Inter Press ServiceEnergy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Q&A: ‘There’s a Lot More Climate Finance Available than People Think’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 18:07:00 +0000 Yazeed Kamaldien http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159590 IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

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Communities in rural Papua New Guinea install their own cost effective and energy efficient solar panels. GGGI says that governments should rather invest in renewable energy. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Yazeed Kamaldien
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

While growth in the green economy looks promising, government regulation and a business-as-usual approach are among the hurdles inhibiting cleaner energy production.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), believes shifts are needed to realise more projects. And he believes funding is available.

“We have teams in more than 30 countries. We work on policy barriers and help develop bankable projects. In the last two years we have helped our member countries mobilise at least one billion dollars in green and climate finance,” Rijsberman told IPS. GGGI is a treaty-based international organisation that assists countries develop a green growth model.

Rijsberman was among panelists discussing ‘Unlocking Finance for Sustainability’ at the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference being held in Cape Town, South Africa from Jan. 10 to 11. It gathered government leaders, businesses and environmentalists to focus on the challenge to “reduce inequalities, protect the environment and grow the economy”.

The conference focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted three years ago.

“It is time now to take these global goals and turn them into real changes in the lives of people and nations. It’s time for action,” stated the conference agenda.

“We can restructure our economic and financial systems to transform them into drivers of sustainability and social inclusion; the two prerequisites for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” it continued.

At the December United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, where ministers from around the world negotiated on how best to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which outlines commitments to mitigate climate change, accessing finance was a topical issue. IPS reported from the  that the African team of negotiators had been concerned about who would carry the burden of financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

PAGE gathered around 500 innovators and leaders from governments, civil society, private sector, development organisations, media and the general public. The idea was to showcase “the experiences and creativity of first-movers…and engage in an open debate about what it is going to take to for us to have a ‘just transition’ to economics and societies that are more inclusive, stable and sustainable.”

Rijsberman offered his insights gained from working in different countries on accessing financing for green projects.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), says the largest amounts of money available is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. This, he says, can be accessed for climate change mitigation. Credit: Yazeed Kamaldien/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Where is this money that you mention for green projects?

Frank Rijsberman (FR): There’s a lot more finance available than people think. There tends to be an over focus on development money but the largest amounts of money is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. We need to get the private sector off the sidelines and to invest in renewable energy.

IPS: And how can that be done?

FR: They need to realise that green investments are attractive. If you want to do socially important projects then renewable energy is it. It has become the cheapest, most attractive form of energy.

IPS: What about the role that governments play in this? They are the regulators that sometimes inhibit the private sector.

FR: Sometimes we sit in the room with the private sector and ask them what stops them from investing and they say it’s regulation and policies. We have to find a more welcoming environment.

We talk to governments and they talk about a study they did three years ago and tell us renewable energy is expensive. But we tell them prices have come down. All that governments know is how to build fossil fuel power plants. Fossil fuel project developers are still in their contact lists. The banks know what to do. They need to look at an energy mix.

IPS: So what is it about government policies that hinder moves to renewable energy?

FR: Some governments have laws that they use to disconnect companies from power if they put solar on their rooftops. Other countries, like Finland, still have old polices that are bad and that are still on the books. It is also difficult politically when the government subsidises fuel and not renewable energy. Governments need to remove policy barriers.

We are in the middle of such a rapid transition but if you sit in a country where governments don’t see that it’s difficult.

Coal and oil is more certain [to produce power] but for countries that need to import that, where prices are uncertain, it’s a lot more certain to use the sun and wind if you have this in your country.

IPS: How is the prospect for renewable energy looking in the developing world?

FR: If you are using only coal-fired power plants then you will sit with a stranded asset. Countries that already have a lot of investment in fossil fuels will find the change to renewable energy painful.

In Africa, most countries don’t have this. In some countries only 20 percent of people have energy access. These countries can invest in green energy and they can avoid making bad investments and can leapfrog into renewables.

They don’t have to look like Asia where they have rapidly developed economies and sit with coal-fired power stations that pollute their cities.

There is a real opportunity to avoid the problems that other countries have.

IPS: What about developing country examples of renewable energy that worked?

FR: Just two years ago when the Indian government wanted to a build a power plant they found the prices of large-scale solar panels less than coal-fired power plants. They scrapped all their plans. They are looking at solar power projects.

But there is still a lot of inertia. People are still continuing to invest in fossil fuels. We are trying to show governments through information and projects that this is feasible. We want to show how it can reduce risk.

We are working on projects. In Fiji the government gives a subsidy to low-income houses for electricity. We have proposed a project where the government puts solar panels on the roof and uses the same subsidy to finance this. It’s about using that money for sustainability.

Low-income houses have TVs and mobile phones. Making a package for people that puts solar on their roof is better. They can charge their mobile phones and [solar] also connects to their fridge and TV. Social movements have done this in some countries.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

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A Closer Look at the World Bank’s Sizable China Portfoliohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 09:56:38 +0000 Scott Morris and Gailyn Portelance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159577 Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

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Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

By Scott Morris and Gailyn Portelance
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

China continues to borrow an average of $2 billion a year from the World Bank, making it one of the Bank’s top borrowers—despite being the world’s second-largest economy and itself a major global lender, according to our study released today.

By doing a project-level analysis of recent World Bank loans to China, we found that the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)—which offers loans to middle-income and credit-worthy lower-income countries—has loaned more than $7.8 billion to China since the country surpassed the bank’s “graduation” income threshold for lending in 2016. The World Bank’s current threshold to trigger IBRD country graduation discussions is $6,895 in gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Lending to countries above this threshold has been controversial, with the United States particularly critical of ongoing lending to China. Critics have pushed for strict graduation standards that would make wealthier borrowers ineligible for bank loans (i.e., “graduation”). Under the 2018 agreement, World Bank shareholders agreed to limit loans to countries above the threshold to only projects that focus on:

• global public goods (projects that benefit the world at large); and,
• capacity-building (projects that help the countries “graduate” away from World Bank lending).

 

China continues to borrow an average of $2 billion a year from the World Bank, making it one of the Bank’s top borrowers—despite being the world’s second-largest economy and itself a major global lender

 

 

As shown in the figure above, less than half of China’s lending has gone to either of the approved categories, by strict definitions of these categories, since China crossed the income threshold in 2016. Capacity-building projects contribute to only 5 percent of its portfolio, and global public goods make up 38 percent of China’s borrowing portfolio.

However, a broader conception of capacity-building, which focuses on the allocation of resources to the poorest provinces within China improves that picture. Fifty-eight percent of lending to China has been directed to provinces with per capita incomes below the graduation income threshold.

And with a third of the portfolio supporting the reduction of carbon emissions in the country, the bank is meeting a clear global public good mandate. As the world’s largest polluter, China will need to make sizeable investments in climate-friendly finance if we are to make meaningful progress on this critical agenda.

The world has a lot to gain from a sustainable and productive China-World Bank relationship. To lower political heat from the United States and other critics, the Bank should request more from China in terms of interest charges on loans and ensure that all project lending adheres to the 2018 standards.

You can read the full study here.

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Excerpt:

Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

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Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:52:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159528 Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards. The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is […]

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Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards.

The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is thanks to engineer Alexander López Savran, who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to create distribution networks with the few basic materials available in this Caribbean island nation.

“A new biodigester has been designed to obtain pressure, which means that biogas can be distributed more than five kilometers away without the need for a compressor or blower. That is where the innovation lies,” the engineer, who lives in the city of Cabaiguán, capital of the municipality of the same name, where La Macuca is located, in the central province of Santi Spíritus, told IPS."Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas…We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.” -- Yuniel Pons

López, 32, made headlines in 2017 when he received the Green Latin America Award in Ecuador, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included him among the 35 young Latin Americans whose innovations improved the lives of their communities.

With a long-standing movement of biogas promoters and current regulations for private pork production favorable to its expansion, Cuba faces the challenge of creating efficient distribution networks to further exploit this ecological resource and raise the quality of life of rural localities, amidst an anemic economy.

“We started by taking a close look at the problem,” López recalled. “We had pork-raising centers that needed biodigesters, but the volume they were going to produce would be much greater than the consumption of those state facilities. On the other hand, we didn’t have the equipment to be able to distribute it.”

This fuel arises from the decomposition of organic matter, especially cattle manure and human feces. But on many farms with biodigesters there is a surplus of methane gas which, if not used, puts pressure on the equipment and is often released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.

In addition, biogas is most efficient for cooking because up to 70 percent of the energy is lost when it is used to generate electricity or fuel a vehicle.

“Two factors were considered: we had too much energy and there are difficulties in cooking food in the communities due to deficits in access to energy or electricity costs,” López said, referring to the dependence of most Cuban households on electric appliances.

After two years of study and design, López came up with the first prototype, which over time “has changed structurally to gain in efficiency, durability and performance,” he said, when interviewed by IPS in Pons’ home, where Pons lives with his wife Sandra Díaz and their son.

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family's land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family’s land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.

López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of 1,000 dollars in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-meter biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.

So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 percent of electricity consumption per household.

And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 percent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four percent today.

In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.

“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.

The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.

Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a strongersense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.

José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.

Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”

Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighboring homes.

“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.

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Solar Energy Crowns Social Housing Programme in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/solar-energy-crowns-social-housing-programme-brazil/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 20:35:43 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159511 “Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city. “The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) […]

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A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A view of houses with solar panels on their rooftops in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, two kilometres from the city of Palmeiras de Goiás. With 740 homes, it is the largest solar energy project in social housing complexes in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMEIRAS DE GOIÁS, Brazil, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

“Solar energy makes my happiness complete,” said Divina Cardoso dos Santos, owner of one of 740 houses with photovoltaic panels on the rooftops in a settlement on the outskirts of this central Brazilian city.

“The first blessing was thishouse,” said the 67-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 14. “I paid 600 reais (155 dollars) a month for rent in the city of Palmeiras, and now I pay monthly quotas of just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) for this house, which is mine,” she told IPS.

Her retirement pension, which for the past two years has assured her an income equivalent to the minimum wage (250 dollars) a month, and visits from a daughter who lives in Switzerland are “other blessings,” which preceded the solar panels, which allow her to save almost the entire cost of the electricity bill – about 15 dollars a month.

The Maria PiresPerillo Residential complex, a group of 740 homes that began to house poor families in 2016, is a social housing project of the Housing Agency (AGEHAB) of the state of Goiás, in west-central Brazil.

Located two kilometres from Palmeiras de Goiás, a city of 28,000 people, it is the largest of the four residential complexes that AGEHAB will supply with solar energy. The agency is a pioneer in Brazil in includingsolar power in housing programmes.

“We would like to build all the new housing complexes with solar panels and also install them in the ones built previously,” Cleomar Dutra, president of AGEHAB, told IPS.

The agency subsidises the installation, granting 3,000 reais (780 dollars) to each family, through the”ChequeMaisMoradia”programme for the improvement of homes. The money covers the cost of two solar panels and the necessary equipment, such as inverters, cables and supports.

But this year’s devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the real, drove up the cost of the panels and other equipment, which is almost all imported. Additional resources for the facilities in the Palmeiras complex, which are yet to be completed, had to be sought, said Dutra.

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That's 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Divina Cardoso dos Santos stands in front of her house in a social housing complex, for which she pays a monthly fee of about 6.5 dollars, on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Palmeiras de Goiás. That’s 24 times less than the rent she used to pay. On the neighbouring rooftop can be seen a solar water heater, which all of the homes in the neighbourhood have. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“Not all of the houses will have solar panels, because some did not sign the financing contract for the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’,” said Pedro de Oliveira Neto, the 32-year-old technician who runs the facilities at the Maria Perillo Residential Complex, installed by Nexsolar.

Oliveira has been doing this work for the past four months, after taking a specialised course. Before that, he worked in the meat industry and in mining. Now he wants to stay in the field of solar energy, “which has a future, it’s innovation,” he told IPS.

Actually, most of the houses in the complex have solar panels, but few of them generate their own energy. After they are installed, other conditions must be met in order for the local power company, Enel from Italy, to connect each home’s system to the grid.

The process began in March 2017 when solar units were installed in three homes as a test.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, 31, married with an eight-year-old daughter, was included in that first installation. Her electricity bill fell to one-fifth of the previous one. Now she pays about four dollars a month.

“We have two TV sets, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a computer and fans,” she told IPS to explain how much electricity they use.

“Now we want to reduce the water bill, which costs us 10 to 12 times more than electricity,” she complained.

Her family also no longer has to pay rent because they were granted a home in the complex. Whereas they used to pay 350 reais (90 dollars) a month they now pay just 25 reais (6.50 dollars) per month, the fee for the small portion of the financing that the owners have to pay.

The low cost of the home is due to a subsidy of up to 20,000 reais (5,200 dollars) granted by AGEHAB, through the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ programme for construction, to poor families with incomes of up to three minimum wages (about 740 dollars), said Dutra, the head of AGEHAB.

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers install solar panels on a house in the Maria Pires Perillo housing complex, an additional benefit for the poor families who are buying their homes at a very low cost. The Goiana Housing Agency of the state government of Goias, in central Brazil, subsidises most of the housing and the solar energy. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The families settled in the complex are only paying the complementary financing from the Federal Economic Fund, a government bank.

“A 44-square-metre house, like the ones in the complex, are built with materials that cost 29,000 reais (7,500 dollars), but the cost can be reduced if the purchase is collective,” estimated Dutra. So the ‘Cheque Mais Moradia’ is insufficient, but almost enough.

If the beneficiary families are in charge of construction, working together collectively, or if the mayor’s office provides the labour, the houses can be built practically without running up a debt, Dutra said.

The housing complexes are aimed at the most needy local families, since AGEHAB does not have the resources to assist everyone, she said.

Palmeiras de Goiás was included in the system because the population grew well above the state average, due to immigration. New meat, dairy and animal feed industries attracted many people looking for work.

Generating electricity from solar panels is a novelty of the last two years in the Goiás housing programme, but solar energy was already used in social housing projects for heating water – there are solar boilers on every rooftop.

It is a cheaper and more accessible technology, quite widespread in Brazil, even in the Northeast region, where people are not used to bathing with hot water, due to the high local temperatures.

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads "danger of electric shock". Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Patricia Soares de Oliveira, who was the first to receive solar panels as a test in 2017, stands in front of her house and next to an electric meter that reads “danger of electric shock”. Her power bill in this social housing complex on the outskirts of Palmeiras de Goiás in central Brazil has fallen to one-fifth of what she previously paid. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Photovoltaic electricity generation has immense potential in Brazil. In the Midwest, solar radiation from a 30-square-metre rooftop could produce five times the electricity consumed by a low-income family, estimated Dennys Azevedo, an engineer who is works manager at AGEHAB.

That generation would be enough for 3.5 households consuming the national average, 157 kilowatts/hour per month, he told IPS.

But the rules set by the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the Brazilian regulatory body, do not allow consumers to sell the energy they generate. The only benefit they receive is that the energy that they generate and consume is deducted from their electric bill.

The houses of the Maria Perillo Residential complex, for example, only have two solar panels, which occupy only about one-fifth of the rooftop. An additional panel would exceed the consumption of local families.

That rule, which does not exist in countries that have greatly expanded solar generation, such as Germany, is difficult to eliminate because of “pressure from distribution companies that would lose market share,” said Azevedo.

In addition, these power companies want to charge a tax for distributed (decentralised) solar generation, basically a tax for the use of the power lines, a cost that is currently subsidised, according to them. But “we’ve all already paid an availability tax” for the power grid, said the engineer.

Another restriction is the importation of equipment not yet manufactured in Brazil. The prices depend on the exchange rate, and any devaluation of the national currency makes everything more expensive, making planning impossible, he argued.

In addition, multiple expensive taxes raise the prices of solar equipment in Brazil, cancelling out part of the cost reduction for all solar energy components, said Azevedo, who explained that efforts are being made to avoid that taxation, “perhaps by buying equipment through the United Nations,” and to obtain funds for new projects.

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Getting Sustainable Development Back on Track in Asia & the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 13:53:51 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159472 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Social Protection and Financing Social Development
Against the backdrop of persisting poverty and widening inequalities, ESCAP supports national and regional efforts by functioning as a knowledge platform for social protection, including through its Social Protection Toolbox (http://socialprotection-toolbox.org). ESCAP advocates for inclusive social protection along the Social Protection Floor and works to strengthen the capacity of policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region to design, implement and finance inclusive social protection as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

2019 will be a landmark year for the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Four years will have passed since world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Four years since governments recommitted themselves to eradicating extreme poverty, improving universal health care coverage, education and food security, and achieving a sweeping set of economic, social and environmental objectives. Long enough to assess our direction of travel and then refocus work where progress is falling short.

As the United Nations development arm in the region, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UN ESCAP) absolute priority is to support our members achieve the SDGs by 2030. We work to give scale to their effort through regional cooperation and the South-South cooperation. So, we see the stock taking in 2019 as an opportunity. One to ensure our region remains on track to achieve sustainable development.

We already know our region’s effort must be intensified. UN ESCAP analysis shows that on our current trajectory only one SDG, universal education, is on track to be met by 2030. Environmental degradation and air pollution are worsening. Our region is feeling the full force of climate change, but our greenhouse gas emissions remain high. Intraregional trade and connectivity remain below their potential. Inequalities, both within and between countries, are widening.

Much good work is underway to overcome these challenges. But there is scope to step up our region’s response in three main areas.

First, the region cannot afford to ignore widening inequality. Had the proceeds of growth been shared more equitably over the past decade, 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. Inequalities of income, opportunity and increased exposure to natural disasters are all on the rise. Our response clearly needs to cut across sectors. But UN ESCAP research shows social protection delivers the highest return on investment. Countries such as Thailand or Vietnam have expanded their social protection programmes and have expertise to share. Let us use South-South cooperation to share it.

Continuing to strengthen our resilience to natural disasters is also key. We know disasters increase inequality. They keep children out of school and adults out of work, increase inequality and entrench poverty. Regional cooperation can help establish multi-hazard early warning systems, improve impact forecasting and damage assessment. UN ESCAP works closely with the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of Indonesia (LAPAN) towards these objectives. LAPAN had a leading role in developing the recently agreed Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development. Now, we need to focus on implementation, to harness space applications and digital innovations, to protect people from natural disasters better.

Second, the region must fulfil its longstanding ambition to increase intraregional trade. Recent trade tensions highlight Asia and the Pacific’s vulnerability to protectionism from major export markets. UN ESCAP analysis shows how regional value chains are being disrupted. 2.7 million jobs could be lost due to trade tensions, with unskilled workers, particularly women, suffering most. Increasing intraregional trade and connectivity should be part of our response. By implementing the framework agreement on the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific, adopted by UN ESCAP members to support the exchange of electronic trade data and documents, smoother commercial exchanges are within reach. Particularly if transport and energy connectivity are also increased. ASEAN’s achievement in strengthening power grids across borders is a leading example of successful political commitment and technical cooperation. We need this at the regional level.

Third, Asia and the Pacific should move decisively to reduce its ever-growing environmental footprint that is undermining development and peoples’ health. We should start with air pollution. As rapid urbanization continues, the region accounts for the bulk of cities with unhealthy air pollution levels. It leads to over 2 million premature deaths a year. Now is the time to agree a common response. One which limits hazardous health effects, accelerates the region’s transition to cleaner energy, promotes sustainable transport and strengthens our fight against climate change. A framework for science-based policy cooperation could make a real difference, including by raising ambitions when it comes to fighting climate change. The countries of North East Asia have already agreed a Clean Air Partnership. We should consider building on this approach at a regional level.

2019 is the region’s moment to build a more coherent regional response to these major challenges. To take decisive steps to combat air pollution and climate change, boost intraregional trade, improve social protection and resilience to natural disasters. We owe it to future generations to seize this opportunity, to come together and to quicken our pace to achieve sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Aborted Fuel Tax Initiative in France: Its Ramifications for Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/#respond Thu, 27 Dec 2018 22:57:30 +0000 Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159442 Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

By Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw
PARIS, Dec 27 2018 (IPS)

Emmanuel Macron was voted to French Presidency in 2017 with the mission of strengthening the integration of the European Union and pursuing economic and ecological reforms. So from the outset, he was set to distinguish himself, not just in Europe but on the world stage, especially after President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. So Macron held the summit meeting on `One Planet’ in Paris last December to push for stronger environment and climate policy. He also spoke of the environment when he addressed the Congress in April 2018, stating that “Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”i

As part of the package Macron initiated the new tax on gasoline to finance ecological transition and reduce budget deficit. France was set to increase the diesel tax by 6.5 Euro cents per liter and the gasoline tax by 3.9 cents per liter, which had already increased its gas and diesel taxes by several cents this year, and this shift came after years in which France, and Europe, had encouraged the use of diesel fuel as being better for the environment. Macron defended the Contribution Climat Énergie (CCE), a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Since its adoption in 2013, the CCE has increased from year to year, putting pressure on fuel prices. In 2019, a ton of CO2 would have cost of €55 in France, the second highest in Europe.ii The CCE was decided when oil prices were still low. But it is way up now. Still fuel taxes are calculated lower than their social costs.iii

The increase this time was resented by the French voters, initially by the rural constituencies and then the city dwellers including the Parisians joined. The result was violent protests for two weeks led by the Yellow Vest Movement. Finally, the government gave in, with declarations of some concessions, both by the President and his Prime Minister, to deflate the protests and assuage the public. But the rating of the President has plummeted to the lowest since he occupied the Presidency. Finally, the proposed tax has been shelved at least for 2019.

Why was the reaction so violent? What has gone wrong?

Introduction of different types of eco-tax, or fuel/carbon tax is decades old in Europe and they have not met the same fate. Why? Media reports and post-mortem of the episode point to a range of factors:

1. Macron’s government is viewed by a large segment of general public as elitist, which bank on support from technocrats and business leaders. The voters at large feel they are marginalized from any consultations. Even the CCE is reported to be little-known among French people, many of whom have only recently discovered it when they are already feeling disgruntled with this year’s tax rises.

2. It is the increase in the price of oil this year that has added to the tax’s impact. The price of petrol in France is already the highest in Europe. The €55 cost of a CO2/ton in France compares with the European price of €17/ton.iv The French CCE affects both private individuals and businesses, generating almost €7 billion a year through the prices of all fuels, including fuel oil, gas, petroleum, diesel and coal.v

3. These tax inequalities are a problem, according to experts. The tax disproportionately hits those on the lowest incomes, who receive an ‘energy cheque’ of €150 if they do not pay any tax.vi So the CCE, a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Macron’s tax policies have alienated many in the middle class — and analysis of the 2018-19 budget showed incomes of the poorest households would get worse under his plans.vii

4. The target of spending the revenue generated by this new tax was misplaced – it was mostly meant for reduction of budget deficit. Of the €34 billion the government will raise on fuel taxes in 2018, a sum of only €7.2 billion is earmarked for environmental measures.viii

5. The most polluting industries are viewed to be paying less, and many industrial sectors are exempted, including agriculture, all of the industry sectors enjoy emissions allowances, including road, air and maritime transport, agriculture and fish farming. The French ecological tax hits private individuals harder than businesses due to these exceptions. The Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE), a think-tank in a memo clarified that removing these exemptions would bring in twice as much money for France, around €14 billion.ix

6. Analysts say the fuel tax will disproportionately affect residents of rural areas, fueling claims that Macron is out of touch with the French people. Most of the rural residents have to depend on private cars, and diesel fuel, unlike in larger cities served by central heating. This was the reason that the protests began in the provinces and then spread in the cities including Paris. The fuel taxes represent in the eyes of many an urban ignorance of the reality of life in rural areas relatively unserved by train lines or other forms of public transportation. At the same time the railway company is closing the non-TGV, less profitable lines in some routes.

7. So, a perception developed among the rural protesters that they have two Frances, Parisian France and the `other’ France. So Macron has been dubbed “President of the Rich” by many working-class citizens who saw him remove the wealth tax from his rich Paris constituency, then propose a gas tax on his “other” constituency.x Lionel Cucchi, a spokesman of YVM in Marseille, told BFM TV that protesters “demands are much bigger than this moratorium” … we have to stop stealing from the pockets of low-income taxpayers.”xi So, the issue here is about redistribution of income.

Experience in other countries

World Bank estimates that 46 countries and 25 sub-national entities charge some kind of carbon price, even if that policy applies to only one sector of their economy.xii Sweden and the United Kingdom have successfully run carbon taxes for years. Sweden as the pioneer has taxed all forms of energy since the 1950s and adjusted the levy to account for carbon in 1991, well before climate change became a high-profile global agenda. The result is its emissions declined by 26 percent in the years that followed.xiii

There are other examples of carbon taxes in Europe and beyond. Many European countries have imposed taxes on emissions of common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Also, a number of countries have imposed energy taxes or energy taxes based partly on carbon content. Some other green growth and climate-conscious countries have adopted carbon taxes, including Chile, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and nations in Scandinavia. Others have adopted cap-and-trade programs that effectively put prices on carbon emissions. Many developing countries including Bangladesh, China, India and some others also have introduced different kinds of eco-taxes including carbon pricing. However, only around 12 percent of global emissions are covered by pricing programs such as taxes on the carbon content of fossil fuels or permit trading programs that put a price on emissions, according to the International Monetary Fund.xiv

Britain may offer some relevant lessons. It only imposed a carbon tax on electricity generation in 2013, helping drive emissions lower. But climate policy has a long and cross-party history in the U.K with its parliament being almost unanimous in adopting an aggressive climate bill a decade ago. This cross-party commitment is the way to implement an enduring climate policy, which touches the very foundations of modern life. California, for instance, is the only U.S. state with a strong climate policy. Yet its first policies came in 2006 at the hand of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican. Subsequent Democratic governments have built on that initial foundation.

But Canada is about to offer a test case, with its province of British Columbia leading a successful case of carbon tax for several years. In the rest of Canada, despite the success story in British Columbia, other provinces are dragging their heels. Prime Minister Trudeau has unveiled a “backstop” carbon tax of $20 a ton, to take effect in January, for the four Canadian provinces that do not already have one. Trudeau’s policy, however, is designed pragmatically: about 90 percent of the revenue from the tax will be paid back to Canadians in the form of annual “climate action incentive.”xv Because of the progressive tax rates, about 70 percent of Canadians will get back more than they paid. If they choose to be more energy efficient, they could save even more.xvi

However, by design, the British Columbia plan was the simplest: it slapped a tax on any fossil fuels used for heating, electricity and transportation. Each person and business was expected to shoulder the burden of pricing pollution; no loopholes, no exemptions. This revenue-neutral carbon tax was unbiased: tax was based on pollution intensity of products or services. This has induced behavioral change among consumers. The move, the first of its kind in Canada, placated both conservative economists and environmentalists.

So, based on experience we can say that the prospects of carbon taxes may depend on what happens to the money raised. In the British Columbia case, all the tax money raised went back to the people. The World Bank has called it the text book instrument. The economist William Nordhaus, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics, supported the British Columbian model as an ideal for export to other economies. Fears that the tax would have a negative impact on the economy quickly dissipated when the numbers came in, as reports suggest. The province grew its economy by 16%, far outpacing any other region of the country.xvii

The revenue-neutral aspect of the tax is novel but has frustrated some environmental groups, who feel the tax does not do enough to reduce emissions. So the current British Columbia government is thinking of modifying the revenue-neutral aspect of the programme in order to allocate funding for green infrastructure, deviating from its original revenue neutrality. By 2012, when the tax reached its first maximum level ($30 per ton), 64% of the population supported it. By 2016, the support shot up to nearly 70% of residents.xviii

So a big difference between Canada’s carbon tax and France’s carbon tax is where the money is going. In the provinces that will use Canada’s carbon tax instead of their own plan, 90 per cent of the revenue from the taxes are expected to be refunded during tax time, the government says.xix But in France the overwhelming share was supposed to go for reduction of budget deficit. Without substantive dialogue with the main stakeholder groups before designing the programme, it has backfired.

Use of French experience by sceptics

The unhappy experience in France obviously gave fodder to feed the sceptics like the French Far Right, or Presidents Trump, who still remains a diehard climate denialist. In a tweeter Trump had to say that Macron’s setback showed he was right and justified again that US was not going to clean up pollution caused by others! Fuel taxes, however, generate revenue that stays inside home countries without going to pay for others’ pollution. And the Paris Agreement placed much greater responsibilities on developing countries than ever before. President Trump’s rugged nationalist tends to infect some other leaders at a time when there is the need for promoting multilateralism, as shown in the recent climate negotiations in Katowice.

Despite Trump’s self-righteous justification, 10 east coast states have a `cap & trade’ system for carbon emissions since 2009, under which companies have their emissions capped and then trade any surplus or deficit with others. But Barack Obama, while president, was unable to pass a nationwide system. Some prominent Republicans have backed for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but with little success yet.

Future for green growth strategy

France’s abortive attempt offers some sobering lessons, with a dilemma: how do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without losing their chances of re-election? The challenge is to consider the equity and distributional aspects of introducing environmental/carbon tax, together with ensuring universal access to clean fuel and transport. Suh argues that this requires income-group and spatially-specific policies. This kind of policies aimed at transition to a low-carbon economy need to be grounded on local and national level stakeholder consultations for a revenue-neutrality system, particularly for the poorest. Such a consensus can gradually mature with intensive campaign of public education and awareness aimed at behavioral change. The median voters need to be placated in that in this age of environmental crises, what a society needs is to penalize the Bads, such as pollution and incentivize the Goods, such as hard-earned income by the working class. With this policy for some time, the revenue generated from environmental Bads can gradually be shifted to a green growth strategy nationwide.

The tax rises appear to fit within a pro-Green agenda espoused by Macron’s government. His intentions were not bad in revamping the culture of polluting driving and the protesters are also not against climate change or green growth. Simply the time is bad for the working classes in France and elsewhere, where uneven globalization and lack of distributive justice do not provide any cushion to the poorest communities. So the climate-and green growth-friendly governments must remain in check in devising green policy instruments such a way that do not backfire & play into the hands of populist demagogue leaders around.

Finally, we can say that whatever skepticism is there, the outlook for green instruments like carbon taxes looks bright: reports show that 88 nations, representing more than half of global emissions, say they are or will use carbon pricing to tackle climate change. Furthermore, some states have suggested they would impose carbon border levies on imported goods from nations that do not tax carbon. However, this policy should be applied to major emitters across the aisle.

Let us recall that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal at a very bad time in the US was not a tax programme, even if it included taxes. Instead, it was the greatest of all stimulus and jobs bills. We now need to craft a Green New Deal based on growth and distributive justice.

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i https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
ii https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
iii Suh, S. 2018. Low-carbon transition: changing urgently and equitably. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/change-urgently-but-slowly-equitably-same-time-sangwon-suh/?articleId=6474975376325115904#comments-6474975376325115904&trk=prof-post
iv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
v https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vi https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
viii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/ ; https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
ix https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
x https://thefederalist.com/2018/12/17/carbon-tax-riots-may-breaking-point-frances-socialism/
xi https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/world/europe/france-fuel-tax-yellow-vests.html
xii https://carbonpricingdashboard.worldbank.org/
xiii https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
xiv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xvi https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.24e04590073f
xvii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xviii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xixi https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
xx Suh, 2018 (endnote ii).

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Excerpt:

Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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What the COP24 Needs: A New Emerging Mindsethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2018 20:15:19 +0000 William Mebane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159372 William Mebane, former Director of Energy Efficiency Department, ENEA

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UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

By William Mebane
ROME, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

An alternative framework of international development and new forms of consumption of good/services are implicit in achieving the goals of UN climate conference recently held in Poland.

With 4.3 billion persons living on $5 or less per day, we cannot expect these persons or their countries to initially participate in the cost of climate change improvement without more favorable development. The reduction of hunger and poverty are inherent in the fight for a better climate because the poor are exactly the most exposed and least protected to adverse climate change. Rather than favor the developing world, the advanced nations have encumbered them with debt and exportation of profits; the net financial flows for the developing world are negative by 26.5 trillion dollars between 1980 and 2012 (Hickel, 2017). A more radical and effective development framework is emerging as proposed by the same author in his book the Divide. Certainly it will be an uphill battle as it involves elimination of debt burdens of developing countries, more global democracy in international financial institutions, more just wages, tax justice and land security.

Obviously the current Western model of production and consumption is highly individualistic, targeting through advertising our desires, by following the trails of our digital lives through almost all of our Internet apps on cell phones and other digital devices. Even our political orientation can be influenced in this way. The consumption is short-term “sugar-high” satisfaction, to be repeated by purchase of another product shortly thereafter. This is extremely costly to the environment, overloading us with the production, consumption and transportation of products that serve secondary needs. The capitalization of companies selling consumer discretionary goods/services is 60 per cent of the capitalization of companies in the entire consumer sector of the S&P500 companies this year (Bespoke, 2018).

And this is in sharp contrast to what really makes us happy: strong social relationships. The famous Harvard Study of Adult Development has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Importantly, international studies on happiness indicate that happy countries have high social capital and strong friendship networks. A cross-national study of 143 countries revealed that high levels of social trust and having someone to count on in case of need are associated with more positive feelings, better life evaluations, and the absence of negative feelings in most countries of the world. Also persons who participate in volunteering activities and with a high level of social trust are more likely than their peers to have better life evaluations and more positive feelings (Calvo et al. 2012).

A new model of consumption is emerging based on social experience and sharing. The experience of culture in a social setting in the form of a concert or intelligent tourism staying with local natives and guides are examples. In the future, services that enhance our sociality will grow. We also have come to realize that we can share under-utilized capacity of our basic properties such as homes and automobiles; and the sharing economy has been born. In the past everyone enjoyed owning a car or a record, instead now use is more important that ownership. This greatly reduces the number of goods that must be produced. Sociality and sharing have a much lighter
ecological footprint than the continuation of individualistic consumption of goods. The long-term gains of the sharing economy in terms of better utilization of capacity have been estimated at 570 billion euro for the EU28, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service (Goudin, 2016).

Developing nations should be aware of these alternatives; otherwise they will develop slowly and fall into the trap of consumerism that business is so anxious to sell, which may lock them into energy infrastructures and greenhouse gas production that they could have, at least in part, avoided. We are reminded that according the latest data 670,000 MW of coal power plant capacity is currently in planning or already under construction in 59 countries (Urgewald, 2018). We are individuals and will always require some satisfaction of individual needs beyond the basic requirements of food, shelter, health and education; but at our best we are social, and should recognize that we have let individualism go too far in consumption and international relations.

References
Bespoke (2018) https://www.bespokepremium.com/think-big-blog/new-sp-500-sector-weightings-what-you-need-to-know/

Calvo R., Zheng Y., Kumar S., Olgiati, A., Berkman L., (2012), Well-Being and Social Capital on Planet Earth: Cross-National Evidence from 142 Countries, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042793

Goudin, P., European Parliamentary Research Service, European Added Value Unit PE 558.777- January 2016

Hickel, J. (2017), The Divide, Windmill Books, London.

Urgewald (2018), https://coalexit.org/report-investments

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Excerpt:

William Mebane, former Director of Energy Efficiency Department, ENEA

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Of Cockroaches and Humanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/of-cockroaches-and-humans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=of-cockroaches-and-humans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/of-cockroaches-and-humans/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:47:24 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159365 Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian Nobel laureate honoured for her work in neurobiology, once gave a splendid conference with the title “The imperfect brain”. There she explained that man has a brain that is not used completely, while the reverse is true for the cockroach. In the growing fog that envelops the planet and its inhabitants, […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Italian Nobel laureate honoured for her work in neurobiology, once gave a splendid conference with the title “The imperfect brain”. There she explained that man has a brain that is not used completely, while the reverse is true for the cockroach.

In the growing fog that envelops the planet and its inhabitants, looking at things from the point of view of a cockroach would probably give us a new perspective. Also because the cockroach survived the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, it is 300 million years old, and it is distributed around the planet in over 4,000 species. All things that give it a great advantage over man.

Roberto Savio

Obviously, both are part of the animal kingdom. But man does things that other animals do not. For example, torture. Man has a level of consciousness and intelligence that no other animal possesses. But he does not, for example, learn from mistakes, which all other animals do.

Today, 70 years after its adoption, we are celebrating the Declaration of Human Rights, but we are recreating all the conditions that led to the Second World War, so much so that we talk about the “New Thirties”.

We have returned to waving the well-known flags of “In the name of God” and “In the name of the nation”, flags under which millions of people died.

We have been questioning ourselves about the climate since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Rio de Janeiro gave rise to the Kyoto Protocol for the control of climate change which, despite its good intentions, has had negligible results. Finally, after years of negotiations, we managed to convene the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris in 2015, with the participation of all the world’s countries.

For it to happen, every country was left free to set its own goals for reducing carbon monoxide emissions and responsible for monitoring their application. (Just think what would happen if we left citizens the same rules for their taxes). We now know that the result of the commitments made in Paris is leading to a 3.6°C increase in the planet’s temperature. Since 1992, the work of climate scientists has been to calculate how far the temperature can rise from the days of the Industrial Revolution without causing too much damage.

The consensus is 1.5°C, and that at more than two degrees the consequences of heating become irreversible and escape man’s control. For example, the permafrost of Siberia would melt, releasing a quantity of methane, an element 25 times more harmful than carbon monoxide. And the Paris agreement does not include methane, which is already massively produced by livestock farms, planes, ships and much more.

This month will go down in history as the date on which the international system formally entered into crisis and the revolt of the excluded can no longer be ignored, with Trump as a central protagonist.

Long before the Rio Conference, in 1988, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brought together the climate scientists of 90 countries to present reports on the state of the climate. These reports have progressively identified human activity as responsible for the increase in temperature, obviously with the opposition of the fossil, oil and coal sectors.

But the figures speak clearly. CO2 emissions have continued to increase, even after the Paris Conference. And the latest report of the 2018 “emissions gap report” sounds a brutal alarm: at the current rate, we need to triple efforts to stay within the famous 1.5 degree mark, because we will get there within the next 12 years. Only 57 countries are on the correct path.

Now we have entered into the realm of myth. That of indefinite development, in which science and the market will be the saviours of the planet. The Trump administration has even presented a report to the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) defending fossil fuels, with the support of producer countries (Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

As for science, there is no doubt that it is playing a positive role. But science has become a market variable. If its findings are not used, they count for little. And history shows us that the free market uses them only if they can give immediate profits and do not create conflict with the sources of profit already in use. An easy example is that of the automotive industry.

Without the progressively introduced regulations, we would have cars that are much inferior to those of today if we were to increase their safety and efficiency, and reduce their pollution. And the myth of the efficiency of the free market, which has been left without checks and controls since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has created some winners, but many losers, who wear yellow jackets and bring revolt to Paris.

To keep to the theme, total subsidies to the fossil industries currently amount to 250 billion dollars a year, while those in the renewables sector now stand at 120 billion… and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, has calculated that inaction on climate change will cost Europe 240 billion euro a year, with southern Europe as the major victim.

Then the worst that could happen to the climate happened: it became no longer a problem of survival of the planet, but a political confrontation.

Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement for three reasons: i) to undo what his predecessor Barack Obama had done, which is one of Trump’s automatic reflexes; ii) to satisfy the North American fossil world, which runs from unemployed miners to the billionaires of the fossil sector like the Koch brothers, who invested (their declaration) 900 million dollars in the last US presidential elections – a good example of democracy in a country where corporations have the same rights as citizens); and iii) to oppose any international agreement because America must play its role of great power without being harnessed into any multilateral agreement.

And his world echoes him: the new Brazilian foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, has declared that “climate change has been used to increase the regulatory power of states over the economy, and the power of international institutions over nations and their population, as well as slowing economic growth in democratic capitalist countries, and promoting the growth of China.”

And here, by mechanical logic, the battle against climate change has become a thing of the left (as have peace, solidarity and social justice). It is the thesis by which Trump withdraws from the Paris agreements and has declared that he does not believe the three reports of his administration on climate change, including one of 1,700 pages.

And since he has become a specialist in putting Draculas to administer the various blood banks that for him represent the various administrations inherited from Obama, the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opening national parks and protected areas to the exploitation of fossil companies, just like newly-elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro declares he wants to open the Amazon to deforestation and the production of soy.

Moreover, this is the common thread that connects us with two other major events of December 2018 – the United Nations conferences in Katowice, Poland (on climate change), and Marrakech, Morocco (on migration). These, along with the revolt of the “yellow jackets” in France, mean that this month will go down in history as the date on which the international system formally entered into crisis and the revolt of the excluded can no longer be ignored, with Trump as a central protagonist.

 

UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

 

The Marrakech conference was about adopting a document of principles on migration, for coordinated action, with respect for the human rights of migrants. It ended up leaving every state to establish its own policy. It was a non-binding document, which was not even signed.

In Marrakech, the United States revolted, issuing a statement which, among others, stated: “We believe the Compact [Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration] and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration [for Refugees and Migrants], represent an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests.”

This was enough for the quick formation of a coalition of sovereignists, xenophobes and populists who boycotted the agreement. After Austria, here come Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Switzerland and Trump’s allies, such as Israel, Australia and Chile. And it is here that migration, like the climate, becomes something that is of the left… and the Belgian government loses the far-right party of Flemish autonomy and is forced to redo its coalition, because it decides to participate in the Marrakech conference. And Germany and Italy pass the buck to their parliaments. All this over a non-binding document of principles!

What is apparently incomprehensible is that a serious debate about migration continues to be avoided. The great phenomena of migration, like that of Syria, were caused by international intervention to change the regime, without even thinking about the aftermath of invading.

Obviously there are those who flee from poverty, and not only from conflicts. But this distinction is becoming increasingly blurred. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), every two seconds one person is expelled from their territory due to conflict and persecution: the result is an unprecedented total of 68.5 million migrants in the world. Of these, 24.5 million are refugees, and more than half are under the age of 18.

The number of authoritarian states has been on the increase over the last 10 years, and those fleeing from them has also been increasing, also for political reasons. But those who flee for ethnic, religious or political reasons are refugees (and not economic migrants, who have no rights). And there are 10 million people (like the Rohingya in Myanmar) who are denied nationality, and do not have access to basic rights, such as education, health and freedom of movement: they do not legally exist.

And now comes a new category that does not exist legally: that of environmental refugees who, according to the European Union number 258 million people, forced to leave their homes for climatic reasons. But this is a whole new and difficult discussion. While it is clear who are the victims of a hurricane or an earthquake, it is more difficult in the case of desertification.

Let’s think about the case of island countries like the Maldives where an increase of just one metre in sea level would be enough for them to disappear physically. You can send an immigrant who comes to another country to escape hunger back to Senegal for example, but where do you send back people who no longer have their country?

One of the laws of physics is that of communicating vessels. Africa will double its population in a few decades. Nigeria alone will grow to 400 million inhabitants. Sixty percent of Africans are under 25, compared with 32 percent for North Americans, and 27 percent for Europeans.

According to the United Nations, Europe will need at least twenty million immigrants to maintain its pension system and its competitiveness. Even Japan, which has always struggled to keep its identity and ethnic and cultural purity intact, is opening its doors without fanfare in the face of the aging of its citizens.

European statistics are public, but ignored. In Italy, immigrants totalling five million out of a population of 60.6 million have produced 130 billion euro, 8.9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, an amount larger than the GDPs of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. And Italy now has seven births against 11 deaths. In the last five years, 570,000 new businesses out of six million have been created by immigrants in Italy, and the complaint of entrepreneurs, especially in agriculture, is that an Italian workforce cannot be found.

At global level, according to William Swing, former director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), although immigrants account for only 3.5 percent of the world’s population, they produce nine percent of the world’s GDP. But this is not what people believe.

According to a survey by the European Union on the myths and reality of immigration, Italians believe that immigrants account for 20 percent of the population while the figure is actually 10 percent. They believe that 50 percent are Muslims while they are really 30 percent, and that 30 percent are Christians while they are 60 percent. They also believe that 30 percent of them are unemployed while the figure is 10 percent, not far from the national average.

These Italian myths are actually shared by the whole of Europe, and with Trump by the United States. Fox News, Trump’s television arm, now refers to immigrants as “invaders”, and Trump wants to erect the most expensive wall in history, after the Great Wall of Chinese, to keep out criminals and drug traffickers.

And here comes the central theme of this article, which is too short to deal with issues that are apparently unrelated to each other in an effective way. Who elected the Trumps, the Salvinis, the Orbans, the Bolsonaros, and who sees peace and the fight against climate change as leftist positions, international cooperation as a plot in favour of the Chinese and immigrants as invaders? Well, the Catalan nations where a far-right party, born from nothing, won 400,000 votes can be very useful for understanding the revolt of the “yellow jackets” in France.

In Andalusia, the arrival of Vox has messed up all the cards. It took votes from the electorate of the right-wing parties, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos. After 23 years of governing the region, the PSOE, the Social Democrats, has lost control. How did it happen? In order of importance, the arguments of the voters were: 1) Vox fights against immigrants, who are an invasion;2) the party fights corruption, which is instead widespread in traditional parties; 3) it wants a strong government, because with the struggle for the independence of Catalonia Spain is becoming dismembered; and 4) why should a Spaniard go hungry, or be evicted for not paying rent, when food and a roof are being given to arriving immigrants? There was a heavy female vote, despite the anti-gay statements and anti-feminist slogans such as WOMEN IN THE HOME.

Now the place where Vox took more votes than any other party is the town of El Ejido, in the province of Almeria, which has become the nursery of Spain. It has a population of 86,000, of whom one-third are foreigners and one in five is Moroccan. These work in the nurseries surrounding the town, in precarious conditions and exploited. Unemployment is lower than the Spanish average. The town has no library, and a total of 600 newspapers a day are sold. It is evident that immigrants, many of them not registered, do a job that Spaniards do not want to do. If one-third of the population was to leave, that would be the end of prosperity. And who employs immigrants, at 41 euro for eight hours of work (35 for those who are not registered)? They are Spanish citizens. The situation is identical for immigrants in the south of Italy, exploited by local farmers who say that they manage to survive with cheap labour. Otherwise, they would have to shut down.

In other words, immigration has become a myth. America first has become Spain First, Italy First, and so on. The mayor of Almeria sums the situation up: Vox is the voice of anger.

How was this anger reached? It was not born today, but has been created over three decades. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the threat of communism has disappeared, social concerns have fallen, and the market has replaced man as the central element of society. Spending that is not immediately productive (health, education, assistance for the elderly) has been progressively decreased. The rich, because they are productive, receive a progressive reduction in taxation, unlike the poor.

Globalisation has led the rich to become richer, and the poor poorer; it has delocalised businesses and reduced the purchasing power of the middle class, while finance has grown in a world of its own, free from business. The class of craftsmen/women and small traders is disappearing, if it has not already disappeared, devoured by the likes of IKEA and supermarkets.

Cities become increasingly important, and the countryside increasingly empty and poor. A farmer’s product is sold to intermediaries for one-quarter of the final price. Where voters once identified themselves with a factory, with a trade union, with a community of peers, today they are atomised in a vacuum without incentives. And because, after the end of the Soviet Union, the new ethics is to become as rich as possible (today 80 people possess the same wealth as 2.3 million people) and the value of individual competition is increasing the frustration of the losers. Finally, the financial crisis of 2008.

The arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with technological development, which is eliminating technology that has not been updated from the market, creates a situation of fear and insecurity; the losers no longer feel represented in politics, which seen at the service of the elites and in the hands of a self-referential, corrupt political class, which is directed to satisfying above all the world of the city, the elites, the system. Institutions are perceived as serving the system, and the same fate awaits international institutions, the European Union and the United Nations. Anti-politics is born, and the wave is ridden by parties born largely after the 2008 financial crisis. The struggle of anti-politics against politics becomes stronger than the division between right and left.

This struggle leads, for example, to Brexit, where cities vote to remain in the European Union and the countryside to leave, something that was repeated recently in the Polish elections. It is the same policy of fear and redemption of the losers that led to the power of Trump, who lost in the cities, in the rich states, and won among the poor, in the rural world, in the world of closed factories and abandoned mines, among voters motivated by rancour, anger and fear.

In all small cities, the phenomenon is the same. An investigation in Montauban, one of the most active towns in the “yellow jackets” revolt with less than 60,000 inhabitants, found that there were 27 butchers before the arrival of Carrefour. There are four left. The same happened with greengrocers, with many clothing stores and craft workshops after the arrival of supermarkets. In all, around 900 shops had closed down. Respected citizens considered middle-class suddenly found themselves marginalised and ignored.

Through television, they basically see programmes from cities and a world that is changing in which they have no future. Is it any wonder that this turns into resentment towards the system and those who belong to it? Le Monde has published a table on salaries, which shows that those in a higher intellectual profession earn an average of 2,732 euro a month, which falls to 1,672 for farmers, artisans and traders, but plunges to 1,203 for those in precarious activities. And the “yellow jackets” revolt was triggered by a 10 euro cent increase in the tax on diesel fuel. One of the demonstrators’ slogans was: ‘Macron fears the end of the world, we fear the end of the month’.

Now, to remain in France, Macron has failed to understand that for the losers rational analysis of efficiency increases their estrangement. Life is above all a human fact, and no one is concerned with this aspect any longer. Schumpeter’s model – that the efficiency of the market creates a process of economy that grows thanks to the market’s capacity for creative destruction – is for the losers proof that the system is made only for the winners, and that neither they nor their children will ever have the ability to escape the situation in which they have come to find themselves through no fault of their own.

The ‘Yellow Jackets’ movement has been very successful, because many categories feel ignored. When frustration increases with the passing of the years, of governments, and is reduced only to an economic problem of subsidies, the passage to violence, from dignity that is awakened, is unstoppable. And those who present themselves as “the man of providence”, capable of listening and understanding, opening fights against corruption, for the restoration of law, for traditional society, for the world in which everything went well – from the old independent Britain to the great factories and steel mills of the United States – will have unshakable support.

In reality, there was once a social contract, also regulated by intermediary forces such as trade unions, by a sense of hope and collective identity, such as being a worker or a railwayman. This sense of community has disappeared, almost all places of aggregation have disappeared, such as clubs or dance halls, replaced today by the halls of supermarkets and discos, to which only young people have access.

It would also be necessary to open a chapter on the impact of technology, with internet and social media, which instead of leading to greater communication, have led to a self-referential and narcissistic world, where each one organises their own virtual world, escapes from real society, creating aggregations among peers and no longer dialogue with others. Another instrument that is felt as exclusion for generational reasons.

Even though the revolt of the ‘Yellow Jackets’ was made possible by Facebook, which brought together hundreds of thousands of people aggregated against the common enemy: the system, which ignored and marginalised them. However, it should be clear that robotisation and artificial intelligence will put more people on the margins of society than immigration ever will, with new priests of the system, technicians who will manage the world of artificial intelligence.

It is thus now clear that without social justice, we will not go far. Macron who lifts taxes from the rich to attract investments to France lives in a world that is different from that of most of its citizens. And above all, in a world of numbers and Excel tables. A world in which “men of providence” will lead us inexorably towards a war.

Exploiting fear and injustice works politically for obtaining votes. The battles of the losers of globalisation have been opened by social movements, by the World Social Forum. But who uses them is not the left, which with Tony Blair’s ‘third way’ thought it could ride the wave of globalisation, when it only managed to lose its base: the battle of the losers is used by right that is not ideological but of the gut.

Creating a new social pact as existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall is not easy. Money – which is no longer there – is necessary. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) tells us that world debt exceeds 182 trillion dollars. In just one year, it has increased by 18 trillion dollars. Since the 2007 crisis, it has increased by 60 percent. We are all living on credit, and Macron, who now would like to use social justice to restore peace, has no funds to do so.

Moreover, as always in a world that has lost its compass, the money would be there. Every year, countries’ tax authorities collect 150 billion dollars less than they could because of tax havens that could easily be outlawed in a very short time. It is always the same: if we could introduce social justice as the first objective, it would be easy, even on a global scale.

The United States, for example, spent the absurd sum of 5.9 trillion dollars in military operations and armaments after the attack on the Twin Towers. In 2017, 1.719 billion dollars were spent on armaments worldwide, a figure never before reached in history. And if military expenses could be considered necessary by some, I do not see who defends the spending for corruption: in the last year, according to the United Nations, this amounted to one trillion dollars, and the money stolen in governments another 2.6 trillion. Another proof of the efficiency of the free market!

And now let’s go back to our cockroach. According to scientists, we are heading towards the sixth crisis of extinction of the animal and plant kingdom. Extinction is a natural phenomenon, affecting one to five species each year. But scientists estimate that the current rate is at least a thousand times higher, with dozens of species every day. It is believed that by the middle of the century at least 30 percent of existing species will have disappeared.

Obviously, the cockroach is not one of these. It is estimated that a building in New York has at least 36,000 cockroaches.

But men have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to find a way to give animal proteins in a different, more sustainable way, and that the path to follow is to eat insects. There are cultural resistances (not in China and other countries), but they can be overcome with an appealing presentation …

And our cockroach can only desire that the bunglers of the animal kingdom, called men, get out of the way as soon as possible. The entire animal and plant kingdoms, and probably also the mineral one, are asking for this.

Certainly, without man, in the space of twenty years the planet would become ideal for nature…

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Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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Q&A: Making Green Growth a Success Across the Globehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 09:08:01 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159218 IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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Global Green Growth Institute’s Director General Frank Rijsberman at COP24. GGGI is organising over 15 events at the conference focused on low carbon development, green finance, transparency, capacity development of countries to address climate change etc. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

When the Global Green Growth Institute’s (GGGI) Director General Frank Rijsberman’s son was looking for a job following graduation, he saw that oil companies were paying the highest salaries. But Rijsberman, who has been working in the sustainable development sector for decades, knew better. He told his son that those very same oil companies would soon go broke. And instead advised him to seek employment with renewable energy companies as they would soon be the ones making money.

As head of GGGI, it is undoubtable that Rijsberman has expert insight into the future of the renewable energy sector. GGGI supports governments around the world transition to environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth by helping them mobilise finance for climate action and implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. country commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.

With a career spanning over 30 years, Rijsberman is one of the strongest advocates of green growth attending the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. His organisation is organising over 15 events at the conference that are focused on, among other things, how low carbon development, green finance, transparency and capacity development of countries can address climate change.

Amidst his packed COP24 schedule, Rijsberman sat down with IPS for a brief interview on the state of global climate action, COP24 and the work of GGGI in attaining green growth.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Climate finance has been one of the sticking points at COP24 so far. Developing countries are concerned that the developed world is shifting the role of financial contributions to the private sector. What are your thoughts on this?

Dr. Frank Rijsberman (FR): Firstly, there needs to be a clean definition of the 100 billion dollars climate finance pledged to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This 100 billion shouldn’t be diluted. We need this 100 billion to be clean and green. But at the same time, this is only a small part of what we need to fight climate change. We need trillions, and for that public finance is not enough. This will only come about if we get the institutional investors off the sideline and get the pension funds, the private sector to engage.

IPS: What are some of the challenges that now exist with regards to engaging the private sector in funding green growth and how can they be engaged more effectively?

FR: It starts with many of the governments not even realising that renewable energy has become commercially viable. They still think green growth is nice but it is expensive and [they] can’t afford it. It is already commercially viable to use solar-based batteries for instance, so there is a business case there. So convincing people that these are commercially attractive investments is the first thing that needs to be done. If structured well enough, [as in the case of] Bangladesh offering 20-year power purchase agreement at a reasonable price, then we can attract private investors.

Governments also must create an enabling environment for the private sector to engage and have a level playing field for renewables to attract those investments. If there are barriers, such as fossil fuel subsidies, it becomes very hard for private businesses to make a living out of renewables. In Fiji, for instance, the government subsidises dirty electricity for poor households. Stopping that subsidy and turning it into a subsidy for solar power on the roofs of low income houses is one of our projects.

IPS: Two months ago, the IPCC released a report that confirmed that accepting increased global warming of 2 degrees Celsius will impact severely lives, livelihoods and natural ecosystems. This means drastic changes are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Is it achievable here?

FR: It has to be finance first. Then we need to agree on transparency. We also need to ramp up ambition and rather than to waver from their NDCs countries need to step up their commitments, but that is for next year. We need to agree on the rulebook and get over the hurdle of finance at this COP then everybody’s attention will focus on more ambition, which is what we need. If we get stuck on the Paris rulebook or finance then we also don’t get to the 1.5 degrees, so it is like a house of cards.

IPS: Transparency is one of the key issues being debated at COP24. What are your thoughts on it?

FR: Transparency is the code word for Article 6. Part of it means developed countries reporting in a credible way. And for developing countries it also means to save their rainforests, to restore their mangrove areas – can they get money to pay for that? There are countries like Korea or Australia that can’t reduce their emissions fast enough, but they are willing to buy carbon credits. But then we need to agree on a rulebook for transparency – how are we going to report, what kind of Monitoring Reporting and Verification Systems (MRVS) are necessary, and those MRVS shouldn’t overly burden countries like Myanmar.

We can’t have the same kind of rulebook for Myanmar and Germany [and] shouldn’t make the barriers to access very high. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) felt they were excluded because [these processes] were too complicated. So, this time around transparency needs to allow the Least Developed Countries and SIDS to really access that. That is the critical sticking point.

IPS: Your organisation assists member states, which include developing nations, access funding from the GCF. It has also assisted member countries in developing green growth models to great success. Are you seeing an increased commitment from governments, in both developing and developed nations, to embrace green growth? What is your vision for GGGI going ahead from COP24?

FR: We are very proud that we supported Fiji in developing one of the first low emission development scenarios, which they are presenting here at COP. Last year we worked with Fiji to have their NDC roadmap. This is just an example of the kind of things we do. We also work with many developing countries in getting more concrete action plan for NDCs. We are growing very rapidly.

We only started six years ago with 12 countries and now 30 countries have ratified our treaty and another 30 are in the queue to become members. When our President Ban Ki-moon meets ministers he encourages them to take green growth more seriously, then those ministers contact us about how they can do so.

We also see a lot of good opportunities from the SIDS.

In South East Asia – Vietnam, Indonesia – there is a large portfolio of planned new coal fired power plants. So, these are the hotspots and we need to convince those governments that green growth is commercially attractive and feasible. We are very happy with Indonesia’s commitment for green growth and we are strongly supporting Vietnam’s government to convert their intent to climate action.

I have worked on sustainable development forever, and for the longest time Ministries of Finance had no time for us, saying ‘Sorry we are poor, we need to grow and we will worry about the environment later’. Even INDCs were owned by the Ministries of Environment and the Ministries of Finance didn’t know about them.

Now the Finance Ministers who want growth are interested in green growth, integrating these ideas into mainstream national development planning. For instance, we helped Uganda develop the green growth development strategy which the ministry of finance is leading. That is what I am most excited about. We have finally convinced ministries of finance to take green growth seriously.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

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By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

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The Revolution of Renewable Energy Needs Political Leadershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:29:51 +0000 Rachel Kyte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159073 *Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

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*Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

By Rachel Kyte
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

The cost of renewable energy is low, and at times, less than fossil fuels. What are the barriers to switching to renewables?

Where current energy systems exist, they will need to be upgraded to be able to draw power from modern renewables and to exploit storage solutions that they require.

Rachel Kyte

The institutions and mindsets of current systems are still comfortable with the systems of the past, those that prioritized fossil fuels in centralized grid systems.

The revolution of renewable energy is not just that it’s clean, but that it can be delivered both through the grid as well as decentralized solutions, allowing it to reach those who have never enjoyed access to reliable and affordable energy before.

Yet this change requires political leadership and policy certainty for the levels of investment needed, and we need that renewable investment now.

Q: The recent Cooling for All report highlighted an issue many people didn’t speak of until recently. How does it relate to climate?

A: As the world warms and populations rapidly grow, particularly in the cities of the developing world, we risk creating ‘heat islands’ that could substantially increase energy demands as people seek cooling access for their own health and safety, as well as the safety of medical supplies, fresh food and safe work environments.

At the same time, if we rely on today’s cooling technologies that use high hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioning, we will exasperate climate impacts from a growing use of short-lived climate pollutants.

In policy terms, providing everyone with access to the sustainable cooling they need, is the opportunity at the intersections of the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and the Kigali Amendment.

In human terms, finding a way to provide hyper efficient pollutant free cooling for people, their vaccines and food is about making sure we leave no one behind. While the Paris Agreement reached almost universal ratification in record time, we now need member states to move with the same swiftness and determination to ratify the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment.

Q: Can governments, businesses and communities that embrace clean energy solutions survive economically, and where do you see the greatest impact of green energy solutions?

A: The scientific evidence presented in the IPCC report means that all governments, through meeting their fundamental responsibilities in providing a duty of care to their citizens, need to ensure that aggressive and comprehensive policies are in place to speed energy transitions towards clean, affordable and reliable energy for all.

For business, being able to be on the leading edge of this transition means being positioned for profitability, success in attracting and retaining talent, and ensuring that inevitable regulation – and in some cases litigation – is a risk that is understood and well managed.

All businesses must regard carbon as a toxin which needs to be avoided, mitigated and managed to not only support climate action, but help ensure their business is resilient to the ever-growing impacts of climate change.

Q: Can we realistically meet the needs of the just under 1 billion people who don’t have regular access to electricity through renewable energy?

A: Yes. As an immediate step, we all have to be much more efficient in our use of energy. We can provide for many more needs with much less energy through technological innovation and business models. Renewable energy gives us a cost-effective way to meet the needs of those who have never had energy before to help them become economically productive.

By putting the needs of the last mile first, we can build decentralized, digitalized and decarbonized energy systems that meet everyone’s needs. This is not beyond human ingenuity – the cost is estimated at just over US$50 billion a year.

Yet it requires political will and determination. When we consider that US$50 billion leaves the African continent through illegal financial flows, money laundering and tax evasion each year, we must work harder to ensure that the energy needs of these vulnerable populations – women, children, remote rural populations – can be met.

Q: How can we support low-income countries when it comes to innovation and strengthening infrastructure that allow for modern technology approaches?

A: First, we need to support countries put in place robust policy frameworks and investment climates that will spur both domestic investment as well as attract international investment. Secondly, development finance, in partnership with these countries, has to be directed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

Our recent Energizing Finance report clearly shows that finance is still not reaching the top 20 countries with the largest electricity and clean cooking access gaps – dramatically slowing down progress to meet global energy goals and our promise to these populations.

Thirdly, we need specific initiatives that provide energy to the growing number of displaced people around the world.

Finally, the 3 billion that don’t have access to clean cooking deserve an urgent response from the international community at scale that connects industries around different fuel sources with new financial innovation that means the billions of women living on low incomes have a range of clean fuel choices, as opposed to the dangerous choice to cook a family meal while putting their health and the health of their children at risk.

*The interview is part of an editorial package from the SDG Media Compact and released by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

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Excerpt:

*Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

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Thermal Houses Keep People Warm in Peru’s Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 03:14:36 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159061 Thirty families from a rural community more than 4,300 meters above sea level will have warm houses that will protect them from the freezing temperatures that each year cause deaths and diseases among children and older adults in this region of the southeastern Peruvian Andes. José Tito, 46, and Celia Chumarca, one year younger, peasant […]

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Climate Action Should be a Global Priority for World Leadershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-action-global-priority-world-leaders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-action-global-priority-world-leaders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-action-global-priority-world-leaders/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 10:14:38 +0000 Patricia Espinosa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159013 Patricia Espinosa was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, a year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement to intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. Prior to that, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

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Patricia Espinosa was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, a year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement to intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. Prior to that, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

By Patricia Espinosa
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

The IPCC report says that it is not impossible to limit climate change to 1.5͒C? Do you think we can realistically achieve that? Politically, what needs to happen?

History shows that when the human race decides to pursue a challenging goal, we can achieve great things. From ridding the world of smallpox to prohibiting slavery and other ancient abuses through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have proven that by joining together we can create a better world.

Patricia Espinosa

Today, I believe we can succeed in limiting climate change to 1.5°C – but only if we once again work in solidarity with a powerful unity of purpose.

Humans have evolved to respond to immediate threats and opportunities. We find it more difficult to address problems that play out over years and decades. We must overcome this natural short-sightedness and commit to urgent climate action.

The Paris Agreement confirms the political commitment to climate action, and the UN system provides a platform for international collaboration. What we need now is for more leaders and more citizens to recognize climate action as a global priority and to start working together more urgently.

There was a great surge of enthusiasm for action among industries, governments and even regular people after Paris. Do you think that enthusiasm has been sustained and how can their involvement be ramped up?

There is no quick fix for climate change. Effective climate action will require a long-term, full-time commitment by virtually everyone. Every climate policy, every new technology, every personal action that contributes to reducing emissions and building resilience should be recognized and applauded.

There will be other surges of excitement, as in 2015 when the Paris Agreement was adopted, but most importantly we need to rely on consistent, steady action. We can sustain enthusiasm by sharing success stories, closely monitoring and publicizing emissions levels and climate trends, and keeping the climate conversation alive on a daily basis.

Climate change is, in many respects, the quintessential multilateral issue. What needs to happen to strengthen multilateralism to tackle climate change?

Climate change is a global phenomenon that requires global solutions. Fortunately, we already have platforms for multilateral action such as the United Nations and forums such as the G20.

Meanwhile, thanks to the media and to rapid communications, people are increasingly aware of what is happening in other parts of the world. They see how migration, trade and technology are making us more interdependent than ever before.

Although we do see a backlash against global integration in some parts of the world today, I am convinced that the sense of international solidarity will only grow in the years to come. An increasing awareness that we have a shared destiny on this fragile planet will help to strengthen inclusive multilateral action in the years to come.

How do we get people and governments to move beyond commitments to concrete actions?

Governments need to translate the multilateral goals of the Paris Agreement into specific policies. These policies must to reflect national circumstances and priorities. They need to create what we call an “enabling environment” that motivates and rewards companies, communities and individuals to take concrete actions.

Through the Paris Agreement we will monitor national and global emissions trends to determine which national policies seem to be working and which need to be reviewed.

So in sum we must build on the broad political commitment set out in Paris to craft national policies that encourage and recognize concrete measures by the full range of actors.

We are all responsible for emitting greenhouse gases, so we all have a role – whether in our work, or in our personal lives – in taking concrete actions to reduce emissions.

There are many success stories in all regions and all sectors that demonstrate the enormous potential of climate action.

To start with, a growing number of cities and regions have adopted targets to achieve zero net emissions between 2020 and 2050. These targets are often developed in collaboration.

Just one example: Nineteen city leaders from the C40 coalition signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration to ensure that all new buildings operate with a neutral carbon footprint by 2030.

The rise of inclusive multilateralism, where not only national governments but local and regional governments as well as a diverse array of associations and organizations work closely together, is a powerful force for climate action.

Collaboration is also taking place among actors in particular economic sectors. Earlier this year, the global transport sector, which is responsible for some 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, created the Transport Decarbonisation Alliance.

The Alliance recognizes that lowering transport emissions will also help to reduce urban pollution and improve public health. Transport companies and managers are creating innovative solutions, including new materials and designs, the increased use of renewable energy, improved public transport systems, and more efficient management of road, air and other transport networks.

Building collaboration within a sector is a great way to raise ambition and to share success stories and best practices.

We also see a growing list of individual corporations adopting emissions targets. Many have signed up to a Science Based Target to ensure that they are in line with the 1.5-2°C temperature limit enshrined under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

To date, over 700 leading businesses around the world have made strategic climate commitments through the We Mean Business coalition’s Take Action campaign.

There are so many more inspiring examples from a wide range of actors. Their efforts, more than anything else, is what gives me hope that we can achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and minimize global climate change and its risks. Their stories should inspire all of us to contribute more energetically to climate action.

*Originally published by the SDG Media Compact which was launched by the United Nations in September 2018 in collaboration with over 30 founding media organizations –– encompassing more than 100 media and entertainment outlets. The SDG Media Compact seeks to inspire media and entertainment companies around the world to leverage their resources and creative talent to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

World leaders are meeting at the Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, 2 to 14 December, to finalize the rulebook to implement the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. In the agreement, countries committed to take action to limit global warming to well under 2°C this century. At the conference in Poland, the UN will invite people to voice their views and launch a campaign to encourage every day climate action.

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Excerpt:

Patricia Espinosa was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2016, a year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement to intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. Prior to that, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

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Get Ready for COP24: Transition to a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/get-ready-cop24-transition-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=get-ready-cop24-transition-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/get-ready-cop24-transition-sustainable-future/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 14:54:13 +0000 Manuela Matthess http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159002 Manuela Matthess is advisor on international energy and climate policy at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Berlin*

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UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

By Manuela Matthess
BERLIN, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

COP24 is the time for governments to act and increase their pledges to prevent global warming ensuring a just transition that leaves no one behind.

The Paris Agreement and the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deliver a clear and potent message: we urgently need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius if we want to protect our ecosystems as well as the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.

To prevent severe consequences caused by the devastating effects of climate change, it has become evident and imperative that “business as usual” is not possible anymore. We need a transformation to a zero-carbon world in pretty much all sectors; we need to decarbonize our energy systems, our industries as well as our transport systems, we need to establish sustainable ways to do agriculture, and we need to re-think the way we build cities.

The challenges we are facing are enormous, but they come with endless opportunities as well. For the necessary transformation processes to be successful, they must be managed in a just and inclusive fashion: we need a just transition to a sustainable future!

In December 2018, heads of State will gather for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), in Katowice, Poland, to continue discussing ways to implement the Paris Agreement. A just transition will be high up on the political agenda. But what does it encompass?

A just transition is defined by the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement, but in a way that the well-being of all people is protected. The recent IPCC report on 1.5 degrees spotlights the need for early action, once again reinforcing that a rapid transition across all sectors of the economy is necessary to mitigate the most catastrophic risks of climate change.

There is great urgency involved—we only have 12 more years to turn things around! The lives and livelihoods of millions of people, especially in Global South countries, depend on fast action and ambitious climate policies to prevent the worst-possible impacts. For them, climate change is already a harsh reality, even though they have contributed almost nothing to its creation.

A just transition can only be successful if it brings all affected groups to the table. It maximizes climate protection while minimizing the negative impacts of climate change and climate policy on societies, lives and livelihoods. Climate change will influence every sector of our lives.

This includes the employment sector, which will be impacted by climate change as well as by climate change policies. Workers in the fossil industries and their families and communities are at the front line of the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energies. Their interests need to be considered in the process.

Structural-change processes always have a strong regional component as sometimes it is coal or oil extraction which serves as the only source of employment in certain parts of a country. Good alternatives must be made available for people who will be affected by the phasing out of coal, oil and gas—even more so because that phase-out needs to happen fast to stop global warming.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius through a just transition of the world economy opens up many opportunities, including possibilities for decent work and quality jobs. Communities least responsible for and most negatively affected by climate change can and must profit from a Just Transition through poverty eradication, sustainable development opportunities and the creation of decent and quality jobs.

There is huge job-creation potential in renewable energies. The jobs of the future need to be green jobs with decent working conditions everywhere in the world. A just transition is a time-limited opportunity to shape the necessary change. If we do not act now, the risks could be uncontrollable, not only for workers and their communities but also for societies, lives and livelihoods of all people worldwide.

A Just Transition starts with a high level of ambition and accelerated climate action. This is the only way to ensure that there is sufficient time to implement the transition in a just way. Currently, countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not nearly ambitious enough, putting us on a pathway to global warming of 3–4 degrees celsius.

What does that portend? Unbearable extreme weather conditions, sea-level rise that threatens the existence of many people, loss of biodiversity, lack of food security, disappearing coral reefs that are essential to a healthy balance of our ecosystems as well as an increasing number of climate refugees and violent conflicts fuelled by the consequences of climate change. Do you want to live in a world like this?

COP24 is the time for governments to act and increase their pledges to prevent global warming.

* For more information on the international work by FES on the topic visit the dedicated website page.
The link to the original article: https://www.fes-connect.org/spotlight/get-ready-for-cop24-four-things-to-know-about-a-just-transition-to-a-sustainable-future/

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Excerpt:

Manuela Matthess is advisor on international energy and climate policy at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Berlin*

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Limiting Climate Change to 1.5 C is not Impossible, Says IPCC Chairhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/limiting-climate-change-1-5-c-not-impossible-says-ipcc-chair/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=limiting-climate-change-1-5-c-not-impossible-says-ipcc-chair http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/limiting-climate-change-1-5-c-not-impossible-says-ipcc-chair/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 11:13:15 +0000 Lee Hoesung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158997 Lee Hoesung was appointed Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2015. He is also the Endowed Chair Professor of economics of climate change, energy and sustainable development in the Republic of Korea*.

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Lee Hoesung was appointed Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2015. He is also the Endowed Chair Professor of economics of climate change, energy and sustainable development in the Republic of Korea*.

By Lee Hoesung
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

When governments set a target in December 2015 of limiting global warming to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to hold it at 1.5ºC, they invited the IPCC to prepare a report to provide information on this Goal.

Lee Hoesung

They asked the IPCC to assess the impacts of warming of 1.5ºC, the related emissions pathways of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that would result in warming of that amount, and the differences between warming of 1.5 and 2ºC or higher.

The new IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC shows that it is not impossible to limit warming to 1.5ºC but that doing so will require unprecedented transformations in all aspects of society.

The report shows that this is a worthwhile goal as the impacts of warming of 2ºC on lives, livelihoods and natural ecosystems are much more severe than from warming of 1.5ºC.

The global temperature has already risen about 1ºC from pre-industrial levels. The report shows that because of past emissions up to the present it will continue to warm. But these emissions alone are not enough to take the temperature to 1.5ºC: it is still possible to hold it at that level.

This requires very strong cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, for instance by decarbonization of electricity production, and further cuts after that so that emissions fall to net zero by 2050.

Net zero means that any continuing emissions of greenhouse gases, for instance in transport, are compensated by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through measures such as afforestation or other techniques and technologies.

This will be achieved by reducing energy demand, for instance through greater energy efficiency, and changes in energy use, construction, transport, cities and food and diets.

Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible in terms of physics; the technology and techniques are there; the question is whether people and societies will support politicians in taking these measures.

What do world leaders need to know about the climate science that will affect the prosperity and well-being of their citizens?

World leaders need to know that the climate is already changing because of emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from human activities such as energy production and use, transport, and agriculture and other forms of land use.

These changes pose threats to people from increases in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, forest fires, drought, heavy precipitation and floods. The warming climate is causing the sea level to rise.

It is affecting biodiversity and making it harder for species to survive or forcing them to move. These are already affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

If we carry on emitting greenhouse gases the climate will continue to warm and these threats will get worse. The new IPCC report shows there is even a big difference in risks between warming of 1.5ºC and 2ºC: every bit of warming matters.

The report also shows that it is pursuing policies to address climate change, by reducing emissions and adapting to the changes already underway, can creates a more prosperous and sustainable society by fostering innovation and the green economy and building more resilient communities. Economic development and climate action go hand in hand as sustainable development.

How optimistic are you about our ability to limit global warming to 1.5 C?

The new IPCC report shows it is not impossible, in terms of physics or technology, to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. But the unprecedented transformations in society will require continuing technical innovation and changes in behaviour and lifestyle.

The question is whether individuals and companies are ready to make those changes and encourage politicians to put the conditions in place to create a prosperous and sustainable low-carbon society.

*Originally published by the SDG Media Compact which was launched by the United Nations in September 2018 in collaboration with over 30 founding media organizations –– encompassing more than 100 media and entertainment outlets. The SDG Media Compact seeks to inspire media and entertainment companies around the world to leverage their resources and creative talent to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

World leaders are meeting at the Climate Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, 2 to 14 December, to finalize the rulebook to implement the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. In the agreement, countries committed to take action to limit global warming to well under 2°C this century. At the conference in Poland, the UN will invite people to voice their views and launch a campaign to encourage every day climate action.

The post Limiting Climate Change to 1.5 C is not Impossible, Says IPCC Chair appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Lee Hoesung was appointed Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2015. He is also the Endowed Chair Professor of economics of climate change, energy and sustainable development in the Republic of Korea*.

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Over Half of the World’s Tropical Forests Have been Destroyed, Say Conservationistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 06:53:06 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158917 Biodiversity conservationists have revealed that at least 10 more percent of land than what is currently being used to grow green crops will be required to successfully replace fossil fuels with alternatives derived from natural sources such as biofuel. Speaking to government ministers and other high level representatives at the ongoing Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, […]

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UN Biodiversity Conference in progress in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. The conference ends November 29. Credit: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

By Rabiya Jaffery
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Biodiversity conservationists have revealed that at least 10 more percent of land than what is currently being used to grow green crops will be required to successfully replace fossil fuels with alternatives derived from natural sources such as biofuel.

Speaking to government ministers and other high level representatives at the ongoing Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), said that the increase in the need for land for energy-related uses could undermine natural habitats across the world.

Deforestation and forest degradation are one of the biggest threats to forests worldwide and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the last 60 years, over half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed.

Currently, one of the biggest drivers of deforestation is the meat industry with over 2.71 million hectares of tropical forests destroyed to pasture for beef cattle every year. To put it into perspective, this is more than half of tropical deforestation in South America, and more than five times as much as any other commodity in the region. Other significant drivers also include wood products, soybeans, and palm oil.

“Degradation and loss of forests threatens the survival of many species, and reduces the ability of forests to provide essential services,” states Larigauderie. “And an increase in the need for more land could have devastating impacts that undermine the essential diversity of species on Earth.”

Established by 130 member governments in 2012, IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body that provides objective scientific assessments regarding the planet’s biodiversity to global policymakers – similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was established 30 years ago.

During a panel discussion, Larigauderie said IPCC’s latest report gives a sense of “extreme urgency” on “tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”

While it is uncertain just how much land is currently being used for biofuel crops, several researches estimate it lies between 15 and 30 million hectares. Meanwhile, IPCC predicts an increase of up to 744 million hectares in the land area needed to grow biofuel crops to slow down global warming.

“Where would this huge amount of new land come from?” asked Larigauderie. “Is there currently such a large amount of ‘marginal land’ available or would this compete with biodiversity?”

‘Marginal land’ refers to areas of land that have little to no agricultural potential because of poor soil or other undesirable characteristics.

Scientific studies on the better use of marginal lands have been going on for nearly two decades and studies show that marginal lands represent significant untapped resources to grow plants specifically used for biofuel production.

But some scientists also argue that there is not enough marginal land left to grow enough biofuels to significantly replace fossil fuels.

Larigauderie pointed out that the important issue of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities which drives up global warming needs to be addressed but relying on biofuels as a replacement for fossil fuels will almost certainly result in an increase in the demand for land which will have negative consequences on biodiversity – and consequently, carbon dioxide emissions.

Land ecosystems today soak up about a third of annual carbon dioxide emissions, with the world’s oceans accounting for about another quarter annually.

“Reforestation and safeguarding plant and animal species is far better at protecting the climate than most biofuel crops,” she stated. ““All methods that produce healthier ecosystems should be promoted as a way to combat climate change.”

IPBES intends to publish a primer detailing elements of its Global Assessment of Biodiversity in May 2019.

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NGOs Call for Disinvestments in Biodiversity Destructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ngos-call-disinvestments-biodiversity-destruction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ngos-call-disinvestments-biodiversity-destruction http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ngos-call-disinvestments-biodiversity-destruction/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 14:36:13 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158778 A discussion held earlier this week at the ongoing Convention of Biodiversity’s (CBD) Conference of Parties in Egypt highlighted that grants to curb deforestation in the Amazon are not enough if they are accompanied with investments that increase the loss of biodiversity. “Parties are talking about ‘investing in biodiversity’, but we need to talk about […]

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Credit: Global Forest Coalition

By Rabiya Jaffery
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 21 2018 (IPS)

A discussion held earlier this week at the ongoing Convention of Biodiversity’s (CBD) Conference of Parties in Egypt highlighted that grants to curb deforestation in the Amazon are not enough if they are accompanied with investments that increase the loss of biodiversity.

“Parties are talking about ‘investing in biodiversity’, but we need to talk about divesting from biodiversity destruction,” stated Isis Alvarez of the Global Forest Coalition (GFC), a worldwide coalition of NGOs and Indigenous peoples’ organizations from 60 different countries striving for rights-based, socially just forest conservation policies.

“Meat and soy are the top two contributors to deforestation, we must eliminate financial and other support for these sectors.”

Incentives to produce and export meat and soy in major producer countries like Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina — or the “United Soy Republic” according to GFC — are a leading cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, according to a briefing document prepared by GFC for the discussion at the ongoing Convention.

Originally launched in 1992 as part of the Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is a global agreement among 196 nations that represents the growing global commitment to sustainable development.

In the next two years it aims to define a post 2020 global framework on biodiversity to be adopted in Beijing in 2020 — much as the Paris Agreement did in 2015 for climate change.

UNCBD’s Aichi Targets that were set out in 2010 to be phased out in the next 10 years, states that incentives, including subsidies, that are harmful to biodiversity, need to be eliminated, phased out, or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, while positive incentives are developed to support alternatives.

GFC highlights that, while grants are being provided in efforts to “conserve biodiversity” of the Amazon, the livestock and feedstock industry (mainly soy) are continuing to receive significant incentives, including subsidies and tax cuts.

Isis Alveraz, along with multiple other sources and scientific reports, state that at the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rainforests could diminish and virtually vanish within the next 100 years

“The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers cut forests to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock,” says Alvarez, a Colombian biologist and member of the GFC.

“Plant-based agriculture used to feed animals bred for food drives up the amount of resources consumed by crops. Intensive livestock production requires large quantities of harvested feed which, in turn, requires substantial areas of land while grazing animals such as cattle place additional stress on the state of Earth’s forests — especially the Amazon.”

GFC states that the Paraguayan Chaco region is being deforested at the rate of 1,000 hectares per day due to cattle ranching and soy monocultures, the highest rate of deforestation in the world while meat and soy companies here are receiving multiple tax incentives.

Brazil, for example, continues to be one of the countries with the highest deforestation rates on the planet. Between 2005 and 2015, the Brazilian government invested $3.18 billion in the livestock industry – 90% of which went to just three corporations.

In 2017, $48 billion went to agribusiness companies in the form of cheap credit while only $115.6 million was allocated to combatting deforestation and forest degradation.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has also jumped by almost 50% during the three month electoral season that brought Jair Bolsonaro to power, according to preliminary official figures.

Between August and October, nearly 1, 674 square km (an area more than double the size of New York City) of forest was converted to pasture— making the deforestation rate go up to 273%. To put it in perspective, the rate stood at 114% during the same period last year.

And while experts observe that deforestation usually increases in Brazil’s electoral years amid promises from local politicians they tp open up protected land or make environmental legislation more flexible, far-right candidate and now president-elect Bolsonaro has added a powerful permissive voice to agribusiness, land-grabbers, illegal gold miners and loggers.

Aside from deforestation, reports show that the livestock industry is also causing significant negative impacts on local communities, animal welfare, and the environment.

“Much of the land for livestock in Paraguay was acquired via land grabbing, while wages paid by ranching operations are a third of the national minimum wage,” says Miguel Lovera of GFC’s Paraguay hub.

The discussion at the Convention proposed that alternatives to support biodiversity conservation the paper proposed a rapid reduction in meat and dairy consumption and incentives for small-scale, localized, and ecologically sound food production as well as community conservation initiatives.

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Solar Energy Drives Social Development in Brazil’s Favelashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 00:26:18 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158766 “We can’t work just to pay the electric bill,” complained José Hilario dos Santos, president of the Residents Association of Morro de Santa Marta, a favela or shantytown embedded in Botafogo, a traditional middle-class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. The high cost of electricity in the favela is due to consumption estimates made by Light, […]

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Venture Capital Can Turbo Charge Growth in Emerging Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/venture-capital-can-turbo-charge-growth-emerging-markets/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 14:18:36 +0000 Anna Shen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158730 Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to start ups around the world

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Employees of Africa’s Talking, a platform for software developers, working at their desks in Nairobi, Kenya on February 13, 2018. Credit: Dominic Chavez/International Finance Corporation

By Anna Shen
NEW YORK, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

Global poverty is undoubtedly the most critical economic and moral challenge of the 21st century. While economists debate how to raise up the world’s poorest – the more than 800 million people living on less than US$1.25 a day.– entrepreneurs are spurring innovation and growth in emerging markets.

However, to truly enable economic activity, governments must work diligently with entrepreneurs and the venture capital class to build ecosystems.

What is most exciting is a spate of new companies outside of the obvious BRIC countries in diverse geographies – from the Philippines to Peru, to Hangzhou to Lagos – that are unleashing home grown innovation, creating efficiencies and solving local problems.

Many of the start-ups are tackling challenges felt most keenly among the poor: access to health care, education, finance and markets among them.

The Center for American Entrepreneurship reports that venture capital (VC) — the funding source for many of the world’s start-up companies — hit an all-time high of USD$171 billion in 2017. In the past three years, start-ups in Beijing have raised $72.8 billion, almost as much as those in San Francisco ($81.8 billion).

Talent is everywhere, and it is hungry. California’s Silicon Valley has Facebook, Google, and Apple. But unicorns are elsewhere: China has Didi and Xiaomi, India has Hike, and Nigeria has Jumia.

Finally, even Silicon Valley is taking note. Headlines such as the New York Times proclaim: “Silicon Valley is Over, Says Silicon Valley,” or Forbes: “Is Silicon Valley Losing Its Luster?” Venture capitalists usually refuse to consider companies outside the Bay area. As one VC proclaimed, “If I can’t ride my bike to meet the founders, I won’t invest,” speaking to the Valley’s freewheeling hippy-esque culture.

Anna Shen

However, those in the know of global innovation say investors who remain local will lose out if they stay in the comfort zone of their own California bubble. At IFC’s recent Venture Capital in Emerging Markets conference in San Francisco, attendees predicted the dramatic rise of VC activity in Africa in the next five years, and Latin America in three.

At Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Singapore earlier this month, the talk was that Asian cities are now top challengers for domination by US venture capital firms. In a report “The Rise of the Global Startup City” by the Center for American Entrepreneurship, authors Ian Hathaway and Richard Florida state that: “The geography of start-up activity and venture capital investment is undergoing a rapid and profound period of globalization.”

The idea that successful start-ups must launch and scale in Silicon Valley — or in another major U.S. city — no longer holds true.” Increasingly, the world’s entrepreneurs can stay home to raise capital for their companies.

Most importantly is the profound contribution of local high-tech sectors on economic activity. For every single high-tech job created in the U.S. and Europe, 4.3 other jobs are created, said Hathaway.

While numbers in emerging markets are more difficult to come by, he noted: “I can only imagine that the impacts are far greater because the there is much more runway to grow.” New tech start-ups spur competition, productivity, and create jobs. Entrepreneurs launch new products, adopt cutting-edge technology and open new markets. The result: sustainable economic development.

“There are huge efficiency gains as the digitalization of the global economy has a huge impact in developing markets,” said Nikunj Jinsi, Global Head of the International Finance Corporation’s $1BN venture capital fund, which includes investments in health, education, transportation, and energy. He noted that in China IFC invested in the “Uber for trucks,” which consolidated a fractured industry that accounts for 15 to 20 percent of China’s GDP. The exponential effect is tremendous.

People often don’t focus on the multiplier effects of start-ups. “In Silicon Valley it’s called the PayPal effect – when companies succeed, they spin out dozens, even hundreds of entrepreneurs who know now how it is done. It is a flywheel of economic growth,” said Christopher M. Schroeder, co-founder of venture firm Next Billion Ventures.

In emerging markets, much of the capital is concentrated within a few families. But VC is an interesting way of injecting new capital into industries because it rewards entrepreneurs. It has a huge role to play in emerging markets because access to capital is limited and access to capital that will take risks is even more so.

“For GDP to grow in emerging markets, small business needs to grow and technology is a way to do this,” said Paul Santos, Managing Partner of cross-border firm Wavemaker Partners, which invests in early stage start-ups in Southeast Asia.

The role of the public sector cannot be underestimated. “Governments must stimulate and build ecosystems and enabling environments, and this includes mentorship. They can do a lot, and provide tailored solutions,” said IFC’s Jinsi.

Entrepreneurs can go only so far without government intervention and support in the forms of incubators, accelerators, rule of law and other legal and support structures that encourage entrepreneurship. Risk taking must be nurtured, along with education.

Starting a company is challenging in any market, but for emerging markets there is often no community, and failure and experimentation are frowned upon, not celebrated. Funding is much more difficult to come by.

Governments are launching new initiatives to spur innovation. In Lebanon, the government allocated $400 million to support local venture capital funds. Similar initiatives are happening in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and elsewhere.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Startup India, a campaign that aims to promote promising companies. From Africa to Asia to Latin America, governments are pitching in.

However, if governments do not do enough in a concerted manner to build ecosystems that empower entrepreneurs to create companies, jobs and opportunities for poor people in the developing world, the world will see greater conflict, as millions in the world live in fragility and conflict, and have no hope of creating a better life.

These jobs are critical to seeing fulfilment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially of Goal #8, which is decent work and economic growth. Speed and skill are key.

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Excerpt:

Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to start ups around the world

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