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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lula: West should stop dictating Brazil how to manage Amazon forest

We have often implicitly criticized the 'neocolonial' attitudes of NGOs, governments and environmental agencies from the West when it comes to the issue of deforestation and development in the South. Their idea that the world's rainforests and the environment is a 'universal' good and must be protected is of course entirely legitimate. But where they go wrong is to think that their decision making process and their discourse on how to manage those forests must be equally 'universal'.

Developing countries rightly perceive this approach as being slightly neocolonialist and interventionist (earlier post). They feel their sovereignty is being eroded and that they're being, once again, dictated by the West on which development paradigm to follow (earlier post). When we wrote this, at the Biopact, we have received some angry reactions from these NGOs.

But now, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, says something quite similar. In a speech in Rio de Janeiro, he has accused developed countries of failing to do enough to fight against global warming. President Lula said it was time for wealthy countries to do more to reduce gas emissions. And he called on them to stop preaching on what to do with the Amazon rainforest.

President Lula said developed nations applied a double standard in their approach to global warming. He has accused wealthy countries of not doing enough on the environment before, but he has rarely been this direct. Lula said the West and the rich countries were skilful at drafting agreements and protocols, like the Kyoto treaty, to appear as if they were doing something to reverse dangerous geenhouse gas emissions. In practice, however, he said the results proved otherwise.

Deforestation and national sovereignty
President Lula was most adamant on the issue of deforestation. Developed countries, he said, had nothing to teach Brazil on the subject, adding that his country had reduced the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by more than 50% in the last three years. This was something which should serve as a lesson to developed countries, which in his words, had already deforested everything under their control. Their deforestation allowed them to develop in the past.
"The wealthy countries are very smart, approving protocols, holding big speeches on the need to avoid deforestation but they already deforested everything." - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
President Lula's words come at a time when countries in the South are taking strategic positions in the deforestation debate, which is tightly linked to the discussions on biofuels and on how to tackle global warming. Earlier we reported on Indonesia's Environment minister, who was equally sharp when he said that if the West wants to see the country's rainforests conserved, it should not talk about it, it should pay for it (earlier post). The minister's crude but effective logic was similar to Lula's: the West has razed down its own forests long ago, which has allowed it to develop, so it should not dictate others on which development strategy to follow, unless it is willing to compensate these countries for the economic opportunities they give up by protecting their forests.

However, even on this so-called 'compensated reduction' strategy (earlier post), Lula remained critical. "No country is revolutionizing its energy matrix as we are. The so-called carbon credits they invented - so far, we haven't seen a cent of that," he said in reference this strategy aimed at preserving carbon-absorbing forests:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

On the subject of alternative fuels, President Lula described Brazil as a world leader. And indeed the South American country is the world's largest producer of ethanol made from sugar cane and it has the world's largest fleet of cars that run on alternative fuels. The Brazilian president said he would be leading an international campaign to highlight the need for wealthy countries to reduce gas emissions, and to urge them to switch to non-fossil fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel -- an area where Brazil is a pioneer.

A day before Lula's critical speech, China too blamed rich nations for greenhouse gases that fueled global warming and urged them to cut emissions. Lula's comments come a day after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a UN conference on the environment that the world's poor, who are the least responsible for global warming, will suffer the most from the effects of climate change.

Co-opting Lula
NGOs and environmentalists from the West now face a dilemma. On many issues, they have co-opted the left-leaning President who was re-elected last year in a landslide, as one of their heros who dares to stand up against the West. Lula is seen as the leader who forged a coalition of developing countries who successfully resisted trade agreements that would have been detrimental to the South (Doha), and who fights development paradigms that are too occidentalist. But now that Lula keeps being consequential, his message is turning somewhat against them. Even well-intentioned NGOs from the West, who think to be speaking in the name of people from the South, can never undo the fact that they are caught up in the same double standards Lula now rejects.

Developing countries are tired of the being told how to develop. And now that Brazil is becoming more powerful on the world stage, their message is finally being translated to a broader audience and taken more seriously. NGOs must now rethink their ideas on the environment and on 'empowerment' of the poor in the South; they must critically assess whether the concepts and strategies they use in debates on development are not too ethnocentric. Rainforests and biodiversity may well be a 'universal' goods, but the decision making processes and the politics surrounding their protection most definitely are not.


Anonymous said...

How many pony tailed western NGO's have I seen, waffing on with endless posturings whilst their own countries are being reduced to concrete yards.

It's easy for these 4x4 driving latte sipping hypocrites to lecture others on how to keep the world safe for them, but as Lula has so rightly pointed out, its time for them to go and sort out their own messed up countries being the prime culprits that they are in destroying this planet.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous said...

Thanks for the above wisdom. Many of the NGOs are indeed hyprocrites and ignorant. We know too well that for most of them it is just a job, a way to make living (they can as well make a leaving). If they are really serious about ethics, they should work to plant more trees in England or Germany. I hope they read the above story.

10:21 PM  

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