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, and other partners in the region.

The TPP will eliminate over 98 percent of tariffs among signatories and removes import taxes at around AUS$9 billion of Australian trade. Robb said one third of Australia’s total goods and services exports – worth $109 billion – were sent to TPP countries last year.

However, fierce opposition against the deal is expected. Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, for one, opposes the provisions of the pact, including TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems which allows a foreign tribunal to intervene with domestic policies.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) International blasted the agreement, saying several of the UN sustainability goals are irreconcilable with the TPP. There are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

Sam Cossar-Gilbert, FoE international economic justice coordinator, said: “This is a sad day for our planet, as the TPP favours safeguards for corporate investments over safeguards for nature.  The TPP chapters on technical barriers to trade will threaten regulators’ capacities to effectively regulate the roughly 85,000 chemicals in commerce needed to protect human health and our environment.”

Renowned scholars and economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Adam S. Hersh warned the TPP is a charade. It is not about “free trade” but rather “an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies.”

Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

The TPP is claimed to be shrouded in secrecy. They said it is protected under the ISDS systems which allow foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

Stiglitz and Hersh said that such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions including protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

In Australia, Philip Morris International is already prosecuting the government in a $50 million legal suit before a tribunal in Singapore for its plain cigarette packaging.

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

TPP protest in New Zealand (Photo: Wikipedia)

FoE said, “Even very simple consumer sustainability measures like efficiency rating and food labelling on imported goods could be impossible under TPP, because labelling regulation can be deemed a barrier to trade. ”

The TPP faces a number of challenges prior to its ratification as protests and rallies are expected to be held worldwide. In the U.S., it faces a hostile Congress while it is an election issue in Canada. There is also a court action in Japan and a widespread opposition in Australia .

FoE warned the TPP will threaten people and the planet, if ratified.

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Federal Court overturns Adani’s Carmichael mine

Adani's activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Adani’s activity in the Carmichael mine. (Photo:Supplied)

Here’s another victory for environmental defenders!

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, which could have been one of the largest coal mines in the world and responsible for substantial greenhouse gas emissions, is now without legal authority to commence construction or operate. The Federal Court of Australia overturned approval of the project. Read the court order HERE.

Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW, representing the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG), challenged the $16.5 billion project which the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved last year .The approval stirred unrests among local communities, indigenous people, tourism businesses, and various green and civic groups. 

Sue Higginson, principal solicitor of EDO NSW said the the decision of the court to overturn the Carmichael mine’s federal approval was based on a failure by the Minister to regard conservation advices for two Federally-listed vulnerable species, the Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake. This kind of error in the decision making process is legally fatal to the Minister’s decision, the solicitor said.

The Minister approved the project without regard to the threats of endangered species which are found only in Queensland, the solicitor continued adding the law requires that the Minister should have considered conservation advices on the impacts of national environmental significance, such as the case of threatened species.

The  Minister also failed to consider global greenhouse emissions from the burning of the coal and Adani’s environmental history although these matters are left unresolved before the Court. Australia’s largest coal mine could be exporting up to 60 million tonnes of coal from across the Great Barrier Reef Coast every year.

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

Facility built at the Abbot Point Point to provide access to coal exports. (Photo:Supplied)

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) estimates the mine will take 297 billion litres from underground aquifers, causing a drop in water table levels on which local farmers rely. When burnt, coal from the Carmichael mine will produce 128.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, at peak production, or four times New Zealand’s annual climate pollution.

“It will be up to the Minister now to decide whether or not to approve the mine again, taking into account the conservation advices and any other information on the impacts of the project,” Higginson said. MCG is running a campaign calling the Minister to reject the project once and for all.

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Clean energy on ALP National Conference agenda

“Australians want cheaper, cleaner power. There are more than 5 million people living under a solar roof, taking control of their electricity bills and doing their bit for the environment.” – Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) will decide its policy platform at their National Conference in Melbourne on July 27.

On the agenda includes climate change. The conference is open to the public to join clean energy workers, community leaders, and thousands of voters, to show the ALP Australia is ready for leadership on clean renewable power.

The event is crucial for ALP to step up in providing the necessary vision and policy settings to put Australia on a path to a cleaner, fairer economy that tackles the challenge of climate change.

DATE
July 25, 2015 at 11am – 12pm

VENUE

Melbourne Convention Centre
1 Convention Centre Place South Wharf
Melbourne, Victoria 3006
Australia
RSVP HERE.

Top coal financiers: Japan, China, Korea

Divestment is becoming both a buzzword and a movement that urges organizations to shift support from dirty fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. But it is a long way to go when governments are being lobbied by big industries and financial institutions and continue to work in secretive partnership. Re-blogging this post:

Miners shovel coal at a mine in China's Hebei province. Pic: AP.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the top financiers of coal exports via international financial conduits, a new report has revealed.

International environmental groups have called for these countries to stop financing coal exports via Export Credit Agencies and asked all other countries involved in climate talks to honor their commitments to combat global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and World Wide Fund for Nature released the report, Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry, exposing the secretive operation between governments and financial institutions to finance big polluters despite international outcry for urgent climate action.

The report said “total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 conservatively amounted to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Emissions are close to a total of 18 gigatonnes for the entire lifetime of the supported power plants alone.”

The report revealed US$73 billion or over $9 billion a year within that period in which public finance was approved for coal.  Japan gave the largest amount of coal financing of any country, with over $20 billion during that time, followed by China with finance close to US$15 billion.

OCIKorea, Germany, and Australia are among top sources of funds transmitted via financial agencies. These countries are also reported to be leading the opposition to limits on coal finance in international discussions, along with other countries which continue to resist pressure to end public financing.

The report comes a summit in Paris in December this year to ratify a commitment to cap carbon emissions and to solidify targets of limiting global temperature below two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends improved transparency to avoid catastrophic climate change. It calls for phasing out international public finance for all fossil fuel projects, including exploration for more fossil fuels.

The report also urges the immediate disclosure of exhaustive data on public finance for the entire energy sector. Funding has largely gone unnoticed as it is often hidden from view as many countries are choosing to sweep this under the rug, rather than face the necessary task of cleaning up their own houses, the report added.

OCI-2World governments, particularly G20 and G7 members, have recognized the threat of climate change over the last eight years, and made repeated commitments to both fight climate change and end fossil fuel subsidies.

However, billions of dollars’ worth of government support continues to flow towards fossil fuels and coal. “This government financing for coal – largely in the form of export support, but also as development aid and general finance – is perpetuating coal use and exacerbating climate change. It needs to stop, immediately”, the report added.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that at least 75 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avert global warming of more than two degrees. As coal makes up two-thirds of the carbon content of known global fossil fuel reserves, coal poses a serious threat to the climate.

Full Report HERE.

WWF calls EU for  climate leadership in OECD talks before COP Paris 

In Brussels, Belgium, 34 OECD countries convened for their annual Ministerial Meeting, June 3-4, while  G7 Heads of States and governments will meet in Germany on June 7-8 as a key political opportunity to make their climate credibility by ending support for coal.

“Many developed country governments that push for ambitious climate action are simultaneously funding coal abroad. They cannot do both and be credible,” said WWF’s Global Climate and Energy initiative leader Samantha Smith. “It is time for rich nations to put their money behind the solutions, like renewable energy, rather than using taxpayers’ money to fuel climate change.”

WWF said international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 is blamed for Italy’s pollution, the country which ranked 20th in the highest amount of carbon emissions globally,  “causing total greenhouse gas emissions amounting to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.”

Contradicting the claim that export finance for coal is necessary to fight energy poverty in poor countries, the report clearly shows that zero export finance for coal has gone to Low Income Countries, where the need for energy access is greatest, while one-fourth went to High Income Countries with no every poverty concerns.

OCI-3

Sébastien Godinot, economist at WWF European Policy Office said the EU, led by the European Commission, failed to agree an official position on coal export finance ahead of the OECD meeting taking place next week. He said EU Member States are still divided, with some willing to end support for coal plants and others being more reluctant. So far the EU has largely been inaudible in the OECD negotiations, he added.

“COP Paris is around the corner.  It is time for European countries, the Commission and the EU as a whole to end procrastination and show leadership”, said Godinot, as “climate commitments and engagement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies should immediately lead the EU to ask the OECD to end export credits for coal.”

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New study predicts demise of Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is facing serious threats from climate change, and ongoing coal projects make it even worse. The Carmichael Mine Project, located in the Galilee Basin, will go ahead despite warnings that coal transported from the mining site to the Abbot Point Port will cause irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

A new scientific study says the reef could be destroyed by environmental change before the end of the century. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation  (CSIRO) and Bureau of Meteorology (MOB) forecast that Australia will be hit hard by climate change as temperatures will rise of up to 5.1C by 2090. Scientists under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) have agreed a limit of 2C if the earth is to avert catastrophe.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

CSIRO’s principal scientist,  Kevin Hennessy, said the inland will be most affected but  one of the most dramatic  transformations are set to take place in the seas that surround Australia, which will warm between 2C to 4C  unless carbon emissions are cut.

On average, four metric tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere per person per year, representing an increase of 30% over the last 250 years. The IPCC monitors these changes.

The effect of climate change is already changing the Reef. The Department of Environmentalso confirms sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, along with sea levels, and the ocean is sure to become more acidic. These changes affect reef species and habitats, as well as ecosystem processes, and the industries and communities that depend on the Reef.

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing on the reef together contribute $6.9 billion to the national economy per year. Unusually warm sea temperatures have already caused serious and lasting damage to 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced eight mass bleaching events since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures. The most widespread events occurred in 1998 and 2002 with more than 50% of reefs bleached. Coral bleaching is a natural process but the rate is increasing faster than ever before.

The Federal Government gave a green light to the coal project despite warnings from the United Nations that it will put the Reef at risk. Predictions also suggest that the Carmichael mine could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime, representing a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions.  The pollution from the entire Galilee Basin, if all projects go ahead, will be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

“That intermediate emissions scenario would have significant effects for Australia,” Hennessy said. “Coral reefs are sensitive to even small changes in ocean temperature and a 1C rise would have severe implications for the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo reef.

The forecast is grim for the Great Barrier Reef and if Australia cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions the future could be very challenging, the CSIRO scientist said.

Re-blogged from: Green Journal/Asian Correspondent
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Hyundai AU to launch zero emission hydro-powered car

A zero-emission electric vehicle that runs on hydrogen has arrived in Australia. Emitting only water,  Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) will be Australia’s first and only hydrogen car refueller to be installed at Hyundai headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney. Testing and demonstration drives are expected to begin any time from now.

Built in Ulsan, South Korea, it is the first hydrogen-powered car to be permanently imported into the country. The vehicle is the first component of Hyundai’s plan to operate a test fleet of ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles in Australia. As such, it represents a pioneering step toward the commercial availability of emissions-free hydrogen powered vehicles in Australia.

Mr Charlie Kim, chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) said the company became the first automobile manufacturer in the world to begin mass-production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle,” adding “This gave HMCA the ability to order a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in the same way as we order any other new Hyundai car. Now we have one, and we believe this fantastic car will help demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a green transport solution for Australia.”

Hyundai has now begun the installation of Australia’s only Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) at its headquarters in Macquarie Park using hydrogen provided by gas partner Coregas Australia. The HRS, supplied by American company Air Products, has passed all planning permissions from Ryde Council and is expected to be fully operational early in 2015 after testing is completed during December

“Ultimately, we see no reason why Australians should not enjoy the same environmental solutions as consumers in other markets,” continued Mr Kim. “Hyundai strongly supports the idea of a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia like those already in operation overseas, and we are committed to working with local partners to try to facilitate this.”

Read more about the specifications of the car on Hyundai Australia 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

G20 People’s Summit planned for Brisbane

An alternative G20 People’s Summit led by an indigenous people’s group will be held separately in Brisbane in response to the Coalition Government’s exclusion of climate change from the G20 Summit 2014 agenda. The three-day People’s Summit will take place on Nov. 12-14, ahead of the G20 leaders summit on Nov. 15-16.

While Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will welcome delegations of the G20 for talks on global economic issues and cooperation, climate activists and  civic groups will take to the streets and other venues in Brisbane to highlight what is missing in the leaders’ summit agenda.

Trade Ministers from  the G20 member countries and invited guests, along with representatives of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank Group and World Trade Organization in Sydney,19 July 2014 (Photo: DFAT)

The Brisbane Community Action Network – G20 (BrisCAN–G20) was created to question the policies enshrined in the free market ideologies of the G20. BrisCAN-G20 wants “to reframe public G20 discourse around issues that impact people, communities and environment; issues that are not addressed or have been ridden roughshod over by the G20 to date.”

Abbott argued that G20 is an economic summit, not a climate summit. He stands by his word, ignoring his disappointed European counterparts and US President Barack Obama.

In September this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the UN Climate Summit in New York, but Abbott did not show. Managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, later noted that climate change should be discussed during the G20 Summit in Brisbane, but Abbott said the G20 is meant to focus primarily on economic growth. He said other issues would only clutter the issue and distract from the summit’s focus. Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, also expressed disappointment and was reported to have said, “the idea that Abbott is preventing a discussion on climate change is laughable.”

List of leaders attending the G20 Summit 2014.

Abbott will be meeting three UN Climate Summit absentees, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In preparation for the leaders’ summit, Abbott has been reportedly making phone calls to leaders to rally support for the G20 agenda.

The NY summit concluded with a modest target. The EU suggested it would agree to bigger cuts to emissions, 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels, although other countries aim to keep their existing goals.

Abbott is a self-confessed climate sceptic. He already scrapped the carbon tax, and the nation’s renewable energy target is under threat. For Abbott and the rest of his Coalition Government, policies on mitigating climate change can only put a “handbrake on the economy”. The carbon tax, he says, pressures businesses with extra costs, and thus any climate-related issues can significantly discourage production.

BrisCAN-G20 leades the alternative people's summit in time of the G20 Summit 2014 in Brisbane. (Photo: Supplied)

BrisCAN-G20 will stage Visioning Another World: The G20 Peoples Summit, a three-day festival packed with events. Programs include conversations, symposiums, creative activities, cultural performances, education, and peaceful demonstrations. It will take place in various locations in Brisbane, aiming to bring together local and international thinkers to collaborate on broad themes such as the economy, growth vs sustainability, environment, climate change, earth rights, dispossession decolonisation, and other issues of social justice. BrisCAN–G20 is concerned about social and economic disparities perpetuated by G20 and the systems it represents.

Various groups and NGOs will join the summit including the Friends of the Earth, OXFAM,  National Congress of Australia’s First People, International Trade Union Confederation, Australian Greens and Palm Island Community.

Church Communities call for stewardship

Church groups have also been pressing for environment to be included in the G20 summit.Eleven Brisbane ministers from five churches have formed alliance to call for the Abbott government to pay attention to one of the most pressing issues of the time.

Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Reverend Peter Catt. (Photo: Supplied)

The dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Reverend Peter Catt, who also serves as the group’s spokesperson, said the government did not understand how the economy and the environment are deeply linked, and how the economy operates and how it depends on the environment. Dr Catt views the environment as the foundation of economic growth, prosperity, and “human flourishing”. Noting Christianity’s principle of stewardship, he said, “the Earth is a precious gift and that humans are called to act as stewards.” He added:

Climate change is a deep concern. The G20 leaders should be showing leadership and discussing it at the top of their agenda when they meet in our city.“It would be wonderful if a meeting held in our city led the way to sustainable life and a healthy economy.

The ministers call on the Australian Government, which has control of the agenda, to deal with climate change as a priority.

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