Inter Press Service » Editors’ Choice http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:54:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/138323/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=138323 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/138323/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:54:42 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138323 Sub-Saharan migrant garbage collectors push their carts through the streets of Tripoli´s old town. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Sub-Saharan migrant garbage collectors push their carts through the streets of Tripoli´s old town. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Karlos Zurutuza
TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec 18 2014 (IPS)

It’s easy to spot Saani Bubakar in Tripoli´s old town: always dressed in the distinctive orange jumpsuit of the waste collectors, he pushes his cart through the narrow streets on a routine that has been his for the last three years of his life.

“I come from a very poor village in Niger where there is not even running water,” explains the 23-year-old during a break. “Our neighbours told us that one of their sons was working in Tripoli, so I decided to take the trip too.”

Of the 250 Libyan dinars [about 125 euro or 154 dollars] Bubakar is paid each month, he manages to send more than half to his family back home. Accommodation, he adds, is free.

“We are 50 in an apartment nearby,” says the migrant worker, who assures that he will be back in Niger “soon”. It is not the poor working conditions but the increasing instability in the country that makes him want to go back home.

Thousands of migrants remain detained in Libyan detention centres, where they face torture that includes “severe whippings, beatings, and electric shocks” – Human Rights Watch
Three years after Libya´s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed, Libya remains in a state of political turmoil that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. There are two governments and two separate parliaments – one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, 1,000 km east of the capital. The latter, set up after elections in June when only 10 percent of the census population took part, has international recognition.

Accordingly, several militias are grouped into two paramilitary alliances: Fajr (“Dawn” in Arabic), led by the Misrata brigades controlling Tripoli, and Karama (“Dignity”) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, a Tobruk-based former army general.

The population and, very especially, the foreign workers are seemingly caught in the crossfire. “I´m always afraid of working at night because the fighting in the city usually starts as soon as the sun hides,” explains Odar Yahub, one of Bubakar´s roommates.

At 22, Yahub says that will not go back to Niger until he has earned enough to get married – but that will probably take longer than expected:

“We haven´t been paid for the last four months, and no one has given us any explanation,” the young worker complains, as he empties his bucket in the garbage truck.

While most of the sweepers are of sub-Saharan origin, there are also many who arrived from Bangladesh. Aaqib, who prefers not to disclose his full name, has already spent four years cleaning the streets of Souk al Juma neighbourhood, east of the capital. He says he supports his family in Dhaka – the Bangladeshi capital – by sending home almost all the 450 Libyan dinars (225 euros) from his salary, which he has not received for the last four months either.

“Of course I’ve dreamed of going to Europe but I know many have died at sea,” explains Aaqib, 28. “I´d only travel by plane, and with a visa stamped on my passport,” he adds. For the time being, his passport is in the hands of his contractor. All the waste collectors interviewed by IPS said their documents had been confiscated.

Defenceless

From his office in east Tripoli, Mohamed Bilkhaire, who became Minister of Employment in the Tripoli Executive two months ago, claims that he is not surprised by the apparent contradiction between the country´s 35 percent unemployment rate – according to his sources – and the fact that all the garbage collectors are foreigners.

“Arabs do not sweep due to sociocultural factors, neither here nor in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq … We need foreigners to do the job,” says Bilkhaire, Asked about the garbage collectors´ salaries, he told IPS that they are paid Libya´s minimum income of 450 Libyan dinars, and that any smaller amount is due to “illegal subcontracting which should be prosecuted.”

Bilkhaire also admitted that passports were confiscated “temporarily” because most of the foreign workers “want to cross to Europe.”

According to data gathered and released by FRONTEX, the European Union´s border agency, among the more than 42,000 immigrants who arrived in Italy during the first four months of 2014, 27,000 came from Libya.

In a report released by Human Rights Watch in June, the NGO claimed that thousands of migrants remain detained in Libyan detention centres, where they face torture that includes “severe whippings, beatings, and electric shocks.”

“Detainees have described to us how male guards strip-searched women and girls and brutally attacked men and boys,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher in the same report.

In the case of foreign workers under contract, Hanan Salah, HRW researcher for Libya, told IPS that “with the breakdown of the judicial system in many regions, abusive employers and those who do not comply with whatever contract was agreed upon, can hardly be held accountable in front of the law.”

Shokri Agmar, a lawyer from Tripoli, talks about “complete and utter helplessness”:

“The main problem for foreign workers in Libya is not merely the judicial neglect but rather that they lack a militia of their own to protect themselves,” Agmar told IPS from his office in Gargaresh, west of Tripoli.

That is precisely one of the districts where large numbers of migrants gather until somebody picks them up for a day of work, generally as construction workers.

Aghedo arrived from Nigeria three weeks ago. For this 25-year-old holding a shovel with his right hand, Tripoli is just a stopover between an endless odyssey across the Sahara Desert and a dangerous sea journey to Italy.

“There are days when they do not even pay us, but also others when we can make up to 100 dinars,” Aghedo tells IPS.

The young migrant hardly lowers his guard as he is forced to distinguish between two types of pick-up trucks: the ones which offer a job that is not always paid and those driven by the local militia – a false step and he will end up in one of the most feared detention centres.

“I know I could find a job as a sweeper but I cannot wait that long to raise the money for a passage in one of the boats bound for Europe,” explains the young migrant, without taking his eyes off the road.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/138323/feed/ 0
Cuba’s Reforms Fail to Reduce Growing Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/cubas-reforms-fail-to-reduce-growing-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cubas-reforms-fail-to-reduce-growing-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/cubas-reforms-fail-to-reduce-growing-inequality/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:21:58 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138300 Mercado Amistad, one of the shops that only accept hard currency, officially called “foreign currency recovery stores”, in central Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Mercado Amistad, one of the shops that only accept hard currency, officially called “foreign currency recovery stores”, in central Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Dec 16 2014 (IPS)

One of the major challenges assumed by President Raúl Castro when he launched a series of reforms in Cuba is improving living standards in a country still suffering from a recession that began over 20 years ago and has undermined the aim of achieving economic and social equality.

Inequality has been growing since the start of the crisis triggered by the break-up of the Soviet Union and East European socialist bloc – Cuba’s main trade and aid partners – in the early 1990s. The “special period” – the euphemistic term used to refer to the lengthy recession – “has even morally affected the concept of inequality,” economist Esteban Morales told IPS.

To ease the recession in the 1990s, the government of Fidel Castro (1959-2008) opened the doors to foreign investment, fomented tourism, legalised the dollar, and created the “foreign currency recovery stores”, among other measures whose economic benefits also came accompanied by greater social inequality.: “What is annoying is that people with less education and fewer responsibilities earn more than a professional. When I started studying in the 1980s that’s not how things were. People’s salaries stretched much farther.” -- Cuban schoolteacher

However, María Caridad González appreciates the sense of equality that still exists in Cuban society, which she says has made social inclusion possible for her 10-year-old son, who knows that “to do well in life he just has to study and become a professional.”

Since the 1959 revolution, free universal healthcare coverage and education have been important tools for achieving social equality in Cuba.

González, who comes from a family of small farmers, moved to Havana in the mid-1990s. “It was hard at first. There were shortages of everything, but I stayed anyway and got married here. Now there are a lot of stores and farmers’ markets, and what is lacking is money to buy things,” said the 36-year-old, who works in the cleaning service at a company that is partly foreign owned.

Other people are worse off than González, who manages to add to her monthly income working as a domestic in the homes of families she knows, which brings her another 80 CUC – the Cuban peso convertible to dollars – or 1,920 pesos.

That is more than four times the average public sector salary of 470 pesos (19 dollars) a month. “Thanks to my income we survived the months when my husband, who is a cook in the tourism industry, was out of work,” said González.

She is in a much better position than her neighbor, a 55-year-old primary schoolteacher who earns 750 pesos a month and has no source of dollars or other foreign currency – a mainstay for many Cuban families, who receive remittances from relatives abroad or who work in tourism, where they earn tips.

The teacher, who is married and has two adult children aged 20 and 25, told IPS: “What is annoying is that people with less education and fewer responsibilities earn more than a professional. When I started studying in the 1980s that’s not how things were. People’s salaries stretched much farther.”

The inequality gap has widened as the differences in incomes have grown.

Those who only earn a public salary – the state is still by far the biggest employer, despite a reduction in the public payroll as part of the reforms – or who depend on a pension or are on social assistance find it impossible to meet their basic needs. According to statistics from the Centre for Studies of the Cuban Economy, food absorbs between 59 and 75 percent of the family budget in Cuba.

A farmers’ market on Vapor street in Old Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A farmers’ market on Vapor street in Old Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

However, Cuba’s free universal healthcare and education, social security system, and social assistance for the poor have been preserved in spite of the country’s economic troubles, and were key to Cuba’s ranking in 44th place on the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) this year.

The HDI is a composite index that measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.

The schoolteacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said “I understand and appreciate that, but it is no less true that the differences in income differentiate us when it comes to putting food on the table or buying clothes.”

Morales agrees with the government’s aim of “equal rights and opportunities” rather than egalitarianism. In his view, the distribution of income based on work is still unequal. “It would be ethical if people received in accordance with what they contributed, and those who needed assistance would receive it through social spending, to balance out the inequalities,” he argued.

The academic defends the idea of subsidising specific people rather than products, which is still being done through the ration card system that distributes a certain quantity of foodstuffs at prices subsidised by the state, to all citizens, regardless of their income.

The system covered the basic dietary needs of families until the 1980s. But that is no longer the case, and Cubans now have to complete their diet with products sold in the hard currency stores and the farmers’ markets, where one pound (450 grams) of pork can cost 40 pesos (1.60 dollars) – the same price fetched by a pound of onions at certain times of the year.

In its 2014-2020 pastoral plan, the Catholic Church complains that broad swathes of society are plagued by “material poverty, the result of wages that are too low to provide a family with decent living standards.”

That situation, it says, impacts semi-skilled workers as well as professionals.

After acknowledging that the expansion of opportunities for self-employment and for setting up cooperatives in non-agricultural sectors of the economy has opened up opportunities for some, the church warns that the current economic reforms “have failed to reactivate the economy in such a way that it benefits the entire population.”

Not all segments of society are in equal conditions to take advantage of the changes that have been ushered in. Researchers like Morales or Mayra Espina say women, people who are not white, and young people are at a disadvantage, whether due to a lack of formal training and education, or of assets and resources for starting up their own businesses.

According to the last official statistics on poverty published in Cuba, from 2004, 20 percent of the urban population was poor. In this Caribbean island nation, 76 percent of the population of 11.2 million lives in towns and cities. Experts worry that the proportion today is even higher, and they say decision-makers need to know the exact percentage in order to properly tailor social policies to the actual situation.

But Espina and other academics say the reforms approved in April 2011 do not put a high enough priority on social aspects, ignore the questions of poverty and inequality, and contain weak measures for guaranteeing equality.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/cubas-reforms-fail-to-reduce-growing-inequality/feed/ 1
OPINION: The Sad Future of Our Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-sad-future-of-our-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-sad-future-of-our-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-sad-future-of-our-planet/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:22:22 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138284

In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, argues that – in the light of the agreement reached at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima – the world’s governments have once again demonstrated their irresponsibility by failing to come up with a global remedy for climate change.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 15 2014 (IPS)

It is now official: the current inter-governmental system is not able to act in the interest of humankind.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima – which ended on Dec. 14, two days after it was scheduled to close – was the last step before the next Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, where a global agreement must be found.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

In Lima, 196 countries with several thousand delegates negotiated for two weeks to find a common position on which to convene in Paris in one year’s time. Lima was preceded by an historical meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which the world’s two main polluters agreed on a course of action to reduce pollution.

Well, Lima has produced a draft climate pact, adopted by everybody, simply because it carries no obligation. It is a kind of global gentlemen’s agreement, where it is supposed that the world is inhabited only by gentlemen, including the energy corporations.

This is an act of colossal irresponsibility where, for the sake of an agreement, not one solution has been found. The “big idea” is to leave to every country the task of deciding its own cuts in pollution according to its own criteria.“Lima has produced a draft climate pact, adopted by everybody, simply because it carries no obligation. It is a kind of global gentlemen’s agreement, where it is supposed that the world is inhabited only by gentlemen”

And everybody is aware that this is most certainly a disaster for the planet. “It is a breakthrough, because it gives meaning to the idea that every country will make cuts,” said Yvo de Boer, the Dutch diplomat who is the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). ”But the great hopes for the process are also gone.”

To make things clear, all delegates knew that without some binding treaty to reduce emissions, there is no way that this will happen. But they accepted what it is possible, even if it does not solve the problem. It is like a hospital where the key surgeon announces that the good news is that the patient will remain paralysed.

The agreement is based on the idea that every country will publicly commit itself to adopting its own plan for reducing emissions, based on criteria established by national governments on the basis of their domestic politics – not on what scientists have been indicating as absolutely necessary.

This, of course, is the kind of treat that no country in the world objects to. The real value of the treaty is not the issue. The issue is that the inter-governmental system is able to declare unity and common engagement. The interests of humankind are not part of the equation. Humankind is supposed to be parcelled among 196 countries, and so is the planet.

This act of irresponsibility is clear when you look at all the countries producing energy, like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, Iran or Ecuador, Nigeria or Qatar, whose governments are interested in using oil exports to keep themselves in the saddle. And take a look at what the world’s third largest polluter, India, is doing in the spirit of the Lima treaty.

Under the motto: “We like clean India, but give us jobs”, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving with remarkable speed to eliminate any regulatory burden for industry, mining, power projects, the armed forces, and so on.

According to the high-level committee assigned to rewrite India’s environmental law system, the country’s regulatory system ”served only the purpose of a venal administration”. So, what did it suggest? It presented a new paradigm: ”the concept of utmost good faith”, under which business owners themselves will monitor the pollution generated by their projects, and they will monitor their own compliance!

The newly-appointed Indian National Board for Wildlife which is responsible for protected area cleared 140 pending projects in just two days; small coal mines have a one-time permission to expand without any hearing; and there is no longer any need for the approval of tribal villages for forest projects.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar boasted: ”We have decided to decentralise decision making. Ninety percent of the files won’t come to me anymore”. And he said that he was not phasing out important environmental protections, just “those which, in the name of caring for nature, were stopping progress.” He also plans to devolve power to state regulators, which environmental expert say is akin to relinquishing any national integrated policy.

It is, of course, totally coincidental that Lima conference took place in the middle of the greatest decrease in oil prices in five years. The price of a barrel of oil is now hovering around the 60 dollar mark, down from over 100 two years ago. This price level has basically been decided by Saudi Arabia, which did not agree to cut production to increase the cost of a barrel.

The most espoused explanation was that the low cost would undercut schist gas exploitation which is making the United States energy self-sufficient again, and soon an exporter. But this will equally undercut renewable energies, like wind or solar power, which have higher costs and will be abandoned when cheap oil is available.

Again coincidentally, this is creating very serious problems for countries like Russia and Venezuela (U.S. irritants) and Iran (a direct enemy), which are now entering into serious deficit and serious political problems. And, again coincidentally, this is making use of fossil energy more tempting at a moment in which the world was finally accepting that there is a problem of climate change.

In March, countries will have to present their national plans and it will then become clear that governments are lacking on the very simple task of arresting climate change, and this will lead us to irreversible damage by our climate’s final deadline, which was identified as 2020.

Thus the exercise of irresponsibility in Lima will also become an exercise in futility.

Is there any doubt that if the people, and not governments, were responsible for saving the planet, their answer would have been swifter and more efficient?

Young people, all over the world, have very different priorities from corporations and industry … but they also have much less political clout.

 

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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

 

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-sad-future-of-our-planet/feed/ 1
Lima Agrees Deal – but Leaves Major Issues for Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/lima-agrees-deal-but-leaves-major-issues-for-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lima-agrees-deal-but-leaves-major-issues-for-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/lima-agrees-deal-but-leaves-major-issues-for-paris/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 19:00:14 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138275 As governments of 195 countries approved the COP20 final document in Lima in the early hours of Dec. 14, activists protested about the watered-down results of climate negotiations outside the venue where they met. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

As governments of 195 countries approved the COP20 final document in Lima in the early hours of Dec. 14, activists protested about the watered-down results of climate negotiations outside the venue where they met. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
LIMA, Dec 14 2014 (IPS)

After a 25-hour extension, delegates from 195 countries reached agreement on a “bare minimum” of measures to combat climate change, and postponed big decisions on a new treaty until the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21), to be held in a year’s time in Paris.

After 13 days of debates, COP 20, the meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), failed to resolve key issues such as the monitoring of each country’s commitment to emissions reductions, recognition of loss and damage caused by climate alterations and immediate actions, representatives of observer organisations told IPS.

The agreed document was the third draft to be debated. The Lima Call for Climate Action, as it is known, stipulates that countries must propose national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by October 2015.

It also “urges” developed countries to “provide and mobilise financial support for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions” to countries affected by climate change, and “invites” them to pledge financial contributions alongside their emissions reduction targets. This exhortation was a weak response to the demands of countries that are most vulnerable to global warming, and it avoided complete disaster.

But observers complained that the Lima Call pays little attention to the most vulnerable populations, like farmers, coastal communities, indigenous people, women and the poorest sectors of societies.

“There were a number of trade-offs between developed and developing countries, and the rest of the text has become significantly weaker in terms of the rules for next year and how to bring climate change action and ambitions next year,” Sven Harmeling, the climate change advocacy coordinator for Care International, told IPS. “That has been most unfortunate,” he said.

The 2015 negotiations will be affected, as “they are building up more pressure on Paris. The bigger issues have been pushed forward and haven’t been addressed here,” he said.

Harmeling recognised that an agreement has been reached, although it is insufficient. “We have something, but the legal status of the text is still unclear,” he said. If there is really a “spirit of Lima” and not just a consensus due to exhaustion, it will begin to emerge in February in Geneva, at the next climate meeting, he predicted.

The countries of the South voted in favour of the text at around 01:30 on Sunday Dec. 14, but organisations like Oxfam, the Climate Action Network and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) were very critical of the result. The Lima negotiations “have done nothing to prevent catastrophic climate change,” according to FoEI. “What countries need now is financing of climate action and what we need is urgent action now, because we need our emissions to peak before 2020 if we are to stay on a safe path.” -- Tasneem Essop

More than 3,000 delegates met Dec. 1-13 for the complex UNFCCC process, with the ultimate goal of averting global warming to levels that would endanger life on Earth.
Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the COP 20, extended the meeting in order to build bridges between industrialised countries, the largest carbon emitters, who wanted less financial pressure, and developing countries who sought less control over their own reductions.

“Although we seem to be on opposite sides, we are in fact on the same side, because there is only one planet,” said Pulgar-Vidal at the close of the COP.

The specific mandate in Lima was to prepare a draft for a new, binding climate treaty, to be consolidated during 2015 and signed in Paris. Methodological discussions and fierce debates about financing, deadlines and loss and damage prevented a more ambitious consensus.

“What countries need now is financing of climate action and what we need is urgent action now, because we need our emissions to peak before 2020 if we are to stay on a safe path,” Tasneem Essop, climate coordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), told IPS.

“We need to protect the rights of climate impacted communities,” she said. The defencelessness of the most vulnerable people on the planet is what makes action a matter of urgency.

However, the Lima agreement contains few references to mechanisms for countries to use to reduce their emissions between 2015 and 2020, when the new treaty replacing the Kyoto Protocol is due to come into force.

These actions need to start immediately, said Essop, as later measures may be ineffective. “What governments seem to be thinking is that they can do everything in the future, post 2020, when the science is clear that we have to peak before that,” she told IPS.

Unless action is taken, year by year extreme climate, drought and low agricultural yields will be harder on those communities, which bear the least responsibility for climate change. Essop believes that governments are waiting for the negotiations in Paris, when there were urgent decisions to be taken in Lima.

Among the loose ends that will need to be tied in the French capital between Nov. 30 and Dec. 11, 2015, are the balance to be struck between mitigation and adaptation in the new global climate treaty, and how it will be financed.

“If we hadn’t come to the decision we have taken (the Lima Call for Climate Action), thing would be more difficult in Paris, but as we know there are still many things to be decided bewteen here and December 2015, in orden to resolve pending issues,” Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, said in the closing plenary session.

The goal of the agreement is for global temperature to increase no more than two degrees Celsius by 2100, in order to preserve planetary stability. Reduction of fossil fuel use is essential to achieve this.

Mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage are the pillars of the new treaty. The last two issues are vital for countries and populations disproportionately impacted by climate change, but faded from the agenda in Lima.

“It’s disastrous and it doesn’t meet our expectations at all. We wanted to see a template clearly emerging from Lima, leading to a much more ambitious deal,” said Harjeet Singh, manager for climate change and resilience for the international organisation ActionAid.

“What we are seeing here is a continuous pushback from developed countries on anything related to adaptation or loss and damage,” he told IPS.

These are thorny issues because they require financial commitments from rich countries. The Green Climate Fund, set up to counter climate change in developing countries, has only received 10.2 billion dollars by this month, only one-tenth of the amount promised by industrialised nations.

The Lima Call for Climate Action did determine the format for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), for each country to present its emissions reduction targets.

However, the final agreement eliminated mechanisms for analysing the appropriateness and adequacy of the targets that were contained in earlier drafts.

Negotiators feel that the sum of the national contributions will succeed in halting global warming, but observers are concerned that the lack of regulation will prevent adequate monitoring of whether emissions reductions on the planet are sufficient.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Valerie Dee

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/lima-agrees-deal-but-leaves-major-issues-for-paris/feed/ 0
Renewable Energy: The Untold Story of an African Revolutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 09:32:55 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138251 By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 13 2014 (IPS)

Africa is experiencing a revolution towards cleaner energy through renewable energy but the story has hardly been told to the world, says Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Steiner, who had been advocating for renewable energy at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, said Africa is on the right path toward a low carbon footprint by tapping into its plentiful renewable resources – hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“There is a revolution going on in the continent of Africa and the world is not noticing it. You can go to Egypt, Ethiopia Kenya, Namibia, and Mozambique. I think we will see renewable energy being the answer to Africa’s energy problems in the next fifteen years,” Steiner said in an interview with IPS.

Sharing the example of the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Steiner told IPS that the decision was taken that “if UNEP is going to be centred with its offices in the African continent on the Equator, there can be reason why we are not using renewable energy. So we installed photovoltaic panels on our roof which we share with UN Habitat, 1200 people, and we produce 750,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year, that is enough for the entire building to operate.”

He noted that although it will take UNEP between eight and 10 years to pay off the installation, UNEP will have over 13 years of electricity without paying monthly or annual power bills. “It is the best business proposition that a U.N. body has ever made in terms of paying for electricity for a building,” he said.

According to Steiner, the “revolution” is already happening in East Africa, especially in Kenya and Ethiopia which are both targeting renewable energy, especially geothermal energy.

“Kenya plans to triple its electricity generation up to about 6000 megawatts in the next five years. More than 90 percent of the planned power is to come from geothermal, solar and wind power,” he said. “If you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country” – Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director

Kenya currently runs a geothermal power development corporation which invites tenders from private investors bid and is establishing a wind power firm likely to be the largest in Africa with a capacity of 350 megawatts of power under a public-private partnership.

In Ethiopia, expansion of the Aluto-Langano geothermal power plant will increase geothermal generation capacity from the current 7 MW to 70 MW. The expansion project is being financed by the Ethiopian government (10 million dollars), a 12 million dollar grant from the Government of Japan, and a 13 million dollar loan from the World Bank.

Renewable energy has costs but also benefits

Phillip Hauser, Vice President of GDF Suez Energy Latin America, told IPS that geothermal power is a good option for countries in Africa with that potential, but it comes with risks.

“It is very site-dependent. There can be geothermal projects that are relatively cost efficient and there are others that are relatively expensive. It is a bit like the oil and gas industry. You have to find the resource and you have to develop the resource. Sometimes you might drill and you don’t find anything – that is lost investment,” Hauser told IPS.

Steiner admitted that like any other investment, renewable energy has some limitations, including the need for upfront initial capital and the cost of technology, but he said that countries with good renewable energy policies would attract the necessary private investments.

“We are moving in a direction where Africa will not have to live in a global fuel market in which one day you have to pay 120 dollars for a barrel of crude oil, then the next day you get it at 80 dollars and before you know it, it is doubled,” he said.

“So if you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country,”Steiner added.

A recent assessment by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) of Africa’s renewable energy future found that solar and wind power potential existed in at least 21 countries, and biomass power potential in at least 14 countries.

The agency, which supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, has yet to provide a list of countries with geothermal power potential but almost all the countries around the Great Rift Valley in south-eastern Africa – Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania among others – have already identified geothermal sites, with Kenya being the first to use a geothermal site to add power to its grid.

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin told IPS that the agency’s studies shows that not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply, while contributing to limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius – the widely-cited tipping point in the climate change debate.

He said the good news in Africa is that apart from the resources that exist, there is a growing body of knowledge across African expert institutions that would help the continent to exploit its virgin renewable energy potential.

What is needed now, he explained, is for countries in Africa to develop the economic case for those resources supported by targeted government policies to help developers and financiers get projects off the ground.

The IRENA assessment found that in 2010, African countries imported 18 billion dollars’ worth of oil – more than the entire amount they received in foreign aid – while oil subsidies in Africa cost an estimated 50 billion dollars every year.

New financing models for renewable energy

According to Amin, renewable energy technologies are now the most economical solution for off-grid and mini-grid electrification in remote areas, as well as for grid extension in some cases of centralised grid supply.

He argued that rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs, a better understanding of financial risk and a growing appreciation of wider benefits mean that renewable energy would increasingly be the solution to Africa’s energy problem.

In this context, Africa could take on new financing models that “de-risk” investments in order to lower the cost of capital, which has historically been a major barrier to investment in renewable energy, and one such model would include encouragement for green bonds.

“Green bonds are the recent innovation for renewable energy investments,” said Amin. “Last year we reached about 14 billion dollars, this year there is an estimate of about 40 billion, and next year there is an estimate of about 100 billion dollars in green finance through green bonds. Why doesn’t Africa take advantage of those?” he asked.

During the conference in Lima, activist groups have been urging an end to dependence on fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy systems, calling for investment and policies geared toward building clean, sustainable, community-based energy solutions.

“We urgently need to decrease our energy consumption and push for a just transition to community-controlled renewable energy if we are to avoid devastating climate change,” said Susann Scherbarth, a climate justice and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe.

Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, told IPS that “we urgently need a transition to clean energy in developing countries and one of the best incentives is globally funded feed-in tariffs for renewable energy.”

He said policies that support feed-in tariffs and decentralized power sources should be embraced by both the most- and the least-developed nations.

Backed by a new discussion paper on a ‘global renewable energy support programme’ from the What Next Forum, activists called for decentralised energy systems – including small-scale wind, solar, biomass mini-grids communities that are not necessarily connected to a national electricity transmission grid.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution/feed/ 1
Glaciers and Fruit Dying in Peru with no Response from COP20http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/glaciers-and-fruit-dying-in-peru-with-no-response-from-cop20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=glaciers-and-fruit-dying-in-peru-with-no-response-from-cop20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/glaciers-and-fruit-dying-in-peru-with-no-response-from-cop20/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:14:06 +0000 Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138248 Cayetano Huanca, who lives near the Ausangate glacier in the department of Cuzco in Peru’s Andes mountains. In just a few years, the snow and ice could be gone, something that has happened on other glaciers in the country. Credit: Oxfam

Cayetano Huanca, who lives near the Ausangate glacier in the department of Cuzco in Peru’s Andes mountains. In just a few years, the snow and ice could be gone, something that has happened on other glaciers in the country. Credit: Oxfam

By Milagros Salazar
LIMA, Dec 12 2014 (IPS)

Snow-capped mountains may become a thing of the past in Peru, which has 70 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers. And farmers in these ecosystems are having a hard time adapting to the higher temperatures, while the governments of 195 countries are wrapping up the climate change talks in Lima without addressing this situation facing the host country.

Some 100 km from a glacier that refuses to die – the Salkantay mountain in the department of Cuzco – there is a monument to passion fruit, which hundreds of local farmers depend on for a living, and which they will no longer be able to plant 20 years from now, according to projections.

The monument, which is in the main square in the town of Santa Teresa, near the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, shows a woman picking the fruit and farmers carrying it on their backs, cutting the weeds, and hoeing.“It’s important to assess how the retreat of the glacier affects the local population, to know how they can adapt, because the loss of these snow-capped peaks is irreversible.” -- Fernando Chiock

That scene frozen in time reflects real life in Santa Teresa, where passion fruit (Passiflora ligularis) grows between 2,000 and 2,800 metres above sea level. But due to the rising temperatures, farmers will have to move up the slopes. And once they reach 3,000 metres above sea level, they won’t be able to plant passion fruit anymore.

“There is a strong impact in this area because the locals depend on the cultivation of passion fruit for their livelihoods,” environmental engineer Karim Quevedo, who has frequently visited the Santa Teresa microbasin as the head of the agro-meteorology office of Peru’s national weather service, Senamhi, told IPS.

That microbasin is one of the areas studied by Senamhi as part of a project of adaptation by local populations to the impact of glacier retreat. The glacier that is dying next to the town of Santa Teresa is Salkantay, which in the Quechua indigenous language means “wild mountain”.

Salkantay, at the heart of the Vilcabamba range, supplies water to local rivers. But in the last 40 years the glacier has lost nearly 64 percent of its surface area, equivalent to some 22 sq km, according to the National Water Authority (ANA).

“It’s important to assess how the retreat of the glacier affects the local population, to know how they can adapt, because the loss of these snow-capped peaks is irreversible,” the head of the climate change area in ANA, Fernando Chiock, told IPS.

Both Chiock and Quevedo said it was crucial to take into account the direct effects on the local population and to prioritise funding to mitigate the impacts, at the end of the COP20 – the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – whose final phase was attended by leaders and senior officials from 195 countries.

Monument to passion fruit in the town of Santa Teresa – a crop that local farmers will no longer be able to grow 20 years from now because of the rise in temperatures in this mountainous area of Cuzco in Peru’s Andes. Credit: Courtesy of Karim Quevedo

Monument to passion fruit in the town of Santa Teresa – a crop that local farmers will no longer be able to grow 20 years from now because of the rise in temperatures in this mountainous area of Cuzco in Peru’s Andes. Credit: Courtesy of Karim Quevedo

COP20, which began Dec. 1, was scheduled to end Friday, but is likely to stretch to Saturday.

“What is yet to be seen is how to bring what is agreed at this climate summit to the ground in local areas. One of the challenges is to form connections between the big treaties,” Quevedo told IPS in Voices for the Climate, an event held near the military base in Lima, known as El Pentagonito, where COP20 is being held.

The outlook is alarming, experts say. Since the 1970s, the surface area of the 2,679 glaciers in Peru’s Andes mountains has shrunk over 40 percent, from more than 2,000 sq km to 1,300 sq km, said Chiock.

Some glaciers have already completely disappeared, such as Broggi, which formed part of the Cordillera Blanca, the tropical mountain range with the greatest density of glaciers in the world, which like the Vilcabamba range forms part of the Andes mountains.

Around 50 years ago, Broggi was retreating at a rate of two metres a year, but in the 1980s and 1990s the pace picked up to 20 metres a year.

In 2005, monitoring of the mountain stopped because the surface of the glacier, equivalent to signs of life in a human being, disappeared completely.

Today, glacial retreat in Peru ranges between nine and 20 metres a year, according to ANA. At the same time, the melt-off has given rise to nearly 1,000 new high-altitude lakes, Chiock said.

In the short-term, the appearance of new lakes could sound like good news for local populations. But according to the ANA expert, these new sources of water must be properly managed, to avoid generating false expectations in the communities and to manage the risks posed by the lakes, from ruptured dikes.

Chiock explained that safety works are currently in progress at 35 lakes that pose a risk.

There is a sense of uncertainty in rural areas. New lakes appearing, glaciers dying, hailstorms destroying the maize crop, unpredictable rainfall patterns, heavy rains that affect the potato crop, intense sunshine that rots fruit, insects that hover like bubbles over a boiling pot.

“The climate patterns have changed,” Quevedo said. “You can’t generalise about what is happening; each town or village faces its own problems. But what is undeniable is that the climate has changed.”

Some crops have been affected more than others. With the high temperatures, potatoes have to be planted at higher altitudes because they need cold nights to flourish. In some areas, coffee benefits from intense sunshine, but in others the plants suffer because they also need shade.

The influence of the climate on crops is 61 percent, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

“These minor climate events are the ones that cause the greatest damage to the population, and they are the most invisible to the international community,” Maarten Van Aalst, the director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, who took part in the COP20, told IPS.

He said it shouldn’t take a hurricane sweeping away entire harvests, like in Haiti in January 2010, for governments to sit up and take notice.

But hopes are melting that they will do so before COP20 comes to an end here in Lima.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/glaciers-and-fruit-dying-in-peru-with-no-response-from-cop20/feed/ 0
Climate Change Creates New Geography of Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-change-creates-new-geography-of-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-creates-new-geography-of-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-change-creates-new-geography-of-food/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 13:10:00 +0000 Fabiola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138236 Cándido Menzúa Salazar, national coordinator of the indigenous peoples of Panama, addressed the audience at the Global Landscapes Forum, the largest side event at COP 20 in Lima, on how climate change altered his agroforestry practices. Credit: Audry Córdova/COP20 Lima

Cándido Menzúa Salazar, national coordinator of the indigenous peoples of Panama, addressed the audience at the Global Landscapes Forum, the largest side event at COP 20 in Lima, on how climate change altered his agroforestry practices. Credit: Audry Córdova/COP20 Lima

By Fabiola Ortiz
LIMA, Dec 12 2014 (IPS)

The magnitude of the climate changes brought about by global warming and the alterations in rainfall patterns are modifying the geography of food production in the tropics, warned participants at the climate summit in the Peruvian capital.

That was the main concern among experts in food security taking part in the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held Dec. 1-12 in Lima. They are worried about rising food prices if tropical countries fail to take prompt action to adapt.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI estimates that climate change will trigger food price hikes of up to 30 percent.

The countryside is the first sector directly affected by climate change, said Andy Jarvis, a researcher at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who specialises in low-carbon farming in the CGIAR Research Programme for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

“Climate and agriculture go hand in hand and it’s the climate that defines whether a crop will do well or poorly. The geography of where crops grow is going to change, and the impacts can be extremely negative if nothing is done,” Jarvis told Tierramérica during the Global Landscapes Forum, the biggest parallel event to the COP20.

Crops like coffee, cacao and beans are especially vulnerable to drastic temperatures and scarce rainfall and can suffer huge losses as a result of changing climate patterns.

One example: In the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru, where the greatest biodiversity of potatoes can be found, higher temperatures and spreading crop diseases and pests are forcing indigenous farmers to grow potatoes at higher and higher altitudes. Potato farmers in the area could see a 15 to 30 percent reduction in rainfall by 2030, according to ClimateWire.

Another illustration: In Central American countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras, a fungus called coffee rust is decimating crops.

The outbreak has already caused one billion dollars in losses in Central America in the last two years, and 53 percent of coffee plantations in the area are at risk, according to the International Coffee Organisation (ICO).

Latin America produces 13 percent of the world’s cacao and there is an international effort to preserve diversity of the crop in the Americas from witches’ broom disease, which can also be aggravated by extreme climate conditions.

At the same time, switching to cacao can be a strategy for coffee farmers when temperatures are not favourable to coffee production, according to the CGIAR consortium of international agricultural research centres.

Regina Illamarca and Natividad Pilco, two farmers preserving potato biodiversity in Huama, a community in the department of Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes, and whose crops are being altered by global warming. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Regina Illamarca and Natividad Pilco, two farmers preserving potato biodiversity in Huama, a community in the department of Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes, and whose crops are being altered by global warming. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

“At the COP, the idea discussed is to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, as the most optimistic goal,” Jarvis told Tierramérica. “But that practically implies the total displacement of the coffee-growing zone. Two degrees will be too hot. The current trends indicate that prices are going to soar. As production drops and supply shrinks, prices go up. The impact would also lead to a rise in poverty.”

In Nicaragua, where coffee is a pillar of the economy, a two degree increase in temperatures would lead to the loss of 80 percent of the current coffee-growing area, he said.

According to a CIAT study, “by 2050 coffee growing areas will move approximately 300 metres up the altitudinal gradient and push farmers at lower altitudes out of coffee production, increase pressure on forests and natural resources in higher altitudes and jeopardise the actors along the coffee supply chain.”

As the climate heats up, crops that now grow at a maximum altitude of 1,600 metres will climb even higher, which would affect the subsistence of half a million small farmers and agricultural workers, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas said at COP20 that climate change is already endangering the food security, incomes and livelihoods of the most vulnerable families.

“Resilient agriculture is more environmental because it doesn’t use nitrogenous fertilisers. But no matter how much we do, there are systemic limits. We could reach a limit as to how much agriculture can adapt,” he told Tierramérica.

Rojas called for an integral focus on landscapes in the context of climate change, to confront the challenge of ensuring adequate nutrition for the 805 million chronically malnourished people around the world. However, agricultural production will at the same time have to rise 60 percent to meet demand.

The executive director of the U.S.-based Earth Innovation Institute, Daniel Nepstad, noted that the largest proportion of land available for food production is in the tropics.

“The growth in demand for food, especially, in the emerging economies is going to outpace the rise in production. The countries in the world with the greatest potential are in Latin America,” said Nepstad, who added that the innovations to mitigate the impact of climate change on food are happening mainly outside the scope of the UNFCCC.

The director general of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Peter Holmgren, said agroforestry is an approach that reconciles agriculture, forest conservation and food production without generating greenhouse gas emissions.

“The main reason forests are disappearing in this region is agriculture, it is the expansion of commercial agriculture,” he told Tierramérica. “We have a lot of research going on that seeks more resilient and more producing varieties of different crops and livestock. We call it climate-smart agriculture. There is a lot of political commitment to reduce deforestation and direct the investments in agriculture in different ways. However it seems that agriculture is still outside the negotiations in the COP itself.”

As well as agroforestry techniques, agricultural weather report services with forecasts of up to four to six months are ways to contribute to adaptation to changing climate patterns.

CIAT’s Jarvis argued for the need for the diversification of crops and the increase in support with policies to support agriculture.

This article was originally published by the Latin American network of newspapers Tierramérica.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-change-creates-new-geography-of-food/feed/ 0
Want Economic Growth? Lessen Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/want-economic-growth-lessen-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=want-economic-growth-lessen-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/want-economic-growth-lessen-inequality/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:37:56 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138233 Inequality out in the open. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

Inequality out in the open. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Dec 12 2014 (IPS)

For years, many policy makers, including economists, have clung to the belief that if states do nothing to boost income equality, market forces will cause wealth to trickle down to the poorest citizens and contribute to overall growth.

That theory is now being increasingly debunked as experts affirm that the broadening gap in income is creating far-ranging problems for many societies.

In a new report  published on Dec. 9, researchers at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) argue that “reducing income inequality would boost economic growth”.

Their research shows that countries where income inequality is decreasing actually “grow faster than those with rising inequality,” and the analysts would like to see governments take stronger action to reduce inequity.“Today, the richest 10 percent of the population in the OECD area earn 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 percent; in the 1980s, this ratio stood at 7:1 and has been rising continuously ever since” – OECD

“The single biggest impact on growth is the widening gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared with the rest of society,” says the report titled ‘Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth’, and “education is the key: a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth.”

According to Michael Förster, a senior analyst in the OECD’s Social Policy division, one reason “the poor and lower middle classes are being left behind in unequal societies” is that they do not have the resources to spend on their own or their children’s education, compared with wealthier citizens,.

He said that governments needed to revise strategies that are based on outdated economic theories.

“The common assumption used to be that the more you did to enhance equality, the more you would hinder growth,” he argued. “So the idea was that if you take too much from the top earners, through taxes, you will have less growth. We haven’t found evidence for that. What we have found is that increasing inequality is bad for growth.”

For example, rising inequality is estimated “to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand over the past two decades up to the Great Recession,” says the OECD.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States, the “cumulative growth rate would have been six to nine percentage points higher had income disparities not widened.”

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said that this “compelling evidence” proves that addressing high and growing inequality is “critical to promote strong and sustained growth” and needs to be at the centre of global policy discussions.

“Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an early age are those that will grow and prosper,” he added.

However, some scholars maintain that the consequences of inequality are hard to prove. American economist Jared Bernstein and others have pointed out that it is difficult to establish a firm connection between the inequities in education and economic growth.

These analysts acknowledge that wealthier parents do spend more overall on educational tools and “goods”, and that children from rich families often study at elite institutions in contrast to children from poor backgrounds who may attend lower-quality schools, but they have disagreed on the social or economic effects.

With the “new evidence”, OECD researchers say that the main means through which inequality affects growth is by “undermining education opportunities for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development.”

“People whose parents have low levels of education see their educational outcomes deteriorate as income inequality rises. By contrast, there is little or no effect on people with middle or high levels of parental educational background,” the OECD said in a statement.

According to researchers, anti-poverty programmes will not be enough to create greater equality of opportunities in the long term.  Essential measures will include “cash transfers and increasing access to public services, such as high-quality education, training and healthcare”, the OECD says.

Förster stressed that the inequality study focused on income and not wealth. But recent discussions have centred on both, particularly in France since the election of Socialist President François Hollande in May 2012.

Soon after his election, Hollande announced plans for a 75 percent tax on all income over one million euro, and a watered-down version of the plan was approved by French courts a year ago, even as many wealthy families fled to Belgium and elsewhere.

Economists of different political colours have argued about whether the increased taxation is good for the economy, and the debate has grown more heated with last year’s publication of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by renowned French economist Thomas Piketty.

A lecturer in Paris and internationally, Piketty advocates a global tax on wealth. He has carried out studies showing that income inequality has grown in many countries, alongside 30 years of declining tax levels.

The gap is particularly marked in the United States, but even in “egalitarian” France, the top one percent earned an average of 30,000 euro monthly in 2010, compared with 1,500 euro per adult of the poorest 50 percent.

According to the OECD, a similar situation exists in many of its 34 member countries, which include European nations and others such as Mexico, Chile and the United States.

“Today, the richest 10 percent of the population in the OECD area earn 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 percent; in the 1980s, this ratio stood at 7:1 and has been rising continuously ever since.”

Bucking the trend, income inequality has been falling in Chile and Mexico, but the incomes of the richest are still more than 25 times those of the poorest in these two countries.

The OECD’s Latin American Economic Outlook 2015, produced with regional partners and also launched on Dec. 9, focuses on the role of education and skills, and experts said more needed to be done to “raise educational standards and address persistent and substantial socioeconomic inequalities.”

Förster told IPS that the organisation hoped governments would consider the findings as a basis to change policy, “otherwise we won’t get out of the current situation.”

(Edited by Phil Harris)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/want-economic-growth-lessen-inequality/feed/ 1
U.S. Faulted for Undermining Torture Conventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/us-faulted-for-undermining-torture-convention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-faulted-for-undermining-torture-convention http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/us-faulted-for-undermining-torture-convention/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 01:26:36 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138224 Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, recently appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, notes that few countries will admit their state apparatus has been practising torture, even when the scars are all too visible on the victims who manage to escape. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, recently appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, notes that few countries will admit their state apparatus has been practising torture, even when the scars are all too visible on the victims who manage to escape. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 2014 (IPS)

The timing was inadvertently impeccable as two stinging reports on harsh interrogation techniques – by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States and former military regimes in Brazil – were released on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Not surprisingly, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was peppered – and metaphorically tortured – with a barrage of non-stop questions on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s response to the charges."They knew they were outside the lines, they concealed it from their own people, and yet no one will be held accountable." -- Prof. Vijay Prashad

“The secretary-general believes the prohibition of torture [by the U.N. convention] was absolute and non-negotiable,” Dujarric told reporters at Wednesday’s noon briefing.

But the questions seemed never ending – even as he refused to be pinned down.

“No, I do not believe the secretary-general had direct communication with anyone in the U.S. administration [after the report was released Tuesday].”

“No, no one is taking the report as gospel. And it is not for the secretary-general to say it is a definitive report,” he shot back. “There is an open debate – and this is the start of a process,” he added.

The release of the two reports – by a U.S. Senate committee on the CIA’s interrogation tactics, and also the systematic human rights violations in Brazil as revealed in a report by the country’s National Truth Commission – also coincided with Human Rights Day, which the United Nations commemorates annually on Dec. 10.

“Strange coincidence indeed,” Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, told IPS.

He said the report by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee shows they were well aware the revelations “stink”.

“There is a very telling section [in the report] where they say that [then U.S. Secretary of State] Colin Powell must not be informed, because if he is, he would blow his stack,” said Prashad, who has written extensively on international politics and is the author of 15 books.

“They knew they were outside the lines, they concealed it from their own people, and yet no one will be held accountable,” he added.

The United States ratified the 1987 U.N. Convention Against Torture back in October 1994 and Brazil in September 1989.

Responding to the two reports, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, urged the U.N.’s 193 member states to act unequivocally in their effort to stamp out torture.

He said the U.S. report shows torture is still taking place in quite a few of the 156 countries that have ratified the Convention and have domestic legislation making torture illegal.

“To have it so clearly confirmed that it was recently practised as a matter of policy by a country such as the United States is a very stark reminder that we need to do far, far more to stamp it out everywhere,” he continued.

This has been true at the best of times, he added.

It is particularly true during this period of rising international terrorism, when it has shown a tendency to slither back into practice, disguised by euphemisms, even in countries where it is clearly outlawed, said Zeid, a former permanent representative of Jordan to the United Nations.

However, he “warmly welcomed” the publication of the Senate Committee’s summary report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Programme, as well as the report of Brazil’s National Truth Commission which documents the extensive use of torture, among other gross and systematic human rights violations, over a 42-year period, including the 1964-85 military dictatorship.

The Brazilian Commission, which was established in May 2012, investigated the serious human rights violations that occurred between 1946 and 1988 – the period between the last two democratic constitutions in Brazil.

These violations include unlawful imprisonment and torture; sexual violence; executions and subsequent concealing of corpses; and enforced disappearances.

“When practiced massively and systematically against a population, these violations become a crime against humanity,” the report said.

The report on the CIA said terrorist suspects, after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, were subjected to sleep deprivation (as long as a week), water-boarding, rectal-hydration, with some prisoners “literally hooked like a dog that had been kenneled.”

The CIA defended its techniques by arguing that its brutal treatment of suspects was aimed at protecting the country from further terrorist attacks.

Zeid said: “Although there are very significant differences between these two exceptionally important reports, not least in their scope and the periods they cover, I commend the governments of Brazil and the United States for enabling their release.”

Few countries, he pointed out, will admit their state apparatus has been practising torture, and many continue shamelessly to deny it – even when it is well documented by international human rights treaty bodies, and the scars are all too visible on the victims who manage to escape.

“While it will take time to fully analyse the contents of these two landmark reports – and I do not wish to pre-empt that analysis – we can still draw some stark conclusions about the failures to eradicate this serious international crime, for which there should be no statute of limitations and no impunity,” Zeid declared.

He also said one question neither report can answer on its own is how both countries will fulfil their obligation to ensure accountability for the crimes that have been committed.

In all countries, he pointed out, if someone commits murder, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they commit rape or armed robbery, they are prosecuted and jailed.

“If they order, enable or commit torture recognized as a serious international crime they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency.”

When that happens, he said, “we undermine this exceptional Convention, and as a number of U.S. political leaders clearly acknowledged yesterday, we undermine our own claims to be civilized societies rooted in the rule of law.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/us-faulted-for-undermining-torture-convention/feed/ 0
Pushing for Gender Equity at COP20http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/pushing-for-gender-equity-at-cop20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pushing-for-gender-equity-at-cop20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/pushing-for-gender-equity-at-cop20/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:54:28 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138220 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/pushing-for-gender-equity-at-cop20/feed/ 2 The Rapid Rise of Green Bondshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-rapid-rise-of-green-bonds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-rapid-rise-of-green-bonds http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-rapid-rise-of-green-bonds/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:54:35 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138209 Hellisheiðarvirkjun is the second largest geothermal power station in the world. Iceland is a leader in geothermal energy, but other countries are starting to follow suit. Credit: Jesús Rodríguez Fernández/cc by 2.0

Hellisheiðarvirkjun is the second largest geothermal power station in the world. Iceland is a leader in geothermal energy, but other countries are starting to follow suit. Credit: Jesús Rodríguez Fernández/cc by 2.0

By Desmond Brown
LIMA, Dec 10 2014 (IPS)

Most countries joining the growing list of nations pursuing clean geothermal power have been confronted with a huge financial challenge.

But the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Adnan Z. Amin, said efforts by his organisation to “double renewable energy” and encourage investors have been paying off, including a new effort to promote geothermal in Latin America.

Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Adnan Z. Amin. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Adnan Z. Amin. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

“We have new financing models that are de-risking investment and lowering the cost of capital, which has historically been a barrier to renewable energy,” Amin told IPS, citing financing through green bonds as one recent innovation for renewable energy investment.

Amin said green bonds reached 14 billion dollars last year and are estimated to reach 40 billion dollars in 2014 and up to 100 billion dollars next year.

“This is changing the expectations of the traditional model of investment where it was always the expectation that developing countries would be asking for multilateral cheap financing to develop their energy sectors,” Amin said.

“That’s no longer true. What is true is that the business case for renewable energy in many of these countries is now fully established, sources of financing are coming on stream and ambitious efforts to reform the legislative and policy framework are taking place, which are opening the market for renewables.”

The proposal for an international agency dedicated to renewable energy was made in 1981 at the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in Nairobi."The business case for renewable energy in many [developing] countries is now fully established, sources of financing are coming on stream and ambitious efforts to reform the legislative and policy framework are taking place, which are opening the market for renewables.” -- IRENA chief Adnan Z. Amin

IRENA was officially founded in Bonn on Jan. 26, 2009. This was a significant milestone for world renewable energy deployment and a clear sign that the global energy paradigm was changing as a result of the growing commitments from governments.

“The reason that we are much more integrated in the climate discussion now is because energy is going to be a large part of the solution to carbon emissions in the future,” Amin said.

“We know that the current energy system accounts for 80 percent of the global carbon emissions. Just power generation by itself accounts for 40 percent of carbon emissions and we’re living in a dramatically changing world.”

IRENA has set 2030, when the planet will be home to eight billion people, as its reference point for full rollout of renewable energy.

“These eight billion people will demand about 60 percent more energy than we currently have available and at the current rate of emissions if nothing else happens, we will reach the 450 part per million tipping point [of CO2 in the atmosphere] beyond which catastrophic climate change is likely to occur in 2040,” Amin said.

“So we have this small window of opportunity to make serious efforts to control emissions that come from energy systems.”

A new programme designed to support the development of geothermal energy in the Latin American region was launched here Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

Peru’s involvement in the Geothermal Development Facility is part of its plan to achieve 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Earlier this year, the Peruvian Government and IRENA cooperated on a renewable energy readiness assessment for the country. The assessment identifies actions needed to further expand the share of renewable energy in Peru, as well as how to better complement rural electrification and improve on-going efforts to support the development of bio fuel in the country.

The assessment determined that Peru’s vast, untapped renewable energy resources could play a key role in securing the necessary energy to fuel economic expansion while preserving the environment. It also highlights the need to prepare for renewable energy integration in transmission-grid expansion plans, particularly so that variable sources like solar and wind power can meet future electricity demand.

With the current share of renewable energy in the global electricity mix at 18 percent, IRENA hopes to see this doubled by 2030.

But an analysis of the plans on the table by all the major companies in the world to see what their current trajectory of renewable investment and decarbonisation is going to be found that they would be on “a business as usual scenario” with only a three percent increase to 21 percent by the end of 2030.

Amin has met with U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres to discuss the key role of renewables in addressing climate change.

During their talks it was noted that more than 80 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions come from burning fossil fuels for energy. Of that, 44 percent comes from coal, 36 percent from oil and 20 percent from natural gas.

“As such, energy must be our priority in bringing down global CO2 emissions,” Amin said.

Ryan Gilchrist, assistant director of business development at UGE International, a renewables firm, said Caribbean countries could turn around their struggling economies by pursuing clean energy.

“Most Caribbean countries are currently relying on imported diesel for power, which is expensive, price-volatile, and produces CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change,” Gilchrist told IPS.

“Solar energy can solve these challenges in the Caribbean, providing a cleaner and cheaper alternative. Caribbean islands are particularly threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, but at the same time, they have much to gain, as they have abundant solar and wind resources that can provide clean sources of energy.”

UGE International provides renewable energy solutions for businesses and governments in 90 countries.

Gilchrist said that the high cost for energy on islands, coupled with the falling cost of solar technology, means that renewable energy is already cost-competitive in most Caribbean countries. And he agrees that there are a number of financing mechanisms that eliminate the upfront cost of the technology, creating energy savings from day one.

Meanwhile, an Atlanta-based syndicated columnist, who has written extensively on geothermal in the Caribbean, said geothermal energy could be linked to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, as a positive factor in fighting poverty in small island states and energy security.

“Geothermal energy can be the prospective to address economic development, climate change mitigation, and stipulation of affordable energy,” Rebecca Theodore told IPS.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at destinydlb@gmail.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/the-rapid-rise-of-green-bonds/feed/ 0
Nuclear States Face Barrage of Criticism in Viennahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/nuclear-states-face-barrage-of-criticism-in-vienna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-states-face-barrage-of-criticism-in-vienna http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/nuclear-states-face-barrage-of-criticism-in-vienna/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:19:17 +0000 Jamshed Baruah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138201 Delegates at the Dec. 8-9 Vienna Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: Ippnw Deutschland/cc by 2.0

Delegates at the Dec. 8-9 Vienna Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: Ippnw Deutschland/cc by 2.0

By Jamshed Baruah
VIENNA, Dec 10 2014 (IPS)

Sarcastic laughter erupted when a civil society representative expressed his “admiration for the delegate of the United States, who with one insensitive, ill-timed, inappropriate and diplomatically inept intervention” had “managed to dispel the considerable goodwill the U.S. had garnered by its decision to participate” in Vienna Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

The speaker was Richard Lennane, who prefers to call himself the “chief inflammatory officer” of Wildfire, a Geneva-based disarmament initiative. He was making a statement at the final session of the Dec. 8-9 conference in the Austrian capital – the third after the Oslo (Norway) gathering in 2013 and Nayarit (Mexico) earlier this year.“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting.” -- Akira Kawasaki of Peaceboat

Unlike the previous conferences, the United States and Britain – two of the five members of the nuclear club, along with France, Russia and China – participated in the Vienna conference.

But Washington’s diplomatic jargon was far-removed from the highly emotional impact of statements by survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of nuclear testing in Australia, Kazakhstan, and the Marshall Islands. They gave powerful testimonies of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons. Their evidence complemented other presentations offering data and research.

Ambassador Adam Scheinman, special representative of the U.S. president for non-proliferation, assured that “underpinning all of our efforts, stretching back decades, has been our clear understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use”.

This claim not only left a large number of participants unimpressed but also failed to give reason for hope that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference next year would bear fruit.

All the more so, because as the U.S.-based Arms Control Association, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out in a joint statement, “nearly five years after the successful 2010 NPT review conference, follow-through on the consensus action plan – particularly the 22 interrelated disarmament steps – has been very disappointing.

“Since the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in 2011,” the statement added, “Russia and the United States have failed to start talks to further reduce their still enormous nuclear stockpiles, which far exceed any plausible deterrence requirements.”

2015 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the consequences of which are still being felt by hibakusha (survivors) and their families, as Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima Peace Ambassador and survivor of the atomic bombing explosion on Aug. 6, 1945, illustrated in an impassioned statement.

“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting,” said Akira Kawasaki, from the Japanese NGO Peaceboat.

“The only solution is to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and we need to start now,” Kawasaki added.

U.S. ambassador Scheinman sought to reassure in a statement prepared for the general debate: “The United States fully understands the serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and gives the highest priority to avoiding their use. The United States stands with all those here who seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

“The United States has been and will continue to work to create the conditions for such a world with the aid of the various tools, treaties and agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime.”

Irrespective of the veracity of the U.S. claim, Scheinman’s dry and rather formulaic remarks stood in stark contrast to passionate pleas made by representatives of 44 out of 158 participating states, that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use by design, miscalculation or madness, technical or human error remains real.

States that expressed support for a ban treaty at the Vienna Conference include: Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Echoing worldwide sentiments, Pope Francis called in a message to the conference for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”.

In a message delivered by Angela Kane, High Representative of the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna initiatives had “brought humanitarian considerations to the forefront of nuclear disarmament. It has energized civil society and governments alike. It has compelled us to keep in mind the horrific consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.”

Questioning the rationale behind nuclear weapons, Ban – who is known to be committed to nuclear disarmament – said that keeping the horrific consequences of nukes in mind was essential in confronting those who view nuclear weapons as a rational response to growing international tensions or as a symbol of national prestige.

In his widely noted message, he criticised “the senselessness of pouring funds into modernizing the means for our mutual destruction while we are failing to meet the challenges posed by poverty, climate change, extremism and the destabilizing accumulation of conventional arms.”

In “the 70th year of the nuclear age”, Ban said “possession of nuclear weapons does not prevent international disputes from occurring, but it makes conflicts more dangerous”.

Besides, he added, maintaining forces on alert does not provide safety, but it increases the likelihood of accidents. Upholding doctrines of nuclear deterrence does not counter proliferation, but it makes the weapons more desirable.

Growing ranks of nuclear armed-states do not ensure global stability, but instead undermine it – a view with which also faith organisations gathered in Vienna agreed.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/nuclear-states-face-barrage-of-criticism-in-vienna/feed/ 2
Latin America Faces the Novelty and Challenge of Ageinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/latin-america-faces-the-novelty-and-challenge-of-ageing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-faces-the-novelty-and-challenge-of-ageing http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/latin-america-faces-the-novelty-and-challenge-of-ageing/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 21:58:54 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138179 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/latin-america-faces-the-novelty-and-challenge-of-ageing/feed/ 0 Civil Society Support for Marshall Islands Against Nuclear Weaponshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/civil-society-support-for-marshall-islands-against-nuclear-weapons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-support-for-marshall-islands-against-nuclear-weapons http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/civil-society-support-for-marshall-islands-against-nuclear-weapons/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 01:41:34 +0000 Julia Rainer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138164 Mushroom cloud over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands from Castle Bravo, the largest nuclear test ever conducted by the United States. Credit: United States Department of Energy [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Mushroom cloud over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands from Castle Bravo, the largest nuclear test ever conducted by the United States. Credit: United States Department of Energy [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

By Julia Rainer
VIENNA, Dec 9 2014 (IPS)

Ahead of the Dec. 8-9 Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, activists from all over the world came together in the Austrian capital to participate in a civil society forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on Dec. 6 and 7.

One pressing issue discussed was the Marshall Islands’ lawsuit against the United States and eight other nuclear-weapon nations that was filed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in April 2014, denouncing the over 60 nuclear tests that were conducted on the small island state’s territory between 1946 and 1958.“The Marshall Islands is a small, gutsy country. It is not a country that will be bullied, nor is it one that will give up. It knows what is at stake with nuclear weapons and is fighting in the courtroom for humanity’s survival” – David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF)

The location was chosen not only because it was an isolated part of the world but also because at the time it was also a Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands governed by the United States. Self-government was achieved in 1979, and full sovereignty in 1986.

The people of the Marshall Islands were neither informed nor asked for their consent and for a long period did not realise the harm that the testing would bring to the local communities.

The consequences were severe, ranging from displacement of people to islands that were strongly radiated and cannot be resettled for thousands of years, besides birth abnormalities and cancer. The states responsible denied the harm of the practice and refuse to provide for adequate amount of health care.

Castle Bravo was the code name given to the first United States‘ test of a nuclear bomb in 1954 and was 1000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

Addressing the ICAN forum, Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum explained that his country had decided to approach the ICJ to take a stand for a world free of nuclear weapons.

De Brum said that the Marshall Islands was not seeking compensation, because the United States had already provided millions of dollars to the islands, but wants to hold states accountable for their actions in violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and international customary law.

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, commits nuclear-weapon states to nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear power. The nine countries currently holding nuclear arsenals are the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.

Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, who talked about “stopping the madness and banning nuclear weapons once and for all”, with Daniela Varano, ICAN Campaign Communications Coordinator. Credit: ICAN

Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, who talked about “stopping the madness and banning nuclear weapons once and for all”, with Daniela Varano, ICAN Campaign Communications Coordinator. Credit: ICAN

Although a certain degree of disarmament has been taken place since the end of the Cold War, these nine nations together still possess some 17,000 nuclear weapons and globally spend 100 billion dollars a year on nuclear forces.

The Marshall Islands case, which has received worldwide attention and support from many different organisations, is often referred to as “David vs. Goliath”. One eminent supporter is the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), whose president, David Krieger, said: “The Marshall Islands is a small, gutsy country. It is not a country that will be bullied, nor is it one that will give up.”

“It knows what is at stake with nuclear weapons,” he continued, “and is fighting in the courtroom for humanity’s survival. The people of the Marshall Islands deserve our support and appreciation for taking this fight into the U.S. Federal Court and to the International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world.”

Another strong supporter of the case is Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Buddhist organisation that advocates for peace, culture and education and has a network of 12 million people all over the world. The youth movement of SGI even launched a “Nuclear Zero” petition and obtained five million signatures throughout Japan in its demand for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The campaign was encouraged by the upcoming 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 as well as the holding of the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Addressing the ICAN, de Brum urged participants to support the cause of the Marshall Islands. “For a long time,” he said, “the Marshallese people did not have a voice strong enough or loud enough for the world to hear what happened to them and they desperately don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

He went on to say that when the opportunity arose to file a lawsuit in order to stop “the madness of nuclear weapons”, the Marshall Islands decided to take that step, declaring in its lawsuit: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”.

De Brum recognised that many had discouraged his country from taking that step because it would look ridiculous or did not make sense for a nation of 70.000 people to take on the most powerful nations in the world on such a highly debated issue.

However, he said, “there is not a single citizen on the Marshall Islands that has not had an encounter with one or another effect of the testing period … because we have experienced directly the effects of nuclear weapons we felt that we had the mandate to do what we have done.”

The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons is the third in a series of such conferences – the first was held in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 and the second in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/civil-society-support-for-marshall-islands-against-nuclear-weapons/feed/ 0
Divestment Campaign Aims to Bleed Dry the Fossil Fuel Industryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/divestment-campaign-aims-to-bleed-dry-the-fossil-fuel-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=divestment-campaign-aims-to-bleed-dry-the-fossil-fuel-industry http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/divestment-campaign-aims-to-bleed-dry-the-fossil-fuel-industry/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 23:49:41 +0000 Leehi Yona and Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138158 A group of activists protests minutes before the start of an event organised by the oil giant Shell at COP20 in Lima. Credit: Adopt a Negotiator

A group of activists protests minutes before the start of an event organised by the oil giant Shell at COP20 in Lima. Credit: Adopt a Negotiator

By Leehi Yona and Diego Arguedas Ortiz
LIMA, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

Even as the presence of major oil and gas corporations is nearly ubiquitous at the U.N. climate talks in the Peruvian capital known as COP20, fossil fuel divestment campaigns have gained ground in various countries and are moving to counter the influence of the “dirty energy” lobby here.

As the COP20 enters its second and final week, delegates from 195 countries are still trying to address the urgency of climate change by reaching an international agreement to decelerate global warming. However, activists are worried that the influence of fossil fuel companies within COP20 might slow down an already sluggish process.The premise is simple, according to the movement organisers: if it is morally wrong to wreck the planet, it is morally wrong to profit from that wreckage.

In response to climate inaction, student organisers have called for fossil fuel divestment. The movement aims to disinvest endowments from a list of 200 companies that are ranked by the largest known fossil fuel reserves.

Divestment campaigns advocate full divestment from the list, which includes Gazprom, Petrobras, PetroChina, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, among other major companies. The intention of the campaign is both to erode financial support for major oil corporations, as well as revoke their own moral license.

Maddy Salzman, a former organiser of Fossil Free Washington University, sees divestment as a potential solution to the current stalemate on climate action. “The necessary legislation and investment decisions cannot and will not be made in our current political system, and as citizens we must play a role in making the changes we believe in,” she told IPS.

The motivation behind the campaign stems from a 2011 Carbon Tracker Initiative report which warned that about four-fifths of the total known fossil fuel reserves worldwide must remain in the ground in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The premise is simple, according to the movement organisers: if it is morally wrong to wreck the planet, it is morally wrong to profit from that wreckage.

There are hundreds of campaigns across four continents seeking fossil fuel divestment. While most of these campaigns target university endowments, they also include state pension funds, cities, and places of faith.

Some campaigns, including at U.S. and Canadian universities, have already succeeded in obtaining commitments from their investment officers to divest their funds.

Divestment campaigns, while local, connect to broader international issues. Students involved with fossil fuel divestment campaigns are quick to acknowledge that their movement is a global one – an international solution that parallels the stalemate at the U.N.

In fact, they’ve recently launched Global Divestment Day, a day of action to elevate the growing momentum around fossil fuel divestment campaigns.

In the case of the U.N. climate negotiations, divestment has helped shed light on the influence of the fossil fuel industry at these talks.

“Even here at the annual meeting to create global policy to respond to climate change, fossil fuel companies have an influential pressure and continue to dilute the strength of the outcome of the COPs,” Dyanna Jaye, chair of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, told IPS.

“While the science becomes increasingly alarming, we continue to be fed another profit-driven story about continuing the use of fossil fuels,” said Jaye, a youth delegate with the SustainUS youth advocacy group in Lima.

On Monday, climate activists at the U.N. talks protested outside an event hosted at the conference venue by fossil fuel giant Shell. The event, initially titled “Why Divest from Fossil Fuels When a Future with Low Emission Fossil Energy Use is Already a Reality?”, has since changed names and times on multiple occasions.

Sally Bunner, an organiser with Earlham College Responsible Energy Investment, explains why fossil fuel companies cannot be part of a solution at COP20.

“Fossil fuel companies are irresponsible, because it has been proven for many decades that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels poisons people, water, air, and soil,” she said, referring to human rights implications. “Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry hasn’t switched to a better form of energy production because it’s not profitable for them to do so.”

The Shell event is not the only example of industry presence at the conference. Oil companies have been meeting with delegations from numerous countries negotiating in Lima. On Saturday afternoon, the British Columbia Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, tweeted that she was going to meet the Climate Change Advisor for Chevron, a major player in the fossil fuel industry.

Questioned in the social network about the motives of their meeting, Polak answered that “you can’t change oil company behaviour if you won’t talk with them.”

Representatives from both Chevron and TransCanada have participated in closed stakeholder meetings with the Canadian delegation, designed to brief Canadian non-governmental organisations.

While they are allowed to be present in those meetings, many youth delegates have noted the disproportionate representation of a stakeholder that comprises such a small number of the general Canadian population.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/divestment-campaign-aims-to-bleed-dry-the-fossil-fuel-industry/feed/ 2
Climate Neutrality – the Lifeboat Launched by Limahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-neutrality-the-lifeboat-launched-by-lima/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-neutrality-the-lifeboat-launched-by-lima http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-neutrality-the-lifeboat-launched-by-lima/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:57:04 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138151 Activists demand that the COP20 government delegates approve measures to foment investment in renewable energies and eliminate their huge subsidies for fossil fuels. Credit: Joshua Wiese/IPS

Activists demand that the COP20 government delegates approve measures to foment investment in renewable energies and eliminate their huge subsidies for fossil fuels. Credit: Joshua Wiese/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
LIMA, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

Packed into stifling meeting rooms in the Peruvian capital, delegates from 195 countries are trying to find a path that would make it possible for the planet to reach climate neutrality in the second half of this century – the only way to avoid irreversible damage, scientists warn.

Climate neutrality is defined as no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, achieved by minimising emissions as much as possible, so an equivalent amount is sequestered or offset. The term climate neutral, rather than carbon neutral, is used to reflect the fact that it is not just carbon dioxide (CO2) that is causing climate change but other greenhouse gases as well.

To reach climate neutrality it is essential to accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one that employs renewable energies.

As the COP20 climate summit hosted by Lima Dec. 1-12 approaches the end, the number of developing countries accepting the proposal to set a climate neutral goal – also known as “net zero” – for 2050 is growing.

“The scientific data are more and more alarming,” said Giovanna Valverde, president pro tempore of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean states (AILAC), a regional group of governments of middle-income countries that are negotiating as a bloc in the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The coordinator of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) showed us the data in the plenary session, and indicated the urgency we are facing. If we set a goal for 2050 it’s so that everyone can join in, but the numbers are alarming,” she told IPS.

Reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the IPCC concur on how to reach neutrality: invest more in clean energies, reduce fossil fuel consumption, improve farming practices, reforest, and bolster energy efficiency.

The question of climate neutrality became a key focus of debate in the first week of the conference, but there is a long way to go before it takes shape as a concrete commitment by the international community, to guarantee the transition to a clean economy.

A report by the British Overseas Development Institute found that the industrial and emerging powers of the Group of 20 (G20) continue to invest some 88 billion dollars a year in fossil fuel subsidies, rather than using that money to boost renewable energies.

Moreover, the power and lobbying of the fossil fuel industry can be felt at COP20, where the agenda even includes events organised by multinational oil companies like the Anglo-Dutch Shell, on Monday Dec. 8.

 

Hopes for a greener world came to life at the COP20 installations in the Peruvian capital. Credit: COP 20

Hopes for a greener world came to life at the COP20 installations in the Peruvian capital. Credit: COP 20

Valverde, from Costa Rica, said the key is for “countries to seriously commit to providing information for emission reduction contributions so scientists will have time between 2015 and 2020 to compare methodologies used by different countries, do the math, and define how much more has to be reduced.”

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) issued a statement urging industrialised countries to make more ambitious contributions, reducing dependence on dirty energy sources.

AOSIS called for the planet to reach zero emissions in 2100, which would mean the total elimination of fossil fuels, as recommended by the IPCC in its latest report, released Nov. 2. Countries like Poland, a leading coal producer, announced their rejection of that initiative.

The opposition mounted by countries dependent on fossil fuels is hindering the expansion and growth of clean energies. The European Union, for example, has not agreed on a long-term target within the bloc, nor is it sure that it will back the climate neutrality proposal presented by the UNFCCC and supported by developing countries.

“The goal is part of the mitigation debate and that is still on the table,” one of the EU negotiators, Elina Bardram, told IPS. “It’s important that by the time we get to Paris we have a shared view on where we should go,” she added, referring to the COP21, to be held in the French capital in November 2015.

“That will tell us which is the ambition for a low -carbon future. We don’t have a fixed view on the long-term goal, but of course we have been taking note of the reasons by the IPCC and other scientific bodies.”

A new binding global climate treaty is to be signed in Paris, to replace the Kyoto Protocol as of 2020.

But now in Lima the negotiators must hammer out the form of what many consider the heart of the future treaty: national contributions.

The contributions include each nation’s commitment to reducing emissions, including how much and when. The sum of all the contributions should be sufficient to ward off irreversible effects from climate change.

To achieve that, developing countries and civil society in the South as well as the industrialised North are proposing a mix of reducing incentives for fossil fuels; reforestation; improved agricultural techniques; and investment in renewable energies.

Although the countries are to officially report their contributions between March and June 2015, some have already made announcements.

On Nov. 12, in a joint announcement in Beijing, the United States promised to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels, and China said it would make its “best effort” to peak emissions before 2030 and later reduce them.

But scientific studies warn that more ambitious steps and faster progress are needed.

In the Adaptation Gap Report 2014 published Nov. 19, UNEP assessed the difference between the current measures taken by countries and what would be needed to prevent severe irreversible damage from climate change.

“This report makes it clear that at some point in the second half of the 21st century we will have to achieve climate neutrality, or as some call it, net zero, in terms of global emissions,” said Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC.

According to the study, global emissions should peak in the next 10 years, followed by actions to adopt more clean energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels.

So far, the delegates in Lima have postponed the review of the pre-2020 emissions cuts, as they are caught up in procedural struggles.

Now the countries are running the risk of failing to reach agreement on the actions needed to reduce emissions to keep the average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius – although there are even voices warning that the increase should be lower in order to prevent irreversible effects.

“Our position is that the increases in temperature can’t go beyond 1.5 degrees. That would be too harmful for countries like ours,” Ram Prasad of Nepal, the chair of the LDC (Least Developed Countries) group, told IPS.

Climate action is urgent because with each years that goes by, the situation is becoming more and more complicated for the most vulnerable countries, mainly the world’s poorest nations, which makes climate change a deeper problem of inequality, he added.

The UNEP report concluded that to adapt to climate change, the world would need nearly three times more than the 70 to 100 billion dollars a year estimated up to now.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-neutrality-the-lifeboat-launched-by-lima/feed/ 4
OPINION: Addressing Climate Change Requires Real Solutions, Not Blind Faith in the Magic of Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 13:41:27 +0000 Kristen Lyons http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138145 “The darker side of green” – plantation at Bukaleba, Uganda. Credit: Kristen Lyons

“The darker side of green” – plantation at Bukaleba, Uganda. Credit: Kristen Lyons

By Kristen Lyons
BRISBANE, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

Norwegians know something of life in a climate change world. Migratory birds arrive earlier in spring, trees come into leaf before previously expected, and palsa mires (wetlands) are being lost as permafrost thaws.

Norwegians are currently waiting while geologists try to predict if, and when, Mount Mannen might collapse, destroying homes in its path, after torrential rain in the region.

Kristen Lyons

Kristen Lyons

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this will be just the beginning for Norway – and the rest of the world – unless urgent and immediate action is taken to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While reducing our dependence on the dirty fossil fuel industries is widely lauded as representing the fastest and most effective strategy to reduce our global emissions, much of the world’s attention – including that of many governments and industry – has been captured by the promise of carbon trade markets.

There are hopes that pricing and selling carbon just might be the magic bullet to solve the crisis, while at the same time generating lucrative returns for investors.

Carbon markets are being established on the assumption that if the ‘right’ price is placed on carbon, private companies and their financial backers will be driven to invest in so-called ‘green’ projects that capture and store carbon, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s atmosphere.“Expecting some of the poorest of the poor to carry the social and ecological burdens of monoculture plantation forestry projects for carbon offset is both socially unjust, and ecologically just does not add up”

Carbon markets are championed by those who believe that carbon emissions taking place in one part of the world can be offset by their capture or sequestration in another. Plantation forestry is a key sector in the carbon market, with many projects established in some of the poorest parts of the world, based on the assumption that they will confer benefits to the environment and the local people.

But does all the hype about carbon markets really stack up?

Research on the Norwegian company Green Resources – engaged in plantation forestry and carbon offset on the African continent – raises many questions about who benefits from the carbon market projects. In-depth research over two years in Uganda, where Green Resources has licence to over 11,000 hectares of land, demonstrates how local communities are the losers of such projects.

A recent reportThe Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda,  published by the Oakland Institute, contributes to the critical conversation about the role of carbon markets in addressing climate change.

The report identifies profound adverse livelihood impacts associated with Green Resources’ activities, including loss of land and heightened food insecurity, as well as destruction of sites of cultural significance. It also demonstrates the failure of Green Resources to engage in meaningful community engagement with affected villages, so as to deliver positive community development outcomes.

Yet this REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] type project (referring to any project that involves forestry carbon credits), and the audit mechanisms to which it must comply, fail to detect and/or challenge the impacts of Green Resources’ activities.

Nor do they detect the extent to which environmental problems – including land clearing for animal grazing and crop cultivation – may simply be relocated from inside licence areas to other, often ecologically sensitive landscapes.

Importantly too, carbon market audits fail to consider the carbon capture enabled by local agro-ecological and organic farming systems, on which most subsistence and peasant farmers rely.

We are faced with a number of options in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, something we all know is urgently needed. Despite the promise by many that the magic of climate markets will solve the current climate crisis, the findings presented in the report discard this fairy dust, shining a light on the structural violence and inequities on which carbon markets are built.

Expecting some of the poorest of the poor to carry the social and ecological burdens of monoculture plantation forestry projects for carbon offset is both socially unjust, and ecologically just does not add up. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets/feed/ 0
“Indigenous Peoples Are the Owners of the Land” Say Activists at COP20http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/indigenous-peoples-are-the-owners-of-the-land-say-activists-at-cop20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-are-the-owners-of-the-land-say-activists-at-cop20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/indigenous-peoples-are-the-owners-of-the-land-say-activists-at-cop20/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 18:54:44 +0000 Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138141 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/indigenous-peoples-are-the-owners-of-the-land-say-activists-at-cop20/feed/ 2 War Knocks on Door of Youth Centre in Zwarahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/war-knocks-on-the-squat-house-in-zwara/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=war-knocks-on-the-squat-house-in-zwara http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/war-knocks-on-the-squat-house-in-zwara/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 09:05:05 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138103 Bondok Hassem (left) gets help to mount a mortar inside Zwara´s squat house. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Bondok Hassem (left) gets help to mount a mortar inside Zwara´s squat house. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Karlos Zurutuza
ZWARA, Libya, Dec 5 2014 (IPS)

It could be a squat house anywhere: music is playing non-stop and there is also a radio station and an art exhibition. However, weapons are also on display among the instruments, and most here wear camouflage uniform.

“The house belonged to a former member of the secret services of [Muammar] Gaddafi so we decided to squat it for the local youth in Zwara [an Amazigh enclave 120 km west of Tripoli, on the border with Tunisia],” Fadel Farhad, an electrician who combines his work with the local militia, tells IPS.It could be a squat house anywhere: music is playing non-stop and there is also a radio station and an art exhibition. However, weapons are also on display among the instruments, and most here wear camouflage uniform.

The centre is called “Tifinagh” after the name given to the Amazigh alphabet. Also called Berbers, the Amazigh are native inhabitants of North Africa.

The arrival of the Arabs in the region in the seventh century was the beginning of a slow yet gradual process of Arabisation which was sharply boosted during the four decades in which Muammar Gaddafi (1969-2011) remained in power. Unofficial estimates put the number of Amazighs in this country at around 600,000 – about 10 percent of the total population

Like most of the youngsters at the centre, Farhad knows he can be mobilised at any time. The latest attack on Zwara took place less than a kilometre from here a little over a week ago, when an airstrike hit a warehouse killing two Libyans and six sub-Saharan migrants.

Three years after Gaddafi was toppled, Libya remains in a state of political turmoil that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. There are two governments and two separate parliaments one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, 1,000 km east of the capital.

Several militias are grouped into two paramilitary alliances: Fajr (“Dawn” in Arabic), led by the Misrata brigades controlling Tripoli, and Karama (“Dignity”) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, a Tobruk-based former army general.

“Here in Zwara we rely on around 5000 men grouped into different militias,” Younis, a militia fighter who prefers not to give his full name, tells IPS. “We never wanted this to happen but the problem is that all our enemies are fighting on Tobruk´s side,” adds the 30-year-old by the pickups lining up at the entrance of the building.

Local militiamen gather outside their squat house in the Amazigh enclave of Zwara. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Local militiamen gather outside their squat house in the Amazigh enclave of Zwara. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

The polarisation of the conflict in Libya has pushed several Amazigh militias to fight sporadically alongside the coalition led by Misrata, which includes Islamist groups among its ranks.

However, the atmosphere in this squat house seems at odds with religious orthodoxy of any kind, with an unlikely fusion between Amazigh traditional music and death metal blasting from two loudspeakers. This is the work of 30-year-old Bondok Hassem, a well-known local musician who is also an Amazigh language teacher as well as one of the commanders of the Tamazgha militia.

“Both Misrata and Tobruk are striving to become the alpha male in this war. We are all fully aware that, whoever wins this war, they will attack us immediately afterwards so we are forced to defend our land by any means necessary,” laments Hassem between sips of boja, the local firewater.

But can it be international partnerships that hamper an already difficult agreement between both sides?

Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and France are backing Tobruk and Misrata relies mainly on Qatar and Turkey. Meanwhile, NATO officials are seemingly torn between wanting to stay out of the war, and watching anxiously as the violence goes out of control. Today, most of the diplomatic missions have left Tripoli, except for those of Italy and Hungary.

A fragile balance

Moussa Harim is among the Amazigh who seem to feel not too uncomfortable siding with the government in Tripoli. Born in Jadu, in the Amazigh stronghold of the Nafusa mountain range – 100 km south of Tripoli – Harim was exiled in France during Gaddafi’s time but he became Deputy Minister of Culture in March 2012.

Although he admits that Islamists pose a real threat, he clarifies that in Misrata there are also people “from all walks of life and very diverse affiliations, communists included.”

It is the geographical location itself which, according to Harim, inexorably pushes the Libyan Amazigh towards Misrata.

“Except for a small enclave in the east, our people live in the west of the country, and a majority of them here, in Tripoli,” the senior official tells IPS.

But there are discordant voices, like that of Fathi Ben Khalifa. A native of Zwara and a political dissident for decades, Ben Khalifa was the president of the World Amazigh Congress between 2011 and 2013.

The Congress is an international organisation based in Paris since 1995 that aims to protect the Amazigh identity. Today Ben Khalifa remains as an executive member of this umbrella organisation for this North African people.

“This is not our war, it’s just a conflict between Arab nationalists and Islamists, none of which will ever recognise our rights,” Ben Khalifa tells IPS over the phone from Morocco. Although the senior political activist defends the right of his people to defend themselves from outside aggressions, he gives a deadline to take a clearer position:

“If Libya´s Constitution – to be released on December 24 – does not grant our legitimate rights, then it will be the time to take up arms,” Ben Khalifa bluntly claims.

At dusk, and after another day marked by exhausting shifts at checkpoints and patrols around the city, the local militiamen cool down after swapping their rifles for a harmonica and a guitar at the squat house. This time they play the songs of Matloub Lounes, a singer from Kabylia, Algeria´s Amazigh stronghold.

“I can´t hardly wait for the war to end. I´ll burn my uniform and get back to my work,” says Anwar Darir, an Amazigh language teacher since 2011. That was the year in which Gaddafi was killed, yet a solution to the conflict among Libyans is still nowhere near.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/war-knocks-on-the-squat-house-in-zwara/feed/ 0
Climate and Post-2015 Development Agenda Talks Share the Same Pathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-and-post-2015-development-agenda-talks-share-the-same-path/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-and-post-2015-development-agenda-talks-share-the-same-path http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-and-post-2015-development-agenda-talks-share-the-same-path/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:02:30 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138086 Lima Mayor Susana Villarán presenting a model for sustainable urban areas during Voices for Climate at COP20. Credit: Victor Vásquez/COP20

Lima Mayor Susana Villarán presenting a model for sustainable urban areas during Voices for Climate at COP20. Credit: Victor Vásquez/COP20

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
LIMA, Dec 4 2014 (IPS)

The international community’s post-2015 development agenda will depend, in key aspects, on whether the delegates of 195 countries meeting now at the climate summit in the Peruvian capital reach an agreement to reduce global warming, since climate change affects all human activity.

Climate change’s effects on agriculture, health, poverty reduction or housing among vulnerable segments of the population mean progress in the search for a solution to global warming will have a major impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said experts consulted by IPS at COP20.

COP20 – the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place Dec. 1-12 in Lima, is to produce a draft of a new binding global treaty, with targets and commitments to curb the rise in global temperatures.

Growing awareness among farmers

One case where increased awareness about climate change fuelled sustainable development efforts was among the coffee farmers of the Amazon jungle town of Pangoa in central Peru.

An outbreak of a plant disease, rust, drove home to them that climate change was something that affected them and their farming, to which they had to adapt.

“We are in the thick of the jungle and things like hurricanes or fires feel so far away,” the manager of the town’s agricultural cooperative, Raúl Castro, who is taking part in COP20, told IPS.

But the rust outbreak in his community was exacerbated by the rising temperatures, because “for rust to be a problem of this magnitude, it needs temperatures of 24 to 25 degrees Celsius, which we didn’t used to see at our altitude but now we do, so we have to adapt,” Castro said.

“It’s important to keep the goal, first of all to highlight the importance of climate change to achieve sustainable development, because these things are interlinked and for us the SDGs are a very good opportunity to communicate that,” Lina Dabbagh, the Climate Action Network-International’s (CAN-I) post-2015 development officer, told IPS.

On Thursday, the United Nations Secretariat will state in a report whether in its view climate change should be one of the SDGs, which at the end of 2015 will replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the international community’s development agenda.

Dabbagh said the links between poverty and the fight against climate change must be emphasised. She added that “The SDG agenda is a good agenda to find the arguments about how both objectives can be achieved, and how we need to achieve them to get a better life for everybody, including our planet.”

The official position of CAN-I, the umbrella group of environmental organisations active on the issue of climate change within the negotiations, is that it is important to make this link explicit.

“We have to educate people about what will happen and the SDGs are a good opportunity to do so. More people are aware of the SDGs than of the UNFCCC process,” said the German activist, who lives in Mexico.

She said that making the fight against climate change one of the SDGs would be a good way to be heard by people who haven’t previously been reached.

The draft climate agreement, which is to be signed a year from now in Paris, is important not only to the climate change negotiators but for the U.N. sustainable development agenda as well.

The processes are at a key moment and they share the same path as they move towards the second half of 2015: the U.N. General Assembly is to ratify the SDGs in September 2015 and in November the COP21in Paris is to agree on a new climate treaty, to go into effect in 2020.

Turkish boys with a box of recently picked strawberries. The response to the effects of climate change on agriculture will be key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: PNUD

Turkish boys with a box of recently picked strawberries. The response to the effects of climate change on agriculture will be key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: PNUD

If the delegates at the General Assembly in New York manage to integrate climate change into the post-2015 development agenda, it would give a major boost to the climate negotiators in Paris.

That happened in the case of the Lima COP as a result of the Sep. 23 climate summit in New York, as well as demonstrations held in capital cities around the world, delegates and activists pointed out at the conference.

Above and beyond the talks, the agendas of both processes are interconnected at many points.

In its fifth assessment report, published Nov. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out that continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would hurt vulnerable populations the most.

Another report released this year, by Britain’s Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), says the IPCC, the most important source for the UNFCCC’s scientific, technical and socioeconomic information, could play the same role for the SDGs.

CAFOD climate and energy analyst Rob Elsworth told IPS.that all of the examples given by the IPCC, all of the issues it touches on, are directly related to the SDGs, which means it is equally relevant for them.

That is clear to civil society organisations focused on the development agenda, which have returned with renewed strength to the climate talks after their disappointment at COP15, held in 2009 in Copenhagen, where the countries failed to reach a hoped-for agreement on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

“We reengaged in this debate because we are clear you really can’t talk about development without addressing climate change. The work we do with our partners in different countries, be it topics like agriculture or water, can’t move forward if you have a macro problem that undermines those,” said Elsworth.

The first two SDGs defined by the U.N. in July are poverty eradication and ending hunger through food security and sustainable agriculture. Both are directly linked to climate change, experts meeting at COP20 in Lima noted.

On Wednesday, agriculture day at COP20, organisations involved in farming underscored the links between climate change and agricultural practices. They also stressed the importance of small farmers in ensuring a sustainable future.

“The post-2015 agenda has already made goals to ensure that smart agriculture is a central element and all the worldwide agencies are actively influencing that agenda,” said Gernot Laganda, an International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) climate change adaptation specialist.

By 2050 there will be two billion more people to feed, Laganda told IPS.

“If agriculture is not structured is such a way that it is climate-smart then it cannot achieve the sustainability required for the productivity increases without undermining natural resources,” he added.

IFAD presented a study at COP20 that shows investments in access to weather information, technology transfer and disaster preparedness are helping smallholders feed themselves and their families on a warming planet.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-and-post-2015-development-agenda-talks-share-the-same-path/feed/ 1