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  • FINLAND APPROVES CLIMATE ACT AND KEEPS PACE WITH EU GOALS

    Finland’s new law sets long term climate goals and promotes transparency and results monitoring.

    In March, the Finnish Parliament approved the Climate Act, a new climate policy that was tabled in June 2014. The law sets a target to cut emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, consolidating Finland’s contribution to the EU emissions goal of an 80-95% reduction by 2050.

    The Climate Act requires every future government to specify climate policies towards the long-term goal and monitor the results, which, according to director general of the Environmental Protection Department Tuula Varis,“ makes climate policy planning in the future more systematic”, as well as making it easier to predict the direction the country is aiming at.

    Finland joins the UK, France, Denmark, Ireland, Mexico, Vietnam and South Korea in setting climate goals in law, and takes an important step towards the UN’s Paris climate summit that will take place in December.

    However, the advocates of the new law did not get everything they wanted, as they had to settle for an 80% emissions target, which represents the least ambitious end of the EU range; also, the Climate Act does not set any “carbon budget” for the medium term, making it less easy to follow whether the government is keeping its promises.

    At the moment, a quarter of Finland’s electricity is sourced from hydropower, with a third from nuclear.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Thursday, 12 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

  • AFRICAN STATES WANT TO LIMIT GLOBAL WARMING TO 1.5°C

    In a new proposal for the Paris summit, African environment ministers have reaffirmed their willing to confine global warming to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels, thus conflicting with the EU and US.

    In March 2015, the Cairo Declaration was issued by representatives from all 54 African states.  The document calls for serious carbon emissions cuts to be agreed in the UN climate pact due to be set in December, and expresses the need to keep global temperatures’ rise below 1.5°C by the end of the century, which represents a more ambitious goal than the 2°C target endorsed by wealthy nations.

    According to scientific researches, keeping the increase of global temperatures under 1.5°C will be costly and will require notable investments in negative emissions, such as tree planting or the developing of new technologies to suck carbon from the atmosphere.

    However, this target is still being taken into consideration in a UN negotiating text, and it is seen as vital by climate vulnerable countries, which could be seriously damaged by higher temperatures; for example, crop yields in North Africa and the Middle East could fall substantially with warming above 1.5°C, and for low-lying islands an excessive rise in temperatures could make the difference between survival and disappearing under rising seas.

    In their declaration, African ministers have also insisted on the importance of reaching a global goal for climate adaptation in a 2015 deal, highlighting the support poorer nation will need. With regard to this matter, some developed countries are worried that they will be expected to pay for the costs of adaptation in poorer countries, while other states like Brazil believe that adaptation is an issue that should be addressed at national level and others say that any goal should be voluntary.

    The statement also backs a reduction in African states’ use of HFCs, which are greenhouse gases way more powerful than CO2 that are employed in refrigeration; this intention had already been expressed by African ministers under the Montreal Protocol on the ozone, which is expected to release further proposals to limit HFC use in April.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI team

    Wednesday, 11 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

  • NEW ESTIMATE SHOWS UNCERTAINTY ON CLIMATE AID FLOWS TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

    UN panel admits that climate finance flows from developed to developing countries may be lower than advertised, and experts highlight confusion over green funds’ nature.

    In 2014, a new study commissioned by the UN’s climate body stated that US$340-650 billion had been invested in green initiatives around the world, and that, of that amount, around $40-175 billion had been used by developed countries to promote initiatives in developing countries. However, a new clarification note recently released by UN officials proves the calculations wrong, and says the estimate “may be closer to the lower bound“; according to the note, the size of climate finance flows to developing countries “is highly uncertain mainly due to uncertainty about the scale of the private flows”.

    In 2010, emerging and poor economies have been promised $100 billion of climate finance a year by 2020, and during the UN Paris climate summit that will be held in December they will surely ask for proofs that more finance for green projects will be delivered. 

    Another crucial point that will have to be dealt with by the UN is the need to define what climate finance really is, specify a methodology for monitoring flows and ensure that “clean” private investments are audited; according to experts, failure to do so could affect the success of the entire global climate deal that is due to be agreed later this year.

    As has been pointed out in 2013 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), at the moment there’s no clarity on how to define climate finance, and there are at least 24 different interpretations of the idea of green funding.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Tuesday, 10 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

  • ETS REFORM RAISES CONFLICTS WITHIN THE EU

    Eastern and western EU member states argue about the ETS reform’s starting date.

    Over the past years, Europe’s emissions-intensive industries have had the chance to benefit from the malfunctioning of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which permitted the over-allocation of allowances and carbon’s low price, and Eastern European countries - whose economies are dependent on them - already delayed the endorsement of a reform proposal that was meant to become effective in 2012 and was agreed to only in 2014.

    These countries fear that any change within the ETS could raise carbon price and undermine their economy, and are taking position against any kind of public intervention in a market-based system.

    New conflicts are now arising concerning the new ETS reform plan; in fact, all countries have agreed to the establishment of a market stability reserve into which deposit excess allowances when there are too many in the market, but a group of eight eastern states led by Poland wants the measure to be introduced as late as possible.

    In 2014, the Commission proposed 2021 as the start date of the reform, and Poland wants to stick to this date, while a group of western member states is pushing for it to start in 2017; aiming at smoothing the dispute, the European Parliament’s environment committee opted for a compromise start date of 31 December 2018, and even the new Commission no longer supports its previous proposal.

    However, the compromise date has convinced none of the members, and western states argue that waiting until 2019 will only hold down the carbon price and prolong uncertainty, raising costs for business and leaving consumers to pay the price.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Monday, 9 March 2015

    (Source: European Voice)

  • PERUVIAN TRIBE SETTLES WITH OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM ON AMAZON POLLUTION

    After years of legal battles in the US courts, indigenous Peruvians won a big Amazon pollution payout from Occidental Petroleum.

    In 2007, the members of the indigenous Achuar tribe from the Peruvian Amazon sued Occidental Petroleum, claiming it consciously brought pollution about which caused premature deaths, birth defects and damaged the habitat.

    Now, the indigenous have won an undisclosed amount from the US oil giant thanks to an out-of-court settlement, and they will use the money for health, education and nutrition projects.

    In 2008, the case had been dismissed, as the federal district court stated that the case should have been heard in Peru, but the claimants successfully appealed to overturn this decision, and the US Supreme Court refused to hear the company’s arguments in 2013.

    What’s remarkable about this case is that it is the first time a US company has been sued in a US court for pollution it caused in another country, so it will surely set a precedent which will be significant for the future.

    Occidental Petroleum drilled for oil in one of Peru’s biggest oil concessions from 1971 to 2000, meanwhile releasing around 9bn gallons of untreated “produced waters” containing heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into the surrounding rivers without regards for international standards.

    In 2006, the indigenous seized oil wells, and forced the government and the Pluspetrol company which took over the block in 2000 to provide a remedy for the environmental damage by reinjection of the production waters; however, environment conditions haven’t improved with the new company, which is currently challenging nearly $13m in environmental fines through Peru’s courts.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Friday, 6 March 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • UN DISASTER RISK REDUCTION DEAL COULD HAVE HUGE IMPACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS

    Nearly 160 countries sign off a deal within the UN to prepare for future extreme weather events.

    On the occasion of the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) held in Sendai from 14-18 March, participating states discussed the 22-page draft negotiating text which was built on the last DRR deal agreed in Kobe in 2005.

    The new deal pushes countries to draw up tougher plans to face future natural or human influenced disasters, and could set new global targets, such as reducing per capita deaths from disasters, controlling economic losses and enhancing international cooperation; also, the states and the private sector have to address “underlying disaster risk factors through disaster-risk informed investments”.

    2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR15)was presented, and Margareta Wahlstrom, head of UNISDR, stated that “disaster risk is undermining the capacity of many countries to make capital investment and social expenditures necessary to develop sustainably”; in fact, according to the report economic losses from disasters are now reaching an average of US$250 billion to US$300 billion annually, and often states are more focused on managing disasters that have already arisen than on managing the underlying risks.

    The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon highlighted the connection existing between the DRR deal and climate change, so Sendai will also be a chance to discuss in preparation for the UN climate and sustainable development goals talks that will happen in 2015, and will work as a test for the governments’ willingness to take the global warming threat seriously.

    However, the drafting of the disaster deal didn’t draw the attention of the public opinion. That’s primarily due to the fact that the proposals are non-binding and will not force countries to make any financial pledges; also, the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) decided to delink the talks from global warming, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - which has many publications on disaster risk - is not even mentioned in the draft text.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Thursday, 5 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

  • EFFECTIVENESS OF INDIAN MEASURES TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE IS YET UNCLEAR

    Narendra Modi’s maiden budget cut funding for environmental protection, but coal tax could help to accelerate decarbonisation.

    The Indian government took some controversial measures in the environment protection field, as it cut allocation to the ministry of environment forests and climate change from Rs 2,043 crore (US $378 million) in 2014-2015 to Rs 1,681 crore (US $300 million), and also refused to fund new climate change adaptation provisions despite the recent disasters occurred in the country and linked to heavy rains and deforestation. In fact, instead of increasing appropriation for afforestation to achieve the 33% green cover goal in the country, it allocated only 1% of the total budget for the purpose.

    On the other hand, the government also endorsed some environment-friendly measures, as it decided to double thecoal tax to Rs 200 ($3.25) per metric tonne and to channel the proceeds into the fulfilment of India’s clean energy plan, and drafted a plan to encourage the deployment of electric vehicles too.

    India’s new policy could help solving financing matters and boost clean energy projects, but above all will reveal the level of carbon cuts the government could target at the end of the year, when the UN climate deal will be agreed.

    According to the latest official plan, 110 gigawatts more will be produced through coal-based thermal power by 2022 in India, but many object that the tax is just symbolic, and that in any case coal companies would still be assured of a decent benefit. At the moment, 60% of power generation is mainly coal-fired, while coal-based thermal power factories are the most polluting in the world and are operating at only 60-70% of their capacity.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Wednesday, 4 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

  • CHINA COAL CONSUMPTION DECREASED IN 2014 AND MAY KEEP FALLING OFF

    According to new data, China’s coal demand fell by 2.9% in 2014, and carbon emissions could peak earlier than predicted.

    New data from the Chinese government highlight that even though China still heavily relies on coal (which accounted for 66% of energy consumption in 2014) coal demand fell by 2.9% during the last year. According to Jiang Kejun, a scientist at the Energy Research Institute of Beijing, this trend will continue in the coming decade, when most energy intensive products will reach their production peak and there will be a slowdown in growth of energy demand.

    The fell in coal consumption determined also a decrease in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, even though it’s yet unclear by how much China’s emissions have reduced; also, it’s yet to be clarified whether the country’s demand for coal has truly peaked, as 2014 could just represent an anomalous year, but what’s certain is that coal growth has slowed over the past two years, while the economy kept growing.

    Pursuant to an agreement signed with the US in 2014, China’s emissions will have to peak before 2030, but Jiang Kejun believes that this goal should be reached by 2025 in order to avoid warming of above 2°C; according to the scientist, this will require energy intensive industries to start cutting their products’ carbon intensity, and would also need major investments in alternative energies such as wind, solar, gas and nuclear.

    China is expected to soon issue its 13th Five Year Plan (FYP), which will determine whether the country’s efforts in reducing emissions will continue; current goals include cutting energy intensity by 16% below 2010 levels by 2015 and increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix to 15% by 2020.

    Beijing’s decisions will affect the entire world, especially because China is a huge importer of coal from overseas, and its imports already fell by 10.9% in 2014.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Epsei project

    Tuesday, 3 March 2015

    (Source: RTCC)

     

  • SWITZERLAND ISSUES A PLEDGE FOR PARIS CLIMATE DEAL

    The Swiss government is the first to submit a climate change pledge, and promises to target 50% greenhouse gas cuts on 1990 levels by 2030 and 70-85% by 2050.

    In February, Switzerland has released a formal communication that defines the range if its contribution to a UN climate change deal: the country will cut 50% greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2030, and 30% of these cuts will be achieved within the country, while the remaining 20% via carbon markets or other forms of offsets. The government is also discussing a long term target to reduce emissions by 70-85% by 2050 on 1990 levels.

    According to the communication, the 2030 goal “reflects Switzerland’s responsibility for climate warming and the potential cost of emissions reduction measures in Switzerland and abroad over the 2020-2030 period”, but many object that there’s no clarity on how the 30% domestic emissions cuts would be accomplished, that nothing’s said about climate finance, and that the document lacks a support plan for developing countries.

    At the moment, Switzerland is responsible for 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and, with 6.4 tonnes per capita per year and based on the structure of its economy, is considered to have a low level of emissions.

    The communication claims the target to be “compatible” with efforts to limit warming to below 2°C, and Switzerland’s chief climate negotiator Franz Perrez highlighted that, given the country’s very low per capita emissions and the thereby limited availability of cost-effective short term domestic emission reduction potential, “the use of international credits meeting high environmental standards will allow Switzerland to contribute to quick emission reductions, while at the same time to continue its ambitious pathway towards further reduction of domestic emissions”.

    Switzerland’s pledge has been issued two days after the European Commission published its own plans for a contribution to the Paris climate deal set to be signed in December, and ensues from the commitment that all major economies have taken to submit to the UN their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ before 1 October 2015.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Monday, 2 March 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • AUSTRALIA’S STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS WORK TOGETHER ON CLIMATE CHANGE

    A deal on stronger standards on emissions and a national clean air agreement will help Australia to reduce air pollution and save billions of dollars.

    Australia’s federal and state governments decided to cooperate to improve air quality standards, and environment ministers released a discussion paper for a national clean air agreement, which should assure tougher air quality standards, hinder mercury release into the environment and restrict emissions from the shipping sector. Other matters discussed include the withdrawal of micro-plastics that harm the marine environment and the banning of non-biodegradable plastic bags.

    A change adaption working group involving all the states has been instituted in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the reform, and it will work on issues such as water management and renewable energy opportunities.

    Also, at the moment the health costs of air pollution cost Australia up to $24.3bn a year, and current standards don’t protect enough human health, so the decision to launch a new policy has been hailed by many as it could help the country save billions of dollars, too.

    The federal environment minister Greg Hunt showed himself satisfied by the “remarkable cooperation” between all institutions, and declared that the national clean air agreement could be put into effect by July 2016.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Friday, 27 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • EU WILL HAVE TO FACE OBSTACLES TO REACH ENERGY UNION

    EU energy ministers will soon discuss the Commission’s plan for energy union, but despite the good signs there are serious barriers to overcome.

    During the months to come, EU energy ministers will discuss the Commission’s plan to harmonise the energy systems of member states, and will have to take a formal position at the Luxembourg energy council on 11-12 June.

    Energy unionhas been under discussion for years, and most business groups, consumer representatives and political parties believe it should become effective, as it could bring benefits such as cost savings, energy efficiency, lower carbon dioxide emissions and greater ability to bounce back on the occasion of threats to energy supply; however, the plan faces serious practical and political obstacles, and there are strong disagreements over the details of what it would involve and the consequences it could bring.

    At the moment energy supplies are spread unevenly across Europe and the systems are not well-integrated, and this is causing high difficulties and costs to transport energy from a nation to another. An energy union could solve many of these problems and would involve wide changes to the way energy systems currently work, allowing power to move more freely across borders and long distances; this could bring efficiencies and economies of scale and also harmonize prices for consumers.

    Energy union is not only a practical and technological project, but has also a relevant political dimension; in fact, member states own many energy companies and are reluctant to give up their power over them, and at the same time energy companies are comfortable with agreements that let them act differently in relation to every national markets, with a wide range of pricing structures to maximise profits.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Thursday, 26 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • EUROPE STRENGTHENS EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME FROM 2019

    EU carbon market reform will start at the end of 2018, helping to boost carbon prices and encouraging a switch to green energies.

    In February, the European Parliament has approved a reform that will become effective at the end of 2018 and will prop up the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS), the world's biggest carbon market, by taking 1.6bn surplus allowances off the market and putting them into a market reserve. The reform comes as a reaction to the current 2bn allowances flood that has led to an excessively low carbon price of €7 per tonne, which doesn’t encourage power companies to switch to greener fuels, and could drive carbon prices up to €20 per tonne by 2020.

    Many believe that the reform should enter into force earlier and that delays will only create uncertainty among investors and allow further carbon allowances surpluses to stockpile, but, as Labour MEP Seb Dance has pointed out, the deal represents a significant improvement on the start date of 2021 previously proposed by the Commission.

    Seb Dance also guaranteed that the number of unallocated allowances will be reduced and won’t be brought back into the market, but environmentalists object that 400m carbon credits will slowly return on to the market by 2030, and 300m allowances will go to an innovation fund with no proven low carbon credentials.

    The EU expects carbon markets to play a major part in international emissions cutting efforts, and is counting on the coming up Paris summit to create a system to guarantee that left-over carbon allowances can’t prejudice emission reduction targets.

    In the UK, there is a carbon floor price of £18 a tonne from April, and this gets British prices closer to the €30 a tonne price that had been imagined when the ETS came into force, facilitating a switch from coal to gas.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Wednesday, 25 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • NEW DOCUMENT SHOWS EU PLANS FOR PARIS CLIMATE SUMMIT

    EU aims for a significant carbon emissions cut of 60% by 2050 to be agreed at the UN climate summit in Paris later this year.

    According to a leaked EU document, the new Paris Protocol which is due to be agreed later this year should require signatory states to commit to a legally binding carbon emissions cut of 60% by 2050, with five-yearly reviews.

    However, many observed, although, it is remarkable that the EU is trying to keep emissions cut within the rubric of a legally binding deal, the document specifies that the 60% cut would be compared to 2010 levels, consequently leading to the same results as the previous aspiration of a 50% cut compared to 1990 levels.

    In the document, the EU also states that the new Protocol should become effective as soon as states with a share of 80% of current global emissions have ratified it, and wishes for major economies to do so as early as possible.

    The communication also urges public sector climate finance to continue to play an important role in preventing dangerous global warming; in particular, developed countries have pledged to mobilise climate finance of $100 billion a year by 2020, but at the moment only $10 billion have been provided, and this risks lowering the chances of an effective deal. In fact, even though the EU is currently not giving it enough prominence, finance will be one of the key topics of the Paris summit.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Tuesday, 24 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • UK ON COURSE TO REACH EU ENERGY AND CLIMATE GOALS

    The recent increase in wind power’s use gets the UK on track to meet 2020 renewable energy goals.

    According to reports from the European environment agency, the UK is one of the few big member states in the EU that is likely to meet all of its energy and climate commitments, as wind power is gradually substituting for gas and coal use and is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    New analyses from the Office for National Statistics highlight that 15% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable resources in 2013, and this brings the UK closer to the overall target to produce 15% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020. The target includes - along with electricity generation - transport and heating, and in order to meet it electricity generation from renewable resources is expected to boost to at least 30% by 2020.

    For most of the past twenty years, gas has been the main source of electricity generation, but lately a quick change to different sources of energy has been registered and clean energy’s use has increased, which underlines the competition that renewables represent to gas. Also, many in the green sector insist on the need to prioritise renewable energies over gas, even if gas companies keep emphasising that the fuel could represent a way to move to a low-carbon economy alongside the use of renewables.

    Gordon Edge, director of policy of Renewable UK, the trade association for the wind industry, showed himself pleased with the results that UK wind farms are achieving in clean electricity production, and wished similar outcomes to be reached in the heat and transport fields as well; however, he also stated that the government will have to accelerate the development in renewable electricity production in order to meet the 2020 goal.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Monday, 23 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • DIRECTIVE BANNING TAR SANDS FROM EUROPE GETS A REPRIEVE

    The European Commission shows its willingness to look again at the clean transport fuel issue by granting a reprieve to EU fuel quality directive with the potential to price tar sands out of the European market.

    Unlike what had been thought, the fuel quality directive (FQD) to encourage greener road fuels will not be discarded at the end of the decade, paving the way to higher tax rates for tar sands oil, which could be basically banned from Europe.

    Transport fuelsare the only European sector in which a decrease in emissions has not occurred yet, but the FQD could guarantee progress in this field, as it has set the goal to provide 10% of Europe’s transport fuel from low carbon sources (mostly biofuels) and to reach some 6% reduction in emissions’ greenhouse gas intensity by 2020.

    Meanwhile, Canada has taken a clear position against these measures, and has threatened trade retaliation if - acting on scientific advice - tar sands oil are taxed at a higher rate because they are more polluting than conventional oil. Complaints have come also from environmentalists, who assert that the 10% target for biofuels was increasing product prices and helping deforestation.

    However, the intent to renew the directive’s validity has been hailed by many as a deterrent to European imports of polluting tar sands and damaging crop-based biofuels, and it could also influence the European Parliament’s vote on sustainability criteria for biofuels.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Friday, 20 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

     

  • BP DEMANDS TOUGHER REGULATIONS TO REDUCE UNSUSTAINABLE CO2 EMISSIONS

    The new BP Energy Outlook 2035 declares CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels to be “not sustainable”, and forecasts their increase unless severe regulations are introduced.

    BP’s new outlook for global energy markets has warned that carbon dioxide emission levels from burning fossil fuels will increase by 1% per year, or 25% in total, through to 2035, following a trajectory significantly above the path recommended by scientists to avoid extreme negative effects on climate change.

    To abate carbon emissions further will require tougher binding regulations on atmospheric pollution, and according to BP chief executive Bob Dudley, “the projections highlight the scale of the challenge facing policy makers at this year’s UN-led discussions in Paris”; in fact, the United Nations has set out to limit the increase of the average global surface temperature to a maximum of 2°C to limit climate change, and has convened a meeting in Paris in December to agree on a binding system for restricting emissions.

    Recently, China and the US, which play the lead in CO2 emission, clinched a significant deal on strict targets to limit pollution, but there’s still uncertainty around which approach should be favoured in order to encourage lower fossil-fuel energy consumption and a switch to renewables, especially in the rapid growing Asian economies, where renewables will have a hard time keeping pace with the ever-increasing demand for energy. According to BP’s report, “The rapid growth of renewables currently depends on policy support in most markets, as renewables tend to be more expensive than coal or gas-fired power. To maintain rapid growth, the costs of renewable power need to keep falling, reducing the subsidy required for unit of power”.

    However, last year BP forecasted that CO2 emissions from energy use would increase by 1.1% annually or 29% to 2035, so the new projection is slightly lower than the preceding prevision.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Thursday, 19 February 2015

    (Source: Telegraph)

  • EUROPEAN BIOFUELS REFORM ENDANGERED BY GROWING DISAGREEMENTS

    According to a new report, advanced biofuel industry could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, but opposing positions in the European Parliament could endanger the success of biofuels reform.

    The new International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) report states that creating biofuels from waste generated by industry, farms and households could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, save 37m tonnes of annual oil use and replace 16% of European’s road transport fuel by 2030. Advanced biofuels, which can come from agricultural residues, industrial waste, woody crops or algae, could also be used to replace first generations biofuels, which are produced by growing crops (such as rapeseed) and have been criticised for displacing food crops and increasing product prices.

    As stated by the ICCT, a mandatory advanced biofuels goal is fundamental to give investors long-term signals, and Europe is required to put in place a policy framework that allows investment and progress in the area. An opportunity to fulfill these targets could originate from the vote that the European Parliament’s environment committee had to cast on a biofuels reform package; in fact, the new bill would impose a goal of advanced biofuels providing 1.25% of Europe’s transport fuel by 2020, introduce criteria to evaluate biofuels’ sustainability, and limit the amount of first generation biofuels that could be used to reach the EU’s 2020 goal of providing 10% of road transport fuel from low carbon sources.

    However, disagreements within the European Parliament are decreasing the chances for the bill to become effective, and many industry figures are skeptical about the actual benefits of a reform such as the one that is being now discussed; among others, Eric Sievers, CEO of Ethanol Europe Renewables, underlines the unattractiveness of a large capital investment in a regulatory regime that expires 2020.

    In any case, a rather efficient alternative to renewable targets could be represented by carbon intensity fuel standards or fiscal measures imposed by European states.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • UK POLITICAL LEADERS SIGN A JOINT CLIMATE COMMITMENT

    Three UK party leaders have pledged to work together to tackle climate change regardless of general election’s outcome.

    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband released a joint pledge to combat climate change, giving an unusual show of unity within a general election campaign that is becoming increasingly intense.

    Despite having shown different opinions on green issues in the past, the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders agree upon the importance of a joint climatic policy in order to protect not only the environment, but also national and global security. The joint declaration also states that “acting on climate change is an opportunity for the UK to grow a stronger economy”, and in fact it has been hailed by multinational business leaders as a sharp message that the UK is a good place to do low-carbon business.

    The three leaders have pledged to work together to achieve three main targets: they will seek “a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below 2°C” within the UN climate summit in Paris in December, they will work together to agree UK carbon budgets, and will “accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy-efficient, low carbon economy” and “end the use of unabated coal for power generation”.

    The joint statement was released the same day that the Go Fossil Free movement held a global day of action. The divestment campaign endorsed by Go Fossil Free already persuaded 180 institutions - worth a combined $50bn - to get rid of their fossil fuel investments, and on the day of action banks that fund fossil fuel investments are also being targeted, with at least 1400 people that will switch their accounts away from them, in protest at the £66bn they invested in fossil fuel extraction in 2012.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Tuesday, 17 February 2015

    (Source: Guardian)

  • UN ADOPTS DRAFT TEXT FOR A DEAL TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

    UN climate talks in Geneva result in agreement on a formal draft text for a climate summit in Paris later this year.

    Almost 200 countries gathered in Geneva for the first official meeting since the Lima climate summit in December 2014, and adopted an 86-page draft text with the aim to expedite the achievement of the global climate agreement which should be approved in Paris in December 2015.

    Instead of being shortened, the document has been more than doubled in size as compared with the Lima Draft, but Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), showed herself encouraged by the work done at Geneva, and highlighted that now countries are fully aware of each other’s positions, as the new text contains the concerns and requests of all of them.

    On the other hand, delegates acknowledge that more conflicts are likely to arise when negotiators will have to make a real progress and to decide what the better option is in order to limit a damaging rise in temperatures.

    The key political test is the period from March to June, when governments are expected to submit national plans to reduce emissions.

    The next meeting will be held in Bonn in June.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    EPSEI project

    Tuesday, 15 February 2015

    (Source: BBC Environment)

  • INDIA MAY TAKE FLEXIBLE APPROACH ON CONTENTIOUS ISSUES IN INDIA-EU FTA

    Marking a shift from its initial hard line approach, India is likely to be flexible in dealing with 28-nation bloc of the EU regarding to tariffs on wine/spirits and automotive components. The negotiations of India-EU FTA which came to an abrupt stop after the Italian Marines Fiasco got back on agenda of the both sides and negotiations are set to restart.

    India has already raised FDI in insurance from 26% to 49% which was one of the demands of the EU. EU wants customs duty on wines and spirits which are at 150% to be reduced to nil in five years. Considering last year majority stake acquisition by London based Daigeo of Bengaluru based United Spirits, India is likely to propose a differential duty structure, with high duty on low-cost wines and lower tariff on expensivewines. On spirits like whiskey, lower tariffs could be proposed if it is bottled locally.

    The automotive sector is highly protected in India; therefore a more gradual approach could be taken. The proposal is to reduce duties on high tech auto components to bring down import costs for manufacturers, whereas low-tech maybe kept at existing levels. EU has been demanding to reduce customs duty on cars to zero which is currently 80% for small cars to 130% for luxury vehicles.

    India will reiterateits long standing demand for more access to its professionals and labour mobility as specified under Mode 4 WTO GATS agreement. It is further seeking more market access for it agricultural, pharmaceuticals and textile products. Following the economic crisis EU has added sectorial safeguard clause under Mode 4 to bind its limit at 20%. One talks resume the agreement which will be EU first with a large emerging economy could be concluded with a year.           

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thrusday, 19 March 2015

    (Source: Economic Times)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • APRIL SUMMIT BETWEEN INDIA AND EU TO RESUME FTA TALKS CANCELLED

    Efforts to reboot India-EU FTA are in a limbo after the planned April summit was cancelled. Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal is however of the opinion that cancellation could be in benefit of discussion as it could allow negotiators to narrow differences.

    Negotiations for the bilateral trade agreements first commenced in 2007 and even after seven rounds of talk there is still no consensus on broad ranging of issues. The renewed urgency in finishing talks could be attributed to the recent boom in trade between India and EU28. According to EU statistics, between 2003 and 2013, bilateral trade nearly tripled from €28.6 billion to €72.7 billion.

    Change in leadership on both sides could also be credited for the recent push, with observers counting on Modi’s ability to get things done and leave behind the issue of Italian Marines case, which was one the leading factor for drop in a momentum of talks in 2013.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 19 March 2015

    (Source: ICTSD)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • RCEP PACT TO SOUR INDIA-ASEAN TRADE TO $200 BILLION BY 2022

    A top government official in the External Affairs Ministry, Anil Wadhwa, said the RCEP negotiations that are likely to be concluded later this year boosts trade between India-ASEAN to USD200 billion by 2022.

    The India-ASEAN FTA signed for implementation in 2009 has translated significant increase in bilateral trade from under USD 44 billion in 2009/2010 to over USD 74 billion in 2013-14.

    Addressing the Delhi Dialogue at New Delhi, Deputy Secretary General, ASEANSecretariat Dr AKP Mochtan reiterate that an successful RCEP will further boost trade between this two jurisdictions.

    Wadhwa further highlighted that signing agreements on Trade in Services and Investment last September and its coming into force this year could boost economic engagement. He also informed that drawing of a vision document for proposals for future directions of trade between India-ASEAN is in its final stages.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 11 March 2015

    (Source: Economic Times)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • INDIA INFORMS WASHINGTON ABOUT CHANGES IN ITS LEGISLATION WITHIN 15 MONTHS

    New Delhi informed Washington that it shall take no more than the stipulated time of 15 months to change its legislation in line with the WTO ruling on hot-rolled steel disputes.

    Indian companies such as Jindal, Tata Steel and Essar that had stopped their export to the US due to hefty steel penalties, in some cases as high as 577 per cent, are likely to be the biggest beneficiary of the WTO verdict.

    Late last year, the WTO had ruled against the imposition of the countervailing duties on hot-rolled steel products from India. The WTO ruled in India’s favour stating that the US practice of culmination while calculating the injury suffered was faulty.

    Further on the appeal, it was also ruled that National Mineral Development Corporation, cannot be categorised as a public body as it did not have government authority or discharged governmental function.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 06 March 2015

    (Source: Economic Times)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • A BREAKTHROUGH INTO THE CHINESE 'S ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

    China’s revised Environmental Protection Law represents a breakthrough having the potential to become a cornerstone for China’s war on pollution.

    After several years of works, the law will enter into force in 2015. This challenging law will give the authorities the concrete instruments to solve Chinese  severe environmental matters. Although the revision process wasn't very promising at the beginning, the increasing public dissense marked a turning point in order to strengthen the environmental law, showing how a strong debate that is open to the proposals of a wider audience can shape law making in China.

    Consequently, the final  draft  contains many provisions that can give a real boost to environmental protection in China. One of the most important tools of the new law is a day-based punishment system that enables the Environmental Protection Bureaus to sanction polluting enterprises on a daily basis if they fail to bring operations in line with environmental regulations; in this way the law is an instrument at the forefront for the power dynamic between environmental agencies and polluters.

    Moreover, the new law introduces Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA): central and provincial governments can carry out EIAs for their economic and technological policies. In addition to this, the law presents the possibility of public-interest environmental litigation. The original drafts gave the right for litigation only to one NGO, the All-China Environment Federation: the approved law allows all societal organisations registered with a Civil Affairs Bureau above city level to file lawsuits. Following this, the provision has an enormous impact, reinforcing the influence of civil society on environmental protection .

    However, two serious issues are still present: first of all, local governments maintain a firm control over the Environmental Protection Bureaus, in terms of personnel and finance, thus creating potential problems to a widespread implementation. Secondly, the civil society remains excluded from any serious form of litigation, since only organisations registered above the city-level will be able to launch lawsuits and only those with a “good reputation” are allowed to litigate, thus leading to the question of who defines such a characteristic.

    Although there are still some progress to be reached, this law represents an istrument that could strongly influence the dynamics of environmental protection in China, driving the country into a cleaner future.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 28 April 2014

    (Source: ChinaDialogue)

  • UN REPORT: HALVING OF MEAT AND DAIRY CONSUMPTION COULD SLASH FARMING EMISSIONS AND INCOMES

    A 50% reduction in meat and dairy consumption, and production, would reduce current European greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by around 40%, but would have a massive impact on the rural economy, according to a new UN report.

    Scientists from the UN Economic Commission for Europe say that, adopting a demitarian diet– cutting meat and dairy consumption in half – would lead to a 40% cut in Europeans' intake of saturated fats. Such a cut would be beneficial to peoples diet and would bring levels within a range recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    The report’s findings also stated that this alternative diet would lead to major changes in EU agriculture, with the expectation of large socio-economic consequences.Livestock production is currently responsible for 60% of the value-added on EU farms, and this revenue would be greatly reduced under the alternative diets.

    By contrast, the scenario with increased cereal exports assumes a large increase in cereal production and associated revenue. A dramatic reduction in meat and dairy farming would also free up land either for growing cereals or biofuels, the UN team said.

    However, Dr. Diane Mitchell, chief environment adviser at the National Farmers Union, said: "Farmers and land managers have already taken great steps to reduce its use through better management and efficiency. Eating less meat is a simplistic solution to what is a highly complex situation. And it mustn't be forgotten that meat and dairy products are an important component of a healthy, balanced diet”.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    (Source: the  Guardian)

  • AN EFFECTIVE BOTSWANAN APPROACH TO COMBATING CORRUPTION AND ECONOMIC CRIME

    The governments of Botswana successfully addressed the problem of corruption which was exacerbated in the early 1990s. Political leadership has played a crucial role in combating the problem effectively.

    Botswana has experienced a considerable economic growth since it became independent. The country is able to benefit from mineral resources which has made Botswana self-reliant rapidly. However, several concerns have surfaced springing from economic development. Acquisition of growing revenues and the extension of public provision became achievable. Simultaneously, maintaining scrutiny on both has proved to be complicated and abusive. Moreover, other weaknesses have evolved inevitably, mainly at middle management level. The Botswanan government has realized the importance of problems the country has faced and several changes have taken place in order to fight against corruption and economic crime.

    This process can symbolize the significance of institutional development and political leadership. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several corruption scandals were revealed which were met with general condemnation. As a consequence, the Commission of Enquiry was established, which revealed that the government was powerless, or lacked the political will to address the problems.

    Fortunately, the government was able to falsify the statements and address the problem decidedly, that those involved in corruption and economic crime must face full force of law, irrespective of their status. The government also took steps to enhance the transparency and accountability regarding its own actions.

    Changes in the law were necessary to create clearly defined offences, to provide specific powers of investigation, and create effective deterrent punishments for those convicted.

    The government also took the accomplishments  of other jurisdictions into the account where all the above criteria had been recognized. The approach involved the need for investigation and prosecution, education and corruption prevention.

    In 1994, the Government of Botswana enacted the Corruption and Economic Crime Act. This created new offences of corruption, including being in control of disproportionate assets or maintaining an unexplained high standard of living. In order to deal with these offences, a new institution (DCEC - The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) was launched and given special powers of investigation, arrest, search and seizure. Furthermore, the determination of the governments could be detectable by annual poster campaigns, displays at trade exhibitions and starting the moral education of young generations.

    The fight against corruption  started in the mid 1990s, and the combination of political leadership and institutional development has proved successful. According to Transparency International, Botswana was ranked as the least corrupt country in Africa in 2013, outperforming many European Union countries.

     

    The gLAWcal team

    30 April 2014

    (Source: Directorate on Corruption on Economic Crime)

  • FIGHTING AGAINST MALARIA SUCCESSFULLY IS ACHIEVABLE IN AFRICA

    The harmful effect of malaria on productivity has urged a mining company to implement a comprehensive programme in Ghana, now used in 22 districts. In the Obuasi area of the country, private sector investments in fighting against malaria have resulted in substantial business and community benefits, paired with dramatic reduction in malaria prevalence.

    Obuasi is located in an important gold mining place of the country, where the company AngloGold Ashanti operates. The leaders of the business perceived in 2004 that the workforce were suffering from high levels of malaria which affected productivity. Consequently, the company has decided to to tackle the problem with a comprehensive programme which includes malaria prevention and treatment and featured indoor residual spraying. Now this method has become the 'Obuasi model'. According to the programme director, the method resulted in 74% malaria reduction within two years. The application of indoor spraying with residual insecticide is in line with the recommendation of The World Health Organization, which stresses that this method is a powerful way to reduce malaria transmission rapidly.

    The result is considerable and not only for the miners and leaders but for the whole community, as people do not have to spend large sums of money on treatment, the children are more likely to be healthy and attend school, which can contribute to the diminution of mortality rate under five years old.

    The large programme was carried out jointly by the private company and Ghana's ministry of health. The private-public partnership played a significant role achieving goals, and the collaboration has been deeper and more comprehensive.

    However, the question arises, why has indoor residual spraying been used so rarely compared to other methods? The answer lies in the fact that the method has to be carried out comprehensively in a particular area to be effective. Consequently, it can demand enhanced technical capacity and be costly. For example, indoor spraying can be 3 times more expensive than providing bed nets.

     The solution can be the involvement of private sector as they might be able to support the costs, especially if there are measurable the benefits from enhanced productivity. The company which operates in other African countries as well, is now starting similar programmes in its other mines.

     

    The gLAWcal team

    30 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • THE PROBLEMATIC WATER-FOOD NEXUS

    The tense relation between water and crop production is expected to increase and strongly affect many other sectors. One of the main current issues at the centre of the debate is represented by the tension that exists between crop production and water supply, which is forecasted to grow.

    Foodand water are precious resources for all living creatures. A new study made by the Global Resources Institute has analyzed the increasing tension between these two essential factors. Data show that more than 25% of global agriculture is cultivated in high water stress areas, threatening global commodities. Additionally, this estimate doubles in relation with irrigated croplands, that represent the 40 percent of global food supply.

    In addition to this, studies show that water demand will probably rise by 50% in 2030 but water supply will not be able to meet this rise. In this way, better measures and water and food data can achieve a more robust agriculture sector, rising also competition for water. The study stresses the alarming impact between water availability and agricultural production. Due to the increasing expansion of global population, it will be essential to find a balance between these two critical resources.

    In many parts of the world, water demand is exceeding natural availability. Following this, researchers explain how agriculture is currently subjected to water stress, that is the ratio of total water withdrawals to available energy renewable supply in a determinated area. In this way, the water-food nexus is a challenging matter to face.

    In this context, the various types of crops face different degrees of stress in different regions. More than 40 percent of wheat is grown in areas with high levels of water stress; moreover, fiber crops are grown under even worst conditions. Also, more than half of global cotton production is located in regions characterized by high or extremely high stress.

    Consequently, crop types affect the level of water consumption, that means that different types of crops determine different water footprints. According to the researchers, roots and tubers need an average of 0.5 liters of water per calorie, whereas legumes require 1.2 liters per calorie. The use of irrigation, while extremely effective for crop yields, requires an enormous amount of water, being the single largest source of water stress.

    The world's aquifers and rivers will be severely affected by an increasing food demand and the consequent increase in the use of water to irrigate the lands. These problems are not isolated and influence the water users’ ability to address problems related to droughts and severe or chronic shortages. Droughts are more detrimental in arid regions where people have to compete for limited sources.

    Moreover, the tense relationship between water and food will also affected other sectors, including water availability for municipal use, energy production, and manufacturing. In this frame, it is important to establish strategies for water and food together, in order to achieve sustainable solutions and promote food production, through better soil and water management, reducing food loss and waste and achieving replacement fertility rates, creating in this way a solid agricultural sector, without overburdening water and other natural resources.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    (Source: ChinaWaterRisk)

  • CHINA REVEALS THE SPREAD OF SOIL POLLUTION

    A recent national report about soil quality has shown that almost one-fifth of China’s arable land is polluted to various extents.

    This report is based on 6.3 million square kilometres of land: it has revealed that  16% of the Chinese country’s soil is polluted, with 1% heavily contaminated.

    According to this, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land and Resources have strongly stressed the seriousness of the national soil situation. In particular, the quality of arable land and the pollution problems from industry sites and mining represent the main issues to face.

    The main causes of pollution of the country’s farmland are heavy metals such as cadmium and arsenic and also organic pollutants associated with widespread pesticide use, the study said.

    According to the increasing public fears over the potential impacts of environmental degradation, including health effects, Beijing’s authorities have decided to end secrecy over survey data. Food safety scandals such as the recent discovery of cadmium-tainted rice, have raised strong public protests.

    The report has also outlined the diffusion of the soil pollution: China’s southern regions, that are the major rice producers, are more polluted than the northern provinces.

    Additionally, acidic soil conditions of southern China have caused increasing risks of heavy metal soil pollution, researchers have explained.

    Moreover, data shows that 3.3 million hectares of the Chinese’s arable land is unsuitable for farming due to higher levels of pollution.

    In this way, the report stresses the importance of a strategy in order to treat soil pollution including the creation of protection zones and a stricter soil protection law: this stronger program is a the crucial key in order to achieve good results and standard for soil remediation.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 24 April 2014

    (Source: ChinaDialogue)

  • THE EU ENERGY SITUATION IN THE CURRENT UKRAINE CRISIS

    According to the particular situation of the Ukraine crisis, Europe's leaders have pressed the  European Commission to establish a new plan in order to reduce the energy reliance, requiring an analysed study about the EU energy security.

    Recently the European members have shown their commitment in case of supply disruptions in one or several EU countries, calling for stringent measures to increase the Union’s energy integration.

    In the current frame, energy security represents the main focus. Russia procures 30% of the EU’s gas and most of this passes through Ukraine.

    In relation to this, the recent crisis entails energy matters as the possibility of supply interruptions or price distortions as a consequence of  Russian political strategies.

    Despite differences within countries, the European Union is playing animportant role in this field, especially countries such as Poland and Germany which have strongly stressed the importance of  a concrete review of the energy policy as a whole.

    The response of the European Union will be influenced by the events and the tensions in Ukraine in the coming months, that will affect  energy supply in some member states. This situation will determine a consequent pressure for plans in order to construct  the so called Southern Gas Corridor, that will bring gas from the Caspian and Middle East to Europe.

    Independently from the evolution of relations between Russia and Ukraine, the gas diversification strategies will be a priority for the future European policy, in order to create gas pipeline projects in the Connecting Europe Facility, a platform to promote growth and jobs through infrastructure investment at European level.

    According to this, also non-conventional gas production like fracking will be at the fore come into the political support strategies. Moreover, there will be greater emphasis on domestic energy production, and the European countries will support new renewable energy target.

    On the other hand, in this context problems related to gas security may increase the use of coal. Low carbon price and cheap fuel costs have caused a great increase in the use of fossil fuel in recent years; additionally, supply and  current price uncertainty would boost this tendency, raising significant concerns about Europe’s commitment on climate action.

    Following this, the Ukraine crisis should represent a stimulus to achieve a stronger EU energy policy  balancing issues and doubts related to security, affordability and sustainability, without forgetting the importance of climate targets. In this way, the focus of the political agenda should be measures to address energy matters and climate change at the same time, reaching the best option that is energy efficiency.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 24 April, 2014

    (Source: ChinaDialogue)

  • EFFECTS OF GLOBALIZATION ON POPULATION HEALTH

    Among the consequences of global change, population growth is often overlooked, despite its inevitable (and problematic) link with climate change. Actually, the U.N's projections outlining a probable rise of population up to 9.3 billion by 2050 not only threaten to undermine the results of any emissions' cut program that doesn't take into account a stabilization of the world population, but show connections with various endemic phenomena (soil exhaustion, water depletion, and the loss of various wild animal and plant food species) which eventually lead to poverty and disadvantages, fertile grounds for high fertility rates.

    Moreover, only mediocre gains have been made in fostering sexual education and birth control for girls in rural or underdeveloped areas, where birth rates are still extremely high.

    Globalization has also affected several health-damaging factors, including an overall rise in the rates of obesity and associated non-communicable diseases, the blitzing emergence of new infectious diseases and the surge of health risks in the workplace due to the deregulation of international labour markets.

    Moreover, its ties with climate change have deepened over the years, since only few international tools (like the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) have been implemented and the lack of an adequate framework still remains.

    Over the following years, four environmental hazards could have catastrophic consequences on mankind: first of all, the connection between population growth, an intensified commercial poultry production and environmental changes which affect the flight paths of migrating wild birds might lead to new outbreaks of influenza viruses.

    Second, the decline in available seafood proteins (caused by ocean warming, acidification and overfishing), essential for many coastal populations, constitutes a serious threat to health.

    Third, the availability of fresh water, as well as its related impact on human health, is jeopardized by global warming, which has been provoking a loss of glacier mass and snowpacks, essential for the replenishment of water courses. Moreover, many populations  live downstream on great rivers that traverse several countries and, as such, might be negatively affected by conflicts over the control of the increasingly fewer water sources.

    Finally, the present global food production is having a tremendous impact on our planet and the predicted population growth will only make the phenomenon more severe. Land degradation is reducing crop yields, livestock production has a terrific carbon footprints and richer countries have started "land grab" campaigns, especially in eastern Africa, hoping to ensure their food supply in the future.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    (Source: New England Journal of Medicine)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • OBAMACARE: SEPARATING THE CRITICS FROM THE FACTS

    Critics of Obamacare were quick to stress that millions of people had lost their healthcare plans due to the Affordable Health Care Act. For instance, the Associated Press estimated that nearly five million people lost health coverage due to Obamacare (more modest accounts put the figure at around 2 million).
    A new study, however, suggests that these criticisms are unfounded and neglect the fact that millions of people change healthcare coverage every year.

    Harvard professor of Public Health, Benjamin Sommers, investigated the rates that people left health coverage before the Obamacare initiative, and he found that on average a little more than six million people leave individual health coverage every year.

    This means that even the highest (and most exaggerated) estimates of people forced to leave their health coverage because of Obamacare were still a million less people than years prior to the Affordable Health Care Act. Interestingly, Sommers also found that self-employed, Caucasian, and middle-aged people living in the American West and Midwest were the least likely cohorts to change health coverage plans.

    Ultimately, the findings by Sommers suggest that careful newsreaders should remain skeptical of news accounts that utilize large number findings to criticize government health initiatives. The more clearly a news articles portrays an initiative like Obamacare as detrimental to hard working people, the more likely it is unfounded. A good rule of thumb seems to be: if a health initiative seems so outright and blatantly wrong it probably is not true.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • HUMAN RIGHTS AND ACCESS TO ESSENTIAL MEDICINES

    The promotion of human rights is one of the main purposes of the UN. For example, the WHO Constitution of 1946 says that “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) says that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”.

    The right to health is also recognized in many other international treaties, especially the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of 1966, an international treaty that is binding on States parties and provides the foundation for legal obligations under the right to health. In the ICESCR, States parties “recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

    States parties have a core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of minimum essential levels of each of the rights outlined in the ICESCR, including essential primary care, which means the provision of essential medicines.According to the latest WHO definition, essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population. They should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in the appropriate dosage form.

    The authoritative General Comment 14 (2000) further applies the principles of accessibility, availability, appropriateness and assured quality to goods and services, which include essential medicines "as defined by the WHO Action Programme on Essential Drugs".

    Essential medicines are intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times, in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality, and at a price the individual and the community can afford. The implementation of the concept of essential medicines is intended to be flexible and adaptable to many different situations; exactly which medicines are regarded as essential remains a national responsibility. In fact, one important success factor for the legal enforcement of access to essential medicines is the incorporation of right-to-health principles into national constitutions.

    WHO has recently published a study related to constitutional recognition of the right to access to medical products and technologies. The survey registered that 135 (73%) of 186 national constitutions include provisions on health or the right to health. Of these, 95 (51%) constitutions mention the right to access health facilities and services and four national constitutions (2%) specifically mention universal access to medicines.

    The findings of the study highlight that the right to health can be recognized in national legal frameworks through a stronger government commitment, the inclusion of  the right to essential goods and services in the national constitution and  the constitutional recognition of international treaties ratified by the State.

    The new constitutional texts should then consider key human rights principles, and specifically the right to health and equitable access to essential medical goods and services. Constitutional frameworks can thus become valuable inspirational statements on which to base other legislation and policies.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    (Source: Bull World Health Organization)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • NHS: HARDER TESTS FOR FOREIGN DOCTORS

    The PLAB test is intended to ensure foreign-trained doctors have equivalent medical knowledge and clinical skills to those of an NHS-trained doctor who has completed the first year of their foundation level one training.

    Around 1,300 foreign physicians are licensed each year by the General Medical Council after passing an exam which assesses clinical and language skills. A new study, commissioned by the GMC and carried out by University College London, found that around half would fail to reach the standards expected of British doctors.

    Already 37% of the NHS’s medical workforce are from elsewhere, and that trend is increasing. Doctors from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background constitute 27% of all those registered with the GMC (General Medical Council), which regulates doctors, qualified outside the European economic area.

    The experts want the pass mark for the PLAB test to be raised to close the gap in performance between foreign and UK-trained medics. It suggested raising the pass mark from 63 to 76%.But they concede this could produce major shortage of doctors in the health service, after having seen its reliance on international doctors grow in recent years.

    Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education at UCL, said that there is no real mechanism for checking that doctors coming from outside Britain have been trained to the same level as British doctors.

    The study said that tests taken by foreign doctors who want to work in the NHS should be made harder to pass, to bring them in line with UK standards, after researchers found a "performance gap" between international and UK medical graduates.

    GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said more needed to be done to help foreign doctors coming into the UK, and to recognize the difficulties they face with different social and cultural attitudes.

    Dickson praised foreign doctors, but added that there is a need to be focused on training of more doctors in the UK and less of a reliance on those from overseas.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • GLOBALIZATION OF HEALTHCARE: ARE INTERNATIONAL STANDARDIZATION AND OUTSOURCING POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS?

    The most obvious (and generally detrimental to poorer countries) aspect of medical globalization is the circulation of young professionals. Typically, they choose to settle in the more developed countries from which they have graduated or they come there after graduating in their home countries, attracted by richer countries which are suffering from a lack of doctors and nurses. These forms of circulation are supported by the international recognition of degrees, as highlighted by the ascension of Poland and the Czech Republic to the European Union and the subsequent mutual recognition of medical degrees.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, the phenomenon of patients’ circulation (or “medical tourism”) is much more recent, but is becoming more and more important. Examples include fertility treatments offered in European countries, which attract many couples from United States, since the costs’ reduction varies from one third to a half, compared to North America. Elective surgery offered in highly sophisticated Indian hospitals, moreover, costs from 80% to 90% lower than the same treatment in western countries.

    In order to manage and regulate these trends, many international organizations have expressed the urgent need of international medical standards, both for the quality of care and medical education. If this scenario is established, insurance companies would end up offering cheaper premiums for treatments provided by countries that are “accredited”, while medical education might be affected as well: an open market for this type of education, with the related promise of cheaper costs would be extremely attractive, considered the surging costs of medical schools and medical degrees in the western countries. On the other hand, students might choose to study in the same nations where people from their countries of origin are currently being treated.

    However, two serious issues accompany this phenomenon: first at all, the differences between the various countries and their intrinsic characteristics make difficult to decide which set of standards (if there exists any) should be adopted worldwide. Moreover, there is no guarantee that such an adoption would lead to an effective identity of care quality, without taking into account the fact that patients might not be able to have much to say in where, when, and how their care is provided, given the priority of financial issues in the strategy of health care organization.

    In conclusion, while everyone agrees that it is time for a medical globalization, the ethical, social and cultural implications of this sector demand not to treat it like any basic good, but to promote it as a global human right, striving to achieve an adequate level of care worldwide.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 25, 2014

    (Source: Oxford Journals)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • ONSHORE WIND FARMS SUBSIDIES WOULD BE SCRAPPED BY TORIES

    The Conservatives have said they will not subsidise new onshore wind farms if they win the 2015 general election.

    Energy Minister Michael Fallon said any project not granted planning permission before the election would not get funds as the UK would already have enough wind power to meet 2020 EU targets. Instead, the money will be used to back other renewable technologies as part of a mix of energy supplies.

    Mr Fallon said: “We remain committed to cutting our carbon emissions. But we now have enough billpayer-funded onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments and there's no requirement for any more”. “That's why the next Conservative government will end any additional billpayer subsidy for onshore wind and give local councils the decisive say on any new windfarms,”he added.

    Department for Energy and Climate Change figures suggest 13.8GW of UK onshore wind power capacity is already built, under construction or has been granted planning permission. It says that will be enough to meet targets of 11-13GW even if some projects fall through.

    Conservative party policy is for renewable power to operate alongside nuclear, gas and carbon capture and storage, to lower emissions and maintain energy security. The party reassures its new policy would not cause an increase in household bills because contributions to renewable power are legally capped until 2020.

    However, critics said the Conservatives were turning their back on the cheapest form of renewable energy and would put future jobs at risk. The energy secretary, Ed Davey, condemned the planned Tory manifesto pledge: “Putting the brakes on onshore wind would be disastrous for business and jobs in our growing green economy.

    Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of green energy, so cutting it could lead to higher bills.”Maf Smith, the RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, said. “When it comes to something as important as guaranteeing the security of the UK's future energy supply, the British public deserve better than ill-considered, short-term policymaking on the hoof like this.”

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 24 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CHINA REVISES ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

    Chinese legislators have passed the first amendments to the country’s environmental protection law in 25 years, promising greater powers for environmental authorities and harsher punishments for polluters.

    On Thursday, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, approved major amendments to the countrys Environmental Protection Law (EPL). The new law will come into practice on 1 January. It will allow for stricter punishments against companies or individuals caught polluting the environment, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.

    It is the first time, the environmental protection law has been revised since 1989. The revised law has 70 articles while the current one has 47. The amendments will allow authorities to detain company bosses for 15 days if they do not complete environmental impact assessments or ignore warnings to stop polluting.

    Chinas prime minister, Li Keqiang, has said that China is ready to declare waron pollution. The new amendments to China's bedrock environmental law put powerful new tools into the hands of environmental officials, who have for many years had a difficult time ensuring enforcement of the EPL. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Land and Resources released that nearly 60 percent of areas being monitored had “very poor”or “relatively poor”underground water quality in 2013.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 25 April 2014

    (Source: New York Times)

  • VERMONT LEGISLATURE APPROVES GMO LABELING BILL

    A law that would make Vermont the first US state to enactmandatory labelling of foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, received final approval from state lawmakers on Wednesday and now heads to the governor's desk. Governor Peter Shumlin said in a statement: “I am proud of Vermont for being the first state to ensure Vermonters will know what is in their food.”

    Genetically modified organisms are plants and animals whose cells have been inserted with a gene from an unrelated species to give them specific characteristics, such as resistance to insects or increase specific nutrients. Genetically engineered plants have been in the food supply since the 1990s, and supporters of the labelling requirement have been fighting since for regulations to notify consumers of their presence.

    The development in Vermont is important because it now puts the US on the map of governments taking a stance against a practice that has led to bountiful crops and food production but has stirred concerns about the dominance of big agribusiness and the potential for unforeseen effects on the natural environment. There is a lot of concern among scientists and activists about potential effects on soil health and pollination of neighbouring crops.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, twenty-nine other states have proposed bills to require GMO labelling. The European Union has already restricted the regulation, labelling and sale of GMO foods. Several polls have also shown that Americans look with favour at the notion of labelling genetically modified foods, thus underscoring a division between powerful lobbyists for the US food industry and the American public.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 24 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • EIGHT RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS APPROVED

    Eight major renewable energy projects, expected to support 8,500 jobs, have been given government approval.

    The UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey has announcedplans for eight huge renewable power projectsthat will deliver enough green electricity for three million homes. According to Mr Davey, the new offshore wind and biomass generators will create 8,500 new jobs. They will also offer an opportunity to increase Britains energy securityin the face of growing threats from Russia over gas supplies. He forecasts an increasing  of the UK’s electricity supply by about four per cent by 2020.

    The combined projects are expected to add 2% to an average household electricity bill by 2020, or £11 per household, but Mr Davey, said the government's “whole package”on energy reforms would ultimately lower consumer energy bills. He defended the cost, arguing that these kind of low-carbon projects are necessary to increase energy security and battle climate change. “I see the climate change debate as inextricably linked with energy security. If we can reduce our dependency on imported energy, it will make us both more secure but also enable us to tackle climate change,”he said.

    Mr Davey insisted that onshore wind has a huge futurein Britain. The approved schemes include offshore wind farms in Liverpool bay and off the Moray, Norfolk and Yorkshire coasts. They also include biomass burners at the giant Drax coal power plant complex in Selby and in Middlesborough.

    Mr Davey acknowledged that the eight projects will increase the average electricity prices, but said the developments should be seen in the context of the government’s energy policies across the board. However, critics have pointed out that it relies on households spending thousands of pounds on subsidised energyefficiency measures such as loft insulation and solar panels.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday 23 April 2014

    (Source: New York Times)

  • UK LABOUR PARTY: INCREASING THE NATIONAL INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS

    Labour's policy review reported  that there is £30bn a year "black hole" in NHS funding and too high costs of care for the elderly. So, the Labour Party is considering to raise the amount of national insurance that UK citizens have to pay.

    It is thought national insurance contributions (NICs) may be increased to provide further funding to the NHS, as recent figures from the Nuffield Trust and NHS England suggest that the cost of care in the country could rise from £95 billion to £130 billion a year by 2020, the Observer reports.

    This is partly due to the growing number of elderly people who require care more, and more people are living for longer and relying on the NHS for support, while some believe that Labour needs to introduce a drastic policy ahead of next year's general election.

    The former Labour minister Frank Field thinks that without drastic action the NHS will not survive, significant changes need to be introduced to secure the future of the NHS and that increasing NICs by just one per cent could help to fill the £30 billion black hole in funding that the health service is currently experiencing.

    Mr Field said he has discussed these ideas with the shadow health secretary Mr Burnham and the chair of the policy review Jon Cruddas and strongly believes that people will be happy to increase their NICs if the extra money will be going exclusively towards improving health and social care at the NHS.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • PRIVATE INVESTMENTS INTO CHINESE HEALTHCARE

    China’s healthcare needs are growing. At present, China's healthcare resources are unevenly distributed: China's major cities have the majority of access to healthcare resources, while the Chinese countryside has limited services for disposal and people who lives in rural areas is unable to afford healthcare. During 2012, the Chinese government implemented many new policies that were directed towards county level hospitals.

    Currently, the Chinese government needs private capital to improve the services that the government has to provide to the population.

    The previous government’s attempts to support private capital into the country’s hospitals failed. Recently, the Ministry of Health (MOH)  has planned a series of new policies in order to improve the role of privately owned and operated hospitals, including "Several Opinions to Accelerate the Social Investment in Healthcare Services" and "The State Council's Several Opinions to Promote the Development of the Healthcare Services Industry".

    By 2015, China's non-public medical institution beds and services will reach 20% of the total number of medical institutions. Local governments also have issued detailed rules for the implementation. The approval process for setting up private medical institutions is clarified gradually. Healthcare services will become a new major growth sector in China's economy. By addressing the growing healthcare needs of  the Chinese middle and upper-class, privatizing could potentially raise the standards of care.

    China intends to develop non-public healthcare facilities, encouraging enterprises, charities, foundations, commercial insurers, and foreign investors to organize healthcare institutions.

    The openness to foreign investment will create new competition between public and private facilities, driving efficiency in both. With the MOH’s January 2014 issuance of the policy document “On Acceleration of Social Capital in Hospital Investment,” a major move was made that allows both to have a chance at success.

    The medical system in China was controlled by public medical institutions for a long time, leading to problems such as lack of competition, uneven resource distribution, poor service and underdeveloped technology, as well as frequent disputes between doctors and patients.

    That’s why the government attempts to reform the medical system which exhibits great market potential. In fact, foreign investors are particularly interested in China’s hospital sector which (like hospitals across Asia) offer especially attractive margins. These policies are key to continue driving the company’s growth.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    (Source: Forbes)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • OBAMACARE’S LACKS

    Last week, Obama announced that 80 million people have signed up for coverage through new insurance exchanges, but barriers persist blocking tens of millions of people around the nation from accessing health care.

    Millions of Americans are facing much higher health insurance costs as a result of the law’s mandates, and many more are finding it difficult to see a doctor due to restrictive networks in the Obamacare health plan.  This is especially vexing for patients with chronic illnesses who are losing their doctors and seeing treatments interrupted or even stopped.

    On the other hand, many people have chosen to remain uninsured this year under Obamacare. It has basically been a financial decision for most of them. They have small budgets, and health insurance remains expensive under the Affordable Care Act, even with whatever subsidies they may qualify for.

    Cost is the most frequently raised issue, but it's not the only one. Also technical troubles and programming errors cause enrollment problems.

    Important questions concerning eligibility requirements, immigrant coverage and the response from employers illustrate the hurdles faced by Obamacare. In fact, immigrants living in the country illegally cannot obtain healthcare under the law, dozens of states have not expanded Medicaid and some employers have reduced staff hours to avoid being mandated to provide care.

    RAND discovered that the vast majority of new insurance coverage came not from enrollments in the Obamacare exchanges, as it might be expected. Instead, it was mostly from expansions of coverage by employers and from the expansion of Medicaid, a component of the Affordable Care Act that is embraced by only half of the states and this explains the drop in the number of poor people who lack insurance.

     

    ThegLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    (Source: New York Times)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • HEALTHCARE: SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE CLINTON’S ERA AND OBAMA’S MANDATE

    About 7,500 pages of records, released on Friday through the National Archives and the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock (Arkansas), show the parallels between the Clinton era and the White House under Obama. The documents cover a wide range of topics including the former first lady's work on healthcare, the conflicts in Somalia and Rwanda, Middle East peace negotiations and the Oklahoma City bombing.

    Hillary Clinton's potential White House campaign has increased interest in Clinton Presidential Library documents from her husband's administration during the 1990s.

    Even if some of the documents were written two decades ago, they show that Clinton’s government faced problems similar to Obama’s administration. The similar problems include (diplomatically) dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin over international issues, and assessing the political impact of healthcare reforms.

    As Clinton prepared for an August 1994 news conference in which he hoped to build public support for his struggling healthcare overhaul, he told his advisers that people could keep their own plan if they liked it.

    Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama reassured Americans in the same manner. This guarantee was later belied by stories of people who lost their insurance due to the regulations in Obamacare or were no longer able to access a doctor of their choice. In fact, at the start of the enrollment period for the Obamacare plan, the government website for new signups had many technical problems. A spate of private policy cancellations forced Obama to take back his promise that all Americans who liked their health insurance plans could simply keep them.

    The Clinton administration had internal debates about the minimum wage, which the president signed into law in 1996, boosting the rate from $4.25 an hour to $5.15 an hour by September 1997. More recently, Mr. Obama has tried to win support in Congress for his plan to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, pointing to it as a way to pull families out of poverty.

    Hilary Clinton, when she ran for president in 2007, made the mandate a centerpiece of her "American Health Choices Plan," requiring health coverage while offering federal subsidies to help reduce the cost to purchasers. Obamacare also provides federal subsidies.

    Unlike the Clinton-era effort, however, the reform signed into law by Obama carried a mandate that all Americans must obtain health insurance or pay a fine.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 22 April 2014

    Washington Post

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • UN WARNS 18,000 COULD STARVE IN SYRIA’S BLOCKADED CAMP

    The United Nations warned that more than 18,000 people are in imminent danger of starving to death in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp that has become a key battleground in the Syrian civil war.

     

    Until the outbreak of war in Syria, Yarmouk was a thriving haven for Palestinian refugees living alongside thousands of Syrians. The looming humanitarian crisis in the refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus was described as "unprecedented in living memory”by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.

    A fragile agreement between the warring factions to allow food into the camp has broken down, and for 10 days no food has been allowed through a government blockade of the area, the scene of fierce fighting between the Syrian Army and rebels. Chris Gunness, of UNRWA, said yesterday: “It is an affront to all of us that in a capital city of a member state, women are dying in childbirth for lack of medical care, there are incidents of malnutrition among infants and people are resorting to eating animal feed.”

    New UN documents appear to support a widespread opposition claim that the regime of President Assad is using starvation tactics as a weapon of war. Food packages have not been delivered to the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and Syrian authorities are not expected to allow food trucks in over the Easter weekend. Residents have resorted to eating leaves and animal feed. Some say they cannot get access even to scraps, as a desperate blockade by government forces, in place for nearly 18 months, continues to cut off supplies.

    The UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, has told the security council that 240,000 people remain besieged across Syria. Most of them have little access to essentials.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Saturday, 19 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • SCIENTISTS GIVEN GO-AHEAD FOR GM CROP FOR FISH OIL ALTERNATIVES

    A Rothamsted research centre is hailing permission to carry out a genetically modified field trial with plants engineered to produce oils which contribute to protection against coronary heart disease as a “significant milestone”.

     

    The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has given the go-ahead for field trials at Rothamsted Research Centre in Hertfordshire. Scientists have developed Camelina plants that accumulate omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) in their seeds. The LC-PUFAs have been shown to be beneficial to human health. The primary dietary sources of these fatty acids are fish.

    Like humans, fish do not produce these oils but accumulate them through their diet in the wild, or through fishmeal in farmed fish. Rothamsted researchers have over the years developed genetically engineered Camelina plants that can successfully produce omega-3 LC-PUFAs in the lab, and in the glasshouse.

    Professor Johnathan Napier, lead scientist of this project, said: “We have made considerable progress over the last 10 years in designing and developing these plants and my colleagues and I are very happy that we can now test the performance of these plants, under real-life conditions.” He added: “Being able to carry out the field trial with our GM plants means that we have reached a significant milestone in the delivery of our research programme.”

    The trial will be funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Professor Jackie Hunter, chief executive of the BBSRC, said: "This research is seeking to provide an alternative source of omega-3 oil for the aquaculture industry that is seeking new ways to maintain and increase its sustainability.

    Emma Hockridge, head of policy for the Soil Association, which represents organic farmers, told Farming UK: “GM crops are making farmingless fair, more risky and no more sustainable. Instead, we support practical science and innovation that addresses real needs, is genuinely sustainable and puts farmers in control of their livelihoods.”

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 17 April 2014

    (Source: the Guardian)

  • MINISTERS ARE TRYING TO COVER UP SECRET BRIEFINGS WITH GM COMPANIES IN BRITAIN

    The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, Owen Paterson, has refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about talks with the genetically modifying (GM) industry trade body.

    Mr. Paterson is trying to encourage the public to accept genetically modified crops being grown on UK farms and sold in supermarkets. His support for GMOs, indeed, is being carried out in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which is financed by GM companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience.

    The campaign group GeneWatch UK made a Freedom of Information request  in the hope that ministers will be forced to admit how GM companies are driving government policy. However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has refused to give details.

    GeneWatch director Dr Helen Wallace said: “The evidence strongly suggests the Government is colluding with the GM industry to manipulate the media, undermine access to GM-free-fed meat and dairy products and plot the return of GM crops to Britain. The public has a right to know what is going on behind closed doors. Ministers who should be protecting our environment have put Monsanto and Syngenta in the driving seat of policy on GM crops and foods.”

    Mr Paterson has also refused to release a ‘message on media suggestions’sent by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council to Defra last April, and details of discussions between Monsanto and Defra two months before. Tesco, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s later decided to end bans on using GM feed for chickens.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    (Source: Daily Mail)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • DROP IN RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENT

    The2014 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report says that despite a remarkable increase in renewable energy installations investment dropped in absolute terms by 14% in 2013.

    The report called Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment was published by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. According to the report, renewables accounted for 43.6% of newly installed generation capacity in 2013. However, the decline of worldwide investment in the renewable sector of 35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems and a lack of clear policies in some countries.

    One of the report's lead editors, UN energy expert Eric Usher, identifying the reasons behind the fall in investment, explained: "One of the major factors was the fall in the cost of equipment. Another negative factor was a touch of policy uncertainty, which saw investors delay spending their money.”

    Mr Usher observed that there were a number of positive signs during 2013, including the fact that the renewable energy sectors in a number of nations, particularly in Latin America, were able to grow completely free of government subsidies. Also the fact that, for the first time, China installed more new generation capacity using renewables than fossil fuels it is a good sign for the sector.

    “A long-term shift in investment over the next few decades towards a cleaner energy portfolio is needed to avoid dangerousclimate change, with the energy sector accounting for around two thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions,”said Unep executive director Achim Steiner.“The fact that renewable energy is gaining a bigger share of overall generation globally is encouraging. To support this further, we must re-evaluate investment priorities, shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures”, he added.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 7 April 2014

    (Source: BBC News)

  • WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION FACES THE CHALLENGE OF FOOD SECURITY

    Indian national food security programme brings the issue of food security to the forefront of the Doha Development Agenda.

    According to WTO rules, developing country members could give farm subsidies only up to 10 per cent of the production value of a particular item. However, with the expansion of a national food security programme last summer, the Indian government introduced a plan to buy vast amounts of grain from its farmers and sell it at a heavily subsidised rate to 70 per cent of the population.

    Since the Doha Development Agenda was launched in 2001, the most sensitive issue between rich and poor economies has been how governments should support farmers and work together to feed the world’s hungry. As Roberto Azevèdo, the Brazilian diplomat who took over as director-general of the WTO last September, stated, the WTO has to tackle prickly issues such as agriculture and food security.

    When the Doha round was launched in 2001, the big problem with global food supply was the waysurpluses in the rich world were distorting markets. Subsidies in the US and Europe created overproduction that when dumped on global markets led to depressed food prices that hurt farmers in the poor world.

    The problem now, however, is the opposite. Over the past decade, growing demand from China, India and other emerging economies has led torising commodity prices around the world. Moreover, because of many factors from droughts to the diversion of arable land to producing biofuels, producers are struggling to meet that demand.

    The result has been rising food costs that in turn have led to government concerns about food security and what many fear is a new wave of protectionism and ill-conceived agricultural and trade policies that aggravate the situation. The question now is how the WTO’s members will respond to this trend.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 11 April 2014

    (Source: Financial Times)

  • PHILIPPINES: HOW BEST TO ADAPT AGRICULTURE TO CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION?

    Scientists and farmers on the frontline of climate change disagree on how to adapt agriculture to increasingly higher temperatures and weather disruptions.

    A group of scientists looks with favour to hi-tech rice varieties which resist the greater floods, droughts and storms. By contrary, in the view of many experts, farmers have to address, first of all, problems such as soil fertility and water shortages, avoiding chemicals and inorganic fertilisers.

    Among the first ones are major organisations such as Kellogg's and the Gates Foundation and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) which frames climate change as the greatest challenge in 50 years.

    The IRRI's deputy director general, Bruce Tolentino, says that climate change needs a new green revolution:“The challenge now is to rapidly adapt farming with modern varieties to climate change and feed a fast-growing global population, half of which depends on rice as a staple food. One billion people go hungry every day”.

    “Climate change will reduce productivity. Rainfall is unpredictable and rice is grown in areas like deltas that are prone to sea level rises. We have to gear up for more challenging agro-ecological conditions, we need to be able to use swampy areas and develop varieties that can be grown in salty or flooded areas. We have already launched flood-tolerant rice and we are now introducing salt-tolerant varieties,”Tolentino says.

    While IRRI scientists race to develop climate-ready rice to solve future hunger, thousands of small farmers, who make up 60% of the population of the Philippines, say they are not waiting for hi-tech science but are adapting to climate change in other ways. They argue that high-yielding seeds promised by the green revolution have not helped small farmers get out of poverty. Instead they have gone deeply into debt to pay for chemicals and seeds on the promise of higher yields and better markets.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014

    (Source: the Guardian)

  • GERMANY APPROVES RENEWABLE ENERGY REFORM

    Angela Merkel’s government approved on Tuesday the 8th of April an extensive reform of renewable energy law designed to curb a rise in the cost of electricity. Europe’s largest economy moves indeed to nearly double its green power share to 45 percent by 2025 by slowing the rapid expansion of solar and wind parks in an effort to hold down increasing prices.

    Today, already 25 percent of German energy comes from renewable resources, but that advance has come at a cost to consumers. The goal of the reform is to keep power prices in check by scaling back green subsidies and limiting the expansion of onshore wind and solar capacity. This will forcenew investors in green power to take some risk and protect households from bearing the brunt of future cost rises by forcing industry to pay more.

    The energy and economics minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said that “restart means no longer following the illusion that the energy transformation can be achieved by expanding renewable energy as quickly as possible, but to make sure that the expansion will be safe and predictable.”

    Minister Gabriel has negotiated exemptions in Brussels that will continue to shield some heavy industrial users of power from a renewable energy surcharge. “If we don't want to lose jobs, we have to make sure that our companies remain competitive,”the minister said.“This is about hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

    Environmentalists have criticised the plans, saying they would slow the 'green revolution' and they favoured industry. “If you really want to lower the price of electricity for consumers, the expansion of renewable energy should not be limited, but the costs have to be shared more fairly,”said Hubert Weiger, head of the environmental group BUND.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014

    (Source: The New York Times)

  • NEW INTERNATIONAL STANDARD TO DRIVE SUSTAINABLE FRESHWATER USE

    Beverage and food companies understand the value of water. Yet, freshwater in many regions is increasingly at risk. Even if agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use, and for many food and beverage companies, commodities (sugar, fruit, grains, etc.) represent critical ingredients for their products, rarely these companies directly control the production of these commodities. In fact, they are a part of their supply chains, and increasingly a part of their supply chains where water risk has the potential to materially impact production or brand.

    The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) launched a new tool aimed at helping companies analyse water risks in supply chains. Jerry Lynch, vice president, chief sustainability officer at General Mills said the AWS standard will help the company to meet its responsibility to “protect the quality and supply of waterupon which our business depends.”

    By focusing on targets in water governance, water balance, water quality and other important water related areas, the standard will help water-users understand the value of water, mitigate their water risks, and earn recognition for responsible water stewardship. The standard also serves as an invitation and guide to inspire collective action, since the issues are too big for any company to manage alone.

    For AWS, this is just one step. The private sector, governments and communities have to play a mutually supporting role for responsible water management. And we all have to take action to safeguard the essential shared resource we cannot live without.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • THE IMPACT OF CHINESE POLLUTION ON THE US WEATHER CONDITIONS

    US scientistswarn that Chinese air pollution could increase storms over the Pacific Ocean, altering weather models in North America. A team of experts  has shown that pollution from Asia is leading to stronger cyclones, increased precipitation and warmer air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole.  Moreover, most of this pollution is arising from China.

    According to the study, all these changes could determine problematic consequences on US weather’s conditions.

    The findings are the results of advanced computer models, used by the experts to analyze the interactions between clouds and fine airborne particles, particularly manmade ones such as those emitted from vehicles and coal-fired power plants.

    This study plays an important role because it shows for the first time a global multi-scale perspective of the climatic effects of pollution outflows from Asia.

    The intensification of the Pacific storm track, that is a narrow area over the ocean where storms that pass over the US begin to gather is just one strong evidence of the effects of this climate impact.

    As the climate experts have explained, mid-latitude storms develop off Asia  tracking across the Pacific, then come in to the west coast of the US. Additionally, these climate changes would highly influence the strength of the storms, the density of the clouds, and the measures of the rainfall.

    The Chinese government is adopting measures  to stop the alarming increase of pollution, in order to safeguard the environment, after 30 years of unchecked growth. Despite various efforts to reduce the level of pollution, the Ministry of Environment has shown that 71 out of 74 cities monitored by the central government have failed to reach air quality standards.

    Moreover, China is strongly following its commitment to establish stricter environmental laws in order to give authorities the power to close polluting factories, punish officials, and restrict industrial development in some areas. This turn will be the first change since 1989, making a breakthrough in the Chinese development, in order to prioritize the environmental protection over economic growth. As such, the environment represents apriority in the political agenda.

    Despite this advance,  the Chinese legal system is often hostile to litigation related to pollution’s matters, as many cases have shown. In  a recent case of compensation demand due to water pollution, the court has claimed that under civil procedure law, the litigants were unqualified to sue because only agencies or  organisations could press charges in pollution-related cases,  and they needed an official authorisation to take action.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • SHALE GAS AS A POSSIBILE SOLUTION TO ACHIEVE A LOW-CARBON GROWTH, THE IPCC SAYS

    According to the United Nations’ report, shale gas can be the adequate solution to face the impact of climate change. In the international framework, the objective to limit the increase in the average temperature to 2˚C represents the main challenge. In order to have chances to achieve positive results , global emissions need to fall by at least 40 per cent by 2050 and almost to zero by 2100.

    Reaching a low-carbon economy is another fundamental step of the UN policy. The percentage of energy generated by low-carbon sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear and fossil fuel plants that capture carbon, will have to increase three or four times by 2050. However, the IPCC did not specify the amount of the investments that should be destined to each source of energy. The decision about the best way to meet the share of the global emissions target is up to the governments.

    Thus, countries whose economies rely on coal and oil could suffer from a reduction of their incomes. Despite this situation,  a consequence would be that the exports of gas, which has about half the emissions per unit of energy produced, compared to coal, could increase.

    A good strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions could be the replacement of the current world average coal-fired power plants with modern and highly efficient natural gas power plants.

    In this way, it is necessary to establish measures to control the emissions from gas extraction that can leak from badly constructed wells, in order to ensure that a switch to gas reduces overall emissions.

    In this context, the shale gas revolution could be a great help to drive a low-carbon development, the IPCC report says.

    Additionally, the experts warns that the burning more gas would reduce emissions only if it replaced coal. Following this, if as much gas as coal were to be burnt, the global emissions would increase.

    According to the report’s findings, an ambitious emissions’ cut plan would increase the growth of the world economy: without this challenging action the annual growth rate would be 0.06 per cent lower. Furthermore, such strategy of cutting emissions would create economic advantages, including also the health benefits of reduced air pollution.

    The IPCC suggests that governments should establish concrete measures to reduce the emissions, such as planting trees across vast areas to absorb carbon dioxide and harvesting the wood to burn in power stations fitted with carbon capture systems. In addition to this, the report explains that all power stations that burn fossil fuels would have to be fitted with carbon capture systems by the end of the century, to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    According to the current global climate and economic framework, as the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation highlights, it is fundamental not to ignore the warning cast by the IPCC, without  pushing such urgent issues at the margin of the international discussion.

     

    The gLAWal Team

    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    (Source: The Times)

  • URGENT IMPROVEMENTS TO ADDRESS THE CHINESE SOIL POLLUTION

    Soil pollution coming from mining and industrial activities represents one of the greatest environmental problem affecting China, according to the secretary of the China Environmental Remediation Association.

    Pollution is more serious in provinces with mining activities. In urban areas, soil pollution is mainly caused by heavy metal and petrochemical production. Moreover, in recent years, many overseas manufacturers have moved to China, becoming the major polluters, with a strong reflection on public health safety .

    Soil pollution in China is a quite serious matter, but there is a lack of adequate remedies and many polluted farmland stays untreated.

    Moreover, there is no single standard for remediation of industrial and mining sites, or for urban land. The only standard was established for the World Expo in 2010 and some provinces have used that as a point of reference for soil remediation efforts.

    Additionally, other areas as Beijing have chosen international risk models, that is assessing risk factors and determining an acceptable risk index, based on the state of the pollution and the future use of the site, and then go backwards, to decide what level of pollution must be reduced. This represents a flexible approach shared worldwide, and would be the best way for China to start: people are now aware of the high risks of polluted areas, and now it is the time to evaluate these risks.

    Furthermore, the peculiar characteristics of the soil require specific measures in order to face the problem. Soil is different from air or water. It can change within just a meter and  each site can be different. There are also differences in types of soil, for example  soil and clay need to be handled differently, and there are differences in the types of pollutants. Following this, both companies and public have to approach soil pollution from a new point of view. As such, soil remediation companies need to gather experience in assessing and treating soil, achieving  better technological skills, and China is just at the beginning of this path.

    Nowadays, there is no regulation on soil pollution, but just a document from the Office of the State Council on short-term arrangements for protection and remediation of the soil: for this reason, there’s a real need for a concrete action plan. China is a huge country with big differences in soil, hydrology and geology. The government could diversify pollution across regions to achieve the best approach.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • UK CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION FOLLOWING THE UN WARNING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

    After the recent United Nations report requesting stricter actions in order to avoid a climate change catastrophe, the UK government has stressed the importance to achieve a new challenging agreement on global emissions.

    Following the IPCC report, the Secretary of State for Energy Ed Davey has highlighted the urgency of a worldwide improvement of the current energy system in order to obtain  good results about climate change. In addition to this, an international cooperation is needed  to establish an ambitious legally binding global agreement on climate change by 2015, the Secretary said.

    Recent data show that the Government’s fuel duty freeze will increase Britain’s GDP by 0.5 percent over the coming years. However, environmental groups highlight that this political measure has  caused  an increment of car and truck use, increasing emissions.

    This findings follow the IPCC’s warning about the importance for the world to more than triple the share of energy  created from clean energy, to keep the global temperature increase below 2˚C,  that is the target agreed by the UN to avoid the dangerous changes in the global climate. In this frame, it is fundamental to adopt concrete measures in a short time, thus avoiding  a negative impact on the global economic growth.

    The appeal of the Secretary of State for Energy enters a framework of protests and complains about the government policy, accused to halt the increase of the renewable energy sector with direct attacks on the industry and a failure to achieve a long-term direction on policies and subsidies.

    According to the UK green energy supplier Ecotricity, on one side the government seems to follow the admonishment  from the UN about climate change, but, on the other one, the Conservative group has undertaken measures in order to impede the renewables’ development, laying the groundwork to improve the sector of fossil fuels and shale gas. In this framework, the government has established plans for reducing wind farms over  the following months,  including the planned expansion of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, the London Array.

    The environmental groups, following the result of the IPCC’s report, stress the need for urgent actions in order to develop a clean growth.

    This objective plays a pivotal role in the current global fall in renewable energy investments. The international crisis is characterized by a general uncertainty among some of the world’s biggest economies, and a growing exasperation about  subsidies for the renewables’ sector. According to this, a research has shown the global investments in the clean energy’s field have fallen by 11 per cent to $254bn last year.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday,16 April 2014

    (source: The Indipendent)

  • THE CENSUS BUREAU CHANGES ITS QUESTIONS FOR THE SURVEY

    The Census Bureau, the principal agency of the US federal statistical system, will make significant changes to its annual survey that will make it difficult to measure Obamacare’s effects.

    Internal Census documents report that the Current Population Survey, which is the questionnaire used during interviews with tens of thousands of households, will include a total revision to health insurance questions this fall. The changes will make the new findings incomparable to census data from the years before the health care law went into effect and will cause a break in continuous data, which means that it will be difficult to understand how many changes are attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how many to the new survey instruments.

    Officials say the changes are intended to improve the census survey’s accuracy. The new survey was partly conceived to reduce a kind of bias or confusion in the old survey.

    The old questionnaire asked consumers if they have had various types of coverage at any time in the prior year. The new survey asks if they use insurance at the time of the interview, then, tries to find out when that coverage started to be valid and during which months it has been in effect. Using this technique, census officials believe they will be able to reconstruct the history of coverage month by month for each person in a household. The goal is to create a monthly history of health coverage.

    Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau, said that lower numbers are expected because of the new questions and the way they are asked.

    During a test run last year, the revised questions yielded lower estimates of the uninsured population in the U.S. than the previous method did. In 2013, the standard questionnaire found that 12.5 percent of Americans were uninsured; using the new version, just 10.6 percent of Americans were without health coverage.

    The White House is always looking for evidence to show the benefits of the health law.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    (Source: New York Times)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • THE CHALLENGE IN ASIA: IMPROVING HEALTHCARE SERVICES FOR ELDERLY

    Life expectancy in developed and developing countries has increased over the past several decades and continues to rise. As well as increasing life expectancy, birth rates have also decreased in many parts of the world, resulting in a demographic shift where the percentage of the population comprising people over 60 is growing rapidly. This has resulted in rising economic dependencies.

    A majority of the world’s older people in developing countries of Asia have no formal social security support such as pension schemes and health insurance. The elderly are also vulnerable because they are more likely to have health problems. When they are ill they often have insufficient cash to pay for medical services, and, in Asia, few have health insurance.

    For example, nowadays in Korean society, it would be hard for family members to look after the elderly and take care of them when they are sick. In advanced economies, governments have moved to take over this role in order to guarantee the welfare of the elderly. According to Jeremy Hunt, in South Korea, some older people live in clean and comfortable houses with their families, but many of them are in run-down apartments or worse in nursing homes, where their rights are abused.

    Even in Japan, the richest country in Asia, the rate of elderly living in poverty has tripled in a few years. The young generations are less keen than before to look after their parents, even though  the middle-class today is richer than in generations past.

    The lack of income and health security for older people in developing economies is compounded by the fact that long-term care is not readily available and most of those requiring such support must rely on informal home care, or services provided by unpaid caregivers such as family members. In developed economies, where the cost of long-term care is very expensive, most Western European countries have put in place a mechanism to fund formal care, and in a number of Northern and Continental European countries, arrangements exist to at least partially fund informal care as well.

    East Asian societies should provide generous pensions and comprehensive universal healthcare coverage, but the health insurance is usually patchy – many catastrophic illnesses are not covered by national insurance systems – and pensions remain low or even non-existent. The challenges of providing long-term care services in developing countries are enormous and include financial, administrative, human resource and insurance issues.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    (Source: HealthCareAsia)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • SINGAPORE: INCREASING “SIN” TAXES TO HELP ELDERLY

    Rising healthcare costs have been a particularly touchy issue in Singapore. By international standards, government healthcare expenditure is low, with out-of-pocket expenses comparatively high. The country's healthcare expenditure stood at an estimated 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, far below the average of 7.7 percent in high-income economies as of 2010.

    The government on February announced increases in alcohol, gambling and tobacco taxes as it pledged billions of dollars in healthcare subsidy for its elderly citizens. Those who are aged 65 and above would benefit from a host of medical benefits, including outpatient specialist care and medical insurance.

     The Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam told the Parliament that the additional duties will raise government revenues by Sg$255 million ($201 million) a year, as he announced the government's 2014 budget.

    Tobacco taxes will rise by 10 percent, liquor taxes will rise by 25 percent across the board and the betting duty rates will rise to 25-30 percent of gross bets at Singapore Pools from July.

    According to an associate law professor at the Singapore Management University, Eugene Tan, the increase of  "sin" taxes will be the best choice rather than the increases in personal or corporate tax rates.

    Even if the older generation are seen as an important vote bank for the People's Action Party (due to General elections in 2016), the health care package for the elderly is an essential matter to face per se, as Tan said.

    Officials say 20 percent of Singaporeans will be 65 or older by 2030. According to Tharman, these special benefits that the government will provide the pioneer generation will not be differentiated by income because the objective is to honour the contributions of this whole generation.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014

    (Source: South China Morning Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • DONGGUAN WORKERS ON STRIKE AT YUE YUEN’S SHOE FACTORY

    There has been a noticeable surge in the number of strikes and workers’ protests in China. This increase might be explained by  a greater social media coverage, but there does seem to be a pronounced increase in activism on the ground.

    Manufacturing industries are the main source of labour disputes, accounting for 35 percent of all strikes and protests (concentrated in the south-eastern provinces). About one third of the strikes in the manufacturing sector are related to wage arrears and another quarter of them to demands for compensation, suggesting that many factories are still in the process of closing down or relocating without giving workers a fair deal.

    Around 10,000 workers at the Yue Yuen shoe factory in Dongguan, one of the world’s largest shoe manufacturing facilities, took to the streets on Monday 14 April to protest against unpaid social insurance and housing funds payments and improper labour contracts.

    Unpaid and contested social insuranceare problems that most of  Chinese manufacturing workers are facing and  this strike is likely one of the largest ones in recent history.
    Most of the workers are immigrants from other  Chinese provinces and  they cannot bring  their social insurance plan paid half  by workers and half by the company, unless paying an additional tax. The company does not seem willing to help workers on this matter.

    The company should pay its 70,000 employees their full social security and housing fund contributions, but announced on Monday that it would only agree to sign new contracts with its employees as of 1 May and refused to pay the social security contributions and public housing fund payments in arrears.

    The Yue Yuen strike represents a significant moment in which workers at the factory have realized their rights and have acted collectively to protect their interests. The demands raised by Yue Yuan workers reflect issues faced by most workers in China’s manufacturing industry, and the resolution of this dispute will become an important precedent.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    (Source: China Labour Bulletin)

  • DUBAI’S HEALTHCARE SPENDING

    According to the Dubai Health Authority’s study published on Monday, Dh10 billion were spent on healthcare in the emirate in 2012. The report, released during the Arab Health Conference, shows that women spent more than men on healthcare needs in 2012, considering the proportion of the female population (25 per cent) versus men (75 per cent).

    Of the Dh10 billion that was spent on healthcare, 6 per cent was spent on seeking preventive treatment compared to 74 per cent that went towards curative care. Data also shows that spending in hospitals totalled 48 per cent, and considered to be on the higher side.

    32 per cent of Dh10 billion was funded by the government, 45 per cent by the private sector and 22 per cent by families and individuals. Essa Al Maidoor, General Director of the DHA, said that these percentage shares shall change with the implementation of the mandatory health insurance, as the employee share in the contribution of health funding should increase.

    Professor Tawfik Khoja, General Director of the Executive Board of Health Ministers’ Council for the GCC, attending the presentation said the release of this report should be utilized by the private and government sectors in Dubai, the UAE, and the Gulf states. He also invited the DHA to share methodologies used in producing the report with the other GCC states.

    There is a link between the importance of the findings of the report and a new era of health financing in Dubai through the mandatory health insurance scheme. The data allow to measure the financial dimensions of the health care system in the public and private sectors and to support the implementation of the health insurance system through monitoring the health spending.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 17 April 2014

    (Source: HealthCareAsia)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP NHS

    In October 2012, UK prime minister announced the establishment of a Nursing Technology Fund (£100m) to support nurses, midwives and health visitors to make better use of digital technology in all care settings, in order to deliver safer, more effective and more efficient care.

    Technologies such as digital pens, tablets and clinical software can support nurses and midwives to develop modern practices and do their jobs more easily. That is why investments targeted in the right areas provide huge opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient care.

    A recent survey reports that two-thirds of nurses and medical staff continue to rely on handwritten notes and corridor conversations to communicate vital patient information.

    A sophisticated mobile communication technologycould improve this situation, because it would identify new ways to reduce administration and speed up decision-making, knowledge transfer, delegation and equipment finding. In this way, nurses will improve the quality of care they provide and spend more time with patients.

    Mobile IT devices can improve not only the lives of clinical staff but also those of patients. Static technology creates delays. Short periods of time spent walking to an information source add up if repeated over the course of a long shift. For example, the nurses could immediately respond to patients' needs through a smart nurse call system. A barcode scanning would help ensure the right medicine is being given to the right patient.

    The NHS needs to invest in purpose-built, smart mobile communication devices in order to improve hospitals efficiency. This kind of technology can make a difference.

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 17 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • US: HEALTH-INSURANCE ENROLLEES HAVE REACHED 8 MILLION

    On Thursday, US president Barack Obama said that eight million people had picked health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act. The final figure is above the White House’s initial target of 7 million sign-ups. The enrollments exceeded expectations and offered new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead of the midterm elections. Obama pointed to the number to declare the law a success and that Republicans should stop trying to overturn it.

    Obama said that 35 percent of enrollees are under 35 years old, suggesting that in the final weeks of enrollment, the administration managed to sign up higher number of younger, healthier people who is critical to the law's viability. The participation of younger and healthy people is needed to balance out the cost of medical claims from older and sicker ones.

    The most covered age group comprises those between 18 and 34 years old. White House officials said that for the 36 states, where the federal government is taking the lead, 28 percent are in that age group.

    Even if the first year's open-enrollment season for the exchanges closed March 31, the administration allowed consumers who tried to sign up for coverage before that date to return by April 15. The new total reflects people who had signed up through April 15 through the federal and state exchanges, the last date on which most Americans were allowed to finish applications. However, the final figure of how many Americans will gain health coverage under the law remains unclear for several reasons.

    Republicans believe that the figures could be overblown as a measure of success. It is not possible to know the number of people who gained coverage after being uninsured and those who replaced an existing policy. In fact, officials have not released a tally of how many enrollees were previously uninsured and are thus gaining health care thanks to the law.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 18 April 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • UK BELOW AVERAGE IN EUROPEAN HOSPITAL BEDS LEAGUE

    A report has found that there are fewer doctor's facility beds in Britain than most other European nations, less than fifty per cent as compared to many.

    As stated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK had the second lowest number of hospital beds per capita among 23 European countries: three doctor's facility beds for every 1,000 individuals in 2011.

    The OECD’ statistics on hospital beds reported that Germany had 8.3 for every 1,000 individuals, Austria 7.7, Hungary 7.2, Czech Republic 6.8, and Poland 6.6; Estonia (5.3) Slovenia (4.6) likewise had respectably more, with just Sweden having a lower amount, at 2.7 for every 1,000 populace.

    The figures demonstrate that the amount of doctor's facility beds has progressively fallen in Britain since 2000 when there were 4.1 for every 1,000 individuals. Even if the decrease has been larger for the UK, most of the countries have seen a reduction in the rate, caused by the progress in medical technology which has enabled a reduced need for hospitalization.

    The NHS additionally need to battle against alleged "bed blockers" who acquire beds that could be utilized by others. A lot of people and elderly individuals have unnecessarily long stays in clinic in light of the fact that care services are not equipped to help them once they are released.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • BANGLADESHI TRAGEDY MUST NOT BE REPEATED

    The ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, stressed that Rana Plaza (Bangladesh) tragedy points at the human cost of shocking working conditions and urged the global community to take actions in order to prevent such afflictions.

    The Rana Plaza disaster claimed the lives of over 1100 factory workers and injured many more when the building collapsed in the country's capital Dhaka in April 2013.

    An event called  Vision for the Future, organized by the Danish Government in Copenhagen, the General Director of ILO emphasized that people cannot take place until future disasters and that world's factories have to be safe and decent places to work. Moreover, Ryder highlighted the measures taken by the Government of Bangladesh, workers' organizations, labour inspections to ensure occupational safety and health, rehabilitation and skills training for survivors.

    The ILO is the neutral chair of the Accord, which covers 1,639 of the 3,498 Bangladesh factories making garments for export. A legally binding agreement aimed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces. It includes 150 international brands and retailers with suppliers. 'International coordination is essential, when supply chains in 21st Century industry spread across globe'-said Ryder.

    The significance of supply chains and suppliers increased sharply due to globalization, which is why global supply chains have to operate safely in line with internationally respected laws. Consequently, the goods, no matter where produced, must be made under decent work conditions.

    The garment industry is essential in Bangladesh. It plays an indispensable role in achieving the current 6 per cent GDP growth and has helped to reduce poverty in recent years.

    According to Ryder, the sector should operate in a more sustainable way and maintain its crucial role in supporting Bangladesh's legitimate development aspirations simultaneously.

     

    The gLAWcal team

    The 18th of April 2014

    (Source: ILO)

  • CHINA: ENCOURAGING PRIVATE INVESTMENTS IN HOSPITALS

    The Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu announcedat a press conference that efforts involving the planning and management of medical resources should be made in order to secure an orderly development for private health care institutions. Public hospitals should see moderate development while more room should be made for growth of private investment in the sector. Qualified private investors will be given priority to new hospital constructions, he said.

    A small number of private hospitals and clinics have emerged in some of China’s major cities in the past 10 to 15 years. These facilities range from private dental clinics to multi-city hospital networks. They often operate on a much smaller scale than the average public hospital, allowing them to devote more time to each patient because of a better staff-to-patient ratio and lower patient numbers.
    In many cases, however, these facilities have found it difficult to attract sufficient clinical talents to serve patients, mostly because clinicians are reluctant to leave academic institutions for untried new providers.

    Authorities want more non-governmental capitals to enter the healthcare sector as soon as possible to increase the supply of medical services and to give private organizations more leeway to encourage competition. The rates of hospital beds and patient volume provided at private hospitals should double by the end of 2015.

    The healthcare reforms that the PRC government announced in early 2009 have elicited considerable excitement among potential investors in China’s large and growing healthcare services market. According to Zhu, these measures are set to foster reforms of government-funded hospitals and encourage non-governmental capital to build more health institutions.

    One potential stumbling block to investment in private facilities is the relatively small scale of private medical insurance in China. Though China’s healthcare reforms include a provision to expand the role of insurance in the healthcare system, the country currently has a limited market for private insurance. Because of most Chinese citizens do not fully understand the supplementary private insurance option and have a hard time finding appropriate products, they generally pay for their uncovered medical bills out of pocket.

    Households usually accumulate large amounts of cash as a hedge against the possibility that those funds will be needed some day for hospital care, because of the unsuitableness of the government’s universal health-care insurance.

    Public hospitals, which provide 90 percent of China’s medical services, totaled 13,440 by the end of October. Non-public and public hospitals will be treated equally in terms of access to medical insurance programs and other qualifications and the number of public hospitals will be controlled and medical resources will be optimized, said a statement.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    (Source: People Daily)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • DAVID CAMERON AIMS AT MODERNIZING GPs SERVICES

    UK prime minister David Cameron said that more than 7.5 million people will be offered an increased access to GP (general practitioner) services through extended opening times and new consultation methods, even using Skype, email and phone.

    PM unveils a £50m "Challenge Fund" package designed to provide a better service especially for more than 750,000 elderly patients and to ease pressure on hospitals and emergency departments. The £50m GP Access Fund will mean that patients (not only elderly ones) at 1,147 GP practices across England will be able to see their family doctor outside normal working hours, including late-night and weekend appointments, or use one of the modern consultation tools for convenience.

    It is not easy to get appointments with GPs for people with busy lives, that is why the use of technology such as e-mails and Skype will help not only the patients but also the doctors, as the health minister Norman Lamb said. According to Cameron, the goal is to support GPs and to modernize their services so they can visit patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

    The aim is to significantly shift care away from hospitals to people's homes where, with the right amount of support, they can better manage their conditions rather than be admitted to hospital.

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said that this plan won't benefit millions of people and for those who are outside of this scheme, things will keep on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment.

    The main problem is that there will still be close to 7,000 GP practices across the country who will not be receiving extra support to improve patient access or maintain current services. Moreover, mentioned funding is only for one year, it is not guaranteed that these changes will be affordable for the future.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • UK WASTES EXTRA £49M ON TAMIFLU. THE COCHRANE COLLABORATION WARNS THAT THE DRUG DOES NOT PREVENT THE SPREAD OF FLU

    During the last year, the UK has spent an additional £49m on Tamiflu, which is stockpiled by governments globally to prepare for flu pandemics. The Department of Health has confirmed that £424m have been spent on Tamiflu and £136m on a similar, but inhaled, flu drug called Relenza. The extra £49m takes the total spend to £609m.

    Some independent scientists believe that the drug cannot prevent a flu pandemic, simply reducing the persistence of flu symptoms from seven days to 6.3 days in adults and to 5.8 days in children, which means approximately half a day. There is no proof that they prevent hospitalizations or complications such as pneumonia and, when used to prevent flu, they cause serious complications in some people.

    In fact, the Cochrane Collaboration claimed the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms. Tamiflu, produced by Swiss company Roche, can cause psychiatric and kidney problems, while it is also linked to an increased risk of headaches and vomiting. Considering that, it only fractionally reduces the time it takes to be cured and the costs involved in stockpiling the drug; the question is why the medicine is included on the WHO list of essential drugs.

    The companies maintain the drugs are safe and useful, but doubts about the drugs were evident before the extra £49m had been spent. The Cochrane team gave evidence: it is not possible spend £400m to reduce flu symptoms by a day or half a day. Paracetamol exists for it.

    The Cochrane reviewers have shown with greater clarity than the current system is broken. There are substantial battles still to fight before we reach a system of drug evaluation and regulation that truly serves patients and public interest.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • THE NUFFIELD TRUST AND HEALTH FOUNDATION PUBLISHES DATA ABOUT THE FOUR UK HEALTH SYSTEMS

    The review of the four UK health systems has been published by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation. Researchers analyzed data going back up to 20 years on some measures.

    The study said that all four nations were seeing improvement, but indicated that the different policies pursued since devolution, such as competition in England and collaboration in Scotland and Wales, had made little difference. Instead, they said  the most important steps appeared to be funding - as the biggest increases have been seen in the past decade when the budgets have risen the most.

    Scotland's performance on waiting times matches that of England, having been significantly worse in the early 2000s. While patients wait longer in Wales and in Northern Ireland. Wales is also lagging behind on waiting times for non-emergency operations following a deterioration in performance since 2009-2010.

    More general measures of performance in areas such as the number of preventable deaths and stroke care show Wales moving in line with England but not closing the historical gap.

    In terms of avoidable deaths rates - which is considered as a good proxy for healthcare performance - the figures have been improving across the UK.Rates more than halved in each country from 1990 to 2010. Scotland lags behind on measures such as life expectancy and death rates. Overall the health system seems to be improving.

    The message from this study is that targets and performance management (used by the four countries) work. However beside this, whatever the chosen approach to structure and governance, the overall rate of improvement in healthcare looks broadly similar.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • MEDICARE: PUBLISHED DATA RELATED TO DOCTORS PAYOUNTS

    Medicare officials said that the disclosure of physician payment data marks an unprecedented opportunity to make the nation's healthcare system more transparent for consumers and accountable to taxpayers. The data could help to find doctors who perform far more surgeries, procedures and other services than their colleagues.

    According to Jonathan Blum, Medicare's principal deputy administrator, providing this information will help consumers be more informed and make better choices about their care.

    The release of payment records involving doctors has been legally blocked since 1979, but recent court rulings removed those obstacles.
    The new data include doctor visits, lab tests and other treatment typically provided outside a hospital. They reflect what Medicare paid plus any money providers received from patients for deductibles and coinsurance.

    Medicare paid 344 physicians and other health providers more than $3 million each in 2012. Collectively, the 1,000 highest-paid Medicare doctors received $3.05 billion in payments.
    Federal officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions about individual doctors from the numbers.  They said that high payouts do not necessarily indicate improper billing or fraud, but could reflect sicker patients who required more treatment.

    Ophthalmologists and Radiation Oncologists are the specialties singled out in a late 2013 reportby the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, which urged a greater scrutiny of doctors who consistently receive large Medicare payments.

    Among the procedures that contributed to the highest billings, excluding the drugs and supplies that drove up many ophthalmologists' and medical oncologists' billings, there is intensity-modulated radiation therapy, in which doctors shoot high-powered beams of radiation at tumors.

    The data don't show details of patients' diagnoses, dates of procedures or other information that might help determine whether the care provided might or mightn't be necessary. That is why many doctors said that the release of billing data lacks context.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    (Source: The Wall Street Journal)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • HOME BIRTHS ARE LINKED TO THE RATE OF BABIES’ DEATHS

    More and more women are opting to give birth in the comfort of their own homes rather than hospitals. Home births are still considered rare in the USA, but the recent increase marks a new trend.

    The rate of death for newborns born at home is more than four times higher than the one of newborns born in hospitals, according to The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

    These births do not have the advantage of a hospital delivery, where immediate and critical care is available if a complication arises.

    Women who are thinking about having home birth should know that if they deliver in the hospital with a midwife, the risk of infant death will be reduced by 75 percent (by 85 percent if the woman is having her first baby). According to the Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College Dr. Grünebaum, women should know the risks before deciding to give birth at home.

    Given the study's findings, Dr. Grunebaum says the obstetric practitioners have an ethical obligation to disclose the risks associated with planned home birth to expectant parents who express an interest in this delivery setting.

    There is something more that must be said: resources suspect that the findings underestimate the actual risks. In the CDC data set, the outcomes for patients whose care began out of the hospital but were then transferred to the hospital due to complications are reported as hospital deliveries. If the data have been correct, the risk of out-of-hospital delivery is likely to be much greater.

    Even if the exact reason for the rise of the home births is not that clear, it may be related to the fact that women want less medical intervention during their birth experience. That is why Dr. Amos Grünebaum said that hospitals should be more like homes. The hospitals should create a welcoming and comfortable birthing environment, as well as address unnecessary obstetric interventions, both of which are often a primary motivation for homebirth.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    (Source: New York Times)

  • HSAs AS A WAY TO FACE HEALTH-CARE COSTS DURING RETIREMENT

    Many Americans face the risk of financial shortfalls in retirement, since health costs tend to rise during this period. In fact, a recent Market Watch analysis observed that most retirees will spend an average of $250,000 on out-of-pocket health costs during their retirement years, an amount that can seriously undermine their savings. However, consumers have the chance to save money for these costs both now and during retirements years, choosing health savings accounts (HSAs), an instrument introduced just over 10 years ago that is both an effective long and short term savings tool.

    HSAs are individual accounts, directly owned by the consumer, thus portable: the account and the contributions are mantained even if the owner changes job or subscribes to a different health insurance plan, while the funds roll over from year to year with no expiration. The most appealing characteristic, however, is that HSAs are triple tax advantaged. First of all, contributions are tax free; moreover, once a certain threshold is reached, the funds can be invested and the related interests and earnings remain tax free. Finally, HSAs holders do not pay income tax on the funds they withdraw to face qualified health-care expenses. All these reasons make HSAs a useful tool for managing short term health-care expenses, while saving for such costs through retirements.

    The value of HSAs is being more and more recognized, thanks to the efforts of employers (who would receive tax benefit if their employees adopted such instruments), and, according to a recent report, HSAs-related assets exceeded $20 billion as of January 2014. Moreover, more than 10 percent of HSAs deposits are currently invested in mutual funds or other long-term growth vehicles. The growth in the HSAs’ use seems stable, which means that more and more customers are starting to adopt them as complement to their retirement savings.
     


    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 9 April 2014

    (Source: The Washington Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • CMS: A VIEW ON MEDICAID AND CHIP SIGN-UPS

    According to CMS, 11.7 million people were determined to be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP from the 1st of October 2013, through the end of February. As of the 28th of February, the total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment stood at 61 million across the 46 states that reported such data.

    So far, about half of all the states and the District of Columbia have expanded or are expanding Medicaid under the ACA. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, millions of low-income adults became eligible for Medicaid as of January 2014. On the 1st of April, Michigan expanded its Medicaid program under the law and New Hampshire will expand it in July.

    HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that states which have expanded Medicare had a more relevant increment of sign-ups than states that have not. Among states that had expanded their programs by February, CMS reported that Medicaid enrollment increased by an average of 8.3% to a total of 35 million beneficiaries. Meanwhile, Medicaid enrollment had increased by an average of 1.6% among states that did not expand Medicaid.

    While the sign-ups for private insurance on the marketplaces closed on the 31st of March,  the enrollment in Medicaid will continue for the whole year. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that at least eight million people will obtain Medicaid or CHIP coverage under the ACA this year, which will raise federal spending by $19 billion.

    The data do not register the enrollment observed in March, when the administration launched a nationwide campaign to get millions of residents to sign up for coverage through the exchanges. The data also do not consider enrollees who signed up for Medicaid through HealthCare.gov, because of its technical problems.

    Enrollment only includes people eligible for full coverage, while eligibility includes people receiving limited benefits. Some of the eligibility figures may include duplicates, some individuals determined eligible for Medicaid may have found coverage elsewhere.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • AMERICAN MILITARY CAREGIVERS: THE NATION’S HIDDEN HEROES

    The RAND Military Caregivers Study (a nonprofit research organization) focuses on the caregivers of wounded, ill, and injured military service members and veterans. Funded by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the study aims to quantify military caregivers' needs and examine the existing policies and programs for meeting them.

    A military caregiver is usually a family member or a friend, who provides a broad range of care and assistance for a current or former military service member with a disabling physical or mental injury or illness.
    Even though, significant attention has been paid to service members and veterans with service-related injuries and associated conditions, more attention should be paid to the needs of their caregivers or the resources that are available to them.

    There are around 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States. Of these, 1.1 million (19.6 percent) are caring for post-9/11 veterans. Post-9/11 military caregivers tend to be young, caring for a younger individual with a mental or behavioral health problems, employed outside the home and not connected to a support network. They provide an estimated $3 billion in care annually and their work allows the nation to save on the long-term care costs.

    So these caregivers play an essential role in caring for the injured or wounded service members and veterans, in order to improve their quality of life and allow a faster rehabilitation. But playing this role can impose a substantial physical, emotional, and financial toll on caregivers.

    While caregiving for the elderly and the disabled has been well studied, more efforts are needed to help empowering military caregivers, including ways to build their skills and confidences in caregiving, mitigate the potential stress and strain of caregiving and raise public awareness of the caregivers' value.

    Researchers found that military caregivers (especially those who assist military service members and veterans after 9/11) have more health problems than non-caregivers, usually suffering from depression, and 30% of them lack health care coverage.

    The research confirms that this is an urgent societal crisis and it is essential to inspire individuals and organizations to raise awareness and increase support for those nation's hidden heroes, as the US Sen. Elizabeth Dole said.

    It is time to improve military caregivers' well-being and ensure their continued ability to provide care. This   will require multifaceted approaches in order to reduce the current burdens caregiving may impose, and bolster their ability to serve as caregivers. Given the systematic differences among military caregiver groups, it is also important that tailored approaches meet the unique needs and characteristics of post-9/11 caregivers.

     

    The gLAWcal Team
    Tuesday, 8 April 2014
    (Source: Science Daily)

  • UK: THE DRAFT LAW COMMISSION BILL, REGULATION OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE PROFESSIONALS

    The draft law commission bill, regulation of health and social care professionals was published few days ago. The final report and draft bill sets out a new single legal framework for the regulation of all health and social care professionals. The reforms aim to sweep away the out-dated and inflexible decision-making processes associated with the current legislation. The new legal framework would introduce a clear and consistent legal framework which is needed to make the regulators uphold their duty to protect the public.

    The project was referred to the Law Commission by the Secretary of State for Health in September 2010 and announced in the White Paper Enabling Excellence. This has been a joint project among the Law Commission of England and Wales, the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

    The prime minister said that the government is moving on to legislate on this important issue when parliamentary time allows it and its publication guarantees to modernize the current outdated and inflexible framework.

    It is not enough, Jackie Smith (chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council) says.
    In fact, more than £44m (about 80% of the budget) is spent on fitness to practice hearings. The government acknowledged that the current legislative frameworks for all of the health and social care regulators are expensive, complex and require continuous interventions to keep them up to date.

    It is necessary to introduce new ways of disposing of cases, with a range of sanctions more suited to the modern era. It is also important, according to Smith, to conclude 90% of the cases as quickly as possible (within 15 months) in order to satisfy the interests of the public and nurses and midwives in the most effective way.

    The agreement from the Department of Health followed by privy council and parliamentary approval is essential to change the legislation on this issue, which means that a slow and complicated process would normally take between 18 months and two years. Smith underlines that it obstructs the ability to improve the framework as quickly as possible.

    The chief executive and registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council fears that this important bill will not be part of the Queen's speech on the 3rd of June, so the "outdated and inflexible" framework could continue not to protect the public in the most effective and efficient way.

     

                                                                                                                                                                                    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • NHS: £10 PER PERSON MONTHLY MEMBERSHIP FEE

    Lord Warner, the former Labour health minister, has proposed a change that might just help rescue the NHS from its combined care and cash crisis: a £10 monthly membership fee paid by all adults (with some exceptions).

    This membership fee (regardless of income) would have little impact on an organisation with a budget running at £130 billion a year, even if it actually is an odd subscription alternative to a more straightforward increase in general taxation or national insurance contributions.

    These issues cannot be ignored any longer. The NHS care crisis remained largely hidden in times of plenty. Warner displays two options: first, the austerity programme based on reducing public spending is the only way to deal with the deficit, and secondly, the NHS of the future is only viable if people pays more towards the costs. In return for the fee, Warner suggests that everyone in the UK of working age would be entitled to an annual "health MOT".

    The fee would be collected with council tax to fund local preventative health care. The NHS, facing a £30bn deficit by 2020, is becoming economically unsustainable because of tax base, condition of the public finances, changing population needs, and the implication of scientific development.

    Warner claims that funding the NHS might seriously damage other important public services, that’s why he challenges the very principle underpinning the NHS. The membership fee is just the beginning of plans to expand the tax base for health care.

    Efficiency improvements (currently unimplemented) are suggested, such as much higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, sugary foods and drinks, gambling and “hotel charges” for visitors in hospitals. Warner came up with an essential matter, but the polls do not show willingness to countenance higher taxes.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • NEW PERMIT CONDITIONS TO AVOID TREMORS CAUSED BY FRACKING

    In Ohio, it has been announced for the first time the link between earthquakes and fracking. This finding comes from  state geologists who have connected earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to gas drilling. Following this result, the state has established new permit conditions in certain areas, permits that are among the nation's strictest.

    A state investigation has analyzed five small earthquakes happened  last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills. The injection of sand and water that accompanies the fracking in the Utica Shale may have increased the pressure on small tremors, said  the State Oil & Gas Chief,  who defines this link “probable”.

    Previous researches had explained that earthquakes in the same region were caused by deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater.  This study makes a breakthrough: for the first time, tremors in the region have been directly tied to fracking.

    The oil and gas drilling targets are widely different due to the various rock formations around the nation. Additionally, the types of earthquakes connected to the industry are generally small and not easily felt. However, these findings could have great importance and influence the  public perception of fracking’s safety.

    The fracking’s process involves pumping  huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks allowing oil and gas to flow.  An improved technology has allowed energy companies to gain access to huge sources of natural gas but has also raised widespread concerns about the risk of  groundwater contamination and earthquakes.

    Seismologistsconfirmed the link between quakes and fracking. In addition to this, a deep-injection wastewater well in the same region was found to be the likely cause of a series of quakes in 2012.

    Ohio’s new permit requirements, probably the most cautious, put in place in the nation, established that all new drilling sites within 3 miles of a known fault or other seismic activities of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be required to install a sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment, and the results will be directly available to regulators. In this way, if a seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is recorded, the drilling will be suspended for evaluation: if a link is found, the process will be halted.

    According to the director of Ohio’s natural resources department, although there is not an absolute certainty that the fracking activities are linked to a seismic events, the government should planstrategies in order to protect human health, safety and the environment.

    The Ohio’s authorities have also imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the recent quakes, allowing oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells.

    Although the seismic activity connected to the drilling has been defined “extremely rare”, these new rules imposed by the government have been positively endorsed by the industry group Energy In Depth as adequate measures to prevent similar future earthquakes in Ohio.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 14 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • UN URGENT WAKE-UP CALL FOR GOVERNMENTS TO USE RENEWABLES IN ORDER TO FIGHT THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

    The climate-change experts will meet next week,  continuing to strictly highlight the importance of a stronger use of renewable energy, as windfarms,  to prevent a global catastrophe. In this framework, the UK’s commitment for a green growth will be subject to the fiercest control.

    A report by the world's leading authorities will outline the gap between the UK government’s  intention to halt the construction of more onshore windfarms and the majority of scientists’ point of view,  stressing the importance of windfarms as one of the cheapest tool to provide clean energy , ensuring  the environment’s safety at the same time.

    The Mitigation of Climate Change's panel, by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will show that the best solution to address the climate change’s impact is to  triple or even quadruple the use of renewable power plants. According to the panel, this strategy represents the only way to keep the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere  below the critical level of 480 parts per million (ppm), before the middle of the century. If levels fall down this threshold, the possibilities to avoid global disorders will be very low.

    The IPCC’s report represents an urgent wake-up call for governments to earmark 1-2% of GDP  to replace power plants burning fossil fuels, one of the main cause of global warming, with renewable sources.

    These findings constitute a great challenge for the UK. The government is now planning a program to block the construction of new onshore windfarms in Britain, that is the country's only realistic priced renewable energy option other than solar power, which has limited potential in the UK.

    In this context, there are strong  green lobby’s protests  against the British government,  accusing of failing to meet its commitments to become the greenest government ever.

    The government’s decision to restrain the construction of new onshore windfarms could paralyze the UK capability to curtail carbon dioxide emissions and lead to higher energy prices, experts say.

    Data show that onshore wind power costs around £90 per megawatt hour to generate, but for offshore windfarms, this rises to £150. On the other hand, the use of other renewables  is limited or not fully developed, as the tidal power. Additionally, the nuclear power  represents a possible alternative, but there are controversial debates and a complete construction program would take decades to be approved and realized.

    Moreover, the renewable energy’s choice is endorsed by the public, so the government should perform actions to put the UK at the forefront of this energy revolution.

    According to Greenpeace’s view, there is yet time to avoid the worst effects of climate change, adopting clean energy solutions to cut carbon pollution. Additionally, renewable energy technologies represent  the cheapest option in a large number of major markets, quickly becoming cheaper.

    In this way, the IPCC report states that the target to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will be feasible only if the increasing carbon emissions are rapidly braked and reversed.

    The global temperatures would rise by 0.3 - 4.8˚C in this century, on top of roughly 0.7˚C since time of industrial revolution, and seas are expected to rise by 26 - 82cm by 2100, the first report forecasts. Following this, the second report highlights that the risk of conflict, hunger, floods and mass displacement would increase with every minuscule rise in temperature.

    Climate experts strongly affirm that, in order to fight the climate change’s impact, inaction cannot be allowed to continue.  As such, governments must agree on a climate plan that will come into force in 2020. In case of delays, the costs of mitigating climate change will exponentially increase due to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    The UK economists warn that the current environmental framework represents a severe memento for implementing adequate actions against climate change by building cleaner and more efficient economies. Thus, renewable energy can no longer be considered a niche market, but  renewables should take the full share of the global energy market in the next few decades, the WWF says.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 14 April  2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • NEW DATA SHOW DECREASING AIR QUALITY IN LONDON AND SOUTH BRITAIN

    A new statistic published by Public Health England, an agency of the Department of Health, shows that London and south-east England have recorded  the worst level of air quality in Britain, largely due to severe traffic. This study informed  that, in London, 3389 people died of air pollution and 41404 "life years" were lost in 2010, while in south-east England, 4034 people died and 41728 life years were lost.

    Moreover, these new data highlights that Kensington and Chelsea are the most polluted areas, with more than one in twelve of all deaths attributable to tiny particles of soot largely emitted by diesel engines.

    The study stresses that Scotland has the best air quality of Britain, thanks to its areas with few cars and the prevailing wind blowing off the Atlantic. To explain this situation, data indicates that only eight deaths in the Outer Hebrides, six in the Orkneys and six in the Shetland Islands, were attributable to air pollution. Additionally, Moyle was the cleanest borough in Northern Ireland and Gwynedd in Wales. Cumbria, Northumberland and Cornwall were the regions with the lowest percentage of deaths caused by air pollution in England.

    The study, based on the work of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, has outlined how the long-term exposure to air pollution causes 28,869 deaths per a year and 306,835 life years to be lost. According to these findings, air pollution is now officially considered the biggest public health risk after smoking.

    This study is the result of the analysis of the annual average concentrations of minute man-made particles of less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM2.5, and their impacts on health. These particles, above all emitted by diesel engines, cause the reduction of the visibility. In this way, the air appears hazy when levels are high. Because they are so small, they can travel deep into the lungs and cross into the bloodstream, provoking heart and lung disease, cancer, and aggravating asthma. These  previsions are calculated for long-term exposure to particulate air pollution. An example of that is the situation caused by the combination of dust from the Sahara mixed with local air pollution, experienced in South Britain last week.

    The UK is respectful of the agreed international targets for particulate pollution. On the other hand UK is being taken to court by the European Commission for consistently missing targets for another air pollutant:  NO2. This represents another strong health risk, interacting with particles and other chemicals in the air. It is known that diesel fumes are more damaging to health than those from petrol engines.

    Additionally, researches show that the health problems caused by diesel cost the NHS more than 10 times as much as comparable problems caused by petrol fumes.  According to the UN's World Health Organisation, diesel exhaust is one of the main cause of cancer and was comparable in its effects to secondary cigarette smoking.

    Following this, it is shown that levels of particulate air pollution in the UK create a significant impact on the life expectancy of the population. To face this situation, the UK government has to tackle measures to reduce pollution at 15% by 2020.

    In this framework, environmental groups are playing a central role driving the authorities to develop an urgent action plan, in order to introduce cleaner vehicles, encouraging the use of alternative forms of transport. To achieve concrete results, this national issue should be a top priority for politicians.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday,11 April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CHINESE AND INDIAN CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING THE MOST FROM POLLUTED AIR

    Data show that in emerging powers as China and India, the high level of pollution has caused severe damages on children’s health.

    Last November, Chinese media reported a story not to be proud about: the youngest girl in the country to be diagnosed with lung cancer. The girl has lived nearby a busy street and has been constantly inhaling dirty air. Air pollution was the main cause of the disease, a doctor treating her said.

    This case is the expression of the current situation and the daunting challenges that Asian emerging countries are facing, trying to limit the health impacts of environmental pollution.

    China and India have experienced a rapid economic growth. But now the attention must be focused on costs of development.

    The alarming Chinesesituation about air pollution and contaminated water has been under the media spotlight for quite some time. On the other hand, the similarly severe Indian situation has received less international attention .

    Recent researches highlight that, in a country inhabited by over a billion people, air and water pollution have strong public health consequences. In this framework, children are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pollution. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, diarrhoea and respiratory infections are the principal causes of child’s deaths in India.

    Although, the levels of air pollution in Delhi competes with Beijing’s one, the capital is not the only Indian city that suffers from pollution. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, that is the largest systematic effort describing the global distribution and causes of the major diseases and health risk factors, showed that air pollution is now the fifth cause of death in India. According to the report’s findings, 620,000 premature deaths  are caused by air pollution each year in India.

    In this context, a pivotal challenge is to analyze the effective impact of pollution on children’s health, according to studies showing an increased frequency of respiratory symptoms with increasing pollution in India.

    A 2008 survey underlines that there are evidences of a higher prevalence of respiratory disease symptoms and lung function deficits in children who live in the cities compared to children of the same age who live in rural areas. It reports respiratory problems in 32% of children examined in Delhi, in contrast to 18.2% of the rural children. Reduced lung functions were recorded in 43.5% of school children in Delhi, compared to 25.7% in villages.

    India has experienced a high level of air pollution for many years, with particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) often being 2-3 times above upper limits of standards. Thus, this situation is even worse during  winter.

    The main cause of air pollution is the increasing number of vehicles in Delhi. To address this problem, the government has launched measures over the last 15 years, such as phasing out leaded petrol and old vehicles, the introduction of compressed natural gas, improved engine technology and stricter emission norms, better fuel quality, traffic management and planning. Despite this efforts, the rise in the number of vehicles has nullified the benefits of these strategies. Data shows that by March 2012, Delhi had over 7.4 million motor vehicles, with half a million being added every year.

    In addition to this, the great impact of air pollution on children’s health is alarmingly increasing. Long term exposures reduce lung growth in children, interacting with allergens to increase asthma and to predispose to vascular disease along with other risk factors. Studies say that the number of patients who have been impacted by air pollution has more than doubled in the last 10 years. In this context, children of all age groups are vulnerable: even newborns have respiratory diseases. Some of the short term effects of air pollution on Delhi’s children include wheezing, allergies, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, tonsillitis, asthma exacerbation, dermatitis, sore eyes, headaches, giddiness. Long term effects include bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiac disorders and cancer.

    In an immediate attempt to reduce the negative impact of polluted air, children have to avoid polluted areas, staying away from congested vehicular traffic areas, using a face mask and prophylactic inhaler medication.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 11 April 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • UN PROJECT FOR A GLOBAL TRANSITION TO RENEWABLES

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will meet in Berlin to chart ways in which the world can cut greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most important problem in the current climate framework, trying to give estimates on how much it would cost.

     There is a significant consensus that global warming is certainly caused by human actions and poses a serious threat to humanity. The UN expert panel on climate is strongly trying to achieve concrete solution in order to understand what the international community has to do.

    According to the previous IPCC’s report of a landmark climate assessment, it is fundamental to invest  more in the renewable energies, cutting investments on fossil fuels, that are the principal source of man-made carbon emissions.

    This report outlines various solutions and proposals such as the use of wind energy and solar energy, and a better energy efficiency, analyzing at the same time their costs and benefits. Moreover, the IPCC will discuss about the necessary amount of global cuts needed to meet the proposed targets.

    Following the results of the report sent to governments in December, emissions need to decrease by 40-70 percent by 2050 in order to keep global temperature increasing below 2 degrees  by the end of the century, which is the agreed goal of international climate talks. As shown in the draft, the investments in fossil fuels such as oil and coal would have to drop by $30 billion a year, and the spending on renewable energies would have to rise up to $147 billion annually.

    These findings could provoke the opposition of the fossil fuel industry and countries depending on it, as the reaction of some industries shows.

    This reaction of the industry is in contrast with a point of view of UN. According to UN the ¾ of the fossil fuel reserves in the ground needs to be kept there for the world to reach the 2-degree target.

    The principal goal is to achieve a global economy as carbon neutral as possible.

    An alternative strategy to mitigate the climate change would use new ways to catch carbon from the atmosphere or prevent the sunlight , trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. This process is known as geo-engineering, that means  a large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with aim of reducing global warming.

    Many scientistsbelieve that such plans are unlikely going to work – which is a doubt shared by the IPCC. Opponentsstresses the possible effects from geo-engineering  that could include a change in the monsoon pattern or a widening of the ozone hole that could threaten the lives of millions.

    The IPCC has also highlighted that climate change has certainly caused damages on economies, crops and human health.

    The study also stresses the important matter of the costs associated with the strategies to keep warming below 2 degrees of Celsius.

    One of the most controversial issue of the international debate is represented by the matter about who should pay for efforts to curb climate change. This question is a turning point of the UN negotiations on a new global climate agreement, set to be adopted by 2015. Poor countries require more financial help from rich countries, in order to switch to low-carbon energy sources.

    Data show that although China has the world's highest carbon emissions, West which underwent a stronger industrialization earlier has historically pumped more carbon into the atmosphere.

    In this framework, it is fundamental to achieve adequate policies considering their important cost and impact on society in the future, at the same time.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    (Source: RenewableEnergyWorld)

  • INCREASING PHENOMENA OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM IN CHINA AND US

    Industrialization and pollution are unequally distributed, and people's level of exposure to pollution is different within countries.

    Most of the time, the marginalized communities are the ones who suffer the most from the pollution’s impact, and this situation is usually the result of industries and governments’ choices.

    In the US, this trend has led to a phenomenon known as environmental racism, that is referred to biased policies and practices which result in inequalities in the built environment whereby toxins and other hazardous waste and pollutants concentrate in low-income ethnic minority communities.

    One of the most famous case of environmental racism is Louisiana’s “cancer alley”, a stretch of the Mississippi river covered with chemical plants, plastic plants, fertilizer manufacturers, electric power plants, and oil refineries. The name 'cancer alley' was coined by activists in the 1980s to stress that the toxins that are being released by the plants have led to an extremely high rate of cancer among local people.

    The poorest communitiesare strongly and disproportionately affected by pollution, silently suffering this situation for many reasons. First of all, they are afraid of  losing their jobs in the local industries. Secondly, the social, cultural and political texture of communities affects their concrete capacity to complain, due to an insufficient access to the information needed to be aware of the pollution’s impact on health.

    To face this situation, citizens have increasingly played a central role in the scientific debates , calling for stringent actions to overcome the impact of pollution, pushing science to redefine its boundaries.

    A similar scenario is being recorded , where the socio-economic differences are significantly affected by the capacity to gather knowledge that could serve as evidence of pollution’s harm and to mobilize effectively.

    There have been greater protests of the middle class against pollution. Conversely, poor and rural areas suffer from pollution, without adequate tools to  gain attention.

    However, there are some exceptions. Data shows that last year there have been many reports about the so called “cancer villages”, areas characterized by a high cancer incidence, according to the publication of a document from the Ministry of Environmental Protection which highlights their existence. In this context, the citizens’ activism has played a key role, in order to stress the severity of pollution.

    Moreover, the increasing collaboration between rural and urban activists marks a positive turning point, and also a breakthrough for rural environmental justice. To explain this situation, we can refer to the case of just three villagers that have taken the lead in opposing the construction of a local incinerator, described officially as “far from residents”,  achieving to halt it. Much of their success is owed to their ability to team up with campaigners in Beijing.

    This situation is connected to another increasing trend: people with more financial sources is moving away from pollution, is buying bottled water and installing air purifiers. But this situation is not feasible for all Chinese areas, since most people living in rural zones cannot afford to do this.

    In this frame, it is urgent and fundamental to adopt stronger environmental protection policies in order to avoid the increase of inequalities in the distribution of pollution, addressing the harms caused by industrialization and urbanization, thus creating a cleaner environment.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday,10 April 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • URGENT AND STRONGER ACTIONS NEEDED FOR CHINESE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION, NGOs SAY

    According to the current environmental and climate frame, seven environmental NGOs have strongly stressed the importance for China to improve efforts in order to adapt to climate change. According to the latest alarming predictions on global warming impact from an international panel of scientists, the  NGOs have highlighted that it is fundamental to include stronger efforts in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, that is the country’s development project for 2016-2020.

    Moreover, these NGOs have called for a stringent climate change legislation. These proposals are supported by  the Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Change’s report that has outlined the extent of the damage expected from climate change, including extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.

    Additionally, China’s 12th Five-Year Plan will finish at the end of 2015. As such, next  year will represent a turning point in the drafting of the next program for China’s industrial, economic and social development.

    These NGOs, including international groups such as WWF and Greenpeace, have strongly complained about the current climate situation. The climate adaptation is still inadequate, unable to meet the targets to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions. Despite recent  low-carbon development programs and carbon markets, and heavy investment in energy saving and new industrial technology, the work on adaptation must be increased.

    Data are alarming. Since the 1990s, extreme weather has caused the death of an average of 2,000 people per year in China, with annual economic losses of 200 billion yuan.

    The climate change had an increasing impact on ecosystems, water resources, coastal economies and food security. In addition to this, China’s urbanization led to various urgent matters and challenges.

    According to the NGOs, China’s plan for adaptation and its fight to climate change is insufficient. The government has to tackle the impact of climate change with concrete measures, guidance on adoption of key technologies and efforts to link relevant government departments. The problems are increased by a public spending on adaptation that is lower than the mitigation investment. Thus, private companies and capital markets have little interest to invest in this sector due to the lack of short-term economic benefit.

    The NGOs have explained the importance of adaptation measures included in regional and industrial development plans. The strategy proposed by the NGOs includes plans to guarantee food supplies to poor rural areas where harvests are shrinking. Moreover, they also suggested a combined industrial and ecological planning for environmentally vulnerable areas, and adequate plans  to face the climate impact and possible disasters, improving risk management, and better disaster awareness and adaptation capabilities.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 9 April 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • UK FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO SWITCH TO RENEWABLE ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

    The UK government has announced its intention to offer payments of thousands of pounds to homeowners who choose to follow renewable energy alternatives, leaving the use of expensive, and dirty oil for heating.

    This proposal is included in the government's most extensive program  which has the goal to cut the carbon emissions from heat. It represents the first strategy in this field.

    The domestic renewable heat incentive’s program was meant to launch in 2012 but has been repeatedly delayed, until now. It offers financial incentives for low carbon heating technologies, including boilers that burn wood pellets.

    According to the Climate Minister, this innovative project shows the UK's commitment in the fight to climate change, at the forefront in the clean energy sector. In this way, people will have the benefit of warmer houses and cheaper fuel bills. Moreover, they will receive payment to install new technologies, reducing carbon emissions. This program is included in a long-term economic plan that will generate growth and support jobs, opening up a market for the supply chain, engineers and installers.

    The government will give incentives for various technologies such as biomass boilers, solar thermal systems providing hot water, ground source heat pumps which draw heat from warmth underground and air source heat pumps extracting heat from the air outside a home.

    The project has been strongly endorsed by the renewable energy industry and rural groups. The installation of low carbon heating technologies into energy efficient homes represents the best solution to achieve a cheap, affordable and clean energy, the Sustainable Energy Association says. Additionally, as the Country Land and Business Association has outlined, this plan will guarantee the possibility to reduce  the heating bills safeguarding the environmental safety at the same time.

    These incentives are different from the 2010 feed-in tariffs for solar panels,  paying just for heat generated for use at home.

    The main global purpose of the program is to create an adequate renewable heating system able to compete at the same level played by fossil fuel. The payment will be issued every seven years and will compensate the owners, including the costs of borrowing money to pay for the installation. In order to obtain the incentives, citizens will have to verify that the technologies used will be appropriate for their property: heat pumps work at much lower temperatures than a standard boiler,  so they are most suited to insulated buildings, ideally with under-floor heating. For instance, the biomass boilers are bigger than an oil boiler, requiring more space to store the fuel, which must be kept dry. Solar thermal panels are not useful with electric showers, since most of the generated hot water won't be used.

    In this frame, these financial incentives for homeowners off the gas grid will play a central role in order to switch to technologies such as biomass boilers.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 9 April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CHINESE COMMITMENT FOR WATER SECURITY

    In Beijing, the water costs are less than a 1/10 of water cost in many European cities such as Berlin or Copenhagen. Other big cities such as Sydney, Singapore, London and Paris have water tariffs between six and seven times higher than the Chinese capital.

    According to the World Bank’s report, China has to achieve water tariff adjustments that can better persuade all water consumers to conserve water and to use it more efficiently in industrial and agricultural production. The Chinese government has already outlined its commitment to reform water prices by the end of 2015, with the heaviest urban consumers expected to pay more.

    Water scarcity and water qualityare the main challenges that China has to face in order to reduce the negative impact on food safety and security, in the same strong way it addresses big issues as the alarming urbanization.

    Following this view, China’s water quality is the main priority of the government, that has imposed stringent controls on serious agricultural environmental pollution and over-extraction of groundwater. The majority of the China’s water resources are located in the south of the Yangtze River, leaving less than 20 per cent for the north, where much of China’s grain is grown.

    Data show that China has 20 per cent of the world’s population , but only 7 per cent of itsfreshwater. The water scarcity is the most urgent problem  for the sustainable urban development, the World Bank’s report highlights. The increased consumption by a growing population, the agricultural use and expanding water-intensive industries in the north and west of country are the principal causes of this situation. According to a research made in 2012, the Chinese coal industry and coal-fired power stations alone account for about 16 per cent of water use. In this frame, China’s total water demand in 2030 is forecasted to be 60 per cent higher than it was in 2005.

    The water scarcity is the focus of China’s water-related challenges, the World Bank’s report say. In this way it is critically important to achieve strategies for a better water usage, especially in the industry and in the agriculture’s field.

    The Chinese Vice-Minister for Water Resources has explained  that less than half of China’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs met the required water quality standard for their functional use as drinking, agricultural or industrial source.

    The World Bank’s urbanization report stresses the importance of strategies to face the environmental degradation and other strains of rapid urbanization, by a better allocation of the sources. Moreover, the report shows that water pollution, from sources such as domestic sewerage and livestock and poultry operations, is increasingly problematic.

    The government statistics say that about 57 per cent of groundwater in 198 cities in 2012 was bad or even extremely bad. In addition to this, the World Bank report says that making cities more efficiently dense could represent a useful strategy for China, safeguarding also the amount of available farmland, which sits at 135 million hectares of arable land, close to the Chinese government’s target of 120 million hectares considered to be the minimum to preserve food security.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday,8 April, 2014

    (Source: The Australian)

  • CHINA BETS ON RENEWABLE ENERGY

    In China, coal is generally considered  as an unavoidable and fundamental source for the energy’ sector. The best strategy that the country can hope to develop  by 2050 is a three-way mix of coal, oil and gas, and non-fossil sources, even the most optimistic statistics say.

    However, a new research from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Energy Transitions Research Institute (Entri) outlined that China could grow without coal. To reach this goal, the Chinese government should stop the construction of more coal-fired power plants from 2020 and remove coal from the energy mix by 2040. In this way the renewable energies will guarantee a safe, stable, economic and clean supply of power, while allowing the economic development and the increase of energy imports.

    This new study describes the various future scenarios. According to this, by the 2050 China would have achieved a low-energy industrial and service economy  with the service sector’s  share of the overall economy rising from 45% to 75%, thus evolving from an energy-intensive economy. According to the proposed strategy, China should adopt stronger efficiency measures in order to address important matters as residential air-conditioning, lighting and water-heating, as well as air-conditioning and lighting in the service sector. Thus, the industry and the electricity-generating sector would be able to use advanced energy-efficiency technology.

    Moreover, China would successfully meet its target of becoming a medium-developed nation, with a per-person GDP growing from US$25,000 to US$30,000 and per-head electricity consumption rising from 3,100 kWh a year today to about 9,000 kWh.

    This model, used to understand the best way to address this increasing demand with renewable technology, shows that solar power will quickly become cheaper, and the electricity generation costs will be significantly reduced in the coming two decades. According to this, the renewable electricity will decline dramatically until 2035, in order to reach a stability once it becomes cheaper than conventional sources. Following these results, renewable energy could represent the 80% of all China’s electricity supply by 2050, with a 90% increase in carbon emission reductions, and the lowest costs over a 40-year period. 

    Supporting these significant data, China is one of the major investors in renewable energy, and it has more renewable-generating capacity than any other country.

    In the current frame, China is getting good results trying to achieve its renewable electricity targets, proposing even stringent aim for the future.

    According to the current global trend towards a low-carbon economy, China should adopt the most useful strategies for an adequate renewable policy , adapting its industrial structures and policies, also in relation to  China’s own energy and environmental demands.

    It’s fundamental to achieve a different approach on the matter. For decades, coal has played a central role in China’s energy development. The evidences of the impact of this policy are now obvious, and the damages on the environment are incalculable.

    In this context, China has to move towards a stronger renewable policy, to preserve the energy security, avoiding social conflicts and new sources of instability. A coal-based energy structure has gravely damaged the environment, so it’s necessary to stop the degradation before it becomes irreversible.

    In addition to this, the high level of pollution affecting China, shows that the energy structure has not kept up with environmental requirement.  All of these result call for a real energy revolution, based on clean and renewable sources.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday,8 April, 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • HOW ABOUT COAL’S FUTURE ?

    The stringent targets of the climate policy will determine the shutdown of coal power plants

    In the current international frame, one of the central issue is the aim to limit the impact of climate change to 2°C. This purpose will mean the consequent downfall for the coal power plants.

    Coal power plants are considered the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions nowadays.

    However, long-term programs for new plants, built to run even for 30-50 years, are planned in many countries, especially India and China.

    The climate policy is constantly becoming  not only urgent but also very stringent: the stronger targets imposed would highly increase the costs of the emissions with a consequent lack of competitiveness for coal power generation. In this way, plants will be left idle, with huge losses  for owners and investors. This problem is also known as stranded capacity.

    To achieve the objectives planned by the climate policies, it will be necessary to shut down coal-fired power plants, without delaying such a fundamental climate action.  A possible delay to reach concrete climate goals will encourage the building of  more coal-fired power plants in the near-term, with negative effects:  when the policies are finally introduced, it will be necessary quickly to phase out coal  and more investments will be wasted, researchers say.

    Additionally, a new study published in the Journal of Technological Forecasting and Social Change highlights that 37% of global investments in coal power plants would be lost due to the delay to meet concrete goals over the next 40 years, with negative effects especially for India and China's economies.

    In this context, the strategies to reduce stranded capacity in coal power plants and the measures to limit the future climate change to 2°C target agreed by the international community are playing a central role.

    According to this, avoiding the construction of new coal power plants represents a central matter.

    The plans of action to reach these objectives include the use of other kind of power plants, thus enhancing the energy efficiency.

    Following this view, the researches explain that the decrease of the quantity of energy used will create benefits, reducing  the amount of energy required and so the consequent need for new power plants.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday,7 April, 2014

    (Source: Sciencedaily)

  • A NEW STUDY: USING MORE WOOD IN BUILDINGS REDUCES THE RELIANCE ON FOSSIL FUEL AND PRESERVE THE BIODIVERSITY

    Researchers from the Yale University explain benefits of the use of wood instead of steel and concrete, in order to cut carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption, also safeguarding the biodiversity and the environment.

    Using more woodand less concrete and steel in building constructions would significantly cut global carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption, a recent Yale University’ study says.

    It is generally considered that tree harvesting should be reduced  as less as possible to preserve the biodiversity and to safeguard the carbon storage capacity. However, a sustainable wood management could reach the goal of reducing the fossil fuel burning, the university’s research has shown.

    To achieve these results, the researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the University of Washington's College have outlined various proposals such as leaving forests untouched, burning wood for energy, and using solid wood products for construction.

    The study shows that the quantity of wood globally gathered each year is 3.4 billion cubic meters: this represents only 20 percent of annual wood growth, that amounts to  17 billion cubic meters. Moreover, the majority of the harvests are wasted due to its use for cooking.

    The scientists explain that the increase of the wood harvest to the equivalent of at least 34% of the annual wood growth would create significant consequences. Firstly, one of the main result would be that the global CO2 emissions could be reduced by avoiding emissions related to steel and concrete and  by storing CO2 in the cellulose and lignin of wood products. Secondly, the global fossil fuel consumption would be reduced between 12 and 19 percent; in this way the scrap wood and the waste materials could be burned to make energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption at the same time.

    The constructions made of wood consume less energy than steel and concrete buildings. Following this, the study explains that an efficient harvest and product use would avoid more CO2 emissions, saving also materials and wood energy.

    The research stresses also the importance of the forests that should not be unduly sacrificed for the benefit of the agriculture. Researchers of the Forestry and Environmental Studies describe forest harvest as a temporary opening needed by forest species such as butterflies and deers. The complete conversion to agriculture would represent a permanent loss of all peculiar forest biodiversity.

    The production of steel, concrete, and brick represents 6% of global fossil fuel consumption. In addition to this, if we consider the transport and the assembly of steel, concrete, and brick products its share of fossil fuel burning reach levels of 20% and even 30%.

    The aim to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions from construction will be constantly more difficult to achieve due to the demand for new buildings, bridges and infrastructures forecast in the coming decades related to the economic development in Asia, Africa, and South America. According to this, it is necessary to evaluate programs for innovative construction techniques, making wood more effective and useful.

    The study also highlights that a carefully managed harvesting will have other positive benefits such as the reduction of the risks of catastrophic wildfires and the maintaining of the forest habitats and densities in non-reserved forests.

     In this way, the biodiversity will be safeguarded in ecosystems all over the world. According to this view, it’s fundamental for the environment’s safety to maintain the diversity of habitats, needed by the different species, by harvesting just a part of the forest growth in order to save fossil fuel and CO2 emissions, providing also more jobs for local people.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 7 April, 2014

    (Source: Sciencedaily)

  • UN WARNS MILLIONS FACE POTENTIAL FAMINE IN SOUTH SUDAN

    The United Nations official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan reported on Thursday that South Sudan needs $230 million in international aidin the next 60 days in order  to evade a severe famine.

    The UN coordinator, Toby Lanzer, addressed all the world leaders by warning them: “Invest now or pay later.” Mr. Lanzer said that one-third of the total population of South Sudan is already at serious risk of starvation. He appealed for the most essential needs, food, water, seeds and farming tools, to allow the South Sudanese to plant crops before the end of May. “If we miss the planting season, there will be a catastrophic decline in food security”. Mr. Lanzer said. He then alerted: “What will strike that country, and it will hit about seven million people, will be more grave than anything that continent has seen since the mid-1980s.”

    South Sudan gained independence from Sudan less than three years ago, but the conflict has inflicted heavy damage on its already fragile, agriculture-based economy, destroying towns, disrupting trade and halving production of oil. United Nations humanitarian agencies estimate that 255,000 South Sudanese have already fled to neighbouring countries. According to Ertharin Cousin, head of the World Food Program, “this is a political crisis that is now evolving into a humanitarian catastrophe.”

    The United Nations is seeking $1.27 billion for South Sudan for 2014, but received only $385 million in the first quarter of 2014. Mr. Lanzer acknowledged that there has been tremendous pressure on donor capitals because of the other emergenciesin Syria and Ukraine but he argued that “perhaps we’re at a time where we really need to rethink the way in which donations are provided for emergency relief. We need to rethink the amounts of money that can be made available for the most acute situations.”

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    (Source: The New York Times)

  • FAO: A FOCUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE, FAMILY FARMING AND AGRI-FOOD TRADE

    FAO chief highlights climate impact on food production and advises national governments on policies and strategies in favour of family farming and small-scale production.

    Addressing the 29th FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Bucharest, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silvareferred to a recent report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, which forecasts serious disruptions to agriculture due to shifting weather patterns. Climate change will hit poor farmers harder because the impact on marginal agricultural areas where they live and farm will be worse, the director said. “We need to step up our efforts to mitigate, to adapt and, most importantly, to shift to more sustainable food systems. This is one of our core responsibilities,” he added.

    According to FAO Director, another key issue is the necessity to promotesustainable family farming. He referred particularly to FAO’s new regional initiative that aims to reduce rural poverty by supporting family farmers and smallholders, by focusing on sustainable production technologies, land tenure issues, access to markets, and income diversification for people in rural areas.

    A second new regional initiative of FAO for 2014-15 would deal with agri-food trade, improving countries’ capacity to engage more effectively in regional and international agricultural trade and comply with international norms for food trade.

    Graziano da Silva also said that the world economic crisis could be transformed into an opportunity to fight food waste. If food losses and waste could be halved, then the required increase of available food to feed the ever growing population by 2050 would only need to be 25% -  and not 60% as is currently projected.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 2 April 2014

    (Source: FAO News)

  • A NEW GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT PARADIGM FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) announced food security and nutrition targets for the post-2015 development agenda.

    Representatives from the three agencies stressed the need to finish the job of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire in 2015, but also to broaden their scope to address deeper issues of universal relevance like malnutrition, sustainable and inclusive food systems, and their inter-linkages. The three agencies identified a list of targets which include: - access to adequate food for all people; - end malnutritionin all its forms with special attention to stunting; - make allfood production systems more productive, sustainable, resilient and efficient; - secure access for all small food producers, especially women, to adequate inputs, knowledge, productive resources and services.

    Improvement in these areas would have to come through innovative partnerships - among governments, with the private sector, with development institutions, and with all members of society, from producers to consumers. It seems necessary to develop new governance mechanisms in order to monitor impact, ensure accountability, and give different stakeholders a voice in decision-making.

    The UN Rome-based agencies emphasized the important role in global food security of small-scale food producers who need to be at the centre of new investments and new partnerships for a hunger-free world. The overarching priority of the post-2015 development agenda is indeed the realisation of a world where, within our lifetime, no-one experiences chronic hunger and malnutrition.

    Even if the three UN agencies acknowledged that successes associated with the MDGs have been substantial in some areas, still around 840 million people remain chronically hungry and poverty continues to be pervasive in rural areas around the world.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 4 April 2014

    (Source: FAO News)

  • UK EXPERTS CALL FOR NEW GM CROPS TRIALS

    A report on genetically modified (GM) crops, commissioned by the prime minister, advocates for more UK field trials and fewer EU restrictions.

    The Council for Science and Technology (CST) has been asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to report on the risks and benefits of GM technologies in agriculture, and to give scientific advice on UK and EU regulation.

    The scientists say that the benefits of GM crops should be analysed better and more GM varieties have to be grown and tested in the UK. They also argue against strict EU regulations which are based on the principle that GM crops are inherently more dangerous than conventionally-bred varieties.

    According to Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, we should look at GM as one of the "most wonderful opportunities to improve human health”. However, only two GM varieties have been licensed for commercial harvest in Europe and in the UK GM field trial applications have fallen from 37 in 1995 to just one in 2012.

    It is the CTS’s opinion that the EUs blanket approach is totally misleadingand that the UK should regulate commercial GM varieties analysing their individual benefits and risks. It also recommends a new programme of publicly-funded field trials to test "public good" GM crop varieties, which it calls PubGM.

    The report was welcomed by Dr Julian Little, chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), who stated: "It therefore remains essential that action is taken to address the dysfunctional EU approvals process so that UK farmers may, in the future, be able to realise the potential of great British biotechnology research right here in the UK.”

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 14 March 2014

    (Source: BBC News)

  • FOOD LABELLING AND GMOS

    First Lady Michelle Obama and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released a proposal for a major review of food labelling in 20 years.

    Michelle Obama explains that the need to update nutrition labels on food packaging is based on the basic principle “that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether it's good for your family”. The overhaul of nutrition labels will provide more accurate serving size suggestions, calorie counts in a larger font, listing vitamin D and potassium instead of vitamins A and C and including added sugars.

    However, both Obama and the FDA did not mentioned about the fact that food companies should tell to consumers if their products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

    Foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been attracting controversy, both in the U.S. and internationally since they were introduced in 1996. Although reliable scientific studies have verified the safety of genetically-engineered foods (GE foods), it should be noticed that these studies are based on short-term findings. The lack of longer-termed studies on GMO safety has caused a heated debate about whether GE foods can really be considered not dangerous at all.

    According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, since 70 percent of food products in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients. It is therefore particularly worrying that the U.S. government has not yet required GMO products to be labeled and that the FDA does not even distinguish between GMO foods and non-GMO foods.

    Maine and Connecticut have recently legislated to label GMO food. Yet, according to the Washington Post, this will not be sufficient if a combination of Northeastern states will not pass similar labelling laws.

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 27 March 2014

    (Source: Lake County Record- Bee)

  • WORLD BANK'S NEW AGRICULTURE PROJECT ENDANGERS FOOD SECURITY

    Think-tanks and NGOs warn that the World Bank's agriculture-focused ranking system favours foreign investors, thus placing small farmers at a disadvantage

    The international campaign ‘Our Land; Our Business’ - whose signatories include the US-based Oakland Institute think-tank and the Pan-African Institute for Consumer Citizenship and Development - calls for the  relinquishment of the Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture (BBA) programme by the World Bank.

    In fact, according to the coalition of thinktanks and NGOs, the BBA project aims at creating a "one-size-fits-all model of development” which prioritise corporate land grabs and interests of foreign investors, thus squeezing out small farmers. Since smallholder farmers produce 80% of the food consumed in the developing world, this can be regarded as a serious threat to food security.

    The BBA programme was conceived two years ago, when the G8 asked the Bank to explore a doing business in agriculture index. Its goal is to measure and improve agricultural productivity and its pilot schemesare being carried out in 10 countries: Ethiopia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Rwanda, Morocco, Spain, Mozambique, Uganda, Nepal and Ukraine.

    The campaign states that “despite a language that claims concerns for small farmers, the goal of this new agriculture-focused ranking system is [to] further open up countries’ agriculture sectors to foreign corporations” and this “consists of smoothing the way for corporations' activity in the country by, for instance, cutting administrative procedures, lowering corporate taxes, removing environmental and social regulations or suppressing trade barriers.”

    Marginalising small farmers, who often lack tenure security and government help yet still produce the overwhelming majority of food in developing nations, seems not only unjust but also dangerous. According to the experts, indeed, “it is time that the World Bank ceases to ignore that smallholders are the only future of an agriculture that can guarantee food security, ensure a sustainable use of natural resources and bring human development.”

     

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 31 March 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • MONITORING FOOD PRICE VOLATILITY

    How can we respond to the challenge of keeping staple foods prices under control?

    In 2008, record food prices pushed an estimated 105 million people into poverty. Subsequent rises in 2011 led to 48 million more people falling below the poverty line and put the lives of 400,000 children at risk. Almost all low-income countries showed highly vulnerability to price rises and the prevalence of malnutrition more than doubled, affecting the poorest disproportionately.

    The constantly increasing world population and the extremely precarious agricultural production have led some NGOs to argue for re-thinking the agri-food system on a global scale.

    In a context where environmental and economic shocks are likely to increase and the food system is becoming less and less stable, the main question is how governments should address the issue of food price volatility.

    The solution of food stocks has not always been successful because of high maintenance costs. Yet, strategic food reserves, if managed correctly, can mitigate the devastating effects of droughts and avoid panic in the market.

    Social protection in the form of cash transfers can also support the poorest during price spikes. Since food price spikes tend to follow oil prices, a tax on oil producing countries could be an effective way to cover these costs during times of crisis in some low-income countries.

    If oil producing countries would agree to divert revenues to a global fund - keeping in mind also the close connection between food price spikes and political instability - then crises for millions could be averted.

    The International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014could be a decisivemoment in order to change the nature of the conversation on our food system, the roles and responsibilities of the UN, governments, and businesses.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 17 March 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CLIMATE CHANGE SHOULD BE FRAMED AS A FOOD ISSUE

    The report from the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) supports the conviction that talking about climate change through the prism of food could break US political deadlockon global warming.

    According to Rachel Kyte, the World Bank vice-president for climate change, food is a universal concern and it offers an immediateopportunity for connecting the public to the issue of global warming.

    The warning signs about climate changehave already risen concerns among farmers and food producers. A long-running poll of farmersin the Iowa corn belt last year has indeed shows profound disquiet with regard to drought, flooding and other weather eventsthat hurt yields.

    The report from the IPCC said food production on land and on sea had already been hit bythese changing rainfall patterns and would be further threatened as the world continues to warm."Climate change has negatively affected wheat and maize yields for many regions and in the global aggregate," the report said,and by 2030, those crops could see yields decline by 2% a decade – at a time when demand from growing population is projected to grow by 2% every year. Global warming would also have a bad impact on fisheries and many species of fish could become extinct.

    Tim Gore, head of policy for food and climate change at Oxfam, warns that “this is no longer a picture about poor farmers in some regions being hit by climate change. This is a picture about global agriculture being hit – US, Russia, and Australia – with global implications for food prices”. For this reason it seems to be the time for overcoming the political impasse and bringing the issue into the public arena.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 1 April2014

    (Source: the Guardian)

  • BEIJING’S STRONGER SANCTIONS AGAINST POLLUTING ENTERPRISES

    The Chinese government is imposing stronger sanctions against polluting industries in order to reduce the high levels of smog, that represent the main problem for China’s health security. Beijing has already imposed heavy sanctions of 7.09 million yuan to owners of  coal-fired boilers from November to March, the environmental agency reports. This data has even doubled from the previous season.

    The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau has explained that the majority of the sanctioned enterprises were fined for the excessive levels of  smoke exhaust, for the inadequate emission-monitoring facilities  and for totally uncovered coal dumps.

    Moreover, the Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement has establishedpenalties for construction sites due to their excessive levels of emissions caused by illegal outdoor barbecues, household waste and outdoors straw burning on the suburb of the city, without controls. The construction sites and the vehicles transporting building waste were sanctioned with  1.1 million yuan over the past three months, official data say.

    To follow the urgent aim of reducing the alarming increase of pollution, Beijing has planned programs for stricter fines: this policy includes sanctions on construction sites, coal-fired boilers, chemical companies and vehicle owners.

    This strategy , started in March, gives more space to the activities of the environmental departments. This is the first time that Beijing has enacted a concrete law to reduce the air pollution. According to the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs,this strategy of strengthening the punishments against polluting companies and the suspension of enterprises during polluting weather had played a central role in the enhancement of the air’s quality.

    This challenging program has already provided some positive consequences. The cloudlike of smog that surrounds the Capital has been reduced and the small particulates which very dangerous for human health were dropped to 53 micrograms per cubic meter in downtown Beijing, as the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center has shown.

    In this frame of war on pollution, the authorities forecast a significant decrease of the number of cement and mining plants, outdoor barbecues, construction sites and vehicles, with a future positive result on environment and on human health.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, 4 April, 2014

    (Source: ChinaDaily)

  • THE WORLD BANK IS CALLING FOR STRONGER STRATEGIES TO FIGHT THE CLIMATE CHANGE’S IMPACT

    The president of the World Bank has recently stressed the urgency to adequately fight   the impact of climate change. Conflicts due to scarcity of water and lack of food supplies will explode within the next five to ten years  as a consequence of climate change. In this way, the campaigning against the effects of the global warming is one of the main issue, the president Iim Yong Kim say. Moreover, he has suggested to replicate the successful coalition of scientists and groups of activists that has joined their forces in the battle against HIV across 15 years. Following this way, it is necessary for the climate change community to achieve good plans as the ones for the treatment of HIV.

    The World Bank’s president has also complained about the lack of appropriate researchers in the field of renewable energy and the insufficient discoveries made by universities, that are too slow to concretely reach the industry. The community has to achieve a serious program to cap the rise in global temperatures at 2C.

    In addition to this, the president has announced the commitment and the involvement of the Bank in such a fundamental and global matter. There are in particular four sectors in which the Bank could be a significant support in the fight of climate change, that are finding a stable price for carbon, cutting fuel subsidies, investing in clean energy and developing plans for a smart-climate agriculture. Thus, it is necessary to improve the access to clean water and to sanitation:  inaction about climate change’s impact will rise battles over resources. Carbon is not the only important issue related to climate change. The impact of global warming will be increasingly stronger over food and water in the next years, without a doubt. Supporting access to water and sanitation is a central issue , in the same strong way as global health and education.

    The Bank also highlights its responsibility to tackle the problem especially in poorer countries, to avoid inequalities  and social unrest.

    Following the objective to reduce the poverty by 2030 and to extend the results of prosperity, the Bank has doubled its credits to  $28 billion a year. The eruption of social movements in poor countries is also an alarming issue due to the inequalities within the so called developed states. To reach adequate growth strategies, the Bank has extended its tasks across many different areas such as health, education and transport, to share the benefits of this policy across national borders. Moreover, this plan includes the cooperation between  the bank's private-sector branch and the public one, encouraging also the partnership with regional banks, all related to innovation as the main way to  follow.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday,4 April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • GREENPEACE’S REPORT ON SOCIAL MEDIA POWERED BY DIRTY ENERGY

    Greenpeace’s reportreveals that the development of many social media is powered by dirty energy, as coal.

    The report shows the praiseworthy situation of these six companies: Apple, Box, Facebook, Google, Rackspace and Salesforce for committing to power their data centres using 100 percent renewable energy , cleaning up their energy profiles.

    On the other hand, the study criticizes media as Amazon Web Services, which provides a cloud platform for Netflix, Tumblr and Pinterest due to its centres located in areas with an intense use of coal. In this way this society lags far behind its major competitors, with a significant environmental footprint.

    The report has analyzed the energy behavior of 300 tech companies. The best results are been recorded by Oracle and and Twitter. Other companies, like Microsoft and Yahoo, have received just a mediocre mark. The electricity use by data centres is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  According to the increasing number of users online, it represents also the fastest-growing source of emissions globally.

    Greenpeace’s study highlights that the use of internet and the consequent data traffic is forecast to triple between 2012 and 2017. Media companies like Google and Apple have achieved clean data centres using renewable energy and planning programs to create electricity from wind and solar power.

    Unfortunately, a different situation is registered for the giant Amazon that is related to some famous online brands such as Netflix, Pinterest, Spotify, Tumblr and Vine. The report denounces that  Amazon has set up the majority of its infrastructures in areas with heavy concentration of dirty energy, as Virginia, and complains the lack of any programs to reach sources of clean energy, despite its great buying power .

    To describe the importance of this situation, we can consider that the streaming of Netflix and YouTube represents the 50 percent of US internet traffic at the rush hour. In addition to this, the internet traffic mostly passes through  electricity coming from coal. Amazon has ten data centres in Virginia but just  two percent of the related electricity is produced by renewable sources, and 40 percent comes from coal, Greenpeace says.

    These outcomes are estimates : many companies as Amazon and Twitter did not provide their data about the electricity use.

    Twitterrents spaces in other data centres: on one side, it tries to follow a clean energy policy, but on the other side it uses centres in areas as Georgia with a great dependence on coal and nuclear power.

    Greenpeace is encouragingthese companies to follow the positive examples of Apple, Google and Facebook, stressing the importance for electricity industries to invest in solar and wind.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 3 April, 2014

    (source: The Guardian)

  • UK: DIESEL CAR EMISSIONS AS THE MAIN CAUSE OF THE ALARMING LEVELS OF POLLUTION

    According to the current environmental situation characterized by high levels of pollution, diesel engine emissions represent the most dangerous element for people’s health , experts say.

    This week’s alarming pollution is caused by dust from the Sahara desert combined with strong winds, without a doubt. However, experts show that the main threat is represented by the increasingly noxious pollution emitted by vehicles and industrial plants . Moreover, researchers has warned that the smog-like conditions will constantly increase with an expanding use of diesel cars. According to this, diesel engine emissions are considered  the greatest public health challenge for UK cities.

    Air pollution determined by vehicles, factories and homes has already reached high levels: this situation is also exacerbated by storms that had hauled sand from Sahara and by strong pressure over northern Europe,  that is a perfect condition for air pollution. In this way, studies reveal that the pollution is a mix of traffic and power station emissions and dust from the desert. Thus, this situation is characterized by emissions from traffic and industry built up in the air and winds that had carried away more pollution from the industrial centres of continental Europe.

    The pollution in the air is composed by tiny particulates, such as nitrates and sulphates, mixed with fine desert dust. The problematic situation is worsened by thin particulates coming from  incomplete combustion processes, diesel engines, wear and tear from brake pads and tyres and construction sites. Dust from Sahara is blown in all directions. This represents a huge risk, due to the size of the particulates that directly influences their potential negative effects on human health. The most dangerous particulates are the smallest ones because they can easily deeply penetrate into lungs. Moreover, long-term exposure to these particles is linked to higher levels of heart and lung disease, including lung cancer, experts say.

    Researchers of the Centre for Environment and Health had warned that the growing popularity of diesel cars will push air pollution levels even higher.

    In this way the pollution levels are likely to rise in the coming months and years. Traffic emissions are a big and growing problem due to the alarming increase in diesel cars . The number of diesel cars have increased in Europe by 35% since 1990. Also, more than 50% of all cars in Britain are diesel ones, a huge increase from 23% in 2002. One reason for this is that cities and governments give incentives for diesels.

    Following this, medical researches have highlighted the lcritica air condition: the air is now full of nano-sized pollution particles that interact with gaseous co-pollutants and penetrate the body.

    This issue is one of the big challenges for public health  within the urban environment .

    Today there is a new kind of pollution, very different from the one of  70 years ago: now it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, and it can pass even through face masks. In relation to this, traffic is the main pollution source in cities, especially diesel engines.

    Moreover , studies stress how the more air pollution from traffic is researched, the more dangerous it appears to be for human health. 

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday 3 April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CANADA: IMPROVING PUBLIC HEALTH THROUGH OHS

    The Ontario Health Study is an ongoing research study, which investigates risk factors that cause diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s. People who live in Ontario and are 18 or older can take part in the OHS by filling out a health-related questionnaires online. They just need to go to www.ontariohealthstudy.ca, register and then take the survey, which takes about 45 minutes. Researchers will use this health information to study how our lifestyle, environment and family history affect our health over time and to develop strategies for the prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases.

    The OHS recently celebrated its third anniversary and is already one of the largest long-term health studies in Canada. About 225,000 Ontarians have helped the improvement of public health from their computers by taking the Ontario Health Study’s (OHS) online questionnaire.

    Dr. Heather Bryant (Vice President, Cancer Control, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer) said that Canadians have contributed to the creation of a rich national bank of health information that will help researchers answer fundamental questions about the causes of cancer and chronic disease for future generations.  This information will be available for researchers at the beginning of 2015 and will be an essential resource for the future.

    According to Dr. Karen Menard (Chief Planning and Administrative Officer of the OHS) the information provided in the online questionnaire give an idea of the health of Ontarians. By providing a blood sample or visiting the Toronto Assessment Centre, participants allow OHS to get a more detailed look at their health.

    In only three years OHS has had more than 200,000 people complete the questionnaire and the study has gained the endorsement of Ontario’s universities, research teaching hospitals and other relevant organizations.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    (Source: Hospitalnews.com)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • UK: NEW GUIDANCE TO END ABUSES ON PATIENTS

    The Government is moving to put a stop to the abuses on patients in hospitals and care homes practiced by care workers. The new guidelines will apply to services for people with mental health and autistic spectrum conditions, learning disabilities, dementia and personality disorder.

    Thanks to the investigation led by the BBC's Panorama in 2011, which exposed the physical and psychological abuses suffered by people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour at the Winterbourne View, the  public funded hospital was shut down. 11 members of the staff were convicted of almost 40 charges of neglect and ill treatment of those in their care.

    Two care workers at a £3,000-a-week private hospital (the Priory Highbank Centre in Bury) were caught on film slapping,  jabbing and humiliating a brain-damaged patient as he lay groaning in bed. The footage was filmed between August and September 2012 by the patient's family, who were worried about his treatment at the privately run hospital. Both were bailed pending a sentencing hearing next May.

    Restraint can cause physical and psychological harm to patients and staff. A government review registered there had been over 500 cases of restraint in a 15-month period. A study by the charity Mind  also found that restraint was being used too often, for too long, often not as a last resort and even to inflict pain, humiliate or punish.

    Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, underlined that physical restraint can be humiliating, dangerous and even life-threatening for people in a mental crisis. Researches indicate that some trusts are currently using it too soon.

    Care services and staff, commissioners, local authorities and regulators must work together to prevent abuse from happening.
    Good care starts with providers and their staff, it relies on effective commissioning and safeguarding procedures, and is informed by the views of people who use services and their families. Everybody has to work better to ensure people are protected from abuse.

    The new guidance recognizes there might be rare occasions when staff can restrain people, such as stopping someone from harming themselves, but it must be used only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible. It must not involve restraint that in any way blocks people's airways, breathing or circulation, thus face-down restraint on any surface, not just the floor, must not be used.

    The safety of patients must always come first, as Norman Lamb (the care and support minister) said.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WILL PUBLISH DATA RELATED TO HEALTHCARE SERVICES PROVIDED BY MEDICARE

    The Obama administrationsaid that – for the first time- next week it would publish data on how much Medicare paid individual doctors in 2012, in order to make the health care system more transparent and responsible.

    Federal officials said they have planned to release information that would showbilling data from 880,000 health-care providers which treated patients under the Medicare insurance program for elderly and disabled people, on April 9 or soon after . It will include how many times the providers carried out a particular service or procedure, whether they carried it out in a medical facility or an office setting, the average amount they charged Medicare for it, the average amount they were paid for it, and the total number of people they treated.

    Physicians' organizations wanted to prevent the release of the data, citing concerns about physician privacy. A Florida court ruled in 1979 that the information could not be disclosed publicly, but a federal judge vacated the injunction last year.

    Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post that it’s important to make new information available so that consumers, Medicare and other payers can realize how big the health-cost is.

    Officials will allow analysts to compare 6,000 types of services and procedures, in order to help consumers  better understand the health system through the lens of Medicare.
    In fact, the release of data will assist the public's understanding of Medicare fraud, waste, and abuse, as well as shedding a light on payments to physicians for services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • UK: TOWARDS STANDARDIZED PACKAGING FOR CIGARETTES

    Since tobacco advertising became illegal in the UK in 2002, tobacco companies have invested a fortune in branded packaging to attract new smokers. Most of these new smokers are children and youngsters.

     The English government is moving forward with plans to ban branding on cigarette packs, because evidence shows that removing all branding and design from the packs makes cigarettes less attractive for both adults and children.

    Each day in the UK about 600 children start smoking, and many of those are likely to grow up with a nicotine addiction they will find hard to break.
    If standardized packaging were introduced it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health and these health benefits would include health benefits for children, as Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said.

    Plain standardized packaging means that all cigarette packs will look the same. They will be packaged in a standard shape without branding, design or a logo. Health warnings will remain; brand names will be in standard type face, colour and size; the shape, colour and method of opening the packet will be standardized; the duty paid stamp will remain with covert markings that show the pack is not counterfeit and cigarette packs will also be standardized in size and colour.

    In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to introduce standard packs for cigarettes. Wales and Northern Ireland have indicated they will follow suit and Scotland has already plans to introduce plain packaging. This means the UK could become the first country in Europe to make this step.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    The Guardian

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

  • DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN IN POLITICS IS REMARKABLE

    BUT SMASHING THROUGH GLASS CEILINGS REQUIRES MORE EFFORT

    According to the Women in Politics Map 2014 launched by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and United Nations Women remarkable progress can be detected in women's political participation in the world, however, glass ceilings have remained in place at the highest levels.

    Convergencecan be explored  regarding regional trends in women's representation in executive governments and in parliaments. Nonetheless, Americas, Europe and Africa overtake the Arab, Asia and Pacific regions. UN Women Deputy Executive Director John Hendra has argued that every election is an excellent chance to reach progress towards the increased participation of women as voters and as candidates. The deployed map works as a useful tool to reveal progress and ensuring accountability.

    Political commitment and policiesare crucial and pre-requisites for women's progress in political representation. Increased participation is facilitated by good governance. For instance, Albania ranked 84th in the world for women ministers, and now it has reached the rate of 30 per cent of women ministers stepping up to 27th rank due to the decision made by new Prime Minister Edi Rama to strengthen the role of women and youth.

    By 1 January 2014, in executive government, the percentage of women in ministerial posts has attained 17.2 per cent, up from 16.1 per cent in 2008. Similar results could be revealed regarding representation of women in parliaments. IPU data shows that the percentage of Women MPs has achieved record high at 21.8 per cent across the world, and the trend  continues every year.

    Regarding regional differences,the Americas is the forerunner with the highest percentage of women ministers at 22.9 per cent, followed by Africa (20.4 per cent), Europe (18.2 per cent, though the Nordic countries have 48.9 per cent), Pacific (12.4 per cent), Asia (8.7 per cent) and Arabic region (8.3 per cent).

    The Americas maintains its leading position regarding the  highest average of women MPS 25.2 per cent, while the Arab world has achieved the biggest regional increase from 13.2 per cent to 16 per cent. Steady progress continues in Africa and Europe (up 2.1 and 1.4 percentage points, respectively to 22.5 per cent and 24.6 per cent) but outperforms Asia and the Pacific (now 18.4 per cent and 16.2 per cent).

    In spite of the considerable achievements, further steps should be taken in order to break the glass ceilings for women. According to Anders B. Johnsson, IPU secretary General, political leadership is essential to facilitate  changes.

     

    gLAWcal team

    (Source: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • KEY FACTORS OF SUCCESSFUL BRAZILIAN AIDS/HIV POLICY

    Compared to other developing countries, Brazil had an early response to the challenge of escalating of this epidemic and has continued to tackle AIDS effectively. The most important elements of the successful policy are the political commitment to eradicating AIDS and the enhancement of technical capacity.

    One of the initial steps taken by the Brazilian government was to launch an aggressive national prevention campaign for high-risk groups. Brazil has experienced a sharp decline in the number of HIV/AIDS cases. The campaign was launched in 2002 targeting gay men and women and the aftermaths did not leg behind the expectations. The number of recorded cases fell from 3376 in 1996 to 647 in 2009 among gay men, and from  7419 in 1996 to 2034 in 2009 among women. It is an outstanding result in an international context.

    The achievements are even more prominent if we consider that an arduous 20 years has passed from the transition from a military dictatorship with high unequal distribution of health care coverage to a system where the government is committed to enhance the health care budget and makes efforts to provide AIDS medication. The Brazilian Congress nearly doubled the budget  in 2007 allocated to combating AIDS. Furthermore, The Congress passed a federal law mandating the universal provision of antiretroviral medication.

    The Brazilian government has neglected the top-down approach and makes arrangements and builds partnerships with cities and non-governmental organizations. Within the confines of these partnerships, several incentives and programs were launched backed up by strong financial resources. Pairing  up with nongovernmental organizations facilitated better understanding of the surrounding problems and helped to devise policies.

    The underlying logic behind this process is the engagement of access to health care as a human right. As a consequence, governments have forced to guarantee access to medicine and health care and undertake bargaining negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices.

    Brazil could become exemplary as how can a developing country protect its citizens, advance their health conditions and well-being throughout good governance practices.

     

    gLAWcal team

    (Source: CNN International Edition)

    This news has been realized by gLAWcal—Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development in collaboration with the University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy and the University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy which are both beneficiaries of the European Union Research Executive Agency IRSES Project “Liberalism in Between Europe And China” (LIBEAC) coordinated by Aix-Marseille University (CEPERC). This work has been realized in the framework of Workpackages 4, coordinated by University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) in Turin, Italy.

     

  • UK: SAND AND DUST FROM THE SAHARA DESERT ARE INCREASING THE LEVELS OF AIR POLLUTION

    One of the years’ worst smog  was registered this week in London.  The alarming record was announced by the Met Office. The high levels of pollution forecasted are determined by a combination of strong winds and dust storms from the Sahara desert that have deposited fine red dust in southern England. Streets and cars in London were covered with thin dust.

    This event is expected to increase the bad quality of air. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has a 10-point scale for measuring air quality, with one meaning  that there is a low level of pollution and ten warning of very high risks . The levels  of air pollution hit the peak of ten in north-west Norfolk on Tuesday and are expected to reach  8 or 9 points in other parts of England during the week. According to DEFRA’s research, very high levels of pollution are expected in East Anglia, in south-east England and around the Humber.Moderate to high air pollution levels are also forecast for large parts of southern and central England. Large parts of Wales, areas around Wirral and Merseyside, as well as Devon will be affected by moderate pollution levels.

    Studies show how these high levels of polluted air are caused by light winds and dust from Sahara, allowing the heap of pollution. Moreover, the Met Office’s analysis reports that these kind of event happens when strong storms from Sahara coincide with intense winds that brings dust away. In this way dust and sand particles from the desert could easily swept away and hauled thousands of miles across the globe.

    In this manner, the dust gets captured in rain drops in clouds, and falls to the ground with rain. After the water evaporates, a fine layer of dust remains, and  it can also create lively sunsets.

    The situation is particularly exacerbated by the peculiar characteristics of the Sahara desert: it is the world's greatest expanse of sand and it can experience winds so strong that they are able to carry the dust even 5.000 miles away.

    According to these data, the Met Office advises that adults and children with lungs problems and people with heart disease should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors. In this frame, air pollution is considered a clear and serious issue. The government has the important duty to inform people about the high risks of pollution, Clean air campaigners say. The environmental groups complain that the authorities are not doing enough, suggesting to follow the French example to offer free transport in order to reduce the pollution’s impact on health.

    The World Health Organization has recently indicated air pollution as the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, causing around seven million death a year.

    To address this alarming and increasing problem, the European Commission  has launched legal proceeding against the UK for its failure to cut excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution, mostly from traffic, despite fifteen years of EU warnings, extensions and postponements.

    In this context , the increasing levels of air pollution due to several factors have become a central issue, so it is necessary to  adequately inform people about health risks, in a similar way to the serious warnings for floods and heat waves.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 2  April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • CHINA: ADAPTATION AS THE MAIN CHALLENGE TO FACE CLIMATE CHANGE’S IMPACT

    Since the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, the focus has always been mostly targeting on mitigation, that is reducing climate change impacts by cutting  greenhouse gas emissions, and less on adaptation that means taking action to reduce the harm climate change will not make full use of the benefits it might bring.

    Later on, during the climate conference in Copenhagen, the focus shifted to adaptation. However, in nowadays China, there is not a clear understanding of what adaptation is. Take agriculture for instance: Disaster resilience, breeding programs or using different breeds, dealing with erosion, and so on – it all gets called adaptation.

    The urgency of creating an adequate adaptation policy is constantly increasing, due to the peculiar environmental situation and climate conditions  in China, characterized by natural disasters such as flooding of farmland and cities, summer heatwaves and droughts. First of all, China has a particular and diversified climate, with different types of ecosystems.

    These characteristics make adaptation more complex to achieve. Secondly, the scarcity of natural resources makes China unable to find adequate solutions, above all with a population of 1.3 billion of people. Despite the economic growth, the development is irregularly distributed across such a vast country. Moreover, many areas are more vulnerable to climate impact and require special attention.

    China is so extended that some action could benefit one region but may harm another at the same time. The Chinese economy is in constant transformation, and the system for preventing environmental disaster in incomplete and inappropriate. As a result, China is more exposed  to the consequences of climate change, with an alarming impact on people and property. The urban population is also ecologically vulnerable due to risks of flooding or smog.

    Plans for adaptation are complex and require scientific knowledge, also because it affects different sectors of the economy; thus, coordination is the main way to follow. Adaptation is something more than the simple mitigation the impact of climate change, by cutting emissions until you have reached the target. Adaptation in interlinked: it needs plans at the national level and then coordinated action to get the best benefits.

    Following this view, the adaptation strategy should focus on strengthening the programs for fields, regions and populations that are weak and vulnerable to climate change. Researchers has been studied adaptation models for 20 years. One significant result has been the so called marginal adaptation: climate change represents a risk for all ecosystem on the world, but the margins are the most vulnerable.

    The pivotal goal would be the creation of special plans for weak regions where the ecology is most vulnerable. It is important to study the climate change’s interaction with economy and society, and its reflections on the ecosystem. According to this plan, a key role is played by cities, where population and property are highly exposed to risks, making the tasks  very urgent.

     

    The gLAWcal team

    Wednesday, 2 April, 2014

    (Source: Chinadialogue)

  • TRIPLING THE GOVERNMENT’S HEALTHCARE SPENDING IN SINGAPORE

    Singapore’s healthcare system is not only one of the best in the world statistically, but it is also envied worldwide for its efficiency and low cost, so far. In fact, even the United States looks at Singapore as a healthcare model to follow.

    Why then do people complain so much about the healthcare system? Because people feel that the government is being too stingy efficient with healthcare spending. Healthcare financing is a key fiscal challenge for Singapore, as Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.

    The government's healthcare spending is expected to triple to $12 billion a year by 2020. It will reach $8 billion in 2015.

    The last statistic registered the rapid ageing of Singapore’s population. The government has no choice: citizens need to pay higher taxes and contributions to cover the increasing medical costs.

    The Finance Minister believes that there is no such a free and cheap healthcare system anywhere in the world, because citizens always pay for it, either through taxes or insurance premiums.

    So it will be necessary to spend more on healthcare in future in order to increase the value of the medical treatment that - in turn - will  improve the quality of life. Tharman thinks that this must be done in a cost-effective way.

    Only time will tell if Singapore can hold onto its status as one of the world’s most efficient healthcare systems.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, 2 April 2014

    (Source: Channel NewAsia)

  • AUSTRALIA: INCREASING THE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE

    Australia achieves universal coverage through Medicare, a tax-funded public insurance program that covers most of medical care, including physician and hospital services and prescription drugs. Most health services are financed and regulated by the federal government, although the states and territories have responsibility for public hospital care.

    Besides Medicare, roughly half of Australians receive additional coverage through private insurance, which the government subsidizes and which covers services such as ambulance services, dental, optical items, physiotherapy and a wide range of other services.

    Private health insurance is available for all Australians who wish to cover the costs of becoming a private patient. Being a private patient means you have more control in choosing your treating doctor in hospital and, in some instances, can reduce your waiting time for elective surgery by having treatment in a private hospital.

    Private Healthcare Australia estimates the Australian Government would save $2.6 billion by 2020 through reforming prosthesis pricing so that Australians pay no more than international consumers. PHA Chief Executive Dr Michael Armitage said that legislated benefits payable for prostheses in Australia were up to five times higher than the prices paid for the same items in comparable economies such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

    The increase of insurance premiums is funding more services in public hospitals so that the private health industry supports and contributes to the public health sector. The annual premium increase (6,2 per cent) is necessary to ensure that funds remain financially viable, meet statutory prudential requirements and most importantly continue to provide members with access to quality medical treatment by covering the increasing costs of health care services.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    (Source: PrivateHealthcareAustralia.org)

  • NEW NHS CHIEF EXECUTIVE’ SPEECH

    NHS England’s new chief executive, Simon Stivens, promises rapid progress on integrating care and on offering hope to small hospitals. The NHS is facing rising demand and funding pressures: it’s the biggest challenge in its 66-year history. That’s why Stivens wants to drive clinical quality through transparency, publishing detailed data about the health service to promote choice and performance.

    At present, the health system lacks leadership, clarity and direction. Stevens will be more willing than Nicholson to develop a new business plan for the health services.His political experience in writing the 2000 NHS Plan with former health secretary Alan Milburn is an evidence of his ability to develop and sell radical policies (inside and outside the government).

    He’s keen to find new solutions to improve the NHS traditional - also obsolete - division of health services. He will also outline some of the areas in which he believes there is a broad policy and political consensus for action, including action to raise standards of care for older people, better joint working between health and social care, and new models of care delivery harnessing new advances in medicine.

    Mr Stevens has given his first speech in his new role to an audience of around 300 NHS staff, health professionals and researchers, local public service leaders and educationalists. He has told his audience that the global recession has led the NHS to face its most sustained budget crunch in its 66-year history. But care for patients has continued to be of an extremely high standard. That is a remarkable tribute to the personal dedication of the health service staff.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 1st April 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • THE DAY AFTER: APPROXIMATE EVALUATION

    After six long months of ObamaCare enrollment, yesterday it was technically the final day to sign up for a 2014 health plan. Union halls and insurance companies across the country were trying to convince people to get insurance on the final day. Some approximate numbers are already available: the Obama administration said that more than 6 million people have signed up for private plans in the health insurance exchanges (or marketplaces) since Oct. 1; more than 8.9 million have been declared eligible for Medicaid (that includes people re-enrolling and previously eligible) and more than 3 million young adults have stayed on their parents’ health plans during that time.

    The Obama administration was hoping to record a large number of sign-ups this month in the most populated states, including California. The state had more than 1 million enrollees as of last week. However, California officials are still worried about all the uninsured people that didn't manage to sign up.

    In rural Colorado, many people are already worried about rising premiums, especially because the healthcare costs are higher in non-urban areas. Connecticut registered sign-ups from at least 27 percent of its uninsured population, Illinois and North Carolina have got more than 113,000 and more than 200,000 enrollees so far, respectively.

    Minnesota has been trying to get young people to sign up throughout March. Despite the "March to Enroll" campaign, which featured over 100 events, only 21 percent of young people (aged between 19 and 34) signed up in the state.
    Talking about Oregon, CoverOregon.com (the equivalent state’s website of HealthCare.gov) is the only insurance exchange in the country that doesn’t allow people to buy coverage online. The defects are so deep that the state may move to the federal HealthCare.gov next year.

    Also Healthcare.gov has had some technical problems because the system that creates new accounts was overloaded by the number of people trying to use it at the same time. During this time, consumers were unable to start new applications or to continue their opened enrollment because the main enrollment Web site faltered on and off throughout all the day.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 1st April 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

  • CLIMATE CHANGE IS THREATENING HUMAN SECURITY

    POOR PEOPLE WILL FACE THE MAIN CONSEQUENCES

    A recent report from the UN’s panel has designed climate change as a threat to human security for the first time.

    This study shows how people who are socially, economically, culturally and institutionally marginalized are the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

    Some groups come to mind. Single mothers in rural regions. Pensioners who have to face a heatwave in industrialised countries. Workers who spend a lot of time outdoors. People who live in the slums of the developing world's big cities.

    These are just some examples of vulnerable groups affected by the main impact of climate change. The reporters has also announced that the effects of global warming will be more evident in the coming decades: climate change’s impact will affect all continents causing heatwaves and other weather disasters.

    Moreover, the results of climate change will open the door to violent conflicts, with negative consequences on human safety.

    In this frame, scientists have highlighted that governments play a fundamental role: they have to undertake measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions to preserve the environment and to protect people. Without these actions nobody would be immune to climate change’s negative results.

    Adaptation represents the only way to follow in order to reach the goals. Researchers stress how  important is to quickly and significantly reduce the emissions, keeping the global temperature's rises at 2 degrees in this way. However, this is not the definitive solution to such a big problem. There are still consequences that we can’t control.

    The report also explains how in many cases countries are not ready to address the climate risks: governments have thus to invest in a better preparation, in order to reap benefits not only in the present but also in the future.

    As a consequence of the report, it is clear that the poor and the weak, and communities subject to discrimination will be prejudiced. Those who influenced climate change the least will be those most exposed at its risks.

    According to the researches, one of the most significant consequences will be the reduction in crop yields, with a related increase in prices. The reports shows an alarming situation: even advanced agriculture will start to suffer due to warmer temperatures and crop yields' decrease. In this way disadvantaged people in poor countries will have to face increasing problems of malnutrition, making these areas even poorer. In addition to this, climate change’s results will be so significant that also rich and developed countries will face new situations of poverty.

    In this context, environmental disasters will be evident consequences of climate change: studies explain the number of natural calamities between 2000 and 2009 was three times higher than in the 80’s. Of course, such episodes were accompanied by bigger disasters and negative effect in poorer countries.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 1 April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • UK: FOOD SECURITY WILL BE THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

    A business analysis on UN’s climate change report has revealed that the UK will not only face environmental disasters due to domestic climate change, but  will also be greatly impacted by climate's effects in other countries.

    The UK is particularly vulnerable to climate change’s consequences because it imports 40 percent of all food necessary to satisfy its population of about 63 million of people.

    In the current frame, the effects of climate change overseas represent a stronger threat for the UK than domestic problems. In case of an environmental emergency, countries protect their food supplies trying to hold on to domestic sources. To explain this pattern, we can consider that in 2008 25 developed countries had prohibited export due to their national climate emergencies.

    To make things worse, population in UK  is expected to increase by more than 10 million people in the next 40 years. So, the effects of climate change abroad would have got significant impact on UK nutrition and common commodities: imported food as bananas, wheat and cocoa and also imported food for animals will be put at risk, with a consequent increase of their prices.

    In this way, global risks and climate impact in other areas will significantly affect UK’s supplies with great consequences on food security. In this frame, the main problems that threaten the UK’s stability are unstable and volatile prices. Disruption in the production, transportation and distribution of imported food would become more systematic if the availability of food will be constantly put in risk.

    According to the government’s analysis of climate change's impact, the UK will face the increase of phenomena as flooding, heatwaves and water scarcity.

    In addition to this, studies have identified over 700 impacts from higher temperatures. Within the most significant consequences there will be the possibility of new climate refugees from wars due to water and food shortage and alarming threats to forest from exotic diseases.

    Following the IPCC report, Europe as whole will tackle the increasing economic costs of events such as flooding and extreme heat. Considering the UK situation as well, studies of Environmental Agency show that over one million of homes are at risk of flooding, with related problems as surface water flooding because of rainwater, river flooding and sea water flooding due to high tides.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Tuesday, 1 April, 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: COMMITMENT TO REDUCE THE IMPACT OF METHANE LEAKS

    The White House has announced the possibility to launch new rules to reduce emissions of methane from oil and gas industry, in order to study the importance of the greenhouse gas impact.

    This announcement responds to the pressure and to the requests of environmental groups calling for a better regulation for the oil and gas industry: without this plan, US cannot achieve its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emission by 17 percent from its 2005 levels.

    This strategy involves the intervention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will have the aim to analyze the magnitude of methane leaks from fracking sites, compressors and gas pipelines.

    After the results of these studies, the EPA will decide whether to undertake new rules and better controls on the industry. In this way the Obama’s policy for the safeguard of the environment will be completed.

    Methane represents the primary component of the natural gas: it is more than 80 times more powerful  than the carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a period of twenty years. The main industrial source of methane consists in oil and gas sites.

    According to the EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory, 14 percent of pollution in 2013 was caused by methane. Also, it is expected that this percentage will increase.

    Moreover, shale gas plays a central role in Obama’s strategy to reduce the impact of the polluting coal. However, there are more obvious evidences of the negative consequences of the methane leaks escaping into the atmosphere.

    The National Academy of Sciences had reported last November  that the EPA had under-estimated the effects of methane leakages: studies show that methane pollution will alarmingly increase  to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 without stronger controls on industry.

    In this frame of environmental protection, the White House has affirmed that the task of the EPA is to establish new rules for future and existing landfills. At the same the Department of Energy will start to examine the potential of capturing and storing methane in underground waste dumps.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 31 March 2014

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • EUROSTAT SHOWS HOW BRITAIN IS FAR FROM ITS 2020 RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET

    ARE WE GOING THE RIGHT WAY?

    A recent study, published by the European Commission’s statistical body Eurostat, has shown that Britain is the third lowest producers of renewable energy in Europe, far from its sustainable energy targets for 2020.

    This study considers the use of renewable energy in a time frame between 2004, when the aim were decided, and 2012, when the first data were available to be analyzed.

    This report highlights that Britain is the third least producer of renewable energy within the 28 European states involved to reach the green energy targets established for 2020.

    According to Eurostat’s analysis, the UK generates just 4.2 per cent of its energy from green sources. Data shows that only Luxembourg and Malta are experiencing worse results.

    Following its policy, Britain has strengthened  its commitments increasing the contributions from 1.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent over eight years but  still leaving a great 11.8 per cent to overfill before 2020.

    The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has reaffirmed the purpose to achieve a cost-effective renewable energy and also a secure, balanced and low-carbon energy mix. Moreover, the Government has explained its plans to reach the 2020 renewable energy target. According to that, data shows the UK has already exceeded its interim goals to generate renewable energy and that it is on the right way to achieve the target of 5.4 per cent for 2013/2014.

    Despite this improvement, the UK continues to be far away from its 2020 goal. To achieve the established objectives, the DECC has distributed £40 million in funds to help the green energy production.

    A better situation has been recorded in countries as France and Germany with contributions of 13.4 per cent and 12.4 per cent, ten times better than Britain’s one.

    In spite of the efforts to tripling its commitments for sustainable energy and for a green economy,  and the attempt to reach a long-term decision in the fields of environment, climate change and energy, the UK is still below its target of a 15 per cent of all energy created with renewable means.

    To conclude the analysis of the European energy consumption, Eurostat reports the praise worthy situation of countries like Bulgaria, Estonia and Sweden who have already reached their goals for 2020, also showing how Norway with its 64.5 percent of energy produced sustainably is the leading nation in the frame of a green growth.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, 31 March 2014

    (Source: The Independent)

  • THE EFFECTS OF OBAMACARE: DEMOCRATS VS REPUBLICANS

    Today, the most Americans have been expected to have chosen a health insurance: the first registration period for the Affordable Care Act ends at midnight, closing one section of President Obama’s landmark healthcare law (even if Obama administration announced on Tuesday night, Americans will receive extra time to finish their applications).

    On Thursday, the White House announced that enrollments had exceeded the CBO's estimate of 6 million. Health experts are keen to have more information about these 6 million of Americans enrolled in the health plans.

    Republicans and Democrats have almost opposite reactions, when they are asked which consequences the law has brough till now. A 59 percent majority of Republicans answered the law can hurt, while 19 percent said it can help to certain share of population. Among Democrats, the results are reversed: 48 percent said that Americans have been helped by the law, and 19 percent disagreed on this topic.

    Republicans continue to use the health law as a main theme in order to attack Democrats in the mid-term elections. They believe the law will degradate insurance paid by consumers and will even deny the access of patients to the doctors they trust.
    Democratic senators who voted for the law (Alaska and Virginia) have suggested how to improve the law, but congressional Republicans have seemed to not be interested in legislative corrections.

    Congressional budget analysts hope for enrollment through the federal and state exchanges to increase to 13 million people by early 2015, and to 24 million people by 2017. That evaluation is based on experience of the Children’s Health Insurance Program - for which signing-ups started slowly but then accelerated rapidly. According to some health policy analysts, the health law is confusing and the trend might be different, they say.

     

    The gLAWcal Team

    Monday, March 31, 2014

    (Source: Washington Post)

  • THE DIRTY SIDE OF NUCLEAR POWER PHASING-OUT

    Japan plans to accelerate the environmental assessment process for new coal-fired power plants. The government aims at making 12 months the maximum period for assessing and approving new coal-fired power plants as its utilities try to develop more power stations to stem surging energy supply bills. After announcing the intention of shutting off much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, Tokio is now focusing on coal as the cheapest energy source, regardless of plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions. A commitment to cut 2020 carbon emissions by 25% from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.

     

    26 April 2013

    (Source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • CIVIL SOCIETY CELEBRATES THE 43rd ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY

    Earth Day 2013 is being celebrated all over the world by one billion people, with the aim of raising awareness over climate change issues and promote positive change with activities at local community level. The campaign, called “The Face of Climate Change” incites people to do something to lower their carbon footprint, take a picture of themselves being part of the solution and upload it to the “Face of Climate Change Wall”.

    Civil society members in 192 countries are participating to the event. In Argentina, for example, volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation are cleaning up the local beaches and planting evergreens and Tamarisk shrubs to help prevent wind and water erosion. In Ghana, The Rural Education and Development Programme (REDEP) is hosting a three-part event that includes a community clean-up, a “Face of Climate Change” theatre production, and an environmentally-themed essay contest. In Seoul, South Korea, Ecomom Korea is organizing an “Eco-style” Earth Day Flash Mob, a variation of the popular song “Gangnam Style,” as well as hosting an Earth Day Walkathon and an Earth Day exhibition, which will showcase The Face of Climate Change photo display. Tortugas Foundacion Yepez is mobilizing volunteers in Veracruz, Mexico, to protect the habitat of sea turtles by cleaning up the local beaches and organizing a reforestation campaign.

    Many other events are taking place around the globe, from the Earth Day Festival in Santa Barbara, California to the Earth Day Conference in Chuuk, Micronesia. Google dedicated Earth Day 2013 a special doodle, an interactive scene depicting the water cycle – and a cheeky badger.

    Earth Day was first launched in 1970 in the US to "[activate] individuals and organizations to strengthen the collective fight against man's exploitive relationship with the planet." Although many things have changed, as the virtuous examples above demonstrate, polls show that public concern over environmental problems is at its lowest in 20 years.

    More information about Earth Day can be found at the link http://www.earthday.org/.

     

    April 22, 2013

    (Sources: Earth Day Network; The Guardian)

     

  • RIGHT TO FOOD INCREASINGLY THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

    New research suggests that food insecurity caused by global warming is rising all over the world, thus exacerbating political instability.

    Nowadays, 650 million people live in arid or semi-arid areas where floods and droughts and price shocks are expected to have the most impact. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, climate change will lead to increasing political destabilisation. Population growth will contribute to deepen the crisis: with 2 billion more mouths to feed b 2050, food prices will rise by 40-50%.

    This situation will affect disproportionately those who contributed least to causing the problem, namely African countries. Research predicts that by 2050, there will be up to 200 million more food-insecure people and an addition 24 million malnourished children. Longer and deeper droughts, floods and cyclones have already become more frequent in many African countries. Unpredictable weather in the Horn of Africa has already left millions semi-destitute and dependent on food aid. IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute, estimates that crop yields across sub-Saharian Africa may decline by 5-22% by 2050, while demand from growing populations may double food prices, with tremendous consequences for large numbers of people.

    However, no place in the world will be spared by food insecurity. And even where direct effects will be less destabilizing, indirect effects, such as climate change refugees, will kick in.

    In Europe, the most severe consequences of climate change will not be felt until 2050. However, agricultural production is already being influenced, and more frequent and prolonged heat waves, droughts and floods are expected to come. In Russia, global warming will increase forest fires by 30-40%.

    In the US, extreme heat, severe drought, and heavy rains will have negative impacts on crop and livestock productivity, especially beyond 2050. Moreover, the US is expected to grow by 120 million people by 2050. Already in 2011, 14.9% of US households did not have secure food supplies and 5.7% had very low food security.

    Latin America will also be extremely affected by climate change, and Brazil in particular.

    Food insecurity will also threaten China’s stability. The country will be mostly challenged by land and cattle feed, given Chinese population increasing demand for meat. Rainy seasons in southern China have been replaced by droughts in recent years. According to the national academy of agricultural sciences, food supplies will become insufficient around the year 2030. Similar situations will affect Southeast Asia. In the Lower Mekong region, home to 100 million people, the number of malnourished children in the region may increase by 9 to 11 million by 2050.

    Extreme weather has already affected Australia since the mid-1970s, and will increasingly influence its agriculture in the future.

    April 13, 2013

    (Source: The Guardian)

  • ITALIAN CAMPAIGNER WINS OSCAR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT

    Rossano Ercolini, considered the driving force behind Italy's zero-waste movement, was awarded on Monday the “Goldman Environmental Prize". Reacting to the news, Mr Ercolini, a primary school teacher nearby Lucca in Tuscany, said he is a bit shocked since despite he was aware that there was some attention on his work, he did not expect to receive such an important recognition.

    Mr Ercolini, 58 years old, started his commitment as an environmental campaigner more than forty years ago, when plans were unveiled to build an incinerator near the school where he taught.Years later, in 1994, other plans to build two incinerators in his hometown motivated him to focus his efforts on tackling issues of waste recycling and reduction. Today, as founder of “Rifiuti Zero”, an association member of the Zero Waste International Alliance, his campaign for recycling and waste reduction has led 117 municipalities across Italy to close their incinerators and convert to recycling of waste. Mr Ercolini achieved one of his greatest accomplishments in 2011 when he convinced the mayor of Naples, a city characterized by a long-running waste crisis, to adopt a zero-waste strategy.

    The jury of the Goldman Prize explained that it decided to reward Ercolini because “when he heard of plans for a new incinerator in his town, he thought to have the responsibility, as an educator, to protect the well-being of students and to inform the community about the risks of the incinerator and solutions for the sustainable management of household waste in the country”, starting from teaching his students to recycle paper, and having the school cafeteria replace plastic bottles, jugs and cutlery with reusable glasses and cutlery.

    Winners of the 2013 awards include among others: Jonathan Deal, a South Africa anti-fracking campaigner and Azzam Alwash, an ecologist who fought against the drought of the Iraqi marshlands. The full list of winners can be seen on the “Goldman prize” website.

    Tuesday 16 April 2013

    (Source: BBC News)

  • EU SOLAR COMPANIES AGAINST IMPORT TARIFFS ON CHINA

    More than 1,000 firms addressed a letter to the European Commission to demand end to solar PV trade war with China.On Monday, April 8, over 1000 companies signed a letter initiated by the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), a coalition of over 350 companies, to urge Brussels no to impose tariffs on imported solar panels from China.

    Following European solar manufacturers complaints alleging  that Chinese rivals were benefitting from unfair subsidies, the European Commission had recently launched an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation against Chinese solar manufacturers. According to commentators, then next step in the EU-China solar PV trade war would be the imposition of import duties, along with a complaint to the World Trade Organisation about Chinese government subsidies.

    Such a move raised the concerns of installers and prospective purchasers of solar technology, who warned against the risks of driving up the cost of solar panels, leading to a slowdown in the deployment of the technology and job losses across the industry.

    The letter argues that the cause of the problems faced by European solar manufacturers is to be ascribed to over-capacity in the global solar market generated by the economic slowdown rather than competition from China. Moreover it claims that imposing additional duties will not favour EU solar producers, and suggests to rather sustain and increase demand by cutting costs through cost rationalisations and economies of scale.

    The initiative demonstrates the extent of the split within the European solar industry over the Commission’s decisions.

     

    Tuesday, 9 April 2013
    (Source: Guardian Environment Network)