Friday, 21 May 2010

Of banana peels and popcorn

About two weeks ago, I met Peo and Satoko Ekberg.
Peo is from Sweden - a country that is fueling ahead to be the world's first oil-free country by 2020.This is without increasing its nuclear energy capabilities.I would call this ambition, to a point of being far fetched.,but Sweden seems to be on its way. From 70% energy from oil in 1975, today only 30% of its energy comes from oil.

So are the 9 million Swedes committed to this idea. Is it really possible to break the oil dependency and still run a first world country efficiently? From what Peo tells me, yes.

 Buses run on banana peels and kitchen waste, elevators are solar powered, taxis ferry you on coffee wastes collected from coffee shops. The capital, Stockholm, has reduced its household wastes by 97% - a big part of the garbage is  recycled into energy to power homes and transport. Public  transport in Stockholm now runs  a 100 % on bio-energy. The list goes on.

So I asked Peo, what does the city smell like with all this garbage in buses, taxis and cars?  "Oh ! Fresh popcorn".

So next time you get a whiff of fresh pop corn, remind yourself that you may not be  in a cinema house  having your favourite  popcorn,  but you are probably in Sweden, on a bus, going to  watch Bergman’s “Autumn Sonata”

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Here Comes Christiana

About 24 hours ago, Christiana Figueres was named the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat.

In my mind this could have been breaking news.

Christiana is from Costa Rica, a developing country, and is a woman. A great combo. And if you did not know, Costa Rica is well on its way to becoming the first carbon neutral country by 2020. We finally have a woman who will head a traditional old boys club. So there. She is not your usual suspect in the least. She has the perfect CV to qualify for the job and having been around and part of the international negotiations since 1995 she knows the climate politics machinery all too well. She is a well recognised International leader on strategies to address global climate change .Nothing really could have denied her the job .

There is hope by the South that she will from time to time where the hat of the LDCs, the OASIS, the developing countries .Something that her predecessor was accused of not doing enough of. The voice of the most vulnerable will at last be heard and there will be action!

But this is what I am thinking.

Carbon trading, Clean Development Mechanisms, REDD,REDD Plus, Carbon Tax, Kyoto Protocol, COP 15 and even COP16 ,Bali Action Plan, Emission trading, Carbon pricing, will not solve the problem . And sadly neither will Christiana.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Spill Baby Spill

A very predictable header but after going drill baby drill, this is what happened at British Petroleum s “ultra” Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. About 70,000 barrels of oil a day (and still counting) are being spilled into the ocean since April 20, 2010. The drilling was really “ultra deep”. The worry is not so much about when the spilling will be contained but where the oil will land up.

With no end in sight, the blame game has begun among the 3 actors. The project is owned by BP. Transocean owns the rig and has leased it to BP till 2013 and Halliburton, the oilfield services company, did the cement work to cap the well.

The impacts have not even begun to be considered. The toxic compounds in oil are known human carcinogens and hydrocarbons are particularly relevant if inhaled or ingested –for both humans and animal. For birds, the timing could not be worse. They are breeding and nesting and especially vulnerable in many of the places where the oil could come ashore. Nothing short of a catastrophe.
It will ruin for years to come the abode of the resident seabirds, waders, waterfowls, heron, pelicans, oystercatchers, migratory birds (swallows, buntings) that use the Gulf Wetlands as a stopover. With waters and coastal regions already feeling the impact of the oil spill, these birds could be at risk. It will totally disrupt migratory patterns and could result in mutations of certain species. Short-lived species such as shrimp or crabs may disappear in the region. The fishing industry in the area will pay its price.

While I am no expert on oil -from rigs to spills, this much I know. That when you get ultra greedy, you ultra dig and recovering will be ultra costly.

So my message for British Petroleum is this.

Drop that hubris .Admit that there are better forms of energy that we deserve.
And if this is not the right moment to improve your energy mix, you deserve to stay at the “bottom of the barrel”

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Summertime and the fish are not jumpin

While mercury soars across the sub continent, parts of the wettest state, Kerala, suffers from drought. This is unusual for God s own country. It is also unusual for the garden city, Bangalore, to touch 38 degrees centigrade. It is unusual that there are no glaciers in the summer months, even 40 km around Srinagar's east-side mountains. While Rajasthan is known for its desert heat, it is unusual that many of its districts are experiencing about 6 degree centigrade temperature increase.

But this is not about an unbearable summer where everything and everyone seems to wilt away and there is general listlessness. This is really about some myths and reality.

The myth is that climate has always changed so this is normal. The reality is that the climate is changing at a speed like never before.
The myth is that we can wait. The reality is that we have no time.
The myth is that climate change action is costly. The reality is that inaction will cost us more.
The myth is that money grows on trees . The reality is that it actually does.
The myth is that we can change – the reality is that we can t change fast enough.

MOEF Must Not Die

I have to give it to him.
Jairam Ramesh is the best Environment Minister India has had. And I am saying this as he completes his very first year in office. So for someone who said that this was a ministry he was least expecting to head, Jairam has done rather well. 

The list of his hits is long.

For once, we have an environmentalist leading the Environment Ministry. We have someone who comes with independent thinking – and this is like music to my ears !
Starting with transparency, public consultation on bt Brinjal, cancelling projects that were given bogus environmental clearances ,creating a proper, user friendly website for the Ministry, knowing the difference between REDD and REDD Plus, getting rid of retired bureaucrats who have been negotiating India’s future , efforts to ramp up India’s mitigation efforts on climate change, Jairam Ramesh needs applause.

I don’t want to get into all the details of his accomplishment and neither do I want to get into his boo-boos, but what strikes me is the courage of his conviction, his willingness to fight to the end, his determination to change a corrupt ministry and to cleaning up the mess that he inherited.

Jairam Ramesh is clearly one of the Pet Shop boys and with good reason .While he is certainly no puppy, his pedigree, his penchant for strategy and independent thinking, surely makes him the leader of the pack.
If he goes, MOEF will go back to being on its death bed and will languish. We will then continue to degrade our forest, continue to classify forest as wastelands, only to be given away to mining giants, we will once again create a ministry of collusion and corruption in the name of development.
So yes, Jairam Ramesh must stay put.
For a change I can chant - the right man in the right job .