Inter Press Service » Conferences http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:32:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Biofortified Beans to Fight ‘Hidden Hunger’ in Rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/biofortified-beans-fight-hidden-hunger-rwanda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biofortified-beans-fight-hidden-hunger-rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/biofortified-beans-fight-hidden-hunger-rwanda/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 16:36:24 +0000 Fabiola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133453 Joane Nkuliye considers herself an activist. She is part of a select group of farmers producing biofortified crops on a commercial scale in Rwanda.  Nkuliye owns 25 hectares in Nyagatare district, Eastern Province, two hours away from the capital, Kigali. She was awarded land by the government and moved there in 2000, with plans of […]

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Joane Nkuliye, a rural entrepreneur from Rwanda’s Eastern Province, grows biofortified beans on a commercial scale. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Joane Nkuliye, a rural entrepreneur from Rwanda’s Eastern Province, grows biofortified beans on a commercial scale. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabiola Ortiz
KIGALI, Apr 6 2014 (IPS)

Joane Nkuliye considers herself an activist. She is part of a select group of farmers producing biofortified crops on a commercial scale in Rwanda. 

Nkuliye owns 25 hectares in Nyagatare district, Eastern Province, two hours away from the capital, Kigali. She was awarded land by the government and moved there in 2000, with plans of rearing cattle. But she soon realised that growing food would be more profitable and have a greater impact on the local community as many of the kids in the area suffered from Kwashiorkor, a type of malnutrition caused by lack of protein.

“I have a passion for farming. We are being subsidised because very few people are doing commercial farming,” the entrepreneur, who is married with five children and has been farming for over 10 years, told IPS.

Biofortification on a Global Scale

Every second person in the world dies from malnutrition. In order to fight the so-called hidden hunger — a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals — biofortification aims to increase nutrition and yields simultaneously.

HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Consortium research programme on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), which helps realise the potential of agricultural development to deliver gender-equitable health and nutritional benefits to the poor.

The HarvestPlus programme is coordinated by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture and the International Food Policy Research Institute. It has nine target countries: Nigeria, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Brazil has also begun introducing biofortified crops.

The director of HarvestPlus, Howarth Bouis, told IPS that the goal was to reach 15 million households worldwide by 2018 and ensure that they were growing and eating biofortified crops such as cassava, maize, orange sweet potato, pearl millet, pumpkin and beans.

“It is always a challenge but it’s much easier than it was before, because we have the crops already. Years ago I had to say we wouldn’t have [made an] impact in less than 10 years. Now things are coming out and it has been easier to raise money,” Bouis said.

Four years ago, she was contacted by the NGO HarvestPlus, which is part of a CGIAR Consortium research programme on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The NGO is considered a leader in the global effort to improve nutrition and public health by developing crops and distributing seeds of staple foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

HarvestPlus provided Nkuliye with seeds, packaging, outlets for distribution and know-how. Now she grows biofortified beans on 11 of her 50 hectares of land.

“After harvesting beans I grow maize as an intercrop. I also grow sweet bananas, pineapples and papaya. I harvest 15 tonnes of food; I talk in terms of tonnes and not kilos,” she smiled.

Nkuliye was invited by HarvestPlus to speak at the Second Global Conference on Biofortification held in Kigali from Mar. 31 to Apr. 2, which was a gathering of scientists, policymakers and stakeholders.

Rwanda has ventured into a new agricultural era as it boosts its food production and enhances the nutrition level of the crops grown here.

In this Central African nation where 44 percent of the country’s 12 million people suffer from malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency, biofortified foods, like beans, are seen as a solution to reducing “hidden hunger” — a chronic lack of vitamins and minerals.

One in every three Rwandans is anaemic, and this percentage is higher in women and children. An estimated 38 percent of children under five and 17 percent of women suffer from iron deficiency here. This, according to Lister Tiwirai Katsvairo, the HarvestPlus country manager for the biofortification project, is high compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Biofortified beans have high nutritional levels and provide up to 45 percent of daily iron needs, which is 14 percent more than commonly-grown bean varieties.

They also have an extra advantage as they have proved to produce high yields, are resistant to viruses, and are heat and drought tolerant.

Now, one third of Rwanda’s 1.9 million households grow and consume nutritious crops thanks to an initiative promoted by HarvestPlus in collaboration with the Rwandan government. The HarvestPlus strategy is “feeding the brain to make a difference,” Katsvairo said.

The national government, which has been working in partnership with HarvestPlus since 2010, sees nutrition as a serious concern. According to Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources Agnes Kalibata, five government ministers are working cooperatively to address nutrition issues here.

She said that biofortified crops ensured that poor people, smallholder farmers and their families received nutrients in their diets. Around 80 percent of Rwanda’s rural population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“Beans in Rwanda are our staple food, they are traditional. You cannot eat a meal without them. Beans that are biofortified have the main protein that will reach everybody, they are the main source of food,” she said.

Katsvairo explained that Rwanda has 10 different varieties of biofortified beans and that Rwandan diets comprise 200 grams of beans per person a day.

“Our farmers and population cannot afford meat on a daily basis. In a situation like this we need to find a crop that can provide nutrients and is acceptable to the community. We don’t want to change diets,” Katsvairo told IPS.

The ideologist and geneticist who led the Green Revolution in India is an advocate of what he calls “biohappiness”. Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan became famous for the Green Revolution that increased food production and turned India into a sustainable food producer.

“I am an enthusiast of biofortification. It is the best way to add nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A. In the case of biofortification it is a win-win situation,” he told IPS.

According to Swaminathan, who has been described by the United Nations Environment Programme as “the Father of Economic Ecology”, the concept of food security has grown and evolved into nutritious security.

“We found it is not enough to give calories, it is important to have proteins and micronutrients.”

Swaminathan says it is also a way of attacking silent hunger — hunger caused by extreme poverty.

“It fortifies in a biological matter and not in chemical matter, that is why I call it biohappiness,” said the first winner of the World Food Prize in 1987. He  has also been acclaimed by TIME magazine as one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century.

According to Katsvairo, Rwanda has become an example to other sub-Saharan countries as the issue of nutrition is now part of public strategic policy here.

“Rwanda is still at the implementation stage but it is way ahead of other African countries,” confirmed Katsvairo.

Meanwhile, Nkuliye aims to expand her farm over the next few years and increase her crop of biofortified beans.

“I wanted to improve people’s lives. My husband is proud of me but I feel I haven’t done enough yet,” she said. Currently, she employes 20 women and 10 men on a permanent basis and hires temporary workers during planting and harvesting.

She first started her business with a three-year bank loan of five million Rwandan Francs (7,700 dollars). Now, she has applied for 20 million Rwandan Francs (30,800 dollars).

“I want to buy more land, at least 100 hectares. What I am producing is not enough for the market,” Nkuliye explained. While she harvests tonnes of produce to sell to the local market, she says it is not enough as demand is growing.

But she is proud that she has been able to feed her community.

“I have fed people with nutritious beans, I changed their lives and I have also changed mine. We have a culture of sharing meals and give our workers eight kilos of biofortified food to take to their families,” she said.

Fabíola Ortiz was invited by HarvestPlus and Embrapa-Brazil to travel to Rwanda.

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OP-ED: Europe’s Commitment to Africa’s Children is Still Needed http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-europes-commitment-africas-children-still-needed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-europes-commitment-africas-children-still-needed http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/op-ed-europes-commitment-africas-children-still-needed/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 11:29:26 +0000 Philippe Cori http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133342 
Philippe Cori, director of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) European Union Partnership Office in Brussels, says over the last decades, development assistance from partners like the EU and its member states has been critical to expanding and improving the quality of basic social services, especially for the poorest and most marginalised children.

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UNICEF says in many parts of the African continent children are living beyond their fifth birthday, more children are going to school and more children are better equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. Pictured here are students at Motshane Primary School, Mbabane, Swaziland. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

UNICEF says in many parts of the African continent children are living beyond their fifth birthday, more children are going to school and more children are better equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. Pictured here are students at Motshane Primary School, Mbabane, Swaziland. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Philippe Cori
BRUSSELS, Apr 1 2014 (IPS)

As African and European leaders meet in Brussels this week under the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”, it is clear Africa’s greatest natural resource, its children, must be centre stage. 

Between 2010 and 2025, the child population of sub-Saharan Africa will rise by 130 million, making it the youngest continent in the world. By 2050, one in every three births and almost one in every three children under 18 will be in Africa.

Yet for this youth dividend to be the driver of Africa’s prosperity, it is critical that all of the continent’s children have the right foundations to be able to participate as well as benefit.

This means equitable access to basic quality social services in health and education, especially early childhood care as well as access to safe water, sanitation, good nutrition and protection from abuse, violence and exploitation.

A lot of the focus is now on how business can be a critical driver in the continent’s transformation.  And there is no doubt that new economic investment is yielding results, stimulating growth and new opportunities.

But it is also clear for Africa to ultimately benefit from these economic investments, it still needs a development focused partnership that builds the foundation of a strong, fair and equitable society for its youngest citizens.

In many parts of the African continent, life for millions of children is changing for the good. Along with the new investments in infrastructure, the rapid changes in access to mobile technology and an increase in economic growth, the good news is more children are living beyond their fifth birthday, more children are going to school and more children are better equipped for the challenges of the 21st century.

Philippe Cori, director of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s European Union Partnership Office in Brussels, says in many parts of the African continent, life for millions of children is changing for the good. Courtesy: UNICEF

Philippe Cori, director of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s European Union Partnership Office in Brussels, says in many parts of the African continent, life for millions of children is changing for the good. Courtesy: UNICEF

As Europe’s own experience demonstrates, investments in early childhood care, good nutrition, a quality public health system and safety nets to protect the most vulnerable,  are the foundations that lead to stable, inclusive and prosperous societies.

Over the last decades, development assistance from partners like the European Union and its member states has been critical to expanding and improving the quality of basic social services, especially for the poorest and most marginalised children. The success can be measured in concrete results, including a drop in child mortality by 45 percent between 1990 and 2012 and an increase in primary school enrolment among others.

We also know there is much more to be done. At least one in three children under five in Africa are stunted and over half of the world’s out-of-school children live in Africa (33 million).

Preventable disease like pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea still account for 40 percent of all under five deaths. Hundreds of millions remain without access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Poverty pushes families to migrate, affecting children directly: whether they are left behind, migrating with parents or alone, they are increasingly exposed to vulnerabilities, including child trafficking — its darkest facet.

And we also know that economic growth, trade and business alone cannot translate Africa’s youth dividend into the dynamic asset it could and should be. Investments in human security, strong public institutions and equitable access to basic social services will remain vital to stability and our shared global prosperity.

Europe’s commitment to Africa’s children, especially the poorest, is still needed. Not just because it makes good business sense as it can help make sure there is a financial return on economic investments.

Not just because it will lead to less chances of conflict, insecurity and displacement. Not just because it makes sense for our shared humanity and our shared global future. But ultimately because Europe is and can make a difference by giving every Africa child the opportunity to reach their potential, to determine their own future and write their own story.

Philippe Cori is the director of UNICEF’s EU Partnership Office in Brussels which is managing UNICEF’s relations and partnership with the European Institutions with a view to influence and contribute to EU policies particularly in key areas such as nutrition, health, education, protection, gender, disability, poverty eradication and humanitarian assistance. This partnership aims at mobilising and leveraging quality resources for the realisation of children’s rights everywhere and especially the most disadvantaged.

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Women Seek Stand-Alone Goal for Gender in Post-2015 Agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/women-seek-stand-alone-goal-gender-post-2015-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-seek-stand-alone-goal-gender-post-2015-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/women-seek-stand-alone-goal-gender-post-2015-agenda/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 23:10:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133186 The 45-member U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) concluded its annual 10-day session Saturday with several key pronouncements, including on reproductive health, women’s rights, sexual violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and the role of women in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The heaviest round of applause came when the Commission specifically called […]

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Brazilian women have been making headway in traditionally male-dominated areas. Construction workers in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Brazilian women have been making headway in traditionally male-dominated areas. Construction workers in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2014 (IPS)

The 45-member U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) concluded its annual 10-day session Saturday with several key pronouncements, including on reproductive health, women’s rights, sexual violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and the role of women in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The heaviest round of applause came when the Commission specifically called for a “stand-alone goal” on gender equality – a longstanding demand by women’s groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda.

Still, the primary inter-governmental policy-making body on gender empowerment did not weigh in on a key proposal being kicked around in the corridors of the world body: a proposal for a woman to be the next U.N. secretary-general (SG), come January 2017.

"A Striking Gap"

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, a former U.N. under-secretary-general who is credited with initiating the conceptual and political breakthrough resulting in the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 on women and peace and security, told IPS the annual CSW session is the largest annual gathering with special focus on issues which impact on women, and thereby humanity as a whole.

"It attracts hundreds of government and civil society participants representing their nations and organisations. After the very late night consensus adoption, the agreed conclusions of its 58th session, which focused on the post-2015 development agenda, show a striking gap in firmly establishing the linkage between peace and development in the document," he said.

"The mainstream discussions in this context have always been highlighting the point that MDGs lacked the energy of women's equal participation at all decision making levels and the overall and essential link between peace and development. So, in UN's work on the new set of development goals need to overcome this inadequacy. Somehow this still remains in the outcome of CSW-58.

"Adoption of the landmark U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 boosted the essential value of women's participation. Its focus relates to each of the issues on every agenda of the U.N. There is a need for holistic thinking and not to compartmentalise development, peace, environment in the context of women's equality and empowerment," Ambassador Chowdhury said.

"It is necessary that women's role in peace and security is considered as an essential element in post-2015 development agenda."
“I did not hear it, but it’s a good question to raise given that a major section of the CSW’s ‘Agreed Conclusions’ were on ensuring women’s participation and leadership at all levels and strengthening accountability,” Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, international coordinator at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), told IPS.

She said that in pre-CSW conversations, she heard the names of two possible candidates from Europe – whose turn it is to field candidates on the basis of geographical rotation – but both were men.

“The question is: Is the United Nations ready for a woman SG?” she asked.

Dr. Abigail E. Ruane, PeaceWomen Programme Manager at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS the biggest thing at the CSW session was support for a gender equality goal in the post-2015 development agenda and the integration of gender throughout the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs).

She said the recognition of the link between conflict and development was also important because it is not one that is usually recognised.

Asked about the proposal for a woman SG, she said: “I didn’t hear any discussion of a woman SG in the sessions I participated in.”

Harriette Williams Bright, advocacy director of Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), also told IPS the various civil society and CSW sessions she attended did not bring up the discussion of a woman as the next SG.

Still, she said the commitment of the CSW to a stand-alone goal on gender equality is welcomed and “we are hopeful that member states will honour this commitment in the post-2015 development framework and allocate the resources and political will needed for concrete progress in the lives of women, particularly in situations of conflict.”

Antonia Kirkland, legal advisor at Equality Now, told IPS her organisation was heartened that U.N. member states were able to reach consensus endorsing the idea that gender equality, the empowerment of women and the human rights of women and girls must be addressed in any post-2015 development framework following the expiration of MDGs in 2015.

“Throughout the process there has been broad agreement that freedom from violence against women and girls and the elimination of child marriage and FGM must be achieved,” she said.

“Equality Now believes sex discriminatory laws, including those that actually promote violence against women and girls, should be repealed as soon as possible to really change harmful practices and social norms,” Kirkland added.

Cabrera-Balleza of GNWP said the call for a stand-alone goal on gender equality; women’s empowerment and human rights of women and girls; the elimination of FGM and honour crimes, child, early and forced marriages; protection of women and girls from violence; the protection of women human rights defenders; the integration of a gender perspective in environmental and climate change policies and humanitarian response to natural disasters; “are all reasons to celebrate.”

She regretted the CSW conclusions did not make a link between peace, development and the post-2015 agenda.

The earlier drafts of the Agreed Conclusions were much stronger in terms of defining this intersection, she noted.

“I hate to think delegates see peace and development and gender equality and women’s empowerment as disconnected issues or that peace is an easy bargaining chip. …that there is no text on the intersection of peace, security and development defies logic,” she said. “How can we have development without peace and how can we have peace without development?”

Cabrera-Balleza pointed out that “even as we hold governments accountable to respond to this gap, we need to have a serious dialogue among ourselves too as civil society actors – across issues, across different thematic agendas.”

Dr. Ruane of WILPF told IPS that despite longstanding commitments to strengthen financing to move words to action, including through arms reduction, such as included both in the plan of action at the Earth Summit in Rio (1992) and the Beijing women’s conference (1995), “governments gave in to pressure to weaken commitments and ended up reiterating only support for voluntary innovative financing mechanisms, as appropriate.”

In a statement released Monday, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) said that while the MDGs resulted in a reduction of poverty in some respects, the goals furthest from being achieved are those focused on women and girls – particularly on achieving gender equality and improving maternal health.

Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the agreement represents a milestone toward a transformative global development agenda that puts the empowerment of women and girls at its centre.

She said member states have stressed that while the MDGs have advanced progress in many areas, they remain unfinished business as long as gender inequality persists.

As the Commission rightly points out, she said, funding in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment remains inadequate.

Investments in women and girls will have to be significantly stepped up. As member states underline, this will have a multiplier effect on sustained economic growth, she declared.

At the conclusion of the session, CSW Chair Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines said “it is critical, important and urgent to appreciate every tree in the forest, and have an agreement on how big, how tall or how fat each tree.

“At the same time, we need to be mindful of the entire forest,” she added, pointing out that “the absence of peace and security in the discourse on post-2015 agenda does not make a whole forest.”

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Abolitionists Want to Set a Deadline for Nuclear Ban http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/abolitionists-want-set-deadline-nuclear-ban/#comments Sat, 15 Feb 2014 08:19:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131656 Countries in favour of nuclear disarmament have reached the point where they are ready to set a date for the start of formal negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, a decision that could be taken in Austria at the end of this year. This was the general sense at the close on Friday Feb. 14 of […]

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Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, speaking in Nuevo Vallarta on progress towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Credit: Courtesy of Kimiaki Kawai

Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, speaking in Nuevo Vallarta on progress towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Credit: Courtesy of Kimiaki Kawai

By Emilio Godoy
NUEVO VALLARTA, Feb 15 2014 (IPS)

Countries in favour of nuclear disarmament have reached the point where they are ready to set a date for the start of formal negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, a decision that could be taken in Austria at the end of this year.

This was the general sense at the close on Friday Feb. 14 of the two-day Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in the tourist centre of Nuevo Vallarta in western Mexico. Delegates from 146 nations and over 100 non-governmental organisations from all over the world were in attendance."We are more advanced than the nuclear powers in acknowledging that there should be no weapons.” -- Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai International

Participants denounced the humanitarian effects of possession and use of nuclear arsenals and sent a powerful message in favour of the destruction of all nuclear warheads, 19,000 of which are still in the possession of China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It’s a step towards a road map for the objective of prohibition, and I assume that the third conference will provide the road map for that aim. We are more advanced than the nuclear powers in acknowledging that there should be no weapons,” Japanese Hirotsugu Terasaki, vice-president of Soka Gakkai and executive director of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International, a pacifist Buddhist organisation, told IPS.

“It’s about the creation of an environment for abolition [because] the nuclear powers defend non-proliferation, but they maintain their arsenals,” he said at the conference.

The Austrian government announced on Thursday Feb. 13 that they would host the third conference at the end of the year. It will precede the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the main binding international instrument for limiting atomic armaments, which has made no progress for the past 15 years.

Héctor Guerra, the coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which has a membership of 350 organisations from 81 countries, told IPS that the process “is ready for the next steps and for the transition” to a “binding international instrument for the elimination” of nuclear weapons.

Ideally, “the entire international community” would participate, but if the nuclear powers abstain, “there is no problem,” said Guerra. In his view, the new treaty “would establish international regulations that would facilitate the delegitimisation of the weapons in international negotiations.”

As with the Oslo conference in 2013, the five nuclear powers authorised by the NPT (U.S., China, France, U.K. and Russia) were not present at Nuevo Vallarta.

Pakistan, however, was present, although like Israel and India it has not signed the NPT, which currently has 190 states parties.

Since the Oslo conference, the abolitionist movement has made headway in the denunciation of humanitarian impacts. In May 2013 the preparatory committee for the NPT Review Conference highlighted this angle, as did the General Assembly of the United Nations a few months later in New York.

At Nuevo Vallarta the factors of human error and technological failure in the maintenance and management of nuclear arsenals came under scrutiny, illustrated in detail by journalist Eric Schlosser in his book “Command and Control”.

“Many times the arms were almost used due to miscalculation and mistakes,” Patricia Lewis, the head of international security research for the London-based NGO Chatham House, told IPS.

“The probability is greater than what we know and we have to consider what we don’t know. Today’s situation is even riskier,” she said.

Lewis presented the findings of a study in which she and her team reviewed nuclear incidents in tests, military exercises and potential risk alerts between 1962 and 2013, involving the U.S., the former Soviet Union, the U.K., France, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Among its results, the study found lax physical and operational security practised at all levels by the U.S. air force.

Until all warheads are eliminated, Lewis recommended avoidance of large-scale military exercises at times of high political tension, and slowing the triggering of attack threat alerts.

Terasaki concluded that “nuclear weapons have made humanity their hostage.”

In Guerra’s view, a ban on nuclear weapons should be in place by 2020. “The political conditions are becoming ripe for negotiations,” which should be carried out in the U.N. framework, he said.

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Nuclear Weapons Leave Unspeakable Legacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/nuclear-weapons-leave-unspeakable-legacy/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 13:37:31 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131640 For decades, Yasuaki Yamashita kept secret his experiences as a survivor of the nuclear attack launched by the United States on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Yamashita, a 74-year-old artist who settled in Mexico in 1968, broke his silence in 1995 and told the story of what happened that morning to […]

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Yasuaki Yamashita at the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yasuaki Yamashita at the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico, Feb 14 2014 (IPS)

For decades, Yasuaki Yamashita kept secret his experiences as a survivor of the nuclear attack launched by the United States on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Yamashita, a 74-year-old artist who settled in Mexico in 1968, broke his silence in 1995 and told the story of what happened that morning to change the fate of Nagasaki and of the whole world.“I don’t know how many generations it will take for this to end." -- Yasuaki Yamashita

“I was six years old, and we lived 2.5 kilometres away from ground zero (where the bomb detonated). Usually I went to the nearby mountains to catch insects with my friends, but that day I was alone in front of my house, near my mother, who was cooking the day’s meal,” Yamashita, a white-haired, soft-spoken man with fine features, told IPS.

In 1968, he came to Mexico as a correspondent covering the Olympic Games, and he stayed in this Latin American country. Today he digs deep into his past to recall how his mother called him to go into the shelter they had in their home.

“As we ran into it for cover there was a tremendous blinding light. My mother pulled me to the ground and covered me with her body. There was a tremendous noise, we heard lots of things flying over us,” he said.

They were surrounded by desolation. Everything was burning, there were no doctors, nurses or food. It was just the beginning of an endless tragedy that still endures.

At the age of 20, Yamashita started work at the Nagasaki hospital that treated atomic bomb survivors. He resigned years later.

His story greatly moved the participants of the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, being held Feb. 13-14 in Nuevo Vallarta, a tourist centre in the northwestern state of Nayarit, and attended by delegates from 140 countries and more than 100 non-governmental organisations from around the world.

The goal of the two-day conference, which follows the previous conference in Oslo in March 2013, is to make progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, which are an economic, humanitarian, health and ecological threat to humanity and to the planet.

There are at least 19,000 atomic warheads in existence, most of them in the hands of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – states authorised to possess them under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – as well as India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

The Mexican foreign ministry estimates that there are over 2,000 nuclear weapons on “high operational alert,” ready for launching within minutes.

“These weapons are unacceptable. They must be banned, like biological and chemical weapons. There is no response capability, nationally or internationally, that can deal with the potential damages,” Richard Moyes, of Article 36, a UK-based not-for-profit organisation working to prevent unnecessary harm caused by certain weapons, told IPS.

In February 2013, Article 36 published a study of the likely impact of a 100 kilotonne bomb detonated over Manchester, UK. The broad urban area of Greater Manchester is home to 2.7 million people.

The blast and thermal effects would kill at least 81,000 people directly and injure 212,000 more. Bridges and roads would be destroyed and the health services would be seriously incapacitated, hampering efforts at remedial action. The long term impact on the fabric of UK society “would be massive,” the Article 36 study says.

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area, with a population of over 20 million, carried out a similar theoretical exercise. It found that a 50 kilotonne bomb would affect up to 66 kilometres away from ground zero and some 22 million people, as the damage would extend to areas in the centre of the country beyond the metropolitan area itself.

“The consequences would be severe: loss of operational capacity of the emergency services, loss of rescue workers and health workers, hospitals, clinics,” Rogelio Conde, the coordinator of civil defence at the interior ministry, told IPS.

“We would need help from other Mexican states, and from other countries, such as equipment, and operational and expert personnel,” he said.

Ecological devastation and damage to infrastructure would cause losses equivalent to 20 percent of the country’s economy.

Places on the planet that have become atomic laboratories, like the Marshall Islands in the Pacific ocean, have suffered damage of various kinds.

The Marshall Islands, made up of chains of islands and coral atolls, were the site of 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958.

“There have been environmental and health problems, although they have not been quantified. Many of our survivors have become human guineapigs in the research laboratories, and 60 years on we are still suffering the consequences,” complained Jeban Riklon, a senator in the Islands’ government.

Riklon was two years old and living with his grandmother on Rongelap Atoll when the United States carried out its Castle Bravo test on Bikini Atoll on Mar. 1, 1954, detonating a bomb 1,000 times as powerful as that dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The United States immediately performed a secret medical study to investigate the effects of radiation on humans.

A Human Rights’ Council Special Rapporteur’s report after a field trip to the Marshall Islands found violations to the right to health, to effective remedies and to environmental rehabilitation, in addition to forced displacement and other serious omissions by the United States.

The promoters of the Mexico conference want the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons n Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Tlatelolco Treaty, which was signed in 1967, to be the model for a future global convention against the bomb, even though they must overcome decades of diplomatic deadlock.

The treaty led to the region becoming the first of the Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZ) which now include 114 nations.

The other four NWFZ are the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation seeks to establish a clear road map to an atomic-weapons-free world by 2020.

There are already 161 states party to this treaty, but its entry into force depends on its signature and ratification by China, North Korea, Egypt, the United States, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan.

At the Nuevo Vallarta conference there are no representatives from the big five nuclear powers: the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom and Russia.

“I don’t know how many generations it will take for this to end. Why should so many innocent people be made to suffer, when there is no need? This is why we have to make the utmost efforts to abolish nuclear weapons,” Yamashita concluded.

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Elites Will ‘Consider Inequality’ http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/elites-will-consider-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=elites-will-consider-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/elites-will-consider-inequality/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 04:43:18 +0000 Ray Smith http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=130532 With no acute crisis on the radar, this year’s Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will move away from the response mode of the past years and “look for solutions for the really fundamental issues,” its founder Klaus Schwab said at the pre-meeting press conference. “We cannot afford to allow the next era […]

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Development issues find little place in Davos. Credit: Ray Smith/IPS.

Development issues find little place in Davos. Credit: Ray Smith/IPS.

By Ray Smith
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 22 2014 (IPS)

With no acute crisis on the radar, this year’s Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will move away from the response mode of the past years and “look for solutions for the really fundamental issues,” its founder Klaus Schwab said at the pre-meeting press conference.

“We cannot afford to allow the next era of globalisation to create as many risks and inequities as it does opportunities,” Schwab wrote in a blog post a few days earlier. “Today we face a situation where the number of potential flashpoints are many and are likely to grow.”Hardly any of the workshops scheduled specifically address developing countries.

Even Schwab and his organisation have finally realised that globalisation has increased global inequality and that its consequences have not been managed and mitigated well on the global level.

According to Schwab, the WEF is the “biggest assembly of political, business and civil society leaders in the world.” For decades, he has been gathering the world’s richest and most powerful people and companies once a year in the mountain resort of Davos under the banner of “improving the state of the world”.

This year, the annual meeting beginning Wednesday takes place for the 44th time. Schwab welcomes around 2,500 participants, among them more than half of the CEOs of the 1,000 largest companies of the world, over 30 heads of state, and numerous leaders of international institutions.

A report published by the WEF has spoken of widening income disparities. The report states that increasing inequality impacts social stability within countries and threatens security on a global scale.

“It’s essential that we devise innovative solutions to the causes and consequences of a world becoming ever more unequal,” its authors wrote.

With a well-timed report, the renowned aid and development charity Oxfam International picked the issue up this week. According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 85 people own the wealth of half of the world’s population – a fact that the charity’s executive director Winnie Byanyima called staggering.

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality,” she said. Oxfam locates the roots of the widening gap in fiscal deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates on high incomes and investments and cuts or underinvestment in public services for the majority.

According to Oxfam, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars in tax havens around the world. “In Africa”, the report says, “global corporations – particularly those in extractive industries – exploit their influence to avoid taxes and royalties, reducing the resources available to governments to fight poverty.”

Over the last years, tax avoidance has become a major focus of non-governmental organisations especially in countries like Switzerland, where some of the world’s biggest companies involved in raw materials mining and trade have their headquarters.

“Tax avoidance and harmful tax incentives are strongly linked with inequality,” said Martin Hojsik, tax campaign manager of ActionAid International, an international coalition fighting poverty across the globe. “With a lack of revenue caused by tax dodging, developing countries in particular have very little resources to finance essential services like education and health care,” he told IPS.

ActionAid doesn’t participate at the WEF, which Hojsik calls a talking shop for elites in a fancy resort. “Real progress requires commitment from governments and processes that are inclusive of all stakeholders including people living in poverty,” he said.

Hojsik has no illusions about Davos: “This year, Deloitte, a company among other things advising companies how to avoid taxes when investing in Africa, is tweeting about income disparity on their #DeloitteDavosLife event, clearly showing some of the absurdity.”

Unlike ActionAid, Oxfam will take part at the global leaders’ meeting. The charity is asking participants to pledge to supporting progressive taxation, to making public all the investments in companies and trusts, to demanding a living wage in their companies and to challenging governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens.

Oxfam’s effort is doomed to fail. A look at the WEF’s more than 260 sessions shows that hot potatoes like tax avoidance won’t be addressed. Even though there is a workshop specifically on the extractive industry, it aims only to discuss how the industry may drive growth in the future in the light of rising concerns over scarcity and environmental deprivation.

Hardly any of the workshops scheduled specifically address developing countries. There’s a session on the post-2015 development goals, however. It asks how a new spirit of solidarity, cooperation and mutual accountability may carry those goals from vision to action.

Peter Niggli, director of Alliance Sud, an alliance of the six biggest Swiss charities, isn’t attracted by such debates. Alliance Sud doesn’t go to Davos.

“We lobby at the Swiss government which makes more sense,” he told IPS. As a discussion forum, the WEF in Niggli’s opinion doesn’t have any influence at all on defining the post-2015 development agenda.

Niggli said that it is in any case not the WEF’s official programme with all the debates and workshops that draws businessmen and politicians, but the opportunity they have to meet others informally or set up new projects behind closed doors.

Surely it also isn’t the fake refugee camp the WEF has set up in Davos that draws the global elite. “We are simulating the experience of a Syrian refugee in a Jordanian refugee camp,” Schwab said. “It is so important that people can really imagine what it means to be a refugee.”

The United Nations Refugee Agency has appealed for 6.5 billion dollars for Syrian refugees. International donors have pledged 2.4 billion dollars so far. If the WEF is serious about “improving the state of the world”, its wealthy members could come up with the lacking sum.

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Global Trade Winds Leave the Poor Gasping http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/global-trade-winds-leave-poor-gasping/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-trade-winds-leave-poor-gasping http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/global-trade-winds-leave-poor-gasping/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 08:31:45 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=129146 For years, it was the power chamber at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva – the Director General’s Conference Room, more popularly known as the Green Room, where a handful of delegates would gather for important discussions and meetings. The traditional power quad – the U.S., EU, Japan and Canada – […]

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Poorer countries will find it hard to gain access to bilateral trade agreements unless the WTO helps them do so. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Poorer countries will find it hard to gain access to bilateral trade agreements unless the WTO helps them do so. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
TOKYO, Nov 29 2013 (IPS)

For years, it was the power chamber at the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva – the Director General’s Conference Room, more popularly known as the Green Room, where a handful of delegates would gather for important discussions and meetings.

The traditional power quad – the U.S., EU, Japan and Canada – would gather in the Green Room to “decide on global trade deals,” according to Masahiro Kawai, the head of the Tokyo-based Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), a think tank. That, however, was in the past.

“They sat in the Green Room and came up with agreements, but not any more,” Kawai said.

The erosion of power within the Green Room discussions, and more specifically that held by rich nations like the U.S. or Japan, is primarily linked to the rise of emerging nations such as India and China, and of newer, leaner and meaner trade groups like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), as well as the change in traditional global supply chains.

A quarter of a century ago the share of global GDP held by emerging and developing economies was below 20 percent, according to World Bank and International Monetary Fund statistics.

As of 2012, they had almost caught up with the G7 powerful industrialised nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and U.S.). The G7 share was around 48 percent while the emerging nations’ share was just below 40 percent.

They have already overtaken the G7 as the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for just over 40 percent of all global trade. The G7 share of global trade has fallen from a peak of above 50 percent in the first half of the 1990s to around 35 percent.

“No wonder the voices of the emerging and developing nations have risen at the WTO,” Kawai said.

Another reason for the erosion of power held by the G7 is the change in global supply chains. Whereas decades back global trade would be dominated by end-products, now it is predominantly a market for intermediary products.

“Today, nearly 60 percent of the world merchandise trade is trade in intermediary products,” Kawai said.

When he researched the supply chain of the iPhone, ADBI Director of Capacity Building and Training Yuquing Xing came up with a starling statistic. Of a production cost of 178.96 dollars (2010 values), China’s manufacturing cost was a mere 6.50 dollars. The remaining costs came from over a dozen companies in five countries. The most expensive component, according to Xing’s research, was the flash memory, at 24 dollars, which came from Toshiba Co in Japan.

This new trading pattern allows China to export over 11 million iPhones a year to the U.S., the country where it was developed and where the company that markets the product is located, Xing said.

But this reinvention of global trade negotiations does not bode all that well for poorer nations and lower-middle-income nations, according to ADBI experts and others. Why? Because the emerging nations and G7 members are now eagerly negotiating and entering into regional and bilateral free trade agreements, mostly with equally powerful trading partners.

According to ADBI, there are 379 such trade agreements in force globally, with more being negotiated. There are ongoing discussions for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would bring together 10 countries on either side of the Pacific: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and Vietnam.

Equally closely watched are the discussions on the jumbo Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three partnership that would bring together the ASEAN nations and Japan, South Korea and China.

“The non-tariff trading regimes are the current weapons of choice,” said Rodolfo Certeza Severino, the former secretary general of ASEAN between 1998 and 2002 and currently the head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

What these jumbo and super powerful trading agreements do is leave middle-income and poorer countries in an unenviable position of being left on the sidelines, unable to get in.

For example, none of the eight countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a political association, feature among India’s fifteen largest trading partners.

India’s largest South Asian trading partner is Sri Lanka, with which it did four billion dollars worth of trade last year. But here too the trade has been lopsided, with Indian exports amounting to over 3.4 billion dollars in 2012.

“These free trade agreements are setting the new realities,” Kawai said.

These new realities dictate that while the richer nations negotiate, argue and cajole for more preferential trade, the world’s poor are being left further adrift.

A recent report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said that the 49 least developed nations recorded job growth of just over two percent in the last few decades, barely above population growth levels.

ADBI’s Kawai however sees a role for the WTO to break the trading cycle that favours the rich. The organisation should act as a catalyst for trade negotiations and as an effective arbitrator of disputes, he said. More multilateral and regional trade agreements should be promoted, with the WTO playing a critical central role, he added.

“A revamped WTO process could achieve global trade and investment liberalisation through consolidation of regional agreements, creation of cross-regional agreements, and harmonisation of rules across agreements,” he said.

Former ASEAN Secretary General Severino agreed. “In fact most of the provisions in these [free trade] agreements have to be WTO-consistent,” he said.

But with the WTO hobbled, still unable to conclude the Doha round of negotiations that started in 2001, the chances of it playing a decisive role in trade negotiations remain low, at least in the short term, both experts agreed.

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Local Action Against Climate Change a Beacon of Hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/local-action-against-climate-change-a-beacon-of-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-action-against-climate-change-a-beacon-of-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/local-action-against-climate-change-a-beacon-of-hope/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 17:03:57 +0000 Silvia Giannelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=129023 In Maputo, a port city on the Indian Ocean in Mozambique, 44 percent of the 1.2 million inhabitants live in poverty, making them even more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, floods and cyclones. But despite their severe poverty, their day-to-day experience gives them practical knowledge on how to deal with climate change […]

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UNFCCC Lighthouse Award Projects Presentation - 4PCCD project leader Vanesa Castan Broto third from the right. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

UNFCCC Lighthouse Award Projects Presentation - 4PCCD project leader Vanesa Castan Broto third from the right. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

By Silvia Giannelli
WARSAW, Nov 22 2013 (IPS)

In Maputo, a port city on the Indian Ocean in Mozambique, 44 percent of the 1.2 million inhabitants live in poverty, making them even more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, floods and cyclones. But despite their severe poverty, their day-to-day experience gives them practical knowledge on how to deal with climate change effects.

The Public Private People Partnership for Climate Compatible Development (4PCCD) received the prestigious UNFCCC climate convention Lighthouse Award at the Nov. 11-22 COP19 climate change summit in Warsaw.

The 4PCCD, declared one of the 2013 Lighthouse Activities under the U.N. Momentum for Change initiative, brought together the national government, local authorities and citizens in the construction of strategies to boost resilience against climate change in Maputo.

“Relating to their own experiences, citizens showed they had a good understanding of climate change,” Vanesa Castan Broto, 4PCCD project leader, explained during her presentation at COP19 in Warsaw.

“Thanks to the mediation of local facilitators, local residents could discuss and develop adaptation plans that are feasible and sustainable: organising waste collection, constructing toilet blocks, fixing leaky pipes, etc.”

This is just one example of clashing realities inside the National Stadium, where the 19th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is coming to an end.

While hopes for relevant outcomes from the negotiations are fading away and national governments seem to have reached a stalemate, the success of small, bottom-up projects like the 4PCCD has brought fresh air to the corridors of the conference.

On Thursday, cities and local authorities took the stage in what was the first ‘Cities Day’ ever celebrated during a COP – an initiative by the COP presidency, the UNFCCC secretariat, the city of Warsaw and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and partners.

In fact, cities were for the first time allowed to participate in the official negotiations, under the “Friends of the Cities” group at UNFCCC.

“We are opening up a dialogue at the national level, between national governments and cities, on what they can collectively do if they all use their maximum efforts, and what the private sector role can be in that process,” David Cadman, president of ICLEI, told IPS.

“Half of the world population lives in cities. By the end of the century 90 percent will, and we are going to build more in the next 40 years than we’ve built in all of humanity,” he continued. “So if we don’t build it right, then it’s going to be a draw on energy, and the form of energy will probably be a dirty one.”

Around 12,000 cities and towns already joined ICLEI’s network and decided to take concrete action on mitigation, adaptation, urban biodiversity, ecological purchasing, and ecomobility.

“When everyone said it was very difficult to have an MRV [measurable, reportable, verifiable] greenhouse gas [GHG] reduction plan, we put it in place,” he said. “And we’ve got a software that cities can now use to measure GHGs and we are seeing really dramatic drops: in 107 municipalities they’re exceeding one percent lowering of GHGs per year.”

Yet, according to Cadman, better coordination among local and national authorities is necessary to obtain greater results: “The most interesting study on this has been done by the city of London, which basically said ‘we can get a 30 percent reduction of CO2 if we use all of our facilities. But if simultaneously we had these actions from the national government, we could get to 60-80 percent’. The limits [of local authorities] depend on what your sources of energy are.”

And ICLEI is not the only network of cities engaged in tackling climate change.
The Climate Alliance (CA) of European Cities with Indigenous Rainforest Peoples is another example of cross-national cooperation, where European member cities and municipalities aim to reduce GHGs at their source.

“When they become a member of CA,” Thomas Brose, from the European Secretariat of CA, explained to IPS, “they commit to the following goals: reduce CO2 emissions by 10 percent every five years, halve per capita emissions by 2030 at the latest [from a 1990 baseline], preserve the tropical rainforests by avoiding the use of tropical timber, and support projects and initiatives of the indigenous partners.”

Their alliance with indigenous communities through the Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica – COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon River Basin) is based on an acknowledgment that while industrialised countries are mainly responsible for climate change, its effects will largely impact populations that live in ecologically sensitive areas.

Furthermore, protecting those areas is crucial to reducing the greenhouse effect.

“Destruction of forests worldwide is responsible for about 17 percent of GHG emissions. Effective protection of this environment will only be achieved if we integrate the people who live in these environments into our protection strategies,” Brose told IPS.

At the foundation of these networks is the warning by scientists that time is running out and concrete action is needed if we are to stay below the two degree C threshold of temperature rise and avoid catastrophic consequences. Yet, cities and local governments need to be included in an international framework.

“They need to be included in the legal frameworks on energy, housing or transportation,” Brose underlined. “And they also need financial support programmes to implement and develop their activities.”

Hopefully, the participation of local authorities in the UNFCCC process is a good sign that such inclusion is about to happen.

“Whereas national governments have been somewhat slow in terms of establishing national goals, and in achieving those goals, cities have been establishing and exceeding local goals. Cities can, and are, leading this process,” Cadman concluded.

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Storm Brews at U.N. Climate Talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/storm-brews-at-u-n-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=storm-brews-at-u-n-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/storm-brews-at-u-n-climate-talks/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 20:58:29 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128990 Hundreds of representatives from various NGOs walked out of the negotiating rooms at the United Nations climate talks in Poland on Thursday in protest against the reluctance by developed nations to commit towards achieving a global climate treaty. Donning white T-shirts with the slogan: “polluters talk, we walk”, the protestors, which included representatives from Oxfam International, Greenpeace […]

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NGO representatives lead by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, stormed out of the climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

NGO representatives lead by Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, stormed out of the climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland. Courtesy: Wambi Michael

By Wambi Michael
WARSAW, Nov 21 2013 (IPS)

Hundreds of representatives from various NGOs walked out of the negotiating rooms at the United Nations climate talks in Poland on Thursday in protest against the reluctance by developed nations to commit towards achieving a global climate treaty.

Donning white T-shirts with the slogan: “polluters talk, we walk”, the protestors, which included representatives from Oxfam InternationalGreenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation, and ActionAid International, marched quietly towards the conference exits as U.N. security ensured they left peacefully. Their departure from the talks sets the stage for renewed civil society pressure on governments to take meaningful action against climate change.

Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima told IPS that they walked out because there was almost no progress on the key issues that they had expected the COP19 climate summit to deliver on.

“This is a wakeup call to our governments, particularly the rich countries that are behaving irresponsibly by failing to take responsibility for the climate crisis. We are going out to mobilise so that they cannot ignore the voices of their citizens,” said Byanyima.

She said NGOs had expected to see pronouncements by developed nations for the provision of funds for adaptation and meeting the emission reduction targets, but with the conference ending on Nov. 22, this did not appear to be a possibility.

This comes a day after the G77+China group of 133 developing countries walked out of negotiations on a new international deal to combat climate change in protest against developed countries’ reluctance to commit to loss and damage.

“We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations who actually come to negotiate in good faith. But at the Warsaw conference, rich country governments have come with nothing to offer,” said a statement issued by the group of organisations that led the walkout here.

“Many developing country governments are also struggling and failing to stand up for the needs and rights of their people. It is clear that if countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs,” the statement said.

Mithika Mwenda, the general secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said if rich industrialised countries continued to block the talks, they would “hold them to account”.

“We will not accept delay and we will demand our governments withdraw from an unsatisfactory outcome,” he told IPS.

COP19, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is mainly for planning purposes ahead of next year’s conference in Lima, Peru and the 2015 conference in France. It is not expected to have pronouncements from governments.

But Byanyima said that NGOs and social movements expected Warsaw to build the momentum towards next year’s conference in Lima, Peru. She said instead of doing this, governments were going in circles on issues that have been on the table for close to five years.

“It was intended to be a planning COP but we see no plans, we see no clear road map regarding emission targets, regarding resources. We are not going to get an agreement in an environment of no trust, in an environment of no plan,” said Byanyima.

Hajeet Singh of ActionAid International told IPS they wanted a clear roadmap on emissions reductions by 2015.

“This is not coming out. There is no money on the table, which was promised to us last year. We don’t see the loss and damage mechanism coming up and yet that is want we want to deal with disasters like what we have just experienced in Philippines. There is nothing that we are achieving here and that is why we are walking out.”  On Nov. 8 super-typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, killing over 2,300 and affecting over 11 million people.

Singh said that the NGOs and social movements had expected governments in Warsaw to agree on concrete steps to devote political energy to mobilising climate finance. He said they wanted to ensure that a clear trajectory was agreed on to scale up public finance towards 100 billion dollars per annum by 2020.

Matthias Groote, the head of the European Parliament’s delegation at the Warsaw talks, said in a statement shortly after the walkout that the negotiations had reached a critical stage and called on the COP presidency to act so COP19 did not end in failure.

“There is a growing sense of frustration here in Warsaw, and the concern is over how few results have been achieved so far. We need to agree on the steps towards a global climate agreement. Instead some are backtracking on their previous commitments,” said Groote.

The EU has offered to increase emission reductions by 30 percent if other major emitter countries commit themselves to comparable terms.

But Mwenda said the failure of industrialised nations at Warsaw to agree on an instrument for compensation for loss and damage was a betrayal to poor and least developed countries that increasingly face climate–related losses and damages.

“It is a disaster for many of our countries, especially when there is empirical and scientific evidence to show that climate change-related losses are on the increase,” he said.

A World Bank report released at Warsaw warned that the costs and damage from extreme weather were growing.

It said while all countries are impacted, developing nations bear the brunt of mounting losses. The report said that the loss and damage from disasters have been rising over the last three decades, from an annual average of around 50 billion dollars in the 1980s to just under 200 billion dollars each year in the last decade.

 

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Cleopatra Drives in Haiyan’s Climate Change Message http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/cleopatra-drives-in-haiyans-climate-change-message/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cleopatra-drives-in-haiyans-climate-change-message http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/cleopatra-drives-in-haiyans-climate-change-message/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 18:18:44 +0000 Silvia Giannelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128985 Cleopatra is the name chosen for the younger sister of Haiyan, the cyclone that wreaked havoc in the Philippines last week. This latest storm caused massive floods and left 16 dead and hundreds displaced in Sardinia, Italy. More than 450 mm of rain fell in just 12 hours on this Mediterranean island – half of […]

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The Italian delegation’s negotiation desk at the COP19 plenary session in Warsaw. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

The Italian delegation’s negotiation desk at the COP19 plenary session in Warsaw. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

By Silvia Giannelli
WARSAW, Nov 21 2013 (IPS)

Cleopatra is the name chosen for the younger sister of Haiyan, the cyclone that wreaked havoc in the Philippines last week. This latest storm caused massive floods and left 16 dead and hundreds displaced in Sardinia, Italy.

More than 450 mm of rain fell in just 12 hours on this Mediterranean island – half of the usual quantity that falls in a year, Environment Minister Andrea Orlando reported to the lower house of parliament Tuesday.

“I felt it was right to call the attention of this assembly [Thursday’s plenary session] to what happened in Sardinia,” the minister told IPS on his arrival to Warsaw for the Nov. 11-22 COP19 climate change summit.

“This is clearly an event which is connected to what we are discussing here, climate change and its impact on peoples’ lives and security. Yet,” he added, “it seems to me that there is still too much distance between denunciations of such phenomena and the capacity of the international community to concretely act for a common adaptation strategy.”

It is not possible to scientifically prove a direct link between climate change and the floods in Italy or the super typhoon Haiyan that claimed at least 4,000 lives in the Philippines on Nov. 7. But there is scientific evidence that extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency and intensity as a consequence of global warming.

“Due to climate change, and more specifically global warming and the warming of the oceans, phenomena that were once happening every hundred years are now repeated every 20 to 30 years, and this last one [floods in Sardinia] perfectly fits the picture,” Luca Lombroso, an Italian meteorologist and delegate of the environmental organisation Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente, told IPS.

Controversy over the efficiency of the early warning system and scarce abilities in risk management has been sparked across Italy after the tragedy. Civil Protection, however, claims that it did everything in its capacity.

While damage, and maybe victims, could have been spared through better urban planning and by measures to curb unauthorised building, “when we face such heavy rainfall, there is no way to prevent flooding, it is unavoidable,” Lombroso said.

“This is a very good illustration that no country is immune to losses and damage from climatic events from now on,” Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and a leading expert on loss and damage, told IPS. “All countries are going to suffer and are going to have to deal with this; the new mechanism is supposed to discuss that.”

Yet, fearing that the establishment of a third ‘loss and damage’ pillar – next to mitigation and adaptation – would turn this new mechanism into a compensation tool, developed nations are making their stand.

The “behaviour and tone” of the Australian delegation was such, according to Huq, that the lead negotiators of the G77 group of developing countries plus China decided to walk out of the negotiations at 4am on Wednesday morning.

“They felt they were blocked, they were frustrated by the attitude [of Australia], but my understanding is that they are still prepared to negotiate, if Annex I countries [industrialised nations and economies in transition] are serious about it,” Huq added.

Despite their milder approach, other industrialised actors don’t seem to be willing to create an additional loss and damage track.

“Our aim has been to move into a more constructive debate, into a debate which will allow us to make progress with our partners from the developing world,” Paul Watkinson, leading negotiator on adaptation and loss and damage for the EU, told IPS.

“We know it’s a very important project to many of them, particularly the small islands and some of the more vulnerable countries who find themselves having to deal with the effects of climate change. They are adapting but they are very worried that in the longer term they will face impacts which they won’t be able to manage.”

But, Watkinson continued, this is something that can be done through the institutions that have already been created under the climate convention and also outside the convention.

Huq, however, argued that “Existing mechanisms are not adequate; when you fail to mitigate, when you fail to adapt, you still have losses and damage. It is a new subject, and it requires a new mechanism.”

The debate keeps revolving around a different perception of what the loss and damage proposal is actually about.

One side stresses its universal scope, insisting on how recent events such as the Italian cyclone, and also the hurricanes in the U.S. or the floods in Germany, show that everyone will have to deal with extreme events and consequent losses.

Meanwhile, the bloc of developed countries fears that this will automatically lead to the creation of a compensation fund, with less universal scope.

Indeed, had a mechanism on loss and damage already been established, on what basis would a country like Italy expect developing countries to dig into their pockets?

“Let’s not reduce this mechanism to simply money from one side coming to another side,” Huq insisted. “It may be about compensation, but money is not the only transaction to be made here. This is about the expression of human solidarity across the globe, it’s about sharing knowledge. We can help the Italians from other parts of the world. We may be money-poor but we are knowledge-rich, and we can share it with [them]”.

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G77 Walk-out at COP19 as Rich Countries Use Delaying Tactics http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/g77-walk-out-at-cop19-as-rich-countries-use-delaying-tactics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g77-walk-out-at-cop19-as-rich-countries-use-delaying-tactics http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/g77-walk-out-at-cop19-as-rich-countries-use-delaying-tactics/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 18:30:45 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128964 The G77+China group of 133 developing countries negotiating a new international deal at COP19 in Warsaw to combat climate change walked out of the talks in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to protest developed countries’ reluctance to commit to loss and damage. “Today at 4 a.m. the delegation of Bolivia and all delegations of […]

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By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Nov 20 2013 (IPS)

The G77+China group of 133 developing countries negotiating a new international deal at COP19 in Warsaw to combat climate change walked out of the talks in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to protest developed countries’ reluctance to commit to loss and damage.

“Today at 4 a.m. the delegation of Bolivia and all delegations of G77 walked out because we do not see a clear cut commitment by developed countries to reach an agreement,” said Bolivian negotiator Rene Orellana speaking on Wednesday morning at the COP19 climate summit.

What seems to have happened at the closed night-time session of the so-called contact group of loss and damage is that Juan Hoffmaister, the Bolivian negotiator on loss and damage, who was representing the entire G77 + China group, walked out in the name of developing countries. The walk-out has a strong symbolic value and is unprecedented in the last decade of climate talks.

Orellana further explained that the walk-out was sparked by the attitude of developed countries, among them Norway, which proposed that loss and damage be discussed not under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as developing countries requested but under the looser Rio+20 sustainable development framework.

“G77 put forward a very constructive proposal on loss and damage and have been engaging meaningfully with all countries, but [during the loss and damage session taking place into the early hours of Nov. 20], Australians were behaving like high school boys in class, their behaviour was rude and disrespectful,” commented Harjeet Singh from the NGO ActionAid International on Wednesday.

“On top of that, in the middle of the night, Norway came up with a proposal whereby they rejected everything, they rejected discussing socioeconomic losses, non-economic losses, rehabilitation, compensation,” added Singh. “But these are the crucial elements of loss and damage; if you do not discuss these, how can you discuss loss and damage?”

Developing countries negotiating at COP19 have repeatedly stated that creating an international mechanism under UNFCCC to address loss and damage is the biggest expectation they have of the Warsaw meeting.

G77+China last week proposed a text meant to provide the basis of negotiations for creating such an international mechanism for loss and damage, which called for this issue to be treated as a third, separate, pillar in the UNFCCC process, in addition to mitigation and adaptation.

The super-typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines right before COP19 started brought even more to the fore the fact that some countries are already suffering the deadly impacts of climate change, having moved into the so-called “post-adaptation” phase. For these countries, assistance to deal with the loss and damage already caused by climate change would be crucial, argued G77+China.

But developed countries have been reluctant to give such a prominent role under UNFCCC to loss and damage.

According to a U.S. document outlining Washington’s negotiating position at COP which was leaked to the media during the first week of the Warsaw meeting, accepting loss and damage as a third pillar would mean “focusing on blame and liability”. That is, developed countries would have to accept historical responsibility for emissions causing climate change and commit to paying the price.

Australia and Norway appear to have carried this reluctance towards loss and damage into the midnight session.

Speaking on Wednesday, UK negotiator Ed Davey confirmed his country’s support for the developed countries’ resistance. Davey said, “We do not accept the argument on compensation. I don’t think the compensation analysis is fair and sensible, but that does not mean we are not committed to helping the poorest countries adapt.”

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard stated that it was concerning that developing countries took such a tough stance and made an appeal for countries not to backtrack on talks.

While the walk-out makes developing countries vulnerable to the accusation of being responsible for holding back the Warsaw negotiations, developing countries and NGOs are pointing out that it was the attitude and behaviour of developed countries that forced them to issue such an ultimatum in the first place.

“We are very disappointed by the slow process on negotiations on loss and damage, the most important measure of success here in Warsaw,” said Philippines negotiator Yeb Sano on Wednesday.

“The walk-out happened because a very strong proposal for a loss and damage mechanism put forward by G77 and China did not receive enough traction,” explained Meena Raman from the NGO Third World Network. “This is a postponing tactic by developed countries in order not to make a decision on loss and damage here in Warsaw.”

Since COP19 began on Nov. 11, developed countries have given few signs of being committed to a meaningful international climate deal.

This week, Japan announced that it would cut a previous commitment of reducing CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020 to a three percent cut only. Australia recently announced an intention to scrap an existing carbon tax, while Canada indicated it might not meet a pledge to reduce emissions made at the Copenhagen 2009 COP.

Developing countries have indicated that they are ready to discuss more if developed countries take a more serious stance. As an example, Indian Minister of Environment Jayanthi Natarajan declared Wednesday upon arrival in Warsaw that her country would be open to temporarily using the existing Green Climate Fund for doing immediate disbursements for loss and damage, until a proper international mechanism is set in place.

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Driving Home the Link Between Gender and Climate Change http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/driving-home-the-link-between-gender-and-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=driving-home-the-link-between-gender-and-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/driving-home-the-link-between-gender-and-climate-change/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 18:38:54 +0000 Silvia Giannelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128908 Tuesday was Gender Day at the COP19 climate summit in Warsaw, and many of the events that took place in the National Stadium focused on the topic of gender and its relation with climate change, and tried to shed a light on problems that require action from policy-makers. The day opened with the launch of […]

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Panelists at the Gender and Climate Change workshop held Nov. 12 at the COP19 in Warsaw. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

Panelists at the Gender and Climate Change workshop held Nov. 12 at the COP19 in Warsaw. Credit: Silvia Giannelli/IPS

By Silvia Giannelli
WARSAW, Nov 18 2013 (IPS)

Tuesday was Gender Day at the COP19 climate summit in Warsaw, and many of the events that took place in the National Stadium focused on the topic of gender and its relation with climate change, and tried to shed a light on problems that require action from policy-makers.

The day opened with the launch of the Environmental Gender Index (EGI), a project of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Lorena Aguilar, IUCN senior gender adviser, explained it to IPS.

“The EGI is the first index of its kind, bringing together measurements of gender and environmental governance; 72 countries have been rated for six different variables, with each one of its indicators,” Aguilar said at the COP19 United Nations Climate Change Conference running Nov. 11-22 in the Polish capital.

The 72 countries were ranked according to their performance in livelihood, gender rights and participation, governance, gender education and assets, ecosystem and country-reported activities. Each of the variables contains a set of indicators to better define their scope.

For example, the ‘gender rights and participation’ variable looks at whether women enjoy equal legal rights, property rights and balanced representation in the decision-making processes.

The first outcome of this extensive research that should be stressed is that in many cases the highest-income group of countries – the 34-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – recorded rather poor performances in reporting about gender, environment and sustainable development.

This might be due to the “perception that gender equality has already been achieved throughout all spheres in the country, including the environmental sector,” but also to a lack of political will, the report observes.

The top three performers in country-reporting to the Rio Conventions on biodiversity, climate change and desertification and the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are India, Kenya and Ghana, while “at the lower end of the scores, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Italy do not address gender in any of their latest three Rio Convention reports,” the IUCN study says.

Yet, poverty still goes hand in hand with gender inequality, when it comes to environmental issues as well. This translates into an index that sees the first positions all occupied by OECD countries, with Iceland, Netherlands and Norway in the top three, and Italy closing the list in the 16th position.

Latin American and Caribbean countries appear in the middle of the ranking, with the exception of Panama being among the strongest performers, right after Italy and followed by South Africa. Eurasian countries are also all ranked as moderate performers, with the best being Romania in the 22nd position and the last Uzbekistan in the 39th.

The list of weakest performers is occupied mainly by MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries, with Yemen second to last in the overall ranking; Asian countries, among which India ranks 46th and Pakistan last of the continent in 67th position; and African countries, which account for most of the weakest performers, closing the table with the Democratic Republic of Congo as the worst performer of the sample.

Gender advocates here at the COP also seem to confirm what the ranking shows. It is in the poorest countries that climate change effects have the most different impacts on men and women.

“Because of the socially constructed roles, women in Uganda are culturally required to provide food, cultivate food, prepare it and serve it to their families,” explains Gertrude Kenyangi from Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN) in Uganda.

“Food, energy and water are interconnected, and if you don’t have these three things, which are made even scarcer by climate change, then you won’t be able to fulfil your role, and that alone will create problems between you and your husband, it will probably make your children destitute, and it will affect your entire livelihood.”

Kenyangi escaped that same fate thanks to an educational programme.

“I myself come from a forest-dependent community, but I broke out of that cycle. I happened to be connected with some religious organisations that sponsored my education.” And this is how, after her studies, she founded SWAGEN, a network of grassroots women community-based organisations.

Grassroots movements are paramount to connecting vulnerable people to the governance level, “but you need to make a deliberate effort to reach out to them,” Kenyangi told IPS.

“For instance, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WESC) is a platform that brought me into the debate, so I can bring in the grassroots dimension. Without their support I wouldn’t have the money to come on my own, I couldn’t afford the ticket, the accommodation, not even the registration to this event.

“That’s what changes the vicious cycle – if somebody intervenes from the outside, appreciating that we are all living on this planet and have just one planet,” she said.

Despite the name, WECF’s reach goes way beyond Europe, connecting more than 150 organisations and communities all over the world with the aim of influencing gender-sensitive environmental policies at the international level.

What they want to remind policy-makers of is that climate change is caused by life’s day-to-day decisions and has an impact on everybody’s daily life. But because women and men often have different lifestyles, their activities have a different impact on the environment.

While from a Western point of view it might be hard to imagine how climate change effects can have a different impact on men and women, in many parts of the world, such as areas where subsistence farming is carried out by women, the relationship becomes clearer.

Maira Zahur is part of the GenderCC delegation here at the COP, but back home she works on the policy level with the Pakistani government as an expert on disaster risk reduction.

“In simple terms, I advise them on how to use certain policies on the ground, how they can benefit women, how they should be revised, edited or extended, and how they can be taken to the grassroots level, explaining to people what things are there for their benefit,” she told IPS.

Recently, U.N. Women carried out a study on flood early warning systems in Pakistan, looking at different aspects, such as the social composition in the different areas, whether men are based in such areas or are working outside, how women make decisions if there are no men in the home, whether they are able to make their own choices in case of a flood warning or are dependent on males in the home or in the streets.

The study reported that “hesitation about taking women and girls out of the protected environment of homes” was one of the reasons for people not to leave their houses even when they had been warned in advance.

The report further analysed several gender-related issues arising inside relief camps for flood victims, from food access to hygiene implications and security problems faced by women.

“That’s why when you make policies such as early warnings, you need to take into account gender issues,” Zahur underlined.

Women’s involvement at all decision-making levels seems to be, if not a solution, at least a first essential step to addressing these policy gaps.

The attention towards gender-related issues within the climate change debate is growing, as shown by the decision adopted at last year’s climate summit in Doha to promote gender balance and participation by women in the UNFCCC negotiations, as well as by the big turnout at the Workshop on Gender and Climate Change held here on Tuesday Nov. 12.

Yet Zahur seems sceptical about possible advances during the conference. “We are all so involved in plenaries, contact groups, side events, that the basic purpose for which we are here is kind of lost. We need to find solutions that can help people at the grassroots level. That should be the major motivation. But here a lot of blah blah blah is happening, this is so tedious,” she sadly concluded.

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Coal Tries to Clean Up Its Image http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/coal-tries-to-clean-up-its-image/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-tries-to-clean-up-its-image http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/coal-tries-to-clean-up-its-image/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 13:31:13 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128899 An International Coal and Climate summit organised by the Polish Ministry of Economy and the World Coal Association kicked off Monday in the Polish capital Warsaw in parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP19, amid outcry from environmentalists who accused COP host Poland of bias in favor of the coal industry. The presence […]

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Environmentalists protesting Monday morning outside Polish Ministry of Economy as the coal summit kicks off inside. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Environmentalists protesting Monday morning outside Polish Ministry of Economy as the coal summit kicks off inside. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Nov 18 2013 (IPS)

An International Coal and Climate summit organised by the Polish Ministry of Economy and the World Coal Association kicked off Monday in the Polish capital Warsaw in parallel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP19, amid outcry from environmentalists who accused COP host Poland of bias in favor of the coal industry.

The presence of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres at the coal summit was also broadly criticised.

Speaking at the opening of the summit on the morning of Nov. 18, Figueres said the coal industry must clean up if it wants to have a future.

“I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake,” Figueres said to a room full of industry representatives. “By now it should be abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can go ahead only if they are compatible with the two degrees Celsius limit.”

Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels, accounting for over 40 percent of global CO2 emissions coming from fuel combustion, according to the International Energy Agency.

During the coal meeting on Monday morning, the Polish Ministry of Environment and the World Coal Association collected endorsements and formally presented to Figueres a document called The Warsaw Communiqué.

It contains three main calls: “for the use of high-efficiency, low-emission coal combustion technologies wherever it is economically and technically feasible at existing and new coal plants”; for governments to push for moving the industry towards state of the art technology and support research and development in that direction; and for “development banks to support developing countries in accessing clean coal technologies.”

The document adds up to a call for public support for an industry that is feeling the heat from climate policies adopted around the world.

While the fate of the coal industry varies globally, in Europe and the U.S. coal producers are certainly under pressure. In the EU, revenues from coal have been plummeting over the past years, on account of diminished demand during the crisis and rising supply of electricity from wind and solar as the block is moving ahead on its target to have 20 percent of its energy needs met from renewables by 2020.

At a global coal industry conference that IPS attended in October in Berlin, Germany, the mood was gloomy: coal plant operators in Europe were complaining of severe losses, while utilities in the continent spoke of plans to shut down coal units and move increasingly towards gas and renewables.

During 2013, the two biggest international financial institutions, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, have significantly tightened their lending to coal, and the U.S. administration and Nordic countries in Europe decided to put an end to financial support for coal plants abroad.

Poland is one of the few countries in Europe to maintain a bombastic pro-coal rhetoric. Less than two months before COP, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk infamously declared, “The future of Polish energy is in brown and black coal, as well as shale gas. Some wanted coal to be dispensed with, but energy independence requires not only the diversification of energy resources, but also the maximum use of one’s own resources.” Almost 90 percent of the country’s electricity comes from coal.

Yet, even in Poland, the reality is shakier than the rhetoric. Speaking in November to news agency Bloomberg, Krzysztof Kilian, head of the Polish state power company PGE which plans to add two 900 MW units to its existing 1,500 MW Opole coal plant in the southwest of the country, said there was one way for PGE to avoid making losses from the new units: if it secures state-backed guarantees for prices of the type nuclear producers in the UK are obtaining – in practice, that would mean that the state would guarantee as much as twice the market rate.

The coal industry, at least in Europe, has of late engaged in an offensive for drumming up public support and for diminishing the amount of public resources going to renewables. But given the ascension of climate policies around the world, for public support for coal to continue one crucial argument needs to be made: that coal can be clean. And this is the focus of the Warsaw coal summit.

“This summit is not an attempt to distract from the important work done during the COP negotiations,” said Milton Catelin, World Coal Association chief executive, during the opening of the conference. “We want to figure out ways in which the world can retain the benefits of coal but at the same time reduce and even eliminate the costs in terms of CO2 emissions.”

On the agenda of the coal summit were three main ways put forward so far for “cleaning up coal”: carbon capture and storage, underground gasification, and efficiency improvements at plants.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the biggest hope of the industry and mentioned by Figueres herself in the coal summit speech as a way forward for coal – would involve capturing CO2 from coal units before it is emitted into the atmosphere, and storing it underground.

Yet despite significant investments being made in the development of CCS, its deployment on a commercial scale has to date not been proven feasible. This September, Norway gave up a large-scale CCS project at Mongstad deeming it too risky; the country’s auditor general had criticised Norway’s spending over one billion dollars on CCS projects between 2005 and 2012.

Another “clean coal” scenario involves what is called underground coal gasification. The technology is based on partially burning coal underground instead of extracting it. Yet the combustion process used in this method results in high carbon emissions, not only of CO2, but also of methane, which has 23 times the warming potential of CO2. As a consequence, underground gasification would still need CCS deployment.

Another idea for cleaning up coal involves improving the efficiency of plants. Yet existing coal plants are generally less efficient than gas ones, and making them more efficient (46 percent efficiency for a coal plant is considered the best possible, compared to 60 percent for gas) is costly – given the current energy price context in Europe, this does not yet make business sense.

Co-generation – that is, using the heat released when burning coal for electricity to produce heat – would be another way to improve efficiency. In this scenario, however, units would have to be smaller and closer to communities – which raises the dilemma of social acceptability.

“The fact that the industry is here right now handing in a plea for subsidies to COP in a way shows that they are not as strong as we may have thought, that without subsidies there may not be any future for coal,” Mona Bricke from the German NGO Klimalianz commented in Warsaw. “The Warsaw Communiqué is in a sense the coal industry’s last big plea: they know that if they want to have a future they have to say that coal is clean – which is a lie – and they have to ask for money to build new expensive plants.”

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Brazil Headed Towards an Energy Revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/brazil-headed-towards-an-energy-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazil-headed-towards-an-energy-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/brazil-headed-towards-an-energy-revolution/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:15:35 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128845 Brazil will experience major shifts on the energy front in the next two decades, largely due to the exploitation of its vast deepwater oil reserves, says the latest International Energy Agency report.

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The mega hydropower dams under construction in Brazil, like the Santo Antônio dam, are just one aspect of the energy revolution that the country will undergo in the next few decades. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The mega hydropower dams under construction in Brazil, like the Santo Antônio dam, are just one aspect of the energy revolution that the country will undergo in the next few decades. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Stephen Leahy
WARSAW, Nov 15 2013 (IPS)

Energy consumption and production are undergoing fundamental shifts but the world is still on course to a 3.6 degree C hotter climate according a report released during the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw.

Brazil will play a major role in quenching the developing world’s growing thirst for oil, says the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2013 edition of the World Energy Outlook. This edition of the report looks to the year 2035 and projects that the biggest future consumers of oil and gas will be India and countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

While low-carbon energy sources – renewables and nuclear – will meet around 40 percent of the growth in global energy demand, carbon emissions will still be 20 percent higher in 2035 from the energy sector. And that’s assuming countries achieve all of their current 2020 reduction targets. Countries like Canada will not.

Emissions need to peak and decline by 2020 to have a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to less than 2.0 degrees C according to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2013, released Nov 5.

“If we stay on the current path, we will not come close to the internationally agreed goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to two degrees C,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement published Nov. 12 at the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will run through Nov. 22 in Warsaw.

Fossil fuel subsidies, which amounted to 544 billion dollars globally in 2012 alone, are the biggest barrier to staying below two degrees. These government subsidies keep the cost of fossil fuels artificially low, undermining the benefits of improving efficiency and installing renewable energy sources, the IEA report notes.

“In Bolivia diesel, gasoline and natural gas are heavily subsidised, so it is almost impossible to work with renewable energy sources,” said Dirk Hoffmann, director of the Instituto Boliviano de la Montaña in La Paz, Bolivia.

“Transportation is also heavily oriented towards conventional cars, and numbers are rapidly rising,” Hoffman told Tierramérica*.

The IEA report has a special section devoted to Brazil saying it will become a global energy superpower. Offshore oil deposits will lead to a tripling of oil production by 2035, making Brazil the world’s sixth largest producer. Natural gas production will increase five-fold by 2030, more than enough to meet Brazil’s needs, it says.

Energy consumption in Brazil will skyrocket 80 percent with the average electricity consumption doubling with a vastly larger middle class. Investments of 90 billion dollars a year and improved energy efficiency will be needed to achieve all this, the report concludes.

Remarkably Brazil will still be a low-carbon country. It is currently the world leader, with 42 percent of its energy from renewable sources – mainly hydropower, biomass and biofuels. In future, due to environmental considerations Brazil will be less reliant on big hydro projects and will shift to onshore wind and electricity from biofuels, the report says.

Brazil’s Ten-Year Energy Expansion Plan that ends in 2020 prioritises hydropower, wind power and biomass. These measures are expected to reduce projected emissions by 234 million tons of CO2 by 2020, a spokesperson for the Brazilian government told Tierramérica.

“Wind, thermal biomass and small hydroelectric plants together will double from eight percent to 16 percent,” she said.

Latin America could be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, a number of studies have shown, including the 2012 Global Energy Assessment, the most exhaustive integrated energy assessment ever done. By 2050 at least 60 percent, and up to 100 percent, of Latin America’s energy needs could be met by renewables, it found.

However, if large hydro is excluded, less than 10 percent of energy in South America is from renewables.

While nearly every country has said it wants to have more clean sources, subsidies for fossil fuels distort the market, according to the report Renewable Electricity Generation in South America. Written by experts in Germany, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia, it says these subsidies are far larger than existing incentives or tax benefits designed to encourage renewables.

Another barrier is getting investments in renewables, especially from outside the country. Better regulations and incentives to respond to changing market conditions are needed, the report says.

Greening South America’s energy mix would accelerate with the expected 2015 climate treaty requiring developing nations to reduce emissions. However domestic considerations, including the rising costs and impacts of fossil fuels, ought to increase interest in expanding the green energy sector, the report concludes.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

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Concerns Over Role of Corporates at Climate Talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/concerns-over-role-of-cooperates-at-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=concerns-over-role-of-cooperates-at-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/concerns-over-role-of-cooperates-at-climate-talks/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 11:34:28 +0000 Mantoe Phakathi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128837 As deliberations continue in earnest at the 19th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Warsaw, negotiators from the Global South welcome a focus on financing adaptation – but reject a new emphasis on a role for the private sector. Climate negotiations have now dragged on for almost 20 years. Talk of “fair, ambitious and […]

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High glaciers such as this one in the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan are said to be safe from global warming. But talk of agreements to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming appears to be fading at COP, replaced by proposals to turn to the private sector for loans to support adaptation to climate change. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS.

High glaciers such as this one in the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan are said to be safe from global warming. But talk of agreements to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming appears to be fading at COP, replaced by proposals to turn to the private sector for loans to support adaptation to climate change. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS.

By Mantoe Phakathi
WARSAW, Nov 15 2013 (IPS)

As deliberations continue in earnest at the 19th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Warsaw, negotiators from the Global South welcome a focus on financing adaptation – but reject a new emphasis on a role for the private sector.

Climate negotiations have now dragged on for almost 20 years. Talk of “fair, ambitious and binding” agreements to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming appears to be fading, to be replaced by proposals to turn to the private sector for loans and investment to support adaptation to climate change at what has been dubbed the “Corporate COP  (Conference of Parties)”.

Tosi Mpamu-Mpamu, a negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo and a former chair of the African Group of negotiators, sees an alarming change emerging in the approach to funding the response to climate change.

At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, developed states pledged 30 billion dollars of new aid for climate finance for the developing world between 2010 and 2012, and a further 100 billion by 2020.

“Developed countries are now shifting the responsibility to provide funding to the private sector, a dangerous trend to these negotiations,” said Mpamu-Mpamu.

Other negotiators share Mpamu-Mpamu’s concerns over the role transnational corporations are assuming at the conference.

“At a three-day conference prior to this COP, businesses spent two days explaining how they could make money out of climate change,” said Rene Orellana, head of Bolivia’s delegation.

And, said Pascone Sabido from the Corporate Europe Observatory, the corporations assuming prominence at the COP are also the biggest emitters of carbon. He criticised the U.N. for accepting sponsorship for COP19 from major polluters like steel giant ArcelorMittal and the Polish Energy Group (PGE), saying these companies were influencing the negotiations.

What Developing Countries Say:


Developing countries at the U.N. Climate Conference in Warsaw deny that they have abdicated their responsibilities. The EU claims to have a proven track record of delivering climate finance to developing countries.
An official of the European Commission said, even though the fast start finance period has ended, EU climate finance continues to flow.

He said last year in Doha, the EU and a number of member states announced voluntary climate finance contributions to developing countries amounting to 5.5 billion euros from their financial provisions.
“They are on track to deliver this amount in 2013,” he said.

The EC further claimed that since 2007, when the 28-member state organisation launched the EU Blending facilities that combine grants with loans, the EU has committed 480 billion euros to more than 200 climate-relevant initiatives.

“You wouldn’t ask Marlboro to sponsor a summit on lung cancer, so why is it acceptable for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change?” he said.

Rachel Tansey, a freelance writer and researcher on environmental and economic justice issues, says big business wants to see climate finance – public funding – directed towards projects that corporations can profit from. And the governments of the developed countries are listening.

“[Transport and energy giant] Alstom is lobbying for so-called “clean” coal, controversial technologies that allow them to continue profiting from burning fossil fuels, like carbon capture and storage, and for more nuclear power,” said Tansey.

But COP19 president Marcin Kolorec said there was nothing wrong with inviting the private sector to participate in parallel meetings at the conference. He said industries have been given a chance to take part in the same way that non-governmental organisations are, adding that such dialogues have been a feature of the talks since the COPs started.

“We have to be transparent and inclusive,” he told reporters, adding that the Warsaw talks were a build-up to a possible global agreement in 2015 in the French capital, Paris.

He said industries were given a chance to participate at the COP just like non-governmental organisations, adding that such dialogues have been part of the COP since it started.

He said there is no chance that industry will influence COP decisions because they are not part of the formal negotiations.

Swaziland’s Emmanuel Dlamini, the chair of the Africa Group of negotiators, said that despite some risks, bringing business on board is not such a bad idea.

“For developed states to come up with the finance, they need to mobilise the business sector,” Dlamini told IPS.

He echoed the COP president in underlining that business is not taking part in the actual negotiations. “But,” he said, “there is the danger of the private sector influencing decisions through proposals they sell to their governments which could be brought into the COP negotiations.”

For Dlamini, the main challenge is to clearly define climate finance. Since the Copenhagen conference, he said, a lot of aid to developing countries has been classified as climate assistance.

“Yes, there has been money flowing, but to what extent is it climate finance?” wondered Dlamini.

In Swaziland, for instance, he said, money coming from the European Union’s Official Development Assistance for poverty alleviation is now considered climate finance.

“We need a reliable fund for climate change like the GCF,” said Dlamini.

Meena Raman, from the observer group Third World Network, says completing the setting up of the Green Climate Fund would be helpful because it is a grant fund that will directly benefit poor countries. Presently headquartered in South Korea, with operational funding of just seven million dollars, the Green Climate Fund does not as yet have a cent for projects.

“That’s where developing countries are saying the 100 billion dollars should go to, a matter still under discussion,” said Raman.

 

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Developing World Pushes for Rescue of U.N. Carbon Credit Fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/developing-world-pushes-for-rescue-of-u-n-carbon-credit-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-world-pushes-for-rescue-of-u-n-carbon-credit-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/developing-world-pushes-for-rescue-of-u-n-carbon-credit-fund/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 09:38:36 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128833 Negotiators from Least Developed Countries are calling for the United Nations climate body to urgently establish a rescue fund to save Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism from collapse. Delegates, mostly from Africa and developing countries, fear that the CDM will fail if a special fund is not established to help it overcome the effects of […]

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A woman in Uganda’s Katwe slum uses an improved, energy-saving stove to reduce charcoal use. Energy-saving stoves are being distributed in Uganda as part of emission-reduction projects. Credit Wambi Michael/IPS

A woman in Uganda’s Katwe slum uses an improved, energy-saving stove to reduce charcoal use. Energy-saving stoves are being distributed in Uganda as part of emission-reduction projects. Credit Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
WARSAW, Nov 15 2013 (IPS)

Negotiators from Least Developed Countries are calling for the United Nations climate body to urgently establish a rescue fund to save Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism from collapse.

Delegates, mostly from Africa and developing countries, fear that the CDM will fail if a special fund is not established to help it overcome the effects of the European economic meltdown.

Fred Onduri Machulu, former chairperson of the LDC expert group with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC, told IPS: “There are genuine reasons for a CDM rescue plan. We need to cushion the CDM from current and future shocks instead of letting it die at a time when it is beginning to function.”

He said the private sector was losing confidence in the CDM because of the low prices of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs).

The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn CER credits, which are equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. These CERs can be traded and sold, and used by industrialised countries to meet part of their emission-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The CDM has registered over 7,400 emission-reduction projects in developing countries since 2004 and generated over 1.2 billion emission credits. However, it has been jeopardised by the fall in CER prices. CER credits have come down from over 15 dollars in 2011 to about 40 cents currently.

Machulu admitted that the CDM was fairly complicated for some LDCs in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, with many African countries lacking the capacity to develop and process projects that could qualify for funding under the CDM.

But he insisted that these projects have had a positive impact on the livelihoods of people and communities.

Dr. Tom Okurut, executive director of Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority, told IPS that the future of the CDM remained uncertain unless a rescue plan was urgently put in place.

“In Uganda we have registered eight municipalities under the CDM for waste management. By the time we registered, the price for carbon was very good. But now the price has fallen to its lowest. And that is why the CDM needs to be rescued. More especially when we see more LDCs projects being registered,” he said.

In June, consultancy Vivid Economics stated in its report “The market impact of a CDM capacity fund” that about 2.5 to three billion euros may be needed to stabilise the CDM for the next several years.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, has previously said that a lack of political ambition to tackle climate change by some developed countries has led to the lack of demand for CERs.

And executive director of Tanzania’s Institute for Environment, Climate and Development Sustainability Joachim Khawa told IPS that some nations attending the current U.N. Climate Change Conference in Warsaw were determined to ensure that the CDM was weakened to pave the way for a so-called new international market mechanism (NMM) in carbon trade.

At the 2011 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, parties decided that the NMM should be established to complement the CDM. Details of how the new mechanism will work are part of the discussions at Warsaw.

However, some groups are opposed to the idea of a CDM rescue fund saying the LDC group should instead focus on pushing for the quick implementation of the Green Climate Fund.

Wael Hmaidan, the executive director of Climate Action Network International, told IPS: “One of the other ways of maintaining healthy level of investment in the CDM is if we work with the Green Climate Fund. And recognise that the CDM is a results-based financing tool that the Green Climate Fund could immediately go out and start to make direct investments in.”

The Green Climate Fund is supposed to channel 100 billion dollars a year in public and private financing to developing countries by 2020.

Shewangizaw Kifle Mulugeta, a project manager with the Ethiopian Railway’s climate financing project, told IPS that most LDCs feared that sectorial approaches being pushed by the European Union could create new trade and economic barriers for developing countries in the carbon market.

“Our position is that the CDM should not be disrupted because it will have adverse effects on some of the projects that have been approved or are in the pipeline,” said Mulugeta.

Figueres told journalists in Warsaw that her secretariat was committed to ensuring that the CDM’s integrity was maintained because of the gains made in lowering mitigation levels.

She said that the CDM has not only had an important impact on developing countries through technology transfer, but it had also encouraged industrialised nations to increase their emission reduction targets by making mitigation more affordable.

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U.S. Fights G77 on Most Counts at Climate Meet, Leaked Doc Shows http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/u-s-fights-g77-on-most-counts-at-climate-meet-leaked-doc-shows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-fights-g77-on-most-counts-at-climate-meet-leaked-doc-shows http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/u-s-fights-g77-on-most-counts-at-climate-meet-leaked-doc-shows/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:36:09 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128820 The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the role of “Loss and Damage” in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State Department negotiating strategy which IPS […]

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Youth activists organising a mock lemonade sale to get money for the Green Climate Fund to highlight the lack of serious commitments. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Youth activists organising a mock lemonade sale to get money for the Green Climate Fund to highlight the lack of serious commitments. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Nov 14 2013 (IPS)

The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the role of “Loss and Damage” in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State Department negotiating strategy which IPS has seen.

The document, which has been leaked to a pair of journalists covering the Nov. 11-22 COP in Warsaw, outlines the U.S. strategy for the negotiations to diplomats at their various embassies as well as ‘talking points’ for them to push with their respective countries before the talks began.

The paper makes it clear that, despite President Barack Obama’s progressive stances on climate issues over the past year, the U.S. continues to pose difficulties to closing an international global climate deal by strongly resisting the concept of historical responsibility for emissions and positioning itself in opposition to developing countries on the main issues at stake.

COP19 started this year under the shadow of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines which put a tragic emphasis on what was anyway going to be one of the main issues to be debated here in Warsaw: the so-called “Loss and Damage” – that is, assistance for countries that are already hit by the devastating effects of climate change (what is already “beyond adaptation”).

Loss and Damage is a relatively new issue on the public agenda of COP meetings: it was in Doha at COP18 last year that negotiators decided to establish in the future a mechanism for dealing with LD.

On Nov. 12, the developing countries’ group G77+China made a public submission to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with their proposal for what an international mechanism for Loss and Damage under the UNFCCC framework could look like and how it could function. This would now constitute the basis for further negotiations here.

But according to the U.S. State Department position, any work on Loss and Damage should be done under the already existing framework for dealing with adaptation to climate change, not as a third, separate pillar (in addition to the two existing ones, mitigation and adaptation), as the G77+China submission requests.

“A third pillar,” says the U.S. position, “would lead the UNFCCC to focus increasingly on blame and liability which in turn could be counterproductive from the standpoint of public support for the conference.

“We are strongly in favour of creating an institutional arrangement on loss and damage that is under the Convention’s adaptation track, rather than creating a third stream of action that’s separate from mitigation and adaptation,” writes the leaked U.S. document.

The U.S. fears an increased “focus on liability” during the international negotiations on climate because that would de facto translate into an admission of historical responsibility by developed countries for emissions leading to climate change and a subsequent legal obligation to pay a price for this responsibility.

The issue of historical responsibility for emissions has been one of the main bones of contention, if not the main one, over successive COP meetings.

Yet for most developing countries coming to Warsaw, particularly for small island states and the least developed countries, making solid progress on Loss and Damage is a key point on their agenda.

“And if we have failed to meet the objective of the Convention [i.e., preventing anthropogenic climate change], we have to confront the issue of loss and damage,” said Philippine head of delegation Yeb Sano in his emotional introductory speech at the COP.

“Loss and damage from climate change is a reality today across the world. Developed country emissions reductions targets are dangerously low and must be raised immediately, but even if they were in line with the demand of reducing 40-50 percent below 1990 levels, we would still have locked-in climate change and would still need to address the issue of loss and damage,” he said.

“Loss and Damage has been causing very intense discussions,” said Chinese negotiator Su Wei during a briefing Nov. 14. “It will all depend on the political will of developed countries, if they are going to take action to assume responsibility for the emissions they historically produced.”

When it comes to the Green Climate Fund, meant to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation and on whose set-up and financing progress is expected in Warsaw, the U.S. position writes, “We’re also working to intensify our coordination in the context of the Green Climate Fund board to shape an institution that could leverage private investment more effectively than any other multilateral climate fund.”

Yet some developing countries are extremely wary of financial assistance promised by developed countries being translated into private investments as opposed to grants and aid.

“Already in the pre-COP summit organised by Poland, one and a half days out of three were dedicated to companies which were there to present to developing countries technology which they could buy to help with mitigation,” said Rene Orellana, head of the Bolivian delegation, on the first day of the COP. “Linking markets to the financial provisions [under UNFCCC] means a diluted responsibility for developed countries.”

Finally, the U.S. position might turn out to pose problems to the European Union as well, because when it comes to post-2020 emission reductions, it says, “There is divergence [among the parties negotiating] on when Parties will put forward initial commitments and the timing of the conclusion of the future agreement, with the U.S. pushing for early 2015 while the EU wants commitment on the table in September 2014.”

COP19 in Warsaw is supposed to advance negotiations both when it comes to setting up a mechanism for post-2020 emission reductions by countries across the globe and to tightening current emission targets of developed countries (2020 targets are deemed insufficient to keep the world on track for two degrees as a target maximum temperature rise).

On post-2020 emissions, a consensus is emerging that countries would present emission pledges before COP21 in Paris 2015 (when a new international climate agreement is expected to be signed) which would then be assessed for appropriateness in light of what is needed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

Coming forward with emission pledges in early 2015, for which the U.S. is pushing, would mean giving less time for an international review of the appropriateness of the pledges, especially a review that could happen at the COP20 in Peru, a host that could potentially be tougher on developed countries.

Responding today to the leaking of the draft, the U.S. delegation in Warsaw told the Indian newspaper The Hindu: “The U.S. is dedicated to achieving an ambitious, effective and workable outcome in the UNFCCC and in Warsaw, and our positions are designed to further this goal. We are engaging with all countries to find solutions that will give momentum to the effort to tackle climate change.”

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Israel’s Nuclear Ambiguity Prodded http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/israels-nuclear-ambiguity-prodded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=israels-nuclear-ambiguity-prodded http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/israels-nuclear-ambiguity-prodded/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 07:48:35 +0000 Pierre Klochendler http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128659 As Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and nuclear talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme continue, a unique international conference, “A Middle East without Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)”, was held in Jerusalem. The topic is taboo because Israel maintains a veil of “studied ambiguity” on its alleged nuclear arsenal. At the Notre Dame hotel in Jerusalem, the […]

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By Pierre Klochendler
OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM , Nov 7 2013 (IPS)

As Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and nuclear talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme continue, a unique international conference, “A Middle East without Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)”, was held in Jerusalem.

The topic is taboo because Israel maintains a veil of “studied ambiguity” on its alleged nuclear arsenal.

At the Notre Dame hotel in Jerusalem, the singular get-together took place: Ziad Abu Zayyad, former head of the Palestinian delegation to the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) multilateral talks; Dan Kurtzer, former peace mediator and former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt; and young and veteran activists against the proliferation of WMDs.

Mordechai Vanunu, also present, is forbidden to speak to foreigners or leave Israel.“The nuclear issue is Israel’s last taboo.”

Invoking his opposition to WMDs, the former nuclear technician revealed in 1986 details of his country’s alleged nuclear weapons programme to the British Sunday Times. Abducted by Mossad intelligence agents, the Israeli whistleblower spent 18 years in an Israeli jail, including more than 11 in solitary confinement.

“Ten years ago, we couldn’t even have a conference disembodied from reality,” notes an enthused Kurtzer.

This is no longer pie in the sky, but a very public event on an issue forcibly kept out of the public eye in Israel.

The conference was organised by the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ), a joint civil society publication dedicated to the quest for peace in the region.

“Track-Two diplomacy will have an effect on Track One, formal diplomacy,” explains the diplomat who is now a professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University. “If not this year – next year or the year after.”

The conference was held just a few days prior to the start of Round Two on Thursday Nov. 7 between Iran and the P5+1 group of six major powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United State, plus and Germany). Round One ended on a positive note.

Notwithstanding the persistent suspicion that Iran is racing towards nuclear arms, the only major player in the Middle East which, allegedly, possesses a nuclear arsenal is Israel.

Allegedly, because reports on the issue – all from foreign sources – have neither been confirmed nor denied by Israel. Maintaining its veil of “studied ambiguity”, Israel hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel’s nuclear policy is defined in one sentence: ‘Israel won’t be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.’

“If Israel won’t be the first, it won’t be the second either,” quips Israeli non-conventional weapons expert Reuven Pedatzur.

Vanunu knows well the consequences of breaking the strict censorship code on the issue. Public debate is nonexistent. “The nuclear issue is Israel’s last taboo,” says Pedatzur.

A presentation on “Fissile Material Controls in the Middle East” by Princeton University’s Senior Research Physicist Frank von Hippel proposes a ban on plutonium separation and use; an end to the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel; an end to enrichment of uranium above six percent; and no additional enrichment plants.

It’s only natural that Israel’s nuclear programme would take centre stage. The Dimona nuclear plant is scrutinised. “Freeze, declare, and then step-by-step reduction of Israel’s stocks of plutonium and HEU,” is what Israel must give in return for von Hippel’s global proposal.

Yet despite across-the-board harmony on the need to free the world’s most volatile region from the most volatile weapon, the speakers failed to reach a consensus on the practicality of focusing on the region’s one and only country believed to have nuclear arms.

“This excellent proposal is premature,” comments Pedatzur. “Dealing with Israel’s nuclear programme is a non-starter. If the U.S. will exert pressure on Israel, maybe; unfortunately, I don’t see any U.S. incentive.”

Kurtzer chimes in: “The U.S. is specifically interested in stopping nuclear weapons proliferation. Regarding Israel, we’re back to the question of non-declared status, and the U.S.’ strong bilateral relationship, a fact of life.”

Following the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), Israel participated in the ACRS multilateral talks.

Israel focused on the regional security component; Arab states (led by Egypt) on the arms control component – that is, on controlling Israel’s suspected nukes. The talks collapsed in 1995.

Secure in its don’t-talk-about-it comfort zone, Israel is ready to discuss a WMD-free zone and thus forgo the ultimate deterrent against its so-called eternal enemies, but only within a comprehensive peace settlement with all of its neighbours, including Palestine, Syria and Iran.

That’s a state of affairs as hypothetical as it is improbable.

“Israel wants the international community to agree de facto to its nuclear status,” bemoans Abu Zayyad. “Assuming it’s out of it, Israel isn’t against a nuclear-free Middle East. That’s ridiculous.”

Abu Zayyad reflects the traditional Palestinian position. Both the nuclear weapons issue and the peace vision must be approached “correlatively, not sequentially.”

Is there a linkage between or amongst these issues?

“The formal answer of diplomats is ‘No’,” says Kurtzer. “But surely, as the debate takes place in a civil society forum like this one without being cut off – here’s the linkage.”

Israel rejects any linkage between its nuclear programme and the nascent regional détente.

“A Russian-American agreement to move the chemical weapons from Syria; Iranian and U.S. presidents speaking for the first time since 1979; Palestinian-Israeli negotiations,” enumerates Hillel Schenker, PIJ co-editor with Abu Zayyad. “This creates a constructive background for moving forward toward a WMD-free Middle East,” he concludes.

Eager to pour cold water on the conference’s optimism, Pedatzur enumerates inversely: “Chemical weapons use in Syria’s civil war; failure till now to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis; Israel’s continued possession of nuclear weapons and occupation of Palestine. A WMD-free Middle East can’t be established any time soon.”

Kurtzer says “To the extent the U.S. is ready to exercise its influence and power, a regional security breakthrough can occur which will ease the way for us not only to have a discussion on the possibility of a WMD-free Middle East, but to actually start engaging on these issues.”

Abu Zayyad advocates a global arrangement. “When you speak about Israel, Israel speaks about Iran; Iran about Pakistan; Pakistan about India, etc.” – the nuclear chain.

The conference may have succeeded in breaking through the censorship surrounding Israel’s assumed nuclear weapons, but not the taboo on Israel effectively creating a WMD-free Middle East.

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OP-ED: Act Now, Act Big to End Sexual Violence in DRC http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/op-ed-act-now-act-big-to-end-sexual-violence-in-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=op-ed-act-now-act-big-to-end-sexual-violence-in-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/op-ed-act-now-act-big-to-end-sexual-violence-in-drc/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:46:33 +0000 Babatunde Osotimehin and Zainab Bangura http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128656 Imagine an orphanage where over 300 children born out of rape have been abandoned because of the shame and stigma associated with sexual violence. Imagine a town where, in the last year, 11 infants between the ages of six months and one year, and 59 small children from one to three years old, have been […]

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Former child soliders in the DRC. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

Former child soliders in the DRC. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

By Babatunde Osotimehin and Zainab Bangura
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 6 2013 (IPS)

Imagine an orphanage where over 300 children born out of rape have been abandoned because of the shame and stigma associated with sexual violence. Imagine a town where, in the last year, 11 infants between the ages of six months and one year, and 59 small children from one to three years old, have been raped.

What does the future of these children hold? The story of sexual violence in conflict is as old as war itself. It knows no boundaries – location, ethnicity, religion, or age. We must be loud and clear: it will be prosecuted. It will be punished.

The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) know all too well the pain and suffering that comes with sexual violence.  According to a recent report by the Ministry of Gender, in 2012 alone there were 15,654 reported cases of sexual violence – a 52 percent increase from 2011.

Of these, 98 percent were perpetrated against females. In conflict-affected contexts in DRC, the average age of survivors is less than 21, with a third of all survivors falling between 12 and 17 years of age. In 2012, 82 percent of all survivors had not completed primary school.

These are not just abstract numbers; these are children born of rape who are abandoned, women and girls who struggle with the debilitating physical and emotional repercussions day in and day out, and men and boys who suffer in silence because of the shame and stigma associated with this crime. All survivors must access lifesaving services and all partners must come together not only to prevent future attacks, but also  to enable survivors to rebuild their lives.

But this conflict did not create the scourge of sexual violence we face in DRC today. The roots of such widespread and rampant violence – specifically women’s inequality and the abuse of power – have been there for centuries. In the DRC and worldwide, gender-based violence is the most pervasive, yet least reported, human rights abuse. Conflict brings violence, insecurity and an environment of impunity, which in turn exacerbates the prevalence of sexual violence.

To effectively eradicate conflict-related sexual violence we must redouble our efforts to promote women’s rights as human rights and create viable systems that will end impunity for perpetrators and send a strong message that this most extreme and pervasive abuse of power will not be tolerated. We must be loud and clear: it will be prosecuted. It will be punished.

Sexual violence in conflict settings, particularly in Eastern DRC, presents unique challenges,  According to the latest secretary-general’s report on sexual violence in conflict, there are more than 44 armed groups operating in Eastern DRC alone, some of which are from neighbouring countries.

Nearly all of these groups have been implicated in committing sexual violence crimes. Elements of the armed forces and police have also been accused of such crimes. In this context, engaging a wide variety of state and non-state actors and ensuring that sexual violence is not used as a tactic of war for military advantage or political gain, is particularly complex.

The economic and human costs of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence on communities and countries are tremendous. Its impact is devastating, including the loss of lives and livelihoods, rejection by families and communities, and serious, often life-threatening reproductive and mental health consequences. However, sexual violence is not inevitable.

The government of DRC has recognised the devastating consequences of this scourge and taken steps to change the narrative of sexual violence in the country.  In 2006, it passed a law broadening the definition of sexual violence and promoting stronger penalties for perpetrators, one of the most far-reaching laws of its type.

In 2009, the country developed the National Strategy on Gender-Based Violence, and in March 2013 the Government and the United Nations signed a Joint Communique, outlining concrete actions the government would take to eradicate these offences.

These are all steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Laws need to be enforced and aggressors must be prosecuted and convicted. Building the rule of law in an immense territory where customary laws are, in many locations, the only recognised authority represents an enormous challenge for the legal organisations and stakeholders engaged in fighting the impunity of perpetrators of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.

The country is not alone in this fight, however.  The United Nations system, including peacekeeping forces, also has a direct responsibility to support and enable national initiatives.

We undertook this joint mission to the DRC to deepen political commitment by enhancing the participation of democratic institutions, political leaders and civil society.

Together, our goal is to make sure that the commitments that have been made and the work that has been done by the government and the U.N. make a difference in the lives of the women, girls, boys and men who live in fear every day.

We commit ourselves, our teams and our organisations to work towards the elimination of sexual violence in the DRC. To make significant progress, we need the support of the international community, of the entire U.N. system and of the government. We also advocate for greater donor attention to support basic services for survivors of sexual violence, including education, accessible health care and commodities, safe shelter, livelihood and other psychosocial interventions.

The story of sexual violence in the DRC is far from over, but working together we can end what has long been called history’s greatest silence and write the final chapter on this dehumanising and degrading violation. Eliminating gender-based violence and empowering women and girls is at the heart of this country’s path to peace and development.

Babatunde Osotimehin is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Zainab Bangura is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

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Groups Target Food Waste to Eliminate Hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/groups-target-food-waste-to-eliminate-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=groups-target-food-waste-to-eliminate-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/groups-target-food-waste-to-eliminate-hunger/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 18:31:15 +0000 Marina Lalovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128239 If all food loss and waste around the world could be recovered, half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people, could be fed. Yet people throw away a third of food produced globally, an issue that inspired the theme of these year’s World Food Day, sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition. While World […]

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Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Poland wastes at least 8.9 million tonnes of food every year. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

By Marina Lalovic
ROME, Oct 17 2013 (IPS)

If all food loss and waste around the world could be recovered, half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people, could be fed. Yet people throw away a third of food produced globally, an issue that inspired the theme of these year’s World Food Day, sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition.

While World Food Day, held Oct. 16, set the goal of completely eliminating food waste before increasing food production, much of the global population remains uneducated and uninformed about the problem, so many obstacles must be overcome before such a feat can be attained.

“I come from a country where people don’t even try to harvest agricultural products because the price of these products is so low and the work is too hard,” Albanian chef Fundim Gjpali told IPS while working at the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s World Food Day event organised at EATALY, a slow food hub in Rome.

Today, Gjpali is fighting food waste in the land of abundance: Europe. For World Food Day, he specially prepared a dish of recovered food. “I took tomatoes, bread and Italian ricotta cheese that were about to be thrown away, and I made a very decent dish,” he said."In Cuba...until you have eaten everything you've bought, you don't go to the market."
-- Lesmer Oquedo Curbelo

Other countries, such as Cuba, represent the land of food recycling. “With the embargo in Cuba, we don’t have other choices,” Lesmer Oquedo Curbelo, a Cuban chef, told IPS. “A Cuban toreja, fried bread, is an example of how people could use stale bread.”

He compared food-buying practices in Cuba to those in Western countries. “In Cuba we buy food day by day,” he described. “Until you have eaten everything you’ve bought, you don’t go to the market.”

According to research by the FAO, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night. Even though food production will have to increase by at least 70 percent in order to feed a population that will reach 9 billion in 2050, the world wastes more than a third of the food that it is producing. And this waste affects everyone, regardless where they are born or live, and covers the entire food supply chain from the farm to the table.

According to FAO estimates, in developing countries, food waste tends to occur upstream of the food chain (six to eleven kilograms per capita in 2010), meaning that the food is lost just after production. In developed countries, however, loss occurs downstream, or in distribution, catering and domestic consumption (95-115 kilograms per person).

“While in the western world we only talk about the waste, in the developing countries the buzzword is the food loss,” Andrea Segrè, director of the Department of Agro-Food Science and Technology, University of Bologna and president of Last Minute Market, told IPS. Food waste differs from loss in that waste is literally throwing away food, while loss is due to a lack of storage. Many developing countries have plenty of food but no way to preserve.

“In India, for instance, the problem is not the lack of food but the storage,” explained Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino. She stressed that regardless of personal habits, people must be aware of different ways to reduce food waste.

“On an individual level, we are supposed to think about the size of our food portions. We should also think about what and where we are buying food,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of FAO, told IPS.

Filling the gap

Andrea Segrè described to IPS a Last Minute Market, a spin-off society founded in 2000 that implemented the first professional system of recycling the unsold food of big distributors by filling in the gap between supply and demand. LMM doesn’t directly manage unsold food, instead offering services to prevent and reduce the production of waste.

“But our goal is to close the LMM, because we want to reach zero food loss,” Segrè added. “In that kind of world, we are not going to need projects like LMM.”

Federico Spadini from OXFAM Italy, offered IPS five ways people can help alleviate this issue: reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products, reduce food waste, be aware of how much water and electricity one uses while cooking, eat seasonal products, and sustain small farmers instead of corporate agriculture.

An estimated 800 million people working in agriculture around the world live below the poverty line, and approximately half of the world’s inhabitants who suffer from hunger are smallholder farmers.

“Supporting smallholder farmers will go a long way toward alleviating food insecurity and increasing incomes where most needed,” says Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of Food Tank, a non-profit working in environmentally sustainable ways to alleviate hunger and other food-related ailments.

Unique efforts to eliminate loss

Peruvian chef Elsa Javier, who deals primarily with ethnic food, has been devising creative ways to reduce food waste, such as by combining Italian Mediterranean food and Andean biodiversity.

“If we add Andean quinoa to Italian vegetable soup, you’ll have a perfect combination and this dish might last much longer than an ordinary one,” she explained to IPS. “In order to fight food waste, we have to unite gastronomic cultures. Ethnic food in developed countries is completely wasted and underestimated by the locals. So by unifying food cultures, we might help stop this kind of food waste.”

Others have turned to technology to combat food waste. ICT4G (ICT for Good), an Italian group that uses technology to foster economic and social development, has developed a smartphone application called “Bring the Food” that facilitates food donations.

“If I have a restaurant, thanks to this application, I can spread the word that I have, for instance, ten boxes of unsold pizza,” Pietro Molini, an  ICT4G collaborator, told IPS. “Our app users are mostly charity associations but also individuals not necessarily belonging to lower classes.”

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