Mittwoch, 14. November 2012

Montreal Protocol celebrates 25th anniversary. Cheers, but there is a lot of work to do!

It was a blast from the past when this Saturday my 10 months old daughter pulled out a binder (yes, one of those things Romney talked about …) that had a red “ozone devil” on it (see picture). Back in the mid 1980s, putting these “devils” on spraying cans powered by ozone layer destroying  “f-gases” - CFCs - was one of the first ever Greenpeace activities I engaged in. Then, the hole in the ozone layer was still new and big news.

It amuses me now to think how daring it felt at 14 to be walking into supermarkets and - by spreading these stickers - warn consumers about the disastrous impact of their product choice. I know my parents were a tad nervous about it. And I wonder what will be the issue my daughter cares about when she is 14? Certainly not CFCs or HCFCs, gladly, as these will be history in the developed world by then.

25 years ago, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol to protect the Ozone layer was agreed. It is a remarkable agreement. After NASA confirmed the dire state of the ozone layer, the Protocol was negotiated at amazing speed. It has some real teeth and has had an impact many global environmental agreements can only dream of. This success is not complete though. And, sadly, it seems to have created a – false – belief that the ozone layer is a problem that is already solved.

Far from it – it will take until 2050 for the ozone hole to make a partial recovery and it will never return to its preindustrial state. And when HCFCs and CFCs get replaced with HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), their replacement is fuelling another major environmental problem: climate change. HFCs are toxic chemicals and are extremely potent greenhouse gases. They are up to several thousand times more powerful than CO2, the main climate damaging gas everybody talks about. Shockingly, at their current rate of growth (mainly in refrigeration and air conditioning), HFCs could have the same climate impact as up to a third of total carbon emissions by 2050.

So as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, governments have their work cut out for them. The Montreal Protocol could have achieved much more to protect the ozone layer and the climate had it forced the world to take the direct leap to ozone friendly natural refrigerants. Instead, since its inception the Protocol has been overly influenced by the likes of Honeywell and Dupont, who have successfully lobbied for the widespread adoption of HCFCs and HFCs.

Natural refrigerants need to become the world´s choice if we are to truly get rid of the these fluorinated devils. We at Greenpeace developed and successfully commercialized the truly clean 'Greenfreeze' hydrocarbon technology in domestic refrigeration in the 1990s already. Greenfreeze technology is now being used in 650 million fridges around the world. And other sectors have successfully followed the natural refrigerants path. Indeed, as we show in our new Cool Technologies report sustainable long-term solutions are available and feasible for most applications. We can do without HFCs as well.

At the 25 years mark, therefore, the Montreal Protocol must not rest on its laurels. Instead, it must urgently decide to eliminate all HFCs by 2020 (working together with the climate convention, the UNFCCC). To continue the fight against the ozone devils my colleagues Ozone hero Janos Mate and Paula Tejon, are at the Montreal Protocol meeting in Geneva this week. As I was trying to prevent my daughter from chewing on the ozone devil binder this weekend – facing fierce resistance - I was thinking of them.  I was thinking about how grateful I am to have colleagues given their all for my daughters future.

Samstag, 3. November 2012

Money is available - but being spent on the wrong people and things!

Removing harmful subsidies for the sake of sustainable development - the English version of a short piece on harmful subsidies in WEITBLICK

Whether nationally or globally: the numbers are so shockingly high, they are hard to imagine. Nine billion euros, for instance, are annually granted to German industry in savings on electricity costs. Worldwide, subsidies are estimated at a whopping one trillion US dollars – subsidies that harm the climate, the people and the environment, not helping deliver a better future. When governments declare that they have no money for urgent investments to bring about a social and ecological economy, this is more than hypocritical.
The money is there – it is just being given to the wrong people for the wrong things. For example, the millionaire-family Vidal from Spain uses illegal fishing practices to empty our oceans, yet at the same time pockets € 12.5 million in EU fisheries subsidies. Or how about the rich producers and users of fossil fuels (the Exxon Mobils of this world), who, with an estimated $ 750 billion per year, collect the lion's share of harmful subsidies worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, only eight percent of fossil fuel subsidies reach the poor.
There is another way. Costa Rica has introduced a tax on oil, whilst reducing and redeploying its fossil fuel subsidies. Ethiopia has abolished subsidies for fossil fuels – and thereby reduced the import of kerosene (with a positive impact on the public purse). Why is it then, that not more countries follow these examples? The answer is easy to give and hard to overcome: It's a question of power. Fishing and oil barons have undue influence over our governments. So they manage to defend their privileges and shift the social and environmental costs of their actions onto the community - onto all of us.
In Germany, the overall social and environmental costs of electricity from lignite and coal-fired power plants, for example, add up to 15.6 and 14.8 cents per kilowatt hour respectively. For nuclear energy it's even more – at least 16.4 cents per kilowatt hour are due. Yet for one kilowatt hour of wind power, the accrued costs are just 8.1 cents. Nonetheless, powerful energy companies manage to ensure that the discussion on the streets and in the tabloid press is about supposedly "expensive" green energy. A debate that completey ignores the fact that the true - social and environmental - costs of electricity are not paid for by those powerful companies, but by all of us.
Besides transparency, clear policy objectives (such as the elimination of harmful subsidies by 2020 at the very latest) and a tax system in which social and environmental "bads" are charged adequately, one thing is needed above all: In order to change the current subsidy and tax policy, the power of large polluter-companies must be broken.
Who is being supported to do what is a question of democracy. Only when the people, not the industrial lobby, determine the actions of our rulers, will the billions that flow today into the destruction of our future, finally fund poverty reduction and environmental protection.

Freitag, 2. November 2012

Das Geld fehlt nicht - aber es geht an die Falschen für das Falsche!

Umweltzerstörung und Armut könnten durch den Abbau von schädlichen Subventionen wirksam bekämpft werden. Aber ...

Ein Gastbeitrag in der GERMANWATCH-Zeitung WEITBLICK

Ob national oder global: Die Zahlen sind kaum vorstellbar groß und erschütternd. 9 Milliarden Euro bekommt z.B. die Industrie in Deutschland jährlich an Stromkosten geschenkt. Auf eine satte Billionen werden weltweit die Subventionen geschätzt, die Klima, Mensch und Umwelt schaden, statt zu nutzen. Wenn Regierungen also behaupten, sie hätten kein Geld für dringende Investitionen in eine soziale und ökologische Wirtschaft, so ist dies mehr als verlogen. Das Geld ist da - es wird nur an die Falschen für das Falsche gegeben. Z.B. an die Millionärsfamilie Vidal aus Spanien, die unsere Meere mit illegalen Praktiken leerfischt, gleichzeitig aber von der EU 12,5 Millionen EUR in Fischereisubventionen kassiert. Oder an die Reichen Produzenten und Nutzer fossiler Energien, die mit geschätzt 750 Milliarden jährlich den Löwenanteil an schädlichen Subventionen weltweit kassieren. Nur 8% der Subventionen fossiler Brennstoffe erreichen laut Internationaler Energieagentur die Armen.

Es geht auch anders. Costa Rica hat eine Steuer auf Öl eingeführt und seine fossilen Subventionen gesenkt und umgeschichtet. Äthiopien hat Subventionen für fossile Energieträger abgeschafft – und dadurch die Einfuhr von Kerosin gesenkt (mit positiven Auswirkungen für die Staatskasse). Warum folgen dann nicht mehr Länder diesen Vorbildern? Die Antwort ist leicht zu geben und schwer zu überwinden: Es ist eine Frage der Macht. Fischerei- und Ölbarone haben übermäßigen Einfluss auf unsere Regierenden. So schaffen sie es ihre Privilegien zu verteidigen und die sozialen und ökologischen Kosten ihres Handelns auf die Allgemeinheit abzuwälzen. Die sozialen und ökologischen Gesamtkosten für Strom aus Braun- und Steinkohlekraftwerken summieren sich z.B. auf 15,6 bzw. 14,8 Cent je Kilowattstunde. Für Atomenergie sind sogar mindestens 16,4 Cent fällig. Für eine Kilowattstunde Windstrom fallen umgerechnet Kosten von 8,1 Cent an. Und doch gelingt es den mächtigen Energiekonzernen dafür zu sorgen, dass Regierende und Boulevardpresse nur über den angeblich „teuren“ Ökostrom diskutieren. Und dass diese wahren Kosten der Stromerzeugung für die Gesellschaft nicht von ihnen getragen werden, sondern von uns allen.

Neben Transparenz, klaren politischen Zielen (wie einer Abschaffung schädlicher Subventionen bis spätestens 2020) und einem Steuersystem, dass soziale und ökologische „Bads“ mit ausreichenden Kosten belegt, braucht es zur Veränderung der Subventions- und Steuerpolitik vor allem eins: eine Durchbrechern der Macht der großen Verschmutzerkonzerne. Wer, für was gefördert wird, ist auch eine Frage der Demokratie. Nur wenn die Mehrheitsinteressen, nicht die Industrielobby, das Handeln unserer Herrschenden bestimmt, werden auch endlich die Milliarden, die heute in die Zerstörung unserer Zukunft fließen, für Armutsbekämpfung und Umweltschutz zur Verfügung stehen.