Male, the capital city of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean.
An independent United Nations human rights expert has urged Maldives to put in place measures to handle internal displacement caused by climate change and natural disasters – an issue the Indian Ocean nation is all too familiar with having experienced the 2004 tsunami.
“Climate change is very real in the Maldives and its effects on rights, including the right to housing, safe water and livelihoods, are being felt on many islands,” said Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“The suffering caused by coastal erosion, salination, rising sea levels, and more frequent storms and flooding is all too obvious to be ignored,” he said after a six-day mission to the country.
“It is also essential to put in place climate change induced displacement preparedness measures applying a human rights-based approach, and mechanisms for the participation of affected communities,” he added.
The expert said that addressing the “real and clearly visible” impacts of climate change on the ordinary lives of the people of the Maldives through mitigation and adaptation measures is “necessary and urgent,” and will require partnerships with the international community.
Europe’s energy chief announced seven green certification schemes for biofuels on Tuesday and promised in future to tackle the unwanted side-effects of turning food into fuel.
Guenther Oettinger said biofuels’ indirect impacts were dangerous for the planet’s carbon balance and food supply.
The European Union agreed three years ago to get 10 percent of its road fuels from biofuels — at a time when such fuels were widely regarded as good for the environment — but since then controversy has raged in Europe over the target.
Oettinger took a first step toward limiting biofuels’ impact on the environment on Tuesday, launching a green standard to prevent companies from clearing forest, peatlands or grassland to grow biofuels for the European market.
The European biofuel market is expected to grow to about $17 billion a year and is being eyed by European farmers as well as growers of sugarcane in Brazil and palm oil in southeast Asia.
Critics say the EU’s biofuel target creates an incentive for farmers to hack directly into forests to create space to grow fuel crops — known as direct land use change.
But they also charge that even biofuel crops planted in Europe can send shock waves through global food markets and indirectly promote deforestation — indirect land use change.
Many biofuels are now thought to be worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are intended to replace.
The United Nations has called an emergency meeting on July 25 to discuss mobilizing aid for drought-stricken east Africa, where famine has been declared in parts of Somalia.
A wide swathe of east Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia, has been hit by years of severe drought and the United Nations says two regions of southern Somalia are suffering the worst famine for 20 years, with 3.7 million people facing starvation.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization announced an emergency meeting at its Rome headquarters on Monday to be attended by ministers and senior representatives from its 191 member countries, other U.N. bodies, NGOs and regional development banks.
British charity Oxfam accused several European governments Wednesday of willful neglect in reacting to the crisis, with an $800 million aid shortfall slowing the international response.
Years of anarchic conflict in southern Somalia have exacerbated the emergency, preventing aid agencies from helping communities in the area. Nearly 135,000 Somalis have fled since January, mainly to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, with many small children dying during the journey.
Wind farms in China and small-scale solar panels on rooftops in Europe were largely responsible for last year’s 32% rise in green energy investments worldwide according to the latest annual report on renewable energy investment trends issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Last year, investors pumped a record US$211 billion into renewables – about one-third more than the US$160 billion invested in 2009, and a 540% rise since 2004. For the first time, developing economies overtook developed ones in terms of “financial new investment”-spending on utility-scale renewable energy projects and provision of equity capital for renewable energy companies. On this measure, US$72 billion was invested in developing countries vs. US$70 billion in developed economies, which contrasts with 2004, when financial new investments in developing countries were about one quarter of those in developed countries.
The report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011, has been prepared for UNEP by London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
China, with US$48.9 billion in financial new investment in renewables (up 28%), was the world leader in 2010.
Mr. Steiner said: “The continuing growth in this core segment of the Green Economy is not happening by chance. The combination of government target-setting, policy support and stimulus funds is underpinning the renewable industry’s rise and bringing the much needed transformation of our global energy system within reach.”
In 2010, wind continued to dominate in terms of financial new investment in large scale renewables, with US$94.7 billion (up 30% from 2009). However, when investments in small scale projects are added in solar is catching up, with US$86 billion in 2010, up 52% on the previous year.
Nauru’s president, speaking for small island nations threatened with extinction by rising sea levels caused by climate change, asked the United Nations Security Council today for help.
A divided council couldn’t agree on the linkage between climate change and threats to peace and security and took no action.
“It is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or terrorism, and it carries the potential to destabilize governments and ignite conflict,” President Marcus Stephen told the Security Council. “I urge you: Do not bury your heads in the sand. Seize this opportunity to lead.”
Russia led the opposition to U.S. and European efforts to get the council involved. Germany, which organized the meeting in its role as president of the Security Council this month, settled for a statement expressing concern that “possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats” to peace and security.
Security Council members Russia, China, India, South Africa were among nations that questioned the immediacy of the threat posed by climate change. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the forum for negotiations on a global agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, should deal with the issue, they said.
Australia’s New South Wales state has imposed restrictions of the burgeoning coal-seam gas industry and extended a ban on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ until year-end to balance the needs of mining and agriculture.
Fracking, currently not practised in New South Wales, involves drillers blasting pressurised water, chemicals and sand deep underground to break rocks and release the gas, a technique that some farmers fear will contaminate ground water.
The state government would also ban the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) as additives during coal-seam gas drilling and also ban the use of evaporation ponds relating to coal-seam gas, the state’s resource minister said late on Thursday.