Worldwatch Institute newsfeed

Worldwatch Institute Europe Closes, Worldwatch in DC Continues Work

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 17:36
 After five years of crafting environmental strategies for European decision-makers, Worldwatch Institute Europe closes its doors. Worldwatch Institute in the United States continues its work.

Copenhagen—Following a five-year run of communicating sustainability concepts to European decision-makers and the public to accelerate the movement toward an environmentally sustainable society, the Worldwatcth Institute Europe (WWIE) has ceased operations at the end of January, the Institute’s Board of Directors announced.

The organization’s affiliated organization in the United States, the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, is unaffected by this decision. Worldwatch will continue its work on sustainability, which reaches a European audience along with others around the world. The two organizations are independent financially and legally but otherwise affiliated, with past and current Worldwatch executives on WWIE’s board. Worldwatch Europe, founded in 2011, is registered as a Danish non-profit organization, while the Worldwatch Institute in Washington was registered in the United States in 1974.

The WWIE Board expressed approval with the European Institute’s accomplishments and thanked the many staffers and volunteered who carried its work forward over the years. Despite a number of grant-supported projects completed, income fell short of needs to sustain ongoing research in recent years, the Board said. The Institute will close with no outstanding debt. Followers of its work are encouraged to continue to follow the work of Worldwatch in the United States via its website, www.worldwatch.org.

“Many people were involved in building and running WWIE. Most of them worked for no or only a humble salary. Everyone worked for many hours to meet their own high standards,” says Dan Boding-Jensen, Chairman of the Board of directors. “Thanks for sharing the ambition of empowering European decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs.”

WWIE achieved many results, among which the most important was influencing new areas such as the living city, the circular economy, and involving children in reintroducing nature in the urban living environment.

A special thanks to partners, including the Velux Foundation, Norden, Europanævnet, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, and the Cowi Foundation, for funding many of our projects. Finally, thank you to the Worldwatch Institute staff and board in the United States for their technical support, advice, and enthusiastic support over the years.

We invite you to continue following Worldwatch’s work by subscribing to the Worldwatch Institute (US) newsletter or following our work on Facebook and Twitter.

----- END----- 

 

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (www.worldwatch.org).

MEDIA ADVISORY: Worldwatch Presents Findings Assessing Evidence Linking Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 18:30
MEDIA ADVISORY Worldwatch Presents Findings Assessing Evidence Linking Family Planning and Environmental SustainabilityMedia Contact:Gaelle GourmelonPhone: +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510E-mail: ggourmelon@worldwatch.org
 WHAT:  The Wilson Center is hosting the Worldwatch Institute's Robert Engelman as he presents the findings of the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA). The FPESA team has found that there is an active search for a greater understanding of the link between family planning and the environment by a diverse field of researchers, women and men from developed and developing countries alike. There is not yet a "smoking gun" that definitively proves family planning is critical for environmental sustainability, but there is mounting evidence for the link. WHEN:  Wednesday, June 29, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Reception to follow. WHO:  Robert Engelman | Senior Fellow, Worldwatch InstituteAlaka Basu | Senior Fellow, UN FoundationCat Lazaroff | Managing Program Director, Resource Media WHERE: Wilson CenterRonald Reagan Building and International Trade CenterOne Woodrow Wilson Plaza1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NWWashington, D.C. 20004 WHY:  There is a growing support within the environmental and reproductive health communities for the idea that expanding access to family planning services contributes to environmental sustainability, but how strong is the evidence? A team of researchers from around the world led by the Worldwatch Institute's Robert Engelman has tackled this question to find out what we know for sure and where further research will be valuable.
 ----- END-----Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a complimentary electronic copy of Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability: Assessing the Science, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org or (202) 745-8092 x 510.

 

Evidence Links Family Planning with Improved Environmental Outcomes

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 18:28
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMedia Contact:Gaelle GourmelonPhone: +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510E-mail: ggourmelon@worldwatch.org
 Washington, D.C.---- A collaborative international assessment of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers published since 2005 finds significant, albeit indirect, evidence that access to voluntary family planning can contribute to an environmentally sustainable world (fpesa.net). Among more than 900 peer-reviewed scientific papers published since 2005, the Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA), a project of the Worldwatch Institute, found data and researchers' conclusions suggesting that: 
  • Major reductions in unintended pregnancies---- now accounting for two out of five pregnancies worldwide---- would lower birth rates in high-consuming and low-consuming countries alike.
  • Achieving a low trajectory of world population growth could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the first half of the 21stcentury to an extent comparable to eliminating all deforestation.
  • Greater use of family planning would facilitate more participation by women in economic activity and in civil society, which could improve environmental outcomes locally and globally.
"Linking environmental benefits to family planning can be controversial, since the use of family planning is---- and should always be---- a private choice that people make for their own reasons," noted Robert Engelman, former President of the Worldwatch Institute, who directed the FPESA project. "Yet demonstrated synergies between the two might help advance both environmental sustainability and access to family planning for those who want it. Our objective has been to see what the scientific literature has to say about the connection and to assess the evidence base." Through collaborative evaluation of 939 papers, identified through expert interviews and database searches, the FPESA project collectively ranked 112 papers as "certainly relevant" to the hypothesis that family planning benefits the environment, with another 302 ranked as "probably relevant." (Relevant papers might either support or undermine the hypothesis.) The bulk of the "certainly relevant" papers lend support to the hypothesis, with a few papers somewhat undermining it but none directly countering it. A conceptual framework guiding the evaluation included both slower population growth and the empowerment of women as pathways through which family planning might contribute positively to environmental sustainability. The project team and a network of international researchers collaborating in the assessment share a commitment to the human rights foundation of family planning as a choice for couples and individuals alone in deciding if and when to have a child. The group identified no research suggesting that a weakening of this foundation would make any contribution to sustainability. A comprehensive report on the project's findings to date---- Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability: Assessing the Science---- will be launched on June 29 at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. The report includes an annotated bibliography and assessments of the 50 papers that are most compelling and relevant to the hypothesis. No research discipline directly explores the hypothesis that family planning contributes to environmental sustainability. Not surprisingly, scientific papers making this connection proved to be scarce. A high proportion of the reviewed papers that were found to be relevant to the hypothesis, however, assert or demonstrate an influence of population size, growth, or resource demands on the environment. A smaller proportion of the reviewed papers lend credence to the idea that women who are able to make their own reproductive choices are more likely to contribute to environmental sustainability through consumption choices or participation in politics and civil society. The assessment also explored a secondary hypothesis: that research interest in the family planning--environmental sustainability linkage is widespread among women and men in developing as well as developed countries. "That hypothesis, we feel, is fully confirmed," Engelman said, based on the diversity of the project's network of research assessors and on the high proportions of relevant paper authors who are women and/or are from developing countries. "Given high levels of interest in the potential contribution of family planning to the environment, and the importance of the linkage for both sustainability and reproductive health and rights, more research---- and funding for it---- is critically needed, especially for young researchers and those in developing countries." The assessment team consists of Engelman, now a Senior Fellow at Worldwatch, and Research Assistant Yeneneh Girma Terefe, along with several consultants and an active network of 16 research assessors. Seven assessors are women, while 13 work in or are from developing countries. Articles by some consultants and assessors are included in the report. The consultants were Vicky Markham, Kenneth R. Weiss, and Sam Sellers. Network assessors were Edward Amankwah, Alaka Basu, Wanangwa Chimwaza-Manda, Samuel Nii Ardrey Codjoe, Javiera Fanta, Bhola R. Gurjar, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Hafiz T.A. Khan, Zena Lyaga, Wilkister Nyaora Moturi, Casianes Olilo, Margaret Perkins, Muhammad Abdur Rahaman, Sam Sellers, Dirk Van Braeckel, and Samson Wasao. For additional findings from the project and assessments of specific papers, visitfpesa.net. * * * About FPESAThe Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA), a project of the Worldwatch Institute, is surveying the field of health and environmental research for well-documented and evaluated data shedding light on how the use of family planning might relate to climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable water supply and food production, the maintenance of biological diversity, the future of forests and fisheries, and more. Learn more at fpesa.netAbout WorldwatchFounded in 1974 by farmer and economist Lester Brown, the Worldwatch Institute was the first independent research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental concerns. Worldwatch quickly became recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Over 40 years later, Worldwatch continues to develop innovative solutions to intractable problems, emphasizing a blend of government leadership, private sector enterprise, and citizen action that can make a sustainable future a reality. Learn more at www.worldwatch.org.Gaelle Gourmelon | Worldwatch Institute | +1 (202) 745-8092 x 510 | ggourmelon@worldwatch.orgSTAY CONNECTED: 

 

Hundreds of Cities Commit to Combating Emissions

Mon, 06/06/2016 - 17:33

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a review copy of Can a City Be Sustainable?, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

 Through bold climate commitments, 228 cities around the world are taking the lead on climate action  Washington, D.C.-----Over 200 cities have set greenhouse gas reduction goals or targets. Action in these cities, which represent a combined population of 439 million people, could propel countries to meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—the national greenhouse gas reduction pledges embodied in the Paris Agreement. According to Can a City Be Sustainable?, the latest edition of the annual State of the World series from the Worldwatch Institute, cities and their inhabitants are playing a lead role in achieving global climate action goals (www.worldwatch.org).

“The challenge over the next several decades is an enormous one,” write Michael Renner and Tom Prugh, contributing authors and co-directors of the report. “This requires not change around the edges, but a fundamental restructuring of how cities operate, how much they consume in resources and how much waste they produce, what they look like, and how they are structured.”

Growing numbers of cities have pledged themselves to climate commitments and sustainability goals. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has expanded to over 80 cities. The Compact of Mayors, launched at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, is the largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability works with more than 1,000 cities around the world.

Cities today host more than half of the earth’s human beings and represent about 70 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. If trends continue, urban populations are expected to increase to 6 billion by 2045, at which point two-thirds of all people will live in urban environments. “If current trends in urbanization continue unabated, urban energy use will more than triple, compared to 2005 levels, by 2050,” write Renner and Prugh.

It is no surprise that cities collectively account for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions, because they concentrate economic activity. But cities vary widely in their per capita emissions. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, for example, emitted 29.8 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per capita in 2005, whereas Paris emitted just 5.2 tons per capita. Many variables, such as climate, urban form, and primary energy source, affect a city’s level of emissions. Economic factors, such as the wealth and income of residents and the level and structure of economic activity, also play a major role.

“Only demand-side policies that succeed in sharply reducing energy consumption in transport, buildings, waste handling, and agriculture can address the urgent need to decarbonize energy,” write Renner and Prugh. “It is cities that must step up to the front lines of that battle.”

In conjunction with policy changes, cities’ success will depend on having both comprehensive data and financial support. Current protocols, such as one developed by the World Resources Institute, C40 Cities, and ICLEI, can be used to measure or estimate greenhouse gas emissions in cities worldwide. Financing sustainability in cities may be easier in some cities than in others. Among the C40 cities, only three-quarters have budgetary control over property or municipal taxes. In poorer cities, multilateral development banks and a variety of donors may play an important role.

Worldwatch Institute’s Can a City Be Sustainable? (State of the World) examines the core principles of sustainable urbanism and profiles cities that are putting them into practice.

 ----- END----- About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (www.worldwatch.org). 

 

Cities Hold the Key to a Livable Future

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 11:07

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews or to obtain a review copy of Can a City Be Sustainable?, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

 Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs exposes latest global peaks of production and consumption, as well as associated impacts

Washington, D.C.-----Today, nearly 3.9 billion people-----half of the world's population-----live in urban areas. By 2050 that number is expected to nearly double. According to Can a City Be Sustainable? (State of the World), the latest edition of the annual series from the Worldwatch Institute, there is no question cities will continue to grow; the only debate is over how (www.worldwatch.org). 

"Cities are at a crossroads, confronting historic challenges posed by rising populations, accelerating climate change, increasing inequity, and-----all too often-----faltering livability," writes Eduardo da Costa Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
Cities have voracious appetites for energy, accounting for about three-quarters of the world's direct final energy use in 2005-----far more than their 49 percent share of global population that year. Cities today must also deal with growing stress on raw material supplies. Extraction of metals, minerals, and fuels is increasingly complex now that the easiest sources have been tapped. A city's food system-----the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste of its food-----has impacts that extend to a city's host region and country, and often to other countries as well.
"As rural migrants to cities adopt city-based lifestyles, they tend to use more resources as their incomes rise and as their diets shift from starchy staples to a greater share of animal products and processed foods," writes Tom Prugh, author and co-director of the report. This, in turn, puts natural systems-----either in the migrants' own countries or in other countries that export products or their inputs-----under strain.
However, cities today are also in an exciting position to take leadership on the effort to build sustainable economies. 
"People care about their cities and often are motivated to protect and improve their urban homes," says Gary Gardner, author and co-director of State of the World. "Cities can harness that passion to help advance a sustainability agenda, perhaps more easily than national governments or corporations can."
Perhaps the biggest single step that cities can take toward a sustainable future is to create economies that greatly reduce materials use, (re)circulate most materials, and rely largely on renewable energy. "Green infrastructure"-----the use of natural areas to provide economic services-----can also help cities avoid building costly new water management facilities, can recharge aquifers, and can provide flood protection. Ensuring that decision-making is transparent and participatory ensures that no community is left behind. 
"Building on the new hope created by the breakthrough agreement on climate action achieved in Paris last December, cities stand ready to engage their citizens in building a sustainable future," writes Mayor Paes. 
 ----- END----- About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages (www.worldwatch.org).  About Island Press: Founded in 1984, Island Press works to stimulate, shape, and communicate the information that is essential for solving environmental problems. Island Press is driving change by moving ideas from the printed page to public discourse and practice. Island Press’s emphasis is, and will continue to be, on transforming objective information into understanding and action (www.islandpress.org). 

 

First-Ever Sustainable Energy Roadmap for the Caribbean Launched

Wed, 10/28/2015 - 09:08

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For immediate release

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment

Notes to Editors

For more information: To download a free copy of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment visit here or contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

 

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

 

 

Worldwatch Institute study suggests CARICOM-wide energy and climate targets and outlines strategies and initiatives for achieving them

Washington, D.C.—The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has received recommendations for reaching an ambitious regional target of 48% renewable energy generation by 2027. The Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment, released today by the Worldwatch Institute, also suggests a 33% reduction in the region’s energy intensity. Achieving these sustainable energy goals would result in a 46% decrease in carbon dioxide emissions over the period. The report details a work program of Priority Initiatives, Policies, Projects, and Activities (PIPPAs) as concrete steps for achieving these ambitious but feasible objectives. Supporting the full report are two slide decks visualizing the report’s main findings as well as the energy situations of individual CARICOM Member States.

“A month before the milestone United Nations climate summit in Paris, and on the day of the launch of the Caribbean Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, this report leads the way for CARICOM and its Member States to become global sustainable energy leaders,” says Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and lead author of the report. “We were extremely excited two years ago when CARICOM Member States reviewed an early draft of this report at a Meeting of Energy Ministers and agreed on the preliminary goal of a 48% renewable electricity share. Today’s updated and extended report adds energy efficiency and climate mitigation to the equation and is accessible to anyone in the region. It provides the analysis and tools necessary to realize the vision of an economically and environmentally sustainable Caribbean region.”

Caribbean governments are increasingly aware of the enormous financial, environmental, and social costs associated with continued dependence on fossil fuels. Only one CARICOM Member State, Trinidad and Tobago, has substantial fossil fuel resources of its own. All others spend sizable shares of their gross domestic product—including at least a quarter of GDP in Guyana and Montserrat—on imported petroleum products. In Jamaica, the cost of electricity is four times that in the United States. And in Haiti and Suriname, large portions of the population still lack access to modern energy services.

These and other concerns have spurred a broad regional dialogue on improving energy security and independence, fostering sustainable economic growth, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the development and efficient use of local and renewable resources. CARICOM has aimed to provide guidance and support for Member States that are willing to transition to more sustainable energy systems. In 2013, the region reached a milestone when it adopted a regional energy policy—CARICOM’s first region-wide agreement on joint energy goals—that included the preliminary 48% renewables target. This commitment has since been lauded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki­‑Moon.

“C‑SERMS is pivotal to the attainment of the sustainable energy and development goals of the Caribbean Community. CARICOM envisions that implementing the C-SERMS Baseline Report and Assessment advances regional goals whilst simultaneously supporting Member States,” says Devon Gardner, Program Manager for Energy in the CARICOM Secretariat and Head of the CARICOM Energy Unit. “All CARICOM Members have contributed to this Roadmap and the CARICOM Secretariat is excited to have this first in a series of assessments, which will provide guidance on the vision and strategy for building resilient energy systems within the region.”

Established in 1973, CARICOM is a regional organization representing 15 Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Despite their diversity, CARICOM Member States, with a total population of over 17 million people, face many shared energy challenges.

For most Caribbean states, inefficient transmission and distribution networks, geographic remoteness, and steep topography increase the high costs of energy systems that rely on fuel imports. The loss of large shares of GDP to energy imports diverts large sums that otherwise could be invested domestically. As a consequence, national debts rise at the expense of a country’s financial ratings, and high electricity tariffs discourage economic development and foreign investment well beyond the energy sector. Additionally, all CARICOM Member States share a particular vulnerability to the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of climate change, caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels. Impacts include sea-level rise, water scarcity, coral bleaching, and increased strength and frequency of tropical storms.

“Caribbean countries are, and increasingly will be, affected greatly by the negative consequences of global climate change,” says Ochs. “They have a strong incentive to demonstrate to other countries that it is possible to reduce climate-altering emissions quickly. But even if the problem of global warming did not exist, and the burning of fossil fuels did not result in extensive local air and water pollution, CARICOM Member States would still have a mandate to transition away from these fuels as swiftly as possible, for reasons of social opportunity, economic competitiveness, and national security. They owe it to their people.”

Significant renewable energy resources exist across the CARICOM region and have yet to be fully harnessed, including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, waste-to-energy, and wind. There are also tremendous opportunities to dramatically improve energy efficiency. However, realizing these sustainable energy potentials in the region will require a robust and dynamic framework of policy and legislation that, so far, remains inadequate. Although all CARICOM Member States have national energy strategies in some stage of development or implementation, most of these lack a coherent long-term vision and concrete policies and measures. Efforts so far have been disjointed and incomplete, and they face a variety of technical, financial, institutional, and capacity barriers.

The C-SERMS Baseline Report and Assessment aims to serve as a key planning tool for tackling existing barriers and communicating priorities that allow for a swift transition toward sustainable energy systems in CARICOM Member States. Suggested PIPPAs range from coordinated regional fuel efficiency standards and targeted model legislation on net metering, to the development of regional generation technology risk mitigation funds and country-specific electric system modelling efforts. The report distinguishes actions to be taken at the regional or national levels, or both, and specifies the required timeframes. It also highlights three broad priority areas for future action: transportation, regional energy trade agreements, and the water-energy-food nexus.

“Sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy can be provided throughout the Caribbean, and this report helps us see how,” says Andreas Taeuber, leader of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance (REETA) project, which supports the CARICOM Energy Unit in fulfilling its political mandate. REETA is a project of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which has supported the C-SERMS project and its Baseline Report from its inception. The Inter-American Development Bank also provided support for the project.

“Through regional collaboration, CARICOM Member States have a tremendous opportunity to spearhead sustainable energy development region-wide,” says Gardner. “Full transformation of the region’s energy sector will be a long-term process, requiring extensive and dedicated collaboration among Member States as well as regional and international actors. The regional approach outlined by C-SERMS ensures that no Member State will travel this path alone, but instead will be supported by a network of actors and institutions, united under a common vision for sustainability.”

The C-SERMS Baseline Report and Assessment is the latest outcome of Worldwatch’s longstanding and intensive engagement in the Caribbean and Central America. The Institute also recently published national sustainable energy roadmaps for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, as well as regional studies of Central America and Latin America and the Caribbean.

—END—

For more information or to download a free copy of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment, visit www.worldwatch.org/cserms/baseline-reportor contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

    

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment: Main Findings from Worldwatch Institute

Energy Situation of CARICOM Member Countries from Worldwatch Institute

Land “Grabbing” Grows as Agricultural Resources Dwindle

Tue, 10/06/2015 - 15:43

As global agricultural resources shrink or shift, countries are crossing border to obtain new farmlands

 

For Immediate Release | October 6, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2015:

Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability

Washington, D.C.Since 2000, more than 36 million hectares—an area about the size of Japan—has been purchased or leased by foreign entities, mostly for agricultural use. Today, nearly 15 million hectares more is under negotiation (www.worldwatch.org).

“Farmland is lost or degraded on every continent, while ‘land grabbing’—the purchase or lease of agricultural land by foreign interests—has emerged as a threat to food security in several countries,” writes Gary Gardner, contributing author of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability.

About half of grabbed land is intended exclusively for use in agriculture, while another 25 percent is intended for a mix of agricultural and other uses. (The land that is not used for agriculture is often used for forestry.) Land grabbing has surged since 2005 in response to a food price crisis and the growing demand for biofuels in the United States and the European Union. Droughts in the United States, Argentina, and Australia, has further driven interest in land overseas.

“Today, the FAO reports that essentially no additional suitable [agricultural] land remains in a belt around much of the middle of the planet,” writes Gardner. As a result, the largest grabbers of land are often countries that need additional resources to meet growing demands.

Over half of the global grabbed land is in Africa, especially in water-rich countries like the Congo. Asia comes second, contributing over 6 million hectares, mainly from Indonesia. The largest area acquired from a single country is in Papua New Guinea, with nearly 4 million hectares (over 8 percent of the country’s total land cover) sold or leased out.

The largest investor country is the United States, a country already rich in agricultural land. The United States alone has acquired about 7 million hectares worldwide. Malaysia comes in a distant second, with just over 3.5 million hectares acquired.

Land grabbing is precipitated by the growing challenges shaking the foundation of food production: the water, land, and climate that make crop growth possible. Globally, some 20 percent of aquifers are being pumped faster than they are recharged by rainfall, stressing many key food-producing areas. Land is becoming degraded through erosion and salinization or is getting paved for development. The changing climate is projected to cause a net decline of 0.2–2 percent in crop yields per decade over the remainder of the century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The dangers of land grabbing are evident. Large-scale purchases often do not consider the interests of smallholders who may have been working the land over a long period. Additionally, the transfer of resources from poorer countries to wealthier ones increases the vulnerability of the target countries that surrender their own access to land and water resources to foreign investors and governments.

“As demand for agricultural goods increases, and as our planet’s water and fertile land become more scarce and its atmosphere less stable, greater effort will be needed to conserve resources and to exploit opportunities for greater efficiency throughout the agricultural system,” writes Gardner.

By preventing food waste, increasing water efficiency, conserving agricultural land, and decreasing production of meat and biofuels (both of which require large quantities of land and water for grain or crops), Gardner believes that the stress on food systems can be reduced. In addition, the international adoption of the right to food, already integrated in the constitutions of 28 countries, will ensure that food cannot be withheld for political reasons.

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0

—END—

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

Global Consumption Trends Break New Records

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 17:26

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, September 15, 2015

View the Tip Sheet here.

Notes to EditorsTo schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of Vital Signs, Volume 22, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

 Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs exposes latest global peaks of production and consumption, as well as associated impacts

Washington, D.C.—From coal to cars to coffee, consumption levels are breaking records. According to the Worldwatch Institute’s latest report, Vital Signs, Volume 22: The Trends That Are Shaping Our Future, the acceleration of resource depletion, pollution, and climate change may come with underappreciated social and environmental costs (www.worldwatch.org).

Drawing on a wide range of sources, Vital Signs shows trends related to today’s often record-breaking levels of consumption by providing data and concise analyses of significant global trends in food and agriculture, population and society, and energy and climate.

“Consumers often do not know the full footprint of the products they are buying, such as the embedded water in a t-shirt or steak, the pesticide exposure of cotton farmers, or the local devastation caused by timber companies cutting down forests to produce paper,” says Michael Renner, Vital Signs Project Director.

The 24 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate these and other consequences of consumption on a scale never before experienced on Earth. With a global population of over 7 billion and growing, the need to preserve ecosystems is undeniable. Yet, for many products, the growth of consumption is reaching new levels:

  • Global meat production has more than quadrupled in the last half century to over 308 million tons in 2013, bringing with it considerable environmental and health costs due to its large-scale draw on water, feedgrains, antibiotics, and grazing land.
  • Coffee production has doubled since the early 1960s. However, an estimated 25 million coffee growers worldwide are at the mercy of extreme price volatility.
  • For more than 50 years, global plastic production has continued to rise, with 299 million tons of plastics produced in 2013 alone. Recycling rates remain low, however, and the majority of plastics end up in landfills and oceans—polluting ecosystems, entangling wildlife, and blighting communities.
  • The world’s fleet of automobiles now surpasses 1 billion, with each vehicle contributing greenhouse gases and reducing air quality.

Vital Signs, Volume 22 presents these and other global trends and analyses of our planet and civilization. The book uses straightforward language and easy-to-read graphs to present each indicator. Vital Signs is created as a guide to inform governments, businesses, teachers, and concerned citizens everywhere to make the changes needed to build a sustainable world.

“Untrammeled consumerism lies at the heart of many of these challenges,” writes Renner. “As various articles in this edition of Vital Signs show, consumption choices matter greatly.”

END

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. Vital Signs tracks key trends in the environment, agriculture, energy, society, and the economy to inform and inspire the changes needed to build a sustainable world. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

 

About Island Press: Founded in 1984, Island Press works to stimulate, shape, and communicate the information that is essential for solving environmental problems. Island Press is driving change by moving ideas from the printed page to public discourse and practice. Island Press’s emphasis is, and will continue to be, on transforming objective information into understanding and action. For more information and further updates, be sure to check out www.islandpress.org.

 

Arctic Peoples Overlooked as GLACIER Conference Thaws Climate Discussions

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 12:38

 

 

Are climate discussions ignoring the self-determination of Arctic peoples?

For Immediate Release | September 3, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2015:

Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability

Washington, D.C.On August 30–31, President Obama traveled to Alaska to address the U.S. State Department’s conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER), highlighting international and domestic priorities in the region. However, as politicians and activists seek to tackle the climate change challenges of the far North—rather than taking bold steps to curb emissions in other, more-consumptive regions of the world—the autonomy of Arctic peoples may be threatened. (www.worldwatch.org)

GLACIER aimed to consolidate support for an ambitious joint commitment at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting (COP21) that will take place this December in Paris. Among the conference guests were the foreign ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, South Korea and the Netherlands, as well as President Obama, the first sitting president to visit the Alaskan Arctic. President Obama’s speech at GLACIER was perhaps the highest-profile one to date on climate change, and he used strong language about the need to grow clean-energy economies and reduce carbon pollution.

Discussions on a warming Arctic have been wrapped in debate over whether the president should allow drilling off the northern coast of Alaska. The “Arctic Paradox”—the expansion of available fossil fuels in the Arctic due to ice melt triggered by the burning of fossil fuels—has made the region an important battleground in the war against climate change.

“Northerners are being asked to disproportionately bear the burden of mitigating climate change, even as they disproportionately bear the burden of adapting to those changes,” writes contributing author Heather Exner-Pirot in Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability.

The rural regions of the Arctic have among the lowest human development outcomes in the developed world. Resource extraction in the region is seen by some Northerners as a way to provide much-needed livelihoods, revenues to fund public goods, and progress in achieving indigenous self-sufficiency. Yet Southern powers perceive such extractive activity in the Arctic as particularly harmful and dangerous for the climate, and many Southerners are calling for moratoriums, bans, or heavy regulatory burdens on resource exploitation in the far North.

“Imagine how hypocritical and arbitrary this sounds to Northerners, who see oil production continuing unabated and uncontested in the rest of the world, including the lower 48 states, where so many of the carbon emissions that have contributed to climate change have arisen,” says Exner-Pirot. “It would be far more constructive for [politicians] to work on reducing fossil fuel use in their own regions, rather than seeking to manage the consequences of this energy use in others.”

With melting ice and thawing permafrost, the Arctic is experiencing some of the greatest regional warming on Earth, and Northerners have the greatest stake in good environmental stewardship of the region. Progress has been made to restore self-determination to Northerners and indigenous peoples whose values and goals may differ from those of central governments.

“The Arctic is a homeland, and its inhabitants have fought hard in the past four decades to regain control over its governance, only to see it recast as a global commons,” says Exner-Pirot. “GLACIER sent a powerful message about climate change, but it also sent a message that America’s interest in its Arctic may not recognize voices of the Northernmost peoples.”

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0

Heather Exner-Pirot is a strategist for outreach and indigenous engagement in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and managing editor of The Arctic Yearbook, produced by the Northern Research Forum and the University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security. 

—END—

 

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

Overfishing and Climate Change, Combined, Intensify Ocean Threats

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 17:00

Millions of people and billions of dollars depend on healthy oceans, but human actions create complex interactions that endanger oceans

For Immediate Release | August 18, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2015:

Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability

Washington, D.C.The combination of overfishing and climate change may be putting the oceans’ health—and our own wellbeing—at risk. As State of the World 2015 contributing author Katie Auth explains, protecting lives and livelihoods will require urgent and concerted action to improve the oceans’ condition (www.worldwatch.org).

“Our sense of the oceans’ power and omnipotence—combined with scientific ignorance—contributed to an assumption that nothing we did could ever possibly impact it,” writes Auth. “Over the years, scientists and environmental leaders have worked tirelessly to demonstrate and communicate the fallacy of such arrogance.”

Three billion people worldwide depend on fish as their main source of animal protein, essential micronutrients, and fatty acids. The livelihoods of millions of people in both developing and high-income countries rely on the multibillion-dollar fisheries industry—a sector that accounted for 1.5 million jobs and more than $45 billion of income in the United States alone in 2010.

“As our negative impact on the oceans has grown, so has our understanding of the myriad ways in which the health of the marine environment determines our own,” writes Auth. “The combined stresses of human activities like overfishing and climate change now pose distinct and intensified threats to marine systems.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the global share of marine stocks considered to be fished “within biologically sustainable levels” fell from 90 percent to 71 percent between 1974 and 2011. Of that 71 percent, a large majority (86 percent) of stocks are already fished to capacity. Rapid human population growth and rising incomes are increasing the demand for food fish and pushing wild fish populations to the brink.

Climate-related changes in the marine ecosystem are also affecting the oceans. Over the last 40 years, the upper 75 meters of the world’s oceans have warmed by an average of more than 0.1 degrees Celsius per year. Temperate species are responding to this change and other stressors, such as pollution and fishing pressures, by moving toward the poles, possibly increasing competition with polar animals.

Further, increased carbon in the atmosphere is triggering ocean acidification. About a quarter of human-caused carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been absorbed into seawater. This changes the chemistry of the water and makes it more difficult for some marine organisms (such as oysters and corals) to form shells and skeletons. Once these populations are affected, entire food webs are threatened.

“Marine ecosystems and individual organisms that already are weakened by overfishing become less resilient and more vulnerable to disruption, especially because environmental change is occurring so rapidly,” writes Auth.

Yet Auth believes that there is still hope. “Conservation efforts aimed at improving system resiliency have proven effective in addressing the nexus between fishing and climate change,” she writes. Changes in fishing policies, equipment, and techniques that result in less damage to ocean-bottom habitats and that reduce bycatch also would diminish fishing stresses. Finally, revamping the global energy system away from fossil fuels would curtail the rise in ocean temperatures and carbon dioxide levels.

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0

—END—

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

Beyond the Climate Refugee: Migration as Adaptation

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 10:18

Misconceptions about climate-induced migration could lead to inadequate support for affected populations, according to the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2015

For Immediate Release | July 14, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2015:

Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability

Washington, D.C.Between 2008 and 2013, some 140 million people were displaced by weather-related disasters; meanwhile, gradual displacements, such as those caused by droughts or sea-level rise, affected the lives of countless others. These “climate refugees” have become the human face of global warming, their very movement seen as a threat to global security. State of the World 2015 contributing author Francois Gemenne exposes the dangers of misrepresenting climate-induced migration as a decision of last resort, rather than as a choice in human adaptation (www.worldwatch.org).

“The conception of migrants solely as victims…might actually hinder their capacity to adapt, and induce inadequate policy responses,” writes Gemenne, executive director of the Politics of the Earth program at Sciences Po in Paris and a senior research associate with the University of Liège in Belgium.

Today’s policies on climate change cast migration as an impending humanitarian catastrophe and as a failure to adapt to changing environments back home. As a result, policies focus on reducing migration, commonly assuming that overwhelming flows of migrants from poor countries will be flooding industrialized countries.

“Current adaptation policies tend to focus on the right to stay,” writes Gemenne. Today, governments are aiming to reduce the number of people who are forced to migrate, ignoring those who might in fact prefer to leave but are forced to stay against their will or ability. “Extending the migration options of populations…would require a broader development agenda.”

People who would choose to migrate face many barriers. Migration is expensive, sometimes costing several years’ worth of a migrant’s income. Moving also comes with various administrative barriers, such as the possible loss of social benefits and protection. The lack of information about employment and the competition for land at the destination can limit people’s ability to relocate.

Two policy avenues should be considered when addressing climate-induced migration, argues Gemenne. The first is to provide migration opportunities for the most vulnerable populations, including improving access to resources, information, and networks to allow them to relocate. The second opportunity lies in adapting destinations, such as urban areas in developing countries, to host and integrate communities of migrants.

“The paramount goal of policy responses should be to enable people’s right to choose which adaptation strategy is best suited for their needs,” writes Gemenne. “This implies that people should be entitled with both the right to stay and the right to choose.”

Worldwatch’sState of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0

—END—

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

New report unveils pathway to affordable, sustainable energy in Dominican Republic | Nuevo informe revela camino hacia energía sostenible y económica en la República Dominicana

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 10:13

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For immediate release | EN ESPANOL

Harnessing the Dominican Republic's Sustainable Energy Resources

Notes to Editors

For more information: To download a free copy of the Harnessing the Dominican Republic's Sustainable Energy Resources visit here or contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

 

 

An efficient, renewable-based energy system could save the island nation
up to US$25 billion over the next 15 years

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, at the Energy Ministry of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, the Worldwatch Institute presented analyses and recommendations to government officials and energy stakeholders to support a transition to a sustainable energy system in the country. Minister for Energy and Mines Dr. Antonio Isa Conde, Vice Minister of Energy Ernesto Vilalta, Secretary of State and Vice-President of the National Council for Climate Change Omar Ramirez, and other high-ranking governmental officials met with Worldwatch’s Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and the director of the study, to receive the report, Harnessing the Dominican Republic’s Sustainable Energy Resources. Representatives from the Ministry and stakeholders in the energy sector were then briefed on the social, economic, and environmental benefits of transitioning to an efficient, renewable-based energy system (www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/roadmapdr).

According to the report, transitioning to an electricity system powered 85 percent by renewables can decrease the average cost of electricity in the Dominican Republic by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 2010. Such an ambitious pathway to renewable energy would improve the safety and reliability of the island nation’s energy supply. It also would create up to 12,500 additional jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Dominican electricity sector to a mere 3 million tons annually, all while making power generation in the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change and reducing local air and water pollution.

The Dominican Republic depends on fossil fuel imports for 86 percent of its electricity needs, a reliance that brings enormous economic and environmental vulnerabilities and costs. The country spends up to a tenth of its gross domestic product on fossil fuel imports and spent US$1 billion on subsidies in 2011 to keep electricity rates more affordable. Transmission and distribution losses remain very high, at 32 percent, leading to significant financial losses for the Dominican power system. Heavy reliance on fossil fuels also results in high local pollution and healthcare costs and contributes to global climate change.

“Transitioning to a sustainable system is in the country’s best long-term interest,” says Ochs “This Roadmap provides decision makers and stakeholders in the Dominican Republic with the technical, socioeconomic, financial, and policy analysis needed to guide the country’s further transition to an electricity system that works.”

“The study demonstrates that an alternative pathway exists, one that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable,”says Ochs. “Together with our partners on the island, we have proven that a power system built on the efficient distribution and competent use of the country’s vast available renewable resources is the only smart way forward for the Dominican Republic.”

Improving power generation efficiency and reducing grid losses—both of which are far short of international standards—are a first step to reducing electricity prices for consumers, the report finds. The lowest-cost ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the country include installing efficient lighting controls in new commercial buildings, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs and investing in more-efficient electronics in the commercial and residential sectors, and replacing fuel oil plants with natural gas-fired plants.Even with improvements in efficiency, however, new power capacity will still be needed to meet the country’s needs.

If grid strengthening measures are implemented, renewable energy can reliably meet up to 85 percent of the Dominican Republic’s electricity demand while still lowering energy costs. Of the possible renewable installed capacity, the majority (85 percent) could be met with solar (4,708 megawatts) and wind (4,205 megawatts) by 2030, according to the most ambitious scenario presented in the report. The rest would come from small hydropower and bagasse.

Renewable energy technologies are already fully competitive with conventional power solutions, even if so-called “externalities” are not accounted for, according toWorldwatch’s electricity cost modeling. Moreover, “the social and economic case for renewables becomes even stronger once the very real air and water pollution costs, as well as related health costs of fossil fuel generation, are included,” says Ochs. “Add climate change to the equation, and the rationale behind clean modern energy technologies becomes an economic no-brainer.”

Distributed generation—producing power where it is consumed, such as using rooftop solar systems—can greatly reduce grid losses. It is also more resilient than centralized fossil fuel generation to climate change impacts, such as hurricanes, inland flooding, or droughts. Renewable energy sources—particularly distributed systems—are also the only feasible long-term solution to provide affordable electricity to the 4 percent of Dominicans who live in remote areas without any access to the power grid.

The report provides detailed geographic and temporal analysis of the country’s strong solar and wind resources. It demonstrates how a good weather forecasting system and a reliable, modernized grid allow for both reliable production and system protection in the case of extreme weather events.

The largest hurdle is the upfront costs of such a system change. Building up enough renewable energy capacity to power 85 percent of Dominican electricity would require investments of aroundUS$78 billion. However, the switch to renewables is much more affordable than any scenario that relies on conventional energy sources, including installing, operating, and fueling fossil fuel-based power plants. Total savings to the country in the highest renewable scenario (85 percent) is US$25 billion by 2030. This would free up significant public money over the next 15 years to spend on other pressing social and economic concerns.

The Roadmap makes concrete suggestions for building both financial and human capacities to make the sustainable energy pathway a reality. The suggestions aim to improve the investment environment for public and private as well as domestic and international financing.

To speed the energy transition, the report recommends that the Dominican Republic make renewable energy an overarching development priority, rallying key governmental and non-governmental actors behind a clean, independent, affordable, and reliable energy vision. Creating a new Ministry of Energy and Mines in July 2013 was a strong first step toward mainstreaming the country’s myriad energy-related resources. The Roadmap outlines additional concrete finance and policy recommendations to strengthen the investment environment for renewables and to allow the energy sector to follow the best path forward based on conclusions from the report’s modeling and analysis.

“A paradigm shift is happening in the Dominican Republic, and our Roadmap will further accelerate it,” says Ochs. “The country’s government, private industry, and civil society actors have come to see the important role of energy reform in reducing electricity costs, bolstering the national economy, creating social opportunity, and contributing to a healthier environment.”

“The country is now at a crucial point where it must implement targeted measures in order to achieve the full benefits of a sustainable energy system for generations to come.”

Available publicly in English and Spanish on July 8 at www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/roadmapdr, the Worldwatch Institute report Harnessing the Dominican Republic’s Sustainable Energy Resources presents the technical, socioeconomic, financial, and policy assessments needed to transition to an energy system in the Dominican Republic that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

--END--

Report Highlights:

  • Renewables in the Dominican Republic could reduce the total cost of electricity generation and can save the country up to US$25 billion by 2030.
  • Transitioning the country to an electricity system powered 85 percent by renewables could decrease the average cost of electricity by 40 percent by 2030 in comparison to 2010.
  • The renewable energy transition could create up to 12,500 additional jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector to a mere 3 million tons annually.
  • The country’s solar energy resource is particularly strong and is far superior to that of Germany, the global leader in installed solar photovoltaic capacity.
  • Just 15–20 medium-sized wind farms (60 megawatts each) could provide half of the Dominican Republic’s current power demand.
  • Over the past five years, US$644 million has been invested in the country’s renewables sector. More recently, however, investment has declined, with only some US$1.2 million in green micro-loans distributed to borrowers in 2013.
  • The Roadmap recommends reducing the number of vice-ministries in the new Ministry of Energy and Mines from six to just three: Administration, Energy, and Mining.

ABOUT THE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY ROADMAPS: By collaborating with local stakeholders, the Worldwatch Institute has produced Sustainable Energy Roadmaps for several countries and world regions. Combining technical analysis, socio-economic modeling, investment analysis, and policy assessment, the Roadmaps result in concrete implementation plans that empower nations to reduce local pollution, greenhouse gases, long-term energy costs, and dependence on fossil fuel imports, and to create new social and economic opportunity while supporting environmental integrity.

ABOUT THE WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE: The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. Worldwatch delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to createan environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

      

Executive Director of Climate Change and Viceminister of Energy Ernesto Vilalta, Minister of Energy and Mines Antonio Isa Conde, Worldwatch Climate and Energy Director Alexander Ochs, and Secretary of State and Vice-President of the National Council for Climate Change Omar Ramírez

Nuevo informe revela camino hacia energía sostenible y económica en la República Dominicana

 

Un sistema de energía eficiente y basado en renovables podría salvar la isla hasta US $25 mil millones durante los próximos 15 años

Ministro de Energía y Minas Dr. Antonio Isa Conde, Viceministro de Energía, Ernesto Vilalta, Secretario de Estado y Vicepresidente del Consejo Nacional para el Cambio Climático, Omar Ramírez, y otros funcionarios gubernamentales de alto rango se reunieron con Alexander Ochs, Director de Clima y Energía de Worldwatch y director del estudio, para recibir el informe, Aprovechamiento de los Recursos de Energía Sostenible de la República Dominicana. Los representantes del Ministerio y de las partes interesadas en el sector energético fueron informados sobre los beneficios sociales, económicos y ambientales de la transición a un sistema eficiente, basado en energía renovable (www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/publication/roadmapdr).

La transición a un sistema eléctrico alimentado por 85 por ciento de energías renovables puede reducir el coste medio de la electricidad en la República Dominicana por 40 por ciento en 2030 en comparación con 2010. Esta vía ambiciosa hasta energías renovables haría más seguro y confiable el suministro de energía de la isla. También crearía hasta 12.500 puestos de trabajo adicionales y reduciría las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero en el sector eléctrico dominicano a apenas 3 millones de toneladas al año, a la vez que haría más resistente el sector de energía a los impactos del cambio climático y reduciría la contaminación local del aire y del agua.

La República Dominicana depende de importaciones de combustibles fósiles para 86 por ciento de su producción de electricidad,trayendo enormes vulnerabilidades y costos económicos y ambientales. El país gasta hasta una décima parte de su producto interno bruto a la importación de combustibles fósiles y pasó de mil millones de dólares en subsidios en 2011 para mantener las tasas de facturación de electricidad más asequible. Las pérdidas de transmisión y distribución permanecen muy altas, al 32 por ciento, lo que lleva a pérdidas económicas significativas para el sistema de energía dominicana. La dependencia de los combustibles fósiles también da lugar a la contaminación y a los costos altos locales de salud y contribuye al cambio climático global.

“La transición a un sistema sostenible es en el mejor interés a largo plazo del país”, dice Ochs. "Esta hoja de ruta proporciona a los responsables políticos y partes interesadas en la República Dominicana con el análisis técnico, socioeconómico, financiero y político necesario para orientar aún más la transición del país a un sistema eléctrico que funciona."

"El estudio demuestra que existe una vía alternativa—una que sea socialmente, económicamente y ambientalmente sostenible”,dice Ochs. “Junto con nuestros socios en la isla, hemos demostrado que un sistema de energía basado en la distribución eficiente y el uso competente de los enormes recursos renovables internos disponibles es la única manera inteligente de avanzar para la República Dominicana”.

Mejorar la eficiencia de generación de energía y reducir las pérdidas de la red eléctrica—ambos muy lejos de satisfacer las normas internacionales—son un primer paso para la reducción de precios de la electricidad para los consumidores, según el informe. Las formas de costo más bajo para mitigar las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero en el país incluyen la instalación de controles eficientes de iluminación en edificios comerciales nuevos, el cambio de bombillas incandescentes a LED y la inversión en electrónica más eficiente en los sectores comerciales y residenciales, y la sustitución de plantas de fueloil con plantas de gas natural.

Incluso con las mejoras en la eficiencia, sin embargo, todavía se necesitará nueva capacidad de energía para satisfacer las necesidades del país. Si se implementan las medidas de fortalecimiento de la red, la energía renovable puede satisfacer de forma fiable hasta 85 por ciento de la demanda de electricidad de la República Dominicana, al mismo tiempo reduciendo los costos de energía.

De la posible capacidad instalada renovable, la mayoría (85 por ciento) se podría cumplir con energía solar (4.708 megavatios) y eólica (4.205 megavatios) para el año 2030, según el escenario más ambicioso presentado en el informe. El resto vendría de pequeñas centrales hidroeléctricas y de bagazo.

Las tecnologías de energías renovables ya son plenamente competitivas con soluciones de energía convencionales, incluso si no se tienen en cuento las “externalidades,” como muestra el modelado de costos de electricidad de Worldwatch. Además, “el caso social y económico de las energías renovables se hace aún más fuerte una vez que los costos muy reales de la contaminación del aire y del agua—así como los costos relacionados con la salud de la generación de combustibles fósiles—están incluidos,” dice Ochs. “Añade el cambio climático a la ecuación, y la justificación de las tecnologías de energías limpias y modernas se convierte en una obviedad económica”.

La generación distribuida—produciendo energía donde se consume, como con el uso de sistemas solares en los techos—puede reducir en gran medida las pérdidas de red.También es más resistente que la generación centralizada de combustibles fósiles a los impactos del cambio climático—como huracanes, inundaciones, o sequías. Las energías renovables—en particular, los sistemas distribuidos—son también la única solución viable a largo plazo para proporcionar electricidad asequible para el 4 por ciento de los dominicanos que viven en zonas remotas sin ningún acceso a la red eléctrica.

El informe proporciona un análisis detallado acerca de dónde y cuando el sol y el viento proporcionan los recursos más fuertes. Muestra como un buen sistema de predicción meteorológica y una red eléctrica modernizada y confiable permitirían tanto la producción fiable y la protección del sistema en caso de fenómenos meteorológicos extremos.

El mayor obstáculo es los costos iniciales de un cambio de sistema.La creación de capacidad de energía renovable suficiente para alimentar 85 por ciento de la electricidad dominicana requeriría inversiones de alrededor de US$ 78 mil millones. Sin embargo, el cambio a las energías renovables es mucho más asequible que cualquier escenario con una mayoría de energías convencionales, incluyendo la instalación, operación, y alimentación de las plantas de energía de origen fósil. El ahorro total para el país en el escenario renovable más alto (85%) son de US$ 25 mil millones en 2030. Eso liberaría el dinero público durante los siguientes 15 años, para gastar en otras preocupaciones sociales y económicasmás apremiantes.

La Hoja de Ruta hace sugerencias concretas para construir las capacidades financieras y humanas con el fin de hacer una realidad el camino a la energía sostenible. Las sugerencias apuntan a mejorar el ambiente de inversión para la financiación pública y privada, nacional e internacional.

Para acelerar la transición energética, el informe recomienda que la energía renovable de la República Dominicana sea una prioridad de desarrollo global, reuniendo a todos los actores gubernamentales y no gubernamentales clave detrás de una visión de energía limpia, independiente, asequible y fiable. La creación de un nuevo Ministerio de Energía y Minas en julio de 2013 fue un fuerte primer paso para integrar los recursos innumerables relacionados con la energía. La Hoja de Ruta describe recomendaciones de finanzas y políticas concretas para fortalecer el ambiente de inversión para renovables y para permitir que el sector de la energía siga el mejor camino a baso de conclusiones del modelado y análisis del informe.

"Un cambio de paradigma está ocurriendo en la República Dominicana, y nuestra Hoja de Ruta será más acelerarlo”, dice Ochs. “El gobierno del país, la industria privada, y los actores de la sociedad civil han venido a ver el importante papel de la reforma energética en la reducción de los costos de electricidad, el fortalecimiento de la economía nacional, la creación de oportunidades sociales, y el aporte a un medio ambiente más saludable.”

"El país se encuentra ahora en un punto crucial en el que debe implementar medidas específicas a fin de lograr todos los beneficios de un sistema energético sostenible para las generaciones venideras."

A disposición del público el 8 de julio en www.worldwatch.org, el Aprovechamiento de los Recursos de Energía Sostenible de la República Dominicanadel Instituto Worldwatch presenta las evaluaciones técnicas, socioeconómicas, financieras y políticas necesarias para la transición a un sistema energético en la República Dominicana que sea socialmente, económicamente y ambientalmente sostenible.

###

Acerca las Hojas de Ruta de Energía Sostenible de Worldwatch: Al colaborar con los actores locales, el Instituto Worldwatch ha producido hojas de ruta para energía sostenible por varios países y regiones del mundo. Combinando el análisis técnico, la modelización socioeconómica, el análisis de inversiones, y la evaluación de las políticas, las hojas de ruta resultan en planes de aplicación concretas que permiten a los países a reducir la contaminación local, los gases de efecto invernadero, los costos de energía a largo plazo, y la dependencia de las importaciones de combustibles fósiles para crear nuevas oportunidades sociales y económicos, mientras que apoyan a la integridad ambiental.

El Aprovechamiento de los Recursos de Energía Sostenible de la República Dominicanase hizo posible gracias al apoyo financiero significativo de la Iniciativa Internacional del Clima del Ministerio Federal Alemán de Medio Ambiente, Conservación de la Naturaleza, Construcción y Seguridad Nuclear. El informe fue producido en estrecha colaboración con la Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE), el Ministerio de Energía y Minas, y otras agencias gubernamentales de la República Dominicana.

Acerca el Instituto Worldwatch: El Instituto Worldwatch es una organización de investigación independiente con sede en Washington, DC que trabaja en la energía, los recursos y cuestiones ambientales. Worldwatch ofrece los conocimientos e las ideas que permiten a responsables a tomar decisiones  para crear una sociedad ecológicamente sostenible que satisfaga las necesidades humanas. Para obtener más información, visite www.worldwatch.org.

Director Executivo de Cambio Climático y Viceministro de Energía, Ernesto Vilalta; Ministro de Energía y Minas, Dr. Antonio Isa Conde; Director de Clima y Energía de Worldwatch y director del estudio, Alexander Ochs; y Secretario de Estado y Vicepresidente del Consejo Nacional para el Cambio Climático, Omar Ramírez

    

 

 

Energy Costs Rising as National Debts Grow

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 17:58

Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2015 explores the hidden threats of the rise of energy costs

For Immediate Release | June 2, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2015:

Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability

Washington, D.C.Although gas prices are temporarily low at the pump, long-term energy costs are on the rise. According to State of the World 2015 contributing author Nathan John Hagens, a former hedge fund manager who teaches human macro-ecology at the University of Minnesota, nations are papering over those costs with debt. Higher energy costs are leading to continued recessions, excess claims on future natural resources, and more-severe social inequality and poverty (www.worldwatch.org).

The relatively low cost of energy extraction compared to the benefits obtained from fossil fuels has been perhaps the most important factor in the industrialized world’s economic success. Historically, large quantities of inexpensive fuels were available even after accounting for the energy lost to extract and process them. But, as remaining fuels become less accessible, higher energy costs will have ripple effects through economies built around continued large energy-input requirements. Rising costs will endanger highly energy-intensive industries and practices—including the energy sector itself—as well as widen and deepen poverty as everything becomes more expensive.

“Despite having ‘plenty of energy,’ higher physical costs [of extraction] suggest that energy likely will rise from a historical average of 5 percent of GDP [gross domestic product], to 10–15 percent of GDP or higher,” writes Hagens.

In the short term, nations are taking on growing debt to avoid losses in GDP—an indicator of the economic health of a country. Since 2008, the Group of Seven nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have added about $1 trillion per year in nominal GDP, but only by increasing their debt by over $18 trillion.

However, continued use of credit to mask the declining productivity of energy extraction is unsustainable. For each additional debt dollar, less and less GDP is generated, and, at the same time, our highest-energy-gain fuels are being depleted. Energy is becoming more expensive for the creditor in the future than for the debtor in the present.

“We have entered a period of unknown duration where things are going to be tough,” writes Hagens. “But humanity in the past has responded in creative, unexpected ways with new inventions and aspirations.” While policy choices such as banking reform, a carbon and consumption tax, and moving away from GDP as a proxy for well-being are good long-term ideas, “we urgently need institutions and populations to begin to prepare…for a world with the same or less each year instead of more.”

Worldwatch’sState of the World 2015 investigates hidden threats to sustainability, including economic, political, and environmental challenges that are often underreported in the media. State of the World 2015 highlights the need to develop resilience to looming shocks. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2015-confronting-hidden-threats-sustainability-0.

—END—

Notes to Editors: To schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

As Shale Gas Booms, Effects and Sustainability Remain Unclear

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 13:57

New Worldwatch Institute analysis explores trends and consequences of fracking

For Immediate Release | April 21, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors:     

Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Effects and Sustainability of the U.S. Shale Gas Boom"  by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

About Vital Signs Online:

Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis they need to understand critical global trends. It is an interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. All of the trends include clear analysis and are placed in historical perspective, allowing you to see where the trend has come from and where it might be headed. New trends cover emerging hot topics-from global carbon emissions to green jobs-while trend updates provide the latest data and analysis for the fastest changing and most important trends today. Every trend includes full datasets and complete referencing.

Subscribe today to Vital Signs Online!

Visit our Vital Signs Online website for a preview of this trend analysis

Washington, D.C.Currently, only three countries are producing shale gas through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on a commercial scale: the United States, Canada, and China. But as several other countries undertake shale resource exploration efforts, a key question remains: What are the impacts of shale gas mining on local economies and the environment? In the Worldwatch Institute’s latest Vital Sign, Research Fellow Christoph von Friedeburg concludes that any strong national reliance on shale gas (domestic or foreign) could have undesirable consequences in both the near and long terms (www.worldwatch.org).

Worldwide, an estimated 7,299 trillion cubic feet of shale gas is considered “technically recoverable.” However, continued exploration could lead to substantial revisions of deposits that are not merely technically, but also economically recoverable.

Discussions about fracking are ongoing in several European countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and Bulgaria. But recoverable quantities of shale gas across the region remain uncertain, and many supplies are located deep underground, some in densely populated areas. Additional factors inhibiting the development of Europe’s shale gas resources include disputes about the ownership of mineral rights, and substantial environmental and safety concerns.

The U.K. government appears to be in favor of shale gas development. However, the single shale well that has been fracked in the country so far, in 2011, caused two earth tremors, leading to a temporary ban on fracking that was in effect until 2012. Since then, a handful of exploration wells have been drilled, but none have been fracked so far. In Romania, expectations for the country’s shale gas future have soured because of lower and less-profitable projections of available reserves, growing public opposition to fracking, and lower oil prices, which have rendered natural gas less economically viable.

China has invested more than $1 billion in shale gas exploration so far. But most of the country’s deposits are located in hard-to-access mountainous areas, either at great depths or too far from the considerable water resources required for the fracking process. This makes drilling wells, as well as establishing the needed infrastructure, such as roads and pipelines, more challenging and expensive.

The United States is by far the dominant producer of shale gas, producing a record 32.9 billion cubic feet per day in 2014. Proponents of fracking have touted shale gas development as a boon for local job creation. However, most of the associated jobs are temporary, and many are filled by out-of-area workers whose short-lived influx provides only passing benefit to local economies. The development of clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, has been shown in many cases to be more successful in creating employment.

The costs of damages to local roads from the heavy-truck fleets needed for well construction and wastewater transport amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Air pollution emissions from vehicles and from well-pad diesel generators can harm human health. And the toxic wastewater that flows out from the wells after the fracking fluid is pumped underground—containing a mixture of chemicals, water, and sand—is often inadequately treated, presenting a danger to soils and aquifers. Such impacts need to be assessed closely within the United States as well as in other countries that are considering shale gas development.

The shift in the United States from coal to natural gas for power generation has helped to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. But the long-term, global benefit of this reduction is dubious, as fracking releases large quantities of methane—a more potent contributor to atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide—and because growing amounts of U.S. coal have found their way to export markets. Furthermore, optimistic projections of future U.S. shale gas production have been called into question.

—END—

The full data and analysis are available for purchase through our Vital Signs Online website.

Notes to Editors: Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Effects and Sustainability of the U.S. Shale Gas Boom" by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

Hidden Threats Imperil Quest for Sustainable Societies Worldwide, Report Finds

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 18:34

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Monday, April 13, 2015

View the Tip Sheet here.

Notes to EditorsTo schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2015, or for information about the book’s launch on April 13, 2015, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org. You can RSVP to the launch at bit.ly/SOWRSVPor register for the live webcast at bit.ly/SOWwebcast.

About the Worldwatch InstituteWorldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 finds that many global dangers to sustainability (and their solutions) are often overlooked

Washington, D.C.—The world’s economies and people face hidden dangers to sustainability that demand immediate action. According to State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability, the latest edition of the annual series from the Worldwatch Institute, these threats, driven directly or indirectly by growing stress on the planet’s resources, have the potential to upend social systems, environmental balance, and even entire economies (www.worldwatch.org).

“These threats are hidden in the sense that they are commonly overlooked or underappreciated,” notes Ed Groark, Acting President of Worldwatch. “But addressing them is critical to building sustainable societies.”

The report outlines a set of issues whose roots in resource overconsumption are typically not explored in news accounts. The threats identified are diverse, ranging from emerging diseases that originate in animals and growing dependence on imported food to the problems of energy availability and increasingly degraded oceans. The common link among these various challenges—humanity’s rising claim on the planet’s resources—suggests the urgent need to commit to sustainable economies in which resources are stewarded and the environment is protected. 

Over the last few decades, human societies have come to comprehend that they are depleting resources at unsustainable rates, spreading dangerous pollutants, undermining ecosystems, and threatening to unhinge the planet’s climate balance. But a reckoning is complicated by the fact that the complete environmental impacts are not always readily discernible—they are camouflaged and multiplied by discontinuities, synergisms, feedback loops, and cascading effects. And the manner in which environmental impacts translate into the social and economic spheres further complicates the picture, producing unexpected consequences. Even economic growth, long unquestioned and coveted, needs to be examined with healthy skepticism.

“These are significant threats, but each and every one of them has solutions, especially if we commit to an ethic of stewardship, robust citizenship, and a systems approach to addressing the challenges that we face,” says Groark.

For many of these hidden threats, the solutions are common sense. For example, more rapid adoption of renewable energy systems would reduce the pressure to find ever more exotic sources of fossil fuels. And the pressure to import food could be reduced by effectively increasing food supplies through reductions in food waste—about a third of the global harvest is lost each year. But this requires that economics ministers and others set human well-being, rather than growth, as the primary economic objective, shifting the global economic machine away from intensive resource use and the endless pursuit of “more.”

With the latest edition of State of the World, the researchers at Worldwatch bring to light challenges that we can no longer afford to ignore.For more information on State of the World, the Institute’s annual flagship publication, view the complete book series.

END

 

Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 12:27

New Worldwatch Institute analysis explores trends and consequences of genetically modified crops

For Immediate Release | March 24, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors:     

Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand"  by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

About Vital Signs Online:

Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis they need to understand critical global trends. It is an interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. All of the trends include clear analysis and are placed in historical perspective, allowing you to see where the trend has come from and where it might be headed. New trends cover emerging hot topics-from global carbon emissions to green jobs-while trend updates provide the latest data and analysis for the fastest changing and most important trends today. Every trend includes full datasets and complete referencing.

Subscribe today to Vital Signs Online!

Visit our Vital Signs Online website for a preview of this trend analysis

Washington, D.C.One of the familiar narratives for the promotion of genetically modified (GM) crops is that they have the potential to alleviate poverty and hunger. But the real impacts of GM crops deserve closer assessment, writes Wanqing Zhou, research associate in the Food and Agriculture Program at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article (www.worldwatch.org).

The amount of agricultural land used for GM crops has been increasing for more than two decades, reaching 181.5 million hectares in 2014. The largest GM crop producers are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Canada.

In 2014, the global value of GM seed reached $15.7 billion. The small handful of companies that develop and market GM crops has a near monopoly. In the United States, the agri-tech multinational Monsanto holds 63 percent of the Release Permits and Release Notifications for GM crops issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the seed company DuPont Pioneer holds another 13 percent.

GM crops have had their genetic materials engineered through biotechnologies to introduce new or enhanced characteristics, including herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, enhancement of certain nutrients, and drought tolerance. But instead of producing more food by improving yield, the benefit of these technologies more often consists of saving time and effort in farming, as well as reducing market risks for farmers. Based on the current profile of GM crops, the principal driving force today is demand for animal feed (soybeans and corn) and crop-based oils (soybean and canola) rather than for food consumed directly by people.

From a social perspective, although the efficiency improvement from the use of GM crops may give farmers time to turn to other sources of income, the transition also has led to the loss of land and livelihoods when farmers with more assets take over the land of less-resourceful and less-protected small farmers.

From an environmental perspective, the high and growing demand for meat and other animal products, met increasingly through the use of GM feed and industrial production methods, contributes to numerous environmental problems, from pollution to deforestation. Although growing herbicide-tolerant soybean and maize might be less damaging than conventional ways of meeting the demand for animal feed, in terms of the pesticide use and tillage requirement, the advantage is diminishing as herbicide resistance develops in weeds.

In the next 5–10 years, the profile of commercial GM crops may diversify in both crop variety and traits to include fruits, protein seeds, and staple foods such as rice and cassava. To minimize the negative social and environmental impacts of this broadening of GM crop varieties, it will be important to adopt rigorous regulatory frameworks based on the principle of case-by-case assessment.

—END—

The full data and analysis are available for purchase through our Vital Signs Online website.

Notes to Editors: Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Genetically Modified Crop Industry Continues to Expand" by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

Growing Food Trade, Shrinking Self-Sufficiency

Tue, 03/10/2015 - 13:01

New Worldwatch Institute analysis explores trends and consequences of the international food market

For Immediate Release | March 10, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors:     

Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Food Trade and Self-Sufficiency"  by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

About Vital Signs Online:

Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis they need to understand critical global trends. It is an interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. All of the trends include clear analysis and are placed in historical perspective, allowing you to see where the trend has come from and where it might be headed. New trends cover emerging hot topics-from global carbon emissions to green jobs-while trend updates provide the latest data and analysis for the fastest changing and most important trends today. Every trend includes full datasets and complete referencing.

Subscribe today to Vital Signs Online!

Visit our Vital Signs Online website for a preview of this trend analysis

Washington, D.C.As society reaches the limits of available farmland and accessible irrigation water, many countries have turned to international markets to help meet domestic food demand. Imports of grain worldwide have increased more than fivefold between 1960 and 2013. However, importing food as a response to resource scarcity creates dependence on global markets, writes Gary Gardner, director of publications at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article (www.worldwatch.org).

“In 2013, more than a third of the world’s nations—77 in all—imported at least a quarter of the major grains they needed. This compares to just 49 countries in 1961,” writes Gardner. “Meanwhile, the number of grain-exporting countries expanded by just 6 between 1961 and 2013.”

Food import dependence has several roots. One problem is the steady loss of fertile land and fresh water. In 62 countries, the area of farmland is insufficient to meet domestic consumption needs, and in 22 countries, the consumption of agricultural products (not just grains) requires more fresh water than each country can extract.

Despite the importance of farmland, land continues to be degraded or paved over. Farmland near cities is regularly converted to accommodate housing, industry, and other urban needs. The United States, for example, lost 9.3 million hectares of agricultural land to development—an area the size of the state of Indiana—between 1982 and 2007.

Pressure on water supplies for agriculture is also becoming widespread. A 2012 study in the journal Nature estimated that some 20 percent of the world’s aquifers are pumped faster than they are recharged by rainfall, often in key food-producing areas.

Another threat to national endowments of farmland has emerged in the practice of “land grabbing”—the purchase or leasing of land overseas by investment firms, biofuel producers, large-scale farming operations, and governments. Since 2000, agreements have been concluded for foreign entities to purchase or lease more than 42 million hectares, an area about the size of Japan. The bulk of the grabbed land is located in Africa, with Asia being the next most common region for acquisitions.

“The largest source of land grabbing is the United States, where investors see an opportunity to make money on an increasingly limited resource,” writes Gardner. However, “contracts often do not take into account the interests of smallholders, who may have been working the acquired land over a long period.”

Importing food as a response to resource scarcity has two clear dangers. First, not all countries can be net food importers; at some point the demand for imported food could exceed the capacity to supply it. Already, many major supplier regions are themselves experiencing resource constraints. Second, excessive dependence on imports leaves a country vulnerable to supply interruptions, whether for natural reasons (such as drought or pest infestation in supplier countries) or political manipulation.

An import strategy may be unavoidable for some nations, but it should be considered only reluctantly by countries that can meet their food needs in more conventional ways. It is crucial to conserve agricultural resources wherever possible.

—END—

The full data and analysis are available for purchase through our Vital Signs Online website.

Notes to Editors: Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Food Trade and Self-Sufficiency" by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

People, Planet, Profit: The Rise of Triple-Bottom-Line Businesses

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 10:29

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Notes to EditorsTo schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2014 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch InstituteWorldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2014:

Governing for Sustainability

Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2014 explores the role of ethical capitalism in the quest for sustainable economies

Washington, D.C.—Entrepreneurs are beginning to challenge business as usual, infusing ethics into the notoriously ruthless corporate world. In State of the World 2014, contributing author Colleen Cordes discusses the small, but growing, impact of benefit corporations and other triple-bottom-line companies —which strive to have positive social and environmental impacts, as well as to earn a profit—in the transition to a sustainable economy (www.worldwatch.org).

“Put simply, the conventional economic model—amoral capitalism—and the willingness of so many investors and consumers to tolerate it are two of the most challenging threats to preserving a livable human future,” writes Cordes, public policy consultant and director of outreach and development for The Nature Institute of Ghent, New York.

In the last few years, however, public restlessness has been growing as the environmental and social abuses of the conventional economic model are revealed. And while activists and labor groups, investors and consumers, and national and international nonprofit groups are pushing for more corporate transparency, corporations themselves are still central to speeding the urgently needed transition to sustainable economies.

“A remarkable new breed of business is volunteering to be held publicly or even legally accountable to a triple bottom line: prioritizing people and the planet, while also promoting profits,” writes Cordes. Led mostly by small and medium-sized companies in the United States (and to a lesser extent in Canada and Chile), many of these companies have been pushing to be officially responsible for their social and environmental effects, not just their financial success.

Almost all of these companies are privately held, although a few major corporations have recently become connected to the triple-bottom-line movement through subsidiaries they have acquired. On the one hand, such acquisitions can expand the movement’s reach. On the other, they also raise questions about whether the movement’s identity and potential will be diluted if large corporations acquire smaller, triple-bottom-line companies but are not strongly committed to their new subsidiaries’ particular social and ecological values.

Given this and other challenges, the rise of companies seeking public accountability for their social and environmental impacts is a small revolution. But a few larger companies, like Patagonia and King Arthur Flour, have already joined the ranks. And there is considerable potential to entice other companies to enter the movement and to inspire the public to demand that other companies follow.

“Although it could take years for a Fortune 500 benefit corporation to emerge, such conversations—and broader advocacy by citizens and public interest groups—could begin now to firm up and speed up that possibility,” writes Cordes.

Worldwatch’sState of the World 2014 investigates the broad concept of “governance” for sustainability, including action by national governments, international organizations, and local communities. State of the World 2014 also highlights the need for economic and political institutions to serve people and preserve and protect our common resources. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2014-governing-sustainability.

 —END—

 

 

Volatile Cotton Sector Struggles to Balance Cost and Benefits

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 15:58

New Worldwatch Institute analysis explores trends and impacts of global cotton production

For Immediate Release | February 17, 2015 | CONTACT GAELLE GOURMELON

Notes to Editors:     

Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Volatile Cotton Sector Struggles to Balance Cost and Benefits"  by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org

About the Worldwatch Institute:

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

About Vital Signs Online:

Vital Signs Online provides business leaders, policymakers, and engaged citizens with the latest data and analysis they need to understand critical global trends. It is an interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. All of the trends include clear analysis and are placed in historical perspective, allowing you to see where the trend has come from and where it might be headed. New trends cover emerging hot topics-from global carbon emissions to green jobs-while trend updates provide the latest data and analysis for the fastest changing and most important trends today. Every trend includes full datasets and complete referencing.

Subscribe today to Vital Signs Online!

Visit our Vital Signs Online website for a preview of this trend analysis

Washington, D.C.Growing cotton provides livelihoods for an estimated 100 million households in as many as 85 countries. But adverse global market conditions and reliance on large doses of water, fertilizer, and pesticides impose considerable social and environmental costs, writes Michael Renner, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article (www.worldwatch.org).

Although synthetic materials are making inroads, cotton remains by far the most important natural fiber for textiles. In 2013/14, an estimated 26.3 million tons of cotton were produced worldwide.

Cultivating cotton accounts for about 3 percent of all agricultural water use worldwide. Countries that import cotton or finished cotton products also bring in large amounts of embedded “virtual water” with these imports and have considerable water footprints. Producing a pair of jeans takes an estimated 10,850 liters of water, and a t-shirt takes 2,720 liters.

The legions of small cotton farmers around the world face a set of challenges largely beyond their control. In addition to unfair subsidies (totaling $47 billion between 2001 and 2010 for the United States, China, and Europe), they must deal with health risks from pesticide use and, in some cases, insurmountable levels of debt.

Cotton is a very pesticide-intensive crop (accounting for 16 percent of global insecticide use and 6.8 percent of herbicide use), with potential repercussions, such as pest resistance and adverse health impacts on farmers that range from acute poisoning to long-term effects. Pesticides and fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash) can also leach out of the plant’s root zone and contaminate groundwater and surface water.

Sadly, severe indebtedness has caused an estimated 100,000 cotton farmers in India to commit suicide over a 10-year period. Indebtedness results from numerous factors, including the rising cost of pesticides and genetically modified seeds, low yields due to droughts, and the declining price that cotton fetches on world markets.

Several initiatives exist to improve the social and environmental conditions under which cotton is produced. In organic production, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are replaced with organic substances, soil fertility management, and integrated pest management. Fair trade producers, usually small family farms organized in cooperatives or associations, receive a minimum price covering the average costs of sustainable production, as well as a premium.

One effort, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), seeks to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production, improve the livelihoods of farmers, and promote decent work. In 2013, just 3.7 percent of all cotton was produced in accordance with BCI principles, but the goal for 2020 is to extend this to 30 percent and to involve 5 million farmers. Such initiatives offer important benefits to cotton farmers. But for the moment, at least, they account for only a relatively small share of the industry. 

—END—

The full data and analysis are available for purchase through our Vital Signs Online website.

Notes to Editors: Journalists may obtain a complimentary copy of "Volatile Cotton Sector Struggles to Balance Cost and Benefits" by contacting Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

Sign up to receive a notification for all of our press releases.

 

No Jobs on a Dead Planet: Trade Unions Join the Transition to a Greener Economy

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 16:11

PRESS RELEASE | Contact GAELLE GOURMELON | For release: Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Notes to EditorsTo schedule interviews, obtain a review copy of State of the World 2014 or for more information, please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at ggourmelon@worldwatch.org.

About the Worldwatch InstituteWorldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in multiple languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

State of the World 2014:

Governing for Sustainability

Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2014 explores the employment challenges and opportunities of a transition to a sustainable economy

Washington, D.C.—Can the need to protect the environment be reconciled with the desire to safeguard jobs? Labor markets will shift to fit the demands of a greener economy as resources shrink and the climate changes. But with 38 percent of workers worldwide employed in carbon-intensive sectors like fossil fuel extraction and industrial manufacturing, this transition will be challenging. In State of the World 2014, contributing authors Judith Gouverneur and Nina Netzer point to the central role of trade unions in building a “just transition” toward a greener economy (www.worldwatch.org).

Through the coming social and ecological transition, some jobs will be shifted or redefined to fit the new economy, such as moving from fossil fuels to renewables. Other jobs, however—such as those in the coal sector—will be lost or displaced to countries with laxer constraints on greenhouse gas emissions. A badly managed transition could have disastrous consequences on employment.

“In modern societies, work is at the center of the relationship between nature and society…. Achieving sustainable ways of living is therefore inextricably linked to the way we decide to organize work in the future,” write Gouverneur and Netzer. “Parts of the trade union movement, as well as some individual unions, have accepted the reality that they need to become active participants in the transition toward sustainability.”

To address the transition challenge, some trade unions have proposed a “just transition,” a concept coined in the 1990s that strengthens the view that environmental and social policies can reinforce each other. Using this approach, unions promote the employment potential of a green economy through innovation and technology as well as through resource efficiency.

Yet trade unions remain reluctant to step in as the main driver of the green transformation. And they often neglect the need to shift lifestyles and businesses away from the excessive use of goods, resources, and energy.

“This is understandable insofar as the trade union movement, with its traditional goals of advancing worker interests, is deeply anchored within an economic system that bases wealth generation on continuous growth of production and consumption,” write Gouverneur and Netzer.

But there are potential solutions. Lars Henriksson, a Swedish autoworker and political activist, suggests that unions aim not to preserve unsustainable industries in the name of employment, but to engage workers in developing sustainable conversion strategies. In 2009, for example, union representatives united with environmentalists, researchers, and citizen’s groups to develop a sustainable transport plan in Europe after facing railroad privatization. Unions can also help to secure equitable redistribution of work by requiring continuing education and training, adapting existing social protection systems, and regulating staffing and wage agreements.

Trade unions have a central role in ensuring that the transition moves beyond a “jobs versus environment” debate and enables a shift to workers being drivers of change, rather than victims.

Worldwatch’sState of the World 2014 investigates the broad concept of “governance” for sustainability, including action by national governments, international organizations, and local communities. State of the World 2014 also highlights the need for economic and political institutions to serve people and preserve and protect our common resources. For more information on the project, visit http://www.worldwatch.org/state-world-2014-governing-sustainability.

 —END—

 

 

 

Pages


Buy the book
at Amazon.com

Download the Kindle version: US UK


You don't actually need a Kindle -

"The Progress Trap - and how to avoid it" Copyright Daniel O'Leary, registered at
the Copyright Office, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada on April 5, 1991 (ref 405917)