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Democracy, budget, solidarity, climate : what Europe post-Covid19 ?

In the long run, Europe has greatly contributed to the process of globalization that has been underway since the time of the great explorations. In a short time, Europe has been hit very hard by the pandemic and a historic recession is on the way.

Nothing prevents from reviving the plans of the European Community for Health  proposed in 1952. In economics, on the other hand, it is pointless to expect a new Marshall plan from the United States of America. 

This continent is not starting from scratch, Europe’s architects built a shared European house where peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity, the rule of law and a certain solidarity prevail. Determined, drawing their convictions from a shared trauma, that of the horrors of war, they were resistors and death camp survivors  and their ideals and values formed the backbone of the European Union. “Nothing is possible without men, nothing lasts without institutions” explained Jean Monnet who had imagined this organisation: a European Commission seeks the common European general interest and makes its proposals to the Ministers of States (Council) and citizens’ representatives (European Parliament) under the supervision of a Court of Justice. This revolutionary architecture – of shared sovereignty – has allowed to peacefully unite 27 countries, to conduct common policies (agriculture, Erasmus, trade, common currency, European GPS Galileo, research …) and to form regulations that inspire the whole world (data protection, energy efficiency, etc.).

Today the European Union needs progress to ensure autonomy and power to Europe. The time has come for new generations to live up to the European heritage. Taxation, budget, external or social action, the EU must decide more by (qualified) majority as unanimity is not democratic and does paralyze it. To move forward, energize industry and materialize a solidarity felt by everyone, its common economic capacity must be increased tenfold (the European budget weighs 1% of its wealth, against 24% for the American federal state) and the EU must be able to borrow.

A helping hand from Europe must definitively supplement the invisible hand – with shared unemployment insurance or a real supranational European reserve of citizens who can be mobilised during crises (doctors, firefighters, etc.) for example – to keep European peoples hopes up. The EU motto “United in diversity” could then be supplemented as follows: “United in diversity and solidarity”. Europeans have the means to be united without being uniform, in solidarity rather than solitary, democrats rather than vetocrats, but there is still an additional meaningful role to be found, an universal ambition to meet its historical greatness.

The Covid-19 has revealed Europe’s vulnerability. It should be better prepared for the crises on which scientists alert us, and climate change is the most frightening: collapse of ecosystems, inhabitable regions, fall in agricultural yields if we continue the current trajectory. Therefore the EU must urgently mobilise all its tools for economic recovery and debt to fight global warming through a decarbonised and fair transition. The EU has an historic opportunity to do so and a duty to the younger generations from whom budgets will be borrowed. The “never again” united its oldest ones, the “everything but not that” linked to an uncontrollable climate change unites all Europeans today (93% according to a survey).

Just seventy years ago, six European countries gathered around the shared management of coal to maintain peace between states, Europe must now clearly unite towards full decarbonisation in 2050 to save ecosystems, but also and above all convince and inspire the world to take action. There will be no prosperity, no resilience of humanity without protected ecosystems. Like Ulysses after a long journey, the European civilisation will only have a lasting existence by completing this last test which will bring it the recognition of all.

This generation is the last to be in capacity to act, so let’s be bold, ambitious and inspiring, keeping in mind the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children”.

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GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau must choose between climate pledge and Alberta’s economy

The dilemma for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on climate change and energy policy comes down to this.

If he wants to meet the promises he’s made about reducing Canada’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions, he has to gut our oil and gas sector.

He also has to do it quickly and the consequences for Alberta’s economy, as well as Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s, will be severe.

Trudeau and his cabinet would have to reject the $20.6 billion Teck Frontier oilsands megaproject in Alberta, now up for approval after getting the go-ahead from federal regulators.

But even if the Liberals cancel that project, that wouldn’t reduce current emissions, just slow the increase of future ones.

To meet his 2030 target of cutting Canada’s current emissions to 30% below 2005 levels, Trudeau will have to eliminate the equivalent of 50 Teck oilsands megaprojects over the next decade, or five Teck megaprojects every year, for 10 years.

Even using the Trudeau government’s own projections of what emission levels will be in 2030, including projects it hasn’t started, it would still have to cut current emissions by the equivalent of 19 Teck-like megaprojects over 10 years, or almost two every year, for a decade.

To achieve his election promise of cutting Canada’s emissions to net zero by 2050, Trudeau would have to cut Canada’s emissions by the equivalent of 175 Teck-like megaprojects over the next 30 years — almost six Teck-like megaprojects annually, for three decades.

Canada has seven economic sectors that generate significant industrial emissions, but oil and gas has been the fastest-growing since 1990 and the largest since 2012.

Today, these emissions total 195 megatonnes annually, an 84% increase since 1990.

The second-largest is the transportation sector at 174 megatonnes of emissions annually, a 43% rise since 1990, but with stable emissions since 2012.

Emissions in the electricity, heavy industry and waste sectors have gone down since 1990, while emissions in the agriculture and building sectors haven’t grown significantly since 2005.

Technology in the oil and gas sector is constantly improving, reducing the carbon intensity of its emissions, meaning the energy required to produce a barrel of oil generates fewer emissions over time, but not enough to come close to meeting Trudeau’s 2030 and 2050 targets.

For that, Trudeau will have to slash current oil and gas production.

Trudeau’s dilemma is that while he has never acknowledged the severe economic consequences to the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Canadian economies of fulfilling his climate change promises, he also doesn’t have enough money — our money — to subsidize an industry his climate policies are designed to kill.

Last week we learned the price tag on completing the Trans Mountain pipeline the Trudeau government bought two years ago has increased to $12.6 billion, 70% higher than its original forecast.

A report by Reuters news said Trudeau and his cabinet are considering federal aid to Alberta if they decide to reject the Teck megaproject, with the Liberals divided on what to do when they announce their decision later this month.

Vetoing Teck would be widely seen in Alberta as a deliberate, possibly fatal blow to the province’s beleaguered economy by a vindictive Liberal government that no longer has a single seat there or in Saskatchewan.

Approving it would be viewed as a betrayal by those who supported the Liberals in last year’s election because of Trudeau’s promise to meaningfully address climate change.

Now, Trudeau has to pick a lane.

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Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation — Global Issues

Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe says that “climate change is a very big terror in Haiti”, and without funds the Caribbean island nation is unable to adapt and mitigate against it. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
  • by Desmond Brown (madrid)
  • Friday, December 13, 2019
  • Inter Press Service

“Climate change is a very big terror in Haiti. It’s very hard for us to deal with climate change,” Jouthe told IPS on the margins of the United Nations climate summit, the 25th Conference Of The Parties (COP25), in Madrid, Spain.

“Haiti is not responsible for what’s going on with climate change but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community.”

Jouthe said Haiti remains committed to strengthening its resilience to climate shocks and to contributing to the global effort to mitigate the phenomenon.

Haiti is pursuing a four-fold objective in relation to climate change:

  • promoting, at the level of all sectors and other ministries, a climate-smart national development;
  • creating a coherent response framework for country directions and actions to address the impacts of climate change;
  • promoting education on the environment and climate change as a real strategic lever to promote the emergence of environmental and climatic citizenship; and
  • putting in place a reliable measurement, reporting and verification system that can feed into the iterative planning processes of national climate change initiatives.

But Jouthe said the country simply cannot achieve these targets without financial help.

“In Haiti all the indicators are red. We have many projects but as you may know CARICOM doesn’t have enough funding to build projects,” he said.

Patrice Cineus, a young Haitian living in Quebec, said access to funding has been a perennial problem for Haiti.

But he believes Haiti is partly to blame for the seeming lack of inability to quickly receive financial help.

“Haiti, my country needs to build evidence-based policies, and this will make it easier to attract help from the international community,” Cineus told IPS.

“If we don’t have strong policies, it’s not possible. We need research within the country. We need innovative programmes within the country and then we can look for financial support and technical support.

“We cannot have access to funding because the projects we are submitting are not well done. We don’t use scientific data to build them. They are not done professionally,” Cineus added.

Cineus’ theory appears to be substantiated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which helps CARICOM member states address the issue of adaptation and climate change.

The centre’s Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie said since 2016, under an Italian programme, it is required to develop projects that would help countries adapt to different areas of climate change.

“One of the areas that we have been considering, and we spoke with Haiti, is to build resilience in terms of schools and shelters that can be used in the case of a disaster.

“Funds have been approved but, unfortunately, unlike the other member states where we have already implemented at least one, and some cases two, projects, we have not been able to get the projects in Haiti off the ground,” Leslie told IPS.

“Each time they have identified an area, when we go there the site is not a suitable site and then we have to start the process again.”

While Haiti waits for funding, Dr. Kénel Délusca, current head of mission of a technical assistance project, AP3C, of the Ministry of Environment and Environment and the European Union, said the country remains one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.

Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms, and Island nations like Haiti are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.

“The marine environment is extremely important to the Haitian people. There are more than 8 million people living in coastal communities in Haiti,” Délusca told IPS.

“There are more or less 50,000 families whose activities are based on these specific ecosystems. In other words, this is a very important ecosystem for Haiti and different levels – at the economic level, at the cultural level, at the social level.”

Haiti is divided into 10 départements, and Délusca said nine of them are coastal. Additionally, he said the big cities of Haiti are all located within the coastal zone.

“These ecosystems are very strategic to the development of Haiti. The Haitians have a lot of activities that are based on the marine resources. We also develop some cultural and social activities that are based on these environments,” Délusca said.

For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life as a result of climate change is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.

Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by five percent by 2030.

© Inter Press Service (2019) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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  • Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation Friday, December 13, 2019
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  • Taking Bangladesh to Zero-Leprosy, One New Case at a Time Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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COP25: Longest climate talks end with compromise deal

COPImage copyright
Kiara Worth/IISD

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Some of the difficult issues proved impossible to resolve in Madrid

The longest United Nations climate talks on record have finally ended in Madrid with a compromise deal.

Exhausted delegates reached agreement on the key question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon.

All countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next major conference in Glasgow next year.

Divisions over other questions – including carbon markets – were delayed until the next gathering.

What was agreed?

After two extra days and nights of negotiations, delegates finally agreed a deal that will see new, improved carbon cutting plans on the table by the time of the Glasgow conference next year.

All parties will need to address the gap between what the science says is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, and the current state of play which would see the world go past this threshold in the 2030s.

Supported by the European Union and small island states, the push for higher ambition was opposed by a range of countries including the US, Brazil, India and China.

However a compromise was agreed with the richer nations having to show that they have kept their promises on climate change in the years before 2020.

Huge pressure on UK

Next year’s big climate conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland – and that heaps enormous pressure on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He’s already been warned by environmentalists that he will be “humiliated” if he tries to lead other nations whilst the UK is still failing to meet its own medium-term climate targets.

The UK’s climate advisers warn that tens of millions of homes must be insulated.

Other experts say Mr Johnson’s £28.8m road-building plans are not compatible with eliminating CO2 emissions.

They say even fully electric cars won’t solve the problem completely – and urge the government to help people walk and cycle to benefit their health and the environment.

They also say expanding aviation will increase emissions.

Mr Johnson’s Brexit decisions will play a part too. The US won’t discuss climate change in any trade deal. Meanwhile the EU is putting a border tax on countries that don’t cut greenhouse gases. It will be impossible to please both.

What is the reaction?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed by the result.

“The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis,” he said, quoted by AFP.

‘Another year of failure’

Meanwhile, Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as “really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed.”

“Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations, but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters.”

Decisions on other issues including the thorny question of carbon markets have been delayed until Glasgow.

Animated chart showing that most of the coldest 10 years compared to the 20th century average were in the early 1900s, while the warmest years have all been since 2000, with 2018 on course to be the fourth warmest year on record

This aspect of the deal was welcomed by campaigners.

“Thankfully the weak rules on a market based mechanism, promoted by Brazil and Australia, that would have undermined efforts to reduce emissions has been shelved and the fight on that can continue next year at COP26 in Glasgow,” said Mohamed Adow, with the group Power Shift Africa.

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Media captionClimate change: How 1.5C could change the world

Many of those in attendance were unhappy with the overall package, feeling it did not reflect the urgency of the science.

Spain’s acting Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said the mandate was clear.

“Countries have to present more ambitious NDCs [nationally determined contributions] in 2020 than what we have today because it is important to address science and the demands of people, as well as commit ourselves to do more and faster.”

However, negotiators will be satisfied to have kept the process alive after these difficult and complex talks in Madrid.

What is the evidence for global warming?

The world is now nearly one degree Celsius warmer than it was before widespread industrialisation, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years, with the years from 2015-2018 making up the top four.

The WMO says that if the current warming trend continues, temperatures could rise by 3-5C by the end of this century.

A threshold of 2C had long been regarded as the gateway to dangerous warming. More recently, scientists and policy makers have argued that keeping temperature rise to within 1.5C is a safer limit for the world.

But an IPCC report in 2018 suggested that keeping to the 1.5C target would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

How will climate change affect us?

There are varying degrees of uncertainty about the scale of potential impacts.

But the changes could drive freshwater shortages, bring sweeping changes to our ability to produce food, and increase the number of deaths from floods, storms, heat waves and droughts.

Even if we cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically now, scientists say the effects will continue because parts of the climate system, particularly large bodies of water and ice, can take hundreds of years to respond to changes in temperature.

It also takes greenhouse gases decades to be removed from the atmosphere.

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Industrial Energy Efficiency is a Climate Solution — Global Issues

Staff from MCI Santé Animale, one of the 18 companies that have participated in energy management training organized by UNIDO´s Industrial Energy Accelerator in partnership with the Moroccan government, at work, as the country moves to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel imports. Credit: UNIDO
  • Opinion by Tareq Emtariah (vienna)
  • Friday, December 13, 2019
  • Inter Press Service
  • Tareq Emtariah is Director of the Department of Energy at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

However, historic slowdowns in energy efficiency progress persist. As we conclude another Conference of Parties (COP25) on climate change, and move into a new decade with unprecedented environmental challenges, governments have to put industrial energy efficiency back on the agenda before it is too late.

I have worked in the energy sector for nearly 25 years. During this time, I have witnessed some incredible advances. Yet, now, when we should be doing everything in our power to reduce the unnecessary use of fossil fuels, we are instead witnessing a slowing of progress on energy efficiency, with the International Energy Agency reporting last month that progress on energy efficiency had declined to its slowest rate since this decade began.

Among the many reasons for this “historic slowdown” is a lack of national government commitment for the cause, which is seriously hampering wide-scale change.

Prioritising industrial energy efficiency is one way that governments can simultaneously ease pressure on the economy, enhance energy security and the environment in the here and now. It’s what we at UNIDO refer to as the “invisible solution”.

Tareq Emtariah – Credit: UNIDO

A large-scale shift toward more energy efficient practices in industry would enable companies to massively reduce their power bills. In economic terms, industrial energy efficiency can increase productivity, lower manufacturing costs, and create more jobs.

When it comes to the environment, the widespread adoption of energy efficiency measures could reduce industrial energy use by over 25%. This potential is a significant reduction of 8% in the global energy use and 12.4% reduction in global CO2 emissions.

With this in mind, here are five practical steps governments can take to harness industrial energy efficiency against climate change:

1. Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, at least for those industries which are large enough to afford it. Analysis commissioned by the IMF this year found that if fossil fuels had been priced appropriately, global carbon emissions would be reduced by 28 per cent and governments revenues would increase 3.8 per cent of GDP. Developed economies and nations such as those in the United States and European Union should be leading by example on this issue.

Meanwhile, in major emerging economies like Argentina, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Russia fossil fuel subsidies have historically kept the cost of energy artificially low.

As a result, there has never really been a major concern for industries to makes changes. When industries don’t fully understand the potential of energy efficiency, and energy costs are bearable, it’s a lot easier for them to become complacent.

One just has to look to Morocco for inspiration. In 2014 the North African nation ended subsidies of gasoline and fuel oil and begun to cut diesel subsidies as part of its drive to repair public finances.

Fast forward to today and Morocco is considered one of the most progressive countries when it comes to its national energy commitments and efforts to prioritise industrial energy efficiency.

2. Breaking down barriers to finance. In developing economies in particular, investors’ lack of awareness of the commercial benefits of best practices in energy efficiency is preventing much needed investment. In countries like Brazil, ‘high-risk’ perceptions surrounding energy efficiency projects mean that interest rates are often impossibly high for companies eager to invest in industrial energy efficiency advancements.

The public sector must pinpoint the best ways to design and implement energy efficiency policies to effectively mobilise finance and investment. Co-funded blended finance schemes, tax breaks, financial sector training and project bundling are just some of the many ways governments can help to simultaneously incentivise and de-risk investments into industrial energy efficiency.

Improving the competitiveness of Brazil’s industrial sector, which contributes to 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, requires significant investment into energy efficiency. UNIDO’s Industrial Energy Accelerator undertook three energy efficiency workshops aiming to change perceptions among investors. Credit: UNIDO

3. Supporting SMEs. Often in emerging economies, small-to-medium sized enterprises make up the majority of the industrial sector. However, many of these small businesses lack the formal qualifications and the collateral needed to access finance and adhere to newly introduced industrial energy efficiency regulations.

In Mexico for example, where small-to-medium sized enterprises form the backbone of the national economy, the government is working to introduce a labour competencies standard for internal energy auditors that responds specifically to the needs of SMEs.

4. Making the invisible, visible. Despite offering so many win-win benefits, industrial energy efficiency is often referred to as an invisible solution. Energy efficiency interventions require changing behaviours and they are often technical.

Retrofitting the insulation level of pipes or replacing an old inefficient boiler is not as appealing as investing into multimillion-dollar renewable energy projects panels or as noticeable as saving forests.

However, government leaders can help change this by working with industry to advocate and discuss the potential of implementing industrial energy efficiency measures to consumers and other stakeholders. To facilitate and amplify this conversation, UNIDO recently launched a dedicated Industrial Energy Accelerator website and Linkedin community.

5. Joining forces. We cannot solve this challenge country-by-country, we must work together under a coordinated and ambitious multilateral framework. At the end of the day we are calling on competitive multinational companies to overhaul their production processes, incentivize their global supply chains and invest in long-term sustainability measures.

In order to enable this, countries must create a level playing field for businesses to operate within by aligning national incentives and energy pricing systems.

Government is absolutely critical to the energy efficiency transition. Even with the willpower of the private sector, without coordinated government incentives, – such as support for SMEs, advocacy and effective policy- industrial energy efficiency will be impossible to achieve on a large scale.

As we conclude another COP and move into a new decade with unprecedented environmental, social and economic challenges, on behalf of UNIDO and the Industrial Energy Accelerator, I urge all governments worldwide to put industrial energy efficiency back on the agenda. We have the knowhow, we have the technology, now is the time for leadership and effective policy to help us implement the solutions.

UNIDO’s Industrial Energy Accelerator works on the ground to rally government, business and finance around solutions for industrial energy efficiency. Next year the programme will enter phase two of project implementation in the Accelerator’s first five partner countries, and we will begin work in new countries including: Palestine, Sri Lanka, India, Ukraine and Ghana.

© Inter Press Service (2019) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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  • Industrial Energy Efficiency is a Climate Solution Friday, December 13, 2019
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  • Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation Friday, December 13, 2019
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Europe will likely miss 2030 climate goals – VoxEurop (English)

While the Commission is unveiling its Green Deal on 11 December, the European Environmental Agency’s latest report says that Europe as a while will not achieve its 2030 climate and energy targets if no urgent action is taken in the 10 coming years.

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) new report published on 4 December predicts that Europe will not achieve its 2030 climate and energy targets “without urgent action during the next 10 years”. The report also calls on Europe’s policymakers to put Europe on track “to avoid irreversible change and damage”. Investing in sustainability and stopping funding for environmentally damaging activities, especially fossil fuels, is needed it said.

The current European policy actions provide an essential pillar for the future progress of the European Union in climate, but they also require “better implementation and improved coordination,” warns the EEA report. European biodiversity and nature remains the biggest area of “discouraging progress” – only two of the 13 specific policy objectives set for 2020 in this area are likely to be met.

While EEA report notes that most of the 2020 targets will not be achieved, it acknowledges that there is still a chance in the next decade to meet longer-term goals, due to increased public awareness, technological innovation and the shift in Europe’s political agenda. “We have a narrow window of opportunity in the next decade to scale up measures to protect nature, lessen the impacts of climate change and radically reduce our consumption of natural resources,” said EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx.


As a result, the European social systems of production and consumption (food, energy and mobility) must be transformed, since the society’s resource use is mostly linked to economic activities and lifestyles, states the report.

Most solutions are already identified but they require urgency, concludes the report – which was outlined at COP25 climate talks in Madrid and used to frame EU environmental policy. According to Bruyninckx, “we already have the knowledge, technologies and tools we need to make key production and consumption systems such as food, mobility and energy sustainable”.

Additionally, the report warns that the acceleration of climate change (heat waves, forest fires, flooding and changing patterns in the prevalence of infectious diseases) is likely to bring elevated risks, particularly for vulnerable groups.

“Environmental risks to health do not affect everyone in the same way, and there are pronounced local and regional differences across Europe in terms of social vulnerability and exposure to environmental health hazards,” warns the report.

“The science is clearer than ever: We are in the process of destroying the very ecosystems that sustain humanity,” said Ester Asin, the director of European policy at NGO WWF. “EU governments must provide strong support on delivering the European Green Deal [and] demonstrate through concrete actions that they have heard the citizen protests which have dominated much of this past year,” she added.


The first-ever European climate law to achieve a transition to climate-neutrality by 2050 will be officially presented in March 2020, although the package will be unveiled by the commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, on December 11.

According to Timmermans earlier this month: “In the next five years we will put in place a truly transformative agenda,” adding that “there will be multiple benefits for Europe and Europeans if we get this right”.


“In the European Green Deal, new European Commission President von der Leyen will set the tone. There is no alternative but to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels and pollution, abandon failed market mechanisms, cap our use of resources, and bring back nature,” said the director of NGO Friends of the Earth Europe Jagoda Munić. According to Greenpeace EU spokesperson Franziska Achterberg, “the new commission must follow its own agency’s advice and rethink the economic system that for decades has rewarded pollution, environmental destruction and human exploitation”.





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At UN Climate Summit, Greta Thunberg Lifts Up Science, Blasts World Leaders

MADRID ― At a high-level event Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for “misleading” the public with insufficient emission-reduction pledges and dove into the growing science that shows governments must act quickly to prevent catastrophic warming. 

Thunberg kicked off her speech at the 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, by telling world leaders that she wouldn’t have any personal or emotional headline-grabbing one-liners, like when she told world leaders she wanted them to panic.  

“I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on,” she said. “They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.” 

Thunberg highlighted numbers from last year’s sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature rise. It found that to have a 67% chance of keeping the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels ― the aspirational goal of the Paris climate agreement ― the world can only emit 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Studies show we are on track to blow past that carbon budget within a decade, and that meeting the 1.5-degree target requires cutting global emissions 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030. 

“How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic?” Thunberg asked a room full of delegates and others gathered at the summit. “How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger?”


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency Wednesday during the U.N. climate change conference in Madrid.

Thunberg noted that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that since the Paris agreement, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels. She accused political leaders from rich countries of “misleading” people about the crisis and “finding clever ways around having to take real action,” including outsourcing emissions overseas to poorer countries and refusing to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related damages.

The U.N. climate talks, she said, “have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.” 

She continued:

The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade ― a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well I’m telling you there is hope, I’ve seen it. But it does not come for the governments or corporations. It comes from the people. 

Wednesday’s “High-Level Event on Climate Emergency” also included speeches from Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a youth climate activist from Uganda. As the panel discussion came to an end, dozens of young activists from the Fridays for Future movement stormed the stage, where they chanted and staged a sit-in to demand immediate action. 

“We need leadership on climate action, not talks,” an emotional Nakabuye said. “You’ve been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born. Do you want the whole of Africa to first perish before you start acting?”

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Climate Change One of the Factors — Global Issues

Roughly 82 percent of Afghan girls drop out of school before the sixth grade, partly due to early child marriages. Credit: Najibullah Musafer/Killid
  • by Nayema Nusrat (united nations)
  • Monday, December 09, 2019
  • Inter Press Service

Although her father, Antonio (50) felt that she was still too young to marry, it was very difficult for him to pass up what was offered in exchange for his daughter: 2000 Mozambican Metical (31.2 USD) and a promise to let Filomena continue her education after marriage.

Antonio had been in the fishing business since 1985; profit from his business started to decline dramatically as climate changes started to become more apparent.

In a report published by The Guardian he said ” We see that it’s too hot. We talk about that and we all agree that it’s difficult to catch enough fish because of these high temperatures.” “In the areas where we used to go, the sea level is rising, and the waves are much stronger”.

Besides Filomena, Antonio has five other kids to take care of and she firmly believes that her father would not agree on her early marriage if his fishing business was running well.

Child marriage is a global phenomenon happening for many socioeconomic reasons, but in this particular case it is evident that the already existing global trend of child marriage is further exacerbated because of climate change.

Climate change leads to rising temperature, shifting precipitation patterns and increasing extreme events; people whose livelihoods are intrinsically connected specially to natural resources, livestock, fisheries and agriculture suffer without attention to adaptation.

In Zimbabwe for example, extreme drought is one of the most common phenomena inflicted by climate change; “drought left Emmanuel struggling to feed his family. He agreed to a dowry of a few goats for his 15-year-old daughter.

It meant one less mouth to feed, and food and livestock for the family” – stated in a report by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) , which explored different ways that climate change endangers the lives and futures of our children and how we must integrate climate risks into various policies and services.

Similarly, in Kenya, a dramatic rise in child marriage is seen due to severe droughts, diminishing the number of cattle at an alarming rate and child marriage is enforced in exchange of goats.

Roughly 82 percent of Afghan girls drop out of school before the sixth grade, partly due to early child marriages. Credit: Najibullah Musafer/Killid

Workers from AMREF Health Africa (African Medical and Research Foundation), the largest Africa based healthcare non-profit organization aim to convince parents to stop child marriages and send them to secondary school -“when she is done with schooling, she will get a job and she will be able to buy you more than four goats”.

Meanwhile in poverty-stricken South Sudan, the majority of parents are marrying their daughters off in exchange for livestock using the bidding process, “Whoever bids with the highest number of cows will take the girl” said Dorcas Acen, a gender protection expert at CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).

In South Asian countries, families who face financial difficulties from the likelihood of natural disasters like floods, droughts, river erosion, and storms resort to marry off their daughters.

Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told IPS that climate change is one of the reasons that is pushing girls in South Asian countries into getting married before the age of 18.

Barr shares her view about climate change and unpredictable natural disasters seen in Bangladesh and their linkage to early marriage, “Drawing a link between natural disasters and climate change is complex, of course, but we know that Bangladesh—and other countries in South Asia—are among those most affected by climate change. This is qualitative research, not quantitative, but the links were striking”.

HRW interviewed families who had been affected by three types of disasters— flooding, cyclones, and river erosion. Many of the families they interviewed had been barely surviving dealing with inadequate nutrition even before the disaster strikes; and one coping mechanism is that when a disaster pushed them from barely surviving to at risk of not surviving, they reduced their family size by arranging marriages for young daughters.

Barr says, “We saw this link most clearly in the families dealing with river erosion, and it seemed to be the combination of river erosion being both predictable and cataclysmic that created that link” adding, “Flooding was predictable and devastating but not cataclysmic”.

The families HRW interviewed were very accustomed to having to replant their crops. “Cyclones were cataclysmic but not predictable”—so families had to respond afterwards but had very little ability to plan beforehand.

“With river erosion, however, families would see the fields and homes of their neighbors closer to the river be washed away and those families permanently displaced, and they would know that within two or three or five years the river was coming for them. One of the ways they coped with the fact that they knew they would be displaced was by trying to find a marriage for their daughter that they hoped would ensure her safety and that would reduce their family size”.

Recent UNICEF data shows that 59% of girls in Bangladesh are married by 18 and 22% are married by 15. This is one of the highest rates in the world, and the highest in Asia. Globally a girl is married almost every 2 seconds, among which 21% of girls marry before 18 and 5% before 15.

However, the UNICEF report also shows that the custom of child marriage has decreased globally in the past decade. The most progress has been observed in South Asia where a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has dropped from approximately 50% to 30%. The practice is more common among girls than boys, 4% of boys in Bangladesh marry before age 18.

Child marriage is still widespread across the globe where the total number of girls married in their childhood accounts for 12 million per year. One of the targets set in United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5.3) is to end child marriage by 2030, but without increasing the rate of progress “more than 150 million additional girls will marry before their 18th birthday by 2030”.

Barr told IPS that child marriage issue in regards to climate change and natural disaster should be addressed by governments by ensuring the agencies responsible for addressing climate change and natural disasters participate in developing and implementing the national action plan to end child marriage by 2030.

And the plan plays specific attention to how climate change and natural disasters (and other disasters such as conflict, displacement) can increase the risk of child marriage and includes steps to mitigate that risk; she also asks for the governments to “Integrate child marriage prevention into all government planning in relation to disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation”.

“Taking baby steps like boosting the sense of awareness among the individuals and community to exercise the common best practices to preserve the environment might dramatically increase the progress of the bigger change we want to see at the global level.”

An inspiring story from UNICEF is about a Bangladeshi young woman Smriti (19) from Barisal district, who is working with YouthNet for Climate Justice, a UNICEF-supported network, spreading awareness about global warming to her community discusses about climate change and its connection to the increased rates of child marriage.

Smriti says “It is hard to gather people to talk about this, but so often, I’ll stop in a tea shop, or stop a group of people, and engage them that way”.

While talking to IPS about child bride issue from a broad perspective regardless of the effect of climate change, Barr stressed that in terms of every other country where child marriage continues, one of the most fundamental driver of child marriage is gender inequality and valuing girls less than boys.

Research shows, secondary education for girls must continue to be encouraged; it opens up doors for their future careers with vocational advancement, making them highly likely to achieve economic empowerment; and as a result they are able to pull themselves and their family out of poverty, as well as act as an encouragement for their next generation to continue to narrow the gender inequality gap which in turn will create fewer child brides.

© Inter Press Service (2019) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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  • The Changing Distribution of World Population Friday, December 06, 2019
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  • Forced to Flee. Displaced with a Dream. Time for Action. Friday, December 06, 2019
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The climate crisis Trump ignores the most

Scanning his record of remarks about climate change, Bump concluded that Trump “may not actually understand the mechanism that is warming the planet” and that he routinely conflates the concerns of environmentalism, writ large, with concerns over carbon emissions warming the planet. (Never mind, of course, that his administration has set about gutting environmental protections and regulations, as well.) “Trump’s suggestion that clean air and clean water are ‘a big part of climate change’ is accurate only with a remarkably generous interpretation of his comments,” Bump noted.

“Congress’s commitment to action on the climate crisis is iron-clad,” Pelosi said in a statement. “This is a matter of public health … of our children, of the survival of our economies, of the prosperity of the world, of national security, justice and equality. We now must deliver deeper cuts in emissions.”

The apocalyptic warnings are once more being sounded in Madrid. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres scolded the world’s major economies for their “utterly inadequate” steps in reducing emissions and declared over the weekend that humanity faced a “point of no return,” a warning that echoed a recent U.N. report that called for dramatic and drastic action by governments. According to the report, global greenhouse gas emissions need to start falling by 7.6 percent each year starting next year — a rate that’s nowhere in sight, not least because of a lack of White House leadership on climate.

In the meantime, international organizations are calling attention to climate change’s many victims. The humanitarian group Oxfam calculated that, on average, more than 20 million people were displaced by extreme weather events each year of the past decade. “Today, you are seven times more likely to be internally displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires than by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict,” Oxfam said in a report published this week.

Whatever the case, it is already apparent that a changing climate is stoking more extreme weather patterns, which in turn are displacing or crippling countless vulnerable communities around the world. A study by Save the Children concluded that, in east and southern Africa this year, floods, landslides, drought and cyclones contributed “to at least 33 million people in the region — or 10% of the population across ten countries — being at emergency levels of food insecurity or worse.” That includes more than 16 million children.

Environmental and development groups are hoping to push wealthier countries to build a fund that can support poorer nations afflicted by climate disaster. But, in an era of climate crisis, many communities may need wholesale resettlement. Drought and shifts in weather have fomented migration crises from Syria to Central America. Recognizing this, House Democrats put forward legislation that would create a federal program that would take in a minimum of 50,000 climate refugees every year in the United States.

It’s a bill that will never pass under Trump, who has reduced U.S. refugee resettlement to record-low levels and even thwarted temporary protected status for citizens of the Bahamas fleeing the ravages of Hurricane Dorian this year. Given the Trump administration’s hostility to migrants and skepticism of climate change, there may be no more forlorn a plight than that of a climate refugee.

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The world’s demand for palm oil is igniting a climate bomb

Kalimantan, Indonesia (CNN) — Deep within the jungles of Indonesian Borneo, illegal fires rage, creating apocalyptic red skies and smoke that has spread as far as Malaysia and Singapore.

People are choking. Animals are dying.

This is no ordinary fire. It was lit for you.

Farmers are clearing land the fastest way they know how to cash in on growing demand for palm oil, which is used in half of all supermarket products, from chocolate to shampoo.

They’re not only burning the forest, they’re destroying the peatlands that lie beneath it — the world’s largest natural terrestrial carbon sink.

Fire data by NASA FIRMS, NRT VIIRS 375m Active Fire product, for all of September 2019. Map credit:©HERE

Experts say the annual infernos have ignited a climate bomb with disastrous consequences for the world in years to come.

And the fires will keep burning, they say, until Western consumers say no.

Firefighters work in tropical heat, breathing toxic air, for as little as $8 a day.

Some fires are so remote they must travel more than an hour in wooden boats loaded with equipment, then hike several miles through the jungle.

At the fire front, they dig makeshift wells and rig up generators to pump water to douse the flames.

“We are fighting here almost two weeks already … stay in here, sleep in here,” Krisyoyo, leader of a patrol team with the Center for International Sustainable Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) says, as he hoses down flames. “The fire (is) coming I think from humans,” says Krisyoyo, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name.

About 9,000 firefighters were deployed to fight the fires on the ground this summer.

Indonesian firefighters attempt to dampen the jungle blaze. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Helicopters are bombing them from above.

CNN boarded a Soviet-designed Mi-8 helicopter for a water-bombing mission near the epicenter of the fires over Central Kalimantan.

Ukrainian pilot Ivan Kravchenko hovered his aircraft over the Kahayan River and scooped up 4,000 liters of water in a giant bucket hanging from a hole in the floor of the chopper. It was then dumped on the flames — a process repeated dozens of times during our flight.

Kravchenko is one of a team of specialist pilots, many of whom have been brought in from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, who fly up to three missions a day.

“Whole time dangerous,” says Kravchenko. “Because it’s all flight at low altitude and sometimes in bad visibility, so we need to be very careful.”

They can never be sure if the fire is out.

Fires smolder deep underground in thick layers of dead plant matter –- peatlands — and can reignite almost as soon as they’re extinguished.

“When they start burning, it feels like a losing battle,” says Alpius Patanan, head of the local emergency operations division.

These fires were ignited by humans, but can only be put out by nature.

“My hope is rain will be coming faster, and rain hard,” Krisyoyo says. “Hopefully our forest (will) still (be) standing, for the future.”

At the peak of the fires in September, the sky turned orange.

“It was just like science fiction,” says Dr Kevin Sutrapura from Palangkaraya Hospital, the main hospital in Central Kalimantan.

“It’s always like an orange filter, everything is orange … it was dark here, like 12 o’clock in the afternoon, it feels like 5 p.m.”

This summer, nearly 920,000 people were treated for acute respiratory problems caused by the fires, according to the Indonesia’s disaster agency.

“People were coming, panicking,” says Sutrapura.

“We decided to open an oxygen house, where people could start to use oxygen, in there we could screen which ones are the patients who need another type of advanced medical care.”

Many of the people who needed treatment came from small villages.

An emergency worker douses his eyes with water to protect them from the thick haze. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Palm oil may be exposing many in this developing country of 264 million people to severe health risks.

Yet it’s also bringing wealth.

“Before I grew palm fruit, I couldn’t afford to often feed chicken to my children,” says Talan, an oil palm farmer from Berau, East Kalimantan. “(Now) I can feed them different foods including chicken. I can also afford to buy appliances like a TV and a refrigerator.”

Talan is one of the smallholders that make up around 40% of Indonesia’s palm oil producers.

He farms two hectares of land with a total of 400 oil palm trees, which he harvests twice a month.

He says he has quadrupled his monthly earnings to $400, compared to when he farmed rice or rubber a decade ago.

Village chief Surya Emi Susianthi says palm oil has transformed the entire community.

“Years ago, many here did not have cars and their children did not go to school because they couldn’t afford to pay school fees,” Susianthi says.

“But after growing palm trees, they can buy cars, build good houses and put their children in school.”

Borneo is home to one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

It’s a living, breathing natural history museum filled with 15,000 plants, 420 types of bird and 222 mammals — many of them unique to Borneo.

The known inhabitants include pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, sun bears, mouse deer, flying fox bats, pangolins, and most famous of all, the Bornean orangutan.

One of the closest genetic relatives to humans, these great apes share 97% of our DNA.

Orangutan even translates to ‘man of the forest’ in Indonesian.

“Orangutans are incredible animals in many ways, they’re very human-like,” says Mark Harrison, a Co-Director for the Borneo Nature Foundation who studied orangutans for a PhD.

“They have very complicated social lives and they’re really intelligent animals.”

But these precious mammals are now one of the most critically endangered species on the planet.

Sources: Orangutan distribution: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019-2. Downloaded Nov. 19, 2019. Deforestation: University of Maryland, Google, USGS and NASA analysis of satellite imagery; Global Forest Watch

Popi arrived at the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) when she was a few weeks old.

The charity, in Berau, East Kalimantan, is Indonesia’s only orangutan rehabilitation center founded and run by local staff.

Many of the rescued animals are victims of deforestation, including Popi.

“Popi is too lazy today. She just wants to play with the human,” release handler Nursanti says, as she nudges the baby orangutan up a tree trunk in the forest.

Almost every day, the staff escort the orangutans into the jungle for what they term “forest school,” so they can learn how to climb trees, find food and make nests.

The aim is for successful pupils to graduate to “college” — COP’s orangutan island on the nearby Kelay River.

Handler Nursanti carries a young orangutan. The Center for Orangutan Protection helps rescued animals learn vital life skills in the wild. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

There, they are left alone, but regularly fed and monitored, and if they adapt well, they will eventually be released into the wild.

CNN takes a trip to orangutan island on a long, narrow, motorized canoe.

There, we find Michelle, an eight-year-old female who was released onto the island in May. She is not doing well.

She lumbers towards our boat when we come near, and appears to want to interact with us. But orangutans don’t like water, so she quickly edges away from the shoreline.

Later, we see her swinging in the trees. Her handlers say she usually spends too much time on the ground for an arboreal species, and she relies mostly on them to bring her food.

It’s dangerous for orangutans to be too tame.

“The predator is not only the animal but also the human,” Nursanti says. “Sometimes we try to make them afraid, then they can survive.”

“Last year we found an orangutan hit with 130 bullets,” says COP Director Ramadhani, who goes by one name.

The orangutan was found by villagers in East Kutai, in East Kalimantan. It was taken for treatment to the Kutai National Park in nearby Bontang, but died of its injuries.

At the local district court, authorities say the four accused in the case were each found guilty and sentenced to seven months in prison and fines of 50 million rupiah (about US$ 3,500). But then the fine was replaced by two months in jail, making a total sentence of nine months each.

Some of the orangutans arrive with bullet wounds inflicted by farmers who see them as pests. Credit: Center for Orangutan Protection

In Indonesia, it’s illegal to kill orangutans — punishable by up to five years in prison and a 100 million rupiah fine ($7,100). But Ramadhani says the penalties are too weak to act as a deterrent.

He says the orangutans’ real enemy is palm oil.

“Please no more. Just stop it,” Ramadhani says of the forest-clearing operations. “I think it’s enough palm oil in here.”

“My dream is in 20 years, I bring my daughter, (and) go to the forest,” he says, his eyes welling up with tears. “Real forest where they can eat fruit, they can see the animals, real animals, not in a zoo. I want my daughter to see that.”

A different sort of human threat to the orangutan habitat may also be on the horizon: the planned move of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta — the fastest-sinking city on earth, due to rising sea levels — to a largely unsettled part of Borneo in East Kalimantan.

The government says the development will not harm the environment, but campaigners are concerned.

“There needs to be a very clear policy and implementation (on) how to reduce the impact of having that new capital,” says Annisa Rahmawati, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia. “There is a potential natural reserve in there, (which) will be destroyed and damaged.”

Indonesia in the midst of a modern-day gold rush.

In less than 20 years, the country’s palm oil exports have surged almost 1,500% to $20.7 billion in 2017. It’s now the country’s number one export.

Indonesia supplies more than half of the world’s palm oil.

Each of us is estimated to consume 17 pounds (8 kilograms) of it per year.

Palm oil is used in around half of all products found in supermarkets, including margarine, ice cream, pizza and soap. In parts of Africa and Asia, it is also widely used as a cooking oil.

Palm oil production surged over the last 50 years as global demand grew, with farmers attracted to its high crop yields. Credit: CNN

Driving through the once pristine landscape of Indonesian Borneo, the devastation wrought by palm oil plantations begins to hit home.

For hours, we pass by miles and miles of uniform rows of oil palms, and we’re regularly overtaken by large trucks steaming past piled high with palm fruits, or carrying the crude oil.

Palm oil originated in Africa and was brought to Indonesia and Malaysia during the colonial era.

It has become known as a wonder crop for tropical climates, due to its versatility and high yield compared to other vegetable oils like soy, coconut or sunflower.

Increasingly, palm oil is being used for biofuels, driven by climate policies encouraging the use of planet-friendly alternatives to oil and gas.

But in reality, palm oil biodiesel emits three times more carbon emissions than fossil fuel diesel, when you take into account its other environmental costs, according to the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, citing a 2016 Globiom study.

Despite this, many countries use palm oil biodiesel to count towards their targets under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Though bio-energy accounts for only a small percentage of palm oil use, its environmental impact is considered a growing risk. Credit: CNN

The EU has now started phasing out this type of biofuel, until it becomes more sustainable and does not cause deforestation.

Indonesia plans to contest this ruling at the World Trade Organization.

The size and scale of the palm oil industry, and its impact on public health and the environment, is now causing alarm bells even among industry insiders.

“It’s now way out of our control in Indonesia,” says Tiur Rumondang, Indonesia Country Director for the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). “I think it’s because we just let them grow organically, without a very clear plan.”

The RSPO, a global sustainable certification body, was created in 2004 in response to growing criticism of the palm oil industry.

“Our goal is to transform the market, to make the sustainable palm oil a norm,” Rumondang says.

The RSPO prohibits its members from starting land clearance fires and from planting on peatlands, and monitors plantations using satellite technology.

Currently, the RSPO only represents a fifth of the industry in Indonesia, and often the non-certified companies flout the regulations, Rumondang says.

Despite the extent of this year’s crisis, there is still no sense of urgency within the industry to make big changes, so the fires are likely to keep happening, she warns.

The government is sending mixed messages.

In September 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is known as Jokowi, imposed a moratorium on new palm oil plantations using government land, and established a peatland restoration agency.

Yet this summer, in the midst of the forest fires, the government mandated an increase in the use of palm oil blended with diesel to make biofuel for the domestic market, to reduce oil import costs.

Indonesia’s biodiesel production is expected to increase 43% to 8 billion liters in 2019, a USDA report says.

Despite that, the President says restoration of the forests is a key priority.

“Of course, the replanting of forests will be pushed, especially for conserved areas,” he said. “In the next five years, we will focus on this, so that forests in Indonesia can be protected from destruction.”

Two barefoot suspects walk into the room dressed in orange jumpsuits, their faces covered by balaclavas to protect their identity.

They are among 228 people arrested in six provinces affected by fire this summer, according to figures from the Indonesian police.

The men are accused of starting fires in the city of Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, and agreed to speak to CNN on condition of anonymity.

One of the men says he was burning grass cuttings near his home and later doused the fire with water, convinced he had put it out.

Local police say the fire continued to burn deep underground on peatland and three days later, it had wiped out around 10 hectares of land.

“On the outside, on the surface, it’s snuffed out, but underground the ember was still burning,” says Edie Sutaata, Adjunct Police Commissioner with Palangkaraya Police. “It took weeks for the fire to be completely extinguished.”

Men accused of starting fires in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan. Offenders can face up to 10 years in prison. Credit: Ivan Watson/CNN

The second prisoner said he started a fire to clear some land in order to build a new hut.

“I made a little fire. It immediately spread,” he said, adding that the punishment of 10 years in prison is too harsh for accidental cases.

“I didn’t create that much of a fire,” he says. “It was just so I could build a hut. And it’s on my own land.”

A lack of intent is not a defense, Sutaata says. “If someone through negligence causes a fire that endangers the public, the act is considered a crime.”

Better public awareness is needed to prevent small fires such as these being started, he says. Education is also needed on a provincial level to warn people of the risks.

“Every time we are lax about public education and law enforcement, the people will start burning the forest and the land again,” Hendra Rohmawan, the Grand Commissioner of Central Kalimantan Police says.

Offenders can be fined up to 10 billion rupiah ($700,000) and face up to 10 years in prison.

“Forest fire is a serious crime,” says Rasio Ridho Sani, Director General of Law Enforcement for Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry tells CNN.

Sani says the government has multiple ways of targeting companies accused of starting the fires. After the forest fire crisis in 2015, a special taskforce was created to help preserve the forests.

Since then, 21 cases were brought to court, three palm oil companies have had their licenses revoked, and 64 administrative sanctions have been imposed.

“We hope that our intensive effort in law enforcement, using administration sanctions, civil lawsuits and also criminal law, will create deterrent effects,” Sani says.

The problem is, they aren’t.

The courts have ruled on nine of the court cases so far, handing out a total of $250 million in fines. But Sani admits that only one fine has actually been paid.

“All the companies that were taken to court and had a guilty verdict, they’re not paying the sanctions to government,” says Ratri Kusumohartono from Greenpeace Indonesia. “It accomplishes nothing, it doesn’t give them (a) deterrent effect on why they should stop burning and stop draining peatlands.”

“What we need (is) the total change in how to enforce the current laws.”

Tiur Rumondang, Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil

A government audit this year found that 81% of palm oil plantations broke regulations, including encroaching on protected areas and failing to meet national sustainability standards.

“What we need (is) the total change in how to enforce the current laws,” says Rumondang from RSPO.

“If we just do it halfway, we should always expect this forest and land fire in the future. We need to change everything, not only RSPO, but also the local government, not only Indonesia but also other countries.”

The problem of palm oil is not isolated to Indonesia.

It comes back to the global companies buying the oil, and the choices of consumers.

New analysis by Greenpeace in its report ‘Burning Down the House’ accuses international companies including Unilever, Mondelez, Nestle and several others of using suppliers linked to thousands of this year’s fires. Some of the suppliers are also under public investigation for starting illegal fires, the report says.

“Companies have created a facade of sustainability, but the reality is that they source from the very worst offenders across the board,” says Annisa Rahmawati, a forest campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia. “The companies responsible for the fires and those who financially benefit from them should be held accountable for these environmental atrocities and the devastating health impacts caused by the fires.”

US snack maker Mondelez International, which uses palm oil in products such as Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, requires suppliers to “convert their entire supply chain” to “sustainable practices,” a spokesperson tells CNN.

“We will take action against verified fire allegations and any producers shown to be part of groups we’ve previously excluded,” the spokesperson says. “These new cases highlight the urgent need for sector-wide monitoring to provide one source of verified data about deforestation by palm oil plantation companies.”

Nestle, which uses palm oil in Kit Kat bars, is “deeply concerned about the forest fires in Indonesia” and is “strongly opposed to deforestation,” a spokesperson says.

“We are currently investigating and verifying occurrences of land cleared through burning,” the Nestle spokesperson says. “We will immediately cease sourcing from any supplier found to be linked to any deforestation activity. Ten suppliers have already been removed from the Nestle palm oil supply chain for not complying.”

A fire burns in the Borneo jungle. Failure to protect the rainforests could result in a devastating environmental casualty. Credit: Rebecca Wright/CNN

Consumer goods giant Unilever — which uses palm oil products in toiletries such as Dove and Lux soaps — has been “leading efforts to end deforestation,” a spokesperson says.

“In relation to previous concerns, we have already suspended sourcing from a number of suppliers mentioned in the report,” the spokesperson says. “We are currently reviewing the full list of companies to understand any possible links to our extended supply chain and, in line with our palm oil policy, will take any appropriate action.”

In Indonesia, the dry season and the wait for precious rains is finally coming to an end, but the cost of this summer’s crisis to the environment and the local population is being laid bare. The failure to protect the rainforests known as Asia’s Amazon — a vital set of lungs for the planet — could result in one of the world’s most devastating environmental casualties in the quest for profit and human consumption.

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