Inter Press ServiceEditors’ Choice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:36:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 White Elephants and the Urban Challenges of Brasiliahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 02:30:05 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153118 Two white elephants – a huge football stadium that draws almost no fans and an empty 16-building complex that was to be the new headquarters of the district government – reflect Brasília’s challenges as a metropolis, beyond its role as the capital of Brazil. The Administrative Centre, where the 15,000 officials of the Federal District […]

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Part of the Administrative Centre built by two private companies between 2013 and 2014, to be the new seat of the government of the Federal District, in Brasilia. The 16-building complex with 3,000 parking spaces is not being used, due to an order by the courts, which are investigating allegations of corruption. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Part of the Administrative Centre built by two private companies between 2013 and 2014, to be the new seat of the government of the Federal District, in Brasilia. The 16-building complex with 3,000 parking spaces is not being used, due to an order by the courts, which are investigating allegations of corruption. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Two white elephants – a huge football stadium that draws almost no fans and an empty 16-building complex that was to be the new headquarters of the district government – reflect Brasília’s challenges as a metropolis, beyond its role as the capital of Brazil.

The Administrative Centre, where the 15,000 officials of the Federal District (DF), and from foundations and public companies, were to be based, was built in Taguatinga, one of the largest cities surrounding the “Pilot Plan”, another name for the planned city of Brasília, which was inaugurated in 1960, after it was carved out of the jungle.

“It would be good to have the government here, able to get a closer look at the areas where most of the population lives, generating more jobs and benefits for us,” Laura Morais, a young assistant at a hairdressing salon in the centre of Samambaia, a city next to Taguatinga, told IPS.
"It would be good to have the government here, able to get a closer look at the areas where most of the population lives, generating more jobs and benefits for us." -- Laura Morais

Inaugurated on Dec. 31, 2014 illegally, according to the public prosecutor’s office of the Federal District, the centre was left unused, pending the outcome of a judicial tangle yet to be unraveled.

If the idea were to materialise, “it would turn Taguatinga into a hellhole with even worse traffic jams, but it would boost the growth of Samambaia, which has a lot of free space and few businesses,” explained Paulo Pereira, the owner of an optical shop.

“It would also help to decongest Brasília. That is, it would be better for some, worse for others,” he told IPS before complaining about the corruption that has bogged down the project.

Former DF governor Agnelo Queiroz was accused of receiving in 2014 a bribe of 2.5 million Brazilian reais (over 760,000 dollars at present), shared with his deputy governor Tadeu Fellipelli, to promote the construction of the Administrative Centre.

The accusation came from executives of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which partnered with another construction firm, Via Engineering, to build the complex, in a Public-Private Partnership by which the companies would complete the work and would be subsequently remunerated with monthly fees for 22 years.

Odebrecht, Brazil’s largest construction company, which is active in dozens of countries, reached a plea deal with the justice system to cooperate in the corruption scandal that since 2014 has led to the imprisonment of dozens of businesspersons and politicians who offered or received bribes for public contracts, especially oil companies.

Laura Morais smiles in the hairdressing salon where she works in downtown Samambaia, a satellite city of the capital of Brazil. She complains about the lack of leisure and cultural activities in the city, founded in 1989, and in others that surround the Federal District. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Laura Morais smiles in the hairdressing salon where she works in downtown Samambaia, a satellite city of the capital of Brazil. She complains about the lack of leisure and cultural activities in the city, founded in 1989, and in others that surround the Federal District. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Queiroz and his predecessor, José Arruda, are in prison for another corruption case, the overbilling of the works on the Mané Garrincha stadium, which was expanded to host several of the matches for the 2014 World Cup, which took place in Brazil.

With an initial budget of 210 million dollars, its cost more than doubled, requiring an additional 270 million dollars, according to investigations by the Federal Police.

Corruption has been proven in the construction of many of the 12 stadiums used in the FIFA (International Federation of Associated Football) World Cup, but the one in Brasilia was the most expensive.

Its capacity was raised to 72,788 spectators – ridiculous in a city without a strong football tradition or clubs to justify such an investment. The average attendance at local matches does not reach 2,000 fans, the local football association acknowledges.

Maintaining this gigantic stadium costs more money to the public treasury and generates permanent losses for indefinite time.

The solution would be to turn the stadium into a cultural-sports complex, with “a museum, a library, movie theaters and conference rooms, as well as a shopping center, all related to sports,” suggested José Cruz, a veteran local journalist, with decades covering sports.

“It is not something new, but would just copy what has already been done successfully in Europe,” and in Brasilia there are great sports heroes, such as runner Joaquim Cruz and the ex-Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet, who would attract public, he told IPS.

The Mané Garrincha football stadium, one of Brasilia’s white elephants, which is currently mainly used for its parking lot, where thousands of buses park for a good part of the day, waiting to take tens of thousands of commuters back to the dormitory cities where they live. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

The Mané Garrincha football stadium, one of Brasilia’s white elephants, which is currently mainly used for its parking lot, where thousands of buses park for a good part of the day, waiting to take tens of thousands of commuters back to the dormitory cities where they live. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

But to do this it would be necessary to outsource or grant the contract to the private sector, because “the State has no structure to manage this type of initiative,” said the journalist.

For the Administrative Centre, the way out would also be seeking another use for the group of buildings between four and 15 storeys high, in an area of 178,000 square metres, in the middle of the most populous satellite cities, such as Ceilândia, Samambaia, Taguatinga and Aguas Claras, which have a combined population of 1.08 million inhabitants, according to the Federal District Planning Company (Codeplan).

A U.S. university, which intends to open a campus in Brazil, expressed interest in the facilities.

But the judicial situation prevents short-term solutions. Odebrecht claims to have invested more than 300 million dollars in the complex and aims to recover the investment through international arbitration.

For the current government of the DF, headed by socialist Rodrigo Rollemberg, it is not viable to change its headquarters at a cost of millions of dollars per month, at a time of economic crisis and fiscal limitations.

One option is to cancel the 2009 contract, in light of the illegalities that plagued the project. In addition to the allegations of corruption, the previous government of Queiroz inaugurated the Administrative Centre on the last day of its term, based on a permit that the courts threw out as fraudulent.

Buildings grow like mushrooms in Samambaia, the second-largest city surrounding Brasilia, which has grown by about 10,000 people each year, at a rate of at least four percent. On the left, the metro rails of the capital's Federal District, with a capacity much higher than that in use. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Buildings grow like mushrooms in Samambaia, the second-largest city surrounding Brasilia, which has grown by about 10,000 people each year, at a rate of at least four percent. On the left, the metro rails of the capital’s Federal District, with a capacity much higher than that in use. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Queiroz and the Taguatinga local authorities responsible for the permit and named one day before it was issued, were heavily fined and banned from politics as a result of the fraud.

The scandal overshadows the problems of urban development that the Federal District faces, formed by the Pilot Plan or Brasilia, seat of the national and district government, and its satellite urban municipalities, officially called Administrative Regions.

The population of the Federal District stands at 3.04 million, according to Codeplan’s District Survey of Households, six times the number of inhabitants predicted when Brasilia was built six decades ago.

The Pilot Plan currently is home to just over 220,000 people, but offers the most and best jobs, attracting a massive influx of commuters from surrounding municipalities every morning.

Ceilandia, the largest city in the area, had a population of 459,000 inhabitants in 2015, having grown 13.6 percent in four years. In the city, 28.1 percent of the active population has a job within the Pilot Plan, while 37.3 works in the municipality itself.

Other neighboring cities have somewhat higher rates of inhabitants employed in the heart of the capital, making up the crowds of commuters that move daily to the Pilot Plan and return at night to their dormitory cities.

The thousands of buses that carry the commuters every day are parked from morning to afternoon in open spaces, such as the square in front of the Mané Garrincha Stadium, until the workers finish their shifts and return to the surrounding municipalities.

A subway, with a single 39-km line that branches off into the different municipalities, is the major mass transport project, but only mobilises about 3.5 million passengers a month, with the trains sitting idle outside rush hour.
Bringing jobs to the periphery would not be a bad idea, but transferring and centralising all the local administration to the outskirts may respond more to personal appetites than to the call for better public management, as other examples show, such as Belo Horizonte, capital of the southern state of Minas Gerais.

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Desperate Need to Halt ‘World’s Largest Killer’ — Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/desperate-need-halt-worlds-largest-killer-pollution/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:49:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153098 Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution. The argument is clear: […]

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Birds scavenging for food amidst the debris at the landfill in Danbury, Connecticut in the United States. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

Now that the lights of the UN climate change summit’s meeting rooms have been turned off in Bonn, after a week of intense negotiations and some partial results, another major environmental event is now scheduled in Nairobi, this time to search for ways to halt the world’s major killer – pollution.

The argument is clear: every part of the planet and every person is affected by pollution, “the world’s largest killer”, and while solutions are within reach, new policies, enhanced public and private sector leadership, redirected investments and massive funding are all “desperately” needed, a major UN report has warned.

The new UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s 2017 Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, which was made public on 16 November by UNEP’s Executive Director Erik Solheim, analyses impacts on human health and ecosystems brought on by air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution.

A Pollution-Free Planet?

Five key messages to advance towards the goal of a pollution-free planet:
1. Political leadership and partnerships at all levels, mobilising the industry and finance sectors;
2. Action on the worst pollutants and better enforcement of environmental laws;
3. Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, better waste prevention and management;
4. Investment in cleaner production and consumption to counter pollution, alongside increased funding for pollution monitoring and infrastructure to control pollution; and
5. Advocacy to inform and inspire people worldwide.

SOURCE: UNEP’s 2017 Executive Director's Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet

“None of us is now safe, so now all of us have to act, ” said Solheim while presenting the report to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, 6-17 November, explaining that it provides a clearer picture than ever before of the scale of the pollution menace – and the scale of action that will be needed.

Ways to undertake such action are scheduled to be on the agenda of hundreds of governments, business sector and civil society representatives as well as scientists and experts, participating in the UN Environment Assembly – the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment – from 4-6 December in Nairobi.

According to the report, while everyone is affected by pollution, some are directly exposed by handling chemicals at work or by living in the 80% of cities whose air doesn’t meet UN health standards. Others are among the 3.5 billion people who rely on our polluted seas for food, or make up the 2 billion who still do not have access to clean toilets.

 

1 in 4 Deaths Worldwide

The new comprehensive assessment also highlights that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide – or 12.6 million people a year – are due to environmental causes. “The health effects are stark, with air pollution alone killing some 6.5 million annually, affecting mostly poor and vulnerable people.”

Meanwhile, ecosystems are also “greatly damaged” by coastal, wastewater and soil pollution, it warns, adding that the vast majority of the world’s wastewater is released “untreated”, affecting drinking water to 300 million people.

The report lists implementation, knowledge, infrastructure, limited financial and industry leadership, pricing and fiscal, and behavioural as five main gaps that limit effective action.

“The only answer to the question of how we can all survive on this one planet with our health and dignity intact is to radically change the way we produce, consume and live our lives,” said on this Ligia Noronha, one of the report’s coordinators.

 

Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation throughout the Caribbean, including in Punta Alegre, on the north coast of Ciego de Avila, Cuba. Credit: Jose M. Correa/UNDAC

Paris Is Not Enough

Just one week ahead of the Bonn climate conference, UNEP warned that pledges made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement are only “a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said the UNEP chief on 30 October.

The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report warns that as things stand, “even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.”

“Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.”

The Emissions Gap Report says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under 100 collars per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.

Meanwhile, other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.

Carbon Dioxide Levels Surge to New High

On top of this, the UN weather agency on the same day, 30 October 2017, warned that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued this alert in Geneva at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, indicating that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 parts per million in 2015.

“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas, underlining that it is time for governments to fulfil the pledges they made in Paris in 2015 to take steps to reduce global warming.

 

And Not At All in the Right Direction

Emphasising that the new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialisation and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources “have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.”

10 to 20 Times Faster than Ever

To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.

“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Tarasova said. In fact, according to the WMO’s report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 percent of pre-industrial levels.

After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014. Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.

Question: how many summits, reports, warnings, alerts, and scientific evidence are still needed for humans to halt this process of self-destruction?

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The World is Losing the Battle Against Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-losing-battle-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/#comments Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:06:46 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153085 The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate. Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, […]

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The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 17 2017 (IPS)

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.

Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives of governments, workers and employers in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour Forced Labour and Youth Employment.

The document, signed at the end of the Nov. 14-16 meeting, recognises that unless something changes, the goals set by the international community will not be met.

As a result, there is a pressing need to “Accelerate efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025,” the text states.

In the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), target seven of goal eight – which promotes decent work – states that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025."The increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.” -- Junko Sazaki

“For the first time, this Conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing,” said Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million,” he explained in a conversation with IPS.

Seiffert said: “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”

The declared aim of the Conference, organised by the Argentine Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security with technical assistance from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was to “take stock of the progress made” since the previous meeting, held in 2013 in Brasilia.

Guest of honour 2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said he was “confident that the young will be able to steer the situation that we are leaving them,” but warned that it would not make sense to hold a new conference in four years if the situation remains the same.

Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in his country, India, in defence of children’s rights, and in particular for his fight against forced labour, from which he has saved thousands of children.

“We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.

Junko Sasaki, director of the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, said “the increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.”

“We must promote the incorporation of technologies and good agricultural practices to allow many poor families to stop having to make their children work,” she told IPS.

According to the ILO, as reflected by the final declaration, 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.

“There are also gender differences. While it is common for children to be exposed to pesticides that can affect their health, girls usually have to work more on household chores. In India, for example, many girls receive less food than boys,” said Sazaki.

Children were notably absent from the crowded event, which brought together government officials and delegates of international organisations, the business community and trade unionists.

Their voice was only heard through the presentation of the document “It’s Time to Talk”, the result of research carried out by civil society organisations, which interviewed 1,822 children between the ages of five and 18 who work, in 36 countries.

The study revealed that children who work do so mainly to help support their families, and that their main concern is the conditions in which they work.

They feel good if their work allows them to continue studying, if they can learn from work and earn money; and they become frustrated when their education is hindered, when they do not develop any skills, or their health is affected.

“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, one of the organisations that participated in the research.

For Jacob, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children.”

“After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place,” she told IPS.

The participants in the Conference warned in the final declaration that armed conflicts, which affect 250 million children, are aggravating the situation of child labour.

Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”

In this respect, she pointed out that hundreds of thousands of children are left without the possibility of access to formal education every year in different parts of the world. Her office counted 750 attacks on schools in the midst of armed conflict in 2016, while this year it registered 175 in just one month.

“To fight child labour and help children, we have to think about mobile learning and home-based education. Education must be provided even in the most fragile situations, even in refugee camps, since that is the only means of providing normality for a child in the midst of a conflict,” said Gamba.

In the end, the Conference left the bitter sensation that solutions are still far away.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder warned that the concentration of child labour in rural work indicates that it often has nothing to do with employers, but with families.

It is easy for some to blame transnational corporations or governments. But the truth is that it is everyone’s fault, he concluded.

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Climate Change: The World’s Poorest Will Judge us by Actionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-worlds-poorest-will-judge-us-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-worlds-poorest-will-judge-us-action http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-worlds-poorest-will-judge-us-action/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:48:10 +0000 Fekitamoeloa Katoa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153064 Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu is UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

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Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu is UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

By Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu
BONN, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

Two years ago, 197 parties came together in Paris and agreed to the historical Paris Framework. Since that December 2015, we all have seen countless pictures of utterly devastating floods, wildfires, hurricanes happening more and more frequently all over our planet mainly affecting the poorest among us.

Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu

The pictures may appear remote to our own lives when we look at them in the safety of our houses on our screens. They are often a mere flash in the evening news. They may give rise to a family discussion, for others they induce anxiety, but none of the pictures can ever fully convey the utter devastation affected families are left with, the suffering of children left orphaned, the despondency of adolescents not seeing a future, the broken elderly person left without hope.

Whilst in Bonn this week for COP23, which is scheduled to conclude November 17, I have two words at the forefront of my mind. One is a word from my own culture ‘ talanoa ‘, the Pacific Islands’ word for dialogue. The other word is urgency. This for me is not yet another meeting, yet another travel, yet another series of talks.

I grew up as an islander and my child has grown up an islander. The word urgency for us is a word full of action, doing and ‘talanoa’ brings people together to talk.

As the representative of the UN Secretary- General for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable 91 countries, which make up more than one billion people on our shared planet, I am in Bonn for the 23rd conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Whilst here I am advocating for the world’s poorest and most challenged countries and above all expecting to get down to the nuts and bolts of taking urgent action. And urgent it is as commitments are already faltering and yet the times have never been more critical for the world’s most vulnerable nations.

These 91 diverse countries span our globe, each country faces unique challenges yet all are countries that have one feature in common – they contribute the least to climate change but feel its effects the most. They range from beautiful small islands in remote areas, with fragile ecosystems and rich cultural heritage, to landlocked states in the world’s mountain ranges and countries which span the length of Africa’s deserts, cities and forests.

Who has not marvelled at the picture perfect images of the South Seas, the beautiful mountains of the Himalayas, the imposing gold coloured sandy seas of the world’s deserts? It is these countries and their peoples most in need of action , immediate, urgent action.

Can we really just continue to marvel on the one hand at the beauty of their nature and then forget how our shared planet’s poorest and most vulnerable increasingly suffer the life-threatening effects of climate change? Are we prepared to leave them behind?

We live in times where the short-term, the ‘obvious’ almost appear to be the diktat of action. We live in times where the extremes draw attention. I must though caution you that many of the climate change effects on human lives and our very existence are not always as obvious as they may seem.

Yes, extreme weather events make our news headlines. But what about the affects of slow onset events such as sea level rise concerning all of the island nations, the glacial retreats, advancing desertification and biodiversity loss ? These are slow events but affecting the lives and livelihoods of communities.

The island nation of Fiji is the COP23 president in Bonn. This is the very first time an island nation has presided over the UN’s annual climate conference. Fiji’s presidency is not merely symbolic but represents a critical juncture in which some of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, the small island developing States, will be centre stage.

Island countries have been at the forefront of the strong push for greater ambition in global climate action. At the Paris climate conference in 2015, islanders were among those that led the charge for greater ambition through the aptly named ‘High Ambition Coalition.’

There is a very simple, existential reason for this. Island countries are well aware that the difference between a 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees goal of warming potentially means the loss of their islands and displacement of their people. It simply means a continued rise in sea levels and more destructive storms. Sea level rises coupled with the warming of oceans means more than just submerging islands, this deeply impacts overall extreme weather event occurrence.

Fiji knows first hand what climate change means. Fiji suffered from the destruction of Cyclone Winston in 2016, the most severe cyclone to ever make landfall in the Pacific and which left more than USD1 billion in damages.

And yet, progress in achieving the individual pledges which were made towards achieving the Paris Agreement are not on track to halt, let alone reverse climate change. It is highly alarming that the nationally determined contributions by countries currently amount to only a third of the emissions cuts needed by 2030.

Our window for reversing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius upper limit which leaders agreed to in Paris is closing rapidly. Studies indicate that we have until 2020, a mere three years, to implement mitigation action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

If we continue as we do right now, we may miss this opportunity to radically reduce global emissions in the next couple of years. This has a very serious bearing on how we go about achieving the UN’s wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Yet, there also are signs for hope. After all, Paris managed to bring together 197 parties to adopt the Paris Agreement. Importantly, it is the most vulnerable countries themselves working urgently to make a stand. Bhutan, for example, implements an initiative linking climate data with public health for greater resilience to climate change and more advanced warning systems for climate sensitive diseases.

Mali, where climate change has led to more and ever more severe droughts, works with women’s cooperatives in agricultural communities to clear plots for food gardens, helping to access clean water and solar power in an effort to ease the social and economic consequences of climate change, which can often also lead to conflict.

The time is now to ‘walk the talk’ and be consistent with our noble ambitions commitments is now. We must scale up support to the world’s most vulnerable countries. The world’s poorest will judge us by action.

We must practice Talanoa, dialogue. Talanoa is vital as we move forward. All countries, each one of us has a stake in tackling climate change. It is key to close the gap between what countries are currently prepared to do and what is necessary to avoid catastrophic future consequences by lack of action. The cost of inaction will be far higher than ramping up investments in climate mitigation now.

For the world’s most vulnerable countries, urgency is not a buzzword but an active state of mind and reality. Real lives and whole countries are at stake. The situation cannot get more urgent than this. Let us together walk the talk.

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Good to Know (Perhaps) That Food Is Being ‘Nuclearised’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153061 It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work? To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of […]

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work?

To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, and ensure food safety and authenticity, as well as increase livestock production.

This is how the UN food and agriculture organisation and the UN atomic energy agency explain this technique, highlighting that some of the most innovative ways being used to improve agricultural practices involve nuclear technology.

Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been expanding knowledge and enhancing capacity in this area for over 50 years.

Climate Change

One reason is that the global climate is changing, altering the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and seriously impacting food security.

Rising sea levels, ecosystem stress, glacier melt and altering river systems exacerbate the vulnerability of particular social groups and economic sectors, FAO reports, adding that it is also altering the distribution, incidence and intensity of terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant pests and diseases.

“Most developing countries are already subject to an enormous disease burden, and both developing and developed countries could be affected by newly emerging diseases. Making global agricultural systems resilient to these changes is critical for efforts to achieve global food security.”

The two UN agencies have been assisting countries to develop capacity to optimise their use of nuclear techniques to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and food security – nuclear techniques that can increase crop tolerance to drought, salinity or pests; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration from agricultural systems.

They can also track and control insect pests and animal diseases; adjust livestock feed to reduce emissions and improve breeding; optimise natural resource management through isotopic tracking of soil, water and crops; and provide information essential for assessing ecosystem changes and for forecast modelling.

The results of “using nuclear sciences to feed the world” have led to some major success stories, they say.

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way. Credit: FAO

Seven Examples

FAO provides the following seven examples of how nuclear technology is improving food and agriculture:

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

Nuclear and related technologies have made a difference in improving livestock productivity, controlling and preventing trans-boundary animal diseases and protecting the environment.

For example, Cameroon uses nuclear technology effectively in its livestock reproduction, breeding, artificial insemination and disease control programmes. By crossing the Bos indicus and the Bos taurus (two local cattle breeds), farmers have tripled their milk yields – from 500 to 1 500 litres – and generated an additional 110 million dollars in farmer income per year.

Another programme has dramatically curbed the incidence of Brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonosis, or disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans who drink unpasteurised milk or eat undercooked meat from infected animals.

2. Soils and Water

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population.

For instance, in Benin, a scheme involving 5 000 rural farmers increased the maize yield by 50 per cent and lowered the amount of fertiliser used by 70 per cent with techniques that facilitate nitrogen fixation.

Similarly, nuclear techniques allow Maasai farmers in Kenya to schedule small-scale irrigation, doubling vegetable yields while applying only 55 per cent of the water that would normally be applied using traditional hand watering.

3. Pests

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilising male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas.

The technique suppresses and gradually eliminates already established pests or prevents the introduction of invasive species – and is safer for the environment and human health than conventional pesticides.

The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States have been using the SIT for decades to prevent the northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) into Mexico and USA.

In addition, Guatemala sends hundreds of millions of sterile male medflies every week to the US states of California and Florida to protect valuable crops, such as citrus fruits. With the sterile male medflies unable to reproduce, it is really the perfect insect birth control.

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilizing male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas. Credit: FAO

4. Food Safety

Food safety and quality control systems need to be robust at the national level to facilitate the trade of safe food and to combat food fraud, which costs the food industry up to 15 billion dollars annually.

Nuclear techniques help national authorities in over 50 countries to improve food safety by addressing the problem of harmful residues and contaminants in food products and to improve their traceability systems with stable isotope analysis.

For example, scientific programmes in Pakistan, Angola and Mozambique now enable the testing for veterinary drug residues and contaminants in animal products.

Already some 50 Pakistani food production and export institutions benefit from the new laboratory testing capabilities, which help ensure they meet international food standards and boost the country’s reputation in the international food trade.

5. Emergency Response

Radioactivity is present in everything that surrounds us – from the sun to soil. But should a nuclear incident or emergency happen, an understanding of the movement of radioactivity through the environment becomes crucial to prevent or alleviate the impact on agricultural products.
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During the 2011 nuclear emergency in Japan, FAO and IAEA compiled an extensive and authoritative database on food contaminated with radioisotopes. This database supported the information exchange and facilitated appropriate follow-up actions to protect consumers, the agri-food sector and the world at large.

6. Climate Change

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

The nuclear-derived crossbreeding programme in Burkina Faso is a great example of helping farmers to breed more productive and climate-resistant animals. It is underpinned by genetic evaluations in four national laboratories, with scientists also able to use associated technology to produce a lick feed that provides the bigger, more productive livestock with the nutrients they need.

7. Seasonal Famine

Crop-breeding programmes use nuclear technology to help vulnerable countries ensure food security, adapt to climate change and even to tackle seasonal famine. New mutant crop varieties shorten the growing process, thereby allowing farmers to plant additional crops during the growing season.

In recent years, farmers in northern Bangladesh have been using a fast-maturing mutant rice variety called Binadhan-7. This variety ripens 30 days quicker than normal rice, giving farmers time to harvest other crops and vegetables within the same season.

Now that you know that food has been “nuclearised”… enjoy your meal!

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Coal Pollution Continues to Spread in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:23:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153053 Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source. These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and […]

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In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
BONN, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source.

These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and renewable sources, as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, approved in December 2015.

“Latín America doesn’t have a major global role in the sector, but it does have influence on the region…Colombia (for example) exports lots of coal. The problem is that there are many projects in the pipeline and that’s a threat of locking-in dependency for years,” Heffa Schucking, head of the non-governmental organisation Urgewald, told IPS in the German city of Bonn.

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), drawn up by the German organisation, reflects the use of coal in the region, in a global context.“A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn't only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.” -- Heffa Schucking

Urgewald presented the report during the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, a city that is part of what used to be Germany’s industrial belt, driven precisely by coal.

The list, a comprehensive database of some 770 companies participating in the thermal coal industry, points out that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the installed thermoelectric capacity based on coal amounts to 17,909 MW, most of which operates in Mexico (5,351 MW), Chile, (5,101 MW) and Brazil (4,355 MW).

However, new projects for the use of coal will add an additional 8,427 MW, of which Chile will contribute 2,647, Brazil 1,540, the Dominican Republic 1,070, Venezuela 1,000, Jamaica 1,000, Colombia 850 and Panama 320. These ventures will further expand the use of coal in the region, hindering its removal to combat climate change.

The GCEL identifies 14 companies based in the region, of which five are Brazilian, another five Colombian and one per country from Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

It also identifies transnational corporations that operating in the coal industry in the region such as the U.S.-based AES and Drummond; Italy’s Enel, France’s Engie, the Anglo-Swiss Glencore, the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and the British Anglo American.

At COP 23, whose electricity comes partially from the lignite mine Hambach, near Bonn, the protests against coal have resonated, due to the major role it plays in the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads "coal to museums", during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads “coal to museums”, during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Colombia extracts the largest volume of coal in the area – 90 million tons in 2016 – in a sector dominated by Drummond, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American.

Since 2013, coal extraction in Colombia has ranged between 85 and 90 million tons, mainly from open-pit mines and chiefly for export.

Meanwhile, thermoelectric generation from coal climbed to 1,369.5 MW in 2016.

Brazil produces about eight million tons of coal per year and operates 21 coal-fired thermoelectric plants, generating 3.71 million kilowatts, equivalent to 2.27 percent of the country’s installed capacity.

In 2015, Mexico produced about 7.25 million tons a year, the lowest level in recent years due to the fact that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has reduced its coal imports.

The country’s coal-fired power generation totaled 30.124 billion MW/h in 2015, 34.208 billion in 2016 and 24.274 billion in 2017, from three CFE plants.

Chile is one of the largest thermoelectric generators in the region, with 29 coal-fired power plants that produce 14,291 MW, equivalent to 61.5 percent of the national installed capacity.

Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of Brazilian environmental organisations, complained that his country lacks a clear policy on coal.

“There are renewable energy goals for 2030, but the electricity capacity continues to be auctioned for fossil fuels and more thermoelectric plants are being built. There is no link between the energy agenda” and the voluntary goals of reducing polluting gases in Brazil, Rittl stressed.

The Brazilian ecologist is one of the 20,000 participants at COP 23, who include academics and delegates from government, civil society, international organisations and the business community.

The GCEL covers 88 percent of the world’s coal production and 86 percent of coal-driven thermoelectric installed capacity.

In addition, the database identifies 225 companies that plan to expand coal mining, and 282 that project more power plants.

Of the 328 mining companies listed, 30 are responsible for more than half of the world’s coal production, and of the 324 thermoelectric plants, the largest 31 cover more than half of the global installed capacity.

The campaign seeks for investors to withdraw funds from the coal industry, in order to cancel new projects and gradually close down existing plants.

Colombia has 16.54 billion tons in coal reserves. Mariana Rojas, director of Climate Change in the Environment Ministry, acknowledged to IPS the difficulty of abandoning coal.

“Different strategies are being used for the different sectors. We want to encourage the increase of renewables in the energy mix; they have become more competitive due to the lower prices. But we cannot reach all sectors,” she said.

Coal was left out of the carbon tax created by the December 2016 tax reform – a reflection of the industry’s clout.

The report “Coal in Colombia: Who wins? Who loses? Mining, global trade and climate change“, drawn up in 2015 by the non-governmental Tierra Digna Centre for Studies on Social Justice, warned that the Andean country plans to continue mining coal until at least 2079.

Brazil already has another plant under construction with a capacity of 340 MW, and plans for at least six more facilities, that would generate 804 MW.

Mexico is in a similar situation, since the current mining permits would expire in 2062, for over 700 million tons in reserves.

Since 2015, the state-run company CFE has been holding online auctions of coal, to control the supply of more than two million tons per year and regulate the activity.

Urgewald’s Schucking called for turning off the financial tap for these projects. “A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn’t only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.”

Germany has set a 2018 deadline for shutting down its last coal mines, while Canada announced that it would stop using coal by 2030 and Italy promised to do so by 2025.

“The first step is to eliminate subsidies for coal” and redirect them to solar and wind energy, Rittl proposed.

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Vanuatu: Community Farms Helping Small Islands Adapt to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/vanuatu-community-farms-helping-small-islands-adapt-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vanuatu-community-farms-helping-small-islands-adapt-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/vanuatu-community-farms-helping-small-islands-adapt-climate-change/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:27:58 +0000 Mala Silas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153040 Mala Silas is a gender equality program officer with CARE International in Vanuatu.

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Mala Silas was involved in a project to help the people of Fotuna in Vanuatu build home gardens to bring them more food that can handle changing weather patterns and disease. Credit: CARE

By Mala Silas
PORT VILA, Vanuatu, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

Here in Vanuatu, the ocean has been getting warmer and more acidic. Scientists are predicting that cyclone patterns will change, we’ll see heavier rainfalls, a wetter wet season and a drier dry season. We’re already seeing the sea rising six millimeters per year in the capital, Port Vila; higher than the global average.

For many people, the ocean rising by a few centimeters doesn’t sound like much, but for those of us living in small island nations like Vanuatu, it will mean the waves are rising higher than ever during storms; changes to where and how we get our food; and fishermen, farmers and growers face more uncertainty.

With world carbon emissions on the rise again after a three year hiatus, our future in Vanuatu is being compromised. The latest projections show that we are on track for a 3.2C rise in temperature by 2100 and sea level rise will be measured by the meters. UN assessments on the impacts for small island states, such as Vanuatu, show we are not ready.

Recently, I was on the island of Futuna, a place that, even by Vanuatu standards, is quite remote. There are no roads (just rugged footpaths) and only a couple of boats to get between communities. There’s little or no mobile reception and poor radio coverage.

People in Futuna mostly rely on the land and the ocean for their food, and their water comes from natural springs, which are a long walk from home. In dry times, water is harder to find, and in floods, the soil runs off the gardens, and with more erratic weather and a rising sea, the job of growing or gathering food is becoming tougher.

It’s particularly tough for women in Futuna; they are often isolated by cultural traditions that keep them at home and silent in community meetings.

With CARE, I was involved in a project to help the people of Futuna build home gardens to bring them more food that can handle changing weather patterns and diseases. Before the project, the people of Futuna mostly ate boiled fish and boiled cassava (a root vegetable common in the Pacific).

If they wanted to eat any other vegetables, they had to send money (which was, of course, hard to come by) to islands many hours away by boat. As well as helping to introduce these new, durable crops, CARE has run classes on food storage and cooking (using traditional and modern methods).

This means families on Futuna can have food all year-round, and they are no longer relying on just one or two types of food. Despite the cyclones that frequently pass across Vanuatu, the communities of Futuna are now much more resilient, because they know how to store and preserve food and protect the fresh water they have.

Many families on Futuna now have gardens next to their houses. They grow vegetables like cucumber, carrot and tomato. Jeannine Roberts, a mother of four from Futuna’s Mission Bay, told me that her children are now eating more and are much healthier, because they’re eating more than just boiled fish and cassava.

Children in Futuna learn about agriculture and nutrition in their school´s community garden. Credit: Daniel Vorbach/Oxfam

When I first arrived on Futuna a few years ago, I wouldn’t have seen a woman stand up or speak during a community meeting; they were too shy and didn’t seem comfortable getting involved. When I now go back to Futuna, I can see the progress that’s been made.

Seeing the women standing up to talk – even challenging the men – was something very special. These inspiring women have plenty of knowledge about their local environment, gardens and households, and I feel lucky to be working with them to improve their lives and break down many cultural and social barriers.

Futuna is just one small island among hundreds across Vanuatu and hundreds of thousands across the Pacific. But the progress there – achieved through teamwork and giving women a voice – is a great example of what can be achieved in the face of a changing planet.

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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How to Ensure Farming is More Than Just a Footnote in Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ensure-farming-just-footnote-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ensure-farming-just-footnote-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ensure-farming-just-footnote-climate-talks/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 18:11:46 +0000 Olga Speckhardt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153029 Olga Speckhardt is the Head of Global Insurance Solutions, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, which has co-hosted a series of side events at COP23 on the Agriculture Advantage.

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Olga Speckhardt is the Head of Global Insurance Solutions, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, which has co-hosted a series of side events at COP23 on the Agriculture Advantage.

By Olga Speckhardt
BONN, Germany, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

If change comes from within, then climate action in agriculture must logically start with farmers. They need to find ways to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

But when that involves 800 million of the world’s poorest people, they are going to require systematic and dedicated support.

Olga Speckhardt

For too long, agriculture has stagnated on the edge of official negotiations around climate action. As this year’s climate talks draw to a close, though, negotiators have finally caught up and agreed to discuss concrete options at future meetings.

Now, the onus falls on governments, international organizations and the private sector to continue to champion climate action to transform agriculture outside of the UN talks to keep up this momentum.

Insufficient funding is just one of the barriers that must be overcome if we are to scale up these methods. It was great news that, during COP23, currently underway, Germany pledged an extra €50 million to the Adaptation Fund. However, more funding should be dedicated to climate adaptation in agriculture.

Agriculture, forestry and other forms of land use contribute almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past two weeks, the climate talks have featured many ways to help better manage agriculture’s impact on the environment. Solutions have included improved crops, better irrigation systems and ways to diversify farmer incomes.

But when it comes to public climate finance, agriculture receives just 2.5 per cent of the total funds allocated for adaptation and mitigation. That needs to change if smallholders are to better cope with extreme weather while feeding a booming population.

We also need regulation that supports climate action rather than restricting it.

Through the Syngenta Foundation, I oversee ACRE Africa, which provides speciality, smallholder weather insurance and which is highly regulated. In many developing countries, this has caused the private sector to shy away from investing in similar products that can offer a lifeline to vulnerable farmers.

Behind every regulator there is a government. It is essential that governments create the conditions – including business environments – that make it easy for the private sector to engage in climate action.

Almost every country in the world makes agriculture a priority in its plans to meet the Paris Agreement targets. This must now also translate into action on the ground. And these actions must also embody the best interests of an often-overlooked end-user – the smallholder farmer.

We have experience of this at ACRE Africa, carefully tailoring insurance products to smallholders’ needs. Our insurance enables them to protect themselves from weather-related losses and adapt to climate change.

As well as being appropriate, such insurance needs to be affordable and accessible. We achieved both, by automating key processes and using mobile money services like M-Pesa to make quick and simple pay-outs.

As of 2016, more than one million farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda were insured against weather risks. We are now building up our insurance work in five Asian countries.

It was encouraging to see the announcement during COP23 of a new website devoted to climate-related insurance. We urge private sector companies, research institutes and governments to support it and share information via this important tool so we can continue to benefit from each other’s experiences.

We also need to foster better partnerships to unlock new funding opportunities. Climate insurance, microfinance and agricultural development must come together to form a united support system for agricultural transformation.

Engaging here really pays dividends. The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says that each dollar invested in its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme will generate up to $1.63 annually for smallholders over 20 years.

Sustainable agriculture must be at the heart of every debate around climate change. With an increasing population, farmers need to produce 60 per cent more food by 2050, while also minimizing agriculture’s environmental impact.

But the millions of smallholders who feed the planet while earning less than $2 a day cannot do it alone. We need to go beyond incremental solutions if we are to lift more people out of poverty and achieve food security despite climate change.

Insurance can help, by enhancing smallholders’ resilience and reducing their risk when they invest in their crops.

But success across the board requires public and private support and initiative. Only with a new and comprehensive approach to investment, better public policies, and strong farmer organizations will we bring about the changes we all need.

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The Harsh Plight of 152 Million Child Labourershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 06:21:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153008 While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years […]

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Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour.

Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years – work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock.

This makes a total of around 100 million girls and boys used as a cheap or even unpaid work force.

Key facts

• 108 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 years are identified as child labourers in agriculture
• Worldwide, nearly 70.9 per cent of child labour is found in agriculture
• Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors in terms of rates of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.
• Most (70 per cent) of all child labourers are unpaid family workers.

Source: FAO

The majority (67.5 per cent) of these 152 million child labourers are unpaid family members. In agriculture, however, this percentage is higher, and is combined with very early entry into work, sometimes between 5 and 7 years of age. Add to all this that about 59 per cent of all children in hazardous work aged 5–17 is in agriculture.

This scary data, elaborated by key specialised UN agencies, also shows that agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.

“Poverty is the main cause of child labour in agriculture, together with limited access to quality education, inadequate agricultural technology and access to adult labour, high hazards and risks, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agricultural activities,” says the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Especially in the context of family farming, ILO adds, small-scale fisheries and livestock husbandry, some participation of children in non-hazardous activities can be positive as it contributes to the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security.

Child Farmers, Hederos, Fishers…

For its part, another major UN specialised agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), also underlines the fact that child labour is mostly found in agriculture, with a total of 108 million boys and girls engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, “often working long hours and facing occupational hazards.”

Child labour violates children’s rights, warns the Rome-based organisation, adding that by endangering health and education of the young, it also forms an obstacle to sustainable agricultural development and food security.

What Is Child Labour?

According to FAO, child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.

It should be emphasised that not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security.

However, much of the work children do in agriculture is not age-appropriate, is likely to be hazardous or interferes with children’s education.

For instance, FAO explains that a child under the minimum age for employment who is hired to herd cattle, a child applying pesticides, and a child who works all night on a fishing boat and is too tired to go to school the next day would all be considered child labour.

Moreover, child labour perpetuates a cycle of poverty for the children involved, their families and communities. Without education, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor. “The prevalence of child labour in agriculture violates the principles of decent work. By perpetuating poverty, it undermines efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger.”

Any Chance to Eradicate Child Labour?

The shocking reality has been put before the eyes of 1,500 participants from 193 countries in the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 14-16 November, aiming at addressing the consolidation of the global commitment to the eradication of child labour, ILO informs.

The Conference is intended to focus on child labour from different perspectives: public policies, legal framework and tools available to disseminate and manage the information, as well as the children’s schooling, the school-to-work transition for youth, and how to ensure healthy working conditions for them.

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

Other topics include child labour in rural economies and in crisis situations – such as natural disasters and conflicts–, and how to prevent child labour in the supply chains.

With agriculture one of the major activities involving child labour, FAO works with partners to address the root causes of child labour, in particular with ILO and other major UN and international through the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture, which was established in 2007.

Examples of specific actions in support of the prevention of child labour in agriculture are:

–Sharing knowledge and building capacity: The work that children perform in agriculture is often invisible, because available data on the activities that girls and boys are involved in, as well as the risks associated with them, are limited.

In response, FAO works to promote a greater knowledge base on child labour across countries and within different agricultural subsectors. It enables the exchange of good practices and develops tools in support of national capacity building and institutional development.

The organisation also provides support to overcome constraints to agricultural production that create a demand for child labour such as limited uptake of labour-saving technologies. Finally, it promotes the adoption of safer agricultural practices to mitigate occupational hazards.

— Supporting at at regional and country-level: Child labour in agriculture is challenging to address, because the agricultural sector tends to be under-regulated in many countries.

FAO supports governments to ensure that child labour issues are better integrated into national agriculture development policies and strategies. It also promotes coordinated action and implementation of national and regional commitments.

— Promoting global action: FAO engages in major international initiatives, including the World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness on priority areas of action to eradicate child labour in agriculture.

Across its work areas, it pays increasing attention to child labour issues and ensuring that these are considered in its global mechanisms.

For instance, in 2013, a revised International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management to encourage governments and the pesticide industry to adopt measures to reduce children’s vulnerability to exposure.

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How US Is Taking Climate Action Without Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/us-taking-climate-action-without-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-taking-climate-action-without-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/us-taking-climate-action-without-trump/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:05:45 +0000 Kristin Igusky and Kevin Kennedy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153002 Even after President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, much of the country is moving forward with climate action anyway. According to new analysis, more than 2,500 non-federal actors representing more than half the U.S. economy—including cities, counties, states, businesses and more—have pledged their support for the […]

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Urban forestry initiatives are some of the many ways U.S. communities are stepping up for climate action. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

By Kristin Igusky and Kevin Kennedy, World Resources Institute, Washington DC
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Even after President Trump announced his intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, much of the country is moving forward with climate action anyway. According to new analysis, more than 2,500 non-federal actors representing more than half the U.S. economy—including cities, counties, states, businesses and more—have pledged their support for the Paris Agreement goals. If these actors were their own country, they’d be the world’s third-largest economy.

This research is presented in a report by America’s Pledge, a new initiative led by California Governor Jerry Brown and UN Special Envoy on Cities and Climate Michael Bloomberg to quantify the climate actions and recent commitments from non-federal actors. WRI, along with the Rocky Mountain Institute and CDP, conducted the analysis for the Phase 1 America’s Pledge Report released at COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Here are some other key findings on the progression of U.S. climate action:

American States, Cities and Businesses Are Reducing Emissions

In addition to the 10 states with cap-and-trade programs and 96 U.S. businesses using internal carbon prices, our analysis shows that non-federal actors are already reducing emissions from major sectors. For example:
Electricity Generation: Twenty-nine states, representing more than half (56 percent) of retail electricity sales in the country, have mandatory renewable portfolio standards, with nine others setting voluntary renewable energy goals.
Transportation: Thirty U.S. cities have committed $10 billion to purchase 114,000 electric vehicles (EVs) for their municipal fleets—a number roughly equivalent to all the EVs sold in the country in the first eight months of 2017.
Building and Industrial Energy Use: More than 400 companies, representing more than 13 percent of total U.S. commercial building space, and almost 2,600 industrial facilities have voluntarily committed to reduce their energy use through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings / Better Plants program.
Methane Emissions: Methane is up to 36 times more potent than CO2 and is emitted from several sources, including landfills. Twenty states have bond, grant, loan or rebate programs that support development of landfill gas-to-energy projects, which capture methane to use for electricity generation.
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Emissions: HFCs are up to 12,000 times more potent than CO2 and are used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, building insulation and other applications. Forty-three supermarkets have committed to reducing their HFC emissions, with 533 individual stores becoming certified under this program since 2008.
Land-use and Forestry: More than 3,000 communities are implementing urban forestry measures through Tree City USA, including maintaining a tree board or department and having a community tree ordinance.

The Low-carbon Transition Is Taking Off in Several Key Sectors

Cleaner energy and electric transportation are emerging as not just emissions-reduction leaders, but cost-savings leaders as well. Within the electricity sector, coal is no longer competitive with cheaper renewable energy and natural gas, thanks to state-level clean energy mandates, declining clean technology costs, low-cost and cleaner-burning natural gas, citizen mobilization against dirty power plants and Congressionally approved renewable tax credits.

For example, in August 2017, the Department of Energy announced that its “SunShot” target to make solar power cost competitive with conventional forms of energy had been met three years early.

Within the buildings sector, energy efficiency gains have outpaced most official projections: Since 2005, the EIA’s estimate for 2025 total energy use by U.S. buildings has dropped by more than 20 percent. The transportation sector has overtaken electricity as the largest source of U.S. emissions, but is also potentially on the cusp of major change. For example, electric vehicles are widely anticipated to be less expensive and have lower lifetime costs than conventional vehicles by 2025-29.

Decarbonization and GDP Growth Are Happening Simultaneously

Falling clean technology prices, emerging innovations, and actions by states, cities and businesses have helped reduce U.S. net greenhouse gas emissions by 11.5 percent between 2005 and 2015, while the economy grew by 15 percent over that period. This has allowed states, businesses and cities to take on steeper emissions-reduction targets and accelerated renewable energy commitments. For example, nine Northeastern states have implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to create a market-based system that reduces electric sector emissions 2.5 percent a year through 2020. RGGI has reduced power sector CO2 emissions more than 45 percent since 2005 while the region’s per-capita GDP continued to grow.

In August, RGGI announced that it will accelerate emissions reductions over the next decade to provide an additional 30 percent cap on 2030 power sector emissions, compared to 2020 levels.

We Still Need More

Across the United States, governors, mayors and business leaders are acting to fill the climate action void created by current federal climate policies. With public support and effective collaboration, they can drive U.S. climate action forward.

These efforts, however, must accelerate. Sustained action by states, cities and businesses can help maintain momentum going forward and lay the foundation for future re-engagement by the federal government after 2020.

In its next phase of work, the America’s Pledge initiative will aggregate and quantify the full range of potential U.S. non-federal actions, including how they affect our ability to reach the U.S. emissions-reduction target. In the meantime, expect to see more and more non-federal actors stepping up for climate action.

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Climate Change Poses Alarming Threat to Food Security in Pacific Islandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-poses-alarming-threat-food-security-pacific-islands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-poses-alarming-threat-food-security-pacific-islands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-poses-alarming-threat-food-security-pacific-islands/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 15:18:43 +0000 Razeena Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152983 A high-level meeting of political leaders -– hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) -– sounded an ominous warning: that climate change poses an “alarming threat to food systems and food security in the Pacific islands.” And for many island nations, the impact of climate change also represents the “gravest of threats to their […]

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Pacific leaders gather at FAO before participating in the UN Climate Conference COP23. in Bonn. Credit: FAO

By Razeena Raheem
ROME, Nov 12 2017 (IPS)

A high-level meeting of political leaders -– hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) -– sounded an ominous warning: that climate change poses an “alarming threat to food systems and food security in the Pacific islands.”

And for many island nations, the impact of climate change also represents the “gravest of threats to their survival and viability”, including, for some, through the loss of territory due to sea-level rise—and the potential danger of being wiped off the face of the earth.

Chaired by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, the meeting of leaders from nine small island developing states (SIDS) and representatives of regional development bodies, plus New Zealand and Australia, focused on “Improving food security and nutrition, building resilient livelihoods and promoting partnerships for sustainable development in the Pacific Islands.”

The nine participating countries included Kiribati, Vanuatu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Samoa, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia, whose inhabitants face a potentially severe food crisis triggered mostly by climate change.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

In his opening remarks on Saturday, Graziano da Silva shared the Pacific leaders’ concerns about the negative impact of climate change on food security and nutrition and its role in exacerbating the burden of malnutrition as well as the alarming overweight and obesity levels.

“You are suffering from things that you didn’t cause, from things you are not responsible for – the impact of climate change,” the FAO Director-General said.

“This is what FAO offers – support so that you can face climate change; scale up growing local products as we see you import more and more food. Obesity is a big problem. It is an epidemic that we need to address.”

“Together with partners such as WHO, we promote the uptake of healthy, fresh food – fruits, vegetable and fish instead of processed food. We promote local products – bread fruit, for which we have a pilot programme in the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Nauru, and which we want to scale up and multiply,” he added

In a joint statement, following the meeting Saturday, the Pacific leaders called upon all countries to “exceed previous commitments and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C as above pre-industrial levels, to reduce the adverse impacts on food security and nutrition, coastal habitats and the livelihoods of those depending on oceans.”

The 1.5 degrees limit will allow “for a greater change at maintaining resilient livelihoods and promote partnerships for sustainable development in the Pacific Islands,” the statement read.

Also participating in the meeting were officials from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Director-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and Chief executive officer of the Pan Pacific Power Association.

The joint statement was also a “call to action” to the UN climate change Conference of Parties (COP 23), currently underway, in Bonn, where the Pacific leaders will present their case.

The meeting, which concludes November 17, will be presided over by the government of Fiji, a small island developing state in the Pacific.

The leaders also raised concerns about the negative impacts of malnutrition evidenced by the growing incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which accounts for 75 percent of adult deaths in the Pacific, and called for “more proactive and integrated actions to promote policies to tackle food insecurity challenges, especially on issues related to obesity, stunting, wasting and NCDs.”

They acknowledged the importance of the FAO and partners’ Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in SIDS, which recommends action at global, regional, national and local level to accelerate food security and nutrition, calling for its endorsement and immediate implementation.

With Pacific island states highly dependent on their oceans for their livelihoods and food security, leaders reiterated their anxiety about ecosystem degradation, and called upon the international community to assist in maximizing the sustainable utilization of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the benefit of small island developing states.

According to FAO, the Pacific islands are among the most environmentally vulnerable nations in the world. Drought, extreme high tides, violent winds, and storm surges pose major risks to small island nations, and their efforts to achieve sustainable development.

With “Oceans Day” events taking place at COP23 on Saturday, Graziano da Silva highlighted the importance of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), described as “today’s main tool in the hands of the international community to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”.

Urging all Pacific Island states to adhere to the agreement, he said: “You are countries with more water and natural resources to preserve than any other countries. This is why the Port State Measures Agreement is important.”

He said FAO is “committed to support you to implement and monitor your PSMA process. We can provide assistance for your national legislations, training and funding to put the agreement in place. We will not be able to safeguard our ocean environment if we don’t combat illegal fishing,” he declared.

In the joint statement, the leaders also reiterated their anxiety about ecosystem degradation and other challenges encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goal 14 and called upon the international community to assist in maximizing the sustainable utilization of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the benefit of the small island developing states.

They further recalled the endorsement of the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in SIDS and called for immediate implementation.

Additionally the leaders also called upon the international community to ensure partnerships are genuine and enduring South-South and triangular cooperation are encouraged and facilitated, and synergies to maximize the use of financial resources for the Pacific Islands are pursued and built

The political leaders at the high level meeting included: Taneti Maamau, President, Republic of Kiribati, Baron Waqa, President, Republic of Nauru, Hilda Heine, President, Republic of Marshall Islands, Yosiwo P. George, Vice President, Federated States of Micronesia, Henry Puna, Prime Minister, Cook Islands, Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister, Republic of Vanuatu, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Deputy Prime Minister, Samoa, Joshua Kalinoe, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister, Papua New Guinea, James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, New Zealand, Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, New Zealand and Édouard Fritch, President, French Polynesia.

Other participants included: Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Forum, James Movick, Director-General, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and Andrew Daka, Chief executive officer, Pan Pacific Power Association.

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Nations without Nationality – An ‘Unseen’ Stark Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/nations-without-nationality-unseen-stark-reality/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 07:00:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152964 Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations. These millions […]

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Born stateless, this baby acquired nationality in 2008 in Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/G.M.B. Akash

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 10 2017 (IPS)

Here’s another ‘unseen’ stark reality—that of millions of people around the world who are deprived of their identity, living without nationality. Their total number is by definition unknown and their only ‘sin” is that they belong to an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority in the country where they have often lived for generations.

These millions of human beings are victims of continued discrimination, exclusion and persecution, states a UN refugee agency’s new report, calling for “immediate action” to secure equal nationality rights for all.

“Stateless people are just seeking the same basic rights that all citizens enjoy. But stateless minorities, like the Rohingya, often suffer from entrenched discrimination and a systematic denial of their rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on the launch of the report, This Is Our Home: Stateless minorities and their search for citizenship on the beginning of November.

Any Solution?

Ensuring equal access to nationality rights for minority groups is one of the key goals of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this, UNHCR urges all States to take the following steps, in line with Actions 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 of UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to End Statelessness:

• Facilitate the naturalisation or confirmation of nationality for stateless minority groups resident on the territory provided that they were born or have resided there before a particular date, or have parents or grandparents who meet these criteria.
• Allow children to gain the nationality of the country in which they were born if they would otherwise be stateless.
• Eliminate laws and practices that deny or deprive persons of nationality on the basis of discriminatory grounds such as race, ethnicity, religion, or linguistic minority status.
• Ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.
• Eliminate procedural and practical obstacles to the issuance of nationality documentation to those entitled to it under law.

SOURCE: UNHCR

This report explains the circumstances that have led to them not being recognised as citizens, drawing on discussions with four stateless or formerly stateless minority groups. The findings in this report underscore the critical need for minorities to enjoy the right to nationality.

“Imagine being told you don’t belong because of the language you speak, the faith you follow, the customs you practice or the colour of your skin. This is the stark reality for many of the world’s stateless. Discrimination, which can be the root cause of their lack of nationality, pervades their everyday lives – often with crippling effects,” says Grandi.

The report notes that more than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. “Left unaddressed, their protracted marginalisation can build resentment, increase fear and, in the most extreme cases, lead to instability, insecurity and displacement.”

Even Before the Ongoing Rohingya Crisis

Based on research prior to late August when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya – the world’s “biggest stateless minority” – began fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh, the report reminds that their situation is nonetheless illustrative of the problems that years of discrimination, protracted exclusion and their impact on citizenship status can lead to.

“In recent years, important steps have been taken to address statelessness worldwide. However new challenges, like growing forced displacement and arbitrary deprivation of nationality, threaten this progress. States must act now and they must act decisively to end statelessness,” Grandi stressed.

The report shows that, for many minority groups, the cause of statelessness is difference itself: their histories, their looks, their language, and their faith.

“At the same time, statelessness often exacerbates the exclusion that minority groups face, profoundly affecting all aspects of their life – from freedom of movement to development opportunities, and from access to services to the right to vote.”

What Statelessness Is All About

According to the UN, statelessness can exacerbate the exclusion that minorities already face, further limiting their access to education, health care, legal employment, freedom of movement, development opportunities and the right to vote.

Fatmira Mustafa, a mother of four, collects rubbish from bins for a living. She has been anxiously waiting for the day when the owner of the plot on which her family is squatting will knock on her door to claim the land. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

“It creates a chasm between affected groups and the wider community, deepening their sense of being outsiders: of never belonging.”

In May and June 2017, UNHCR spoke with more than 120 individuals who belong to stateless or formerly stateless minority groups in three countries: the Karana of Madagascar, Roma and other ethnic minorities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pemba and Makonde of Kenya. These are the key findings of UNHCR’s consultations:

Discrimination, Lack of Documentation

Discrimination and exclusion of ethnic, religious or linguistic minority groups often lies at the heart of their statelessness, adds UNHCR. At the same time, their statelessness can lead to further discrimination, both in in practice and in law: at least 20 countries maintain nationality laws in which nationality can be denied or deprived in a discriminatory manner.

“Discrimination against the stateless minorities consulted manifests itself most clearly in their attempts to access documentation needed to prove their nationality or their entitlement to nationality, such as a national ID card or a birth certificate.”

Lack of such documentary proof can result in a vicious circle, where authorities refuse to recognize an otherwise valid claim to nationality.

“The authorities told me that I had to go to Kosovo to get a certificate that I was not a citizen of Kosovo. But how could I travel there without documents?” asks Sutki Sokolovski, a 28-year-old ethnic Albanian man. His mother, who abandoned him as a child was from Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)), but he was born in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and has lived there his entire life.


“I felt like I was a slave. Now I feel like I have been born again,” says 51-year-old Amina Kassim, a formerly stateless member of the Makonde community in Kenya. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold.

Poverty

The UN body explains that because of their statelessness and lack of documentation, the groups consulted are typically excluded from accessing legal or sustainable employment, or obtaining the kinds of loans or licenses that would allow them to make a decent living. This marginalisation can make it difficult for stateless minorities to escape an on-going cycle of poverty.

Examples among other testimonies included: “The biggest problem is the poverty caused by my statelessness. A stateless person cannot own property. I feel belittled and disgraced by the situation that I am in,” notes Shaame Hamisi, 55 from the stateless Pemba community in Kenya.

Fear

All the groups consulted spoke of their fear for their physical safety and security on account of being stateless. Being criminalized for a situation that they are unable to remedy has left psychological scars and a sense of vulnerability among many.

“They [police] know what we do, where we go. They ask for our IDs, when we say we don’t have any, we are arrested and beaten,” says Ajnur Demir, 26, from the Roma community from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Stateless Children

On this, a 3 November 2015 UN report – I am Here, I Belong: The Urgent Need to End Childhood Statelessness— had already warned in a report that stateless children across the world share the same feelings of discrimination, frustration and despair.

According to that report, urgent action is needed before statelessness “sets in stone” problems haunting their childhood.

“In the short time that children get to be children, statelessness can set in stone grave problems that will haunt them throughout their childhoods and sentence them to a life of discrimination, frustration and despair,” said the by then the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres and now UN Secretary General, adding that no child should be stateless.

“Stateless young people are often denied the opportunity to receive school qualifications, go to university and find a decent job. They face discrimination and harassment by authorities and are more vulnerable to exploitation. Their lack of nationality often sentences them and their families and communities to remain impoverished and marginalised for generations.”

What future for them… and for humankind?

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The Illusion of Justice: When Will Reparations be Served to Iraq’s Victims?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/illusion-justice-will-reparations-served-iraqs-victims/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:17:11 +0000 Miriam Puttick http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152956 Miriam Puttick is Head of Middle East and North Africa Programs at the London-based Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and co-author of the report*

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Personal property destroyed in the battle to push ISIS from Iraq's Ninewa plains, March 2017. Credit: Mays al-Juboori

By Miriam Puttick
TORONTO, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

It is difficult to spend any time in Iraq without being struck by a sense of profound injustice. After successive decades of war and occupation, violence has become the rule rather than the exception in the country, with each phase of conflict outdoing the previous in terms of brutality and capacity to shock the conscience.

Since the fall of Mosul in June 2014, the conflict with ISIS has occupied minds, hearts and television screens, unleashed unspeakable horrors, and created countless new victims. Now, more than three years later, and in the wake of victories in Hawija and Raqqa, ISIS may be on the brink of annihilation – but military defeat without justice raises the specter of further violence.

The recent eruption of military confrontation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, which shattered a fragile status quo in place since the start of the conflict with ISIS, seems to confirm that peace is an elusive dream. When contemplating the prospects of reconciliation in Iraq, the idea of multiple layers of injustice, accumulated over time, always comes to mind.

How can a society recover when new wounds are being inflicted before old scars have healed? For every thousand civilians who have been victimized by the conflict with ISIS and are waiting for answers, there are a thousand more widows of the American invasion, and a thousand survivors of Saddam Hussein’s genocides, many of whom have not been served justice to this day.

In international human rights circles, planning for the post-ISIS phase is in full swing. Here, “accountability” is the word of the day, and many are spurred on by a September 2017 UN Security Council resolution that will see an international investigative team deployed to Iraq to support domestic prosecution of ISIS crimes.

However, the resolution’s most obvious flaw is that it is limited in mandate to acts committed by ISIS, despite the fact that other parties to the conflict, including Iraqi and Kurdish forces, government-allied militias, and the US-led coalition, are all responsible for their fair share of violations.

Moreover, while the emphasis on criminal accountability is justifiable given the severity of violations committed, it is questionable whether it is enough to prompt the type of reconciliation and healing desperately needed in Iraq.

It was these types of questions that led my colleagues and I to first start exploring the potential of individual reparations as a path forward towards justice for victims in Iraq. A growing body of international best practices, from Colombia to South Africa, points to the significant material and symbolic impact that reparations can have on individuals and societies recovering from atrocities.

Moreover, a lesser-known fact is that Iraq already has the domestic framework to support reparations – and has been quietly administering them for years. A visit to the Baghdad headquarters of the Central Compensation Committee, the government body responsible for administering compensation to victims of ‘military operations, military mistakes, and terrorist actions,’ was an unexpectedly humbling experience.

The Committee, which draws its mandate from a law passed in 2009, delivers compensation packages to victims harmed since the 2003 invasion that include one-time grants, monthly pensions, and plots of land. In the midst of stiff political opposition, a spiraling economic crisis, and ongoing conflict that has paralyzed their operations in parts of the country, the members of the Committee have diligently gone on with their work.

Between 2011 and 2016, they reached decisions on 183,940 cases, distributing more than $355 million in compensation to victims and their families. The compensation officials we met with seemed refreshingly principled as far as government officials go, and were keen to emphasize the sense of duty that guided their work with victims of violations.

Yet, they receive very little recognition for their work either inside or outside of Iraq. Countless politicians and foreign diplomats we met with in Baghdad were quick to criticize the compensation process as bureaucratic, slow or inconsequential. Many dismissed the idea of reparations entirely, viewing it as unrealistic or financially untenable given the need to invest in stabilization and reconstruction.

These arguments hardly stand up to scrutiny. Reparations cost money, yes, but not nearly as much as war. One of the findings released last year by the Chilcot Inquiry, mandated to investigate the UK’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was that the decision to invade was made almost entirely independently of any financial calculations of what such an undertaking would entail – it was war at any cost.

The UK eventually spent £9.24 billion on the invasion – a figure which pales in comparison to the trillions spent by the US. That the Iraqi government has shown itself able to run an entirely self-funded reparations process in the midst of ongoing conflict, while the worlds’ leading military powers claim to be incapable of accepting financial responsibility for the destruction they unleashed in the country, is as ridiculous as it is lamentable.

But while the US and the UK attempt to put their occupation-era blunders behind them, more recent military involvement in Iraq is setting dangerous new precedents. Since August 2014, airstrikes launched by the US-led military coalition have flattened neighborhoods and led to thousands of civilian casualties – 5,117 deaths as of August 2017, according to international monitoring group Airwars.

Yet, the coalition has proved reluctant to launch proper investigations into reports of civilian casualties and has reportedly only issued two condolence payments to victims’ families since the start of the campaign, in stark contrast to previous practice in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

If Iraq is to be extricated from the cycles of violence and resentment that have dominated its recent history, a truly inclusive transitional justice process is needed to acknowledge the harms committed by all parties to the conflict, past and present. For the Iraqi government, this means ensuring that all armed actors, including government-affiliated militias, are held accountable for their recent actions and engaged in truth-seeking and reparations processes.

For the international community, this means holding themselves to the same standards of justice to which they hold others, and redressing wrongdoing wherever it has occurred.

*The report http://minorityrights.org/publications/reparations-victims-conflict-iraq-lessons-learned-comparative-practice/ was released November 8.

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Victims of El Salvador’s Civil War Demand Reparationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/victims-el-salvadors-civil-war-demand-reparations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=victims-el-salvadors-civil-war-demand-reparations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/victims-el-salvadors-civil-war-demand-reparations/#comments Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:55:47 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152949 Among the sea of names of victims of the Salvadoran civil war, engraved on a long black granite wall, Matilde Asencio managed to find the name of her son, Salvador. She then placed a flower and a lit candle at the foot of the segment of the wall where it read: “‘disappeared’ persons 1988”. Asencio, […]

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The coffins of six children killed by the Salvadoran army in May 1982 are carried through the cemetery by relatives, human rights activists and residents of the town of Arcatao, in El Salvador, on Sept 27, 2017. They had been missing for 35 years and their remains were found in January. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The coffins of six children killed by the Salvadoran army in May 1982 are carried through the cemetery by relatives, human rights activists and residents of the town of Arcatao, in El Salvador, on Sept 27, 2017. They had been missing for 35 years and their remains were found in January. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR/ARCATAO, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

Among the sea of names of victims of the Salvadoran civil war, engraved on a long black granite wall, Matilde Asencio managed to find the name of her son, Salvador.

She then placed a flower and a lit candle at the foot of the segment of the wall where it read: “‘disappeared’ persons 1988”.

Asencio, 78, arrived with her husband, Macario Miranda, 87, to the Monument to Memory and Truth in San Salvador, on Nov. 1, the eve of the Day of the Dead, to pay tribute to their son Salvador Arévalo Miranda, who was captured and “disappeared” by the Salvadoran army in August 1988.

“We have been in this struggle for almost 30 years, we are old and sick, but we will not tire, we will not stop until they tell us what they did with him,” Asencio told IPS, holding a portrait of her son."Apart from the sorrow, I also feel happy that my little boy is no longer abandoned where he had been left, and that has helped me to heal wounds that were very much open." -- Calixta Melgar

The 1980-1992 civil war in this Central American country of 6.8 million people left some 75,000 people dead and 8,000 missing.

Like Asencio and Miranda, dozens of relatives visited the monument in downtown San Salvador to at least be able to place a flower in memory of their deceased and “disappeared” loved ones.

But they also went to demand justice and truth as part of a process of reparation, 25 years after the peace deal was signed.

Groups of victims, supported by human rights organisations, are promoting the creation of a Law for Comprehensive Reparations for Victims of the Armed Conflict, because the State has failed to remedy the wrongs caused, both material and emotional.

“The idea is that the civilians who suffered the war, no matter from which side, can receive reparations,” activist Sofía Hernández from the “Marianela García Villas” Committee of Relatives of Victims of Human Rights Violations told IPS.

The project proposes the creation of a Reparations Fund, a registry of victims and various measures for symbolic and material reparations.

Among these are that the beneficiaries and their descendants have preferential access to the public education system, at every level up to tertiary education, access to the social security healthcare system, and access to a free psychosocial care programme.

Also, if approved, it would grant benefits for obtaining land, housing and preferential credits, and it proposes the creation of a Bank of Genetic Profiles, in order to identify the deceased, and with that information, to be able to initiate exhumation processes.

It also proposes the creation of an initial fund from the General Budget of the Nation, of up to one million dollars, to meet the financial implications of the law.

“These people had their houses burnt down, their children were ‘disappeared’, and there have been no reparations,” said Hernández, who has suffered first-hand the ravages of war.

In March 1980, a contingent of the National Guard entered the village of San Pedro Aguascalientes, in the municipality of Verapaz in the central department of San Vicente, where she lived with her family.

“My brother-in-law was yoking oxen to go to fetch water in the cart and he was shot, along with two of my nephews, they were killed in the yard of their house,” said Hernández, also a member of the project management group.

The house of her brother Juan Francisco Hernández was set on fire, but neither he nor his family were there. But then, on May 2, he was captured and has been missing since, along with two of her nephews.

The bill has not yet been debated in the single-chamber Legislative Assembly, and right-wing parties are not likely to vote for it as they consider the initiative part of a leftist agenda.

Insufficient progress

The search for truth and justice in cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions is another important component of the reparations process, said the victims who spoke to IPS.

After more than three decades of not knowing the whereabouts of her son, José Mauricio Menjívar, or whether he was dead or alive, Calixta Melgar was finally able to give him a Christian burial on Sept. 22, in the municipality of Arcatao in the northern department of Chalatenango.

“Now I know where he is buried, where to go to put a flower, I feel that my grief has been relieved a bit,” Melgar told IPS, through tears.

José Mauricio, who was five years old in May 1982, was killed by soldiers in the village of El Sitio, and his body was left abandoned, along with those of five other children who suffered the same fate.

In the confusion and chaos that followed a military incursion into the area on that date, the children, three boys and three girls, were held by the military and executed in cold blood.

The remains remained buried there until January 2017, when the National Search Commission for Missing Children during the Internal Armed Conflict and the non-governmental Pro-Búsqueda Association for the Search of Disappeared Children found them and identified the victims using DNA.

For the latter, they had the support of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team and the state Salvadoran Forensic Medicine Institute.

“Apart from the sorrow, I also feel happy that my little boy is no longer abandoned where he had been left, and that has helped me to heal wounds that were very much open,” said the 57-year-old Melgar, before the funeral service in the village church.

During the Catholic religious ceremony, the six small white coffins holding the remains of the children were placed in front of the main altar.

Pro-Búsqueda has managed to solve 437 cases of missing children, 83 percent of whom have been found alive, the institution’s executive director Eduardo García told IPS.

This joint and coordinated work between Pro-Búsqueda and a government agency to solve cases of children who went missing in the war was unthinkable not too many years ago.

In this regard, García said that there has been a slight change in addressing the issue of truth, justice and reparation under the two successive governments of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), which became a political party after the peace agreement and has been in power since 2009.

“It is evident that the government is showing greater sensitivity; it has initiated processes of forgiveness and continues to maintain a National Search Commission by executive decree,” he said.

But he said more could have been done, for example, allowing access to military archives to help clarify serious human rights abuses committed during the war.

“The Armed Forces has systematically denied information that could clarify these facts, although the Commander in Chief (President Salvador Sánchez Cerén) is leftist,” he said.

Until now, only the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic has begun to timidly investigate some of the cases, arguing that it has neither the capacity nor the budget, while the Legislative Assembly does not even want to recognise Aug. 30 as the National Day of Disappeared Persons.

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Will Policymakers Listen to Climate Change Science This Time Around?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/#comments Wed, 08 Nov 2017 23:31:42 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152946 Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news. Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to […]

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All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

By Busani Bafana
BREMERHAVEN, Germany, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news.

Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to science, the faster can they commit to cutting global carbon emissions.“Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?” --marine biologist Ulf Riebesell

Carbon emissions are increasing but our willingness to do something about them is not, scientists say.

As global leaders gather for COP23 which opened this week, the need to raise global ambitions to cut carbon emissions and put the world on a cleaner, more sustainable path, has never been more urgent.

Climate change projections point to increasing extreme weather, rising temperatures, droughts and floods. Seas and oceans – our biggest lungs – are warming and reaching a saturation point to absorb increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Are the impacts of climate change witnessed now motivation enough for our politicians to do something about it?

“Many of these changes are in line with what has been projected for climate change and there is a debate currently going on among governments that the ambition needs to be strengthened, but this is only an assumption and we do not know yet,” Hans-Otto Portner, Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II and Head of research section in Ecosystems Physiology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, told IPS.

Portner expects the current round of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to show to what extent extreme events have changed the mentality of policy makers. Should we expect a radical shift in climate change positions at COP23?

“Climate change does not go away and its impacts will become more and more intensive so the pressure on policy makers to do something in the shorter term will be increasing,” Portner said. “It is really about those countries that are not much affected at the moment where there is this inertia and where maybe the awareness is large enough. Then you have individuals that do not follow the obvious insight from scientific information but rather follow their own beliefs. As a citizen you can only hope that these individuals will lose influence over time.”

Warming climate, cooling ambitions

There is no shortage of political influence for more ambitious actions on reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. It is however, peppered with attention-grabbing deniers like US President Donald Trump, who has triggered the process for the US to exit the Paris Agreement.

It is clear that the world knows enough about climate change than it did over the last century ago, but actions taken to date are insufficient, Portner said blaming the inertia on technological uncertainty. For, instance, he said the European car industry has taken a long time in establishing alternative engines despite many years of talk about electric vehicles.

Under the climate change agreement reached in 2015, global leaders committed to lower carbon emissions and cap global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius to about pre-industrial level. They also pledged to ensure a lower 1.5 degrees of warming to keep the earth sustainable for life. Scientists worry that political ambitions are still weak.

With the start of the 6th IPCC assessment cycle, pressure is on to validate the Paris Agreement at whose core is the world’s ability to adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Acknowledging that defining climate change thresholds remains a challenge, Portner said all countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris agreement targets are to be reached.

“The current world climate report indicates clearly that net zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing CO2 emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner observed. “Net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere would have to contribute. This is already technically possible but the challenge is to develop and implement respective technologies at a larger scale.”

A recent report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based research group says more than 55 countries – accounting for 60 percent of global emission- have committed to peaking their emissions by 2030. While this is good, global emissions need to peak by 2020 to prevent dangerous warming levels, the report urged.

Acting as a gigantic carbon sink, oceans take up about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities. However, when absorbed by seawater, the greenhouse gas triggers chemical reactions, causing the ocean to acidify, scientists say. While on the one hand, the ocean’s CO2 uptake slows down global climate change on the other, this absorption affects the life and material cycles of the ocean and those who depend on it.

The German Research network, Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID) has just concluded an 8-year extensive research on ocean acidification involving a team of more than 250 scientists from 20 German institutions. The research indicates that ocean acidification, warming and other environmental condition are impairing ocean life and compromising ecosystems services provided by oceans.

Fish off the menu

Ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and this threatens marine ecosystem that supports global fish stocks.

Research by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel shows that ocean acidification and warming will affect the availability of fish and global fish stocks. Besides, over fishing is a global problem though it is unevenly distributed.

“Overfishing is not necessarily an ecological catastrophe but its economically stupid and is unfair,” says Gerd Kraus, director of the Thunen-Instiute of Sea Fisheries in Hamburg. “Science is needed to make informed choices, for example, advising governments on the sustainable management of fish stocks.”

Fish are the primary source of protein for one billion people globally, primarily in developing countries. The loss of coral reefs that provide habitat and coastal protection will affect aquaculture and fish harvests.

“The future of this planet depends on us,” says Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR and Coordinator of BIOACID said, adding that, “Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?”

But change is hard as it is slow. According to BIOACID in adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and economy, political influence is needed in regulating the phase out of fossil fuels.

Stop fumbling on fossil fuels

According to Felix Ekardt, Director of the Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy in Leipzi, fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, which a 2017 landmark study says kills 9 million people, more than those killed by war, AIDs, hunger and malaria combined.

“Both (GHG and air pollution) are not only drivers of climate change but also cause ocean acidification,” Ekardt said. “Knowledge of natural scientific facts on sea and climate alone however does not trigger sufficient motivation in society, businesses and politics to reduce their emissions….The usual emissions-intensive lifestyle in industrialised countries and increasingly in developing countries has to be put on the spot.”

Arguing that shifting problems will not solve them, said ocean acidification and climate change are prime examples of truly global problems. BIOACID research calls for inducing a fast phase-out of fossil fuels as one of the options for effective ocean acidification policies.

“The most effective mechanism for that is to define clear political steps to eliminate fossil fuels used for power, heating, fuels and industrial use (such as fertiliser) from the market by implementing a mechanism for quantity control.”

Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, calls COP23 a vital step to set a clear rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. He bemoaned that LDCs and other developing countries cannot take ambitious actions to address climate change or protect themselves against its impacts unless all countries outdo the pledges on the table.

“As the 47 poorest countries in the world, the LDCs face the unique and unprecedented challenge of lifting our people out of poverty and achieving sustainable development without relying on fossil fuels,” Endalew said.

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Pacific Communities Building Resilience in the Face of Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/pacific-communities-building-resilience-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pacific-communities-building-resilience-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/pacific-communities-building-resilience-face-climate-change/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 16:15:43 +0000 Simon Bradshaw http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152944 In the Pacific, climate change is an ever-present threat, undermining human rights, livelihoods, and security. Pacific Islanders are working with courage and resolve to build the resilience of their communities and to catalyse international actions towards ending global carbon pollution. While the Pacific has contributed almost nothing to the causes of climate change, the region […]

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By Simon Bradshaw, Climate Change Specialist, Oxfam Australia
SUVA, Fiji, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

In the Pacific, climate change is an ever-present threat, undermining human rights, livelihoods, and security. Pacific Islanders are working with courage and resolve to build the resilience of their communities and to catalyse international actions towards ending global carbon pollution.

While the Pacific has contributed almost nothing to the causes of climate change, the region is determined to lead the world towards a more just and sustainable future. And while often labelled as ‘small island states’, Pacific Island countries are more accurately characterised as ‘large oceans states’ as they are custodians of vast tracts of ocean, to which their economies, culture, identities and livelihoods are inextricably tied.

Pacific Island countries are hugely diverse in their geographies and cultures – from low-lying atoll nations to volcanic archipelagos with high mountains. But all face a combination of severe challenges from climate change.

Climate change is increasing the destructive power of tropical cyclones. Many Pacific Island countries, including the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Federated States of Micronesia, lie within the south or north-western Pacific cyclone belts.

In 2016, a year after Cyclone Pam brought devastation to Vanuatu, Cyclone Winston – the strongest ever recorded in the southern hemisphere – displaced 55,000 people in Fiji (about 6 per cent of the population) and caused loss and damage worth around one-fifth of the countries’ GDP.

For the atoll nations including Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, rising seas and higher storm surges are inundating scarce land and contaminating scarce groundwater resources on which people depend for freshwater.

In the long-term, and without far stronger international action on climate change, atoll nations face losing much of their land area. At the same time, these and all Pacific Island communities face damage to critical marine ecosystems through ocean acidification, shifting rainfall patterns and other impacts of climate change.

Pacific peoples are determined to adapt to these growing realities and to do everything possible to avoid being displaced from their land and homes. Forced displacement epitomises the grave injustice and human rights implications of climate change. No one wants to leave, to lose their cultural ties, traditional livelihoods, and deep ancestral connection to their land.

Across the region, from the regional to the local level, Pacific governments and communities are working to confront the climate crisis. One of the many inspiring examples of community-led action comes from Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu Climate Action Network (VCAN) is a powerful example of diverse stakeholders, from community organisations through to the national government, working together to build more resilient communities to amplify the voices of Pacific Islanders on the world stage. It has enabled a broad range of local and international NGOs to pool their knowledge and resources and to draw on each other’s strengths.

It has helped ensure that local communities and civil society have better access to information on climate risks and adaptation strategies, and has embraced the leadership of Ni-Vanuatu women and elevated their role in decision-making and in representing Vanuatu in international fora.

From developing climate resilient food systems built on local traditional knowledge to establishing awareness programs in schools, it has enabled communities to build on their strengths and ability to flourish amidst current and future challenges.

Similar networks exist in other Pacific countries including in Tuvalu and Kiribati, and they come together at the regional level under the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN). They play a vital role in building local capacity to deal with climate change, in facilitating greater cooperation between government, civil society, communities and the private sector, and in responding to the needs and capacities of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

And, perhaps most importantly, in ensuring the voices of Pacific Islanders are heard loud and clear on the world stage. COP23 – the Pacific COP – is an unprecedented opportunity to highlight the Pacific people’s determination and leadership in highlighting and driving solutions to the acute challenges facing the region from climate change.

It is time for us all to listen to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and commit to the scale and pace of action needed to ensure a just and sustainable future for all.

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Emerging Markets at Risk Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/emerging-markets-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=emerging-markets-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/emerging-markets-risk/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 06:59:41 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152932 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Very rarely are the root causes of economic crises and vulnerability addressed. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

Emerging market governments often draw lessons from previous financial crises – or at least claim to do so – to prevent their recurrence. However, such preventive measures are typically designed to address the causes of the last crisis, not the next one. Hence, some measures adopted may inadvertently become new sources of instability and crisis.

Very rarely are the root causes of crises and vulnerability addressed. In their efforts to prove themselves as worthy emerging markets, they tend to be pro-active in joining the financial globalization bandwagon. But premature financial liberalization – with hasty integration into the international financial system, typically without adequate prudential multilateral mechanisms for speedy and orderly resolution of external liquidity and debt crises – can be very dangerous and costly.

Future currency crises different
Many governments claim to have learnt from the 1997-1998 Asian financial crises and the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. But while measures implemented may be effective in preventing recurrence, they may be inappropriate, inadequate or worse, even counterproductive with changing, deepening financial integration.

After mid-1997, Southeast Asian governments abandoned their informal currency pegs after incurring high costs trying to defend them. Moving to flexible exchange rates ended ‘one-way (sure-win) bets’ for some speculators, while entailing disruptive currency devaluations.

Since the crises, banking regulation and supervision have undoubtedly improved, e.g., reducing currency and maturity mismatches in bank balance sheets. However, in this day and age, stable exchange rates can no longer be ensured with unregulated capital mobility.

In fact, currency crises can occur with either fixed or flexible exchange rates. With flexible rates, inflows cause currency appreciations, encouraging even more inflows, which will inevitably be reversed, often quite abruptly.

Capital inflows into securities markets are far more important today than banks intermediating cross-border capital flows in the 1990s. Corporate bond issues have also grown much faster than international bank lending, whether directly or through local intermediaries. Yet, such measures have not prevented credit and asset price bubbles.

Emerging markets have further liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) regimes and encouraged foreign participation in equity markets, presuming that equity liabilities are less risky than external debt. Hence, foreign shares of market capitalization have reached unprecedented levels, much higher than in the US. With emerging markets more susceptible, a little foreign investment can ‘make (emerging) markets’, causing large price swings.

Currency mismatches
East Asian authorities have also reduced currency mismatches in their own balance sheets and exchange rate risk exposure by opening domestic bond markets to foreigners and borrowing in their own currencies. Consequently, sovereign debt is now much more exposed to foreign creditors than in reserve currency countries.

Much higher shares of most emerging market sovereign bonds are held by foreigners, usually privately, rather than by central banks. In contrast, most of Japan’s very high sovereign debt is held by Japanese creditors while around a third of US Treasury bonds are held by non-residents.

Encouraging foreign participation in sovereign bond markets has helped pass currency risk to creditors, but also reduced autonomy over long-term rates and increased exposure to interest rate shocks from abroad, e.g., when the US Fed raises interest rates again.

Greater capital account liberalization besides encouraging domestic corporations to borrow from and invest abroad have resulted in massive debt accumulation in low interest rate reserve currencies, especially with recent ‘unconventional’ monetary policies. Thus, reducing sovereign debt currency mismatches has been offset by increased private corporate fragility due to greater exchange rate risks.

Regulatory constraints on resident individuals and institutional investors purchasing foreign securities and real estate have also been relaxed. Capital account liberalization has enabled resident capital outflows claiming these will ‘balance’ foreign inflows. But such private accumulation of foreign assets will not be available to national authorities in case of panicky capital flight.

Hence, national currencies are especially vulnerable when the capital account is open and foreign control of domestic financial assets is significant. As experience has shown, macro-financial volatility may suddenly precipitate massive outflows.

Self-insurance delusion
Since the turn of the century, emerging markets have been seeking ‘self-insurance’ in managing external balances by accumulating ‘adequate’ international reserves from trade surpluses and capital inflows. Hence, foreign reserves in most East Asian countries are often enough to meet conventional external liabilities, but not enough to cope with massive reversals of foreign portfolio investments and capital flight by residents.

Despite the crises of the last two decades, emerging markets’ capital accounts are much freer now than then. Asset markets and currencies of all East Asian emerging markets with ‘enough’ foreign reserves have nevertheless been shaken several times in the past decade.

But such short-lived instability episodes did not cause severe damage as they only involved temporary shifts in market sentiments. Nevertheless, they hint at likely threats when ‘quantitative easing’ in the North could be reversed soon.

As ‘self-insurance’ is probably insufficient to cope with massive capital flight, the usual option is to ‘seek help’ from the IMF and reserve-currency countries. Another involves ‘bailing in’ international creditors and investors using foreign exchange controls, temporary ‘debt standstills’ and other measures to protect jobs and the economy.

But such unilateral measures may be difficult and costly due to resistance from creditor country governments, acting at the behest of the powerful financial interests involved.

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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4 Reasons for Countries to Enhance Climate Commitments by 2020http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/4-reasons-countries-enhance-climate-commitments-2020/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=4-reasons-countries-enhance-climate-commitments-2020 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/4-reasons-countries-enhance-climate-commitments-2020/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 13:32:07 +0000 Taryn Fransen and Eliza Northrop http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152928 The Paris Agreement was widely hailed for drawing all nations together to tackle climate change, based on bottom-up contributions that will be reviewed and strengthened over time. These contributions are aimed at achieving the ambitious but necessary long-term goals of limiting global temperature increase and building resilience to climate impacts. This process is known as […]

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, California, one of the hottest places on Earth. Credit: Tom_Stromer/Flickr

By Taryn Fransen and Eliza Northrop
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

The Paris Agreement was widely hailed for drawing all nations together to tackle climate change, based on bottom-up contributions that will be reviewed and strengthened over time. These contributions are aimed at achieving the ambitious but necessary long-term goals of limiting global temperature increase and building resilience to climate impacts.

This process is known as the ambition mechanism, and the first test of whether and how it will work is fast approaching. In 2018, Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will come together to take stock of progress and identify where they can go further, faster to put the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach.

Following this process, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, Parties will have the opportunity to communicate new or updated climate commitments, known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, by 2020.

So why should countries communicate new or updated NDCs by 2020?

1) Current NDCs Need to Be Strengthened to Achieve the Goals of the Paris Agreement

At the 2015 climate summit in Paris, countries agreed to limit warming to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

The current NDCs, by contrast, would lead to warming in the range of 2.7 to 3.7 degrees C; there remains a significant gap between emissions expected in 2030 and emissions compatible with the Paris goals. The longer countries wait to bring their commitments into line with the Paris goals, the more difficult it will be and the steeper the rate at which emissions will need to decline.

Because fossil-fueled power plants and inefficient buildings have long life spans, achieving an ever-steeper reduction rate can become expensive and technically difficult. The sooner NDCs reflect the necessary ambition to achieve the Paris goals, the sooner they can signal to redirect investments away from high-emitting technologies.

2) Parties Can Seize Economic and Social Benefits of Updating their NDCs

The current NDCs were developed by Parties ahead of Paris, quickly and with no certainty of the final outcome. With the Paris Agreement now in force and with implementation guidelines to be finalized at the end of 2018, Parties can factor in recent innovations and declining costs of renewable energy to take advantage of opportunities in key sectors to send accurate signals to investors.

Many countries have long-term plans and strategies related to climate, development, and economic objectives. Taking the opportunity now to align NDCs with these long-term goals and strategies will avoid locking in high emissions that will exacerbate climate vulnerabilities.

For example, analysis has revealed the high potential for synergies between achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the NDCs.

The next years could offer new areas of cost-effective climate action. Lastly, many countries have already made substantial progress and some appear to be on track to exceed the targets in their current NDCs.

3) It Provides an Opportunity to Engage Stakeholders and Create Support for Climate Action

Enhancing NDCs provides an opportunity to rally support for climate action, strengthen public participation and ensure that relevant stakeholders help to create a strategic vision.

The opportunity to review and update the NDCs by 2020 enables Parties to learn from their initial experience and identify ways to engage a broader range of stakeholders to access new information and enhance ownership of the NDC, within and outside government. Enhancing engagement with businesses and other non-state actors, as well as subnational governments, could also reveal additional mitigation potential or innovations that help drive enhanced ambition.

4) This Can Send Powerful Signals to Decision-Makers

NDCs send powerful signals to inform decision-making by a wide range of actors, not only to the international community, but also domestically. Ensuring the targets, actions and measures in an NDC reflect the latest thinking, sectoral opportunities and potential of a country is important to spur policy development, innovation in research and development, and ensure public and private investment is channeled appropriately and in line with national objectives.

Updating NDCs by 2020 will also kick-start the virtuous cycle of ambition at the heart of the Paris Agreement, inducing greater ambition from other Parties thereby leveling the playing field in a globalized economy.

To help countries identify promising avenues to bring their NDCs into line with the Paris Agreement by 2020, we have developed a menu of options for NDC enhancement.

The options cover ways to enhance mitigation ambition and strengthen NDC content on adaptation and implementation and to improve the clarity and transparency with which NDCs are communicated. These options are not mutually exclusive. In many cases, it will be feasible and desirable for a country to strengthen mitigation ambition as well as other facets of their NDC by pursuing multiple options at once.

The year 2020 will serve as a critical test of the ability of the Paris Agreement to deliver enhanced ambition over time until our collective goals are reached. Countries can do their part by exploring and enacting meaningful options to enhance their NDCs as soon as possible.

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Fourth Industrial Revolution & Its Dramatic Impact on Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/fourth-industrial-revolution-dramatic-impact-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fourth-industrial-revolution-dramatic-impact-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/fourth-industrial-revolution-dramatic-impact-society/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 07:45:10 +0000 Antonio Guterres UN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152912 I am an engineer and, for the time being, I am also Secretary-General of the United Nations and we are all here because we believe in the force of Science, Innovation and Technology. From my perspective, what is important is to combine innovation and technology, innovation and public policy to make sure that innovation works […]

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By António Guterres* UN Secretary-General
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

I am an engineer and, for the time being, I am also Secretary-General of the United Nations and we are all here because we believe in the force of Science, Innovation and Technology.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

From my perspective, what is important is to combine innovation and technology, innovation and public policy to make sure that innovation works for the good of humankind. But let’s look a little bit in the recent past to be able to project the near future.

For the past few decades, we have witnessed the enormous impact of innovation, science and technology combined with globalization in our world, our economies, our societies, our lives. That impact was essentially good. Enormous increase in growth of trade and economy, huge growth of the global middle class, and drastic reduction in the number of absolute poor.

Very meaningful improvement in the living conditions of the overwhelming majority of the population, growth in life expectancy, decrease of child mortality, soaring literacy rates – globally, it is clear that our world has been moving for the good. But there was some collateral damage to this enormous growth, and I will like to notice two points: first climate change, second growing inequality.

I believe climate change is a defining threat of our times, and climate change, combined with a different set of megatrends, population growth, chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, being climate change the main accelerator, and this interrelation in creating – as we all see- what is probably the biggest threat to our planet today.

We see hurricanes and other natural disasters becoming more and more frequent, more and more intense, and with more devastating humanitarian consequences. We see, at the same time, desertification making progress, human environment being destroyed, people having to flee, massive movement of populations, refugees and migrants, and at the same time we see a larger competition for resources that triggers instability or conflict and makes climate change also a security problem in today’s world.

At the same time, growing inequality – eight men (because they are men, not women), own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity. As we live in a time of global prosperity, it is more difficult for people to feel that they are left behind, people, but also sectors and regions in the rust belts of this world, [..] looking at the rest of the world, what’s going on, feel sometimes discriminated, they feel angry, and these are factors of instability and conflict. It is undermining the trust of people in relation to institutions.

The trust of people in relation to government, in relation to international organizations, in relation to political establishment. These have also helped the development of forms of populism and xenophobia and racism that undermine the social cohesion of our societies. This means we need to be aware that globalization is a force for good, that the development of new technologies is a force for good, but we need to be attentive to be able to respond to the eventual collateral damage that exists.

There is a way to respond. To respond to climate change with climate action, to respond to increasing inequality with a struggle for a fair globalization. The international community was able to come to two historic agreements, one is the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the second is the Agenda 2030, approved by all nations in the world with a perspective of inclusive and sustainable development with the so called Sustainable Development Goals with the objective of leaving no one behind.

The problem, as you can imagine, is a problem of implementation. It’s very good to have the Paris Agreement on climate change, but first of all, the Paris Agreement is not enough. Even if the Paris commitments are met, the temperatures in the world will be rising over three degrees by the end of the century and this will be catastrophic and on the other hand, it is also clear that not all countries are abiding by the commitments made in Paris, which means that we need to have an enhanced ambition in relation to climate change.

The same applies to fighting for a fair globalization. We need to be able to combine efforts of governments, companies, the business sector, financial markets and civil society in order to make sure that we are able to eradicate poverty, bring education for all, clean the oceans, and do a number of other things that are essential for the life in our planet to be sustainable and to be inclusive.

Again, this is difficult. The problem is implementation. But the good news is that science is in our side. Look at climate action. Today it’s clear that thanks to new technologies, thanks to green technologies, the green economy is the economy of the future. The green business is the good business and you can at the same time, make money and do good.

The same applies to the combination of new technologies that represent what we call today, the fourth Industrial Revolution in relation to information and communication technologies, and namely artificial intelligence that has been so many times mentioned tonight. But also, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and other forms of innovation, that will allow us to create the conditions to be able to have indeed, a growth and development that benefits everybody and to create the conditions to combine simultaneously what was the spectacular development we witnessed in the last decades, but with taming the climate and being able to make sure that the benefits of development are distributed by all.

Science is on our side. I am a true believer that this fourth Industrial Revolution can be the answer to the main questions that we are putting ourselves today facing the enormous difficulties that we are still facing in the different aspects of social inequality, of the deterioration of the environment and other threats to our collective life.

As in relation to the past, we need to be able now to look into the near future with the strategic vision and combining the actions of governments with the private sector, with researchers, academia, the civil society, in order to be able to make sure that this fourth Industrial Revolution, is indeed in all its aspects a force for good.

It is clear that this fourth Industrial Revolution will have a dramatic impact in our societies, in our way of life, but also in labour markets. It’s very important to anticipate the potential net negative impacts of this technological evolution. For example, in the country where I live today in the US, the profession that has more people working in it is driving. Now very probably in a few years’ time, we will not need drivers for cars, driver for trucks, and drivers for the majority of the equipment we have to handle.

We risk having massive unemployment, both in the developed and the developing world with the development of some of the new technologies that we are facing. The answer is not of course to stop development, the answer is to be able to adapt the way we work in our societies in order to be able to anticipate these trends instead of responding to it when it comes, and doing it too late as it sometimes has happened in the past.

That means a revolution and the massive investment in education and training. The education we need for future is different from the education we are used to discuss. It’s not how to learn to do things but to learn how to learn not to learn because the things we do will not be done tomorrow.

The way we think our educational systems need to be essentially rethought. Safety nets, social safety nets also need to change and even the way we look at work and leisure, the way we divide our times, the way we divide our lives, will have to change quite dramatically. It is absolutely essential that governments, the civil society, the business sector, the academia work together, discuss together, raise these issues that have been ignored in the public debate because those are the issues that will allow us to be able to face the future and to avoid the mistakes of the past.
My appeal those that are in this web summit, again governments, businesses, academia, researchers, scientists, is to start seriously discussing the impacts of the fourth industrial revolution in the societies of tomorrow. Then, as it was said in several of the interventions we heard, science and technology are not value neutral.

We can use genetic engineering to get rid of diseases and that is fantastic, but we can use genetic engineering to produce monsters, and that is terrible. We can use the cyberspace to facilitate our lives in everyday work that we do and in all other aspects of the way we live in a community, but we can also use the cyberspace to facilitate the recruitment of terrorists for terrorists organizations.

When we are aware of this fact, I think it’s important to think how we can make sure that innovation is a force for good. And there are I think two things really to avoid. First, the stupid reaction to say: let’s stop innovation. It is stupid because it is impossible, and because it will not allow to take benefit of all the positive aspects of innovation, so those that say “this is too dangerous, too complicated, it’s better to stop it,” I think that they have no point.

Second thing is to avoid the naïve approach to think that traditional forms of regulation like the ones we have today for energy or for the financial system or the insurance system can solve the problem. The truth is that those forms of regulation that are usually managed by governments or by inter-governmental organizations take time, they are complex, they are one-sided and obviously they are not able to respond to the fast-changing world we are now facing with these new technologies and new forms of innovation.

Which means that the only way to be able to establish mechanisms of regulation for the future will have to be different, will have to combine all stakeholders, will have to bring together governments, companies like the ones we heard today, scientists, like Stephen Hawking that spoke to us, but also the civil society, the academia, and again establish platforms of discussion, how to do norm-setting, how to establish regulatory frameworks that are flexible, that allow to combine the freedom of innovation that is absolutely essential for the future of humankind, but to combine it with the protection of human rights that is absolutely essential also to preserve the social cohesion of our societies. Governments cannot do it alone.

Inter-governmental organizations like the UN cannot do it alone. This needs to be done by all actors coming and discussing it together, and this is why the Web Summit is so important here today. To do it properly we need to make sure that we combine our energies to make sure that we are able to put all experiences together, and that we use opportunities like these to seriously discuss the problems that we face and at the same time to maximize the potential of the enormous advantages that the innovations we are discussing can provide to our world.

I do believe that this Web Summit is an opportunity for us to come together and coming together to make sure that the power of science, the power of technology and the power of innovation are a power for good to make a better world and for the benefit of us all.

*Based on an address on Web Summit Day 6 November 2017

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