Unprecedented heatwaves, widespread food shortages, more intense cyclones and shifting rain patterns causing floods or droughts are just some of the future problems outlined in the World Bank's latest climate report today.
Following its groundbreaking report that warned about a 4 degrees Celsius warmer world, the bank has now looked at what that warming would mean for South Asia, South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The picture is dramatic, as this infographic illustrates, with climate change threatening the future prosperity of these regions.
Four degrees may not sound like a lot, but it almost compares to the temperature difference between the last ice age and today – and happening during one person’s lifetime. No wonder the impacts would be dramatic!
For the regions in question, two degrees would already cause severe problems, which is why we must limit warming to less than two degrees. The World Bank says this is still feasible and it calls for bold action and countries to adopt aggressive targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But what about the bank's own actions?
The World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, pledged today that the bank will do everything it can to prevent the bleak future from materialising. Kim pledged the bank will step up its climate work as it increasingly looks at its business through a “climate lens”.
Well, we've done that already, and here’s what we found: the World Bank is still fueling climate change, big time.
Despite efforts to increase its renewable energy lending, in the past five years the World Bank Group still financed fossil fuels by a total of US$18 billion – nearly half of its energy lending. Since 1994, the group has financed a total of 29 coal-fired power plants in Asia alone.
But this financing understates the bank’s contribution to dirty coal development, as its loans are usually a small part of the total funding package.
The latest support includes two of the biggest dirty power plants: 4800MW Medupi in South Africa and 4000MW Tata Mundra in India – both of these plants will end up high on the list of the biggest CO2 sources on earth.
The Kosovo lignite power plant project in Europe will be the first real test for Kim’s climate pledges. The bank is planning to grant guarantees for a low-efficiency coal power plant that has CO2 emissions well exceeding the average of new power plants in China, and air pollution emissions up to twice as high as those allowed under either US or Chinese regulations.
The bank claims that building a new, dirty coal power plant is the only way to provide electricity to Kosovo, while even the bank’s own former renewable energy expert has shown that practical and affordable renewable energy and energy efficiency options are available and can be implemented in time.
We have been truly impressed by the efforts of Kim to bring climate change onto the political agenda again, warning about the severe consequences of the current path we’re on, but action speaks louder than words.
Together with about 60 development, faith, human rights, community, and environmental groups from more than 20 countries, Greenpeace expects the World Bank to lead by example. This means it must end support for all fossil fuel projects unless the projects are solely focused on directly increasing energy access for the poor. In most cases, including Kosovo's, better solutions exist.
It is renewable energy and energy efficiency that truly deliver for the poor – not dirty fossil fuels that are causing our climate to change.
"The people finally woke up" … and they won't be going back to sleep.
This phrase, heard from the four corners of Brazil this Monday, reflected a infectious sentiment felt everywhere. The hours past midnight saw thousands of people still on the streets – and on social networks – sharing emotions, images and memories of a day that has already become history in the country.
Never before has a Monday been so eagerly awaited by so many people. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred-thousand, the exact number does not matter anymore. Brazilians occupied their streets as they haven't done for a very long time; shouting clearly and loudly what was previously stuck in their throat.
It was not only about the increase in public transport fares. The initial protests in the past two weeks were violently suppressed by the police and the movement has now come to represent something much bigger. Brazilians have left their homes to re-establish that the streets are the most legitimate spaces for democracy.
São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, is known as "the city that never stops" – except in traffic jams. This time the city's millions of automobiles made room for hundreds of thousands of people. Residents of other big cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Salvador, Maceio, Belém and Rio Branco, have also joined the protests.
The movement spread nationwide, like ignited gunpowder. But actual gunpowder was hardly seen. What exploded on the asphalt, this time, was optimism, creativity, good humor and the feeling that something must change. Democracy, education, healthcare, an end to corruption, the right to peaceful protest, accessible public transportation – all of this was included in the claims of the Brazilian people.
As an organisation which has the right to peaceful protest embedded in its DNA, Greenpeace supports, applauds and is proud to have taken part in one of the most beautiful moments in the recent history of Brazil. We will keep calling for our city leaders to dutifully consider their citizens. Let the winds of change continue to blow through the country. Each of us, as citizens, need to take ownership of this lesson: policy is also made with our own hands.
And the original reasoning behind the protests, the high cost of public transportation, cannot go unanswered. After decades and decades of encouraging the car industry, it is time to rethink this wasteful transport model and ensure massive investments are made in public urban mobility. The best way to solve this unsustainable gridlock is with an affordable, accessible and efficient public transport system.
Did it see the writing on the wall?
Notorious Indonesian pulp and paper producer APRIL has had a chequered history with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But late last week we heard that the relationship has finally came to an end – and in a most unexpected way.
News came last Friday that before an NGO-initiated FSC complaint process even had an opportunity to begin to investigate APRIL's deforestation practices, the company had effectively walked out on the FSC's certification scheme. Seemingly, APRIL did not want to risk the scrutiny of FSC's Policy for Association complaints process.
This marks the end of what has been a troubled relationship between a known forest destroyer and the FSC; but also the beginning of a not-so-slick PR campaign APRIL is rolling out to 'manage' its reputation as a forest destroyer.
Check out this recent public relations blunder filmed by The Guardian newspaper, where APRIL's chief public relations spokesperson repeatedly tried, and failed, to answer a simple question on deforestation: “How many trees does it cut down each year?” (see 02:50).
And now, by withdrawing from the FSC before it was kicked out, APRIL seems to be hoping to avoid the embarrassing publicity that it is, indeed, linked to forest destruction.
The story started back in 2008, when APRIL convinced an FSC certifier that it took the issue of protecting forests seriously. APRIL was allowed to market a number of its products with the FSC logo, so long as they were not made with fibre from 'uncontrolled' sources, such as deforestation.
But after just two years, the FSC certifier decided to cut ties with APRIL's mills in Indonesia – the major factor being APRIL's failure to comply with a deadline 'to stop all conversion of natural forest'. Nevertheless, APRIL – being a global player in the paper industry – had a host of sister paper mills in China that still held the rights to use the FSC logo for some of their products.
Greenpeace, together with WWF and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), thought it was about time that APRIL no longer be allowed to use the FSC logo to green its credentials, anywhere in the world. In May, our three organisations filed a formal complaint with the FSC asking it to disassociate its brand from all APRIL companies, including those that still hold FSC certificates.
The latest development looks like APRIL didn't want to get embroiled in a mess of its own making. While APRIL has requested that all of its FSC certificates be withdrawn, this does call into question why the certifiers, SGS, Bureau Veritas and QMI granted the certificates in the first place.
If the FSC is to avoid use of its logo by companies not committed to the basic fundamental principles of responsible forest management, it needs to strengthen its due diligence procedures as part of its Policy for Association.
Clearly, the APRIL fiasco shows how some companies will try to avoid the spotlight when its suits them – and avoid accountability for forest crimes documented in NGO complaints to the FSC.
APRIL can't simply 'manage' its reputation and try to extricate itself from scrutiny. Greenpeace, together with our supporters around the world, will continue to investigate and expose forest destruction. Join us to find out more.
Bustar Maitar is Head of Indonesia Forest Campaign for Greenpeace SouthEast Asia
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
After spending just 15 minutes on the fourth floor of reactor #1, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) inspectors said they determined yesterday that a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011 did not damage isolation condensers there (critical for emergency cooling), despite a Diet-sponsored investigative report that raised concerns about earthquake damage. Workers had reported that they saw water leaking from the condensers before a subsequent tsunami struck the plant, but inspectors now insist that the water simply splashed out of the reactor’s spent fuel pool following the earthquake.
The #1 reactor experienced one of three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima facility in March 2011, and more than two years later, the utility still has not been able to locate the melted fuel. As a result, astronomically high radiation levels there prevent humans from spending more than 10 or 15 minutes within the reactor building.
In what seems like an unending series of mishaps in its efforts to manage a fast-growing water storage crisis, TEPCO admitted this week that its so-called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), designed to remove a wide variety of radioactive contaminants from water used to cool reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has sprung a leak. Workers discovered that radioactivity near a welded portion of the system’s water tank, which holds 25 tons of water, measured approximately .2 millisieverts per hour, greater than that of surrounding areas. They are still investigating the cause of the leak, but suspect that areas near the welds may be malfunctioning. In the meantime, they have shut down the system. Officials say that the leaked water mixed with condensation but was captured in a tray sitting below the tank.
TEPCO has placed great hope in the ALPS system, amidst numerous leaks and other breakdowns at the plant. Currently, the utility is storing more than 300,000 tons of highly radioactive water in tanks located on the plant’s compound. Each day, approximately 400 tons of groundwater seep into cracks located in the basements of reactor buildings and mix with highly radioactive water used to cool melted fuel in the reactor cores. The groundwater subsequently becomes radioactive and requires storage.
The ALPS system does not remove radioactive tritium, leading some municipal leaders and local fisheries cooperatives to protest the possibility of releasing water treated with ALPS into the sea, out of concern for further contamination of fish and other marine life. Tritium has a half-life of more than 12 years and can cause cancer.
In a surprise move, TEPCO announced this week that it is considering a delay in applying for the restart of reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, as a result of widespread local opposition to the plan. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the world’s largest nuclear power plant, with seven reactors, although all are currently idle in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japan’s NRA will start accepting applications for nuclear reactor restarts beginning on July 18, and has estimated that each evaluation will take up to six months. Despite the possible delay, TEPCO is currently working to install filtered vents at reactors #1 and #7.
But that work may be for naught unless Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overrides the wishes of local governments. Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida has flatly refused to grant approval to bring any of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors online again unless the root causes of the Fukushima meltdowns are confirmed. “Verifications of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster should come first,” he said. In addition, Izumida expressed doubts about the safety of filtered vents. “Even though filtered vents are intended to reduce radioactive material emissions, there are inherently designed to emit such materials outside. There’s no way that the utility can win our trust without explaining how it is going to operate them,” he said.
Meanwhile, TEPCO’s own assessments of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant show that fault lines running beneath several of the reactors are likely active, raising the chances that the NRA will deny restarts there even if the utility submits applications. The effect could be devastating for TEPCO, which has long banked on restarting those reactors in an effort once again reach financial solvency.
In other news, TEPCO officials are admitting that they lost personal information belonging to at least 60 victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster who applied for compensation, including 22 whose confidential data was accidentally left on a bus last week by an employee of the company. TEPCO said that so far it does not believe that any of the information was used illegally, including in identity theft, but said that they have not yet been able to contact all of the victims.
Nuclear Regulation Authority
An NRA team spent just one day last week inspecting Kansai Electric’s (KEPCO) Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, but nevertheless has declared reactors #3 and #4 without any “major defect” and will allow them to continue operating until they are due to be shutdown for regular maintenance in September. The two reactors are the only ones currently operating in Japan. The country’s remaining reactors, which remain offline, will need to wait until new NRA safety regulations are formally unveiled on July 18, but the regulator decided to grant an early exception for the Oi reactors in order to keep them online. Still, members of the inspection team pointed out that the reactors’ emergency response headquarters may be too small to accommodate officials if a nuclear disaster occurs, and said that the screen for videoconferencing—possibly the only way that government and utility officials will be able to communicate with workers during a crisis—is too small. In spite of the decision to continue operations there, seismic experts have yet to determine whether or not fault lines running beneath the reactors are active. KEPCO has long been seen as being uncooperative with the NRA, but finally submitted information on recent safety upgrades.
Other Nuclear Politics in Japan
A new study by The Mainichi Daily News reveals that Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) has passed along to electricity consumers the cost of maintaining 70 residences meant to house workers, in spite of the fact that those units have been unoccupied since 2012. Moreover, the company admitted that it has no plans to fill them at least through 2015. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) approved a request by the company to include the cost of maintaining 250 dormitories and housing units (totaling 5,000 individual residences), including the vacant ones, in a recent rate hike that took effect in May.
Shizuoka Prefecture Governor Heita Kawakatsu was re-elected this weekend, defeating Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate Ichiro Hirose. Kawakatsu has long been cautious about nuclear power, and during the course of the campaign, advocated for a public referendum to determine whether the Prefecture’s Hamaoka power plant should be allowed to restart. Hirose said that the central government, not local residents, should determine whether or not the reactor should be put online. Shizuoka’s win was credited in part to his decision to stand up against power operators during a time when the public largely opposes nuclear power.
The Japanese Red Cross Society has established new guidelines declaring an annual radiation exposure of 1 millisievert per year for its aid workers. That recommendation reflects the annual limit for the public during non-emergency situations. In addition, workers will be required to carry dosimeters to measure radiation levels, and iodine pills to protect their thyroid glands from significant radiation exposure. However, some critics have complained that the 1-millisievert threshold is too low for relief workers and could lead to logistical problems if elderly and disabled people need to be evacuated when the next nuclear disaster occurs. Japanese Red Cross officials responded that each relief squad—which includes one medical practitioner, three nurses, a driver, and one clerical staff member—is generally only onsite for one week or less, and they do not expect that they will be unable to respond to emergencies. “We have created the guideline out of a positive desire to help victims during a nuclear disaster. We will use it as a platform for further improvements if the need arises,” a Red Cross official said.
Decontamination Efforts and Waste Disposal
Despite recent public promises by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to complete decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture by March 2014, which would reduce radiation exposure levels there to one millisievert per year or less, Japan’s central government has recently informed municipal officials that they will likely not meet their stated deadline as a result of local opposition to hosting nuclear waste storage sites. Officially, the government is still denying any change to the timeline. Japan’s decontamination schedule is already widely seen as being far behind schedule; more than two years after the nuclear disaster first began to unfold, cleanup efforts have not even begun in 5 of 11 municipalities that have been declared evacuation zones. In Iitate, where work has actually begun, only 1% of homes have been decontaminated. Moreover, the Environment Ministry has told local officials that areas that have already been decontaminated but where radiation levels remain high will not be decontaminated again, raising questions about if or when residents will ever be able to safely return.
The Japanese government has objected to a decision by CITES, the convention regulating the international trade of wild plants and animals, to regulate the trade of five shark species – including hammerhead, oceanic whitetips and porbeagles, which are threatened by overfishing.
Japan tried to justify its stance by insisting that the "control of resources should be done by existing regulatory organisations," but I've been witness to enough of these organisations' meetings to know that Tokyo’s reasoning is entirely flawed.
There are several international organisations tasked with the regulation of fisheries that target tuna and sharks. These include the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).
They hold meetings every year, which normally end in deadlock with very limited achievements for conservation and management, due to disagreement between member countries that prioritise preservation of fishing resources and those that seek short-term gain for their fleets.
The failures of these institutions and others tasked with management explains why the five species of shark were proposed for a 'CITES reservation listing' in the first place.
Greenpeace attends many annual meetings of these regulatory organisations and at the WCPFC meeting I have seen the Japanese government take a lead role in the group of countries that place more importance on short-term interest than on regulation.
In response to proposals aimed at achieving sustainable fishing based on the precautionary principle, Japan uses its veto (often in collaboration with fishing powers such as South Korea, China or Taiwan). Instead, it proposes changes that take the bite out of proposals or question science and don’t follow the precautionary principle. Often, efforts to achieve meaningful conservation end in vain.
At the IOTC meeting in May this year, for example, the Japan objected to the proposed protection plans for sharks, including hammerheads.
The Japanese government has also rejected the listing of whales agreed by CITES as well as that of sharks, partly due to concerns that other fish species might also be regulated. Nevertheless, if tuna or eels were to disappear from the Japanese market, this would likely be due to overfishing and illegal fishing rather than trade regulation.
Since Japan is the world’s biggest consumer of marine products, its fishing and distribution industries are worried by overfishing. The Japanese government ignores this fact though and instead sees international regulation as the enemy that endangers its market.
I believe that Japan, the birthplace of the worldwide sushi boom, should be a pioneer in the domain of sustainable seafood, and take action for the international regulation of marine products and their trade.
By objecting to the CITES listing, however, the Japanese government is abandoning the protection of an endangered species and every Japanese citizen with a stake in the survival of the fishing industry, including the country's seafood-loving consumers.
Wakao Hanaoka, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace Japan.
TEPCO has finally completed installation of a cover over reactor #4 at the Fukushima power plant, which was heavily damaged in a hydrogen explosion following the nuclear disaster there nearly two and a half years ago. The new cover is designed to reduce spread of radiation in the atmosphere once workers begin to remove 1,533 spent and unused fuel rods from the reactor’s spent fuel pool, which is located on the building’s fourth floor. In addition, TEPCO officials said that they are working to reduce a 4 km network of pipes comprising a makeshift cooling system to approximately 3 km, which they hope will reduce the chance of leaks occurring. The pipes carry highly radioactive water used to cool reactors.
Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture are questioning TEPCO’s ability to safeguard their livelihood from further damage, after the utility was once again forced to correct recent announcements about radiation in groundwater collected near the plant. In order to deal with an ongoing and continually worsening buildup of highly radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant—each day, 400 tons of groundwater seeps into damaged reactor buildings and becomes contaminated—TEPCO recently said that it would drill 12 wells near the reactors, from which it hoped to pump water and subsequently release it into the Pacific Ocean. Initially, officials insisted that the water contained no more radiation than that of nearby rivers and streams. Then, on June 3, they admitted that they had made a mistake, and the water actually contained .61 Bq/liter of radioactive cesium. Now, officials say they have once again miscalculated, and in fact, the water is less radioactive than they thought, containing .055 Bq/liter. The issue highlights a long string of errors and miscalculations at the company that have led to numerous leaks, power outages, and equipment malfunctions at the plant. Many experts have begun to question whether TEPCO is capable of managing a long-term decommissioning process that most analysts agree will take at least 40 years to complete.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved a policy that will extend the life of reactors in Japan from 40 to 60 years. Reactors will be required to undergo special safety checks in addition to the agency’s new regulations that will be unveiled in July. However, many analysts believe that the upgrades required to meet such safety regulation will be so cost-prohibitive that older reactors will be ultimately be decommissioned.
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency is scrambling to save face after a senior official in charge of counseling victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster slandered lawmakers and other attendees of a non-governmental organization (NGO)-sponsored meeting via his personal Twitter feed. The meeting, at which participants were discussing radiation exposure, was held at the Members’ Office Building of the House of Representatives. The official, Yasuhisa Mizuno, is a 45-year old bureaucrat who worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and was temporarily assigned to the Reconstruction Agency last August. He was in charge of creating a policy that would assist victims in accordance with the Act on the Protection and Support of the Children and Other Victims of the TEPCO Disaster. Although the Act was passed a year ago, it has not effectively been put into practice yet, resulting in criticism from disaster victims and other advocates. Mizuno was previously the Mayor of Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture. In his Twitter feed, which originally bore his name but then was listed under a pseudonym, Mizuno wrote, “I went to a meeting to listen to those [expletive]head leftists heaping scorn.” He added, “I just felt pity for their lack of intelligence.” The Twitter account has since been deleted. The incident elicited angry responses from the Diet, including Takayuji Kobayashi, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who said, “People who lost so many precious things to the quake disaster have been striving to get their lives going, and his tweets are extremely disrespectful of those who have been working so hard to support them. I urge strict responses be taken.” Yoshiaki Takaki, Diet Affairs Chief for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said that Mizuno should be held accountable for his behavior.
In light of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent efforts to restart nuclear reactors in Japan, questions remain regarding whether or not he and his administration will blatantly override the anti-nuclear will of the people and municipal officials that represent them. In preparation or that possibility, several local governments are actively expressing opposition to nuclear power. In Osaka, for instance, a 10-person panel of experts, including two economists from Kyoto University and Ritsumeikan University, has released a report saying the “Japan can achieve a nuclear-free society by 2030.”
The Osaka report recommends reforming the nation’s power supply before the current 2020 deadline, promoting reactor decommissioning, and ending government “grants” given to communities that host reactors. Anti-nuclear sentiment in Osaka has been spurred by fears of massive contamination of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, which provides drinking water for approximately 15 million people, as well as concerns about Fukui Prefecture’s significant dependence on nuclear power. Before the Fukushima disaster, Kansai Electric derived 50% of its electricity from nuclear energy. “The weakness of the electricity supply system centering on nuclear power generation became clear,” noted the report. Significantly, it added, “Nuclear power generation does not have an economic advantage” over alternative power supplies, including renewables, because of the high cost of constructing nuclear reactors and huge financial liability following nuclear disasters.
In response to the NRA’s demand that Kansai Electric ensure that the emergency control room for reactors #3 and #4 at the Oi power plant (the only reactors operating in Japan at the moment) is located in a seismically isolated building, the utility announced this week that it would create a makeshift control room near reactors #1 and #2 at the plant, which are currently idled. The NRA approved the plan, but said that reactors #1 and #2 will not be given permission to restart until the permanent emergency control room has been completed for #3 and #4. That construction is not slated to conclude until 2015. Even then, the idled reactors will need to adhere to new NRA safety regulations, scheduled to be formally unveiled on July 18, before they can be considered for restart.
Japan’s Minister of Defense, Itsunori Onodera, said this week that the government may engage the nation’s Special Defense Forces (SDF) in training exercises with the coast guard and police force, in order to prepare for possible terrorist attacks at nuclear reactors, as well as other nuclear crises. Municipal authorities have increasingly called for additional support in dealing with such threats to their populations. In the case of a nuclear emergency, the SDF could only be employed via a direct order from the Prime Minister.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
A new survey conducted by Fukushima’s prefectural government reveals that over 60% of respondents believe that radiation exposure from the 2011 nuclear disaster will have an “extremely high” or “high” impact on the genetic health of their offspring. The poll illustrates intense anxiety that continues to plague victims of the Fukushima crisis. Surveyors queried 180,000 people, and received 73,000 valid responses.
"Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong that will be imposed upon them."– Frederick Douglass, American ex-slave civil rights leader.
The citizens of Istanbul now appear in control of Gezi Park, protecting one of the last and most treasured green spaces in Istanbul from conversion to a shopping mall.
The protest, which began to save the park, became a rally for genuine democracy in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government responded with police violence – beatings, pepper spray, water cannons, and tear gas – but could not stop the protests from spreading to over 70 Turkish cities, exposing Erdogan's persecution of opposition and media censorship.
When governments turn to violence to bully their own citizens, the system breaks down when people resist with courage. The Gezi Park uprising has become a model of genuine democracy for the world, a line of defiance in the battle to preserve nature and democracy.
When governments over-react
Last fall, the Turkish government closed roads into Istanbul centre, and announced plans to convert Gezi Park to a shopping mall and military artillery barracks. When construction began in May, Taksim Solidarity activists blockaded bulldozers. Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a Peace & Democracy Party deputy, joined the blockade, invoking parliamentary immunity.
Erdogan dismissed protesters as "marginal extremists". At dawn on 30 May, police raided the park with tear gas and water cannons. They drove about 1,000 citizens from the park, and then burned their tents and possessions.
Calls went out on social media, and 10,000 people arrived at Gezi Park. Police attacked again, injuring hundreds of citizens and three reporters from Reuters, the Hürriyet Daily News, and Birgün newspaper. Citizens opened their homes to injured protesters. By evening, 100,000 people had re-occupied the park. That night, the public occupied the historic Bosphorus Bridge that links Europe to Asia.
The uprising spread beyond Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir, and over 70 Turkish cities. Izmir police detained 29 people for sending Twitter messages. The Turkish Doctors' Union reported 4,177 people injured during protests and two deaths.
On Tuesday, 4 June, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç apologised for police violence and met with opposition leader Önder, who called the uprising "historic" and announced that "the democratic process would start". The following day, Arınç met with the original protest group platform, Taksim Solidarity, which delivered the public's demands: Cancel the Gezi park demolition, release arrested citizens, ban tear gas, and allow free public assembly and free expression.
Sirin Bayram, a woman who has worked for Greenpeace, wrote to me from Istanbul about inspiring acts of public support: "A bus driver saw police and a water cannon behind him in the street, heading for Gezi Park. He stopped his bus and blocked them. We were proud of him, because, of course, he lost his job. At the courthouse in Istanbul, lawyers made a protest by clapping their hands. The government arrested over 75 lawyers, for clapping!"
Bayram described working at the park to collect support for the protesters. "A little boy came to the park with some rice his mother had cooked for his lunch. He said 'My big sisters and brothers in the park need this more than me.' He put the rice on the table and he left. This put tears on our faces and kept us strong."
The Greenpeace office in Istanbul stands on Istiklal Street, leading to Gezi Park. Police officers confronted demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons directly below the office, which remained open night and day, providing shelter to injured protestors. Doctors and medics arrived to offer medical assistance.
On Saturday, 8 June, protesters witnessed an unprecedented expression of solidarity as Turkey's rival football fans – from Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Besiktas, and other sports clubs barred from watching matches together because of stadium violence – walked through Istanbul arm-in-arm, wearing each others' team colours.
Censorship in Turkey
The citizens of Istanbul have now occupied Gezi Park and Taksim Square, staged music and political speakers, and insisted on a new era of genuine democracy in Turkey. Twenty-two year old protester Yesim Polat told Al Jazeera, "Prime Minister Erdogan thinks that he is a sultan. He thinks he can do whatever he wants."
Turkey once represented a modern, secular state that offered religious freedom. Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) advocate a return to an Islamic state. Once elected in 2003, Erdogan began arresting opposition voices, Kurdish leaders, and journalists, and harassing private couples for kissing in public.
Mustafa Akyol, a columnist with the Hürriyet newspaper, told Al Jazeera that journalists are being arrested under a abuse of Turkey's anti-terrorism law. "The great majority of the journalists in jail are people who wrote positive things about the PKK."
In January 2013, Erdogan's police arrested 11 journalists attending an opposition political party meeting, and sentenced five of them to jail, increasing the number of jailed journalists in Turkey to 75. Prior to Gezi Park, freedom of the media had virtually vanished in Turkey.
Parks and People
From Amsterdam's Vondelpark and California's People's Park in the 1960s, to Prague's Wenceslas Square and Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, to Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011, protecting public parks has provided the backdrop for democracy around the world.
In 1970, a group of citizens in Vancouver, Canada – the "Don't Make a Wave Committee," which later became Greenpeace – rallied to save a park entrance in Vancouver. At that time, the Four Seasons Hotel chain announced a plan to construct six towers at the entrance to Vancouver's magnificent, 400 hectare Stanley Park, a waterfront meadow that opened onto a lagoon, where swans nested in the bulrushes and families gathered for picnics.
Two of the Don't Make a Wave group, Greenpeace co-founders Rod Marining and Bob Hunter, met to make a plan. Hunter, a newspaper columnist, had described his "mindbomb" theory, which became a key Greenpeace strategy. "The holistic revolution won't be like storming the Bastille," Hunter would say, "but a storming of the mind." Hunter believed that campaigns to change in the world should create images that could change people's way of thinking. Today, we call this a "meme" but in 1970, this was a "mindbomb," an image that would travel on the global media and shift public perception.
In May 1971, during a light spring snow, Marining and his allies occupied the park entrance, pitched tents on the land, and put up signs calling the encampment "All Season's Park".The camp included indigenous activists, Québéquois separatists, hippies, and several early Greenpeace founders. Ben Metcalfe, the first Greenpeace media officer, organised a group of citizens to bring food and wine to the occupiers. Nurseries in Vancouver donated plants. Protesters laid sod over construction roads and planted trees. Images of "All Seasons Park", with families in tents in the snow, became one of the earliest Greenpeace mindbombs.
The story appeared on Vancouver television and in newspapers. Occupiers demanded a public referendum, and Vancouver citizens voted 56% in favour of keeping the park entrance, but the by-law required 60% for approval. The stand-off continued until the wealthy father of a protestor offered to purchase the property for $4m. The entrance to Stanley Park was saved, and remains a part of Vancouver and Greenpeace heritage to this day.
Gezi Park and the World
Today, Gezi Park has become a mindbomb for the world. The protest over a park became a referendum for democracy. "We are here for our freedom," Nihan Dinc, a 26-year-old publicist, told Al Jazeera. "We are here for a space to breathe."
Journalist Pepi Escobar explains in an Asia Times story why Gezi Park is significant beyond Turkey. Escobar describes the Syria revolution as a "proxy war" between NATO and a new Russia/China alliance. Turkey sits at a strategic point between Europe and Asia, where NATO and western oil companies want a pipeline from the United Arab Emirates, through Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey, into Europe. Escobar explains that NATO and the US want Turkey to support their military efforts in Syria to win the pipeline war. However, "Turkey has been plunged into the … Gezi/Down-with-the-Dictator maelstrom," Escobar writes, "and the last thing an embattled Erdogan will be thinking about is to further empower a bunch of 'rebel' losers."
But Gezi Park is important for another reason: The people of Istanbul have shown the world that citizens can stand up to military and police violence with peaceful solidarity.
It’s time for the EU to make some decisions about its own future and the future of its citizens.
There are two things at stake; the fiscal impetus of recovering a carbon emissions trading scheme which is perilously close to imploding, and the physical impetus of protecting the health of the millions of EU citizens who are threatened by coal plants belching particulates into their air.
With one, it is working towards restoring credibility to a plan which turns CO2 into a tradeable commodity while encouraging the reduction of emissions. With the other, it is respecting the basic right of people to breathe air which is not clogged with mercury, lead or arsenic.
Making the right choice means finding a way of making carbon trading relevant again. It’s simple supply and demand: Industrial optimism and geo-political interests created a situation where too many tradeable allowances were pumped into a new and untested market – the largest of its kind. The economic crisis slowed factory production, meaning there were less emissions, meaning the allowances they had for emissions gradually became worthless. And if allowances come cheap, why worry about blowing more pollutants into the air? Along this line, the International Energy Agency released a report earlier this week which, although having a global outlook, made it clear that the EU, as the third largest CO2 emitter in the world, needs to pull up its socks. As the IEA puts it, the current emissions trading scheme (ETS) “is a key instrument to deliver the European Union’s 20% emissions reduction target in 2020.”
In the EU, there is no doubt what a key emission culprit is. With approximately 300 plants in operation, and about 50 more in development, coal accounts for a quarter of the EU’s C02 emissions. It also accounts for 70% of sulphur dioxide emissions – a dangerous pollutant. This means that making the right choice also means acknowledging that, not only is coal so antiquated it’s laughable — it’s been used as a source of energy since Marco Polo — but it’s simply too unhealthy to be considered an option. Especially here, in Europe, where 70% of new electrical capacity took the form of predominantly wind and solar energy in 2012, according to the REN21's Renewables Global Status Report (GSR).
The two choices are not mutually exclusive. Curbing carbon emissions, through controlled allowances and an effective ETS, means turning more to clean sources of power in an economically advantageous way. Yes, predicting carbon market behaviour may be tricky, but understanding the health threats of pollution is not. Clean energy will add years of life to EU citizens which, in and of itself, is a no-brainer. If you remove the emotional aspect from the equation, in the long run, it also makes us more productive to drive the Union forward and make us a proven example of a sustainable, healthy energy environment.
Coal threatens everything we love and treasure and we now have new research to establish this in our report "Silent Killers". We must stand together and bring an end to the age of coal. Our renewed fight will kick off on the 29th of June with an international day of action.
“Silent Killers”, based on research conducted by the University of Stuttgart, reveals how coal power plants in Europe cause serious health problems and even leads to premature deaths. In Europe 300 power plants burn coal to produce electricity, spewing out millions of tonnes of pollution, every year. Hour after hour these plants fill the air with toxic pollutants, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and tiny sulphate and nitrate particles that can go deep into people's lungs.
Pollution from coal is a silent killer. The air breathed in Europe harms everyone – babies, children and adults, especially the elderly. An estimated 22,000 people died prematurely in Europe in 2010 because of toxic emissions from coal plants, the report reveals.
We need to stand up and demand that governments and energy producers respect the fundamental right to breathe clean air and not see it as a threat to their profits.
In stark contrast to these alarming numbers European politicians are not taking action to end the coal age: 50 new power plants are in the works, most of them in the planning stage. These new plants will give the coal industry will continue to have a license to kill for decades.
Polish Patnow coal power station. In Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, more people die because of air pollution from coal-fired power plants than in road traffic accidents.
Coal-fired power plants are also the largest source of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that have already changed our climate. Continued coal burning will fuel even more catastrophic climate change. The hundreds of thousands who die now from climate change will grow to millions within decades.
Greenpeace, working with other civil society organisations, has helped stop dozens of coal-fired power plant projects from taking off in Europe. But, more needs to be done.
European politicians must take action. The solution is right in front of them: renewable energy. Through our Energy [R]evolution scenario Greenpeace has a sophisticated proposal to transition Europe from coal to an energy system based on clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. A clean energy system would be good for the climate and for public health. It would also create sustainable, clean power, thousands of new jobs, and economic opportunities.
By driving the development of clean energy, Europe could end the energy poverty -- a lack of basic access to reliable energy services such as lighting, heating and cooking -- of approximately two billion people.
As world leaders fail to take necessary actions to stop coal, more and more people from China to the US, Thailand to Turkey, are taking on the struggles themselves.
Across the world environmental activists, students, doctors, church leaders and many more are standing up and telling the captains of industry and government leaders that the age of coal must end now. They are demanding that no new coal plants be built, that no new mines are dug. Instead they want a new world built with renewable energy. A world free from catastrophic climate change and the daily deadly toxins discharged from coal fired power station chimneys around the world.
Please join me in the international day of "End the Age of Coal" on the 29th of June!
On Monday morning in Seoul, Greenpeace Korea held the 'Worst Tuna Brand Awards' to highlight the wasteful and destructive fishing methods used to fill the cans of tuna lining Korea's supermarket shelves. This year's winner, making them the canned tuna producer with the worst environmental record in Korea, is giant seafood company Dongwon.
To highlight their reliance on wasteful and destructive fishing our activists visited their head office to present the company's management with a special trophy shaped like a large fish bone and to demand that they start working to improve their fishing practices.
Our work in Korea is part of a much larger international campaign being run by Greenpeace to highlight the often wasteful and destructive methods used to catch the tuna that fill our cans. A particular problem is the use of Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) with purse seine nets that encircle and trap not just tuna fish but also the many other species that gather in the water around the FAD, such as sharks, rays, turtles and juvenile tuna. Greenpeace has been encouraging retailers and brands around the world to drop the use of purse seines and FADs in favour of more sustainable fishing practices like free-school or pole and line caught tuna.
This campaigning has proved very successful, not least because of the growing concern about destructive fishing by consumers of tinned tuna around the world. In response to these concerns, many of the world's biggest tinned tuna brands like Princes, John West, Sealord and major retailers in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere have already agreed to phase out the use of FADs and purse seines. Now it is time for Korea's major tinned tuna brands to respond to the changes sweeping across the international market.
Dongwon were awarded our fish bone trophy this year because they came last in our ranking of Korean tinned tuna following our detailed survey of the different brands available in Korea. The results of this survey show that there is no sustainable canned tuna currently available in the country. Dongwon, a leading brand which accounts for 70% of the canned tuna market in Korea ranked the lowest – Red Category – among three brands. Recently, the company' vessels were found to conduct illegal fishing on the high seas of Africa and it has further increased its fishing capacity by building a new purse seiner. It is still overfishing already heavily exploited species like big eye tuna and southern blue-fin tuna (for its sashimi product lines). For these reasons, Dongwon got lower scores than other brands in the ranking.
With growing numbers of consumers around the world successfully demanding that brands and retailers clean up their fishing operations to make their products sustainable, the pressure is on Korea's major tinned tuna brands to respond and provide such products for their consumers. If they make positive changes this year, maybe next year Greenpeace activists can deliver an award to celebrate the first sustainable tinned product in Korea? The task ahead for Korea's tinned tuna companies over the next 12 months could not be clearer.
Jeonghee Han, Ocean Campaigner for Greenpeace Korea.