International Watch

Indonesia’s long, winding road to nuclear power

Posted on December 5, 2011. Filed under: Energy, International Watch |

-The Jakarta Post-

Taswanda Taryo, the National Nuclear Energy Agency’s (Batan) research chief, is phlegmatic about building the nation’s first nuclear power plant.

“Despite the pros and cons, we’ll try to work on schedule,” Taswanda said.

After the leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, however, concerns on the safety of nuclear power have heated up. Germany, for example, temporarily shuts down its nuclear power plants for further study.

“The disaster in Japan delivered a message that we have to be more careful in dealing with nuclear power. However, if we put the plant in the right place and apply the right technologies, it will be safe,” Taswanda said.

According to the 2007 National Long-term Development Plan (RPJPN), Indonesia’s first nuclear power plant is scheduled to open between 2015 and 2019 – a target that Batan chief Hudi Hastowosaid would be missed.

Meanwhile, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been in no rush, saying there would be no nuclear power plant built in Indonesia before he leaves office in 2014.

The idea to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia first emerged in 1956 during seminars at universities in Bandung, West Java, and Yogyakarta. But it was not until 1972 when Batan and the Public Works and Electricity Ministry set up the Commission for the Development and Preparation of Nuclear Power Plants (KP2PLTN).

In 1989, the National Energy Coordination Agency (Bakoren), supervised by Batan, conducted a feasibility study for building a 7,000-megawatt (MW) reactor on the Muria peninsula in Central Java.

By 1996, officials determined that it was possible to build a 600-to-900 MW light water reactor on the peninsula, planning for the reactor to go online to support Java and Bali’s electricity grid by 2004.

However, the project was shelved in 1998 amid the Asian Financial Crisis. Strong local resistance has since stymied work on the reactor.

Batan then looked for other possible locations for a nuclear power plant, eventually choosing Bangka-Belitung. The government currently plans to build a 10,000-MW reactor West Bangka and an 8,000-MW reactor South Bangka with a launch date of 2021 or 2022.

However, this plan has also met resistance from local residents fearful of a repeat of the nuclear catastrophes in Japan and Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Indonesia’s location in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, the site of a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has heightened risks and popular concerns about nuclear power.

Taswanda, however, downplayed the risks. “I learned from the Indonesian Earthquake Commission that eastern Sumatra, western Kalimantan and north Java are relatively safe from earthquakes because they are far from fault lines.”

In the future, Taswanda said, Batan wanted to “improve communication” with the residents of Muria and Bangka and share with them how a nuclear power plant might improve their well being.

“Electricity from a nuclear power plant is very important for industries to expand their businesses, which in the end can absorb more workers,” he said.

Taswanda said pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology was the most suitable and reliable form of nuclear energy production for Indonesia.

A PWR uses water as its main coolant. The water is pumped under high pressure to the reactor core where it is heated by the energy generated by the fission of atoms.

The heated water then flows to a steam generator, where it transfers its thermal energy to a secondary system where steam is generated and flows to turbines which, in turn, spins electric generators.

Currently, Indonesia has three small-scale nuclear reactors: a 250-kilowatt (kW) reactor in Bandung launched in 1965; a 30-MW reactor in Serpong, Banten, launched in 1987; and a 100-kW reactor in Yogyakarta launched in 1979 .

The cost of building a nuclear reactor, using the example of Vietnam, may reach Rp 20 trillion (US$2.1 billion). While initial investment is expensive, nuclear plants are cheaper to operate than oil-fueled power plants.

A nuclear power plant can produce electricity for about 9.66 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on the high end, while the cost of electricity produced by oil-based plants top 30 cents per kWh.

The cheapest option for generating electricity, however, is coal, which yields electricity for about 4 cents per kWh.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said he recently received a proposal to build a 200 kW-nuclear-power plant whose output could be increased to 2 MW within a year.

“I personally agree with the proposal because one day we will have to use nuclear technologies for electricity,” Dahlan said.

Separately, the new chief of state power utility PT PLN, Nur Pamudji, said PLN was ready if the government chose to go nuclear.

“However, we don’t know who will build the power plant,” Nur said.

Batan, which only promotes nuclear technology, would not build power plants, Taswanda said. It would only guide investors to find suitable locations for nuclear power plants and determine which technologies should be implemented.

Previously, officials at Batan voiced their disapproval of comments made by Deputy Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Widjajono Partowidagdo, who said that Indonesia was not ready to build a nuclear power plant due to poor security and a lack of skilled human resources.

The Indonesian Engineers Association (PII) also lambasted Widjajono, saying building a nuclear power plant was already a national program and that the deputy minister should have known about it.

Widjajono said Indonesia should work with a nation that had mastered nuclear technology, such as Singapore, before building its own plant.

“We could build the plant on an island near Singapore, such as Batam. We can even export half of the electricity to Singapore or Malaysia.”

However, Widjajono said that Indonesia uses alternatives, such as coal, geothermal energy and natural gas before turning to nuclear power.

 

A Brief History of Nuclear Power in Indonesia

Year   __________   Activities

1956  Academics propose building nuclear power plants Indonesia.

1972  Batan establishes Commission for the Development and Preparation of Nuclear Power Plants (KP2PLTN).

1975  14 sites for nuclear power plants are identified, five of which are deemed acceptable.

1978  Cooperating with the Italian government, the nation’s first nuclear power feasibility study is conducted. Plant construction is delayed pending development of a research reactor.

1985  Feasibility study continues under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Bechtel International (with US government backing), France-based SOFRATOME and the Italian government. The study is used to investigate developing a reactor in Muria, Central Java.

1989  National Energy Coordination Agency (Bakoren) is founded. Muria Peninsula feasibility study is launched.

1991  Finance Ministry inks deal for new feasibility study with consultants NEWJEC Inc.

1996  The study identifies Muria peninsula as a suitable site for a light water nuclear power plant.

1998  Asian Financial Crisis delays Muria project.

2010  Popular dissent in Muria Peninsula leads Batan to consider Bangka Belitung to host power plants, setting on hotly contested plans to build reactors in West Bangka and South Bangka.

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Petition against Japanese export of nuke power technology

Posted on September 14, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

-Aliran-

Despite the on-going environmental and human disasters brought by the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear reactors meltdown, the Japanese government is hell-bent on continuing its export of what has become questionable nuclear power generation technologies.

A huge explosion occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following a major earthquake and tsunami

Since Fukushima, Japan has witnessed a revival of a citizen-led anti-nuclear power movement. As the crisis entered its sixth month, between 11 and 18 September, a week-long campaign is being mounted by civil society and environmental organisations to pressure the government to abandon its plan to sell such undesirable technologies abroad amid unresolved crisis back home.

Malaysia is one of several countries that had entered into a cooperation agreement with Japan to acquire Japanese nuclear technologies and the Malaysian government has insisted that it will go ahead with its plan to build two reactors following Fukushima. Hence, I urge you to support the Japanese public campaign in telling its government to stop promoting its nuclear technologies abroad.

You can do so by signing the petition here.

Please help to disseminate this campaign to your friends and contacts and via all your social networking sites.

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Southeast Asia’s 1st nuclear plant will start in Vietnam in 2020

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Energy, International Watch |

Bernama

MOSCOW: South East Asia’s first nuclear power plant will be operational in Vietnam in 2020 after six years of construction, as demand for nuclear energy remains strong in the region in the post-Fukushima era, a nuclear conference was told Monday.

It will be commissioned two years after Bangladesh completes its Roopur Nuclear Power Project and becomes the latest country in the region to develop such energy.

Tran Chi Thank, of the Vietnam Institute of Energy, said the first plant would be built by Russia while Japan would undertake the construction of the second one beginning 2015 and ready for commissioning in 2021.

Both will be built in the Ninh Thuan province, he said.

“The study towards nuclear energy in Vietnam began 30 years ago but was put on hold due to the Chernobyl (crisis in Russia) in 1986. But it was approved in 2009, ” he told the AtomExpo 2011 organised by Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) here.

Besides Vietnam, other South East Asian countries that have declared their intention to develop nuclear energy are Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

According to Tran, the biggest challenge facing Vietnam was to develop its nuclear manpower as the number of personnel available now was limited, adding that they were working closely with Russian nuclear institutes to train them.

Shawkat Akhbar from Bangladesh’s Nuclear Power and Energy Division said the country was moving into nuclear energy due to limited resources.

“We hope to achieve 20,000 MW of electricity by 2021 from two units. In fact the Roopur site was chosen in 1963,” he said, adding that more than 1,600 personnel were involved in the project team.

Both Vietnam and Bangladesh have sent their personnel to undertake intensive training in Russia.

Yury Seleznev, Rector of Russia’s training institute CICE& T, said about 1,000 highly trained personnel were required to run a two unit nuclear plant, adding that training must start five years before a plant was commissioned.

“All staff must be already trained two years before the plant starts operation. A training centre that also plays the role of an information centre must be in place five years before the operation,” he said.

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Environmental impact report on petrochemical plant to be released Friday

Posted on April 21, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

-http://english.rti.org.tw/Content/GetSingleNews.aspx?ContentID=123990-

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) says the environmental impact of a controversial petrochemical plant will be decided on Friday.

The EPA’s comments came Thursday after members sitting on the environmental assesment committee failed to reach a consensus on the petrochemical plant project.

Scholars on both sides of the issue discussed whether the Kuokuang petrochemical company’s proposed plant would harm Taiwan’s environment and if the stability of the economy was worth the risk. An economics professor from Nothern Taiwan’s Tamkang University said that if Taiwan only focused on the environment, the economy would suffer.

Meanwhile, both Malysia and Indonesia are interested in letting Taiwan build the proposed plant in their countries. That was the word from the Republic of China (ROC) foreign ministry on Thursday. ROC is the official name of Taiwan’s government.

The ministry’s bureau of Asian affairs director, James Tien, talks about why the two countries are interested in the project.

“Both Malaysia and Indonesia have thus far expressed interest in this large-scale investment project, but it’s only interest,” said Tien. “They’ve told our government via the ROC’s representative offices that if possible, they would also welcome Kuokuang to their countries to do an evaluation as well as provide the relevant assistance. That’s because this is a large scale project that everyone is welcomed to invest in.”

Meanwhile, scholars have said that the issue will affect Taiwan’s industrial development, regardless of whether or not the plant passes inspection. But analysts say that the plant would have little effect on the local stock market.

President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday also spoke about the issue of whether the petrochemical plant would be built in Taiwan or abroad. He said that the economics ministry would prepare for every possible eventuality.

Premier Wu Den-yih also spoke about the issue. He said that if the plant proposal is turned down or retracted, then a way must be found to maintain the intergrity of KuoKuang’s industrial chain. He said that was because the issue touched on the rights of many workers as well as local economic development.

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RAPID DEVELOPMENT THE WAY TO FACE CLIMATE CHANGE, SAYS ENERGY EXPERT

Posted on April 11, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

-Bernama-

A country”s rapid economic development accompanied by their adoption of higher environmental standards can be an effective way to face climatic change, says an energy expert and former top climate negotiator for India.

Although it seemed a route off the usual course for the protection of the environment, Ambassador Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, Distinguished Fellow at The Energy Research Institute (TERI) of India, contends how developed nations coped better with environmental disasters than less developed countries.

The developed countries have higher environment standards with superior sanitation systems, less water and air pollution and this has been possible through the financial resources that came with development, Chandrashekhar said when explaining his stand to participants at a recent forum organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS).

Developing countries were more vulnerable to the onslaught of weather events linked to climate changes, and unlike the developed countries which were more prepared or have the resources to respond better, these countries were less equipped to face these events, he said in his his talk on “Harnessing Development To Protect The Environment.”

“Traditional farmers in developing countries are most vulnerable to these events and those living in flimsy dwellings sometimes cannot even take seasonal changes,” he said.

He said that the “environment cannot be improved amid poverty, and indeed financial resources are needed for a better environment and this can be attained through rapid development.”

While changes in environment cannot be fully reversed, remedial measures could be taken both by the developed and developing countries, Chandrashekhar, who has been involved in climate negotiations for India for 15 years, said.

The reality is that the environment is continuously evolving, mainly from natural causes, and the view held by the romantics that mankind has basically brought about the climate change calamities lacked basis, he said.

While the contribution of human activities to climate change had accelerated in the recent decades especially with the consumption of hydrocarbon fuels, economic development on the whole has benefited mankind, he opined.

Chandrashekhar also said besides adhering to environment regulations, development projects should consider using the profits from projects to offset any environment damage.

He said companies and governments would have to adopt more green policies in business operations.

While developing countries should adapt and adopt measures that would leave them more equipped to handle challenges of climate change, the developed countries’ focus should be on using their financial resources towards the research and development of renewable energy sources such as solar, as well as nuclear, Chandrashekhar said.

While there was no argument that the climate was changing, questions raised at the end of the talk reflected less consensus on whether more development or less development would be the better way to face climate change.

Nithi Nesadurai, Coordinator of Malaysian Climate Change Group and also President of Environmental Protection Society Malaysia, said taking on a course of rapid development would be following the very footsteps taken by the developed countries of “living beyond the earth”s ability to support their lifestyles”, and leaving serious ecological footprints.

While the poorer countries have a right to development, rapid development would be an ecologically unsuitable economic model to follow, he said.

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Environment a priority in Kuokuang plant controversy: Premier

Posted on April 7, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

http://english.rti.org.tw/Content/GetSingleNews.aspx?ContentID=123070

The future of a controversial petrochemical plant construction site will be determined by a strict environmental impact assessment. That’s the word from Premier Wu Den-yih on Thursday.

The two biggest shareholders in the proposed complex are Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. and CPC Corp., Taiwan. The complex has been the subject of much debate in Taiwan, because it is slated for construction in a wetlands area.

The premier has said, though, that the environment will be a priority when it comes to deciding whether the project should proceed. Government Information Office vice minister Alice Wang explains.

“Premier [Wu] has asked for the economics ministry as well as Kuokuang and CPC Corporation to face the assessments with care and for the health department to conduct the assessments based on professionalism and good conscience,” said Wang. “The interior ministry’s announcement about the wetlands will be carried out in accordance with relevant laws. There are no particular [reasons] for Kuokuang to build the plant there. It must put environmental protection and sustainable national development first.”

Wu said that tackling high-energy consuming industries is a goal of the current administration. He said that protecting the environment is the government’s top priority.

Meanwhile, the economics ministry said that any decision to move the petrochemical plant construction site will come after the environmental assessment. The ministry said that if the plant project moves abroad, the most likely sites will be in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

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Southeast Asia Nuclear Power Plans Unfazed by Japan Emergency

Posted on March 15, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

-voanews.com-The nuclear emergency in Japan has renewed debate about the safety of nuclear power in the Asia Pacific, possibly the world’s most natural-disaster prone region. Southeast Asia has no working nuclear power plants, but most countries there plan to develop nuclear power despite the emergency.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam plan to build nuclear power plants in the next decade and others in Southeast Asia hope to follow them.

But the nuclear emergency caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has raised concerns about the safety of developing nuclear power, especially in countries vulnerable to natural disasters. The Asia Pacific region is every year struck by earthquakes, tropical storms, monsoon floods and landslides.

Following the disaster in Japan, some officials and activists in the region are urging a re-thinking of pursuing nuclear energy.

Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Vuong Huu Tan says his country is watching the emergency in Japan closely and is aware of public concerns. But he says they do not expect it to affect their plans to build at least eight nuclear plants.

Vuong says they will use the latest nuclear technology, which he says will be safer than the older technology used at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

“We will choose the advanced nuclear power technology,” Vuong said. “It means maybe we choose the technology of generation three or three-plus. It is very good when the accident like the earthquake in Japan you see.”

Vuong says they plan to begin construction of Vietnam’s first nuclear-power plant in three years. Thailand plans to build up to five nuclear power plants by 2025.

Following the emergency in Japan, the Thai government said it would also take into account concerns about nuclear safety as it became more of a public focus.

But Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says it would not delay their nuclear power development.

“Until we know for sure what happened in Japan, I think several governments may require more information on this issue,” said Panitan. “So, I think ‘yes’, certainly it raises some concerns, but these concerns are not new. Hopefully, our committee who are working on this issue will come up with a comprehensive picture of this.”

Panitan says if there is any delay in Thailand’s nuclear-power plans it would be from technical difficulties and feasibility studies and not in reaction to Japan’s nuclear emergency.

Southeast Asia specialist Carl Thayer, of Australia’s University of New South Wales, says the emergency in Japan may cause a review of safety planning for nuclear risks in some countries. But he says Southeast Asia’s fast-growing demand for power means it has few alternatives to pursuing nuclear energy.

“You have hydro power, you can go to bio fuels, you can use wind power,” Thayer said. “But the growing size of the economies, rise in consumption, people moving up the scale with gadgets and things in their homes that consume energy, all that would have to be held in advance not to lead to these massive demands for energy.”

Built in the 1980’s, the Philippines’ Bata’an plant is the only nuclear power facility in Southeast Asia, but because of concerns about earthquakes and a nearby volcano it was never used. The government, however, is considering reviving the plant in order to meet its energy needs.

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Australia can no longer stay a lone nuclear denier

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: International Watch |

The Canberra Times

Last May, at a United Nations conference in New York, the veteran Japanese diplomat and director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, glowingly endorsed civilian nuclear power.

He said, “More than 60 countries are now considering the introduction of nuclear power to generate electricity. It is expected that between 10 and 25 new countries will bring their first nuclear plants online by 2030.”

Nuclear power “must be accessible not only for developed countries but also for developing countries”, he said.

Japan has 54 nuclear power stations, two more under construction and 12 planned. The nuclear share of its electricity generating capacity will increase from about 30per cent today to more than 41 per cent by 2017.

This in an Asian nation that has experienced the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and which is regularly tested by nature’s destructive forces. When I visited Kyoto in 1997, my Japanese colleagues reminded me that the nation’s 54 nuclear power stations averted emission of 287million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. Relying on Australian uranium fuel, this “carbon offset” was then more than all of Australia’s emissions.

I recently addressed the World Renewable Energy Summit in Kuala Lumpur. High on the agenda was nuclear power for Asia.

An official paper from Korea entitled A Green Nuclear Utopia reminded delegates that in Korea 20 nuclear reactors produced about 17,700MW of electricity, meeting about 40per cent of the country’s needs. Six more were under construction and six more planned.

This would ensure that the nuclear share of electricity generation would be in excess of 60 per cent by 2030.

Korea is now capable of marketing its own nuclear plant design to the world. Its order book for the construction of four advanced pressurised water reactors for the United Arab Emirates represents a contract worth more than $US20billion ($A20.2 billion).

Operation of these plants over the next 60 years is also worth about $A20.2billion. By 2050, the Korea Electric Power Corporation expects to have contracts worth more than $A506 billion.

China now contributes almost a quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions.

Its volume of emissions over the past 10 years is greater than that of Brazil, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, Britain, Australia and Italy combined. China’s energy policy is based on a 74per cent dependence on coal in 2010. By 2030, it is planned to reduce this to 50per cent, mainly by use of nuclear power. This will mean increasing the present nuclear installed capacity of 9000MW electric to about 190,000MW(e). Australia, in a similar bondage to the hydrocarbon industry, must learn from China’s vision. It should start by introducing at least 5000MW(e) of nuclear power by 2020 and adopt a fixed carbon tax of between $10 and $20 over the next decade. Only in this way can we meet our United Nations emission reduction obligations.

In India 20 nuclear power plants supply more than 5per cent of its electricity. Four more reactors are being built, and the energy policy seeks at least 20 more by 2030.

A 2008 nuclear cooperation agreement with the US raises the possibility of foreign involvement in projects to generate as much as 63,000MW(e) of nuclear power by 2030.

Vietnam has firm plans for 15,000MW(e) of nuclear power by 2030. Indonesia is budgeting $A8.09 billion for four plants totalling 6,000MW(e) by 2025. The Philippines plans to rehabilitate an established but mothballed plant of 620MW(e) at a cost of about $A1.09billion.

Thailand plans to build at least 4000MW(e) of nuclear power commencing in 2014. Malaysia, which now produces almost two- thirds of its electricity from natural gas, has budgeted $A7.08 billion to build a large nuclear power plant by 2023.

As Asia “goes nuclear” the new years’s challenge for the Australian Government’s Climate Change Committee is to tackle the problem of global warming with sound technology and informed realism.

This means re-examining and rejecting the pseudo-scientific and political attraction of “clean coal” and the semantically seductive utopian appeal of the costly “renewables”.

Above all it means that the Australian Government must soon accept and endorse a now globally proven principle that at the heart of any successful emissions abatement project is the deployment of safe, secure and cost-effective nuclear power.

In Australia’s case, an 80per cent historical base-load energy reliance on fossil fuels and chemical combustion must be replaced by the superb nano-technology of nuclear fission.

Recent polling clearly indicates that support for nuclear power in the Australian community is growing dramatically. Support for the technology is also beginning to emerge from both sides of Federal Parliament and from the offices of state premiers. Australia, the home of the world’s nuclear fuels, can no longer sustain an appalling clean energy policy which makes it the sole “nuclear denier” among the planet’s top 25 economies.

Professor Leslie Kemeny, a consulting nuclear scientist and engineer, is the Australian foundation member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy.

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Strange outcome of Cancun conference

Posted on December 13, 2010. Filed under: International Watch |

The Star – Global Trends by MARTIN KHOR

Cancun climate conference had a strange outcome, with the adoption of a text created by unfamiliar methods, and which passes the burden of action onto developing countries.

THE United Nations’ Cancun climate conference which adopted a text early on Dec 11 had a strange outcome.

It was acclaimed by many for reviving the spirit of multilateralism in the climate change system, because another collapse after the disastrous failure of the Copenhagen talks a year ago would have knocked another hole into the reputation in the UN Climate Convention.

Most delegations congratulated one another for agreeing to a document in Cancun. But this Cancun text has also been accused of falling far short, or even going backwards, in controlling the Greenhouse Gas emissions that cause climate change.

The Cancun conference suffered an early blow from Japan’s announcement that it would never ever agree to making another commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

The conference never recovered from that blow. The final text failed to ensure the survival of the protocol, though it sets some terms of reference for continuing the talks next year.

The Cancun meeting in fact made it more likely for the developed countries to shift from the Kyoto Protocol and its binding regime of emission reduction commitments, to a voluntary system in which each country only makes pledges on how much it will reduce its emissions.

The Cancun text also recognised the emission-reduction targets that developed countries listed under the Copenhagen Accord.

But these are overall such poor targets that many scientific reports warn that the developed countries by 2020 may decrease their emissions by only a little or even increase their level.

The world is on track for temperature rise of three to five degrees, which would lead to a catastrophe.

But even as it prepared the ground for the developed country’s “great escape” from their commitments, the Cancun text introduced new disciplines for developing countries as they are now obliged to put forward their plans and targets for climate mitigation, which are to be compiled in a document and later in registries.

It is the first step in a plan by developed countries (they have been quite open about it) to get developing countries to put their mitigation targets as commitments in national schedules, similar to the tariff schedules in the World Trade Organ­isation.

The Cancun text also obliges developing countries to report their national emissions every two years as well as on their climate actions and the results in terms of emission avoidance.

These reports are to be subjected to a detailed scrutiny by other countries and by international experts.

The Cancun text in fact gives a lot of space to the details of these “monitoring, reporting and verification” (MRV) procedures as well as “international consultation and analysis” (ICA).

These are all new obligations, and a great deal of time was spent in Cancun by the developed countries (especially the United States) to get the developing countries to agree to the details of MRV and ICA.

Many developing country officials were increasingly worried in Cancun about how they are going to implement these new obligations, as a lot of people, skills and money will be needed.

In fact, the developing countries made a lot of concessions and sacrifices in Cancun, while the developed countries managed to have their obligations reduced or downgraded.

Cancun may be remem­bered in future as the place where the UNFCCC’s climate regime was changed significantly, with developed countries being treated more and more leniently, reaching a level like that developing countries, while the developing countries are asked to increase their obligations to be more and more like developed countries.

The ground is being prepared for such a new system, which could then replace the Kyoto Protocol. Cancun was a milestone in facilitating this.

The Cancun conference also agreed on establishing a new global climate fund under the UNFCCC to help finance the mitigation and adaptation.

A committee will be set up to design various aspects of the fund. No decision was taken on how much money the fund will get.

A technology mechanism was also set up under the UNFCCC with a policy-making committee and a centre.

However, the Cancun text avoided any mention of intellectual property rights, which have an influence over developing countries’ access to and cost of technology.

The United States insisted that there be no mention whatsoever of the IPR issue, and it got its way in Cancun.

The Cancun conference was also marked by a questionable method of work, quite similar to the WTO, but not used in the United Nations, in which the host country, Mexico, organised meetings in small groups led by itself and a few Ministers which it selected, which discussed texts on the various issues.

The final document was produced not through the usual process of negotiations among delegations, but compiled by the Mexicans as the Chair of the meeting, and given to the delegates for only a few hours to consider, on a take it or leave it basis – no amendments are allowed.

At the final plenary, Bolivia rejected the text, and its ambassador Pablo Solon made a statement giving detailed reasons why.

Although there was no consensus on the text, the Mexican foreign minister declared the text adopted, to which Bolivia lodged an objection.

The Mexican way of organising the writing and later the adoption of the Cancun text raises many questions about openness and inclusiveness and the future of UN procedures and practices.

The importation of WTO-style methods may lead to the “efficiency” of producing an outcome, but may also carry the risk of confer­ences collapsing in disarray as has happened in several WTO ministerial meetings.

When the dust settles after the Cancun, a careful analysis will find that its text may have given the multilateral climate system a shot in the arm and positive feelings among most participants because there was something to take home, but that it also failed to save the planet from climate change and helped pass the burden onto developing countries.

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Palm oil: environmental curse or a blessing?

Posted on March 2, 2010. Filed under: International Watch |

-AFP-

By Jerome Rivet

NUSA DUA, Indonesia – It is blamed for everything from deforestation to threatening the extinction of the orangutan, but palm oil is a vital source of income for many developing countries, the crop’s producers say.

In Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, where the plant provides work for three million people, the government is keen to promote the benefits of the crop.

Gatot Irianto, research director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture, pleaded with producers, scientists and NGOs meeting on the holiday island of Bali last week to reconsider the plant’s reputation.

“Stop demonising palm oil,” he urged. Irianto says palm oil should be considered a “gift from nature” that provides a significant economic boon for the country, where it is “helping to eradicate poverty”.

But in many parts of the Western world, and in Europe in particular, palm oil is a byword for ecological disaster; a crop that requires the slashing and burning of vast areas of forest and is a major contributor to global warming.

Nazir Foead, head of WWF Indonesia, said the crop’s reputation is deserved because of the way the industry has behaved in recent years.

He says millions of hectares (acres) of tropical rainforest have been razed in Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia to make way for the palm plantations that make up 80 percent of the world’s total.

“But things are changing,” he accepts. “Some players have understood that their activity could be linked to deforestation.”

Financial pressure has forced at least one big producer to review its business practices after a key partner walked away.

Smart, a leading Indonesian palm-based company, involved in marketing and exporting products such as cooking oil, was dropped by Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever after a Greenpeace report accused it of tropical deforestation.

Daud Dharsono, the company’s president, disputes the accuracy of the Greenpeace report, but said the firm had since reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable production to limit the environmental impact of its plantations.

“There will be no conversion on land with high carbon stock as well as land with high biodiversity value, no development on peat soil and primary forests.”

For its part, Greenpeace said it was pleased with the commitments, but was now waiting to see action on the ground.

The pressure also comes from big European retailers like Marks and Spencer, which recently launched an anti-palm oil campaign, saying it would use alternatives such as rapeseed oil wherever possible.

The retailer is one of the 400 members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, formed in 2004 to promote sustainable palm oil production.

One of the group’s founders, WWF, says dedicated plantations have so far produced over 1.4 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil.

Most experts agree that demand for palm products such as cooking oil, margarine, soaps, cosmetics and resins, will continue to increase and better management is the only way to reduce its environmental impact.

“Rapid growth in global demand, notably from China and India, is likely to drive land use change. We cannot change that,” said Moray McLeish of the World Resources Institute.

“The solution is an increased utilisation of degraded land,” which usually results from deforestation or overgrazing, he said.

Jean-Charles Jacquemard, an engineer at CIRAD, the French Centre for Agricultural Research said palm oil was too profitable for producers in Asia and Africa to abandon, regardless of pressure from the West.

“It is a plant which has many benefits for them. It produces a large amount of oil per hectare, three to six times more than rapeseed or sunflower,” he said.

“Its cultivation uses relatively little fertilizer – around eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) per tree per year.”

In Indonesia, 40 percent of production comes from small producers who, by farming between 10 and 20 hectares, “are able to live decently and send their children to university”, he said.

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