Archive for June, 2012
Governments must seize the "historic opportunity" of the Rio+20 summit to put the world on a new sustainable course, says a panel of Nobel laureates, ministers and scientists.
The group of more than 30 signatories includes Nobel laureates such as Carlo Rubbia, Walter Kohn, Douglas Osheroff and Yuan Tseh Lee, as well as politicians including Brazil's Environment minister Izabella Teixeira and Finland's recently ex-President Tarja Halonen.
Tarja Halonen said the declaration could and should encourage leaders to raise their ambitions in Rio.
"What this says to negotiators is they need to push harder, they must be encouraged to do more," she told BBC News.
"The most important thing we are telling them is the urgency."
The host government's delegation chief Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado told reporters on Monday afternoon that he was "absolutely convinced" negotiators would finish talks within hours, leaving little for the estimated 130 heads of state and government to do when they arrive on Wednesday.
But according to sources, the discussions – from which reporters are excluded – saw heated exchanges over a number of issues, including the green economy, fossil fuel subsidies and sustainable development goals (SDGs).
EU ministers complained that the hosts had pushed their version of the text through without real negotiation, and that the outcome was far too weak.
In a joint statement, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik and Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken said the EU "remains committed, for as long as it takes, to achieving concrete and ambitious outcomes from the Rio+20 negotiations.
"We believe that in these final stages, our ministerial colleagues are best placed to reach a political agreement with the substance needed to bring the world towards a sustainable future."
However, if significant problems are left for governments leaders to resolve, the EU's capacity will be compromised by the fact that most European presidents and prime ministers are staying away from Rio, preferring to remain at home to manage eurozone-related fallout from Sunday's Greek election – though some are at the G20 summit in Mexico.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to present the "final" Rio+20 agreement to G20 leaders in Mexico on Tuesday, providing it is finished.
That would allow world leaders not going to Rio, including US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to give the document their endorsement before the final round begins in Rio.
The fossil fuel subsidy issue was highlighted during the day by environmental campaigners who directed an internet-based assault at delegates to both the Rio and G20 meetings, in the process attempting to set a world record for the most uses of a Twitter hashtag – in this case, #endfossilfuelsubsidies.
G20 leaders pledged three years ago to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, without setting a timetable or a mechanism.
A report from the research and campaign group Oil Change International, released before the Rio meeting, found that none of the G20 members had moved towards meeting their pledge.
Instead, more are simply not reporting their subsidies to the G20.
Estimates of the extent of subsidies run from about $400bn to about $1 trillion per year. Studies suggest that eliminating them would make a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lead to social benefits such as increased employment.
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Government proposals to trap and displace buzzards to protect captive-reared pheasants have been dropped after a public outcry. So can birds of prey live alongside shooting interests?
The nation could be down to one nesting pair of hen harriers this year, a result of illegal killings committed with the intention of protecting grouse, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The impact of raptors is a political hot potato because shooting game birds is an economic lynchpin in rural communities, and apparent attempts by some to control raptors have conservationists worried.
When a predator eats a game bird, competition may be reduced among the remaining birds and their survival chances can be improved as a result, she says.
"There were places that we worked where there were one two or three pairs of hen harriers breeding and they happily had plenty of grouse to shoot."
But if there are a lot of hen harriers around for a long time, the grouse population will suffer, he says.
Hen harriers are not territorial and in some cases "you get colonies forming and they can then have quite a big impact".
Prof Redpath's work about what brings hen harriers into contact with grouse shows that the number of harriers in an area is related to the "density of the small prey that they eat in the spring, so things like meadow pipits and voles", rather than the number of grouse.
He did an experiment in which food such as rats and poultry chicks were left at hen harrier nests.
This diversionary feeding resulted in "an 86% reduction in how many grouse chicks they ate during the breeding season".
Perhaps there is some hope of reconciling the competing interests of conservationists and gamekeepers after all.