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Greenpeace news

Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 05.03.2015 12:40:03
  • Complicity in illegal logging goes far beyond the loggers

    Greenpeace activists deliver a 4 tons and 8.5 meters long illegal tropical timber log in front of the Ministry of Ecology in France. © Pierre Baelen / Greenpeace

    There's an old adage that "rules are made to be broken". Whatever your take on that logic, the idea of "rules are made to be enforced" is less open to debate.

    A welcome addition when it was introduced on March 3rd 2013, the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placement of any illegal timber or timber products on the European market. Yet two years on and Greenpeace continues to expose shipments of wood from companies involved with criminal and illegal activities in the Amazon and the Congo Basin finding their way to Europe.

    In November last year we forced Belgian authorities to impound six containers of Amazon wood from Rainbow Trading, a company known to be involved in a criminal timber laundering racket in Brazil, as it arrived in the port of Antwerp.

    We have continually exposed illegal shipments of wood from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the past two years as they arrived in France, Belgium and elsewhere. Batches of illegal timber from the Congolese Bakri Bois Corporation are still languishing in a facility in the Czech Republic and have yet to be confiscated nearly two years after they arrived, nor has any action been taken against three German companies involved.

    Just last week we presented findings on how three Belgian companies are importing illegally harvested Afrormosia from the DRC onto the European market.

    The question that immediately presents itself is, if there is a law to prevent illegal tropical timber being sold in Europe why is it not being enforced? And the longer it goes unenforced the longer illegal logging will be rampant in producing countries. In the DRC alone it is estimated that as much as 90% of all logging operations in the country are illegal.

    In fact, it is currently so easy to fell, export and sell illegal timber that, in theory, literally anyone can do it. As long as you got yourself a permit (there are many ways to do so even if you are not eligible for one) and supply a pile of official yet ultimately worthless paperwork with your timber, then there is no guarantee that your timber would be seized and confiscated – as it should be under European law – you could cut and export your own wood to sell in the European Union.

    As a result, Greenpeace is encouraging supporters to try this theory out for themselves. Write to ministers in European countries and tell them you are thinking of becoming an illegal logger. We will present them with the requests and see whether they decide it is finally time to take action and enforce a law that has been in force for two years now.

    In France our team has already decided to find out from environment minister Segolene Royal directly today if she intends to enforce the EUTR properly – following the example of thousands of people who have already asked her to do so in the last few weeks. If she somehow managed to ignore nearly a hundred thousand emails then it is unlikely she could not see the four tonne log deposited outside her environment ministry in Paris today.

    Greenpeace activists deliver a 4 tons and 8.5 meters long illegal tropical timber log in front of the Ministry of Ecology in France. © Pierre Baelen / Greenpeace

    Greenpeace France recently published evidence showing how timber suspected of illegality is regularly imported into the country. If Royal and her counterparts in other EU member states do not start to ensure that the legislation and processes in place to prevent this type of illegal activity are properly utilized then this type of illegal activity will simply continue.

    Action needs to be taken. As long as illegal timber continues to enter the EU market, and importing companies are able to disregard their obligations under the EUTR, it will be the forests and people of producing countries who truly will suffer from the damage wrought by illegal logging.

    Find out how easy it is to be an illegal logger and take action here.

    Greg Norman is the Congo Forests Communications Coordinator for Greenpeace International.

  • A chance for greater protection of the Arctic

    Minke Whale in Svalbard. 09/10/2014 © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

    Government members from all over Europe are meeting this week for the OSPAR (named after the Oslo and Paris Conventions) Convention's Biodiversity Committee (BDC) in Cork, Ireland. They have an opportunity to move towards providing urgent protection for the Arctic. OSPAR delegates know well how to take progressive and bold measures for environmental protection.

    The OSPAR Convention is the legal instrument for the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. It is the only regional Convention that can establish a marine protected area (MPA) in part of the international waters of the central Arctic Ocean in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea.

    In fact, if the proposed Arctic MPA is taken forward, this would not be the first time that OSPAR has used its specific mandate to protect areas covered by this Convention in areas beyond the national jurisdiction. The Charlie-Gibbs Marine Protected Area, and six additional MPAs, established by OSPAR in 2010 and 2012 to protect the unique natural features associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge were the first set of conservation areas ever to be established in international waters in the North Atlantic, and the world's first network of High Seas Marine Protected Area.

    The ice-covered waters of the Arctic can be the next. In 2014, WWF provided the scientific rationale for and formally nominated the "Arctic Ice High Seas Area", the still permanently ice-covered waters of the Central Arctic Basin which lie within the OSPAR maritime area, as an MPA to be designated by the OSPAR Commission. This area has already been acknowledged by the Convention on Biological Diversity to meet the scientific criteria for an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Area (EBSA). Although only a fraction of the relevant Arctic ice habitat in the OSPAR area, and of the 'permanent' sea ice in the Arctic as a whole, protection of this area alone would nonetheless be a significant step forward for OSPAR nations in meeting their obligations to protect the marine environment.

    The next step towards the declaration of this protected area is the Biodiversity Committee meeting taking place now in Cork.

    Protecting the Arctic and its ecosystems is not just a 'a nice thing to do'. The ice-covered waters of the high Arctic provide a range of unique habitats linked to its variety of ice conditions, including a range of threatened or endangered species of animals. Sadly, the forecasts of changing ice conditions due to climate change indicate that the total volume of sea ice will continue to drop over decades the to come. While governments need to take the urgent action to tackle climate change itself under other treaties and conventions, they at least have the opportunity, and the responsibility, under the OSPAR Convention, to put in place what measures they can to help protect species and habitats from other pressures, giving them some greater resilience to ongoing global change.

    The OSPAR Convention has been a groundbreaking force for change since 1998 when the Commission adopted highly progressive and ambitious strategies to address environmental protection issues, including agreeing the legal ban on disposal at sea of oil and gas platforms.

    Now it is once again time to make history. For the sake of the Arctic and the diversity of species it supports, we cannot afford to miss another chance: countries at OSPAR can take the environmental lead again by agreeing on measures for the urgently needed protection of the Arctic.

    Dr. David Santillo is a Senior Scientist at Greenpeace International.

  • Krill-gotten gains to fund Antarctic research

    Scientific research and conservation need more cash. That's sadly usually true. It's especially the case in the Antarctic where research is expensive but absolutely essential given the massive environmental changes happening there.

    But although new streams of funding should welcomed for Antarctic research, it's also important to question where that funding comes from. After all, there's just a sliver of a chance that some seemingly good PR is actually a mind-bogglingly cynical act of greenwashing.

    Step forward Aker Biomarine, one of the world's biggest and brashest krill-hoovering companies. Aker are behind the now-ubiquitous krill supplement pills that are being sold worldwide as a cure to... well, I could insert just about any ailment here. Their deadly efficient fishing technology allows them to literally vacuum up swarms of tiny plankton from the Southern Ocean. And they have just announced a new fund for Antarctic research.

    Adelie penguins, Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica. 01/01/1989 © Greenpeace / Steve MorganAdelie penguins eat so much krill it can turn their poo pink. They'd probably like us not to eat any.

    Krill, as most kids know, is penguin and whale food. It's a tiny shrimp-like crustacean. Vast swarms live in cold polar waters, and are mostly found in large numbers in the Southern Ocean. And the numbers are HUGE. Mind-bogglingly big numbers of these little critters exist around the Antarctic sea ice, efficiently turning the sun's energy and plant plankton into crunchy crustacean morsels. But krill is not just whale food. It's also penguin, fish, albatross and seal food. Basically almost every animal that feeds in Antarctic waters either directly eats krill, or eats something that does. Massive baleen whales, like blue, fin, and minkes, trek thousands of miles each year to feast on Antarctic krill. Two of the three resident Antarctic penguin species, the Gentoo and Adélies eat krill. Adélies eat so much it turns their poo pink. And there are even amazingly-adapted seals with teeth designed to filter the little creatures out of the water.

    Krill are the Southern Ocean's keystone species. That's an ecological term for a species that the entire ecosystem depends on. Remove the keystone, and the whole thing might collapse.

    So when it comes to hoovering up krill, I'm already a sceptic. When you take into account the massive fluctuations and potentially catastrophic impact that warming polar waters is having on krill populations, then it's even more of a worry. Adélie and Gentoo penguin populations are already struggling to find food, but the broader impacts to other species might not be so easy to see. In a world where polar regions are suffering most from climate change, and ocean acidification, removing a huge chunk of the very basis of the food web is a seriously silly move. A few years ago Greenpeace's Science Unit produced a paper which set out very clearly why the Aker krill fishery should not be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.  The arguments presented in that paper are just as valid today.

    Krill capsules, sold as such a wonder drug that makes you think there might be an actual genie in the bottle, are already ubiquitous. But there's more to come. As well as 'essential' supplements, krill is also being used to make meal for feeding farmed fish and livestock. And the industry is poised to expand. It's seen as an 'as yet untapped resource' which is there to be had in world where traditional fish populations are under so much stress elsewhere. But hey, what could go wrong? Well, the last time there was a Southern Ocean goldrush we almost exterminated the world's great whales. A century on and we are back in the same ocean, but at the opposite end of the food chain.

    I'm in Australia at the moment, where Aker have announced their shiny new deal at a swanky event with the Australian Environment Minister, and the Norwegian Royal Family. I've seen krill marketed in supermarkets and pharmacies everywhere here, just as it is in the US and UK. Some of it is even marketed as 'EcoKrill' which frankly broke my irony-meter. I wonder if the Adélie penguins, crabeater seals or blue whales think it's 'eco'?

    I'm all for more funds for scientific research, and conservation is notoriously poorly valued or prioritised. But for the industry hoovering-up the most important part of the Antarctic food web to be putting its krill-gotten gains into this greenwash really is a pill that's hard to swallow.

    Willie Mackenzie is an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

  • Greenpeace on NY Times Sunday front page - #Fakexpert Willie Soon

    Extra Extra! Read all about climate denial scientist Willie Soon's dirty money from petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch, coal utility Southern Company, oil giant ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies to deny the science of climate change!

    The last time I bumped into Willie Soon, I asked him if there was any explanation for some of the information in our latest round of documents indicating that his employer was eager to take money from ExxonMobil:

    The questions I tried asking Dr. Soon (who won't talk to me, after a few of these encounters went bad for him) are based on seemed to show that despite all the embarrassment Soon has caused his employer, the Smithsonian Institution, private communications with ExxonMobil indicate that Smithsonian was all too happy to take Exxon's money for their general operating budget.

    Is that why the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics allowed Dr. Soon to conduct what essentially is a lobbying and public relations campaign for fossil fuel companies, all in their name? From the documents Greenpeace obtained, here's the Harvard-Smithsonian Center thanking Exxon:

    Harvard-Smithsonian Center thanking Exxon

    To their credit, Smithsonian officials say they are doing an internal review of Dr. Soon. We'll see how that goes, but it's not encouraging to see that Soon's coworkers may have been complicit in peddling influence for ExxonMobil and the other polluters financing Dr. Soon.

    For years, we at Greenpeace have been working to make public the secret paper trails that show what everyone already knows: climate science deniers – #Fakexperts– are few and far between, and most of them are paid by companies most responsible for global warming to downplay the problem.

    Willie Soon's payments from Koch, Exxon, Southern Company and the American Petroleum Institute aren't news – we've known he took over $1 million from these interests since 2011. But the level of detail and the implications from this latest round of research is shocking. From the New York Times:

    He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

    The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as "deliverables" that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

    For Greenpeace, this raises both legal and ethical questions. From The Guardian:

    In letters to the Internal Revenue Service and Congress, Greenpeace said Soon may have misused the grants from the Koch foundation by trying to influence legislation.

    Our executive director Annie Leonard just sent a letter to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and two letters to the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (here and here) in pursuit of answers.

    Is the IRS okay with Charles Koch's nonprofit foundation funding research that appears to have directly influenced state and national politicians? Did ExxonMobil violate any Congressional rules by giving Soon a grant just two months after Soon told Congress he had no financial conflicts of interest, after telling them that climate change isn't a crisis? And Southern Company?

    We will keep you posted as things unfold – keep track yourself on the Climate Investigations Center, where our former colleague Kert Davies is busy trying to answer the same questions. For disclosure – know that Kert helped start this work when he still was Greenpeace's Research Director. We have continued to partner with him on this since his amicable split from our team.

    After you read the Times, check out more on the story…just about everywhere. The Boston Globe writes that Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) plans on opening an investigation on climate science deniers. InsideClimate News notes how Soon has been part of a game plan detailed by the American Petroleum Institute in a leaked memo from 1998. Gawker, Discover Magazine, and STGIST have more. Gizmodo wins for the most brazen headline.

    UPDATE: More from Mother Jones, ThinkProgress, Singapore TODAY, Hillsboro OH Times-Gazette, Common Dreams, Wall Street Hedge,

    The Koch-funded climate denial "news" outlet Daily Caller isn't pleased.

    Willie Soon NY Times A1 2015

    Willie Soon

    Connor Gibson is a Researcher for Greenpeace USA.

  • Chimps' survival of little concern to agribusiness

    The chimpanzee is one of mankind's closest relatives. However there are many of us who do not treat them with what could be called familial affection.

    Chimps and other primates in Africa face an increasing number of threats to their very existence. They are traded and eaten as bush meat, have their homes destroyed by illegal loggers, are likely to be highly affected by climate change and there are reports that their numbers suffered greatly because of Ebola.

    On top of it all, they are also seeing their homes destroyed by unscrupulous agribusiness companies – many foreign-owned – who are clearing vast tracts of rainforest throughout west and central Africa to make way for plantations producing palm oil, rubber and other commodities.

    An adult chimpanzee in his nest at the Pandrillus Drill Sanctuary, Nigeria. © Cyril Ruoso

    New evidence from Greenpeace Africa, publicized today, reveals that several projects in Cameroon are destroying and threatening ape habitat. Satellite images show that the Chinese-owned Hevea Sud rubber and palm oil project in the country's South region has already resulted in over 3,000 hectares of rainforest destroyed with many thousands more to come.

    The concession borders the Dja Faunal reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site that is teeming with rare and endangered wildlife including the chimpanzee, the western lowland gorilla and the forest elephant. UNESCO asked for an inspection to be carried out some time ago to determine if the reserve had been impacted by the operations, but was refused by local authorities on "security grounds".

    The destruction mirrors that caused by US-owned Herakles Farms for a palm oil project in the country's South West region. The deforestation carried out by the company– much of it illegally – destroyed vital corridors of forest used by chimpanzees and other mammals to move around the four protected areas between which the concession is sandwiched.

    Indeed such projects and the resultant damage to habitat are being seen increasingly throughout the Congo Basin and throughout west and central Africa.

    As Dr Joshua Linder, an assistant professor of anthropology at James Madison University, says: "Agro-industrial developments will soon emerge as a top threat to biodiversity in the African tropical forest zone. If proactive strategies to mitigate the effects of large-scale habitat conversion are not soon implemented, we can expect a rapid decline in African primate diversity."

    Aerial image of the oil palm nursery managed by Herakles Farms. 07/29/2013 © Jan-Joseph Stok / Greenpeace

    One project that can yet be challenged is by local Cameroonian company Azur. A Greenpeace Africa investigation in December last year showed that they have their sights set on a concession covering dense natural forest close to the Ebo forest, a proposed national park. The area is home to chimpanzees and other highly endangered primates such as drills.

    The Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee sub species is one of the most endangered primates in the world while the lesser known but no less magnificent drill is extremely rare, with more than 80% of the world's remaining population calling Cameroon home, in particular the south west of the country.

    Greenpeace has written to Azur on several occasions, asking that they provide evidence to allay the growing environmental concerns over their project. There has been no response.

    It is a stretch to believe that Cameroon's authorities are blissfully unaware of the controversy these type of projects are causing. The Hevea Sud concession even lies within the home district of the country's president Paul Biya.

    More believable is that such controversy is willfully neglected, downplayed or ignored. While it is easy to understand how a chimpanzee or gorilla can fail to be consulted over the future of its home, less so is how a human community can.

    Yet throughout Cameroon and the region in general there are numerous cases where projects are started and forests destroyed with little or no consultation with residents let alone their prior consent. Often they are paid a fraction of that their land is truly worth and many people are deprived of the forest and land that is not only their home but their livelihood.

    An adult drill at the Pandrillus Drill Sanctuary, Nigeria. © Cyril Ruoso

    Governments need to urgently develop a participatory land use planning process prior to the allocation of industrial concessions. Projects that are being developed without adequate community consultation and are located in areas of high ecological value should not be allowed to proceed and risk further social conflict and environmental damage.

    If such measures are not introduced and effectively enforced then the forests, communities and wildlife of one the most biodiversity-rich regions on the entire planet will continue to be under threat.

    Irene Wabiwa-Betoko is the forest campaign leader with Greenpeace Africa.

  • Will you Stand for the Boreal Forest?

    Most people have heard about the Amazon rainforest and how we desperately need to protect it.

    But there's a lesser-known, massive forest to the north that's under serious threat right now.

    The global Boreal Forest stretches across the northern hemisphere through North America, Russia, Japan and Scandinavia. The Canadian part of this forest is under threat from a company you've probably never heard of: Resolute Forest Products.

    White Mountains in Quebec. 09/26/2011 © Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

    Resolute has been logging in Indigenous Peoples' territories without their consent, they've needlessly destroyed critical habitat of the endangered woodland caribou, and they are suing Greenpeace staff to stop them from telling you about what the company is doing in the Boreal.

    Resolute is not a household name, and they don't want to be. But you can help change that. If we can get 100,000 of us around the world to #StandForForests and send a message to Resolute CEO Richard Garneau, we'll shine a massive spotlight that he can't shy away from.

    Email CEO Richard Garneau now at greenpeace.org/standforforests

    The Boreal Forest doesn't get much press, even though it's the planet's largest ecosystem and largest living carbon absorber (AKA air purifier). Resolute hopes that what happens in the Boreal, stays in the Boreal. In 2013 even they sued Greenpeace and two campaigners for $7,000,000 after we exposed their destructive practices.

    They want us to go away.

    Let Resolute CEO Richard Garneau know that the 100,000 of us are not going anywhere, we #StandForForests.

    Cristiana De Lia is a Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

  • Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem

  • Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem

    Picture a 33 year-old asphalt road: weathered with time, bearing the cracks and crags of decades of harmless-seeming water trickling into its crevices, freezing, expanding, breaking up the road from within.

    Most people wouldn’t want to trust their car to the safety of a road like this.

    And it certainly isn’t the image anyone wants to invoke when talking about critical equipment in nuclear reactors.

    Action at Doel Steam Generator in Belgium. 04/29/2004 © Greenpeace / Philip Reynaers

    Yet, on Friday the 13th, two leading materials scientists announced that the Belgian reactors, Doel 3 and Tihange 2, may be experiencing the nuclear equivalent in their reactor pressure vessels; essentially the piece of equipment that contains the highly radioactive nuclear fuel core being comparable to an old, busted up road.

    Thousands of cracks have been discovered in the pressure vessels of both reactors. This component is required to be integrally sound, with no risk of failure, due to the potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster resulting from the failure of a pressure vessel.

    As reactors age, the steel of the reactor pressure vessel is damaged – or embrittled – by radiation. According to the scientists, hydrogen from the water in the pressure vessel – which cools the nuclear fuel core – may be corroding the steel by injecting hydrogen atoms into the steel of the vessel itself, where it can accumulate and build up pressure, resulting in the steel blistering – effectively breaking up the pressure vessel from within.

    Tests revealed a stunning 13 047 cracks in Doel 3; and 3 149 cracks in Tihange 2.

    Action at Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in Belgium. 03/05/2014 © Philip Reynaers / GreenpeaceAfter first discovering the problem and shutting down the cracked reactors in 2012, the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), dismissed the issue as a manufacturing problem and okayed the reactor to be start up again in 2013. They did so while acknowledging that they did not to fully understand what was happening inside the reactor steel. However, further testing revealed unexplained and unexpected embrittlement of a test steel sample. Following these findings, both reactors were shut down again since March 24, 2014.

    But, the announcement of the materials scientists now go one step further: they state that the problem may well be the result of normal reactor operations. This means the cracks may be growing in size, and furthermore, that this could be endemic to the global nuclear fleet. Simply put: the findings in Belgium have serious safety implications for every nuclear reactor on the planet.

    In response, the Director General of the Belgian nuclear regulator, The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), admitted that, "This may be a global problem for the entire nuclear industry. The solution is to implement worldwide, accurate inspections of all 430 nuclear power plants.”

    When the head of a federal nuclear regulator says that every reactor in the world needs to be inspected for a critical nuclear safety problem, the smart thing for national nuclear regulators to do is take immediate action. Certainly, every reactor needs to be inspected for such cracking at the earliest possible date, but no later than the next maintenance outage. 

    Electrabel, operator of the Belgian reactors, has reacted to the latest news by saying that it may be willing to “sacrifice” one of its crippled reactors to scientific study; meaning they would permanently shut down the reactor and allow destructive testing in the hopes of learning more about this previously ignored or dismissed nuclear safety problem. 

    Given that this phenomenon has not been sufficiently studied and is poorly understood, restarting any reactor in which cracking is found would not only constitute a nuclear experiment, it would place the public at unnecessary and unacceptable risk. There are 1.5 million people living within 30km from the Doel reactor, which is close to the Dutch border.

    Every reactor needs to be inspected – and before the old, busted up nuclear road leads to yet another catastrophic nuclear disaster.

    Kendra Ulrich is a Senior Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

    Eloi Glorieux is an Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium.

     

     

  • Will you be a Vaquita Valentine?

    Time to share the love, this Valentine's Day, with something a little bit different! Red roses and chocolates are such a cliché – why not turn to the big blue for inspiration instead? Charm your date by declaring you're an #OceanLover, show them you're capable of caring – and taking positive action – about some big things, and if they're looking for signs you're ready for commitment… Well, what's more compelling than saving a species from extinction!vaquita valentine

    The vaquita – a small species of porpoise which lives in the Gulf of California, in Mexico – hasn't got much to celebrate this Valentine's. With only 97 vaquita left in the wild, imagine how hard it can be for them to find a mate, let alone one they actually like! As if that wasn't enough pressure already, the reality of illegal, destructive fishing practices means that without urgent action – on our part and theirs – the vaquita could become extinct as soon as 2018. (Shamefully for our species, this wouldn't be the first time our generation will witness how we've managed to drive a cetacean species to extinction: have we really learnt nothing from having wiped out the baiji?)

    It's no secret that we are nearing a tipping point with many ocean ecosystems: precarious moments when we have one last chance to put protection in place before they are irreversibly changed forever, with serious consequences for the many marine creatures and people who depend on these ecosystems for food, life and livelihoods. But it's not all doom and gloom! There's a growing global community of #OceanLovers, people like us ready to take action for the oceans and the amazing life they support, including those of the last 97 vaquita.  The even better news is that governments are beginning to pay attention, heed our urgent calls for action and act accordingly. In January this year, thousands of #OceanLovers from around the world secured a major breakthrough at the United Nations, and won a commitment that governments would work together towards the protection of the marine life in all international waters. Now it's time we focussed that attention to save the vaquita!

    In two weeks the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is expected to sign a regulation banning (for two years, to begin with) all types of fishing gear that put the vaquita at risk. Of course, the challenge will be to ensure effective monitoring and enforcement of these measures, and then to see them continued. But you've got to agree, it would make a great beginning to a story you can tell for years to come.

    This Valentine's Day, then, start a beautiful story: you and me, together, we can save the vaquita. How about it?

    Veronica Frank is an Ocean Lover and Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International.

  • Fossil Fuel's last stand

    Action against CO2 Storage in Hannover. 09/13/2011 © Michael Loewa / Greenpeace

    The struggle to remain relevant can be a tough one. For the fossil fuel industry, remaining relevant can mean stacks of money and political clout, or, staring into the darkness of very empty pockets.

    In the face of growing divestment movements, the blossoming of energy independence because of renewable energy and general disgust towards how recklessly the industry treats the planet, the fossil fuel companies have been asking, how can they still burn carbon and keep themselves from the abyss?

    The coal industry in particular is teetering on the brink. For them, desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Enter, carbon capture storage (CCS), their most wistful and costly greenwashing exercise to date.

    What is CCS?

    As the carbon capture and storage association puts it, "(CCS) is a technology that can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere."

    Sounds lovely, but what they don't mention is the staggeringly high cost which is not even justified if you take the captured carbon and pump it into the ground to suck oil out. Using gas to get difficult-to-extract oil is aspirationally known as "enhanced oil recovery" (EOR) but all it means is that the climate will still be under siege, but by burning oil instead of coal.

    This is exactly the case with CCS showcase project, Boundary Dam in Canada. The project is brought to you by SaskPower and it's publically funded to the tune of at least US$ 240 million. As Greenpeace Canada climate campaigner, Keith Stewart, puts it, "The captured gas will be used to push out what would otherwise be unrecoverable oil. So this project ends up being a huge public subsidy to oil companies to extract and sell oil that would have been left in the ground, and to continue to accelerate global warming."

    Boundary Dam is one of 10 CCS projects in the works globally – out of the total of 13 – where CCS is being used with enhanced oil recovery.

    Logic appears to prevail when logic is used. Kevin Bullis, reporting on Massachusettes Institute of Technology findings, said, "The potential of carbon capture is limited. Carbon capture and storage will never be able to accommodate all of the carbon dioxide we emit now."

    He adds that, "Capturing and storing carbon dioxide will always make electricity more expensive. It will always be cheaper just to let the carbon dioxide escape into the atmosphere."

    Oxford University has been looking at CCS, and last week they released a report which concluded that while CCS is, "very unlikely to alter the sheer scale of mitigation required between now and 2050."

    Possibly the US Energy Department has been listening to MIT and Oxford, because last week they pulled US$ 1 billion from FutureGen's CCS project in Illinois, sending them underground much in the way the company was going to try to do the same thing with carbon emitted from a coal power plant.

    From a practical point of view MIT, Oxford and the US Energy Department's conclusions are a no-brainer. CCS storage does almost nothing to limit carbon emissions, and it does almost nothing while bilking taxpayers out of millions of their dollars.

    In the face of blatantly oxymoronic terms like "clean coal", cooler, practical heads must prevail.

    Coal is on its way out, and CCS is a tattered line meant to pull the industry from the yawning hole it's balanced over. Countries like China – the world's biggest coal consumer – have curbed their coal use and are showing none of the devastation the coal companies' PR agencies have been howling about.

    They need to howl, because the industry is investing in 1400 new coal plants. With scientists and intelligent policy-makers finally seeing eye-to-eye on how much carbon needs to stay in the ground, that's a whole lot of wasted investment.

    Renewable is the future. As Stewart puts it, "We need to move away from using fossil fuels, not pour more public money into extending their lifespan. Wind and solar power are already bigger, better and more economical options for meeting our energy needs than CCS."

    The coal industry is a relic from the industrial age and it is about to fall into the abyss. The breeze from the exponentially growing number of wind-turbines will send it over the edge while the reflection of the sun across fields of solar panels will light its way down.

    Let's help it along, shall we?

    Arin de Hoog is the interim head of news at Greenpeace International.