Inter Press ServiceEnergy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 New Relationship Evolves Between Society and Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157279 “We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in […]

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Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

“We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil.

The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in February this year in Sousa, a city in the interior of Paraiba, a state in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion.

Sixty of the 89 students chose that subject. The rest opted for the other alternative, marketing strategies, in the school named after a local engineer and entrepreneur who died in 2006.

“It was the local community that decided, in a public hearing, that these would be the two courses offered at the school,” 35-year-old Cícero Fernandes, a member of the school’s staff, told IPS.

“It’s about building a life project with the students. Renewable energies use different resources, but solar power is the predominant one here and is the focus of the course, because we have a lot of sunshine,” said Kelly de Sousa, who is the school’s principal at the age of 30.

The interest of the teenagers, most of them between 15 and 17 years old, reflects the solar energy boom they have been experiencing since last year in and around Sousa, a region considered the one with the most solar radiation in Brazil. The local Catholic church, businesses, factories and houses are already turning to this alternative source.

Energy, specifically electricity, is no longer something foreign, distant, that comes through cables and poles, at prices that rise for unknown reasons.

The municipality of Sousa, with more than 100 photovoltaic systems and a population of 70,000, 80 percent urban, is in the vanguard of the change in the relationship between society and energy that it is promoting in Brazil the expansion of so-called distributed generation, led by consumers themselves.

The share of photovoltaic generation in Brazil’s energy mix is still a mere 0.82 percent of the total of 159,970 MW, according to the government’s National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the regulatory agency.

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But it is the fastest growing source. In the plants still under construction, it already accounts for 8.26 percent of the total. This refers to power plants built by suppliers.

Added to these are the “consumer units of distributed generation” as Aneel calls them, residential or business micro-generators which now total 34,282, of which 99.4 percent are solar and the rest are wind, thermal or hydraulic. The total power generated is 415 MW – three times more than 12 months ago.

The Northeast, the poorest and sunniest region, still generates little solar energy, in contrast to wind power, which is already the main local source, consolidated after drought made the water supply drop over the last six years.

The acceleration of the solar revolution in Sousa has been driven by civil society, especially the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (Cersa), a network of activists, researchers, and social and academic organisations created in 2014.

This unincorporated organisation with no formal headquarters operates in three areas, as its coordinator, 60-year-old Cesar Nóbrega, who lives in Sousa, told IPS: community training and empowerment, installation of pilot project systems and lobbying for public policies on renewable energy.

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The technical school of Sousa proves that Cersa’s preaching fell on fertile ground. Other activities organised by the committee include short courses, seminars, and forums with the participation of university students, government officials and community organisations.

“I want to know how the panels absorb sunlight and generate energy, and that course was what I was hoping for,” said Mariana Nascimento, 16, who attends the school with her twin sister Marina. They live in the city of Aparecida, 20 km from Sousa.

The course drew not only young people. Emanuel Gomes, 47, decided to return to school to “learn to design residential (solar) projects, save energy costs and protect the environment.” He attends class together with his 18-year-old son.

“The students are enthusiastic, thirsty for knowledge and eager for practice,” and they proved it by participating in the seminar by the Solar Parish during their holidays, said the school principal Sousa, referring to the debate that took place at the inauguration of the solar power plant in Sousa’s Catholic church on Jul. 6.

Engaging and training students on energy and its environmental and economic effects is a task taken on by Walmeran Trindade a teacher of electrical engineering at the Federal Institute of Paraíba and technical coordinator of Cersa.

On Jul. 17, 28 students graduated from his 30-hour course at the “school factory” of LED lamps, examples of energy efficiency, in a rural town near Aparecida, supported by the Catholic Breda Institute.

“It is for professional training, income generation and promoting coexistence with the semi-arid climate,” the teacher told IPS. He travels more than 400 km from João Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba, to teach classes pro bono.

The lamps, made from plastic bottles, give off less light than mass-produced lamps, but are sold for just five reais (1.30 dollars), making them affordable to poor farmers. And they are made by “young people who are also poor,” and thus earn some income, he said.

“I made four lamps, I learned how it works and I want to work with energy, although I dream of studying law to defend society,” said 16-year-old Gaudencio da Silva, a second year high school student who participates in the “School Factory.”

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Renewable energy pilot plants have mushroomed, meeting the second objective of Cersa.

In addition to the Solar Parish church, the Oliveiras Community Bakery and urban and rural solar systems are positive examples of the sun as an environmentally sound source that empowers consumers and communities.

The Farmers’ Association of the Acauã Settlement, which emerged under the 1996 land reform, now has a solar plant that ensures the supply of water to its 120 families. The energy pumps water to a reservoir on a hill 800 m from the community.

“We were paying 2,000 Brazilian reais (540 dollars) a month in electricity to pump water to a tank on a hill 800 m from the community,” Maria do Socorro Gouveia, the head of the Farmers’ Association, told IPS.

Another rural example of the use of solar power is the farming couple Genival and Marlene Lopes dos Santos, both 48 years old, who were also settled on land of their own thanks to the agrarian reform. In addition to generating electricity, they use solar energy to pump water from a well and irrigate small orchards and their garden.

A biodigester, another system that is spreading in the rural part of the municipality of Sousa, provides them with cooking gas. And they fertilise their crops with manure processed to produce biogas.

“The drought didn’t stop us from planting our crops,” the farmers, who are also engaged in fishing and beekeeping, said proudly.

“There is a need for the public sector” to promote public policies in these alternative energy sources, said Nóbrega. The municipality of Sousa spends six million reais (1.6 million dollars) a year on electricity.

Adopting solar energy in public offices and street lighting would represent a great saving in terms of spending on municipal services and infrastructure and, as a result, the money paid to the electricity distributor, based in the capital João Pessoa, would give a boost to the local economy, argued the coordinator of Cersa.

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Use of Water for Electricity Generation Triggers Outcry in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 01:46:35 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157253 One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water. “We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate […]

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Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TLAMANALCO, Mexico, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water.

“We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate with very obscure mechanisms,” said Esther Peña, an advisor to the non-governmental Coordinator of Peasant and Indigenous Organisations of Huasteca Potosina, which was founded in 1994 and which brings together 12 organisations of indigenous people and small farmers in six municipalities.

Peña told IPS that the Tamazunchale combined cycle plant, which has been operating since 2007 with a capacity of 1,187 megawatts (MW), is polluting the environment and damaging coffee and citrus plantations, as well as cattle ranching.

The Spanish company Iberdrola, which owns the plant, plans to build two additional plants, Tamazunchale I and II, with a total capacity of 1,187 MW, which are still in the design phase.

The expansion of these natural gas-fired thermal power plants, whose waste gases are reused to produce more energy from steam, is a concern for defenders of water and enemies of fossil fuels because of the social and environmental impacts.

The threats identified by these groups also include the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons from shale and the use of water by mining companies, soft drink and brewery plants, and other industries.

They were all discussed this month by experts and community leaders in Tlamanalco, a city in the state of Mexico, in the south-central part of the country

During the National Workshop of Promoters of Water and Basin Councils, 121 representatives from 51 Mexican organisations analysed how to redress the impact of these activities on access to water, as well as how to promote solutions that put water management in the hands of citizens.

The emphasis of this vision is on community management of water, the human right to water access, the care of water and water quality, as laid out in the proposed General Water Law, drafted since 2014 by civil society organisations, academics, local communities and indigenous peoples.

The organisations elected representatives from 28 basin councils, who will carry out the local work of disseminating the citizens’ initiative and mobilising support.

From this perspective, the link between water and energy becomes relevant, above and beyond the construction and modernisation of hydroelectric power plants and amidst the impacts of climate change caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

“Today, the vision of using water to produce energy, such as in hydropower plants, combined cycle power plants and natural gas, has taken hold. Water is being misused,” said Óscar Monroy, president of the non-governmental Amecameca and La Compañía River Basin Commission.

 For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS


For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The activist told IPS that “the problem is getting worse, because the current law considers water a commodity. The government subsidises water for the big polluters.”

Monroy was one of the participants in the meeting in Tlalmanalco – which means “place of flat land” in the Nahuatl language – a city of 47,000 people about 50 km southeast of Mexico City.

Encouraged by the importation of natural gas from the United States, the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and private companies are working on the assembly of combined cycle power plants, favoured by the opening of the energy sector to private capital in 2014.

The 2017 report “Neoliberal threat to common goods: national outlook for electricity megaprojects,” prepared by the non-governmental company Geocomunes, indicates that the CFE currently operates at least 27 thermoelectric, combined cycle and turbo-gas power plants, while there are at least 22 others in private hands.

Another 16 plants of this type are currently in the project stage and the CFE is building at least six additional plants that will come into operation in the coming years, according to data from the state agency.

In the second electricity auction, in September 2016, the Mexican government awarded a CFE combined cycle project in the northern state of Sonora and another private project along the border with the United States, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, while in the 2017 electricity auction, two other private facilities were awarded.

By 2017, the autonomous public Energy Regulatory Commission had granted 645 permits for fossil fuel power generation – including combined cycle thermoelectric plants – equivalent to half of the authorised total.

In the first quarter of 2018, combined cycle plants, whose consumption of water for driving steam turbines is unknown, contributed 30,920 MW of the national total of 75,570 MW.

A future water crisis

Several studies predict a water crisis in Mexico by 2040, especially from the centre to the north of the country.

Of the 653 national aquifers, 105 are overexploited. Data from Oxfam Mexico indicate that almost 10 million people, out of the 130 million who live in this country, lack water in their homes, so that using water for generating energy conflicts with these needs.

The last straw for critics was the decision by the government of conservative Enrique Peña Nieto in June to lift the ban on water in 10 of the country’s watersheds to encourage its use for electricity generation, manufacturing, mining, brewing and other industrial uses, which would leave some 51 billion litres of water under concession for 50 years.

In response, communities of indigenous peoples and non-governmental organisations filed 36 applications for a writ of amparo – an action brought to enforce constitutional rights – against the decision: 12 were accepted by the courts, 12 were rejected and 12 are still pending.

In Tamaulipas, “we face the threat of energy projects,” such as hydraulic fracturing, said Ricardo Cruz, a member of that state’s Association of Environmental Lawyers.

This technique, also known as “fracking,” releases large volumes of oil or gas from deep rock by injecting massive amounts of water and chemical additives that pollute the air and water, according to environmentalists.

“We are very alarmed, because it could have a negative impact on health, agriculture and livestock farming,” Cruz told IPS.

For those who attended the workshop, the solution lies in the approval of the citizen-initiated bill on water. To comply with the constitutional reform of 2012 that guarantees the human right of appeal, the government was supposed to endorse new legislation in 2013, a deadline it failed to meet.

Therefore, its promoters will present the initiative next September, when the next Congress, elected in July, begins its session.

“The solution to the megaprojects is the citizen law, because it stipulates that water cannot be used for these megaprojects,” said Peña, in whose region people complain that the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos oil giant intends to exploit gas with fracking, at the expense of people in at least 12 municipalities.

The 2016 report “Territorialisation of energy reform: control of energy exploitation, transport and energy transformation in northeastern Mexico,” by Geocomunes, says the construction of combined cycle plants “weakens the traditional main activity, agriculture,” in San Luis Potosi.

The organisation dedicated to mapping social conflicts also says that state “is consolidating its position as an energy-producing region for the central industrial areas of the country.”

The citizens’ initiative promotes the elimination of the state-owned National Water Commission and its replacement by a National Water Council made up of Regional Basin Councils.

In addition, it creates the Office for the Defence of Water, which has the power to punish anyone who wastes or pollutes water, or uses the resource for agricultural and environmental activities.

“A balance is needed for there to be water for all. Other types of projects are possible, with citizen organisations,” Monroy said.

Cruz concurred with Monroy, saying that “it is important to prioritise and water is not for profit. The goal must be to protect the human right” to water, he said.

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Undertaking One of the Largest Solar Water Initiatives in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 15:28:03 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157165 Yemen has one of the lowest supplies of freshwater per capita in the world. The effects of a growing population and limited water resources have been exacerbated a great deal by climate change and the escalating conflict. An estimated 90 per cent of Yemen’s population does not have access to sufficient water and only 40 […]

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IOM engineers inspect recently installed solar panels on a Sana’a school rooftop, located near a well. Credit: Saba Malme/IOM 2018

By International Organization for Migration
Aug 9 2018 (IOM)

Yemen has one of the lowest supplies of freshwater per capita in the world. The effects of a growing population and limited water resources have been exacerbated a great deal by climate change and the escalating conflict.

An estimated 90 per cent of Yemen’s population does not have access to sufficient water and only 40 per cent have access to safe drinking water.

Many Yemenis have no option but to drink unsafe water.

In 2017, this led to Yemen suffering the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history — over 1 million cases, more than half of which were children. New outbreaks constantly threaten people in Yemen.

Children in a displacement site in an extremely dry part of Yemen. Credit: Muse Mohammed/IOM 2017

How is Solar Energy Helping Yemen Access New Water Sources?

In response to severe water scarcity, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is utilizing solar energy to provide reliable and affordable access to clean water for communities affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in areas where fuel and electricity supply is either nonexistent, erratic or just too expensive. Solar powered deep wells and pumps have been installed in three communities. As there is no State generated electricity for these communities at the moment, the power generated from solar panels activates a pump that extracts water from the wells and then brings it into people homes.

Nearly a million litres are now being pumped by solar power every day through this project.

“After assessing a number of different solar pumping schemes in other humanitarian settings and evaluating the feasibility to solarize local water points in critical areas, we decided to adopt this renewable energy in our water projects across Yemen,” said Abdulmalek Al-Mogahed, IOM Yemen Engineer. “This not only cuts dependency and high recurrent costs of the fuel-based technology that we previously used, but also ensures essential water provision in places where supply and prices of fuel and other basic commodities are affected by the ongoing conflict and are erratic at best. The only way to continue to provide essential life-saving services, such as clean water, to people affected by Yemen’s conflict is by finding creative solutions that reduce service provision costs,” he added.

School rooftop in Sana’a being fitted with solar panels. Credit: Saba Malme/IOM 2018

Using the roof space of three high schools in the Amanat Al Asimah and Sana’a Governorates, 940 strategically-installed solar panels are supporting two 120 kilowatt (KW) and one 65 KW power systems, providing 834,000 litres of water every day by pumping water for 7 hours from three different wells into the water systems in seven neighbourhoods. Some 55,000 people can now access adequate safe water on a daily basis. In addition to the immediate public health and livelihood benefits of having more reliable and affordable water, this initiative is helping save an estimated 162,000 litres of diesel worth 58.3 million Yemeni Rials or USD 121,0000 (at current prices) and 400 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

During the development of the project, IOM consulted with local communities to get their feedback on the plans, as well as with local authorities and school administrations. IOM also plans to run community awareness raising campaigns on the importance of renewable energy and capacity building in terms of maintenance and servicing in the next phase of the project.

This solar water initiative in Yemen gives IOM an opportunity to contribute to a more effective and sustainable use of natural resources, connecting humanitarian responses to sustainable development.

“We hope this solar water project encourages others in the country to follow suit,” added Al-Mogahed.

This initiative is supported through funding from the United States Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the Government of Germany. In July 2018, IOM handed the project over to the local authorities and communities, while still providing support to ensure its sustainability. IOM plans to continue to work towards solarization across Yemen.

This story was posted by IOM’s team in Yemen.

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Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:55:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157146 Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power. “We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that […]

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Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power.

“We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that cost fell to about 300 reais (80 dollars),” Catholic priest Paulo Diniz Ferreira, in charge of the Sant’Ana Parish of Sousa, now nicknamed “Solar Parish,” told IPS. The parish’s solar energy generating system was formally inaugurated on Jul. 6, but had been in operation since April.

The 142 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Parish Centre, which includes offices, auditoriums and an indoor sports arena, also generate energy for the church, which is currently undergoing expansion work, for a chapel and for the living quarters.

The installed maximum capacity is 46.1 kW and its monthly generation is estimated at around 6,700 kWh.

“It is more than an energy issue, it is a question of being in tune with Laudato Si,” the priest explained, referring to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, published in May 2015, and the church’s duty to be a “reference point and witness.”

With the new resources, the parish will be able to enhance evangelisation work and pastoral care for children, the elderly and prisoners, he said.

Their example is expected to inspire the other 60 parishes that make up the diocese based in the neighbouring city of Cajazeiras, says César Nóbrega, coordinator of the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (CERSA), which promotes the use of solar energy and other alternative sources in and around Sousa, a large municipality with an 80 percent urban population.

The first solar-powered school in Paraíba was inaugurated on the same day, Jul. 6.

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil's Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil’s Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Twelve solar panels will save 350 to 400 kWh per month for the Dione Diniz primary and secondary school, in a rural district of Sousa, São Gonçalo, Brazil, which is the area with the highest level of solar radiation in Brazil and the second in the world, Nóbrega told IPS.

The aim is also to “disseminate information and promote discussions with teachers, students and the local community about the solar potential in mitigating climate change,” he said.

“We included it in the school’s Pedagogical Intervention Project, which chooses a theme for each two-month period, with renewable energy as its flagship,” said Clemilson Lacerda, the school’s science teacher.

“We don’t yet know how much we will save on the electricity bill, which reached 1,700 reais (450 dollars) in June, but we will invest the savings in improving the school, in teaching materials and in food for the students,” school vice principal Analucia Casimiro told IPS.

From the small rooftop terrace of the Vó Ita Hotel you can see the solar energy boom in Sousa. The rooftop of the hotel itself is covered with photovoltaic panels, as well as two large rooftops below, of a gas station and a steakhouse.

Nearby there are industrial warehouses, houses, stores, pharmacies, car dealerships and supermarkets which are also using the new source of energy, as well as companies that consume a lot of energy, such as cold storage warehouses and ice-cream parlours.

“I reduced my energy costs to zero,” young entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha, a partner in a company that has a poultry slaughterhouse, farm, dairy products factory and store, told IPS. It generates its own electricity with 60 solar panels placed over the truck parking lot at its slaughterhouse.

“In 2014, when we founded CERSA, there was not a single solar energy system in Sousa; today we have more than 100 installed,” said Nóbrega, the head of the organisation, which brings together public and private institutions, researchers and collaborators, with the mission of making “solar power the main source of energy” in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This activism, rooted in the fight against climate change that tends to aggravate local drought, succeeded in mobilising many stakeholders from universities, civil society and the public sector in seminars, forums and courses.

“CERSA was not born to install generation systems, but to debate,” raise awareness and encourage public policies, Nóbrega said.

But in practice it also acts as a disseminator of solar plants on two fronts: corporate and social.

It stimulated the creation in 2015 of Ative Energy, the largest installer of photovoltaic systems in Sousa and executor of the Solar Parish project, conceived by CERSA. Today there are five solar power companies in the city.

“By November 2017 we had installed 40 systems; now there are 196. We used to employ only five workers, now there are 30: we grew sixfold in six months,” said Frank Araujo, owner of Ative, whose operations spread over 26 cities in five states of the Brazilian Northeast.

In Brazil, solar generation represents only 0.8 percent of current installed capacity, but it is the fastest growing source of energy. According to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), the sector’s regulatory body, it accounts for 8.26 percent of the energy in new construction projects.

Danilo Gadelha, one of the leading members of Sousa’s business community, is a co-owner of Ative and also its main client. He hired the company to install solar power plants in the companies of his conglomerate Vó Ita, comprising distributors of food and cooking gas, a vegetable oil factory, a hotel, a construction company, a gas station and a cemetery.

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family's home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family’s home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I started trying solar energy as a user,” before offering it as an installer and “going from a large-scale energy consumer to an entrepreneur,” he told IPS. The company’s energy costs are close to 23,500 dollars a month.

Ative Energy has a major competitive advantage. As it has a great amount of capital, it finances the solar plants it installs at the lowest interest rates on the market.

This is what it did with the Parish of Sousa, which is paying off the financing in monthly installments lower than the amount saved in the electricity bill. “We will repay everything in three and a half years,” said the parish priest, because little more than a third of the project was paid for in cash with donations.

Since the equipment has a 25-year life span, the church will have free energy for more than 20 years.

The solar energy units in companies and large houses are important for the CERSA campaign as a demonstration of solar power’s viability and economic and environmental benefits, acknowledged Nóbrega.

But the campaign also succeeded in attracting the interest of funds and institutions that support social projects.

Thus, in 2016, the Solar Semi-Arid Project was born, made up of CERSA, Caritas Brazil – the social body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – and the Forum on Climate Change and Justice, with financial support from Misereor, the development aid body of the German Catholic Church.

This allowed the Dione Diniz School to obtain its solar plant, financed part of the Solar Parish system, and distributed water pumping devices and biodigesters in rural communities, as well as making it possible to offer training courses for “solar electricians” in Sousa and nearby municipalities.

In addition to providing cheap and clean energy, decentralised photovoltaic generation is an economic alternative for Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast which is at risk of becoming completely arid due to climate change, warned Nóbrega.

In the state of Paraíba – where Sousa is located – 93.7 percent of the territory is in the process of desertification, according to the Programme to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought in that northeastern Brazilian state.

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Amidst Rising Heat Waves, UN says Cooling is a Human Right, not a Luxuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amidst-rising-heat-waves-un-says-cooling-human-right-not-luxury/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amidst-rising-heat-waves-un-says-cooling-human-right-not-luxury http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amidst-rising-heat-waves-un-says-cooling-human-right-not-luxury/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 14:18:15 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157076 The rising heat waves in the world’s middle income and poorer nations are threatening the health and prosperity of about 1.1 billion people, including 470 million in rural areas without access to safe food and medicines, and 630 million in hotter, poor urban slums, with little or no cooling to protect them, according to the […]

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A refrigerator being transported by cart.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

The rising heat waves in the world’s middle income and poorer nations are threatening the health and prosperity of about 1.1 billion people, including 470 million in rural areas without access to safe food and medicines, and 630 million in hotter, poor urban slums, with little or no cooling to protect them, according to the latest figures released by the United Nations.

At least nine countries, with large populations, face “significant cooling risks”, including India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Mozambique and Sudan.

Rachel Kyte*, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), says that in a world facing continuously rising temperatures, access to cooling is not a luxury.

“It’s essential for everyday life. It guarantees safe cold supply chains for fresh produce, safe storage of life-saving vaccines, and safe work and housing conditions.”

But rising temperatures – made worse by global warming – is not confined only middle income and poorer nations.

In a July 30 piece in the US weekly Time magazine, Justin Worland points out that extreme heat recently melted roads in the UK; hit a record-shattering 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Chino, California; and led more than 70 deaths in Quebec, Canada.

“These cases illustrate a vexing paradox for scientists and policy makers: air conditioning keeps people cool and save lives but is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming.”

Erik Solheim of Norway, executive director the Nairobi-based UN Environment (UNE), is quoted as saying that air-conditioning has been “an enormous, enormous drain on electricity.”

“Cooling is probably the biggest energy consumer, and people tend not to think of it,” said Solheim, a former Chair of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Meanwhile, at one time, there were reports that when middle class families, with rising incomes in India, were able to access TV, air conditioners and refrigerators, there were environmental groups that were critical of this because it would add to global warming.

But the middle class argued this was never an issue when the rich and privileged luxuriated with air conditioners and refrigerators as part of essential living.

Asked for a response, Kyte told IPS: “Sustainable Energy for All believes this is a fundamental issue of equity, as we need to ensure ALL have access to effective solutions. At the same time, we must recognize the needs of our planet and the future of our children.”

She said it has been estimated that cooling is now responsible for 10% of warming and growing rapidly. “So, we need to provide cooling solutions that are clean and sustainable over the long-term.”

She said a new report titled “Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All” – released last month– recommends all stakeholders accelerate their innovation efforts and think more holistically about the way we provide cooling, focusing firstly on reducing heat loads and then thinking about how to deliver remaining cooling as affordably and sustainably as possible.

“We’re calling on business and other private sector entities to provide those solutions. These groups have to come together as a matter of priority to provide low Global Warming Potential (GWP) technology and business models that are affordable and sustainable, and that address the needs of the poor and vulnerable populations most at risk, so no one has to make a choice between cooling and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate objectives.”

Asked if air conditioning and global warming are some of the lingering issues of the UN’s global campaign for ”sustainable energy for all”, Kyte told IPS that achieving both equity and sustainability is one of the reasons this new Chilling Prospects report is so timely and important.

“Cooling is not a luxury. It’s a human right and a fundamental issue of equity that underpins the ability of millions to escape poverty and realize the SDG’s’, she noted.

She said the “findings of the report are a wake-up call for us all, and a call-to-action for government policymakers and industry to think and act more systematically about pathways to provide sustainable cooling that will benefit these communities, economies and current and future generations. “

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What is the practical answer to the lack of access to cooling in some of the world’s poorest nations where refrigeration and air conditioning are still luxuries?

KYTE: It’s a great question, because practical and sustainable solutions are absolutely crucial to closing gaps in access to cooling, in all countries, but particularly in the developing world.

This new Chilling Prospects: Providing Cooling for All report tackles the challenge from several angles, including through some very practically-focused recommendations.

For example, the report recommends solutions that address consumer finance, which is a critical requirement for selling sustainable cooling solutions to the rural poor; government financing – governments can make direct investment with public bulk procurements to lower cost and improve efficiency; enterprise financing such as fundraising in the off-grid sector and financing for mini-grids; and then there’s donor funding for concessional financing.

Given that products and markets for access to cooling are still poorly defined, grant and highly concessional financing is really important because it can support R&D on innovative technologies, capital for small businesses offering cooling services and financing for low-income consumers.

It’s important to note that while there are major threats to life, health, economies and the climate, there are also huge opportunities in closing cooling access gaps: reducing the number of lost work hours, improving the productivity of the workforce, avoiding costs of healthcare for people with food poisoning or who are suffering because their vaccines weren’t stored properly, increasing the incomes of farmers, and increasing the number of jobs available to service a new cool economy.

IPS: Is there a role for governments to make these affordable to the poor? if so, how?

KYTE: The Chilling Prospects report calls on all stakeholders to embrace a paradigm shift – thinking more holistically about the way we provide cooling – and that definitely includes governments.

On a practical level, the report includes a recommendation that government policymakers should immediately measure gaps in access to cooling in their own countries, as an evidence base for more proactive and integrated policy-making.

More broadly, government policy-makers need to think and act more systematically about pathways to provide sustainable cooling that will benefit communities, economies and current and future generations.

One example noted in the report, is a 2017 program in India administered by EESL, which was a joint venture by the Indian Ministry of Power and Public Service Undertakings (PSUs). They used $68 million in public resources for a competitive procurement of 100,000 room air conditioners at efficiencies better than had generally been available in the market.

More concerted efforts like these, between governments (national and local) and industry are needed to develop and provide cooling solutions that are affordable and sustainable for all.

IPS: In the US, there are public cooling centres for senior citizens when temperatures reach beyond 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit? Are there any such facilities for the poor in any of the developing nations? Or should they?

KYTE: Ahmedabad in India is a very pertinent example cited in the Chilling Prospects report. It was the first city in South-Asia to formulate a Heat Action Plan after a devastating heat wave hit the city in 2010. Local authorities mapped areas with populations at high risk of heat stress—including slums—and developed an easy-to-understand, early-warning system, as well as a strategy for mobilizing the city in advance of impending heat waves. Their plan uses a well-publicized color-coding system to warn citizens at risk of extreme heat to go to emergency cooling centers.

Chilling Prospects – global map of countries at risk_graphic

The program has proven its worth. Heat-related casualties in Ahmedabad remained low during a major 2015 heat wave, while thousands tragically died elsewhere across India. Last year, 17 cities and 11 states across India had released or were developing heat action plans.

There are also other simple and cost-effective solutions like white-washing rooves or using solar power to drive fans and create a more comfortable and safe living environment for people living in densely packed slums. We need to scale-up today’s most efficient technologies, power them with renewables, and make them affordable for those that need it most. Governments will play essential roles to address cooling access gaps holistically.

*Rachel Kyte served until December 2015 as World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for an ambitious agreement at the 21st Convention of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21). She was previously World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development and was the International Finance Corporation Vice President for Business Advisory Services.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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War, High Tariffs and Nationalisation – their Cost to Africa’s Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:04:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156557 Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent.  “A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession […]

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In this dated picture, a child collects bullets from the ground in Rounyn, a village in North Darfur, Sudan. Armed conflict on the African continent poses huge risk on any potential investments to address climate change. Credit: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent. 

“A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession of property for public use), and sovereign breach of contract,” Dereje Senshaw, the principal specialist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), told IPS. He added that credit, market and technological risks were also obstacles towards reducing GHG emissions.

According to International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development papers, green investment refers to the investment necessary to reduce GHG and air pollutant emissions without significantly reducing the production and consumption of non-energy goods. It covers both public and private investment.

Senshaw’s explanations come against the backdrop of several armed conflicts that are tearing the resource-rich continent apart. Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes and the instability has dealt a blow to development projects and poverty-eradication programmes.

This month, the Norwegian Refugee Council listed the world’s 10-most neglected crises. Six were from Africa. In the Central African Republic, conflict began in 2013 after a coup. The country held elections three years later but peace has been elusive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is listed as having the world’s second-most neglected crisis as the central African nation has experienced almost two decades of conflict. Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are also on the list.

Tariffs too high

Apart from political risks, green investments could also be compromised by regulatory issues or tariffs, Senshaw said.

“Some African countries set tariffs at very high rates, making it very unattractive to investors as they may not have the chance to recover their incurred costs in the future,” he explained.

Another major risk is the delay of utility contracts. Circumstances could change during the lifetime of a project in many sub-Saharan Africa countries and even essential services, like the provision of electricity, may stop. In addition, risk arises when regulatory agencies start to interfere with the operations of private companies.

“Similarly, there is the risk of the nationalisation of utilities and policy changes. In addition there are various regulatory risks related to biddings, procurements and hiring, and contracts,” Senshaw said, explaining that bids are frequently cancelled, postponed or disputed. “This discourages interested private actors from spending time and money on these bids. Also, some African countries put in place bureaucratic procurements and hiring procedures that hamper operations of private energy companies,” he said.

He added that corruption was another risk.

“However, I think corruption has not been overlooked by investors, rather it is still considered as one of the potential investment risks,” he said.

Senshaw said African governments needed to establish an enabling environment for private investors in renewable projects, which he described as the main driver for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in Africa.

USD225 billion by 2030

The search for money to fund these green projects continues unabated.

Toshiaki Nagata, an expert from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said recently that Africa would need USD225 billion by 2030 to implement energy targets set out in national determined contributions (NDCs), of which 44 percent are for unconditional targets. In the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change, countries declared their NDCs, which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to below 2°C.

Unconditional targets, Nagata explained, are the targets that countries are committed to meet without international support, while conditional targets are the ones that countries would only be able to meet with international support in areas of finance and technology, among others.

Nagata, who made the announcement in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, at a GGGI capacity building summit, told IPS that the amount applied to African countries that have quantified renewable energy targets.

Virtually all African countries mention renewables in their NDCs and 85 percent of them include quantified renewable energy targets, Nagata said. He said 23 countries in Africa have renewable energy action under adaptation, while 15 have targets with off-grid renewables.

USD470 billion to fund NDCs

Currently, USD470 billion is available to fund the implementation of NDCs globally, according to IRENA. However, the agency warned that barriers to investment could come in the form of insufficient or contradictory incentives, limited experience and institutional capacity and immature financial systems.

NDCs, Nagata pointed out, provided an opportunity to capture the benefits renewables offer for climate resilient infrastructure. 

“Some renewables, especially solar, can bring electricity in a cost-effective manner to those areas where electricity cannot be brought otherwise. This will enhance their resilience. In many cases, remote areas use diesel for power,” he said, adding that it was costly and therefore not environmentally sustainable.

While the commitment of African governments plays a role in countries reaching their NDCs, the major investment driver for establishing renewable energy projects remains the attractiveness of financial returns, says Senshaw.

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Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhousehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:30:32 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156466 A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches. The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral […]

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Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches.

The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral development group the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), was the first international, policy-focused conference on the use of bamboo and rattan to help sustainable development.“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change." --INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich

Organisers had pledged to ensure that the event would not be “simply a talking shop”, instead making real progress on raising awareness of the potential role of bamboo and rattan in helping solve major global problems.

As it closed, it appeared that goal had been met with the announcement of a number of agreements, including a major project to develop bamboo sectors across Africa and an agreement between INBAR members to further develop bamboo and rattan sectors in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the end of the conference, INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich said: “We have made some real steps forward for the development of bamboo and rattan.”

Bamboo and rattan have long been championed by environmental organisations and groups promoting sustainable development, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

A grass, bamboo is a native plant on all continents except Antarctica and Europe, although the majority of its natural habitat is in the tropical belts.

It is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. It captures higher amounts of CO2 than most other plants and can be harvested significantly faster than wood – over a period of 20 years it can produce almost 12 times as much material as wood.

It can be used for shelter as well as, in some cases, transport, and provides sustainable, ecologically-friendly economic and commercial opportunities to people, especially in poorer communities.

Groups like INBAR point out that bamboo use can play a significant part in helping countries meet many of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

But awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan is generally low in many countries, especially in the more developed world and particularly at senior levels of government and industry.

Dr Friedrich told IPS: “A large part of the reason for this conference is about awareness. We want to tell people who don’t yet realise it that bamboo and rattan can help them reach their sustainable development goals.

“The potential is immense. It is understood by people in, for example, the forestry industry, and others, but not really by politicians. At this conference we want to help them realise this by giving them examples.”

Bringing together ministers, industry leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs, the conference used examples of innovative bamboo use – from a thirty-foot bamboo wind turbine blade to bamboo diapers – and real-life stories from individuals of bamboo and rattan helping create sustainable livelihoods to underline to decision-makers and senior industry figures the potential.

One of the key aims of the meeting, said organisers, was to try and push those decision-makers into setting up the institutional, regulatory, policy, and business frameworks necessary to kick-start a new sustainable development paradigm.

“In the last few years I have met a number of ministers and they always start off being sceptical about bamboo but after they see everything they realise its potential.

“We want governments to think about bamboo when they think about their plans for climate change, sustainable development and green policies,” Dr Friedrich told IPS.

INBAR also used the conference to talk to representatives from large private sector firms about how to build global value chains, as well as how to set up international standards which support international bamboo and rattan trade.

Its proponents have pointed out the economic potential, particularly in poorer countries, of the bamboo industry. In China, which Dr Friedrich says has until now been the “only country taking bamboo really seriously [as an industry]”, the bamboo industry employs 10 million people and is valued at USD 30 billion per year.

“People are beginning to realise the economic potential and opportunities for bamboo,” Friedrich told IPS.

The conference also highlighted the impact bamboo and rattan could have on climate change.

Speakers from various countries, including politicians, spoke about how bamboo and rattan was being used to help combat the effects of climate change and help the environment.

Experts outlined its potential and current use in areas like forest protection, restoration of degraded land, and carbon capture as well as a replacement for more carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel in construction and industry.

An INBAR report released ahead of the conference gave an analysis of the carbon which is saved by substituting more emissions-intensive products for bamboo. It found the carbon emissions reduction potential of a managed giant bamboo species forest is potentially significantly higher than for certain types of trees under the same conditions.

Combining bamboo’s potential displacement factor with bamboo’s carbon storage rate, bamboo can sequester enormous sums of CO2 – from 200 to almost 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

Bamboo can also be used in durable products, including furniture, flooring, housing and pipes, replacing emissions-intensive materials including timber, plastics, cement and metals.
It can also be used as a substitute for fossil fuel-based energy sources – research by INBAR has shown that substituting electricity from the Chinese grid with electricity from bamboo gasification would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 7 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Bamboo can also help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, serving as a strong but flexible building material for shelter, as well as helping restore degraded land and combat desertification.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said at the conference: “In short, bamboo and rattan represent an important part of reducing net emissions. And this is exactly what the world needs right now.”

Speaking to IPS on the eve of the conference, Dr Friedrich said he hoped that policymakers would realise the potential for bamboo as part of solutions for dealing with climate change.

“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

INBAR officials readily admit that it is likely to take time to raise awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan, but they are encouraged by the fact that more countries are starting to look at it seriously as an industry, including in Africa and South America.

But Dr Friedrich was keen to stress that the conference was just a beginning and that, with international agreements on important projects being signed, he was hopeful of real change in the future use and awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan.

“I hope this conference is going to be a landmark moment. I want it to be the catalyst and inspiration for real change,” he told IPS.

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Solar Energy in Social Housing, a Discarded Solution in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 19:21:33 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156419 “Our main challenge is to get the project back on track,” agreed the administrators of two affordable housing complexes, where a small solar power plant was installed for social purposes in Juazeiro, a city in northeast Brazil. Gilsa Martins, re-elected for the third time to a two-year stint as manager of the Morada do Salitre […]

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West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

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Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Credit: CC by 3.0

Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Credit: CC by 3.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle.

Mamadou Bangoura, head of planning and energy management at Guinea’s Ministry of Energy, told IPS that his country faced a major challenge implementing its programme for the development and provision of energy resources to all citizens at a lower cost. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, only 26 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity." --Mamadou Bangoura of Guinea’s Ministry of Energy

“Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity. This is further compounded by a requirement to take into rigorous account the environmental and social aspects in the framework of the realisation of any infrastructure project,” Bangoura explained.

According to conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International, Guinea’s wildlife is already under threat. “Conservation solutions need to be found that enable people to make a living while protecting their natural assets into the future,” the organisation reports.

Unlike other African nations that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, only 43 percent of Guinea’s electricity is generated from this as more than half (55 percent) is produced by hydropower.

The country’s potential for hydropower is significant. Guinea is regarded as West Africa’s water tower because 22 of the region’s rivers originate there, including Africa’s third-longest river, the Niger.

Bangoura added that despite the challenges, his country was making progress and several hydropower projects were being constructed. The Kaléta project, which will produce 204MW, is already completed. However, the Souapiti (459MW) and Amaria (300MW) hydropower plants “are still work in progress.”

He said negotiations were also underway for the construction of a 40MW solar power and a 40MW power plant. “Concession and power purchase agreements are being finalised,” he added.

In the Gambia, challenges in implementing renewable energy exist also. The small West African nation of only 1.8 million people is considered to be rare in its ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — it pledged a 44 percent reduction below its business-as-usual emission level. It’s a big task as currently around 96 percent of all electricity produced in the country comes from fossil fuels.  

Sidat Yaffa, an agronomist with expertise in climate change at the University of The Gambia, told IPS there were barriers to renewable energy programmes because the sector was still new to the Gambia.

“Therefore, a better understanding of the technology is still a challenge, securing adequate funding for implementation is a gap, and availability of trained human resources using the technology is also a gap,” Yaffa said.

He added that the Gambia’s renewable energy programmes included a wind energy pilot project at Nema Kunku village in West Coast Region.

“The agriculture sector’s GHG could be drastically reduced in the next five years in the Gambia if adequate solar panel water irrigation technologies are implemented,” Yaffa added.

Cote d’Ivoire also has strong ambitions for the development of reliable and profitable renewable energies, a cabinet minister said last year, adding that the country is committed to produce 42 percent of its energy through renewable energy.

This week representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss both the challenges and successes they have had in reaching their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are blueprints or outlines by countries on how they plan to cut GHG emissions.

The regional workshop, the first of its kind, is hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute in association with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Green Climate Fund.

It aims to enhance capacity for NDC implementation, share experiences and best practices, and discuss renewable energy opportunities and associated challenges in the region.

Rural electrification headache

This regional cooperation is a significant step forward as 60 percent of the West African population living in the rural areas continue to depend on firewood as their primary source of energy.

In the Gambia and Senegal a quarter of the rural population has access to electricity, while the number is slightly higher in Cote d’Ivoire with about 29 percent having access.

But in Guinea and Burkina Faso only three and one percent of the respective rural populations have electricity.

Last year, Smart Villages Initiatives (SVI) conducted energy workshops in West Africa and it attributes poor electricity access in the region to insufficient generation, high prices of petroleum, lack of financing and transmission and distribution losses.

The World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access Report makes the link that energy is inextricably linked to every other critical sustainable development challenge, including health, education, food security, gender equality, poverty reduction, employment and climate change, among others.

The Agence Française de Développement acknowledged the benefits of rural electrification programmes, stating, “(they) have the opportunity to reach more poor households and have larger impacts in the lives of the rural poor by providing new opportunities and enhancing the synergies between the agricultural and non-agricultural sector,”

Bangoura has acknowledged his country’s challenge to electrify rural areas. He said his government has just created the Guinean Rural Electrification Agency and launched a couple of projects, including a collaboration with the Electricity of Guinea, that will pave the way for the electrification of rural areas.

However, SVI said while most governments had set up rural electrification agencies or funds, the impact of such organisations may be hampered by a lack of financial and technical expertise. Hence the need to turn to international institutions and experts for capacity building and green energy finance.

Bangoura agreed that one of the problems his country is struggling with is implementation. “The problems at this level lies in the adaptation of the texts of the country to those governing the Paris Agreement…Hence the importance of this workshop that is focusing on capacity building.”

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Building West Africa’s Capacity to Access Climate Fundinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 17:06:46 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156390 When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived. Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the […]

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Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Jun 25 2018 (IPS)

When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived.

Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, went online. But as in the case of Senegal, it is a title that Burkina Faso won’t hold for long as another West African nation, Mali, plans to open a 50MW solar plant by the end of this year.What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

“It’s like a healthy competition…In Senegal in 2017 there have a been a number of solar plants that have quite a sizeable volume of production feeding into the electricity network. And this is turning out to be a common trend I think. Because it is one of the ways to actually fill the gap in terms of electricity, affordability and access,” says Mahamadou Tounkara, the country representative for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Senegal and Burkina Faso. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change. In the agreement countries declared their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C. According to an 2017 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, 45 African countries have quantifiable renewable energy targets in their NDCs.

However, many African countries still rely heavily on fossil fuels as a main energy source.

And while the countries are showing good progress with the implementation of renewables, Dereje Senshaw, the principal energy specialist at GGGI, tells IPS that it is still not enough. He acknowledges though that the limitation for many countries “is the difficulty in how to attract international climate finance.”

In a 2017 interview with IPS, IRENA Policy and Finance expert, Henning Wuester, said that there was less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa and that it needed to triple to fully exploit the continent’s potential.

Representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Ouagadougou from Jun. 26 to 28 at a first ever regional capacity development workshop on financing NDC implementation in the energy sector. One of the expected outcomes of the workshop, organised by GGGI, IRENA and the Green Climate Fund, is that these countries will increase their renewable energy target pledges and develop concrete action plans for prioritising their energy sectors in order to access climate funding.

Senshaw points out that these West African countries, and even those in sub-Saharan Africa where most of the energy source comes from hydropower and biomass, “can easily achieve 100% renewable energy.”

“Increasing their energy target means they are opening for climate finance. International climate finance is really willing to [provide] support when you have more ambitious targets,” he says.

IRENA estimates that Africa’s potential for renewables on the continent is around 310 GW by 2030, however, only 70 GW will be reached based on current NDCs.

While the opportunities for investment in renewables “is quite substantial,” African countries have lacked the capacity to access this, according to Tounkara.

“One reason is the quality of their portfolio of programs and projects. It is very difficult to attract investment if the bankability of the programmes and projects are not demonstrated,” Tounkara says.

Christophe Assicot, green investment specialist at GGGI, points out that existing barriers to investment in renewables in Africa include political, regulatory, technology, credit and capital market risks. “Other critical factors are insufficient or contradictory enabling policies, limited institutional capacity and experience, as well as immature financial systems.”

“Governments need to create an enabling environment for investments, which means abiding by strategies and objectives defined in NDCs, designing policy incentives, strengthening the country’s capacity and knowledge about clean technologies, engaging stakeholders, mobilizing the private sector, and facilitating access to international finance,” Assicot says.

Senshaw adds that private sector involvement will provide sustainability for the implementation of NDCs. “Private sector involvement is engineered to reach the forgotten grassroots people. Mostly access to energy is in the urban areas. Whereas in the rural areas  people are far away from the grid system. So how you reach this grid system is through collaborative works with the private sector.”

Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso have built their solar plants with public-private sector funding, with agreements in place that the energy created will be sent back to their country’s power grid. But, despite having the largest solar plant in West Africa, only about 20 percent of Burkina Faso’s 17 million people have access to electricity.

Toshiaki Nagata, senior programme officer for NDC implementation at IRENA, adds that public finance needs to be utilised in a way that leverages private finance.

“To this end, public finance would need to be used beyond direct financing, i.e., grants and loans, to focus on risk mitigation instruments and structured finance mechanisms, which can help address some of the risks and barriers faced by private investors.”

Mitigation instruments are staring to be used in Africa, with GGGI recently designing instruments for Rwanda and Ethiopia. In addition, Senegal’s Ministry of Finance requested GGGI and the African Development Bank design a financing mechanism for the country. It is called the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (REEF).

“The REEF is a derisking mechanism that [Senegal] had to have in place so that the local banks are interested in financing renewable energy projects and energy-efficiency projects,” says Tounkara.

Senegal’s REEF will become operational in October, starting with 50 million dollars and reaching its optimum size of 200 million dollars in 24 months. Senegal will become the first country in the region to have an innovative financing mechanism.

“That is the kind of mechanism that we think is going to be needed in countries to make sure that we accelerate the access to climate finance,” Tounkara says, adding that GGGI will provide the technical assistance for capacity building needs of the banks as well as the projects developers and project promoters.

Senshaw adds that GGGI has also been supporting countries with financial modelling and  leveraging and submitting proposals for funding. “So we support in terms of business model analysis, in terms of supporting them in business model development, in terms of how they can leverage finance. If you see the experience of GGGI, last year we leveraged for member countries USD0.5 billion.”

Capacity building has been considered vital for African countries attempting to access investment for renewables, as a major area of concern for financing has been the quality of the projects and the capacity of banks to assess the quality of those projects.

“By filling that gap we actually increase the interest of the investors, particularly of the local banks and the local financing institutions, to get on board and then invest in renewable energy as well as supporting the private sector to have the necessary capacity,” Tounkara says.

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When a Grass Towers over the Treeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grass-towers-trees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:30:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156163 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

As governments scramble for corrective options to the worsening land degradation set to cost the global economy a whopping 23 trillion dollars within the next 30 years, a humble grass species, the bamboo, is emerging as the unlikely hero.

“Bamboo being grass, all 1640 species have a very strong root system that binds soil, and are the fastest growing plants making them best suited for restoring unproductive farmland, erosion control and maintaining slope stability,” Hans Friederich, Director-General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), told IPS from their Beijing headquarters.

Bamboo is a strategic resource that many countries are increasingly using to restore degraded soil and reverse the dangers of desertification.

“Our members pledged to restore 5 million hectares degraded land with bamboo plantation by 2020 for the Bonn Challenge in 2015. Political pledges have already exceeded the commitment and are today close to 6 million hectares,” Friederich said. “Planting on the ground however is much less , because nurseries have to be set up and planting vast areas takes a few years,” he added.

INBAR, an intergovernmental organization, brings together 43 member countries for the promotion of ecosystem benefits and values of bamboo and rattan. Before joining INBAR in 2014, Friederich was regional director for Europe at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Bonn Challenge is the global effort to restore 150 million hectares – an area three times the size of Spain – of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

When soil health collapses, food insecurity, forced migration and conflict resurrect themselves

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) latest review released in May, to take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost 4.6 trillion dollars, which is less than a quarter of the predicted 23-trillion-dollar loss by 2050.

Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation or drought, or both. Already average losses equal 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but for some of the worst affected countries, such as the Central African Republic, total losses are estimated at a staggering 40 percent of GDP. Asia and Africa bear the highest per year costs, estimated at 84 billion and 65 billion dollars, respectively.

“Healthy land is the primary asset that supports livelihoods around the globe – from food to jobs and decent incomes. Today, we face a crisis of unseen proportions: 1.5 billion people – mainly in the world’s most impoverished countries – are trapped on degrading agricultural land,” said Juan Carlos Mendoza, who leads the UNCCD Global Mechanism, which helps countries to stabilize land and ecosystem health.

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Indian farmlands ravaged by 150 brick kilns are nurtured back by bamboo plantations

In the 1960s, construction was newly taking off in India. Brick kiln owners came calling at the 100 villages of Kotwa and Rahimabad in western Allahabad, a developing centre in central India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Rice, sugarcane, and bright yellow fields of mustard flowers extended to the horizon on this fertile land. Attracted by incomes doubling, the farmers leased their farmlands to the brick makers. Within a decade, over 150 brick kilns were gouging out the topsoil from around 5,000 hectares to depths from 3 to 10 feet.

When the land was exhausted, the brick makers eventually left. Thousands of farm-dependent families sat around, their livelihoods lost, while others migrated away because nothing would grow on this ravaged land anymore. With the topsoil cover gone, severe dust storms, depleted water tables and loss of all vegetation became the norm.

Starting bamboo plantations on 100 hectares at first in 1996, today local NGO Utthan with the affected community and INBAR have rehabilitated 4,000 hectares in 96 villages. Here bamboo is grown together with moringa, guava and other fruits trees, banana, staple crops, vegetables, medicinal plants and peacocks, oxen and sheep. Annually bamboo stands add 7 inches of leaf humus to the soil and have also helped raise the water table by over 15 metres in 20 years.

Selling bamboo adds 10 percent to the farmers’ income now. But the best benefit has accrued to women – 80 percent of cooking is done with biogas, not charcoal or wood. Much of the waste bamboo goes into biomass gasifiers that run 10 am to 1 pm powering 120 biogas generators at the NGO’s centres to keep refrigerators running, keeping vaccines and critical medicines safe during the regular power shortages.

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Multi-functional bamboo’s global market is 60 million dollars and community is reaping benefits

Today, bamboo and rattan are already among the world’s most valuable non-timber forest products, with an estimated market value of 60 million dollars. Rural smallholder communities are already benefiting by innovating beyond their traditional usages.

“The more they benefit from this growing market of bamboo and rattan, the more they can become an integral part of conservation efforts,” according to Friederich, an explorer and bamboo enthusiast.

He narrates to IPS how rural Chinese women have carved out economic opportunities, are being innovative and entrepreneurial with bamboo to reap rich incomes. After the devastating 1998 Yangtze floods and 1997 severe drought in the Yellow River basin, the Chinese government began a massive restoration programme afforesting degraded farmland with bamboo which today involves 32 million farming households in 25 provinces.

Like millions of others, a woman in Guizhou province in central China made furniture out of the abounding bamboo available. As she expanded the business, the larger pieces of bamboo waste went into the furnace generating electricity and heating but the bamboo powder heaps grew mountainous. She experimented growing mushrooms on them – high value delicacies restaurants vie to buy from her today.

The bamboo leaves are fodder for her 20,000 free-running plump chickens. A 2017 study shows fiber in the bamboo leaves enlarges the chickens’ digestive tract, enabling them to consume more and increase in body weight by as much as 70 percent more than chicken fed on standard organic diets. The dye in bamboo leaves the chicken eggs a slightly bluish tinge akin to the pricey duck egg. Consumers pay more for her blue chicken eggs. She’s not complaining.

Her yearly earnings have grown to 30,000 million Renminbi or 5 million dollars.

In Ghana again, a young woman manufacturing sturdy bamboo bicycles, employing and training local village girls who have few opportunities, is already exporting her innovation to Netherlands, Germany and the US.

Realizing bamboo’s disaster reconstruction value

“Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and other earthquake-prone regions have changed building regulations to allow bamboo as a structural element. They have seen, after disasters bamboo structures may crack or damage but have not collapsed as often as concrete structures have,” Friederich said.

Nepal is building 6,000 classrooms still in need of repairs post -2015 earthquake, with round earthen walls, and bamboo roofs which allow the building to flex a little bit even when the ground trembles.

Besides housing, furniture, household items, bamboo can be used for a number of other durable products, including flooring, house beams, even water carrying pipes.

An efficient carbon sink

But in a warming world, that bamboo as a very effective carbon sink is not as widely known. Because of their fast growth rates and if regularly harvested allowing it to re-grow and sequestrate all over again, giant woody bamboos (grown in China) can hold 100 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. But bamboo’s carbon saving potential increases to 200 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare if it replaces more emissions-intensive materials like cement, plastic or fossil fuels, according to Friederich.

Partnering with International Fund for Agricultural Development from its start, INBAR now has recently entered a strategic intra-Africa project with the UN organization, focusing on knowledge sharing between Ghana, Cameroon, Madagascar and Ethiopia, regions in dire need of re-greening.

The Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC 2018), starting 25 June in Beijing will see this project kick-started, besides plenary discussions on bamboo and rattan’s innovative, low-carbon applications, and how bamboo has and can further support climate-smart strategies in farming and job creation.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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China Generates Energy and Controversy in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 08:04:43 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156109 As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders. One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that […]

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Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders.

One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that China has mainly been financing hydroelectric, nuclear and hydrocarbon projects.

Just four percent of these investments are in renewable energies, which is precisely the sector where the country is clearly lagging.

“China’s main objective is to export its technology and inputs. And it has highly developed hydraulic, nuclear and oil sectors. There are no more rivers in China where dams can be built and this is why they are so interested in the dams on the Santa Cruz River,” María Marta Di Paola, FARN’s director of research, told IPS."What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China….The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation's environmental sovereignty.” -- Hernán Casañas

China is behind a controversial project to build two giant dams in Patagonia, on the Santa Cruz River, which was approved during the administration of Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015) and ratified by President Mauricio Macri, despite strong environmental concerns.

The dams would cost some five billion dollars, with a foreseen a capacity of 1,310 MW.

However, expert Gustavo Girado said that it is not China that refuses to get involved in renewable energy projects, but Argentina that has not yet made a firm commitment to the energy transition towards clean and unconventional renewable sources.

“Like any country with a lot of capital, China is interested in all possible businesses and takes what it is offered. In fact, in Argentina it also has a high level of participation in the RenovAr Plan,” explained Girado, an economist and director of a postgraduate course on contemporary China at the public National University of Lanús, based in Buenos Aires.

He was referring to the initiative launched by the Argentine government to develop renewable energies and revert the current scenario, in which fossil fuels account for 87 percent of the country’s primary energy mix.

Also participating in this industry are Chinese companies, which during the period January-September 2017 produced 25 percent of the total oil and 14 percent of the natural gas extracted in the country.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Energy has signed 147 contracts for renewable energy projects that would contribute a total of 4,466 MW to the electric grid, most of them involving solar and wind power, which are currently under development.

The goal is to comply with the law enacted in 2015, which establishes that by 2025 renewables must contribute at least 20 percent of the capacity of the electric grid, which today is around 30,000 MW.

In this sense, 15 percent of the power allocated through the RenovAr Plan has been to Chinese capital.

One mega project in renewable energies is the Caucharí solar park, in the northern province of Jujuy, which is to consist of the installation of 1,200,000 solar panels built in China, on a 700-hectare site.

The project has a budget of 390 million dollars, of which 330 million will be financed by the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China.

China is also behind Argentina’s intention to develop nuclear energy, since in 2017 it was agreed that it would finance the fourth and fifth nuclear power plants in this South American country, at a total cost of 14 billion dollars.

However, the Macri administration announced this month that it would indefinitely postpone the start of construction of at least the first of these plants, to avoid further indebtedness and reduce the country’s high fiscal deficit.

The decision is aimed at facilitating the granting of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after the crisis of confidence that resulted in a massive outflow of capital and which put the local economy in serious trouble.

On the other hand, other energy projects funded by Chinese capital are going ahead, including four other hydroelectric power plants and thermal plants powered by natural gas.

So far, the investments already committed by Beijing in the energy sector in Latin America’s third-largest economy total 30 billion dollars, in addition to projects in other areas, such as infrastructure, agribusiness or mining.

“The Chinese looked first at their continent, then at Africa, and for some years now they have their eyes on Latin America. First of all, they were interested in agricultural and mineral products, and today they are not only the region’s second largest trading partner, but also a good investor,” Jorge Taiana, Argentine foreign minister between 2005 and 2010, told IPS.

The veteran diplomat recalled a point made by then U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2005 Summit of the Americas (SOA) in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata, where the region refused to form the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

“He (Bush) told us,’I don’t know why they care so much about the FTAA, when what we need to discuss is how we defend ourselves against China’,” Taiana said.

He maintains that it depends on the decisions of Argentina and the rest of the countries in the region whether they will benefit from or be victims of China’s aggressive economic expansion.

“Foreign direct investment is always beneficial. The secret lies in what conditions the recipients put in place and what their development plan is,” he said.

“Argentina, for example, built its railways with English capital, and all the tracks converge in Buenos Aires because the English were only interested in getting the agricultural products to to the port. Those are the things that shouldn’t happen,” he added.

Environmental organisations are particularly critical of the dams on the Santa Cruz River, which begins in the magnificent Los Glaciares National Park and could affect the water level in Lake Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

However, the dam contract has a cross default clause whereby, if not built, Chinese banks could also cut off financing for railway infrastructure projects they are carrying out in Argentina.

“What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China,” said Hernán Casañas, director of Aves Argentinas, the country’s oldest environmental organisation.

“The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation’s environmental sovereignty,” he told IPS.

In this regard, Di Paola said that “China has occupied in Latin America the place previously occupied primarily by traditional financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.”

“The problem is that it does not have the same framework of safeguards, so they are able to start infrastructure works without complying with environmental requirements,” he said.

But Girado sees things differently, saying “the financial institutions impose conditions on the countries that receive the credits, which China does not do. In that sense it is more advantageous.”

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Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mixhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 01:15:11 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156075 Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Colombia is a global power in biodiversity and water resources, but at the same time it depends on exports of fossil fuels, coal and oil, to the world. But don’t panic: in the green economy there are also incomes and jobs – says a world expert on the subject, Juhern Kim.

“If Colombia makes intelligent use of its abundant natural resources, its natural capital, it can create new business opportunities linked to bio-economics, sustainable agriculture and forestry, which have the potential to generate income and create green jobs,” Kim, an environmental economist and ecosystem management specialist, told IPS in an interview.

Kim is acting representative in Colombia of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation created in 2012, which promotes sustainable development that is both economically viable and socially inclusive. It works directly in 26 countries, including Colombia.

In June last year, Colombia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, by which it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, to help fight global warming.

Among other issues, Kim analysed in his interview with IPS how this South American country is moving towards climate change mitigation and adaptation and a low-carbon economy, as committed to in the climate agreement signed in December 2015 in the French capital, at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The expert, who previously represented the GGGI in Vietnam and worked on issues related to the green economy at the UN Environment, also analysed how Colombia can make its energy mix and its economy greener in general.

IPS: Colombia is the world’s fifth largest producer of coal. How does the GGGI suggest bringing about an end to mining, an activity that runs counter to the climate accords?

JUHERN KIM: Coal production plays an important role in the Colombian economy: it contributes around 1.5 percent of GDP and 18 percent of total exports. Since about 95 percent of the coal produced in Colombia is exported, national coal production is affected by international market trends.

The recent volatile price fluctuation for commodities, and the associated impact on the Colombian economy, clearly shows that the country’s economy needs to be diversified in order to grow more and better.

Furthermore, future global demand for coal will tend to fall, although it will happen progressively and not for all types of coal.

Many countries have started to shut down their coal plants, and have been working on reducing the consumption of other fossil fuels, reinforced by international commitments such as the Paris Agreement, where Colombia made its own commitment as well.

GGGI promotes a sustainable and inclusive economic growth path, which implies the reduction of coal and other fossil fuel use, due to the negative environmental impacts.

That’s why GGGI has been supporting the government of Colombia for the last year and a half through the National Planning Department (DNP) to formulate a long-term green growth policy, that proposes actions related to the economic activity of coal in three ways:

1. Incorporation of renewable energy in the energy mix. GGGI advocates for countries to achieve energy transitions towards cleaner technologies. In Colombia, the production of electricity from coal amounts to 8 percent of the total.

2. Exploring new economic growth drivers to diversify the economy currently depending on the mining-energy sector (oil and coal exports). For instance, Colombia has abundant resources associated with natural capital, such as biodiversity – if Colombia utilizes these resources wisely, they can create new business opportunities related to bio-economy, sustainable agriculture, forest economy, which have the potential to generate income and create jobs (green jobs).

3. Curbing the environmental impacts of coal mining, especially by informal miners. Coal mining has informality rates close to 40 percent, while many productive units do not have an environmental license and have exploitation techniques that are harmful to the environment. It is intended to strengthen the mining formalization and provide technical assistance to reduce pollution.

IPS: How can the coastal population be protected from the intensification of tropical storms and the advance of coastal erosion?

JK: Colombia is being highly threatened by tropical storms and coastal erosion in two coastal areas that represent nearly 1,700 km in the Caribbean and 1,300 km in the Pacific.

Colombia has coasts on two oceans, and the frequency and intensity of such extreme events have been increasing, which, added to the deficient planning of urban development, increases the vulnerability and risk of people, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

The National Adaptation Plan recognises the country’s vulnerability to this type of events.

The country is now moving in the right direction led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) by including climate change variables within the planning and zoning of the territories, which will be articulated with adequate financing and technology transfer to implement mitigation measures for this type of risks.

Of particular importance is the ecosystems-based adaptation measure.

In this case, protecting and increasing the mangroves on the coastal lines will reduce coastal erosion, and at the same time allow the sustainable use of this type of ecosystem for the benefit of local people’s livelihood.

In other cases, it will be necessary to implement traditional infrastructure measures that avoid short-term calamities. Increasing local capacities, public awareness, adequate planning and the implementation of risk mitigation measures are key to achieving this objective.

IPS: A key question is the energy transition. How can clean energy be promoted in Colombia? Is community self-management better, or are large regional concessions, criticised as monopolies, preferable?

JK: Colombia has a high proportion of clean energy from hydroelectric generation (70 percent). However, this energy depends on the hydrological cycle which makes it vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

In that sense, it will be beneficial for Colombia to diversify its energy mix with other sources of clean energy, with some policy changes and regulations in the wholesale energy market.

Colombia currently lags behind in terms of the production of non-conventional renewable energy resources, compared to neighboring Latin American countries like Chile. However, Colombia has a strong potential for generation of solar, wind and biomass energy, and those can also serve as alternative off-grid solutions.

We believe that renewable energy projects should be carried out by entities that have the right technical and financial strengths required to develop, operate and maintain this type of projects.

IPS: What does the GGGI think of fracking?

JK: Fracking, like any other exploitation technique, has associated risks in its implementation and management, as it is known for generating many environmental impacts, such as potential contamination of ground and surface aquifers, methane emissions, air pollution, etc. In addition, it also has a potential for increasing oil spills, which can harm soil and surrounding vegetation.

In general, as an institute dedicated to green growth, we promote the development of alternative renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As mentioned above, it would be expected that the government make some efforts to diversify their economy to generate new sources of economic development while taking care of the environment and social impact.

IPS: According to environmental analysts, when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) withdrew from the territories it controlled, it became evident that the guerrillas had played a role as forest rangers in those areas, because thousands of hectares have been razed since then. What is your take on the situation and what do you think can be done?

JK: Although the presence of guerrillas in many forested zones of the country prevented the entry of agricultural expansion and exploration for natural resources in some sense, it is probably not that simple to say that they played a role as forest rangers, because they also supported the production of illicit crops that generated deforestation.

In brief, understanding the reasons for the increase in deforestation in the country is not simple math at all. And finding solutions is not simple as well.

It seems that the post-conflict process has been generating a change in the territorial dynamics, in some cases through an absence of control arguably provided by guerrillas in the past, in other cases through a high-level of speculation associated with unproductive land use, with false hope embedded for some people wanting to be awarded land titles if they put any type of activities in the land, and sell their land at a better price in the future.

The playing field must be levelled. The abovementioned situation prevents rural producers and entrepreneurs from accessing land with adequate support for productive activities and conservation incentives, such as credits (i.e. financial instruments), access to markets, financial incentives for conservation (e.g. payment for ecosystem services), and so on.

In fact, the whole landscape should be properly planned in an integrated way – i.e. sustainable landscapes approach, which promotes economic gains but minimising environmental impact and increasing social returns.

For instance, productive zones for local economic development should be set up, but it is not wise to set them in the biological corridor. Also, financial instruments designed to promote sustainable agriculture methods, such as agroforestry, can be a driver for making a sustainable transition.

Also, Colombia has defined an Integrated Strategy for the Control of Deforestation and Forest Management, which sets clear guidelines on how to address this issue. However, having this strategy is not enough if there is no tight alliance among Colombian society as a whole.

In addition, the public authorities have an important role to play to implement the vision for conservation of forests (i.e. command and control) – e.g. functions of the prosecutor offices, judges and many other actors, committed to reduce illegality.

The post Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mix appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Latin America Begins to Discover Electric Mobilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/latin-america-begins-discover-electric-mobility/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 23:07:59 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156009 With 80 percent of the population living in urban areas and a vehicle fleet that is growing at the fastest rate in the world, Latin America has the conditions to begin the transition to electric mobility – but public policies are not, at least for now, up to the task. That is the assessment of […]

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The podium at the conference in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, where representatives of UN Environment assured that public transport, which in Latin America has the highest rate of use in the world per capita, will lead the transition to electric mobility. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

The podium at the conference in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, where representatives of UN Environment assured that public transport, which in Latin America has the highest rate of use in the world per capita, will lead the transition to electric mobility. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, May 31 2018 (IPS)

With 80 percent of the population living in urban areas and a vehicle fleet that is growing at the fastest rate in the world, Latin America has the conditions to begin the transition to electric mobility – but public policies are not, at least for now, up to the task.

That is the assessment of UN Environment, according to a conference that two of its officials gave on May 29 in Argentina’s lower house of Congress, in Buenos Aires.

The shift towards electric mobility, however, will come inexorably in a few years, and in Latin America it will begin with public passenger transport, said the United Nations agency’s regional climate change coordinator, Gustavo Máñez, who used two photographs of New York’s Fifth Avenue to illustrate his prediction.

The first photo, from 1900, showed horse-drawn carriages. The second was taken only 13 years later and only cars were visible."As at other times in history, this time the transition will happen very quickly. I am seeing all over the world that car manufacturers are looking to join this wave of electric mobility because they know that, if not, they are going to be left out of the market." -- Gustavo Máñez

“As at other times in history, this time the transition will happen very quickly. I am seeing all over the world that car manufacturers are looking to join this wave of electric mobility because they know that, if not, they are going to be left out of the market,” said Máñez.

Projections indicate that Latin America could, over the next 25 years, see its car fleet triple, to more than 200 million vehicles by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This growth, if the transition to sustainable mobility does not pick up speed, will seriously jeopardise compliance with the intended nationally determined contributions adopted under the global Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Máñez.

The reason is that the transport sector is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In this regard, the official praised the new president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, who called for the elimination of fossil fuel use and for the decarbonisation of the economy. Máñez also highlighted that “Chile, Colombia and Mexico are working to tax transport for its carbon emissions.

“This is an example of public policies aimed at generating demand for electric vehicles,” said Máñez, while another positive case is that of Uruguay, one of the countries in the region that has made the most progress in electric mobility, stimulating it with tax benefits.

“But the region still needs to do a great deal of work developing incentives for electric mobility and removing subsidies for fossil fuels,” he added.

In this respect, he asked Latin America to look to the example of Scandinavian countries, where electric vehicles already play an important role, thanks to the fact that their drivers enjoy parking privileges or use the lanes for public transport, in addition to other sustained measures.

There are very disparate realities in the region.

Thus, while electric vehicles have been sold in Brazil for years, the country hosting the conference is lagging far behind and only began selling one model this year.

An electric bus parked on a downtown street in Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta / IPS

An electric bus parked on a downtown street in Montevideo. Credit: Inés Acosta / IPS

In fact, the meeting was led by Argentine lawmaker Juan Carlos Villalonga, of the governing alliance Cambiemos and author of a bill that promotes the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, which is currently not on the legislative agenda.

“The first objective is to generate a debate in society about sustainable mobility,” said Villalonga, who acknowledged that Argentina is lagging behind other countries in the region in the transition to clean energy.

Argentina only started a couple of years ago developing non-conventional renewable energies, which in the country’s electricity generation mix are still negligible.

As for electric mobility, the government of the city of Buenos Aires hopes to put eight experimental buses into operation by the end of the year, as a pilot plan, in a fleet of 13,000 buses.

Combating climate change is not the only reason why electric mobility should be encouraged.

“Health is another powerful reason, because internal combustion engines generate a lot of air pollution. In Argentina alone, almost 15,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality,” said José Dallo, head of the UN Environment’s Office for the Southern Cone, based in Montevideo.

“There is also the issue of energy security, as electricity prices are more stable than the price of oil,” he added.

In 2016, UN Environment presented an 84-page report entitled “Electric Mobility. Opportunities for Latin America,” which noted the change would mean a reduction of 1.4 gigatons in carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for 80 percent of GHG emissions, and savings of 85 billion dollars in fuels until 2050.

The report acknowledges that among the region’s obstacles are fossil fuel subsidies “and a lower electricity supply than in developed countries, where the boom in electric mobility has been concentrated so far.”

It also notes that Latin America is the region with the highest use of buses per person in the world, and that public transport “has a strategic potential to spearhead electric mobility.”

Along these lines, the experience of Chile through the Consortium Electric Mobility, a mixed initiative with the participation of the Ministry of Transport and scientific institutions from Chile and Finland, was also shared during the conference in Buenos Aires.

Engineer Gianni López, former director of the government’s National Environment Commission and a member of the Mario Molina Research and Development Centre, said that “in Chile the decision has already been taken to move public transport towards electric mobility.”

He explained that there will be 120 electric buses operating next year in Santiago and that the goal is 1,500 by 2025 – more than 25 percent of a total fleet of nearly 7,000 public transportation units.

“There are many aspects that make it easier to start with public buses than private cars,” Lopez said.

“On the one hand, buses run many hours a day so the return on investment is much faster; on the other hand, since they have fixed routes, it is easier to install recharging systems; and autonomy is not a problem because you know exactly how far they are going to travel each day,” he said.

One example of this is Uruguay, where electric taxis have been operating since 2014, and since 2016 a private mass transit company has a regular service with electric buses. In addition, a 400-km “green route,” with refueling stations every 60 km, was inaugurated last December.

As for the cost of electric vehicles, Máñez assured that China, which leads the production and sale of electric vehicles, is now close to reaching cost parity with conventional vehicles.

In this sense, the official also spoke of the need for Latin America to develop a technology that is currently underdeveloped.

He highlighted the case of Argentina, which is not only a producer of conventional vehicles, but in the north of the country has world-renowned reserves of lithium, a mineral used in batteries for electric vehicles.

The question is that lithium is exported as a primary product because this South American country has not developed the technology to manufacture and assemble the batteries locally.

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Valuing the Food Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/are-you-paying-enough-for-your-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=are-you-paying-enough-for-your-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/are-you-paying-enough-for-your-food/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 17:48:25 +0000 Danielle Nierenberg and Emily Payne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155959 Danielle Nierenberg is Founder and President of Food Tank. Emily Payne is a food and agriculture writer based in New York

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Are You Paying Enough for Your Food?

Credit: Bigstock

By Danielle Nierenberg and Emily Payne
NEW ORLEANS, United States, May 29 2018 (IPS)

Many factors contribute to the cost of a tomato. For example, what inputs were used (water, soil, fertilizer, pesticides, as well as machinery and/or labor) to grow it? What kind of energy and materials were used to process and package it? Or how much did transportation cost to get it to the shelf?

But that price doesn’t always reflect how the plant was grown—overuse and misuse of antibiotics, water pollution from pesticide runoff, or whether or not farm workers harvesting the tomatoes were paid a fair wage. It turns out cheap food often comes with an enormously expensive cost to human and planetary health.

Danielle Nierenberg

Agricultural production, from clearing forests to producing fertilizer to packaging foods, contributes 43 to 57 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). And almost 40 percent of all food that is produced is lost or wasted. As that food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, which is 25-times more potent of a GHG than carbon dioxide—in fact, landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.

Often, today’s food systems are incentivized to favor low-cost, processed foods. Corporations and large-scale producers are often subsidized to grow select staple crops, which are typically grown in monocultures using practices that strip soils of nutrients. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that poor diets have produced a global public health crisis.

Six of the top eleven risk factors driving disease worldwide are diet-related, and the World Health Organization estimates the global direct costs of diabetes to be more than US$827 billion per year.

To feed 10 billion people by 2050, we need to start thinking of food production, health care, and climate change as interconnected. As the world’s population grows, so does the need for more resilient food and agricultural systems that address human need while minimizing environmental damage and further biodiversity loss.

Emily Payne

In a recent report by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood), a new framework was developed to look at all the impacts of the value chain, from farm to fork to disposal. The framework hopes to give policymakers, researchers, and citizens more reliable information on the real and unaccounted for costs of our whole food system—not just parts of it.

This type of systems thinking supports a shift away from measuring the success of food production by metrics like yield per hectare, which fails to provide a complete picture of the true, often invisible costs of the entire system.

Changemakers across the globe are rising to this challenge and bringing sustainable and regenerative practices into the farming of the future. Recognizing that farming is in a period of transition, they are helping build a system that increases food production to meet a growing population while reducing harm on the environment and feeding those in need.

It’s now easier than ever to access resources and learn how our everyday decisions impact not just ourselves, but our environment and public health. The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition developing the Double Pyramid to help people make food choices which are both healthy for people and sustainable for the planet. And recognizing carbon footprints and water footprints allow individuals to better understand how deeply intertwined the food system and climate change are.

No one person or organization will be able to fix this food system. Businesses, policymakers, farmers, and, of course, eaters have a responsibility to help protect natural resources, improve social equity, and create a more sustainable food system through more informed decisions and responsible consumption.

 

 

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Excerpt:

Danielle Nierenberg is Founder and President of Food Tank. Emily Payne is a food and agriculture writer based in New York

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Chile Debates Whether Citizens Should Profit from Generating Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 01:19:07 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155937 Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply. […]

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Commercial Habitat, a high-end home appliance store located in the upscale municipality of Vitacura, in the east of the Chilean capital, supplies part of its electricity consumption with energy generated from solar panels installed on its roof. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 27 2018 (IPS)

Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply.

A Senate committee has analysed whether to eliminate the payments to citizens for their surplus energy established in a law in force since 2012, in response to an indication to that effect from the government of socialist former president Michelle Bachelet (2014-March 2018), which her successor, the right-wing Sebastián Piñera, is keeping in place.

Now it is being studied by the Chamber of Deputies, which has been warned by leaders of environmental organisations that the proposal to eliminate payments to citizens who inject the surplus energy they generate into the grid will sentence these initiatives to death.

Gabriel Prudencio, head of the Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Division, told IPS that the current government aims to make “distributed generation a major element in citizen power generation.”

“We will continue to encourage end users to be able to generate their energy because of the resultant benefits, but we must identify and avoid any inconvenience in terms of economy, especially for those who cannot install these systems, and for the sake of the security of the system,” he said.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the non-governmental Institute for Political Ecology (IEP), said “We hope that this proposal will not succeed and that we can continue with citizen-generated energy. Without the contribution of this sector, the goal of 80 percent non-conventional energy by 2050 will not be achieved.”

The expert believes that the authorities fear that citizen power generation, mainly solar, will become a business in itself and will not be used only for self-consumption and to cut the electricity bills of individuals or small businesses.

“They are legislating against a ghost,” he told IPS. “Energy should be born from thousands of connected points and by a system that allows buying and selling.”

The current installed electricity generation capacity in Chile, a country of 17.9 million inhabitants, is 22,369 MW. Of this total, 46 percent comes from renewable sources (30 percent hydropower), and 54 percent is thermal (21 percent coal).

All electricity generation is in private hands, most of it based on foreign capital. Consumption, which is constantly growing, reached 68,866 GW-h in 2013.

Revolution towards non-conventional sources

Chile’s solar and wind energy potential is 1,800 GW, according to a study by the Ministry of Energy and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GIZ).

If only five percent of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile were used to generate solar energy, 30 percent of South America’s electricity demand could be met, according to the Solar Energy Research Centre (SERC).

During Bachelet’s four-year term, Chile made an unprecedented leap in non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), which went from contributing five percent of generation in 2013 to 20 percent in 2017.

“Solar energy showed the greatest growth, from 11 MW in early 2014 to 2,080 in late 2017, followed by wind energy, which grew from 333 to 1,426 MW,” said environmental engineer Paula Estévez in the book Energy Revolution in Chile, published by former Chilean Minister of Energy Máximo Pacheco on May 10.

According to Baquedano, “In the country’s energy revolution, the main thing is indeed the change towards renewable energy that took place. Chile’s energy mix is going to be 100 percent renewable at some point.”

Baquedano warned, however, that “the benefits of this energy revolution from the productive point of view have been only for the private sector and have not been passed on to the public sector.”

Prudencio said that “to date, there are approximately 16 MW of installed capacity of systems under Law 20,571 (payments to residential generators), which is equivalent to more than 2,600 operating projects throughout the country.”

A few cases in point

Ragnar Branth, general manager of Commercial Habitat, a high-end furniture and home design store in the municipality of Vitacura in eastern Santiago, installed solar panels on the roof to power a five-kW photovoltaic plant whose generation saves 13.5 percent in annual electricity bills.

“There is a benefit in the monthly fee, but the initial investment is quite significant. We’re talking about more than 20 million pesos (about 32,200 dollars) in the purchase of panels and their installation alone, and that is not compensated in savings until at least the fifth or sixth year of consumption,” he told IPS.

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“The government took a good first step with the cogeneration law. However, some adjustments are needed, including the recognition of 100 percent of the energy generated and some kind of benefit in the investment project,” he said.

“If the government wants this to spread and wants there to be significant cogeneration, there has to be a benefit in the investment or some form of tax reduction or benefit,” he added.

In the agricultural county of Buin, south of the city of Santiago, 99 citizen shareholders convened by the IEP financed the community project Solar Buin Uno that built a 10 kW photovoltaic solar plant connected to the grid.

Much of the energy is delivered to the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), and the rest is injected into the grid. But the local distribution company pays only up to 60 percent of the value of the kWh billed to the CST. That is, it pays for the surplus only a portion of what it charges its users.

The generation by individuals received a special boost with the Distributed (decentralized) Generation Law, in force since 2017, also known locally as citizen generation.

Andrés Rebolledo, the last energy minister in the Bachelet administration, explained to IPS that this law “aims to encourage and give signals for the generation by citizens and show that homes and small businesses can generate their own energy based on NCRE.”

The former minister said there has been “exponential growth” of citizen generators and stressed that the modification being debated by parliament raises the possibility that they could increase their potential from 100 to 300 kW, favouring small and medium enterprises.

“The objective and vision is that the progress that Chile has made in terms of NCRE generation at the level of large plants can also be taken advantage of at the citizen level and that in this way households can generate their own electricity, save on their electricity bills and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable model,” he said.

“This implies an effort to strengthen the distribution networks, to have another form of measurement so that households can manage their own consumption and generation and, ultimately, so that they can become prosumers, that is, for a household to be both a producer and a consumer of energy at the same time,” he said.

The former minister explained that the request for a debate in parliament “was intended to try to send out signals and offer incentives so that more people could make an investment and this could become accessible to all, always taking care that households do not turn this into a business but rather for their own consumption.”

But non-governmental organisations say it will be a setback if the payment received for the injection of energy into the grid generated by citizens is eliminated.

According to Sara Larraín, executive director of Chile Sustentable, the proposed modification “eliminates the payment for the energy surplus injected by the residential generator over its own consumption.”

That, she told IPS, “discourages households from investing in self-generation and recovering their investment in less time thanks to the retribution for the electricity fed into the grid.”

Speaking to members of parliament, Larraín said that the reform “is a monopolistic distortion in favour of distribution companies that already constitute a monopoly as concessionaires of the distribution service.”

The president of IEP, Baquedano, said that the installation of a second citizens’ plant in the north of the country was suspended pending the legislative decision, “because the model will not work if this legislation is approved.”

“There’s a question mark over what’s going to happen to the energy generated by citizens. The government will have to understand that if citizen energy runs out, the environmental movement will not keep quiet. The conflicts will return, that’s my thesis, and not just my thesis because we are also preparing the scenarios,” he concluded.

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Public-Private Pacts Open Doors to Climate Finance in Rwanda and Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/#respond Sat, 26 May 2018 18:46:17 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155935 The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in […]

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From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

By Ahn Mi Young
BUSAN, May 26 2018 (IPS)

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Busan, South Korea.

GGGI and AfDB signed a partnership to accelerate Africa’s inclusive and sustainable green growth.

“We will focus on Africa, as we are seeing a huge potential in Africa,” Hyoeun Jenny Kim, deputy director general of GGGI, said in her opening remarks.

“So far, we’ve worked very closely and very extensively with Ethiopia and Rwanda throughout the comprehensive stages of designing and developing projects as well as mobilizing funds,” she told IPS after the side event.

“We’ve so far worked only with a small number of countries… But these climate funding success stories in Rwanda and Ethiopia encouraged us to extend our reach to other Africa countries like Senegal, Uganda or Mozambique,” she added.

After a two-year stint as ambassador to Senegal, Kim, who previously worked at the OECD, joined GGGI in May as its new deputy director general, in charge of planning and implementation of 33 projects in 25 countries.

She emphasized the need for adopting locally relevant green growth paths in Africa, as well as mobilizing funds. “When I was working at OECD, I was seeing the agenda from a global perspective. [While in Senegal as a Korean ambassador], I have seen the unique and particular reality facing each African country. So I understand the need to adapt our climate resilience and green growth initiatives to fit the particular condition of each African country.”

The side event highlighted how Rwanda and Ethiopia have used public investment funding to bring aboard private sector investment with close cooperation with GGGI.

Hubert Ruzibiza, CEO of Rwanda’s Green Fund, revealed how Rwanda has successfully financed green growth and climate resilience through its National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA), whose function is to identify and invest in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change that aligns with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

The fund has created about 137,000 green jobs, rehabilitated 19,304 area (ha) of land against erosion, and made about 28,000 families connected to off-grid clean energy.

“FONERWA has a global track record as the national financing mechanism by bringing together public and private sector investment,” Ruzibiza noted.

The side event also highlighted the GGGI-Ethiopia partnership to design, develop and implement Ethiopia’s political commitment to CRGE (Climate Resilience Green Economy), as well as its national financing mechanism called the Ethiopia CRGE Facility, which is the country’s primary financial instrument to mobilize, access and combine domestic and international, public and private sources of finance to support the institutional building and implementation of the CRGE Strategy.

“As we are raising the green growth and climate resilient funding, especially from small and medium-sized business that constitutes about 90 percent of our business, so are the number of projects increasing,” said Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation in Ethiopia.

GGGI has been working closely with the government of Ethiopia since 2010 to omplement its CRGE strategy. GGGI supported CRGE to mobilize a 60-million-dollar grant from the Adaptation Fund (AF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as another 75 million in climate finance. Most recently, GGGI helped mobilize 300 million dollars from the international private sector for the Mekele Water Supply Project.

“The CRGE model shows the importance of the government’s political commitment in which the government takes a holistic national approach. So our advisers are working closely with a wide variety of government functions,” said Kim.

The AfDB and GGGI signed an MOU on the sidelines of the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in Busan to promote programs, conduct joint studies and research activities to accelerate green growth options for African countries, as well as to work together in the GGGI’s cities programs and the AfDB’s initiatives on clean energy, sustainable landscapes, green cities, water and sanitation, with the ultimate goal of strengthening climate resilience in Africa.

The MOU was signed by Kim of GGI and Amadou Hott, Vice-President, Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, AfDB.

Ban Ki-moon, who previously served as the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations, took office as President of the Assembly and Chairman of the council of GGGI on March 27.

Headquartered in the heart of Seoul, GGGI has 28 member states and employs staff from more than 40 countries. Its areas of focus include green cities, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes, sustainable energy and cross-cutting strategies for financing mechanisms.

AFDB is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the AfDB, the African Development Fund and Nigeria Trust Fund NTF. Working on the ground in 44 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

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Energy Cooperatives, Fogged Mirrors for Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 15:57:18 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155911 “It made me angry that a company from outside the region was making money from renewable energy and I wondered why people weren’t getting involved,” says Petra Gruner-Bauer, president of the German co-operative SolixEnergie. So Gruner-Bauer, founder of the organisation, began to raise awareness among her neighbours in Wörrstadt, a city in the western state […]

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Public buildings and businesses, such as this organic vineyard in the town of Ingelheim-Großwinternheim in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, have embraced renewable energy in Germany to encourage citizen participation, create local employment, promote the local industry and protect the environment. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Public buildings and businesses, such as this organic vineyard in the town of Ingelheim-Großwinternheim in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, have embraced renewable energy in Germany to encourage citizen participation, create local employment, promote the local industry and protect the environment. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
WÖRRSTADT, Germany, May 24 2018 (IPS)

“It made me angry that a company from outside the region was making money from renewable energy and I wondered why people weren’t getting involved,” says Petra Gruner-Bauer, president of the German co-operative SolixEnergie.

So Gruner-Bauer, founder of the organisation, began to raise awareness among her neighbours in Wörrstadt, a city in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, about what a co-operative was, the importance of citizen participation and community benefits.

“I wrote down on a piece of paper the things that needed to be changed and tried to convince people, and they got involved. It’s the power of people. We are at the same time members and entrepreneurs, we focus on making sure that each person receives renewable energy,” she told IPS in an interview.

The cooperative, which has 116 members, was set up in 2011 and has already developed two solar panel projects and a wind farm, generating more than seven million kilowatt-hours a year, benefiting 5,000 people in a town of 30,000.

To become a co-op member, the minimum investment is 1,022 dollars, and this year the rate of return on capital is less than one percent.

This co-operative is one of 42 of its kind operating in the energy sector in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state that has been a pioneer in the development of alternative renewable energy sources in Germany, generating 10,000 jobs. Nearly 50 percent of the region’s energy supply is based on renewable sources.

At a national level, energy co-operatives currently comprise 900,200 members, with an investment of some 1.83 billion dollars.

In 2016, German individuals and co-operatives owned 31.5 percent of the renewable energy facilities, making it the segment that receives the most investment in the energy sector, according to a study published in February by the German consulting firm Renewable Energies Agency.

German co-operatives have been instrumental in the progress made towards the country’s energy transition by fostering citizen empowerment, producing energy locally, providinga source of socio-economic wellbeing and reducing polluting emissions.

Of the basket of alternative energies, 36 percent of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, such as wind power, biomass, solar, hydroelectric and waste.

The energy transition, through a gradual replacement of fossil fuels with environmentally friendly alternatives, is part of the mechanisms established at the global level to contain global warming.

“Energy co-operatives are a very safe and easy way to participate in the energy transition, investing little money. They are highly decentralised, they help strengthen the local value chain, encourage public support for the transition and unleash financial potential,” Verena Ruppert, president of the Network of Citizen Energy Co-operatives of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, told IPS.

This network brings together 24 members, 22 of which are energy co-operatives, which in turn comprise 5,000 individuals and more than 200 businesses, communities and religious organisations. The members of the co-operatives have invested some 85 million dollars in solar roofs, wind farms, biogas plants and residential retrofit projects.

Based on wind and solar energy, Germany is moving towards a future based on alternative energy sources, such as with this private wind farm in the city of Wörrstadt, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Based on wind and solar energy, Germany is moving towards a future based on alternative energy sources, such as with this private wind farm in the city of Wörrstadt, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

These energy cooperatives have a favourable environment in Germany, which facilitates their leadership in this field, as is also the case in Australia, Denmark and the United States, leading models in the industry.

Hurdles faced in Latin America

In contrast to Germany, in Latin America these co-operatives have not taken off, except in a minority of countries, despite the benefits they offer.

In countries such as Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, laws related to co-operatives recognise their role in various sectors, such as energy, but electricity regulations create barriers blocking their development.

The legislation does facilitate a role for co-operatives in countries such as Argentina and the Dominican Republic, while Bolivia, Colombia and Costa Rica also have regulations aimed at promoting such participation.

In Argentina, a country of 44 million people, energy co-operatives date back to the 1990s and already cover 16 percent of the domestic market, with some 500 electric co-operatives comprising more than one million members, according to figures from the Buenos Aires Federation of Electric and Public Services Co-operatives.

In 2016, the government of the northern province of Santa Fe created the Prosumidores– a play on words combining “producers” and “consumers” -Programme, which finances citizens who go from being mere consumers to also becoming producers who generate electricity and sell their surplus to the grid.

Brazil, for its part, has provided financial incentives since 2016 for distributed (decentralised) small-scale solar energy systems to enable individuals and businesses to generate their own electricity.

Costa Rica has also promoted this model, with four co-operatives accounting for nine percent of national power distribution and six percent of Costa Rica’s electricity generation.

This is highlighted in a report published in September 2017, “Renewable Energy Tenders and Community [Em]power[ment]: Latin America and the Caribbean“, prepared by the international Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (Ren21).

These Costa Rican entities generate some 400 megawatts – mainly from hydroelectric power plants and a small volume of wind power -, comprise more than 200,000 members, provide electricity to some 400,000 customers and employ almost 2,000 workers.

Since 2015, Chile has also been promoting participatory generation through the government’s Energy Commune programme, which seeks to promote efficiency through the use of local renewable energies and for which it has created a community fund.

So far, the initiative manages eight projects in six municipalities and has organised two calls for proposals for more than 112 million dollars for the benefit of 34 communities.

The German transformation formally started in 2011, based on six laws that favour alternative generation through a surcharge for producers, the expansion of the electricity grid to encourage the incorporation of renewables and cogeneration to take advantage of energy wasted in fossil fuel facilities.

The reform of the Renewable Energy Law, in force since January 2017, set a fixed rate for the sector – fundamental for the progress made in renewables – and created auctions for all sources.

The changes reward those who generate electricity at a lower cost, impose generation caps, and limit the setting of fixed tariffs only for cooperatives and small producers.

But in Latin America, community energy ventures face legal, technical and financial barriers.

In Mexico, the Electricity Industry Law, in effect since 2014, makes it possible to launch local projects generating less than one megawatt, but virtually excludes them from the electricity auctions that the government has held since 2016.

At least 12 countries in the region organise renewable energy auctions that, because of their financial, technical and business requirements, exclude cooperatives, preventing them from further expansion.

That’s not the case in Germany, where they are now aiming for a new stage.

“The transition needs heating and transportation. We don’t want to focus only on power generation, but also on environmental protection,” said Gruner-Bauer, whose organisation is now moving into electric car sharing to reduce use of private vehicles.

Ruppert said they can cooperate with Latin American organisations. “But it’s a decision of the board of directors. We can help, but first we need to know the needs of co-operatives,” he said.

The REN21 report recommends reserving a quota for participatory citizen projects and facilitating access to energy purchase agreements, which ensures the efficiency of tenders and the effectiveness of fixed rates for these projects.

In addition, it proposes the establishment of an authority for citizen projects, capacity-building, promotion of community-based energy projects, and the establishment of specific national energy targets for these undertakings.

This article was made possible by CLEW 2018.

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Unlocking Private Finance for Developing Countries’ Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 11:03:03 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155894 Climate finance has never been more urgently needed, with massive investments in climate action required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the devastating effects of a warmer planet. However, it is an open secret that public financing mechanisms alone are not enough to meet the demand for climate finance, especially for […]

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines has installed 750 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic panels, which it says reduced its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes annually. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has installed 750 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic panels, which it says reduced its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes annually. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, May 23 2018 (IPS)

Climate finance has never been more urgently needed, with massive investments in climate action required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the devastating effects of a warmer planet.

However, it is an open secret that public financing mechanisms alone are not enough to meet the demand for climate finance, especially for developing countries whose cost to implement their conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and transition to low-carbon economies is pegged at 4.3 trillion dollars.Scaling up and accelerating innovative approaches to climate finance from multiple sources, including the private sector, has emerged as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This is a huge price-tag when compared to the Green Climate Fund (GCF’s) current coffers, which are still being counted in billion terms. The GCF is one of the designated UNFCCC financial instruments created at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa.

Therefore, scaling up and accelerating innovative approaches to climate finance from multiple sources, including the private sector, has emerged as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement through long-term and predictable climate-smart investments.

It is for this reason that the World Bank and partners has been organising platforms in which ways of leveraging public resources with private sector financing are discussed.

One such platform is the Innovate4Climate, launched in 2017 in Barcelona. It serves as an integral part of the global dialogue on climate finance, sustainable development, carbon pricing and markets.

This year’s event, set for Frankfurt from 22-24 May, with four thematic areas, convenes global leaders from industry, government and multilateral agencies for a one-day Summit, workshops and a Marketplace, to work and dialogue on development of innovative financing instruments and approaches to support low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathways.

The Business Case for Climate Investment

Under this pillar, the focus is on the important role of the private sector to fight climate change. It explores climate-related business opportunities such as how to create markets for climate investments, and which approaches are effective in de-risking investment opportunities.

At the meeting, this stream is set to showcase sustainability and climate-resilient initiatives of business associations and industries, present models of collaboration and partnerships between public and private sector, as well as analyse trends and new initiatives in mobilizing development/climate finance, to match developing country investment needs with private sector capital.

A classic example under this theme is the GCF blended model—the use of four financial instruments: concessional loans, equity, grants, and guarantees that can be used through different modalities and at various stages of the financing cycle. Debt and equity instruments help close a specific financing gap for specific projects and programmes, thus bringing more projects and programmes to fruition, while guarantees help to crowd in new private sector financing from multilateral development banks, national development banks, and others.

“We are starting to see it already with the GCF,” says Fenella Aouane, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI’s) Principal Climate Finance Specialist. “They put out the 500-million-dollar private sector facility…they have gone into the market for the entirety of the private sector globally, they put out a call for proposals to spend up to 500 million. Now relate that to the fact that in a single board meeting in February, they approved projects worth 1 billion.”

NDC Implementation—policies and finance

Another central theme of the Innovate4Climate conference this year is focusing on improving access to finance and support for capacity building to successfully implement countries’ NDCs. This stream targets initiatives aiming at getting “further-faster-together” for NDCs implementation.

The key questions revolve around how to improve access to available funding and mobilize new sources, to strengthen climate finance readiness and accelerate disbursement of climate finance, how to increase and sustain ambitions, and ensure accountability and how to reduce transaction costs through standardisation and simplifying processes.

Innovation for Climate Resilience

Technology is a crucial component of the Paris Agreement’s means of implementation pillar. There is no question that innovative technologies and financial instruments are changing the narrative of climate change resilience. Thus, this stream presents achievements and models in climate smart agriculture, climate action in cities, and disaster risk management among others.

And in relation to the theme of technology, Tony Simon, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), recently emphasised the importance of adopting locally-relevant options that enhance agricultural productivity, for example, in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation through exploring innovative finance instruments.

“Explore innovative finance instruments,” said Simon at the UNFCCC organized first regional Talanoa which was part of the Africa Climate Week, held in Nairobi in April 2018. “Private equity offers a huge amount of money. Use the money from CTCN and other sources to pull in other funds and use that as an opportunity to blend financing for climate change initiatives.”

Climate Market and Metrics

Under this theme, the focus is on the contribution of market-based approaches to efficient and cost-effective climate change mitigation. Delegates will discuss current and future trends around practical outcomes of international negotiations on Article 6 (voluntary cooperation on mitigation and adaptation actions). The theme also seeks to understand what can be expected from aviation and shipping.

“One area where forestry hopes the private sector may be interested is—the airline industry is currently trying to decide how it will offset its emissions as an industry and one way that might do this is through the purchase of carbon offsetting assets so that could be forestry in the form of some level of carbon credit,” GGGI’s Fenella told IPS. “If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors.”

While the Innovate4Climate conference gets underway in Frankfurt next week, it seems the private sector approach by GGGI is already paying dividends. According to its 2017 Annual report, GGGI helped mobilize over half a billion dollars for green investments that aim to support developing countries and emerging economies transition toward environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth.

It contributed to the mobilization of 524.6 million dollars in green investments in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Rwanda and other countries in which the Seoul-based international organization operates.

“This is a record achievement for GGGI, representing more than 11 times the organization’s actual budget in 2017,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, GGGI Director-General. “Working closely with partner countries over the years to develop and implement policies that enable the environment to for green growth investment, GGGI is now demonstrating its growing capacity to access and mobilize finance for projects that deliver strong impact.”

With GGGI technical support to design and de-risk bankable projects, of the total amount mobilized, 412 million came from the private sector.

And just to highlight some countries in Africa, in Ethiopia, GGGI produced a pipeline of projects for the Mekelle City Water Project that helped attract 337 million dollars from the international private sector, while in Rwanda, GGGI catalyzed a 60-million investment from the private sector for a Cactus Green Park Development Project in Kigali, to support Rwanda’s secondary cities program.

Role of Multilateral Banks

The discussion on green economic growth and the increasing need for private sector climate financing cannot be complete without mentioning the role of multilateral banks. According to the World Bank, concessional climate finance is one critical strategy under this pillar, to support developing countries to build resilience to worsening climate impacts and to catalyzing private sector climate investment. Through this approach, collectively, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) increased their climate financing in developing countries and emerging economies to 27.4 billion dollars in 2016 – including more than 11 billion from the WBG.

From an African perspective, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been instrumental to the green growth discourse and the need for African countries not to follow the fossil fuel development pathway.

And in its efforts to foster a green growth economic pathway, in 2014, the AfDB released the first-ever Green Growth Framework—to function as a foundational reference document for its work on green growth. The bank was therefore instrumental in the formulation of Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI).

The initiative, which came out of COP21 and subsequently approved by the African Union, aims at delivering 300GW of renewable energy by 2030.

The AfDB also played a key role in de-risking one of Africa’s gigantic multi-billion-dollar solar power investment in Ouarzazate, Morocco, an example of a green growth economic model, which requires multi-million-dollar investments that cannot be done by public financing alone.

Mustapha Bakkaoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), told delegates at COP 22 that his country’s renewable energy revolution would not have been possible if multilateral partners such as the AfDB had not come on board to act as a guarantor for financing of the project.

About the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

Based in Seoul, GGGI is an intergovernmental organization that supports developing country governments transition to a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

GGGI delivers programs in 27 partner countries with technical support, capacity building, policy planning & implementation, and by helping to build a pipeline of bankable green investment projects.

More on GGGI’s events, projects and publications can be found on www.gggi.org.

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When Two Becomes One: Blending Public and Private Climate Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/#comments Wed, 23 May 2018 05:27:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155888 With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change. While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed […]

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The Erie Shores wind farm in Ontario, Canada. Credit: Denise Morazé/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2018 (IPS)

With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change.

While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Trying to address climate change at current financing levels is like walking into a Category 5 hurricane protected by only an umbrella,” said head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa during a conference.

“Right now, we are talking in millions and billions of dollars when we should be speaking in trillions,” she continued.

Achieving the ambitious climate goals set out by the international community will require major financial investments by both the public and private sectors in order to fill funding gaps.

It also requires coming up with ways for the two sectors to work together.

“International organizations such as the Global Green Institute (GGGI) and development banks are trying and testing different structures, different methods of financing, different blends of public and private financing all the time. And occasionally, things work,” GGGI’s Principal Climate Finance Specialist Fenella Aouane told IPS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up by UNFCC, was given an important role to serve the Paris Agreement and has since used public investment to mobilize private finance towards low-emission, climate-resilient development.

In March, the GCF approved concessional funding to 23 projects in developing countries valued together at 1 billion dollars.

“This large volume of projects for both mitigation and adaptation – and the additional USD 60 million for readiness support – shows that GCF is ready to shift gear in supporting developing countries to achieve their climate goals…. The projects adopted here will make a real impact in the face of climate challenges,” said GCF Co-Chair Paul Oquist.

Aouane echoed similar sentiments about GCF’s efforts to IPS, stating: “They are testing the waters but that was a very good move by the GCF to say if we’re going to get the private sector, we have got to start dealing with them.”

And waving a magic wand won’t get the private sector, whose sole purpose is to make profits, to funnel money into climate mitigation and adaptation.

“[We need] to make projects more attractive for private sector investment. Reduce the costs, reduce the risks, and do a few using that concessional funding to show that they worked,” Aouane said.

Already, successes can be seen in renewable energy development.

With the help of concessional finance and continued political will, there has been a boom in renewable energy development across the world, opening the door to more players.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the private sector paved the way in renewable energy investment in 2016, providing 92 percent of funding compared to 8 percent from the public sector.

This has helped rapidly reduce the cost of renewable energy, which is set to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020.

In fact, solar and wind energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

The forestry sector, on the other hand, is finding it more difficult to attract investments, Aouane told IPS.

“Forestry is a struggle in the sense of what is return, where do you make your money in a project?” she said.

But there is an ongoing initiative by the aviation industry that could help protect forests, Aouane noted.

In an effort to offset its carbon emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has looked to buy credits from projects that reduce emissions such as forestry.

This could not only help level out their emissions, but also help nations protect their forests from deforestation and ensure biodiversity.

“If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors in forestry because they will be able to purchase the forest and then sell the emission reduction assets to an airline who will pay for it. If the price is sufficient, then it’s attractive enough for the private sector,” Aouane said.

The idea has been controversial, however, with environmental groups noting that the move is not enough to substantially offset or reduce emissions.

The environmental group Fern also found that the Virgin Atlantic airline’s carbon offsetting projects in Cambodia have actually led to local residents being “exploited and kicked off their land,” while another project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Austrian Airlines and the San Diego Airport has resulted in increased deforestation.

Other challenges arise when bringing together two very different sectors with different goals, Aouane said.

“Using some World Bank finance and some GCF finance is relatively simple because they are both heading in the same direction culturally. But when the private sector gets involved, there can often be an issue with trying to get mindsets to work together,” she told IPS.

“You can imagine that the mindsets are very different about how you put a deal together and how you actually get the motives right that the project is right for everybody,” Aouane continued.

The GCF provides a model for bringing the two sectors together, and its new projects could help the private sector become even more involved. But it will take time, Aouane said.

“There is work happening, but I think quite often people forget how long it takes for things to change…but it will get done,” Aouane said.

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