Inter Press ServiceEnergy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:29:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 40% of India’s Thermal Power Plants in Water-Scarce Areas, Threatening Shutdownshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/40-indias-thermal-power-plants-water-scarce-areas-threatening-shutdowns/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:57:25 +0000 Tianyi Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153902 Tianyi Luo, World Resources Institute

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Tuticorin thermal power station. Credit: Begoon/Wikimedia Commons Water shortages are hurting India’s ability to produce power.

By Tianyi Luo
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 17 2018 (IPS)

New WRI research finds that 40 percent of the country’s thermal power plants are located in areas facing high water stress, a problem since these plants use water for cooling. Scarce water is already hampering electricity generation in these regions—14 of India’s 20 largest thermal utilities experienced at least one shutdown due to water shortages between 2013-2016, costing the companies $1.4 billion.

It’s an issue that’s only poised to worsen unless the country takes action—70 percent of India’s thermal power plants will face high water stress by 2030 thanks to climate change and increased demands from other sectors.

Billions of Tons of Freshwater, Consumed

Thermal power—power that relies on fuels like coal, natural gas and nuclear energy—provides India with 83 percent of its total electricity. While these power plants fail to disclose how much water they’re using in their operations, WRI developed a new methodology using satellite images and other data to calculate their water use.

What’s the Difference Between Water Withdrawal and Consumption?

Water withdrawal: The total amount of water that is diverted from a water source (e.g. surface water, groundwater) for use.

Water consumption: The portion of water that is not returned to the original source after being withdrawn.

Much of the water withdrawn by plants is returned to the lakes and ponds from which it came, but a lot is also consumed, and not returned to its original source. We found that almost 90 percent of India’s thermal power generation depends on freshwater for cooling, and the industry is only growing thirstier.

Thanks to increased energy demand and the growing popularity of freshwater-recirculating plants, which consume the most water of any thermal plant, freshwater consumption from Indian thermal utilities grew by 43 percent from 2011-2016, from 1.5 to 2.1 billion cubic meters a year.

To put this in perspective, India’s total domestic water consumption in 2010 was about 7.5 billion cubic meters, according to the Aqueduct Global Water Risk Atlas. That means power plants drank about 20 percent as much water as India’s 1.3 billion citizens use for washing dishes, bathing, drinking and more.

40 Percent of Thirsty Plants Are in Water-Stressed Areas

More than a third of India’s freshwater-dependent plants are located in areas of high or extremely high water stress. These plants have, on average, a 21 percent lower utilization rate than their counterparts located in low or medium water-stress regions—lack of water simply prevents them from running at full capacity.

Even when controlling the comparison analysis by unit age, fuel type and plant capacity, the observation was always the same: Plants in low- and medium-stress areas are more able to realize their power output potential than those in high water-stress areas.

Scarce Water Dries Up Revenue

There are practical and financial implications of power plants’ thirst. Between 2013 and 2016, India’s thermal plants failed to meet their daily electricity generation targets 61 percent of the time due to forced power plant outages.

The reasons ranged from equipment failure to fuel shortages. Water shortages were the fifth-largest reason for all forced outages—the largest environmental reason.

In 2016 alone, water shortages cost India about 14 terawatt-hours of potential thermal power generation, canceling out more than 20 percent of the growth in the country’s total electricity generation from 2015.

The Way Forward

As India develops, water competition will continue to grow and climate change will likely disrupt predictable water supply. Thermal utilities will become even more vulnerable to water shortages, power outages and lost revenue.

But there’s a better path forward: Upgrading cooling systems, improving plant efficiency, and ultimately shifting toward water-free renewables like solar photovoltaics and wind can all curb water risks to power generation.

It’s worth noting that the government of India already has plans in place that give reason for hope, such as the notification on power plant water withdrawal limits and the “40/60” renewable energy development plan. If these ambitious policies are enacted and enforced, our estimates show that India will save 12.4 billion cubic meters of freshwater from being withdrawn by power plants. That’s a year’s worth of showers for 120 million people – more than live in the Philippines.

But change won’t happen overnight. Even with proactive policies in place, the key lies in their implementation. In the coming years, the Indian government, utility companies and international investors all have a role to play in making the power sector more resilient to water risks.

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Sustainable Energy Critical for Achieving Overall Goals of Paris Climate Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/sustainable-energy-critical-achieving-overall-goals-paris-climate-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-energy-critical-achieving-overall-goals-paris-climate-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/sustainable-energy-critical-achieving-overall-goals-paris-climate-agreement/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 16:06:58 +0000 Miroslav http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153865 Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, speaking at the 8th IRENA Assembly in Abu Dhabi

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Miroslav Lajčák, speaking at the 8th IRENA Assembly in Abu Dhabi. Credit: UN Photo

By Miroslav Lajčák
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 15 2018 (IPS)

The Paris Agreement ushered in a new global approach to climate change. At the core of this agreement are the Nationally Determined Contributions. We are now implementing these pledges.

Over the last few days we have heard much about challenges and opportunities. Challenges are nothing new. It is how we respond that determines our fate.

That being said, the size and extent of the climate change threat is new. It is arguably the biggest challenge humanity faces today. This means that we must act urgently and seize opportunities quickly. One such opportunity is renewable energy.

We are now implementing the pledges. And we are more than halfway to the 2020 finish line. There will be checkpoints along the way. Later this year, there will be the 2018 facilitative dialogue. This is a much-needed chance to assess how far we have come and how much further we have to go.

We already know that the current pledges are not enough to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. We have the tools, the plan and will submit new and more ambitious pledges in 2020. But we need urgent action now.

So where do we stand today?

First, access to energy remains a major development concern. The importance of access to modern and affordable energy lies in the impact it has on people’s lives.

Billions of people around the world still lack access to affordable and modern energy. For example, in Africa just under 50% of the population had access to electricity.

The energy challenge is many-sided. But with the right energy policies we can provide energy to everyone without creating additional burden on our planet. Many developing countries are investing in low-carbon energy sources and energy efficiency measures. This can ensure that economic growth is not coupled with pressure on the environment. Likewise, the share of renewable energy in the mix is growing steadily.

To make this transition to sustainable energy, many countries need support –such as capacity building and transfer of technology. Inclusion of renewable energy plans in nationally determined contributions can help attract the financing needed to implement them. Which brings me to my next point:

Nationally determined contributions are critical tools for saving our planet.

As we are all aware, the current pledges will carry us over the 2 degree Celsius precipice, and far beyond, our 1.5 degree aspiration. On one hand, we must commend the 165 countries that made pledges. These pledges form a good basis for action. But at the same time, we cannot afford to ignore the reality that they are far from enough. We should consider the pledges as a floor rather than as a ceiling.

We need urgent and far-reaching pre-2020 action. Time is running out for the woman losing her livelihood to climate-induced desertification. For the child who will have to abandon her home to a rapidly-rising sea level.

And for the communities that will have to build back only to be washed away again. Time is already up for many lives lost in heatwaves, droughts, extreme weather events and public health crises – all due to climate change.

Simply put: We must do what we have pledged to do. We must pledge to do more. And we must take urgent action to fulfil these promises. This is our joint and individual responsibility to our people and our planet.

My third point is that SDG 7 is pivotal for the achievement of Agenda 2030. It calls on us to provide energy for all by 2030, and to do so sustainably. This means increasing access, efficiency, renewables and the means with which to do it. Sustainable energy is also critical for achieving the overall goal of the Paris Agreement – to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

Development does not necessarily equal more carbon emissions. In fact, sustainable development, creating a decent life for all on a sustainable planet, involves less carbon emissions. Instead of a vicious cycle involving development for some and increased carbon emissions, we have the chance to create a “virtuous circle” of raising ambition, development and renewable energy deployment.

In conclusion, we live in a time of challenges, opportunities and high stakes. Our failure to act decisively and unequivocally at this critical moment in history will determine our future.

The Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals are our plans. The climate pledges manifest our collective promise to the people of this world, and it is the lives of these people that should spur us into action.

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Tocantins, a River of Many Dams in Central Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:12:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153844 Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity. The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been […]

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Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMAS and PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 12 2018 (IPS)

Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity.

The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been converted into a sequence of dams to generate electricity, almost entirely for other states. With no industries and with a population of just 1.5 million, consumption in this state is very limited.

“The lake is beautiful, but it left us without the tourism potential of the river and the electricity is more expensive for us than elsewhere,” complained journalist and writer Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, which he founded in 1987 in Porto Nacional.

The Lajeado hydroelectric power plant, with a capacity of 902.5 megawatts and which is officially named after former member of parliament Luis Eduardo Magalhães, who died in 1998, submerged beaches, crops and houses with its 630 square km reservoir, along a 170-km stretch of the Tocantins river.

“We had beaches in the dry season, islands of white sand that attracted many tourists”, and it was all lost when the water level rose, Rodrigues lamented, at his home in the city’s historical district, a few metres from the shore of the lake.

The journalist, who is the author of 12 books, chronicles, memoirs and novels, is a privileged witness to the transformations in Tocantins, especially in Porto Nacional, the cultural cradle of the state, with a population of about 53,000 people.

His historical novels show the violence of old landowners, the “colonels” appointed by the National Guard, a paramilitary militia that was disbanded in 1922, who dominated the region of Tocantins, as well as the advance in education brought by Dominican priests who came from France in 1886 to spread Catholicism from their base in Porto Nacional.

“They brought knowledge from Europe, they created schools, turning Porto Nacional into a cultural centre, and today a university town, with three universities and students from all over the country,” said the journalist who studied Communication and History in Goiania, capital of the neighboring state of Goiás.

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The river, which was part and parcel of the city, more than doubled in width when it became a lake, but now it is farther away from the population. Now there are ravines between the coastal avenue and where the water starts, accessed only through two stairways.

Some old families from the city were resettled away from the shore of the lake and indemnified, but most of the displaced were peasant farmers who lived on the other side, on the left bank, where the reservoir was extended the most across the plain.

Anesia Marques Fernandes, 59, is one of those victims.

“We lost the river, the beaches, the tourists, the nearby fish and the fertile lands which we sowed in the dry season,” recalled the peasant farmer, who was resettled along with her mother 21 km from the river in 2000, before the reservoir was filled the following year.

“My mother is the one who suffered the most and still suffers today, at 80 years of age,” after having raised her five children on her own in the flooded rural community, Carreira, because her husband died when she was pregnant with their fifth child, Fernandes said.

In the Flor de la Sierra Resettlement community, home to 49 displaced families, the four hectares of land that were given to them are not even a tenth of what they had before, she said. “But the houses are better,” she acknowledged.

The most important thing, however, was community life, the solidarity among “neighbours who helped each other, shared the meat of a butchered cow. We were one big family that was broken up,” she lamented. In the resettlement community there are only three families from her old village.

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

That is the same complaint voiced by Maria do Socorro Araujo, a 56-year-old retired teacher, displaced from Canela, a submerged beach community, 10 km from Palmas, the capital of the state of Tocantins.

“The community was fragmented, it dispersed, it forgot its culture, its unity and its way of live,” said Araujo, who was resettled in 2001 on block 508 in the north of Palmas, with her husband and three children.

“We lost our land, tranquillity and freedom, there were no fences there; here we live behind high walls,” complained her neighbour Bernardete Batista de Araujo, referring to the house where she was resettled in the capital.

She is pleased, however, to have a roof over her head, a solid three-bedroom house, better than her rustic dwelling in Canela, which had been rebuilt after the river flooded and destroyed it in 1980.

In her small yard, she now tries to compensate for the loss of the many fruit trees in the village flooded by the reservoir, planting papaya, mango and pineapple.

“The bad thing here is the dust in the dry season and the mud when it rains because of the unpaved roads,” a long-standing complaint by the inhabitants of La Cuadra, who are demanding that the road be paved.

Palmas, with a current population of 290,000, is an artificial city, planned according to the model of Brasilia, with wide avenues and squares to accommodate large numbers of cars and blocks arranged by numbers and cardinal points.

Founded in 1989, it took years of construction before becoming in practice the administrative capital of Tocantins.

Antonio Alves de Oliveira, 63, is proud to have been “the third taxi driver” in Palmas, when the city, in its second year, “had nothing but dust and huge numbers of mosquitoes.”

“Fried fly” was the nickname given to an improvised restaurant, he recalled.

Where Palmas is located, the Tocantins River now has an 8.4-km bridge which crosses the reservoir – almost eight times the width before the construction of the Lajeado dam, 50 km downstream (to the north).

The environmental impact study carried out by Investco, the company that built the Lajeado hydropower plant between 1999 and 2001 and has a concession for 35 years, registered only 1,526 families, of which 997 are rural, directly affected by the dam and reservoir.

But Judite da Rocha, local coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), believes that the real number is close to 8,000 families.

Many groups were not recognised as affected, such as the Xerente indigenous people, boatmen, fishermen, potters, dredgers who extracted sand from the river and seasonal workers, such as “barraqueros” who set up stands to sell beach products in the tourist season, she argued.

But the “worst and most complex situation” is that of the Estreito hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 2012 in the north of the state of Tocantins, with an installed capacity of 1,087 megawatts.

There are “almost 1,000 families displaced and without compensation”, scattered in seven camps, so that the total number of people affected could reach 12,000, according to Rocha.

MAB estimates that there are 25,000 families in total who suffer the consequences of the hydroelectric power plants built in the state of Tocantins, four of which are on the Tocantins River. Added to three other large plants built in other states, the Tocantins River has a generation capacity of 12,785 megawatts.

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Clean Energy Sources Manage to Cut Electricity Bill in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 01:59:20 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153796 A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11. In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of […]

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The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11.

In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of 128 dollars per megawatt hour, compared to just 32.5 dollars in the last tender of 2017.

“An important regulatory change was carried out with the passage of seven laws on energy that gave a greater and more active role to the State as a planner. This generated the conditions for more competition in the market,” Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo told IPS."According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects." -- Andrés Rebolledo

Four years ago, large companies were concerned over the rise in electricity rates in Chile, and several mining companies stated that due to the high price of energy they were considering moving their operations to other countries. Currently, big industrialists have access to lower prices because they renegotiate their contracts with the generating companies.

The new regulatory framework changed things and allowed many actors, Chilean or foreign, to enter the industry, thanks to bidding rules that gave more room to bids for generating electricity from non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), mainly photovoltaic and wind, the most efficient sources in the country.

“This happened at a time when a very important technological shift regarding these very technologies was happening in the world. We carried out this change at the right time and we took advantage of the significant decline in cost of these technologies, especially in the case of solar and wind energy,” the minister said.

Eighty companies submitted to the tender for electricity supply and distribution in 2016, and 15 submitted to the next distribution tender, “in a phenomenon very different from what was typical in the Chilean energy sector, which was very concentrated, with only a few players,” he added.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the Chilean non-governmental Institute of Political Ecology, believes that there was “a turning point in the Chilean energy mix, with a shift towards renewable energy.”

This change occurred, Baquedano told IPS, “because people didn’t want more megaprojects like the Hydroaysén hydroelectric plant in the south, and Punta de Choros in the north (both widely rejected for environmental reasons), and that curbed the growth of the oligopolies.”

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

“Globally, solar and wind energy are much more competitive than even fossil fuels. Today solar energy is being produced at a lower cost than even coal. That has led to the creation of a new scenario, thanks to this new regulation policy,” he added.

In addition, said the expert in geopolitics of energy, “that change was approved by the community and environmentalists who have raised no objections to the wind and solar projects.”

... But conflicts over hydroelectric projects continue to rage

Marcela Mella, spokesperson for the environmental group No al Alto Maipo, told IPS that they have various strategies to continue opposing the construction of the hydroelectric project of that name, promoted by the US company AES Gener on the river that supplies water to Santiago.

The project would involve the construction of 67 km of tunnels to bring water to two power plants, Alfalfal II and Las Lajas, with a capacity to generate 531 megawatts. Started in 2007, it is now paralysed due to financial and construction problems. But in November the company anticipated that in March it would resume the work after solving these problems.

"The project puts at risk Santiago's reliable drinking water supply. This was demonstrated when construction began and heavy downpours, which have been natural phenomena in the Andes mountain range, dragged all the material that had been removed and left four million people without water in Santiago," said Mella.

He added that Alto Maipo will also cause problems in terms of irrigation water for farmers in the Maipo Valley, who own 120,000 hectares.

“In the past four years, the government enjoyed a fairly free situation to develop projects (of those energy sources) that some have qualms about from an environmental perspective,” he said.

“It is not a process that any future government can stop. It is a global process into which Chile has already entered and is being rewarded for that choice. There is no longer a possibility of returning to fossil fuels, as is happening in the United States where there is an authoritarian government like that of Donald Trump,” Baquedano added.

The environmental leader warned that although “there is a margin for the rates and costs to decrease, it will not last forever.” For that reason, he proposed “continuing to raise public awareness of NCRE.”

The energy sector was a leader in investments in the last two years in Chile, surpassing mining, the pillar of the local economy.

Rebolledo said: “During the government of President Bachelet, 17 billion dollars have been invested (in the energy industry). In Chile today there are some 250 power generation plants, half of which were built under this government. And half of that half are solar plants.”

In May 2014, just two months after starting her second term, after governing the country between 2006 and 2010, Bachelet – a socialist – launched the “Energy Agenda, a challenge for the entire country, progress for all“.

“According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects,” he said.

Currently there are 40 electrical projects under construction, almost all of them involving NCRE.

Another result is that Chile now has a surplus in electricity and the large increase in solar power is expected to continue as the country takes advantage of the enormous possibilities presented by the north, which includes the Atacama desert, with its merciless sun.

Chile’s power grid, previously dependent on oil, coal and large hydroelectric dams, changed radically, which led to a drop of around 20 percent in fossil fuel imports between 2016 and 2017. In addition, it no longer depends on Argentine gas, which plunged the country into crisis when supply was abruptly cut off in 2007.

“In March 2014, when Bachelet’s term began, the installed capacity in Chile of NCRE, mainly solar and wind, was five percent. This changed significantly, and by November of this year it had reached 19 percent,” said Rebolledo.

The minister pointed out that if solar and wind generation is added to the large-scale hydropower plants, “almost 50 percent of everything we generate today is renewable energy. The rest is still thermal energy, which uses gas, diesel and coal.”

In the Energy Agenda, as in the nationally determined contribution (NDC), the commitment assumed under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Chile set goal for 20 percent of its energy to come from NCRE by 2025 – a target that the country already reached in October.

“We have set ourselves the goal that by 2050, 70 percent of all electricity generated will be renewable, and this no longer includes only the NCRE but also hydro,” Rebolledo said.

For the minister, a key aspect was that these goals were agreed by all the actors in the sector.

“Because this change happened so rapidly, that 70 percent could be 90 percent by 2050, and within that 90 percent, solar energy will probably be the most important,” he said.

Baquedano, for his part, argues that now “comes the second stage, which is to democratise the use of energy by allowing solar energy and renewables to reach citizens and small and medium industries directly, therefore modifying distribution.”

“”Democratisation means that we are going to demand that all NCRE projects have environmental impact studies and not just declarations (of environmental impact),” he said.

“Democratisation means that every person who has resources or who can acquire them, becomes a generator of energy for their own consumption and that of their neighbours. Let new actors come in, but also citizens. These new actors are the indigenous communities, the community sector and the municipalities, which are not after profits,” he asserted.

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The Political Responsibility in the Collapse of Our Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/political-responsibility-collapse-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-responsibility-collapse-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/political-responsibility-collapse-planet/#comments Wed, 27 Dec 2017 20:47:28 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153685 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The premises of a school inundated by floodwater. Shibaloy in Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 27 2017 (IPS)

On 20 December, Europe’s 28 Ministers of Environment met in Brussels, to discuss the plan for reducing emissions prepared by the Commission, to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change. Well, it is now clear that we have lost the battle in keeping the planet as we have known it. Now, of course, this can be considered a personal opinion of mine, devoid of objectivity.

Therefore I will bring a lot of data, history and facts, to make it concrete. Data and facts have good value: they focus any debate, while ideas do not. So those who do not like facts, please stop reading here. You will escape a boring article, as probably all of mine are, because I am not looking to entertain, but to create awareness. If you stop reading, you will also lose a chance to know our sad destiny.

As common in politics now, interests have won over values and vision. The ministers decided (with some resistance from Denmark and Portugal), to reduce Europe’s commitment. This is going in the Trump direction, who left the Paris Agreement, to privilege American interests, without any attention to the planet. So, Europe is just following.

Of course, those alive now will not pay any price: the next generations will be the victims of a world more and more inhospitable. Few of the people who made to Paris in 2015, solemn engagements in the name of all humankind to save the planet, will be alive 30 years from now, when the change will become irreversible. And it will be also clear that humans are the only animals who do not defend nor protect their habitat.

While we talk on how to reduce the use of fossils, we are doing the opposite. At this very moment, we spend 10 million dollars per minute, to subsidize the fossils industry. Just counting direct subsidies, they are between 775 billion dollars to 1 trillion, according to the UN

First of all, the Paris’ Agreement was adopted by the 195 participating countries, of which 171 have already subscribed to the treaty, in just two years. Which is fine, except that the treaty is just a collection of good wishes, without any concrete engagement.

To start with, it does not set up specific and verifiable engagements. Every country will set its own targets, and will be responsible for its implementation. It is like to ask all citizens of a country to decide how much taxes they want to pay, and leave to them to comply, without any possible sanction.

Europe engaged in Paris in 2015, to reach 27% of renewable energies (by scaling down the use of fossils), fixing a target of 20% for 2020. Well, from 27%, it went down to 24.3%. In addition, the ministers decided to keep subsidies for the fossils industry, until 2030 instead of 2020, as planned. And while the proposal of the Commission was that fossils plants would lose subsidies if they did not cut their emissions to 500 grams of CO2 per ton by 2020, the ministers extended subsidies until 2025.

Finally, the Commission proposed to cut biofuels (fuels made with products for human consumption, like palm oil) to 3.8%. Well, the ministers, in spite of all their declarations about the fight against hunger in the world, decided to double that, at 7%.

Now let us go back to the real flaw of the Paris Agreement. Scientists took two decades to conclude with certitude that climate change is caused by human activities, despite a strong and well financed fight by the coal and fuel industry, to say otherwise.

The International Panel on Climate Change, is an organization under the auspices of the UN, whose members are 194 countries, but its strength comes from the more than 2.000 scientists from 154 countries who work together on climate. It took them from 1988, (when the IPCC was established), to 2013, to reach a definitive conclusion: the only way to stop the planet deteriorating more rapidly, emissions should not exceed 1.5 centigrade over what was the Earth’ temperature in 1850.

In other words, our planet is deteriorating already, and we cannot revert that. We have emitted too much gas and pollution, that are at work already. But by halting this process, we can stabilize it, but never cancel what we did cause, at least for thousands of years.

The Industrial revolution is considered to start in 1746, when industrial mills replaced individual weavers. But it started in great scale in the second half of the 19th century, with the second industrial revolution.

This involved the use of science in the production, by inventing engines, railways, creating factories, and other means of industrial production. We started to register temperatures in 1850, when this was done with thermometers.

So, we can see how coal, fossils and other fuels started to interact with the atmosphere. What the scientists concluded was that if we went over 1,5 centigrade of the 1.850’s temperature, we would irreversibly cross a red line: we will not be able to change the trend, and climate will be out of control, with very dramatic consequences for the planet.

Roberto Savio

Paris conference is a final act of a process who started in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with the Conference on Environment and Development, where two leaders have now passe away, Boutros Boutros Ghali and Maurice Strong, ran the first summit of heads of state on the issue of environment.

Incidentally, it is worth remembering that Strong, a man who spent all his life to make environment a central issue, did open up the conference for the first time to representatives of civil society, beyond governmental delegations. Over 20.000 organizations, academicians, activist come to Rio, starting the creation of a global civil society recognized by the international community.

In 1997, as a result of Rio Conference, the Kyoto Treaty was adopted, with the aim to reduce emissions. The results show that during the nearly two decades bringing to Paris, the results are very modest. Coal went from 45,05% in 1950, to 28.64 in 2016, also because of new technologies, but petrol increased from19.46, to 33.91 and renewables were a negligible reality.

So, Paris was left with a very urgent task, after having lost already two decades. And according to the World Bank, in 2014 , there are 1,017 billion people without electricity, with Africa where only 20% of people has access to electricity. For all these people we should provide renewable energy, to avoid a dramatic increase of emissions.

Paris was supposed to be really a global agreement, unlike Tokyo. So, to bring as many countries as possible on board, it is a little known dirty secret that the UN decided to put as a goal not the very tight 1,5 centigrade as a target, but a more palatable 2 centigrade. But unfortunately, the consensus is that we have already passed the 1.5 centigrade. And the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), has estimated that the engagements taken by the countries in Paris, if not changed, will bring us to 6 centigrade, an increase that according to the scientific community would make a large part of the earth inhabitable.

In fact, in the last four years we had the hottest summers since 1850. And in 2017 we have the highest record of emissions in history, because they have reached 41.5 gigatons. Of those, 90% comes from activities related to human actions, while renewables (cost for which has now become competitive with fossils), still cover only 18% of the energy consumed in the world. And now let us move to another important dirty secret.

While we talk on how to reduce the use of fossils, we are doing the opposite. At this very moment, we spend 10 million dollars per minute, to subsidize the fossils industry.

Just counting direct subsidies, they are between 775 billion dollars to 1 trillion, according to the UN. The official figure just in the G20 is 444 billion. But then, the International Monetary Fund accepted the economists’ view that subsidies are not only cash: it is the use of the earth and society, like destruction of soil, use of water, political tariffs (the so-called externalities, the cost which exists but are external to the budget of the companies).

If we do that, we reach the staggering amount of 5.3 trillion: they were 4.9 trillion in 2013. That is 6.5% of the global Gross National Product…and that is what it costs to governments, society and earth, to use fossils.

That was nowhere in in the news media. Few know the strength of the fossils industry. Trump wants to reopen the mines, not only because that brings him votes by those who lost an obsolete job, but because the fossils industry is a strong backer of the Republican party.

The billionaire Koch brothers, the largest owners of coal mines in the US, have declared that they have spent 800 million dollars in the last electoral campaign. Someone might say: these things happen in the US but according to the respected Transparency International, there are over 40.000 lobbyists in Europe, working to exercise political influence.

The Corporate Europe Observatory, which studies the financial sector, found out that it spends just in Brussels 120 million a year, and employs 1.700 lobbyists. It found that they lobbied against regulations, with more than 700 organizations, which outnumbered trade unions and civil society organizations, by a factor of seven.

The power of the fossils industry explains why in 2009 governments helped the sector with 557 billion dollars, and only 43 to 46 billion dollars to all renewable industry (International Energy Agency estimates).

It is clear that citizens have no idea that a part of their money is going to keep alive, with good profits, a sector which is well aware that they are key in the destruction of our planet.

A sector that knows well that they are now emitting 400 particles of CO2 per million, when the red line was considered 350 particles PM. But people do not know, and this is a spectacular feast of hypocrisy that goes on.

The UN, in 2015, conducted an extensive poll, with the participation of 9.7 million people. They were asked to choose as their priorities six themes out of 16. The first of the themes presented was climate change. Well, the first one chosen, with 6.5 million of preferences, was “a good education”. The second and third, with over 5 million of preferences, were “a better health system”, and “better opportunities for work”. The last of the 16 themes, with less than 2 million, was the “climate change. “And this was also in the preferences of the least developed countries, who are going to be the major victims of climate change.

The 4.3 millions poorest participants, from the least developed countries, put again education first (3 million preferences); climate change was last, with 561.000 votes…Not even in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, islands which could disappear, climate change was at the first place. This is an ample proof that people do not realize where we are: at a threshold of the survival of our planet, as we have known it for several thousand years.

So, if citizens are not aware, and therefore not concerned, why should the politicians be? The answer is because they are elected by citizens to represent their interests, and they can make more informed decisions.How does this ring in your ears? With lobbyist all over fighting for interests, what can be well sold as jobs and stability?

 

Holstein cows in a feedlot. Credit: Bigstock

 

And now, let us bring a last dirty secret, to show how far we are from really addressing the control of our climate. In addition to what we said, there is a very important issue, that has even been discussed in Paris: the agreements are entirely about the reduction of emissions by the fossils’ industry. Other emissions have been left entirely out.

Now, a new documentary, the Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, produced by Leonardo di Caprio, has ordered several data presented by vegans, on the impact of animals in the climate change. They are considered somehow exaggerated. But their dimensions are so big, that they add anyhow another nail to our coffin.

Animals emit not CO2, but methane which is at least 25 % more damaging than C02. There is recognition by the UN, that while all means of transportation, from cars to planes, contribute to 13% of emissions, cows do with 18%…

And the real problem is the use of water, a key theme that we have no way to address in this article. Water is considered even by military strategist to be soon the cause of conflicts, as petrol has been for a long time.

One pound of beef uses 2.500 gallons of water. That means that a hamburger is the equivalent of two months of showers…! And to have 1 gallon of milk, you need 100 gallons of water. And people worldwide, use one tenth of what cows need.

Cattle uses 33% of all water, 45% of the earth, and are the cause of 91% of the Amazon deforestation. They also produce waste 130 times more than human beings. Pig raising in the Netherlands is creating serious problems because theirs waste acidity is reducing usable land. And consumption of meat is increasing in Asia and Africa, very fast,it is considered a mark of reaching the choices of rich societies.

Beside this serious impact on the planet, there is also a strong paradox of sustainability for our human population. We are now 7.5 billion people, and we will reach soon 9 billion. The total food production worldwide could feed 13 to 14 billion people. Of this a considerable part goes wasted, and does not reach people (theme for an article by itself). But the food for animals could feed 6 billion people.

And we have one billion people starving. This is proof how far we are from using resources rationally for the people living on earth. We have enough resources for everybody, but we cannot administer them rationally. The number of obese has reached the number of those starving.

The logical solution in this situation would be to reach an agreement on a global governance, in the interest of the planet of humankind. Well, we are going in the opposite direction. The international system is besieged by nationalism, who make increasingly impossible to reach meaningful solutions.

 

Globally, 75 percent of coral reefs are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and acidification of the seas due to climate change. Credit: Bigstock

 

Let us conclude with a last example: overfishing. Its now two decades that the World Trade Organization (which is not part of the UN, and was built against the UN) tries to reach an agreement on over- fishing with mega nets, who scoop up an enormous quantity of fishe: 2.7 trillion, of which they keep only one fifth, and they throw back four fifth.

Well, at the last WTO conference on the 13 December in Buenos Aires, governments were again not able to reach an agreement on how to limit illicit fishing. Big fishes are now down at 10% of 1970.And we are exploiting one third of all stocks.

It is estimated that illegal fishing puts between 10 billion and 23 billion on the black market, according to a study by 17 specialized agencies, with a full list of names. And again, governments spend 20 billion per year to finance the increase of their fishing industry…another example of how interest win on the common good.

I think now we have enough data, to realize the inability of governments to take seriously their responsibilities, because they have the necessary information to know that we are going toward a disaster.

In a normal world, Trump’s declaration that Climate control is a Chinese hoax, and it is invented against the interest of United States, should have caused more global emotion.

Also, because while Trump’s internal policies are an American question, climate is affecting all the 7.5 billion in the planet, and Trump was elected by less than a quarter of eligible voters: nearly 63 million. Too little to take decisions which affect all humankind.

And now European ministers are following, as a proverb says, money speaks and ideas murmur.. And there are many who are preparing to speculate on climate change. Now that we have lost 70% of the ice of the North Pole, the maritime industry is gearing to use the Northern Route, which will cut cost and time by a 17%.

And the British wine industry, since the warming of the planet, is increasing production by 5% each year. The vineyards planted in Kent or Sussex, with a calcar soil, are now bought from producers of Champagne, who plan to move there. The UK is already producing 5 million bottles of wine and sparkling wines, which are all sold. This Christmas, local sparkling wine will exceed champagnes, caves, prosecco and other traditional Christmas drinks.

We have all seen, at no avail, the increase of hurricanes and storms, also in Europe, and a record spread of wildfires. The UN estimates that at least 800 million people will be displaced by climate change making uninhabitable several parts of the world. Where they will go? Not to the United States or Europe, where they are seen as invaders.

We forget that the Syrian crisis came after four years of drought (1996-2000) which displaced over a million peasants to the towns. The ensuing discontent fuelled the war, with now 400.000 dead and six million refugees.

When citizens will awake to the damages, it will be too late. Scientists think that it will become clearly evident after thirty years. So why do we worry now ? That is a problem for the next generation, and companies will continue to make money until the last minute, with complicity of governments and their support,so, let us ride the climate change tide.

Let us buy a good bottle of British champagne, let us drink it on a luxury cruise line over the Pole, and let the orchestra play, as they did in the Titanic until the last minute!

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Venezuela’s Oil Industry Is Falling Aparthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/venezuelas-oil-industry-falling-apart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venezuelas-oil-industry-falling-apart http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/venezuelas-oil-industry-falling-apart/#comments Tue, 19 Dec 2017 03:06:25 +0000 Humberto Marquez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153611 Corruption in the Venezuelan state oil industry, denounced by the government itself, and with former ministers and senior managers behind bars, is the latest evidence that, in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet, the industry on which the economy depends is falling apart. There was a drop “in the production of […]

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The Paraguaná oil refinery complex in northwestern Venezuela, one of the world’s largest, can process a million barrels a day, and is working at just a third of its installed capacity. Credit: Pdvsa

The Paraguaná oil refinery complex in northwestern Venezuela, one of the world’s largest, can process a million barrels a day, and is working at just a third of its installed capacity. Credit: Pdvsa

By Humberto Márquez
CARACAS, Dec 19 2017 (IPS)

Corruption in the Venezuelan state oil industry, denounced by the government itself, and with former ministers and senior managers behind bars, is the latest evidence that, in the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet, the industry on which the economy depends is falling apart.

There was a drop “in the production of crude oil, of a million barrels per day,” economist Luis Oliveros, who teaches at the Metropolitan University, told IPS. In December 2013 output stood at 2,894,000 barrels per day compared to 1,837,000 in November 2017, according to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

By 2018 production could drop another 250,000 barrels per day at the current rate, and Venezuela, co-founder of OPEC in 1960 when it was the world’s largest crude oil exporter, is becoming an almost irrelevant player in the global market, Oliveros said.

This despite the fact that it has the largest known deposit of liquid fossil fuels, the 55,000- sq-km southeastern Orinoco oil belt, with an estimated 1.4 trillion barrels of crude, mainly extra-heavy, including proven reserves of 270 billion barrels, according to Venezuelan estimates.

Oil is virtually Venezuela’s only export product, the source of 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings, and by the middle of this decade it represented more than 20 percent of GDP. Most of the business is in the hands of the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which has a few partnerships with transnational corporations.

President Nicolás Maduro started a purge on Nov. 28 within PDVSA, in the midst of the hail of corruption allegations and investigations, and asked the new management, led by a general new to the industry, Manuel Quevedo, to make an effort to raise production by one million barrels per day.

The immediate target was to meet the quota assigned by OPEC for 2017-2018, of 1,970,000 barrels per day, said presidential adviser Alí Rodríguez.

“Merely to sustain the current production of 1.85 million barrels per day – let alone increase it – we need to inject between four to five billion dollars into the industry, and the evidence is that this money is not there,” said Alberto Cisneros, CEO of the oil consulting firm Global Business Consultants.

With the economy in shambles, a four-digit inflation rate, different simultaneous exchange-rate systems for a currency that depreciates daily, shortages of food, medicines and essential supplies, and a foreign debt of more than 100 billion dollars, Venezuela does not have the resources that the industry needs, he told IPS.

Against this backdrop, the oil business “also suffers from management problems since PDVSA in 2003, after a strike against the government, dismissed 18,000 employees, half of its workforce,” former deputy energy minister Víctor Poleo (1999-2002) told IPS.

And corruption was dramatically exposed this December, when the Attorney General’s Office sent 67 PDVSA executives and managers to prison for crimes ranging from falsification of production figures to embezzlement and undermining the country’s sovereignty,.

Among these were two former oil ministers of President Nicolás Maduro, in power since 2013, Eulogio del Pino and Nelson Martínez, who were also presidents of PDVSA and its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, which they allegedly damaged when re-negotiating debts.

Moreover, the Public Prosecutor´s Office is investigating Rafael Ramírez, a former oil minister and president of PDVSA between 2002 and 2014, and until last November Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, for his possible involvement in money laundering operations through the Banca Privada d’Andorra bank.

Petromonagas, a joint venture between state oil company PDVSA and Russia’s Rosneft, extracts crude oil from the Orinoco Oil Belt, in southeastern Venezuela, considered the largest oil deposit on the planet. Credit: Pdvsa

Petromonagas, a joint venture between state oil company PDVSA and Russia’s Rosneft, extracts crude oil from the Orinoco Oil Belt, in southeastern Venezuela, considered the largest oil deposit on the planet. Credit: Pdvsa

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, which claims access to reports on which Andorran Judge Canòlic Mingorance is working, people close to Ramírez received at least two billion euros (2.36 billion dollars) in illegal commissions between 1999 and 2013.

PDVSA, a company born from the nationalisation of the industry in 1975, and which for years boasted of being one of the top five oil companies in the world, is thus languishing under a cloud of accusations of corruption, incompetence and fraudulent management.

Production “is declining due to a lack of investment and maintenance, starting with the obsolete installations of Lake Maracaibo in the northwest, which produces no more than 450,000 barrels per day,” said Cisneros. Since 1914, more than 13,000 oil wells have been drilled there, and up to the 21st century, the lake basin produced more than one million barrels a day.

The relatively new fields of the east provide the rest of the output, but the figure of 1.3 million barrels per day extracted in the Orinoco Belt, announced by del Pino in the middle of the year, has been questioned by the criminal investigation.

Venezuelan expert Francisco Monaldi, at Rice University in the U.S. state of Texas, pointed out that exports are already below 1.4 million barrels per day (they stood at over 2.5 million at the beginning of the century), and less than 500,000 barrels per day were exported to the United States in November

For a century, the United States was the biggest importer of Venezuelan oil, purchasing 1.5 million barrels per day. And it is still the main source of revenue, as exports to China, which exceed 600,000 barrels per day, are used to pay off debts.

In oil refining, “it is perhaps even worse” according to Cisneros, since the Venezuelan refineries, installed to process 1.3 million barrels per day, “worked a few years ago at 90 or 95 percent of their capacity and now are only working at a third, 30 or 35 percent. We do not even supply our fuel needs,” which in part have to be imported, he pointed out.
To the decrease in the production of gasoline, lubricants and other derivatives are added distribution problems in the 1,650 service stations in this country of almost one million square kilometers, 31 million people and four million vehicles.

One of the problems is the absurdly low price of fuel in the country, the cheapest in the world. One litre costs just one bolívar, which at the official exchange rate is equivalent to about 10 cents, but at the black market rate is equivalent to one-thousandth of a cent: with one dollar you could buy 100,000 litres.

The cost of selling half a million barrels of fuel each day at this low price is a loss of between 12 and 15 billion dollars a year for PDVSA.

In addition, there is a problem of smuggling to Colombia, Brazil and the Caribbean, which Venezuela partially curbs with controls and rationing that cause shortages and huge queues of vehicles at gas stations along the border.

PDVSA has paid back interest in arrears this year for its debt bonds, while a US subsidiary of Chinese company Sinopec -a partner that has contributed more than 50 billion dollars in loans to Caracas – sued the Venezuelan state-owned company before a US court, for 21.5 million dollars over unpaid bills.

The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela that make it difficult to renegotiate the country’s and PDVSA’s debts.

“Sanctions and default make it more difficult for partners to invest in joint ventures. The Venezuelan oil industry seems to have entered a spiral of death,” said Monaldi.

Cisneros believes that a recovery of the industry “is possible with a different organisational scheme, such as Argentina’s, which has a ‘front company’, Enarsa, and an operator, YPF (51 percent state-owned, 49 percent listed on the stock market).”

To achieve that “there are two possibilities; one is that the current regime reacts with respect to the economy and oil, and another is that there is a political change and the country starts to take advantage of its human, economic and oil resources,” he argued.

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Long Maligned for Deforestation, Charcoal Emerges from the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/long-maligned-deforestation-charcoal-emerges-shadows/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 22:42:33 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153608 “We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia. His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own […]

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Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Tree seedlings at a nursery in Zambia, where charcoal production is worsening deforestation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
CHOMA, Zambia, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“We have various financial obligations that push us to charcoal making. Top on the list is farming inputs and school fees,” explains Arclay Moonga, a charcoal producer and chairperson of the recently formed Choma District Charcoal Association in Southern Zambia.

His statement validates a popular belief among the locals here that charcoal is their own version of Automated Teller Machines, or ATMs.In a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

Due to high demand, charcoal offers guaranteed cash income, adds 47-year-old Moonga. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Forestry and Farm Facility (FFF) programme, this belief captures one of the main challenges to forests in Zambia, where small-scale farmers and charcoal producers have long been seen as the main reasons behind the country’s increasing deforestation and forest degradation problems.

In a country where forest land accounts for 59 percent of the total area, boasting at least 220 tree species, containing 3,178 million square meters as growing stock, 2.74 billion tons of biomass, and 1.34 billion tons of carbon, the deforestation rate is alarmingly high, currently at 276,021 hectares per year.

Based on the results from the Integrated Land Use Assessment (ILLUA II), Southern province is ranked the third least forested and regenerated area after the Copperbelt and Lusaka. The resultant effects of forest loss have impacted negatively on livelihoods.

“You may agree with me that some experiences like having some rivers that flowed throughout the year becoming seasonal, depletion of firewood sources in nearby places and water shortages are a common challenge causing some women to travel long distances to fetch these basic requirements for domestic use,” observed Daglous Ngimbu, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Southern Province.

Ngimbu told IPS that government is concerned that a province known for its contribution to agriculture is witnessing increased charcoal production, with a worrying trend where even food tree species such as Uapaka Kirkiana, locally known as Masuku, are not being spared by charcoal producers.

These are some of the key challenges that the FFF programme is addressing. A partnership launched in September 2012 between FAO, IIED and IUCN, and AgriCord, its Steering Committee is formed by members affiliated with forest producers, community forestry, indigenous peoples’ organizations, the international research community, business development service provider organizations, private sector, government, and donors.

In addressing the challenges, the FFF is using a unique approach—encouraging sustainable production of charcoal through increased support for collaboration between the Forest Department and the agricultural sector to improve smallholder producer organisations’ technical capacity, and strengthening of enterprise development.

But in a society where charcoal production and the associated trade are mostly illegal, organising producer and trader groups has proven challenging.

“I am reliably informed that it was not easy to bring charcoal producers together and start working with the forest department on various initiatives,” said FAO Country Representative, George Okech during a signing ceremony of a 15,000-dollar grant with the first ever Charcoal Association in Zambia—Choma Charcoal Association, comprising producers, transporters and traders among other stakeholders.

“The Forest and Farm Facility programme believes that organising the producers into groups is the first step to build capacity for sustainable utilisation of forest resources and improve business opportunities for the rural poor people who depend on these forests resources for their lives,” Okech said.

The grant is meant to support the Association in mobilisation of charcoal producers and institutional growth, demonstration of low cost and efficient technologies to produce charcoal that reduce waste of forest materials and to increase participation of members in sustainable forest management activities.

As a platform for capacity building and policy dialogue, Okech said the Charcoal Association is receiving additional support through the Forest Department, which has been given 52,960 dollars for tree nursery growers and other women’s groups related to basket-making activities.

For long-term policy support, “FAO through this facility has also supported the Forest department to develop a new charcoal regulation which is in draft, that will require charcoal producers to form Associations before licenses are provided,” he told IPS.

Interestingly, this bottom-up approach has brought on board and improved key stakeholders’ participation at the local level—the local councils and traditional leadership. The formation of the Charcoal Association was debated and voted for in the full council meeting, giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless charcoal business players.

With this development, their views will now be carried along all the way through to the highest national development decision-making level and mainstreamed into policies and implementation strategies.

“While the people of Choma largely depend on agriculture for livelihoods, the council is aware of climate change which is having a negative impact on agriculture, and we are alive to the fact that forests play a key role in the whole ecosystem,” noted Javen Simoloka, Mayor of Choma municipality.

“That’s why the full council voted for the formation of the Charcoal Association to strengthen community participation and ensure that their views are carried along in the management of forest resources.”

When His Royal Highness Chief Cooma heard this idea for the first time, his initial reaction was skepticism.

“I have a strict policy on conservation of forests in my chiefdom, regulating tree-cutting activities. Therefore, I was worried to hear that higher authorities had allowed for the formation of such a charcoal Association, which to me, was like giving a license for destruction of trees,” he said.

“But I am grateful that Charcoal Associations are not about indiscriminate cutting of trees,” he added with a sigh of relief, as he showcased portions of an indigenous regenerated and exotic forest reserve surrounding his palace.

It is also a relief for Moonga. “Even when we dully paid for licenses, we usually stayed away from government activities out of fear. Most of our members would move their products in the night just because of the perception that all charcoal trading was illegal,” lamented Moonga.

“But now I know that we have been empowered. Personally, as a producer for over 20 years, no one can intimidate me on prices anymore, I am free to bargain with traders and sell publicly as opposed to the past when I would sometimes be forced to sale at give-away prices for fear of being caught by authorities.”

For a country where over 70 percent of the population depends on biomass energy – charcoal and wood fuel – adopting such a community-friendly approach to forest management, formalizing what has over the years been considered illegal, could prove to be the difference between environmental degradation and sustainability.

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Money Talks at One Planet Summit in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:17 +0000 Paris Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153552 As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table. The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors […]

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

By Paris Correspondent
PARIS, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table.

The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors responded to the call from French President Emmanuel Macron for urgent action.Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

“We’re not going fast enough,” Macron said at the Dec. 12 summit, which he co-convened with the United Nations and the World Bank. “Some countries present will see their territories disappear. We all have to move forward… The time is now.”

French multinational insurance company AXA announced that it plans to have 12 billion euros in green investments by 2020 and that it would divest 2.4 billion euros from certain coal-company activities.

Meanwhile the World Bank Group (WBG) highlighted its funding of projects in India for street lighting; in West Africa to tackle “coastal erosion, flooding and climate change adaptation”; in Indonesia regarding geothermal-power development; and with the Global Covenant of Mayors in a new “Cities Resilience Programme” (CRP).

“Over the next three years, the CRP will leverage $4.5 billion in World Bank loans to catalyze billions in public and private capital for technical assistance, project co-financing and credit enhancement,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

He said that the programme would essentially “act as an investment banker for cities to structure programs to address their vulnerabilities to climate change”.

Kim also announced that the World Bank would not be financing upstream oil and gas after 2019, but that in “exceptional circumstances”, consideration would be given to such financing in the “poorest countries” where there is a clear benefit in terms of “energy access for the poor”.

The bank said it was on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020.

With these and other announcements, the One Planet Summit, held two years after the signing of the landmark Paris Agreement, aimed to add momentum to the push for adequate financing of climate adaptation and mitigation, said some observers, while others termed it a public-relations exercise.

The summit brought together heads of state, local government representatives, non-governmental organizations – and schoolchildren. Journalists were out in force, alongside United Nations delegations, at the Seine Musicale venue, an imposing new arts centre on an island in the river Seine, just outside Paris.

Government leaders arrived by boat with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Macron and Kim, the co-convenors, for a packed afternoon of panel discussions and speeches, following morning events.

“Technological progress has already revealed the falsehood that responding to climate change is bad for the economy,” said Guterres. “Finance could be, should be and will be a decisive factor.”

Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

Caribbean representatives announced the launch of a 8-billion-dollar investment plan to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”. The bodies involved include the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and private groups, forming a “Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition”.

The goal is to find a way “to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments”, the Caribbean Development Bank said.

Juvenel Moȉse, Haiti’s president and a participant at the summit, spoke of the vulnerability of the region, emphasizing that all the islands are suffering from the impacts of climate change. He said that Haiti was in a “very fragile zone”.

American actor Sean Penn, also present, said he had got involved in helping Haiti to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, and he said more financing was needed.

“I call on all those gathered to stand with Haiti,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Canada and the World Bank Group said they would support small island developing states to expand their renewable-energy infrastructure to achieve greater access to energy and to decrease pollution.

In side events around the summit, groups such as the International Development Finance Club (which groups 23 international, national and regional development banks from across the world), highlighted their “green financial flows”.

The group said that in 2016, IDFC members made new commitments representing 173 billion dollars in finance, an increase of 30 billion from 2015.

The eve of the summit, Dec. 11, was titled Climate Finance Day, and it was also the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), told journalists that the long years of negotiations had provided a framework in which all sectors of society could take action, as governments “cannot do it alone”.

She said there was a growing sense of urgency, especially after recent extreme weather events that had seen some communities “losing everything they have built throughout their lives”. More support was needed for adaptation, she and other officials noted.

At the summit, the Agence Française de Développement – an IDFC member — signed accords with Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia and the Comoros – as part of the agency’s Adapt’Action Facility.

With financing of 30 million euros over four years, Adapt’Action seeks to “accompany 15 developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement regarding adaptation,” the agency stated.

An official from Niger spoke compellingly of problems that included desertification. The country has been cited as an example of France not doing enough for its former colonies, and political analysts question whether that will change under Macron.

The European Union meanwhile said that its External Investment Plan (EIP) is set to mobilise some 44 billion euros to “partner countries in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood” by 2020.

Among its goals, the EIP aims to “contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals while tackling some of the root causes of migration,” according to the EU.

Regarding Asia and the Pacific, officials at the summit said action by countries in the region were “encouraging”. Heads of state included the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Fiji, who spoke of their climate initiatives. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the country was among the first emerging states to offer a green bond.

The international nature of the summit made the U.S. absence even more noticeable. As U.S. President Donald Trump had announced earlier this year that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he was not invited, French officials said.

Other American climate figures were present, however, such as businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bloomberg said that around the world, businesses were taking “responsible” action because investors want to put their money in environmentally friendly companies.

Still, for some NGOs, not enough is being done, and the summit was more of what they had heard before.

“If governments and business are sincere in their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, they would cease their financing of dirty and harmful energy projects around the world and would instead accept their responsibility for providing public finance to address climate change instead of letting business dictate the agenda,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network.

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Central America Builds Interconnected Clean Energy Corridorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:30:57 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153505 Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek […]

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Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR , Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek to share their surplus electricity from renewable sources, including non-conventional sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar.

To achieve this they will have to gradually modify their energy mixes to depend less and less on thermal power, which is more expensive and has more negative impacts on the planet, since it is based on the burning of fossil fuels."The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market.” -- Werner Vargas

The objective is to inject cleaner energy into the system that interconnects the electricity grids of the countries of the region, with economic and environmental benefits, experts and regional authorities told IPS.

“Each country is doing everything possible to generate energy with clean sources…and if there is surplus energy that is not consumed, it is illogical for it not to be used by other countries that are using thermal power: that’s where the Clean Energy Corridor comes into the picture,” Fernando Díaz, director of electricity at Panama’s Energy Ministry, told IPS.

About 60 percent of electricity in the region is produced from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric plants.

But Central America is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, says a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This organisation, based in the United Arab Emirates, promotes the development of renewable energies in the world, and is the main driver of the Corridor project in Central America, following similar efforts in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Corridor will use a platform already functioning in Central America: a 1,800-km power grid cutting across the isthmus, from Guatemala in the extreme northwest, to Panama in the southeast.

The grid was built to give life to the Regional Electricity Market, created in May 2000, as part of the Central American Integration System (SICA), a mechanism of political and economic complementation established by the presidents of the area in December 1991.

Over 50 percent of the energy traded is supplied by hydroelectric plants, 35 percent by thermal and 15 percent by geothermal, solar and wind, explained René González of Nicaragua, executive director of the Regional Operator Entity (EOR), which administers electricity sales.

It is estimated, he added in a dialogue with IPS in San Salvador, that the proportion of non-conventional renewables could grow to up to 20 percent by 2020.

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The countries of the area as a whole will need an additional seven gigawatts that year, on top of the current level of production, according to a report published in July by IRENA.

The Corridor is in line with the goals set out in the Central American Sustainable Energy Strategy 2020, agreed by the governments of the region in 2007, which aims to overcome the dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable sources, Werner Vargas, the executive director of the SICA General Secretariat, told IPS.

“The idea (of the Corridor) is to inject clean energies into the Central American electricity system, but guaranteeing that there is not too much variability,” explained Vargas, at the Secretariat’s headquarters in San Salvador.

Part of the challenge is to operate a system with higher flows of renewable electricity, which is more unstable, as is the case with solar and wind sources, which depend on climate variability.

“The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market, ” added Vargas, who is also from Nicaragua.

The governments of Central America must also develop the necessary regulatory frameworks to adapt the technical processes and purchase and sale of energy from mainly renewable sources.

If national power grids are fed with clean sources, and surpluses reach the regional network, Central American consumers will be able to have cheaper electricity.

“The cost of electricity production is about 70 percent of its total cost, so if you want to reduce the cost of supply to the final consumer you have to reduce the cost of production,” said the EOR’s González.

He added that the corridor would affect production costs, and the regional market is a way to achieve that goal, since it can inject cheaper energy produced in other regions.

In the same vein, “the vision we have in Central and Latin America is to move towards renewable energies, towards corridors, and that is why interregional connections are important,” said Díaz, from Panama’s Energy Ministry.

He mentioned the case of the project of interconnection between Panama and Colombia, which would link the electricity market of that South American country not only with Panama, but by extension with all of Central America, while linking Central America with different parts of South America.

“This way we will have the capacity to capture solar power from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, hydropower from Brazil, and wind power from Uruguay; these are the things we are seeing as a region,” Díaz said.

Another economic benefit derived from greater energy integration in Central America is that the region is more attractive to international investors, seeing it as a bloc, rather than separate countries.

“It is more attractive to invest in larger projects than individually, that is another fundamental reason for the project: it generates conditions to attract investment,” said the EOR’s González.

But despite the economic and environmental advantages of further development of renewable energy sources, some environmentalists argue that the issue is being viewed too much from a technical and economic perspective, without considering some social costs that these projects may entail.

“There are projects where solar collectors are used on large extensions of land that could be devoted to agriculture or used to build houses…it seems that there is only interest in energy and making money quickly,” said Ricardo Navarro, director of the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology.

Navarro, who is also head of the Salvadoran branch of Friends of the Earth International, told IPS that it is important for the planet to seek to increase the use of renewable energies, but with that same emphasis the governments of the area should engage in energy saving policies.

“How about trying to reduce demand? For example, a tree prevents the sun beating down directly on a building, and thereby reduces the demand for air conditioning; there are also ways to cook food with less electricity,” he said.

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The Journey to Oslohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/the-journey-to-oslo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-journey-to-oslo http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/the-journey-to-oslo/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:14:33 +0000 Christian Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153496 Christian Ciobanu is the senior associate, Global Security Institute.

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ICAN Meeting with the President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen.
(From left to Right) President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Olemic Thommessen, Ms Beatrice Fihn (ICAN), Ms. Grethe Östern (Norwegian People’s Aid), Mr Akira Kawasaki (Peace Boat), and Ms Susi Snyder (PAX). Credit: Christian Ciobanu

By Christian Ciobanu
OSLO, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

On December 10 in Oslo, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ICAN started as a grassroots campaign in 2007. Its aim was to shift the paradigm of discussion about nuclear weapons from security and deterrence to the environmental and humanitarian effects of nuclear explosions. As the prize demonstrates, ICAN has succeeded brilliantly. But, as ICAN acknowledges, this is still only the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

A key development was the holding of three governmental conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Norway, Mexico, and Austria. At every turn, the nuclear weapon states and their allies would claim the humanitarian narrative was reckless and dangerous. IAN remained unwavering in its message: Nuclear weapons must be banned.

By the conference in Mexico, held in early 2014, ICAN was calling for the commencement of negotiations on establishing an international legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons. After all, land mines, chemicals and biological weapons were banned through their respective instruments, and then global norms were established against their use.

The negotiations for the ban treaty concluded in July 2017. 122 states voted to adopt the treaty. It opened for signature on September 20 and more than 50 states have signed it. It will enter into force when ratified by 50 states, probably in the next one to three years.

At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, the Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen praised ICAN and condemned the use and threat of nuclear weapons on humanitarian, moral and legal grounds.

Speaking at the ceremony, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn stated that it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons.

But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.

She further asserted “It’s an affront to democracy to be ruled by these weapons. But they are just weapons. They are just tools. And just as they were created by geopolitical context, they can just as easily be destroyed by placing them in a humanitarian context.”

Fihn further addressed the nuclear umbrella states, including Norway, in her closing remarks. She stated:

To the nations who believe they are sheltered under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, will you be complicit in your own destruction and the destruction of others in your name?

To all nations: choose the end of nuclear weapons over the end of us!

This is the choice that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents. Join this Treaty.

Following Fihn’s speech, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, recounted her harrowing survival of the atomic blast that annihilated her school. She heard a voice in the distance, which told her to keep pushing towards the light.

She explained that “Our light now is the ban treaty. To all in this hall and all listening around the world, I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! See the light? Crawl towards it.”

Indeed, the new light and hope is the ban treaty. This treaty must enter into force and it is time for all nations to sign it. All responsible leaders will sign this treaty and history will judge harshly those who reject it as highlighted.

Since humanity now has the choice to either accept nuclear annihilation or ban nuclear weapons, it is vital for all states to sign and ratify the treaty. For the time being, it seems unlikely that nuclear-armed states will join the treaty. As to nuclear umbrella states, the situation is fluid. Such states, including Norway, boycotted the negotiations, with the exception of the Netherlands. In fact, in late March, the Secretary of State of Norway, Marit Berger Røsland, mentioned that “Norway and our allies have an aim for a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as others have nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

However, the Norwegian parliament is set to take a vote on convening an inquiry in which parliamentarians, with the engagement of civil society, will examine the consequences of signing and not signing the ban treaty. Furthermore, both the Prime Minister, President, and Chair of the Committee on Defense and Security met with representatives of the ICAN in Parliament.

At the press event with the President of Norway, Ms. Grethe Östern, Head of the Norwegian People’s Aid’s Nuclear Disarmament Project, said that it is absolutely vital for the Norwegian parliament to engage in discussions about the utility and the risks related to nuclear deterrence.

Building upon Östern’s statement, Ms. Susi Snyder of ICAN and Pax explained that parliaments in Switzerland, Sweden, and Italy have passed resolutions in which they have instructed their respective governments to explore the ratification of the ban treaty. Snyder concluded her remarks by stating that the parliamentarians will have to think about the consequences of not joining the treaty. They must think about the following question: Are you willing to then be complicit in using nuclear weapons?

We now have the choice to live a world free of nuclear weapons. It is time for the people everywhere to discuss this momentous choice.

Thank you ICAN, for changing the status quo in the nuclear disarmament field.

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Global Initiative to Relieve Pressure on Mountainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:16:51 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153478 International Mountain Day and the Mountain Partnership’s 15th anniversary coincided on December 11, kicking off a three-day Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. An initiative of Italy, Switzerland, the UN Environment Programme and FAO, the Mountain Partnership is committed to increasing […]

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Mountains are home to 13 percent of the world’s population. Credit: FAO/Edson Vandeira

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

International Mountain Day and the Mountain Partnership’s 15th anniversary coincided on December 11, kicking off a three-day Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

An initiative of Italy, Switzerland, the UN Environment Programme and FAO, the Mountain Partnership is committed to increasing mountain conservation awareness and rebuilding development and international policies. Along with the Paris climate agreement, the 2013 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes that noone should be left behind.

“Our world needs all our pieces and that includes mountains,” shared Andrew Taber passionately, Executive Director of the Mountain Institute and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee.

Sixty countries and 200 civil society organizations pledged to relieve climate, hunger, and migration pressures on mountain ecosystems and communities.

“Yes, mountains are under pressure. Yes, mountains still don’t play the role they need to in their countries, but we must get out of this defensive attitude,” contributed Dominique Kohli, Assistant Director-General of the Federal Office for Agriculture of Switzerland.

This attempt to encourage positivity directed at a global audience was explained further by Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, “The mountain agenda is a global agenda. Each mountain region has its specific vulnerability. There is no overall recipe to address vulnerability, so it needs to be done based on the specific situation. Vulnerability has also to do, ultimately, with political attention to mountains.”

With 1 billion people living in mountains and over half the world’s population dependent on mountains for water, food, and clean energy, the pressures mountains are facing reach across regions. Massive environmental shifts brought on by climate change, natural disasters, and land degradation threaten the abundance of fresh water and other goods cultivated in mountains.

The Himalayas are hugely affected by climate change explained Hofer, “For example, in the Himalayan area, the most prominent concern is climate change. The increase in temperature is 2-3 degrees, or even 3-4 degrees, which is much more than the global average. Glaciers in the mountains are retreating.”

Climate change reduces rainfall. In Kenya, mountain communities face water shortages and difficulties growing food. Kenya has overcome these vulnerabilities by utilizing the Partnership’s Adaptation for Food Security and Ecosystem Resilience in Africa project, which promotes collecting rainwater on roofs and building irrigation systems. Now, male and female farmers store water and can grow food for personal consumption as well as for profit.

Hunger is another major issue faced by mountain people. In Colombia, FAO helped combat hunger by implementing the framework for the Biocarebe Connections project, which along with other initiatives, increased food security through forest restoration programmes.

FAO has successfully worked with Nepal to overcome forest degradation, “Over the last twenty or twenty-five years, Nepal has become a champion in terms of community forestry and handing over the responsibility of forest management to communities has led to a strong improvement of mountain forests which is linked to institutionalization of this by the government,” said Hofer.

Governments recognizing and adopting Mountian Partnership initiatives is crucial to globally combating the myriad of problems mountains face.

As the vulnerability of mountain ecosystems increases, so does migration. Many mountain men migrate to already stressed urban areas to find work leaving behind women and families.

“One and a half million young Nepali men work in the Gulf region. It has a big impact on the livelihoods and social situation of women. Women have to deal with everything; the family, the farm, elderly people,” emphasized Hofer.

To alleviate the burden on mountain women and as incentive, community investment in countries like Nepal and specifically Tajikistan, where almost 30% of the glaciers have melted, the Climate Resilience Financing Facility (CLIMADAPT) gives loans to farmers, households, and entrepreneurs who adopt measures to reduce climate change.

Despite the complex climate, hunger, and migration pressures, “Mountain communities and mountain people are very resilient,” states Hofer.

Even though mountain people are strong and have generations of knowledge that allows them to adapt to climate variances and survive, current hardships are exceeding normal levels.

“It is not that mountain communities now are starting to ask for help, they implement their indigenous strategies to deal with variability, but because of the lack of attention and lack of voice in terms of decision making, when the changes are really strong compared to what they are used to, they get to a certain limit,” explained Hofer.

Mountain people need a platform to speak from within their communities and countries. To relieve the immense pressure on mountain ecosystems and people, which is undoubtedly a global problem, mountain communities must be heard so governments can take united interdisciplinary actions.

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Are Rising Seas, Coastal Erosion & Powerful Storms a Wave of the Future for Small Island Nations?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rising-seas-coastal-erosion-powerful-storms-wave-future-small-island-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rising-seas-coastal-erosion-powerful-storms-wave-future-small-island-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rising-seas-coastal-erosion-powerful-storms-wave-future-small-island-nations/#comments Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:19:09 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153421 The 44-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) represents some of the world’s most vulnerable island nations fighting a virtually losing battle against rising sea levels triggered by global warming and climate change. A negotiating voice of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), AOSIS has membership drawn from all oceans and regions of the world, including […]

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The Maldives. Credit: UNDP

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

The 44-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) represents some of the world’s most vulnerable island nations fighting a virtually losing battle against rising sea levels triggered by global warming and climate change.

A negotiating voice of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), AOSIS has membership
drawn from all oceans and regions of the world, including Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea.

According to the US National Ocean Service (NOS), the two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and increased melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets.

The oceans are absorbing more than 90 percent of the increased atmospheric heat associated with emissions from human activity, says NOS.

Ahmed Sareer, Foreign Secretary of the Maldives and a former AOSIS chair (2015-2017), told IPS that “warming seas have already shifted the fish stocks that we rely on; back-to-back coral bleaching episodes have undermining essential marine habitats as well as critical ecotourism industries.”

Rising seas, worsening coastal erosion, and increasingly powerful storms have forced SIDS to climate-proof their infrastructure projects both in the Caribbean and the Pacific and even threaten the territorial integrity of low-lying SIDS, he said.

“The devastation caused by the recent storms in the Caribbean are a reminder of how vulnerable small island states are, and how years of development and economic gains can be wiped out overnight, leaving these countries to start from scratch”, said Sareer, whose island nation has been threatened by sea level rise triggered by climate change.

Described as “one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries” and comprising more than a thousand coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has a population of nearly 440,000 people compared to India, one of its neighbours, with a hefty population of over 1.2 billion.

The Maldives was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami, and according to one report, 57 islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, 14 had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of tsunami damage estimated at over $400 million.

As part of its defences, the Maldives has been erecting a wall around the capital of Malé to thwart a rising sea and a future tsumani.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on December 5, Ambassador Robert Sisilo of Solomon Islands, told delegates his country sat on the largest aquatic continent in the world, and had a huge maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that was much larger than its land territory.

“The ocean had always been the Solomon Islands’ source of livelihood, but it was also its culture, gastronomy and leisure”.

“The ocean defines who we are,” he said, warning that failing to protect the ocean from climate change, acidification, plastic pollution and oil spills was “failing to protect ourselves”.

The (June 2017) Ocean Conference had represented a ray of hope, and the international community must accelerate that positive momentum, said Sisilo, calling on the Security Council to address the issue of climate change.

Sareer told IPS the SAMOA Pathway, the SIDS blueprint for sustainable development, calls attention to the crosscutting nature of climate change and sustainable development in areas as diverse as infrastructure development, agriculture, marine conservation, and climate adaptation.

The follow-up and review of the SAMOA pathway is scheduled to happen over the next 2 years. “We need broad and comprehensive engagement from all actors including civil society in the regional and interregional consultations which will be taking place.”

He pointed out that the reduction of harmful emissions, transitioning to renewable sources of energy, and investing in mitigation and adaptation are crucial for achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

“As small island states, we are advocating for the more ambitious 1.5 degree goal, recognising that the impacts of climate change at 2 degrees are significantly worse. Therefore these investments, particularly in the context of transitioning to renewable energy need to be scaled up to a great extent, and also be sustainable and durable,” he declared.

“As SIDS, we also believe that equal focus needs to be placed on adaptation as well as mitigation. We are already experiencing the impacts of climate change on our islands, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) needs to adequately cater to these needs instead of having a focus on emissions reductions.”

Therefore, AOSIS works towards accelerating adaptation and mitigation efforts to set SIDS development pathways to a low greenhouse gas and climate-resilient development, he added.

The Maldives, as the Chair of AOSIS, and in collaboration with IRENA, launched the Initiative for Renewable Island Energy (IRIE) in October, which will facilitates support for Small Island States in their transition to renewable energy, and in achieving energy efficiency.

Meeting the financing goal of $100 billion annually by 2020 is essential, and new partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organisations, and other institutions can help to mobilise the resources, Sareer said.

SIDS say required funding should be predictable, sustainable, adequate and easy to access. In this regard, AOSIS has been advocating for simplified access procedures for the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and also greater transparency on how the funds are allocated and dispersed, with a clear understanding of what constitutes as climate financing.

The Adaption Fund (AF) is important to SIDS because the fund recognizes the particular challenges that many of SIDS face in addressing climate change. In addition, the AF is active in working to ensure its resources are always accessible by SIDS.

In the Fund’s governance, seats on the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) are reserved for special representatives of SIDS.

So far, 14 countries from SIDS have seen their projects or programmes approved by the AF for a total grant amount of $96,951,733, including readiness grants. Projects in SIDS account for around 22% of the total commitments of the fund.

Even though the total amount approved by the AF is lower than that of the GCF, the AF has approved more projects than the GCF, with less bureaucratic modalities, facilitating direct access through NIEs for small-scale projects adapted to SIDS particular circumstances.

Given the small size of SIDS, Sareer said, projects are more likely to be small-scale projects. It is therefore essential that this characteristic is well understood and taken into account by the different funds under the Convention while reviewing proposals from SIDS.

As AF is tied to the Kyoto Protocol (KP), it may need to undergo changes in its legal status and basic governance structure in order to serve the Paris Agreement

On Oceans, Sareer said marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics, are a global problem, as are the more permanent impacts of deoxygenation and ocean acidification resulting from climate change.

“This presents an existential threat to SIDS, since it has a direct bearing on our economies, marine biodiversity, food security and human health.”

Meanwhile, Tourism and Fisheries, in island states, constitutes a huge portion of government revenue and the health of the oceans are directly linked to these industries.

“Therefore AOSIS wishes to ensure that that these issues are comprehensively addressed, not only in the UNFCCC from the climate change perspective, by also in the context of the implementation of SDG 14 of the 2030 Agenda.”

AOSIS was actively engaged in shaping the outcomes of the first ever oceans conference, and we are advocating strongly for the follow-up of the outcomes from this conference, as well as another conference in 2020, Sareer declared.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Pacific Islands Struggling to Meet SDG7 Energy Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/pacific-islands-struggling-meet-sdg7-energy-targets/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 00:17:37 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153374 The four Pacific Island nations who are amongst the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) may be falling behind in meeting energy access targets because they are too busy devoting resources towards climate change. The Pacific island nations that are classified as LDC’s are Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. “Most of the resources in these nations […]

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A large scale energy renewal project in Samoa. Credit: UNDP Photo

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

The four Pacific Island nations who are amongst the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) may be falling behind in meeting energy access targets because they are too busy devoting resources towards climate change.

The Pacific island nations that are classified as LDC’s are Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

“Most of the resources in these nations meant for development –including energy development – have to be diverted towards adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts,” said Gauri Pradhan, the Global Coordinator of the policy and campaigning organisation, LDC Watch

“Due to this, Pacific Islands have focused less on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (energy access) and more on those such as SDG13 (climate action), SDG14 (oceans) and SDG15 (terrestrial ecosystem).”

LDC’s refer to a group of nations formally recognized by the UN as confronting severe structural impediments – they usually also face extensive economic and environmental vulnerability. Currently there are 47 nations classified as LDCs. Nations may graduate from the list if they meet certain criteria.

Pradhan’s comments follow the release of the United Nations Conference for Development and Trade (UNCTAD) ‘Least Developed Countries Report 2017.’

The report highlighted that LDC’s are falling alarmingly behind in their ability to meet Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) which pledges to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Indeed, according to the report, the majority of LDCs populations go without access to electricity.

The report stressed that energy is central to everything in development, stating that productive use of electricity is “critical to spur productivity and economic transformation” and ultimately lift nations out of the poverty trap.

Currently the energy situation in Pacific Island LDC’s is fairly bleak. For example, according to The World Bank, only 10 percent the population in the Solomon Islands enjoys access to electricity. The story is only marginally better in Vanuatu which has 30 per cent of its population connected.

In an interview with IPS, a spokesperson from the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) said that Pacific Island LDC’s face unique barriers to energy access compared to their landlocked counterparts.

“They face some unique challenges such as geographically dispersed populations spread across several small islands, lack of technical and human capacity as well as complex land tenures,” the spokesperson said.

Following a similar line of thought, Pradhan said that such barriers have kept Pacific Island LDC’s largely reliant on imported fossil fuels – exposing them to unpredictable and volatile prices fluctuations.

The sad irony here is that Pacific Island LDCs are blessed with an incredible abundance of water, wind and solar resources.

“Going forward, the only real, sustainable and long-term option is for these nations to invest in these renewable energy sources. But they’ve been limited to date by their geographical remoteness, their financial constraints, a lack of adequate energy infrastructure, technology, and weak institutional mechanisms,” Pradhan said.

Pradhan also highlighted that an overlooked reason for slow results in the renewable energy sector is because Pacific Island LDC’s resources are being spent trying to deal with climate change.

To illustrate his point, he provided this example:

“Pacific islands are experiencing unprecedented sea level rise… Saltwater intrusion into freshwater lenses can cause sever drinking water scarcity in the region. Kiribati has already expressed urgent need for funding for desalination plants to provide safe water for the 110,000 residents of country, where much of the water has become contaminated by seawater intrusion into groundwater,” he said.

“Most of the resources meant for development have to be diverted towards mitigating these types of climate change impacts.”

Despite this, Pradhan did make special mention of Vanuatu, stating that it’s the “only Pacific Island LDC that’s shown significant improvement in development of renewable energy.”

The Vanuatu Government’s ‘National Energy Road Map’ outlines a path for the nation to achieve universal energy access to energy by 2030. Already they have an immediate goal to have 65% of their energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

They have not only articulated their intentions but actively began to commit to them. The World Bank earlier this year approved a 4-million-dollar project to deliver solar and micro-grid electricity generators that will give 45,000 people across rural Vanuatu access to electricity for the first time.

It is projected that Vanuatu may be the next country to graduate from LDC status. The only countries to have previously done so are Botswana (1994), Cape Verde (2007), Maldives (2011), Samoa (2014).


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Lobbying & Sponsorships at COP23 Corrupted Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks/#comments Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:44:02 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153106 The world’s nations got together in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where nearly 200 countries and some 23, 000 delegates met to discuss and influence the negotiations over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement. The agreement, reached at the COP21 […]

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Carbon Projects Waiting to Exhale. Credit : IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

The world’s nations got together in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where nearly 200 countries and some 23, 000 delegates met to discuss and influence the negotiations over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement.

The agreement, reached at the COP21 in Paris, brought 195 countries together to adopt the first-ever legally binding global agreement to deal with climate changes through mitigations and financial policies starting in the year 2020.

This is why, COP23, the climate negotiations held in Bonn and which concluded November 18, proved to be extremely technical – the Paris agreement was essentially what a constitution is to a new regime and now, it was time to pass the laws.

And where there is law-making, there are lobbyists.

Both nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and industry representatives lobbied at COP but not for the same things – businesses have become ever more involved in the UN climate process and this has led to some uncomfortable interactions between the two groups.

A recently published report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) found that energy industries are, in fact, some of the most powerful lobbyists at climate talks such as COP.

“Big Polluters like oil, gas, coal, and agricultural transnational corporations (TNCs) are not only the largest emitters; their climate denial, lobbying, and policy interference make these industries one of the primary obstacles to sound climate policy at the local, national, and international levels,” states the CAI report, Polluting Paris.

For almost as long as the UNFCCC has existed, the same industries whose profits depend on the burning of oil, coal, and gas have been permitted to bankroll the UN climate talks, it elaborated.

This has long been a contentious issue because it allows some of the corporations to write checks to bolster the COP Presidency’s budget, provide services such as cars for delegates, or even build the negotiating halls where world leaders gather to address climate change.

For instance, during COP17 in Durban, corporations were given a choice by the South African government to fund entertaining jazz concerts, fancy gala dinners, or a lounge.

The British-South African mining giant, Anglo American, sponsored a number of keynote events, including the official opening ceremony and also co-hosted a cocktail rception hand in hand with the South African government, during which its chief executive warned that an energy future without coal is not an option.

The football-stadium-turned-conference-center where the talks took place during COP19 in Warsaw was covered in corporate logos, including PGE and LOTOS, both majority state-owned coal and oil companies. Not only did the Polish government co-organize the “International Coal and Climate Summit” alongside the industry-funded World Coal Association, they also used their official COP19 website to push for oil drilling in the Arctic (which LOTOS is involved in).

Poland will also host COP24 in 2018, when the guidelines and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement will be agreed upon.

However, after years of pressure from advocates and civil society, a call for a conflict of interest policy that ensures that participants with interests at odds with the objectives of the UNFCCC to not be invited to participate was finally culminated at the climate change conference held ahead of this year’s COP in Bonn in May.

Yet when, Fiji, the first small-island developing country to preside over these climate talks, understandably so established a trust fund to raise US 26 million to help to finance this COP23 and was actively requesting financial support, numerous fossil fuel based corporations and developed countries wrote cheques.

These include Fiji Airways, which then also sported the COP23 logo on one of its planes as well as Australia, Japan, the EU and even the US that has infamously decided to pull out of the Paris agreement and had reneged on its financial contributions to the UNFCCC or the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help countries like Fiji respond to climate change.

“The dirtiest polluters have long used their sponsorship of climate talks as part of a PR strategy to pretend they are part of the solution,” says Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory. “By sponsoring these talks, a Big Polluter can prop itself up as a legitimate actor, which in turn makes politicians more receptive to its deceptive lobbying”

This, he adds, swings the door open even wider for Big Polluters to expand their influence over climate policy.

Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron, for example, have all previously pledged their support for the Paris accord and even released statements to show their disagreement with Trump’s decision to default from the agreement.

But the fossil fuel industry has, in fact, known for decades that its products and practices were a danger to the planet – only 25 fossil fuel producers are responsible for over half of global emissions, according to a Carbon Majors Report.

But the industry giants have secured a seat at the head of the international climate policymaking table, elaborates the CAI report.

Since corporations are able to effectively buy their way into high-level events attended by world climate leaders, sponsorship itself often directly provides them with the lobbying prospects they need to undermine climate policy.

At UNFCCC, these fossil fuel TNCs then exploit the climate crisis by hijacking the talks, stifling ambition, pushing false solutions, and blocking the financing (and therefore withholding the availability) of real solutions, according to the report.

During COP23, for example, during a roundtable discussion on non-market approaches to implement the Paris Agreement, the Ukrainian delegation rolled out a proposal for the creation of a new permanent subsidiary body that would be called ‘Committee for Future’. This committee would place energy companies directly between the international climate negotiations and their national implementation.

The Ukrainian presenter of the proposal stated that “the Committee for the Future functions in between the global UNFCCC and national [climate plans and] allows direct participation of the corporates. US energy majors and other non-state actors will be brought to the UN table.”

In the lead-up to COP23, the US Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, had struck an $80 million dollar deal to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal to Ukraine by the end of the year.

In fact, the Trump administration in the US is, perhaps, the most relevant example of how this industry –puppet-show plays out.

“Who can doubt, for example, that the failure of the United States to secure domestic climate legislation, or ratify the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement, is largely the result of industry interference?” asks the CAI report.

And it is not just the US, many of these UNFCCC-accredited organizations publicly declare support for the Paris Agreement and climate policy more broadly but an in-depth look at who constitute their board of directors and where their money goes shows otherwise.

For example, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) member base is made up of 127 CEOs from Australia’s largest and wealthiest corporations and BusinessEurope’s membership and leadership also includes many polluting corporations yet both have aggressively obstructed climate policy initiatives for years.

This in no way, undermines the role of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement – according to Corporate Accountability, without UNFCC, these Global North governments are left free to do what they want while the rest of the world, especially Global South countries, low-income communities, people of colour, women, and children continue to pay the price.

World governments are again slated to take up the issue of conflicts of interest at the climate talks in May 2018.

“Fossil fuels must be left in the ground and Big Polluters must be delinked from the climate talks. To do this, we must end the corporate capture of the UNFCCC,” says Nnimmo Bassey, from Health of Mother Earth Foundation.

The only way Parties to the UNFCCC, it seems, can develop and implement real solutions to climate change is if those working on behalf of Big Oil, Coal, Gas and other Big Polluters aren’t allowed to weaken the guidelines world governments are currently developing for implementation of the Paris Agreement,

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Desperate Need to Halt ‘World’s Largest Killer’ — Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:49:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153098 Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution. The argument is clear: […]

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Birds scavenging for food amidst the debris at the landfill in Danbury, Connecticut in the United States. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution.

The argument is clear: every part of the planet and every person is affected by pollution, “the world’s largest killer”, and while solutions are within reach, new policies, enhanced public and private sector leadership, redirected investments and massive funding are all “desperately” needed, a major UN report has warned.

The new UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2017 Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, which was made public on 16 November by UNEP’s Executive Director Erik Solheim, analyses impacts on human health and ecosystems brought on by air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution.

A Pollution-Free Planet?

Five key messages to advance towards the goal of a pollution-free planet:
1. Political leadership and partnerships at all levels, mobilising the industry and finance sectors;
2. Action on the worst pollutants and better enforcement of environmental laws;
3. Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, better waste prevention and management;
4. Investment in cleaner production and consumption to counter pollution, alongside increased funding for pollution monitoring and infrastructure to control pollution; and
5. Advocacy to inform and inspire people worldwide.

SOURCE: UNEP’s 2017 Executive Director's Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet

“None of us is now safe, so now all of us have to act, ” said Solheim while presenting the report to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, 6-17 November, explaining that it provides a clearer picture than ever before of the scale of the pollution menace – and the scale of action that will be needed.

Ways to undertake such action are scheduled to be on the agenda of hundreds of governments, business sector and civil society representatives as well as scientists and experts, participating in the UN Environment Assembly – the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment – from 4-6 December in Nairobi.

According to the report, while everyone is affected by pollution, some are directly exposed by handling chemicals at work or by living in the 80% of cities whose air doesn’t meet UN health standards. Others are among the 3.5 billion people who rely on our polluted seas for food, or make up the 2 billion who still do not have access to clean toilets.

 

1 in 4 Deaths Worldwide

The new comprehensive assessment also highlights that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide – or 12.6 million people a year – are due to environmental causes. “The health effects are stark, with air pollution alone killing some 6.5 million annually, affecting mostly poor and vulnerable people.”

Meanwhile, ecosystems are also “greatly damaged” by coastal, wastewater and soil pollution, it warns, adding that the vast majority of the world’s wastewater is released “untreated”, affecting drinking water to 300 million people.

The report lists implementation, knowledge, infrastructure, limited financial and industry leadership, pricing and fiscal, and behavioural as five main gaps that limit effective action.

“The only answer to the question of how we can all survive on this one planet with our health and dignity intact is to radically change the way we produce, consume and live our lives,” said on this Ligia Noronha, one of the report’s coordinators.

 

Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation throughout the Caribbean, including in Punta Alegre, on the north coast of Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Credit: Jose M. Correa/UNDAC

Paris Is Not Enough

Just one week ahead of the Bonn climate conference, UNEP warned that pledges made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement are only “a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said the UNEP chief on 30 October.

The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report warns that as things stand, “even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.”

“Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.”

The Emissions Gap Report says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under 100 collars per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.

Meanwhile, other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Surge to New High

On top of this, the UN weather agency on the same day, 30 October 2017, warned that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued this alert in Geneva at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, indicating that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 parts per million in 2015.

“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas, underlining that it is time for governments to fulfil the pledges they made in Paris in 2015 to take steps to reduce global warming.

 

And Not At All in the Right Direction

Emphasising that the new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialisation and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources “have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.”

10 to 20 Times Faster than Ever

To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.

“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Tarasova said. In fact, according to the WMO’s report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 percent of pre-industrial levels.

After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014. Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.

Question: how many summits, reports, warnings, alerts, and scientific evidence are still needed for humans to halt this process of self-destruction?

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At Climate Summit, Two Global Energy Alliances Emergehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:50:58 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153088 As the summit of governments known as COP23 reached its conclusion in Bonn, Germany this week, two clear alliances have emerged in the global energy landscape. One of them, the International Solar Alliance, was launched in Paris and is all set to become a legal entity. The other, an alliance to phase out coal, was […]

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Protesters at the COP3 in Bonn demand the complete phase-out of coal, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Protesters at the COP3 in Bonn demand the complete phase-out of coal, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Nov 19 2017 (IPS)

As the summit of governments known as COP23 reached its conclusion in Bonn, Germany this week, two clear alliances have emerged in the global energy landscape.

One of them, the International Solar Alliance, was launched in Paris and is all set to become a legal entity. The other, an alliance to phase out coal, was announced on Dec. 16 in one of the biggest developments at COP23.“Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health and for our kids." --Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Jointly launched by Britain and Canada – both developed countries – the alliance already has 20 members, including Italy, France, Mexico, Norway, El Salvador and several U.S. states.

The International Solar Alliance, on the other hand, is led by India – an emerging economy. Forty-four countries have already joined this alliance, of which 16 have also ratified it. As a result, the alliance will come into force on Dec. 6.

New Emissions Data, New Alliances

The launch of the Global Alliance to Power Past Coal comes at a time when global carbon emissions are rising. Earlier in the week, the University of East Anglia and Global Carbon Project global emissions report showed a significant rise in global carbon emissions in 2017. The rise was observed after three years during which emissions figures were static. The biggest increase in carbon emissions occurred in China and India.

According to the report, Global CO2 emissions from all human activities are set to reach 41 billion tons (41 Gt CO2) by the end of 2017. Meanwhile emissions from fossil fuels are set to reach 37 Gt CO2 – a record high. China’s emissions are projected to grow by 3.5 percent while India’s emissions are projected to grow by 2 percent.

Launching the new alliance to phase out coal, Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said, “Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health and for our kids. Coal is literally choking our cities with close to a million dying every year from coal pollution. I am thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.”

The members of the new alliance, which aims to grow to 50 by the next COP in 2018, would not only phase out coal in their own countries by 2030 but also stop investing in coal-fired electricity both within and outside of their countries.

In sharp contrast, the members of the other alliance – the ISA – are reluctant to make any commitment to end coal energy before 2030. India, the leader of the alliance and a major coal producer, argues that coal is needed to end poverty and provide its poor citizens access to electricity. The country plans to produce 1.5 billion tons of coal by 2020 – double the amount it produces now.

“From the Indian perspective, let me make it very clear: there are development imperatives which as a country we need to fulfill. If you look at the total emissions, our contribution is miniscule. The point is, while this factor is spoken of, what is not spoken [about] is India’s extreme effort at trying to get energy much better,” said India’s Environment Secretary in a definite statement to the press.

“Today we are talking of producing 175 gigawatt of energy from renewable sources by 2022. Of that 120 GW will be from solar and the rest from biomass and others. Coal will continue to be used for some time, but we are continuously looking at alternative sources of energy.”

Anand Kumar, secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said that IAS’s core goal is to bring 121 countries on a single platform to explore ways to utilize and promote solar energy.

Besides production, the alliance would also focus on making solar energy cheaper and more accessible by garnering investment, bringing down the cost of solar cells, solar modules and solar storage.

The other prominent members of the alliance – China, Australia and New Zealand – still heavily invest in coal, even as they’re trying to produce more energy from renewable sources. At the COP, soon after the emissions report was presented by the University of East Anglia, Brazil, India, South Africa and China – known as the BASIC countries – released a joint statement reiterating their right to grow and asking the world to look at their emissions from the perspective of equity.

No coal vs no unabated coal

However, even as the new Global Alliance to Power Past Coal was announced, some of the statements raised doubts over whether the alliance only wanted to end unabated coal or coal in general.

Unabated coal refers to plants that are not fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which captures the harmful emissions that cause global warming.

According to Claire Perry, Minister for Climate Change and Industry in the UK and one of the alliance’s leaders, unabated coal was “the dirtiest” and her country would try to end using it. “The UK is committed to completely phasing out unabated coal-fire power generation no later than 2015 and we hope to inspire others to follow suit.”

Perry did not elaborate if the UK or the new alliance would still support use of abated or partially abated coal.

India, which otherwise refuses to end its use of coal, is also in favor of using partially abated or so-called “clean coal.” Says C K Mishra, “We are also looking at making use of better quality coals.”

Sitting on the Fence: Germany’s non-partisan status

Interestingly, Germany – which provided the venue for COP 23 – has not announced its intention to join either of these alliances. This has been severely criticized by anti-coal activists who have accused Germany of having a double standard by organizing the climate conference while not taking a strong step on either ending coal or shifting to renewable energy.

On Nov. 15, as Angela Merkel reached the COP to address the parties, the activists laid out a red banner that read “keep it in the ground” for the chancellor to walk on.

“We want no coal. We want no dirty power,” said one of the activists who was not allowed inside the conference.

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Coal Pollution Continues to Spread in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:23:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153053 Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source. These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and […]

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In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
BONN, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source.

These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and renewable sources, as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, approved in December 2015.

“Latín America doesn’t have a major global role in the sector, but it does have influence on the region…Colombia (for example) exports lots of coal. The problem is that there are many projects in the pipeline and that’s a threat of locking-in dependency for years,” Heffa Schucking, head of the non-governmental organisation Urgewald, told IPS in the German city of Bonn.

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), drawn up by the German organisation, reflects the use of coal in the region, in a global context.“A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn't only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.” -- Heffa Schucking

Urgewald presented the report during the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, a city that is part of what used to be Germany’s industrial belt, driven precisely by coal.

The list, a comprehensive database of some 770 companies participating in the thermal coal industry, points out that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the installed thermoelectric capacity based on coal amounts to 17,909 MW, most of which operates in Mexico (5,351 MW), Chile, (5,101 MW) and Brazil (4,355 MW).

However, new projects for the use of coal will add an additional 8,427 MW, of which Chile will contribute 2,647, Brazil 1,540, the Dominican Republic 1,070, Venezuela 1,000, Jamaica 1,000, Colombia 850 and Panama 320. These ventures will further expand the use of coal in the region, hindering its removal to combat climate change.

The GCEL identifies 14 companies based in the region, of which five are Brazilian, another five Colombian and one per country from Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

It also identifies transnational corporations that operating in the coal industry in the region such as the U.S.-based AES and Drummond; Italy’s Enel, France’s Engie, the Anglo-Swiss Glencore, the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and the British Anglo American.

At COP 23, whose electricity comes partially from the lignite mine Hambach, near Bonn, the protests against coal have resonated, due to the major role it plays in the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads "coal to museums", during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads “coal to museums”, during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Colombia extracts the largest volume of coal in the area – 90 million tons in 2016 – in a sector dominated by Drummond, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American.

Since 2013, coal extraction in Colombia has ranged between 85 and 90 million tons, mainly from open-pit mines and chiefly for export.

Meanwhile, thermoelectric generation from coal climbed to 1,369.5 MW in 2016.

Brazil produces about eight million tons of coal per year and operates 21 coal-fired thermoelectric plants, generating 3.71 million kilowatts, equivalent to 2.27 percent of the country’s installed capacity.

In 2015, Mexico produced about 7.25 million tons a year, the lowest level in recent years due to the fact that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has reduced its coal imports.

The country’s coal-fired power generation totaled 30.124 billion MW/h in 2015, 34.208 billion in 2016 and 24.274 billion in 2017, from three CFE plants.

Chile is one of the largest thermoelectric generators in the region, with 29 coal-fired power plants that produce 14,291 MW, equivalent to 61.5 percent of the national installed capacity.

Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of Brazilian environmental organisations, complained that his country lacks a clear policy on coal.

“There are renewable energy goals for 2030, but the electricity capacity continues to be auctioned for fossil fuels and more thermoelectric plants are being built. There is no link between the energy agenda” and the voluntary goals of reducing polluting gases in Brazil, Rittl stressed.

The Brazilian ecologist is one of the 20,000 participants at COP 23, who include academics and delegates from government, civil society, international organisations and the business community.

The GCEL covers 88 percent of the world’s coal production and 86 percent of coal-driven thermoelectric installed capacity.

In addition, the database identifies 225 companies that plan to expand coal mining, and 282 that project more power plants.

Of the 328 mining companies listed, 30 are responsible for more than half of the world’s coal production, and of the 324 thermoelectric plants, the largest 31 cover more than half of the global installed capacity.

The campaign seeks for investors to withdraw funds from the coal industry, in order to cancel new projects and gradually close down existing plants.

Colombia has 16.54 billion tons in coal reserves. Mariana Rojas, director of Climate Change in the Environment Ministry, acknowledged to IPS the difficulty of abandoning coal.

“Different strategies are being used for the different sectors. We want to encourage the increase of renewables in the energy mix; they have become more competitive due to the lower prices. But we cannot reach all sectors,” she said.

Coal was left out of the carbon tax created by the December 2016 tax reform – a reflection of the industry’s clout.

The report “Coal in Colombia: Who wins? Who loses? Mining, global trade and climate change“, drawn up in 2015 by the non-governmental Tierra Digna Centre for Studies on Social Justice, warned that the Andean country plans to continue mining coal until at least 2079.

Brazil already has another plant under construction with a capacity of 340 MW, and plans for at least six more facilities, that would generate 804 MW.

Mexico is in a similar situation, since the current mining permits would expire in 2062, for over 700 million tons in reserves.

Since 2015, the state-run company CFE has been holding online auctions of coal, to control the supply of more than two million tons per year and regulate the activity.

Urgewald’s Schucking called for turning off the financial tap for these projects. “A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn’t only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.”

Germany has set a 2018 deadline for shutting down its last coal mines, while Canada announced that it would stop using coal by 2030 and Italy promised to do so by 2025.

“The first step is to eliminate subsidies for coal” and redirect them to solar and wind energy, Rittl proposed.

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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Economic Development vs. Climate Action: Rebutting Deniers and Wafflershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 23:38:10 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152985 As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together. Addressing science journalists a week […]

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U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

By Friday Phiri
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov 12 2017 (IPS)

As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together.

Addressing science journalists a week before the Bonn climate talks, Professor Holdren said among climate change skeptics, “wafflers’ are the most dangerous, because their arguments to postpone aggressive climate action now in favor of economic progress has the potential to increasingly influence debate and government policy.”

According to Professor Holdren, the wafflers claim to favor research and development on better technologies so emissions reductions can be made more cheaply in the future, and further argue for accelerating economic progress in developing countries as the best way to reduce their vulnerability as well as counting on adaptation as needed.“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong.” --Prof. John Holdren

However, it is ironic, he says, that the current US administration “with climate deniers and wafflers occupying top positions” are cutting support for the same approaches they propose.

“Of course, the deniers and the wafflers in the top positions in the Trump administration are, with surpassing cynicism, busy cutting support for all of these approaches,” he said, referencing the numerous reversals that the Trump administration has made even to the ‘win-win’ adaptation-preparedness resilience measures adopted under Obama.

Apart from drastic domestic spending cuts to climate related programmes, President Trump earlier this year decided to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement—a move that has left the global community wondering what’s next.

Africa’s Dismay

Despite its negligent contribution to global emissions, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change—already suffering droughts, floods, affecting the predominantly rain-fed agricultural productivity and production. And Professor Holdren’s address titled: Why the Wafflers are Wrong—Addressing Climate Change is Urgent—and a Bargain delivered to the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) in San Francisco, California, held 26-30th October 2017, is music to the ears of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) who have been pushing urgent climate action at the UNFCCC negotiating table.

According to Professor Seth Osafo of AGN, “The slow progress by developed country parties towards reaching the US$100 billion goal of joint annual mobilization by 2020 is not in Africa’s interest.”

And in the words of Emphraim Mwepya Shitima, Chief Environmental and Natural Resources Officer at Zambia’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the developing country community needs financial resources now more than ever. “We are at a critical stage where we need all the financial resources we can get to effectively implement our NDC which is off course now in sync with the recently launched Seventh National Development Plan running up to 2021,” he told delegates at a COP23 preparatory meeting.

With the US pullout meaning the loss of a major financial contributor, there are fears that the resource mobilization process might even get slower. Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a consortium of African civil society organisations, is also concerned and is pushing for industrialised countries to set more ambitious goals in terms of their emission cuts.

“Coming from the region that suffers the most due to climate change, we have watched with utter dismay President Trump’s continued efforts at dismantling the former President’s Barrack Obama’s climate legacy, and wish to reiterate that this is the time to classify the global community into two: those for the people and planet, and those for Trump and profit,” says Mwenda.

He questioned the presence of the official US delegation, saying it may be a bad influence on other states that are already reluctant to take serious action on climate change. “The US withdraws from the Paris Agreement, yet they still want to show that they can negotiate the implementation framework,” complained Mwenda, “That’s why we are calling in delegates here to sign our petition to kick Trump and his government out of these negotiations…” 

Scientifically, climate change is a serious complex issue—it requires well-developed research systems especially on how it impacts different sectors of development, or at least in the spirit of the WCSJ2017 theme, to bridge science and societies. Unfortunately, as compared to the developed world, Africa’s scientific research and development still lags behind such that most often than not, it relies on the developed world for data, a concern that South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor raised during a session on Who will do Science at the WCSJ2017.

Pandor believes private companies which drive scientific innovations in the developed world must stop seeing the developing world just as a mass clientele—where research and development is done just for corporate interests and not for the benefit of the people.

“A number of private companies only have commercial relationships but do not have innovation relationships with the developing world; so the nature of partnerships between my continent Africa and other parts of the developing world must change,” she said. “If we are to do science in the 21st century…the way we perceive Africa and scientists in Africa has to fundamentally alter.”

She further lamented the sidelining of women in science whom she said are doing a lot of tremendous work, and her plea is for Africa to embrace and give space to women scientists amidst the challenge of climate change in a continent that contributes less than 4 percent to global emissions. “The next generation of scientists must be women—and black people have to be a part of that.”

The High Cost of Inaction

Agreing that research and development are important steps in tackling climate change, Professor Holdren, who is former Assistant to President Obama for Science & Technology, argues that even if implemented, the wafflers’ favoured economic approaches would be grossly inadequate because while clean energy is essential to provide options for the next stage of deep emissions reductions, the global community needs to be reducing now with the available technologies.

He says climate change is already causing serious harm around the world with increases in floods, drought, wildfires, heat waves, coral bleaching, among others, all of which are “plausibly linked to climate change by theory, models, and observed ‘fingerprints’; most growing faster than projected”.

The global community has three options: mitigation, adaptation – or suffering. Therefore, minimizing the amount of suffering in the mix can only be achieved by doing a lot of mitigation and a lot of adaptation.

“Mitigation alone won’t work because climate change is already occurring and can’t be stopped quickly. And adaptation alone won’t work because adaptation gets costlier and less effective as climate change grows. We need enough mitigation to avoid the unmanageable, enough adaptation to manage the unavoidable,” he adds.

In arguing for adaptation specifically, Professor Holdren believes that many adaptation measures would make economic sense even if the climate were not changing because there have always been heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, powerful storms, crop pests, and outbreaks of vector-born disease, and society has always suffered from being underprepared.

Additionally, he says, virtually all reputable studies suggest that the economic damages from not adequately addressing climate change would far exceed the costs of adequately addressing it.

“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong,” he said, calling for urgent climate action now and not later

COP22 produced the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action which called for all to go further and faster in delivering climate action before 2020. The global community now eagerly awaits COP23 Bonn declaration.

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Will Policymakers Listen to Climate Change Science This Time Around?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/#comments Wed, 08 Nov 2017 23:31:42 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152946 Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news. Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to […]

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All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

By Busani Bafana
BREMERHAVEN, Germany, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news.

Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to science, the faster can they commit to cutting global carbon emissions.“Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?” --marine biologist Ulf Riebesell

Carbon emissions are increasing but our willingness to do something about them is not, scientists say.

As global leaders gather for COP23 which opened this week, the need to raise global ambitions to cut carbon emissions and put the world on a cleaner, more sustainable path, has never been more urgent.

Climate change projections point to increasing extreme weather, rising temperatures, droughts and floods. Seas and oceans – our biggest lungs – are warming and reaching a saturation point to absorb increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Are the impacts of climate change witnessed now motivation enough for our politicians to do something about it?

“Many of these changes are in line with what has been projected for climate change and there is a debate currently going on among governments that the ambition needs to be strengthened, but this is only an assumption and we do not know yet,” Hans-Otto Portner, Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II and Head of research section in Ecosystems Physiology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, told IPS.

Portner expects the current round of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to show to what extent extreme events have changed the mentality of policy makers. Should we expect a radical shift in climate change positions at COP23?

“Climate change does not go away and its impacts will become more and more intensive so the pressure on policy makers to do something in the shorter term will be increasing,” Portner said. “It is really about those countries that are not much affected at the moment where there is this inertia and where maybe the awareness is large enough. Then you have individuals that do not follow the obvious insight from scientific information but rather follow their own beliefs. As a citizen you can only hope that these individuals will lose influence over time.”

Warming climate, cooling ambitions

There is no shortage of political influence for more ambitious actions on reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. It is however, peppered with attention-grabbing deniers like US President Donald Trump, who has triggered the process for the US to exit the Paris Agreement.

It is clear that the world knows enough about climate change than it did over the last century ago, but actions taken to date are insufficient, Portner said blaming the inertia on technological uncertainty. For, instance, he said the European car industry has taken a long time in establishing alternative engines despite many years of talk about electric vehicles.

Under the climate change agreement reached in 2015, global leaders committed to lower carbon emissions and cap global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius to about pre-industrial level. They also pledged to ensure a lower 1.5 degrees of warming to keep the earth sustainable for life. Scientists worry that political ambitions are still weak.

With the start of the 6th IPCC assessment cycle, pressure is on to validate the Paris Agreement at whose core is the world’s ability to adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Acknowledging that defining climate change thresholds remains a challenge, Portner said all countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris agreement targets are to be reached.

“The current world climate report indicates clearly that net zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing CO2 emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner observed. “Net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere would have to contribute. This is already technically possible but the challenge is to develop and implement respective technologies at a larger scale.”

A recent report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based research group says more than 55 countries – accounting for 60 percent of global emission- have committed to peaking their emissions by 2030. While this is good, global emissions need to peak by 2020 to prevent dangerous warming levels, the report urged.

Acting as a gigantic carbon sink, oceans take up about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities. However, when absorbed by seawater, the greenhouse gas triggers chemical reactions, causing the ocean to acidify, scientists say. While on the one hand, the ocean’s CO2 uptake slows down global climate change on the other, this absorption affects the life and material cycles of the ocean and those who depend on it.

The German Research network, Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID) has just concluded an 8-year extensive research on ocean acidification involving a team of more than 250 scientists from 20 German institutions. The research indicates that ocean acidification, warming and other environmental condition are impairing ocean life and compromising ecosystems services provided by oceans.

Fish off the menu

Ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and this threatens marine ecosystem that supports global fish stocks.

Research by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel shows that ocean acidification and warming will affect the availability of fish and global fish stocks. Besides, over fishing is a global problem though it is unevenly distributed.

“Overfishing is not necessarily an ecological catastrophe but its economically stupid and is unfair,” says Gerd Kraus, director of the Thunen-Instiute of Sea Fisheries in Hamburg. “Science is needed to make informed choices, for example, advising governments on the sustainable management of fish stocks.”

Fish are the primary source of protein for one billion people globally, primarily in developing countries. The loss of coral reefs that provide habitat and coastal protection will affect aquaculture and fish harvests.

“The future of this planet depends on us,” says Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR and Coordinator of BIOACID said, adding that, “Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?”

But change is hard as it is slow. According to BIOACID in adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and economy, political influence is needed in regulating the phase out of fossil fuels.

Stop fumbling on fossil fuels

According to Felix Ekardt, Director of the Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy in Leipzi, fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, which a 2017 landmark study says kills 9 million people, more than those killed by war, AIDs, hunger and malaria combined.

“Both (GHG and air pollution) are not only drivers of climate change but also cause ocean acidification,” Ekardt said. “Knowledge of natural scientific facts on sea and climate alone however does not trigger sufficient motivation in society, businesses and politics to reduce their emissions….The usual emissions-intensive lifestyle in industrialised countries and increasingly in developing countries has to be put on the spot.”

Arguing that shifting problems will not solve them, said ocean acidification and climate change are prime examples of truly global problems. BIOACID research calls for inducing a fast phase-out of fossil fuels as one of the options for effective ocean acidification policies.

“The most effective mechanism for that is to define clear political steps to eliminate fossil fuels used for power, heating, fuels and industrial use (such as fertiliser) from the market by implementing a mechanism for quantity control.”

Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, calls COP23 a vital step to set a clear rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. He bemoaned that LDCs and other developing countries cannot take ambitious actions to address climate change or protect themselves against its impacts unless all countries outdo the pledges on the table.

“As the 47 poorest countries in the world, the LDCs face the unique and unprecedented challenge of lifting our people out of poverty and achieving sustainable development without relying on fossil fuels,” Endalew said.

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