Several nations around the world have launched national programs to increase energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and build environmentally friendly buildings to slow the effects of global warming.
Some question the importance — and motivation — of environmentally protective policies, but many countries remain undeterred in the face of occasional resistance.
Spain, which has the highest dependency on fossil fuels of all European Union countries, recently introduced 31 measures that will help cut their oil imports by 10 percent.
Some of the actions include cutting street lighting by half, slower speed limits, distributing low-energy lightbulbs, and strict thermostat regulation in public buildings, reports The Independent.
Although Miguel Sebastian, Spain’s industry minister, told the newspaper that “the era of cheap energy has passed,” the proposals were ridiculed by some Spanish media as unworkable.
South Africa, one of the world’s significant greenhouse gas producers, has a new plan to become a low-carbon economy.
The regional newspaper BuaNews reports that the proposals would require all new coal-fired power stations to capture and store carbon emissions.
Also in the plan is a carbon tax, a significant measure for a country that gets 90 percent of its electricity from coal.
Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said that if action is taken now, South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions should stabilize by 2025 and then begin to decline.
The plan is noteworthy due to South Africa’s developing nation status, which makes such actions voluntary, not obligatory, under international agreements.
Brazil recently created an international fund that aims to raise $21 billion to fight deforestation in the Amazon, according to environmental website Mongabay.com.
The fund will promote conservation, sustainable development and alternatives for people who currently make their living cutting the forest down.
Deforestation causes massive amounts of carbon emissions annually, making Brazil a major polluter and an easy target of environmental groups and foreign governments.
The fund is designed to offset criticism by enabling foreign governments to support forest conservation “without exerting any influence over our national policy,” according to Minister of Strategic Planning Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Greenpeace said it was the first time Brazil had tied global warming to rainforest preservation, reports the BBC.
On the other side of the planet, OPEC oil producer United Arab Emirates is building Masdar City — a $22 billion, zero-carbon metropolis run primarily on solar power, where all water and waste will be recycled, buildings will be ecologically sound and cars will be banned.
In addition, the city will be a research and development hub for alternative and renewable energies, according to the Associated Press.
The World Wildlife Fund notes that the UAE has the largest carbon footprint per capita in the world.
Considering the country’s dependence on air conditioning and penchant for SUVs, Masdar is a way to “curb the trend of being environmentally irresponsible,” according to Khaled Awad, Masdar City’s development director.
Jonathan Loh, co-author of the 2006 WWF report, said “It would be best if the UAE reduced energy consumption throughout the country, not just in one location.”
“Spain cuts speed limit and turns out lights”
The Independent, July 31, 2008
“South Africa: Progressive Climate Change Strategy Announced for Country”
BuaNews (South Africa), July 29, 2008
“Brazil asks rich countries to fund Amazon rainforest conservation”
Mongabay.com, August 2, 2008
“Brazil launches rainforest fund”
BBC, August 1, 2008
“Zero-carbon city plan draws cautious praise”
Associated Press, February 24, 2008