China‘s ambitions are high – China Daily reports. By 2020, it aims to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income of urban and rural residents both. China’s economic track record has been impressive. It now has a middle class population of more than 300 million and has experienced the fastest ever economic growth over the past 30 years. But it may not be able to maintain this momentum unless it overcomes one of its core policy challenges: water, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Economic growth is no rocket science. Abundant supply of cheap labor and energy powers a country’s industrialization. Without affordable energy, however, energy-intensive businesses are driven out of the market and many factories are unable to produce goods at competitive prices. This link between economic growth and energy – the energy-growth-nexus – is widely acknowledged. But most analysts and policymakers today ignore what really an energy industry is powered by: abundant and sustainable supply of water.
Indeed, China’s economy runs on water. Water is needed at one stage or another to generate energy. China’s industry is the second largest water consumer – it consumes 139 billion cubic meters of water a year – with only the agriculture sector consuming more. And by 2030, Chinese industry‘s water consumption is projected to increase to 265 million cubic meters.
Energy generating plants in China are the largest industrial users of water, consuming about 42 million cubic meters of water a year. Since China’s installed energy capacity is projected to double by 2020, energy producers’ share of water will continue to rise. This growing demand will not be matched by the availability of water. For example, the Water Resources Group, projects that if China carries on with business as usual, its demand for water will outstrip supply by 199 billion cubic meters.
China is running out of water, which could soon curb its growth unless immediate countermeasures are taken.
What exacerbates this shortage is the vicious circle of energy and water – if power-generating plants need water then water treatment and supply facilities need energy. The Third World Centre for Water Management estimates that the water sector consumes as much as 25 percent of the electricity generated globally. Though China’s water sector is not yet among the country’s most energy-intensive industries, it will gradually become so with new hubs of growth emerging in the water-scare western region and the increasing demand for wastewater treatment. Already, about 52 percent of China’s economic output comes from water-scarce regions.
Unfortunately, China does not have much water to begin with. It is home to almost 20 percent of the world’s population but has only 7 percent of its freshwater reserves. Water is one of its scarcest resources. And it is extremely inefficient in the use of water and a world leader in water pollution.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which meets more than 70 percent of its energy needs. The country produced 3.8 billion tons of coal in 2011 – almost half of the world’s total. Coal may be considered a cheap source of energy, but the air and water pollution caused by the mining and use of the mineral is devastating. According to Greenpeace, 2.5 tons of water is polluted for each ton of coal produced. About 25 percent of all wastewater in China comes from washing coal, and it contains large amounts of chemicals and heavy metals that are almost impossible to recycle. All this makes the true cost of coal in China as high as 1.7 trillion yuan ($272.82 billion), or about 7 percent of its GDP.
So what can the country do to combat these problems? As a first step toward tackling water pollution, China needs to rapidly reduce its reliance on coal. A more ecological alternative could be shale gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China has the world’s largest shale gas reserves – up to 36.1 trillion cubic meters . And China does want to increase its shale gas production to 6.5 billion cubic meters by 2015.
Natural gas emits 45 percent less CO2 per unit of energy produced compared to coal. And though hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to exploit shale gas, requires about 4.5 million gallons of water per well, it is equal to what a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant consumes in just 10 hours. Fracturing, nevertheless, could contaminate groundwater. No wonder, France banned hydraulic fracturing in 2011. The use of shale gas, therefore, may not result in cleaner water in China.
If China takes the water-energy-growth nexus into account, it would most certainly seek a more balanced energy mix and not focus solely on exploiting shale gas, for its planned rapid exploitation of shale gas may reduce its CO2 footprint but it will also exacerbate its water shortage.
Admittedly, Chinese policymakers are taking the water problem seriously. But water is still isolated from the country’s energy and growth policies. China aims to reduce its water intensity by 30 percent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period. It has also set new pollution-reduction targets, particularly for the agriculture sector.
The country must adopt a coordinated approach to water, which will gradually price in the external costs of shale gas or coal. Yet there is no sign of China recognizing that water has to be managed cross-sectorally. Its latest plans do say that “water is the source of life, production and ecology”, but it does not have a coordinated policy approach to manage water, energy and economic development holistically, without which it will not be able to fuel its economic growth indefinitely because it will run out of water.
Asit Biswas is distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, and founder of Third World Centre for Water Management. Julian Kirchherr is a graduate student on public policy and management at the London School of Economics (LSE) and National University of Singapore.
(China Daily 11/29/2012 page9)
- China planning ‘huge fracking industry’ (guardian.co.uk)
- You: Fixing China’s ‘drinking problem’ (edition.cnn.com)
- Video: Scarcity, Pollution and Energy – Choke Point China II (circleofblue.org)
- China facing looming water shortages (terradaily.com)
- On Xi’s to-do list: Fix China’s drinking problem (cnn.com)
- Food Supply, Fracking, and Water Scarcity Challenge China’s Juggernaut Economy (circleofblue.org)
- Water: The next challenge for China’s new leaders? (washingtonpost.com)
- No water, no power: is there enough water to fuel China’s power expansion? (journal.probeinternational.org)
Forest Call to Action : Brazilian congress adopts controversial land use law – but YOU can sign petition to help!
The Brazilian Congress has passed a catastrophic forestry bill that gives loggers and farmers free rein to cut down huge swaths of the Amazon. Now only President Dilma can stop it.
Fortunately, the timing is on our side — in weeks Dilma will host the world’s biggest environmental summit and insiders say she cannot afford to open it as the leader who approved the destruction of the rainforest. She’s facing mounting domestic pressure, with 79% of Brazilians rejecting this new bill. Now, if we join them we can turn up the global heat and push her to axe the bill, not the rainforest.
To sign the petition to ask the President to intervene – click here http://www.avaaz.org/en/veto_dilma_global/?wwf
Brazil‘s congress recently voted to ease rules mandating the amount of forest farmers must keep on their land, delivering a long-sought victory to the country’s powerful agriculture lobby and a political defeat for president Dilma Rousseff.
Though the bill will require millions of hectares of already cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists say it makes it too easy for farmers, responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon and other swaths of environmentally sensitive land in recent decades, to comply with regulations that stipulate how much forest they must preserve.
Rousseff still has the option to veto the bill, one of the most controversial to pass Brazil’s congress in recent years. The bill was supported by some of her party’s senators and members of its multi-party coalition, even though the president had previously said she would veto earlier versions of the law that contained provisions perceived as too lenient on farmers who have cleared woodlands for agriculture.
The final law, which was changed dramatically from a hard-bargained version her government was backing, will leave it to federal states to decide how much forest needs to be replaced alongside rivers, making it possible for big farming states to make only minimal demands of farmers.
“The approved bill gives a total and unrestricted amnesty to those who deforested … and goes against what the government itself had wanted,” environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement. “If [Rousseff] doesn’t react and veto this text, this future will be her legacy,” it said.
Pushing through the more lenient language the farming lobby sought was only possible through a rebellion by senators from within the government coalition.
A big enough majority in Congress could also knock down a veto by Rousseff, should she choose to use it.
“We lost. The government lost,” said the leader of Rousseff’s Workers party in the lower house of congress. The powerful farming lobby in congress had fought hard to minimise obligations the new law would impose on them.
The bill and its likely future impact have been watched closely in and outside Brazil, home to the world’s biggest rainforest and a country considered a reference for how other developing nations manage their woodlands.
In June, Brazil will host the Rio+20 summit, a meeting at which government leaders and policymakers from around the world will discuss global environmental policy.
Head of the national agriculture confederation, Katia Abreu, defended the new law, saying it did “not necessarily” mean states would impose softer rules than the central government would have on mandatory riverside forest coverage. She said it would also allow better made-to-measure rules to be set according to each region’s characteristics.
But Abreu hinted the new rules would be less rigid, saying farmers would have been obliged under the previous bill to replant 30 million hectares (74m acres) of forest and sacrifice land on which they grew billions of dollars worth of crops. She said it would only be possible to know how much would now have to be replaced after states had set rules.
A technician consulted on the policy said one drawback of allowing individual states to regulate it was that the process would probably take a year or two. That means replanting would likely be delayed until clear rules were made.
Deforestation in Brazil has slowed in recent years because of greater law enforcement and the use of satellite imagery to track areas with the most troubling rates of tree cutting.
A key provision of the forest code, as it is known, would allow landowners to count woodland on river margins, hilltops and steep inclines towards a total proportion of forest that must be preserved on their land. At present, such land isn’t allowed in their calculation. Farmers argue that uncertainty over existing legislation, which has effectively been suspended in recent years, impeded investments. And Brazil’s growing output of food crops – and an enviable position as an agricultural powerhouse – could face setbacks if farmers continue to be held back by doubts about how they can use their land.
Brazil is the world’s top producer of coffee, sugar, beef and orange juice and a major producer of soy and corn. Agriculture accounts for more than 5% of Brazil’s GDP.
Environmentalists say farmers would have to reforest land equivalent to the combined area of Germany, Austria and Italy to fully comply with existing regulations. Advocates of the new bill, however, say it would still result in a net gain of millions of hectares of forest coverage.
Under the terms of the new bill, farmers must sign up for a reforestation programme that will use satellites to track compliance. Those falling foul of the new law could be denied rural finance.
One government official estimated last year that 24m hectares (59 million acres), roughly an area the size of the United Kingdom, would be reforested as a result of the new code. But experts say the area to be replanted will be difficult to gauge until more data is collected about rural properties.
- Brazilian Congress scales back Forest Code (blogs.nature.com)
- Brazilian congress adopts controversial land use law (guardian.co.uk)
- Petition Calls on Brazilian President to Veto ‘Catastrophic’ Forest Code (commondreams.org)
- Help Save the Brazilian RainForest from the new Forest Code bill that is under evaluation in the Brazilian Government! (machita75.wordpress.com)
- Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Faces Defining Decision Over Forest Bill (nytimes.com)
- Brazil’s new forest code faces international opposition (pri.org)
- Stop the Amazon Chainsaw Massacre Luis Morago – Avaaz.org (point4counterpoint.wordpress.com)
- Veto Dilma! – Please sign petition to stop President Dilma from destroying Mother Earth (007blueray.wordpress.com)
- FRA calls for Rousseff Forestry Act Veto (your-story.org)
- Petition calls on Brazilian president to veto ‘catastrophic’ forest code (guardian.co.uk)
- Brazil Forest Code Passes In Defeat For Dilma Rousseff (huffingtonpost.com)
- Controversial Forest Code Law Passes In Brazil (huffingtonpost.com)
- Brazil’s Congress approves controversial forest law (samuelasarenews.wordpress.com)
- Rousseff pressed to veto Brazil forestry law (mnn.com)
When will we ever learn? Just when we are making progress to make a fish sustainable…
The WCPFC is a 25-member organisation including Australia, the EU, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines that oversees and regulates migratory fish stocks such as tuna and marlin in the Pacific. Its jurisdiction covers 20% of the planet’s surface.
In January 2010, the WCPFC placed the ban on parts of the Pacific Ocean, where 60% of the world’s tuna are sourced, to conserve the population of the bigeye tuna, which scientists classified as overfished. Other tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore also found in the Pacific high seas but their numbers have not reached an alarming low.
Although it lifted the ban, the commission maintained that entry to the marine reserves would be limited, refusing proposals from the European Community and South Korea for a free-for-all access to one of the world’s richest fishing grounds.
“The Pacific Commons is now open. But for all practical purposes, access will be limited,” said Mark Dia of Greenpeace. “They knew that everybody would suffer if a free-for-all access is granted,” he added.
The permitted areas for tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean
The WCPFC approved the request of the Philippine government, the third top tuna harvester in the Pacific after Japan and South Korea, to fish in pocket 1 of the Pacific, which is bounded by the island nations of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
In exchange for fishing access, the Philippine government must report its catch and limit the number of fishing vessels to 36, Dia said. Filipino vessels must also apply for international fishing permits before entering pocket 1.
The Philippines’ fisheries director Asis Perez said the ban brought hard times to the local fishing sector. He also noted that the fishing ban was counterproductive for the Philippines as it forced fishing companies to harvest in its national waters, which is considered to be a spawning ground for various types of tuna, he said.
- Crossroads for the World’s Biggest Tuna Fishery (prnewswire.com)
- Greenpeace survey: More Canadian companies sourcing canned tuna responsibly (vancouversun.com)
- Transforming the tuna industry (greenpeace.org)
- Is European tinned-tuna giant Bolton the latest company to change its tuna? (greenpeace.org)
The Taiwanese government failed to push for sustainable fishing at the recently concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commissions’ meeting, the local branch of Greenpeace East Asia reports. Comments here or at Learn From Nature
As one of the world’s major fishing powers, Taiwan did not exercise as much influence as it should have to block new measures that could destroy fish populations, the group said.
According to Greenpeace, instead of stepping up efforts to protect marine life, the meeting, which was held in Guam from Monday to Friday last week, unraveled existing measures to preserve the region’s fisheries resources by reopening certain high-seas fishing grounds to destructive fishing methods.
Although Taiwan voted against the initiative, which was mainly pushed through by South Korea and the US, its reluctance to come up with a rescue plan showed its weakness on the issue, Greenpeace said.
Disappointed by the meeting’s decisions, Greenpeace East Asia senior ocean campaigner Kao Yu-fen (高于棻),who attended the meeting this year as an observer, said: “Due to the short-term economic considerations of a few members, the decision was a major setback in ocean conservation, sounding a death knell for fish resources in the area.”
“As the member owning the most fishing vessels in the area, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency should take a leading role to actively guide the commission toward applying sustainable methods, instead of passively waiting for the decisions,” she said.
Greenpeace said Taiwan has more than 1,600 fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific, while a large proportion of Taiwan’s long-distance fish production comes from tuna.
Taiwan Greenpeace oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said seine fishing had been banned in two high-seas pockets that were closed in 2008, while the use of fish aggregating devices was limited to less than three months per year, to allow tuna populations in the area to recover to the same level as 2004.
Reopening these areas will likely cause further fish depletion, she said.
The Fisheries Agency, which represented Taiwan at the meeting, disagreed, describing the meeting’s results as constructive.
“We don’t see it as a partial reopening of the Pacific Commons. It’s more about different methods of fishing management,” said Lin Ding-rong (S), deputy director of the agency’s Deep Sea Fisheries Division.
- Victory for the oceans and freedom of speech in Taiwan (greenpeace.org)
- Transforming the tuna industry (greenpeace.org)
- Is the EU taking its over-fishing habits to west African waters? (guardian.co.uk)
- Many canned tuna brands getting more sustainable (cbc.ca)
- Task force recommends reducing global harvest of ‘forage fish’ (eurekalert.org)
- ‘Wicked Tuna’ is food for thought (beachchairscientist.wordpress.com)
- Gavin Gibbons: The Truth About Greenpeace and Tuna (huffingtonpost.com)
- Is European tinned-tuna giant Bolton the latest company to change its tuna? (greenpeace.org)
New video footage captured by a tuna industry whistleblower has been released by Greenpeace, which reveals the routine slaughter of other marine species, including whale sharks, rays and whales. The footage is shot onboard a tuna fishing vessel in the
Pacific which deploys fish aggregating devices, one of the most aggressive fishing operations used by the industry in the face of declining fish populations owing to overfishing.Warning: this footage contains images that some may find disturbing
Greenpeace video : http://gu.com/p/33ef8
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (uwtreasures.wordpress.com)
- WSJ: Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (junkscience.com)
- Greenpeace Misses the Boat with Grotesque Anti-Tuna Fishing Video (treehugger.com)
- Shocking Video Footage – The Truth About What’s in Your Tuna Can | AlterNet (habwwe.wordpress.com)
- Look at All this Amazing Sea Life Tuna Fishermen Kill as Bycatch (Video) (treehugger.com)
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (gcaptain.com)
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (online.wsj.com)
- Greenseas to drop harmful tuna fishing (theage.com.au)
- Time to Boycott Tuna Again? (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)