Inter Press Service » Green Economy http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:38:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-scientists-work-to-limit-climate-impact-on-marine-environment/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:50:01 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150210 In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that ,he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector. 


“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

In the coming weeks the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrot is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs Keith Nichols pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said.

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Marching for a Green and Just Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/marching-for-a-green-and-just-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marching-for-a-green-and-just-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/marching-for-a-green-and-just-future/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:20:00 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150196 A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

People around the world will be banding together to fight one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

Thousands are set to gather at the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. on 29 April to mark the 100th day of President Donald Trump’s administration and push for solutions to the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis has gotten so bad globally that we need much bolder and faster policy changes to really try and address that,” the coordinator of the People’s Climate Movement New York Leslie Cagan told IPS.

A group have scientists recently found that CO2 is being released into the atmosphere at much faster rates and in a shorter period, and that even a two degree Celsius rise of the average temperature will have disastrous effects on the climate.

“We’re really against a ticking clock,” Cagan said.

Cagan was one of the co-coordinators of the 2014 People’s Climate March. However, new challenges have arisen since then.

“This march has the added challenge of having an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change,” Executive Director of UPROSE and member of the Climate Justice Alliance steering committee Elizabeth Yeampierre told IPS.

Among those in the U.S. government that are skeptical of climate change is former Exxon Mobil CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

This has led not only to threats to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and cut funds to the EPA, but the U.S. government has already taken steps to dismantle environmental protections including slashing the Clean Power Plan and approving fossil fuel-related projects such as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Though dubbed the “People’s Climate March,” the march is in fact for climate, jobs, and justice, intersections that are crucial in order to create a sustainable future.

“We don’t want to and can’t isolate the climate issue from the other pressing issues…part of the reason why the globe is experiencing this extreme climate crisis has to do with the kind of economic structures and dynamics that have been played out for many years,” Cagan told IPS.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser Kandi Mossett echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating the argument against climate action often used is that it takes away jobs.

“The point is that we are not against jobs at all, we are against the type of jobs that are poisoning and killing the planet and the people in those jobs,” she said.

In order to move away from fossil fuels to a green economy, activists are advocating for a “just transition,” a framework which helps transition workers currently employed by the fossil fuel industry to jobs created by renewable energy sources.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates approximately 3 million Americans are directly employed by the fossil fuel industry while the American Petroleum Institute estimated 9.8 million full-time and part-time jobs in the country’s oil and natural gas industry.

Fracking wells are often located in poor, rural communities including Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, which are are reliant on the jobs they provide. Workers in such communities therefore need resources such as access to training in order to transition into green jobs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also found that all 378 coal plants are located near poor and minority communities, exposing residents to high levels of toxins.

“[Communities of color] shouldn’t have to say, ‘well the only job I can take is a job that is going to affect my health and the health of my family. The option of having a job that is renewable and that honors mother earth and our health should exist, and the technology exists to do it,” said Yeampierre told IPS.

According to the Sierra Club, the number of clean energy jobs already outnumbers all fossil fuel jobs in the U.S. by more than 2.5 to 1, and coal and gas jobs by 5 to 1. This shift to renewable energy is only expected to grow.

However, the fossil fuel industry has been resisting the transition with just five fossil fuel companies spending over 115 million dollars per year to oppose climate action.

“[Fossil fuel companies] control the destiny of literally billions on the planet,” said Cagan.

These issues are not unique to the U.S. From Nigerian residents suffering from oil pollution of the Niger River Delta to coal miners in the second largest coal producing country India, the fossil fuel industry and its impacts are felt in virtually every corner of the world.

Mossett noted that even U.S. pollution is not static and that we are all being impacted regardless of where it occurs.

“Our future is connected, their struggle is our struggle,” said Yeampierre, noting that the climate movement is aligned with the Global South.

However, since the U.S. is among the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to combat global climate change may be undermined.

Cagan noted that the movement will only succeed if the links between climate, justice, and jobs are made.

“Now is the time for those movements to work together into one more unified movement. We need to find ways to work with each other and at times to literally march together,” she told IPS.

Yeampierre similarly stressed the importance of this new vision, stating that a different kind of leadership and unity that is built on just relationships is essential. Mossett told IPS that the march allows people to show such solidarity and strength to President Trump.

However, though such mass movements are important, it does not solve the problem, the organisers said.

“We hope very much is that the march will be inspiring and powerful enough that people are reenergized to keep doing the work when they go back home. It’s the long term struggle that makes the difference,” said Cagan.

Beyond the necessity to move away from fossil fuels, she highlighted the need to encourage and strengthen work at the local level which, once added up, could create a different national picture.

Yeampierre noted that solutions must be designed based on context and in order to do so, local communities must be meaningfully engaged.

“If we don’t all collectively learn that we need to fight together, then we are all collectively going to die together. There is no escaping that,” Mossett said.

Over 300 sister marches on climate, justice, and jobs have been planned across the world.

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Caricom’s Energy-Efficient Building Code Could Be Tough Sellhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caricoms-energy-efficient-building-code-could-be-tough-sell/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 00:01:06 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150072 This commercial building, known as Savannah East, is located close to Trinidad and Tobago's historical Queen's Park Savannah. Owned by RGM Limited, it was hailed in the Trinidadian media last month as the first LEED-certified building in the country. Photo credit: RGM Limited

This commercial building, known as Savannah East, is located close to Trinidad and Tobago's historical Queen's Park Savannah. Owned by RGM Limited, it was hailed in the Trinidadian media last month as the first LEED-certified building in the country. Photo credit: RGM Limited

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Apr 21 2017 (IPS)

Caribbean Community (Caricom) states are in the process of formulating an energy efficiency building code for the region that would help reduce CO2 emissions, but implementation of the code may depend heavily on moral suasion for its success.

Fulgence St. Prix, technical officer for standards at Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) who is overseeing the Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code (REEBC), told IPS, “When we at the regional level propose a standard or code it’s meant to be voluntary…We do not have the mechanism to dictate to member states to make any standard the subject of a technical regulation thus making implementation mandatory.”"The architects are quite knowledgeable in terms of sustainable design. What we do not have are clients who are willing to do the financial outlay to incorporate sustainability.” --Jo-Ann Murrell of Carisoul

In keeping with WTO guidelines, he said, “A standard is a voluntary document. You cannot force any member state to implement any one standard.” The decision as to whether to implement the REEBC, therefore, rests with member states.

The REEBC project was officially launched at a meeting in Jamaica at the end of March. This followed consultations over several months by a Regional Project Team comprising representatives from some of the Caricom member states, as well as regional architects, engineers, builders and electricians, on the need for a minimum energy efficiency building standard for the region.

It was unanimously agreed that it was imperative one be established and the decision was taken to base the REEBC on the 2018 version of the International Energy Conservation Code that will be published in July of this year.

“The goal is to have a document that would reduce the CO2 footprint on the average,” said St. Prix, adding that climate change is just one of the considerations driving the REEBC initiative. “If we could develop that code and have it effectively implemented, we could realise at least a 25 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions, but this is just an estimate.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chapter on Buildings in its Fifth Assessment Report states that in 2010 buildings accounted for 32 per cent of total global final energy use, 19 per cent of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including electricity-related), and approximately one-third of black carbon emissions.

GHG emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean from buildings were said to have grown to 0.28GtCO2eq/yr (280,000,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents of GHG emissions) in 2010.

The report also states, “final energy use may stay constant or even decline by mid-century, as compared to today’s levels, if today’s cost-effective best practices and technologies are broadly diffused.”

However, the IPCC’s report suggests that moral suasion may not be the most effective means of achieving the implementation of energy efficiency standards. It notes, “Building codes and appliance standards with strong energy efficiency requirements that are well enforced, tightened over time, and made appropriate to local climate and other conditions have been among the most environmentally and cost-effective.”

Trinidadian architect Jo-Ann Murrell, managing director of Carisoul Architecture Co. Ltd., a firm that specialises in green architecture, said effective implementation of a regional energy efficiency building code may have to wait until the region’s younger generation become the decision makers with regard to home purchases.

“We have a younger generation who will be older at that time, who will be interested in investing in energy efficiency. They are interested in the sustainability of the climate,” she said.

She said that the subsidised cost of electricity in Trinidad and Tobago is 3 cents US per kWh. So, “there is not a desire on the part of clients, due to the cost factor, for using alternative sources of energy or using energy saving devices. So when we tell clients they can achieve energy savings if they use certain building methods, they will choose the energy efficient air conditioning unit, they will use LED lights, and so on, but [not always] when it comes to other options,” Murrell said.

She stressed, “We have very competent architects in Trinidad and Tobago and the architects are quite knowledgeable in terms of sustainable design. What we do not have are clients who are willing to do the financial outlay to incorporate sustainability.”

St. Prix also cited economic challenges for Caricom states wishing to implement the REEBC. “You know that member states are at very different stages of their development. Any building code is a challenge. The major challenge is human resources and [the need for] economic resources to be able to employ the needed personnel to implement the code.”

The IPCC report also cites transaction costs, inadequate access to financing, and subsidised energy as among the barriers to effective uptake of energy efficient technologies in building globally.

The IPCC report goes on to state, “Traditional large appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, are still responsible for most household electricity consumption…albeit with a falling share related to the equipment for information technology and communications (including home entertainment) accounting in most countries for 20 % or more of residential electricity consumption.”

For this reason, CROSQ is also undertaking a regional energy labelling scheme for appliances sold in the region. Though common in European countries, they are not standard practice throughout the Caribbean. The scheme, said Janice Hilaire, project coordinator for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (R3E), is being funded by the German government.

“We also want to develop standards for PVC panels and water heaters,” she added.

Hilaire said the R3E would be training people to carry out the testing for this scheme at select labs in the region that has a limited amount of equipment for carrying out the tests.

“We are setting up an intense information and awareness campaign because we want to bring about a change in behaviour. We want householders to understand why they must adopt certain practices. We also want to bring about a more efficient use of energy.in the region which will positively affect GDP. The REEBC cannot operate in a vacuum. It must be complemented by other initiatives,” she said.

The REEBC and the associated R3E are in their early stages, St. Prix pointed out. As these projects are rolled out, CROSQ will begin collecting data that shows the actual dollar savings the region enjoys through these initiatives. The CROSQ team will then be able “to go to our policy makers and say, if you make this mandatory you will be saving this amount.” Member states would be urged to put legal mechanisms in place, St. Prix said.

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“Imagine a World Where the Worst-Case Scenarios Have Been Realized”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/imagine-a-world-where-the-worst-case-scenarios-have-been-realized/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 00:01:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150052 Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Picturesque Antigua and Barbuda says its “natural beauty” is what is being fought for in the war on climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Apr 20 2017 (IPS)

The tiny island-nation of Antigua and Barbuda has made an impassioned plea for support from the international community to deal with the devastating impacts of climate change.

Urging “further action”, Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph said the Paris Climate Agreement must become the cornerstone of advancing the socio-economic development of countries.“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing internationial boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here." --Foreign Minister Charles Fernandez

“One area of approach that we have undertaken in Antigua and Barbuda, that I believe would be beneficial amongst other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and developing countries, is for those of us with more advanced institutions to seek to be of assistance to other countries,” Joseph told IPS.

“I would like to encourage other countries, which have strong institutions, to take up the challenge in not only seeing how to combat climate change locally and nationally but, where possible, taking regional and global approaches.”

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November last year, brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

Its central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees C.

Earlier this month Antigua and Barbuda hosted the 16th meeting of countries participating in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action.

The Dialogue is an informal space “open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive, and legally binding regime in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and committed, domestically, to becoming or remaining low carbon economies.”

It aims to “discuss openly and constructively the reasoning behind each others’ positions, exploring areas of convergence and potential areas of joint action.” It is one of the few groups within the UN climate negotiations that brings together negotiators from the global North and South.

Joseph told delegates that “as a nation, we have a lot to lose” and he urged them to ensure that the Paris Agreement serves the future of all nations and becomes the cornerstone of advancing economically, socially and otherwise.

“Imagine a world where white sandy beaches and coral reefs like the ones just off these shores become a rarity. Where glaciers and snow covered mountain tops might be limited to postcard memories. Where droughts, storms, famines and epidemics can become more intense and more common. Where the worst-case scenarios of climate change have been realised. And with this grave image of what is at stake for humanity in our minds, let us earnestly collaborate to ensure that such horrors never come to pass,” Joseph said.

His colleague, Charles Fernandez, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said as a member of the SIDS, Antigua and Barbuda’s “natural beauty” is what is being fought for.

“Sometimes I watch how larger and richer countries react to the approach of a major hurricane,” he told IPS.

“When I see long lines of vehicles trying to escape the storm by heading over state lines or crossing international boundaries, I always wonder what they would do if they lived here. We small islanders have to be ready to bunker down and bear it; and when it’s over, dust off and pick up the pieces.

“It is for this reason, that for those of us who live on small islands, climate change is an existential threat to our survival and way of life. It is for this reason that so many of us have signed on and begun work on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For this reason, that we place our faith in the international community to find aggressive solutions to climate change together,” Fernandez added.

The Cartagena Dialogue is one mechanism through which countries look beyond their self-identified commitments toward establishing an ambitious new and binding agreement on climate change.

Joseph said the establishing of such a regime will require the coming together of many and various minds on an impressive list of complex issues.

“From the promotion and access of appropriate technologies that will help nations pursue economic development while mitigating greenhouse gas production, to ensuring that other strategies such as public awareness, education, finance, sector specific targets and national limits — all deserve our keenest consideration toward achieving our goals,” he said.

“Here in Antigua and Barbuda, the government is in the process of developing regulations to further guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, this will only be one in a series of vital steps needed to put Antigua and Barbuda on a progressive path to deal with climate change. We are aggressively pursuing accreditation to the various mechanisms and hope that our experiences both in the accreditation process and implementation will serve as examples and best practices for other SIDS and developing countries to further their own actions against climate change.”

Antigua and Barbuda is the first and currently the only country in the Eastern Caribbean to have achieved accreditation to the Adaptation Fund.

“We have decided as a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to use this status not only for our own advancement but also toward the advancement of fellow members of the sub-region by allowing ourselves to serve as a regional implementing entity, improving their access to the financial mechanisms,” Joseph said.

Last September, Antigua and Barbuda joined more than two dozen countries to ratify the Paris Agreement on Global Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement was opened for signatures on April 22, 2016, and will remain open to Parties of the UNFCCC until April 21, 2017.

The Paris Agreement becomes international law based on a dual “trigger” – when 55 Parties have ratified the Agreement, and 55 percent of the goal of emissions are covered by the Parties.

While the Paris Agreement wasn’t expected to enter into force until 2020, countries including Antigua and Barbuda have been demonstrating leadership to address the global threat of climate change, and reduce emissions to meet the target of less than 1.5 degrees C increase in global average temperatures.

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Caribbean Pursues Green Growth Despite Uncertain Timeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-pursues-green-growth-despite-uncertain-times/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:24:26 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149962 A wind farm in Curacao. In late 2015, Caribbean countries joined a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A wind farm in Curacao. In late 2015, Caribbean countries joined a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

Barbados and its Caribbean neighbours are continuing to press ahead with their climate change agenda and push the concept of renewable energy despite the new position taken by the United States.

This was made clear by the Minister of the Environment and Drainage in Barbados, Dr. Denis Lowe, against the background of the position taken by U.S. President Donald Trump that climate change is a “hoax”, and his subsequent push for the revitalisation of the coal industry, and the issuance of an Executive Order to restart the Dakota Access Pipeline.“We stand ready to do what needs to be done." --Dr. Denis Lowe

“The moment has come. The President of the United States of America has determined that climate change is really a hoax, and that any notion about climate change science is based on false belief, and that there is no clear justification that this phenomenon called climate change exists,” Lowe said.

However, the Environment Minister pointed out that while Trump was “decrying” the legitimacy of climate change, 2016 was already being labelled as the warmest ocean temperature year.

“The impact of that accelerated warmth of the earth, according to American environmentalists, is the Michigan coastline, Lake Michigan. Evidence has been produced to show that the impact of climate change has affected that whole seaboard area, including the erosion of beaches along the Illinois Coast. This is a fact as reported,” he said.

Dr. Lowe cautioned that the new US position spelled “bad news” for the Caribbean.

He warned that the new position could see a significant reduction in funding from the United States to the United Nations system, which was the primary driver of the climate change fight.

“Institutions like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund will be impacted. The Adaptation Fund will be affected, and all of the other activities driven by US-donated funding will be impacted,” he pointed out.

But Lowe stressed that the region could not allow itself to be “hemmed in” by what might or might not occur relating to international funding.

He gave the assurance that his Ministry and Government would continue “to plough” ahead and look for unique ways to fund the island’s coastal rehabilitation and green energy programmes.

“We stand ready to do what needs to be done. Our Ministry continues to work with our stakeholders to look for ways to continue to press ahead with our climate change agenda,” Lowe said.

“We ask Barbadians from all walks of life to assist us in adopting and practising habits that would reduce the impacts of climate change on us as it relates to our water supply, our conservation effort, and our preservation efforts in terms of our spaces around the island that would be of importance,” he added.

Meanwhile, New York-based syndicated columnist Rebecca Theodore, who has written extensively on climate change and renewable energy in the Caribbean, said while President Trump seeks for a revitalisation of the coal industry in the United States, this will need more than government policy in Washington to be implemented.

“First, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are much more price-viable than coal. The demand for jobs in renewable energy is going up while for coal it’s rapidly going down,” Theodore told IPS.

“Secondly, the moral arguments and market forces in which the production of coal as an energy source are interlaced cannot be ignored. Carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants are the leading cause of death in many places and continue to be a hazard to public health.

“Thirdly, if the Clean Power Plan is to achieve its aims of cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, then there must be a reduction in coal consumption,” Theodore added.

She also noted that carbon pollution from power plants is one of the major causes of climate change.

“It follows that if the United States must continue the fight in the global efforts to address climate change then the goal must be centered on cheap natural gas and the installation of renewable energy plants, Theodore told IPS.

“There must be options for investment in renewable energy, natural gas and shifting away from   coal-fired power.”

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said a significant portion of the 13 billion dollars it will be lending this year has been earmarked for agriculture, climate change and renewable energy projects.

IDB Executive Director Jerry Butler noted that the issue of renewable energy has been a constant focus for the institution.

“We are going to lend 13 billion dollars and of that amount we’ve carved out 30 percent of it for climate change, agriculture and renewable energy. In fact, 20 percent of that 13 billion in the Americas will be devoted to climate change and renewable energy,” Butler said.

“I think we are putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to us as a partner with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and us as a partner with the other entities that work with us.”

Highlighting the IDB’s commitment to the region, Butler noted that even though the Eastern Caribbean States are not members of the bank, through its lending to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), countries in the sub-region have not been left out.

“For example, the more than 80 million dollars that’s devoted to geothermal exploration, Grenada will be the first beneficiary in the Eastern Caribbean,” he said.

“And our focus on the Caribbean is not stopping – whether it be smart financing programmes in Barbados, whether it be programmes associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency in Jamaica, or whether it be programmes in Guyana off-grid or on-grid – we try to do everything that we can to bring resources, technology, intelligence and at the same time best practices to everything that we do when it comes to the topic of renewable energy.”

Butler said the IDB believes that the sustainability, the competitiveness and the job-creation potential of the Caribbean can be unlocked “if there is a considered focus on weaning ourselves off the dependence on foreign fuels for generation” and focusing on “producing its own indigenous type of energy”.

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Climate Funds for World’s Poorest Slow to Materialisehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:44:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149960 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-funds-for-worlds-poorest-slow-to-materialise/feed/ 3 Green Power: Wave of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/green-power-wave-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-power-wave-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/green-power-wave-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 17:25:58 +0000 Francoise Estais http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149820 Françoise d’Estais is Head of the Finance Unit, Energy and Climate Branch, Economy Division, UN Environment, Angus McCrone is Chief Editor, Bloomberg New Energy Finance & Ulf Moslener is Research Director, Frankfurt School - UNEP Collaborating Centre]]> Sustainable energy. Credit: World Bank/Dana Smillie

Sustainable energy. Credit: World Bank/Dana Smillie

By Françoise d’Estais, Angus McCrone & Ulf Moslener
PARIS/FRANKFURT/LONDON, Apr 6 2017 (IPS)

The price of renewable energy — especially solar power — continues to tumble, and the result is more green power generating capacity for fewer dollars.

That’s the bottom line message from the latest figures on world investment in clean technologies.

In 2016, record levels of new renewable energy generating capacity were added worldwide even as investments fell 23 per cent from the year before.

The data are contained in the 11th annual Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, a product of UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016, up almost 9 per centfrom the 127.5 gigawatts added the year before. The added generating capacity roughly equals that of the world’s 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined.

The proportion of electricity coming from renewables (excluding large hydro) is now 11.3 per cent, a significant jump from 10.3 per cent in 2015. Thanks to green tech, humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide were an estimated 1.7 gigatonnes less than they might have been had the same power been produced from fossil fuels.

And these impressive additions to the world’s generating capacity were made at a fraction of previous costs. Total investments of $241.6 billion (excluding large hydro), were down 23 per cent from 2015 and represented the lowest total dollar investment since 2013.

As noted, this was partly the result of falling costs: the average dollar expenditure required to add a megawatt from solar photovoltaics and wind turbines dropped by over 10 per cent.

The data also show public and private sector investors — who have invested a cumulative $2.5 trillion in renewables since 2004 — favor renewables over fossil fuels by a large margin. Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double the figure for fossil fuels; the corresponding new capacity from renewables excluding large hydro was equivalent to 55 per cent of all new power, the highest to date.

Solar and wind remain by far the most attractive renewable energy investment options.

New investment in solar totalled $113.7 billion, down 34 per cent from the record high in 2015. Solar capacity additions, however, rose to an all-time high of 75 gigawatts.

Wind made up $112.5 billion of investment globally, down 9 per cent; wind capacity additions fell to 54 gigawatts from the previous year’s high of 63 gigawatts.

The smaller sectors had mixed fortunes in terms of new investment. Biofuels fell 37 per cent to $2.2 billion, the lowest for at least 13 years; biomass and waste held steady at $6.8 billion and small hydro at $3.5 billion. Geothermal rallied 17 per cent to $2.7 billion. Marine edged down 7 per cent to $194 million.

In addition to reduced technology costs, the fall in investment also reflected a slowdown in China, Japan and some emerging markets, for a variety of reasons.

Renewable energy investment in developing countries fell 30 per cent to $117 billion, while that in developed economies dropped 14 per cent to $125 billion. China saw investment drop 32 per cent to $78.3 billion, breaking an 11-year rising trend.

Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa and Morocco all saw falls of 60 per cent or more, due to slower than expected growth in electricity demand, and delays to auctions and financings. Jordan was one of the few new markets to buck the trend, investment there rising 148 per cent to $1.2 billion.

The US saw commitments slip 10 per cent to $46.4 billion, as developers took their time to build out projects to benefit from the five-year extension of the tax credit system. Japan slumped 56 per cent to $14.4 billion.

Investment in renewables did not drop across the board, however. Europe enjoyed a 3 per cent increase to $59.8 billion, led by the UK ($24 billion) and Germany ($13.2 billion). Offshore wind ($25.9 billion) dominated Europe’s investment, up 53 per cent thanks to mega-arrays such as the 1.2 gigawatt Hornsea project in the North Sea, estimated to cost $5.7 billion. China also invested $4.1 billion in offshore wind, its highest figure to date.

And in India, the Ramanathapuram solar complex, billed as the world’s largest ever solar photovoltaicproject (648 megawatts), was constructed.

“The question always used to be ‘will renewables ever be grid competitive?’,” says Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board at BNEF. “Well, after the dramatic cost reductions of the past few years, unsubsidised wind and solar can provide the lowest cost new electrical power in an increasing number of countries, even in the developing world – sometimes by a factor of two.”

“It’s a whole new world: even though investment is down, annual installations are still up; instead of having to subsidise renewables, now authorities may have to subsidise natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability.”

Recent figures from the International Energy Agency cited the switch to renewables as a main reason for greenhouse gas emissions staying flat in 2016, for the third year running, even though output in the global economy rose by 3.1 per cent.

We need this trend to continue and accelerate. And this latest renewable energy investment trends report offers reason to hope that it will.

In the words of Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment: “Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less.

“This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all. ”

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Climate Change Solutions Can’t Wait for U.S. Leadershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-change-solutions-cant-wait-for-u-s-leadership/#comments Tue, 04 Apr 2017 00:02:11 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149788 President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr. Warren Smith says the bank is giving high priority to addressing the fallout from climate change in the region. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr. Warren Smith says the bank is giving high priority to addressing the fallout from climate change in the region. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 4 2017 (IPS)

From tourism-dependent nations like Barbados to those rich with natural resources like Guyana, climate change poses one of the biggest challenges for the countries of the Caribbean.

Nearly all of these countries are vulnerable to natural events like hurricanes.“Why is this such a big deal? The Caribbean is facing a climate crisis, which we need to tackle now - with urgency.” --Dr. Warren Smith

Not surprisingly, the climate change threat facing the countries of the Caribbean has not gone unnoticed by the region’s premier financial institution, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

“We are giving high priority to redressing the fallout from climate change,” the bank’s president Dr. Warren Smith told journalists at a press conference here recently.

“This is an inescapable reality, and we have made it our business to put in place the financial resources necessary to redress the effects of sea-level rise and more dangerous hurricanes.”

CDB has also tapped new funding for renewable energy and for energy efficiency.

For the first time, the bank has accessed a 33-million-dollar credit facility from Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to support sustainable infrastructure projects in select Caribbean countries and a 3 million euro grant to finance feasibility studies for projects eligible for financing under the credit facility.

“At least 50 percent of those funds will be used for climate adaptation and mitigation projects,” Smith explained.

“We persuaded the Government of Canada to provide financing for a CAD 5 million Canadian Support to the Energy Sector in the Caribbean Fund, which will be administered by the CDB. This money will help to build capacity in the energy sector over the period 2016 to 2019.”

In February, CBD also became an accredited partner institution of the Adaptation Fund, and in October 2016, the bank achieved the distinction of accreditation to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

“Why is this such a big deal? The Caribbean is facing a climate crisis, which we need to tackle now – with urgency,” Smith said.

“The Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund have opened new gateways to much-needed grant and or low-cost financing to address climate change vulnerabilities in all of our borrowing member countries (BMCs).”

The financing options outlined by the CDB president would no doubt be welcome news to Caribbean countries in the wake of United States President Donald Trump’s recently proposed budget cuts for climate change funding.

The proposed 2018 federal budget would end programmes to lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, slash diplomatic efforts to slow climate change and cut scientific missions to study the climate.

The budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent including ending Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan – the Obama administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

At the U.S. State Department, the budget proposal eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the president’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ climate change programmes by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.

The Green Climate Fund is the U.N. effort to help countries adapt to climate change or develop low-emission energy technologies, and the Global Climate Change Initiative is a kind of umbrella programme that paid for dozens of assistance programmess to other countries working on things such as clean energy.

The proposal would also cut big chunks out of climate-related programmes of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The USAID is the American agency through which the countries of the Caribbean get a lot of their funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“We would be foolish to have taken a lead role in getting the world to move on climate, to put innovation at its core and then walk away from that agenda,” Dr Ernest Moniz said on CNN. “Some of the statements being made about the science, I might say by non-scientists, are really disturbing because the evidence is clearly there for taking prudent steps.

“I would not argue with the issue that different people in office may decide to take different pathways, different rates of change etc., but not the fundamental science,” added Moniz, who was instrumental in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement.

Throughout his election campaign, Trump consistently threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate deal.

Moniz, a nuclear physicist and former Secretary of Energy serving under President Obama, from May 2013 to January 2017, said he would wait and see how this develops, but said of the threat to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, “obviously, that would be a very bad idea” noting that every country in the world is now committed to a low-carbon future.

“There’s no going back. One of my friends in the industry would say ‘you can’t keep the waves off the beach’. We are going to a low carbon future.”

Since being sworn in as president in January, Trump’s administration has been sending somewhat mixed signals about climate change. While Trump himself has described climate change as a hoax, he also said he had an open mind toward efforts to control it.

Caribbean countries, meanwhile, are watching with keen interest the developments in the United States.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Milton Haughton said fisheries is one of the industries being impacted by climate change.

“Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and disaster risk management are major challenges facing the fisheries sector and the wider economies of our countries,” Haughton said ahead of a two-day meeting in Kingston to discuss measures for adaptation to climate change and disaster risk management in fisheries as well as the status of and recent trends in fisheries and aquaculture in the region.

“These issues continue to be high priorities for policy-makers and stakeholders because we need to improve capacity, information base and policy, and institutional arrangements to respond to these threats and protect our future.

“At this meeting, we will be discussing the USA-sponsored initiative to provide risk insurance for fishers, among other initiatives to improve and protect the fisheries sector and ensure food security,” Haughton added.

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How a Devastating Hurricane Led to St. Vincent’s First Sustainability Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 00:02:08 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149709 Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 30 2017 (IPS)

In the 1980s, an institution for troubled Danish youth and a vocational school for Vincentians was built in Richmond Vale, an agricultural district on the northwestern tip of St. Vincent.

It was hoped that spending time at Richmond Vale Academy would help the Danish youth to see the world from a different perspective. However, for a number of reasons, the concept didn’t pan out, the school closed and a farm was developed in its place.“It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop...That was a very big eye-opener for me.” --Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy

In 2000, the first attempts were made to re-start the academy, which has been in full operation since 2007. Today, Richmond Vale Academy attracts young people from around the world who are troubled by poverty and what is going on with the Earth’s climate and want to do something about it.

The not-for-profit institution had previously focused mainly on poverty alleviation, with an emphasis on service in Africa. However, in 2010, Hurricane Tomas — the latest recorded tropical cyclone on a calendar year to strike the Windward Islands — passed to the north of St. Vincent, where the academy is located, and St. Lucia.

“That was a very big eye-opener for me,” Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy, told IPS. “We were, of course, very worried but that was my very first meeting with climate change, I would say.”

The storm, which impacted St. Vincent on Oct. 30, left hundreds of homes without roofs, and, in addition to significant damage to homes and public infrastructure, destroyed about 90 per cent of banana cultivation, then an important crop for the local economy.

At Richmond Vale Academy, Herberg, her staff and their students listened as the tropical cyclone destroyed huge, decades-old trees. “It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop: you would hear it, like you put matches up and they just came down.”

The academy’s banana cultivation, which had taken three years to get to the point where it met the standards necessary for exportation to England, was also ruined.

“Three years of work was destroyed in seven hours,” Herberg said of the impact on the academy, adding, “but for other farmers, it was their lifetime’s work.

“So that caused us to ask a lot of questions. Yes, there were always hurricanes, but why are they more frequent? So it set us off to do a lot more research about climate change, about pollution, and we got a lot of eye-opening experiences.”

The research led to the St. Vincent Climate Compliance Conference 2012-2021, which aims to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines one of the first nations to become “climate compliant”.

The programme brings together local students as well as students from Europe, North America, South America, other parts of the Caribbean and Asia for programmes of one, three or six months duration, in which they learn about global warming, its causes and consequences.

The programme offers firsthand knowledge, as students can go directly into the nearby communities such as the village of Fitz Hughes or the town of Chateaubelair to see the impact on housing, public infrastructure, and the physical environment of severe weather events resulting from climate change.

However, the major focus of the programme is on “climate compliance”, which might be more frequently referred to as adaptation measures.

“Because if you going to talk about getting ready for climate change, if you are not doing it yourself, if you are going to tell people ‘I think it is a good idea to go organic. It is good for the soil, to plant trees’ — if you are not doing it for yourself, when you are speaking to other people it will be less effective,” Herberg said.

The academy has developed models and used its own farm to demonstrate ways in which the population can move away from carbon-based fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

For example, the academy set up a bio-gas facility that shows that mixing 1.5 kilogrammes of kitchen waste with 50 litres of water can produce fuel for five hours a day in a country where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is the main fuel used for cooking.

“It is suitable as a model that can be used by families in villages,” Herberg said of the academy’s biogas facility.

“We cannot make hydropower plants, we cannot build geothermal power plants. Governments have a variety of plans for that, so we have to see what can we do. We are promoting solar, and also the biogas,” she said, adding that Richmond Vale Academy has secured funding to set up five biogas facilities in western St. Vincent.

“So, it mitigates because it is a renewable gas and you can produce it yourself. You don’t need transport from China or Venezuela or from the United States or wherever.”

The biogas production process results in slurry that can be used as fertilizer. “The important thing is that people know there are alternatives. I don’t think we can get everybody on biogas. I doubt that. But what is important is that we open up and say these are the options,” Herberg explains.

While potable water is almost always available on St. Vincent Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a water-stressed country as there are no rivers and no municipal supply of water in the Grenadines, an archipelago.

However, even on St. Vincent Island, with its rivers, streams, and springs, the dry season, which runs from December to May, can be especially punishing for farmers, only 7 per cent of whom have irrigation.

Richmond Vale Academy has developed a system for collecting rainwater for washing, showers, and toilets. The excess water from this system collects in a reservoir and is used for irrigation. Small fish are placed in the catchment to prevent mosquitos from breeding in it.

Further, the academy has, over the years, phased out chemical fertilizers from its farm. In explaining the link between organic farming and mitigating against climate change, Herberg tells IPS that as the climate changes, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to have more periods without rain, and when the rains come, they are expected to be heavier over shorter periods.

Most of the nation’s farmers are still engaged in mono-cropping and use chemical fertilizer in their production. “The chemicals break down the soil structure, so it gets sandy, it gets dry, so then when you get some rain and the rain is heavier, it just washes away the soil,” Herberg said, adding that this leads to flooding and landslides.

“So, the way that we are farming, it is very dangerous for the future. If you look at the big picture of biodiversity, the planet’s biodiversity is what’s keeping the temperature [stable]. If you take away the biodiversity by making cities, chopping down the rainforest, whatever we decide to do to change the balance of nature, we cannot maintain a stable temperature,” she said.

She also spoke about deforestation to convert lands to agricultural and houses use. “We need to have trees that will give us shade, we need to have trees to shelter us from the heavy rains, so the farming has to change for us to get ready to live with climate change. We have to change the way we farm. Monocropping has no future.”

An important part of any discussion about adapting to climate change is the extent to which actions that have proven successful can be multiplied and scaled up.

“I’m quite optimistic and I think that St. Vincent, as it is a small country, it is easy to get around. There is consensus that we need to be more sustainable and go organic and focus on renewable energy. And I actually think that it is going to happen: that we are going to get geothermal energy, improve our hydro stations and then more people will get on to solar. So we will be one of the first countries in the Caribbean that will be nearly everything on renewable energy within a very reasonable time – maybe 10 years,” Herberg predicted.

She added that while Costa Rica is ahead of the region, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a good example in the 15-member Caribbean Community of what can be done to adapt to and mitigate against climate change. “We are not ahead in organic agriculture yet,” she said, but added that there are “some outstanding examples”.

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Trinidad Pushes for Shift to Cleaner Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/trinidad-pushes-for-shift-to-cleaner-fuel/#comments Sun, 26 Mar 2017 16:20:43 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149643 CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

CNG fuel signs at the NP Ramco service station, on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Trinidad. Credit: Jewel Fraser/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Mar 26 2017 (IPS)

The Trinidad and Tobago government has invested about 74 million dollars in the first phase of a 295-million-dollar project to encourage more drivers to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), described by experts here as a preliminary step in the country’s transition to using more sustainable forms of energy.

Use of CNG would represent a major behavioural shift for Trinidadians and Tobagonians whose country’s economy has relied heavily on exports of major fossil fuel reserves, giving it one of the highest per capita incomes in Caricom as well as placing it among the top ten emitters of carbon per capita in the world.The economic downturn has made maintaining generous fossil fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition.

The shift to CNG “starts a certain behaviour because [CNG] is the cleanest fuel Trinidad and Tobago has which is affordable,” said the president of NGC-CNG, Curtis Mohammed.

In 2013, the government mandated the National Gas Company (NGC) to promote the sale and use of CNG. NGC formed NGC-CNG in January 2014 to carry out the mandate. In keeping with its mandate NGC-CNG has offered substantial incentives to both public and private vehicle owners to retrofit their vehicles for the use of CNG, including thousands of dollars in free CNG to school buses and taxis. The government has also given substantial tax incentives to buyers of CNG-fuelled vehicles.

Mohammed said the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC), which is Trinidad and Tobago’s government-run bus service, has plans to eventually convert its entire fleet to CNG vehicles. The country’s Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his 2016-2017 Budget report also said that the association representing the privately owned public service vehicles, known as maxi taxis, has committed to introducing approximately 1,200 OEM CNG vehicles over the next three years.

However, “while CNG offers a cheaper and cleaner option for transportation fuel, it is to be recognized that it is a transitionary fuel and the deployment of renewable energy sources are more sustainable…the 10% renewable energy target signals Government’s intention to gradually move away from traditional fuels to more sustainable sources,” explained head of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, in Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Planning and Development, Kishan Kumarsingh, in an e-mail interview.

Though CNG has been an option under consideration for many years, a combination of factors over the past couple of years has increased interest among citizens in shifting from heavy domestic use of fossil fuels to the use of CNG for transport and eventually to renewables.

The government had for decades provided generous fuel subsidies that made owning and driving a vehicle in the country affordable for a large portion of its population. However, the government saw its revenues decline by 35 per cent between 2014 and 2016, that is, from 8.4 billion dollars in 2014 to 5.5 billion in 2016.

“Because of the collapse in oil and gas prices, we have lost 20 billion in annual revenue since 2014,” Minister Imbert was reported as saying in his 2016-2017 budget speech.

Thus, the economic downturn has made maintaining the generous fuel subsidies an unsustainable proposition and the government has gradually removed most of them.

Retrofitting to use CNG is a cheaper alternative for drivers who travel substantial distances. CNG retails at 15 cents per litre, compared to 46 cents per litre for super gasoline, 85 cents per litre for premium and 25 cents per litre for diesel. The government still subsidises the price of diesel which is used by public transport.

Another factor is Trinidad and Tobago’s active engagement over the years in initiatives to combat climate change, with the country being a signatory to the 2015 COP21 Paris agreement.

“The country has adopted a National Climate Change Policy and is currently implementing a range of projects aimed at addressing climate change nationally such as reducing emissions and assessing climate vulnerability. Trinidad and Tobago has taken a proactive approach and was the first Caribbean country to submit its NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] to the UN as well as among the first countries to formulate and adopt a National Climate Change Policy,” Kumarsingh said in an e-mail.

Included in government’s plans are “a feed-in-tariff to allow for renewable energy to be generated and to be fed into the national power grid,” he said. However, “the current legislative and policy structure limits the wide deployment of renewable energy mainly due to very old legislation.”

Kumarsingh said, “As a first step, the enabling environment from a policy and legislative perspective has to be in place. Once that policy and legislative framework is established, opportunities for installation of generation capacity from renewable energy sources, and therefore opportunities for job creation and income generation, can be more fully explored.”

The members of the Energy Chamber, representing more than 400 gas and petrochemical industry companies in Trinidad and Tobago, also see opportunities opening up with the removal of the fuel subsidy. Dr. Thackwray Driver, CEO of the Energy Chamber said, “You would see opportunities for electric vehicles as well. Trinidad’s electricity is very cheap…Because of the decreasing price of renewable energy we might reach a point where…electricity vehicles would be more attractive.”

He said there was “a lot of interest” in energy efficiency and renewable energy among Energy Chamber members.

Dr Driver said the Chamber had always advocated for the removal of subsidies because they encouraged “wasteful use of valuable resources which could be sold on international markets…In other countries you see people are less wasteful in using fuel. When there are higher prices to pay for it, they buy cars that are more fuel efficient, they tend to make more fuel-efficient decisions. People in Trinidad do not worry about fuel efficiency.”

With regard to renewables becoming a major source of energy locally, Dr Driver said, “I think given the structure of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy, it will remain relatively small for the next decade:” He added that the domestic sector was likely to see a 10-15 per cent uptake of renewables in the next decade or two.

Meanwhile, “I think right now the biggest interest is in energy efficiency, because there is a huge opportunity in the electricity sector to improve energy efficiency…Once we get energy efficiency up that is where we will see the deployment of grid-scale renewable energy,” Dr. Driver said.

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A Carbon Law to Protect the Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/a-carbon-law-to-protect-the-climate/#comments Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:48:17 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149628 The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Credit: Bigstock

The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. Credit: Bigstock

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 24 2017 (IPS)

The Carbon Law says human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be reduced by half each decade starting in 2020. By following this “law” humanity can achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century to protect the global climate for current and future generations.

A “carbon law” is a new concept unveiled March 23 in the journal Science. It is part of a decarbonization roadmap that shows how the global economy can rapidly reduce carbon emissions, said co-author Owen Gaffney of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, one of international team of climate experts.“Coal power plants under construction and proposed in India alone would account for roughly half of the remaining carbon budget.” --Steven Davis

To keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, emissions from burning fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) must peak by 2020 at the latest and fall to around zero by 2050. This is what the world’s nations agreed to at the UN’s Paris Agreement in 2015. Global temperatures have already increased 1.1 degrees C.

“After the Paris agreement we began to work on a science-based roadmap to stay well below 2C,” Gaffney told IPS.

The “carbon law” is modelled on Moore’s Law, a prediction that computer processing power doubles every 24 months. Like Moore’s, the carbon law isn’t a scientific or legal law but a projection of what could happen. Gordon Moore’s 1965 prediction ended up becoming the tech industry’s biannual goal.

A “carbon law” approach ensures that the greatest efforts to reduce emissions happen sooner not later, which reduces the risk of blowing the remaining global carbon budget, Gaffney said.

This means global CO2 emissions must peak by 2020 and then be cut in half by 2030. Emissions in 2016 were 38 billion tonnes (Gt), about the same as the previous two years. If emissions peak at 40 Gt by 2020, they need to fall to 20 Gt by 2030 under the carbon law. And then halve again in 2040 and 2050.

“Global emissions have stalled the last three years, but it’s too soon to say if they have peaked due largely to China’s incredible efforts,” he said.

Source: N. CARY/SCIENCE

Source: N. CARY/SCIENCE

The Science paper, “A roadmap for rapid decarbonization”, notes that China’s coal use swung from a 3.7 percent increase in 2013 to a 3.7 percent decline in 2015. Although not noted in the paper, China’s wind energy capacity went from 400 megawatts (Mw) in 2004 to an astonishing 145,000 Mw in 2016.

“In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050,” says lead author Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The authors pinpoint the end of coal in 2030-2035 and oil between 2040-2045 according to their “carbon law”. They propose that to remain on this trajectory, all sectors of the economy need decadal carbon roadmaps that follow this rule of thumb.

“We identify concrete steps towards full decarbonization by 2050. Businesses who try to avoid those steps and keep on tiptoeing will miss the next industrial revolution and thereby their best opportunity for a profitable future,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Elements of these roadmaps include doubling renewables in the energy sector every 5-7 years, ramping up technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and rapidly reducing emissions from agriculture and deforestation.

The immediate must-do “no-brainer” actions to be completed by 2020 include the elimination of an estimated 600 billion dollars in annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industries and a moratorium on investments in coal. Decarbonization plans must be in place for all cities and major corporations in the industrialized world.

Rapidly growing economies in India, Indonesia and elsewhere should receive help to take a green path to prosperity. They cannot use coal as China did because CO2 emissions are cumulative and there is little room left in the global carbon budget, said Gaffney.

This is an extremely urgent issue. India is already on the brink of taking the dirty carbon path.

“Coal power plants under construction and proposed in India alone would account for roughly half of the remaining carbon budget,” said Steven Davis of the University of California, Irvine about his new study that will be published shortly.

Davis, who was not involved in the carbon law paper, agrees that rapid decarbonization to near-zero emissions is possible. Cost breakthroughs in electrolysis, batteries, carbon capture, alternative processes for cement and steel manufacture and more will be needed, he told IPS.

All of this will require “herculean efforts” from all sectors, including the political realm, where a cost on carbon must soon be in place. Failure to succeed opens the door to decades of climate catastrophe.

“Humanity must embark on a decisive transformation towards complete decarbonization. The ‘Carbon law’ is a powerful strategy and roadmap for ramping down emissions to zero,” said Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.

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Caribbean Stakes Future on Climate-Smart Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/caribbean-stakes-future-on-climate-smart-agriculture/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:43:53 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149439 The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The massive rice industry in Guyana, which provides employment for at least 100,000 people, is just one area of the Caribbean’s agriculture sector under threat from climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

As Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries continue to build on the momentum of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech in 2016, special emphasis is being placed on agriculture as outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

The historic climate agreement was approved on Dec. 12, 2015 at COP21. INDCs is the term used under the UNFCCC for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that all countries which are party to the convention were asked to publish in the lead up to the conference.Nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have experienced prolonged droughts, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

In their INDCs, the countries of CARICOM, a 15-member regional grouping, have prioritized adaptation in the agricultural sector, given the need to support food security.

They are now shifting their focus from climate planning to action and implementation. To this end, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) hosted a Caribbean Climate Smart Agriculture (CCSA) Forum here recently to raise awareness of best practices, by promoting and supporting climate change actions, while providing a space for dialogue among relevant actors and allowing them to discuss the challenges and successes of  Climate Smart Agriculture.

Climate Smart Agriculture has been identified as offering major wins for food security, adaptation and mitigation in the Caribbean.

“Agriculture is a priority sector,” Pankaj Bhatia, Deputy Director of the World Resource Institute’s Climate Programme, told participants.

As countries move forward with their plans, he recommended they participate in NDC Partnership, a global initiative to help countries achieve their national climate commitments and ensure financial and technical assistance is delivered as efficiently as possible.

“Much work still needs to be done by countries to create more detailed road maps, catalyse investment, and implement the plans to deliver on their climate commitments,” said Bhatia, who helps to manage one of the largest climate change projects of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

“It’s worth exploring the options and how the NDC Partnership can offer support,” Bhatia added.

As of February 2017, there were approximately 40 countries involved in the NDC Partnership, as well as intergovernmental and regional organizations such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Bank, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

A farmer manually irrigates a cornfield in Barbados. In recent years, nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A farmer manually irrigates a cornfield in Barbados. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The major pillars of the Partnership to drive ambitious climate action include sharing knowledge and information and facilitating both technical and financial support, thus encouraging increased efficiency, accountability and effectiveness of support programmes.

The Partnership develops knowledge products that fill critical information gaps and disseminates them through a knowledge sharing portal.

Another speaker, Climate Change Specialist in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Climate Change Office, John Furlow, emphasized the importance of participation from multiple sectors in the process of creating Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAPs), using Jamaica as a case study for how this was done effectively.

“In 2012, the then prime minister of Jamaica asked USAID to help Jamaica develop a national climate policy. Rather than starting with climate impacts, we wanted to start with what Jamaica defined as important to them,” Furlow explained.

“The national outcomes in the vision document listed agriculture, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, construction, creative industries, sport, information and communication technology, services and tourism.

“So, we wanted to bring in the actors responsible for those economic sectors for discussion on how they would address climate and hazard risk reduction in a national policy,” he added.

Furlow continued that the goal is to get climate change out of the environment ministry and into the ministries responsible for the sectors that are going to be affected.

This, he said, has the potential of putting developing countries in the driver’s seat in locating “multiple sources of funding – domestic, bilateral aid funding and multi-lateral aid funding” – so countries can take a role in what’s going on within their borders.

The Climate Change Policy Framework for Jamaica outlines the strategies that the country will employ in order to effectively respond to the impacts and challenges of climate change, through measures which are appropriate for varying scales and magnitudes of climate change impacts.

It states that relevant sectors will be required to develop or update, as appropriate, plans addressing climate change adaptation and/or mitigation.

Within the Policy Framework there are also Special Initiatives based on new and existing programmes and activities which will be prioritized for early implementation.

Each year the Caribbean imports 5 billion dollars worth of food and climate change represents a clear and growing threat to its food security with differing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, heat stress and increased climatic variability making it difficult for farmers to meet demand for crops and livestock.

In recent years, nearly all of the countries in the Caribbean have been experiencing prolonged drought, posing significant challenges to food production in one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

Organizers of the CCSA Forum say there are many common agriculture-related topics in the NDCs of the English-speaking Caribbean countries, including conservation and forestry, water harvesting and storage, and improved agricultural policies.

All but one of the Caribbean countries included the issue of agriculture in their respective INDC. The sector is addressed in the INDCs with the priority being on adaptation. However, more than half of the countries also included conditional mitigation targets that directly or indirectly relate to agriculture.

The commitments made by all the countries denote the priority of the sector in the region’s development goals and the need to channel technical and financial support for the sector.

IICA said agriculture also has great potential to achieve the integration of mitigation and adaptation approaches into policies, strategies and programmes.

It also noted that the commitments made by each country, both through the Paris Agreement and in their respective INDCs, provide a solid foundation for tackling the global challenge of climate change with concrete actions keyed to national contexts and priorities.

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Guyana’s New Oil Fields Both Blessing and Cursehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/guyanas-new-oil-fields-both-blessing-and-curse/#comments Fri, 03 Mar 2017 21:54:31 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149240 In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. The country has been lauded for its low-carbon development path. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Mar 3 2017 (IPS)

The recent discovery of large volumes of oil offshore of Guyana could prove to be a major headache for the country, as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) members press for keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels as provided for in the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

Exxon Mobil recently announced the successful drilling of a deep-water exploration well that may soon confirm that the seafloor beneath Guyana’s coastal waters contains one of the richest oil and natural gas discoveries in decades.“If you are now finding plenty of oil, and basically to keep temperatures down we are saying no more carbon fuels, then who are you going to sell it to?" --Dr. Al Binger of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Experts now estimate that one of its offshore fields alone, known as Liza, could contain 1.4 billion barrels of oil and mixed natural gas.

But in the face of a changing climate fueled by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Dr. Al Binger, interim executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREE), said Guyana should not get too excited about the discovery.

“Guyana finds themselves inside AOSIS, the group that is fighting to keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees C, and now they are going to want to sell carbon which is going to get burned. I think they are going to have a lot of head-scratching to figure out ‘is this a blessing or is this a curse?’” Binger told IPS.

“If you are now finding plenty of oil, and basically to keep temperatures down we are saying no more carbon fuels, then who are you going to sell it to?” he said. “I don’t know how much they are going to be able to sell because they are trying to meet the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) requirements to actually keep the temperatures below 1.5 degrees C.”

Countries across the globe adopted an historic international climate agreement at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. The INDCs are publicly outlined post-2020 climate actions countries intend to take under the agreement.

The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

The rallying cry of AOSIS has been “1.5 to Stay Alive”, saying it represents a level of global warming beyond which many vulnerable small island states will be overwhelmed by severe climate impacts.

The scientific findings based on low-emission scenarios (also examined by the IPCC in its fifth assessment report) show that it is both physically and economically feasible to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees C by 2100, after temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees C in the 2050s (but still staying well below 2 degrees C).

Binger said holding warming below 2 degrees C requires early and rapid action with the level of action in the next ten years very similar to 1.5 degrees C. By 2030, action towards 1.5 degrees C needs to be faster than for 2 degrees C, he said.

“So, if you have a lot of carbon, what are you going to do with it? We keep emitting carbon and now we are reaching a stage where we just basically can’t emit anymore because there is no space for it if we are going to stay in temperatures that we can survive,” Binger said.

With an average global temperature increase of under 1 degree C, small islands have already experienced impacts including severe coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, marine habitat degradation, and power tropical storms.

Binger explained that limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees C by 2100 requires a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 70 to 95 percent relative to 2010 levels by 2050. This is significantly deeper than the 40 to 70 percent by 2050 for 2 degrees C.

Total greenhouse gas emissions have to reach global zero by 2060 to 2080 for 1.5 degrees C compared to 2080 to 2100 for 2 degrees C.

“If we have to decarbonise and we have to go to zero carbon fuels, then the only carbon we could actually burn would be some portion of what we sequester,” Binger said.

In November 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, which agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. It was the first time a developed country conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

Under the initiative, developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation), Guyana can continue logging as long as biodiversity is protected.

Guyana is one of the poorest countries in the region and officials have been banking on the production of oil, expected to begin around 2020, to turn around the economy.

Early rough estimates by experts of how much recoverable oil Guyana could have range to more than four billion barrels, which at current prices would be worth more than 200 billion dollars.

Binger could not comment on what advice, if any, Guyana might be receiving from AOSIS or the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

“I don’t know what AOSIS is saying to them. I guess AOSIS is maybe saying, ‘nice you have oil, but we are trying to get rid of carbon so we don’t know why you are trying to find more’,” Binger said.

“There are quite a few reports out that we can’t burn a lot of the hydrocarbons, so what’s down there will have to stay down there unless they are going to use it to make things like plastic, chemicals, fertilizers. Anything that is going to be a combustion project is going to have issues with basically how much more carbon we emit relative to where we need to be to stabilize global climate,” he added.

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Expansion of Renewable Energies in Mexico Has Victims, Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/expansion-of-renewable-energies-in-mexico-has-victims/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 22:34:19 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149013 In Mexico, wind farms spark controversy due to complaints of unfair treatment, land dispossession, lack of free, prior and informed consent and exclusion from the electricity generated. In the photo, wind turbines frame the horizon of the northern city of Zacatecas. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Mexico, wind farms spark controversy due to complaints of unfair treatment, land dispossession, lack of free, prior and informed consent and exclusion from the electricity generated. In the photo, wind turbines frame the horizon of the northern city of Zacatecas. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KIMBILÁ, Mexico, Feb 17 2017 (IPS)

The growing number of wind and solar power projects in the southern Mexican state of Yucatán are part of a positive change in Mexico’s energy mix. But affected communities do not see it in the same way, due to the fact that they are not informed or consulted, and because of how the phenomenon changes their lives.

“We have no information. We have some doubts, some people say it’s good and some say it’s bad. We have heard what is said in other states,” small farmer Luis Miguel, a Mayan Indian, told IPS.

He lives in Kimbilá, a town in the municipality of Izmal, which is the site of an up-to-now failed private wind power venture that has been blocked by opposition from the area’s 3,600 inhabitants and in particular from the ejido or communal land where the wind farm was to be installed.“There is a lack of information going to the communities, who don’t know the scope of the contracts; (the companies and authorities) don’t explain to them the problems that are going to arise. Conflicts are generated, and manipulation is used to get the permits. Social engineering is used to divide the communities.” -- Romel González

“We fear that they will damage our crops,” said Miguel, whose father is one of the 573 members of the Kimbilá ejido, located in the Yucatán Peninsula, 1,350 km southeast of Mexico City.

The questioned project, run by the Spanish company Elecnor, includes the installation of 50 wind turbines with a capacity of 159 MW per year.

The company installed an anemometric tower in 2014, but the local population, who grow maize and garden vegetables, raise small livestock and produce honey for a living, did not find out about the project until January 2016.

Since then, the ejido has held two assemblies and cancelled another, without reaching an agreement to approve a 25-year lease on the lands needed for the wind farm.

Meanwhile, in February 2016, the members of the ejido filed a complaint against the Procuraduría Agraria – the federal agency in charge of protecting rural land – accusing it of defending the interests of the company by promoting community assemblies that were against the law.

The wind farm is to have an operating life of 30 years, including the preparatory phase, construction and operation, and it needs 77 hectares of the 5,000 in the ejido.

The company offered between five and 970 dollars per hectare, depending on the utility of the land for a wind farm, a proposition that caused unrest among the ejido members. It would also give them 1.3 per cent of the turnover for the power generated. But the electricity would not be used to meet local demand.

“We haven’t been given any information. This is not in the best interests of those who work the land. They are going to destroy the vegetation and 30 years is a long time,” beekeeper Victoriano Canmex told IPS.
This indigenous member of the ejido expressed his concern over the potential harm to the bees, “because new roadswould be opened with heavy machinery. They said that they would relocate the apiaries but they know nothing about beekeeping. It’s not fair, we are going to be left with nothing,” he said.

Canmex, who has eight apiaries,checks the beehives twice a week, together with four of his six children. He collects about 25 30-kg barrels of honey, which ends up on European tables. Yucatan honey is highly appreciated in the world, for its quality and organic nature.

Luis Miguel, a Mayan farmer from Kimbilá, in the southeastern state of Yucatán, Mexico, fears that the installation of a wind farm in his community will damage local crops of corn and vegetables.  Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Luis Miguel, a Mayan farmer from Kimbilá, in the southeastern state of Yucatán, Mexico, fears that the installation of a wind farm in his community will damage local crops of corn and vegetables. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yucatán, part of the ancient Mayan empire, where a large part of the population is still indigenous, has become a new energy frontier in Mexico, due to its great potential in wind and solar power.

This state adopted the goal of using 9.3 per cent non-conventional renewable energies by 2018. In Yucatán, the incorporation per year of new generation capacity should total 1,408 MW by 2030.

Leaving out the big hydropower plants, other renewable sources account for just eight per cent of the electricity produced in Mexico. According to official figures, in December 2016, hydropower had an installed capacity of 12,092 MW, geothermal 873 MW, wind power 699 MW, and photovoltaic solar power, six MW.

According to the Mexican Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry, in Mexico there are at least 31 wind farms located in nine states, with a total installed capacity of 3,527 MW of clean energy for the northeast, west, south and southeast regions of this country of 122 million people.

Besides the lack of information, and of free, prior and informed consent, as the law and international conventions require, indigenous people complain about impacts on migratory birds, rise in temperatures in areas with solar panels and water pollution caused by leaks from wind towers.

For Romel González, a member of the non-governmental Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil, a town in the neighboring state of Campeche, the process of energy development has legal loopholes that have to do with superficial contracts and environmental impact studies.

“There is a lack of information for the communities, who don’t know the scope of the contracts; (the companies and authorities) don’t explain to them the problems that are going to arise. Conflicts are generated, and manipulation is used to get the permits. Social engineering is used to divide the communities,” González told IPS.

He said that in the region, there are “previously untapped” natural resources that are attracting attention from those interested in stripping the communities of these resources.

The state is experiencing a clean energy boom, with plans for five solar plants, with a total capacity of 536 MW, and five wind farms, with a combined capacity of 256 MW. The concessions for the projects, which are to operate until 2030, have already been awarded to local and foreign companies.

In the first national power generation auction organised by the government in March 2016, four wind power and five solar power projects won, while in the second one, the following September, two new wind projects were chosen.

The change in the electricity mix is based on Mexico’s energy reform, in force since August 2014, which opened the industry to national and international private capital.

Local authorities project that by 2018, wind power generation will amount to 6,099 MW, including 478 from Yucatán, with the total increasing two years later to 12,823 MW, including 2,227 MW from this state.

Yucatán will draw a projected 52 million dollars in investment to this end in 2017 and 1.58 billion in 2018.

The Electricity Industry Law, in effect since 2014, stipulates that each project requires a social impact assessment. But opponents of the wind power projects have no knowledge of any assessment carried out in the state, while there is only evidence of two public consultations with affected communities, in the case of two wind farms.

“The electricity will not be for us and we don’t know what will happen later (once the wind farm is installed). That is why we have our doubts,” said Miguel.

People in Yucatán do not want to replicate the “Oaxaca model”. That is the southern state which has the largest number of wind farms, which have drawn many accusations of unfair treatment, land dispossession and lack of free, prior and informed consent.

“The authorities want to do this by all means, they are just trying to get these projects approved,” said Canmex.

González criticised the government for failing to require assessments. “We have asked for them and the government has responded that there aren’t any. The community response to the projects will depend on their level of awareness and social organisation. Some communities will react too late, when the project is already underway,” he said.

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Energy Access Builds Inclusive Economies and Resilient Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/energy-access-builds-inclusive-economies-and-resilient-communities/#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:34:56 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148974 More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Feb 16 2017 (IPS)

Jaipal Hembrum runs three one-man home enterprises – a bicycle repair shop, a tiny food stall and a tailoring unit in Kautuka, a remote village in eastern India. Sewing recycled clothes into mattresses late into the evening, the 38-year-old father of three girls says two light bulbs fed by a solar power system have changed his life.

Given the trajectory of development India is currently pursuing, energy access for its rural population could bring dramatic economic improvement. Yet 237 million people — a fifth of its 1.3 billion people, many of them in remote villages with few livelihood options — do not have any access to it.The challenge India faces is how to meet its energy requirements while also meeting its emission reduction commitment to the global climate deal.

The Delhi-based research organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) stipulates that if even half of households deemed electrified through the national power grid are not receiving the guaranteed six hours uninterrupted supply, the number of people who are electricity-poor in India totals 650 million.

In this scenario, renewable energy-based mini-grids, particularly in remote villages, are considered the best option to manage local household and commercial energy demand efficiently by generating power at the source of consumption.

This is being proven true by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Smart Power for Rural Development (SPRD) initiative in two of India’s poorest states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where 16 and 36 percent of households respectively are electrified. In India, 55 percent rural households have energy access, often of unreliable quality.

Started in 2014, the SPRD project has helped set up close to 100 mini-grid plants, covering the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and lately, in Jharkhand too. According to Rockefeller Foundation sources, these plants are serving a customer base of around 38,000 people. Over 6,500 households are benefitting, along with 3,800 shops and businesses, and over 120 institutions, telecom towers and micro-enterprises.

Over 2014 – 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation aims to make a difference to 1,000 energy-poor villages in India, benefitting around a million rural people. For this effort, the Foundation has committed 75 million dollars, partnering and funding Smart Power India (SPI) a new entity designed to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders who help scale-up the market for off-grid energy.

Jaipal Hembrum stitches old clothes mattresses in the evening by the light of a solar-powered bulb. The 50 dollars a day he earns is kept aside for schooling and marriages of his three daughters. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Jaipal Hembrum stitches old clothes mattresses in the evening by the light of a solar-powered bulb. The 50 dollars a day he earns is kept aside for schooling and marriages of his three daughters. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

What can mini-grids can do? Plenty

A recent evaluation of the mini-grids’ impact on communities they serve in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh already show a broad range of economic, social and environmental benefits.

Entrepreneurship and new businesses have grown, with 70 percent existing micro-businesses reporting increased number of costumers after connecting to the mini-grids and 80 percent planned to expand.

Nine in 10 household users said their children’s daily study time has increased by two hours since they got the lights. Women said they had increased mobility after dark and theft cases had fallen. Use of kerosene and diesel has fallen dramatically — to virtually zero, according to Khanna.

Micro-businesses like cyber cafes, fuel stations, mobile and fan repair shops, banks, schools and hospitals are the fastest growing commercial customer section of mini-grids constructed under Smart Power India.

In Shivpura village of Uttar Pradesh, where TARA Urja, a small energy service company (ESCO), started providing reliable electricity from a 30-KW solar plant, Sandeep Jaiswal set up a water purification processor in 2015. In just over a month he was rushing 1,200 litres of water on his new mini-truck to 40 customers. TARA, also a social business incubator, has financially supported Jaiswal with 530 dollars, in return for a one-year contract to source electricity from TARA.

Smart Power India supports the development of rural micro-enterprises through loans, community engagement and partnerships with larger companies with rural value chains, for instance, city malls that source vegetables from rural farms.

India confronts a demographic youth ‘bulge’ with 64 percent in the working age group in 2020, requiring 10 million new jobs every year in the coming decade. Using green mini-grids to create rural livelihoods can also reduce urban migration.

Innovating a business model that propels construction of mini-grids

Mini-grids are a decentralized system providing a renewable energy-based electricity generator with a capacity of 10 kilowatts or more, with a target consumer group it supplies through a stand-alone distribution network.

The sustainability of private companies in the rural power supply sector depends on generating sufficient revenue long-term. To make it profitable for smaller-scale ESCOs to bring electricity to rural parts of the developing world, the Smart Power model ensures fast-growing sectors with significant energy needs such as telecom towers in rural areas, to provide steady revenue. In return, the ESCOs provide contractual guarantee of reliable power supply to the towers.

“There is an opportunity to catalyze the telecommunication and off-grid energy sectors. Currently cell phone towers in rural areas are often powered by expensive diesel generators and companies are looking for cheaper alternatives, thereby creating the possibility for a strong anchor,” says Ashvin Dayal, Managing Director, Asia, of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Telecom towers — by becoming the ‘anchor’ customers – help make ESCOs bankable. They then can expand supply into rural household lighting and local enterprises.

Government figures say 2 billion litres of diesel is annually consumed by the 350,000  existing telecom towers in India, including those in remote rural regions. The challenge India faces is how to meet its energy requirements without compromising environmental sustainability, while meeting its emission reduction commitment to the global climate deal.

Solar power cost per unit has fallen in India to 0.045 cents, which makes it increasingly feasible to shift to renewable powered mini-grids, saving substantial subsidies spent on fossil fuels. The government in 2016 decided to construct 10,000 mini-grids in the next five years of 500 megawatt (MW) capacity, but this is clearly not enough, say experts.

India has a potential for 748,990 MW of solar power. Fourteen states, including Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, receive irradiance above the annual global average of 5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day.

Around the world, approximately 1.3 billion people lack access to reliable and affordable means of electricity without which, growing their incomes, improving food security and health, educating children, accessing key information services becomes a major challenge. Energy access is critical to achieving several UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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Dubai Global Centre of Green Economy in UAE’s Vision 2021http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/dubai-global-centre-of-green-economy-in-uaes-vision-2021/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dubai-global-centre-of-green-economy-in-uaes-vision-2021 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/dubai-global-centre-of-green-economy-in-uaes-vision-2021/#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2017 13:01:03 +0000 Razeena Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148870 By Razeena Raheem
ROME, Feb 9 2017 (IPS)

When former UN Secretary-General Ban K-moon was in Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit last year, he singled out the key role played by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in “safeguarding the future of our planet” by showcasing clean, sustainable energy — a centre piece of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

wgs_As one of the countries leading a major campaign for both renewable energy and solar energy, the UAE will be hosting the World Government Summit 2017, scheduled to take place in Dubai on February 12-14, under the theme “Shaping Future Governments”.

Described as a global platform dedicated to shaping the future of governments worldwide, the fifth annual Summit sets the agenda for the next generation of governments with a focus on how they can harness innovation and technology to solve universal challenges facing humanity.

The Summit takes place under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Ahead of the Summit, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has been selected as its Sustainable Energy Partner.

Selecting DEWA as a partner to the summit reflects the vision of Sheikh Al Maktoum, to develop government services based on innovation to make customers happier and contribute to achieving the UAE Vision 2021.

“The partnership with the World Government Summit supports DEWA’s strategy and efforts to develop its services, by encouraging creativity and innovation in developing its services, initiatives and programmes. The summit has become a key knowledge platform, presented from the UAE to the world to foresee and shape the future, which emphasises the prominent position and effective role of the UAE to promote sustainable development to the world,” said Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, during a press conference to announce the Summit’s partners.

“We are pleased to share our experiences and expertise in shaping the future of energy and in developing Disruptive Technologies and long-term plans to cope with the fourth industrial revolution. This supports our efforts to achieve the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who sees that the future holds opportunities, challenges, and knowledge, and that defining these opportunities and challenges as soon as possible is the most important way of dealing with them,” said Al Tayer.

“At DEWA, we realise that the early recognition of future opportunities and challenges and analysing them, while developing long-term proactive plans, are key enablers to ensure the success of the governments of the future, to enhance government services and achieve happiness of individuals and society as a whole”.

“We are working to achieve the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, to increase the share of clean energy to 75% by 2050 and transform Dubai into a global centre for clean energy and green economy”.

“We will also work to achieve the Demand Side Management Strategy to reduce consumption by 30% by 2030. At the World Government Summit 2017, we will highlight a number of key initiatives and programmes we are implementing to help provide world-class long-and-medium-term sustainable electricity and water services,” he added.

He also said: “We will announce a number of initiatives and mega projects that we are implementing to improve our electricity and water generation efficiency. We recorded a continuous and sustainable improvement in our electricity and water projects, and we have achieved an efficiency of 90% in fuel utilisation in our major power stations. Our projects will have positive environmental and economic outcomes and will contribute in reducing the carbon footprint and ensure the sustainability of our resources to achieve Dubai’s strategic goals. This in turn will achieve AED 60 billion in savings and reduce 201 million Tonnes of by 2030,” he noted.

“I would like to thank the World Government Summit and those involved in it, for their considerable efforts, and for providing us the opportunity to be part of the largest and most important event for shaping future governments,” concluded Al Tayer.

Participants from 150 countries are expected to attend the Summit, including government leaders, international experts and prominent speakers in key interactive sessions, bringing together leaders, decision makers, ministers, CEOs, thought leaders in government innovation, officials, and experts.

They will present their opinions, ideas, and views on the future of government services in 50 specialised sessions.

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Innovative Credit Model Holds Out Lifeline to Farmers in Hondurashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/innovative-credit-model-holds-out-lifeline-to-farmers-in-honduras/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovative-credit-model-holds-out-lifeline-to-farmers-in-honduras http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/innovative-credit-model-holds-out-lifeline-to-farmers-in-honduras/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 01:33:26 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148852 Employees of Grupo Ideal, a participatory company in the village of Paso Real, pull out tilapias ready to be sold, from the José Cecilio del Valle reservoir. An innovative credit system is helping family farmers in poor rural areas of Honduras, who have been excluded by the banking system. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Employees of Grupo Ideal, a participatory company in the village of Paso Real, pull out tilapias ready to be sold, from the José Cecilio del Valle reservoir. An innovative credit system is helping family farmers in poor rural areas of Honduras, who have been excluded by the banking system. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

By Thelma Mejía
PASO REAL, Honduras, Feb 8 2017 (IPS)

In this village in southern Honduras, in one of the poorest parts of the country, access to credit is limited, the banking sector is not supportive of agriculture, and nature punishes with recurrent extreme droughts.

But over the past two years, the story has started to change in Paso Real, a village of about 60 families, with a total of just over 500 people, in the municipality of San Antonio de Flores, 72 kilometres from Tegucigalpa.

A group of family farmers here, just over 100 people, got tired of knocking on the doors of banks in search of a soft loan and opted for a new financing model, which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) decided to test in this impoverished Central American country.

The initiative involves the creation of development financing centres (FCD), so far only in two depressed regions in Honduras: Lempira, to the west, and the Association of Municipalities of North Choluteca (Manorcho), to the south.

Both areas form part of the so-called dry corridor in Honduras, that runs through 12 of the country’s 18 departments, which are especially affected by the impacts of climate change.

Paso Real is part of Manorcho, composed of the municipality of San Antonio de Flores plus another three –Pespire, San Isidro and San José – which have a combined population of more than 53,000 people in the northern part of the department of Choluteca, where people depend on subsistence farming and small-scale livestock-raising.

Rafael Núñez is one of the leaders of Grupo Ideal, a company that is an association of family farmers who also breed and sell tilapia, a freshwater fish very popular in Central America. In addition, they raise cattle and grow vegetables.

Núñez is pleased with what they have achieved. Even though his family already owned some land, “it was of no use because nobody would grant us a loan.”

“The banks would come to assess our property, but offered loans that were a pittance with suffocating interest rates. They never gave us loans, even though we knocked on many doors,” Nuñez told IPS.

“But now we don’t have to resort to them, we have gained access to loans at the development financing centre in Menorcho, at low interest rates,” he said, smiling.

Nuñez said that because the banks would not lend them money, they had to use credit cards at annual interest rates of 84 per cent, which were strangling them. Now the loans that they obtain from the FCD are accessible, with an annual interest rate of 15 per cent.

Farmer Rafael Núñez told Central American visitors how the banking system mistreats small farmers in Honduras, and how the introduction in their municipality, San Antonio de Flores, of a financial centre for development which the FAO is testing in two depressed areas in the country, has improved their lives.  Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Farmer Rafael Núñez told Central American visitors how the banking system mistreats small farmers in Honduras, and how the introduction in their municipality, San Antonio de Flores, of a financial centre for development which the FAO is testing in two depressed areas in the country, has improved their lives. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“It has not been easy to get on our feet because the banking system here doesn’t believe in agriculture, let alone family farming. I collect the bank books that you see and someday I will frame them and I’ll go to those banks and tell them: thanks but we don’t need you anymore, we have forged ahead with more dignified options offered by people and institutions that believe in us,” said Nuñez with pride.

He shared his experience during a Central American meeting organised by FAO, for representatives of organisations involved in family farming and the government to get to know these innovative experiences that are being carried out in the Honduran dry corridor.

Nuñez showed the participants in the conference the tilapia breeding facilities that his association operates at the José Cecilio del Valle multiple-purpose dam, located in the village.

Grupo Ideal is a family organisation that divides the work among 11 siblings and offers direct jobs to at least 40 people in the area and generates indirect employment for just over 75 people. They are convinced that their efforts can be replicated by other small-scale producers.

Among the things that make him happy, Nuñez says they have started to improve the diet of people in the local area.

 

 

 Marvin Moreno, the FAO expert technician behind this solidarity-based and inclusive innovative microcredit model, which so far has helped change the lives of 800 poor families. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS


Marvin Moreno, the FAO expert technician behind this solidarity-based and inclusive innovative microcredit model, which so far has helped change the lives of 800 poor families. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“We eat with the workers, we work with them, side by side, and at lunch they used to only bring rice, beans and pasta, but now they bring chicken, beef, tilapia and even shrimp,” he said.

One requirement for working in the company is that employees have to send their children to school. “This is an integral project and we want to grow together with the village because there are almost no sources of employment here,” he said.

Marvín Moreno, the FAO expert who has been the driving force behind the two experimental FCD finance centres, told IPS that the new model of financing has allowed families to organise to access opportunities to help them escape poverty.

Participating in the FCDs are local governments, development organisations that work in the area and groups of women, young people and farmers among others, which are given priority for loans.

The innovative initiative has two characteristics: solidarity and inclusiveness. Solidarity, because when someone gets a loan, everyone becomes a personal guarantor, and inclusive because it doesn’t discriminate.

“The priority are the poor families with a subsistence livelihood, but we also have families with more resources, who face limited access to loans as well,” Moreno said.

“It’s a question of giving people a chance, and we’re showing how access to credit is changing lives, and from that perspective it should be seen as a right that must be addressed by a country’s public policies,” he said.

Abel Lara, a Salvadoran small-scale farmer, highlighted the experience of the financial centres developed by FAO in Honduras, which he says show that concentrating on local solutions close to farmers is key for supporting family agriculture. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Abel Lara, a Salvadoran small-scale farmer, highlighted the experience of the financial centres developed by FAO in Honduras, which he says show that concentrating on local solutions close to farmers is key for supporting family agriculture. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

This view is shared by Abel Lara, a small-scale farmer from El Salvador, who after learning about the experience, told IPS that this “basket of funds that makes available loans with joint efforts only comes to prove that it is possible to get family agriculture back on its feet, from the communities themselves..”

The two FCDs established by FAO in Honduras have managed to mobilise about 300,000 dollars through a public-private partnership between the community, organisations and local governments.

That has enabled more than 800 small farmers to access loans ranging from 150 to 3,000 dollars, payable in 12 to 36 months.

In the case of Manorcho, César Núñez, the mayor of San Antonio de Flores, said that “people are starting to believe that the financial centre offers a real opportunity for change and our aim here is to help these poor municipalities, which are hit hard by nature but have potential, to move forward.”

In a country of 8.4 million people, where 66.5 per cent of the population lives in poverty, access to loans as a boost to family agriculture can change the prospects for some 800,000 poor families living in the dry corridor.

These experiences, according to FAO representative in Honduras María Julia Cárdenas, will be part of the proposals for regional dialogue that the Central American Agricultural Council will seek to put the development of family agriculture on the regional agenda.

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Ordinary Citizens Help Drive Spread of Solar Power in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/ordinary-citizens-help-drive-spread-of-solar-power-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ordinary-citizens-help-drive-spread-of-solar-power-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/ordinary-citizens-help-drive-spread-of-solar-power-in-chile/#comments Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:44:14 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148502 Panels at the Buin 1 Solar Plant, the first plant in Chile financed with shares sold to citizens, are ready to generate 10 KW, 75 per cent of which will be consumed by the participating households while the remainder will go into the national grid. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Panels at the Buin 1 Solar Plant, the first plant in Chile financed with shares sold to citizens, are ready to generate 10 KW, 75 per cent of which will be consumed by the participating households while the remainder will go into the national grid. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 14 2017 (IPS)

Chile, Latin America’s leader in solar energy, is starting the new year with an innovative step: the development of the country´s first citizens solar power plant.

This South American country of nearly 18 million people has projects in non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE) for a combined total of nine billion dollars over the next four years, in the effort to reduce its heavy dependency on fossil fuels, which still generate more than 55 per cent of the country’s electricity.

Socialist President Michelle Bachelet’s 2014 Energy Agenda involves the participation of international investors, large power companies, the mining industry, agriculture, and academia.

Now ecologists have come up with the first project that incorporates citizens in the production and profits generated by NCRE, in particular solar power.

The small 10-KW photovoltaic plant will use solar power to generate electricity for the participating households and the surplus will go into the national power grid.

This will allow the “citizen shareholders“ taking part in the initiative to receive profits based on the annual inflation rate plus an additional two per cent.

“The objective is to create a way for citizens to participate in the benefits of solar power and the process of the democratisation of energy,“ said Manuel Baquedano, head of the Institute of Political Ecology, which is behind the initiative.

The Buin 1 Solar Plant will start operating commercially this month in Buin, a suburb on the south side of Santiago. Its main client is the Centre for Sustainable Technology, which from now on will be supplied with the power produced by the plant.

“In Chile we have experienced an important development of solar energy, as a consequence of the pressure from citizens who did not want more hydroelectric dams. This paved the way for developing NCREs,“ Baquedano told IPS.

“But solar power development has been concentrated in major undertakings, with solar plants that mainly supply the mining industry. And the possibility for all citizens to be able to benefit from this direct energy source had not been addressed yet.”

General map of the location of the Centre for Sustainable Technology, where future technicians in non-renewable energies study, and which is the main client of the Buin 1 Solar Plant, the first citizen solar power plant in Chile. Credit: Courtesy of Camino Solar

General map of the location of the Centre for Sustainable Technology, where future technicians in non-renewable energies study, and which is the main client of the Buin 1 Solar Plant, the first citizen solar power plant in Chile. Credit: Courtesy of Camino Solar

The environmentalist said “we decided to organise a business model to install these community solar power plants using citizen investments, since there was no support from the state or from private companies.”

The model consists of setting up a plant where there is a client who is willing to buy 75 per cent of the energy produced, and the remaining power is sold to the national grid.

The Buin 1 Solar Plant required an investment of about 18,500 dollars, divided in 240 shares of some 77 dollars each. The project will be followed by similar initiatives, possibly in San Pedro de Atacama, in the north of the country, Curicó in central Chile, or Coyhaique in Patagonia in the south.

The partners include engineers, journalists, psychologists, farmers, small business owners, and even indigenous communities from different municipalities, interested in replicating this model.

The subway, another example

A symbolic illustration of progress made with solar power is the Santiago Metro or subway. It was announced that 42 per cent of the energy that it will use as of November 2017 will come from the El Pelicano solar power project.

This plant, owned by the company SunPower, is located in the municipality La Higuera, 400 km north of Santiago, and it cost 250 million dollars to build.

“The subway is a clean means of transport… we want to be a sustainable company, and what is happening now is a major step, since we are aiming for 60 per cent NCREs by 2018,” said Fernando Rivas, the company´s assistant manager of environment.

El Pelícano, with an expected generation of 100 MW, “will use 254,000 solar panels, which will supply 300 gigawatt hours a year, equivalent to the consumption of 125,000 Chilean households,” said Manuel Tagle, general manager of SunPower.

Dionisio Antiquera, a farmer from the Diaguita indigenous community from northern Chile, who lives in Cerrillos de Tamaya, in Ovalle, 400 km north of Santiago, bought a share because “I like renewable energy and because it gives participation to citizens, to the poor.“

“There are many ways of participating in a cooperative,” he told IPS by phone.

Jimena Jara, assistant secretary for the Ministry of Energy, underlined the progress made in the development of NCREs and estimated that “investment in this sector could reach about nine billion dollars between 2017 and 2020.“

“Considering the projects that are currently in the stage of testing in our power grids, more than 60 per cent of the new generation capacity between 2014 and the end of 2016 will be non-conventional renewable energies,” she told IPS.

”Chile has set itself the target for 70 per cent of power generation to come from renewable sources by 2050, and 60 per cent by 2035. We know that we are making good progress, and that we are going to reach our goal with an environmentally sustainable and economically efficient energy supply,” said Jara.

This boom in NCREs in Chile, particularly solar and wind power, is underpinned by numbers, such as the reduction of the cost of electricity.

As of November 2016, the annual average marginal cost of energy in Chile´s central power grid, SIC, which covers a large part of the national territory, was 61 dollars per mega-watt hour (MWh), a fall of more than 60 per cent with respect to 2013 prices.

SIC´s Power Dispatch Center said that this marginal cost, which sets the transfer value between generating companies, is the lowest in 10 years, and was lower than the 91.3 dollars per MWh in 2015 and the nearly 200 MWh in 2011 and 2012, caused by the intensive use of diesel.

David Watts, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Electrical Engineering Department, told IPS that “solar and wind energy have offered competitive costs for quite some time,” and for this reason have permanently changed Chile´s energy mix.

“In the past, Chile did not even appear in the renewable energy rankings. Now it ranks first in solar power in Latin America and second in wind power,” he said.

The expert said “this energy is spreading and we expect it to continue to do so over the next couple of years, when the battery of projects that were awarded contracts in the last tendering process of regulated clients,” those which consume less than 500 KW, come onstream.

Once the economy recovers from the current weak growth levels, “we hope that a significant proportion of our supply contracts with our non-regulated clients (with a connected power of at least 500 KW) will also be carried out with competitive solar and wind power projects,“ said Watts.

“There is no turning back from this change. From now on, some conventional project may occasionally be installed if its costs are really competitive,“ he said.

Watts, who is also a consultant on renewable energies at the Ministry of Energy, pointed out that the growth in solar and wind power was also driven by changes in the country’s legislation, which enabled energy to be offered in blocks, and permitted the simultaneous connection of NCREs to the grid.

The report New Energy Finance Climatescope, by Bloomberg and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), ranked Chile as the country that invests the most in clean energies in Latin America, only surpassed by China in the index, which studies the world’s major emerging economies.

Commenting on the report, published on December 14, Bachelet said “we invested 3.2 billion dollars last year (2015), focusing on solar power, especially in solar photovoltaic installations, and we are also leading in other non-conventional renewable energies.”

“We said it three years ago, that Chile would change its energy mix, and now I say with pride that we have made progress towards cleaner and more sustainable energies,“ she said.

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Native Seeds Sustain Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/native-seeds-sustain-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-seeds-sustain-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/native-seeds-sustain-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2017 21:51:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148428 Raimundo Pinheiro de Melo, better known as Mundinho, a 76-year-old farmer who lives in the Apodi municipality in Northeast Brazil, shows a visiting farmer a bottle of bean seeds which he stores and protects. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Raimundo Pinheiro de Melo, better known as Mundinho, a 76-year-old farmer who lives in the Apodi municipality in Northeast Brazil, shows a visiting farmer a bottle of bean seeds which he stores and protects. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
APODI, Brazil, Jan 6 2017 (IPS)

In his 76 years of life, Raimundo Pinheiro de Melo has endured a number of droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast region. And he remembers every one of them since 1958.

“The worst one was in 1982 and 1983, the only time that the river dried up,” said Pinheiro do Melo, who has lived near the river since 1962. “The one in 1993 was also very bad,” he told IPS, because neither Bolsa Familia nor Networking in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region (ASA) existed yet, which contribute to a less traumatic coexistence with droughts like the current one, which has dragged on for five years.

Bolsa Familia is a government cash-transfer programme which helps some 13.8 million poor families in Brazil, half of whom are in the Northeast. ASA is a network of 3,000 social organisations which promotes the collection of rainwater, as well as techniques and know-how suited to rural life in a climate of irregular rainfall.

Water is not so scarce for Pinheiro do Melo and his neighbours because of their proximity to the Apodi river, because even when it dries up, they can get water from the cacimbas, which are water holes in the riverbed or along the banks.

Mundinho, as he is known, besides making an effort to obtain water on the high-lying land where he lives in a rural area in the Apodi municipality, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, is dedicated to a task that is vital to the sustainability of small-scale farming in the semi-arid interior of Northeast Brazil, an ecosystem known as the Sertão. He is a “guardian” of native seeds.

In bottles and small plastic barrels, he stores the seeds of corn, bean, sorghum, watermelon and other locally planted species, in a shack next to his house, in the middle of land that is now sandy and covered with dried-up vegetation.

More than a thousand homes that serve as “seed banks”, and 20,000 participating families, make up the network organised by ASA to preserve the genetic heritage and diversity of crops adapted to the climate and semi-arid soil in Brazil’s Northeast.

Saving seeds is an age-old peasant tradition, which was neglected during the “green revolution”, a period of agricultural modernisation which started in the mid-20th century and involved “an offensive by companies that produced the so-called ‘improved’ seeds,” which farmers became dependent on, said Antonio Gomes Barbosa, a sociologist who is coordinator of ASA’s Seed Programme.

Native seeds stored in recycled plastic bottles, in a shack on his farm specially built by Raimundo Pinheiro de Melo, who proudly guards native seeds that contribute to food security in Northeast Brazil, in the midst of a drought that has dragged on for over five years. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Native seeds stored in recycled plastic bottles, in a shack on his farm specially built by Raimundo Pinheiro de Melo, who proudly guards native seeds that contribute to food security in Northeast Brazil, in the midst of a drought that has dragged on for over five years. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The strategy, adopted in 2007, of disseminating technologies for harvesting rainwater for production, in search of food security, lead ASA to the awareness that small producers needed to always have seeds available, he told IPS.

A study carried out among 12,800 families found that “the semi-arid Northeast has the greatest variety of seeds of food and medicinal plant species in Brazil.” Of the 56 million people who live in the Northeast, more than 23 million live in the semi-arid parts of the region, in this South American country of 208 million.

According to the survey, the family and community tradition of storing seeds and passing them down from one generation to the next contributed to this diversity of seeds, as did migrants who returned to the semi-arid Northeast from southern São Paulo and east-central Brazil, bringing seeds native to those areas.

What ASA did was to identify the houses which had stored seeds, create a network of them and help multiply the number of these traditional seed banks, in order to salvage, preserve, increase stocks and distribute native seeds, Barbosa said.

Antonia de Souza Oliveira, or Antonieta as she is known, participates in seed bank number 639, according to ASA’s records, in Milagre, a village of 28 families on the Apodi plateau, which is crossed by the river of the same name.

The community seed bank “has 17 guardians and stocks mainly of corn, bean and sorghum seeds,” she said.

Antonia de Souza Oliveira in front of the seed bank in Milagre, a rural settlement of 28 families in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, which has become famous for the strong participation of women in the village’s collective activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Antonia de Souza Oliveira in front of the seed bank in Milagre, a rural settlement of 28 families in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, which has become famous for the strong participation of women in the village’s collective activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The strong presence of women in the activities in this community prompted former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) to choose Milagre to inaugurate a line of credit for women participating in the National Programme to Strengthen Family Farming (PRONAF).

A model case, highlighted by ASA, is the seed bank in Tabuleiro Grande, another rural settlement in the municipality of Apodi, in Rio Grande do Norte. There, a family initiative stores seeds of 450 varieties of corn, beans and other legumes and herbs.

Antonio Rodrigues do Rosario, 59, heads the fourth generation that maintains the “family bank”.

The native seed movement is in conflict with the green revolution, where seeds are distributed by the government or are sold by biotech corporations “in great quantities but with little variety,” said Barbosa.

“We don’t need this kind of distribution, just local initiatives in every area to rescue local seeds, with great diversity and dissemination,” said Barbosa.

The movement is about knowledge accumulated by local families with experience in adaptation to each specific place, soil and climate, based on the intended type of production and resistance to pests and drought.

Antonio Gomes Barbosa, coordinator of the Native Seeds Programme of the movement Networking in the Brazilian Semi Arid, which brings together more than 3,000 organisations. This initiative is key to food security and biodiversity in agriculture in Northeast Brazil, especially during the prolonged drought currently plaguing the region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Antonio Gomes Barbosa, coordinator of the Native Seeds Programme of the movement Networking in the Brazilian Semi Arid, which brings together more than 3,000 organisations. This initiative is key to food security and biodiversity in agriculture in Northeast Brazil, especially during the prolonged drought currently plaguing the region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“There are many varieties of corn that address different needs; you can produce more leaves to feed animals, or more corn for human consumption,” he said.

“Family gardens are laboratories, where experiments are carried out, genetic improvements and testing of resistance and productivity of seeds. The garden is where women participate the most, teaching their children as well,” Barbosa said.

“In the severe 1982-1983 drought, a variety of fast-growing potato, which in 60 days was reproduced and stored by a grandmother, saved many lives,” he said.

The exchange of materials and knowledge within and among communities is also an important part of maintaining the diversity of native seeds. ASA works to bolster this exchange, promoting contact among small farmers from different areas.

“Native seeds are at the centre of resistance to the impositions of the market, in order to overcome the dependence on big suppliers,” said Barbosa.

Climate change boosts the importance of native seeds from the semi-arid region. “There is no agricultural poison to combat the rise in temperatures,” he said, half-jokingly.

The Semi-Arid Seeds Programme proved the “great creative capacity and ability to experiment of family farmers in the Northeast,” Barbosa told IPS in the nearby municipality of Mossoró.

It also showed their tendency towards autonomy. “Farmers follow their own experience, more than the advice of agronomists, because they always choose the safest bet.”

But there are two threats that concern ASA’s seed movement. One is the “genetic erosion” which could be caused by the current drought, which in some areas has lasted for seven years.

Isolated rains tempt farmers to plant. Knowing they could lose their entire crop, they never use all of their seeds. But the seeds are gradually lost, with each deceptive rainfall, which puts their entire stock of seeds at risk.

Another threat is posed by transgenic seeds, which farmers involved in ASA reject. The presence of genetically modified corn was detected in some crops in the northeastern state of Paraíba, apparently a consequence of contamination from seeds brought in from other regions.

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No More Mass Deaths from Drought in Northeast Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/no-more-mass-deaths-from-drought-in-northeast-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-more-mass-deaths-from-drought-in-northeast-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/no-more-mass-deaths-from-drought-in-northeast-brazil/#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2016 20:57:42 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148366 Water tanks to collect rainfall water behind a house in Buena Esperanza, a settlement of 45 families in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast region, where thanks to such initiatives the rural population manages to survive prolonged droughts, without the tragedies of the past. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Water tanks to collect rainfall water behind a house in Buena Esperanza, a settlement of 45 families in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast region, where thanks to such initiatives the rural population manages to survive prolonged droughts, without the tragedies of the past. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

By Mario Osava
OURICURI, Brazil, Dec 30 2016 (IPS)

The drought that has plagued Brazil’s semiarid Northeast region since 2012 is already more severe than the 1979-1983 drought, the longest in the 20th century. But prolonged dry spells no longer cause the tragedies of the past.

There are no widespread deaths from hunger or thirst or mass exodus of people due to water shortages, like in the past when huge numbers of people would swarm into cities and towns and even loot the shops, or head off to distant lands in the more developed centre-south of the country, in search of a better life.

The lack of rains, nevertheless, impacts everything. The caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid region, which consists of shrubland and thorn forest, looks dead with the exception of a few drought-resistant trees and areas where recent sprinkles have turned some shrubs green again.

The Tamboril reservoir, on the outskirts of Ouricuri, a city of 68,000 people in the state of Pernambuco, has been dry for more than a year now. Fortunately, the city is also supplied by water piped in from the São Francisco river, 180 kilometres away.

“The 1982-1983 drought was worse, not so much due to the lack of water, but because we did not know how to cope with the situation,” Manoel Pereira Barros, a 58-year-old father of seven, told IPS on his farm in Sitio de Santa Fe, about 80 kilometres from Ouricuri.

He got married at the height of the crisis, in 1983. “It was difficult for the entire family…we killed some oxen, we survived on the water from a cacimba (water hole), a few cattle and many goats. The animals saved us, the bean crop dried up,” he said.

That year, the governors of the nine states that make up Brazil’s semiarid region requested more help from the national government, pointing out that one hundred people a day were dying as a result of the drought.

According to the state governments in the region, 100,000 people died in the space of five years, although researchers put the number of deaths at more than 700,000. Most of those who died were children.

And one million deaths is the estimate of Networking in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations created in 1999 to promote the transformations which are improving the life of the population most affected by the drought: poor farmers in the Northeast.

Apparently dead dry vegetation of the caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. But in general the plants are highly resilient and turn green again after even just a sprinkle. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Apparently dead dry vegetation of the caatinga, an ecosystem exclusive to Brazil’s semiarid Northeast. But in general the plants are highly resilient and turn green again after even just a sprinkle. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Distributing water tanks to collect and store rainwater for drinking and cooking was their first goal. Beyond assuring safe drinking water during the eight-month dry season, this initiative was at the centre of a new approach towards the development of the semiarid region, which is home to more than 23 million people in this country of 208 million.

One million water tanks have been built so far, about one-third by ASA, which distributes 16,000-litre family units made of concrete slabs that are installed with the participation of the beneficiaries, who also receive citizenship classes and training in water management.

To coexist with the local climate, overcoming the failed policies of the past based on “combating the drought”, is the movement’s slogan, which thus promotes learning about the ecosystem, capitalising on farmers’ traditional knowledge and fostering an intense exchange of experiences among rural communities.

Other methods for coexisting with the local ecosystem include contextualised education, which prioritises the local reality, agroecological practices, and the principle of storing everything, including the water used for irrigation and livestock, fodder for the dry season, and native seeds adapted to the local soil and climate.

These technologies, provided by the Advice and Help Centre for Workers and Alternative Non-Governmental Institutions (CAATINGA), a member of ASA, did not exist during previous droughts and are making the difference today, Barros said.

To these are added the Bolsa Familia, a monthly grant of 53 dollars on average, new retirement pensions for farmers, and other government social programmes that help farmers survive even when it doesn’t rain.

Manoel Pereira Barros shows the beehives on his small farm, now useless because the bees have left due to the drought. Honey production, one of the sources of income of many small farming families, will have to wait to be resumed until the rains return to Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Manoel Pereira Barros shows the beehives on his small farm, now useless because the bees have left due to the drought. Honey production, one of the sources of income of many small farming families, will have to wait to be resumed until the rains return to Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Barros decided to leave his land in 1993, at the end of another two-year drought, to look for work in vineyards and on mango plantations in the municipality of Petrolina, 200 km south of Ouricuri, on the shores of the São Francisco river.

“I spent 15 years away from my family, working with poisonous agricultural chemicals, that is why I look older than my age,” he said jokingly. “Here I only eat organic food.”

“I dreamed of having a water tank, which did not exist. Now I have three, and one of them still has water from the January rains. Used only for drinking water, it lasts over a year for five people,” he said. “We are very strict about saving, we used to waste a lot of water.”

Besides the water tanks, the community of 14 families has a pond dug in the rocky ground 70 years ago, to collect water from a stream. It has not dried out yet, but it is very dirty. “It needs to be cleaned,” said Clarinda Alves, Barros’ 64-year-old neighbour.

“Biowater”, a system of filters which makes it possible to reuse household sewage to irrigate vegetable gardens and fruit trees, is another technology which is expanding among the farmers of the semiarid region.

Despite this arsenal of water resources, plus the water increasingly distributed by the army in tanker trucks throughout the Northeast, Barros decided to stop growing vegetables and other crops, unlike many other farmers, who have managed to keep producing. He opted instead to prioritise the water for human and animal consumption.

ASA believes there is still much to do with respect to the question of water supply. To reach the goal of universalising “two water tanks”, there is still a need for 350,000 tanks for drinking water and 800,000 devoted to production.

 The water in Sobradinho, Brazil’s largest reservoir, covering 4,200 square kilometres in the state of Bahía, is 500 metres away from the normal shoreline due to the low water level - another impact of the drought that the country’s Northeast has been suffering since 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS


The water in Sobradinho, Brazil’s largest reservoir, covering 4,200 square kilometres in the state of Bahía, is 500 metres away from the normal shoreline due to the low water level – another impact of the drought that the country’s Northeast has been suffering since 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

“Five water tanks” are needed, according to André Rocha, climate and water coordinator for the non-governmental Regional Institute for Appropriate Small-Scale Agriculture (IRPAA), a member of ASA, based in Juazeiro, in the Northeast state of Bahía.

Domestic use requires two tanks, one for drinking and cooking, and one for hygiene, so water for production purposes would be the third source, he said. The fourth is for emergencies or reserves, “like a blood bank, and the fifth would be dedicated to the environment, to recuperating freshwater sources, restoring the groundwater table and keeping rivers running year-round,” Rocha told IPS in his office.

But the task of “building coexistence with the semiarid ecosystem,” ASA’s goal, faces a political threat.

It will be difficult to maintain water collection and the strengthening of small-scale agriculture as public policies, after Brazil’s government took a conservative turn in August 2016, when the leftist Workers’ Party, which governed the country since 2003, lost power.

It also requires an ongoing ideological battle and communications effort, because “combating drought”, instead of adapting, is still the mindset of the country’s authorities and economic powers-that-be.

Large water projects, like the diversion of the São Francisco river to provide water to other rivers and basins in the Northeast, as well as the irrigation of the monoculture crops of agribusiness or large-scale agriculture destined mainly for export, are still being carried out to the detriment of family agriculture.

Hefty investments and official loans are devoted to agribusiness, despite previous failures and corruption, while funding is dwindling for ASA’s activities, which have proven successful in overcoming the effects of drought.

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