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News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.undercurrentnews.com

Greenpeace called out the US canned tuna industry for its wrongdoing in the wake of Bumble Bee's agreement to plead guilty to canned tuna price fixing -- an admission that comes with a $25 million fine. Just after Department of Justice issued the news, Greenpeace sent a press release with harsh words from Oceans Campaigner Graham Forbes. “Bumble Bee’s guilty plea on price fixing is yet another example of the tuna industry doing whatever it takes to make a buck," Forbes said. "Whether by colluding with other brands, misleading consumers, jeopardizing workers, or destroying our oceans, the industry has consistently put profits before anything else. This admission of guilt raises additional questions around other ways the big three tuna brands -- Bumble Bee, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea -- have worked together to maintain the industry status quo. “It is time for one of the major brands in the US to separate from the pack and show the leadership needed to build a more sustainable and ethical industry. Chicken of the Sea and its parent company Thai Union have shown a desire to change, and we believe they could help move things in a better direction. "Consumers deserve to pay a fair price, know what’s in their can, and trust that workers catching tuna are doing so sustainably and under safe and just working conditions. It is time for real action.”


Throughout the day, high profile industry people like Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael Kowalski, The New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, circular economy authority Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of Eco Age Ltd. Livia Firth, fashion designer Prabal Gurung, CEO of Hugo Boss Mark Langer and sustainability leader William McDonough will go on stage. The hosts are Amber Valletta, model and entrepreneur, and Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief of Monocle. Global Fashion Agenda will call on fashion brands and retailers to take action on increasing the volume of textiles collected, reused and recycled by launching the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System, which Summit participants will be urged to sign. "Today's linear economic model, which sends too many clothes to landfills and incinerators, is simply not sustainable. What's more, with fashion production expected to increase by 63% by 2030, we have no choice but to accelerate a circular system that restores and regenerates materials. Luckily, studies show that when companies implement circular principles, new opportunities arise, such as innovative design and increased customer engagement. So there's no reason not to sign the Call to Action." World-leading brands like Kering, Asos, Target and H&M have already signed the Call to Action. See updated list of signatories. Students from around the world who met at last year's Summit to explore how the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent opportunities for fashion companies gathered again yesterday on 9 May 2017 in Copenhagen to transform their SDG demands into a proposed UN resolution. The first-ever concerning fashion, the drafted UN resolution is being negotiated today, 10 May, with industry leaders such as Swarovski, and NGOs such as Greenpeace. Tomorrow, the students will take the stage at Copenhagen Fashion Summit to present the drafted resolution, and later this year it will be presented to the UN in New York. Earlier this week, ahead of the Summit, Global Fashion Agenda, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, published a groundbreaking in-depth assessment of the fashion industry's environmental and social performance - the first edition of the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report. The 139-page report shows that the sustainability "pulse" of the industry is weak - scoring only 32 out of 100 points - and that especially small and medium-sized firms, which represent about half of the market, have done little to improve their impact. These and many more of the report's findings are already available for download and will be presented on stage tomorrow. Copenhagen Fashion Summit is the flagship event of the recently established non-profit, year-round initiative Global Fashion Agenda, whose mission is to mobilise the industry to transform the way we produce and consume fashion. To help set a common global agenda for the industry and spearhead this transition, Global Fashion Agenda has partnered with Kering, H&M, Target, Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Li & Fung as founding members. For more information please visit copenhagenfashionsummit.com.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Failure to properly respond to an oil spill near an ExxonMobil rig in the Bass Strait increased the risk of contamination and posed a “significant threat to the environment”, an investigation has found. The spill was reported to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) on 1 February after an oily sheen was spotted in the water near the West Tuna oil platform, about 45km off the coast of Lakes Entrance in Gippsland. The platform is operated by Esso Australia Resources Pty Ltd, an affiliate of ExxonMobil, as part of the Kipper Tuna Turrum gas project. A Nopsema investigator who examined Esso’s response to the spill said it had failed to identify the source of the leaks because its staff failed to follow procedures in collecting, testing and labelling oil samples, in part because they did not have the required equipment, causing a “significant threat to the environment”. The findings were contained in an environmental improvement notice issued by the regulator in April but not made public until Tuesday. It found that Esso’s failure to follow its own procedures following detection of the oil sheen lead to its failure to obtain a representative sample of oil, which directly impacted its ability to identify the source of the spill. That in turn created unnecessary delays in responding to the spill and “may result in additional environmental impact and risk that could otherwise be avoided”, the notice said. Esso has been ordered to review its oil spill response training within 60 days or risk “additional enforcement action”. A spokesman from Esso confirmed they had not been able to identify the source of the oil but disagreed with the assumption that it had come from their oil rig, saying: “Esso is of the view there is no credible scenario which confirms our operations to be the source of the sheen.” The spokesman told Guardian Australia that Esso already had approved environmental plans and oil sampling programs in place. “In this particular circumstance, there was a vessel available which could take a sample of the observed sheen,” he said. “However, this vessel did not have sampling equipment on board which met our environmental plan protocols. “Esso is taking steps to ensure approved sampling equipment is readily available to respond in similar circumstances.” Nathaniel Pelle, a senior campaigner for Greenpeace Australia-Pacific, said it was unlikely Esso would face any real penalties for either the oil spill or its response to the spill, despite the risk posed to listed marine and birdlife in the Gippsland area. “The only enforcement action is that Nopsema has given Esso an improvement notice,” he said. “Meanwhile, if you are a fishermen caught without a lifejacket in the Bass Strait you are fined $100. You are fined more for breaching basic fishing regulations than you are for spilling oil.” Pelle said it was concerning the regulator would not take a more punitive approach to companies that failed to follow their own procedures to investigate an oil spill, particularly given plans by Chevron to conduct oil drilling from floating deep-water platforms in the Great Australian Bight. Chevron said in February that taxpayers would be expected to subsidise the cost of cleaning up any oil spills in the region, but that “we don’t intend to have an oil spill”. “The oil industry has referred to their excellent safety record in the Bass Strait as a reason that they can be trusted to drill in the much more extreme deep-water conditions in the Great Australian Bight,” Pelle said. “But we find there has been a number of safety incidents in the Bass Strait in recent years.” The incident at the West Tuna oil platform in February followed two high-profile incidents at Exxon-operated oil platforms in the past four years: a fire in the battery room of the same platform in September 2015, and an oil spill near the Cobia platform, about 70km off the Gippsland coast, in September 2013. Esso had to temporarily shut down the Cobia to Halibut pipeline following that incident, when an estimated 774 litres of oil spilled into the Bass Strait. “It’s unbelievable that staff on an oil rig that have experienced major accidents in recent years wouldn’t be trained in their basic protocols,” Pelle said. The resources minister, Matt Canavan, visited the West Tuna platform in the Bass Strait last week, as part of the Turnbull government’s push to expand the domestic gas industry. Asked if he was concerned about the recent incident at West Tuna, Canavan said he was confident in Nopsema’s “robust and transparent regulatory system”.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

Stock divestment strategies have been widely proposed to undercut financial support for fossil fuels. The German lignite industry, however, cannot be tackled in this way, writes independent energy expert Jeffrey Michel in a highly informative analysis. Lignite stations and mines are owned by regional communities in the west and a Czech consortium in the east. Although some power plants are being phased out against government-arranged subsidies, pulling away from lignite usage altogether is not so simple and may not be a good idea. It would leave unpaid obligations behind for mining landscape reclamation and groundwater management and might lead to political backlash. Dealing with lignite requires local policies and strategies to develop feasible alternatives.  According to the German chapter of 350.org, the capital of Berlin is the only German state to have divested its government pension reserves of €823 million from fossil fuel investments. Similar resolutions adopted last year in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate have not yet been implemented. However, such intentions could have little effect on domestic lignite policy. Germany’s largest lignite corporation, RWE, is partially owned by regional municipalities. Eastern Germany’s lignite industry is largely in the hands of private investors from the Czech Republic. Both businesses are being reorganized for greater operating efficiency and increased public acceptance. Up to a year ago, western German lignite production was integrated into the cumbersome corporate structure at RWE in Essen. In addition to mining, the company handled generation, transmission, marketing, innovations, and foreign acquisitions. Renewable energies produced only 4.8% of total generated electricity in 2014, less than one-fifth of the German national average. Due to declining revenues at conventional power plants, regular stock dividends were cancelled for the 85 cities, counties, regional utilities (Stadtwerke), and local banks in the communal shareholder association VkA. Greenpeace Cologne has compiled a map of all RWE municipal entities, most of them in North Rhine-Westphalia, with over one million shares. Besides selling its DEA natural gas division, the corporation has discharged 10,000 employees (14% of total staffing) over the last three years to reduce operating costs. By 2018, another 2,000 positions will be eliminated. After RWE disputed the need for splitting the company to emulate its market rivals E.ON (renewables) and Uniper (conventional generation), an inverted strategy was finally resolved. CEO Peter Terium assumed responsibility for the green power subsidiary Innogy originally founded in 2008. The exceptionally successful corporate IPO of October 7, 2016, has provided fresh revenues for lignite mining and power generation. Since the beginning of this year, the listed RWE share price has risen by 30% to nearly €16. Before that time, certain municipal shareholders had considered divesting their holdings to preclude further revenue erosion. The city of Bochum began divesting its 6.6 million RWE shares last year at a unit price below €15, compared with €100 a decade ago. The county of Osnabrück also passed a resolution to sell its 2.1 million shares, but the transaction was then postponed indefinitely. The IPO spinoff has since provided RWE with €680,000 of Innogy dividends. The newly organized RWE now aspires to provide backup power generation capacities for the electrical grid whenever renewable energies prove inadequate. By 2022, all remaining eight nuclear reactors in Germany and 70 additional power plants will have been retired, reducing current generation capacities of 107 gigawatts by more than 30 GW. Keeping the remaining infrastructure supplied with power would cost an estimated €2 billion per year in the estimation of CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz, which “is not much in comparison with €25 billion for green power subsidies”.  The proposed capacity reserves would “prevent the electricity price from going through the roof” whenever power became scarce. RWE can now reduce CO emissions on the path to increased profitability. Lignite extraction at the Garzweiler mine is being continued until 2045, but 400 Mt of the 1.2 billion metric tons at this location will no longer be excavated. The three villages (Holzweiler, Dackweiler & Hauerhof) thereby saved from destruction will present no further corporate risk. Additional generating blocks are also likely to be retired over the next few years. Realizing enhanced revenues with less ecological damage should restrain both popular protests and communal deliberations on divestment. When the Czech consortium EPH/PPF Investments acquired Vattenfall’s lignite operations last September, the stock market became irrelevant to mining and generation. The renamed energy corporation LEAG nevertheless announced a significant reduction of lignite mining on March 13 owing to “the obvious will on the part of federal policy” to pursue Germany’s climate goals “on the back of lignite”. Not only is long-term planning at question, but “even intervention into licensed stockpiles is now acceptable”. As in the case of RWE, however, selective decarbonization is helping to sidestep mining opposition. Electricity generation will likely be continuing at the LEAG Schwarze Pumpe, Boxberg, and Lippendorf power stations for at least another two decades. For the aging 2,720 MW Jänschwalde installation 130 km southeast from Berlin, however, two of the six blocks will now be entering standby operation in 2018 – 19 under a reimbursement agreement with the federal ministry of economic affairs BMWi. Since the adjacent mine can be appropriately downsized, LEAG will no longer be resettling the villages of Atterwasch, Kerkwitz, and Grabko. The area’s 900 inhabitants had already begun a regional energy transformation. In 2014, Atterwasch alone generated more electricity than required by all three communities using animal waste biogas (up to 3.5 MWh/a) and 40 kWp installed solar PV capacity. Farther south in Saxony, the Nochten mine that serves the Boxberg power station will also be confined to existing boundaries. Excavation plans for the endangered communities of Schleife, Rohne, and Mulkwitz have been cancelled, leaving only the resettlement of 200 villagers in the vestigial Mühlrose settlement necessary for extracting an additional 150 Mt of lignite.  The suburb of Proschim at the third Welzow mine, however, faces three more years of corporate indecision over its ultimate fate. The revised mining plans have been unexpected. Some families had already bought land elsewhere after the 2012 Vattenfall license application foresaw resettling 1,700 residents from the four Nochten villages. Since existing homes could not be sold without an indemnification agreement, however, particular property owners may now be saddled with two mortgages. Stanislaw Tillich, premier minister of Saxony, has emphasized a standing agreement with the federal government to place economic development on an alternative basis before cutting back on lignite usage. However, the mining regions have always been susceptible to changes in EU emissions regulations and to overall carbon pricing. The LEAG decision in Lusatia has shown, furthermore, that the lignite corporations have made no forward commitments to maintaining the economic viability of regions they ultimately will be abandoning. LEAG is already saving resettlement costs for all six villages while reducing the extent of post-mining precautionary risks. Despite the low-cost extraction of lignite from opencast mines, its low thermal rating requires vast areas of landscape to be excavated and later ecologically restored using reserved corporate assets. The commitments required of LEAG for this purpose have been the subject of a recent confidential report presented to the parliament of Saxony by the state accounting office. Numerous fossil fuel plant acquisitions by EPH in the UK, Italy, and Eastern Europe have rendered the company’s financial assets opaque. After Greenpeace issued its updated EPH Schwarzbuch (Black Book) at the beginning of the year, the government of Brandenburg conceded that it had no legal means of verifying the use of €1.7 billion transferred by Vattenfall to cover post-mining indemnities. With mining landscapes already disfigured, extensive efforts are required even to inhibit the ongoing deterioration of the natural environment. In recent years, unexpectedly high levels of acidified groundwater have been rising from formerly excavated lignite seams near the Brandenburg River Spree and the Leipzig Pleiße basin. The mining wastewater pervasively contaminates lakes and tributaries  with iron sulfate that is chemically transformed to indelible brown hydroxide (FeS + 7/2 O + H O → Fe2+ + 2SO 2- + 2 H+). The resulting aquatic damage persists for decades until groundwater currents finally attain a state of equilibrium. Bizarrely, combating acidic groundwater can be one of the arguments for the continuation of mining. East German lignite dependency intensified in the 1980’s after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had raised import energy prices. The sharp decline of lignite mining after 1990 has now reduced the pumping discharges that could be needed to dilute contaminated lake and river water. Recent iron sulfate leaching at Witznitz, for instance, has acidified the Pleiße watershed to levels as low as pH 2.6. Possibly for hydrological reasons, therefore, MIBRAG has been attempting to resettle the nearby village of Pödelwitz and the adjacent hamlet of Obertitz despite the unfounded need for extra lignite at the Lippendorf power station. RWE has already shown that profits can be increased by focusing generation on periods of high grid demand. Nevertheless, extracting additional quantities of lignite would make more water available, while local sand deposits from ancient riverbeds might also be exploited. The meager financial resources of the six rescued Lusatian communities had largely been dedicated to the expected resettlement of over 3,000 people. Following revised LEAG planning, the governments of Brandenburg and Saxony are now obligated to preserve the very rural villages that their previous energy policies had been dedicated to destroying. Many Eastern German lignite communities are highly indebted after returning millions of euros in tax revenues to Vattenfall in result of corporate losses from nuclear phase-out. Solar and wind farms provide no equivalent income prospects. To begin with, each wind turbine qualifies as a separate tax entity with a €24.500 annual exemption. Homes with rooftop solar panels are literally just cottage industries. The regional decline of mining employment has provoked unforeseen political consequences. LEAG’s sister corporation MIBRAG decided in April 2015 to cancel the intended construction of a 660 MW lignite power plant at its Profen mine near Leipzig. The requirement for that project had long been questioned. Renewable energy generation in the state of Saxony-Anhalt already fills half of local electricity demand. The growing forward-looking risks of coal power generation have been recently verified by a Bloomberg analysis. The abandoned Profen generation project had promised 4,000 highly qualified construction jobs. Thereafter, 150 permanent plant employees would have been required, with 3 Mt annual lignite demand also securing a sixth of total MIBRAG mining production. An additional 2 Mt/a of Profen lignite would have been delivered to the Buschhaus power plant near the Volkswagen factory in Lower Saxony. In implementing national climate strategies, however, the German government instead provided MIBRAG with an estimated €200 million of ratepayer funds in 2016 to relegate Buschhaus to standby operation, with retirement four years thereafter. Together with the two blocks at Jänschwalde and an additional five in the Rhineland, Germany will be saving around 12 Mt of CO emissions annually at a total compensation cost of €1.61 billion. Reducing lignite requirements has had significant political repercussions on MIBRAG territory. Following cancellation of the Profen plant, local membership in the right-wing Alliance for Germany (AfD) soared. Founded in 2013, the party already captured 24.3% of the seats in Saxony-Anhalt’s parliamentary elections just three years later. The AfD rejects renewable energy feed-in tariffs and national climate protection policies. Following the additional cancellation of lignite deliveries to Buschhaus, employment at Profen will now be reduced by over 320 miners – nearly one-fifth of regular MIBRAG personnel – by 2018. Further disquieting news was recently published in the 2015 MIBRAG corporate report for the 5 Mt of Profen lignite delivered annually to the 900 MW power station at Schkopau, erected in 1995 as the centerpiece of Dow Chemical operations and local railway (16 2/3 Hz) generation. Due to sinking profitability, the “economic viability of the Schkopau power plant” has become “particularly vulnerable”. The current lignite supply contract ends in 2021 with corresponding “implications for the further development of the open pit mine”. The possible resulting sale of MIBRAG to LEAG by its current owner EPH could reduce the cost of lignite supplied from the second United Schleenhain mine to the Lippendorf power station. Regional employment and third-party contracts, however, would likely be diminished. The AfD may make one claim with confidence: The abandonment of lignite never delivers immediate economic alternatives. When the 352 MW MIBRAG Buschhaus plant in Lower Saxony ceased regular operation on October 1, 2016, mining and generation were eliminated as the principal source of regional public revenues. A decade ago, business taxes of up to €10 million annually had been collected from the Buschhaus site by cities in Helmstedt County. The German federal government has now provided a solitary grant of €900,000 for implementing a “structured development process” to produce “new economic prospects for the region”. However, local communities formerly unprepared for this abrupt transition are now compelled to implement its fulfillment. The corresponding opportunity for low-carbon development can compensate the retirement of the 1985 Buschhaus power plant, for which CO certificates (about 2.2 Mt/a) have not been retired, but only auctioned off under the EU emissions trading scheme ETS. The rescued villages of Lusatia are currently adrift in unused fields of lignite. Entrepreneurial investment might be attracted to these regions by providing specialized financing and insurance, strategic community services, and dedicated programs of education and training organized by the state employment office. The need for fiscal rigor had often been neglected during the era of lignite prosperity. Today, however, the legal interest rate of 6% on retroactive Vattenfall tax refunds has become incompatible with applicable taxation provisions of the civil code HGB. Particular communities may soon be proposing corrective legislative initiatives. Regional chambers of commerce routinely evaluate the international strategies of corporations on local territory. Dow Chemical is already equipped to integrate the Energiewende into its expanded production plans at Schkopau. The U.S. parent corporation recently raised renewable electricity contracts to 750 MW by 2025 for its Texas operations. Much of the European chemical industry is concentrated in traditional coal and lignite regions. Plants with high emissions are located along prospective CO pipeline routes. An international fossil fuel divestment campaign might only injure or eliminate these sites. To continue their operation, existing equipment could instead be gradually converted to renewable energies supplemented by CCS for carbon-based processes.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

High-level officials from the world's eight Arctic nations will meet in Alaska amid concerns about the future of the sensitive region after President Donald Trump called for more oil drilling and development. Among those expected to attend the meeting of the Arctic Council beginning Thursday in Fairbanks are U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Wednesday with Trump and Tillerson in Washington. No formal discussions were set in Alaska but key issues such as climate change, development and drilling will provide a backdrop as the chairmanship of the council passes from the U.S. to Finland. "We are unsure what the Trump administration thinks about the Arctic region in general, about the Arctic Council in particular and about its role," said Victoria Herrmann, president of The Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that provides research to shape Arctic policy. The Arctic Council is an advisory body that promotes cooperation among member nations and indigenous groups. Its focus is sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic. It does not make policy or allocate resources, and its decisions must be unanimous. "In terms of being a reflection of a nation's priorities, it can only go so far since all eight have to agree to the same thing," said Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, a non-partisan organization focused on Arctic resources. Tillerson arrived late Wednesday afternoon in Fairbanks and immediately held a meeting with a congressional delegation as well as Arctic representatives from Alaska's indigenous people. Protesters gathered in a city park nearby to denounce the presence of Tillerson, who was president of Exxon Mobil Corp. "My message for Rex Tillerson is: Alaska shouldn't be for sale for what's in our earth," said Hannah Hill, 36, who works at a Fairbanks soup kitchen. "This place is beautiful, and this place is delicate, and what already is happening on in the Arctic will affect the rest of the Earth. And that is science." Pat Lambert, a retired University of Alaska math professor, attended the rally because he believes climate change is a serious problem. He suggested Tillerson "should get away from his cronies in the oil business and start listening to the people of Alaska, for instance, and the people of the world who are so interested in these issues." After the rally, the protesters marched behind a sign reading, "Welcome to the frontline of climate change," to the building where the Arctic Council welcoming celebration was being held. The United States — an Arctic country because of the state of Alaska — is joined on the council by Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The U.S. began chairing the council two years ago. Much of the council's work during that time stemmed from the policies of President Barack Obama, who made climate change and the Arctic priorities of his administration. Obama became the first sitting president to travel above the Arctic Circle when he went to the largely Inupiat community of Kotzebue. The U.S. highlighted three areas during its two-year chairmanship — improved living conditions and economies for those living in the Arctic, stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and climate change. David Balton, a deputy assistant secretary of State, said other accomplishments included an agreement for scientific cooperation among Arctic nations, an assessment of improvements needed for better telecommunications, and implementation of a database of ships passing through the Arctic. One of the council's last official acts before the chairmanship is handed to Finland will be issuing the Fairbanks Declaration, which in part will outline the focus of upcoming work by the Arctic Council during the next two years. Andreassen said the document should provide some understanding of how the U.S. is approaching the Arctic. Christina-Alexa Liakos of Greenpeace USA, said her group will watch the meeting with an eye toward U.S. policy on broader environmental issues, such as the Paris Climate Agreement. "The biggest thing we are really pushing is to make sure that (during) any negotiations in this meeting, the U.S. essentially doesn't bully the other Arctic nations or pressure them into taking out language around keeping the Paris agreement," Liakos said.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

(AP) — High-level officials from the world's eight Arctic nations will meet in Alaska amid concerns about the future of the sensitive region after President Donald Trump called for more oil drilling and development. Among those expected to attend the meeting of the Arctic Council beginning Thursday in Fairbanks are U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Wednesday with Trump and Tillerson in Washington. No formal discussions were set in Alaska on key issues such as climate change, development and drilling. But those issues will provide a backdrop as the chairmanship of the council passes from the U.S. to Finland. "We are unsure what the Trump administration thinks about the Arctic region in general, about the Arctic Council in particular and about its role," said Victoria Herrmann, president of The Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that provides research to shape Arctic policy. The Arctic Council is an advisory body that promotes cooperation among member nations and indigenous groups. Its focus is sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic. It does not make policy or allocate resources, and its decisions must be unanimous. "In terms of being a reflection of a nation's priorities, it can only go so far since all eight have to agree to the same thing," said Nils Andreassen, executive director of the Anchorage-based Institute of the North, a non-partisan organization focused on Arctic resources. The United States — an Arctic country because of the state of Alaska — is joined on the council by Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The U.S. began chairing the council two years ago. Much of the council's work during that time stemmed from the policies of President Barack Obama, who made climate change and the Arctic priorities of his administration. Obama became the first sitting president to travel above the Arctic Circle when he went to the largely Inupiat community of Kotzebue. The U.S. highlighted three areas during its two-year chairmanship — improved living conditions and economies for those living in the Arctic, stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and climate change. David Balton, a deputy assistant secretary of State, said other accomplishments included an agreement for scientific cooperation among Arctic nations, an assessment of improvements needed for better telecommunications, and implementation of a database of ships passing through the Arctic. One of the council's last official acts before the chairmanship is handed to Finland will be issuing the Fairbanks Declaration, which in part will outline the focus of upcoming work by the Arctic Council during the next two years. Andreassen said the document should provide some understanding of how the U.S. is approaching the Arctic. Christina-Alexa Liakos of Greenpeace USA, said her group will watch the meeting with an eye toward U.S. policy on broader environmental issues, such as the Paris Climate Agreement. "The biggest thing we are really pushing is to make sure that (during) any negotiations in this meeting, the U.S. essentially doesn't bully the other Arctic nations or pressure them into taking out language around keeping the Paris agreement," Liakos said.


Throughout the day, high profile industry people like Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael Kowalski, The New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, circular economy authority Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of Eco Age Ltd. Livia Firth, fashion designer Prabal Gurung, CEO of Hugo Boss Mark Langer and sustainability leader William McDonough will go on stage. The hosts are Amber Valletta, model and entrepreneur, and Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief of Monocle. Global Fashion Agenda will call on fashion brands and retailers to take action on increasing the volume of textiles collected, reused and recycled by launching the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System, which Summit participants will be urged to sign. "Today's linear economic model, which sends too many clothes to landfills and incinerators, is simply not sustainable. What's more, with fashion production expected to increase by 63% by 2030, we have no choice but to accelerate a circular system that restores and regenerates materials. Luckily, studies show that when companies implement circular principles, new opportunities arise, such as innovative design and increased customer engagement. So there's no reason not to sign the Call to Action." World-leading brands like Kering, Asos, Target and H&M have already signed the Call to Action. See updated list of signatories. Students from around the world who met at last year's Summit to explore how the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent opportunities for fashion companies gathered again yesterday on 9 May 2017 in Copenhagen to transform their SDG demands into a proposed UN resolution. The first-ever concerning fashion, the drafted UN resolution is being negotiated today, 10 May, with industry leaders such as Swarovski, and NGOs such as Greenpeace. Tomorrow, the students will take the stage at Copenhagen Fashion Summit to present the drafted resolution, and later this year it will be presented to the UN in New York. Earlier this week, ahead of the Summit, Global Fashion Agenda, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, published a groundbreaking in-depth assessment of the fashion industry's environmental and social performance - the first edition of the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report. The 139-page report shows that the sustainability "pulse" of the industry is weak - scoring only 32 out of 100 points - and that especially small and medium-sized firms, which represent about half of the market, have done little to improve their impact. These and many more of the report's findings are already available for download and will be presented on stage tomorrow. Copenhagen Fashion Summit is the flagship event of the recently established non-profit, year-round initiative Global Fashion Agenda, whose mission is to mobilise the industry to transform the way we produce and consume fashion. To help set a common global agenda for the industry and spearhead this transition, Global Fashion Agenda has partnered with Kering, H&M, Target, Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Li & Fung as founding members. For more information please visit copenhagenfashionsummit.com.


News Article | May 9, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

One of the world’s largest palm oil producers is suing the green body that suspended its sustainability certification last month because of allegations it had deforested Indonesian rainforests. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body set up by industry and NGOs to address environmental concerns about the commodity’s production, confirmed it had been served with a lawsuit by the Malaysian palm giant, IOI. IOI was suspended by the RSPO in early April after the allegations of wrongdoing, leading major buyers including Unilever, Mars, Kelloggs and Nestle to cut back on the palm oil they buy from the company. Palm oil is the most widely-used vegetable oil and found in everything from margarine and biscuits to soap and shampoo. IOI owns Europe’s largest palm oil refinery and is such a major player that the RSPO warned of a disruption to supplies of sustainable palm oil following the suspension. “The decision to challenge the RSPO board’s suspension decision is a difficult and painful one for us to take,” said Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor, IOI’s CEO, of the suit filed in Zurich, Switzerland, where the roundtable has its seat. IOI is understood to claim it did no wrong and the RSPO had no right to suspend its sustainability certification. In a statement, Dato’ Lee said that while the company was committed to the RSPO, it had been “unfairly affected” by the suspension. IOI has long been the target of environmentalists, who have previously accused it of felling forests and draining peatlands in Malaysian Borneo, while allegations of deforestation in IOI concessions in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, were submitted in a formal complaint to the RSPO by a sustainability consultancy in 2015. The scale of the financial impact on IOI from lost contracts following the suspension is not yet clear. But internal communications from Datuk Darrel Webber, CEO of the RSPO, show that the palm oil producer told him: “IOI has suffered commercial and reputational losses as a result of this injustice.” Webber also reveals that “IOI prefers if this legal action is kept low profile” and that he is concerned over “the amount of time and money that will be wasted in this process [defending the legal challenge].” In the communications, Darrel Webber says that the roundtable is insured against such claims up to 10m Malaysian Ringgit (£1.72m). Richard George, head of forests at Greenpeace UK, said: “No one should be surprised that IOI has chosen to bully its critics. The RSPO and its members must meet this intimidation head on by excluding IOI until it has cleaned up its act and repaired the forests and peatlands it has destroyed.” Malaysian and Indonesian companies dominate global palm oil production, but have been linked to deforestation and slash-and-burn clearance methods that contributed to the huge forest fires across Indonesia last year. Wilmar International, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), Asian Agri and Cargill are among the big palm oil producers to have adopted zero deforestation polices. In a statement, IOI’s Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor said: “IOI remains committed to its membership in and the sustainability principles of RSPO. In fact, IOI has gone beyond the requirements of RSPO by signing an industry manifesto which specifies no HCS [high carbon stock] deforestation, no planting on peat and driving positive socio-economic impact for people and the communities.” A spokeswoman for Nestle said that following the suspension by RSPO: “we immediately ceased sourcing from the plantations at the centre of the concerns raised.”


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

Undercover counter-extremism officers used hackers in India to access the emails of journalists and environmental activists, it has been claimed. The police watchdog started an inquiry into claims against the Metropolitan Police after an anonymous tip-off. It appealed for the whistleblower - believed to be a serving or retired police officer -to get in touch. The Met said it was aware of the Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC) investigation. The IPCC said it had received an anonymous letter, which alleged covert officers from the Met's National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU), contacted Indian police officers for help to enlist hackers. The letter alleges the hackers accessed the email accounts of hundreds of people, including members of political and environmental pressure groups and journalists. Greenpeace was one of the organisations believed to have been named in the letter. John Sauven, Greenpeace UK's executive director, said the charity welcomed the announcement. "If the allegations are true, the public and our campaigners deserve to know who ordered the hacking of our staff, why an overseas company was used to break into their emails, who else was targeted and what was done with the information," he said. The IPCC is already carrying out two related and ongoing investigations into allegations that paperwork relating to undercover policing kept by the NDEDIU was shredded in May 2014. One of those investigations follows allegations made by Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones that records relating to her were destroyed or deleted in June 2014. IPCC deputy chairman Sarah Green said: "These are clearly serious allegations and the IPCC is conducting a comprehensive investigation into the matters raised. "This will be a complex investigation given the potential involvement of foreign participants. "We would like to hear from the officer who brought these allegations to light or any other officers or police staff who may be able to provide information of use to the IPCC investigation." The Met Police said: "The IPCC made the Metropolitan Police Service aware of anonymous allegations concerning the access of personal data and requested the matter referred to them by the MPS. This has been done. "The MPS is aware that the IPCC is carrying out an independent investigation. "As this investigation is now in the public domain the MPS can confirm that all possible steps are being taken to ensure all relevant material and associated computer systems are preserved to assist the IPCC investigation."


News Article | May 13, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The body of Lulu the killer whale was found on jagged rocks on the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides last year. A member of the only pod found in British waters, she died after getting entangled in fishing lines. It was a sad discovery, especially as a postmortem revealed Lulu had never had a calf. But a recent autopsy also revealed something else that is alarming marine experts and offers a bleak, damning judgment on the state of Britain’s coastal waters. Lulu’s body had some of the highest levels of a particular type of manmade chemical ever recorded – more than 100 times above the level that scientists say will have biological consequences for a species. Few will have heard of PCBs – or polychlorinated biphenyls. The chemicals were banned in the late 70s amid fears about their toxicity. Recent estimates suggest that Europe produced between 299,000 and 585,000 tonnes of PCBs. The US produced even more. But while industry has stopped using PCBs in the manufacture of everything from transformers to thermal insulation and paints to adhesives, millions of tonnes of the chemicals continue to be in circulation. It is only now that their pernicious impact is being understood, as support for a clean-up, along the lines of successful experiments in the US, takes hold. “If we go back to the late 70s or early 80s, there were major campaigns from organisations such as Greenpeace focused on what they called toxics – which included PCBs,” said Mark Simmonds, senior marine scientist at the Humane Society International. “There was a tremendous effort to get them under control and banned and those bans were effective – the levels of PCBs being detected have clearly declined and so the campaigning organisations packed up their tents and went off to look at something else and we all kind of rejoiced and thought this was a major environmental victory.” But Simmonds now believes the victory was, to some extent, hollow. While PCBs are no longer being produced, they are extremely hardy, given that they were designed to resist extreme heat. Guidance from the US Environmental Protection Agency explains that PCBs do not readily break down once in the environment. “They can remain for long periods cycling between air, water and soil. PCBs can be carried long distances and have been found in snow and seawater in areas far from where they were released into the environment.” “It’s a difficult problem,” said Simmonds. “The PCBs are coming from two places – from buildings and materials that are still being destroyed and dumped, resulting in a new release of PCBs into the environment. And PCBs are also getting recycled into the wider environment through activities such as dredging programmes in estuaries.” Ultimately, PCBs find their way into the food chain. “PCBs on land eventually get into the water course,” said Paul Jepson, a veterinary specialist in wildlife population health at the Zoological Society of London. “Then they get into rivers, then into fish, then into sediment, then into estuaries then to ocean, the ultimate dump. Then they get into crabs and moluscs, then into fish, then into bigger fish and finally into apex predators such as sharks and killer whales at the top of the food chain.” Emerging evidence of the impact of PCBs may explain why there are no great white sharks in British waters. “We should have great white sharks around the UK,” Jepson said. “There’s no reason not to have them. Our seal population has been growing for years, there’s plenty of food and they used to be here; historically they were almost as widely distributed as killer whales. But when did anyone see a great white shark in recent years off the UK or the north-east Atlantic?” Simmonds believes the impact of PCBs may explain the absence of other species from British waters. “As we look around the UK historically, we would have expected to see bottle-nosed dolphins in any of our estuaries,” he said. “We have them in Cardigan Bay and the Moray Firth and a few around Cornwall and Devon – but it’s very much a reduced population from where it should be. There are many different factors affecting them but one of the key things is probably PCBs repressing their reproduction and making them more vulnerable to infection.” Equally vulnerable are polar bears, which ingest PCBs when they feast on seals. And, like killer whales, the bears can transfer PCBs to their offspring through their milk. Killer whales have an 11-month lactation period during which they produce very high-fat milk for their calves. The higher the fat, the easier it is for PCBs to dissolve in it. Unsurprisingly, some of the highest concentrations of PCBs have been recorded in newborn killer whales. Postmortems on six-month-old calves found they had absorbed about 80% of the PCBs that were in their mother. A scientific paper by Jepson and his colleagues, published last year, reveals that PCBs were found in every single one of 1,081 dolphins, porpoises and killer whales they studied. About 55% of the harbour porpoises, most of the striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins and all the killer whales had high levels of PCBs – levels that were greater than 9 milligrams of PCB per kilogram of their lipid or body fat. It is above this level that races of PCB can have biological consequences for certain species. But many killer whales have far higher concentrations – typically between 10 and 100 times above the 9mg/kg threshold. Lulu had PCBs measuring 957mg/kg lipid. At these levels, species stop reproducing, Jepson said. This probably accounts for why Lulu’s pod produced no calves – the nightmare scenario. Ultimately, if species stop reproducing they become extinct. “You’d put it [PCBs] up there alongside the hole in the ozone,” Simmonds said. “Something that can knock the top marine predators out – that’s a pretty major problem. As an old toxics campaigner, this is something that I thought we’d fixed. And, to some extent we did, but it turns out it wasn’t fixed well enough. There are lessons to be learned from this. We have to maintain vigilance about environmental problems and not rest on our laurels.” Studies coming out of the US are now considering what impact, if any, PCBs may be having on human health. “In the US there is a lot of scientific evidence showing the toxic effects for human health but this approach has yet to be replicated in Europe,” Jepson said. The EPA website acknowledges: “People who ingest fish may be exposed to PCBs that have bioaccumulated in the fish they are ingesting.” Tackling the problem is a daunting prospect. The chemicals can be destroyed only in high-temperature incinerators which are found in only a few countries. There are some 40m tonnes of PCBs known to be in circulation. Estimates suggest that destroying them could cost anything up to $70bn. And this is before old tower blocks and industrial buildings – which contain high levels of PCBs – are demolished, adding to the pile. “Only Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have established procedures for secure disposal or destruction of highly contaminated PCB in joint sealants [a major PCB source in buildings] in Europe,” said Jepson, who is nevertheless optimistic that something can be done. “We are winning this argument. Papers [identifying the problem] have only come out in the last few years in Europe and are new to a lot of people but in the US this is widely accepted. They’ve been dealing with PCBs for decades. Americans have been spending billions and billions of dollars to clean up rivers and estuaries.” Major polluters have been made to pay for the clean-up. One site, in the Hudson river, was largely paid for by industrial giant General Electric. “We urgently need a similar approach in Europe,” Jepson said. “It’s been done mainly to protect human health, but there’s a wonderful side-effect. A lot of wildlife is now slowly coming back including seals, seabirds and bottlenosed dolphins and harbour porpoises. On both the east and west coasts, the great white is also recovering. Only killer whales are still doing badly but if the US carries on the way it has been doing, then I think killer whales will make a recovery as well.”

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