Inter Press ServiceEnergy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 00:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:32:49 +0000 Dr Iftikher Mahmood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158293 Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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Credit: HOPE Foundation

By Dr Iftikher Mahmood
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

Solar energy has long powered homes, businesses and portable electronics. Now, it’s powering a field hospital in the middle of the world’s fastest-growing refugee camp.

Last month, my organization, the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh, opened the HOPE Field Hospital for Women in the Kutupalong mega-camp for Rohingya refugees.

Here, the population density is five times above the United Nations’ recommended standard for refugee camps, and there is a dire need for more health services among this vulnerable community.

UN Women estimates that more than half of the refugee population are women and girls—and UNFPA has estimated over 64,000 pregnant women will give birth this year—many of whom have been traumatized and are suffering from injuries caused by fires, brutality, rape, gunshots, and more.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first to be opened by a Bangladeshi NGO, and the only hospital in the camp that specializes in care for women. But there is another important distinction that we are equally proud of: our field hospital is significantly powered by solar energy, at a scale not seen anywhere else in the camps.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Solar power is unique in its ability to be brought into remote areas, to be pollution free, and to scale easily. Before the new solar installations, there were numerous times when a lack of power put women and children at risk.

One example is during the recent monsoon season, when our midwives found themselves providing care in the dark after flooding brought power outages. They worked in the conditions they had to, but as you would imagine, they were quite concerned that in the dark they might make a mistake that could harm mother or the baby. But, when a mother goes into labor, you can’t exactly tell a baby to wait for the lights to come back on.

It’s not just monsoons that cause loss of power. The hot, humid conditions in southern Bangladesh are often responsible for disruptions to the electrical service.

This is another reason why it was important to HOPE to make sure that solar energy played a key role in powering our new facility. A generous donation from the family foundation of 8minutenergy Renewables’ CEO, called the Abundant Future Foundation, helped us do just that. Five solar-powered clinics, custom-built by SOLARKIOSK in Germany, now power our field hospital’s most important and power-dependent services.

They’re ensuring that labor and delivery rooms stay well lit, that our sterilization units maintain power and that our medications and vaccinations remain refrigerated at the appropriate temperature. We’ve also incorporated solar into other areas of the hospital power grid, using this technology to fuel our indoor lighting as well as lighting around the perimeter of the hospital.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Now, our midwives won’t have to worry about delivering in the dark. And babies who need incubators and specialized care will stay safe and warm.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have crossed the border to Bangladesh since the Rohingya influx began a little over a year ago.

This is the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The last thing any aid organization wants to have to worry about is loss of power during an operation or a life-saving intervention.

Solar will be a game-changer for our ability to provide high-quality, uninterrupted care, and there is room for growth in this area. Other organizations have utilized solar power on a smaller scale in the camps. For example, UNFPA has distributed solar-powered LED lights to all of the health facilities in the camps that are open 24/7.

But investment in renewable energy on a larger scale could provide a tremendous payoff in terms of lives saved here in Bangladesh, and in refugee camps around the globe. In Jordan last year, UNHCR opened a solar plant in the Za’atari refugee camp, which supports 80,000 Syrian refugees.

In Kenya, you’ll find Africa’s largest solar-powered borehole, providing clean drinking water for refugees in the Dadaab camp in the country’s arid northern border. Renewable energy is good for the planet and the pocketbook, too, reducing emissions and saving precious dollars that aid organizations can apply toward providing critical services and procuring medicines, materials and staff to help alleviate suffering.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first facility to apply solar technology at such a scale in the Rohingya camps. Hopefully we’re just the first of many.

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Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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Helping Ethiopia Achieve Green Growth and Avoid Industrialised Nations’ Environmental Mistakeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/helping-ethiopia-achieve-green-growth-avoid-industrialised-nations-environmental-mistakes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-ethiopia-achieve-green-growth-avoid-industrialised-nations-environmental-mistakes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/helping-ethiopia-achieve-green-growth-avoid-industrialised-nations-environmental-mistakes/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 09:14:42 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158165 As Ethiopia undergoes a period of unprecedented change and reform, the Global Green Growth Institute(GGGI) is partnering with the Ethiopian government to try and ensure this vital period of transition includes the country embracing sustainable growth and avoiding the environmental mistakes made by Western nations. The basis of this effort comes from GGGI supporting the […]

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Ethiopia is not an industrialised country but is looking at alternative economic activity that allows a low-carbon economy and means of living. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

As Ethiopia undergoes a period of unprecedented change and reform, the Global Green Growth Institute(GGGI) is partnering with the Ethiopian government to try and ensure this vital period of transition includes the country embracing sustainable growth and avoiding the environmental mistakes made by Western nations.

The basis of this effort comes from GGGI supporting the Ethiopian government in the development and implementation of its Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), a strategy launched in 2011 to achieve middle-income status while developing a green economy.

As elsewhere in Africa where GGGI is partnering with other member countries—Ethiopia was the first country to sign up among the current group of 10—the goal is to act now to enable countries to have a future comprising economic growth and poverty reduction while building resilience, promoting sustainable infrastructure and ensuring efficient management of natural resources.

“Countries like Ethiopia aren’t industrialised, so they have a chance to leapfrog in their development that means they wouldn’t follow us and make the mistakes we did when we industrialised,” Dexippos Agourides, GGGI’s head of programmes for Africa and Europe who is based in Addis Ababa, tells IPS. “We are talking about an alternative economic activity that allows a low-carbon economy and means of living.”

The global effort toward green growth gained momentum after the Paris Agreement in which signatories agreed to collectively tackle climate change through the mechanism of implementing nationally determined contributions (NDC), a country’s tailored efforts to reduce its emissions and enable it to adapt to climate change-induced challenges.

“The government has made big commitment and set very ambitious targets, so even if they only go halfway to their targets that would still be a significant achievement,” Agourides says. “There are big gaps in the plan, which is where we come in to accompany the government in this ambition.”

Hence GGGI’s 12-person team in Addis Ababa providing embedded expert and advisory technical support and capacity building to the Ethiopian government.

Their main effort is to ensure CRGE strategies and financing go toward six sectors identified as key for green growth: energy, reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, agriculture (land use and livestock), green urbanisation and cities, transport, industry and health.

Ethiopia’s goal is to act now to enable it to have a future comprising economic growth and poverty reduction while building resilience, promoting sustainable infrastructure and ensuring efficient management of natural resources. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

One example of how this looks on the ground is Ethiopia’s programme of building industrial parks becoming greener, through schemes such as waste sludge from factories being used by other industries.

Another example is Ethiopia’s ambitious programme of reforestation and management of existing forest cover, which had reduced from covering about 35 percent of the country a century ago to around 3 percent in 2000—it’s now back up to around 15 percent.

GGGI is also working with the government on adaptation plans for areas prone to drought and flash flooding that appear increasingly volatile due to climate change.

“We look at past patterns and predict who suffers and how, so we can make plans so people are not hit,” says Innocent Kabenga, GGGI’s country representative for Ethiopia.

At the same time, Kabenga notes, methods such as reusing water, hydro-power, wind and solar are all being considered as means of mitigating Ethiopia’s carbon footprint. Such a plethora of renewable energy options comes from Ethiopia having one of the most complex and variable climates in the world due to its location between various climatic systems and its diverse geographical structure.

When it comes to the often-contentious issue of more foreign funds going to Ethiopia—already one of the world’s biggest recipients of overseas aid—those at GGGI point out that it is not necessarily a case of more funds but making sure existing funding go to the right place.

At the same time, there is no getting around the financial costs involved, both for Ethiopia’s green growth goals—in 2017, GGGI helped Ethiopia access USD 135 for its programme reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, as well as access the Green Climate Fund—and for GGGI. Its budget comes from a mixture of developed and developing countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Indonesia, a geographic spread reflecting the nature of the challenge that GGGI is engaged with.

“These are issues that have no boundaries, that no one country can solve, which is why we need to implement these national agreements that will help the world to survive,” Kabenga says. “Western countries have more money, and it their actions [contributing to climate change] that have affected the developing world.”

Despite governmental willingness, those at GGGI acknowledge much more is needed to turn words into concrete actions, especially within the complex context of Ethiopia’s federal democracy that devolves significant power to each region.

Furthermore, each ministry involved in the CRGE must do its job, and the government policy at the federal level must be successfully transmitted to Ethiopia’s regional governments—who must then do their bit.

Tying all that together—and as the country is going through one of its most significant political upheavals in 27 years as a new prime minister attempts to initiate significant reforms throughout government and society—is no easy thing, Agourides acknowledges. But if it can be done, then the economic and environmental benefits for Ethiopia could be huge, while allowing it to avoid the pitfalls elsewhere of growth at any cost that has done untold damage to this precious planet.

“Ethiopia stands at the top of least developed countries in terms of commitment, engagement and awareness,” Agourides says. “But implementation is the issue given the size and complexity of the country.”

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Students Go Green to End Global Energy Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 08:47:25 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158155 In Africa, over 640 million people – almost double the population of United States – have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting. While not offering a solution to the electricity gap in Africa, Brian Kakembo Galabuzi, a Ugandan economics student, can offer a […]

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A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

In Africa, over 640 million people – almost double the population of United States – have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting.

While not offering a solution to the electricity gap in Africa, Brian Kakembo Galabuzi, a Ugandan economics student, can offer a cleaner and cheaper solution.

Galabuzi is the founder of Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise (WEYE), which is registered as a limited company that makes carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and organic waste.

Galabuzi got the idea after networking with other students concerned about global energy poverty at the 2015 International Student Energy Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Energy poverty is defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for cooking, warmth, lighting, and essential energy services for manufacturing, services, schools, health centres and income generation.

WEYE was created with the basic idea of commercialising grass root bio-waste to energy solutions in order to create a youth-led clean cooking transition in Uganda.

The promise of a financial income or benefit have been effective hooks to get young people to embrace sustainable energy as a source of income. The  youth promote sustainable energy because they want to earn from it, says Galabuzi.

“We believe that the benefits of sustainable energy, such as time saving, clean air, environmental conservation and good health are not what the highly-unemployed youth what to hear,” Galabuzi tells IPS.

“The majority of the world’s population is youth – of which the biggest population is unemployed. This why we designed a solution based on financial benefit (income generating opportunity) for unemployed youth and women,” he says.

Resource rich but energy poor

Africa is energy rich but nearly two thirds of its population of more than 1,2 billion have no access to electricity.

The African continent has an estimated 10 terawatts of potential solar energy, 350 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power and 110 GW of wind power. All these sources can be harnessed with the right investment, a 2015 study by influential consulting company, McKinsey & Company found.

However, poor investment in off-grid connections in Africa means that polluting fossil fuels and biomass are major energy sources. However, off grid connections can provide clean and affordable energy to millions of people while helping reduce carbon emissions and preventing indoor pollution.

Growing energy demand in Africa and other developing economies presents an urgent need for the promotion and provision of more affordable and cleaner energy. Wood, charcoal, grass and solid waste, such as animal and human waste, are forms of biomass that can be converted into fuel and used as energy sources.

In Africa, over 640 million people have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A clean energy business

And students like Galabuzi are seeing opportunities here.

While acknowledging that his company is not the first to make briquettes, Galabuzi says what is unique is that the briquettes are made from organic waste materials and sold to institutions that use firewood – 80 percent of which harvested in Uganda. Recent studies indicate that Uganda is at risk of losing all its forest in 40 years unless it halts deforestation. This is largely due to population growth and increased demand for land and firewood energy.

“Our solution guarantees our clients a 35 percent reduction in cost of cooking fuel, 50 percent reduction in cooking time and, most importantly, a smoke free cooking environment for the cooking staff,” Galabuzi tells IPS.

Galabuzi says despite the presence of solar, hydro power and gas as alternative sources of cooking energy, fuel briquettes are affordable and efficient energy alternatives.

A pilot of the fuel briquettes at St. Kizito High School, a school based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and the first school to adopt WEYE’s technology, showed encouraging results. Galabuzi explains the school registered an annual financial saving of over USD 2,500, a 50 percent reduction in cooking time and increased job satisfaction among the cooking staff due to the healthy, clean and smokeless cooking conditions.

“Our project uses organic waste from farmers and food markets such as maize cobs, banana peels and many others, which were considered useless,” he says.

“We offer the farmers and waste collectors monetary value for this organic waste and give them a new avenue to generate income, boosting the agricultural and waste management sectors.”

Galabuzi says his business has the potential of employing over 40 individuals in waste collection, sorting, production, marketing, distribution and finance.  It also has a potential market of over 30,000 institutions in Uganda. Already WEYE is training youth and women how to make briquettes and to start up their own briquette companies, with support from the Uganda government youth fund.

The WEYE Clean Energy Company Limited is authorised to sell charcoal briquettes and clean cook stoves in Uganda. The business model was tested during an 8-week ‘Greenprenuers’ programme run by the Global Green Growth Initiative, Youth Climate Labs and Student Energy (SE).

Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares food in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

Students driving sustainable energy transition

SE is a global organisation, based in Alberta, Canada. It builds the potential of young people to accelerate subsistence energy transitionthrough training, coaching and mentorship.

The interest in energy by SE, which has a membership of 50,000 young people from 30 different countries around the world, led to a partnership with Seoul-based Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) to promote the young ‘greenpreneurs’ programme. This programme gives the youth opportunities to turn innovative ideas into green businesses in sustainable energy, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes and green cities.

“We got interested in greenpreneurship because a lot of people in our network are interested in energy but are more at a systems level and how energy connects to gender, empowerment, access to clean sources of fuel, access to energy in remote areas and smart technology,” Helen Watts, director of Innovation and Partnerships at SE, tells IPS.

Global discussions on energy, while politicised, have previously been at commercial and academic levels. But SE has opened a platform to promote wider discussions on finding and implementing innovative solutions to solving the energy challenge and help meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watts says the partnership with GGGI is an opportunity to open up GGGI’s youth entrepreneurship model, which is country specific, into a global accelerator model with young people from emerging and developing economies. Another organisation, the Youth Climate Lab, an innovation lab space organisation that seeks to build the capacity of young people to participate in the climate policy, innovate and collaborate on climate adaptation and mitigation, has been brought in as a partner.

“Young people have this incredible capacity to break the kind of zero sum game of sustainability of profitability,” says Watts.

“They have an amazing ability to think outside boxes of what has been done and collaborate with different peers and community members to map out these incredible solutions to both grow their communities and local economies while providing cleaner, affordable solutions to different challenges community members are facing.”

SE was started in 2009 by a group of students who worked in the energy industry in Canada and every two years it organises an international summit on the future of sustainable energy as a platform to talk about energy transition.

The first International Student Energy Summit in 2009 brought together 350 students from 40 countries. The 6th International Students Energy Summit was hosted in Mexico in 2017 with 600 students from 100 countries. Next year the summit will be in London and is expected to attract 700 students.

SE has also developed energy chapters in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America and South Asia, which are like student clubs in post-secondary institutions. The chapters are supported to help members develop their green energy ideas into reality in their communities. The first chapters were established in United Kingdom, Nigeria and Canada.

“Energy has really captured me and inspired me to dedicate my entire career to energy transition projects because of how fundamental energy is to our everyday lives,” Sean Collins, a co-founder of SE, tells IPS, adding that the value of energy is embedded in the work of SE that there is consideration of both energy’s striking benefits and its impacts.

“I think the thing I am most proud of has been our work to set the expectation that youth deserve a seat at the table in all energy conversations as a peer with older generations, policy makers, legacy industry and other groups. It is our generation that will be primarily responsible for the practical transition to a lower carbon economy, so we need to be an active participant in these discussions from day one.”

Fostering discussions and implementation of energy innovations creates impact. Businesses like Galabuzi’s WEYE clean energy company can be potential models to provide energy to more 600 million people in Africa who go without electricity.

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Farmers Generate Their Own Electricity in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador-2/#respond Wed, 10 Oct 2018 08:54:18 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158287 In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now. Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to […]

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Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, where a light bulb can be seen, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, where a light bulb can be seen, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
Oct 10 2018 (IPS)

In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now.

Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to light up the night, but also to take small steps towards undertakings that help improve living conditions in the village.

Read more about this issue here.

 

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Farmers Generate Their Own Electricity in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 21:38:26 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158049 In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now. Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to […]

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Juan Benítez, president of the Nuevos Horizontes Association of Joya de Talchiga, rests on the edge of the dike built as part of the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric dam. The 40 plus families in the village have had electricity since 2012, thanks to the project they built themselves, in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Juan Benítez, president of the Nuevos Horizontes Association of Joya de Talchiga, rests on the edge of the dike built as part of the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric dam. The 40 plus families in the village have had electricity since 2012, thanks to the project they built themselves, in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
Joya de Talchiga, EL SALVADOR, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now.

Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to light up the night, but also to take small steps towards undertakings that help improve living conditions in the village.

Now she uses a refrigerator to make “charamuscas” – ice cream made from natural beverages, which she sells to generate a small income.

“With the money from the charamuscas I pay for electricity, food and other things,” the 64-year-old Gómez, head of one of the 40 families benefiting from the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric plant project, told IPS.

This is a community initiative that supplies energy to La Joya de Talchiga, one of the 29 villages in the rural municipality of Perquín, with some 4,000 inhabitants, in the eastern department of Morazán, which borders to the north with Honduras.

During the 1980-1992 civil war, this region was the scene of fierce battles between the army and the then-guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), now a political party, in power since 2009 after winning two consecutive presidential elections.

When the war ended, the largest towns in the area were revived thanks to ecotourism and historical tourism, where visitors learn about battles and massacres in the area. But the most remote villages lack basic services, which keeps them from doing the same.

The El Calambre mini-hydroelectric power plant takes its name from the river with cold turquoise water that emerges in Honduras and winds through the mountains until it crosses the area where La Joya is located, dedicated to subsistence agriculture, especially corn and beans.

A small dike dams the water in a segment of the river, and part of the flow is directed through underground pipes to the engine house, 900 metres below, inside which a turbine makes a 58-kW generator roar.

La Joya is an example of how local inhabitants, mostly poor peasant farmers, didn’t stand idly by waiting for the company that distributes electricity in the area to bring them electric power.

The distribution of energy in this Central American country of 6.5 million people has been in the hands of several private companies since it was privatised in the late 1990s.

During the days IPS spent in La Joya, locals said they own the land where they live, but they lack formal documents, and without them the company that operates in the region doesn’t supply electricity. It only brought power to a couple of families who do have all their paperwork in order.

In this Central American nation, households with electricity represent 92 percent of the total in urban areas, but only 77 percent in rural areas, according to official data released in May.

Without much hope that the company would supply power, the residents of La Joya set out to obtain it by their own means and resources, with the technical and financial support of national and international organisations.

One of these was the association Basic Sanitation, Health Education and Alternative Energies (SABES El Salvador), which played a key role in bringing the initiative to La Joya, where it was initially met with reservations.

“People still doubted when they came to talk to us about the project in 2005, and even I doubted, it was hard for us to believe that it could happen. We knew how a dam works, the water that moves a turbine, but we didn’t know that it could be done on a small river,” Juan Benítez, president of Nuevos Horizontes, the community development organisation of La Joya, told IPS.

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, where a light bulb can be seen, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, lit inside by a light bulb, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The small hydroelectric plant, in operation since 2012, was built by local residents in exchange for becoming beneficiaries of the service. Paid workers such as electricians and stonemasons were only hired for specialised work.

The total cost of the mini-dam was over 192,000 dollars, 34,000 of which were contributed by the community with the many hours of work that the local residents put in, which were assigned a monetary value.

The charge for the service is based on the number of light bulbs per family, at a cost of 50 cents a month each. Thus, if a family has four light bulbs, they pay two dollars a month, lower than what is charged commercially.

Local residents still remember how difficult life was when they had no hopes of getting electric power.

“When I was a girl, things were so hard without electricity, we had to buy candles or gas (kerosene) to light candles,” one of the beneficiaries, Leonila González, 45, told IPS as she rested on a chair in the hallway of her house, located in the middle of a pine forest, 30 metres from the river.

The small generator in the engine room built by the residents of Joya de Talchiga. Men from the village carried the heavy turbine that moves the 58-kW generator on their shoulders, since there is no access by vehicles where the mini-community dam was installed in the mountainous municipality of Parquín, in eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The small generator in the engine room built by the residents of Joya de Talchiga. Men from the village carried the heavy turbine that moves the 58-kW generator on their shoulders, since there is no access by vehicles where the mini-community dam was installed in the mountainous municipality of Parquín, in eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Most residents, she recalled, used to use “ocotes,” the local name for pieces of pine wood, whose resin is flammable.

“We would put two splinters in a pot, and that’s how we lived, with very dim light, but that’s how it was for us,” she said.

Meanwhile, Carolina Martinez, the teacher who works at the village preschool, pointed out that in those days the children’s homework was stained with charcoal soot from the ocote.

She and her family used to buy car batteries to run some appliances, which implied significant costs for them, including payment for the appliances and the person who brought them from nearby towns.

Others who needed to work with more powerful devices, such as saws for carpentry, had to buy gasoline-powered generators, she said. And those who had a cell phone had to send it to Rancho Quemado, a nearby village, for recharging.

“Now we see everything differently, the streets are illuminated at night, it’s no longer dark,” Martínez said.

For the village carpenters or welders, working is much easier with a power socket at hand.

A boy from La Joya, a village in eastern El Salvador, takes a charamusca, a fruit-based ice cream, from the refrigerator of Lilian Gómez, who, thanks to the arrival of electricity, has set up a small business making charamuscas, which are already popular among her neighbors. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A boy from La Joya, a village in eastern El Salvador, takes a charamusca, a fruit-based ice cream, from the refrigerator of Lilian Gómez, who, thanks to the arrival of electricity, has set up a small business making charamuscas, which are already popular among her neighbors. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

For María Isabel Benítez, 55, a homemaker, one of the advantages of having electricity is that you can watch the news and find out what’s going on in the country. “I like the 6:00 a.m. news programme, I see everything there,” she said, holding her little granddaughter Daniela in her arms.

Elena Gómez, a 29-year-old psychology student, said she can now do her homework on the computer at home. “I no longer have to go to the nearest cybercafé,” she said.

The project was considered binational from the outset, since the surplus energy generated in La Joya is distributed to the village of Cueva del Monte, four km away, in Honduras.

Additional power lines were installed so the plant can benefit another 45 families, 32 of whom are already connected.

“The Hondurans deceived us, they told us they were going to set into operation the energy project, but they didn’t, and we were only left with the blueprint,” Mauricio Gracia, the community leader of the Honduran village, told IPS.

The people of Cueva del Monte are Salvadorans who from one moment to the next found themselves living in Honduras, in September 1992, following a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which resolved a lingering border dispute that included the area north of Morazán.

Benitez, the president of the La Joya association, said the generator sometimes fails, especially when there are thunderstorms, so the organisation is looking for more support to purchase a second generator, which could operate when the first one turns off.

Also, as a community they hope to little by little generate development initiatives, with the electricity they already have, to give the local economy a boost.

For example, they have discussed the possibility of promoting rural tourism, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the area’s pine forest and the pools and waterfalls of the Calambre River.

The plan is to build mountain cabins, which would have electricity. But the idea has not come to fruition because it has not been possible to reach an agreement with the owners of the land, said Benítez.

Meanwhile, Lilian Gómez is happy that there is strong local demand for her charamuscas, which she could not make if electric power had not come to La Joya.

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Q & A: Why Switching to Renewable Energy Sources is No Longer a Matter of Morality, But of Economicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/q-switching-renewable-energy-sources-no-longer-matter-morality-economics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=q-switching-renewable-energy-sources-no-longer-matter-morality-economics http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/q-switching-renewable-energy-sources-no-longer-matter-morality-economics/#respond Sun, 30 Sep 2018 10:51:47 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157887 When the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was founded eight years ago, the general public thought that renewable energies would never replace oil and coal. Today, the tables have turned. Dr. Frank Rijsberman has been the director general of the institute since 2016, and for him, green growth is no longer a matter of morality, […]

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The Bangui Wind Farm located in the northern Philippines hosts 20 wind turbines with a capacity of 33 megawatts. GGGI works mainly with governments that express an interest in sustainable growth and is supporting the Philippines in mainstreaming green growth into the country’s development planning. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 30 2018 (IPS)

When the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was founded eight years ago, the general public thought that renewable energies would never replace oil and coal. Today, the tables have turned.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman has been the director general of the institute since 2016, and for him, green growth is no longer a matter of morality, but of economics. Renewable energies are now cheaper than fossil fuels. They create employment, do not pollute and provide countries with the amount of energy they need. Last week he joined several side events at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

GGGI is an intergovernmental organisation that works with over 60 countries. It seeks commitments among governments and private companies to switch to green growtheconomic growth that takes into account environmental sustainability.

The organisation, based in Seoul, South Korea, works mainly with governments that express an interest in sustainable growth. Its work does not directly depend on changes in administrations.

Under Rijsberman, GGGI has consulted with Colombia on their protection of the Amazon rainforest, the United Arab Emirates on how to diversify its economy, and more recently with New Zealand. Rijsberman is especially proud of the organisation’s work in Ethiopia and Rwanda, with its president Paul Kagame, who he considers a “champion of green growth”.

Rijsberman is not only very knowledgeable, he also calls his job “his passion”. When he describes GGGI’s presence worldwide, he jumps from Australia to Ethiopia, from South Korea to Mexico, and from Norway to the Philippines.

He talks slowly, like a teacher giving his first class, or a father trying to get his point through. And when he talks about GGGI’s achievements, he smiles in the affable way most Dutch people do. His excitement is justified: renewable energies are the present. And public opinion cares. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Director general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman outside the Office of the Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning in Thailand Photo Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Why has green growth become relevant?

Frank Rijsberman (FR): A variety of countries are already convinced green growth is their only option for pollution and climate reasons. For example in Asia, air pollution is a strong driver of investors in green growth. In Seoul, everybody checks the air condition in the morning, because it is a real issue. We have to decide whether we are going to wear air masks or not. In the West, last summer we saw fires and heat waves. And in Africa, the average farmer is convinced the climate has changed."In the end there are gonna be more jobs with renewables than with coal." -- Director general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman.

I’ve been involved in climate change for a long time, and it used to be something we talked about that would happen in a 100 years. Then for our grandchildren. Then our children and then… it’s today.

Before, ministers of finance used to say they wanted first to develop and then they would care about the climate. Now, they also care about the quality of growth.

IPS: Has that international public opinion changed since United States president Donald Trump’s election?

FR: The truth is that the U.S. government was very influential in making the Paris Agreement exist in the first place. We have to thank them for that. They brought China to the table.

And after Trump was elected, the Chinese government did not back out, because solar and wind have become cheaper than coal. Wind energy prices have dropped by 66 percent and solar by 86 percent. In the last three years, the atmosphere has changed. There is a stronger belief that renewable energies are making a breakthrough.

Apart from the prices, the second big deal is batteries.Generally, you need a grid or a diesel generator to back solar and wind up. But instead of using diesel generators, now we can use batteries that store energy. Battery prices have also gone down by 80 precent. And over the next five years, batteries will be cheaper than the diesel backups. The investment recommendation we make is to buy batteries now, not diesel generators.

IPS: Where have renewable energies impacted the most?

FR: For example, in electricity production, we’ve seen a huge disruption. Most of the investments go to renewable energies. However, electricity is only 20 percent of energy use.

The other 80 percent is transportation and buildings. But I am confident that in some years, electric vehicles will be cheaper than normal fuel cars. These autonomous vehicles could reduce the number of vehicles in cities by three, which would reduce pollution, traffic, and costs.

IPS: The institute must also face challenges when promoting green growth. Is shifting investment patterns its biggest challenge?

FR: Yes. The hardest has been convincing Southeast Asian countries with fast-growing economies. They still invest in coal. Convincing those governments that solar and wind are cheaper remains the biggest challenge.

Sometimes we also find resistance in the utilities, companies that work with fossil fuels. We’ve had one government for which we did a plan for renewable energies, and then they told us they had already signed with fossil fuels. There are also countries where hotels want to put solars on their rooftops, but utilities say: “we will cut you off the grid.”

However, once the government agrees, it can take a short amount of time for them to transition to sustainable energies. In India it took two years. India had coal fired power plants. But as soon as the price of renewables decreased, the coal fired plants went down.

The example of Canberra (Australia) is also enlightening. They decided they wanted to be renewable by 2020. So, they put solars in schools, and they made it accessible so people could also put it on their homes. People got used to it and then they moved to utility-scale renewables.

IPS: Does this resistance in transitioning have to do with the loss of jobs?

FR: In the end there are gonna be more jobs with renewables than with coal. Trump talks about the job losses in coal, but he doesn’t talk about the new jobs with renewables. It’s true they may not be the same people, so you need some formal training. But that is normal. One industry dies and another is born.

IPS: You have been director general for two years, what have you achieved so far?

FR: GGGI has been strong in policy for a number of years. My predecessor saw there was a gap in developing bankable projects, and he started green investment finance services.

In 2017, we mobilised half a billion dollars in green and climate finance for the first time. I increased our goals to mobilise a couple billion dollars in our strategic planning. We raise it by investor commitments. Although our clients are governments, sometimes they can’t find investment themselves for renewable plans. We help find projects, we bring investors to the table, they sign a letter of intent, we hand it to the government and they decide over it.

IPS: And what do you want to accomplish in the next two years?

FR: We want to demonstrate that we can do it. Our goal for 2020 is to raise more than two and a half billion dollars in green and climate finance. And then convince more governments that this is crucial. Not only renewable energy, also waste management, pollution, and green jobs. We want to get more evidence that this works, and scale it to more countries. Our goal is to transform countries’ economies to green growth.

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Indigenous Peoples Link Their Development to Clean Energieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/indigenous-peoples-link-development-clean-energies/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 00:27:51 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157687 Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development. “We want to generate […]

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA , Sep 20 2018 (IPS)

Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development.

“We want to generate a community economy based on sustainability,” Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told IPS. Peas is also an advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, which groups 28 indigenous organisations and 11 native groups from that South American country.

The first project dates back to the last decade, when the Achuar people began to install solar panels in Sharamentsa, a village of 120 people located on the banks of the Pastaza River. Currently they are operating 40 photovoltaic panels, at a cost of 300 dollars per unit, contributed by private donations and foundations."Communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people. It's about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

The villagers use electricity to light up their homes and pump water to a 6,000-litre tank.

“There is a better quality of services for families. Our goal is to create another energy model that is respectful of our people and our territories,” Peas said.

The Achuar took the next step in 2012, when they started the Kara Solar electric canoe motor project. Kara means “dream” in the Achuar language.

The first boat with solar panels on its roof, with a capacity to carry 20 people and built at a cost of 50,000 dollars, began operating in 2017 and is based in the Achuar community of Kapawi.

The second canoe, with a cost of 35,000 dollars, based in Sharamentsa – which means “the place of scarlet macaws” in Achuar – began ferrying people in July.

The investment came partly from private donations and the rest from the IDEAS prize for Energy Innovation, established by the Inter-American Development Bank, which the community received in 2015, endowed with 127,000 dollars.

The Achuar people’s solar-powered transport network connects nine of their communities along 67 km of the Pastaza river – which forms part of the border between Ecuador and Peru – and the Capahuari river. The approximately 21,000 members of the Achuar community live along the banks of these two rivers.

“It was an indigenous idea adapted to the manufacture of canoes. They use them to transport people and products, like peanuts, cinnamon, yucca and plantains (cooking bananas),” in an area where rivers are the highways connecting their settlements, said Peas.

The demand for clean energy in indigenous and local communities and success stories such as the Achuar’s were presented during the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of the U.S. state of California.

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A solar panel exhibit in San Francisco, California, during the Global Climate Action Summit, which showed the expansion of solar and wind energy and micro hydroelectric dams to provide electricity to small communities. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The event, held on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, was an early celebration of the third anniversary of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in the French capital in December 2015.

Native delegates also participated in the alternative forum “Our Village: Climate Action by the People,” on Sept. 11-14, presented by the U.S. non-governmental organisations If Not US Then Who and Hip Hop Caucus.

Right Energy Partnership

The Indigenous Peoples' Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), made up of 50 organisations from 33 countries, launched the Right Energy Partnership in July. In Latin America, organisations from Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and five regional and global networks are taking part.

The consortium seeks to ensure that alternative projects are aligned with respect for and protection of human rights and provide access by at least 50 million indigenous people to renewable energy by 2030 that is developed and managed in a manner consistent with their self-determination needs and development aspirations.

This would be achieved by ensuring the protection of rights to prevent adverse impacts of renewable energy initiatives on ancestral territories, strengthen communities with sustainable development, and fortify the exchange of knowledge and collaboration between indigenous peoples and other actors.

The Alliance decided to conduct a pilot phase between 2018 and 2020 in 10 countries. The first countries included were Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua, and Australia, the United States and New Zealand could also join, as they have indigenous groups that already operate renewable ventures and have success stories.

In addition to Ecuador, innovative experiences have also emerged from indigenous communities in countries such as Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Guatemala, Malaysia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and the United States, according to the forum.

For example, in Bolivia there is an alliance between the local government of Yocalla, in the southern department of Potosí, and the non-governmental organisation Luces Nuevas aimed at providing electricity from renewable sources to poor families.

In Yocalla, a municipality of 10,000 people, mainly members of the Pukina indigenous community, “755 families live in rural areas with limited electricity; the national power grid has not yet reached those places,” project consultant Yara Montenegro told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, which began in March, 30 poor families have received solar panels connected to lithium batteries, produced at the La Palca pilot plant in Potosí, which store the fluid.

Each system costs 400 dollars, of which the families contribute half and the organisation and the government the other half. The families can connect two lamps, charge a cell phone and listen to the radio, replacing the use of firewood, candles and conventional batteries.

The development of clean sources plays a decisive role in achieving one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Goal seven aims to establish “affordable and non-polluting energy” – a goal that also has an impact on the achievement of at least another 11 SDGs, which the international community set for itself in 2015 for the next 15 years, within the framework of the United Nations.

In addition, the success of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), the programme to be implemented during the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024, which aims to guarantee universal access to modern energy services, and to double the global rate of energy efficiency upgrades and the share of renewables in the global energy mix, depends on that progress.

But most of the groups promoting an energy transition do not include native people, points out the May report “Renewable Energy and Indigenous Peoples. Background Paper to the Right Energy Partnership,” prepared by the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG).

That group launched a Right Energy Partnership in July, which seeks to fill that gap.

For Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Kankanaey Igorot people, who is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, energy represents “a problem and a solution” for indigenous people, she told IPS at the alternative forum in San Francisco.

“The leaders have fought against hydroelectric dams and I have also seen projects in the hands of indigenous peoples,” she said.

Because of this, “the communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people,” she said.

“It’s about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes,” she summed up.

Examples of projects that can be replicated and expanded, as called for by the U.N special rapporteur, are provided by communities such as Sharamentsa in Ecuador and Yocalla in Bolivia.

Sharamentsa operates a 12 kW battery bank that can create a microgrid. “A power supply centre is planned that allows the generation of value-added products, such as plant processing,” Peas said.

In Yocalla, the plan is to equip some 169 families with systems in December and then try to extend it to all of Potosí. But Montenegro pointed out that alliances are needed so that the beneficiaries can pay less. “In 2019 we will analyse the impact, if the families are satisfied with it, if they are comfortable,” she said.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance.

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New Rules for High Seas Must Include Needs of Poorest Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:52:23 +0000 Essam Yassin Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157450 Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

By Essam Yassin Mohammed
LONDON, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

Over-fishing, warming oceans and plastic pollution dominate the headlines when it comes to the state of the seas. Most of the efforts to protect the life of the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are limited to exclusive economic zones – the band of water up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Fishermen offloading tunas at the industrial fish port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou

But to be truly effective, all of the ocean needs to be protected. The high-seas that lie beyond national jurisdictions ― two-thirds of the ocean’s surface ― remain largely ungoverned.

The world has a new opportunity this week to move a step closer to addressing these issues as UN members start negotiating an international legally binding treaty to protect the high seas. (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 4-17 September). The first of four rounds of negotiations that will continue until 2020.

Despite the common perception that the high seas are too remote to matter to coastal communities, strong scientific evidence shows the ocean is a highly interconnected ecosystem. For example, a number of fish species use the high seas at different stages of their lifecycle for feeding and spawning, which is why protecting it is critically important to coastal communities’ livelihoods and economies.

For these negotiations to be effective and fair, it is crucial the people living in coastal communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) are listened to and have an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. They are among those most affected by the impacts of how the ocean is used and protected, from fishing to conservation measures.

Any measure to govern these waters must make sure that any activity in these waters benefits everyone ― particularly the poorest countries.

The ocean as a whole is recognised by international law as a common heritage of mankind ― it belongs to everyone, now and forever. But most developing countries do not have the financial or technological means to share the benefits it provides.

To make sure they have equal access, it is crucial this treaty establishes a mechanism that enables them to share its benefits. Monetary benefits can be best shared by establishing a trust fund.

This, as is the case with such governing bodies as the International Seabed Authority, would enable coastal communities to build their capacities and become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the seas.

And they would be able to participate proactively in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources.

It could be financed from a percentage of the profits that wealthier countries make through economic activities on the high seas whether from extraction of marine genetic resources or any other activity.

The equitable distribution of benefits from conservation of the high seas should also be at the core of the negotiations. It is important that any new global agreement recognises that when protected areas are designated they consider how they will affect coastal communities across the global south.

These areas linking territorial waters to the high seas are critical both for protecting marine species and helping to restore coastal fisheries, which are vital to sustaining the livelihoods of people in poor coastal communities.

One of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is overfishing. Studies show that fishing in the high seas is unprofitable and are only economically viable because governments subsidies large fishing fleets. It is important that in this first round of talks, governments agree clear steps to end all harmful subsidies.

Instead, these subsidies should be directed towards activities that deliver positive social and environmental results. By providing support for monitoring and surveillance of marine protected areas, giving incentives to fishers for not using damaging fishing practices, and enhancing access to markets and services including by providing support for storage facilities, poor coastal communities and fishers will be able to benefit from ocean-friendly investment.

We cannot afford to keep the status quo. These negotiations are an opportunity to establish a new legally binding treaty that is fair and equitable for everyone. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world’s population.

It is crucial the needs of the poor are heard at every stage of this process to make sure they are not left behind in the drive to govern the life of the oceans.

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Excerpt:

Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Mixed Signals as Guyana Develops its Green Economy Strategyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:52:57 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157293 Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president. The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. The country is making plans for a green economy while also looking to exploit its fossil fuel reserves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president.
The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in the wake of a 2015 discovery of what has been termed one of the largest discoveries of oil and gas 120 miles off Guyana’s shores, which saw major international oil companies vying for exploration rights even as the government began work on a Green State Development Strategy.

Central to the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) is “the structural transformation of Guyana’s economy into a green and inclusive one [that] will recognise the economic value of the extractive sectors, instituting measures to ensure their environmental sustainability while facilitating new economic growth from a more diverse set of inclusive, green and high value-adding sectors.”

In line with its goal to transition to a green economy, Guyana entered into a seven-year partnership with Norway for a REDD+ investment fund, on the basis of its 19 million hectares of forest with a carbon sink capacity of 350 tons/hectare, in what it described as “the world‟s first national-scale, payment-for-performance forest conservation agreement.” The USD250 million investment fund from Norway is earmarked for pioneering Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.

At the same time, government agencies of this small South American country, the only English-speaking one on the continent, gave some assistance to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it researched the most effective measures for ensuring the Guyanese labour force developed the skills needed in a green economy.

The ILO agreed to respond to IPS’ queries about the seeming paradox of Guyana exploiting its fossil fuel reserves while making plans for a green economy, whereas repeated efforts by the IPS to obtain an interview with Guyana’s Office of Climate Change were unsuccessful.

Andrew Small, the consultant commissioned by the ILO to carry out the study on greening Guyana’s labour force, told IPS via e-mail that he thinks the country is indeed ready and positioning itself for a green economy. He pointed to changes in the education curricula at both secondary school and tertiary level, as well as efforts at encouraging climate smart agriculture. “Guyana is indeed a small country but a major contributor to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions from economic and social activities,” he said.

He also pointed out the move by some large businesses to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings and processes, and an attendant move by the government to enable further uptake of renewable energy. “In particular the Guyana Energy Agency and Guyana Power and Light Company are leading the final draft and implementation of the Draft Guyana Energy Policy (2017) and Guyana Energy Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), respectively. These policies outline anticipated energy demand, an optimal energy mix for Guyana including a 100 percent increase in renewable energy sources aligned to Guyana’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy,” he said.

However, with an estimated four billion barrels of oil in its waters, the pull of oil money has been creating a shift in focus for some who might potentially have taken up working in green jobs. Small admits, “The shift is already happening. The magnitude of this sector will attract many highly skilled Guyanese. There have been some local concerns expressed about this, in particular in the case of engineers from the Public Infrastructure Ministry or [with regard to those] who would otherwise seek employment with this Ministry among others.”

Apart from labour market concerns, it remains to be seen how Guyana will live up to its Nationally Determined Contributions tabled last year. The country promised “to avoid emissions in the amount of 48.7 MtCO2e annually if adequate incentives are provided”, on the basis of its forest cover. If the four billion barrel estimate given is correct, Guyana’s reserves alone represent almost four-fifths of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 estimate of the amount of energy that will be generated by Latin America’s industrial sector including its fossil fuel industry in the years leading up to 2030. The IPCC estimates the approximately 33 EJ of energy (roughly equivalent to 5.4 billion barrels of oil) Latin America will generate up to 2030 will result in 2,417 MtCO2 emissions, making Guyana’s promises in support of the Paris Agreement inconsequential in the light of emissions its billions of barrels would produce.

Still, the ILO Caribbean’s Enterprise and Job Creation Specialist Kelvin Sergeant told IPS that the impact of oil and gas exploration on the green transition could go either way. “It can be positive or negative. Positive if the resources from the oil sector are used to develop the green economy and ensure sustainability of the environment and the rest of the society, especially the more vulnerable in the society. If this is not done, then there could be many new problems in the future.”

The ILO commissioned the “Skills for green jobs” in Guyana study, which was completed in 2017, because his organisation believes a green economy is a sustainable one. “The ILO places great emphasis on greening of the economy and green jobs. This is critical towards sustainable economies and societies,” Sergeant said.

“The ILO, however, argues that policies towards greening of the economy will have an impact on workers. There will be job losses, job gains or jobs will be redefined. Because of this, the ILO believes that any policy towards greening of the economy should be just and fair and must leave no one behind.”

The focus on fossil fuels “can be only detrimental if there is no trickling down of the gains from the oil sector The whole process has to be carefully managed to avoid Dutch disease and other problems which have plagued Caribbean countries that have oil,” he said. “There needs to be careful policies which ensure that everyone benefits from the oil finds.”

But Sergeant remains upbeat about the future of Guyana’s green economy. He said the focus on fossil fuel exploration does not mean efforts to promote green skills for a green economy are pointless. “It does not have to, if the guidelines for a just transition are followed.”   

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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.”

The post West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges  appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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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, Elena Pisano

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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