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Monday, September 15, 2008

Ecology in August , 2008

In today's edition:
  • World Water Week demands halt to food wastage
  • Green groups take EU to court over 'dangerous' pesticide limits
  • WWF slams EU countries for poor care of Baltic Sea
  • China overtakes UK on renewables
  • Study: Carmakers still way off EU climate targets

World Water Week demands halt to food wastage

25 August 2008

Scientists and experts from around the world have warned that global food wastage must be halved by 2025 to meet the challenges of feeding the rapidly-growing population and preserving global water supplies.

Continued high rates of food overproduction and waste will not only cause food but also water shortages, according to a report by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

The study, entitled 'Saving Water: From Field to Fork – Curbing Losses and Wastage in the Food Chain', was presented during World Water Week, which wrapped up on 22 August in Stockholm.

It warns that "tremendous quantities of food are discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and people's kitchens," adding: "This wasted food is also wasted water." In the US, up to 30% of food, worth some $48.3 billion, is thrown away each year, it notes, pointing to similar levels of waste in Europe.

"That's like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion litres of water into the garbage can - enough water to meet the household needs of 500 million people," the report laments.

Global food needs are expected to roughly double by 2050. At the same time, dwindling oil reserves and increasing concerns about climate change are leading countries to invest heavily in biomass – meaning land for food production is also getting scarcer. What's more, as countries like China and India get richer, demand for more water-intensive agricultural products, such as beef and bioenergy, is increasing.

Food prices have already begun to soar in recent months, causing riots in a number of poor countries, including Haïti, Mexico, Egypt, Morocco and Senegal (EurActiv 04/07/08). Furthermore, an estimated 1.2 billion people already live in areas where there is not enough water to meet demand, causing death, illness and disease related to bad sanitation.

"Weak policy, poor management, increasing waste and exploding water demands are pushing the planet towards the tipping point of global water crisis," warned the report, calling on governments to place an effective water-saving strategy, requiring that food wastage be minimised, firmly on the political agenda. source

My comment: I didn't edit this because it says it all. This situation really cannot go on. I hope reading this, everybody will consider his/her own food and water waste and reduce it. Please, the situation is REALLY serious.

Green groups take EU to court over 'dangerous' pesticide limits

29 August 2008

New maximum legal limits for the pesticide content of food products sold within the EU, set to come into force on Monday (1 September), "violate food safety" by exposing consumers to unacceptable levels of contamination, environmental groups claimed yesterday (28 August), announcing their intention to challenge the law in court.

The EU institutions first reached agreement on a new law setting Europe-wide limits on pesticide content in food sold within the bloc in February 2005. The regulationexternal is intended to address growing public concern over the health and environmental impact of the so-called plant protection products.

But a new studyPdf external , published yesterday by Greenpeace Germany and Austrian NGOs Global 2000 and Friends of the Earth Austria, found that under the new regulation "almost 700 of the maximum amounts of pesticide in fruit and vegetables allowed throughout the EU are too high".

The findings have led environmental groups Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe and Dutch NGO Natuur en Milieu to lodge an appeal at the Court of First Instance in an attempt to force the Commission to review its position and to encourage it to take their views more seriously at an earlier stage of the policy process in future.

The EU executive has "failed to deliver on its obligation to set legal limits at the lowest achievable level," claimed Hans Muilerman of Natuur en Milieu. "There is also no consideration of the cumulative effects that pesticides have on human health. Legal action is now necessary to force the Commission to think again."

Meanwhile, PAN Europe coordinator Elliott Cannell questioned the mechanism by which the new limits were devised. "For each pesticide, the Commission identified the country with the worst safety limit and then sought to adopt this level as the new EU-wide standard," he said.

The study estimates that over half of all food sold in the EU is contaminated by some form of pesticide.

But pesticides manufacturers say their products are all the more necessary to keep down the cost of food in the current climate of rising prices.

The Commission dismissed the findings of the Greenpeace study as "based on crude, outdated and imprecise information". It said it "examines every study brought to its attention" and "will ask [European Food Safety Agency] EFSA for an opinion" if new scientific evidence emerges "showing that any of the maximum residue limits might not be safe".

PAN Europe expects the court to issue an opinion on the case in early 2009. Meanwhile, earlier this year, EU farm ministers reached a political agreement over Commission plans to ban the marketing and use of toxic pesticides within the bloc (EurActiv 24/06/08). source

My comment: I can easily believe Greenpeace this time. I think everyone who travels in Europe can tell the differences in the food quality in different countries. This cannot continue. Let's how the Court will agree.

WWF slams EU countries for poor care of Baltic Sea

28 August 2008

The Baltic Sea ecosystem could collapse unless states bordering it find common ground on ways to decrease maritime pollution, according to a new report from WWF, which accuses governments of failing to take responsibility for working to improve the situation.

Vast algal blooms, such as those that threatened to disrupt watersports during the Beijing Olympics, cover large parts of the Baltic Sea, killing off large swathes of the seabed as oxygen fails to spread throughout the water - a process known as eutrophication.

The build-up of plant growth is caused by an increase in the volume of nutrients in the water as a result of sewage, shipping pollution or agricultural run-off.

Seven of the world's ten largest "dead zones" are found in the Baltic Sea, making it the world's most damaged, according to WWF.

But despite the situation, all nine Baltic Sea states (Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Poland) have failed to take the necessary measures.

All nine states received an "extremely disappointing" F grade (ranging from 25% for Poland to 46% for Germany) - a key failing being cooperation on integrated and concerted actions.

"The Baltic Sea is influenced by a multitude of human activities, regulated by a patchwork of international and national regulations and authorities", said WWF Sweden Chairman Lasse Gustavsson. Despite acknowledging the challenge this poses to finding common ground among the nine states, it should not be viewed as an excuse, argues the report.

"What the Baltic Sea needs now is political leadership that can look beyond national or sectoral interests," added Gustavsson.

The report showcases Finland as the only country in the region to have a cross-sectoral marine policy that addresses all these issues as a whole. The WWF hopes this will have a knock-on effect among other countries and believes the EU's new Maritime Policy should then add the necessary impetus to seek a common solution to the problem. source

My comment:I wrote already about the eutrophication in TTFWL and this problem is for real. It's based to the excessive use of nitrogen-based chemicals and their free disposal in the water. It leads to killing of the organismes in certain area. That issues should be addressed, because you can not obviously fish if there is no fishes in the water!

China overtakes UK on renewables

20 August 2008

The Chinese government's energy policy has led to a large rise in investment in renewables, helping it to dislodge the UK in a ranking of the top five most attractive countries for investment in renewable energy, according to a study published on 19 August.

China has risen from sixth to joint fourth place with Spain – behind the US, Germany and India – in the quarterly Ernst & Young Country Attractiveness Indices. The UK, on the other hand, has dropped from fourth to sixth place – which the consultancy largely puts down to long delays in pushing through its new Energy Bill.

According to Jonathan Johns, head of renewable energy at Ernst & Young, the Chinese success story has been driven by the government's commitment to generate 15% of the country's energy from non-carbon sources by 2020. China's rapidly-growing manufacturing base also means the country is likely to largely exceed its renewables goal, becoming a major player on a market where the EU has been hoping to obtain a competitive advantage thanks to its own ambitious renewable energy targets.

In the UK on the other hand, the decision to delay the Energy Bill means "there is now a two-year period of consultation and review before any of the proposals are implemented. This will leave just ten years for the UK to establish a renewables infrastructure strong enough to meet its 2020 target," the report notes.

The report nevertheless indicates that other European countries are performing better and underlines that the UK situation comes in "strong contrast to the speed at which Germany has addressed the challenges placed by the EU Renewables Directive".

It further notes how Germany's feed-in tariff mechanism – which guarantees renewable energy producers a buy-back price that is higher than the market price for electricity – has enabled it to deliver higher levels of renewable power at lower cost than in the UK, where renewable energy obligations are fulfilled via a system whereby companies can trade 'green certificates'. While the European Commission has been looking to duplicate the UK model at EU level, the move has encountered much resistance (EurActiv 29/04/08 and 16/01/08).. source

My comment: Ok, allow me to question the China's reported actions. I think it's more propaganda than else, but it's true that China do have cheap access to all the components for renewable energies which give them an edge on the technology. As for UK, I don't particularly care, I care that the EU finally got it that we really should explore renewable sources as solar and wind to the maximum.

Study: Carmakers still way off EU climate targets

26 August 2008

Car manufacturers only reduced their CO2 emissions by 1.7% over the past year – a far cry from the average 17% cut they will have to achieve within the next four years to comply with planned European legislation, according to data published today by Transport & Environment, a green NGO.

German carmaker BMW made the largest step forward, recording a 7.3% cut in its fleet's emissions last year alone, while Japanese manufacturer Honda's average CO2 emissions actually increased by 1.1%.

Overall, French and Italian manufacturers remain in the best position to meet the 130 grammes of CO2 per kilometre target by 2012, which was proposed by the European Commission last December. But, with average cuts of less than 2% last year, they are being caught up by Japanese, US and German brands.

According to T&E, the progress made by BMW is testimony that carmakers are capable of making the necessary emissions cuts when threatened with regulations and fines.

The green NGO Dings is angry that the EU appears to be watering down a fourteen-year-old target to cut CO2 emissions from cars to 120g/km on average and that governments are backing down to pressure from industry.

In June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Sarkozy, who currently holds the EU Presidency, shook hands over a backdoor deal that would allow a "substantial" phasing-in period car manufacturers, as well as more leniency on fines for deviations of up to eight grammes (EurActiv 10/06/08).

"German carmakers want CO2 targets to only apply to the cleanest cars in the early years. It's the equivalent of demanding that a smoking ban should only apply to non-smokers," laments Dings.

He hopes the European Parliament will toughen up the draft regulation when its Environment Committee votes on the proposals on 8-9 September. But a draft report by Guido Sacconi, the MEP in charge of steering the text through Parliament, would back the Commission's so-called 'integrated approach', whereby manufacturers only have to reduce their fleet's average emissions to 130g/km and further cuts are to be achieved by complementary measures, such as biofuels or fuel-efficient tyres. It would, however, also lay down a 95g/km target by 2020. source

My comment: Yeah, been there, discussed this. I'm however proud of BMW, because they really did something to reduce the emission. Then, it is possible, right? Then DO IT!

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