Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UNDP - Millennium Development Goals

Target: Halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

Target: Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school.

Target: Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

Target: Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.
Target: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.

Target: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Target: Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Target: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
Target: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
Target: Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020

Goal 8 of the Millennium Development Goals sets out by the year 2015 to:
- Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally.
- Address the least developed countries’ special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction.
- Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States.
Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
- In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth.
- In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
- In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies—especially information and communications technologies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How green is NSW living? now we can tell

September 12, 2007

Over the past few weeks there has been a running commentary on the effect of the crisis in the US subprime mortgage market on the Australian sharemarket.

When it emerged we saw record falls on the Australian market. When the US Federal Reserve intervened, confidence was restored and the sharemarket surged upwards.

We love watching numbers go up and down. Even if they don't move, they seem to spark interest.

And if it is reported, it must matter.

Of course, this is not restricted to the sharemarket. We know we want dam levels to rise, the dollar to rise (unless you are a farmer), pollen levels to be low and mortgage rates to go down.

But do you know what happened with our greenhouse gas emissions last week? Did they go up? Stabilise? Or, more hopefully, go down? Do you have any idea how much NSW emitted?

With climate change one of the most critical issues facing the planet and our release of greenhouse gases critical to this, this seems to be a significant oversight.

It would be good if we took as much interest in how greenhouse gas emissions were tracking as we did in other indicators. There is little doubt that reports on dam levels helped raise awareness of the need to save water and contributed to cutting water use. If we had weekly information on how much greenhouse gas we produced, perhaps we would realise that rather than cutting our emissions, we were actually increasing them.

This year the Climate Group introduced in Victoria a weekly indicator of greenhouse emissions.

From today, NSW will also be able to track greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity, natural gas-fired electricity and petroleum products.

The NSW Greenhouse Indicator - on the facing page - keeps an account of about 65per cent of NSW greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining emissions come from agriculture, waste and industry. Surprisingly, information on emissions like this is not provided weekly anywhere else in the world. As in other countries, the Federal Government releases an annual report a couple of years after the emissions.This data, while comprehensive and critical for policy planning and scientific assessment, is too slow for us to respond to in the manner necessary to tackle this problem.

The good news is that there are many ways to make substantial cuts to greenhouse gas emissions now, without a huge cost.

As the indicator shows, our biggest source of greenhouse gas is coal-fired electricity. By buying government-accredited GreenPower, you can eliminate overnight all the emissions produced from electricity.

Driving your car more efficiently, walking or cycling more often, or catching public transport, or buying a more fuel-efficient car can help slash petroleum emissions.

Rupert Posner is the Australian director of The Climate Group. (www.theclimategroup.org/indicator). Check the Herald each Wednesday for latest greenhouse gas figures.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Making up for carbon emissions

Saturday, 09/01/07

Even on the environment, people get what they pay forToday's Topic: Making up for carbon emissions

Our View

It is probably a sad commentary on modern society that even on something like a clean environment, rather than do the hard part, people think they can just pay for it.
A trend toward purchasing "carbon offsets" is a recent example.

The Washington Post recently reported on how organizations are popping up, offering people a chance to "offset" their polluting ways, such as offsetting the drive to work in a gas-fueled car by paying into a program where clean steps — like planting trees — can be purchased.

If someone can write a check and know with certainty that they are helping the environment equal to their polluting ways, more power to them. It appears many organizations offering offsets for purchase have the best of motives. But scientists are beginning to question whether all of those groups deliver on exactly what they're selling. For example, if someone uses a credit card to pay for a $100 offset, how can they know for certain that the carbon offset will really be exactly what they paid for? The process, though well intended, could very well become just a feel-good way to "help" the environment without creating any real benefit.

The concept of offsets is certainly not limited to individual purchases. The theory is discussed in broader policy terms, where regions, even countries, could buy and trade credits on carbon emissions. But putting a specific dollar amount on offsets can be hard to get down to an exact science. There seems to be little doubt that offset sellers do attempt to apply the funds toward the noble purpose of cleaning up the environment, like putting the funds into a wind power program. But if people feel a purchase gives them license to then drive guilt-free, it leaves the question of precisely how much good is being done. It also leads to the question of whether they feel they can drive even more since they've paid for an offset.

Fortunately, the practice has gotten the attention of Congress. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission consider setting standards for such offset operations. As long as the concept is sound, and as long as there are good-faith efforts at work, the premise should be pursued. But it doesn't take long to see that such efforts could fall short of what is promised, and it doesn't take long to see that such purchases could be fodder for abuse.

According to the Post report, the Sierra Club suggests that instead of spending $100 on a carbon offset, it would be better to invest $100 in something like fluorescent light bulbs. Conservation and common sense should factor more into people's thinking than the belief that a cleaner earth is possible just by writing a check. There is actual work involved in improving the environment.

Putting money into a good idea is one thing. Actually cleaning up the planet can be something else.


End game for Mugabe 'could be in sight'

Saturday September 1

The "end game" for Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe could be in sight, the African country's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said as he wound up a week-long Australian visit.

The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was also forced on Saturday to defend claims from within the Mugabe regime, that his visit was to encourage further sanctions against his crisis-hit country.

"There have been accusations that I am here to advocate for sanctions against the country. Far from it," Mr Tsvangirai told reporters before flying out of Sydney.

"We would like to engage all democratic progressive governments in the world, to draw their attention to (Zimbabwe's) crisis.

"I'm sure that in engaging some of the progressive democratic nations of the world we are advancing the interests of Zimbabwe rather than undermining Zimbabwe."

Mr Tsvangirai said March next year would see the staging of presidential along with parliamentary and local government elections in Zimbabwe.

South African president Thabo Mbeki has taken on a mediation role ahead of the elections and Mr Tsvangirai said he hoped this would lead to a demilitarisation of the electoral process, international observers and also give Zimbabwe's diaspora the vote.

"If we were to go through a similar exercise we have had over the last three elections it will be a pre-determined outcome," Mr Tsvangirai said.

"But if there are free and fair election conditions, there is no doubt in my mind that the people will win.

"The people in Zimbabwe are very much conscious of their dire straits ... they are also conscious that the end-game is probably near."

Mr Tsvangirai said his country was in the midst of an economic catastrophe with up to six million people dependent on food aid, widespread unemployment and inflation at a run-away 12,000 per cent.

"The nearest country with the next high rate of inflation is Burma only at 37 per cent," Mr Tsvangirai said.

"It is in freefall, this is an economy that has shrunk almost 60 per cent.

"The situation is dangerous because unless the haemorrhage is stopped we may actually have a serious collapse."