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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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Friday, February 02, 2007

Science at the African Union summit

Earlier we reported on some of the challenges faced by the African Union, which convened in Addis Ababa last week for its 8th summit, and in particular on which steps it would take towards the long-awaited creation of an integrated and sustainable science and technology infrastructure for the continent. Such an Africa-wide investment in science would greatly stimulate and support the development of a viable bioenergy industry (earlier post).

Ehsan Masood tracked developments at the AU summit for Nature's news blog. He reports that the scientists and policy makers at the meeting ended up with a result better than they might have expected.

According to the AU’s commissioner for science, Nagia Essayed, summiteers agreed on the following initiatives:
  • to move ahead with a merger of the two intellectual-property organizations that separately serve Anglophone and Francophone countries in the AU. The new organization will be called the Pan African Intellectual Property Organization. Setting this up is likely to prove complicated in practice, but doing so is necessary for an Africa-wide consensus on IP, which is independent of the politics of France and Britain.
  • agreement on a 20-year capacity-building strategy for biotechnology that rests heavily not only on national and regional initiatives, but also on active engagement from SMEs and social entrepreneurs
  • new diplomatic-style passports for scientists that will allow them to travel throughout the continent without visa restrictions.
Less certain at this stage is the verdict on a planned new strategy for biosafety, which had financial backing from Germany. The biosafety strategy (if implemented) will have AU countries enforce the world’s toughest biosafety regulatory regime, which will go beyond the regulations of the UN Cartagena Protocol.

No common science fund
Most importantly perhaps, as David Dickson at SciDev reports, AU heads of states failed to agree on details of a new and widely anticipated African Science and Innovation Fund. He tracks the reasons behind this failure:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Almost thirty years ago, African leaders meeting in the Nigerian city of Lagos promised "to put science and technology in the service of development by reinforcing the autonomous capacity of our countries in this field". Central to this strategy was a pledge that each country would devote one per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to supporting research and development (R&D).

This week a virtually identical promise was made by the heads of member countries of the African Union (AU) at their 8th summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting heard a series of speeches about the importance of scientific and technological capacity to development — and again finished with a vow to spend one per cent of GDP on R&D.

For president Paul Kagame of Rwanda, one of the most persuasive spokesmen for this strategy, there was at least one positive aspect to watching history repeat itself. The repeat of the Lagos commitment, he said, showed that African leaders and policymakers had "got it right" in 1980.

But, as Kagame himself admitted, Africa has suffered too often from a gap between intentions and reality. If the continent is to create its own scientific and technological revolution, fine words from the top must be complemented by sustainable change implemented from the bottom.

Plans for a new council of heads of state to oversee AU decisions in science and technology didn't find agreement either.

More information:
SciDev: Africa's scientific revolution must start at the roots, Feb. 1, 2007.
SciDev: AU endorses biotechnology plan, but not science fund, Jan 30, 2007.
Nature News Blog: AU summit: a good night for science - Jan. 31, 2007.

Article continues

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: climate change 'very likely' caused by humans

After intense reviews of the final text, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which convened in Paris, released its long awaited first volume of the Climate Change 2007 report, also known as the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

This first part, The Physical Science Basis, produced by Working Group I of the IPCC, calls global warming 'unequivocal', with most of the observed increases in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century being 'very likely' due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations caused by anthropogenic emissions. The term 'very likely' indicates that expert judgement considers that (the causes of) an observed outcome can be pinpointed correctly with a probability greater than 90%. Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates will cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate that will also 'very likely' be larger than those observed during the 20th century. In the IPCC's previous, Third Assessment Report 2001 (TAR), the role of anthropogenic emissions was merely deemed the 'likely' cause of global warming — a term indicating a probability greater than 66%.

The entire Climate Change 2007 report is written by diferent working groups and will comprise three main volumes:
  • Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis (Release 2 February 2007)
  • Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Acceptance and approval 2-5 April 2007)
  • Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change (Acceptance and approval 30 April - 3 May 2007)
  • A short 30-page synthesis report
Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis assesses the current scientific knowledge of the natural and human drivers of climate change, observed changes in climate, the ability of science to attribute changes to different causes, and projections for future climate change. Scientific progress since the Third Assessment Report is based upon large amounts of new and more comprehensive data, more sophisticated analyses of data, improvements in understanding of processes and their simulation in models, and more extensive exploration of uncertainty ranges.

The document released today is the Summary [*.pdf] of that work, which includes the following findings and projections based on different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The IPCC uses the following terminology to indicate the probability of the occurrence of a result, an outcome, a cause, an event or a projection thereof:
virtually certain - more than 99%
extremely likely - more than 95%
very likely - more than 90%
likely - more than 60%
more likely than not - more than 50%
unlikely - less than 33%
very unlikely - less than 10%
extremely unlikely - less than 5%


Changes in the atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases and aerosols, in solar radiation and in land surface properties alter the energy balance of the climate system. These changes are expressed in terms of radiative forcing, which is used to compare how a range of human and natural factors drive warming or cooling influences on global climate. Since the Third Assessment Report (TAR), new observations and related modelling of greenhouse gases, solar activity, land surface properties and some aspects of aerosols have led to improvements in the quantitative estimates of radiative forcing.

Greenhouse gas emissions
Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land-use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture.

FIGURE SPM-1 (click to enlarge). Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over the last 10,000 years (large panels) and since 1750 (inset panels). Measurements are shown from ice cores (symbols with different colours for different studies) and atmospheric samples (red lines). The corresponding radiative forcings are shown on the right hand axes of the large panels.

Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas. The global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to 379 ppm3 in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores. The annual carbon dioxide concentration growth-rate was larger during the last 10 years (1995 – 2005 average: 1.9 ppm per year), than it has been since the beginning of continuous direct atmospheric measurements (1960–2005 average: 1.4 ppm per year) although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates.

The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. Annual fossil carbon dioxide emissions increased from an average of 6.4 [6.0 to 6.8] 5 GtC, (23.5 [22.0 to 25.0] GtCO2) per year in the 1990s, to 7.2 [6.9 to 7.5] GtC (26.4 [25.3 to 27.5] GtCO2) per year in 2000–2005 (2004 and 2005 data are interim estimates). Carbon dioxide emissions associated with land-use change are estimated to be 1.6 [0.5 to 2.7] GtC (5.9 [1.8 to 9.9] GtCO2) per year over the 1990s, although these estimates have a large uncertainty. {2.3, 7.3}

The global atmospheric concentration of methane has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 715 ppb to 1732 ppb in the early 1990s, and is 1774 ppb in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of methane in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range of the last 650,000 years (320 to 790 ppb) as determined from ice cores. Growth rates have declined since the early 1990s, consistent with total emissions (sum of anthropogenic and natural sources) being nearly constant during this period. It is very likely that the observed increase in methane concentration is due to anthropogenic activities, predominantly agriculture and fossil fuel use, but relative contributions from different source types are not well determined.

Nitrous oxide
The global atmospheric nitrous oxide concentration increased from a pre-industrial value of about 270 ppb to 319 ppb in 2005. The growth rate has been approximately constant since 1980. More than a third of all nitrous oxide emissions are anthropogenic and are primarily due to agriculture.

FIGURE SPM-2 (click to enlarge). Global-average radiative forcing (RF) estimates and ranges in 2005 for anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other important agents and mechanisms, together with the typical geographical extent (spatial scale) of the forcing and the assessed level of scientific understanding (LOSU). The net anthropogenic radiative forcing and its range are also shown. These require summing asymmetric uncertainty estimates from the component terms, and cannot be obtained by simple addition. Additional forcing factors not included here are considered to have a very low LOSU. Volcanic aerosols contribute an additional natural forcing but are not included in this figure due to their episodic nature. Range for linear contrails does not include other possible effects of aviation on cloudiness.

Warming of the climate system
The understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the Third Assessment Report (TAR), leading to very high confidence that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W m-2.

Effect of greenhouse gas emissions
The combined radiative forcing due to increases in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is +2.30 [+2.07 to +2.53] W m-2, and its rate of increase during the industrial era is very likely to have been unprecedented in more than 10,000 years. The carbon dioxide radiative forcing increased by 20% from 1995 to 2005, the largest change for any decade in at least the last 200 years.

Effect of anthropogenic aerosols
Anthropogenic contributions to aerosols (primarily sulphate, organic carbon, black carbon, nitrate and dust) together produce a cooling effect, with a total direct radiative forcing of -0.5 [-0.9 to -0.1] W m-2 and an indirect cloud albedo forcing of -0.7 [-1.8 to -0.3] W m-2. These forcings are now better understood than at the time of the TAR due to improved in situ, satellite and ground-based measurements and more comprehensive modelling, but remain the dominant uncertainty in radiative forcing. Aerosols also influence cloud lifetime and precipitation.

Effect of other antropogenic sources
Significant anthropogenic contributions to radiative forcing come from several other sources. Tropospheric ozone changes due to emissions of ozone-forming chemicals (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons) contribute +0.35 [+0.25 to +0.65] W m-2. The direct radiative forcing due to changes in halocarbons is +0.34 [+0.31 to +0.37] W m-2. Changes in surface albedo, due to land-cover changes and deposition of black carbon aerosols on snow, exert respective forcings of -0.2 [-0.4 to 0.0] and +0.1 [0.0 to +0.2] W m-2.

Effect of changes in solar irradiance
Changes in solar irradiance since 1750 are estimated to cause a radiative forcing of +0.12 [+0.06 to +0.30] W m-2, which is less than half the estimate given in the TAR.


Since the TAR, progress in understanding how climate is changing in space and in time has been gained through improvements and extensions of numerous datasets and data analyses, broader geographical coverage, better understanding of uncertainties, and a wider variety of measurements. Increasingly comprehensive observations are available for glaciers and snow cover since the 1960s, and for sea level and ice sheets since about the past decade. However, data coverage remains limited in some regions.

Warming of the climate system
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.

Surface temperatures
Eleven of the last twelve years (1995 -2006) rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850). The updated 100-year linear trend (1906–2005) of 0.74 [0.56 to 0.92]°C is therefore larger than the corresponding trend for 1901-2000 given in the TAR of 0.6 [0.4 to 0.8]°C. The linear warming trend over the last 50 years (0.13 [0.10 to 0.16]°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years. The total temperature increase from 1850 – 1899 to 2001 – 2005 is 0.76 [0.57 to 0.95]°C. Urban heat island effects are real but local, and have a negligible influence (less than 0.006°C per decade over land and zero over the oceans) on these values.

Atmospheric temperatures
New analyses of balloon-borne and satellite measurements of lower- and mid-tropospheric temperature show warming rates that are similar to those of the surface temperature record and are consistent within their respective uncertainties, largely reconciling a discrepancy noted in the TAR.

Atmospheric water vapor
The average atmospheric water vapour content has increased since at least the 1980s over land and ocean as well as in the upper troposphere. The increase is broadly consistent with the extra water vapour that warmer air can hold.

Ocean temperatures
Observations since 1961 show that the average temperature of the global ocean has increased to depths of at least 3000 m and that the ocean has been absorbing more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system. Such warming causes seawater to expand, contributing to sea level rise.

Glaciers and snow cover
Mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined on average in both hemispheres. Widespread decreases in glaciers and ice caps have contributed to sea level rise (ice caps do not include contributions from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets).

Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets
New data since the TAR now show that losses from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have very likely contributed to sea level rise over 1993 to 2003. Flow speed has increased for some Greenland and Antarctic outlet glaciers, which drain ice from the interior of the ice sheets. The corresponding increased ice sheet mass loss has often followed thinning, reduction or loss of ice shelves or loss of floating glacier tongues. Such dynamical ice loss is sufficient to explain most of the Antarctic net mass loss and approximately half of the Greenland net mass loss. The remainder of the ice loss from Greenland has occurred because losses due to melting have exceeded accumulation due to snowfall.

Sea levels
Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003, about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear. There is high confidence that the rate of observed sea level rise increased from the 19th to the 20th century. The total 20th century rise is estimated to be 0.17 [0.12 to 0.22] m.

Observations of climate contributions to sea level rise
For 1993-2003, the sum of the climate contributions is consistent within uncertainties with the total sea level rise that is directly observed. These estimates are based on improved satellite and in-situ data now available. For the period of 1961 to 2003, the sum of climate contributions is estimated to be smaller than the observed sea level rise. The TAR reported a similar discrepancy for 1910 to 1990.

Other long-term changes in climate
At continental, regional, and ocean basin scales, numerous long-term changes in climate have been observed. These include changes in Arctic temperatures and ice, widespread changes in precipitation amounts, ocean salinity, wind patterns and aspects of extreme weather including droughts, heavy precipitation, heat waves and the intensity of tropical cyclones. Some aspects of climate have not been observed to change.

Arctic temperatures
Average Arctic temperatures increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years. Arctic temperatures have high decadal variability, and a warm period was also observed from 1925 to 1945.

Arctic sea ice extent
Satellite data since 1978 show that annual average Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk by 2.7 [2.1 to 3.3]% per decade, with larger decreases in summer of 7.4 [5.0 to 9.8]% per decade. These values are consistent with those reported in the TAR.

Temperatures at the top of the permafrost layer have generally increased since the 1980s in the Arctic (by up to 3°C). The maximum area covered by seasonally frozen ground has decreased by about 7% in the Northern Hemisphere since 1900, with a decrease in spring of up to 15%.

Changes in precipitation
Long-term trends from 1900 to 2005 have been observed in precipitation amount over many large regions. Significantly increased precipitation has been observed in eastern parts of North and South America, northern Europe and northern and central Asia. Drying has been observed in the Sahel, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia. Precipitation is highly variable spatially and temporally, and data are limited in some regions. Long-term trends have not been observed for the other large regions assessed.

Precipitation over oceans
Changes in precipitation and evaporation over the oceans are suggested by freshening of mid and high latitude waters together with increased salinity in low latitude waters.

Mid-latitude westerlies
Mid-latitude westerly winds have strengthened in both hemispheres since the 1960s.

More intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s, particularly in the tropics and subtropics. Increased drying linked with higher temperatures and decreased precipitation have contributed to changes in drought. Changes in sea surface temperatures (SST), wind patterns, and decreased snowpack and snow cover have also been linked to droughts.

Heavy precipitation events
The frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most land areas, consistent with warming and observed increases of atmospheric water vapour.

Extreme temperatures
Widespread changes in extreme temperatures have been observed over the last 50 years. Cold days, cold nights and frost have become less frequent, while hot days, hot nights, and heat waves have become more frequent.

Tropical cyclones
There is observational evidence for an increase of intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970, correlated with increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There are also suggestions of increased intense tropical cyclone activity in some other regions where concerns over data quality are greater. Multi-decadal variability and the quality of the tropical cyclone records prior to routine satellite observations in about 1970 complicate the detection of long-term trends in tropical cyclone activity. There is no clear trend in the annual numbers of tropical cyclones.


A major advance of this assessment of climate change projections compared with the TAR is the large number of simulations available from a broader range of models. Taken together with additional information from observations, these provide a quantitative basis for estimating likelihoods for many aspects of future climate change. Model simulations cover a range of possible futures including idealised emission or concentration assumptions. These include SRES illustrative marker scenarios for the 2000–2100 period and model experiments with greenhouse gases and aerosol concentrations held constant after year 2000 or 2100.
The Emission Scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES)

A1. The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B) (where balanced is defined as not relying too heavily on one particular energy source, on the assumption that similar improvement rates apply to all energy supply and end use technologies).

A2. The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.

B1. The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.

B2. The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels.

An illustrative scenario was chosen for each of the six scenario groups A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1 and B2. All should be considered equally sound.

The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol.

Warming over the next two decades
For the next two decades a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected.

Since IPCC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested global averaged temperature increases between about 0.15 and 0.3°C per decade for 1990 to 2005. This can now be compared with observed values of about 0.2°C per decade, strengthening confidence in near-term projections.

Model experiments show that even if all radiative forcing agents are held constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming trend would occur in the next two decades at a rate of about 0.1°C per decade, due mainly to the slow response of the oceans. About twice as much warming (0.2°C per decade) would be expected if emissions are within the range of the SRES scenarios. Best-estimate projections from models indicate that decadal-average warming over each inhabited continent by 2030 is insensitive to the choice among SRES scenarios and is very likely to be at least twice as large as the corresponding model-estimated natural variability during the 20th century.

Effects of continued GHG emissions during the 21st century
Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.

Advances in climate change modelling now enable best estimates and likely assessed uncertainty ranges to be given for projected warming for different emission scenarios. Results for different emission scenarios are provided explicitly in this report to avoid loss of this policy-relevant information. Projected globally averaged surface warmings for the end of the 21st century (2090–2099) relative to 1980–1999 are shown in Table SPM-2 (click to enlarge). These illustrate the differences between lower to higher SRES emission scenarios and the projected warming uncertainty associated with these scenarios.

Best estimates and likely ranges for globally average surface air warming for six SRES emissions marker scenarios are given in this assessment and are shown in Table SPM-2. For example, the best estimate for the low scenario (B1) is 1.8°C (likely range is 1.1°C to 2.9°C), and the best estimate for the high scenario (A1FI) is 4.0°C (likely range is 2.4°C to 6.4°C). Although these projections are broadly consistent with the span quoted in the TAR (1.4 to 5.8°C), they are not directly comparable. The AR4 is more advanced as it provides best estimates and an assessed likelihood range for each of the marker scenarios.

The new assessment of the likely ranges now relies on a larger number of climate models of increasing complexity and realism, as well as new information regarding the nature of feedbacks from the carbon cycle and constraints on climate response from observations.

Warming tends to reduce land and ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing the fraction of anthropogenic emissions that remains in the atmosphere. For the A2 scenario, for example, the climate carbon cycle feedback increases the corresponding global average warming at 2100 by more than 1°C. Assessed upper ranges for temperature projections are larger than in the TAR (see Table SPM-2) mainly because the broader range of models now available suggests stronger climate-carbon cyclefeed backs.

Model-based projections of global average sea level rise at the end of the 21st century (2090-2099) are shown in Table SPM-2. For each scenario, the midpoint of the range in Table SPM-2 is within 10% of the TAR model average for 2090-2099. The ranges are narrower than in the TAR mainly because of improved information about some uncertainties in the projected contributions.

Models used to date do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedback nor do they include the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow, because a basis in published literature is lacking. The projections include a contribution due to increased ice flow from Greenland and Antarctica at the rates observed for 1993-2003, but these flow rates could increase or decrease in the future. For example, if this contribution were to grow linearly with global average temperature change, the upper ranges of sea level rise for SRES scenarios shown in Table SPM-2 would increase by 0.1 m to 0.2 m. Larger values cannot be excluded, but understanding of these effects is too limited to assess their likelihood or provide a best estimate or an upper
bound for sea level rise.

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to increasing acidification of the ocean. Projections based on SRES scenarios give reductions in average global surface ocean pH17 of between 0.14 and 0.35 units over the 21st century, adding to the present decrease of 0.1 units since pre-industrial times.

There is now higher confidence in projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including changes in wind patterns, precipitation, and some aspects of extremes and of ice.

Projected warming in the 21st century shows scenario-independent geographical patterns similar to those observed over the past several decades. Warming is expected to be greatest over land and at most high northern latitudes, and least over the Southern Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic ocean (see Figure SPM-5).

FIGURE SPM-5 (click to enlarge). Projected surface temperature changes for the early and late 21st century relative to the period 1980–1999. The central and right panels show the Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation multi-Model average projections for the B1 (top), A1B (middle) and A2 (bottom) SRES scenarios averaged over decades 2020–2029 (center) and 2090–2099 (right). The left panel shows corresponding uncertainties as the relative probabilities of estimated global average warming from several different AOGCM and EMICs studies for the same periods. Some studies present results only for a subset of the SRES scenarios, or for various model versions. Therefore the difference in the number of curves, shown in the left-hand panels, is due only to differences in the availability of results.

Snow cover is projected to contract. Widespread increases in thaw depth are projected over most permafrost regions.

Sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic under all SRES scenarios. In some projections, Arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century.

It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.

Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical SSTs. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones. The apparent increase in the proportion of very intense storms since 1970 in some regions is much larger than simulated by current models for that period.

Extra-tropical storm tracks are projected to move poleward, with consequent changes in wind, precipitation, and temperature patterns, continuing the broad pattern of observed trends over the last half-century.

Since the TAR there is an improving understanding of projected patterns of precipitation. Increases in the amount of precipitation are very likely in high-latitudes, while decreases are likely in most subtropical land regions (by as much as about 20% in the A1B scenario in 2100, see Figure SPM-6), continuing observed patterns in recent trends.

Based on current model simulations, it is very likely that the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of the Atlantic Ocean will slow down during the 21st century. The multi-model average reduction by 2100 is 25% (range from zero to about 50%) for SRES emission scenario A1B. Temperatures in the Atlantic region are projected to increase despite such changes due to the much larger warming associated with projected increases of greenhouse gases. It is very unlikely that the MOC will undergo a large abrupt transition during the 21st century. Longer-term changes in the MOC cannot be assessed with confidence.

Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized.

Climate-carbon cycle coupling is expected to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as the climate system warms, but the magnitude of this feedback is uncertain. This increases the uncertainty in the trajectory of carbon dioxide emissions required to achieve a particular stabilisation level of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Based on current understanding of climate carbon cycle feedback, model studies suggest that to stabilise at 450 ppm carbon dioxide, could require that cumulative emissions over the 21st century be reduced from an average of approximately 670 [630 to 710] GtC to approximately 490 [375 to 600] GtC. Similarly, to stabilise at 1000 ppm this feedback could require that cumulative emissions be reduced from a model average of approximately 1415 [1340 to 1490] GtC to approximately 1100 [980 to 1250] GtC.

If radiative forcing were to be stabilized in 2100 at B1 or A1B levels a further increase in global mean temperature of about 0.5°C would still be expected, mostly by 2200.

If radiative forcing were to be stabilized in 2100 at A1B levels11, thermal expansion alone would lead to 0.3 to 0.8 m of sea level rise by 2300 (relative to 1980–1999). Thermal expansion would continue for many centuries, due to the time required to transport heat into the deep ocean.

Contraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100. Current models suggest ice mass losses increase with temperature more rapidly than gains due to precipitation and that the surface mass balance becomes negative at a global average warming (relative to pre-industrial values) in excess of 1.9 to 4.6°C. If a negative surface mass balance were sustained for millennia, that would lead to virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m. The corresponding future temperatures in Greenland are comparable to those inferred for the last interglacial period 125,000 years ago, when paleoclimatic information suggests reductions of polar land ice extent and 4 to 6 m of sea level rise.

Dynamical processes related to ice flow not included in current models but suggested by recent observations could increase the vulnerability of the ice sheets to warming, increasing future sea level rise. Understanding of these processes is limited and there is no consensus on their magnitude.

Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall. However, net loss of ice mass could occur if dynamical ice discharge dominates the ice sheet mass balance.

Both past and future anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions will continue to contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the timescales required for removal of this gas from the atmosphere.

Working Group I
The report was produced by Working Group I which consists of some 600 authors from 40 countries. More than 620 expert reviewers and a large number of government reviewers also participated. Approximately 300 delegates from 113 countries reviewed and revised the Summary line-by-line during the course of this past week in Paris, before adopting it and accepting the underlying report. Acceptance is through consensus; the implications is that whatever is accepted and approved has the acceptance of all the participating governments.

More information:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers. [*.pdf] - Paris, Feb. 2, 2007.

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Don't blame Mexican tortilla crisis on biofuels, blame subsidized corn instead

Quicknote bioenergy economics
We have received some sharp questions from readers on why we do not report on Mexico's widely covered 'tortilla crisis'. Don't these protests prove that there is a growing conflict between food and fuel? We don't think so. The questions stem from the unnuanced way in which mainstream media report on biofuels. The price increases of tortillas in Mexico are not due to biofuels as such, they are entirely due to the fact that corn and corn ethanol are extremely heavily subsidised in the U.S. and protected against foreign competition by high tariffs (earlier post). Biofuels and U.S. corn ethanol are two entirely different things.

Thousands of Mexican farmers used to grow corn, but in 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed their death warrant. From then on, Mexico started importing cheap, subsidized corn from the U.S., where farmers receive billions each year under hundreds of support schemes. Mexico became entirely dependent on these imports, and disinvested its domestic corn production. When today, heavily subsidized U.S. farmers sell their crop as a feedstock for ethanol - which in turn is once again subsidized - then the consequences are obvious: shortages lead to price increases, and consumers in countries forced into dependence suffer. Many Mexican farmers have meanwhile quickly taken up growing corn to profit from the increased prices, but this will not solve the problem.

So let us stress this again: don't blame biofuels for the tortilla crisis, be more nuanced and explicitly blame subsidized corn, subsidized corn ethanol (which does not deserve the 'biofuel' label), the US$0.54 tariff on ethanol imported from the South, and a free trade agreement detrimental to Mexico.

Tortilla crisis proves why U.S. should import fuels from the South
We would even go so far as to say that the tortilla protests entirely prove the case we are trying to promote at the Biopact: if the U.S. were to give up producing its inefficient, uncompetitive and climate unfriendly corn ethanol which distorts markets, and instead started importing sustainable, competitive, low-cost and highly efficient fuels from the South where they do not compete with food, then it could sell its corn at normal prices and as food, to the markets it signed its NAFTA agreement with. Turning American corn into fuel is a bad idea, under all circumstances. As the chief of the International Energy Agency recently said: if the U.S. wants to take biofuels seriously, it should import them from the South, instead of turning a crop into a fuel that makes no sense from neither an economic nor an environmental, let alone an energetic point of view (earlier post).

It is up to American taxpayers to decide whether they wish to continue wasting their money on the American corn lobby, which the Washington Post has now started calling "Very, Very Big Corn" because of the tortilla crisis. The food protests in Mexico are the consequence of this choice. Sadly, as a small organisation, we do not have the power to influence the way mainstream media report on biofuels. We regret the fact that some of them do not distinguish between corn ethanol on the one hand, and biofuels on the other. The difference is however crucial [entry ends here].
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South African company to produce biomass pellets for exports to Europe

The Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, has announced it has secured 70 million Rand (€7.5/US$9.75 million) to invest in a biomass pellet production project. Eastern Cape Biomass Fuel Pellets will create some 100 jobs during the construction of the plant, which is currently underway, and an additional 3000 jobs for poor rural communities who will help supply the biomass. The company's aim is to supply 10000MT per month of the biofuel pellets to European countries including Scandinavian countries who already have a large domestic forest and wood products industry.

A total of 285 plants globally produce a combined four million tons of biomass pellets per year that are burned either in large power stations in combination with coal, separately in often smaller but more efficient combined heat-and-power plants or in small stoves by individual consumers. The plant in South Africa will be the largest among 285 manufacturers of the renewable fuel product globally. The 120 000 tons per year it aims to produce, are equivalent to roughly 50,000 tons or 350,000 barrels of oil.

Global bioenergy trade
According to a recent EuroBarometer, the use of solid biofuels for power and heat generation is rising rapidly in the EU, with a total consumption of 58.7 million tons of oil equivalent in 2005, a marked increase over previous years (earlier post).

The fact that Eastern Cape Biomass Fuel Pellets will export the fuels over such a long distance, proves the viability of a scenario we have been describing here at the Biopact: that of a large-scale, global trade in bioenergy products, whereby the South profits from its competitive advantages to produce biofuels. Such large-scale bioenergy trade is feasible and can tap into a huge energy potential (earlier post), but most key players in this new industry agree that there is a need for clear sustainability criteria (earlier post). Europe is already building logistical infrastructures to accomodate this new market (earlier post):
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CEO Willie Claassen said 60 direct jobs and about 3 000 indirect jobs “in backward linkages to the Eastern Cape rural areas will be created”. “We are dealing extensively with Amathole District Municipality to secure services for the conversion of raw material, Wild wattle for use in industrial operation,” said Claassen.

The plant will produce biofuel pellets from a diversity of biomass sources:
  • forest residues, sawmill waste, and alien vegetation from the Eastern Cape and part of the Southern Cape
  • scrap wood from the government Working For Water Programme
  • an alien species of tree, called the 'wild wattle', which is usually found in waterways and used by the biofuel industry to make fuel pellets
Claasen said that about 3 000 rural dwellers will supply the industry with the wattle.

Enviro Freight Service, will employ 40 people to move the material between the sources of supply, the factory and the harbour. “Biomass Fuel Pellets has already secured off-take agreements with the Nordic countries to where the product will be transported,” said Claassen.

Production is scheduled to start in July this year with the first export expected in October. The Coega IDZ was chosen as the location for the plant because of the coastal position and the fact that the Eastern Cape is a source of the raw materials that are used to produce the pellets.

Shared ownership by the poor
‘The aspect of creating jobs where they are most needed and the opportunity to design and build a plant from scratch without the constraints of legacy also counted in favour of the Coega IDZ,” said Claassen.

The Eastern Cape Bio Fuel Pellets has set aside 5% of the ownership of its workers and another 5% for rural communities that will provide raw materials. The Industrial development Corporation (IDC) has 10% equity with 30% still under negotiation with black economic empowerment partnership.

Spokesperson for the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) Vuyelwa Qinga-Vika said it was on the right track and would achieve its target of signing 10 investors within the current financial year. She said the Biomass project was the fourth investor to be announced by the CDC after Cerebos, Dynamic Commodities, and Alcan in 2006.

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BP selects Berkeley and partners for US$500 million energy biosciences institute

BP announced it has selected the University of California Berkeley and its partners the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to join in a €383/US$500 million research program (earlier post) that will explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.

When it released its BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006 last year, BP announced that it was going to establish an Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) in the U.S. and that it was looking for research consortia to join the effort. Most major American universities filed proposals (earlier post, and overview of UC Berkeley's plan). The EBI will perform ground-breaking research aimed at the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels for road transport. The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs, and carbon sequestration.
“The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering ‘Big Science’ – large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world. This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of Energy Biosciences. The Institute will be unique in both its scale and its partnership between BP, academia and others in the private sector.” - BP Group Chief Executive John Browne.
Dedicated facilities on the campuses of UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois will house EBI research laboratories and staff. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will carry out supporting research. Up to 50 BP staff located on the two campuses will work in partnership with university faculty and researchers. BP and its partners will share governance of the EBI and guidance of its research programs:
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The Institute will be a fully integrated public and private sector effort requiring specific characteristics in its work:
  • The research must be broad in scope across the entire value chain. Experience has shown that optimizing independent elements sub-optimizes the entire system.
  • The research must be inter-disciplinary. Novel findings will likely lie at the interfaces of two or even three discreet disciplines, and these capabilities must be fully integrated in the program.
  • The research must be mission-oriented with well defined plans, targets, and flexibility in approach to lead to rapid demonstration projects and timely commercialization.

BP has already established a biofuels business within its Refining & Marketing Business. The company blended and distributed 590 million gallons of ethanol and 70 million gallons of biodiesel in 2005.
In 2006, BP blended 718 million gallons of ethanol with gasoline—a 25 percent increase from the previous year. With the blending and marketing of these products, along with other refined products, BP accounts for about 10% of the global biofuels market.

More information:
BP Biofuels website
Media release at the University of California Berkeley.
Overview of UC Berkeley's proposal submitted to BP

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Karnataka bus fleet to use ethanol-diesel blend

The Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) of the State of Karnataka in India has recently announced that it is switching the first 2,500 buses of its 5,162 bus fleet to O2Diesel, an ethanol blended diesel fuel comprised of 7.7% of renewable ethanol and 0.5% of a proprietary fuel additive technology developed by O2Diesel. The cleaner burning fuel is marketed in India by the company's exclusive distributor for the region, Energenics, as 'Enerdiesel powered by O2Diesel'.

It is planned that the remaining 2,662 buses of the fleet will be added by the fourth quarter of 2007 bringing the total to 5,162. This will represent the largest ethanol diesel fleet in the world, using approximately 120,000,000 liters of O2Diesel per annum.
"Energenics has already committed substantial resources and has worked with all parties involved, including O2Diesel, to develop the ideal implementation model that will support this level of expansion for O2Diesel in the region. The market is just developing, but I am confident that Energenics' recent orders for 83,000 liters of our proprietary additive is only the beginning of a successful partnership in this region." - Alan Rae, CEO of O2Diesel Corporation.
All three components of the fuel, the ethanol, O2Diesel additive and local diesel fuel, are blended at the dispensing pump directly into the bus. This procedure was first used by O2Diesel in Brazil in 2004 but has been completely re-engineered by Energenics and its partners into a cost effective, fully automated, state-of-the-art computerized injection blending unit that ensures an extremely high level of quality control and real time remote monitoring. The blending unit enables the existing pump to deliver both Enerdiesel and regular diesel, if required. Delivering the solution in this manner ensures protection from contaminants in the diesel storage tank and also enables complete independence from fuel blenders and oil companies:
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Alan Rae commented further, "This method of delivery removes a huge obstacle that has faced the introduction of all new bio fuels; How do you achieve independence from the high cost of using existing fuel delivery infrastructure? We are already working with Energenics to adapt the blending unit for use in all our markets."

Ronen Hazarika, Managing Director of Energenics, added "I'm elated that we're now in the process of converting successful trials into fully commercial fleet customers. It has been possible to do this quickly due to the excellent performance of the fuel in the field and the substantial technical and commercial verification that exists. Also, the professionalism of the management & technical staff of KSRTC has been world class. We are working hard to use the success of this experience to establish similar fleet customers in India and other Asia Pacific territories."

According to Hazarika, the company is in discussion with the other state fleets in Karnataka and aims to convert as much of the state used 400,000,000 litres of diesel to 'Enerdiesel powered by O2Diesel' as soon as practically possible during 2007. It hopes to have converted some of the depots belonging to the other 3 state transport corporations in Karnataka by the 2nd quarter of 2007. In addition, the company says it is already in advanced negotiations with several other States in India who have shown substantial interest in a similar conversion based on the success of the program in Bangalore.

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Indonesia's biofuels strategy, a balancing act

Indonesia's push for biofuels illustrates some of the contradictions between economic growth and 'sustainable development'. The country aims to set aside 5 million hectares of land for biofuel production, which is expected to bring 3 to 4 million badly needed jobs to the rural poor.

The BBC offers an example of how biofuel production in Indonesia contributes to poverty alleviation, in a very straightforward way:
Life is a lot sweeter for Mangat Nuan these days. "This used to be my land," he said, waving an arm at the rows of oil palms. "But I rented it to a plantation company a little while ago. It was a good price - all the landowners round here did the same."

Mangat's plot in central Kalimantan now forms part of a new oil palm plantation, which covers 15,000 hectares of land, some of it former forest, according to a local NGO. The arrival of the plantation may have changed the landscape, but Mangat says it has also changed the lives of the people who live here.

"Life before was difficult," he said. "I couldn't even feed my family, not to mention send my kids to school. After the plantation took over, more people came and suddenly we had roads and schools. We've also opened a small shop, so it's improved our income significantly."
Clearly, the biofuels opportunity is enormous: it can bring rural development, poverty alleviation, and reduce the stark social inequalities which are so typical for the country. As Alhilal Hamdi, head of Indonesia's new Biofuels Development Board, says, global demand for alternative fuels is growing rapidly, and now is the time for his country to tap into it. This is of course entirely legitimate: developing countries have the obvious right to pursue economic growth and prosperity, without being dictated by the West how to develop.

Rich countries often focus one-sidedly on the environmental consequences of this growth - an equally legitimate exercise, albeit a less straightforward one. After all, it is precisely the West which has benefitted from destroying its own environment long ago in its push for industrialisation and modernisation. What's more, it not only destroyed its own environment, it colonized three quarters of the planet's people, to destroy theirs and to profit from their natural resources. This past should not be forgotten; its traces continue to fuel the debate on global economic justice. Europeans' and Americans' wealth is largely based on the very unsustainable development paradigm they now want others to abandon.

But ironically, this simplistic, progressivist ideology of 'economic growth' has become so pervasive and universal, that developing countries are now using it in its most basic form to negotiate with the powerful on matters regarding the environment.

Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia's Environment Minister, shows how this simple but hard logic works when he repeated a proposal put forward by developing countries to halt deforestation. Speaking to Reuters, he distributed responsibilities in the most appropriate and pragmatic way: if rich countries want developing nations to preserve their forests, they should not talk about it, they should pay for it. This crude but effective discursive position means that it is up to the North to decide whether rainforests in the tropics are worth protecting. This strategy - called 'compensated reduction' (earlier post) - is based on economic realism, not on environmentalist idealism. Witoelar:
"Preserving our forests means we can't exploit them for our economic benefits. We can't build roads or mines [or grow oil palms]. But we make an important contribution to the world by providing oxygen. Therefore countries like Indonesia and Brazil should be compensated by developed countries for preserving their resources."
The proposal will be tabled at a U.N. conference on climate change to be held in the Indonesian resort island of Bali in December. But Witoelar added that "any change must benefit developing countries. This will be a discussion with developing countries and rich countries having divergent interests."

Philosophical or theoretical discussions about the fact that there doesn't necessarily have to be a conflict between economic development (in the South) and sustainability (as desired by the West) will not change the terms of this rather simple debate. What's more, such calls for unnecessary nuance often camouflage a lack of courage to recognize the stark realities of poverty in the developing world, resulting from a particular economic world order, and its effect on the use of natural resources. :
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If poor farmers like Mangat Nuan can increase their incomes substantially by razing down a plot of forest and by planting oil palms, or by leasing their land to biofuel companies who offer high prices today and who sell fuels to the West, then they will do so. It is that simple. And who are we to blame them? We buy their products every single day, we exploited their natural resources in the past, and we introduced an unsustainable ideology of modernity into their society which they fully embrace - in a more honest and less hypocritical way perhaps than we do. If we don't like what they're doing, we should compensate these farmers.

The words of Joan Martinez-Allier, environmental economist and author of The Environmentalism of the Poor, come to mind here. When complex development issues are reduced to their bare essence, one must conclude that:
"we obviously can't be against economic growth if it brings prosperity to the poor. From which authority do wealthy countries think to derive the right to dictate the poor how to use their natural resources, how much CO2 they can emit, what to do with their forests, which land-use patterns they should promote or even whether they should be allowed to use nuclear energy? [...]

It is the wealthy countries who should ask themselves some hard questions, not the poor countries. The industrialised world must ask whether it needs to consume more energy and more natural resources. The wealthy countries must ask themselves whether they haven't achieved enough growth. Not the poor countries. If there is any group of people on this planet entitled to use the model of 'economic growth' for its development, then it is the poor in the developing world. Perhaps it is the only group." [Translated from a Dutch interview, see reference below.]
NGOs, environmentalists and conservationists from the West play an important role in pointing a finger at the environmental destruction that goes with development in the South. But they should go beyond their at times gratuituous campaigns ('stop killing orang utans') and seriously ask whether their approach doesn't reflect a subconscious neocolonialist, patronizing attitude. They could for example focus on how they can reduce their own societies' environmental footprints first, before denying some of the poorest in this world the opportunity to prosper. If we want to achieve the ultimate goal we're all aiming for - the preservation of unique ecosystems and the creation of a more sustainable and just economic model - we should be more frank and let the harsh economic realities faced by the poor in the South dominate our agenda.

At the Biopact, we consciously put the evident right to economic, social and political self-determination of people from the South first, and the universalist concerns of the wealthy West about the global environment last (even if the developing countries in question are promoting an economic model we have come to abhor). We understand that such a binary opposition is too simplistic, but we utilize it for purely 'pedagogic' and discursive reasons. A dose of antagonism can work wonders in a debate that is often dominated by one party.

Contrary to what it claims to be, 'global' and 'universal' environmentalism is still too often an ethnocentric affair, working directly against the immediate interests of the developing world. This is why we systematically try to 'spectralise' the one-sided view of many an environmentalist from the West by bringing the sharp realities of poverty in the South into view.

More information:

BBCNews: Indonesia's push for biofuels - Feb. 1, 2007.

Jonathan Krieckhaus, Dictating Development: How Europe Shaped the Global Periphery, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

AlertNet (Reuters): INTERVIEW-Indonesia wants countries paid to keep forests - Jan. 30, 2007.

Joan Martinez-Allier, De planeet groeit niet mee met de economie, [*Dutch], MO Magazine, February 2007 issue.

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