Inter Press Service » Green Economy http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Thu, 27 Aug 2015 21:14:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 Plant in Chile Opens South America’s Doors to Geothermal Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/plant-in-chile-opens-south-americas-doors-to-geothermal-energy/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:44:20 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142140 The El Tatio geyser field in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. Geothermal energy comes from the earth’s internal heat, and the steam is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The El Tatio geyser field in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. Geothermal energy comes from the earth’s internal heat, and the steam is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
OLLAGÜE, Chile, Aug 26 2015 (IPS)

Chile, a land of volcanoes and geysers, has started building South America’s first geothermal plant, which would open a door to this kind of renewable energy in this country that depends largely on fossil fuels.

The Cerro Pabellón geothermal project is “immensely important for the Chilean state, which started geothermal exploration and drilling over 40 years ago,” but no initiative had taken concrete shape until now, Marcelo Tokman, general manager of the state oil company, ENAP, told IPS.

Located in the rural municipality of Ollagüe, 1,380 km north of Santiago, in the Andes highlands in the region of Antofagasta, Cerro Pabellón “will not only be the first geothermal plant in Chile and South America, but will also be the first in the world to be built at 4,500 metres above sea level,” Tokman added.

The Italian company Enel Green Power has a 51 percent stake in the project and ENAP owns 49 percent. The plant consists of two units of 24 MW each for a total gross installed capacity of 48 MW in the first phase, but with the advantage of being able to generate electricity around-the-clock.

That makes it equivalent, in terms of annual generating capacity, to a 200-MW solar or wind power plant.

The first stage would enter into operation in the first quarter of 2017 and a year later another 24 MW would be added. But the plant could be generating around 100 MW in the medium term, on 136 hectares of land.

Tokman said that once the plant is fully operational, it will be able to produce some 340 megatwatt-hours (MWh) a year that would go into the national power grid and would meet the consumption needs of 154,000 households in this country of 17.6 million people.

He also said it would avoid over 155,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, by reducing fossil fuel consumption.

The Atacama desert, the most arid in the world, has a large part of Chile’s geothermal potential and is the location of the first South American plant to tap into this source of energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The Atacama desert, the most arid in the world, has a large part of Chile’s geothermal potential and is the location of the first South American plant to tap into this source of energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Sixty million dollars were invested in the exploratory phase, and an estimated 320 million dollars more will go into the plant and the construction of a 73-km power line.

Geothermal energy is obtained by tapping underground reservoirs of heat, generally near volcanoes, geysers or other hotspots on the surface of the earth. If well-managed, the geothermal reservoirs can produce clean energy indefinitely. The steam generated is delivered to a turbine, which powers a generator.

Advances in South America

Brazil has the world’s two largest freshwater reserves: the Guarani and Alter do Chão aquifers. But it does not have geothermal potential, according to a 1984 study, which is currently being revised. Geothermal energy is included in an agreement with Germany to search for alternative sources.

Six South American countries form part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activity with virgin territory for geothermal exploration: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

In 1988, Argentina built Copahue I, an experimental geothermal plant constructed with Japanese capital, which supplied 0.67 MW but stopped operating. Currently, the country’s energy projects include the construction of the Copahue II geothermal plant in the hot springs of Copahue in the southern province of Neuquén, which would generate 100 MW.

In Peru, a preliminary study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of Energy and Mines found in 2013 that the country has 3,000 MWh of geothermal potential. But so far there are no plans for geothermal plants.

In February, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that starting in 2019 the country would begin to export electricity to neighbouring countries, from the Laguna Colorada geothermal plant. The project, financed by Japan, will consist of two stages, of 50 MW each.

The Philippines is home to three of the world’s 10 biggest geothermal plants, followed by the United States and Indonesia, with two each, and Italy, Mexico and Iceland, with one each.

Studies indicate that Chile is one of the countries with the greatest geothermal potential in Latin America.

This long, narrow country, which forms part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, stretches 4,270 km along the Andes mountains, the earth’s largest volcanic chain.

Environmentalists say geothermal energy has a relatively low impact, as long as questions of scale and location are respected.

“Geothermal is an unconventional renewable energy source to the extent that it is carried out in accordance with territorial and cultural needs. The energy source in and of itself does not guarantee social and environmental sustainability,” land surveyor Lucio Cuenca, director of the Santiago-based Latin American Observatory on Environmental Conflicts, told IPS.

Respecting these parameters, geothermal energy “is a very good alternative for this country,” he said.

In the case of the Cerro Pabellón plant, the surrounding communities form part of the Alto El Loa nature reserve, made up of the villages and communities of Caspana, Ayquina, Turi, Chiu Chiu, Cupo, Valle de Lasana, Taira and Ollagüe, which have a combined total population of just over 1,000, most of them Atacameño and Quechua indigenous people.

The Alto El Loa Indigenous Peoples Council got ENAP and ENEL to sign a series of agreements for the implementation of social development projects in the local communities in compensation for the impact of the geothermal project, and especially the power line.

For the inhabitants of Alto El Loa, scattered in remote areas in the Atacama desert, if the project is sustainable and benefits their communities, it will be a positive thing. But they say they are concerned that their way of life may not be respected.

“I would like to see more help, and if this is a good thing, then it’s welcome,” Luisa Terán, a member of the Atacameño indigenous group from the village of Caspana, told IPS. “Sometimes we feel a bit neglected and isolated.

“But it has to come with respect for our traditions, and it is our elders who are demanding that most strongly,” she added.

Others, however, reject the project as “anti-natural” and “violent” towards the local habitat.

“If you hurt the earth, she will in one way or another get back at you,” tourist guide Víctor Arque, of San Pedro de Atacama, a highlands village 290 km from Ollagüe, told IPS. “It can’t be possible to drill kilometres below ground without something happening.”

A photo taken at dawn in the middle of the steam from the El Tatio geysers in northern Chile, where this clean, unlimited source of energy will begin to be harnessed with the construction of the Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant in the rural municipality of Ollagüe. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

A photo taken at dawn in the middle of the steam from the El Tatio geysers in northern Chile, where this clean, unlimited source of energy will begin to be harnessed with the construction of the Cerro Pabellón geothermal plant in the rural municipality of Ollagüe. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The El Tatio precedent

Chile was a pioneer in research on geothermal potential. The first exploration was carried out in 1907 in El Tatio, a geyser field located some 200 km from Cerro Pabellón and 4,300 metres above sea level. This country was the third to explore geothermal energy, after the United States and Russia.

Two wells were drilled in that area in 1931, and in the late 1960s the government carried out more systematic exploration, which was later abandoned.

In 2008, the Geotérmica del Norte company, which belonged to the Italian consortium ENEL, began exploration in Quebrada del Zoquete, a few km from El Tatio, using the equipment already installed in the geyser field.

In September 2009, a 60-metre high column of steam shot up from one of the wells where the company was extracting and reinjecting geothermal fluids. The anomaly, caused by a failed valve, lasted more than three weeks and led to the government’s cancellation of the permit for further operations.

Tokman, energy minister at the time, remembered the incident. “Fortunately all of the safeguards had been taken to demand different instruments of measurement for the project, to ensure that the reservoir was deeper and distinct from the reservoir in the El Tatio geyser field,” he said.

Cuenca said the mistake was “having restarted a geothermal programme in Chile doing everything that shouldn’t be done: that is, interfering in a place where there are indigenous communities, an area with a high tourist and economic value, simply to take advantage of the infrastructure that was already installed there.”

Experts warn that geothermal power is not a panacea for Chile’s energy deficit, because if there is one thing this country has learned, it is that a diversified energy mix is essential.

But if Chile’s potential is confirmed, Cerro Pabellón could open the door to geothermal development not only in this country but in South America.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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UAE Wins Hearts and Minds at World Exhibition in Milanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/uae-wins-hearts-and-minds-at-world-exhibition-in-milan/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:44:36 +0000 Jaya Ramachandran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142091 Courtesy of UAE Expo Milano 2015.

Courtesy of UAE Expo Milano 2015.

By Jaya Ramachandran
MILAN, Aug 21 2015 (IPS)

She only turned nine last June. But Mahra Mustafa has become a celebrity at the Expo Milan. She stars as Sara in ‘The Family Tree’, a short film on the UAE’s heritage being screened at the United Arab Emirates pavilion. Sara is in fact the face of young, dynamic and innovative Emirates.

Thousands of Italians and foreign visitors, who throng the UAE pavilion day in and day out, are enchanted by the 12-metre tall sinuous rippled walls that provide an unforgettable experience and give an idea of what the Emirates would offer during the Dubai Expo in 2020.“People get mesmerised with how the UAE has grown from facing challenges like lack of water, coping with heat, humidity, lack of natural resources and still managed to create beautiful cities and communities.” -- Nawal Al Hosany

The Dubai Expo from Oct 20, 2020 through Apr 10, 2021, will launch the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebration and “serve as a springboard from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades”, according to information posted on its website.

The organisers proudly announce: “This will be the first time that a World Expo is staged in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region.”

While Expo Milan from May 1 to Oct 31 is focussing on ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, Dubai’s World Expo will have ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ as its theme, echoing the powerful spirit of partnership and co-operation that has driven the UAE’s success in pioneering new paths of development and innovation, the organisers say.

“Through this theme, Expo 2020 Dubai will serve as a catalyst, connecting minds from around the world and inspiring participants to mobilise around shared challenges during a World Expo of unprecedented global scope,” the organisers add.

As compared to Expo Milan, which expects to welcome 20 million visitors during six months, Expo 2020 Dubai awaits 25 million visits, 70 per cent from abroad – if only to feel and experience Sara’s ‘The Family Tree’.

“People got so excited seeing movies on Dubai, the feedback we got was that people want to visit before Expo 2020,” ‘The National’, UAE’s English-language publication, quoted Amal Al Kuwaiti, a contract engineer with the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company who worked as a volunteer at the UAE pavilion in Milan.

The architects worked closely with the UAE’s National Media Council to create the pavilion and connect it to the Milan theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life, notes The National.

“Many were surprised to see the country with not much water, how people searched for food. Then suddenly they see videos of the Burj Khalifa (a skyscraper in Dubai) and they are thrilled. Even people who have been to Dubai long ago want to see the changes,” he added.

“People get mesmerised with how the UAE has grown from facing challenges like lack of water, coping with heat, humidity, lack of natural resources and still managed to create beautiful cities and communities,” Nawal Al Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar, told The National newspaper. He was involved in building the UAE pavilion.

Describing the highlights of the ‘The Family Tree’, the Gulf News writes: Sara is transported back in time, during the generation of her grandparents. Sara gets to live and witness what life was like before modernisation and development in the area, living in the harsh desert conditions, facing many challenges such as finding food and water, and dealing with sandstorms and wild animals.

“The movie’s special effects, story, and professional direction is on par with any Hollywood major production,” claims the Gulf News with some justification.

It is not only the film but also Sara’s rap song that ties in to the Milan Expo theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life: “We have land and food and energy/The sun, the sand and the big blue sea/The people, the animals/I’m beginning to see/Are all interconnected like a tapestry . . .”

The song is for sale on iTunes and the proceeds are going to victims of Nepal’s earthquakes.

When the film The Family Tree ends, visitors are invited to switch to an interactive  ‘Future Talk’, with the presentation being delivered by Sara. The main message of the talk is to encourage people to live their lives in a more sustainable and energy-friendly manner, so that we can have a better future in feeding the planet.

The UAE pavilion also highlights the importance of date palms, a major component of Emirati culture and tradition. The exhibition, ‘The Secret Life of Date Palms’, informs about the date palm features, its form, fruit, hydration, metamorphosis, shade and shadow. As part of the exhibition visitors also get to experience and see the date palms for themselves, with an oasis garden and date palm trees present at the pavilion.

Walking along the sinuous rippled walls, visitors pass by 12 media cubes. These refer to 12 challenges the UAE faces in respect of land, energy, water and food. Then follow the 12 media cubes with 12 solutions. One of the challenges the Emirates face is that it barely gets any rain, and so the solution in providing clean drinking water to its population is through new methods of desalinated seawater using renewable energy.

The media cubes also offer visitors an insight into the UAE and its culture, with five short Discovery films about the UAE. ‘Flavors of the Emirates’ is a short film about the traditional and cultural foods of the UAE.

Another short film, “Helping Feed the Planet”, touches on the UAE’s generous contribution in giving aid to 140 countries around the world, with the short movie going to Ethiopia where schoolchildren are provided with healthy food thanks to a programme funded and organised by Dubai Cares.

Emiratis acting as volunteers and ambassadors at the pavilion are also present to help guide and further explain the culture and history of the UAE, making the tour as interactive as possible for visitors.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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The Future Tastes Like Chocolate for Rural Salvadoran Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-future-tastes-like-chocolate-for-some-rural-salvadoran-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-tastes-like-chocolate-for-some-rural-salvadoran-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/the-future-tastes-like-chocolate-for-some-rural-salvadoran-women/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 17:30:36 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142066 The hands of Idalia Ramón care for the cacao beans produced in the town of Caluco in western El Salvador. She and a group of women transform the beans into hand-made chocolate, in an ecological process that is taking off in this Central American country thanks to the national project Alianza Cacao, aimed at reviving the cultivation of cacao and improving the future of 10,000 small farming families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hands of Idalia Ramón care for the cacao beans produced in the town of Caluco in western El Salvador. She and a group of women transform the beans into hand-made chocolate, in an ecological process that is taking off in this Central American country thanks to the national project Alianza Cacao, aimed at reviving the cultivation of cacao and improving the future of 10,000 small farming families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
CALUCO/MERCEDES UMAÑA, El Salvador, Aug 20 2015 (IPS)

Idalia Ramón and 10 other rural Salvadoran women take portions of the freshly ground chocolate paste, weigh it, and make chocolates in the shapes of stars, rectangles or bells before packaging them for sale.

“This is a completely new source of work for us, we didn’t know anything about cacao or chocolate,” Ramón tells IPS. Before this, the 38-year-old widow was barely able to support her three children – ages 11, 13 and 15 – selling corn tortillas, a staple of the Central American and Mexican diet.

She is one of the women taking part in chocolate production in Caluco, a town of 10,000 in the department or province of Sonsonate in western El Salvador, in the context of a project that forms part of a national effort to revive cacao production.

“Now I have extra income; we can see the advantages that cacao brings to our communities,” she said.“On one hand this is about reviving the age-old cultivation of a product that is rooted in our culture, and on the other it’s about boosting economic and social development in our communities.” -- María de los Ángeles Escobar

She and the rest of the women work at what they call the “processing centre”, which they put a lot of work into setting up. Here they turn the cacao beans into hand-made organic chocolates.

Since December, the effort to revive cacao production has taken shape in the Alianza Cacao El Salvador cacao alliance, which has brought together cooperatives and farmers from different regions, including these women who have become experts in making artisan chocolate.

The paste that comes out of the grinder is given different shapes, most frequently round bars. Dissolved in boiling water, the chocolate is used to make one of El Salvador’s favorite beverages.

Over the next five years, the Alianza Cacao aims to generate incomes for 10,000 cacao growing families in 87 of the country’s 262 municipalities, with 10,000 hectares planted in the crop. The idea is to generate some 27,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“The project is helping us to overcome the difficult economic situation, and to increase our production, thus improving incomes,” another local farmer, 33-year-old María Alas, tells IPS as she deftly forms hand-made chocolates in different shapes.

The Alianza Cacao has received 25 million dollars – 20 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S.-based Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the rest from local sources.

Four of the women who make chocolate in the community processing centre in Caluco, a town in western El Salvador, check the paste that comes out of the grinder before making organic chocolate bars and chocolates of different shapes. They are part of the Alianza Cacao project which is aimed at reviving the production of cacao, once a key element of this country’s history, culture and economy, but which was abandoned. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Four of the women who make chocolate in the community processing centre in Caluco, a town in western El Salvador, check the paste that comes out of the grinder before making organic chocolate bars and chocolates of different shapes. They are part of the Alianza Cacao project which is aimed at reviving the production of cacao, once a key element of this country’s history, culture and economy, but which was abandoned. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

In the pre-Columbian era, cacao beans were used as currency in Central America and southern Mexico, and later they were used to pay tribute to the Spanish crown.

Although cacao plantations practically disappeared in modern-day El Salvador due to pest and disease outbreaks, hot chocolate remained a popular traditional drink, and for that purpose cacao was imported from neighbouring Honduras and Nicaragua.

“On one hand this is about reviving the age-old cultivation of a product that is rooted in our culture, and on the other it’s about boosting economic and social development in our communities,” María de los Ángeles Escobar, director of the Casa de la Cultura or cultural centre in Caluco, told IPS.

The idea emerged as an alternative to mitigate the impact of coffee rust or roya, caused by the hemileia vastatrix fungus, which has affected 21 percent of coffee plants in the country, according to official estimates, and has reduced rural employment and incomes.

In El Salvador, 38 percent of the population of 6.2 million lives in rural areas. And according to the World Bank, 36 percent of rural inhabitants were living in poverty in 2013. This vulnerability was aggravated by the impact of coffee rust and the effects on corn and bean production of drought caused by El Niño – a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world – which has hurt 400,000 small farmers.

Caluco and four other municipalities in Sonsonate – areas in western El Salvador with a large indigenous presence – have joined the project: San Antonio del Monte, Nahuilingo, Izalco and Nahuizalco.

Farmers in the five municipalities – including the women interviewed in Caluco – set up the Asociación Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria Cacao Los Izalcos cacao cooperative, in order to join forces at each stage of the production chain.

Cacao growers, mainly women, during a training session on how to make organic fertiliser to enrich the soil on their land in San Simón, a village in the municipality of Mercedes Umaña in the eastern Salvadoran department of Usulután. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Cacao growers, mainly women, during a training session on how to make organic fertiliser to enrich the soil on their land in San Simón, a village in the municipality of Mercedes Umaña in the eastern Salvadoran department of Usulután. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The cooperative has 111 hectares of cacao trees. Because they need shade to grow, the farmers plant them alongside fruit and timber trees.

In the first few months after it was formed, the Alianza Cacao focused on growing seedlings in nurseries that the members began to plant on their farms. The trees start to bear fruit when they are three or four years old.

But in Caluco local farmers are already making chocolate, because there were cacao producers in the municipality, who used locally-grown cacao along with imported beans to produce chocolate. In fact, Caluco was historically inhabited by Pilpil indigenous people, whose cacao was famous in colonial times.

“We hope that next year our production level will be higher; output today is low, because things are just getting started,” the vice president of the Asociación Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria Cacao Los Izalcos cooperative, Raquel Santos, tells IPS.

When the cooperative’s production peaks, it hopes to produce 500 kg a month of cacao, Artiga said.

Although for now the chocolate they produce is all hand-made, the members of the cooperative plan in the future to make chocolate bars on a more industrial scale. But that will depend on their initial success.

Since the cooperative was founded, the aim has been for women’s participation to be decisive in the local development of cacao production.

The Caluco Local Cacao Committee is made up of 29 male farmers and 25 women who process the beans and produce chocolate. They have a nursery and have built the first collection centre for locally produced cacao.

In the nursery, students from the local school are taught planting techniques and the importance of cacao in their history, culture and, now, economy.

Miriam Bermúdez, one of the rural women who joined the project to grow cacao in San Simón, a village in the eastern Salvadoran municipality of Mercedes Umaña, outside the Vivero La Colmena, the nursery where the 25,000 cacao seedlings to be planted on 25 hectares belonging to the participants in the initiative are grown. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Miriam Bermúdez, one of the rural women who joined the project to grow cacao in San Simón, a village in the eastern Salvadoran municipality of Mercedes Umaña, outside the Vivero La Colmena, the nursery where the 25,000 cacao seedlings to be planted on 25 hectares belonging to the participants in the initiative are grown. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

On the other side of the country, in the eastern department of Usulután, 52-year-old Miriam Bermúdez is one of the most enthusiastic participants in the Vivero La Colmena community nursery project. She managed to convince other people in her home village, San Simón in the municipality of Mercedes Umaña, to join the Alianza Cacao.

“I used to drink chocolate without even knowing what tree it came from. But now I have learned a lot about the production process,” Bermúdez tells IPS during a break in the training that she and a group of men and women farmers are receiving about producing organic fertiliser.

The pesticide-free fertiliser will nourish the soil where the cacao trees are planted.

There are 25,000 seedlings in the nursery, enough to cover 25 hectares of land on local farms with cacao trees. The project also has an irrigation system, to avoid the effects of periodic drought.

While the seedlings grow big enough to plant, the farmers of Mercedes Umaña are deciding which fruit and timber trees to grow alongside the cacao trees for shade. These trees will also generate incomes, or already do so in some cases.

Bermúdez, on her .7 hectare-farm, has planted plantain and banana trees, as well as a variety of vegetables, to boost her food security.

“When the vegetable truck comes by I never buy anything because I get everything I need from my garden,” she says proudly.

Her 16-year-old granddaughter Esmeralda Bermúdez has decided to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and participates actively in the different tasks involved in cacao production in her community.

“I really like learning new things, like preparing the soil or making organic compost,” she told IPS after the training session.

In Usulután, besides the municipality of Mercedes Umaña, cacao production has extended to the towns of Jiquilisco, San Dionisio, Jucuarán, Jucuapa, California, Alegría, Berlín and Nueva Granada. In each municipality there is a nursery of cacao tree seedlings run by 25 families.

That is another important component of the Alianza Cacao: the final product has to be high-quality and organic, because the goal is to promote sustainable development. Planting cacao trees is an ecological activity in and of itself, because it creates forests, when the cacao trees are full-grown.

“It’s very important for the farmers to know that their plantations can be managed ecologically, for the good of the environment, and also because the product fetches a better price,” Griselda Alvarenga, an adviser to the project, tells IPS.

This article forms part of a reporting series conceived in collaboration with Ecosocialist Horizons.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Islamic Declaration Turns Up Heat Ahead of Paris Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:39:07 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142051 Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, was one of the signers of the Islamic Declaration on Climate. Credit: kateeb.org

Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, was one of the signers of the Islamic Declaration on Climate. Credit: kateeb.org

By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Aug 19 2015 (IPS)

Following in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who has taken a vocal stance on climate change, Muslim leaders and scholars from 20 countries issued a joint declaration Tuesday underlining the severity of the problem and urging governments to commit to 100 percent renewable energy or a zero emissions strategy.

Notably, it calls on oil-rich, wealthy Muslim countries to lead the charge in phasing out fossil fuels “no later than the middle of the century.”

The call to action, which draws on Islamic teachings, was adopted at an International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul.

“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet,” the Islamic Declaration on Climate statement says.

“This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost…We call on all groups to join us in collaboration, co-operation and friendly competition in this endeavor and we welcome the significant contributions taken by other faiths, as we can all be winners in this race.”

The symposium’s goal was to reach “broad unity and ownership from the Islamic community around the Declaration.”

Welcoming the declaration, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, “A clean energy, sustainable future for everyone ultimately rests on a fundamental shift in the understanding of how we value the environment and each other.

“Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.”

Supporters of the Islamic Declaration included the grand muftis of Uganda and Lebanon and government representatives from Turkey and Morocco.

The UNFCCC notes that religious leaders of all faiths have been stepping up the pressure on governments to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions and help poorer countries adapt to the challenges of climate change, with a key international climate treaty set to be negotiated in Paris this December.

In June, Pope Francis released a papal encyclical letter, in which he called on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to join the fight against climate change.

The Church of England’s General Synod recently urged world leaders to agree on a roadmap to a low carbon future, and is among a number of Christian groups promising to redirect their resources into clean energy.

Hindu leaders will release their own statement later this year, and the Buddhist community plans to step up engagement this year building on a Buddhist Declaration on climate change. Hundreds of rabbis released a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis.

The Dalai Lama has also frequently spoken of the need for action on climate change, linking it to the need for reforms to the global economic system.

Interfaith groups have been cooperating throughout the year. The Vatican convened a Religions for Peace conference in the Vatican in April, and initiatives such as our Our Voices network are building coalitions in the run-up to Paris.

Reacting to the Islamic Declaration, the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative Head of Low Carbon Frameworks, Tasneem Essop, said, “The message from the Islamic leaders and scholars boosts the moral aspects of the global climate debate and marks another significant display of climate leadership by faith-based groups.

“Climate change is no longer just a scientific issue; it is increasingly a moral and ethical one. It affects the lives, livelihoods and rights of everyone, especially the poor, marginalised and most vulnerable communities.”

Edited by Kanya D’ Almeida

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Latin America Should Lead in Protecting the Planet’s Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:07:25 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142018 Fishing boats crossing the Chacao Channel off the coast of the Greater Island of Chiloé in Chile’s southern Los Lagos region. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

Fishing boats crossing the Chacao Channel off the coast of the Greater Island of Chiloé in Chile’s southern Los Lagos region. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Aug 17 2015 (IPS)

Latin America should assume a position of global leadership by adopting effective measures to protect the oceans, which are threatened by illegal fishing, the impacts of climate change, and pollution caused by acidification and plastic waste.

“The whole world is lagging in terms of effective measures to protect the oceans, and Latin America is no exception,” Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana – the world’s largest international organisation dedicated solely to ocean conservation – in Chile, told Tierramérica.

But, he added, “We hope the region will take on a leadership role in this area, creating large protected marine areas, eliminating overfishing and creating better systems to combat illegal and unreported fishing.”

The perfect occasion for that, he said, would be the second international Our Ocean Conference, to be held Oct. 5-6 in Valparaiso, a port city 120 km northwest of Santiago, Chile.“We only have a few years to curb the deterioration of the ocean, especially of the fish stocks, and these conferences help us accelerate marine conservation policies with a global impact.” -- Alex Muñoz

In the conference, 400 government representatives, scientists, members of the business community and environmental activists from 90 countries should “commit to carrying out concrete actions to tackle the grave threats that affect the oceans,” Chile’s foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz, told Tierramérica.

“The big global themes should be addressed from a broad, inclusive perspective,” the minister said.

The central pillar of the global system for governance of the oceans is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted in 1982, to be completed with a treaty to govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction, as the U.N. General Assembly decided in June.

But, the foreign minister argued, “as a complement, we see as indispensable initiatives making possible a more detailed and direct analysis of the efforts that governments are making to protect this valuable resource.”

The first edition of the international conference on oceans, held in 2014 in Washington, gave rise to alliances and voluntary initiatives for more than 800 million dollars, aimed at new commitments for the protection of more than three million square km of ocean.

In Valparaíso, meanwhile, the participating countries will report the progress they made over the last year and undertake new commitments.

“These meetings generate healthy competition between countries to make announcements that otherwise wouldn’t be made,” said Oceana’s Alex Muñoz.

“We only have a few years to curb the deterioration of the ocean, especially of the fish stocks, and these conferences help us accelerate marine conservation policies with a global impact,” he said.

He added that since the 2014 conference, “many governments have been motivated to create large marine parks or to sign accords to fight illegal fishing, like the New York United Nations accord, which hadn’t been ratified for a number of years.”

He was referring to the U.N. accord on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, signed in 1995.

Chile, he pointed out, is one of the countries that signed the agreement after the first Our Ocean Conference.

In this year’s conference in Valparaíso “we hope important announcements will be made on the creation of large new protected marine areas,” said the Oceana director, who added that Chile, as host country, “should set an example with a large marine park in the Pacific ocean.”

Threatened riches

Oceans cover more than70 percent of the planet’s surface, but only one percent of the world’s oceans are protected. Between 50 and 80 percent of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface, and 97 percent of the planet’s water is salty, according to U.N. figures.

Phytoplankton generates about half of the oxygen in the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and the vast variety of highly nutritious products provided by the oceans contributes to global food security.

Fisherpersons in Duao cove in Chile’s central Maule region. The degradation of the world’s oceans is a threat to the livelihoods of the more than two million small-scale fishers in Latin America. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Fisherpersons in Duao cove in Chile’s central Maule region. The degradation of the world’s oceans is a threat to the livelihoods of the more than two million small-scale fishers in Latin America. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

A study published in April by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the oceans conceal some 24 trillion dollars of untapped wealth.

Oceans are also an inspiration for artists and for poets like Chile’s 1971 Nobel Literature prize-winner Pablo Neruda (1904-1973).

In the poem “The Great Ocean” he wrote: “If, Ocean, you could grant, out of your gifts and dooms, some measure, fruit or ferment for my hands, I’d choose your distant rest, your brinks of steel, your furthest reaches watched by air and night, the energy of your white dialect downing and shattering its columns in its own demolished purity.”

But the WWF study warns that the resources in the high seas are rapidly eroding through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

Latin America, where five of the world’s 25 leading fishing nations are located – Peru, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, in that order – is not free from these dangers.

In Chile, 16 of the 33 main fisheries are in a critical situation due to over-exploitation, according to a government report.

Climate phenomena threaten large-scale anchovy fishing in Peru, the world’s second largest fishing nation after China.

Illegal fishing, meanwhile, is jeopardising some species of sharks, like the whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), found along Central America’s Pacific coast, as well as the Patagonian toothfish or Chilean seabass (Dissostichus eleginoides), and sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea).

Foreign minister Muñoz said illegal fishing is a 23 billion dollar industry – “very close to the amount moved by drug trafficking.”

To this is added the severe problem of pollution from plastic waste faced by the world’s oceans. In 2010 an estimated eight million tons of plastic were dumped in the sea, killing millions of birds and marine animals.

Plastic represents 80 percent of the total marine debris in the world’s oceans.

Ocean acidification, meanwhile, is one of the consequences of climate change, and its effects could cause major changes to species and numbers of fish living in coastal areas over the next few years.

The foreign minister stressed that these conferences must continue to be held, due to “the urgent need to protect our seas and to follow up on government commitments and the progress they have made, while they pledge to carry out further actions.”

At this year’s conference, he said, the main focuses will include the role of local island communities and philanthropy at the service of marine protection and conservation, and there will be a segment on governance, exemplified in the system for the regulation of the high seas.

He also announced that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the creator of the initiative, confirmed a third edition of the Our Ocean Conference, to be held once again in Washington in 2016.

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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New Label Defends Family Farming in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/new-label-defends-family-farming-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-label-defends-family-farming-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/new-label-defends-family-farming-in-argentina/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:58:18 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141980 A stand in the Bonpland Solidarity Economy Market in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood. Producers and consumers will now benefit from the label “produced by family farmers”. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 13 2015 (IPS)

It’s pouring rain in the capital of Argentina, but customers haven’t stayed away from the Bonpland Solidarity Economy Market, where family farmers sell their produce. The government has now decided to give them a label to identify and strengthen this important segment of the economy: small farmers.

Norma Araujo, her husband and son are late getting to the market in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood because the heavy rains made it difficult to navigate the dirt roads to their farm, in the municipality of Florencio Varela, 38 km from the capital.

They quickly set up their fruit and vegetable stand as the first customers reach the old warehouse, which was closed down as a market during the severe economic crisis that broke out in late 2001. Today, 25 stands offer products sold by social, indigenous and peasant organisations, which are produced without slave labour and under the rules of fair trade.

“Our vegetables are completely natural. They are grown without toxic agrochemicals,” Araujo told IPS. She is a member of the Florencio Varela Family Farmers Cooperative, which also sells chicken, eggs, suckling pig and rabbit.

Across from Araujo’s stand, Analía Alvarado sells honey, homemade jams, cheese, seeds with nutritional properties, natural juices, olive oil, whole grain bread, organic yerba mate – a traditional caffeinated herbal brew – and dairy products.

Mercosur labels

Argentina’s new label forms part of a collective effort by the Mercosur (Southern Common Market) which began to work with such labels four years ago, as part of the Specialised Meeting on Family Agriculture (REAF), Raimundo Laugero explained.

Brazil – a member of Mercosur along with Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela – was a pioneer in the bloc, creating a family farming label in 2009, according to the REAF.

Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador also take part in the REAF, which brings together governments and family farming organisations. The REAF announced that in June Chile created its own label, “Manos Campesinas” (peasant hands) for “healthy products of peasant origin, made on a small scale, which foment local development.”

Ecuador and Bolivia have also taken decisive steps towards creating a label that would “defend food sovereignty, rural incomes and access to local foods.” Uruguay, meanwhile, is holding a series of meetings “on the creation of a family agriculture label.”

“The idea is to give small farmers a chance, and here we have people from all around the country, who wouldn’t otherwise have the possibility of selling their goods,” Alvarado said.

The ministry of agriculture, livestock and fishing took another step in that direction with the creation in July of the “Produced by Family Farms” label, “to enhance the visibility of, inform and raise awareness about the significant contribution that family farms make to food security and sovereignty.”

According to the ministry, there are 120,000 family farms in this country of 43 million people, and the sector is “the main supplier of food for the Argentine population, providing approximately 70 percent of the daily diet.”

“A label identifying products grown on family farms not only makes the sector more visible but foments a dialogue between consumers and farmers who have a presence in the countryside across the entire nation, generating territorial sovereignty,” said Raimundo Laugero, director of programmes and projects in the ministry’s family agriculture secretariat.

In the category of family farmers the government includes peasants, small farmers, smallholders, indigenous communities, small-scale fisher families, landless rural workers, sharecroppers, craftspeople, and urban and periurban producers.

In his interview with IPS, Laugero said the label will not only identify products as coming from the family agriculture sector, but will “guarantee health controls, chemical-free and non-industrial production, and production characterised by diversity, unlike monoculture farming.

“When we’re talking about a product from family agriculture, the symbolic value is that they are produced through artisanal processes and with work by the family, and one fundamental aspect is that behind the product are the faces of people who live in the countryside,” he said.

Agriculture is one of the pillars of the economy of this South American nation, accounting for 13 percent of GDP, 55.8 percent of exports and 35.6 percent of direct and indirect employment.

María José Otero, a pharmacist, has come a long way to the market on her bicycle, but she doesn’t mind. For her family she wants “the healthiest and most natural diet possible, free of chemicals.”

She also shops here because of “a social question” – she wants to benefit those “who produce natural food without so much industrialisation, while avoiding the middlemen who drive up food prices.

“Besides, I’m really interested in the impact caused by the act of consuming something with awareness,” she added. “That means taking care of the environment where you work, respecting animals. It’s not the same thing to consume eggs from animals that walk about and eat naturally as from animals that are cruelly treated and packed into warehouses, fed in horrible ways.”

Otero said the new label was “great.” “There’s a lot of deception in this also, from people who say they’re selling organic products or products made with a social conscience, and it’s a lie. This label gives you a guarantee,” she said.

“This will especially help the public become aware of what it means to help small farmers. So they can realise that what they pay and what they consume really goes to them, and for the people who do the work to really get paid what they are due,” Alvarado said.

Laugero also stressed that a significant aspect of the new label is that it is linked to “participatory guarantee systems for agroecological products.”

He pointed out that normally when farmers apply for a label recognising their products, they need to turn to a company that carries out the certification process, while the concept “agroecological” has other components.

He mentioned six pilot projects in Argentina, of participatory guarantee systems – basically locally focused quality assurance systems – for agroecological products, which involve organised farmers and consumers, and which the state will now support as well.

“With the label, they’re going to do much better, because they’ll have a more massive reach, and more people will be included,” he said.

At the Bonpland market, Claudia Giorgi, a member of the La Asamblearia cooperative, which works as part of a network with other social organisations, is preparing shipments to another province which will use the same transportation to send products back, to cut costs.

Giorgi makes papaya preserves. But she also sells products from other cooperatives like natural cosmetics, lavender soap, medicinal herbs, pesticide-free tea, mustard and different kinds of flour.

“What is produced in each social organisation is traded for products from other groups, at each organisation’s cost, which is the producers’ costs plus what is spent on logistics,” she explained to IPS.

She said she didn’t have any information yet about the new label, but believes that it will be a good thing if it proves to be “functional” and if it differs from labels that “are profit-making schemes” and “have a cost.”

The resolution creating the new label states that one of the aims is to “promote new channels of marketing and sales points.”

Laugero noted that besides accounting for 20 percent of agricultural GDP, family farming represents 95 percent of goat production, 22 percent of cattle production, 30 percent of sheep production, 33 percent of honey production, 25 percent of fruit production, 60 percent of fresh vegetables, and 15 percent of grains.

“But that doesn’t always translate into profits,” he said. “We need to work hard on those aspects so that income also ends up in the hands of family farmers.”

In her case, Araujo puts the emphasis on solving even more simple problems, such as finding transportation for her vegetables to the market, even when it rains.

“They should fix our dirt roads,” she said, clarifying that small farmers themselves have offered to participate in the task.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Tiny Island Nation Pleads for Global Moratorium on New Coal Mineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/tiny-island-nation-pleads-for-global-moratorium-on-new-coal-mines/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 16:03:21 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141976 Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-level Event on climate change in July 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-level Event on climate change in July 2015. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

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

The tiny island of Kiribati in the Central Pacific, with a population of about 103,000, has long been identified as one of the U.N. member states threatened with physical extinction due to sea-level rise triggered largely by climate change.

Expressing these fears, Kiribati President Anote Tong has called on world leaders, on the eve of a summit meeting at the United Nations next month, for “a global and immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions.”“I have now seen first-hand what a sea level rise means for the people of Kiribati. It is not some scientific modelling or projection - it is real, it is happening now and it will only get worse." -- Kumi Naidoo

In a letter to the leaders of the 193 member states, he has urged them to back his call to action in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks in December.

Speaking on behalf of “a nation faced with a very uncertain future”, he says: “It would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour.”

“The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 (Conference of Parties) in Paris, whilst stopping new coal mine constructions now will make any agreement reached in Paris truly historical,” he says in the letter.

The president, who is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on September 30, already has strong backing from Greenpeace International,

Asked how coal and coal mining impacts on climate change, Leanne Minshull, Senior Portfolio Manager, Climate and Energy at Greenpeace International, told IPS a third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal.

“And it’s used to produce nearly 40 percent of the world’s power,” she pointed out.

Coal mining, the first step in the dirty lifecycle of coal, causes deforestation and releases toxic amounts of minerals and heavy metals into the soil and water, she said.

“Coal mining’s effects persist for years after coal is removed. Coal also causes damage to people’s health and communities around the world. While the coal industry itself isn’t paying for the damage it causes, the world at large is,” said Minshull.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including widespread drought, flooding and massive population displacement caused by rising sea levels, she noted, “we need to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (compared to pre-industrial levels). To do this, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2015 and from there go down to zero.”

The world’s top hard coal producers include China, the United States, India, Australia and South Africa.

Speaking from Kiribati, where is currently on a visit, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Dr. Kumi Naidoo, said the people of Kiribati are refusing to be silenced by reckless governments and corporations that are perpetuating climate change, and which in turn is causing rising sea levels.

“I join President Tong in calling on all leaders of similarly threatened islands to stand together and demand climate justice,” Naidoo said.

“I have now seen first-hand what a sea level rise means for the people of Kiribati. It is not some scientific modelling or projection – it is real, it is happening now and it will only get worse,” he added.

Asked about the power wielded by the coal mining lobby and corporations that are in the coal mining business, Minshull told IPS the fossil fuel industry as a whole has a long history in the U.S. of disseminating misinformation on the impacts of climate change and using underhanded tactics to gain positive legislative outcomes for their industry.

She said Greenpeace put out an excellent report last year exposing the influence of the fossil fuel industry including coal.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says “for nearly three decades, many of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to deceive the public about the realities and risks of climate change.”

Their deceptive tactics are now highlighted in seven “deception dossiers“— collections of internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests.

Naidoo said, “We know the science and we know the end of the age of coal is coming. Scrambling to dig up more dirty coal can only be driven by ignorance or sheer disregard for the millions of people at risk from burning it.”

“We need international leadership on this issue and a planned retreat from coal involving a just transition for existing workers and developed in consultation with affected communities,” he declared.

An assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stressed that the sea level rise projected for this century will present ‘severe flood and erosion risks’ for low-lying islands, with the potential also for degradation of freshwater resources.

Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. In some places the sea level is rising by 1.2 centimetres a year, four times faster than the global average.

This means that 80 per cent of coal reserves must remain unused if we are to have any chance at protecting nations like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines, according to Greenpeace.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Latin America Has Enormous Untapped Potential for Green Infrastructurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-has-enormous-untapped-potential-for-green-infrastructure/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:59:07 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141964 One of the 31 wind parks operating in Mexico. By 2020 installed wind power capacity should have climbed to 15,000 MW. Credit: Courtesy of Dforcesolar

One of the 31 wind parks operating in Mexico. By 2020 installed wind power capacity should have climbed to 15,000 MW. Credit: Courtesy of Dforcesolar

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Aug 12 2015 (IPS)

Latin America is facing a two-pronged challenge: double power generation by 2050 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The only solution? Green energy.

Studies show that these two goals could be within the reach of Latin America, because this region still has huge untapped potential in terms of renewable energy.

Along with transportation and land-use change, electricity generation is one of the region’s unresolved challenges in the fight against climate change.

With regard to energy production, Latin America is the planet’s greenest region, due to its long-time emphasis on hydroelectricity. But the question now is how to keep increasing the proportion of renewable energies in the face of growing domestic demand. “When you look at it as a whole, the region’s infrastructure continues to be built like in the 20th century, even though the 21st century has a completely different outlook and requirements.” --- Joseluis Samaniego

“When you look at it as a whole, the region’s infrastructure continues to be built like in the 20th century, even though the 21st century has a completely different outlook and requirements,” Joseluis Samaniego, a Mexican expert who is the director of the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.

Electricity is key to the design of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – the commitments that each nation assumes to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank study “Rethinking Our Energy Future”, the region will need to increase its installed power capacity two-fold by 2050.
However, it remains dependent on fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas which generate greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

This raises the question of what kind of infrastructure Latin America will include in its energy future. According to the IDB study, Latin America’s renewable energy generation capacity – wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass – is so extensive that only four percent of the total technical potential would be needed to meet the region’s needs by 2050.

But in recent years, the region has invested in dirtier energy sources. Although hydroelectric plants have been the main source of electricity across much of Latin America for decades, the latest figures show that its share is shrinking.

The Itaipú hydropower dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay is the second-largest in the world, after China’s Three Gorges. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Itaipú hydropower dam shared by Brazil and Paraguay is the second-largest in the world, after China’s Three Gorges. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE) reported that it represented just 38 percent in 2013, surpassed by natural gas, which now provides 40 percent.

The countries of Latin America will have to revert that process if they want to set forth more ambitious and realistic targets in their INDCs. Only a robust energy policy will make it possible to set adequate goals, experts agree.

Untapped clean energy potential

Latin America only uses 22 percent of its hydropower potential. Experts say that in the future, countries in the region will need to do more to tap the potential of their rivers and other clean energy sources, to make their energy mix more sustainable and diversified.

A study published in 2008 by REN21, a global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network, said hydropower could be overtaken by other sources in the region, like solar and wind.

The countries in the region have a hydroelectric potential of 2.8PWh (petawatt-hour), surpassed by geothermal (nearly three PWh), wind (11 PWh) and solar (close to 31 PWh).

That potential is enormous compared to regional demand. In 2014 the countries of Latin America consumed a total of 1.3 PWh of electricity and experts expect demand to be less than 3.5 PWh by 2050.

So far, only Mexico has formally presented its INDCs, while Chile, Colombia and Peru have shown progress.

All countries must present their national commitments by Oct. 1, to be incorporated in the new binding universal treaty to be approved at the December climate summit in Paris.

“Latin America, like the rest of the world, should focus on developing electric power infrastructure with renewable sources and with the least possible environmental impact, in an attempt to depend less and less on fossil fuels,” Santiago Ortega, a Colombian engineer who specialises in renewable energy sources, told IPS.

Ortega, who is also a professor at the Engineering School in the northwest Colombian region of Antioquia, called for a balance in renewable energy generation between local, less-invasive projects and megaprojects like large dams that make it possible to store up energy, providing a reliable supply.

“Financial resources will always be scarce, and they must be invested in the most intelligent way possible,” said Ortega.

Otherwise, the global energy future will be costly. With a business-as-usual high-carbon economy, about 90 trillion dollars, or an average of six trillion a year, will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems over the next 15 years, according to the New Climate Economy report “Better Growth, Better Climate”.

But the report adds that only around 270 billion dollars a year would be needed to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy, through clean energy, more compact cities, better public transport systems and smarter land use.

Experts like Costa Rican economist Mónica Araya say “the shift that is happening around the world, and we won’t be an exception, is towards energy diversification and decentralisation.”

But electricity is only part of the region’s energy mix, where fossil fuels still reign supreme.

OLADE figures from 2013 indicate that oil represents 49 percent of primary energy in the region, natural gas 26 percent, and coal seven percent.

Only six percent of primary energy comes from hydropower. Biomass, nuclear and other renewable sources complete the picture.

What does Latin America do with 80 percent fossil fuels, if the electricity supply is largely green?

According to Pablo Bertinat, director of the Observatory of Energy and Sustainability at the National Technological University in Argentina, nearly half of that energy goes to the transport sector.

“In transport, infrastructure is key,” Bertinat told IPS. “A large part of the public monies in the region goes into infrastructure works largely aimed at consolidating energy-intensive modes of transportation.”

As an example, Bertinat pointed out that while 75 percent of cargo in Argentina is moved by truck, the proportion is just 20 percent in France or the United States, which put a priority on rivers or railways.

Changes are also needed in cities, and Araya calls for modern, clean collective public transport, with electrification of private fleets of taxis or cargo vehicles.

“We lack imagination,” Araya, who heads the Costa Rican think tank Nivela, told IPS. “Neither the political class nor the business community have woken up to the need to invest in clean, modern public transit and cargo transport.”

These efforts in the energy industry will also require proposals from other fields. The main regional sources of greenhouse gases are land use and forestry (47 percent), followed by the energy industry (22 percent), agriculture (20 percent), and garbage (three percent).

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Pope Francis Joins Battle Against Transgenic Cropshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 06:51:30 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141938 There is no papal bull on transgenic crops in Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, “on the care of our common home” – planet earth. Credit: Norberto Miguel/IPS

There is no papal bull on transgenic crops in Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, “on the care of our common home” – planet earth. Credit: Norberto Miguel/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 11 2015 (IPS)

A few centuries ago, the biotechnology industry would have been able to buy a papal bull to expiate its sins and grant it redemption. But in his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis condemns genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without leaving room for a pardon.

In his second encyclical since he became pope on Mar. 13, 2013 – but the first that is entirely his work – Jorge Mario Bergoglio criticises the social, economic and agricultural impacts of GMOs and calls for a broad scientific debate.

Laudato Si – “Praise be to you, my Lord” in medieval Italian – takes its title from Saint Francis of Assisi’s 13th-century Canticle of the Sun, one of whose verses is: “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”

It is the first encyclical in history dedicated to the environment and reflecting on “our common home” – planet earth.“In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to ‘the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production’.” – Laudato Si

The encyclical, which was published Jun. 18, acknowledges that “no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings.” But it stresses that “there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated.”

“In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to ‘the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production’,” it adds.

As a result, says the first Latin American pope, farmers are driven to become temporary labourers, many rural workers end up in urban slums, ecosystems are destroyed, and “oligopolies” expand in the production of cereals and inputs needed for their cultivation.

Francis calls for “A broad, responsible scientific and social debate…one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name” because “It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological.”

Such a debate on GMOs is missing, and the biotech industry has refused to open up its databases to verify whether or not transgenic crops are innocuous.

According to the encyclical, “Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future.”

Miguel Concha, a Catholic priest who heads the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre in Mexico, said this country “is already a reference point in the fight for the right to a healthy environment, due to the determined efforts of social organisations. This encyclical reinforces our collective demand,” he told Tierramérica.

The priest said the encyclical warns of the social, economic, legal and ethical implications of transgenic crops, just as environmentalists in Mexico have done for years.

In a local market in Mexico, María Solís shows the different colours of native maize that she grows. Native crops are threatened by attempts to introduce large-scale commercial planting of GM maize in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In a local market in Mexico, María Solís shows the different colours of native maize that she grows. Native crops are threatened by attempts to introduce large-scale commercial planting of GM maize in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The document holds special importance for nations like Mexico, which have been the scene of intense battles over transgenic crops – in this country mainly maize, which has special cultural significance here, besides being the basis of the local diet.

That is also true for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which together with southern Mexico form Mesoamérica, the seat of the ancient Maya civilisation.

The pope is familiar with the impact of transgenic crops, because according to experts his home country, Argentina, is the Latin American nation where GMOs have done the most to alter traditional agriculture.

Soy – 98 percent of which is transgenic – is Argentina’s leading crop, covering 31 million hectares, up from just 4.8 million hectares in 1990, according to the soy industry association, ACSOJA.

The monoculture crop has displaced local producers, fuelled the concentration of land, and created “a vicious circle that is highly dangerous for the sustainability of our production systems,” Argentine agronomist Carlos Toledo told Tierramérica.

Just 10 countries account for nearly all production of GMOs: the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Pakistan and Uruguay, in that order. Most of the production goes to the animal feed industry, but Mexico wants GM maize to be used for human consumption.

In July 2013, 53 individuals and 20 civil society organisations mounted a collective legal challenge against applications to commercially plant transgenic maize, and in September of that year a federal judge granted a precautionary ban on such authorisations.

Since March 2014, organisations of beekeepers and indigenous communities have won two further provisional protection orders against commercial transgenic soybean crops in the southeastern states of Campeche and Yucatán.

On Apr. 30, 2014, eight scientists from six countries sent an open letter to Pope Francis about the negative environmental, economic, agricultural, cultural and social impacts of GM seeds, especially in Mexico.

In their letter, the experts stated: “…we believe that it would be of momentous importance and great value to all if Your Holiness were to express yourself critically on GM crops and in support of peasant farming. This support would go a long way toward saving peoples and the planet from the threat posed by the control of life wielded by companies that monopolise seeds, which are the key to the entire food web…”

Laudato Si indicates that the pope did listen to their plea.

“The encyclical is very encouraging, because it has expressed an ecological position,” Argelia Arriaga, a professor at the University Centre for Disaster Prevention of the Autonomous University of Puebla, told Tierramérica. “It touches sensitive fibers; the situation is terrible and merits papal intervention. This gives us moral support to continue the struggle.”

But legal action has failed to curb the biotech industry’s ambitions in Mexico.

In 2014, the National Service for Agri-Food Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) received four applications from the biotech industry and public research centres for experimental planting of maize on nearly 10 hectares of land.

In addition, there were 30 requests for pilot projects involving experimental and commercial planting of GM cotton on a total of 1.18 million hectares – as well as one application for beans, five for wheat, three for lemons and one for soy – all experimental.

SENASICA is also processing five biotech industry requests for planting more than 200,000 hectares of GM cotton and alfalfa for commercial and experimental purposes.

“This is an economic and development model that ignores food production,” said Concha, the priest who heads the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre.

The participants in the collective lawsuit against GMOs, having successfully gotten federal courts to throw out 22 stays brought by the government and companies against the legal decision to temporarily suspend permits for planting, are now getting ready for a trial that will decide the future of transgenic crops in the country.

Arriaga noted that the focus of the encyclical goes beyond GM crops, and extends to other environmental struggles. “For people in local communities, the pope’s message is important, because it tells them they have to take care of nature and natural resources. It helps raise awareness,” the professor said.

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Caribbean Artists Raise Their Voices for Climate Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:13:37 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141924 Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

Award-winning St. Lucian poet and playwright Kendel Hippolyte thinks that Caribbean nationals should view the Earth as their mother.

“For me, the whole thing is so basic: the earth that we are living on and in is our mother and there are ways that we are supposed to treat our mother and relate to our mother,” the 64-year-old, who has won the St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts, told IPS.“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us -- 1.5 to Stay Alive!" -- Didacus Jules

Caribbean residents are expected to accord the highest levels of respect to their mothers. Therefore, Hippolyte’s approach could see many of the region’s nationals engaged in more individual actions to adapt to and mitigate against climate change.

“And if we deal with our mother as a person is supposed to deal with his or her mother, then so much falls into place,” Hippolyte tells told at a climate change conference last month dubbed “Voices and Imagination United for Climate Justice”.

Hippolyte is one of several artists from across the Caribbean who have agreed to use their social and other influences to educate Caribbean residents about climate change and what actions that they can take as individuals.

The conference focused on the establishment of an informal grouping of Caribbean artists and journalists who will be suitably briefed and prepared to add their voice — individually or collectively — to advocacy and awareness campaigns, with an initial focus on the climate change talks in Paris in December.

The artists include Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian David Michael Rudder, who is celebrated for songs like “Haiti”, a tribute to the glory and suffering of Haiti, and “Rally ‘Round the West Indies”, which became the anthem of Caribbean’s cricket.

British-born, Barbados-based soca artist Alison Hinds and Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also signed on to the effort.

Ahead of the 2015 climate change summit in Paris this year, Caribbean negotiators are seeking the support of the region’s artists in spreading the message of climate justice.

They say that the region has contributed minimally to climate change, but, as small island developing states (SIDS), is being most affected most its negative impacts.

Countries that have contributed most to climate change, the argument goes, must help SIDS to finance mitigation and adaption efforts.

St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, James Fletcher, told IPS that at the world climate change talks in Paris this year, SIDS will be pushing for a strong, legally-binding climate accord that will keep global temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels.

Caribbean negotiators have put this redline into very stark terms, using the rubric “1.5 to stay alive”.

If global temperature rise is capped at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation temperatures, most countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — a 15-member bloc running including Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland, Jamaica in the northern Caribbean, and Belize in Central America — will still see their total annual rainfall decrease between 10 and 20 per cent, Fletcher says.

And even with a 2-degree Celsius cap, the Caribbean is projected to experience greater sea level rise than most areas of the world, he tells IPS.

He says that some models predict that a 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures will lead to a one-metre sea level rise in the Caribbean.

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

This will translate to the loss of 1,300 square kilometres of land — equivalent to the areas of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines combined, Fletcher told IPS.

Over 110,000 people, a number equivalent to the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will be displaced.

In a region highly dependent on tourism, 149 tourism resorts will be damaged, five power plants will be either damaged or destroyed, 1 per cent of all agricultural land will be lost, 21 airports will be damaged or destroyed, land surrounding 21 CARICOM airports will be damaged or destroyed, and 567 kilometres of roads will be lost.

The countries of the Caribbean, famous for sun, sea and sand, have at the national level been rushing to implement mitigation and adaptation measures.

But Hippolyte believes that there is much that can be done at the individual level and says while a lot of information is available to Caribbean nationals, there needs to be a shift in attitude.

“A lot of the information about what we need to do is out there, but in a way, it is here, it is in the brain,” he says, pointing to his head.

“And to me, where I see the arts coming in, and where I see myself and other artists coming in to take the information, the knowledge,” he says, pointing again to his head, “and to bring it here — into the heart,” he says.

“And if that information goes into the heart, then it goes out into the hands and into the body into what we do and what we actually don’t do,” Hippolyte tells IPS.

Speaking at the climate justice event, Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a nine-member political and economic sub-group within CARICOM, told IPS that “justice lies in the protection of the vulnerable whether they be the individual poor or the marginal state”.

Most of the infrastructure in small island development states is along the coast and threatened by sea level rise, Jules points out.

“The negative impacts of climate change are also influencing how we interact with each other as a people given that we have to compete for limited resources,” he tells IPS.

“The climate justice message must therefore be spread in every corner of this region (the Caribbean) and not only promoted by global media that does not always have the interests of SIDS at the forefront.”

He says that Caribbean artists can play a role in spreading the message of climate justice.

“We have seen the power of our Caribbean artists and musicians. Caribbean music is a global force with an impact outlasting any hurricane that we have experienced,” Jules said.

He said that despite the vulnerabilities and challenges that SIDS face, “rallying in the region by using our voices can send a strong signal to let the world know that we are fully aware of the implications of not having a legally binding international agreement on climate change and the impacts it can have on SIDS in our region.

“The bottom line is that the impacts of climate change threaten our very existence,” Jules tells IPS.

“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us — 1.5 to Stay Alive! The Alliance of Small Island States has made it clear that it wants below 1.5° Celcius reflected as a long-term temperature goal and benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year,” Jules said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: The Road to Paris and the Path to Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/opinion-the-road-to-paris-and-the-path-to-renewable-energy/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:33:25 +0000 Jed Alegado http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141917

Jed Alegado (@jedalegado) is a climate campaigner based in the Philippines. He holds a master's degree in Public Management from the Ateneo School of Government and is also one of the climate trackers for Adopt a Negotiator's #Call4Climate campaign.

By Jed Alegado
MANILA, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

Renewable energy is now being seen by many people around the world as a cost-effective development solution both for developed and developing nations. Countries have slowly been realising that the use of coal and the huge amount of carbon emissions it generates harms the environment and impacts our daily activities.

Jed Alegado

Jed Alegado

In fact, according to Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, “last year, for the first time in 40 years, economic and emissions growth have decoupled”.

“If you look back 10 years ago, renewable energies were providing 3 per cent of global energy, and now they provide something close to 22 per cent, so that has really sky-rocketed,” noted Lins.

This is being led most obviously by countries like Uruguay, which aims to generate 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and Costa Rica, which maintained 100 percent renewable energy generation for the first 100 days of this year.

These countries are not alone and are fast becoming the norm rather than the ‘alternative’. Even small developing countries such as Burundi, Jordan and Kenya are leading the world in investments in renewable energies as a percentage of GDP.Recently, the Philippine government gave the go-ahead for the construction of 21 coal-powered projects despite President Aquino’s promise in 2011 to “nearly triple the country’s renewables-based capacity."

Philippines’ dependence on coal

In 2008, the Philippines has enacted the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 aiming to “increase the utilization of renewable energy by institutionalizing the development of national and local capabilities in the use of renewable energy system…and reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

However, after seven years of its implementation, the Philippines hasn’t yet fully maximised the use of renewable energy, according to Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), an NGO based in the Philippines promoting the use of local science and technology practices.

Recently, the Philippine government gave the go-ahead for the construction of 21 coal-powered projects despite President Aquino’s promise in 2011 during the launch of the Philippine government’s National Renewable Energy Plan to “nearly triple the country’s renewables-based capacity from around 5,400 MW in 2010 to 15,300 MW in 2030.”

In the next five years, the new coal plants that are expected to be constructed are the following: Aboitiz company Therma South Inc.’s 300-megawatt(MW) plant in Davao City (2016); the 400-MW expansion of Team Energy’s Pagbilao coal-fired power plant in Quezon (2017); the 600-MW Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. plant in Subic, Zambales (2018); San Miguel Corp. Global’s 300-MW plant in Davao (2017) and a 600-MW plant in Bataan (2016).

While the government has provided incentives to companies to make use of renewable energy, the private sector is not keen on doing so because of the profit generated by coal. Furthermore, they are also looking at the short-term gain of using it – the relatively cheaper price of harnessing the so-called “dirty energy.”

The path to low-carbon development

A report titled “Powering up against Poverty: Why Renewable Energy is the Future” released last week by the international development organisation Oxfam argues that renewable energy is in fact a more affordable energy source than coal for poor people in developing countries.

The report argues that as a result of the changing energy landscape around the world, the decreasing price of renewable energies, and the often remote location of the majority of people who don’t have access to electricity, renewable energy may actually offer a more reliable and effective energy source.

Furthermore, the report stated that, “Four out of five people without electricity live in rural areas that are often not connected to a centralized energy grid, so local, renewable energy solutions offer a much more affordable, practical and healthy solution than coal.”

“But as well as failing to improve energy access for the world’s poorest people, burning coal contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year due to air pollution and is the single biggest contributor to climate change.”

This supports statements made this year by the World Bank, IMF and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who have all argued that renewable energy and not fossil fuels are key to improving energy access and reducing inequality, especially in developing countries.

The road to Paris and beyond

If the Philippines wants to show to the world that our country is the rallying point against climate change especially in the global climate talks, our government needs to walk the talk on renewable energy. Indeed, climate adaptation practices are not enough. We need to show other countries and lead the way towards climate change mitigation by leading the path to sustainable development and use of renewable energy.

Similarly, countries under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Conference of the Parties must agree on a fair and legally binding agreement in Paris on December. We cannot afford another failed climate negotiations like the one in Copenhagen in 2009 to happen again.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Obama Takes Lead on Climate Change Ahead of U.N. Talks in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/obama-takes-lead-on-climate-change-ahead-of-u-n-talks-in-paris/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 18:38:32 +0000 Nora Happel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141914 The Clean Power Plan could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Credit: Bigstock

The Clean Power Plan could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Credit: Bigstock

By Nora Happel
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama formally unveiled the details of his Clean Power Plan (CPP), a comprehensive carbon-cutting strategy he described as “the biggest and most important step…ever taken to combat climate change” in a prior video address posted on Facebook.

As set down in the final rule from Aug. 3 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPP requires power plant owners to reduce their CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2013, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 15 percent, meaning the U.S. is about halfway to the target."These polluters are resorting to the same dirty and desperate playbook of doomsday predictions they have used since President Nixon first signed the Clean Air Act in 1970." -- Sara Chieffo

States are allowed to create their own plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Initial versions of these plans will have to be submitted by 2016, final versions by 2018.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General, told journalists at a U.N. press conference in New York: “The Plan is an example of the visionary leadership necessary to reduce emissions and to tackle climate change.”

At a meeting between President Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Oval Office on Tuesday, the U.N. chief commended Obama’s leadership role in addressing climate change: “I would like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and forward leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan. […] The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing [the] climate phenomenon.”

The U.S. is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter after China. Yet, the praise given to Obama for his efforts in cutting CO2 emissions seems to suggest a shift in the perception of the U.S. as one of the largest climate offenders to a model and leader in combating climate change.

The announcement of the plan follows a series of recent diplomatic achievements by the U.S. government such as the Iranian nuclear deal and the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Many observers attribute these significant moves by the U.S. president shortly ahead of the end of his presidency to his endeavors in building a legacy on the foreign policy front.

The CPP could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Sara Chieffo, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), told IPS: “This historic plan puts in place the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the nation’s single largest source of the pollution fueling climate change.

“When taken together with other major advancements by the Obama Administration, like increasing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and investments in renewable energy, the Clean Power Plan represents a significant reduction in carbon pollution by 2030, as well as a boon to public health.

“By taking these steps the Obama Administration is demonstrating true leadership in reducing carbon pollution, strengthening the growing movement for global action.”

However, as for the Iran nuclear deal and the agreement with Cuba, Obama’s success in implementing the CPP and the legacy built upon it will be largely dependent on Congress and the courts.

Following widespread criticism, the CPP underwent various modifications until the final rule was published on Monday. Compared to former versions, the final rule is now focusing much more on fossil fuel-fired power plants as CO2 emitters and less on states achieving their targets, as explained by Jody Freeman in an article for Politico.

“[R]evisions to the final rule will make it harder for opponents to argue it intrudes on state sovereignty. This has been one of the highest-profile claims against the draft plan, which asked states to meet individual, state-level emissions targets. But the new structure of the final version lets states meet their obligation simply by applying the EPA’s uniform national rates for coal and gas units to the power plants in their jurisdiction—the most straightforward compliance plan imaginable.”

Prior to the announcement of the Clean Power Plan, legal discussions have centered on another EPA regulation already in place since 2011, the mercury and air toxic standards (MATS) meant to limit hazardous air pollutant emissions from fuel-fired power plants.

In a June 29 ruling on Michigan vs. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the EPA regulation with a 5-4 majority, stating the EPA did not properly consider the costs of the regulation as required by the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit for further consultations and proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

The 2011 initiative by EPA to regulate emissions of toxic air pollutants has been challenged by industry groups and about 20 states. Although the Supreme Court decision can be seen as a major setback for the EPA and its environmental initiative, it also facilitates the Clean Power Plan by preventing the existence of a double-regulation, “[o]ne of the challengers’ primary legal arguments against the Plan”, as pointed out by Brian Potts and Abigail Barnes in a recent Forbes article.

“Ironically, this decision could pave the way for another landmark (and nearly just as expensive) EPA regulation, the Clean Power Plan—but only if the agency lets its beloved mercury rule die on the vine.”

Indeed, there is optimism that the Clean Power Plan in its final version will be able to stand firm in the face of the lawsuits expected to be brought against it.

Sara Chieffo told IPS, “With a coalition of public health officials, faith leaders, businesses, and the millions of concerned citizens from across the country calling for climate action, the only ones challenging the Clean Power Plan are big polluters and their allies in Congress and state legislatures.

“These polluters are resorting to the same dirty and desperate playbook of doomsday predictions they have used since President Nixon first signed the Clean Air Act in 1970. But time and again, history has proven that cleaning up our air is good for our health and our economy.

“We are confident that elected officials across the country are going to side with their constituents’ overwhelming support for climate action, instead of polluters who are putting their profits ahead of our health,” she added.

The announcement of Obama’s Clean Power Plan comes a few months ahead of the much anticipated Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris. As stated by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the U.S. government’s initiative will play a vital role in turning the Conference in Paris into a success.

“President Obama’s leadership by example is essential for bringing other key countries on board and securing a universal, durable and meaningful agreement in Paris in December,” he said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Unique Alliance Between Gauchos and Environmentalists Protects Argentina’s Pampashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/unique-alliance-between-gauchos-and-environmentalists-protects-argentinas-pampas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unique-alliance-between-gauchos-and-environmentalists-protects-argentinas-pampas http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/unique-alliance-between-gauchos-and-environmentalists-protects-argentinas-pampas/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 16:37:17 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141909 Gauchos have lived in harmony with nature for centuries in Argentina’s pampas, where a project to preserve the grasslands is seeking to protect the ecosystem with the participation of traditional stockbreeders and gauchos. Credit: Courtesy of Gustavo Marino/Aves Argentinas

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)

The traditions of Argentina’s gauchos or cowboys have joined together with modern agricultural technology in a unique alliance between stockbreeders and environmentalists aimed at preserving biodiversity in the pampas, boosting productivity, and enhancing the flavour of this South America’s country’s famous beef.

“National parks leave people out of the equation,” said Gustavo Marino, with the local environmental organisation Aves Argentinas (Argentine Birds). “We tried to come up with a way to integrate people, as well as human activity, as just another component of the ecosystem.”

Aves Argentinas and the Argentine Wildife Foundation (FVSA) are carrying out the project “Grasslands and Savannas of the Southern Cone of South America: Initiatives for Their Conservation in Argentina Project”.

“We also saw that the grasslands of the pampas are almost all privately owned, there is very little public land, and we necessarily had to work with producers,” Marino told IPS.

The project receives financing from the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility (GEF) and support from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology and National Parks Administration.

The initiative in Argentina forms part of the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance. (The Southern Cone sub-region is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.)

The grasslands “gave rise to a culture represented by the gaucho, but which permeates our entire society, with traditional meals like ‘asado’ (beef roasted over a wood fire) and the need we Argentines feel of open spaces, of being able to see the horizon and the sky,” said Marino.

The pampas are also at the heart of this country’s economy.

A typical snapshot of Argentina’s pampas: A small herd of cattle milling around a lone tree in natural grasslands in the rural municipality of Marcos Paz in the eastern province of Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A typical snapshot of Argentina’s pampas: A small herd of cattle milling around a lone tree in natural grasslands in the rural municipality of Marcos Paz in the eastern province of Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“Grasslands provide a wide range of environmental goods and services, as well as the beef, milk, wool and leather produced by the pasture systems,” environmentalist Fernando Miñarro, the head of FVSA’s Pampas and Gran Chaco Programme, told IPS.

The pampas ecosystem, which is home to more than 370 species of gramineous plant species (mainly types of grass), 400 species of birds, and roughly 100 species of mammals – several of which are threatened, such as the pampas deer – is essential in maintaining the ecological balance.

Threatened grasslands

The pampas eco-region covers 750,000 sq km in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, including 460,000 sq km in several provinces of Argentina.

Between 2002 and 2004 alone, these provinces lost 9,000 sq km of grasslands, at an annual rate of over 0.5 percent. The rate of replacement of grasslands by crops was over five percent in some areas.

Only one-third of Argentina’s pampas ecosystem was covered with natural or semi-natural grasslands, and a significant proportion of the remaining grasslands was used for stockbreeding.

In Uruguay and the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, only 71 and 48 percent, respectively, were still grasslands.

In Paraguay, 44 percent of the ecosystem is in a semi-natural or natural state.

Source: FVSA

“The pampas contribute to the maintenance of the composition of the atmospheric gases through the sequestration of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and soil erosion control, and they are a source of genetic material for a large number of plant and animal species which currently constitute the basis of the global diet,” he said.

They also play a fundamental role as a supplier of pollinating insects and natural enemies of crop pests, he added.

According to Marino, Argentina has lost 60 percent of its grasslands, due to the expansion of intensive agriculture (such as soy and rice production) and commercial forestry, and the urbanisation of the most valuable portions – the areas not prone to flooding.

The initiative, which involves 70 producers on 200,000 hectares of land, seeks to salvage traditional livestock-raising techniques of the pampas, perfected by means of new agricultural methods and ecological practices.

Marino mentioned rotational grazing and spelling of pastures for part of the peak growing season, and prescribed burning – practices that boost the growth of high-quality forage, he explained.

Another technique being used is the creation of small dikes, to retain water during the rainy season.

Using these methods they have curbed the growth of exotic plants and stimulated high-quality grass species for the cattle which, at the same time, attract birds like golden plovers (Pluvialis dominica).

“This is our most illustrative example. On one hand we are focusing on beef production and on the other we are thinking about the plovers’ quality of habitat,” said Marino, referring to precision livestock farming, adapted to each kind of pasture.

Marino, an agronomist and bird-watcher, said that when the project began eight years ago, stockbreeders looked at them as if they were oddballs.

But he said stockbreeders have increasingly turned to them for advice because “we offer a middle way where they earn money while maintaining biodiversity at the same time.”

Miñarro said that “When biodiversity is lost, the stockbreeder has to buy forage or nutrients. These inputs are expensive, and are tied to market prices. Preserving natural grasslands benefits breeders because it’s nothing short of the natural capital that their economic activity is based on.”

And thanks to the changes introduced, their products also fetch higher prices since they now have the grass-fed beef stamp, which open up export markets as well.

A local supermarket in Argentina promotes “grass-fed beef”, a label earned by the 70 stockbreeders participating in the project “Grasslands and Savannas of the Southern Cone of South America: Initiatives for Their Conservation in Argentina Project”, thanks to the changes they introduced. Credit: Courtesy of Gustavo Marino/Aves Argentinas

A local supermarket in Argentina promotes “grass-fed beef”, a label earned by the 70 stockbreeders participating in the project “Grasslands and Savannas of the Southern Cone of South America: Initiatives for Their Conservation in Argentina Project”, thanks to the changes they introduced. Credit: Courtesy of Gustavo Marino/Aves Argentinas

“Consumers increasingly want to know what the production system is like, and this stamp tells them that the beef is pasture-raised in an ecological fashion that respects biodiversity, and that it has the flavour of traditional Argentine beef, which made us famous around the world,” Marino said.

The participating stockbreeders also earn income from bird-watchers, as the programme advertises, provides advice, and trains guides for this ecotourism activity.

Tiziana Prada owns the San Antonio hacienda – a 4,918-hectare estate with some 2,000 head of cattle in the Esteros del Iberá wetlands in the northeast province of Corrientes, where she is practicing sustainable stockbreeding.

“We started out by converting old rice paddies to pasture land for cattle,” she told IPS. “We began seeing more wildlife; there are many more deer, and black howler monkeys, yacaré caiman, and many species of birds have come back.”

This was thanks to the new techniques introduced.

“If you know about the growth cycles of the good-quality grass species, you can manage them according to the seasons….always keeping in mind the nesting and breeding seasons of the birds and other animals that inhabit the grasslands,” she said.

She believes caring for the environment and keeping productivity up “go hand in hand.”

“Stockbreeders, especially now that they are moving into marginal areas, where the ecosystem is much more fragile, have to practice conservation because otherwise our resources are destroyed, our activity won’t be sustainable in time, and we also fervently believe that it is possible to produce sustainably without compromising our efficiency.”

Prada believes stockbreeders are increasingly interested because they can see “there is a growing urban market that is demanding that we preserve the environment so their kids will have a better world tomorrow.”

Moreover, it’s not just about business, she said. “Love of nature is something that rural people carry inside them,” she said.

Marino sums up that spirit with a stanza from a song, “El payador perseguido”, by legendary Argentine folksinger Atahualpa Yupanqui: “Estoy con los de mi lao cinchando tuitos parejos, pa hacer nuevo lo que es viejo y verlo al mundo cambiao” (I’m with those on my side all of us pulling together, to make the old new and see the world change).

“It’s about returning to traditional stockbreeding, but using today’s technologies,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Fish Farming Now a Big Hit in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/fish-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fish-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/fish-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-africa/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:00:18 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141866 Fish farming has fast turned into a way for many Africans to beat poverty and hunger. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Fish farming has fast turned into a way for many Africans to beat poverty and hunger. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Aug 5 2015 (IPS)

Hillary Thompson, aged 62, throws some grains of left-over rice from his last meal, mixed with some beer dregs from his sorghum brew, into a swimming pool that he has converted into a fish pond.

“For over a decade, fish farming has become a hobby that has earned me a fortune,” Thompson, who lives in Milton Park, a low density area in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, told IPS. In fact, he has been able to acquire a number of properties which he now rents out.

Thompson is just one of many here who have struck gold through fish farming.

African strides in fish farming are gaining momentum at a time the United Nations is urging nations the world over to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns as part of its proposed new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire this year.In many African towns and cities, thriving fish farmers have converted their swimming pools and backyards into small-scale fish farming ponds, triggering their proverbial rise from rags to riches

The SDGs are a universal set of 17 goals, targets and indicators that U.N. member states are expected to use as development benchmarks in framing their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.

Faced with nutritional deficits, a number of Africans have turned to fish farming even in towns and cities to complement their diets.

In Zimbabwe, an estimated 22,000 people are involved in fish farming, according to statistics from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Behind the success of many of these fish farmers stands the Aquaculture Zimbabwe Trust, which was established in 2008 to mobilise resources for the sustainable development of environmentally-friendly fisheries in Zimbabwe as a strategy to counter chronic poverty and improve people’s livelihoods.

Over the years, it has been on the ground offering training aimed at building capacity to support the development of fish farming.

The figure for fish farmers is even higher in Malawi, where some 30,000 people are active in fish farming-related activities, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Fisheries are reported to contribute about 70 percent to the protein intake of the developing country’s estimated 14 million people, most of whom are too poor to afford meat.

For many Malawians like Lewis Banda from Blantyre, the country’s second largest city, fish farming has become the way to go. “Fish breeding is a less demanding economic venture, which anyone willing can undertake to do, and fish sell faster because they are cheaper,” he told IPS.

In many African towns and cities, thriving fish farmers have converted their swimming pools and backyards into small-scale fish farming ponds, and many like Banda have seen fish farming trigger their proverbial rise from rags to riches.

“I was destitute when I came to Blantyre eight years ago, but now thanks to fish farming, I have become a proud owner of home rights in the city,” Banda said.

Globally, FAO estimates the value of fish trade to be 51 billion dollars per annum, with over 36 million people employed directly through fishing and aquaculture, while as many as 200 million people derive direct and indirect income from fish.

FAO also reports that, across Africa, fishing provides direct incomes for about 10 million people – half of whom are women – and contributes to the food supply of 200 million more people.

In Uganda, for example, lake fishing yield catches are worth more than 200 million dollars a year, contributing 2.2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while fish farming employs approximately 135,000 fishers and 700,000 more in fish processing and trading.

The rising fish farming trend comes at a time when the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been on record as calling for initiatives such as fish farming to be replicated in order for Africa to harness the full potential of its fisheries in order to strengthen national economies, combat poverty and improve people’s food security and nutrition.

Last year in South Africa, Alan Fleming, the director of The Business Place, an entrepreneur development and assistance organisation based in Cape Town, came up with the idea of using shipping containers as fish ponds, an idea that was well received by the country’s poor communities.

“My children are now all in school thanks to the noble idea hatched by Fleming of having a fish farm designed within the confines of a shipping container, which is indeed an affordable idea for many low-income earners like me,” Mpho Ntabiseni from Philippi, a low-income township in Cape Town, told IPS.

Citing a growing shortage of traditionally harvested fish, the South African government invested 100 million rands (7.8 million dollars) last year in aquaculture projects in all four of the country’s coastal provinces.

In 2014, some 71,000 South Africans were involved in fish farming, according to figures from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

Nutrition experts say that fish farming has added nutritional value to many poor people’s diets. “Fish farming helps poor African communities to add high-value protein to their diet since Africa often suffer challenges of malnutrition,” Agness Mwansa, an independent nutritionist based in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, told IPS.

Adding an environmental concern to the benefits of fish farming, Julius Sadi of the Aquaculture Zimbabwe Trust, told IPS that “fish from aquaculture ponds are preferred by consumers because they are bred in water that is exposed to very little or no pollution, which means that there is high demand and therefore high income for fish farmers.”

As a result, donor agencies such as the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) have helped to give Africa’s aquaculture industry a kick-start over the last decade.

According to FAO studies, about 9.2 million square kilometres (31 percent of the land area) of sub-Saharan Africa is suitable for smallholder fish farming, while 24 countries in the region are battling with food crises, twice as many as in 1990.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report released jointly by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) says that the East and Central Africa regions are most affected, with more than 30 percent of the people in the two regions classified as undernourished.

With fish farming gaining popularity, it could be the only means for many African to beat poverty and hunger. “Fish breeding has emancipated many of us from poverty,” said Banda.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Zimbabwe’s Climate Change Ambitions May be Too Tallhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/zimbabwes-climate-change-ambitions-may-be-too-tall/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 13:12:03 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141841 These Zimbabwean farmers with their harvested sorghum are at the mercy of climate change, while the government struggles with meagre financing and tall ambitions to take adequate action. Credit: UNDP-ALM

These Zimbabwean farmers with their harvested sorghum are at the mercy of climate change, while the government struggles with meagre financing and tall ambitions to take adequate action. Credit: UNDP-ALM

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Aug 2 2015 (IPS)

With the U.N. Climate Change conference later this year in Paris fast approaching, Zimbabwe’s climate change commitments face the slow progress on an issue that continues to stalk other developing countries – climate finance.

As it prepares for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21), Zimbabwe – like many others in the global South – is grappling with radical climate shifts that have seen devastating exchanges of floods and droughts every year, and still awaits green bailout funds from developed nations, with officials here telling IPS, “this support should come in the forms of technology.”

The country’s halting progress on the climate front is being blamed by local climate researchers on the country’s failure to invest in state-of-the-art climate monitoring technology. More still needs to be done as the country heads to Paris, says Sherpard Zvigadza, Programmes Manager, Climate Change and Energy, for the Harare-based ZERO Regional Environment Organisation (ZERO)."The country [Zimbabwe] needs to partner with those in the private sector who are making an effort to develop projects or reduce their footprint, and implement a reward-based strategy so that both individuals and corporates are encouraged to support the government’s policies" – Steve Wentzel, director of Carbon Green Africa

“Zimbabwe should strengthen systematic observation, ensuring improved real-time observations and availability of meteorological data for research,” Zvigadza told IPS.

These concerns arise from what is seen here as repeated failure by the poorly-funded Meteorological Services Department to adequately monitor climate patterns and put in place effective early warning systems for disaster preparedness.

However, these constraints have not stopped Zimbabwe, which for the past two decades has seen a wilting of international financial support for crafting ambitious climate change interventions.

Recurrent climate-induced disasters have shown that this not the time to treat anything as “business as usual”, says Elisha Moyo, principal climate change researcher in the Climate Change Management Department of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

And these efforts have brought together civic society organisations (CSOs), farmers and ordinary Zimbabweans in what is expected to shape the country’s negotiations in Paris.

CSOs point to the fact that Zimbabwe has been identified by GLOBE International, which brings together legislators from all over the world, as having on the most comprehensive environmental laws in southern Africa, and say that this should be a stimulus for helping the country make greater strides in climate governance.

According to a climate ministry brief issued last month, Zimbabwe’s climate policy seeks, among others, weather and climate modelling, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, mitigation and low carbon development.

However, as tall as these ambitions sound, the climate ministry has acknowledged that in the absence of adequate financing the country could still be far from meeting its United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) commitments.

“There is a need to expand current projects as well as develop new projects throughout the country for the country to position itself to be able to raise funding for these developments,” said Steve Wentzel, director of Carbon Green Africa, a Zimbabwe-based company established to facilitate the generation of carbon credits through validating Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects.

“The country needs to partner with those in the private sector who are making an effort to develop projects or reduce their footprint, and implement a reward-based strategy so that both individuals and corporates are encouraged to support the government’s policies,” Wentzel told IPS.

“If the country is serious about moving away from business as usual, awareness raising is key for all stakeholders, including the general population as well as industry,” Zvigadza told IPS. “A vigorous campaign is needed across the country. More importantly, Zimbabwe’s national climate change response strategy has to be operationalised so that the challenges are addressed according to different local circumstances.”

Yet, by the climate ministry’s own admission, progress has remained slow due to the continuing problem of lack of funds, which Moyo believes should be tapped from the richer nations.

“As Africa, and supported by other developing countries from other regions, we believe the rich countries have not yet shouldered a fair share of the burden and should lead by example, in terms of cutting emissions and also providing financial support to poorer nations as stated in the Climate Change Convention,” Moyo told IPS.

And Zimbabwe certainly does need the money. The climate ministry is already wallowing in reduced state funding after the Finance Ministry slashed its national budget from 93 million dollars in 2014 to 52 million this year.

Meanwhile, domestic economic considerations are one of the obstacles to implementation of the country’s troubled climate change policy. Despite seeking to promote clean energy, power generation is still largely fossil fuel-based, where instead of cutting emissions, relatively cheaper coal feeds power generation.

The climate ministry policy brief says the country needs to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy production transmission and use”, but economic hardships have made this a tall order where millions also rely on highly-polluting firewood for fuel.

“We are compiling the “intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and have been conducting consultations and data collection around the country especially with reference to the energy sector, which has a high potential of emission reductions through adoption of
renewable energy wherever possible,” Moyo told IPS.

INDCS are the post-2020 climate actions that countries say they will take under a new international agreement to be reached at COP21 in Paris, and to be submitted to the United Nations by September.

For its climate change ambitions to succeed, Zimbabwe must go back to the grassroots, says Wentzel, but unfortunately “there is a lack of knowledge of climate changes issues,” he told IPS.

As Washington Zhakata, Zimbabwe’s lead climate change negotiator put it: “The road to the Paris summit remains unclear with many stumbling blocks on the road.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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‘Permaculture the African Way’ in Cameroon’s Only Eco-Villagehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/permaculture-the-african-way-in-cameroons-only-eco-village/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=permaculture-the-african-way-in-cameroons-only-eco-village http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/permaculture-the-african-way-in-cameroons-only-eco-village/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 08:16:10 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141834 Scene from Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village in Bafut in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, the country’s first and only eco-village which is based on the principle that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic methods of farming. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Scene from Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village in Bafut in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, the country’s first and only eco-village which is based on the principle that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic methods of farming. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Aug 2 2015 (IPS)

Marking a shift away from the growing trend of abandoning sustainable life styles and drifting from traditional customs and routines, Joshua Konkankoh is a Cameroonian farmer with a vision – that the answer to food insecurity lies in sustainable and organic methods of farming.

Konkankoh, who left a job with the government to pursue that vision, founded Better World Cameroon, which works to develop local sustainable agricultural strategies that utilise indigenous knowledge systems for mitigating food crises and extreme poverty, and is now running Cameroon’s first and only eco-village – the Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village in Bafut in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.

“Biodiversity was protected by traditional beliefs. Felling of some trees and killing of certain animal species in certain forests were prohibited. They were protected by gods and ancestors. We want to protect such heritage” – Joshua Konkankoh
Talking with IPS, Konkankoh explained how the eco-village organically fertilises soil through the planting and pruning of nitrogen-fixing trees planted on farms where mixed cropping is practised. When the trees mature, the middles are cut out and the leaves used as compost. The trees are then left to regenerate and the same procedure is repeated the following season.

“Here we train youths and farmers on permanent agriculture or permaculture,” he said. “I call it ‘permaculture the African way’ because the concept was coined by scientists and we are adapting it to our old ways of farming and protecting the environment.”

While government is keeping its distance from the project, Konkankoh said that local councils and traditional rulers are encouraging people to embrace the initiative, which is said to be ecologically, socially, economically and spiritually friendly.

“I was active during the U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. In studying the reason why many countries failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we realised that there were some gaps but we also found out that permaculture was a solution to sustainability, especially in Africa. So I felt we could contextualize the concept – think globally and act locally.”

The permaculture used at the eco-village makes maximum use of limited agricultural land, and villagers are taught how to plant more than one crop on the same piece of land, use a common organic fertiliser and obtain high yields.

Farmers, said Konkankoh, are encouraged to trade and not seek aid, to benefit from their investment and prevent middlemen and multinationals from scooping up a large share of their earnings. The organic agriculture practised and taught in the eco-village is a blend of culture and fair trade initiatives.

Joshua Konkankoh, founder of Cameroon’s first and only eco-village, shows off some nitrogen-fixing trees. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Joshua Konkankoh, founder of Cameroon’s first and only eco-village, shows off some nitrogen-fixing trees. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

“We encourage rural farmers to guarantee food sovereignty by producing what they also consume directly and not cash crops like cocoa and coffee.”

Farmers are trained in the importance of manure, of producing it and selling it to other farmers, as well in innovative techniques of erosion control, water management, windbreaks, inter-cropping and food foresting.

Konkankoh also told IPS that it was a mistake to have left the spiritual principle out of the MDG programme. “Biodiversity was protected by traditional beliefs.  Felling of some trees and killing of certain animal species in certain forests were prohibited. They were protected by gods and ancestors. We want to protect such heritage.”

The eco-village has started a project to replant spiritual forests with 4,000 medicinal and fruit trees in a bid to reduce CO2 emissions.

Fon Abumbi II, traditional ruler of Bafut, the village which hosts the Ndanifor Permaculture Eco-village, believes that the type of cultivation of fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants used by the eco-village will improve the health of local people.

He is also convinced that with many firms around the world producing health care products with natural herbs, the demand for the products of the eco-village is high, guaranteeing a promising future for the villagers who cultivate them.

Houses in the eco-village are constructed with local materials such as earth bags and mud bricks, and grass for the roofs. Domestic appliances such as ovens and stoves are earthen and homemade.

Sonita Mbah Neh, project administrator at eco-village’s demonstration centre, said that the earthen stoves bit not only reduce the impact of climate change by minimising the use of wood for combustion but the local women who make then also earn a living by selling them.

Lanci Abel, mayor of the Bafut municipality, told IPS that his council is mobilising citizens to embrace permaculture. “You know, when an idea is new, people only embrace it when it is recommended by authorities. We are carrying out communication and sensitisation of the population to return to traditional methods of farming as taught at the eco-village.”

Abel also had something to say about the performance of genetically modified plantain seedlings planted by the Ministry of Agriculture at the start of the 2015 farming season in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, which recorded a miserable 30 percent yield.

The issue had been raised by Mbanya Bolevie, a member of parliament from the region who asked Minister of Agriculture Essimi Menye about the failure of the modern seeds during the June session of parliament.

Julbert Konango, Littoral Regional Delegate for the Chamber of Agriculture, said the failure was due the fact that seeds are often old because “there is inadequate finance for agricultural research organisations in Cameroon as well as a shortage of engineers in the sector,” a sign that the country not fully prepared for second-generation agriculture.

Commenting on the incident, Abel said that citizens using natural seeds and compost would not have faced these problems, adding that “besides the possibility of failure of chemical fertilisers, they also pollute the soil.”

The eco-village, which would like to become a model for Cameroon and West Africa, is a member of the Global Ecovillage Network.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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U.N.’s Post-2015 Development Agenda Under Firehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/u-n-s-post-2015-development-agenda-under-fire/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-s-post-2015-development-agenda-under-fire http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/u-n-s-post-2015-development-agenda-under-fire/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:19:17 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141793 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) with Irish Minister and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Dublin. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) with Irish Minister and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Dublin. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2015 (IPS)

The U.N.’s highly ambitious post-2015 development agenda, which is expected to be finalised shortly, has come fire even before it could get off the ground.

A global network of civil society organisations (CSOs), under the banner United Nations Major Groups (UNMG), has warned that the agenda, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “lacks urgency, a clear implementation strategy and accountability.”“We hoped for a progressive and fair financing agreement that addressed the root causes of global economic inequality and its impact on women’s and girls’ lives. But that’s not what we got." -- Shannon Kowalski

Savio Carvalho of Amnesty International (AI), which is part of the UNMG, told IPS the post-2015 agenda has become an aspirational text sans clear independent mechanisms for people to hold governments to account for implementation and follow-up.

“Under the garb of national ownership, realities and capacities, member states can get away doing absolutely nothing. We would like them to ensure national priorities are set in conformity with human rights principles and standards so that we are not in the same place in 2030,” he added.

The 17 SDGs, which are to be approved by over 150 political leaders at a U.N. summit meeting in September, cover a wide range of socio-economic issues, including poverty, hunger, gender equality, sustainable development, full employment, quality education, global governance, human rights, climate change and sustainable energy for all.

All 17 goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, are expected to be met by the year 2030.

The proposed follow-up and review, as spelled out, lacks a strong accountability mechanism, “with several references to national sovereignty, circumstances and priorities which risk undermining the universal commitment to deliver on the SDGs,” says UNMG.

“We are wondering how committed member states will be able to ensure genuine public participation, in particular of the most marginalised in each society, in decisions that will have an impact on their lives.”

This applies also to questions related to financing (budget allocations) in the actual implementation of the agenda, says a statement titled “Don’t break Your Promise Before Making it”.

“We are keen to ensure that people are able to hold governments to account to these commitments so that these goals are delivered and work for everyone,” says UNMG, which includes a number of coalitions and networks who will be monitoring the post-2015 process.

These groups include CSOs representing women, children and youth, human rights, trade unions and workers, local authorities, volunteers and persons with disabilities.

Asked about the composition of the UNMG, Jaimie Grant, who represents the secretariat for Persons with Disabilities, told IPS that UNMG is the official channel for the public to engage with the United Nations on matters of sustainable development.

“Across all these groups, stakeholders and networks, we share some very broad positions, but there are many thousands of organisations feeding in to it, in various capacities, with various positions and priorities,” he explained.

Adding strength to the chorus of voices from the opposition, the Women’s Major Groups, representing over 600 women’s groups from more than 100 countries, have also faulted the development agenda, criticising its shortcomings.

Shannon Kowalski, director of Advocacy and Policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, told IPS the SDGs could be a major milestone for women and girls.

They have much to gain: better economic opportunities, sexual and reproductive health care and information and protection of reproductive rights, access to education, and lives free from violence, she noted.

“But in order to make this vision a reality, we have to ensure gender equality is at the heart of our efforts, recognising that it is a prerequisite for sustainable development,” she added.

The coalition includes Women in Europe for a Common Future, Equidad de Genero (Mexico), Global Forest Coalition, Women Environmental Programme, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, WEDO (Women’s Environment and Development) and the Forum of Women’s NGOs (Kyrgyzstan).

Kowalski also expressed disappointment over the outcome of the recently concluded conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Addis Ababa.

“We hoped for a progressive and fair financing agreement that addressed the root causes of global economic inequality and its impact on women’s and girls’ lives. But that’s not what we got,” she said.

“We expected strong commitments on financing for gender equality and recognition of the value of women’s unpaid care work. We expected governments to address the systemic drivers of inequalities within and between countries, to establish fair tax policies, to stop illicit financial flows, and to address injustices in international trade structures that disadvantage the poorest countries.”

“We were disappointed that there were no new commitments to increase public financing in order to achieve the SDGs,” Kowalski declared.

Carvalho of Amnesty International said, “It will be impossible to achieve truly transformative sustainable development and to leave no one behind without conducting regular, transparent, holistic and participatory reviews of progress and setbacks at all levels.”

“The agenda acknowledges the need for international financial institutions (IFIs) to respect domestic policy, but does not go far enough to ensure that their activities do not contribute to any human rights violations.”

“I think we need to strengthen the argument for the agenda to be universal – when all countries have to deliver on their commitments and obligations.”

These, he said, include Official Development Assistance (ODA) and tax justice.

Meanwhile, in a statement released to IPS, Beyond 2015, described as a global civil society campaign pushing for a strong successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said “for the SDGs to have a real impact on people’s lives everywhere, people themselves must participate in implementing the goals and reviewing progress, and be active agents in decisions affecting them.”

The Beyond 2015 Campaign said it welcomes the focus on inclusion and participation reflected in the current draft that is being negotiated at the United Nations, and “we count on governments to translate their commitments into action as soon as the SDGs are adopted.”

In implementing the SDGs, it is crucial that states honour their commitment to “leave no one behind”.

“This means tracking progress for all social and economic groups, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, drawing upon data from a wider range of sources, and regular scrutiny with the involvement of people themselves,” the statement added.

Additionally, an even higher level of participation and inclusion is needed, at all levels, when implementation starts.

“People must be aware of the new agenda and take ownership of the goals for real and sustainable changes to occur.”

The Beyond 2015 campaign also welcomed the commitment to an open and transparent follow-up framework for the SDGs, grounded in people’s participation at multiple levels.

“We believe the current draft could be improved by including specific time-bound commitments and endorsing civil society’s role in generating data to review commitments,” it said.

“We insist on the need for governments to translate the SDGs into national commitments as this is a crucial step for governments to be genuinely accountable to people everywhere.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Central America Fails to Take Advantage of Energy from Sun, Wind and Earthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/central-america-fails-to-take-advantage-of-energy-from-sun-wind-and-earth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-fails-to-take-advantage-of-energy-from-sun-wind-and-earth http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/central-america-fails-to-take-advantage-of-energy-from-sun-wind-and-earth/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:00:02 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141781 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/central-america-fails-to-take-advantage-of-energy-from-sun-wind-and-earth/feed/ 1 UAE Described as Pioneer in the Field of Renewable Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/uae-described-as-pioneer-in-the-field-of-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-described-as-pioneer-in-the-field-of-renewable-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/uae-described-as-pioneer-in-the-field-of-renewable-energy/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:27:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141778 Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Plant. Credit: Inhabitat Blog/cc by 2.0

Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Plant. Credit: Inhabitat Blog/cc by 2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 28 2015 (IPS)

When the government of Kenya hosted a U.N. Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in Nairobi back in 1981, one of the conclusions at that meeting was a proposal for the creation of an international agency dedicated to renewable energy.

After nearly 28 years of on-again, off-again negotiations, the first-ever International Renewal Energy Agency (IRENA) was established in 2009.Described as energy efficient and almost car-free, Masdar City aims to prove that cities can be sustainable, even in harsh sun-driven environments as in UAE.

The distinction to host that agency went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), described as one of the pioneers of renewable energy.

On more than one occasion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has singled out the UAE for its relentless contribution towards the U.N.’s ultimate goal of Sustainable Energy for all (SE4ALL).

The United Arab Emirates has been “a strong supporter of renewable energy”, he said, with its key initiative to locate IRENA in Abu Dhabi.

Currently, the UAE hosts not only IRENA, described as the first international organisation to be based in the Middle East, but also the Dubai Carbon Center of Excellence (DCCE).

The DCCE is a joint initiative between the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy aimed at promoting low carbon in Dubai.

IRENA is headed by Director-General Adnan Z. Amin of Kenya.

The concept of SE4ALL takes on added importance in the context of the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda, which will be adopted by over 150 political leaders at the upcoming world summit meeting in September.

The new development agenda is expected to be one of the world body’s most ambitious endeavours to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

But the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be an integral part of that agenda, will also include SE4ALL.

In keeping with SDGs and the U.N.’s development agenda, IRENA is pursuing and supporting international efforts to double the share of renewable energy by 2030, according to a new roadmap launched by the agency back in 2013.

The secretary-general is convinced sustainable energy “is among the most critical issues of our time.” 

One out of every five persons has no reliable access to electricity, he pointed out, and more than double this number – 40 per cent of the global population — still relies on biomass for cooking and heating.

“This is neither equitable nor sustainable,” says Ban.

According to the United Nations, energy is central to everything we do, from powering our economies to empowering women, from generating jobs to strengthening security. And it cuts across all sectors of government and lies at the heart of a country’s core interests.

Renewable energy is primarily energy that comes mostly from natural resources, including sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.

A prime example of an energy efficient project is Masdar City located in Abu Dhabi and built by Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the Government of Abu Dhabi.

At the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2013, which included an international conference on renewable energy, delegates and journalists were taken on a guided tour of Masdar City.

Described as energy efficient and almost car-free, the project aims to prove that cities can be sustainable, even in harsh sun-driven environments as in UAE.

The entire city is powered by a 22-hectare field of over 87,777 solar panels on the roofs of the buildings. And cars have been replaced by a series of driverless electric vehicles that ferry residents around the site.

The design of the walls of the buildings (cushions of air limit heat-radiation) has helped reduce demand for air conditioning by 55 percent.

There are no light switches or taps — just movement sensors that have reduced electricity consumption by 51 percent, and water usage by 55 percent.

In December 2012, the 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring the Decade for Sustainable Energy for All which runs through 2024.

Without electricity, the resolution stressed there was a need “to improve to reliable, affordable, economically-viable, socially-acceptable and environmentally-sound energy sources for sustainable development.”

Last year, the United Nations, along with UAE, co-hosted the Abu Dhabi Ascent in support of the 2014 Climate Summit in September.

The consultations focused on several key issues, including the increased the use of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, reducing emissions from transportation, and deploying climate-smart agriculture.

The discussions also focused on initiatives to address deforestation, short-lived climate pollutants, climate finance, resilience and improving the infrastructure of cities.

Accompanied by UAE’s Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, Ban helicoptered to the Shams Power Plantwhich opened in 2013, and which is a concentrated solar power (CSP) station with 100MW capacity.

Described as the largest single-unit CSP plant in the world, Shams 1 will generate enough electricity to power 20,000 homes and covers an area of about 2.5 square kilometres.

According to current plans, there will be two other similar plants, Shams 2 and Shams 3.

The secretary-general flew to Dubai to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Prime Minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai.

Thanking the UAE for its support of United Nations humanitarian efforts in Syria, Ban commended the Arab nation for its investments in renewable energies.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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One Tune, Different Hymns – Tackling Climate Change in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/one-tune-different-hymns-tackling-climate-change-in-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-tune-different-hymns-tackling-climate-change-in-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/07/one-tune-different-hymns-tackling-climate-change-in-south-africa/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:43:41 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141772 Arnot coal-fired power station in Middelburg, South Africa. Climate activists are pushing for a much greater rollout of renewable energy as the key to shifting the carbon-intensive energy sector towards a sustainable low carbon future. Photo credit: Gerhard Roux/CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0

Arnot coal-fired power station in Middelburg, South Africa. Climate activists are pushing for a much greater rollout of renewable energy as the key to shifting the carbon-intensive energy sector towards a sustainable low carbon future. Photo credit: Gerhard Roux/CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0

By Munyaradzi Makoni
CAPE TOWN, Jul 28 2015 (IPS)

Anti-nuclear energy activists are up in arms, and have taken to vigils outside South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town to protest against President Jacob Zuma’s push for nuclear development.

The protest has been building since September 2014 when Zuma struck a deal with Russia’s Rossatom to build up to eight nuclear power stations in South Africa. The stations would cost the country around 1 trillion South African rands (84 billion dollars).

As the protests mount, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), an interdenominational faith-based environment initiative led by Bishop Geoff Davies, has said the government’s nuclear policy is not only foolish but immoral.“SAFCEI does not believe that nuclear energy is an answer to climate change but is a distraction likely to bankrupt the country [South Africa] and lead to further energy impoverishment” – Liziwe McDaid, energy advisor for the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute

SAFCEI is demanding that the government take a fresh look at its drive for nuclear energy, and the call has found resonance among clean energy civil society organisations (CSOs) in South Africa.

Although CSOs and government agree in the need to tackle climate change urgently, they differ on core issues as South Africa prepares for the U.N. Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris in December.

“We believe that adaptation needs to be given greater emphasis,” says Liziwe McDaid, SAFCEI’s energy advisor. “Building the capacity of affected and vulnerable communities to respond to climate change must be a priority,” she adds.

For mitigation, argues McDaid, a much greater rollout of renewable energy is the key to shifting the carbon-intensive energy sector towards a sustainable low carbon future.

As a participant in the country’s National Climate Change dialogues, she says that SAFCEI shares the aspiration for responsible climate change and “we are in agreement with government on many of the priorities as outlined in the White Paper.”

South Africa’s White Paper seeks to prioritise climate change responses that have huge adaptation benefits, imply significant economic growth and job creation, and are responsive to public health and risk management.

However, stresses McDaid, when it comes to nuclear energy, “SAFCEI does not believe that nuclear energy is an answer to climate change but is a distraction likely to bankrupt the country and lead to further energy impoverishment.”

Dissenting voices

Meanwhile, David Hallowes researcher and editor of Slow Poison for groundWork, another climate change pressure group, feels there is no consensus between the government and the CSOs ahead of the crucial Paris meeting.

South Africa is not doing enough on adaptation, said Hallowes. “Government is still allowing mining and industry to poison water and land in key catchments and agricultural areas,” he told IPS, adding that the result is that climate impacts will be amplified.

The same plants and developments that are driving climate change are poisoning and killing people, animals and plants that are in the path of pollution, “so the people’s struggles for an environment not harmful to their health and wellbeing are also climate struggles.”

According to Hallowes, “there are different views on what can be achieved with renewable energy. We (groundWork) do not think it can power infinite economic growth and hence we do not believe it can sustain a capitalist economy. In the short term, we think we should be looking for a reduction in energy consumption. The question is who gets it for what.”

Referring to South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme, which some say proves the benefits of privatisation, he also pointed to differences over nationalisation or privatisation.

“We think we should have a programme that creates democratic ownership and control of renewable energy at different levels from community or settlement, to municipality to national. We call it energy sovereignty.  The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa calls it social ownership. It’s the same thing.”

The groundWork researcher said that CSOs want to see an end to new coal developments, such as new mines or power stations. “I think everyone agrees but don’t necessarily mean the same thing. For some, it’s just a matter of jobs. We think it means the transformation of the economy towards equality and freedom that is democratic control rather than plutocratic control.”

Muna Lakhani, founder and national coordinator of the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa (IZWA), is equally concerned that government is not doing enough to fight climate change.

“Our government sees too much of ‘business as usual’ and is very lax in implementing even the minimal legislation, such as air quality permits, carbon taxes and the like,” he says.

According to Lakhani, CSOs are mostly united on key issues, such as the call for no more fossil fuel, a bigger push for renewables, and promoting local resilience especially of poorer communities and the generally disadvantaged.

Government role

Leluma Matooane, director of Earth Systems Science at Department of Science and Technology (DST) says the Department of Environmental Affairs has the responsibility to implement the country’s National Climate Change Response Policy but that the DST has taken a leadership and coordinating role in climate change research and in ensuring that the country’s responses to climate change are informed by robust science.

Under DST’s 10-Year Innovation Plan, argues Matooane, more focus is being placed on improving the scientific understanding of the drivers, impacts and risks of climate change, as well as on technological innovations the country may need to allow vulnerable sectors of the economy and society at large to adapt.

While views may differ on how to deal with climate change, notes the DST official, government has allowed the setting up of a multi-stakeholder grouping in which government has been joined by the private sector and civil society to discuss solutions.

Discussions in this grouping, he adds, influence and shape the country’s position in international debates and there is a deliberate attempt to have South Africa’s representatives deliver the similar position and messages at different platforms.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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