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With the exciting launch of EIA’s new and improved website, our popular Investigator’s Blog has now moved to a new online home.

All previous content has been relocated, and our investigators and behind-the-scenes staff are writing regular updates for you about our many campaigns and activities.

Join in the discussions now and give us your valuable feedback – vist our new blog here.

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Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs” – film-maker and documentarian Werner Herzog.

On Tuesday, September 6, three powerful new films chronicling EIA’s recent undercover investigations into timber smuggling, the ivory trade and whaling will make their world debut in the USA on Nat Geo Wild.

Paul Redman and Clare Perry filming in a Japanese fish market (c) EIA

Broadcast under the collective banner of Crimes Against Nature, Blood Ivory depicts the brutal horror of elephant poaching in Kenya and black market trade in the marketplaces of Hong Kong and China; Making a Killing exposes Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales to package and sell for consumption in Japan; and Chainsaw Massacre uncovers the Vietnamese army’s involvement in the widespread smuggling of timber from neighbouring Laos.

Each film follows seasoned EIA investigators in the field as they methodically piece together the clues of wildlife and forest crime and follow evidence trails leading to corrupt officialdom, organised criminal syndicates and grasping businessmen. Along the way, viewers will share the setbacks and successes in films rich with imagery both startling and haunting.

What they won’t see, and possibly won’t suspect, is the long year of preparations and often physically and emotionally demanding work behind the scenes to get three one-hour films in the can.

The project effectively began in 2009, following EIA’s tiger team in China and Nepal for a pilot film eventually broadcast early last year on Nat Geo Wild as Eco Crime Investigators – Inside the Tiger Trade.

The broadcast, first in the USA and subsequently worldwide (and it’s still in heavy rotation), was such a success that further programmes were commissioned.

On location in Kenya with Mary Rice and Dave Currey (c) EIA

Initial meetings with the London-based production company hired by Nat Geo to make the films focused on the likely scope of the three investigations, the probable shooting times and budget requirements for each, and a loose schedule around which investigators would have to fit all their usual campaign work and commitments.

It was in October 2010, when filming was concluded in Iceland and underway in Vietnam, that I was brought onboard as Project Co-ordinator; you could draw up a job description for the role which might run to several sides of A4, or you could just as accurately say my primary function was to help ease the process along as required.

Both EIA and the production company shared the same goal – to make the best programmes possible; naturally, both came at it with different considerations to the fore. The nature of conducting investigations in the field is that you never know what’s going to turn up and where it might lead; the nature of film-making is that you have to satisfy those commissioning the venture that they’re going to end up with a solid narrative arc and a substantial conclusion, preferably before shooting begins.

From the word ‘go’, EIA was adamant that its investigators would not serve as props, nor would they be mouthpieces for scripted lines which might in any way reflect poorly or inaccurately on the organisation, its methodology or its invaluable work. At the same time, we accepted that the film-makers needed to distil often-complex issues in a way that was accurate and wouldn’t leave viewers scratching their collective brows and reaching for the remote control. Looking at the finished products (and I believe I must have done so a score of times for each!), I think it’s fair to say this was achieved remarkably well.

In the field was where problems could most easily arise as directors fretted that they wouldn’t get the key shots they needed within the timeframe allowed, or when they were debriefing an investigator following an emotionally exhausting undercover filming session and needed the same kind of projected energy on take seven as was given the first time around. But our investigators are nothing if not troopers – and on many occasions during this project they were fixers and guides too – and the passion they have for their various campaigns all but radiates from the screen.

Julian Newman interviewed during filming in Laos (c) EIA

When location filming concluded by late March, it remained to fine-tune the narratives, film interviews with the key campaigners and nail down the voice-over and visual inserts such as animated maps..

With security the key consideration for EIA, this was also the time for me to go through each film with a fine toothcomb and ensure that the identity of our undercover Chinese investigator was protected at all times; you’d be amazed at how often somebody’s features can be fleetingly reflected in background mirrors and table tops.

All that remains now is for you to watch the films, and help EIA by spreading the word for others to do the same.

* After the US premiere on Tuesday, the three programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch our website and blog for details as we learn them.

Paul Newman, Press OfficerPaul Newman

Press Officer

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It would be nice to be able to report that negotiations are moving forward apace but, unfortunately, they’re not.

This morning, we sat through another lengthy discussion about the proposals put forward by the North America countries and Micronesia to phase out HFCs. While supportive delegations such as the EU agreed with the US that a phase-out is a moral imperative and argued that it would help drive technical innovation, China and India spent the entire session playing semantic ping-pong.

This is what a 'side event' can look like (c) EIA

Arguments of varying degrees of sophistication were trotted out to demonstrate that the Montreal Protocol is not the forum to deal with an HFC phase-out, because there is no legal footing for it to do so (a claim heavily contested by many Parties here); because it would undermine the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol (!), or because not enough scientific research has been carried out into alternatives to HFCs (it’s worth noting that both China and India blocked subsequent attempts to remedy this).

What it all boils down to is protection of vested interests – both China and India are defending the commercial interests of their domestic F-gas industries (which, lest it be forgotten, have already earned hundreds of millions of euros for HFC-23 offsets under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – and, to a certain extent, political grandstanding and positioning for the global climate talks. It’s very frustrating to sit here and listen to the debate go around and around in circles when an HFC phase-out is clearly the most immediate and cost-effective prospect for combating climate change in the short-term.

Mealtimes here are very perfunctory – in fact, we haven’t sat down to a hot meal since Sunday – all the more so as food and drink are strictly forbidden in the meeting rooms (a rule enforced by zealous security guards on every corner). So, after a five-minute refuelling stop, we headed to a ‘side event’ (UN jargon for a short workshop) on the European Union’s F-gas Regulation. This was organised by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), the rather misleading name of the European Heating Cooling and Refrigeration Industry’s trade association, based in Brussels.

At the event, EPEE representatives and the refrigerant manufacturer Daikin sang the praises of the F-Gas Regulation, which essentially relies on weak controls to prevent leakage during installation, operation and disposal of equipment. Quite apart from the consideration that taking a containment and recovery approach to HFCs (rather than mandating a phase out) is simply storing up trouble for the future, it’s pretty obvious that the F-Gas Regulation in its current form is simply unworkable. The fact is that, by the industry’s own admission, the Regulation is not being taken seriously.

We expect the F-gas industry to fight tooth and nail to prevent any ambitious changes to the Regulation, which is currently under discussion. As far as we’re concerned, supporting a global phase-down of HFCs in the Montreal Protocol – which the EU is doing very forcefully here – goes hand-in-hand with a convincing domestic policy on HFCs – which the EU does not yet have.

Natasha Hurley

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The meeting resumed today with the US, Canada, Mexico and Micronesia responding to a number of questions on scientific, legal, financial and technological issues raised by Parties concerning their proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs.

After much debate, it was decided to resume the discussion in plenary session tomorrow and consider the establishment of an informal contact group at a later point. The proponents of the phase-out proposals expressed strong disappointment about the informal nature of the contact group – the proposal has been on the table for three years now but has been kicked into the long grass as many times. The informal nature of the contact group means its discussions will not be formally reported in the proceedings of the meeting, just one of the stalling tactics being employed by India, China and others who are opposing any HFC measures under the Montreal Protocol.

The OEWG in session on Monday (c) EIADuring lunch, Greenpeace held a side-event to present a new paper on the benefits of basing policies on a 20-year global warming potential (GWP) measure, rather than the current standard of 100-year GWP. GWP measures the potency of a greenhouse gas over a specific period of time, relative to CO2, which has a GWP of one. So, for example, the GWP of HFC-134a (the most commonly used HFC) is 1,430 – so it is 1,430 times more potent than CO2. The GWP measure is independent of atmospheric concentration – so we’re not saying that HFC-134a is currently causing 1,430 times more global warming than CO2, but it would if it was present in the atmosphere at the same concentration.

The timescale, however, is important because while CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of several centuries, most HFCs remain in the atmosphere for just 10-20 years. The average lifetime of the HFCs in use today is 21.7 years. This means that the 100-year GWP does not fairly reflect their potency, since it is spread out over 100 years, while in actuality all the damage is done while it is present in the atmosphere, which in the case of HFC-134a is 14 years. The 20-year GWP of HFC-134a is 3,380 – more than double its 100-year GWP.

Why is this important in the context of climate change? In 2009, NASA’s eminent climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, warned that the “climate is nearing dangerous tipping points… ”. Tipping points are abrupt, non-linear, unpredictable changes – the point of no return where there will be little we can do to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change. We don’t know when this will happen but it could be reached within a few decades, so efforts to prevent short-term climate forcing are really important.

The best available prospect for mitigating climate change in the short-term is undoubtedly a phase-out of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. Using 20-year GWPs shows clearly the massive climate impact of HFCs, and is also highly relevant in the context of the increasing use of so-called ‘moderate’ GWP HFCs, such as HFC-32. Daikin and Panasonic are describing their new HFC-32 air conditioning technology as ‘climate-friendly’, as the GWP of HFC-32 is 675, significantly less than the most commonly used HFC. But over a 20-year period, HFC-32 has a GWP of 2,330 – how can this be climate-friendly?Clare Perry

Clare Perry

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Day 1 – 1st August 2011: Probably the first thing that you might notice if you have looked at our recent reports to the Montreal Protocol (which was set up to repair the ozone hole) is that we seem to talk a lot more about climate change than ozone depletion.

This is not because the ozone hole has been fixed – quite the reverse – 2011 saw the largest ever ozone hole in the Arctic and unfortunately while the Montreal Protocol has been successful in phasing out 98% of the consumption ozone depleting substances, and atmospheric levels of key ozone depleting substances are going down, it will take until the middle of the century for the ozone layer to return to pre-1980 levels.

But CFCs and HCFCs (the main ozone depleting chemicals) are also super greenhouse gases. We say ‘super’ because they are literally thousands of times more potent global warming gases than carbon dioxide. Because of this, the Montreal Protocol has already had a major impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has been described as the best climate treaty to date (of course it doesn’t have much competition….).

CFCs and HCFCs are man-made chemicals used predominantly in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and as foam blowing agents, fire suppressants and aerosols. Countries converting from these chemicals have traditionally chosen hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals that do not harm the ozone layer but that are super greenhouse gases with global warming potentials (GWP) hundreds to thousand of times greater than CO2.  Developed countries that have already phased out ozone depleting substances have switched to high-GWP alternatives in around 75% of cases.

Fortunately there are substitutes available – so called natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons – which are both climate and ozone friendly. So for the last few years our focus at the Montreal Protocol has been to urge Parties to phase out existing HFCs, and ensure that the ongoing developing country phase-out of HCFCs does not result in a massive phase-in of HFCs.

Today’s meeting opened with Mr Marco Gonzalez, Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, setting out some of the highlights of the work carried out so far and the challenges ahead. There was then a presentation from the TEAP (Technical and Economic Assessment Panel) of a report which assessed the need for financing over the next three years to allow the continued phase-out of HCFCs in developing countries. A large number of questions were raised regarding the information in the TEAP report and a contact group was set up to further look at the information needed from the TEAP before the Meeting of the Parties in November when a decision on funding will have to be taken.

The second substantive item on the agenda was proposals to phase down HFCs – one by the North American countries (US, Canada and Mexico) and another by Micronesia. Slightly different versions of the proposals have been submitted previously, for the first time in 2009. John Thompson from the US introduced the North American proposal describing the growth in HFCs as “…an impending crisis”, and noted that the longer we wait to address it, the more difficult and expensive this problem will be for all countries to take on. There followed a two and half hour discussion with many countries supporting the amendment proposals and the need for a contact group to discuss the proposals further. However several countries, most strongly India, China and Brazil, maintained that discussion of HFCs should remain under the UNFCCC as HFCs are not ozone depleting substances.

India repeatedly stated that they had questions about the proposals that had not been answered – and yet they would not support the idea of going into a contact group (a discussion group outside the main plenary part of the meeting), which is the usual process of the Montreal Protocol.

The European Commission reminded Parties that the BASIC countries (Brazil, S. Africa, India and China) had concluded at a meeting in February this year that the issue of the phase down high-GWP HFCs required an in-depth examination – he hoped that could start this week.

Georgia was brief but eloquent, stating that the possibility of HFCs being regulated under the climate regime is “zero” and that the only proposed way to prevent unconstrained growth of HFCs is the Montreal Protocol.

The meeting was adjourned without closing the agenda item – its clear there will be no resolution of this at this meeting, but at least some discussion is taking place.

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Today our blog celebrates its first birthday!!

A year ago this very day I wrote the very first, very humble, blog post.

The birth of the blog owes much of its final impetus to Michael Ambjorn and ultimately Ogilvy & Mather’s Idea Shop. It seems like a long time ago now but the enthusiasm from this team of marketing professionals, from our 45 minutes session in East London, was insatiable. We had good content and we needed to share it.

Since then, it’s been a steep learning curve and I’m working out what works and what doesn’t. Yes, there’s been the odd 303 redirects, a few typos and some broken links but overall, 12 months on, it has grown into something that the whole organisation is really proud of.

Every EIA campaigner has now contributed to the blog, from each of our campaigns. So you, as the reader, can now get first-hand information on what it’s like at EIA, what it’s like out in the field, gather expert opinions as well as tap into more personal reflections on the topics EIA works on (as well as interesting tangents!)

EIA HQ

We’ve also encouraged those more behind the scenes to step up to their e-literary debut; Charlotte Davies, our intelligence analyst has taken a particular shine to our blog and written some fantastic posts. Our comms and fundraising team had have time in the e-limelight as well as our volunteers, who donate their time so enthusiastically thoroughly deserving airtime.

Pangolin. S Megan 2007 - WikiMedia CommonsAnd thus, we have religiously published our weekly blog for the last 52 weeks (perhaps a few exceptions for national holidays) on a whole host of topics; from tigers to rhinos, from our community projects in Tanzania to whaling in the Faroe Islands and gala dinners to pangolins! An unexpected bonus is that the blog content fuels our monthly emails which have, in turn, dramatically improved internal communication and encouraged more cross-campaign dialogue.

More than that, the expert opinion of campaigners is being picked up by other groups and organizations, such as REDD monitor and Global Tiger Initiative on blogs and Computer Aid, Client Earth and others on Twitter; so our outreach exponentially increases.

But it’s not just about churning content out; it’s about building a dialogue as well. We are keen to hear your feedback and have made every attempt to respond to comments written by you. We are only human however, and apologise if some have slipped through the net. Please keep your comments coming; what would you like to see improved? Do you have a favourite blog post? What would you like to hear more of?

What are the stats?

• 68 blog posts

• 154 comments

• 15,482 visits

Technical Paragraph – for the geek within

Sticky Content generously donated places on their course for many of our campaigners, a huge thank you to them. They highlighted the important differences between writing for print and the web; tough lessons including “don’t expect people to read all your content” and “write your copy, halve it and then halve it again”.

Michael Ambjorn at Eurocomm

Michael Ambjorn at Eurocomm

Following a communications conference in Italy, there have been some subtle differences to the blog; improved Search Engine Optimisation, shameless promotion, more links and pingbacks, using alt.text and keywords, all of which has helped build a strategy to use the blog more effectively and to help make sure we are findable on Google. We’re not there yet but have made some great improvements. A huge thank you to Steve Seager and Michael Gaasterland on Twitter

The next 12 months

With all going well, we will have the new EIA website up and running soon (I don’t want to jinx the date!) and this will see the blog fully integrated into the website. It’s an exciting time for EIA comms as we finally make that leap into Web 2.0. The blog and our other social media platforms will become an integral part of the website and we will continue to produce fantastic content as our campaigners get more into the swing of blogging.

Conclusion

Watch this space.

Afterword

A few days ago I bumped into Ruth Jamieson from Ogilvy at the latest Ideas Shop at Marketing Week Live and I see Michael Ambjorn at IABC events; it’s great to keep in touch with the people that took the time to dispense small pearls of wisdom to us. Those pearls, 12 months on, have had such a huge impact on how we communicate here at EIA, so thank you to all those who have made it possible.

Sophia Cheng

Sophia Cheng

Fundraising & Communications Officer

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System Failure: The UK’s harmful trade in electronic waste

Read EIA's report. System Failure: The UK’s harmful trade in electronic waste

Spend 3 minutes ensuring your MP signs the EDM on electronic waste.

What’s the issue? You can read more about the UK’s problem on e-waste or you can watch BBC’s Panorama Track my TrashThe Panorama programme features EIA and is based on our findings.

The illegal smuggling of toxic electronic waste is a massive problem, damaging the environment and ruining lives. If you live in the UK, please write to your MP and ask them to sign Early Day Motion 1992 on e-waste (and EDM is a kind of MPs petition). It really helps when MPs get emails or letters – they do respond!

Step 1: Find your local MP by entering your postcode on this site. And then click on your MP.

Step 2:  Draft your own email or use the template below

*******************************

I would like to draw your attention to the Early Day Motion number 1992 on ‘Electronic Waste Recycling’, from primary sponsor Clive Efford MP:

“That this House is concerned by the findings of the Environmental Investigation Agency’s report System Failure revealing that hazardous waste electrical and electronic equipment is routinely being illegally exported from the UK; notes the need for greater auditing and accountability of electronic waste streams at all stages of collection, handling and treatment; urges stricter regulation and monitoring of Producer Compliance Schemes to ensure illegal practices are stamped out; and urges support for the Environment Agency to enable it to tackle illegal trade in e-waste.”

This is an issue of great concern to me and one which I believe could be effectively addressed by proper regulation and enforcement in the UK to prevent our toxic technological scrap contributing to a serious human health and environmental crisis in the Developing World .

If you have not done so already, I respectfully ask that you give your support to this Early Day Motion at the soonest opportunity.

Yours  Sincerely,

****************************************

Step 3: Let us know of any feedback you receive from your local MP, share your experiences with us.

Step 4: Tell all your friends to follow in your footsteps.

Thank you for taking action,

From the EIA e-waste team.

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