Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for clunkers hits bump in the road

CARS has stimulated $4 billion in new vehicle sales.

The Car Allowance Rebate System otherwise known as "cash for clunkers" may have already siphoned off the $1 billion that was budgeted for the program within a week of its launch.

White House and Transportation officials were sending mixed messages as to whether there was any more funding available for the program. The White House said that it was evaluating its option while the DOT was alerting lawmakers that they could suspend the program on Friday due to a lack of funds.

The much maligned program provides cash incentives of $3500-$4000 for consumers who trade in older vehicles for new more fuel-efficient models. CARS has proven so successful that an estimated 250 000 cars were sold in its first week.

Therein lies the problem.

As of Wednesday, more than 22,000 documented purchases of new cars and trucks were reported through CARS. But backlogs and delays in reporting from car dealers across the country may see the needle move past 250 000 vehicles sold when the numbers are tabulated.

That high end estimate is a cause for concern as it would represent the total funding allocated for the program. That concern has transportation officials calling for a suspension of the program until all the data is in.

It was thought that the stimulus package would last through to November or whenever the $1 billion was doled out. Politicians, caught off guard by the success of the program, did not expect the cupboard to be bare within a week.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., in a letter to House leaders on Wednesday, requested additional funding for the program. "This is simply the most stimulative $1 billion the federal government has spent during the entire economic downturn," Miller said Thursday. "The federal government must come up with more money, immediately, to keep this program going."

The CARS program is seen as a measure to prop up the ailing auto industry while providing environmental benefits through improved fuel economy. The car industry is reeling from its worst sales slump in more than 25 years. New car and truck sales are down 35 percent from this time last year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amtrak to Report Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON - Furthering its commitment to be a transportation leader on environmental issues, Amtrak is joining efforts to voluntarily and publicly report its greenhouse gas emissions and undergo an independent assessment of its programs to reduce its carbon footprint.

"Putting our emissions data out in the open for all to see and getting an outside review of our environmental programs will help make Amtrak a greener railroad" said Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman.

Boardman announced that Amtrak is a new member of The Climate Registry, a non-profit organization founded to set consistent and transparent standards for businesses and governments to calculate, verify, and publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions. As a member, Amtrak is committed to the organization’s comprehensive reporting standards for recording and managing greenhouse gas emissions throughout its system including those from diesel and electric locomotives, passenger rail cars, maintenance equipment, stations, offices and other facilities. Amtrak is the first railroad to join this group.

Amtrak also is a new participant in Climate Counts, a non-profit organization which provides an independent and verifiable assessment of a company’s commitment to reduce its impact on the environment. The group uses 22 specific criteria to produce a scorecard to rate companies on how they measure their carbon footprint, reduce their impact on climate change, support effective climate legislation, and publicly disclose their climate actions in a clear and comprehensive manner.

Boardman explained Amtrak intends to use the information generated by these new initiatives to help assess the effectiveness of its greenhouse gas reduction program, determine what changes might be needed to strengthen it, compare itself with industry competitors, and identify opportunities for energy efficient transportation.

Currently, Amtrak is a charter member of the Chicago Climate Exchange that established a "cap and trade" market after organizations committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Amtrak committed to reduce its emissions from diesel locomotives by six percent from 2003 through 2010, the largest voluntary commitment in the United States. To date, Amtrak has exceeded all of the required interim annual reduction targets.

In addition, Amtrak offers its passengers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets from the non-profit organization and direct those funds to such areas as certified sustainable reforestation and alternative energy projects. Also, Amtrak is reducing the amount of "idling" time on diesel locomotives; using dynamic and regenerative braking systems on electric locomotives to return energy to the grid; employing bio-lubricants in hydraulic systems; and using lighter and more aerodynamic vehicle carriers on the Auto Train, among other efforts to move the railroad toward a more sustainable transportation system.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vote for the "New" Wonders of Nature

The Grand canyon made the list.
And then there were 28...

Starting from a list of 440 locations from 220 countries, the New7Wonders of Nature is asking for your vote to decide on the seven finalists. This vote follows on the heels of the successful and controversial New7Wonders of the World from 2007.

“We are finding the New7Wonders of Nature campaign to be excitingly different from the first campaign," states New7Wonders Founder and President Bernard Weber. "So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many. From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet.”

Regarded as more of a popularity contest by scholars and organizations, the New7Wonder campaigns are some of the more popular online voting schemes. The original contest was the most popular poll at the time with a reputed 100 million votes cast. Curiously, North America's most famous natural wonder - Niagara Falls - did not make the cut.

The Round of 28

  • Amazon Rainforest

  • Angel Falls

  • Bay of Fundy

  • Black Forest

  • Bu Tihah Shoals

  • Cliffs of Moher

  • Dead Sea

  • El Yunque

  • Galapagos Islands

  • Grand Canyon

  • Great Barrier Reef

  • Halong Bay

  • Iguazu Falls
  • Jeita Grotto

  • Jeju Island

  • Kilimanjaro

  • Komodo National Park

  • Maldives

  • Masurian Lake District

  • Matterhorn

  • Milford Sound

  • Mud Volcanoes

  • Puerto Princesa Underground River

  • Sundarbans Delta

  • Table Mountain

  • Uluru

  • Vesuvius

  • Yushan

Voting for this third and final stage continues through 2011 when the top seven are to be announced.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oxfam: Climate change could leave 75 million homeless

In the midst of a three-day meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh 21 of the poorest countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific who are trying to draft a climate change declaration received ominous news.

Oxfam Australia says that climate change could leave up to 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region homeless by 2050. The Future is Here: Climate Change says that these island nations are already suffering from drought, food shortages and rising water levels.

“People are already leaving their homes because of climate change, with projections that 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be forced to relocate by 2050 if climate change continues unabated," says Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett. "Not all will have the option of relocating within their own country, so it’s vital that the Australian Government starts working with Pacific governments to plan for this now.”

The Australian government which has committed $150 million to help islanders adapt to climate change will host the Pacific Islands Forum next week where climate change talks are expected to dominate the proceedings. Hewett adds that Australia needs to show leadership at the meetings and that it is willing to do its fair share to mitigate climate change in the region.

To meet existing needs in the region Oxfam says that Australia should immediately double its financial commitment to $300 million and cut its emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

The report details how nations at risk have already begun to adapt. In Micronesia and parts of the Solomon Islands villagers have been forced to move to higher ground. Mangroves and native grasses have been planted on Fiji in an effort to abate coastal erosion. Other measures have been put in place to protect Fijian food staples and water supply.

In Dhaka, the Bangladesh minister for environment and forests, Mostafizur Rahman said, "It is a matter of life and death for us." The countries attending the Dhaka conference are low carbon emitters who suffer disproportionate to their carbon footprint. By speaking with one voice these vulnerable nations hope to be heard during the Copenhagen round of climate change talks in December.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Water trail system in Illinois officially launched

The region’s extensive water trails network emerged from the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trail Plan.

Think globally. Act locally.

A noble phrase that is used to rally local action to protect the environment. As global leaders look toward a new climate change agreement later this year it is important to remember that it is the local efforts of citizens and organizations that leave the most tangible and desired results.

Openlands, an Illinois group that has been protecting the natural habitat and open spaces in the state since 1963 is one such group. The Chicago-based Openlands recently marked the completion of 500 miles of water trails in northern Illinois.

The network of water trails - 10 years in the making - primarily focused on the Little Calumet, DuPage, and Fox rivers. The trails provide Illinois residents with a non-motorized boating environment and other ecological activities. Fifty new launch sites and improved signage were added to more than 250 miles of waterway. The project also rehabilitated shorelines, improved the quality of life for local communities and is a source of civic pride.

“When we began this project more than ten years ago, it was the first initiative of its kind in a metropolitan region in the United States,” said Openlands executive director Jerry Adelmann at a recent celebration to mark the occasion. “We looked at our system of creeks, rivers, streams, and Lake Michigan more comprehensively and identified ways to unify them into a rich and vast resource for people of all ages, interests, and abilities.”

Where it takes a village to raise a child it takes the efforts of many to create a natural water park. Community leaders, three levels of government, NGOs including the Grand Victoria Foundation and business groups banded together to create this unique environmental legacy. The efforts to create the trail are now bearing fruit throughout the nation as the project has been used as a blueprint for replication in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington states.

Friday, July 24, 2009

GreenWorksLinks Enviro News & Links Digest

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
While the following links are not news stories that would have made your local papers they are steps in the right direction. Few environmental stories ever make the front page unless they scream catastrophe. These links don't scream danger, they offer hope.

We also mix it up a bit by adding an environmental resource website or two that are worth checking out.

Find a Certified Green Restaurant
How Cell Phones Are Changing the Face of Green Activism
Worldwide attention as Scotland’s green isle slashes carbon footprint
No Impact Man
Pearl Jam Offsets Their Tour: Rock Out Guilt-Free
Echoing Green: Leveraging Skills Based Business Volunteers for Social Enterprises
Bamboo Boom: Is This Material for You?
Putting the cost of going green in context
Greening With Envy
Solar Power Generation to Double by 2010

GreenWorksLinks is looking for a catchy title for its weekly digest of links and tips. Any suggestions? First prize...continued good kharma.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sea Temps at Record Highs say NOAA

Sea temps are at record highs.
Surface temperatures of the world's oceans are at their highest levels since records have been kept says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is particularly bad news for people living on the Atlantic coast as rising ocean temperatures fuel hurricanes and raise sea levels.

Preliminary data extrapolated by the National Climatic Data Center reports that sea level temperatures for the month of June were 1.06°F above the 20th century average. To pour salt on the wound the NCDC also reports that land and sea temps combined for the second warmest June in history behind June 2005. At just over 61°F the global temperature rose 1.12°F over the 20th century average.

The G8 recently agreed that a rise in global temperatures of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would set off a catastrophic chain of events. While many environmental groups chastised the G8 for setting distant and ambiguous targets it should be noted that the record temperatures that the NOAA has reported on for June 2009 are a little more than one half a degree Celsius.

Record cold in North Dakota.The NOAA report also states that the Arctic sea ice continues to melt at a record pace shrinking 5.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent.

Closer to home, the temperature-related energy demand for June was up two percent. Depending on where you live in America you were either using your air-conditioner too much or in the case of North Dakota, which had a record cold June, using your furnace to keep warm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toronto garbage strike reminds us to reduce waste

Toronto, one of the most populous cities in North America is crippled by a garbage strike.
For the second time this decade the city of Toronto has killed its summer tourism trade with yet another garbage strike. It has been more than a month since the city's parks and parking lots have been turned into "temporary waste transfer stations." About the best that politicians can do is to tell people to double bag their garbage in an effort to keep the smell down.

Torontonians, reminded on a daily basis that North Americans produce too much waste could soon face health repercussions for the city of three million plus. With the stockpiling of waste comes fertile breeding grounds for rats and mice. Provided with an ample food source rodents are now birthing their first garbage strike induced offspring.

While pest controllers are seeing business pick up so to has environmentalism. Grassroots groups have formed across the city to offer tips and advice. Some groups literally sweep through neighborhoods removing litter in an effort to keep the garbage at bay. Other residents haul their garbage with them on Friday evenings to be disposed of in the municipality of their summer getaway.

George Smitherman, a member of the provincial government, has organized cleanups throughout the city and launched a website for concerned citizens that encourages them to be part of the solution. "is not designed to replace existing services, instead we want to go after spots in our neighborhoods where litter and trash is becoming problematic and unsightly."

One man's garbage is another conglomerate's marketing opportunity. Glad has crews throughout the city handing out free garbage bags. Similar to its efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Glad has distributed more than 25 000 bags and set up a website that offers information on how to manage garbage locally.

The city however, seems no closer to ending the strike of its civic employees. The major fly in the ointment to a deal is that Toronto wants to end the practice of allowing union members to bank sick days. Unused sick days can result in a cash payout equivalent to six month's wages upon retirement.

As the union has no reason to rescind this perk Toronto the Good will remain Toronto the Odoriferous until the city comes up with Plan B.
Recyclables are not being picked up in Toronto's garbage strike.
10 ways to reduce waste
Here are 10 ways you can reduce waste during a garbage strike.

Ditch the paper towels and napkins
Avoid disposable products
Use your own shopping bags
Buy in bulk
Compost your organic waste
Brown bag it to work. Avoid fast food restaurants.
Use a travel mug for that commute cup of joe
Use concentrates
Change your habits

Most importantly, buy what you need and use what you buy. You don't need a garbage strike to reduce your carbon footprint.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuvalu hopes solar project inspires climate talks; nation sets goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2020

The first major solar system in Tuvalu, atop the stadium roof in the capital, Funafuti, is the first step towards a national goal of being powered entirely by renewable energy.

Amid worsening climate change-related problems for small island states, Tuvalu has established a national goal of being powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2020.

Government officials and the donors of Tuvalu's first large-scale solar energy system alike hope the moves help inspire much larger nations later this year in negotiations of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol agreement on climate change.

The solar system installed on the roof of Tuvalu's largest football stadium now supplies 5 percent of the electricity needed by that nation's capital, Funafuti.

In its first 14 months, the operation has reduced Tuvalu's consumption of generator fuel, shipped from New Zealand, by about 17,000 litres and reduced Tuvalu's carbon footprint by about 50 tonnes.

In the process, it has also reduced the risk of diesel spills around the archipelago of four low-lying coral islands and five atolls.

Based on the project's success, the country now aims to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2020, a goal requiring an investment estimated at just over $20 million, according to government estimates.

At their summit last week in Italy, the richer G8 countries committed to help finance efforts by poorer nations to battle climate change.

Tuvalu's first grid-connected, 40 kilowatt solar energy system was implemented under the leadership of Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. with the support of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8, an international non-profit organisation of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.

"There may be other, larger solar power installations in the world but none could be more meaningful to customers than this one," says Takao Shiraishi, General Manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co.

"The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early consequence of climate change," he adds. "For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival."

The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial US $410,000 e8 project from 40 to 60 kilowatts, and will extend solar power to outer islands, starting later this year with the commission of a US $800,000, 46 kilowatt solar power system for the Motufoua Secondary School in Vaitupu, being implemented with the support of the Italian government.

With a population of 12,000, Tuvalu is halfway between Hawaii and Australia, 26 square km in size, with a maximum elevation of just 4.5 meters and most of its land less than a meter above sea level.

Tuvalu is already experiencing flooding amid predictions of a large sea level rise this century.

Says Kausea Natano, Minister for Public Utilities and Industries: "We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in upcoming international negotiations. And we look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all – powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the wind."

The e8's Tuvalu project was initiated after a series of regional renewable energy feasibility workshops, jointly organised by the Pacific Power Association (PPA) and the e8.

e8 members agreed to donate and install the first facility, is monitoring its success and building local expertise to ensure the project's sustainability.

Run by the state-owned Tuvalu Electricity Corporation (TEC), the system in Funafuti today powers households, healthcare facilities, small-and medium-sized enterprises and other facilities.

Johane Meagher, Executive Director of the e8, expressed thanks for the support of the Pacific Power Association, with whom the e8 has established a long term collaboration to support development of small scale projects in the Pacific Islands and strengthen the capacity of the engineers and technicians of the islands' utilities to enhance renewable energy power in the Pacific region.

Says Ms. Meagher: "We are proud of the role the e8 has played in creating this clean energy project, which was intended to generate far more than just electricity in Tuvalu. It is a message to the world about the urgent need to promote sustainable energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a massive scale."

Contact: Terry Collins

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarkozy shows climate change leadership in talks with UN chief

United Nations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed climate change in New York City on Friday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Sarkozy stressed the need for a new organization that would oversee climate change initiatives.

The French President's comments come on the heels of the G8 conference earlier this month in Italy where members agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Sarkozy's call for a new global group comes scant weeks in advance of G20 talks scheduled for Pittsburgh and the meeting of United Nations General Assembly.

Both of these meetings are expected to lay out the final climate change groundwork that will be necessary for the Copenhagen Conference in December when the successor to the Kyoto Protocol will be established.

Ban Ki-moon praised Sarkozy during the working lunch at the French consulate for his, "full commitment to work together to seal the deal in Copenhagen on a globally acceptable" agreement.

The Secretary General, who considers the recent G8 commitments as insufficient commended Sarkozy for his climate change initiative during the working lunch. "I am very happy to have such a strong support," he said. Ban Ki-moon added that he was "very grateful for his commitment on climate change."

Sarkozy has become increasingly vocal lately with regards to climate change and many in the environmental community see him as one of its champions including Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Panel will be responsible for the successor of the Kyoto Protocol.

As host to the European Union last year, Sarkozy helped negotiate the climate change deal that saw member countries agree to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.
Rush hour in Paris is dominated by small cars and motorcycles.
Prior to the recent G8 meeting, Sarkozy met with his British counterpart, Prime Minister Gordon Blair to forge a common vision in advance of Copenhagen. At the time Sarkozy said of the upcoming G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, "We won't be satisfied with very long-term goals," adding that he wanted to set ambitious targets that reflected the goals discussed during the London meeting of the G20 in April.

"We will fight, hand in hand, a battle against the consequences of climate change," said Sarkozy on Friday. "We must create a global organization on the environment."

France, which receives most of its energy from nuclear sources has long been at the forefront of environmental change. Measures big and small, include an advanced rail system and the novel approach of renting bicycles in Paris. Both have been lauded and replicated in other cities and countries around the world.

Exclusive of climate change, the two leaders had intense discussions on international trouble spots including Iran, Darfur and Somalia.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Averting Deforestation in Southern Chad

Deforestation is a major environmental problem in southern Chad.
by Titki D. Tarassoum

Chad is experiencing several environmental problems.

Lake Chad has shrunk to 1/10th of its size over the past 40 years as a result of climate change and human activity. The north-central African country's northern desert is encroaching upon its central Sahel zone due to overgrazing and overuse. While air and soil pollution in this landlocked country may be localized to specific areas surrounding industrial facilities and urban areas, the greatest short-term environmental health risk in much of the country is water contamination.

However, the most significant environmental problem in southern Chad has been and will continue to be, the deforestation of the tropical woodlands and forests.

Deforestation in southern Chad is caused by the lack of access to electricity, resulting in the continued dependence on firewood. Less than three percent of the population in Chad have access to electricity. Firewood and charcoal is the only source of energy for more than 97 percent of the country and for rural families that figure jumps to 100 percent.Refugee camp in Chad.
The recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic and Sudan into southern Chad exacerbates the situation as displaced refugees now compete with local inhabitants over natural resources. This leads to more deforestation, soil erosion, and depletion and pollution of scarce water resources.

Barh Koh ESDA - an international non-profit charitable organization promoting poverty relief through environmental protection - is working to provide environmentally safe alternative energy sources to the disadvantaged inhabitants and refugees in the region of Maro in southern Chad. The group's efforts focus on cooking and indoor lighting, to help reduce dependence on firewood and thus, reducing the rate of deforestation.

A Three Point Action Plan
Barh Koh's three point action plan to avert deforestation in southern Chad involves providing solar cookers, lanterns and flashlights to villagers:

1) Providing solar cookers/ovens to poor rural families.
Solar cookers cost approximately $40 while solar ovens are in the vicinity of $300; which constitute a very small investment to help relieve poverty and save the environment at the same time. Solar cookers and stoves are safe; they cause no danger of fire, burns or smoke inhalation associated with wood burning.

2) Providing solar lanterns for poor families and students. A set of two solar lanterns can cost around $40 to $60, including shipping and handling. Solar lanterns are eco-friendly and will reduce the risks of fire hazards associated with kerosene lamps and firewood burning. A solar lantern will also enable a rural student to study and do homework after sunset. Solar lanterns also provide indoor lighting in the otherwise dark rural dwellings.

3) Providing solar flashlights to poor families and students. A single solar flashlight could save lives in a rural family that spends its evenings and nights in perpetual darkness, subject to all sorts of insects, reptiles and other elements. A solar-powered flashlight costs between $20 to $30 and can make a significant difference in a rural villager's life.

How Can You Help?
Averting deforestation and improving living conditions in southern Chad is a significant undertaking that will protect the natural environment, improve the rural built environment, and improve the well-being of local inhabitants as well as the displaced refugees.

This work simply wouldn't be possible without your support. For more information or to donate online visit us at:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brothel offers green discount to cyclists

The Maison d'Envie brothel in Berlin is offering a seven percent discount to its customers who arrive by bicycle. And the gimmick is working too! Brothel owner Thomas Goetz says that the incentive draws in an extra three to five clients per day.

The discount is not only open to cyclists but to any other customer who can prove that they arrived by public transit.

"The recession has hit our industry hard," Goetz told Reuters. "Obviously we hope that the discount will attract more people. It's good for business, it's good for the environment – and it's good for the girls."

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nevermind the Bastille - French to Storm Mediterranean with Hydrogen Yacht

Artist rendition of the world's first hydrogen yacht.
The Zero CO2 - the world’s first-hydrogen powered yacht - is expected to set sail around the Mediterranean Sea next March.

While most sailboats are typically by nature, a carbon-free form of transportation the Zero CO2 will have an electric motor driven by a hydrogen fuel cell. All other on-board energy needs on the Zero CO2 are to be obtained from renewable energy sources.

Zero CO2 is not just a yacht, its also a floating 12 meter laboratory.

The integrated on-board lab will study air and waterborne pollutants on its 10 month research mission with an eye to "develop and promote new energy sources that will replace fossil fuels and consequently lead to a reduction in carbon emissions and an improvement with regards to the greenhouse effect."

Following trial runs in Savoie, France Zero CO2 will be launched in the Mediterranean off the southern coast of France and head for Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Tunisia, Crete, Turkey, the Greek coast, Montenegro, Croatia, the Italian coast, Spain, and the Balearic Islands before returning to Marseilles in December, 2010.

During the mission researchers will also study the feasibility of green hydrogen production. This form of hydrogen would be produced by solar panels and wind turbines mounted on the roofs of port-side buildings.

The odyssey is also a vehicle to raise climate change awareness amongst sailors and promote respect for maritime environment. Now under construction, the boat is to debut at the Paris Boat Show in December.

Monday, July 13, 2009

G8 Moves Forward on Climate Change

Earth: 2050?

The eight richest industrialized nations - the G8 - gathered in L'Aquila, Italy last week to discuss among other things climate change. Unfortunately, the only news that grabbed the world's attention was a photo of who was looking at what.

It was expected that the G8 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States - would agree that a rise in global temperature of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would set off a catastrophic chain of events that would send our planet spiraling out of control ecologically speaking.

The G8 also agreed to greenhouse gas reductions that echo the recent reduction targets passed in the US Congress. The Group mandated its members to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. This commitment reasserts the targets and principles set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and cites the statement adopted in Toyako, Japan last year.

With its new targets in hand the G8 then challenged developing countries to cut global carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

China and India do not support such a measure as they believe that it would cripple their burgeoning economies. Other developing countries are particularly concerned that the G8 will not offer financial aid and technical support to help them adapt and meet these targets.

The Italian meeting of the G8 was held in conjunction with the Major Economies Meeting. The MEM is comprised of Australia, Korea and Indonesia, the G8 and the G5 - China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. Together, these 16 countries account for more than 80 percent of global CO2 emissions.

This meeting marks the last time that all the major players are together until the Copenhagen Conference in December. At that time a new global agreement is expected to be reached that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol which sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6-10 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Talks on addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been ongoing since the Rio Accord of 1992.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Enviro News & Links You May Have Missed This Week

Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.

Happy Birthday America! You probably won't find these headlines on the front page of your local papers but they are steps in the right direction.

We also mix it up a bit by adding NGO and environmental resource websites that are worth checking out.

What is the Car Allowance Rebate System?

A Central Texas Water War
Report Points the Way for a Zero Waste Vancouver
Roadsters embrace green racing
Surfing the Nations
Get Started Saving Energy: A Video Guide to Busting Inertia
Top 10 organic fast-food restaurants

Next week Green Works Links will take a look at the first LEED museum in America.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Calculate the Footprint of Your Water Use

Do you know the risks of your water supply?
The Global Water Tool was developed by the World Council for Sustainable Business to help assess your water footprint and assess risks where water is not in plentiful supply.

Working within an Excel spreadsheet the Global Water Tool can be downloaded along with other supporting information and video tutorials.

It was first developed in 2007 - used by companies such as Dow Chemical and PepsiCo - and updated in 2009 for the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul.

“Green” fireworks may brighten eco-friendly Fourth of July displays in future

Happy Independence Day!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With millions of people in the United States eagerly awaiting those July 4 fireworks displays here’s a prospect for those light shows of the future likely to ignite a smile on Mother Nature’s face: A new generation of “green” fireworks is quietly making its way toward the sky.

That’s “green” as in environmentally friendly.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called “pyrotechnics” traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.
Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. For full details about how perchlorate contaminates lakes after fireworks displays, see a study published in the American Chemical Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Researchers, however, have developed new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS’s weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Bethany Halford says these nitrogen-rich formulas also use fewer color-producing chemicals, dramatically cutting down on the amount of heavy metals used and lowering their potentially toxic effects.

Some of these fireworks have already been used at circuses, rock concerts and other events, but none have been used at large outdoor displays. The problem: cost. The big challenge in launching these “eco-friendly” pyrotechnics into the sky is making them cost-competitive with conventional fireworks while maintaining their dazzle and glow, the article explains.

The article notes that fireworks manufacturers have little incentive to further develop the new green fireworks because no federal regulations currently limit releases of perchlorate from pyrotechnics.

(The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mariposa: The Greening of a Music Festival

The hills are alive with the sound of music.
Summertime and the living is easy.

This is the time of year when we kick back and enjoy life at a slower pace. It's also when the music festival scene kicks into high gear and whether its rock, jazz, blues or folk there is a festival for every taste and every genre.

High energy concerts take an inordinate amount of energy to run and the single biggest energy use is getting back and forth from the concert. While finding alternative transportation is the greenest thing that you can do festivals are now seeing that there carbon footprint can also be shrunk.

In honor of Canada Day we look at the efforts of one of the oldest folk festivals on the continent and see how after 50 years they are starting to reinvent themselves in a green hue.

Approaching its 50th anniversary next year the Mariposa Folk Festival is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its return to its Orillia roots. Over the course of its long history the annual event has been hosted in Toronto and neighboring Barrie.

Greening Mariposa, as the new environmental initiative is known, focuses on five key areas to reduce Mariposa's carbon footprint. These measures are: Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC); Composting; Cycling; Souvenir Program; and Virtual Audience Survey campaigns.

"As this is really our first year at such an initiative our focus is to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste produced at the festival," says Aaron Howes, Chair of the Green Team, Member of Mariposa Folk Foundation Board of Directors. "We will be aiming for a water bottle free festival and to use biodegradable serving materials wherever possible."
Mariposa Folk Festival celebrates 50 years by going green.
The festival has added water "hydration" stations this year in the hopes of eliminating single use plastic water bottles. The Bring Your Own Cup campaign, primarily aimed at the festivals volunteer base is a case of leading by example. Festival organizers are also encouraging volunteers and attendees to cycle to the Festival.

"Other initiatives include our festival programme and posters being created by Rose Printing who is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. We are also moving the audience survey online to eliminate paper usage at the festival," states Howes.

Throughout the festival's three day run volunteers will work the crowds and collect email addresses. Afterward, concert goers will be queried electronically for their thoughts on the Festival and their overall experience in attending Mariposa.

Composting is also being introduced this year and Mariposa has purchased biodegradable cups and utensils for its food stands and beer tent. Compost bins will be set up throughout the grounds with volunteers to sort through the detritus.

While there are no hybrid vehicles to shuttle talent back and forth from the grounds organizers are hoping to make a difference with the artists. "In terms of the artists we will be supplying them with hard reusable plastic mugs to fill up with water over the weekend. And all the supplies used in the Green Room will now be biodegradable."

With the Festival kicking off this weekend, Howes is already looking to expand Mariposa's environmental efforts next year. "In our second year we will be adding to our strategy to include energy usage at the festival amongst some other sustainable strategies."

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