Global News: Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon up 15%; Japan Plans 48 MPG Mileage Standard by 2020;

Cattle walks in a burnt area of the Amazon rain forest (AFP/File)

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon up 15%

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon increased by 15 percent during the past 12 months, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said Wednesday.

From July 2010 to July 2011 the vast South American rainforest lost 2,654 square kilometers (1,649 square miles) of vegetation in the states of Mato Grosso and Para, according to a preliminary analysis of satellite photos.

The year before, 2,295 square kilometers (1,426 square miles) were destroyed over that time period.

This July, 225 square kilometers (139 square miles) were lost to deforestation, though this was significantly less than the 485 square kilometers (301 square miles) destroyed in July 2010.

In April 477 square kilometers (296 square miles) were destroyed, with more than 95 percent of the devastation taking place in Mato Grosso, which is a major agricultural frontier used for cattle ranches and soybean farming.

Wednesday’s figures were calculated from a satellite system known as DETER, which detects in real time when an area larger than 61 acres is destroyed, though its results are not always exact due to cloud cover.

Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country by area, has 5.3 million square kilometers of jungle and forests — mostly in the Amazon river basin — of which only 1.7 million are under state protection.

Japan plans average mileage rules; joining U.S., Europe

Japan is looking to join the United States and Europe in adopting standards that set fuel economy targets averaged across a car maker’s entire fleet, according to a government proposal announced on Friday.

The draft guideline calls for an improvement of 24.1 percent in the average mileage of passenger cars in Japan to 20.3 km/liter [47.8 mpg] in 2020, against 16.3 km/l [38.3 mpg] measured in 2009, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

By adopting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) methodology, automakers would be awarded for mounting fuel-saving technology such as hybrid systems on a large volume of cars, and not be penalized for failing to meet standards in other categories, divided into 15 weight classes. That would in turn help car makers concentrate their R&D resources rather than spreading them thin, a ministry official said.

Croatia withdraws Kyoto CO2 target protest

Croatia has dropped an appeal against its emission target under the Kyoto Protocol, removing a major hurdle for the country’s plan to join the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) by 2013, U.N. documents showed Thursday.

The withdrawal, in a letter from Croatia’s environment ministry on August 4, means the Balkan state accepts the U.N’s ruling over its greenhouse gas limit from 2008-2012, its dispute of which has banned Croatia from trading U.N-backed carbon units since November 2009.

The ban will remain until the matter is formally addressed at a year-end U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa, according to a note posted on the UNFCCC website on Thursday.

Croatia needed to get the ban lifted to enable its biggest emitting companies to join the EU ETS in 2013, when the government intends to become an EU member state.

The country must toughen emission reduction efforts if it joins the EU, as the 27 member state bloc targets 20 percent reduction by 2020 under 1990 levels, while Croatia’s pledges a 5 percent reduction, according to UN documents.

Japan to give $809 million climate aid to Indonesia

The Japanese government has signed an agreement to provide about 62.3 billion yen ($809 million) in new climate aid to Indonesia, one of the biggest emitters in the developing world.

The agreement was signed in Jakarta on Thursday by the Japanese ambassador to Indonesia and officials at the Indonesian Finance Ministry’s, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a news release.

Almost all of the money (60.3 billion yen) was provided in the form of low interest loans, mainly to build five geothermal power plants.

The cash will be repaid over 40 years at 0.3 percent annual interest.

According to the World Bank, Indonesia has the world’s largest geothermal resources, with nearly 40 percent of known global resources.

It is estimated that the country has 27 GW of geothermal generation capacity.

The cash is part of Japan’s contribution to a $30 billion global fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change and cut their emissions.

Administration launches energy partnership with Brazil

The Obama administration said this week it will work closely with Brazil to develop the country’s energy resources.

Energy Department Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman launched a partnership with the South American country aimed at improving cooperation on energy issues like offshore drilling, nuclear power and renewables.

“The Strategic Energy Dialogue builds on the long-history of energy cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil to advance our shared energy goals,” Poneman said in a statement. “Working together, we can help grow our economies, enhance regional and global energy security, and build a clean energy future for both of our nations.”

Under the partnership, officials from the two countries agreed to promote U.S. renewable energy technologies in Brazil; support biofuels research; develop “best practices” for offshore oil-and-gas drilling; and work together to develop nuclear technology, among other things.

China studying regional CO2 caps – official

China is researching implementation of an absolute carbon dioxide cap in a number of pilot regions, a National Development and Reform Commission official said on Thursday.

“We are choosing certain regions that have the right conditions to implement controls over total carbon emissions,” Su Wei, director general of the NDRC’s climate change office, told an industry conference.

He did not say which regions would be part of the pilot scheme, but added that he hoped regional caps would be the first step in the gradual establishment of a national emissions trading scheme.

Beijing has pledged to reduce carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of GDP — by 17 percent over the next five years, and has also committed to using “market mechanisms” to reach its targets.

“In reducing emissions in the future, more policies will rely on market methods,” Su said.

[UK] Wildlife protection plans unveiled

The Government today unveiled targets to create half a million more acres of important habitat such as woodland and meadows in England over the next decade.

The strategy for protecting English wildlife, which forms part of global efforts to halt losses in nature, also includes making a quarter of the seas into protected areas and ensuring that a sixth of England’s land and inland waters are managed to help wildlife.

Ministers say they want to see “better, bigger, more and joined” habitats for wildlife, protecting urban green space and using areas alongside roads and railways as “green corridors” as well as making management of the countryside greener.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said conserving green spaces in towns and cities, including derelict land, had a huge benefit for local people, and was backed by measures in the recent planning reforms which allowed for the designation of green areas to protect them.

She also said reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which pays subsidies to landowners for the land they farm, to make it more focused on the environment was key to delivering the “step change” needed in efforts to tackle wildlife loss.

But conservation groups including the RSPB, Buglife, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation warned there needed to be more focus in the plans on saving individual species ranging from the fen orchid to the cuckoo.

They warned that there were almost 1,000 species already listed as needing conservation action.

The biodiversity strategy commits to action on “priority species” – which range from bottle-nosed dolphins to skylarks – that will not be saved through the wider measures to improve the country’s habitats.

It is England’s answer to global pledges to halt the loss of nature by 2020, agreed last year in Nagoya, Japan, after similar targets for 2010 were missed.

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