Inter Press ServiceEconomy & Trade – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:52:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Money Talks at One Planet Summit in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:17 +0000 Paris Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153552 As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table. The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors […]

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

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

By Paris Correspondent
PARIS, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:17:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153533 This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

At the outset my thanks to Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Kassim, and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy who lead the Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue for organizing this panel discussion at a critical moment in history. The Centre, is one of the few actors for peace and cooperation between the Arab world and Europe. As a representative of global civil society, I think it will be more meaningful if I speak without the constraints of diplomacy, and I make frank and unfettered reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The misuse of religion, of populism and xenophobia, is a sad reality, which is not clearly addressed any longer, but met with hypocrisy and not outright denunciation. Only now the British are realizing that they voted for Brexit, on the basis of a campaign of lies. But nobody has taken on publicly Johnson or Farage, the leaders of Brexit, after Great Britain accepted to pay, as one of the many costs of divorce, at least 45 billion Euro, instead of saving 20 billion Euro, as claimed by the ‘brexiters’. And there are only a few analysis on why political behaviour is more and more a sheer calculation, without any concern for truth or the good of the country.

President Trump could be a good case study on the relations between politics and populism. Just a few days ago the United States has declared that they are withdrawing from the UN Global Compact on Migration. This has nothing to do with the interest or the identity of United States, which has built itself as a country of immigrants. It has to do with the fact that this decision is popular with a part of American population, which is voting for President Trump, like the evangelicals. I have here to show the message they are circulating, after the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is what it is said in the Bible. If we recreate the world described in the bible, Jesus will make his second coming to earth, and only the just will be rewarded. And therefore they think that Trump brings the world closer to the return of Christ, and therefore he acts for the good of their beliefs. Evangelicals are close to thirty million, and they strongly believe that when the second coming of Jesus will happen, he will recognize only them as the believers who are on the right path. Trump is not an evangelical, and he has shown little interest in religion. But, like each of his actions, he is coherent with his views during the campaign, which brought together all the dissatisfied people catapulting him into the White House. Everything he does, is not in the interest of the world or of the United States. He is just focused on keeping the support of his electors – those who do not come from big towns, academia, media and the Silicon Valley. They come mainly from impoverished and uninformed white electors, who feel left out from the benefits of globalization. They believe those benefits went to the elite, to the big towns and to the few winners, and believe that there is an international plot to humiliate the United States. So, climate change for them and Trump is a Chinese hoax ! During the first year, Trump can well have a shocking approval rating of 32%, the lowest in history for a President of United States. But 92% of his voters would re-elect him. And as only 50% of Americans vote, he can conveniently ignore general public opinion.

It is not the place here to go deeper into American political trends. But Trump is a perfect example to see why a large number of Europeans, or even countries like Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, are ignoring the decisions of the European Union on migrants, and why populism, xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise everywhere.

Fear has become the tool to get to power.

Historians agree that two main engines of change in history, are greed and fear.

Well, we have been trained, since the collapse of communism, to look to greed as a positive value. Markets (no man or ideas), was the new paradigm. States were an obstacle to a free market. Globalization, it was famously said, would lift all boats, and benefit everybody. In fact, markets without rules was self-destructive, and not all boats were lifted, but only yachts, the bigger the better. The rich became richer, and the poor poorer. The process is so speedy, that ten years ago the richest 528 people had the same wealth of 2.3 billion people. This year, they have become 8, and this number is likely to shrink soon. All statistics are clear, and globalization based on free market is losing some of its shine.

But meanwhile we have lost many codes of communication. In the political debate there is no more reference to social justice, solidarity, participation, equity, the values in the modern constitutions, on which we built international relations. Now the codes are competition, success, profit and individual achievement. During my lectures at schools, I am dismayed to see a materialistic generation, who do not care to vote, to change the world. And the distance between citizens and political institutions is increasing every day. The only voices reminding us of justice and solidarity, and are voices from religious leaders: Pope Bergoglio, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, and the Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein, just to name the most prominent. And with media who are now also based on market as the only criteria, those voices are becoming weaker.

After a generation of greed, we are now in a generation of fear. We should notice that, before the great economic crisis of 2009 (provoked by greed: banks have paid until now 280 billion dollars of penalties and fines), xenophobe and populist parties were always minorities (with exception of Le Pen in France). The crisis created fear and uncertainties, and then immigration started to rise, especially after the invasion of Libya in 2001 and Iraq in 2013.We are now in the seventh year of the Syrian drama, which displaced 45% of the population. Merkel is now paying a price for her acceptance of Syrian refugees, and it is interesting to note that two thirds of the votes to Alternative Fur Deutschland, the populist and xenophobe party, comes from former East Germany, that has few refugees but an income, which is nearly 25% lower. Fear, again, has been the engine for change of German history.

Europe was direct lyresponsible for these migrations. A famous cartoonist El Roto from El Pais, has made a cartoon showing bombs flying in the air, and migrant’s boats coming from the sea. “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”. But there is no recognition of this. Those who escape from hunger and war are now depicted as invaders. Countries who until few years ago, like the Nordic ones, were considered synonymous with civic virtues, and who spent a considerable budget for international cooperation, are now erecting walls and barbed wire. Greed and fear have been so successfully exploited by the new nationalist, populist and xenophobe parties, that now they keep growing at every election, from Austria to the Netherlands, from Czech Republic to Great Britain (where they created Brexit ), and then Germany, and in a few months, Italy. The three horses of apocalypse, which in the thirties were the basis for the Second Wold War: nationalism, populism and xenophobia, are back with growing popular support, and politicians openly riding them.

But what is shocking is that we have now a new element of division: religion, which is widely used against immigrants and should instead unite us. Religion has always been used to get power and legitimacy. Common people never started the wars of religion in Europe but by princes and kings. A few years ago we did commemorate the expulsion first of the Jews, and then of the Moors, from Spain, where they lived in harmony and peace with the Christians, forming a civilization of the three cultures. And a few weeks ago, there was a great march in Warsaw, ignored by the media, with 40.000 people, many coming from all over Europe and the United States. They marched in the name of God, crying death to the Jews and Muslim.

But while Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jew religious leaders engage in a positive dialogue for peace and cooperation, a number of self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, are bringing fear, misery and death. And it should be clear that we have no clash of religions. It is a clash of those who use religion for power and legitimacy. And they ride an unrealistic historical dream. To return to a world, which is gone, where mines will reopen, the country will go back to its former glory: a world, that dreams not of a better future, but of a better past. Africa is going to double its population, with 80% of its population under 35 years; while in Europe it will be just 20%. There is no hope for Europe to be viable in a global economy and in a competitive world, without substantial immigration. Yet, to speak about that in the political debate, is now a kiss of death.

In conclusion, I must stress that we face a sad reality, which cannot be ignored any longer, even if it is not politically correct. Ideals have always been used to gain support, even from those who did not believe them. And historians teach us that in modern times humankind has fallen into three traps: In the name of God, to divide and not to dialogue; in the name of the nation, often to rally support and bring citizens to wars; and now, in name of the profit. I think it is time to make new alliances, and launch a great powerful campaign of awareness on the false prophets, with mobilizations of media, civil society and legitimate politicians, to educate citizens that immigration must be regulated, as it is a necessity, with which Europe must live.

We must establish policies, and even after Trumps leaves the global Compact, like he left the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will remain an isolated voice, while citizens will strive for a better world, with no fears, based on common values. We must take an unpopular but vital action for education and participation. It will be unpopular and difficult we know. But if we do not take this road, human beings, who are the only ‘animals’ who do not learn from past mistakes, will again go through blood, misery and destruction.

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Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:35:42 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153534 Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The iconic statue of a knotted gun barrel outside U.N. headquarters. Credit:Tressia Boukhors/IPS.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR , Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent
Meanwhile, some fast-growing developing countries are now arming themselves much faster than their growth rate. Such expensive arms imports mean less for development and the people, especially the poor and destitute who constitute several hundred million in India alone.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s had raised expectations of a ‘peace dividend’. Many hoped and expected the arms race to decelerate, if not cease; the resources thus saved were expected to be redeployed for development and to improve the lives of ordinary people.

But the arms trade has continued to grow in the new millennium, after falling briefly from the mid-1990s. And without the political competition of the Cold War, official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell in the 1990s. Such ODA or foreign aid only rose again after 9/11, the brutal terroristic attack on US symbols of global power, only to fall again after the global financial crisis.

 

Arms sales

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest report on the world’s arms trade offers some revealing new data. The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2012–2016 was 8.4 per cent more than in 2007–2011, the highest for any five-year period since 1990.

As Figure 1 shows, international arms exports rose steeply until the early 1980s, after a brief decline during 1955–1960. It fell once again from the mid-1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev sought to end the Cold War which had diverted resources to military build-ups in developing countries.

Foreign sales of military arms and equipment across the world totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, the first year of growth (by 1.9 per cent), after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion lion’s share of foreign arms sales. Seven out of ten of the world’s top arms companies were American, earning $152.1 billion, with Lockheed Martin leading with $40.8 billion.

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

Figure 1. International transfers of major weapons, 1950–2016. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

 

Arms exporters

The five biggest exporters during 2012–2016 were the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany (Figure 2).

 

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

 

US exports of major weapons increased by 21 per cent during 2012–2016 compared to 2007–2011. The major destination was the Middle East which accounted for 47 per cent. The USA exported major weapons to at least 100 states during 2012–2016, significantly more than any other supplying country.

Russian major weapons exports increased by only 4.7 per cent. It sold weapons to only 50 states, with exports to India alone accounting for 38 per cent. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 74 per cent, as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. China’s arms exports to Africa grew most, by 122 per cent, to account for 22 per cent of its total arms exports.

 

Arms importers

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent! Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons followed by South Korea.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, has more of the world’s abject poor (280 million) than any other country, accounting for a third of the world’s poor living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Using a US$3.10 a day poverty line, more appropriate for a middle-income country, the number of poor in India goes up dramatically to 732 million.

A study in 2014, led by the former chairman of the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, estimated that 363 million, or 29.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, lived in poverty in 2011–2012, i.e., on less than Rs 32 daily in rural areas, and below Rs 47 a day in urban areas.

Asia and Oceania was the main importing region in 2012–2016, accounting for 43 per cent of global imports, followed by the Middle East, with 29 per cent, and African states accounting for 8.1 per cent. Between the two five year periods, arms imports in Asia and Oceania increased by 7.7 per cent and in the Middle East by 86 per cent. Arms imports by European states fell by 36 per cent while African arms imports declined by 6.6 per cent.

Tensions in Southeast Asia have driven up demand for weapons. Viet Nam’s arms imports increased by 202 per cent, pushing it to become the 10th largest arms importer in 2012–2016 from being 29th in 2007–2011. This was the fastest increase among the top ten importers. Philippines’ arms imports increased by 426 per cent while Indonesia’s grew by 70 per cent.

 

Fuelling conflicts

Six rebel groups are among the 165 identified recipients of major weapons in 2012–2016. Even though deliveries to the six accounted for no more than 0.02 per cent of major arms transfers, SIPRI argues the sales fuel conflicts.

Conflict regions alone accounted for 48 per cent of total arms imports to sub-Saharan Africa. According to SIPRI, governments fighting rebel groups used major arms against anti-government rebels.

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Can Korea Power Past Coal? A New World in Which “Solar+Batteries” Becomes the Cheapest Form of Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/can-korea-power-past-coal-a-new-world-in-which-solarbatteries-becomes-the-cheapest-form-of-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-korea-power-past-coal-a-new-world-in-which-solarbatteries-becomes-the-cheapest-form-of-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/can-korea-power-past-coal-a-new-world-in-which-solarbatteries-becomes-the-cheapest-form-of-energy/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 09:36:27 +0000 Frank Rijsberman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153514 Frank Rijsberman is Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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GGGI Energy Forum 2017, November 24, 2017, Seoul. Credit: GGGI

GGGI Energy Forum 2017, November 24, 2017, Seoul. Credit: GGGI

By Frank Rijsberman
SEOUL, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

Renewable energy became the cheapest form of electricity in 58 emerging economies last year. This year, the 11th Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE 11.0) showed that solar and wind energy generation costs (at $46 to $53 per megawatt-hour of generation) easily beat coal and gas (at $60-68).  

Solar power was the fastest-growing source of new energy worldwide in 2016, outpacing the growth in all other forms of power generation for the first time. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), on the back of a strong solar PV market, renewable energy accounted for two-thirds of new power added to the world’s grid last year. In addition to this, solar energy is set to surpass nuclear power by the end of 2017.

In November this year, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) organized its first energy forum in Seoul at which GGGI Member countries shared their energy transformation experience.

In Germany, on one sunny breezy Sunday last summer, solar and wind broke a record 85% of all energy used in the country.

The rapidly growing renewable energy sector is quickly replacing nuclear energy in Germany – while coal is still playing a key role in the energy mix. In the UK, on the other hand, the use of coal in the energy mix has rapidly fallen from 50 to 9% in just ten years, replaced by cheap solar and offshore wind energy – while nuclear energy is maintaining a key role.

The Australian capital city, Canberra, has rapidly achieved the solar and wind investments to shift to 100% renewable energy by 2020, and is now moving to zero emissions by 2030, while the national targets are much more modest.

In the Republic of Korea, renewable energy currently accounts for just 2% of the country’s electricity production, with coal-fired and nuclear plants generating 40% and 30%, respectively. However, Korea’s new Moon Jae-in government has recently increased the target for the share of renewables in power generation to 20% by 2030.

Frank Rijsberman.

The Korean government plans to set up a renewable energy coordination center in every region; secure a solar system in each village; adopt projects led by local authorities, including offshore wind turbines; and secure economic feasibility of renewable energy through utility-scale renewable energy projects. Is the 20% target too ambitious to achieve in Korea – or is it too modest to deal with the environmental and climate challenges?

The new government’s twin objectives for Korea to become a nuclear free society while also solving the “fine dust” air pollution problems is now actively debated in Korea. Doing both requires reducing nuclear energy, as well as the use of coal and diesel fuel for electricity and transportation. Truly an ambitious, even daunting, set of challenges – but not impossible during a time when both the energy and transportation sectors are experiencing very, very rapid transition.

The speed and depth of the ongoing energy transformation, to renewable energy and to electric mobility, is certainly surprising many around the world. It is a top priority for many governments – making and breaking coalitions – and it is causing disruption in traditional sectors of the economy and employment.

As one country after the next sees record breaking low prices for solar and wind in auctions for utility scale renewable energy, the conventional fossil-fuel powered energy companies pay the price.

In Bonn, at COP23, a new Power-Past-Coal Alliance of twenty countries announced that they will completely phase out coal from their energy mix before 2030. The Alliance hopes to have fifty members before the 2018 UN COP24 climate change conference. That requires a real change in mindset. Is it imaginable that Korea Powers Past Coal by 2030?
E.ON, Germany’s largest utility, for example, had to write off $9Bn in losses last month, half of its remaining market capitalization. No wonder the renewable energy transformation scares the conventional power players and has governments consider whether to protect them.

Countries with large investments in conventional power plants – particularly coal and nuclear – do indeed have a big bill to pay for their stranded assets. Coal-fired power plants that were the cheapest form of energy when constructed only a few years ago risk become albatrosses around energy companies’ necks.

In Bonn, at COP23, a new Power-Past-Coal Alliance of twenty countries announced that they will completely phase out coal from their energy mix before 2030. The Alliance hopes to have fifty members before the 2018 UN COP24 climate change conference. That requires a real change in mindset. Is it imaginable that Korea Powers Past Coal by 2030?

It may seem unrealistic today, but remember that a similar change in the UK just happened, over a shorter period, during a time when renewables were more expensive than today. So why not in Korea?

There are some challenges of course. For example, will this energy transition lead to job losses? Jobs are indeed being lost rapidly in the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal. In Germany, for example, most coal related jobs have already been lost – but at the same time, many more jobs were created in the renewable energy industry.

According to Hans-Josef Fell, a former German parliamentarian for the Green party and current President of Energy Watch Group, the global energy transition to a 100% renewable electricity system can create 37 million jobs by 2050, up by more than 90% from 2015.

As in any rapid technology transition, jobs will indeed be lost, but more new, green jobs are being created, requiring education and re-training of the workforce, but ultimately leading to many new opportunities for businesses and individuals.

 

Can Korea Power Past Coal? A new world in which “solar+batteries” becomes the cheapest form of energy

 

Another question is whether renewable energy is too expensive and whether citizens will support a rapid transition to renewables. In Australia, Canberra has powered forward to 100% renewable energy by 2020, leading national action on climate change while creating new jobs in sunrise industries.

The ACT government is leading this green technology revolution in Australia with the full support of its citizens. When the ACT government first announced its plans to legislate a target of sourcing 100 percent renewable energy by the end of this decade, it was careful to engage the community.

The first programs focused on subsidies for rooftop solar for schools, churches, community centers and residences.  As a result, all schools and one home in 10 are now equipped with solar on the roof.

Subsequently, and with full community awareness created, ACT government turned to utility scale wind and solar investments, and batteries to stabilize the grid. The costs of large scale solar in Australia has halved in just a few years. While the introduction of renewables did indeed initially raise energy prices for Canberra, surveys of residents show that as awareness increased, so did the willingness of the citizens to pay more for sustainable energy.

Going forward, the price of energy in Canberra will be among the lowest in the nation. Following the success of the 100% renewables strategy, in 2016 Canberra went a step further and committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

For countries that could not provide electricity to all their citizens with fossil fuel and a centralized power grid – such as most African countries and most small island states in the Pacific with coverage rates as low as 10-20% – the renewable energy transition is a wonderful opportunity.

When the alternative is expensive diesel-generated electricity, either powering the grid or as back-ups during power outages, solar energy combined with battery storage is already the cheapest form of energy, as documented in Lazard’s 11th levelized cost of energy report that came out last month.

That means that for countries in Africa and the Pacific, off-grid, or mini-grid electricity based on “solar+batteries” is a revolution that can bring affordable energy to all citizens, just like the mobile phone revolution did less than ten years ago.

The energy transition is undoubtedly challenging for countries like the Republic of Korea that have fully developed conventional energy sectors – particularly for the owners and operators of the nuclear and fossil fuel power plants, equipment and machinery.

At the same time, Korea has some very significant advantages, such as an excellent national power grid, advanced smart grid technology, and some of the world’s most advanced producers of solar cells and batteries.

During times of disruption our perspectives change very rapidly. Targets such as the Korean 20% renewables by 2030, that appear so challenging today, will probably be seen as only a first step in the right direction in just five years from now.

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Migrants in Italy: “Shame Is Keeping Us Here”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:40:04 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153510 Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return. “Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.” Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of […]

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Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
RIGNANO GARGANICO, Italy, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return.

“Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.”“I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.” --Bismark Asoma

Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of the so-called European migrant crisis. He was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. That same month, 370 died during an attempt to reach Europe. With a total of 4,713 fatalities, the Libyan corridor would become the deadliest crossing in the world and 2016 the deadliest year at sea.

Trailer on the east side

After a year and a half of traveling around Italy, Bamba Drissa ended up in the ‘Granghetto’ of Rignano Garganico, an illegal settlement of several hundred mostly West Africans without documents. The camp consists of tents and barracks and is located in the middle of the Southern Italian Capitanata plane, only accessible after eight kilometers on dilapidated, potholed streets.

The barracks now only cover a fraction of the original surface of the illegal settlement. On March 1 of this year, police and army started a mass evacuation of the site. It led to a fire that left the bulk of the camp in ashes and killed two Malians in their thirties. The evacuation had been ordered by the anti-Mafia Brigade in Bari due to reported criminal infiltration in the camp. Despite the police action, the brothel, operated by victims of Nigerian smuggling, today is still there.

Residents whose campers or barracks were burnt in the fire bought tents. The tents are still there, on the western side of the camp, protected from the strong wind on the Capitanata plane by the remaining barracks.

When he arrived here six months ago, Bamba Drissa still had enough money to purchase a moldy caravan on the east side of the camp. A month ago he was making money working on Italian farms. Now the harvest is over, the temperature on the plain drops day by day, and the fields where the barracks are built have turned into a sea of mud.

Returning empty-handed

“Life here is much harder than where I come from,” he says. “I have a lot of regrets of coming here.” But returning, the young Ivorian adds, is impossible. “I made my choice to come here. Others chose to stay and build their lives there. I cannot return home empty-handed, this was my choice and now I have to make it happen.”

“It is shame that is keeping me here,” he concludes. “I cannot disappoint my family. They are the reason why we are here. We are here to help them confront their problems. Before we succeed in doing that, we can’t go back.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, from Ghana has been on European soil for three years. He is constantly looking for work and lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans in the area around the village of Cerignola, about an hour’s drive south from Rignano Garganico.

The Ghanaian tells a similar story: his father died when he was five. Because his mother struggled to take care of him, his five-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister, he chose to travel to Europe to help her.

“Working and sending money home was the only thing I thought about before leaving,” he says. “I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Remittances

The scale and importance of remittances for the African continent can’t be underestimated. The 2017 Economic Outlook Report of the African Development Bank states that remittances are a ‘major and stable source of external finance for Africa.’ In Western African countries like Liberia and Gambia, money transfers even account for twenty percent of GDP. From 2000 to 2016, remittances grew from 11 billion dollars to 64.6 billion.

While being less volatile than development aid and foreign direct investment the report states, migrant remittance flows also have the advantage of ‘increasing inversely with the economic situation of recipients.’ In other words: migrants are likely to send more money when difficult situations arise in their country of origin.

A son in Europe

Not only in Brong-Ahafo, the region where Bismark Asoma comes from, but in many other West African countries and regions, the prospect of remittances has made the fact of having a son in Europe a matter of prestige.

“The money sent from Europe to Africa improves the economic situation of the family and substantially increases their status in the community,” says Senegalese migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, economic consultant for the African Development Bank Group and research affiliate at IZA, the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn*.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Migration confirms the logic mentioned by Mbaye and even points out that in some cases, families who do not have children in Europe are looked down upon.

From rural to urban

Though a matter of prestige in African communities, the majority of migrants still leave home out of poverty. A study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya last year showed that 80 percent of migrants left home because of economic hardship. Seven percent left because of a lack of basic services such as education or health care in their home country, and only five percent fled violent conflicts.

An analysis of interviews with migrants who had just arrived at Lampedusa that was published earlier this year by the World Food Program (WFP) confirmed these findings. When speaking to West Africans, the WFP noted that they mainly left home because of a lack of job opportunities. Young men interviewed by the WFP told similar stories to those of Bamba Drissa or Bismark Asoma: they were sent out, “leaving their family with the promise of remittances and hopes of a future reunion.”

The path most migrants follow from the moment of departure is summarized as follows: they “firstly moved within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas or the capital city. In general, they moved one or two times before migrating across the border.”

According to the report, the search for stable employment leads them increasingly further from home. “On the way, they would locally collect information about transiting routes and following steps. The journey continued in this incremental way, following a general path that eventually brought them towards Europe.”

Three factors

Of course there is a subgroup that wants to make the trip to Europe immediately. According to migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, this migration is triggered by three separate factors: “First, the perception that you cannot achieve anything in your own country. You see with your own eyes how much money is sent home by cousins ​​or friends who do make it, while you keep struggling to get a job.

“Secondly, there is a biased perception of salaries in Europe,” says the researcher. “My research shows that the expectations are much higher than the actual wages in for instance France or Spain.”

Thirdly, there is the effect of networks and family members abroad, “who can give all information about where to go and how to fund migration.”

Poverty reduction is not the solution

Contrary to what intuition suggests, relieving poverty will not necessarily lead to a decline in migration. “On the contrary,” says Mbaye. “Research shows that people who are richer have more aspirations and more resources at their disposal to start the journey.”

“Reducing poverty is of course an aim in itself,” she adds, “but there are other factors to consider if we want to decrease illegal migration. Moving away is sometimes seen as the only way to be successful in life. So the only way to help reduce migration pressure is by making it one of the many options in life. We must create a situation in which a person can choose either to migrate safely or invest in a productive activity at home.’

Linguere Mbaye underlines that in this discussion, migration should not be considered “a bad thing it itself. And for many people it is a way to deal with adverse shocks. It is thus important to find ways to make migration safe and regular.”

*All opinions expressed here are hers and do not represent those of the African Development Bank.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Christian Ciobanu
OSLO, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Value Chains a Pathway to Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:56:51 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153436 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

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Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 2017 (IPS)

Although difficult to ascertain whether it is a trend reversal, two recent FAO reports (2017a, b) show a rise in hunger globally as well as in Africa. The number of undernourished (NoU) in the world suffering from chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 –from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016. The stagnation of the global average of the proportion of undernourished (PoU) from 2013 to 2015 is the result of two offsetting changes at the regional level: in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of undernourished people increased, while there was a continued decline in Asia in the same period. However, in 2016, the PoU increased in most regions except Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. The deterioration was most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia (FAO 2017a,b).

Raghav Gaiha

In 2016, weak commodity prices were partly responsible for a slowdown in economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.4 %, its most sluggish pace in more than two decades. With the population growing by about 3 % a year, people on average got poorer last year, and, by implication, more undernourished. The greater frequency and intensity of conflicts and crises further aggravated undernourishment.

Food systems are changing rapidly. Globalization, trade liberalization, and rapid urbanization have led to major shifts in the availability, affordability, and acceptability of different types of food, which has driven a nutrition transition in many countries in the developing world. Food production has become more capital-intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations. Expansion of fast food outlets and supermarkets has resulted in dietary shifts. The consumption of low nutritional quality, energy-dense, ultra-processed food and drinks, and fried snacks and sweets has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The concomitant shift to the more market-oriented nature of agricultural policies means that agricultural technology and markets play a more important role in determining food prices and rural incomes, and more food is consumed from the marketplace rather than from own production. The greater market orientation of food production and consumption has increased the bidirectional links between agriculture and nutrition: agriculture still affects nutrition, but food and nutritional demands increasingly affect agriculture. Increasing demands for energy-intensive products exacerbate environmental impacts of food value chains: for example, excessive use of agricultural chemicals to extract more dietary energy from every hectare while contaminating the very food it produces, along with groundwater and the soil; and the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock industries to feed the ever-increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Carletto, 2015).

Shantanu Mathur

Value chain concepts are useful in designing strategies to achieve nutrition goals. Central to this approach is identifying opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value. However, value chain development focuses on efficiency and economic returns among value chain transactions, and the nutritional content of commodities is often overlooked.

A food value chain involves a series of processes and actors that take a food from its production to consumption and disposal as waste. In a value chain, the emphasis is on the value (usually economic) accrued (and lost) for chain actors at different steps in the chain, and the value produced through the functioning of the whole chain as an interactive unit. A value chain is commodity specific, and thus involves only one particular food that is relevant within a diet.

As value chains are crucial in determining food availability, affordability, quality, and acceptability, they have potential to improve nutrition. What is required is to identify opportunities where value chain actors benefit from supplying the market with agricultural products of higher nutritional value. Value chain development, however, has rarely focused attention on consumers—consumers are simply considered as purchasers driving the ultimate source of demand. In this light, the value chain strategy is likely to be enriched by a stronger consumer focus, and, in particular, a focus on consumer nutrition and health. The empirical evidence on the role of value chains in improving nutrition is, however, scanty and mixed.

Basically, nutrition results from the quality of the overall diet, not just from the nutrient content of an individual food. In value chains, the focus is generally commodity specific, rather than on how to integrate multiple chains to contribute to an enhanced quality of diet. There may be offsetting impacts such that, if one value chain works better and consumption of the associated food increases, consumption of other foods may decline.

On the demand side, the central issue is how to promote consumption of nutritious foods by target populations that may not be able to afford a healthy diet. Similarly, on the supply side, an important concern is the feasibility of targeting the poorest smallholders and informal enterprises along the value chain, particularly, involving women.

An example from Nigeria elucidates the potential of value chains for enhancement of nutritional value and the constraints that must be addressed. Chronic undernutrition is pervasive in Nigeria, with rates of stunting and underweight alarmingly high and little progress over the last decade. There are major disparities in nutrition outcomes between the wealthy and poor, between the north and south, and between urban and rural areas. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread across social groups. Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is associated with 25% of child and maternal deaths. Together with direct nutrition interventions, it is necessary to improve the functioning of food value chains and provide access to nutrient-dense foods to the urban and rural poor.

Cowpeas make a substantial contribution to the nutrition of poor populations in Nigeria. Cowpea grains contain an average of 24% protein and 62% soluble carbohydrates. They are rich in thiamine, folates and iron, and also contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium, as well as the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Markets for cowpea products are mainly informal, and the majority of products are produced by small-scale businesses and sold locally. Few formal sector businesses have invested in cowpea products, and there is limited innovation in value-added products. A merit of cowpea foods is that they are readily acceptable to diverse populations, widely available across the country and can be distinguished from less nutritious alternatives. However, affordability and availability of cowpeas is constrained by major supply-side problems. Cowpea prices fluctuate between seasons, due to the susceptibility of grains to degradation and low use of improved storage technologies. Although simple, safe and low-cost technologies are available in the form of improved storage bags, these are not prominent in wholesale and transport stages of the value chain. Besides, existing preservation techniques make use of pesticides that create risks of toxic contamination. Improving use of storage technologies along the value chain, including on-farm facilities, transportation and storage facilities in markets would help alleviate this constraint-especially for smallholders.

So the challenges are creating incentives for businesses to focus better on nutritional foods and conditions enabling smallholders to integrate better into these chains.

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Debate on Glyphosate Use Comes to a Head in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:20:09 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153423 In and around the city of Rosario, where most of Argentina’s soybean processing plants are concentrated, a local law banned the use of glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in Argentina. But two weeks later, producers managed to exert enough pressure to obtain a promise that the ban would be overturned. This episode, which took place […]

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Academics discuss the impacts on health and the environment of the use of glyphosate in Argentine agriculture, during a Dec. 6 conference at the University of Buenos Aires. Concern about this topic is now on the country’s public agenda. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

Academics discuss the impacts on health and the environment of the use of glyphosate in Argentine agriculture, during a Dec. 6 conference at the University of Buenos Aires. Concern about this topic is now on the country’s public agenda. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

In and around the city of Rosario, where most of Argentina’s soybean processing plants are concentrated, a local law banned the use of glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in Argentina. But two weeks later, producers managed to exert enough pressure to obtain a promise that the ban would be overturned.

This episode, which took place in November, reflects the strong economic interests at stake and the growing controversy surrounding the use of agrochemicals and their impact on people’s health and the environment.

“Agriculture in Argentine has undergone major changes in recent decades and consolidated its agroindustrial model, strongly based on soy, which displaced wheat and corn,” explained Emilio Satorre, professor and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) department of agronomy.

“The sown area climbed from 15 to 36 million hectares, 60 to 65 percent of which are covered with genetically modified (GM) soy, while the use of phytosanitary products increased threefold. This system generated great wealth for the country, but of course it produces greater risks,” he told IPS.

For Satorre, “society is increasingly exacting… and the environment and health have become a central focus.”

Glyphosate accounts for over half of the agrochemicals used, since the government authorised in 1996 commercial sales of GM soybean resistant to that herbicide, which was then produced exclusively by Monsanto, the US biotech giant with a large subsidiary in this South American country.

Along with direct seeding or no-till systems, which avoid soil tillage and mitigate erosion, glyphosate and GM soy form the foundation on which the phenomenal expansion of agriculture has been based in this country of 44 million people, where the agro-livestock sector represents about 13 percent of GDP.

This growth took place at the expense of the loss of millions of hectares of natural pastures in La Pampa, one of the world’s most fertile regions in the centre of the country, and of native forests in the Chaco, the northern subtropical plain shared with Bolivia and Paraguay.

Large-scale soy production expanded so much that it reached the edge of many urban areas.

One of them is Córdoba, the second-biggest city in the country, located in the central region. There, a group of women have put Ituzaingó – a working-class neighborhood – on the national map since 2002.

It was when they mobilised to protest about a large number of cases of cancer and malformations, which they blamed on the spraying of soy crops that grew up to a few metres from their homes.

The Mothers of Ituzaingó, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Córdoba, the second-biggest city in Argentina, have taken their fight against agrochemicals, because of its impact on the health of their community, to the emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Credit: Courtesy of Mothers of Ituzaingó

The Mothers of Ituzaingó, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Córdoba, the second-biggest city in Argentina, have taken their fight against agrochemicals, because of its impact on the health of their community, to the emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Credit: Courtesy of Mothers of Ituzaingó

With their struggle, the Mothers of Ituzaingó obtained a judicial ruling that banned fumigations closer than 500 metres from their houses, as well as the criminal conviction of an agricultural producer and a fumigator.

They became a beacon of hope for many social movements in the country.

“I started when my daughter, who was three years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. Today thanks to God she is alive and they haven’t sprayed here anymore since 2008, but we were poisoned for years and people are still getting sick,” said Norma Herrera, a homemaker who has five children and two grandchildren.

“It was a very hard struggle at the beginning. Over the years the facts have proved us right, but we were never able to get professionals to scientifically establish the connection between the spraying and the health problems,” Herrera told IPS.

Thanks to the social movement of which the Mothers of Ituzaingó were pioneers, a decision was reached Nov. 16 by the city council in Rosario to ban glyphosate.

The provision placed emphasis on a study carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, which declared the herbicide a “probable carcinogen” two years ago.

The decision took agricultural producers by surprise. At the time they seemed more worried about the uncertainty over whether the European Union would or would not renew the licence for the use of glyphosate, which was to expire on Dec. 15.

A negative decision would cause a severe economic impact for Argentina, the sector’s business chambers warned.

But on Nov. 27 the EU agreed in Brussels to renew the licence for the herbicide for five years, with the votes of 18 countries against nine and one abstention.

In 2016, Argentina’s agricultural exports totaled 24 billion dollars, equivalent to 46 percent of the country’s total exports, while soy meal, cornmeal and soy oil accounted for the main sales abroad.

Three days after the EU’s decision, the heads of rural entities went to Rosario’s city hall and convinced the same city councilors who had banned glyphosate that there was no “scientific evidence” warranting such a decision.

A few hours later, several city councilors said they had not discussed the issue with the necessary depth.

As a result, although the provision is not yet in force because it was not signed by the city government, a new municipal bill was drafted, which authorises spraying with the herbicide with certain precautions, and is set to be discussed this month.

“We consider it deplorable that the councilors have reversed the commendable decision to protect the health and environment of the population of Rosario, yielding to pressure from the soy lobby and showing who truly governs” said a group of more than 10 environmental and social organisations.of the region in a press release.

For Lilian Correa, head of Health and Environment at the UBA school of medicine, “the next generation of Argentinians must put on the table the cost-benefit equation of the current productive model. Today, the impact on health and the environment is not measured.”

Correa warned about the prevailing apathy in Argentina regarding the regulation and handling of toxic agrochemicals, citing the case of endosulfan, an insecticide banned in 2011 by the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

“When that happened, Argentina set a two-year deadline to sell off stocks of endosulfan. That was done to benefit a company, in an unethical and illegal manner,” Correa said during a Dec. 5 conference at the UBA agronomy department

In 2011, a four-year-old boy died in Corrientes, in the northeast of the country, poisoned when endosulfan was sprayed on tomato crops less than 50 metres from his house.

In December 2016, the owner of the tomato plantation in question became the first person tried in Argentina for homicide through the use of agrochemicals.

However, the court considered that no negligence could be proven in the use of the substance, which at that time was permitted, and acquitted him.

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

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The Maldives. Credit: UNDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Food Sovereignty as a Pillar of Self-Determinationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 10:34:40 +0000 Brooke Takala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153400 Brooke Takala describes herself as a mother, a PhD candidate at the University of the South Pacific, and co-coordinator of an Enewetak NGO called Elimon̄dik

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Climate change has serious implications for agriculture and food security. Credit: FAO/L. Dematteis

By Brooke Takala
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

A recent meeting in Rome between our Pacific leaders and UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted the urgency of food security in our region given the reality of climate change affecting our agriculture and aquaculture.

As a mandate of FAO to “promote the uptake of healthy fresh food,” they are missing their mark by discussing climate change as the main challenge to hunger elimination and nutrition in the Pacific.

While food security – simply, access to food sources – is an imperative to eradicate hunger, what we really need to be discussing is food sovereignty.

The Declaration of Atitlan, established at the first Indigenous Peoples’ Global Consultation on the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty in 2002, defines food sovereignty as “the right of Peoples to define their own policies and strategies for sustainable production, distribution, and consumption of food, with respect for their own cultures and their own systems of managing natural resources and rural areas.”

As such, food sovereignty must be recognized as a prerequisite for food security.

Enewetak Case Study

In the Pacific, life is dramatically different between urban and rural areas. In larger cities or townships, life is expensive and land and water resources for agriculture is limited and often polluted. In rural areas and outer islands life is mostly subsistence living, relying on what the land, waterways and sky provide.

Yet on some outer islands in places like the Republic of the Marshall Islands, food sovereignty does not exist. Nearly 600 miles from the capital of Majuro, the people of Enewetak lived sustainably for thousands of years before colonization disrupted lifeways.

Now contamination of Enewetak from the United States’ 43 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons along with the dumping of radioactive waste in open bomb craters, direct sea dumping, and more (in)famously the Cactus Dome on Runit Island, have left the people who call Enewetak home no choice but to subsist on contaminated food supplies and imported processed foods.

The United States may say that the Supplemental Food Program under the amended Compact of Free Association addresses food security for the people of Enewetak, but what happens when the small amounts of processed foods are depleted and the supply ship is delayed?

What happens when there is an event such as a birthday, funeral, or festival where local foods are essential to cultural practices? In those cases the community has no choice but to gather local foods from radioactive islands.

I only fully understood this a few years ago when we moved back to Enewetak with our young children. We had run out of nearly all food stocks and the boat was still weeks away from delivering its next shipment. Like many other families, we were boiling pandanus keys for the kids to eat in the morning and afternoon, then making one small meal in the evening.

We enjoyed the sweet and filling fruit but it was difficult not to think about the amount of Cesium and other radionuclides my children were consuming. The only choice was to eat the fruit or go hungry.

Not Just Climate Change

Other mothers in the Pacific face similar decisions when it comes to feeding their children. More than 300 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons were tested in the Pacific by the US, UK, and France.

Increasing military build-up in this vast blue continent includes the detonation of depleted uranium missiles, trans-shipment of nuclear and other hazardous waste, and nuclear submarines navigating the region.

Moreover, the extractives industry compromises land and water resources and fuels genocide of Pacific peoples in places like West Papua. Now, we have the increasing threat of seabed mining, which will undoubtedly affect our greatest food source in the Pacific: the Ocean.

Food security in the Pacific can only be achieved by enabling self-determination movements in the region, thereby recognizing the driving elements that impede food sovereignty and food security. Effects of climate change – rising seas, extreme drought, and typhoons – are extensions of the over-arching geo-political factors that only exacerbate the issues that people of Large Ocean States have been living with for generations.

Commitment is Needed

In 2006, Indigenous communities coordinated with FAO to develop indicators around food security and food sovereignty. While these indicators recognize the obstacle of environmental contamination, no formal processes for remediation of contaminants have been institutionalized.

If FAO is truly committed to food security, their coordinated efforts with the Pacific must be underpinned by the acknowledgement of historical factors that have disrupted the self-determination of Pacific families.

Not only should a full and comprehensive survey of food sources be conducted in cooperation with Pacific communities and neutral states (i.e. non-nuclear states), but also a remediation policy must be required for food security initiatives, along with recognition of the negative effects of militarization and the extractives industry on Pacific lifeways and worldviews.


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

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Ecological Waste Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/ecological-waste-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecological-waste-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/ecological-waste-management/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:56:59 +0000 Felino Palafox http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153446 The times call for active measures to combat climate change. People have again and again relayed the words: reuse, reduce, recycle. I would like to add—refuse. Refuse to add to the pollution, and refuse to commit unhealthy practices. The wastes that are collected from the residents, commercials areas, and industrial sites undergo a process. First […]

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By Felino A. Palafox, JR.
Dec 7 2017 (Manila Times)

The times call for active measures to combat climate change. People have again and again relayed the words: reuse, reduce, recycle. I would like to add—refuse. Refuse to add to the pollution, and refuse to commit unhealthy practices.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

The wastes that are collected from the residents, commercials areas, and industrial sites undergo a process. First is the recovery and processing. The collected wastes enter a materials recovery facility (MRF) in which the bio-degradable, non-biodegradable, and recyclable materials are sorted. MRFs are currently being established even in schools, malls and the like. The Philippines also promotes the waste diversion requirements in the form of composting techniques, e.g. vermi-composting. Another form of waste diversion requirement is recycling of non-biodegradable materials, e.g. plastics, rubber, paper, etc. Finally, collected solid wastes often end up in a dumpsite. The Philippines restricts the operation of open dumpsites but allows the operation of controlled dumps. Some wastes also end up in sanitary landfills, which is the most preferred kind of waste disposal site as it is designed and managed in such a way that the LGUs have control over important environmental impacts arising from the development and operation of the facility.

Best practices in local context
As provided for in RA 9003 and in relation to the Local Government Code 1991, or RA 7160, the local government units (LGUs) are given the power to enforce laws on cleanliness and sanitation, solid waste management, and other environmental matters. Thus, the different LGUs across the country, and in partnership with several private institutions, are making efforts to efficiently provide a system for solid waste management. Some of the best practices of solid waste management need not be from abroad but can be found locally.

One example of best practice in our country in solid waste management is the “Basuranihan” project of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, which involves individuals or groups who register with the Environmental and Natural Resources Office of the municipality to bring recyclable waste materials during the monthly Basuranihan Day. These recyclables are then sold to their junkshop of choice, and points are simultaneously acquired. Accumulated points qualify the participants to claim various prizes.

Cebu City has the best practice in terms of the decentralization of composting, and resource recovery system of their solid waste management program. The program has a strict enforcement of the “no segregation, no collection policy.” The program also provides for the recruitment and deployment of Barangay Environmental Officers who serve as information disseminators and policy enforcers. There is also a provision for financial and technical assistance from the city government to construct materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and composting centers in the barangays. Furthermore, the government works closely with its stakeholders, e.g. homeowners associations, local NGOs, waste pickers, and academic institutions, in conducting a series of awareness campaigns.

Finally, in Metro Manila, Marikina is well-known for having maintained its cleanliness because of its strict implementation of solid waste management policies and also because of its effective programs. One of its remarkable programs is the Food Waste Truck Program, which implements the collection of kitchen wastes from restaurants and food stalls. These wastes are then transformed into fertilizer to be used in the city’s urban garden. There is also an Eco-Savers Program to raise awareness among the children and youth on the importance of proper waste management by allowing them to participate in the recyclable trading activity.

It can be observed in these situations that the best means to establish an effective waste management system in the country is by ensuring the active participation of all the stakeholders of the LGU or the nation as a whole. By allowing the stakeholders to be involved in such projects and programs, they do not only become more aware of the need to maintain the cleanliness of their surroundings and protect the environment, but they also learn to incorporate the proper practices of solid waste management in their daily lives.

Solid waste and disaster resilience
Amidst the exacerbating condition of climate change across the globe, it is relevant for the country to deploy mitigating and preventive measures for disaster risks related to climate change. There is an evident need for an integrated urban infrastructure that are resilient to climate change and disaster risks. An example is the investment in efficient drainage systems as a risk mitigation. However, we should keep in mind that these measures also require an improvement in the performance of sectors such as solid waste management, to prevent the blockage of drains that contribute to flooding.

Solid waste, if not responsibly managed, can be very detrimental to the environment and to society. Eliminating the negative impacts of waste materials on human health and safety and the environment is one of the objectives of solid waste management. However, every solid waste management approach can contribute to the worsening climate change as they are sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) not just due to the emissions from their processes and the energy they consume, but also due to the methane (CH4) produced when they are disposed of in landfills. However, the overall benefit of solid waste management will still depend on the amount of GHG it emits and it saves.

Open burning, dumping in bodies of water, non-segregation of waste, disposal of biodegradable wastes in landfills, and operation of dumpsites are among the waste management practices that result in GHG emissions. To effectively mitigate climate change, solid waste management should therefore shift to more sustainable approaches such as waste prevention, recycling, and composting.

Improper solid waste management practices may also lead to disastrous events. Extreme rainfall caused by climate change can be engendered by uncollected and mismanaged wastes. Human lives may also be at risk from these malpractices as they can lead to massive flooding and storm surges. Therefore, for solid waste management to strengthen disaster resilience, the approach should include continuous clean-up, declogging, and dredging of waterways. Climate-proofing infrastructure and waste management facilities should also be taken into consideration.

Instead of viewing ecological waste management as a compulsory activity, we should view it as a means to create a more progressive and livable city/municipality for its citizens. The public should actively participate and learn from the best and most effective practices. As they always say, cleanliness starts with one’s own home; practicing to segregate our waste can go a long towards preserving our planet.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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WTO Ministerial Conference – Rejuvenating free tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/wto-ministerial-conference-rejuvenating-free-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wto-ministerial-conference-rejuvenating-free-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/wto-ministerial-conference-rejuvenating-free-trade/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:32:20 +0000 Abdullah Shibli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153441 The Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization will be held on December 10-13 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The meeting of this highest decision-making body of the WTO, which meets at least once every two years, is taking place at a critical moment of the free trade movement. WTO and free trade are […]

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By Abdullah Shibli
Dec 7 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization will be held on December 10-13 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The meeting of this highest decision-making body of the WTO, which meets at least once every two years, is taking place at a critical moment of the free trade movement. WTO and free trade are threatened by the emergence of protectionist and anti-trade sentiments amongst many of the organisation’s 164 members, and squabbling among the world’s largest traders, including the USA, China, and even the generally free-trade oriented European Union. If countries lower the tariff rates against imports and refrain from imposing non-tariff barriers against trade, it benefits free trade and promotes growth.

The upcoming ministerial-level meeting of WTO comes at a time when trade, and the future of trade, is at a crossroads. Credit: RUBEN SPRICHREUTERS

However, in recent years since 2010, we have witnessed a slowdown in the growth of world trade, and it is predicted that in the current environment the “new normal” is a modest growth as compared with the rapid expansion of trade relations during 1990-2010. The most ominous trend seems to be that many free trade agreements of the last decade including NAFTA and TPP are now under siege.

WTO was set up in 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement and regulates international trade in goods, services, and intellectual property between participating countries “by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and dispute resolution.” Unfortunately, the key mission of WTO—to lower tariffs and facilitate increased global trade—suffered a major setback with the collapse of the Doha Round, whose objective was to lower trade barriers around the world, and thus facilitate increased global trade.

The last ministerial conference of WTO took place in December 2015. To stay relevant, the next conference needs to address five issues: (1) trade in non-agricultural goods, (2) trade in services; (3) e-commerce; (4) improved rules on distortions regarding state-owned enterprises (SOE), local content requirements (ROO) and export restrictions; and (5) investment. Obviously, it would be too much to expect that MC11 will address all these issues in four days, but the trade ministers and senior officials attending the conference must make a commitment to move forward with them. For developing countries, trade is their “engine of growth.”

In the last few years, globalisation and trade liberalisation have been buzzwords at international forums and the media. However, some statistics have shown that decline in trade volume took a downturn in the early 1990s. According to IMF data, the global trade elasticity peaked in 1991-1995, much before the recent financial crisis, and has been declining since then. Trade Elasticity (TE) refers to the ratio of trade growth to GDP growth rates. TE was 1 during 1981-1985, meaning that trade grew at the same rate as GDP, and started to climb, reaching a level over 2.5 during 1991-2000. As mentioned, trade growth has not been robust in recent years and is hovering below 1.5 as this decade winds down.

Many factors have contributed to this slowdown; the ones that readily come to mind are protectionist measures taken by all countries since the financial crisis in 2009, and backpedalling on trade reforms. Even voters in major western countries are turning their backs on globalisation as evidenced by recent electoral results in the USA, UK, and Germany. According to a Wall Street Journal-NBC polls conducted in the US, just 31 percent of GOP respondents in December 1999 said free trade deals hurt the US. “By February 2017, when the question was posed slightly differently, a majority of GOP voters polled said free trade hurt the country.”

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, attributes this resurgence in protectionism to the failure of governments to protect workers and vulnerable population who equate trade with job losses.

How can WTO help reverse the trend described above? First of all, the meeting of MC needs to address the anti-trade sentiment. Retraining of workers and employment generation must work hand in hand with lower tariffs. Member-countries must also check their impulses to look for quick fixes to correct trade deficits as the USA is doing. “Nearly all WTO members engage to one degree or another in backsliding, sometimes through the use of legal but restrictive measures (e.g. raising tariffs up to the bound rate or employing the trade-remedy laws) and sometimes imposing measures that are found to violate their WTO commitments.”

The upcoming ministerial-level meeting comes at a time when trade, and the future of trade, is at a crossroads. Many in the international business community have voiced their concern, to cite an example, against “European Commission (EC) proposals to adopt new rules for taxing the digital economy within the single market, which would essentially create new tax barriers and ultimately undermine global efforts to establish a consistent international tax landscape.” From mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017, WTO members implemented 74 new trade-restrictive measures, amounting to an average of almost 11 new measures per month.

WTO needs to recognise the concerns of developing countries particularly their micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). “Despite their economic importance in developed, developing and least-developed countries, MSMEs’ share of trade is disproportionately small, often because they are unaware of the potentially wider market and because they traditionally have not had the resources to navigate sometimes complex trading procedures. But new technologies are helping to pare back these obstacles and create a more level playing field for smaller companies in international trade. Helping more MSMEs to trade internationally is an important step in building a more inclusive trading system that benefits a wider array of citizens.”

Recently IMF, WTO and the World Bank came out with a policy document entitled, “Making Trade an Engine of Growth for All: The Case for Trade and For Policies to Facilitate Adjustment” with a clarion call for liberalisation and better rules. The role of trade as a driver of growth is threatened, according to the report, which called for action to better communicate the benefits of open trade to a public that may have become more sceptical, especially in advanced economies.

Dr Abdullah Shibli is an economist and Senior Research Fellow at the International Sustainable Development Institute (ISDI), a think-tank based in Boston, USA.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To illustrate his point, he provided this example:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Strengthening Governments to Cope with PPPshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/strengthening-governments-cope-ppps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strengthening-governments-cope-ppps http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/strengthening-governments-cope-ppps/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 16:47:13 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153334 Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged in recent years as the development ‘flavour of the decade’ in place of aspects of the old Washington Consensus. Instead of replacing the role of government or consigning it to the garbage bin of history, corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests through PPPs. On the one […]

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Through public-private partnerships (PPPs) corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests. Credit: IPS

Through public-private partnerships (PPPs) corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 2017 (IPS)

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have emerged in recent years as the development ‘flavour of the decade’ in place of aspects of the old Washington Consensus. Instead of replacing the role of government or consigning it to the garbage bin of history, corporations are increasingly using governments to advance their own interests through PPPs.

On the one hand, in a contemporary variant of previously condemned ‘tied aid’, developed country governments have been persuaded to use their aid or overseas development assistance (ODA) budgets to promote their own national – read corporate – interests, e.g., by providing ‘blended finance’ on concessional terms to secure PPP contracts, or to otherwise advance the interests of such businesses.

On the other hand, aid-recipient governments have been encouraged to replace government procurement with PPP arrangements to undertake infrastructure and other projects despite the mixed records of PPPs, not least in developed countries themselves.

 

Improving PPPs

Hence, many developing countries have little choice but to deal with the active promotion of PPPs. Thus, to secure financing for needed infrastructure, they need strong institutional capacity to create, manage and evaluate PPPs.

When presented with PPP proposals, governments need to have the capacity to critically evaluate these proposals and to make counter proposals when needed. It is therefore important for government institutional capacity to be enhanced to create, manage and evaluate PPP proposals.

Governments should be empowered, and thus discouraged from presuming that they have no choice but to accept PPP proposals from the private sector. Most developing country governments cannot dodge the PPP bullet and need to be able to better deal with the challenge.

 

Strengthening institutional capacity

Strong institutional capacity to better cope with PPPs requires having a dedicated competent service loyal to the government and public priorities and concerns in order to do as needed.

Responsible and accountable developed and developing country governments must work together to ensure that they are all better able to cope with this growing trend of state-sponsorship of private corporate expansion, mainly by the North.
But most low-income and many-middle income developing countries do not have the capacity, let alone the capabilities needed to be able to effectively evaluate and respond to such proposals. Hence, most developing countries need international technical support for the necessary accelerated capacity-building.

Using private consultants to fill the gap in the interim before national capacities are sufficiently developed can be attractive in the short term, but it is often forgotten that most such consultants tend to be mainly oriented to serving ‘better paymasters’ from the private sector.

Hence, strengthening public sector capacities to cope with PPP proposals is both essebtial and urgent. This is not a major problem in some emerging market economies, which generally have more choice in such matters, but it is for many poorer developing countries.

Overseas development assistance (ODA) should, therefore, enable public sector capacity building, rather than give governments little choice. Instead of helping countries develop such capacities, much ODA often gives developing country governments little choice but to accept some PPP proposal touted as superior.

Collective action

As many governments may not be able to develop such a centralized capacity and mechanism with the capacity and ability to deal with very varied PPP proposals, one alternative is for them to work together to develop some kind of shared capacity.

But relying on organizations committed to PPPs, such as multilateral development banks (MDBs) or international financial institutions (IFIs), raises different problems. So far, they have largely failed to credibly provide such capacities and mechanisms.

They have also not enabled cooperation among developing countries to better cope with the PPP challenge, partly due to their current inclination to promote and enable PPPs as directed by their major shareholders.


Alternatives

Hence, there is an urgent need to consider and develop alternative arrangements. Government procurement, with sovereign debt, if necessary, has been found to be generally much cheaper, contrary to the misleading claims of PPP advocates.

Ensuring transparent competition among prospective PPP proposals would also help. Many PPP proposals have been approved and implemented without any real or meaningful transparency or competition despite a great deal of pious rhetoric by donor governments, IFIs and MDBs about the importance of and need for competition and transparency.

There are many contemporary examples that clearly suggest that the public interest would be well served by more transparent bidding. Also, it is important to make sure that PPPs are not abused, with the government or public sector, and ultimately, the public bearing the costs or taking the bulk of the risks, while rents or profits mainly accrue to the private partner.

 

Multilateral guidelines

Internationally agreed guidelines would also help. International guidelines for PPPs need to be developed multilaterally through an inclusive multi-stakeholder process, perhaps through the United Nations Financing for the Development process. Alternatively, UNCTAD in Geneva is well placed to work towards such guidelines which would go some way to leveling the playing field.

Such guidelines should endeavor to enhance developing countries’ bargaining and negotiating positions, e.g., by ensuring competition through open bidding. Such guidelines should also seek to avoid abuse of PPPs, including by ensuring that public money is not used to subsidize private risk and rents.

Responsible and accountable developed and developing country governments must work together to ensure that they are all better able to cope with this growing trend of state-sponsorship of private corporate expansion, mainly by the North.

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New Safety Handbook by IAWRThttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/new-safety-handbook-iawrt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-safety-handbook-iawrt http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/new-safety-handbook-iawrt/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:39:24 +0000 Ronalyn Olea and Bibiana Piene http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153309 Female, journalist and caught in a crossfire?

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Female, journalist and caught in a crossfire?

By Ronalyn V. Olea and Bibiana Piene
OSLO, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

Hopefully female journalists have read it by now “What if…? Safety Handbook for Women Journalists”. The handbook, written by renowned safety trainer Abeer Saady, an Egyptian, and published by The International Association for Women in Radio and Televison (IAWRT), provides hands on tips on what to do when caught in a crossfire , when stopped at checkpoints, arrested during coverage, or kidnapped and held hostage.

Abeer Saady, and Nonee Walsh

Security and safety for journalists, especially females, is often not taught in schools and rarely discussed in newsrooms. Still, a global survey of security risks for women journalists revealed that the majority preferred not to report on gender-based violence for fear of harassment, losing their job or being stigmatized.

More male journalists are killed every year than women, but female journalists are increasingly entering the field of high risk journalism and covering conflicts. In the Philippines twelve women journalists were killed in the line of duty since the restoration of democratic institutions in 1986, four them in the Ampatuan massacre in 2009. None of the perpetrators were brought to justice.

The handbook compiles experiences, not only Saady’s as a journalist with 27 years of experience, but also of other women journalists who have faced different and difficult situations.

Saady underscores the importance of physical, psychosocial and digital safety and security, and points out risk assessment, profile management, situational and digital awareness and a safety plan as crucial tools.

Many of the tips shared in the handbook are practical enough for any journalist or newsroom to follow.

Psychosocial security is something that’s not always attended to. What to do if you as a journalist lose sleep after covering war or violence? The handbook also suggests ways of dealing with trauma.

The handbook provides tips in dealing with online harassment, such as naming and shaming the online harasser and moderating the comments section as well aspreventing people from remaining anonymous, among others.

A Norwegian journalist, interviewed in the book, became a victim of online harassment. She believes that a better solution would be to develop what she calls harassment competence, such as distinguishing between ‘the angry’, ‘the crazy’, and ‘the dangerous’ bullies.

– The ‘angry’ are people you can respond to, and perhaps even make them understand that you’re a person who might get hurt by their utterances. Harassment coming from ‘the crazy’ and ‘the dangerous’ had better be ignored…since a reply often makes the bullying even worse, she says.

In social media women journalists should take precaution in protecting their digital safety and security. Social media accounts and emails can be hacked. The handbook lists tips on how to carry out a digital clean up.

The handbook has a separate section on ethical safety decisions. The main point is to do no harm.

Another section is devoted to legal safety. Knowing one’s rights as a journalist and the libel and other media laws in one’s country is helpful.

The handbook, which can be downloaded from the IAWRT’s website, is a must-read for every female journalist. The aim is to help creating an environment where women journalists can perform their job without fear or danger.

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Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:31:59 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153294 At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects […]

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Credit: IFAD

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects in these countries have ambitious goals for a more egalitarian future. To date these projects have successfully provided women with decision-making opportunities, skill training, and increased autonomy through the development of their own livelihoods.

Morocco’s Country Programme Manager, Naoufel Telahigue, summed up the greatest overall effect best; “Rural women have become a symbol of will.”

With empowerment comes greater individual and collective confidence, influence, and overall happiness which contributes to the vitality of households and communities. There is still much to be achieved, however these projects have yielded numerous positive results worthy of the utmost praise.

Mozambique’s Rural Markets Promotion Programme empowered women to join farmer organizations where they now have equal membership as men. Women have increased their revenue by connecting to markets and even becoming community leaders.

Throughout homes in Mozambique women and men are rewriting embedded household gender roles through the Gender Action Learning System (GALS).

Men are not only warming to the idea of sharing women’s domestic workloads, they are seeing the benefits, Mario Quissico, Gender focal point, PROMER, explained, “It is very exciting hearing men say, we are happy because harmony at home has increased. We are working as a family, we are contributing to activities which we thought were for women.”

Vital to women’s security in Bangladesh, especially after the recent resettlement on the coastal islands, is the Char Development and Settlement Project’s initiative for women and men to own equal amounts of land.

The Deputy Team Leader of the project, Md. Bazlul Karim, clarified that even women without husbands are protected, “50% goes to the woman and 50% to the man. If there is a single woman who is the head of a family she will get 100% of the land.”

In Colombia , Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities Programme: Trust and Opportunity or TOP believes that empowering women is absolutely essential to the country’s peace. They are helping poor, vulnerable women who are heads of households by providing training and incentives to create their own incomes. Some have even embraced the male-typical endeavor of raising livestock.

Morocco’s Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in Mountain Zones of AL-Haouz Province have encouraged women to get training in businesses with local products like wool, olives, and apples. Coined the “two-sheep initiative,” women have started their own businesses by acquiring two sheep.

There is also a focus on female-run small businesses in Mauritania where the Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro supports women’s micro projects.

Easier access to drinking water has also been a vital part in improving the lives of women and reducing poverty. With fresh water closer, women save as many as five hours each day which they can instead use to earn money.

All of these projects are combating gender inequality and have given women the ability to make decisions and take positions of power in families and communities. These advancements positively influence entire societies.

The Coordinator of Mauritani’s project, Ahmed Ould Amar, emphasized, “We are reaching 281 villages and working with 19,000 households. This is quite huge, so obviously when you are working at this type of scale you have economic, social, and organizational impacts on society.”

Not only have these projects been working tirelessly from the ground up and in turn improving gender equality in society, they are securing it for future generations.

Young people in Colombia are being protected by the project’s encouragement of entrepreneurial women to work with young people and include them in their empowerment.

According to Ahmed Ould Amar, young women are being heard in Mauritania, “We’ve got this diagnosis process at field level that always includes a group of young people and women so we can hear what their problems are.”

A school, which also ingeniously acts as a shelter from cyclones, has been created in Bangladesh and many young girls are being educated for the first time.

In Mozambique women who were previously illiterate are being taught to read. They can perform previously impossible tasks such as understanding forms at the hospital so they can help their children flourish.

While women have begun generating income in Morocco, young girls have been able to remain in school. Some have even gone on to University.

In all five of these countries, women are taking on leadership positions and becoming role models for younger generations. The freshly ingrained demand for gender equality and a belief that the empowerment of women ensures a more stable present and successful future allows for young girls to grow up into vibrant women who improve society.

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-price-put-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:10:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153280 IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI/NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2017 (IPS)

“Political resolve is the key for succeeding in our fight against oceans pollution,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, who is leading hands-on the organisation’s global campaign to clean up seas and oceans of plastic litter, agricultural run‑off and chemical dumping, told IPS.

“It’s about building capacity for strong environmental governance and bolstering political leadership on these issues,” said Solheim, who previously served as Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development.“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line."

“One of the big changes has been an understanding of the issue (of marine pollution) and a realization that we are facing an extremely serious problem. As a result, we’re starting to see a range of initiatives,” he said.

“On the community level, there are people like Afroz Shah and Mumbai’s Versova Beach clean-up team, for example. They’re really doing an amazing job of drawing attention to the problem.

“Then we’re seeing the “private sector begin to take serious action,” he said. “For example, Dell is changing its packaging. Certain big national and international chains are changing their practices – for example by using paper instead of plastic, or cutting out plastic straws.

“Then we have government action, which is crucial. Certain countries have banned microplastics, some have banned plastic bags. Kenya, Rwanda and Bangladesh, for example, are recognised global leaders on plastic pollution,” he added.

“This points to a growing understanding of the marine litter problem and a resolve to take concrete action. Ultimately, the problem of marine litter is upstream. We need industries to change. We need people to exercise their power as consumers,” Solheim said.

In what Joachim Spangenberg of Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environment Research called the “political economy” of pollution, where vested-interest lobbies profit by externalizing costs of production and discharging unwanted waste into the environment, anti-plastic law-makers are up against a global plastic industry worth 654 billion dollars by 2020. Dow Chemicals, Du Pont, BASF, ExxonMobil, and Bayer are key players invested in the sector.

But Spangenberg too says that heads of government have great power to address this “political economy” of pollution.

Oceans are the new economic frontier, but ill health eating into its potential

Between 2010 and 2030 on a business‑as‑usual scenario, the ocean economy could double its global value added to 3 trillion dollars and provide 40 million jobs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) major 2016 study said.

Ocean is the new economic frontier, it said, its growth driven by traditional and emerging ocean-based industries, marine food, energy, transport, minerals, medicines, tourism and innovations.

But OECD warns the oceans’ undermined health would cut into its full growth potential.

“We need governments to make polluters pay, and to ensure we work harder on recycling, reuse and waste management. The solution is stopping the waste ending up in the ocean in the first place,” Solheim told Inter Press Service.

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Pollution from plastic waste in oceans is costing 8 billion dollars

“Pollution from plastic waste being dumped in the ocean is costing the world at least 8 billion dollars every year, but this estimate is certain to be an underestimate when we factor in the cumulative, long-term consequences,” said the UNEP chief.

Between 4.8 million tonnes and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, 80 percent of it from land sources due to inadequate waste management.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, plastic production is increasing 4-5 percent annually.

Plastic pollution is everywhere; even a tiny uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean far from human contact had 18 tonnes of plastic washed up on it. Plastic waste was found at 36,000 feet in depth – the deepest spot in the ocean in the Mariana trench, he points out.

Plastic aside, land-based sources pump in the maximum waste and pollutants into oceans and coastal waters, mostly through rivers. Farming, food and agro-industry, fisheries and aquaculture, oil and energy sector, waste, wastewater, packaging sector, extractives and pharmaceuticals are major sources.

In coastal regions where 37 percent of the global population lives, these pollutants can stunt neurological development, cause heart and kidney disease, cancer, sterility and hormonal disruption.

Among the little know impacts on marine creatures, ingestion of microplastics (size less than 5 mm) by fish can affect female fertility and grow reproductive tissue in male fish causing their feminization. Chemicals in plastic cause thyroid disorder in whales, physiological stress, liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction, says UNEP’s 2017 pollution report.

“Then of course we have to look at waste to the economy of plastics being produced, used for a few seconds or minutes and then dumped,” Solheim said.

Why are many law-makers still dragging their feet on strong anti-plastic policies?

Environmental activists say regulating marine pollution needs bold and several restrictive, unpopular policies that on which elected law makers are seen to be dragging their feet.

“It’s a case of presenting environmental action in a positive, constructive way. We need to stop looking at it as a cost or sacrifice, but as an opportunity, a win for health, benefits for the economy and for the planet,” Solheim counters the critics.

The Kenyan government recently banned single-use plastic bags. “There were inevitably complaints from some manufacturers, but we have to consider what the benefits are from making the switch to more sustainable packaging.

“There are business opportunities. There are benefits to tourism, as nobody wants to go on a safari and see plastic bags blowing across the savannah, or spend a holiday on beaches littered with plastic. There are benefits to the food chain too. We’ve seen cows whose stomachs were filled with plastic,” he added.

Actions don’t need to be unpopular. For example, “does any country have a policy to throw rubbish into the sea?” “Certainly not! If that was a real policy, people would be justifiably furious.” he said. But that is what has happened, in the absence of strong policies.

“For too long, the relationship between prosperity and environment has been seen as a trade-off. Tackling pollution was considered an unwelcome cost on industry and a handicap to economic growth,” Solheim says in his ‘Vision for a Pollution-free Planet,’ in the run-up to the UN Environment Assembly. “(But) it’s now clear that sustainable development is the only form of development that makes sense, including in financial and economic terms,” he adds.

“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line. It’s cheaper to prevent pollution now than clean up in the future,” he told Inter Press Service.

“That’s the message we really need to get across, so that governments can feel inspired and emboldened to take action.

“After that, what price do we put on our oceans? They sustain human life in such a way that surely we need to look at the oceans as priceless,” Solheim said.

“We have to look at pollution as a factor alongside climate change and over-fishing. We have to look at oceans as interconnected,” Solheim said.

Keeping marine litter high on national environmental policy agendas of the 193 member nations, pollution is the focus of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly 4-6 December at the UN headquarters of Nairobi.

The UN Environment Assembly is attended by 193 member states, heads of state, environment ministers, CEOs of multinational companies, NASA scientists, NGOs, environmental activists, and celebrities to discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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