Agreement has been reached in Strasbourg by Euro-MPs to set new waste recycling targets, with tough penalties for non-compliance. By 2020 50% of household rubbish and 70% of construction and demolition waste must be recycled – with mechanisms to penalize governments through court action when the targets are not enforced. The new standard is, for some, a clear statement of the ongoing progressive, environmental mindedness emerging from the European centre. For others it is a compromise; it is too weak a solution that will not change the fundamentals of consumerism and problems surrounding waste management that persist with modern lifestyles.
The Waste Framework Directive increases recycling levels, requires the preparation of national programmes for waste management, international partnerships and more stringent measures for waste incineration. The author of the waste report, conservative MEP Caroline Jackson suggested that:
“this is the best deal available. Anyone who thinks that we could get anything better would be deceiving themselves.”
Furthermore, the conception of waste as an opportunity emerges within the agreement:
“This deal marks a shift in thinking about waste from an unwanted burden to a valued resource and helps to make Europe a recycling society, said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.”
By the year 2010 a plug-in hybrid vehicle will be available in Japan, the US and Europe as part of the green strategy released by Toyota on June 11 last week. The vehicles will be run with next-generation lithium-ion batteries and will be rechargeable from an electrical outlet. The ecological petrol-electric cars will be aimed at leasing customers and will operate longer and cleaner than regular hybrids.
The initiative comes as part of Toyota’s larger plan to create a more sustainable practice and to meet consumer demand from suffering drivers who are feeling the oil price crunch and who are becoming conscious consumers in the face of global warming.
“Without focusing on measures to address global warming and energy issues, there can be no future for our auto business,” Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe said.
In the pacific region countries have joined forces to tackle land-clearing in an attempt to reduce regional emission levels. One of the latest carbon partnerships, agreed to in April this year, is between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The agreement has been criticised from its inception and with the release of a recent forest analysis report covering PNG, the potential usefulness of the program going forward is further questioned.
Papua New Guinea is losing 362, 400ha of rainforest every year, one of the highest rates of deforestation and the worst scale of land-clearing as a percentage of the country size (1.4per cent of its land area). Farming and logging are the main industries leading to this depletion, which without being curtailed will result in more than 80 percent of the entire rainforest disappearing within 13 years. A rate ‚Äòconsiderably faster’ than ever before predicted.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon opened the international summit on the global food crisis in Rome last week by calling for a 50 per cent increase in food production by the year 2030. As the High-level Conference on World Food Security concluded the UN’s long-term focus was revealed; to improve food security whilst increasing production and agricultural financing. For Ban, the world has a “historic opportunity to revitalise agriculture” and must “respond immediately” to improve food security and eliminate “trade and taxation policies that distort markets.”
With this declaration the momentum for change is growing, but is this direction going to see the development of sustainable agricultural practices? Will it relieve hunger and improve the quality of lives for the global poor? Or will the rich poor divide worsen through further entrenchment of existing mechanisms that control trade and production in favor of Western politics and economics?
The global food price crisis has been brought about by an increased demand for biofuels, poor harvests from changing environments, increasing transportation costs, land development, a growing Asian market as well as unfavorable trade characteristics. The poorest people around the world have been hit hardest, sparking food riots in some places, for example Haiti, Cameroon and Egypt, as well as food export restrictions in many others such as India, Vietnam and Brazil.
Unprecedented opportunities for capital investments in green companies and technologies exist in a range of global economies. ‘Socially Responsible Investment’ is monitored and reported on through the Trends Report from the Social Investment Forum biennially and now, the 2008 Spring GreenMoney Journal expands our knowledge about these opportunities and trends. The Spring edition, the second most recent publication from GreenMoney, examines the ‘greening’ of the global economy and elucidates the broad range of new possibilities in sustainable investments for private and institutional investors as well as for pension plans, university endowments, foundations and mutual funds.
The Spring GreenMoney 2008 publication asks and answers, ¬¥Could the Greening of America actually be happening?, and ¬¥Is there a way to enjoy growth and prosperity…and save our planet too?’
Construction of the first high speed rail link in America will take place in Argentina, connecting the cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. A contract has been made with Alstom and partners, Iecsa, Isolux Corsan and Emepa, which will see the rail link accommodating trains operating up to 320 km/hr.
The national government and other proponents of the plan envisage a positive influence for economic development in the region. It is hoped that the project will revive the railway system of Argentina, which has suffered extensively since the wave of privatization that occurred in the 90s. Furthermore, it will offer an attractive travel mode for tourists in the region.
However, there are many risks associated with the success of the project, namely the cost of travel which is
“disproportionately expensive relative to the number of people who will benefit from it”
(Poder Ciudadano in Spanish)
The prices are not comparable to the bus system which moves the majority of people between these cities and is not likely to replace air traffic travel either. People in Argentina are questioning the usefulness of the link, as it will be unfordable for most and because there is a desperate need to address other infrastructure issues nationwide.
Uncontacted tribes exist around the world and late last week the speculated existence of one group in the Amazon region was confirmed. The Brazilian Government has taken aerial photography of tribal peoples who live close to the Peruvian border in complete isolation from the modern world. The photograph shows Indians painted red and aiming longbows at the aircraft.
This tribe forms part of a larger global community of uncontacted peoples whose isolation is under threat from modernisation. The Amazon region is home to approximately 60 of the world’s 100 uncontacted tribes.
The overflight at the Brazilian-Peruvian border was undertaken to confirm the presence of the tribe “to show they are there, to show they exist,” said Jos√© Carlos dos Reis Meirelles J√∫nior who works for FUNAl, the national foundation for Indians. Stephen Corry the director of Survival International commented about the recent photographs,
‚ÄòThese pictures are further evidence that uncontacted tribes really do exist. The world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct.’
Around the globe, people are seeking career changes to find environmentally responsible employment. This once niche market has become mainstream, where now you can find opportunities from a range of employers, in a range of fields, that are suitable to a diverse range of job seekers.
This rapidly expanding market has emerged for a range of reasons, such as the introduction of more stringent sustainability policies, commitment by national governments to international agreements as well as a growing conscience in business and society to address environmental and social concerns. Governments have implemented plans to reduce waste and energy use for example, while residents themselves are choosing to purchase products and services from environmentally friendly companies. Businesses, from local to global scales, are interested in responding to environmental and social issues, if for nothing more than to project a positive corporate image. With compounding factors such as these, the green career sector is booming.
This trend leads to the question, how do you find these jobs, who can apply for them and how can you be best prepared to work in the industry?
For the last two days Australian business representatives, government and the non-profit sector have convened at the 9th annual National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development. The theme for this year’s forum was ‚ÄòRe-Calibrating the Risk from Climate Change: an urgent business task.’ Throughout the each day, invitees have participated in a range of workshops, covering topics such as the implementation of the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme to exploring ‚Äòsociocracy’ as a new method of governance.
One of the most interesting topics discussed at the conference related to social responsibility. At the opening presentation, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced funding for a key project that will assist businesses to operate in line with standards of corporate social resposibility. According to The Australian newspaper, the project is essentially
“aimed at helping business develop more of a social conscience.”
Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers and Australia’s best-known global warming expert, yesterday released a new climate forecast. Since his last major forecast in 2005, he has projected a direr outcome and in turn suggests consideration of radical solutions to the global warming phenomenon, including ‚Äòdimming’ through sulphur.
Professor Flannery spoke at a business and sustainability conference at Parliament House in Australia on Monday. He has brought to national media attention new science results that show how the world is more susceptible to and affected by greenhouse gas emissions; more so than has ever been considered previously. For Flannery, greenhouse gases that are present in the atmosphere today are already having too great an impact, regardless of changes made to emission levels in the future.
“The current burden of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is in fact more than sufficient to cause catastrophic climate change”
The Convention on Biological Diversity is a treaty between nations to maintain diversity and sustain life on earth. Every year the party nations meet to discuss progress of the convention, topical issues and strategic planning. This year our attention is drawn to the devastation brought about by climatic disasters and the real economic cost of losing biodiversity.
The convention was born from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where world leaders signed up to a strategy for sustainable development; to meet our needs while ensuring that we leave a viable world for future generations.
The convention as agreed to at the Earth Summit has three main goals:
“the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources”
The World Social Forum takes place annually to provide a meeting ground for civil society organisations, networks and individuals to explore the progression of social movements across the globe. Those attending the function become equipped with the latest knowledge on social development, struggles and innovation in the field.
The WSF hopes to facilitate networking among organisations, both local and international, that are working in a sustainable manner towards quality of life improvements for the world’s poor.
The date for the 2009 World Social Forum has been confirmed by the International Council. It will happen from January 27th 2009 until February 1st 2009 in Belem, Para, Brazil. Persons and organisations are invited to register for the event to
“come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, for formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action.”
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) yesterday announced the implementation of a GHG program in Brazil. The ‘Brazil GHG Protocol Program’ enables companies to monitor and better manage GHG emissions on a voluntary basis. It is a commendable commitment to improving environmental standards in the cooperate world; however this progressive focus towards environmental accountability should be viewed in tandem with the economic motivations of corporations.
At present, Brazil has one of the highest GHG emission rates in the world, but no official obligation to reduce these rates. The `Brazil Greenhouse Gas Protocol Program` promotes a voluntary commitment to international best practices in GHG abatement strategies.
The Protocol was created by the WBCSD and the World Research Institute for governments and businesses alike. In Brazil, the Environment Ministry, the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Development and Fundacao Get√πlio Vargas partnered the aforementioned institutions to realize the formulation of the Brazil GHG Protocol Program. The WBCSD reported that there are twelve founding members of the Brazil GHG Protocol Program, including: Anglo American, Banco Do Brasil, Bradesco, CNEC, Copel, Natura, Nova Petroqu√≠mica, O Botic√°rio, Petrobras, Sadia, Votorantim, and Wal-Mart Brasil.
Today, a dozen companies will reveal plans to implement business expertise, including the use of their technology and innovations to serve poverty alleviation within the Majority World.
At the event in London, over 80 multi-national business executives will display innovations to tackle poverty. Such initiatives are hoped to create jobs and through targeted economic growth improve the lives of poor people in Africa and Asia. The move comes in light of the Millennium Development Goals and UN promotion of collective action in achieving these objectives. The United Nations Development Programme with the UK Government promoted the event and reported that
one of the greatest untapped resources is the private sector….(and that)…such creative approaches and partnerships are essential in catalysing vibrant new markets that can contribute to advancing inclusive growth and development (Mr. Dervi≈ü).
Collaboration in development is a strongly useful method and this initiative shows signs of the types of partnerships needed to lift people out of poverty. However, such business efforts should be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure appropriate standards are met across health, social and environmental considerations. Furthermore, a worrying development may be the increased homogenization of culture through the expansion of big business into smaller communities.
Lately our news feeds about the business sector, government and development activities in Latin America have painted a stark picture; mostly surrounding resource competition between filling bellies and producing biofuels. The current crises elucidates the range of dilemmas faced when business and development needs are out of harmony, when they are placed in competition to one another. What results is negative local community development, compromised business outcomes and strained relationships between governments, industry and civil society.
A recent clip released on Youtube draws our attention quickly back to a more positive dynamic between civil society, business and government. It shows the height of research and implementation to date of a joint initiative for ‘Inclusive Business’ between the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV). Over the past year, the alliance has been actively pursuing collaboration between business executives and civil society across Latin America to generate ideas for sustainable business opportunities. The culmination to date is highlighted within the video below.