Inter Press Service » Green Economy News and Views from the Global South Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:42:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferent Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:53:07 +0000 Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipline and austerity easily overran those pleading for development and growth as a priority and it alienated many of citizens caught in the fight.

Then come the East-West divide. It become clear that the countries which were under the Soviet Union, joined the EU purely for economic reasons, and did not identify with the so called European values, the basis for the founding treaties. Solidarity was not only ignored, but actively rejected, first with Greece, and now with the refugees. There are now two countries, first Hungary and now Poland, which explicitly reject the “European model and values”, one to defend an autocratic model of governance, and the other Christian values, ignoring any declarations emanating from Brussels.

At the same time, another ominous development emerged. British Prime Minister David Cameron used threats to get special conditions, or in order to leave the EU altogether. At Davos, he explicitly said that Britain was in the EU for the market, but rejects everything else, and especially any possible further integration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending soothing signs, and all European countries are in the process of trying to recover as much sovereignty as possible. Therefore, whatever Britain may get in the end will serve as a benchmark for everyone else. It is revealing that in Britain, the pro-Europe lobby is run by the financial and economic sector, and there is no citizen’s movement.

All this is happening within a framework of economic stagnation that even unprecedented financial injections from the European Central Bank have not been able to lift.

The list of countries in trouble does not cover only countries from the South. Leaders of fiscal rectitude, like the Netherlands and Finland, are in serious difficulty. The only country which is doing relatively well, Germany, enjoys a positive trade balance with the rest of Europe, has a much lower rate of interest mainly due to its generally better performance; it has been calculated that over half of its positive budget comes from its asymmetric relations with the rest of Europe. Yet, Germany has stubbornly refused to use some of these revenues to create any pact to socialize its assets, like a European Fund to bail out countries, or anything similar. Hardly a shining example of solidarity….as its minister of finance, Wolfgang Schauble, famously said, “we are not going to give the gains that we have sweated for to those who have not worked hard the way we have…”

Finally, the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort. Last year, more than 1,3 million people escaping conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria, arrived in Europe. This year, according the High Commissioner for Refugees, at least another million are expected to find their way to Europe.

What has been happening, shows the European reality. The Commission determined that 40.000 people, a mere drop in the ocean, should be relocated from Syria and Ethiopia. This led to a furious process of bargaining, with the Eastern European countries flatly refusing to take part and in spite of threats by the Commission. As of today, the total number of people who have relocated is a mere 201.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel decided to open Germany up to one million refugees, mainly Syrians. But a smart interpretation of the Treaty on Refugees made clear that economic refugees (as well as climate) were excluded, and it was then declared that the Balkans were safe and secure, thereby excluding any Europeans coming to Germany by way of Albania, Kosovo and other countries not yet part of the EU.

It is interesting that, at the same time, Montenegro was invited to join Nato, which, by coincidence also serves to increase the containment of Russia, thanks to a standing army of 3.000. But of course, the flood of people made it difficult to process the paperwork required, and so each country was forced to resort to its own way of doing things, without any relation with Brussels.

Austria declared that it would admit only 37.500 asylum applications.

Denmark, besides creating a campaign to announce to refugees that they were not welcome, passed a law that delays family reunification for three years, and authorises the authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and jewels exceeding US$1.400.

Sweden announced that it would give shorter residence permits, and that strict controls will be imposed on trains coming from Denmark.

Finland and Holland have indicated that they will immediately expel all those who do not fit under strict norms as refugees. Great Britain, which was responsible together with the United States for the Iraq invasion (from which ISIS was born) has announced that it will take 27.000 refugees.

There has been a veritable flourishing of wall construction, constructed in Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria. Meanwhile Europe tried to buy the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with three billion euros, as a way to stop the flow of refugees but it didn’t work. Now Greece is the culprit, because it was not able to adequately process the nearly 800.000 people who transitted the country.

Austria has asked to exclude Greece from the Schengen agreement, and move European borders “further north” . This chapter is now being concluded by the German initiative to introduce, once again national border controls, for a period of two years. Last year, there were 56 million trucks crossing between countries, and every day 1,7 million people crossed between borders.

To eliminate the Schengen agreement for free movement of Europeans, would be a very powerful signal. But more critically are the imminent political changes which see anti-European and xenophobic parties all riding the wave of fear and insecurity crossing Europe.

In Germany, where Angela Merkel is increasingly losing support, the Party for an Alternative, which has been relatively marginal, could achieve representation in at least three provinces. Across Europe, from France to Italy, from Great Britain to the Netherlands, right wing parties are on the rise.

These parties all use some form of left wing rhetoric: Let us renationalize industries and banks, increase social safety nets, fight against neoliberal globalization…

Hungary has heavily taxed foreign banks to get them to leave, and Poland is using similar language. Their target is very simple: the unemployed, the under employed, retirees, all those with precarious livelihoods, those who feel that they have been left out of the political system and dream of a glorious yesterday. If it is working in the United States with the likes of DonaldTrump, it will work here.

Therefore, there is no doubt that at this moment a referendum for Europe would never pass. Citizens do not feel that this is ‘their’ Europe. This is a serious problem for a democratic Europe.

Will the European Union survive? Probably, but it will be more a kind of common market for finance and business rather than a citizen’s project. It will also hasten the reduction of European power in the world, and the loss of European identity, once the most revolutionary project in modern history.


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Core Principals of Climate Finance to Realize the Paris Agreement Fri, 29 Jan 2016 21:42:36 +0000 Stephen Gold

Stephen Gold is Global Head - Climate Change, at UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

By Stephen Gold

The Paris climate change conference brought together 197 countries and over 150 Heads of State – the largest convening of world leaders in history – to agree on measures and work together to limit the global average temperature rise.

While world leaders and the Agreement they adopted recognize climate change as one of the greatest development challenges of this generation and of generations to come, we are now faced with the next, more difficult step: to raise and wisely spend the money that is needed for us to act.

During my discussions with countries in Paris last month, I listened to concerns expressed by dozens of developing country government representatives about the challenges they face in securing the necessary financing. This is a significant challenge; while countries outlined their Paris Agreement climate targets on mitigation and adaptation via the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” or “INDCs”, turning these targets into actionable plans requires financing.

To help frame this challenge, three key principles for catalyzing and supporting access to climate finance for sustainable development must be considered.

First, climate finance should be equitable. We must ensure that resources are available to all developing countries who need it. Likewise all segments of the populations, women and men, including from indigenous groups within those countries, should be able to participate and benefit.

Second, it should be efficient, in that public finance must be used to maximize its potential and to bring about far larger sums of finance, particularly in private investment. UNDP helps countries to access, combine and sequence environmental finance to deliver benefits that address the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty reduction, energy access, food and water security, and increased employment opportunities.

This includes support for diversifying livelihoods through agricultural practices that are more resilient to droughts and floods, improving market access for climate resilient products, disseminating weather and climate information through mobile platforms, and improving access to affordable energy efficient and renewable energy sources.

Third, it should be effective by being transformational and strengthening capacities so that climate and development goals can be achieved in an integrated manner. To make a sufficiently profound impact that moves toward a zero carbon economy, countries know they will need to effectively use the limited public climate finance available in a catalytic manner, so as to secure wider-scale finance from capital markets in a meaningful and sustainable manner. This can include taking significant actions to address existing policy barriers and regulatory constraints to investment that will help create investment opportunities.

UNDP has for example, supported such measures in Uruguay and Cambodia, encouraging affordable wind energy and climate-resilient agricultural practices respectively. This is not to say that institutional investors alone will or should provide a magic bullet for climate-friendly investment. However, there may be opportunities for institutional investors to make climate-smart investment a part of their portfolios while meeting government development objectives somewhere in the middle.

Following these three principles are by no means a guarantee of success, however adhering to them will strengthen our efforts substantially. The evolving climate finance landscape provides new opportunities for countries to strengthen their national systems and incentive mechanisms to attract the needed finance at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

Through our collective adherence to the key principles of equity, efficiency and effectiveness, more countries will be more likely to access the finance they need to achieve their development goals, including those outlined in the Paris Agreement.

There is no more critical time than now to act. 2016 is a pivotal year that will set the stage for inter-governmental action on climate change in response to the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and other global agreements for years to come. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the sustainable development agenda and to support countries with the resources and tools they need to achieve their goals.

These processes can create the right frameworks to unlock and access scaled-up resources. They also provide a unique opportunity to set new goals and objectives for the global development community, incentivizing innovative approaches, helping to foster gender equality and supporting long-term sustainable development.

Let us ensure we have sufficient resources to undertake the actions needed, and let us make sure we use those resources wisely so that we achieve success.


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The UAE’s Journey Towards Clean Energy Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:04:44 +0000 Rajeev Batra Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.]]>

Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.

By Rajeev Batra, Special to Gulf News
ABU DHABI, Jan 29 2016 (IPS)

(WAM) - The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves brought tremendous prosperity for the UAE and made it a central player in the global energy market. With one of the highest gross domestic product per capita levels in the world, the UAE has generally used its wealth wisely to stimulate sustainable economic growth. However, volatility in oil markets, growing unrest across the region and the growing threat of climate change has concentrated minds on the need for immediate and decisive action.

Credit: Gulf News archive

Credit: Gulf News archive

The UAE has long recognised that environmental responsibility and economic diversification are essential for a better, more sustainable future. As the first country in the region to set renewable energy targets and as home to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), Masdar City and the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the shift towards cleaner energy sources and reduced carbon emissions is evident.

Ahead of last month’s COP21 summit in Paris, the UAE government pledged to increase clean energy’s share of the national energy mix to 24 per cent by 2021. This is a pivotal step towards making the UAE a global centre of renewable energy innovation. With more than 300 days of abundant sunshine every year, increasing solar’s share of the UAE energy mix should be attainable. Hydrocarbons that are not burnt to generate electricity can be used for other, higher value-adding purposes, or sold to increase the gross national income. Clean energy could also reduce the long-term social costs the government will face as adverse environmental and health effects could be minimised — or even eradicated.

The UAE should be proud of its clean energy leadership role. Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy agency Masdar was a key sponsor of Solar Impulse, the flying laboratory full of clean technologies that represents 12 years of research and development. Solar Impulse generated tremendous global excitement when it attempted the first round-the-world solar flight to demonstrate how a pioneering spirit and clean technologies can change the world.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize — which represents the environmental stewardship vision of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan — celebrates impactful, innovative and long-term achievements in renewable energy and sustainability. It reflects the UAE’s commitment to finding solutions that meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment. The 2016 winners were announced on January 19 and ranged from SOS HG Shaikh Secondary School, a school for 300 students three hours from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, to BYD, the largest rechargeable battery supplier and new energy vehicle manufacturer, based in Shenzhen. A lifetime achievement award to Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland recognised her many achievements and accomplishments, included being a guiding force behind the “Brundtland Report” on sustainability over 25 years ago.

The UAE, like many other developed and developing countries, faces a number of clean energy and carbon emission issues. In a reflection of its growing economy, there is an increasing number of vehicles on our roads, leading to increasing fuel usage and higher carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide levels. Electricity demand from individuals, industries and commercial buildings — which are major consumers of electricity — is high and the UAE has a significant carbon footprint. Competitively priced oil, gas and energy prices, while driving economic growth in some traditional industries, is undermining renewable energy and stifling growth in what could be a key sector of the country’s future economy.

The recent adoption of the Paris agreement was a historic moment. COP21 was an unprecedented international climate deal and presents both risks and opportunities for businesses who have an important role in terms of emissions reductions and investments to help governments achieve the goals.

As countries start reforming their economies based on their COP21 commitments, we should see the global economy evolving to a lower carbon model. Companies will be required to be more open and transparent about the financial, environmental and social risks and opportunities that they face from climate change.

Investment in clean technology should grow dramatically — governments are expected to double their clean-tech research and development budgets and the private sector is likely to increase its involvement and investment. The role of the private sector, in fact, is key to the sustainability agenda — because of its central role in the development of the global economy. The increase in the private sector’s rate of triple bottom-line reporting — which focuses on social and environmental as well as economic costs and benefits — will be a key marker of the likely success, or failure, of the COP21 programme.


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Global Renewable Energy Investments a Win-Win Scenario Thu, 28 Jan 2016 06:35:27 +0000 Wambi Michael 0 Energy from All Sources, a Game of Chance in Brazil Thu, 28 Jan 2016 00:33:40 +0000 Mario Osava An industrial sugar and ethanol plant in Sertãozinho, in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo. The sugar cane industry in Brazil has shrunk under the government of Dilma Rousseff, due to the gasoline subsidy, which dealt a blow to its competitor, ethanol. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

An industrial sugar and ethanol plant in Sertãozinho, in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo. The sugar cane industry in Brazil has shrunk under the government of Dilma Rousseff, due to the gasoline subsidy, which dealt a blow to its competitor, ethanol. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 28 2016 (IPS)

Brazil, which boasts that it has one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, is now plagued by corruption, poor market conditions, and bad decisions – a near fatal combination.

Brazil’s energy mix is made up of 42 percent renewable sources, three times the global average.

But the country also hopes to become a major oil exporter, thanks to the 2006 discovery of the “pre-salt” wells – huge reserves of crude under a thick layer of salt far below the surface, 300 km from the coast.

Megaprojects involving the construction of refineries and petrochemical plants, dozens of shipyards that mushroomed up and down the coast, and the dream of turning the new oil wealth into a better future lost their charm in the face of the corruption scandal that broke out in 2014, revealing the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the state oil giant Petrobras.

Nearly 200 people are facing charges in the scandal for paying or receiving kickbacks for inflated contracts. Around 50 of them are politicians, most of them still active members of Congress.

The heads of the country’s biggest construction companies were arrested, which dealt a blow to the real estate market and major infrastructure works nationwide.

The investigations took on momentum when over 30 of those facing prosecution struck plea bargain deals, agreeing to cooperate in exchange for shorter sentences.

The scandal is one of the main elements in the economic and political crisis shaking the country, which saw an estimated drop in GDP of more than three percent in 2015, rising inflation, a dangerously high fiscal deficit, a threat of impeachment hanging over President Dilma Rousseff and chaos in parliament.

Besides the corruption scandal, Petrobras has been hit hard by the collapse of oil prices, which has threatened its investment in the pre-salt reserves, and by the losses it accumulated during years of government fuel-price controls.

The government took advantage of Petrobras’ monopoly on refining to curb inflation by means of price controls, mainly for gasoline.

But the oil company scandal, which broke out after the October 2014 elections in which Rousseff was reelected, fuelled the growth of inflation, to over 10 percent today.

With Petrobras in financial crisis and selling off assets to pay down its debt, none of the four planned refineries has been completed according to plan. The only one that was finished is operating at only half of the planned capacity.

Most of the shipyards, which were to supply the oil drilling rigs, offshore platforms and tankers involved in the production of pre-salt oil, have gone under, and the government’s plans to build a strong naval industry have floundered.

The priority put on oil production, to the detriment of the fight against climate change, along with subsidised gasoline prices dealt a major blow to ethanol, which was enjoying a new boom since the emergence in 2003 of the flexible fuel vehicle, specially designed to run on gasoline or ethanol or a blend of the two.

The innovative new technology revived consumer confidence in ethanol, which had been undermined in the previous decade due to supply shortages. With the flex-fuel cars, consumers no longer had to depend on one kind of fuel and could choose whichever was cheaper at any given time.

The use of ethanol, which is consumed in nearly the same quantities as gasoline in Brazil, broke the monopoly of fossil fuels, making a decisive contribution to the rise in the use of renewable energies.

But gasoline price subsidies drove many ethanol plants into bankruptcy and led to the sale of one-third of the sugarcane industry to foreign investors. Many local companies, facing financial disaster, sold their sugar mills and distilleries to transnational corporations like Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Tereos.

Brazil has practically given up on the idea of creating an international market for ethanol, after initially encouraging consumption and production of the biofuel made from sugarcane. Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) was very active in this campaign, unlike his successor Rousseff.

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará – a mega-project which is 80 percent complete and is set to be finished in 2019. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará – a mega-project which is 80 percent complete and is set to be finished in 2019. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Another decisive factor in achieving a more renewables-heavy energy mix is the predominance of hydroelectricity in the generation of electric power. In recent years, wind power has grown fast, and the use of biomass from sugarcane bagasse has also expanded, although to a lesser extent.

But the construction of giant hydropower dams in the Amazon jungle, such as Belo Monte on the Xingú River, has drawn strong opposition from indigenous communities and environmentalists, which, along with legal action by the public prosecutor’s office, has brought work on Belo Monte to a halt dozens of times.

As a result, work on the dam has been delayed by over a year. One of the latest legal rulings suspended the plant’s operating permit, and could block the filling of the reservoirs, which was to start in March this year.

When the plant comes fully onstream in 2019, Belo Monte will have an installed capacity of 11,233 MW. But during the dry season, when water levels in the river are low, it will generate almost no electric power. The flow of water in the Xingú River varies drastically, and the reservoir will not store up enough water to fuel the turbines during the dry months.

The dam has come under harsh criticism, even from advocates of hydropower, such as physicist José Goldemberg, a world-renowned expert on energy.

The controversy surrounding Belo Monte threatens the government’s plans for the Tapajós River, to the west of the Xingú River – the new hydroelectric frontier in the Amazon. For the last two years, the Rousseff administration has been trying to find investors to build and operate the São Luiz del Tapajós dam, which would generate 8,040 MW of electricity.

The presence of the Munduruku indigenous community along that stretch of the river and in the area of the São Luiz dam has stood in the way of the environmental licensing process.

The diversity of sources in Brazil’s energy mix, lessons learned from earlier negative experiences, and the complexity of the integrated national grid make decisions on energy almost a game of chance in this country.

Hydroelectric dams built in the Amazon rainforest in the 1980s, like Tucuruí and Balbina, caused environmental and social disasters that tarnished the reputation of hydropower. Belo Monte later threw up new hurdles to the development of this source of energy.

Another alternative source, nuclear energy, also brought negative experiences. Completion of the country’s second nuclear plant, still under construction in Angra dos Reis, 170 km from Rio de Janeiro, has long been delayed.

It formed part of a series of eight nuclear power plants that the military decided to build, during the 1964-1985 dictatorship, signing an agreement in 1975 with Germany, which was to provide technology and equipment.

Economic crisis brought the programme to a halt in the 1980s. One of the plants was completed in 2000 and the other is still being built, because the equipment had already been imported over 30 years ago. The final cost overruns will be enormous.

For the government and the different sectors involved in policy-making in the energy industry, giving up hydropower is unthinkable.

But the advances made in wind power, new energy storage technologies, and especially the reduction of costs in the production of solar power increase the risk of making large hydropower dams, which are built to operate for over a hundred years, obsolete.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Hydropower at Front and Centre of Energy Debate in Chile, Once Again Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:09:26 +0000 Marianela Jarroud General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America, in the Aysén region in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness, a place of abundant water resources.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America, in the Aysén region in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness, a place of abundant water resources. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jan 27 2016 (IPS)

The Chilean government’s approval of a hydroelectric dam in the Patagonia wilderness has rekindled the debate on the sustainability and efficiency of large-scale hydropower plants and whether they contribute to building a cleaner energy mix.

“Hydroelectricity can be clean and viable, but we believe every kind of energy should be developed on a human scale, and must be in accordance with the size and potential of local communities,” Claudia Torres, spokeswoman for the Patagonia Without Dams movement, told IPS.

She added that “there are different reasons that socioenvironmental movements like ours are opposed to mega-dams: because of the mega-impacts, and because of the way this energy is used – to meet the needs of the big mining corporations that are causing an environmental catastrophe in the north of the country.”

The movements fighting the construction of large dams in the southern Patagonian region of Aysén suffered a major defeat on Jan. 18, when the plan for the 640 MW Cuervo dam was approved.

This South American nation of 17.6 million people has a total installed capacity of 20,203 MW of electricity. The interconnected Central and Norte Grande power grids account for 78.38 percent and 20.98 percent of the country’s electric power, respectively.

Of Chile’s total energy supply, 58.4 percent is generated by diesel fuel, coal and natural gas. The country is seeking to drastically reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels, to cut costs and to meet its climate change commitments.

Large-scale hydropower provides 20 percent of the country’s electricity, while 13.5 percent comes from unconventional renewable sources like wind and solar power, mini-dams and biomass.

Chile has enormous potential in unconventional renewable sources. In 2014, the government of Michelle Bachelet adopted a new energy agenda that set a target for 70 percent of Chile’s electric power to come from renewables by 2050.

In terms of water resources, Chile has 6,500 km of coastline, 11,452 square km of lakes, and innumerable rivers.

Aysén, in the extreme south of the country, has abundant water resources – fast-flowing rivers, numerous lakes, and distinctive lagoons. General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America after Bolivia’s Titicaca, is found in that region.

To generate hydroelectricity, the authorities and investors have their eyes on the wild rivers of Patagonia, a remote, untamed, unspoiled and sparsely populated wilderness area at the far southern tip of Chile.

But vast segments of civil society reject large hydropower dams, which they consider obsolete and a threat to the environment and to local communities.

However, Professor Matías Peredo, an expert on hydropower at the University of Santiago de Chile, says that thanks to the country’s abundant water resources, hydroelectricity is “one of the energy sources with the greatest potential for development.”

“It’s always good to diversify the energy mix, and well-managed hydroelectricity is quite sustainable,” he told IPS.

The expert argued that a properly managed hydropower dam “is better from an environmental and social point of view than a string of small dams that together provide the same number of MW of electric power.”

Ensuring that a hydroelectricity plant is well-managed means avoiding major fluctuations, Peredo said.

“Hydropower generation in Chile depends on demand and the plant’s load capacity….In other words, the plant can only operate with prior authorisation from the Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles (the country’s power regulator), and depending on the availability of water,” he said.

“This combination means the hydroelectric plant operates on and off, thus generating large fluctuations in flow, which is a major stress for the ecosystem,” he said.

The law to reform the energy industry and foment unconventional renewable sources includes in this category hydropower dams of up to 20 MW – in other words, mini-dams.

Environmental organisations like Ecosistemas maintain that large hydroelectric dams have extremely negative social and environmental impacts.

These include the flooding of large areas of land, which destroys flora and fauna, and the modification of rivers, which causes bioecological damage.

And the negative social impacts of large dams are proportional to the multiple environmental impacts, displacing millions of people: between 40 and 80 million people were forcibly evicted for the construction of large dams worldwide between 1945 and 2000, according to the World Commission on Dams (WCD).

“It is important to diversify the energy mix, for local use, with good support, clean energy sources, and considerably fewer impacts, while strengthening consumption and development in the territories,” said Torres, the Patagonia Without Dams activist, from Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén region.

“Decentralised power generation is key” to moving forward in terms of clean, sustainable energy, she said, adding that the people of Aysén are seeking to expand the use if wind, solar and tidal power in the region.

Peredo agreed that the decentralisation of power generation is of strategic importance.

“Distributed generation (power generation at the point of consumption) must without a doubt be discussed in this country. It makes a lot of sense for electricity to be produced locally,” he said.

In 2014 the Patagonia Without Dams movement won a major victory when the government cancelled the HidroAysén project, which would have built five large hydropower dams on wilderness rivers in Aysén to generate a combined total of 2,700 MW of energy.

But now the movement was dealt a blow, with the approval by a special Committee of Ministers of the construction of the Cuervo dam – a decision that can only be blocked by a court decision.

The project, developed by Energía Austral, a joint venture between the Swiss firm Glencore and Australia’s Origin Energy, would be built at the headwaters of the Cuervo River, some 45 km from the city of Puerto Aysén, the second-largest city in the region after Coyhaique, for a total investment of 733 million dollars.

Energía Austral is studying the possibility of a submarine power cable and an aerial submarine power line, to connect to the central grids.

The controversy over the plant has heated up because it would be built in the Liquiñe-Ofqui geological fault zone, an area of active volcanoes.

“It poses an imminent risk to the local population,” Torres warned.

Peredo said “the project was poorly designed from the start, and will not be managed well.”

“They failed to take into consideration important aspects, such as the connection of the Yulton and Meullín rivers at some point, which could have disastrous consequences for the ecosystem,” he said.

Opponents of the dam say they will go to the courts and apply social and political pressure, in a year of municipal elections.

“We have one single aim: to keep any dams from being built in Patagonia, and that’s what’s going to happen,” Torres said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Nevis Has A Date With Geothermal Energy Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:19:29 +0000 Desmond Brown 0 Innovative Project to Provide Renewable Energy 24/7 to Chilean Village Fri, 15 Jan 2016 16:52:55 +0000 Marianela Jarroud The fishing village of Caleta San Marcos in northern Chile, 100 km from Iquique and 1,800 km north of Santiago, will be the site of an innovative project, Espejo de Tarapacá, that will combine renewable sources to provide the local residents with a steady 24/7 energy supply. Courtesy Valhalla Energía

The fishing village of Caleta San Marcos in northern Chile, 100 km from Iquique and 1,800 km north of Santiago, will be the site of an innovative project, Espejo de Tarapacá, that will combine renewable sources to provide the local residents with a steady 24/7 energy supply. Courtesy Valhalla Energía

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jan 15 2016 (IPS)

A novel energy project in Chile will combine a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant operating on seawater and a solar plant, to provide a steady supply of clean energy to a fishing village in the Atacama Desert, the world’s driest.

The idea may seem unlikely, given the extreme aridity and lack of water in northern Chile, where copper, gold and silver mining corporations use most of the water and energy consumed.

But the initiative has drawn the interest of local and foreign investors. And in 2015 it won the Avonni National Innovation Award granted by the Chilean Innovation Forum, the National TV Station TVN, El Mercurio – the country’s largest newspaper – and the Economy Ministry.

“Nowhere in the world have they managed to offer clean energy 24/7 at competitive prices, without subsidies,” said Juan Andrés Camus, general manager and one of the two founders of Valhalla Energía, the local company that is carrying out the project.

“The convergence of these three elements is unique, and it’s not a stroke of genius on our part but a wonderful gift of nature,” he told IPS.

The company was founded on the premise that Chile is a country that is poor in the “energies of the past, but infinitely rich in energies of the future.”

With an investment of 400 million dollars, the Espejo (Mirror) de Tarapacá will essentially operate as a big battery that will store up energy. Construction is to begin in late 2016 and it is set to come onstream in 2020.

The project includes the installation of a pumped-storage hydroelectric plant, which will pump seawater up a cliff on the coast using solar energy, to a natural storage basin at an altitude of 600 metres.

In the night-time, when no solar energy is available, the plant will generate electricity by releasing the stored water, which will rush down through the same tunnels. This will provide a steady round-the-clock supply of energy – 24 hours a day/seven days a week – overcoming the problem of intermittency of renewable energy sources.

Scale model of Espejo de Tarapacá, a renewable energy project that will take advantage of Chile’s coastal geography, with a cliff where seawater will be pumped up to a natural storage basin at an altitude of 600 metres, in the extreme north of the country. Credit: Courtesy Valhalla Energía

Scale model of Espejo de Tarapacá, a renewable energy project that will take advantage of Chile’s coastal geography, with a cliff where seawater will be pumped up to a natural storage basin at an altitude of 600 metres, in the extreme north of the country. Credit: Courtesy Valhalla Energía

El Espejo will generate 300 MW of electricity in Caleta San Marcos, in the extreme northern region of Tarapacá, 100 km south of the city of Iquique.

At the same time, the company will build Cielos de Tarapacá, a 1,650-hectare solar park in nearby Pintados that will produce 600 MW of energy, with a projected investment of nearly one billion dollars.

The solar project, which is waiting for an environmental permit, will operate with single-axis tracking technology in order to follow the sun during the day from east to west.

Camus said the solar park will be so large that “if it began to operate in 2015 it would be the biggest in the world.”

At night, the plant will continue generating solar power, thanks to the energy stored in Espejo.

The salient aspect of the two projects is that they will harness the natural attributes that Chile has in abundance: seawater, coastal cliffs, and the Atacama Desert’s solar radiation.

This will avoid the need to build dams and reduce construction of underground tunnels by up to 80 percent, according to the promoters of the project, who say it is one of the most innovative renewable energy initiatives in the world.

“More than in the technology employed, the innovation of Espejo de Tarapacá lies in the more efficient use of geography, which makes it possible to build the plant at the lowest possible cost,” said Camus.

“The big opportunity is in the efficient use of the territory, more than in the technological barrier,” he added. Chile is a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east. It has 6,435 km of coast line.

Valhalla has been working closely with the people of Caleta San Marcos.

The fishing village’s 300 inhabitants, who make a living from small-scale fishing and harvesting shellfish and giant kelp, were initially wary, afraid the initiative would have a negative impact on local marine resources.

Working groups were set up to discuss things with the local community, who asked for advisers with expertise in marine issues and a lawyer to support them in technical and legal aspects.

Finally, after months of work, the company signed agreements with the local fishing union and the residents’ association pledging to make contributions to the local community. They also agreed on a set of principles to guarantee transparent management of the plant, as well as a mechanism to address problems in case damage to the sea is detected.

Aerial view of the area where the Espejo de Tarapacá project will be built, to produce 300 MW of electricity using seawater and solar energy, in an innovative plant that will generate energy 24/7 in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Credit: Courtesy of Valhalla Energía

Aerial view of the area where the Espejo de Tarapacá project will be built, to produce 300 MW of electricity using seawater and solar energy, in an innovative plant that will generate energy 24/7 in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Credit: Courtesy of Valhalla Energía

“This has been beneficial, and I hope other communities can have access to this and will be able to decide for themselves, but with information, equal opportunity, while defending their rights, so that ignorance doesn’t become a curb on development,” said Genaro Collao, president of the local fishing union of Caleta San Marcos.

“At this tipping point the decision is: I put money in your pocket or I improve your life,” he told IPS by phone from the village. “Money in my pocket is going to last one day, one week, one month. But life is an ongoing legacy, that’s the concept.”

This South American nation of 17.6 million people has a total installed capacity of 20,203 MW of electricity. The interconnected Central and Norte Grande power grids account for 78.38 percent and 20.98 percent of total electric power, respectively.

Of the country’s total energy supply, 58.4 percent is generated by diesel fuel, coal and natural gas, while the rest comes from renewable energy sources – mainly large hydropower dams.

Only 13.5 percent comes from unconventional renewable sources like wind power (4.57 percent), solar (3.79 percent), mini-dams (2.8 percent) and biomass (2.34 percent).

In 2014, the government of Michelle Bachelet adopted a new energy agenda that set a target for 70 percent of Chile’s electric power to come from renewable sources by 2050.

“Seventy percent of the greenhouse gases in Chile come from the energy sector,” Environment Minister Pablo Badenier has told IPS. “That means it is our commitments in energy that will enable us to live up to the pledge to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”

“Looking at the 2050 energy road map, it appears viable that by the year 2050, 70 percent of power generation in Chile could come from renewable sources. That is what makes it possible to seriously commit to this goal regarding greenhouse gases.”

Studies indicate that Atacama has one of the highest concentrations of solar energy in the world. According to experts, the entire country could be supplied with electricity if less than 0.5 percent of the desert’s surface were covered by solar panels.

“Projects like this one could offer an opportunity by putting Chile at the forefront of development of green technology that does not require people to pay more for it,” said Camus.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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TAIWAN: Polls Harken End of Nuclear Power Wed, 13 Jan 2016 13:51:11 +0000 Dennis Engbarth 0 Caribbean Journalists Prepare to Report on Climate Change Wed, 06 Jan 2016 03:09:45 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez Dominican journalist Amelia Deschamps addressing a workshop in Santo Domingo on the role of reporters with regard to climate change. Researchers and journalists from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic took part in the event. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Dominican journalist Amelia Deschamps addressing a workshop in Santo Domingo on the role of reporters with regard to climate change. Researchers and journalists from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic took part in the event. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González

Environmentally committed journalists in the Caribbean point to a major challenge for media workers: communicating and raising awareness about the crucial climate change agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.

“Scientific information must be published in clearer language, and we must talk about the real impact of climate change on people’s lives,” journalist Amelia Deschamps, an anchorwoman on the El Día newcast of the Dominican channel Telesistema 11, told IPS.

She was referring to the communication challenges posed in the wake of COP21 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris to produce the first universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb the negative impacts of global warming.

“So far good intentions abound, but there are few practical steps being taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation,” said Deschamps.

In the view of this journalist who specialises in environmental affairs, media coverage of global warming “has been very weak and oversimplified,” which she said has contributed to the public sense that it is a “merely scientific” issue that has little connection to people’s lives.

“People are more concerned about things that directly affect them,” said Deschamps, who is also an activist for risk management in poor communities, and considers citizen mobilisation key to curbing damage to the environment.

The 195 country parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in the French capital adopted a binding universal agreement aimed at keeping a global temperature rise this century “well below 2 degrees Celsius” with respect to the pre-industrial era.

Scientists warn that the planet is heating up as a result of human activity, and this is causing extreme weather events such as heat waves, lengthy droughts and heavy rainfall. In addition, clean water, fertile land and biodiversity are all being reduced.

Coastal areas are already suffering the consequences of rising sea levels, a process that according to scientific sources began 20,000 years ago, but has been accelerated by global warming over the last 150 years.

Small island nations such as those of the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable to climate change, while their emissions have contributed very little to the phenomenon.

“As journalists and communicators we have not managed to identify the right messages to make the public feel involved in this issue,” said Deschamps at a workshop organised by the Cuban Environmental Protection Agency, the Dominican Chapter of the Nicolás Guillén Foundation, the Norwegian Embassy and the Inter Press Service (IPS) international news agency.

Marie Jeanne Moisse, a reporter and environmental educator who works in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry, spoke during a workshop in Santo Domingo about the media’s role in reporting on and raising awareness about global warming. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Marie Jeanne Moisse, a reporter and environmental educator who works in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry, spoke during a workshop in Santo Domingo about the media’s role in reporting on and raising awareness about global warming. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

To train reporters from the Caribbean, a group of experts from Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic offered a Nov. 23-26 course on “Social Communication for Risk Prevention, Gender and Climate Change” in the Dominican capital.

The course was attended by 41 journalists from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It included three talks that experts gave to students from two rural schools and to a group of 25 Haitian-Dominican women.

“The media need to be trained to provide more information at a national level on the phenomenon and about the agreement reached at COP21,” said Marie Jeanne Moise, an official in the climate change office in Haiti’s Environment Ministry.

According to Moise, a communicator and educator on the environment, “there is alarming talk today about global warming, and people are scared. But that doesn’t mean they know about the phenomenon or about how to protect themselves, to reduce the impacts on their lives.”

Moise urged journalists and reporters to “go to the roots of the problem.”

“News coverage focuses on catastrophes and on how vulnerable we are. But little is said about what contribution the media should make to help bring about a positive change in attitude towards the environment.”

The Haitian official said COP21 “created greater unity among the Caribbean as a vulnerable region that needs to adopt a common position.”

The countries in the region that took part in COP21 are negotiating as part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), made up of 15 mainly island nations, and as part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Ahead of COP21, CARICOM launched the “1.5 to Stay Alive” campaign to raise awareness on the effects of climate change, especially on small island states, while strengthening the region’s negotiating position.

CARICOM estimates that inaction could cost its member countries 10.7 billion dollars in losses by 2025, or five percent of GDP, and some 22 billion dollars by 2050, or 10 percent of GDP.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, are on the list of the 10 countries most vulnerable to natural disasters, according to the Climate Change and Environmental Risk Analytics report published in 2012 by Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk analytics and forecasting company based in Britain.

Besides physical and economic exposure to events like earthquakes and hurricanes, these countries are vulnerable due to social inequality, a lack of preparedness, and unequal distribution of local and regional capacities, said the study, which compared 197 countries using 29 indices and interactive maps analysing major natural hazards worldwide.

Dominican blogger and human rights activist Yesibon Reynoso said that in his country “quite a lot is known and talked about, with regard to the environment, because of the current circumstances.”

But, he said, “for example, deforestation is not always punished. Impunity reigns through exploitation with the support of corruption in the state.”

In his view, “environmental rights are not addressed in accordance with how essential they are to life, in the country and around the globe. There is no traditional social and political respect for the environment.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Brazil’s Amazon River Ports Give Rise to Dreams and Nightmares Fri, 11 Dec 2015 22:48:18 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet The U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill’s port terminal on the banks of the Tapajós River in the northern Brazilian city of Santarém, where large cargo vessels dwarf the traditional small fishing boats of the Amazon basin. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill’s port terminal on the banks of the Tapajós River in the northern Brazilian city of Santarém, where large cargo vessels dwarf the traditional small fishing boats of the Amazon basin. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
SANTARÉM, Brazil, Dec 11 2015 (IPS)

River port terminals in the northern Brazilian city of Santarém are considered strategic by the government. But what some see as an opportunity for development is for others an irreversible change in what was previously a well-preserved part of the Amazon rainforest.

In the evening light on the Tapajós River, whose green-blue waters mix with the darker muddy water of the Amazon River in Santarém, it’s not easy to ignore the silos that overshadow what used to be a public beach, where passenger boats and fishing vessels typical of this part of the Amazon jungle state of Pará tie up.

The port terminal of the U.S. commodities giant Cargill began to operate in 2003 as a centre for the storage, transshipment and loading of soy and corn, in this city of nearly 300,000 people.

The cargo ships and convoys of barges carrying grains are headed for the Amazon River and then the Atlantic Ocean on their way to Europe or China, the biggest markets for Brazil’s main agribusiness exports.

This country is the world’s second-largest producer of soy, after the United States, and the biggest exporter. In the 2014-2015 harvest it produced 95 million tons, 60.7 million of which were exported.

Municipal authorities argue that the river port terminals generate jobs and tax revenue, while they drive the construction and services industries, hotels and fuel supplies.

But Edilberto Sena, a Catholic priest who is the president of the Tapajós Movement Alive, holds a very different view.

“Cargill’s arrival has been a tragedy for Santarém,” he told IPS. “When they began to build the port they argued that it would bring jobs, and while they were building it did create 800 jobs. But as soon as it was completed, most of the workers were fired, and now it employs between 150 and 160 people.”

With a current capacity to export five million tons of grain, the port of Santarém was built to ease the congestion in ports in southern Brazil like Santos in the state of São Paulo, or Paranaguá in the state of Paraná.

This port and the transshipment terminal in Mirituba – 300 km to the south of Santarém – have also cut distances by land and sea for the shipment of soy from the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the country’s largest soy producer.

The installation was built by the U.S. agribusiness and food company Bunge, which was later joined by Cargill and other transnational corporations.

“These ports make Brazil more competitive,” the director of planning in the Santarém city government, José de Lima, told IPS.

As an example, he pointed out that with respect to the port in Santos, from Santarém to the port city of Shanghai, China, “the distance was cut from 24,000 km to 19,500 km, and going through the Panama Canal will reduce the cost from 159 to 147 dollars per transported ton.”

As of 2020, with an investment of around 800 million dollars, the transnational corporations project that they will export 20 million tons a year of grains through the Amazon basin.

A fisherman carries the day’s catch in the market in the city of Santarém, from the beach now overshadowed by the silos of the river port at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi/IPS

A fisherman carries the day’s catch in the market in the city of Santarém, from the beach now overshadowed by the silos of the river port at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi/IPS

Nelio Aguiar, the Santarém secretary of planning, stressed the strategic importance of these ports for the agroexport sector. “Brazil’s GDP is growing, based on agribusiness, which is supporting our economy,” he told IPS.

Most of the cargo arrives by truck, over the BR-163 highway in the process of being repaved, which ends at Cargill’s port terminal.

Currently, during the soy and corn harvest some 350 trucks a day arrive. But Lima estimates that the number will rise to 2,000 a day when other port terminals set to be built in the city are in operation.

That is what worries social organisations and academics who have fought the construction of the port.

“Because the city was not adapted to receive so much cargo traffic, it has caused disruptions and we have seen an increase in the number of accidents due to the intensification of truck traffic,” Raimunda Monteiro, the rector of the Federal University of Western Pará, told IPS.

But despite a number of lawsuits challenging the legality of the Cargill port, construction went ahead with the support of local authorities.

“It destroyed a beach in Santarém and there were also a number of indirect impacts because it attracted more soy producers, who expanded across the Santarém plan. These impacts were not foreseen in the environmental impact study,” Ibis Tapajós, a lawyer who works with social movements, told IPS.

To decongest truck traffic, the city government projects the construction of new access roads and truck parking lots outside of the city.

But there is concern about environmental effects such as contamination of the river and pollution from motor vehicle emissions and from the chemical fertilisers carried by the ships.

“The Cargill port is a clear example of the violation of socioenvironmental rights by large corporations,” said Tapajós.

The construction of at least six new port terminals in Santarém is in the study phase. Two would be next to the Cargill terminal and four would be in the area around Maica Lake.

The most advanced project on the lake – now in the phase of obtaining environmental permits – is to be built by EMBRAPS, a private company.

“Maica Lake is an extremely fragile ecological area,” said Monteiro. “It is at one end of a 50-km series of lakes and canals at the mouth of the Tapajós river and its confluence with the Amazon River.”

The EMBRAPS port is to be built in the Green Area neigbhourhood on the lake, in an area that floods during the rainy season and is without water in the dry season.

There are already signs warning “no trespassers, private property,” and the 480 fisherpersons on the lake are worried about the impact on their activity due to the circulation of the cargo vessels and because a large area will be covered over with soil.

“They’re going to practically privatise the lake,” Ronaldo Souza Costa, the president of the Association of Local Residents of the Perola Neighourhood of Maicá, told IPS. Thirty percent of the fish eaten in Santarém comes from the lake.

“As far as we can tell, there will be a major impact on our fishing, mainly in this area, where we fish in the wintertime. They will mark off no-trespassing areas,” said Raimundo Nonato, the administrator of the Maicá market.
The Santarém city government says the installations will be on dry land and that the companies are not interested in the lake but in the Amazon River, which the waters flow into and which is deep enough for large vessels.

“The entire operation of the trucks will be on ramps. It will not affect the water in the lake at all,” said Aguiar.

But because the local communities have not yet been formally consulted about this and other port projects, fears are growing.

“From what we know, if the ships come near us, our boats will be in trouble because of the big waves, which will be dangerous for our small vessels,” local fisherwoman Telma Almeida told IPS.

After unloading her fish, Almeida casts off and sets out on the Amazon River once again in her small boat. Her silhouette becomes tiny and dim in the shadow of a large cargo vessel.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Address Development and Climate Crises Together Tue, 08 Dec 2015 13:22:53 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Dec 8 2015 (IPS)

The world today faces a crisis of climate and a crisis of development. Both are consequences of the nature of growth of the world economy over the last two centuries, especially during the recent period.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The growth process was an enormous success on its own terms, raising incomes and opportunities, especially in industrial countries and more recently, in some developing countries for extended periods.

It has, however, been a failure in two other respects. First, it often widened inequality, both among and within nations, leaving much of the world’s population with crumbs. Second, it worsened the relationship between humanity and nature, rendering human existence, including economic growth itself, unsustainable.

The problems of climate and development must be addressed together. Protection of the Earth’s climate requires the cooperation of all; it cannot be imposed on an unequal world by an affluent minority.

Meanwhile, development has to acknowledge and progress in a climate-constrained environment, mitigating global warming with low-carbon economic growth while adapting to the irreversible consequences of climate change.

These interrelated challenges should frame the economic agenda for our times. Yet, they have received far too little attention from economists as inter-connected phenomena.

Climate economics, in particular, frequently ignores questions of international equity, assuming little or no change in the relative positions of rich and poor nations. Economic models which presume “inequality as usual” cannot address the related problems of climate and development, let alone propose viable and acceptable solutions.

Analysis and solutions must integrate and address climate and development concerns; its “optimal” policy scenarios provide climate protection while rapidly reducing global inequality. Indeed, inclusive and rapid development is supportive of and essential to the best sustainable climate solutions.

Global warming is threatening people and development in many countries. The vicious circles generating climate change are becoming stronger, with the emergence of new threats and the intensification of existing threats, such as the water challenge.

Hence, solutions to the climate threat are not acceptable if they fail to address these challenges, or worse still, widen existing gaps between rich and poor. A good deal of the current policy discussion sees the problem in incremental terms and ignores the different challenges faced by rich and poor countries.

The climate problem cannot simply be addressed by across-the-board uniform greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts by all countries from their present levels. The required response needs to be tailored, with a better sense of the size and nature of economic adjustments involved in moving to low-GHG emission development pathways. Such pathways will have to be combined with the goals of full employment and energy security in the North as well as catch-up growth and improved energy access in the South.

Long-term management of economic and natural resources in a more inclusive and sustainable manner is key. We cannot rely purely on markets, especially when changes are expected to be large-scale, returns are uncertain and complementarities are significant.

We need a vital public policy and public investment agenda, with strong multilateral support built around a global investment programme to fight climate change. Many investments will have to be front-loaded (i.e., scaled up now, rather than by 2030 or so) and undertaken by the public sector.

More integrated policy responses, at both domestic and multilateral levels, to tackle the interrelated threats will be needed. A range of possible multilateral measures in support of a global investment programme will be necessary, including a global clean energy fund, a global feed-in tariff regime in support of renewable energy sources, a climate technology programme and a more balanced intellectual property regime to facilitate the transfer of clean technologies. A global green New Deal will have to be built around a global investment programme and more integrated policy responses.


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Climate Talks in Final Phase With No Resolution on Funding Mon, 07 Dec 2015 15:27:22 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

As the Paris climate talks move to its conclusion Friday, civil society groups are expressing serious concerns about the continued deadlock on a proposed package for funding amounting to about 100 billion dollars a year by 2020.

Celine Charveriat, director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Oxfam International said any step closer to the 100 billion mark is to be welcomed, but with the accounting being driven by donors and reflecting their choices on what and how to count, funds destined for the most vulnerable appear higher than they actually are.

Failure to place poor people front and centre risks making the adaptation gap even bigger, she added.

At this point of the Paris climate talks, Charveriat said, rich countries must at the very least respond to the recent proposal put forward by some African countries and commit to a substantial increase of adaptation support over the next five years.

“This will build trust and help the difficult negotiations on climate finance for after 2020. Climate finance, as part of the overall Paris deal, remains the ominous anomaly that can no longer be neglected if we are to get a strong agreement for poor people and the rest of the world.”

Climate funding remains in the slow lane, with little progress on how much will be available for the world’s poorest people to adapt to climate change once the Paris deal comes into force in 2020, according to Oxfam.

Prerna Bomzan, Policy Advocate for LDC Watch, representing the 48 least developed countries (LDCs), told IPS: it’s important to focus on the nature of finance which doesn’t get talked about at all and which is as important as actual figures.

“It’s imperative that climate finance be public finance and in the form of non-debt creating grants. It’s unacceptable that the least responsible LDCs should carry additional debt when they are already burdened with an unsustainable debt,” she added.

In a statement released Monday, Oxfam said announcements made ahead of the Paris talks were welcome, but they offer little comfort for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who desperately need funding to adapt and protect themselves from climate change.

Despite living in the face of rising sea-levels, hunger and increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather, they have so far been left out in the cold.

Oxfam estimates that the new pledges would lead to only between 5.0 billion and 8.0 billion dollars in adaptation grants by 2020.

Martin Kaiser, International Climate Negotiations Head at Greenpeace said “at this point during climate talks in Copenhagen (in December 2009), we were dealing with a 300 page text and a pervasive sense of despair”.

“In Paris, we’re down to a slim 21 pages and the atmosphere remains constructive. But that doesn’t guarantee a decent deal. Right now the oil-producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will be plotting how to crash these talks when ministers arrive next week,” he added.

He said the enemies of a decent deal know they have one week to kill words in the text that commit the world to ‘full decarbonization’.

“They know that would set us on a path towards 100 percent renewables by the middle of the century. Those regressive forces will fight instead for words that call for a ‘low emission transformation’, knowing that such a watered down phrase will do almost nothing to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

There is a whole heap of work still to do here in Paris, but as things stand our report card reads: optimistic about the process, less so about the content, Kaiser added.

Meanwhile, in a report released last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there are number of solutions for mobilizing investments to accelerate action on climate change.

First, the study recommends that national governments adopt policies and incentives that encourage cities to invest in low-emission and climate-resilient infrastructure.

Second, it urges cities to adopt frameworks that put a price on carbon, such as cap-and-trade mechanisms or traffic congestion charges.

Third, it recommends strengthening banks and institutions that will support cities to develop climate-related projects.

Finally, the report calls for creating an innovation network for new financial instruments and funding models.

The writer can be contacted at

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Antigua: Surrounded by Sea but Catchments are Empty Sat, 05 Dec 2015 07:25:04 +0000 Kenton X. Chance 0 Vertical Farming – Agriculture of the Future Sat, 05 Dec 2015 07:06:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy Nelson Pérez monitors the water temperature in the trays where lettuce grows in a controlled-environment farm in the town of Rio Hato, Panama. Vertical farms are beginning to catch on around the world, as a technique that boosts food security, in the face of the impacts of climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Nelson Pérez monitors the water temperature in the trays where lettuce grows in a controlled-environment farm in the town of Rio Hato, Panama. Vertical farms are beginning to catch on around the world, as a technique that boosts food security, in the face of the impacts of climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
RÍO HATO, Panama, Dec 5 2015 (IPS)

Infrared thermometer in hand, Nelson Pérez checks the water temperature in the trays where dozens of small lettuce plants are growing in a nutrient-rich liquid in this vertical farm in Panama.

The water, which contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins, must be kept at a steady 21 degrees Celsius, to obtain the best growth.

Pérez is the watchful carekeeper of the lettuce growing in trays in the controlled environment created by the Urban Farms company in the town of Río Hato, population 15,700, in the province of Coclé, some 125 km north of Panama City.

The vertical farm, the only one of its kind in Latin America, is an example of controlled-environment agriculture, a technology-based approach toward food production which often uses hydroponic methods. This kind of farming helps combat the effects of climate change on agriculture.

“Climate change has affected agricultural production,” said David Proenza, founder of Urban Farms. “So we saw a need to see what changes we could bring about, using technology.”

In 2010, Proenza heard about experiments with vertical farming in Asia and travelled to Japan, where he contacted researchers and members of the business community.

He brought the technique back to Panama, and he and his new partners decided to send an agronomist to be trained in Japan.

Until then, he was a conventional producer of watermelon and other crops.

“The farmer controls everything, from the seeds to the harvest,” he explained to IPS. “The idea is to produce and consume locally.”

Proenza set up a partnership with two other people, and receives guidance from an outside group. He employs two full-time and two temporary workers.

On his four-hectare property, Proenza dedicated a 12 by 17-square-metre space to setting up 60 hydroponic trays with a capacity for growing 30 to 36 plants each.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in water.

After three days, the seeds are transplanted from the germination tray to the growing trays. Three weeks later the lettuce is picked, processed and packed for distribution to supermarkets.

The vertical farm produces some 2,000 heads of five different kinds of lettuce a month, without pesticides, preservatives or large extensions of land.

A computer programme controlled from a smartphone regulates the temperature of the room and the water, as well as the lighting and irrigation.

The low voltage grow lights, which stay on for 18 hours a day and cost 120 dollars each, produce red, yellow or blue light, each of which has a particular effect. The trays hold between 25 and 100 litres of water, depending on the size.

Controlled-environment agriculture encompasses vertical farms, urban gardens, and hydroponics.

Panama is highly vulnerable to climate change, exposed to intense storms, flooding, landslides and drought. The climate of this tropical Central American nation of four million people was previously divided into wet and dry seasons, but now the difference is less marked.

Río Hato is at one end of the Arco Seco or “dry arch”, an important area of food production for both export and domestic consumption.

Panama’s main crops are corn, rice, beans, melons, watermelons, oranges, bananas and coffee. Stockbreeding is also a key driver of the economy.

Agriculture accounts for around four percent of the country’s GDP.

Official statistics show that grain harvests have shrunk in 2014 and 2015, with the exception of corn, due to factors that experts blame on climate change.

The 2010 report “Panama: Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture”, produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and other international bodies, stated that climate change would cause this country agricultural losses amounting to between four and seven percent of GDP by 2050 and between eight and nine percent by 2100.

Gustavo Ramírez, a professor with the Cuautitlán Higher Studies Faculty at the Autonomous National University of Mexico, said vertical farming is viable in Latin America, but policies to stimulate it are lacking.

“With this system you can make better use of space,” he told IPS. “In urban areas, there are abandoned buildings that could be put to use, and there is much more space in rural areas.”

In Río Hato, Proenza, who has invested over 70,000 dollars in the farm, has tried growing strawberries, cucumbers, chili peppers, melons and watermelons, with positive results.

Vertical farming is in vogue in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. An Association for Vertical Farming has been created, and groups companies, universities and individuals. It has offices in Canada, China, India and several European countries.

This farming method offers an alternative in cities around the world, and in impoverished rural areas where people still go hungry.

In cities like Buenos Aires, Mexico City or Santiago, rooftop gardens where people grow their own fresh produce are now common.

To foment the sharing of knowledge, Proenza created the Foundation for the Development of Controlled Environment Agriculture, which organised the International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture here in May, which drew more than 350 researchers, academics and farmers from around the world. The next edition is slated for 2017.

“Farmers earn three times more than in the countryside,” said Proenza. “Vertical farms are 30 percent less expensive than traditional farming, and 15 percent cheaper than greenhouses. The risk is minimal,” added the entrepreneur, whose initiative won the second National Prize for Business Innovation, granted by the National Secretariat on Science and Technology, in 2014.

His plan is to expand the vertical farm by 400 square metres, adding varieties of parsley, basil, coriander, arugula and strawberries.

Ramírez recommended that governments refocus their agricultural policies and rethink priorities. “Governments must show an interest, and should focus policies on exploring this technique. We need better planning for production, distribution and logistics,” he said.

The local and regional markets that would be developed through vertical farming would have “an enormous impact,” he said, but “seed capital and technological packages would be needed, based on our own model.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Climate Summit May be Heading for a Showdown Over Financing Thu, 03 Dec 2015 23:22:15 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The two-week long Paris summit, which is expected to adopt a landmark international treaty on climate change by mid-December, may be heading for a political showdown over one of the most controversial issues at the ongoing talks: financing.

The 132-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, including China, has declared that nothing will be achieved at the summit without the necessary funding both for adaptation and to fight the negative fallout from climate change.

Speaking on behalf of the G77, Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko of South Africa said many commitments by developed countries, including those related to the pre-2020 period still, remain unrealized.

“There is also, as yet, no clarity on how the six-year old commitment by developed countries– of providing the 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to developing countries– will be achieved,” the envoy said.

She said developed countries must take the lead to the post-2020 era “by honouring and accelerating the implementation and increase the ambition of their existing commitments on mitigation and provision of finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building support to developing country Parties.”

Meanwhile, the 48 least developed countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the world’s poor, have reacted negatively to a pledge of some 248 million dollars to the LDC Fund (LDCF) by Western donors.

The pledge was described as a “drop in the ocean”.

LDC Chief Negotiator Giza Gaspar Martins pointed out that the 500 projects identified by the LDCF require more than an estimated 5.0 billion dollars to complete.

But so far, just over 859 million dollars has been made available to the LDCF, including the latest pledge of 248 million dollars, which is sufficient to complete only about 158 projects.

LDC Watch, which represents the interests of the 48 LDCs, said that at this rate, these projects will not be implemented by the targeted end date of 2020.

In a statement released Wednesday, LDC Watch also said it is doubtful the likelihood of this money being received, pointing to the current state of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was established after the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, and has received funds far below the 100 billion dollars a year pledged by developed countries.

Azeb Girmai of LDC Watch said: “Given the experience with the GCF, where we have seen (only) pledge after pledge, but without money on the table, I’m sceptical that this 248 million dollars will ever arrive in full”.

After the 248 million dollar pledge, the governments of the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, released a statement in which they said the LDCF plays a key role in addressing urgent and immediate adaptation needs of LDCs, focusing on reducing the vulnerability of sectors and resources that are central to human and national development, such as water, agriculture and food security; and infrastructure, as identified and prioritized in their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).

The LDCF also supports the national adaptation planning process in coordination with others as a means to reduce medium- and long-term vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation into relevant policies, programmes and activities.

From the LDCF’s inception in 2001 through June 2015, 931.5 million dollars has been approved for projects, programmes, and enabling activities to meet this mandate. Projects supported by the LDCF have mobilized 3.8 billion dollars in co-financing in 51 countries, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko warned nothing under this Convention will be achieved without the provision of means of implementation to enable developing country Parties to address climate change.

Finance, including for the transfer of technology and capacity building is a crucial and key element of the Paris outcome, she added.

“The outcome regarding finance must provide clarity on the level of financial support that will be provided by developed country Parties to developing country Parties to allow for enhanced implementation of the Convention in the post-2020 period, as well as existing commitment on pre-2020 finance,” she told delegates in Paris.

Asked about the doubts expressed by the Group of 77, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday there are two aspects to this.

First of all, he said, climate financing is a pledge already made by the developed world, namely the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

It was made in Copenhagen in 2009 — that the 100 billion dollars will be mobilised by 2020.

“I have been urging the developed world leaders that this must be delivered, and there should be a politically credible trajectory of mobilising 100 billion by 2020. This is one very important promise.”

“And, as is already reported, 62 billion dollars has been confirmed [to be] mobilised by the end of 2014. Now, we are talking about 2015, and now we have another five years to go. And everybody said that it is doable, and it can be presented in a credible way,” he added.

Another unresolved issue, he said, is differentiation.

It’s again clear, considering the historical background, developed countries should have historical responsibility to provide the financial and technological support for developing countries, particularly those vulnerable group of countries and small island developing states, Ban said.

“What they are now discussing is that, while we agree on this principle CBDR — Common but Differentiated Responsibilities — there are some countries, depending upon the developing countries, (where) there are different levels of development and varying levels of capacities.”

“Therefore, while we expect that this should be led mainly, by developed countries, there should be certain balancing by some developing countries who can really do.”

A good example is that China has announced 3.0 billion dollars for South-South Cooperation– even though this is not within the CBDR, but they are doing, according to their own capacities, a level of development, he added.

“I think this is something which can be done and agreed harmoniously,” he declared.

The writer can be reached at

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Addressing Climate Change and Poverty as one in Malawi Thu, 03 Dec 2015 17:30:07 +0000 Watson Maingo A community grain silo, no longer in use as farmers can't grow enough to save. Credit: Watson Maingo

A community grain silo, no longer in use as farmers can't grow enough to save. Credit: Watson Maingo

By Watson Maingo

The government of Malawi has been struggling to end poverty since independence in 1964, banking its strategies on the proceeds from its agro based economy. Sadly, climate change entered the scene and dramatically disrupted the farming sector.

Annie Ganizani, 47, a subsistence farmer from Kandulu village in Salima District has witnessed its impacts in the last decade.

“I was born in a family of subsistence farmers. My parents failed to give me education due to other reasons poverty, but when I got married and was blessed with some kids, I believed that through hard work I would be able to educate my kids,” said Ganizani.

“Our leaders used to tell us there was no reason for me to worry as the land was indeed producing more than enough. Farming was a very promising occupation and the only hope for our uneducated community,” she said.

Unfortunately her dreams were shattered by the prevailing brutal effects of climate change.

“We first noticed that something was wrong around us after the year 2000 when the rainfall pattern changed. Unexpected floods, drought, and dry spells became an annual occurrence,” said Ganizani. “The floods and dry spells quickly resulted into dwindling yields leading to food shortages and subsequently taking us into extreme poverty,” she added.

In 2004, heavy floods from near-by Lifidzi River destroyed her village and farm land.

“After the floods, we moved to this new area only to be given a smaller piece of land. We continued harvesting just enough to last us a few months. In the end we are engaging in activities that contribute to climate change” said Ganizani.

Now 10 years after relocating to upper land Ganizani, her family is poorer than they were in 1999. “I do believe that climate change and poverty should be addressed together,” she said.

Although climate change has turned the livelihoods of many villagers upside down and even in spite of the government of Malawi and other organizations’ continued interventions, communities are indirectly contributing to climate change.

“Many people want to run away from poverty by cutting down trees for charcoal and cultivating in river banks which, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to floods and droughts” said Majawa Bwanali, chairperson of the Kandulu Village Disaster Risk Management Committee (VDRMC).

Environmental District Officer for Salima Davies Chogawana concurs with Bwanali and said that efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change are continually challenged by local efforts to end poverty.

“People still cut trees down wantonly, still use charcoal at large scale and some of them still cultivate in river banks, triggering ever more floods and droughts,” said Chogawana.

Assistant District Disaster Risk Management Officer (ADDRMO) Blessings Kamtema said that it is unfortunate that not all victims of climate change related disasters have been rehabilitated despite interventions.

“Salima, one of the districts most hit by climate change in Malawi has been receiving support from many organizations. However, these area-specific interventions might not have restored the livelihoods of all the affected people,” said Kamtema.

With funding from UNDP under AAP projects, Kamtema said the Council and the community from Kandulu were able to build a dyke on the Lifidzi River which has prevented the river from flooding and causing havoc in Kandulu Village in the last three years.

Kamtema also said that with support from GEF, people of Kandulu village have built an evacuation point in times of floods so people no longer seek shelter at a primary school in the area.

DDRMO explained that with funding from UNDP, the Council has managed to establish a climate information for climate and weather early warning and farming planning.

Over 50% of Malawians live in poverty and 80% of Malawians depend on farming for their livelihoods. Unless climate smart agriculture technologies are passed on to all small holder farmers, the government goal of ending poverty by 2030, as pointed in the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), will not be achieved.

And if poverty is not checked and alternative economic activities are not identified, little progress will be achieved to minimize our contribution to climate change.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Urmi Goswami from The Times of India.

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Climate Deal Needs Enough Public Financing Thu, 03 Dec 2015 11:05:42 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Dec 3 2015 (IPS)

Investing in a low carbon infrastructure, particularly renewable energy, is key to addressing climate change. The really big investment challenges are in the developing world where access to modern energy services is far below what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; indeed, almost two billion people still lack access to electricity.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Globally, more than 30 million tons of oil equivalent are consumed in the form of primary energy every day, equivalent to 55 kilowatt hours (kwh) per person per day. On average, rich countries consume more than twice the average while most emerging market economies consume less than a third of what is consumed in developed economies. For many developing countries, the figure is well under 20kwh, and China is still well below the global average.

Raising income levels in poorer countries will require closing these massive energy gaps. The big challenge is to do this cleanly.

The threshold for energy sufficiency can be established at around 100kwh per capita per day. Up to this level, there is a very strong correlation between increased energy consumption and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. At current prices, between 10 and 20 dollars per day are needed to buy the requisite energy services. But spending 10 dollars per day on energy services would exhaust the average incomes of even middle income countries such as Angola, Ecuador and Macedonia. This takes the challenge well beyond the ‘bottom billion’ or less living below the World Bank’s recently revised $1.90 per capita per day poverty line.

Today, coal and some large hydroelectric dams are the only sources that generate energy at sufficiently low cost. Consequently, while the only way to achieve sustainable development in the face of accelerating climate change is with an energy infrastructure built around renewable energy (of which the most significant are probably solar power, wind and biofuels) as well as carbon capture and storage, these are currently still unaffordable options. Without subsidies, modern energy would remain beyond the reach of poor families and communities for generations to come.

Currently much touted market-based solutions run the risk, particularly if insufficiently regulated, of actually working against sustainable development objectives because they seek to raise energy prices to make renewable energy more attractive to private investors. Instead, what is needed is a strategy that will significantly reduce the cost of renewable energy services.

The most promising option is a massive public investment push, coupled with appropriate subsidies to offset high initial prices in the short term. If targeted at the most promising technology options (e.g., solar and wind), such a strategy would trigger an early cost write down through innovation and scale economies, giving the private sector clear and credible signals, and encouraging energy efficiency.

The main constraint to such a big push is access to predictable and affordable finance, particularly where domestic markets are small. As their carbon-fueled economic prosperity has brought us to the brink of climate catastrophe, the onus is on rich country governments to fund the big push into clean energy sources in the developing world. So far, they have not risen to the challenge; despite commitments made at Kyoto, before Copenhagen in 2009 and elsewhere since, the resources for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries remain paltry.

Supporting a big push into clean energy services in the developing world will, almost certainly, exceed the Marshall Plan which committed one per cent of US annual GDP to finance European reconstruction after World War Two, equivalent to well over 150 billion dollars today. This time, the onus should not fall on one country alone, and a broader mix of additional financing sources will be needed to fund the required public investment programmes in energy efficiency, renewables and forest management.

A range of financing instruments is now on the table, from green bonds to international taxes on financial transactions and air travel. But scaling-up multilateral support will require an overhaul of international finance, particularly when the energy challenge facing developing countries is combined with the need for adaptation investments to limit the growing damage they face due to rising global temperatures.

Establishing a viable new ‘framework for climate finance’ remains a pressing challenge despite the establishment of the Climate Fund at the Durban Conference of Parties (CoP). The scale of the challenge to avoid catastrophic climate change means that addressing it cannot be delayed and short-changed anymore, as it has been so far. It will be key to restoring trust to ensure that the deal to be struck in Paris later this year will take us closer to sustainable development and climate justice.


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Opinion: NGOs Still Leading the Global Debate on Climate Wed, 02 Dec 2015 13:02:29 +0000 Hazel Henderson Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age and other books. ]]>

Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and author of Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age and other books.

By Hazel Henderson
ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, Dec 2 2015 (IPS)

Civil society organizations, known as NGOs, have for decades used their non-government status to prod officials, politicians and business on climate issues. Veteran campaigners Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Kenya’s tree planters, India’s Chipko tree-hugging protectors and indigenous movements worldwide first raised the issues of protecting the Earth and its atmosphere.

Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson

These earlier leaders converged on the two key issues that underlay human societies’ successes and failures. These are resource depletion and inequality, the deadly duo we now know have caused collapses of human societies through the ages. From Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2011) and Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies(1990) to Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail (2013) and recent computer models, including HANDY (human and nature dynamics), confirm the effects of this deadly mix of inequality and resource depletion. Elites capture power over populations, insulated from feedback on their resource depletion until exhaustion of ecosystems or popular revolutions cause the collapses documented throughout human history.

Social change rarely comes from elites since those in power are insulated from the hunger, desperation, pollution and resource depletion their populations experience. Change comes from societies’ periphery, those marginalized, excluded, voiceless in policy discussions of governments and business.

Thus civic and voluntary associations, movements and protests become the vanguards of social change – often positive, but negative if ignored or suppressed. These ancient forces in human societies are rooted in our earliest experiences of dangers and risks and our responses to our fears: competing with other groups for territory, accumulating and hoarding resources – or more positive responses of bonding, sharing and cooperating as Charles Darwin saw as our evolutionary success.

Elites in Britain hijacked Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection and saw it as the “survival of the fittest” recast in The Economist by Herbert Spencer. The magazine apologized for its focus on competition and “this poisonous phrase” in December 2005 as I described in Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy (2006).

The NGOs leading the climate debate for decades include the Carbon Disclosure Project, now CDP, Rocky Mountain Institute, Natural Capital Solutions, Carbon Tracker and the Club of Rome of concientized and superannuated elites. Drivers are social and environmental justice groups, worldwide indigenous networks of ecovillages, local currencies, monetary reformers, ethical investors and, more recently, religious groups led by Pope Francis, followed by many others, including the movement Our Voices.

The official climate debates in the UN summits focused around the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, unfortunately captured by the economics profession into ineffective carbon markets and trading of pollution permits, offsets too easily gamed by financial players. While many reaped money rewards, these “markets” failed to reduce or even slow carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions.

The UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 saw officials naming, blaming and shaming between Tier I countries which had achieved development on fossil fuels and their emissions and Tier II countries still seeking their own development. The stalemate was largely influenced by this Kyoto Protocol. The major possibility for agreement was left on the table: accelerating the global transition of all countries to low-carbon, renewable resource economies – beyond the fossil-fuel era to the next Solar Age.

Fast forward to Paris and COP 21, the NGOs are still leading the way with their many approaches to this transition to 100 percent renewable resource economies and the equally necessary inclusion of all in the coming green prosperity. They drove the agenda at Rio +20 in 2012 with Brazilian groups, the Rainforest Alliance, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment, World Resources Institute, Biomimicry Institute, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and many others.

The historic deadly duo: resource depletion and inequality are at last being addressed as the single issue for human survival and evolution. This deadly duo is central in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ratified by the 193 member countries at the UN in New York, September 2015. This new inclusive development model supersedes the obsolete economic model measured by gross domestic product (GDP), its subsidies to fossil fuels and all pollution and social harm it treats as “externalities” omitted from business and government accounts. Even mainstream Wall Streeters are critiquing inequality in corporations. Hedge fund philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones, founder of JUSTCapital, is launching a JUST 100 Index of the fairest corporations. While 66 per cent of corporations now accept climate science, 95 per cent of them still belong to trade associations obstructing progress, according to InfluenceMap. At last, these past subsidies which caused global warming are being phased out.

Solar, wind, wave power, geothermal and energy efficiency are revealed as cheaper than unsubsidized fossil fuels and nuclear power. Full-spectrum accounting by SASB and IIRC drives the new NGOs promoting all these Solar Age technologies. Our Green Transition Scoreboard launched in 2009 now tracks private investment in green sectors worldwide at $6.22 trillion.

Helio International’s HIFI tool for investors will help steer them to those countries most hospitable to Solar Age investments, mostly in developing countries.

These societies are not trapped in obsolete infrastructure and can “leapfrog” directly to green technologies: beyond vulnerable national electric grids to decentralized local power from community-owned local solar and wind generation. Asset owners, pension funds are driving shifts of investments and portfolios to fossil-free, green sectors, including CERES, 2° Investing, Grantham Foundation, Climate Bonds Initiative, Sonen Capital, Green Alpha Advisors and others.

NGOs can continue driving the debates at COP21 with their new allies and accelerate the great global transition now underway to the next economy, equality-based and powered by the daily free photons from our Sun.


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Farmers Urge Solutions at Climate Change Talks Wed, 02 Dec 2015 05:45:02 +0000 A. D. McKenzie 1