Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doha Kyoto 2 was not really a progress: a new paradigm is needed for a general agreement on GHG reduction by 2015-2020

Figure 1 : For Kiribati Island less than 2 m above sea level adaptation measures to global warming are a matter of survival (Credit: Rafeal Avila Coya/Creative Commons)

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a group of low-lying and coastal states such as Kiribati Island (See Figure 1 above) highly vulnerable to climate change. Adaptation for these countries could be difficult and many governments are already considering mass relocation.

AOSIS has a membership of around forty states from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean and in the Asian Pacific regions. They are mostly very small islands: Antigua and Barbuda,  Barbados, Comoros, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada,   Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands,  Nauru, Niue, Palau etc. But there are also large countries such as: Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominican Republic,Guinea-Bissau, Guyana,Haiti, Jamaica, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico,  Singapore etc.

The outcome of the Doha Kyoto 2 meeting is not really a progress

Most of the honest or openminded people would like to say that the glass of water is half full and not half empty. It is true that most of a possible better future engraved in the Kyoto Agreement has been protected and even some new principle on "Loss and Damage" accepted to be discussed.

But on the other hand the new period of the Kyoto protocol shows very low level of commitment , a reduction of the committed countries and no increase of effort to scale down carbon emissions. 

There are still blocking tactics from USA- in spite of President Obama promises- together with Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

  • While not party to the Kyoto protocol, US administration has been opposed to any other issues such as mitigation investment funding in developing countries and “Loss & Damage” new concept. Despite the devastation of super storm Sandy and US pools showing a strong support to a mitigation policy, President Obama legacy won't be any better than that of President Bush.

  • Canada and New Zealand have pursued their stance of supporting USA in continuously blocking any progress. New Zealand even proposed bluntly than Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) financing facility could be opened to country not party to the protocol.

  • Japan has refused to sign to a second commitment period and while being the second largest donor has even refused to pledge any money for the funding of mitigation Investments.  This is done in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the coming up of a more nationalist stance in the country.

  • Russian Federation - the fifth largest polluter with an economy based on oil and gas- was a party for the first period but has refused to commit to the second.  It seems that the "Hot Air" issue concerning the emissions rights accumulated during the first period and not used due to the collapse of Russian economy  in the 90's was the reason or pretext put forwards.

  • EU countries showed poor willingness to progress really on the Kyoto agenda without anymore commitment from other parties. They even decided to take the side of Poland on the "hot air" issue concerning its accumulated rights . Nevertheless they proposed to increase their GHG emissions from 20% to 30% but only on the condition that there were a general agreement. Furthermore some countries including Germany, France, UK, Denmark proposed to pledge money around 10 bil USD  for the finance mitigation mechanism.

  • Less developed countries were disappointed by the lack of outcome on finance but the “Loss & Damage” principle for them is a big achievement because it could provide an angle to further juridical actions against high fossil energy investments in the future. AOSIS countries fell short of what they have been asking; the outcome was the best they could attain due to US constant blocking of any kind of progress.

Collectively all committed parties on Kyoto 2 are targeting GHG emission reductions by 2020 to be lower than 18% on 1990 level. But this concerns only 15-20% of world emissions and is judged insufficient by  IPCC scientists who are proposing  a 30% reduction on 1990 to cope with the 2° C target increase for world average temperatures by 2050. The Kyoto agreement will be binding 90 days after 3/4 of the committed parties have formally approved it, and there is a risk that Belarus along with Ukraine and Kazakhstan finally decide to withdraw.

As discussed in my post dated 6 July, the parties have agreed in the "Durban Platform" to discuss targets in 2015 for a new general agreement to come into force by 2020. As such it makes sense to have a formal agreement until end of 2020 in order to prepare the outcome of a more ambitious agreement from 2020 onwards.

The agreement of a "Loss and Damage" principe- if there is a final resolution on this issue- might open the risk that new investments on fossil fuel may become stranded  if some group of countries such as AOSIS place a juridical action.

So in our view the Doha agreement on a second period of commitment for the reduction of GHG under the Kyoto agreement may help but is not really a progress to permit a general agrement contemplated under the Durban Platform: some innovative thinking is necessary if we want to agree on a new general agreement by 2015-2020.

Is a new paradigm possible to distribute fairly GHG 's reduction efforts between South and North countries ?

Maybe there is a need to change a little bit the format of discussion. At the core of the opposition we find two problems:

  • Some countries such as Canada, Russian Federation might feel that maybe for them global warming by opening up to human life new territories is more an opportunity than a disaster; maybe it is normal that they try to stay outside of the general agreement, but then it is necessary to organize such "opt out" provision. 

  • Non EU industrialized countries such as USA, Canada or Japan want to share the burden of GHG's reduction equally with less developed countries; but China, Indian or Brazil disagree taking argument from the huge fossil energy past consumptions. They claim that GHG stocks contained in forests are not evenly distributed due to variation in the past of manmade “land use and land-use change and forest” (LULUCF) in conjunction with past development or the most advance countries .

To solve this issue we propose the following rationale:

First: each country has the right to freely use its own biocapacity such as forests, ground and water areas located on its own territory in order  to absorb or recycle part of its GHG outputs: only net GHG output after recycling in the country own territory  should be considered as its atmospheric "GHG waste".

Second:  if we are able to foresee the atmospheric world emissions of GHG in the future then we are able to do the same for the past periods; we have the history of GHG accumulated in the atmosphere from the ice's sample core drilled in the poles, we have the historical record of population, GHG emissions including LULUCF  by country: then for the past we  should be able to attribute each mil ton of accumulated atmospheric GHG waste to each  countries.

Third: it is not necessary to compute the past period further backward  before the Industrial revolution around 1900 when the worldwide population  was only 1600 mil persons on which 400 in Europe, 900 in Asia, 150 in Africa and 150 in all America and Oceania.

Forth: then  applying  the "polluter pays " principle each country or eco- zone grouping of countries should have an obligation to  take care of its own atmospheric GHG waste from the past periods; this means that Asian-Pacific countries which available biocapacities are stressed by the hight level of population should take their share of the necessary reduction.  

 Cumulative CO2 emissions 1990-2004 in mil ton CO2

The following Figure 2 is an aggregation between the CO2 emissions on 1900-2004 provided by the World Resources Institute (187 countries) and the figures on 2005-2011 established by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Trends in global CO2 emissions; 2012 Report) and concerning only the countries in annex I and II of the Kyoto protocol. Furthermore the Figure 2 refers only to the biggest polluter among the Kyoto protocol’s annex I and II parties, which are around 80% of the total of annex I and II countries.

Figure 2: Cumulative CO2 Emissions since 1900 (111 years)

On the 1900-2011 period of 111 years, the four biggest CO2 polluters are USA, EU 27, China and Russia respectively: 354, 301, 143 and 102 bil tons. But the variation of each zone bocapacity - bigger in Northa America and Russia, weaker in Europe and Asia- should be taken into account and permit to modutale proportinally each zone reduction efforts.

In the following Figure 3 (Trends in global CO2 emissions; 2012 Report) we can see the variation of CO2 emissions located in main countries during the first period of the Kyoto protocol. The huge amount of Chinese CO2 emissions from 1990 to 2011- almost multiplied by 4 - is in relation with China becoming the "power house" of the world.

Figure 3: Variation of main countries’ CO2 emissions by 1900-2005-2010-2011

CO2 pollution figures above are based on emissions located in each country - and not final consumption- and this is what we must do if we want to compare with the country’s biocapacity. Emissions therefore include what is contained in final consumption, investment and net export balance (export-import), which heavily weight on a country like China, whose development model is export-oriented and each year invest heavily on equipment and infrastructure.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Palm & Soybeans Oil: nutritional facts and biodiversity threats

Figure 1: Harvesting a palm oil tree, credit : Dr Asril Darussamin, RSPO

In the last decade palm oil production has more than doubled worldwide and even tripled in Southeast Asia. It is now dominating the global vegetable oil market with Indonesia (45%) and Malaysia (40%) controlling 85% of palm crude oil outputs. Palm oil is used as a source of vegetable cooking oil in developing countries, is ubiquitous as small amounts in developed countries’ manufactured products and additionally is in UE an energy crop.

Though palm oil plantations represent a limited portion of the deforested areas, they are a disproportionally large source of global warming because they are often established on land converted from swamp forests.  As a consequence the carbon footprint of palm oil plantations is growing due to deforestation and ongoing emissions from drained peat lands which have a high carbon density. Concern about deforestation associated with palm oil plantations has raised limitations to acceptance of palm oil in Europe.

Vegetable oil is an important issue of food policy because food preparations are more and more industrialized with  readymade processed frozen meals or snacks.  Vegetable oil can easily be incorporated as a small amount in meal preparation for human or animal. The choice of palm oil is more an industrial than a nutritional option : it slows oxidisation and improves food texture at a low cost.

Scientific knowledge of nutritional facts has progressed concerning bad fats such as trans fats and saturated fats which are increasing risk of certain diseases such as obesity, stroke and heart disease. Good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are stabilizing cholesterol levels, heart rhythm and playing a role in the production of estrogen and testosterone. The role of polyunsaturated fat such as omega 3 and 6 is essential because, as for vitamins, human body needs them but cannot produce them and must find them directly from its meals.

Although fats are good for health and energy the size of meal should be limited. Fats have more than twice calories content (9kcal/g) as carbohydrates and protein (4kcal/g). A major changes in our diet comes from the development of the consumption of fats. Between 1950 and 1990, it rose from 28% to 43% of energy intake in developed coutries, along with reduction of complex carbohydrates intake from starchy food.

Given these trends and possible adverse consequences for the health of consumers, it is justified to move towards a more accurate labeling for consumer information and a more proactive policy from governments.

Different type of vegetable oils: production and nutrition value

(See following Figure 2 from Oil World 2007)  

Figure 2: Major vegetable oil  production 2006-2007

Soy is a source of both protein, dietary fiber and energy  from sugar and fat. Most quantities are consumed by livestock: chicken, pigs and cattle eat most of soy bean after the seed has been crushed and  the oil extracted.

In 2005-2006 per capita consumption of vegetable oil averaged 17kg/day and ranged between less than 9-10kg/day (Bangladesh, India), 18kg/day (China), and up to 36-39kg/day (UE, USA). Most edible palm oil is consumed in developing countries.

Palm oil requires less farmland that other vegetable oils but taking into account the production-related protein and sugar having a high nutritional value as, the overall yield ratio from soy to palm oil is 1 to 4 and not of 1 to 10 (cf. World Figure Oil from 2007). Additionally there is the system of crop rotations where soy or sunflowers are grown alternatively with corn or wheat cereal to regenerate soil nutrients and reduce fertilizer or pest control.

Figure 3: Major vegetable oil fruit/seed composition dry weight in  %

Nutrition aspects of palm oil compared with others staple oil could be resumed as following:

  • In a context of a western diet with 40% of total calories supplied from one single type of vegetable oil: palm oil is hypercholesterolemic relative to high unsaturated fat oil like soybean or sunflower (See following figure 4) .
  • However with a diet with 30% of total calories supplied from fat and saturated fat acids (SFA) limited to 10% of total calories, the cholesterol raising attitude is muted or has disappeared.   
  • Fractionation of palm oil  can give rise to stearin palm (higher quantities of saturated fat) and olein palm oil with slightly higher quantities of mono and poly unsaturated fats. 
  • Soybean, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) oils have a greater nutritional value than palm oil due to the lower proportion of saturated fatty acids. However they are more liquid and when incorporated to processed meal require post-processing (hydrogenation) that may produce trans unsaturated fat.

Figure 4: Fat composition %

The future of vegetable oil production

The assumptions are the following:

  • Daily energy intake 3000kcal/head in 2050 (higher than the HHS/USDA 2005 recommendations);
  • Fat should make up at least 25% in 2050 (dietary recommendations:  at least 20% for women with reproductive age and no more than 30% for individuals with a sedentary style-life); 
  • 55% of dietary fat are from vegetable oil  (now  59% for developing countries  and 46% for industrialized and transition countries)

Altogether the daily consumption of vegetable oil –including 17% of traditional non edible uses (detergent, cosmetic) - could by 2050 average 25kg per person. Less developed countries should catch up from 10 to 25kg per capita and developed countries continue their growth at the present trend. Including a population growth up to 9,2 bil in 2050 (+40% from 2005), total vegetable oil  production should grow from 110 mil ton in 2005 to 240 mil ton in 2050.

Figure 5: Prevision of vegetable oil productions 2005-2050

Concerning the mix of the main vegetable oils there are three considerations:

  • Palm oil is the marginal oil due to the fact that it is a unique product addressing the fat market alone with the highest yield per ha; as such it might cover any additional requirement.
  • Soyabean, rapeseed and sunflower products are addressing a mix of markets:  sugar, animal-meal, fat ; among interrelated products  these vegetable oil  have to be sold anyway; the overall  yield per ha is constrained by the crop areas available.
  • We have used the projection from R.H.V. CORLEY but with a final correction concerning rapeseed, sunflower and other oil supposed to be slightly increasing on the period (See Figure 5 above).

Tropical palm oil and soybeans plantations growing threat to global warming and biodiversity

(See: Report “The Root of the Problem” by Union of the Concerned Scientists- June 2011)

Soy bean and the Amazon rain forest

Although it has been growing in East Asia for millennia, it was only in the 20th century that Soy expanded and became a major crop- mostly in the USA and Argentina- as a source of protein for cattle. Pushed by the need for more cattle protein, the Brazilian  soy production progressed Northway into the “Cerrado” and in the Amazon rain forest when new varieties and methods of cultivation had been adapted.

After the rain forest had been deforested up to 2.7 mil ha during the 2003-2004 crop, Brazil was by 2005 the largest soybean exporter in the world. Academics & environmentalists raised the alarm of the growing threat to the rainforest, with 2006 Green Peace Report “Eating up the Amazon” focusing particularly on large scale commercial agro businesses Cargill and Mac Donald’s. 

The Brazilian Association of Soy Industries (ABIOVE) and the National Association of Cereals Exporters (ANEC) announced a moratorium on deforestation prohibiting buying soybeans from Amazon farm land deforested after June 2006.The moratorium has been in place for 6 years to date. The Brazilian soy production areas continue to grow (2010: 24 mil ha) but not at the expense of the Amazon. 

Together USA, Brazil and Argentina produce 80% of the worldwide soy mostly as a  protein for livestock.

Palm oil and the tropical Asian rain forest

During the 1990-2005 period at least 55% of plantation expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia entailed deliberate forest clearing (Koh and Wilcove 2008). Large palm oil plantations in Indonesia have been established in forested land leased to influential Indonesian group (Sinar Mas Group). Selling the timber harvested while clearing land generated the capital needed to establish the palm oil plantation. The combination of logging followed by palm oil plantation is one of the most profitable option for the tropical forest exploitation anywhere. Deforestation is seen as a small price to pay for the profit made by rural growers and workers. Substantial further expansion is planned.

In the 1992 Rio Summit, Malaysia pledged to preserve 50% of its forests and have exceeded its own target having 56% currently for both peninsula Malaysia and Sarawak Sabah in Borneo island.

In peninsula Malaysia, the fragmentation of natural forest cover is an environmental issue. Between 1954 and 2000 there had been a decrease of natural forest from 9.5 mil ha (72% of total peninsula area) to 6.0 mil ha (45% ).

But in a recent article (See: "Go for just 33pc forest cover" in NewStraitsTimes 4 Nov. 2012) the CEO of the Malaysian Palm Council expressed that "Therefore, the 56% forest area is non-sustainable. If Malaysia aspires to be a developed country, it has to follow other developed countries by reducing its forest to a more sustainable ratio such as 33%".

The mountain ranges running down the centre of the peninsula are heavily forested. The Central Forest Spine (CFS) is a master program being implemented  with the view to enable wildlife in the country to continue to strive for future generations. Under the plan, four major but isolated forest complexes will be connected through an artificial network of 37 linkages (See: "Why the Central Forest Spine is important" in NewStraitsTimes  7 Oct. 2012). 

RSPO the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil  is a non-for-profit organization created in 2003 which secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur. It is an association of growers, industrial users and NGO who want to promote sustainable palm oil. But after 9 years only a small part of production is certified  as compliant with its voluntary standards: the current estimated annual production capacity of sustainable certified palm oil production is 7.2 mil ton, about 14% of global palm oil production. The present standards (RSPO 2007) require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted and include some provisions regarding High Conservative Value (HCV) forests. The RSPO has recommended a maximum rate of carbon emission per ton of CPO in 2009. This would rule out the conversion of forests or peat swamps with high carbon density.

In conclusion as in the Brazilian soy Amazon moratorium example, Southeast Asian palm oil in the future may not be a driver of tropical forest deforestation, a major source of global warming emissions and a threat to wildlife and biodiversity. The Indonesian and Malaysian stakeholders can demonstrate a workable model for a low carbon and wildlife friendly development of their export oriented agriculture model if they choose to proceed with consistency the various global policies they have already planned.