Inter Press Service » Energy http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 22 May 2015 13:50:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Climate Change: Some Companies Reject ‘Business as Usual’http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/climate-change-some-companies-reject-business-as-usual/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-some-companies-reject-business-as-usual http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/climate-change-some-companies-reject-business-as-usual/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 16:06:33 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140742 Demonstrators protesting at the Business & Climate Summit in Paris, May 20. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

Demonstrators protesting at the Business & Climate Summit in Paris, May 20. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 21 2015 (IPS)

When it comes to climate change, business as usual is simply “not an option”.

That was the view of Eldar Saetre, CEO of Norwegian multinational Statoil, as international industry leaders met in Paris for a two-day Business & Climate Summit, six months ahead of the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21 ) that will also be held in the French capital.

Subtitled “Working together to build a better economy”, the May 20-21 summit brought together some 2,000 representatives of some of the world’s largest retail and energy concerns, including  companies that NGOs have criticized as being among the worst environmental offenders.

At the end, business leaders proclaimed that they wanted “a global climate deal that achieves net zero emissions” and that they wanted to see this happen at COP 21.

Throughout the conference, participants stressed that businesses will have to change, not only to protect the environment, but for their own survival. “Taking climate action simply makes good business sense. However, business solutions on climate are not being scaled up fast enough,” declared the summit organizers.

They pledged to lead the “global transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy.”

Saetre, for example, said his company wanted to achieve “low-carbon oil and gas production” and that it had embarked on renewables in the form of offshore wind energy. But he said that fossil fuels would still be needed in the future, alongside the various forms of renewable energy.

Acknowledging the widespread scepticism about multinational companies’ commitment, business leaders said that they could not “go it alone”, and called for support from governments as well as consumers.

Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at British retailer Marks & Spencer, told IPS in an interview that global commitment was important in the drive to transform industry to have more environmentally friendly practices.

“Collective action can bring about real change,” he said. “We’re here today because we believe that climate change is happening and it’s going to have a significant impact on our business in the future and our success.

“Our customers would expect us to take the lead on this, and we want governments to take this seriously as well in the run-up to COP 21 [the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11].”

He said that Marks & Spencer and other companies in a network called the Consumer Goods Forum wanted to “stand shoulder to shoulder with government to say ‘this matters and we’re here to help’.”

But government consensus on how to address climate change has proved difficult, and even French President Francois Hollande, who opened the summit, conceded that it would require a miracle for a real agreement to be reached at COP 21.

“We must have a consensus. It’s already not easy in our own countries, so with 196 countries, a miracle is needed,” he said at the Business & Climate Summit, expressing the conviction, however, that agreement will be reached through negotiation and “responsibility”.

Hollande and other officials said the involvement of businesses was essential, and France, with its huge oil and electricity companies, evidently has a big role to play.

However, demonstrators outside the summit, held at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), slammed big business.

“These multinationals (and the banks that finance their activities) are in fact directly at the origin of climate change,” read a statement from organisations including Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth, France) and the civil disobedience group J.E.D.I. for Climate.

Saying that it was ironic to have fossil-fuel companies represented at the summit, the groups asked: “Can one imagine for a second that the tobacco industry would be associated with policies to combat smoking aimed at ending the production of cigarettes? No, that would be the best way to ensure that the world continued to chain-smoke.”

The protesters added that if Hollande and his ministers wanted to show a real commitment to the environment, they should make it clear that “the climate is not a business”.

“The fight against climate change is not the business of fossil-fuel multinationals: they belong to our past,” the groups said in a joint release, handed out on the street.

At the summit, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that businesses should not be “demonised” and she called for collaboration rather than confrontation.

“We all start with a carbon footprint,” she said. “It is not a question of demonising anyone but realizing that we’re all here … This is not about confrontation. This is about collaboration. If you’re thinking about confrontation, forget it. Because we’re not going to get there.”

The summit – co-hosted by Entreprises Pour l’Environnement, an association of some 40 French and large international companies, and UN Global Compact France, a policy initiative for businesses – also addressed the vulnerability of island states in the face of climate change.

Tony de Brum, the Marshall Islands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that island states in the Pacific and elsewhere had an interest in keeping pressure on carbon emitters because their populations’ survival was at stake.

Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also highlighted the threat to vulnerable countries, saying that for them, climate change is not about protecting the environment for future generations, but “it’s about how long the water will take to overcome the land.”

Gurría said that greater reductions in carbon emissions were required than has so far been proposed by states, and he stressed that countries over time needed to “develop a pathway to net zero emissions globally” by the second half of the century.

“Governments at COP 21 need to send a clear directional signal that will drive action for decades to come,” he said. “We are on a collision course with nature, and unless we seize this opportunity, we face an increasing risk of severe, pervasive and irreversible climate impact.”

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Opinion: Universalisation and Strengthening Nuke Treaty Review Need to be Qualitativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-universalisation-and-strengthening-nuke-treaty-review-need-to-be-qualitative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-universalisation-and-strengthening-nuke-treaty-review-need-to-be-qualitative http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-universalisation-and-strengthening-nuke-treaty-review-need-to-be-qualitative/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 16:34:35 +0000 Ambassador A. L. A. Azeez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140721 A view of the General Assembly Hall as Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson (shown on screens) addresses the opening of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The Review Conference is taking place at UN headquarters from 27 April to 22 May 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

A view of the General Assembly Hall as Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson (shown on screens) addresses the opening of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The Review Conference is taking place at UN headquarters from 27 April to 22 May 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

By Ambassador A. L. A. Azeez
NEW YORK, May 19 2015 (IPS)

“Strengthening the Review Process” and “Universalisation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty” (NPT) are distinctly substantive issues, that require consideration with their specificities in view.

Nevertheless, there are a few aspects pertaining to the themes, which undoubtedly make them inter-related. They should not be lost sight of, as the NPT Review Conference, which concludes its month long session Friday, moves along its agenda.The five-yearly review process has been effectively reduced to one of stock-taking - of unmet timelines, benchmarks and undertakings.

The issue of strengthening the review process arose pursuant to, and as part of, the 1995 Review and Extension Conference. It remains on the agenda of each Main Committee of the NPT Review Conference since then.

While a special feature of the 1995 process is its important adjunct, the indefinite extension of the Treaty, a specific expectation of the outcome of that process was strengthening of the three pillars of the Treaty.

This was sought to be achieved in such a way that the implementation of the three pillars would be consummate and mutually reinforcing.

One should not be oblivious, however, to what provided the immediate context for indefinite extension. It was the expectation that those countries, which retained their nuclear weapons under the Treaty, would take practical measures towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals.

It was noted then, with concern, that expected measures towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals had floundered within the 25 years preceding the 1995 review and extension process.

Underpinning this standpoint was the commitment by nuclear weapon states that they would pursue disarmament as a matter of priority and without delay.

This is reflected in the outcomes of the review conferences, particularly that of the 2010 Review Conference, where a clear commitment was made, that disarmament would be taken forward in ‘good faith’ and ‘at an early date’.

Nevertheless, those who possess nuclear arsenals have not lived up to the commitments.

The five-yearly review process has thus been effectively reduced to one of stock-taking – of unmet timelines, benchmarks and undertakings!

The ‘forward looking’ thrust of the process, which was originally intended to inspire positive action, has sadly, due to overwhelming convergence of strategic interests, or other reasons, become an exercise of reinventing the wheel.

What is now required is to clearly state timelines and verification and other measures in any plan of action to be adopted.

There has been no progress in nuclear disarmament. Nuclear non-proliferation has made only a little headway in a few regions. The impact on ‘peaceful uses’, of restrictive and control measures, is all too apparent. They often appear to border on denial of technology.

The total lack of progress in the field of nuclear disarmament as against corresponding increase in restrictive or control measures in the area of ‘peaceful uses’, with nuclear non-proliferation swinging in-between, presents a spectre of regression for all humanity.

It seems to be reinforcing the view among countries, which look to ‘peaceful uses’ as a component in their national energy policies, or development strategies, that leaving aside the treaty construct of ‘three pillars’, playing field is not level, and will not be, in the foreseeable future.

In diplomacy, the emphasis always is on staying positive. As the review process is in its last week, the call for it is growing stronger.

But can one conceivably do so in the current scenario, which appears fraught with far too many challenges in area of nuclear disarmament with its inter-relationship to the other two pillars of NPT? Is cautious optimism in order?

A measure of pessimism has already set in, and has the potential to become irreversibly dominant. It would be so, unless and until there is an urgent re-summoning of necessary political will to achieve a radical change in our mindsets as well as in our policies and programmes.

Universalisation of the Treaty is an objective that needs to be continuously promoted. But behind what has led to this call remains its indefinite extension that was achieved in 1995.

If there had been no agreement on extension in 1995, there would be no treaty left behind today. The goal of strengthening the review process must therefore inspire, and be inspired by, the goal of universalisation.

The logic that led to the extension of the Treaty needs to bear on the call for its universalisation, both as part of, and pursuant to, review process.

The extension of the Treaty is indefinite, and it was intended to be outcome-oriented. When the three pillars of the Treaty are advanced equally, and progress towards nuclear disarmament becomes irreversible, the Treaty would be said to have achieved its objective.

A strengthened review process would thus contribute a great deal towards realising this intended outcome.

The goal of universalisation, however, needs to be advanced with a time span in view, and above all, it needs to be qualitative.

What does all this mean?

We should no doubt count on and increase the number of adherences, but equally, we should also emphasise the overall importance of integrating, without discrimination inter se, all the provisions of the Treaty. National policies and programmes of State parties need to reflect these thereby enabling the advancement of its three pillars.

The review process should strengthen efforts to achieve this twin goal.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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U.N., World Bank Set 2030 Deadline for Sustainable Energy for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-world-bank-set-2030-deadline-for-sustainable-energy-for-all/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-world-bank-set-2030-deadline-for-sustainable-energy-for-all http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/u-n-world-bank-set-2030-deadline-for-sustainable-energy-for-all/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:21:55 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140703 Mules carry a solar energy system to a remote region in the Himalayan desert region of Ladakh. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

Mules carry a solar energy system to a remote region in the Himalayan desert region of Ladakh. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 19 2015 (IPS)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, an unrelenting advocate of sustainable energy for all (SE4All), once dramatised the need for modern conveniences by holding up his cell phone before an audience in the Norwegian capital of Oslo and asking: “What would we do without them?”

“We are all dependent on phones, light, heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration,” but still there are billions of people in the world who do not have the benefit of most of these modern energy services, he added."We must move much faster to reach the billions who have been left behind.” -- Martin Krause

According to World Bank estimates, about 1.1 billion people don’t have access to electricity, and over 3.0 billion people still rely on polluting fuels such as kerosene, wood or other biomass to cook and, at times, heat their homes.

The world is heading in the right direction to achieve universal access to sustainable energy by 2030 – but must move faster, says a new World Bank report that tracks the progress of the SE4All initiative.

Besides achieving renewable energy goals, the United Nations is also vowing to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger from the face of the earth by the 2030 deadline.

Martin Krause, head of the Global Energy Policy Team at the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), told IPS the goal to achieve universal access to sustainable energy is very much attainable, “but indeed we must move much faster to reach the billions who have been left behind.”

For the 1.1 billion without electricity, he said, a targeted and decentralised approach (i.e. mini-grids, solar home systems, micro-hydro plants) is needed to reach the predominately rural poor.

“And for the 3.0 billion who cook and heat with wood and dung, new technologies, better awareness and low-cost financing is needed to shift usage away from harmful fuels towards cleaner, and sustainable technologies and fuel sources,” said Krause.

In both of these cases, he pointed out, public and private financial resources will be necessary for success.

“For our part, UNDP has just released a new publication, the EnergyPlus Guidelines, which has been prepared to support our country partners in addressing some of these issues.”

Beginning Monday, the United Nations is hosting its second annual SE4all Forum, which is scheduled to conclude May 21.

According to the United Nations, leaders from government, business and civil society will announce new commitments and drive action to end energy poverty and fight climate change.

“They will present ways to catalyze finance and investment at the scale required to meet the targets of the UN Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative on energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

Over 1,000 practitioners will share and advance innovative energy solutions, according to a press release.

The Forum is expected to build momentum on energy issues ahead of both the September U..N Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, and the December Climate Conference in Paris, and contribute to shaping the direction of energy policy for the crucial decades to come.

Fossil fuels, described as finite, include crude oil, natural gas and coal, which are expected to run out over the next few decades.

The renewable sources of energy include wind and solar power, hydroelectric and geothermal, amongst others.

According to the U.N. Industrial Organisation (UNIDO), universal access to renewable energy sources can be achieved at a cost of about 48 billion dollars per year and 960 billion dollars over a 20-year period.

In its report titled “Progress Toward Sustainable Energy: Global Tracking Framework 2015″ released Monday, the World Bank said it is monitoring the world’s progress toward SE4All’s three goals: universal energy access; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix – all to be met by 2030.

While the first edition of the report, released in 2013, measured progress between 1990 and 2010, the current edition focuses on 2010 to 2012.

In that two-year period, the number of people without access to electricity declined from 1.2 billion to 1.1 billion, a rate of progress much faster than the 1990-2010 period. In total 222 million people gained access to electricity during this period, higher than the population increase of 138 million people.

These gains, the report said, were concentrated in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and mainly in urban areas. The global electrification rate increased from 83 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2012.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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African Women Mayors Join Forces to Fight for Clean Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/african-women-mayors-join-forces-to-fight-for-clean-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-women-mayors-join-forces-to-fight-for-clean-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/african-women-mayors-join-forces-to-fight-for-clean-energy/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 07:45:32 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140678 Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo with African women mayors who are calling for greater attention to communities without electricity, given the inextricable link between climate change and energy. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo with African women mayors who are calling for greater attention to communities without electricity, given the inextricable link between climate change and energy. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 18 2015 (IPS)

When some 40,000 delegates, including dozens of heads of state, descend on Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year, a group of African women mayors plan to be there and make their voices heard on a range of issues, including electrification.

The mayors, representing both small and big towns on the continent, are calling for greater attention to communities without electricity, given the inextricable link between climate change and energy.

“In my commune, only one-fifth of the people have access to electricity, and this of course hampers development,” Marie Pascale Mbock Mioumnde, mayor of Nguibassal in Cameroon, told a recent meeting of women mayors in Paris.“As mayors we’re closer to the population, and when we work together, there’s hope” – Marie Pascale Mbock Mioumnde, mayor of Nguibassal, Cameroon

Mbock Mioumnde was one of 18 women mayors at last month’s meeting, hosted by Paris mayor Anne Hildalgo and France’s former environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who now heads the Fondation Énergies pour l’Afrique (Energy for Africa Foundation).

Organisers said the meeting was called to highlight Africa’s energy challenges in the run-up to COP 21 (the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 and which has the French political class scrambling to show its environmental credentials.

Mbock Mioumnde told IPS in an interview that clean, renewable energy was a priority for Africa, and that political leaders were looking at various means of electrification including hydropower and photovoltaic energy and, but not necessarily, wind power – a feature in many parts of France.

“We plan to maintain this contact and this network of women mayors to see what we can accomplish,” said Mbock Mioumnde. “As mayors we’re closer to the population, and when we work together, there’s hope.”

Hidalgo, the first woman to hold the office of Paris mayor, said she wanted to support the African representatives’ appeal for “sustainable electrification”, considering that two-thirds of Africa’s population, “particularly the most vulnerable, don’t have access to electricity.”

Currently president of the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF), Hidalgo said it was essential to find ways to speed up electrification in Africa, using clean technology that respects the environment and the health of citizens.

The mayors meeting in Paris in April also called for the creation of an “African agency devoted to this issue” that would be in charge of implementing the complete electrification of the continent by 2025.

Present at the conference were several representatives of France’s big energy companies such as GDF Suez – an indication that France sees a continued business angle for itself – but the gathering also attracted NGOs which have been working independently to set up solar-power installations in various African countries.

“I’m happy that women are organising on this issue. We need solidarity,” said Hidalgo, who has been urging Paris residents to become involved in climate action, in a city that has come late to environmental awareness, especially compared with many German and Swiss towns.

“The Climate Change Conference is a decisive summit for the planet’s leaders and decision-makers to reach an agreement,” Hidalgo stressed.

Climate change issues have an undeniable gender component because women are especially affected by lack of access to clean sources of energy.

Ethiopian-born, Kenya-based scientist Dr Segenet Kelemu, who was a winner of the 2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science, spoke for example of growing up in a rural village in Ethiopia with no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing.

“I went out to collect firewood, to fetch water and to take farm produce to market. Somehow, all the back-breaking tasks in Africa are reserved for women and children,” she told a reporter.

This gender component was also raised at a meeting May 7-8 in Addis Ababa, where leaders of a dozen African countries agreed on 12 recommendations to improve the regional response to climate change.

The recommendations included increasing local technological research and development; reinforcing infrastructure for renewable energy, transportation and water; and “mainstreaming gender-responsive climate change actions”.

The meeting was part of a series of ‘Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF)’ workshops being convened though June 2015 in Asia, Latin America, the Pacific and the Middle East. The CVF was established to offer a South-South cooperation platform for vulnerable countries to deal with issues of climate change.

In Paris, Hidalgo’s approach includes gathering as many stakeholders as possible together to reach consensus before the U.N. summit. With Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome, Italy, she also invited mayors of the “capitals and big towns” of the 28 member states of the European Union to a gathering in March.

The mayors, representing some 60 million inhabitants, stressed that the “fight against climate change is a priority for our towns and the well-being of our citizens.”

Hidalgo’s office is now working on a project to have 1,000 mayors from around the world present at COP 21, a spokesperson told IPS. The stakes are high because the French government wants the summit to be a success, with a new global agreement on combating climate change.

Borloo, who was environment minister in the administration of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, used to advocate for France’s “climate justice” proposal, aimed at giving financial aid to poor countries to combat climate change.

Calling for a “climate justice plan” to allow poor countries to “adapt, achieve growth, get out of poverty and have access to energy,” Borloo was a key French player at COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, but that conference ended in disarray. The question now is: will a greater involvement of women leaders and mayors make COP 21 a success?

Edited by Phil Harris    

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“Megaprojects” Can Destroy Reputations in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/megaprojects-can-destroy-reputations-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=megaprojects-can-destroy-reputations-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/megaprojects-can-destroy-reputations-in-brazil/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 07:04:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140652 Scale model of one of the offshore oil platforms exploiting Brazil’s “presalt” reserves, on exhibit in the research centre of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Scale model of one of the offshore oil platforms exploiting Brazil’s “presalt” reserves, on exhibit in the research centre of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 18 2015 (IPS)

Megaprojects are high-risk bets. They can shore up the government that brought them to fruition, but they can also ruin its image and undermine its power – and in the case of Brazil the balance is leaning dangerously towards the latter.

As the scandal over kickbacks in the state oil company Petrobras, which broke out in 2014, grows, it is hurting the image of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) and his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, both of whom belong to the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT).

In its 2014 balance sheet, the company wrote off 6.2 billion reais (2.1 billion dollars) due to alleged graft and another 44.6 billion reais for overvalued assets, including refineries.

But the real magnitude of the losses will never be known. The company lost credibility on an international level, its image has been badly stained, and as a result many of its business plans will be stalled or cancelled.

The numbers involved in the corruption scandal are based on testimony from those accused in the operation codenamed “Lava-jato” (Car Wash) and in investigations by the public prosecutor’s office and the federal police, which indicated that the bribes represented an estimated three percent of Petrobras’ contracts with 27 companies between 2004 and 2012.

The biggest losses can be blamed on poor decision-making, bad planning and mismanagement. But the corruption had stronger repercussions among the population and the consequences are still incalculable.

It will also be difficult to gauge the influence that corruption had on administrative blunders, which are also political, and vice versa.

Two-thirds of the devaluation of the assets was concentrated in Petrobras’ two biggest projects, the Abreu e Lima Refinery in the Northeast, which is almost finished, and the Rio de Janeiro Petrochemical Complex (COMPERJ), both of which began to be built when Lula was president.

Petrobras informed investors that COMPERJ, a 21.6-billion-dollar megaproject, abandoned the petrochemical portion of its activities in 2014 as they were considered unprofitable, after three years of waffling, and was downsized to a refinery to process 165,000 barrels a day of oil.

It will be difficult for Petrobras, now under-capitalised, to invest millions of dollars more to finish the refinery, where the company estimates that the work is 82 percent complete. But failing to finish the project would bring much bigger losses.

Thousands of workers laid off, economic and social depression in Itaboraí, where the complex is located, 60 km from the city of Rio de Janeiro, purchased equipment that is no longer needed, which costs millions of dollars a year to store, and suppliers that have gone broke are some of the effects of the modification and delays in the project.

The Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant on the Madeira river, in the northwest Brazilian state of Rondônia, during its construction in 2010. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant on the Madeira river, in the northwest Brazilian state of Rondônia, during its construction in 2010. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Petrobras crisis is also a result of the crash in international oil prices and of years of government fuel subsidies that kept prices artificially low to help control inflation.

It also endangers the naval industry, which expanded to address demand from the oil company.

Shipyards may dismiss as many as 40,000 people if the crisis drags on, according to industry statistics.

The industry was revived in Brazil as a result of orders for drills, rigs and other equipment to enable Petrobras to extract the so-called presalt oil reserves that lie below a two-kilometre- thick salt layer under rock and sand, in deep water in the Atlantic ocean.

The Abreu e Lima Refinery, which can process 230,000 barrels a day, has had better luck because the first stage is already complete and it began to operate in late 2014. But the cost was eight times the original estimate.

One of the reasons for that was the projected partnership with Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, which Lula had agreed with that country’s late president, Hugo Chávez (1999-2013).

PDVSA never made good on its commitment to provide 40 percent of the capital needed to build the plant. But the agreement influenced the design and purchase of equipment suited to processing Venezuela’s heavy crude. The project had to be modified along the way.

Plans to build two other big refineries, in the Northeast states of Ceará and Maranhão, were ruled out by Petrobras as non-cost-effective. But that was after nearly 900,000 dollars had already been invested in purchasing and preparing the terrain.

The disaster in the oil industry has stayed in the headlines because of the scandal and the amounts and sectors involved, which include four refineries, dozens of shipyards and major construction companies that provided services to Petrobras and have been accused of paying bribes.

But many other large energy and logistical infrastructure projects have suffered major delays. These megaprojects mushroomed around the country, impelled by the high economic growth during Lula’s eight years in office and incentives from the government’s Growth Acceleration Programme.

Railways, ports, the expansion and paving of roads and highways, power plants of all kinds, and biofuels – all large-scale projects – put to the test the productive capacity of Brazilians, and especially of the country’s construction firms, which also expanded their activities abroad.

The majority of the projects are several years behind schedule. The diversion of the São Francisco river through the construction of over 700 km of canals, aqueducts, tunnels and pipes, and a number of dams, to increase the supply of water in the semi-arid Northeast, was initially to be completed in 2010, at the end of Lula’s second term.

But while the cost has nearly doubled, it is not even clear that the smaller of the two large canals will be operating by the end of this year, as President Rousseff promised.

Private projects, like the Transnordestina and Oeste-Leste railways, also in the Northeast, have dragged on as well.

Resistance from indigenous communities and some environmental authorities, along with labour strikes and protests – which sometimes involved the destruction of equipment, workers’ housing and installations – aggravated the delays caused by mismanagement and other problems.

The wave of megaprojects that began in the past decade was explained by the lack of investment in infrastructure suffered by Brazil, and Latin America in general, during the two “lost decades” – the 1980s and 1990s.

After 1980, oil refineries were not built in Brazil. The success of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline postponed the need. The country became an exporter of gasoline and importer of diesel fuel, until the skyrocketing number of cars and industrial consumption of fuel made an expansion of refinery capacity urgently necessary.

Nor were major hydropower dams built after 1984, when the country’s two largest plants were inaugurated: Itaipú on the border with Paraguay and Tucuruí in the northern Amazon rainforest.

The energy crisis broke out in 2001, when power rationing measures were put in place for eight months, which hurt the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003).

The return of economic growth during the Lula administration accentuated the deficiencies and the need to make up for lost time. The wishful thinking that sometimes drives developmentalists led to a mushrooming of megaprojects, with the now known consequences, including, probably, the new escalation of corruption.

Not to mention the political impact on the Rousseff administration and the PT and the risk of instability for Latin America’s giant.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Edinburgh University Bows to Fossil Fuel Industryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-edinburgh-university-bows-to-fossil-fuel-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-edinburgh-university-bows-to-fossil-fuel-industry http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-edinburgh-university-bows-to-fossil-fuel-industry/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 18:28:41 +0000 Kirsty Haigh, Eric Lai, and Ellen Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140674 Edinburgh Castle, symbol of the Scottish capital, whose university has just decided not to disinvest in fossil fuels. Photo credit: Kim Traynor/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Edinburgh Castle, symbol of the Scottish capital, whose university has just decided not to disinvest in fossil fuels. Photo credit: Kim Traynor/CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Kirsty Haigh, Eric Lai, and Ellen Young
EDINBURGH, May 17 2015 (IPS)

The University of Edinburgh has taken the decision to not divest from fossil fuels, bowing to the short-term economic interests of departments funded by the fossil fuel industry, with little to no acknowledgement of the long-term repercussions of these investments.

The decision, which was announced on May 12, exemplifies the influence that vested interests have gained over academic institutions in the United Kingdom.“Our university has decided to take a reactionary approach to climate change, failing to make any statement of commitment to the staff and students who have been demanding divestment from fossil fuel companies for the past three years”

Collectively, U.K. universities invest over eight billion dollars in fossil fuels, more than 3,000 dollars for every student. The University of Edinburgh has the country’s third largest university endowment, after Oxford and Cambridge, totalling 457 million dollars, of which approximately 14 million is invested in fossil fuel companies, including Total, Shell and BHP Billiton.

Our university has decided to take a reactionary approach to climate change, failing to make any statement of commitment to the staff and students who have been demanding divestment from fossil fuel companies for the past three years.

Announcing it decision, the university said: ”The university will withdraw from investment in these [fossil fuel consuming and extracting] companies if: realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.”

However, given the fossil fuel industry’s continued destruction of the planet, the university’s approach leaves far too much to the imagination and indeed allows for the potential to not divest from harmful industries at all.

We are going to find our existence completely altered – and in a way that we do not want – if   we do not stop extracting and burning fossil fuels, and we know the big fossil fuel companies have no intention of stopping.

Climate change not only poses a massive economic threat but also presents the world’s biggest global health hazard – and its effects are hitting the poorest parts of the world hardest. The University of Edinburgh is fundamentally failing to acknowledge the part it is playing in funding climate chaos.

Our university claims to be a “world leader in addressing global challenges including … climate change” but if the university had any desire to take the moral lead, it would have divested. Divestment would have seen Edinburgh join a global movement of universities and numerous other forward-thinking organisations in divorcing itself from the tightening grip of the fossil fuel industry.

The University of Edinburgh came down firmly on the side of departments funded by the industry which have been scaremongering throughout the process

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed, for example, that the university’s Geosciences Department has received funding from a range of fossil fuel companies over the past 10 years, including BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips, as well as grants and gifts of money from Total and Cairn Energy.

Sixty-five students in the university’s School of Engineering have already signed an open letter to the Head of the School, Prof Hugh McCann, angered by his public opposition to fossil fuel divestment.

Their letter states: “The School of Engineering has and will continue to have a pivotal role in the university’s future. It is after all engineers who will be on the frontlines of the transition to a low carbon society.

“By basing its argument against divestment on engineering students’ chances of employment in one dead-end industry, the school appears to be failing to prepare its students for careers in the rapidly changing energy markets of the 21st century, whilst neglecting the faculty’s broader responsibility to the student body as a whole. As a consequence, they gamble employment against our common future.”

Divesting is a way of taking on and dismantling the big fossil fuel companies and the power they hold over our society and governments. We rightly condemn companies that do not pay their taxes or who exploit their workers, and so we must do this to the companies who are threatening our very existence.

Divestment is also about creating more democratic institutions where those who are part of universities can have a say in how their money is spent and invested. The university’s announcement has shown that we still have a long way to go in creating transparent, democratic and ethical institutions. It brings into question the validity of the university’s decision-making process.

For the past three years, students, staff and alumni have supported full divestment – yet the University of Edinburgh has ignored their calls. The consultation run by the university found staff, students and the public in favour of ethical investment. A year later we still have zero commitment to change.

A process which began with promise has been allowed to descend into a complete breakdown in communication between students and the university. Serious questions need to be asked about why the decision was taken in favour of the views from the university’s Department of Geosciences, which freely admits its vested interested in maintaining the status quo for financial reasons.

The University of Edinburgh needs to invest in alternatives to dirty and unhealthy energy sources. These alternatives will create new jobs, so that when the fossil fuel industry ceases to exist there is something to replace it and our students are trained to work in it.

Edited by Phil Harris    

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: Clean Energy Access, a Major Sustainable Development Goalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-clean-energy-access-a-major-sustainable-development-goal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-clean-energy-access-a-major-sustainable-development-goal http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-clean-energy-access-a-major-sustainable-development-goal/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 18:44:16 +0000 Magdy Martinez-Soliman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140659

Magdy Martinez-Soliman is Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UN Development Programme.

By Magdy Martinez-Soliman
UNITED NATIONS, May 15 2015 (IPS)

The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Forum will take place May 18-21 in New York. Success in achieving sustainable development and tackling climate change challenges requires investment in clean energy solutions.

Magdy Martinez-Soliman

Magdy Martinez-Soliman

The Millennium Development Goals were all contingent on having access to energy services. If you want to get more children into school, you need energy. To guarantee food security and manage water, you need energy. To combat HIV/AIDS and reduce maternal mortality, you need energy. The list goes on.

Poverty can be lived and measured, also, as energy poverty. The poor don’t have access, or very bad supply. In fact, about 1.3 billion people globally do not have access to electricity, and nearly three billion use harmful, polluting and unsustainable methods, such as burning wood and charcoal at home for cooking.

Not only are these methods bad for health and the environment, but they eat into time that could be spent in school or at work, limiting people’s potential – especially women’s. Expanding access to energy services therefore goes hand-in-hand with poverty eradication, gender equality and sustainable development.Many countries and cities are already moving towards low carbon, clean energy transformations. Germany, for instance, is undertaking the ‘Energiewende’, an economic watershed that aims to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

Recognising this fact, sustainable energy is already included in the current draft of the Sustainable Development Goals through Goal 7: “Ensure(s) access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.

Harnessing clean, renewable, and more efficient energy solutions will contribute not only to tackling a country’s or community’s energy challenges but also to the target of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. As it is, a significant amount of GHG emissions are generated from energy production, thus tying sustainable energy directly to the climate change negotiations.

Many countries and cities are already moving towards low carbon, clean energy transformations. Germany, for instance, is undertaking the ‘Energiewende’, an economic watershed that aims to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050; and Vancouver, in Canada, recently announced that it would shift to 100 percent renewable energy.

In both cases these are ambitious but forward-looking plans that weave together sustainable development, economic prosperity, and climate change mitigation.

What this means for the developing world

Are such transformations viable in poorer countries and cities? Energy access, efficiency and sustainability includes actions ranging from technology transfer and skills enhancements, to legal and policy changes that remove barriers and attract investments.

Over the last 20 years UNDP has developed a portfolio of more than 120 sustainable energy projects, amounting to more than 400 million dollars invested and almost one billion in co-financing. We have learned that sustainable energy is a key component in sustainable human development.

In Uruguay, UNDP, together with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), worked with the Government from 2008-2012 to remove regulatory, financial, and technical barriers to the energy market. This addressed issues that had impeded private sector investment and set off a boom in clean energy development.

Working with the National Administration of Power Plants and Energy Transmission (UTE), which manages electricity in the country, UNDP helped to refocus development on wind and renewable energy, and helped to open up a ‘space’ for private sector investors to get involved.

This included a series of ‘energy auctions’ that brought private sector partners into the energy sector, as well as technology transfers, skills training and support to identify areas with high wind-generating capacity. The end result was a strong series of public-private partnerships on renewable energy, with the Government and UTE taking the lead.

The economic case for such shifts is also clear: the 30 million dollars initially invested by the Government and partners has since triggered over two billion dollars in private sector investment. This has resulted in the establishment of 32 wind farms, of which 17 are currently in operation, and an installed capacity of 530 MW.

Once the remaining 15 farms that are under construction become operational, capacity will reach over 1500 MW, supplying over 30 percent of the country’s total electricity demand. Beyond the green-energy shift, this has also created jobs, diversified energy sources (critical when reliant on fossil fuel imports), and helped Uruguay mitigate its carbon emissions.

Supporting innovation and de-risking clean energy investments are critical to success. The SE4ALL Forum next week is a chance for the global community to not only reaffirm the need for sustainable energy (and cement its inclusion in the SDGs) but also a chance to bring together partners around the idea of “leaving no one behind” without energy.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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The Asia-Pacific Region Is ‘Growing’, but Millions Are Living in Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-asia-pacific-region-is-growing-but-millions-are-living-in-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-asia-pacific-region-is-growing-but-millions-are-living-in-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-asia-pacific-region-is-growing-but-millions-are-living-in-poverty/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 21:11:58 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140635 If current urbanisation trends continue, an additional 500 million people could be living in cities in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Credit: Padmanaba01/CC-BY-2.0

If current urbanisation trends continue, an additional 500 million people could be living in cities in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. Credit: Padmanaba01/CC-BY-2.0

By Kanya D'Almeida
UNITED NATIONS, May 14 2015 (IPS)

Home to an estimated 3.74 billion people, the Asia-Pacific region holds over half the global population, determining to a great extent the level of economic stability, or chaos, in the world.

This year’s edition of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, the flagship publication of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), has mostly good news for the region – lauding growth achievement “albeit in a somewhat uneven manner.”

Average real incomes per capita in developing economies of the Asia-Pacific region have doubled since the early 1990s, with China witnessing a seven-fold increase in income per capita since 1990. -- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Growth has remained steady – with developing nations in the region showing a slight increase to 5.9 percent growth, up from 5.8 percent last year.

The survey also states that average real incomes per capita in developing economies of the region have doubled since the early 1990s, with China witnessing a seven-fold increase in income per capita since 1990, and Bhutan, Cambodia and Vietnam seeing their own real incomes triple in the same time period.

Although China’s growth is expected to fall to seven percent in 2015, India’s growth of 8.1 percent – an increase from 7.4 percent last year – could offset any impacts of its neighbor’s “planned moderation”, while Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation is projected to see growth rise from five to 5.6 percent this year.

But the spoils of growth have not been evenly shared.

According to the report, “income inequality has increased […] especially in the major developing countries, particularly in urban areas.” Overall, since the 1990s, the Gini index – a measure of income inequality on a scale of 0-100 – has risen from 33.5 to 37.5 percent for the region as a whole.

And while experts praised the region for halving the number of people living on 1.25 dollars a day, ahead of the 2015 deadline laid out at the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, a closer look at poverty in the region suggests that there is less to celebrate and far more to tackle.

Poverty: How much has changed since 1990?

Estimates prepared by ESCAP in the 2014 Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific reveal that the number of people in the region living on less than 1.25 dollars a day fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2011 – a reduction from 1.7 billion to 772 million people.

While this is a tremendous improvement, it does not change the fact that too many millions are still eking out an existent on practically nothing, while a further 40 percent of the region’s population, some 933 million people – although not classified as the “poorest of the poor” – are in similarly dire straits, earning less than two dollars a day.

The 2014 annual statistical publication of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) takes an even deeper look at poverty statistics in the region, suggesting that the gains made in the past two decades may not be as bright as they seem.

According to the Bank’s sub-regional overview of declining extreme poverty, East Asia drove the drop in numbers with a 48.6-percent decline, followed by a 39-percent drop in Central and West Asia, 31 percent in Southeast Asia and 19 percent in South Asia.

However, the Bank highlighted three reasons for why the conventional 1.25-dollar poverty line is an inadequate measure of the costs required to maintain a minimum living standard by the poor: “Updated consumption data specific to Asia’s poor; the impact of volatile and rising costs associated with food insecurity; and the region’s increasing vulnerability to natural disasters, climate change, economic crises, and other shocks.”

By increasing the base poverty line to 1.51 dollars per person per day, as well as factoring in the impacts of food insecurity and vulnerability to natural disasters and other shocks, Asia’s extreme poverty rate shoots up to 49.5 percent of the population, or roughly 1.7 billion people.

Inclusive growth

In addition to poverty, the ESCAP survey broke down major challenges facing each particular sub-region, including “excessive dependence on natural resources and worker remittances for economic growth in North and Central Asia […]; employment and climate-related challenges in Pacific island developing countries […]; macroeconomic imbalances and severe power shortages in South and South-West Asia […]; and weaknesses in infrastructure and skilled labour shortages in South-East Asia.”

Since the financial crisis of 1997, for instance, infrastructure investment in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam fell from 38 billion during the year of the crash to 25 billion in 2010.

Infrastructure is desperately needed to improve basic services for the poor, including better transport networks and energy grids.

According to some estimates the sub-regions of South and South-West Asia need an estimated 400 billion dollars annually for power generation. Only 71 percent of South Asians have access to electricity, compared to 92 percent of those living in East and North-East Asia.

Financing for infrastructure is also desperately needed to improve access to water and sanitation, a huge problem in the region where 41 percent of the population does not have access to toilets and 75 percent do not have access to piped water, according to ESCAP.

Further demands for infrastructure are driven by the rapid rate of urbanisation, with ESCAP suggesting that the region will need upwards of 11 trillion dollars over the next 15 years to deal with the stresses of urbanisation and prepare for huge population shifts.

The year 2012 saw 46 percent of the Asia-Pacific population dwelling in urban areas, but current growth rates indicate that by 2020, that number could rise to 50 percent, meaning an additional 500 million people will reside in the region’s cities by the end of the decade.

The title of this year’s survey, ‘Making Growth More Inclusive for Sustainable Development’, begs a review of the region’s level of inclusivity, particularly of women and young people in the labour force and political ranks.

Sadly the results are disappointing: in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, women constitute just 18 percent of national parliamentarians, while one-third of countries in the ESCAP region have less than 10 percent female representation in parliament.

For youth, too, the situation is bleak, with seven out of 13 countries surveyed showing youth unemployment rates higher than 10 percent – including a 19.5-percent youth unemployment rate in Sri Lanka.

“To enhance well-being, countries need to go beyond just focusing on ‘inequality of income’ and instead promote ‘equality of opportunities’,” ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar said Thursday.

She also said the survey underscores the need for countries to adopt policies that will foster inclusive growth, both to ensure outstanding MDG commitments are met and pave the way for an ambitious post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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The U.N. at 70: Energy Powers Lives, Literallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-energy-powers-lives-literally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-u-n-at-70-energy-powers-lives-literally http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/the-u-n-at-70-energy-powers-lives-literally/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 10:22:04 +0000 Suleiman Al-Herbish http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140622

Suleiman Al-Herbish, Director-General of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), writes that, as the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary, this is an occasion for reflecting on our unity as an international community to achieve a better world and an important time to recognise all the efforts in building improved lives and providing dignity to all.

By Suleiman Al-Herbish
VIENNA, May 14 2015 (IPS)

When, in 2003, Professor Richard Smalley, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, listed the top 10 problems facing humanity for the next 50 years in order of priority, energy was at the top of his list, followed by water, then food.

Suleiman Al-Herbish, Director-General of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)

Suleiman Al-Herbish, Director-General of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)

Years later, this energy-water-food nexus is central to the work of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and a core element of our corporate plan.

It is hard to imagine a better life when you are in darkness and the ‘heart of darkness’ is the widespread lack of access to reliable and affordable sources of modern energy. This darkness continues to impede socio-economic development worldwide.

Nothing is worse than seeing such darkness in the 21st century first hand. In Armenia, I visited the home of Ms Anahid, one of OFID’s many beneficiaries, whose house had recently been connected to a power grid.

In her home, I saw a picture of her young son who had been tragically killed by a falling tree while collecting firewood. His young widowed wife sat in the corner and I had overwhelming mixed feelings: immense sadness for a life lost, yet relief that it would never happen again in that region.

It is a brutal moment when one realises the terrible human loss caused by energy poverty, and recognises how easily such tragedies can be avoided.

When one works in development, a single aim is in mind: putting people first. When we put people first, the facts are painful and implausible to ignore. The numbers are absolutely staggering: 18 percent of the world’s population still lives without electricity and 38 percent without clean cooking facilities.

If all of us think of these facts each time we switch on a light, use our phone or eat a meal, the darkness that 1.3 billion people live in becomes painful to imagine and hard to ignore.“It is hard to imagine a better life when you are in darkness and the ‘heart of darkness’ is the widespread lack of access to reliable and affordable sources of modern energy. This darkness continues to impede socio-economic development worldwide”

Despite the work of so many valuable institutions, organisations and pledges, people are often forgotten, and the political will never materialises. Yet, when the will is there, things do actually happen, and believe me, for the past ten years, I have personally seen them transpire.

In 2007, through the Riyadh Declaration, at the third summit of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), member countries charged OFID with spearheading the fight against the greatest constraint to development – energy poverty – and long before it became a mainstream topic, OFID pioneered its fight against it.

OFID recognised that universal access to energy was a vital element to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and dubbed it the “Missing 9th MDG”.

So, in September 2011, when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity and environmental stability”, OFID roared.

And when Kandeh Yumkella, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, said that “the fact that so many lives continue to be blighted by the absence of electricity or other clean fuels for cooking and heating is without a doubt a shameful indictment of modern society,” OFID found an ally.

We knew that they represented many like-minded individuals who had the will to make our shared fight against energy poverty recognisable to the world.

We were exultant when, in 2012, with the launch of the U.N. Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, energy access was finally established as a global priority. Energy poverty had finally reached the global agenda and our work throughout the years has been instrumental in attaining energy access.

OFID has been a leading partner in SE4ALL since its inception and instrumental in shaping the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the eradication of energy poverty as SDG7.

Our commitment to this mission has been practical as well as communicative. Our strategy for poverty eradication has been action-based with a revolving endowment of one billion dollars pledged by our supreme body, the Ministerial Council, in our 2012 Declaration on Energy Poverty.

Over the past few years, OFID has transformed its commitments into actions in the field. This has led the share of energy projects in OFID’s total operations to reach 27 percent in the past three years, compared with around 20 percent since inception. These resources have been distributed among 85 countries for projects ranging from infrastructure and equipment provision to research and capacity building.

As the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary, we reflect on the historical development of humanity and our unity as an international community to achieve a better world. It is an important time for us to recognize all the efforts in building improved lives and providing dignity to all.

As idealistic as I would like to be, I know there is much more to be done, and the fight is far from over.

What drives our motivation is OFID’s incredible will to continue. Where there’s a will, there is always a way.

I always said, and will continue to say: the day an institution like OFID closes its doors because of the lack of need from its partner countries to alleviate humanity’s countless problems is a day for us all to celebrate.

In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to power lives … one by one, until no single soul living on this planet is in darkness and no mother loses her son as Ms Anahid did.

Edited by Phil Harris

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NGOs Urge Post-2015 Declaration Include Water, Sanitation as Basic Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ngos-urge-post-2015-declaration-include-water-sanitation-as-basic-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ngos-urge-post-2015-declaration-include-water-sanitation-as-basic-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/ngos-urge-post-2015-declaration-include-water-sanitation-as-basic-human-rights/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 15:22:43 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140611 Water is supplied by the military in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

Water is supplied by the military in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2015 (IPS)

Virtually every major international conference concludes with a “programme of action” (PoA) – described in U.N. jargon as “an outcome document” – preceded by a political declaration where 193 member states religiously pledge to honour their commitments.

But over 620 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), a hefty coalition of mostly international water activists, are complaining that a proposed political declaration for the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda is set to marginalise water and sanitation.“Any development agenda is contingent upon the availability of freshwater resources, and as the world battles an increasingly severe crisis in freshwater scarcity, the competition for access is already causing conflicts around the world." -- Meera Karunananthan

The development agenda, along with a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is expected to be adopted at a summit meeting of world leaders Sep. 25-27 in New York.

Meera Karunananthan, international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project, told IPS that with more than 600 NGOs worldwide urging member states to revise the proposed political declaration, it is clear that water remains a very critical issue for billions of people around the world.

“Any development agenda is contingent upon the availability of freshwater resources, and as the world battles an increasingly severe crisis in freshwater scarcity, the competition for access is already causing conflicts around the world,” she said.

The NGO coalition includes WaterAid, Food and Water Watch, Council of Canadians, Global Water Institute, Earth Law Alliance, Indigenous Rights Centre, Right 2 Water, Church World Service, Mining Working Group, End Water Poverty and Blue Planet Project.

Lucy Prioli of WaterAid told IPS with over 2.5 billion people living without basic sanitation and hundreds of millions more without access to water, it is critical that the human right to both water and sanitation is “placed front and centre in the post-2015 Declaration.”

“The international community will never achieve its ambition of ending world hunger unless it also tackles under-nutrition, which is caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation,” she said.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly recognised water and sanitation as a basic human right back in 2010.

Yet, 40 percent of the world’s population lacks access to adequate sanitation and a quarter of the population lacks access to clean drinking water.

In a 2012 joint report, U.S. intelligence agencies portrayed a grim scenario for the foreseeable future: ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and even mass killings.

During the next 10 years, however, “many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increased regional tensions,” stated a National Intelligence Estimate.

Karunanthan said the U.N.s proposed post-2015 economic agenda, which includes a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), must not be blind to these predicted conflicts.

It must instead be proactive and safeguard water for the environment and the essential needs of people by explicitly recognising the human right to water and sanitation, she said.

“If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past which led to the staggering failure of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to meet its targets regarding sanitation, then it is important for the SDGs to be firmly rooted in a human rights -based framework,” she added.

The coalition says it wants to ensure the needs of people and the environment are prioritised in any water resource management strategy promoted within the SDGs.

“The post-2015 development agenda presents an important opportunity to fulfill the commitments made by member states in 2010,” the NGOs say.

The NGO demand builds on the consistent and urgent advocacy done by civil society throughout the post-2015 process regarding the importance of inclusion of the human right to water and sanitation (HRTWS).

The Declaration will be a document of political aspirations overarching the post-2015 development agenda, including the SDGs.

A draft of the document is anticipated to be released by the end of this month.

U.N. Member States have stressed the need for an agenda that is “just, equitable, transformative, and people-centered”.

Global water justice groups argue that inclusion of the HRTWS in the post-2015 Declaration is vital to realising this goal.

The proposed SDGs include 17 goals with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, sustainable management of water and sanitation, and protecting oceans and forests.

The 17 proposed goals, which are currently being fine-tuned, are:

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere; Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels and Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Reviving Dignity: The Remarkable Perseverance of Myanmar’s Displacedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/reviving-dignity-the-remarkable-perseverance-of-myanmars-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reviving-dignity-the-remarkable-perseverance-of-myanmars-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/reviving-dignity-the-remarkable-perseverance-of-myanmars-displaced/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 16:27:21 +0000 Rob Jarvis and Kim Jolliffe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140574 Noor Jahan spends her days drying out and grinding chillies to help support her three children, mother-in-law, and out of work husband who used to be a labourer downtown where they are no longer allowed to travel. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Noor Jahan spends her days drying out and grinding chillies to help support her three children, mother-in-law, and out of work husband who used to be a labourer downtown where they are no longer allowed to travel. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

By Rob Jarvis and Kim Jolliffe
SITTWE, Myanmar, May 12 2015 (IPS)

In Myanmar’s Western Rakhine State, over a hundred thousand people displaced by inter communal violence that broke out nearly three years ago remain interned in camps on torrid plains and coastal marshes, struggling to survive.

In the face of unimaginable hardship, many have found ways to cope and maintain their dignity, through innovation and hard work.

Behind sensational and at times gory headlines peddled by the mainstream media, a far more simple story is unfolding: the story of scores of victims of violence in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) outside the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, gaining sustenance, acquiring fuel for fires, re-establishing businesses, and developing community-led social services.

Inter communal violence erupted in 2012 between the region’s majority Rakhine Buddhists and minority Muslims who mostly self-identify as Rohingya, an ethnic label that remains heavily contested and at the heart of a decades-old conflict.

Three years later, over 140,000 IDPs, predominantly Rohingya Muslims, remain effectively interned and segregated in camps from which the government has not allowed them to return home.

Aid is administered through United Nations agencies and other mainstream bodies that are bound to work primarily with the government, leading to top-down interventions that do little to build the capacity of beneficiaries themselves, at worst stifling their ability to take their lives back into their own hands.

Up against the odds, these communities are nevertheless demonstrating the sheer strength of the human spirit, and the remarkable resilience that often presents itself only in the darkest, most hopeless situations. Through small acts of determination, courage and kindness, they are assuring their own survival and slowly regaining their dignity.

Arafa lives in this tent with her six children and three grandchildren. When she fled her burning home she had nothing but her longyi (traditional skirt) and one shirt so has begun growing gourds on the tent for extra sustenance. Her grandchildren photographed here, all wear beads that were blessed by the local Mullah. Credit: Courtsey Rob Jarvis

Arafa lives in this tent with her six children and three grandchildren. When she fled her burning home she had nothing but her longyi (traditional skirt) and one shirt so has begun growing gourds on the tent for extra sustenance. Her grandchildren photographed here all wear beads that were blessed by the local mullah. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Chu Mar Win, a Rakhine Buddhist IDP in her early twenties whose house was burned down by Rohingya Muslims in July 2012, volunteers as a teacher in her camp. To ensure the young children can stay in school, the community all donate some rice and small amounts of money to ensure that she can afford to keep teaching. Credit: Courtsey Rob Jarvis

Chu Mar Win, a Rakhine Buddhist IDP in her early twenties whose house was burned down by Rohingya Muslims in July 2012, volunteers as a teacher in her camp. To ensure the young children can stay in school, the community all donate some rice and small amounts of money so she can afford to keep teaching. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Zadi Begum, a 25-year-old single mother of five, runs a small noodle shop out of the front of her hut. As she fled her village in July 2012 with her mother and children, her husband, 30-year-old Ibrahim, stayed behind to collect some things but was killed by Rakhine Buddhists with a machete. She struggled to raise the roughly 27 dollars needed to buy the basic tools and materials to start her noodle shop. Credit: Courtsey Rob Jarvis

Zadi Begum, a 25-year-old single mother of five, runs a small noodle shop out of the front of her hut. As she fled her village in July 2012 with her mother and children, her husband, 30-year-old Ibrahim, stayed behind to collect some things but was killed by Rakhine Buddhists with a machete. She struggled to raise the roughly 27 dollars needed to buy the basic tools and materials to start her noodle shop. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Three years ago, in July 2012, Noor Ahmed had his boat stolen by Rakhine Buddhists in his village of Myo Thu Gyi. Now, he and his 13-year-old son, both IDPs, work tirelessly on other people’s boats for daily wages. He stands before one such boat that the pair has been working on for 20 days. Credit: Courtsey Rob Jarvis

Three years ago, in July 2012, Noor Ahmed had his boat stolen by Rakhine Buddhists in his village of Myo Thu Gyi. Now, he and his 13-year-old son, both IDPs, work tirelessly on other people’s boats for daily wages. He stands before one such boat that the pair has been working on for 20 days. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Mohammed Hussain, aged eight, spends his weekends in the mud with friends looking for buried pieces of wood that can be salvaged for fuel. Here, he has been at work with his three brothers and two friends for four hours, and they have found a single piece that he is excited to take home to his mother. Credit: Courtsey Rob Jarvis

Mohammed Hussain, aged eight, spends his weekends in the mud with friends looking for buried pieces of wood that can be salvaged for fuel. Here, he has been at work with his three brothers and two friends for four hours, and they have found a single piece that he is excited to take home to his mother. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

La La May is making a blouse, catching the last minutes of sunlight through her doorway. She provides training to other girls here and makes between fifty cents and one dollar per day by tailoring clothes. She currently has four female students who she teaches for free using this single sewing machine, which they bought from the ‘host community’, locals from the neighbouring village. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

La La May is making a blouse, catching the last minutes of sunlight through her doorway. She provides training to other girls here and makes between fifty cents and one dollar per day by tailoring clothes. She currently has four female students who she teaches for free using this single sewing machine, which they bought from the ‘host community’, locals from the neighbouring village. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Farida, aged 18, works in her family’s betel nut processing business. The nuts belong to Rakhine business owners, who pay the family less than 0.09 dollars per nut. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Farida, aged 18, works in her family’s betel nut processing business. The nuts belong to Rakhine business owners, who pay the family less than 0.09 dollars per nut. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Abul Kasim, aged 53, a father of seven, finds it hard to explain what is wrong with him. He spends most of his days at the local clinic in Say Tha Ma Gee IDP camp, having not been able to eat properly, with severe bowel problems and internal bleeding for eight months. The clinic has referred him to Sittwe General Hospital but he says dares not go, and could not afford to in any case. Relying on traditional medicine, he has bouts of pain every day that leave him shaking uncontrollably. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Abul Kasim, aged 53, a father of seven, finds it hard to explain what is wrong with him. He spends most of his days at the local clinic in Say Tha Ma Gee IDP camp, having not been able to eat properly, with severe bowel problems and internal bleeding for eight months. The clinic has referred him to Sittwe General Hospital but he says dares not go, and could not afford to in any case. Relying on traditional medicine, he has bouts of pain every day that leave him shaking uncontrollably. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

 

Da Naing clinic demonstrates the abject level of neglect faced by the IDP communities, as a result of aid mismanagement and the government’s lack of care. The clinic was built by an international NGO in 2012 and has lain dormant for much of the time since. Though the government promised doctors and medicine, such provisions have been discontinued. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Da Naing clinic demonstrates the abject level of neglect faced by the IDP communities, as a result of aid mismanagement and the government’s lack of care. The clinic was built by an international NGO in 2012 and has lain dormant for much of the time since. Though the government promised doctors and medicine, such provisions have been discontinued. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Noor Jahan spends her days drying out and grinding chillies to help support her three children, mother-in-law, and out of work husband who used to be a labourer downtown where they are no longer allowed to travel. She buys the chillies fresh from the local market and then sells small affordable packets of 1-2 teaspoons worth, and is able to make just about two dollars in three or four days. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Noor Jahan spends her days drying out and grinding chillies to help support her three children, mother-in-law, and out of work husband who used to be a labourer downtown where they are no longer allowed to travel. She buys the chillies fresh from the local market and then sells small affordable packets of 1-2 teaspoons worth, and is able to make just about two dollars in three or four days. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Mi Ni Ra, 16, is from Nasi village, which was burned to the ground during the violence in 2012. Her baby, just 16 days old here, was born in a small hut in Bu May IDP camp, outside Sittwe. Her baby was delivered traditionally in a small hut nearby, with the help of a local traditional birth attendant, without modern medical support. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Mi Ni Ra, 16, is from Nasi village, which was burned to the ground during the violence in 2012. Her baby, just 16 days old here, was born in a small hut in Bu May IDP camp, outside Sittwe. Her baby was delivered traditionally in a small hut nearby, with the help of a local traditional birth attendant, without modern medical support. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This boy spends his days selling betel nut in the traditional form, wrapped in a leaf with a bit of lime powder and tobacco. A salvaged halved buoy serves as his basket. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This boy spends his days selling betel nut in the traditional form, wrapped in a leaf with a bit of lime powder and tobacco. A salvaged halved buoy serves as his basket. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This elderly Rakhine woman has lived through independence and suffered as a member of a repressed minority under authoritarian rule by successive military regimes in Burma. After Rohingya Muslims burned her village in 2012, she has lived in an IDP camp outside Sittwe, where she struggled to save enough money to open this shop. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This elderly Rakhine woman has lived through independence and suffered as a member of a repressed minority under authoritarian rule by successive military regimes in Burma. After Rohingya Muslims burned her village in 2012, she has lived in an IDP camp outside Sittwe, where she struggled to save enough money to open this shop. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

In the face of adversity, many of the displaced Muslims have turned to God, as instructed by their mullahs. These handmade bamboo Mosques have been built in each IDP camp, with pump well washing facilities outside. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

In the face of adversity, many of the displaced Muslims have turned to God, as instructed by their mullahs. These handmade bamboo mosques have been built in each IDP camp, with pump well washing facilities outside. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Angu Mia plucks and boils chickens for a female Rakhine business owner, who pays him 0.4 dollars per bird and then sells the meat at a local market. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Angu Mia plucks and boils chickens for a female Rakhine business owner, who pays him 0.4 dollars per bird and then sells the meat at a local market. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This man has installed solar panels to the top of his hut to provide a phone charging service to the minority of IDPs who have phones, as their huts have no power. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

This man has installed solar panels to the top of his hut to provide a phone charging service to the minority of IDPs who have phones, as their huts have no power. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

These pufferfish are dried and turned inside out to be sold to traders who take them to China. This man lost stocks of the product worth hundreds of dollars when his house was burned down in June 2012. He now leases fish from local fishermen, promising to pay them in full once he has made a sale. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

These pufferfish are dried and turned inside out to be sold to traders who take them to China. This man lost stocks of the product worth hundreds of dollars when his house was burned down in June 2012. He now leases fish from local fishermen, promising to pay them in full once he has made a sale. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

These women spend hours crouched in the sun on the seashore, drying out fish caught in previous days. Drying the fish preserves it for longer, making it more attractive locally, where a single fish will be eaten over days with small portions of rice. Large numbers of Rohingya Muslims from fishing communities in other parts of Rakhine State fled by boat when the violence began and came straight to this part of the coast, where the Rohingya Muslim communities have long run their fishing businesses. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

These women spend hours crouched in the sun on the seashore, drying out fish caught in previous days. Drying the fish preserves it for longer, making it more attractive locally, where a single fish will be eaten over days with small portions of rice. Large numbers of Rohingya Muslims from fishing communities in other parts of Rakhine State fled by boat when the violence began and came straight to this part of the coast, where the Rohingya Muslim communities have long run their fishing businesses. Credit: Courtesy Rob Jarvis

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

Photos by Rob Jarvis: info@robjarvisphotography.com.

Text by Kim Jolliffe: spcm88@gmail.com

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Q&A: Nuclear Disarmament a Non-Starter, “But I Would Love to Be Proven Wrong”http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/qa-nuclear-disarmament-a-non-starter-but-i-would-love-to-be-proven-wrong/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-nuclear-disarmament-a-non-starter-but-i-would-love-to-be-proven-wrong http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/qa-nuclear-disarmament-a-non-starter-but-i-would-love-to-be-proven-wrong/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 18:46:09 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140555

Interview with Dr Jennifer Allen Simons, Founder and President of the Simons Foundation, dedicated to the elimination of nuclear weapons

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2015 (IPS)

Albert Einstein, the internationally-renowned physicist who developed the theory of relativity, once famously remarked: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons. Credit: The Simons Foundation

Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons. Credit: The Simons Foundation

Perhaps Einstein visualised a nuclear annihilation in the next world war, with disastrous consequences in its aftermath: humanity going back to the Stone Age.

According to most peace activists, the move to eliminate nuclear weapons is not gaining traction, with no hopeful signs of an ideal world without deadly weapons of mass destruction.

Over the last few decades, the five major nuclear powers – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – have been joined by four more: India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.

And if Iran goes nuclear – even later than sooner – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are likely to follow in its footsteps.

The most frightening worst-case scenario is the new Cold War between the United States and Russia, triggered primarily by the political crisis in Ukraine and Russian annexation of Crimea.My greatest fear is that the catalyst to elimination will be the detonation of a nuclear weapon, by accident, miscalculation, design or successful cyberattack.

A proposal on the sidelines of a month-long review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which concludes next week, is to begin negotiations on a proposed international convention to eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.

Asked if the proposal will be a reality, Dr. Jennifer Allen Simons, founder and president of the Simons Foundation, a relentless advocate of nuclear disarmament, bluntly told IPS: “I think it is a non-starter,” but added: “I would love to be proven wrong.”

She pointed out that nuclear weapons states (NWS) are offering the same old rhetoric while upgrading their arsenals and planning for a long future with nuclear weapons.

“The most that may happen is consensus on lowering the operational status of nuclear weapons,” said Dr Simons, who was an adviser to the Canadian government delegation to the 2000 NPT Review Conference and the 2002 NPT Prepcom.

The global zero commission report on de-alerting has been well received, said Dr Simons, who was at the United Nations last week for the NPT Review Conference, and whose foundation, established to eliminate nuclear weapons, is commemorating its 30th anniversary this year.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: Judging by the current NPT negotiations, do you think the Review Conference will succeed in adopting an outcome document, by consensus, by May 22?

A: Though it is too early to tell, so far it seems likely they will get a consensus document, and if so, it will not contain the convention/ban, humanitarian impact issues. I heard that several delegations are prepared to push for disarmament convention/ban or framework of agreements through the open-ended working group if NPT consensus on this issue fails.

Q: Will the new Cold War between the U.S. and Russia have an impact on the outcome of the Review Conference?

A: It may not have an impact because the NWS are not going to eliminate their arsenals. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is on track with reductions, but I do not believe we will see another bilateral commitment for further reductions.

Q: What, in your view, are the major obstacles for total nuclear disarmament?

A: The major obstacle may be fear! Lack of trust between Russia and the West, lack of trust that the over 30 nuclear-capable states may move forward to nuclear weapon capability. My greatest fear is that the catalyst to elimination will be the detonation of a nuclear weapon, by accident, miscalculation, design or a successful cyberattack will trigger the highly automated system or a spoofed attack.

While the U.S. feels its system is impenetrable, however a recent report from the U.S. Defence Science Board warned that the vulnerability of the U.S. command and control system had never been fully assessed. It is not known whether Russia’s and China‘s systems are vulnerable. It also cannot be assumed that India’s and Pakistan’s systems are invulnerable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s flaunting of Russia’s nuclear option is worrying and an obstacle to changing the political salience of nuclear weapons and also provides the other NWS states with a rationale for retaining and upgrading their weapons.

Q: Will we ever see nuclear disarmament in our lifetime or perhaps within the next 50 years?

A: It could happen within my lifetime — and probably only if there was a detonation. This would be such a tragic event and a crime against humanity that it would prompt a ban.

The irony of all this is that everyone is afraid to use them, the military don’t like them not only because of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, but worse, they cost so much to maintain and the military would rather have the money for other weapons.

Frankly, I will never understand why people want to kill.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: A Development Fairytale or a Global Land Rush?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-a-development-fairytale-or-a-global-land-rush/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 07:08:51 +0000 Karine Jacquemart and Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140527

In this column, Karine Jacquemart, Forest Project Leader for Africa at Greenpeace International, and Anuradha Mittal Executive Director of the Oakland Institute, argue that the land rush unleashed around the world to own and exploit Earth’s natural bounty is not only fierce and unfair, but increasingly fatal, with lands, homes and forests bulldozed and cleared for foreign investors and livelihoods shattered.

By Karine Jacquemart and Anuradha Mittal
PARIS/OAKLAND, California, May 11 2015 (IPS)

In our work at Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute around access and control over natural resources, we face constant accusations of being anti-development or “Northern NGOs who care more for the trees”, despite working with communities around the world, from Cameroon, to China, to the Czech Republic.

Karine Jacquemart

This name calling, aimed at discrediting struggles for land, water, and other natural resources in the Third World countries, hides an ugly truth.  The land rush unleashed around the world to own and exploit Earth’s natural bounty is not only fierce and unfair, but increasingly fatal.

Recent reports, including a Global Witness report titled ‘How many more?’ released in April 2015, document the increase in the assassinations of land and environmental activists globally – a shocking average of over two a week in 2014.

As individuals and groups in the frontline of struggles face intimidation, arrests, disappearances, and even death, it is an ethical imperative to support the struggles of the grassroots land defenders against corporations and governments. This is what unites organisations like Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute.

Over the last decade, an estimated 200 million hectares – an area five times bigger than California – has been leased or purchased throughout the world, through completely opaque deals in most cases.

Natural resources in Africa are some of the most sought after, hence the fact that Africa experiences more than 70 percent of the reported land deals.

Anuradha Mittal

Anuradha Mittal

Multinational companies with assistance from powerful partners – the World Bank Group and G8 “donor” countries – are moving in, chanting their “development” formula: facilitate foreign investment through large-scale land acquisitions and mega-projects to ensure economic growth which will trickle down to translate into development for all.

Our work reveals a very different and worrying reality on the ground. Local communities and indigenous peoples report lack of consultation; their lands, homes and forests bulldozed and cleared for foreign investors; their livelihoods shattered.

As one villager in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said, “I want to remain a farmer on my land, not a daily worker depending on a foreign company”, or in the words of a Bodi chief in Ethiopia, “I don’t want to leave my land. If they try and force us, there will be war. So I will be here in my village either alive on the land or dead below it.”

They, and countless more, are victims of the theft of natural resources, made invisible and voiceless by those who define what development looks like.“As individuals and groups in the frontline of struggles face intimidation, arrests, disappearances, and even death, it is an ethical imperative to support the struggles of the grassroots land defenders against corporations and governments”

As if destruction of lives and livelihoods were not enough, those who resist are harassed, even face violence, by governments and private companies.

A planned palm oil plantation by the U.S.-based Herakles Farms in Cameroon threatens to evict thousands of people off their land and destroy part of the world’s second largest rain forest.

The company’s former CEO, responding to criticism of the project, said in an open letter: “My goal is to present HF for what it is – a modestly-sized commercial  oil  palm  project  designed  to  provide employment and  social  development and improve  the  level  of  food  security, while incorporating industry best practices.”

What he failed to mention is how a Cameroonian activist, Nasako Besingi, who heads a local NGO, The Struggle to Economize the Future Environment (SEFE), learnt first-hand the consequences of opposing the project. Arrested in 2012 for planning a peaceful demonstration in Mundemba, Nasako and two of his colleagues languished in a jail for several days.

Soon after his release, while touring the area with a French television crew, he was ambushed and assaulted by men he recognised as employees of Herakles Farms. Instead of protection from this violence, Nasako and SEFE face legal battles, including one of the favorite corporate tactics – a defamation lawsuit, intended to intimidate him and the others who oppose.

Privatisation of land and theft of natural resources will be irreversible and will put people, forest, ecosystems and the climate at risk, if it goes unchecked. The time is now to choose a development path that prioritises people and the planet over profits for the rich. (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)

Edited by Phil Harris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Caribbean Looks to Paris Climate Summit for Its Very Survivalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/caribbean-looks-to-paris-climate-summit-for-its-very-survival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-looks-to-paris-climate-summit-for-its-very-survival http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/caribbean-looks-to-paris-climate-summit-for-its-very-survival/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 20:50:22 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140534 French President François Hollande and President of the Regional Council of Martinique, Serge Letchimy. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

French President François Hollande and President of the Regional Council of Martinique, Serge Letchimy. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Caribbean leaders on Saturday further advanced their policy position on climate change ahead of the 21st Conference of Parties, also known as COP 21, scheduled for Paris during November and December of this year.

The position of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), 14 independent countries, was put forward by the group’s chairman, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, during a meeting here with French President François Hollande.“For the Bahamas, which has 80 percent of its land mass within one metre of mean sea level, climate change is an existential threat." -- Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie

“The evidence of the impact of climate change within our region is very evident. Grenada saw a 300 percent loss of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as a result of one storm,” Christie told IPS

“We see across CARICOM, an average of two to five percent loss of growth due to hurricanes and tropical process which occur annually.

“For the Bahamas, which has 80 percent of its land mass within one metre of mean sea level, climate change is an existential threat to our land mass. Indeed, that is the story across the region. And as I have said from place to place, if the sea level rises some five feet in the Bahamas, 80 percent of the Bahamas as we know it will disappear. The stark reality of that means, we are here to talk about survival,” Christie added.

The Caribbean Community comprises the Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the member states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Saturday’s summit gathered more than 40 heads of state, governments and Caribbean organisations to discuss the impact of climate change on the nations of the region.

The president of the Regional Council of Martinique, Serge Letchimy, said the summit goal is to give a voice to Caribbean nations on climate change through a joint statement, to be called “The Martinique Appeal”, to be heard at COP 21.

“Caribbean Climate 2015 is a push,” said Letchimy, “to vigorously encourage the international community to reach an agreement at COP21 to keep global warming below 2 degrees C. This is a crucial goal for Caribbean island nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change and which only contribute 0.3 percent of global greenhouse emissions.”

Letchimy said Martinique is addressing the climate issue by aggressively implementing the Climate, Air and Energy Master Plan developed in cooperation with the French government.

In order to promote a more circular economy that consumes less non-renewable resources, the Regional Council of Martinique has also decided to go beyond the Master Plan with a programme called “Martinique – Sustainable Island.” The goal is to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy mix by 2030.

Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said climate change is having a huge impact on the environment of his country, which in turn impacts on agriculture and the country’s eco-system.

“As you know we promote heavily ecotourism, and if action is not taken by the international community to halt greenhouse gas emissions we’re going to have a serious challenge,” Skerrit told IPS.

“We’re a coastal country and as the years go by you are seeing an erosion of the coastal landscape. You have a lot of degradation taking place. That has resulted in us spending tremendous sums of money to mitigate against that.

“Clearly, small countries like Dominica, and indeed the entire OECS do not have the kind of resources required to mitigate against climate change. We are the least contributors but we are the most affected,” Skerrit explained.

He said that out of this summit, Caribbean countries are hoping for a partnership with France to drum up support for the concerns of small island states like those in the OECS.

For the director general of the OECS, Dr. Didicus Jules, the impacts of climate change can be seen everywhere across the region, ranging from the rapid onslaught events like floods in St. Lucia, to the severity of hurricanes and erosion of beaches.

“It’s beginning to pose a huge threat as we saw in the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The last event there, the damage was equivalent of about more than 20 percent of their GDP,” he told IPS.

“So just a simple event can set us back so drastically and that is why the member states are so concerned because these events have all kinds of downstream impacts on the economy, not just the damage and loss caused by the events themselves.”

OECS Director General Dr. Didicus Jules. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

OECS Director General Dr. Didicus Jules. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The trough on Dec. 24, 2013 brought torrential rains, death and destruction not only to St. Vincent and the Grenadines but to St. Lucia and Dominica as well.

In the last three years, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been forced to spend more than 600 million dollars to rebuild its battered infrastructure. Landslides in April 2011, followed by the December 2013 floods left 13 people dead.

Jules said today’s meeting is unprecedented because France will be the chair of the COP meeting in Paris and it is perhaps the largest international event that the French president himself will personally chair.

COP21 will seek a new international agreement on the climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C. France and the European Union will play key roles in securing a consensus by the United Nations in these critical climate negotiations.

“He (President Hollande) wants this to be a success and use the opportunity to champion the voices of small island states given the French Republic’s presence in the OECS we felt that it was really a useful forum for having the voice of the Caribbean in this wider sense heard,” Jules said.

“That’s one of the reasons that we are now pressing hard with the French authorities to champion the cause of small island states so that the larger countries, those who are the biggest causes of the impacts on the environment take heed to what the scientists are saying.”

The CARICOM chairman said a satisfactory and binding agreement in Paris must include five essential elements.

These are, clarity on ambitious targets for developed countries, including a long-term goal for significant emission reductions; clarity on the adaptation measures and resources required to facilitate and enhance the sustainable development plans and programmes in small developing countries and thereby significantly reduce the level of poverty in these countries; and clarity on measures and mechanisms to address the development challenges associated with climate change, sea level rise and loss and damage for small island and low-lying coastal developing states.

Christie said it must also include clarity on how the financial and technological support both for mitigation and adaptation will be generated and disbursed to small developing countries.

“Further, it must be recognised that the existing widespread practice of using Gross Domestic Product per capita as the primary basis for access to resources simply does not address the reality of the vulnerability of our countries,” he said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: The Bursting of Europe’s Biofuels Bubblehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-the-bursting-of-europes-biofuels-bubble/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-bursting-of-europes-biofuels-bubble http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-the-bursting-of-europes-biofuels-bubble/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 08:01:47 +0000 Robbie Blake http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140505 Palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia. Palm plantations are being used for the production of biofuel under the guise of a new source of ‘green’ fuel, often displacing local communities and eradicating forests. Photo credit: Clare McVeigh/Down To Earth

Palm plantation in Sumatra, Indonesia. Palm plantations are being used for the production of biofuel under the guise of a new source of ‘green’ fuel, often displacing local communities and eradicating forests. Photo credit: Clare McVeigh/Down To Earth

By Robbie Blake
BRUSSELS, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Last week, the European Union reached a momentous decision to finally agree a reform to its disastrous biofuels legislation, signalling Europe’s U-turn on the burning of crops for biofuels.

In so doing, the European body has recognised what NGOs and scientists have long been warning – that using food and agricultural crops for transport fuel causes major side effects, including food price hikes and volatility, hunger, forest destruction, expanded land consumption, and climate change.“Using food and agricultural crops for transport fuel causes major side effects, including food price hikes and volatility, hunger, forest destruction, expanded land consumption, and climate change”

Six years of political wrangling has ultimately boiled down to a few percentage points. The European Union decided to limit biofuels from food crops like maize, rapeseed, soy and palm oil to 7 percent of transport energy in 2020 (compared with an expected 8.6 percent business as usual).

If that doesn’t sound much (and it should have gone further, given that it still means increasing consumption beyond today’s levels), it is worth knowing that this prevents emissions of an estimated 320 million tonnes of CO2 – equal to the total carbon emissions of a country like Poland in 2012.

The European Union has moreover committed to end policies and subsidies supporting crop-based biofuels after 2020.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) first heard that policies to incentivise biofuels might be causing serious problems a decade ago. Back then, biofuels were hyped as a silver bullet – backed by big agricultural industry interests and as an easy ‘drop-in’ alternative to fossil fuels.

But FoE partners in Indonesia, Paraguay, Brazil and elsewhere began reporting a pattern of massive new plantation developments for sugar cane, oil palm and soy, under the guise of a new source of ‘green’ fuel. These began to displace local communities and eradicate forests – and continue to do so today.

Meanwhile, studies began to show that many biofuels were helping to drive – not prevent – climate change. Extensive scientific research now shows that, on balance, diverting crops to fuel our transport often does more to contribute to climate change than to combat it, due to the deforestation that goes hand-in-hand with large-scale expansion of agricultural land for biofuels.

The results were also disastrous for food. In 2011, a global report on food price volatility by organisations including the OECD, the World Bank, FAO, and the IMF recommended that “governments remove provisions of current national policies that subsidize (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption.”

By turning its back on these biofuels, Europe sends a strong signal to global markets that the biofuels bubble has burst.

The significance of this should not be underestimated. Many countries, rightly or wrongly, see the European Union as a global leader on policies to tackle climate change, and are likely to follow this example in their own biofuels policies. The European Union is also the world’s biggest producer and importer of biodiesel, so this decision will be noticed on world biofuels and commodity markets.

Biofuels-producing countries should take note. Indonesia recently announced plans for new subsidies to expand biofuels plantations in Indonesian forests – which now seems like a serious misstep.

E.U. governments will now have to implement this reform, and they must set the course for phasing out the misguided blending of food crops into Europeans’ fuel tanks altogether. They should next take stock and ensure that other forms of bioenergy (for example, burning wood for electricity) do not cause unintended harm for citizens, the environment and the climate.

And to truly and effectively reduce carbon emissions from transport, they must urgently adopt readily available options like reducing fuel demand in cars, making trains and public transport better and cheaper, speeding up the electrification of our transport systems, and incentives to get people cycling and walking.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Opinion: South-South Cooperation Vital for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-south-south-cooperation-vital-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-south-south-cooperation-vital-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/opinion-south-south-cooperation-vital-for-sustainable-development/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 12:54:12 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140497

Dr. Palitha Kohona is Sri Lanka’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, May 8 2015 (IPS)

Sustainable development is central to a range of key discussions at the United Nations and elsewhere at the moment.

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

Amb. Palitha Kohona. Credit: U.N. Photo/Mark Garten

The role of South-South cooperation in the context of sustainable development deserves greater recognition as significant numbers of developing countries begin to ascend the development ladder in a sustainable manner, causing fundamental changes to the development infrastructure the world has known up to now.

The steady expansion of South-South cooperation is causing a lasting impression on the existing order of things.

First, the best practices adopted by the more economically advanced developing countries could provide workable and relevant models for the others.

Some developing countries have recorded impressive economic successes and the policies they have successfully implemented could be shared. Contrary to existing practice, models of development will increasingly be borrowed from outside the developed world.

Secondly, some advanced developing countries have accumulated considerable international currency reserves and developed relevant technology which could be effectively deployed in the rest of the developing world. This is happening already.

Thirdly, the flow of funding and technology from other developing countries to the rest of the South will result in dramatic changes to relationships largely based on post-colonial and historical dependencies and the inevitable conditionalities. This would create an uncomfortable challenge for those used to the current relationship patterns.The traditional development cooperation patterns, many dependent on former colonial ties, perpetuating a dependent mindset and loaded with conditionality, may be sputtering to an end as a new framework of South South cooperation consolidates itself in the global arena.

Sustainable development was the underlying concept that inspired States as they painstakingly negotiated the Rio+20 outcomes document, The Future We Want.

The Member States are currently working on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, essentially drawing on the report of the Open Working Group (OWG), to produce a master plan for progress, to be realised by 2030, that will ensure just, equitable and inclusive growth. The report of this exercise will be submitted for adoption to the U.N. High Level Summit to be held in September 2015 in New York.

The Post-2015 Development Agenda will seamlessly expand the significant achievements secured under the Millennium Development Goals which targeted eight specific areas. The new enterprise will touch upon many more aspects of our lives, including of women, youth, children, the disadvantaged and the marginalised, in a manner that the Millennium Development Goals did not.

A process culminating in a meeting of States Parties in Addis Ababa in July on Financing for Development will build on the accords of Monterrey and Doha and will adopt recommendations on the funding aspect for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The alleviation of poverty and the elimination of hunger are at the core of this exercise. We live in a world where close to 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. It is estimated that ending poverty in the world will cost 66 billion dollars per year. Over one billion live on less than 1.25 dollars per day. Over 2.5 billion have no access to clean water and proper sanitation resulting in massive health issues, including the stunting of children.

The number of least developed countries has remained the same since the year 2000, the year the MDGs were adopted, although progress has been made towards making the world a better place over the last 15 years.

Along with addressing poverty and hunger, the international community is discussing the related challenges, inter alia, of providing better health care and education for all, creating better cities and communities, ensuring decent work, confronting the daunting challenges facing the oceans, the imminent threat of climate change and biodiversity loss, mainstreaming women and children’s issues, providing energy for all, ensuring sustainable industrialisation, and building global partnerships.

The way humanity will address the threats confronting the oceans, in particular, its riches valued at an estimated 24 trillion dollars, will have a major impact on the environment, climate change, the livelihoods of millions of people and the economies of many countries, especially the Small Island Developing States and the Less Developed Countries.

In the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000, the international community failed specifically on Goal 8 which focused on partnerships. The commitments made on the delivery of assistance to the developing world by the traditional donor community, including technology transfer, failed to materialise to the extent anticipated despite the solemn accords reached at Monterrey, Doha and elsewhere.

The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to grow and the elimination of poverty in many developing countries remains an ever distant dream, affecting a huge proportion of the global population.

Against this challenging background, the advances made by some developing countries provide practical examples of useful best practices and provide possible opportunities for a new framework for development cooperation.

China has pulled out over 680 million from extreme poverty in a short period of 30 years. This is an unprecedented achievement in human history. Its economy, which was at the bottom end of the world in the 1950s, is second only to that of the United States today and is expected to grow further.

Despite its headlong rush towards development and the enormity of the attendant challenges, China is also making impressive gains in the harnessing of alternative energy such as hydro, solar, wind, bio mass and gassified coal, bringing in to question the defensive contention of those industrialised countries which have argued that such a comprehensive embrace of alternative energy would result in major job losses and negative effects on their economies.

The initially costly, but essential, shift to renewable energy will facilitate continuing development in a sustainable manner, and the experiences of countries such as China, India and Brazil may provide an attractive model for other developing countries.

Many countries in South East Asia are also making rapid economic progress with Indonesia expected to become the sixth largest economy of the world by 2030. Sri Lanka, despite its developing country status, has attained enviable targets in the delivery of education services, health care and the integration of women to the national economy.

UNICEF highlights Sri Lanka as a success story. State-sponsored agricultural extension services which increasingly emphasise sustainability have been a major factor in the impressive advances made in this sector by Sri Lanka.

Bangladesh has halved the number of people living in poverty. While the experiences of any one developing country, or the technical knowhow deployed, may not necessarily be duplicated in another, useful lessons can still be learnt.

The lessons that can be shared are evident and South-South Cooperation has become a significant trove of experiences that can be accessed as the challenge of development is addressed. Interestingly, China studied the Greater Colombo Export Processing Zone of Sri Lanka before it established its spectacularly successful Shenzhen Zone.

Infrastructure projects could be and have been funded from public private partnerships, government to government arrangements or by the private sector. Africa’s current spurt of growth has been facilitated by a combination of these mechanisms, with much of the crucial funding and technology coming from China and a lesser amount from India, Brazil, etc..

Sri Lanka’s recent surge in economic expansion depended much on Chinese, and to a lesser extent on Indian, funding and technology. China’s initiative to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which was initially proposed in 2013 by President Xi Jingping, is attracting even traditional donor states in unexpected numbers (57 as of now), despite initial reservations.

It is clear that South-South cooperation is playing a crucial role, especially in developing countries, in adding zest to their economies. Important lessons are being learnt and fundamental changes to established frameworks in global cooperation are being introduced. It may even be argued that the catalyst that propelled many developing country economies to a different level was the recent expansion of cooperation from other developing countries.

The traditional development cooperation patterns, many dependent on former colonial ties, perpetuating a dependent mindset and loaded with conditionality, may be sputtering to an end as a new framework of South South cooperation consolidates itself in the global arena. The states negotiating the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be conscious of the need to reflect the changing nature of the global development framework in their work.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Faith-Based Organisations Warn of Impending Nuclear Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/faith-based-organisations-warn-of-impending-nuclear-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=faith-based-organisations-warn-of-impending-nuclear-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/faith-based-organisations-warn-of-impending-nuclear-disaster/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 20:52:52 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140492 Dr. Emily Welty from WCC delivers the interfaith joint statement at the NPT Review Conference. Credit: Kimiaki Kawai/ SGI

Dr. Emily Welty from WCC delivers the interfaith joint statement at the NPT Review Conference. Credit: Kimiaki Kawai/ SGI

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 7 2015 (IPS)

As the month-long review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) continued into its second week, a coalition of some 50 faith-based organisations (FBOs), anti-nuclear peace activists and civil society organisations (CSOs) was assigned an unenviable task: a brief three-minute presentation warning the world of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of a nuclear attack.

Accomplishing this feat within a rigid time frame, Dr. Emily Welty of the World Council of Churches (WCC) did not mince her words.Since August 1945, Dr. Welty told delegates, the continued existence of nuclear weapons has forced humankind to live in the shadow of apocalyptic destruction.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, she told delegates: “We raise our voices in the name of sanity and the shared values of humanity. We reject the immorality of holding whole populations hostage, threatened with a cruel and miserable death.”

And she urged the world’s political leaders to muster the courage needed to break the deepening spirals of mistrust that undermine the viability of human societies and threaten humanity’s shared future.

She said nuclear weapons are incompatible with the values upheld by respective religious traditions – the right of people to live in security and dignity; the commands of conscience and justice; the duty to protect the vulnerable and to exercise the stewardship that will safeguard the planet for future generations.

“Nuclear weapons manifest a total disregard for all these values and commitments,” she declared, warning there is no countervailing imperative – whether of national security, stability in international power relations, or the difficulty of overcoming political inertia – that justifies their continued existence, much less their use.

Led by Peter Prove, director, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches, Susi Snyder, Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager PAX and Hirotsugu Terasaki, executive director of Peace Affairs, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), the coalition also included Global Security Institute, Islamic Society of North America, United Church of Christ, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Pax Christi USA and United Religions Initiative.

SGI, one of the relentless advocates of nuclear disarmament, was involved in three international conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (in Oslo, Norway in March 2013; Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014; and Vienna, Austria, December 2014), and also participated in two inter-faith dialogues on nuclear disarmament (in Washington DC, and Vienna over the last two years).

At both meetings, inter-faith leaders jointly called for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

The current NPT review conference, which began Apr. 27, is scheduled to conclude May 22, perhaps with an “outcome document” – if it is adopted by consensus.

The review conference also marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Since August 1945, when both cities were subjected to atomic attacks, Dr Welty told delegates, the continued existence of nuclear weapons has forced humankind to live in the shadow of apocalyptic destruction.

“Their use would not only destroy the past fruits of human civilization, it would disfigure the present and consign future generations to a grim fate.”

For decades, the coalition of FBOs said, the obligation and responsibility of all states to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction has been embodied in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

But progress toward the fulfillment of this repeatedly affirmed commitment has been too slow – and today almost imperceptible.

Instead, ongoing modernisation programmes of the world’s nuclear arsenals is diverting vast resources from limited government budgets when public finances are hard-pressed to meet the needs of human security.

“This situation is unacceptable and cannot be permitted to continue,” the coalition said.

The London Economist pointed out recently that every nuclear power is spending “lavishly to upgrade its atomic arsenal.”

Russia’s defence budget has increased by over 50 percent since 2007, a third of it earmarked for nuclear weapons: twice the share of France.

China is investing in submarines and mobile missile batteries while the United States is seeking Congressional approval for 350 billion dollars for the modernisation of its nuclear arsenal.

The world’s five major nuclear powers are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – and the non-declared nuclear powers include India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

The coalition pledged to: communicate within respective faith communities the inhumane and immoral nature of nuclear weapons and the unacceptable risks they pose, working within and among respective faith traditions to raise awareness of the moral imperative to abolish nuclear weapons; and continue to support international efforts to ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds and call for the early commencement of negotiations by states on a new legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons in a forum open to all states and blockable by none.

The coalition also called on the world’s governments to: heed the voices of the world’s hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) urging the abolition of nuclear weapons, whose suffering must never be visited on any other individual, family or society; take to heart the realities clarified by successive international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons; take concrete action leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, consistent with existing obligations under the NPT; and associate themselves with the pledge delivered at the Vienna Conference and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Unifying Transmission from North to South Means Cheaper Energy in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/unifying-transmission-from-north-to-south-means-cheaper-energy-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unifying-transmission-from-north-to-south-means-cheaper-energy-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/unifying-transmission-from-north-to-south-means-cheaper-energy-in-chile/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 00:39:52 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140480 The interconnection of Chile’s two major power grids will unite the country in terms of energy and bring down costs in one of the countries in the world with the most expensive electricity. Credit: Ministry of Energy

The interconnection of Chile’s two major power grids will unite the country in terms of energy and bring down costs in one of the countries in the world with the most expensive electricity. Credit: Ministry of Energy

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 7 2015 (IPS)

Chile expects to have a more efficient and stable electricity market, with a more steady – and above all, less expensive – supply, when the country’s two major power grids are interconnected over a distance of more than 3,000 km.

“It’s not sufficient simply to increase our electricity generating capacity, if we don’t strengthen our transmission capacity at the same time. If we want to be a developed country, we have to aim for diversity in our energy mix and stability in power transmission,” Energy Minister Máximo Pacheco told IPS.

This project “opens up enormous opportunities for progress and stability for Chileans, with cleaner and cheaper energy,” he added.

Chile’s long, thin territory has an installed capacity of approximately 17,000 MW to supply its 17.6 million people and its productive sectors.

In this country power generation and distribution are in the hands of private and mainly foreign corporations, and regulated by the government’s National Energy Commission, which is also coordinating the interconnection.

Of the country’s total installed capacity, the central grid, SIC, accounts for 74 percent and the northern grid, SING, accounts for 25 percent, while the smaller grids in the southern regions of Aysén and Magallanes produce less than one percent.

SING stretches from the region of Arica in the extreme north, bordering Peru and Bolivia, to Antofagasta, while SIC runs from the northern city of Taltal to the Big Island of Chiloé, in the south.

Together they total more than 3,000 km in this South American country, which is 4,270 km long.

The interconnection project, already under construction with a total projected investment of one billion dollars, is being carried out by the French company GDF Suez and involves installing an additional 580 km of transmission lines.

The new power lines will carry energy from the Mejillones power plant in Antofagasta, which forms part of the SING grid, to the Cardones substation in Copiapó, in the northern region of Atacama, which is part of the SIC grid.

Chile currently imports 97 percent of the oil, gas and coal it uses, and its energy mix is made up of 63 percent thermal power, 34 percent hydroelectricity and three percent non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) sources.

The Italian-Spanish firm Endesa-Enel wants to build a large dam on Lake Neltume, in the town of the same name in the Los Ríos region in southern Chile – a plan that is staunchly opposed by local residents, especially indigenous communities, which defend it as sacred territory. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The Italian-Spanish firm Endesa-Enel wants to build a large dam on Lake Neltume, in the town of the same name in the Los Ríos region in southern Chile – a plan that is staunchly opposed by local residents, especially indigenous communities, which defend it as sacred territory. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

This country’s shortage of energy sources has made the cost of electricity per megawatt/hour (MWh) for industry in Chile one of the highest in Latin America: over 150 dollars, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2014.

That is the 13th highest cost in the world, and in the region it is only surpassed by the Dominican Republic’s 210 dollars per MWh, and Brazil and El Salvador, where the cost is 160 dollars per MWh.

“Chile has the highest cost of electricity in Latin America, and the power bill went up 30 percent in the last five years,” said Pacheco. “This has a strong impact on our families and hurts the competitiveness of our companies.”

He said the interconnection project, postponed for decades due to technical and technocratic reasons, “is an historic milestone” because it not only makes supply more efficient, stable and steady but also guarantees lower costs and gives a boost to the economy.

According to the National Energy Commission, the interconnection will bring 1.1 billion dollars in benefits to the country because of the drop in power grid costs and prices, linked to greater competition and a reduction of risks in the market.

“This has an enormous value given that it is equivalent to building approximately 35,000 social housing units. That is the magnitude of the economic benefit of this project for the country,” the minister stressed.

In concrete terms, households supplied by the SING northern grid will notice a 13 dollar drop in the price of MWh, while homes covered by the southern grid, SIC will see a three dollar drop.

In the case of industry, there will be an estimated 17 dollar reduction in the price per MWh in the north and nine dollars in the central and southern parts of the country.

In addition, “investment in the energy sector will increase, which will definitely be good news for our country,” Pacheco said.

But the economic benefits are not the only attractive aspect of the project. The minister said “the aim of the connection between the country’s two major grids is that the clean, abundant energy in the north can reach the centre and south.”

This means environmentalists share the government’s optimism.

Manuel Baquedano, director of the non-governmental Political Ecology Institute, told IPS that this is “one of the most important projects for the country” because it entails greater flexibility in energy management and, as a result, lower costs.

The expert pointed out that “the north has a surplus during the daytime” due to the enormous solar power potential in the Atacama desert, the world’s driest, while in the centre and south of the country, served by the SIC, “there is a surplus at night” because of the great hydropower potential.

As a result, he said, “each system can contribute to the other, producing a more stable supply and bolstering the use of NCRE sources, which require back-up energy sources.”

“It’s a key project, because Chile’s problem today is not generation but transmission of energy,” Baquedano said.

In her second term, which began in March 2014, President Michelle Bachelet promised to increase the share of energy produced by NCRE sources to 20 percent by 2025.

“Several of the measures proposed on the government’s agenda are aimed at meeting that goal, such as expanding the power grid, improving competitiveness in energy generation, and making the operation of the power grids more flexible,” the minister said.

He added that the future development of the power grids “will play a central role in facilitating compliance with that target at lower costs, taking advantage of the coordinated use of the transmission corridors.”

“What we are seeing is a proliferation of wind and solar power projects in the north, more than the construction of hydropower dams in the south. The public no longer tolerates megaprojects,” Baquedano said.

Against that backdrop, “I’m not afraid of the interconnection. On the contrary, I believe it is a very important element for the development of NCRE sources,” he concluded.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Falling Oil Prices Trigger Initial Economic Gains for Pacific Islandershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/falling-oil-prices-trigger-initial-economic-gains-for-pacific-islanders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=falling-oil-prices-trigger-initial-economic-gains-for-pacific-islanders http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/falling-oil-prices-trigger-initial-economic-gains-for-pacific-islanders/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 16:04:50 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140474 In the Pacific Islands, transportation, including cargo boats that ply the waters between islands, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

In the Pacific Islands, transportation, including cargo boats that ply the waters between islands, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, May 6 2015 (IPS)

The recent dramatic fall in world oil prices, with Brent crude plummeting from a high of 115 dollars per barrel in June last year to around 47 dollars in January 2015, is beginning to benefit Pacific Islanders who are seeing lower prices for fuel and energy.

Although the global price per barrel inched up to 68 dollars in early May, regional experts continue to anticipate fiscal gains as the trend eases costs of government operations and service delivery.

“How and to what extent [Pacific Island governments] will be able to derive benefits from the dramatic oil price drop depends on how quickly they [...] channel public spending on infrastructure and other development programmes.” -- Dr. Dibyendu Maiti, associate professor at the School of Economics at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji
“There is evidence to suggest that reduced fuel costs are having some impact in all Pacific Island markets, at least through lower prices charged for fuel, but the impact on secondary markets, like food and transport, may take longer to be realised,” Alan Bartmanovich, Petroleum Adviser to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Fiji, told IPS.

It will take time for the oil price drop to fully impact island governments and all economic sectors due to the length of supply chains and other factors, such as price fuel regulation within countries, he added.

A global oversupply of oil, due to a surge in United States production and decline in consumption driven by reduced growth in Europe and Asia, have been the main causes of the downward price trend.

The decision of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, which produces 40 percent of the world’s crude oil, to maintain its level of output has diminished the likelihood of prices soaring again quickly.

The Pacific Islands region is home to 10 million people living in 22 countries and territories totalling thousands of islands spread across 180 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

According to the World Bank, more than 20 percent of Pacific Islanders are unable to afford basic needs, while employment relative to population is a low 30-50 percent in Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Capitalising on lower oil prices will be vital to improving the lives and development outcomes of millions of people in this region, where the vast majority live in rural areas with little access to basic facilities and global job markets.

Many countries have embarked on plans to transition to renewable energy, but the region still depends heavily on fossil fuels, especially for power and transportation.

Fossil fuel imports amount to 10 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) and in five countries – the Cook Islands, Guam, Nauru, Niue and Tuvalu – diesel is still used for nearly all power generation.

Transporting oil long distances to small Pacific islands scattered across vast sea distances entails complex and costly supply chains. Further shipment to outer lying island provinces within countries can result in an additional 20-40 percent on the price of fuel for local consumers.

In Fiji, Maureen Penjueli, coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation, a regional civil society organisation, said, “Only a month ago the people of Fiji started to enjoy the real benefits of the fall in oil prices, particularly at the gas pumps, but also for basic energy needs, such as kerosene.”

Since 2014, the price of diesel in Fiji, commonly used to fuel power generators, has dropped from 1.17 dollars to 0.82 dollars per litre in April this year.

Over the same period, the cost of kerosene has fallen from 1.09 dollars to 0.62 dollars per litre.

“The cost of kerosene coming down is significant as this benefit trickles right down to rural and urban areas where most people are dependent on it as a source of energy for cooking,” Penjueli continued.

The trend is welcomed in the region after soaring oil prices from 2002-2008 and the global financial crisis intensified fiscal pressures, costing many Pacific Island countries about 10 percent of their gross national incomes.

Rising inflation and worsening trade deficits impeded the capacity of governments to reduce poverty and deliver development programmes and public services.

Rural communities in the Solomon Islands use fossil fuels for transportation, such as motorized canoes. Catherine Wilson/IPS

Rural communities in the Solomon Islands use fossil fuels for transportation, such as motorized canoes. Catherine Wilson/IPS

At this time ordinary Pacific Islanders witnessed escalating food, electricity and transport costs. Between 2009 and 2010 some staple food prices increased by 50-100 percent in at least six Pacific Island countries.

In Vanuatu, the price of taro rose from 1.95 to 3.91 dollars and yams from 6.85 to 14.68 dollars. The purchasing power of family incomes shrunk, with the poorest often the worst hit.

But, according to Penjueli, food prices remain largely unaffected so far by fuel price reductions.

“The rationale is that there should be a drop in prices of both imported foods and local produce because transportation costs will come down, however, we really haven’t seen that benefit yet. Retail stores have not brought their prices down,” she said.

The World Bank claims that a decline of 10 percent in world oil prices is likely to boost economic growth in oil importing countries about 0.1-0.5 percentage points.

But while prices declined about 30-40 percent in 2014-15, current growth forecasts for the region remain modest. GDP growth in the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu is predicted to remain the same from 2015-2016 at 3.5 percent, 2.5 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

Global oil prices are forecasted to remain low during the course of this year and increase marginally in 2016.

Dr. Dibyendu Maiti, associate professor at the School of Economics at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, emphasised it was important for Pacific Island governments to respond to the price shift.

“How and to what extent they [governments] will be able to derive benefits from the dramatic oil price drop depends on how quickly they adjust the inflation target and channel public spending on infrastructure and other development programmes.”

Some priorities include investing more in higher education and skills development and “encouraging the private sector to participate with more investment. This would have a long term spill-over effect […] such as raising employment,” Maiti told IPS.

Beyond the oil market, reducing the vulnerability of the Pacific Islands to economic shocks and alleviating the financial burden of fossil fuel imports demands that countries remain on course with plans to convert to locally generated renewable energy.

Three years ago, Tokelau, a tiny Polynesian territory in the central Pacific, led the way by converting to 100 percent renewable energy with a large off-grid solar system providing power to its population of 1,411.

It was a critical move toward sustainable development given Tokelau’s GDP is about 1.5 million dollars, while its annual fuel importation bill was around 754,000 dollars.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Costa Rica’s Energy Nearly 100 Percent Cleanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/costa-ricas-energy-nearly-100-percent-clean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-ricas-energy-nearly-100-percent-clean http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/05/costa-ricas-energy-nearly-100-percent-clean/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 17:01:30 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140463 Seven percent of Costa Rica’s electricity comes from wind power, thanks to wind farms such as the ones operating in the mountains of La Paz and Casamata, 50 km from San José. But the automotive industry remains a hurdle to the country’s dream of achieving a totally clean energy mix. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Seven percent of Costa Rica’s electricity comes from wind power, thanks to wind farms such as the ones operating in the mountains of La Paz and Casamata, 50 km from San José. But the automotive industry remains a hurdle to the country’s dream of achieving a totally clean energy mix. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, May 5 2015 (IPS)

Costa Rica has almost reached its goal of an energy mix based solely on renewable sources, harnessing solar, wind and geothermal power, as well as the energy of the country’s rivers.

In April, the state electricity company, ICE, announced that in 2015, 97 percent of the country’s energy supply would come from clean sources.

“The country as such, along with its energy and environmental policies, has decided that it wants its energy development to be based on renewable sources,” Javier Orozco, the head of ICE’s System Expansion Process, told Tierramérica.

But this Central American country of 4.5 million people still depends partially on fossil fuels. The official said “we use thermal energy generation as a complement because renewables depend on the climate and you can’t guarantee that there will always be wind or water.”

The country’s energy supply is based almost totally on clean sources. In March ICE announced that in the first 75 days of the year, not a single litre of oil nor kilo of coal were burnt to generate electricity in the country.

“In our country, we build thermal plants to keep them turned off. Our aim is to have thermal plants that are turned off most of the time,” Orozco said.

That objective is not always met, principally because hydroelectric power varies with seasonal stream flows. The year 2014 was dry and the country’s fossil fuel use hit a record level, generating 10.3 percent of the total electricity supply.

Since the mid-20th century, Costa Rica’s energy mix has been largely based on hydroelectricity. But the country has gradually reduced its dependence on that energy source, and in 2014 hydropower accounted for only 63 percent of the total demand of 2,800 MW, while geothermal energy supplied 15 percent and wind power seven percent.

Last year’s large petroleum bill was caused by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world, which hit Central America hard and triggered one of the worst droughts in over half a century.

Projections of the future impact of climate change play a double role: while the world has to seek cleaner sources of energy to curb global warming, Costa Rica must diversify its energy mix because of the changes in hydrological patterns.

The country is thus exploring the limits of renewable energies and the possibility of generating 100 percent clean energy is on the table, as part of a strategy based especially on geothermal power.

This source of energy is hidden under the volcanoes of northwest Costa Rica. Local scientists and engineers are perfecting the technique of using the earth’s heat to generate electricity.

“We are planning the construction of the new geothermal plant, Pailas II, and we are at the stage of feasibility studies for a new field. Geothermal power is important because it isn’t subject to climate change, but is constant,” Orozco explained.
The plant will have 50 MW of installed capacity and it will join the ones already in operation: Pailas (35 MW), and Miralles (165 MW). That means that only 23 percent of the country’s geothermal potential of 865 MW is being used, according to ICE figures.

But the problem with respect to developing this source of energy is that the rest of the potential lies in national parks, where exploiting it is banned by law.

That raises the question of what definition of green energy the country will accept.

Experts like former minister of environment and energy René Castro (2011-2014) see the development of geothermal energy as viable.

“It is possible,” Castro told Tierramérica. “Two changes are needed: ICE would need to expand geothermal energy production, and the extraction of this source of energy in national parks would need to be authorised, while paying royalties to the parks and replacing the land used, twice over: if 50 hectares are used (in a park), the equivalent of 100 percent of its ecological value would be replaced.”

The other measure proposed by Castro is “to authorise the private sector to generate electricity with biomass from pineapple or banana plant waste, or sawdust,” and later sell it to ICE, which administers the energy supply and is the biggest producer of electricity.

Private operators represent 14.5 percent of total energy generation and one-fourth of installed capacity. But they face legal restrictions when it comes to expanding their share.

The investment needed would be similar to what is projected by ICE, which is close to one percent of GDP, the former minister said. “What would change is that instead of one single investor, ICE, it would be the dominant one, accompanied by around 30 other companies and cooperatives,” he said.

The country is in urgent need of holding this debate.

In July 2014, the legislature approved a loan from the European Investment Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency to build the Pailas II geothermal project.

ICE is building plants that will expand its current installed capacity of 2,800 MW by an additional 800 MW.

At the same time, the government is holding a national dialogue on electrical energy, to discuss these issues, and a national dialogue on transportation and fuels, which will address the hurdle to Costa Rica’s dream of green energy: the fuel used in transportation.

Transport, the weakest link

“The transportation sector is the biggest energy consumer at a national level and is responsible for 67 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the current minister of environment and energy, Édgar Gutiérrez, at the start of the national dialogue talks.

That is why “addressing the challenges in this sector is a priority” for the government, he said.

No matter how clean Costa Rica’s energy mix becomes, the country will still produce emissions and will still have a “dirty” development model because of land transport.

One possible solution could come from Costa Rican-born scientist and former astronaut Franklin Chang, who is working on a hydrogen-based renewable energy system.

“The problem doesn’t lie in electricity but in transportation,” he told Tierramérica. “That’s where we have to distance ourselves from the use of petroleum, introduce our own fuel in our own country with hydrogen-based technologies.”

From his laboratory in Guancaste, in western Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean, Chang has partnered with Costa Rica’s state oil refinery, RECOPE, to create a pilot plan with several hydrogen-fueled vehicles, and has reached the test stage. But a technicality has stalled the 2.3 million dollar project.

In October, his company, Ad Astra, announced that it was ready to launch the final phase.

“It was the final flourish – we were going to install and create a small ecosystem of hydrogen vehicles,” said Chang. But RECOPE was unable to overcome the legal obstacle to operate using that energy source. “In March I announced that I was totally fed up.”

The legislature is currently studying a solution to enable RECOPE to invest in clean energy sources, but until then the project will be stalled.

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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