|Sunday, 6 March 2005|
Kyoto Protocol introduces carbon trading :
It's a hot, hot world
Carbon trading is just like any other trading which occurs at the market. But there is a very strict procedure, where only the Project Initial Notes (PINs) are exhibited. For example, if you have a rubber plantation you can sell the project document which clearly shows the amount of carbon that is absorbed by the rubber plantation and not the latex.
When the rubber plantation document is sold in the market, an international verification agency, which is approved by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board, will come to the country to asses the absorbtion and will issue a certificate. Unlike other commodities in the market, payment will be made after the carbon reduction, especially the absorbtion is completed.
by Shanika Sriyananda
Melting of ice caps in the Antarctic, drop in agricultural productions in tropical and sub-tropical countries, rising sea levels in low lying countries, disappearance of some species and several other problems like drought, floods and health issues are emerging due to global warming, making the earth more dangerous for human existence. 'Climate change', according to scientists, is the main culprit and the need of the moment is global action to reduce man-made chemicals that one released to the atmosphere.
Countries are now compelled to reduce green house gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, to bring down the temperature of the planet, which is estimated to rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees celsius over this century.
If the countries can meet the targeted reduction of green house emissions, the extreme weather conditions and the consequences like drought and floods can be controlled to a greater extent making the earth safer for human survival.
Aiding this race for reduction is the Kyoto Protocol, which has risen from the 'dead', after a hard battle, to rid the world of harmful chemicals. But it will have to continue its battle without the support of the world highest polluter (USA) and the world fourth highest polluter (Australia).
Also known as the 'green beast' - the Kyoto Protocol - the controversial UN treaty agreed in Japan in 1997, made the rich countries of the world commit to cutting down their green house gas emissions by 2012. According to estimations, over 9.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide will be released to the atmosphere annually by 2010.
Today, the Kyoto Protocol while being a challenge to the entire world in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other green house gases, also helps developing countries invest in environmental friendly technologies for sustainable development.
Despite, its failure to get the endorsement of the two highest emitters - the USA and Australia - the Kyoto Protocol came into force on February 16 with the blessings of over 140 nations, including rich and poor countries which dream of a eco-friendly future. The countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, are committed to reducing their emissions by 5 per cent from the 1990 levels in the 'commitment period' ending in 2012.
Under the Protocol regulations countries that are committed to meeting the targets can buy 20 per cent of the total targeted reduction from developing countries.
They have to reduce the rest from within their countries through cleaner technologies or by growing forests or by converting their diesel power plants into gas or dendro to reduce carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere.
The two mechanisms that were introduced under Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon in the atmosphere are Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS).
Strategies to reduce carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as specified in the Kyoto Protocol are useful to least developed countries like Sri Lanka to adopt new environmental friendly technologies and 'earn extra' dollars or euros by selling carbons. Countries like Sri Lanka which emit minimal amounts of the world's total green house gas emissions, though not committed to reducing carbon dioxide, can now look forward to new avenues of marketing newly planted forests or diesel power stations converted into gas or bio mass while taking efforts to have sustainable development.
Ratifying the Protocol, Sri Lanka has already established a Designated National Authority (DAN) to engage in carbon trading. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources will be the DAN headed by the Ministry Secretary. The main objective of the DAN is to issue certificates to CDM projects stating that this project - converting from diesel to gas or growing trees - is ideal for Sri Lanka.
One of the sustainable development projects envisaged to assist in carbon reduction efforts, is the establishment of 'giniseriya' forests and dendro power stations, and subsequent marketing of carbon to the world market via carbon exhibitions.
Officials believe farmers can grow 'giniseriya' in their land lying fallow. The harvest can be reaped in two years and sold to a nearby dendro power plant to generate electricity. The dendro power plant can obtain a carbon certification from an international agency confirming that it helps reduce the emission of carbon to the atmosphere, and market the product via a carbon exhibition.
This, while giving him a new means to livelihood from selling power, can also bring in foreign exchange. On the other hand it will also help set up eco-friendly power generation.
Land belonging to the villagers can be converted to a small forest.
The trees would help to absorb carbon in the atmosphere.
The world's highest emitters of carbon have expressed a willingness to finance these projects to cut down their carbon reduction commitment under the Protocol.
"Once carbon is released to the atmosphere, no matter where it was generated, it becomes a universal environmental problem and it will effect the whole world", Consultant of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the World Bank and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Dr. D. M. S. Batagoda said.
According to Dr. Batagoda, countries strictly bound by the law are entitled to increase forest cover to absorb green house gasses in the atmosphere.
"They can grow forests in their own countries or can fund developing countries to grow more trees", he said. According to Dr. Batagoda, EU countries have to reduce 228 million tones of carbon, Canada 159 million tones and Japan 214 million tonnes by 2012. These countries can plant trees in their own countries and need to estimate how much of carbon is absorbed by the forest cover, or ask developing countries like Sri Lanka to plant trees and estimate how much carbon absorbed from these trees.
"They are willing to buy carbon to meet carbon reduction levels that they are committed to under the Protocol", he added.
According to Dr. Batagoda, being a developing country, with a high population density, the country needs to implement green policies for energy, agriculture and forestry sectors.
"Following the Protocol guidelines to adopt 'green' policies would help the country increase forest cover, use clean fuel in power generation and apply alternative energy sources - wind, solar and bio mass", he pointed out.
However, according to Dr. Batagoda, most importantly, the under Kyoto Protocol the country will be given opportunity to develop projects according to our own desire. Over 15 Project Initial Notes (PINs) in energy and forestry sectors have been developed and they will be marketed in the forthcoming 'Carbon Expo 2005', the Global Carbon Market schedule to be held on May 11. The annual trade fair, which bring down decision makers and specialists from all sectors involved in the carbon market, will showcase state-of-the- art technologies for green house gas reduction and provide a platform for buyers and sellers.
According to Dr. Batagoda, if there are no buyers for the projects the owners have to go for another market to sell their projects idea.
"It is a risky kind of trade but countries like Sri Lanka can get maximum benefits from the Protocol to make the country green while getting financial gains through selling.
However, the Protocol commitment is only until 2012 and experts are having discussions to implement the second phase after 2012.
They are also in the process of implementing a strategy to bring the countries which are not meeting the carbon reduction targets before the International Court.
Impact of the tsunami on natural ecosystems of Sri Lanka :
by Dayananda Kariyawasam, Director General of wildlife Conservation
The tsunami devastated the coastline of Sri Lanka, impacted several protected areas managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), namely Ruhuna National Park Blocks I and II. Yala East National Park, Bundala National Park, Hikkaduwa Marine National Park, Pigeon Island Marine National Park, Kudumbigala Sanctuary, Nimalawa Sanctuary, Lunama-Kalametiya Sanctuary, proposed Rekawa Sanctuary and Turtle Refuge and Kokilai Sanctuary.
In view of this, the Director General of DWC appointed a seven member committee under his chairmanship, to assess the impact of tsunami on these protected areas and to make necessary recommendations for monitoring the recovery of these ecosystems as well as to identify short and long-term restoration activities that need to be undertaken by the DWC to ensure the long-term viability of these protected areas.
The committee comprised H. D. Ratnayake, Co-chair Person (DWC) S. R. B. Dissanayake (DWC), Dr. Channa Bmabaradeniya (IUCN Sri Lanka), Ravi Corea (Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society) Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando (Centre for Conservation and Research) Prof. S. U. K. Ekaratne (University of Colombo), Dr. U. K. G. K. Padmalal (Open University of Sri Lanka) and Dr. Devaka Weerakoon (University of Colombo).
The Marine National Parks received little direct impact. However, they suffered from secondary impacts such as smothering of coral reefs by siltation resulting from turbulence created by wave action as well as runoff from land, and damage arising from man-made structures such as fish nets and concrete pillars washed out into the ocean with the receding wave.
The impact on terrestrial ecosystems though considerable, was localised to low lying areas mostly associated with lagoons and estuaries.
In the Ruhuna National Park Block 1, the area impacted inclusive of the beach, was 790 hectares. Nine major sites of sea incursion were identified. These were Palatupana-goda kalapuwa, Kuda Seelawa, Maha Seelawa, Uraniya, Buttuwa, Beeri kalapuwa, Patanangala, Gona Lahaba and Kalliya, all of which are lagoons or bays with direct sea frontage.
In the Ruhuna Block II six main areas of impact were identified, namely, Yala wela, Pillinewa, Agara Eliya, Uda Pottana, Gajabawa, and Kumbukkan Oya estuary. In Yala East, the Kumana lagoon was impacted by the tsunami wave. Apart from this, the Lunama-Kalametiya Sanctuary and Proposed Rekawa Sanctuary and Turtle Refuge were considerably damaged. In all of these areas the vegetation was impacted much more than large animals or birds.
Three types of impacts on vegetation were identified. The most obvious was the complete or partial uprooting and breaking of trees due to the force of the wave close to surrounding the shore, and along the central region of flooding, leading to death, complete drying and subsequent defoliation of trees.
The other two types of damage were deposition of sand carried inland with the wave, and inundation with seawater, which heavily impacted the understorey vegetation such as grasses and herbs.
A number of fresh water tanks and water holes in Yala Block 1 were impacted to some degree by the tsunami. Pattiyawala, Diganwala, Yala Tank, and a number of smaller water holes were completely inundated, and the Patanangala and Uda Pottana tanks were breached. A few other water holes received minor incursions of seawater but were not impacted to any significant degree. While small patches of mangrove vegetation such as was in Maha Seelawa were almost completely destroyed, the larger tracts as in Pillinewa, Gajabawa etc. were relatively intact with damage only to areas close to the sea.
The direct impact on animals was less pronounced compared to the vegetation. Very few large animals were found to have perished due to the tsunami. However, small saline sensitive animals such as land snails and frogs, as well as small mammals and reptiles such as rats, mice, snakes and lizards have been heavily impacted.
Some animals like birds, small mammals and reptiles appear to have benefited from the damaged vegetation as they were observed to use the tangled masses of vegetation as nesting sites and hiding places. It was observed that most of the terrestrial ecosystems have already started to recover, especially the grasses.
Another important finding of this initial assessment was that natural ecosystems have functioned as the first line of defence against the tsunami wave. Especially the sand dunes have withstood the force of the wave very successfully, and if not for them, the southern and southeastern coasts would have received a higher level of damage.
Other coastal and offshore ecosystems such as beach vegetation, mangroves, and coral reefs have also provided protection to the coastline where these ecosystems were preserved in a relatively good condition. On the other hand in areas where natural ecosystems have been degraded due to over utilisation, the damage to the coastal areas has been more extensive. It has also become apparent that these natural ecosystems can offer a greater resistance against this kind of natural disaster rather than man-made structures such as breakwaters and rip rap structures that are in place to prevent erosion.
Based on the findings of this initial study, the committee members have also provided number of recommendations as to what actions are needed to restore the natural ecosystems in the impacted protected areas.
Once general recommendation that emerged from all the studies is the need to remove artificial debris from all impacted areas. This action has become critically important in the off shore areas such as Hikkaduwa Marine National Park where the artificial debris that got washed out from the land has become a major threat to the coral reefs.
It was also felt that information on the natural recovery process could be offered as a part of the visitor experience to the impacted National Parks, and to use this opportunity to create awareness among park visitors as to the impacts of the tsunami on the park, including the establishment of a tsunami exhibit in the Ruhuna National Park.
It was also decided to carry out a limited amount of restoration work for facilitate functional needs such as clearing of small areas to improve road accesses and wildlife viewing. Finally it was decided to establish a long-term monitoring program in selected sites of the impacted protected areas to systematically investigate and document the response of natural eco-systems to tsunamis and the recovery process.
Greenpeace in action : No dugong left behind
The island of Okinawa has been called the 'Galapagos of the East' because of the precious bio-diversity it supports, it is also known as "the island of the base" because U.S. military bases occupy over 18 percent of the landmass.
Now, another base is slated for construction, despite the irreparable damage it has caused to a critical marine area.
The proposed construction site is right in the heart of a coral reef, which nurtures diverse marine life including sea turtles and dugongs - relatives of the manatee. Habitat degradation and increasing scarcity of their food have led to the dugong's recent classification as an endangered species.
Unfortunately, no active measures have been taken to ensure their conservation. As few as 12 dugongs are left in the Okinawa waters. If the plan proceeds, the dugongs of Japan may be lost forever.
The United Nations Environment Program has released a report calling for the creation of a marine reserve to protect the dugong, but it seems the government of Japan would rather build a runway complete with hangers, control towers and fuel storage on top of this fragile ecosystem.
The local community has protested this project for the last eight years and has been successful in preventing drilling thus far.
Recently, however, several scaffoldings were forcibly set up in the sea to conduct a preliminary geological survey. For the past 300 days, the protestors have organised sit-ins and have occupied the drilling.
We have joined these courageous protesters in their effort to save this fragile ecosystem. Our ship, the Rainbow Warrior arrives to support the community in its fight and to shed light on this issue for all the world to see.
Polluted air can damage unborns' DNA
Babies' DNA can be damaged even before they are born if their mothers' breathe polluted air, according to a study published.
"This is the first study to show that environmental exposures to specific combustion pollutants during pregnancy can result in chromosomal abnormalities in fetal tissues," said Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which funded the study.
"These findings may lead to new approaches for the prevention of certain cancers."
The team at the Columbia University Centre for Children's Environmental Health in New York studied 60 newborns for the report, published in the February issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. As part of a larger study, they monitored the babies' exposure to polycyclicaromatic hydrocarbons, which are compounds produced by burning.
"Although the study was conducted in Manhattan neighbourhoods, exhaust pollutants are prevalent in all urban areas, and therefore the study results are relevant to populations in other urban areas," said Dr. Frederica Perera, who led the study.
To determine exposure to pollution, the mothers filled out questionnaires and wore portable air monitors during the last three months of their pregnancies.
Women were rated as having high, moderate or low exposure based on average pollution levels for the group. Then they tested the umbilical cord blood of the newborns, looking specifically at the chromosomes, which carry the DNA. Damage to chromosomes can cause cancer.
"We observed 4.7 chromosome abnormalities per thousand white blood cells in newborns from mothers in the low exposure group, and 7.2 abnormalities per thousand white blood cells in newborns from the high exposure mothers," Perera said in a statement.
The kind of damage to the chromosomes that they say was the type that tends to linger, making people more susceptible to cancer.
Other studies have linked exposure to pollution with leukaemia and other cancers. "While we can't estimate the precise increase in cancer risk, these findings underscore the need for policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels to take appropriate steps to protect children from these avoidable exposures," Perera said.
Written by: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Produced by Lake House