Inter Press Service » Climate Change Turning the World Downside Up Mon, 27 Jul 2015 20:08:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kenya’s Climate Change Bill Aims to Promote Low Carbon Growth Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:33:27 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu A geothermal drilling rig at the Menengai site in Kenya's Rift Valley to exploit energy which is more sustainable than that produced from fossil fuels. A Climate Change Bill now before the Kenyan parliament seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change.  Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

A geothermal drilling rig at the Menengai site in Kenya's Rift Valley to exploit energy which is more sustainable than that produced from fossil fuels. A Climate Change Bill now before the Kenyan parliament seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
NAIROBI, Jul 27 2015 (IPS)

Alexander Muyekhi, a construction worker from Ebubayi village in the heart of Vihiga County in Western Kenya, and his school-going children can now enjoy a tiny solar kit supplied by the British-based Azuri Technologies to light their house and play their small FM radio.

This has saved the family from use of kerosene tin-lamps, which are dim and produce unfriendly smoke, but many other residents in the village – and elsewhere in the country – are not so lucky because they cannot afford the 1000 shillings (10 dollars) deposit for the kit, and 80 weekly instalments of 120 shillings (1.2 dollars).

“Such climate-friendly kits are very important, particularly for the rural poor,” said Philip Kilonzo, Technical Advisor for Natural Resources & Livelihoods at ActionAid International Kenya. “But for families who survive on less than a dollar per day, it becomes a tall order for them to pay the required deposit, as well as the weekly instalments.”“Once it [Climate Change Bill] becomes law, we will deliberately use it as a legal instrument to reduce or exempt taxes on such climate-friendly gadgets and on projects that are geared towards low carbon growth” - Dr Wilbur Ottichilo, Kenyan MP

It was due to such bottlenecks that Dr Wilbur Ottichilo, a member of parliament for Emuhaya constituency in Western Kenya, and chair of the Parliamentary Network on Renewable Energy and Climate Change, moved a motion in parliament to enact a Climate Change Bill, which has already been discussed, and is now being subjected to public scrutiny before becoming law.

“Once it becomes law, we will deliberately use it as a legal instrument to reduce or exempt taxes on such climate-friendly gadgets and on projects that are geared towards low carbon growth,” said Ottichilo.

While Kenya makes a low net contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the country’s Draft National Climate Change Framework Policy notes that a significant number of priority development initiatives will impact on the country’s levels of emissions.

In collaboration with development partners, the country is already investing in increased geothermal electricity in the energy sector to counter this situation, switching movement of freight from road to rail in the transport sector, reforestation in the forestry sector, and agroforestry in the agricultural sector.

“With a legal framework in place, it will be possible to increase such projects that are geared towards mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change,” said Ottichilo.

The Climate Change Bill seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change, to facilitate and enhance response to climate change and to provide guidance and measures for achieving low carbon climate-resilient development.

“We received the Bill from the National Assembly towards the end of March, we studied it for possible amendments, and we subjected it to public scrutiny as required by the constitution before it was read in the senate for the second time on Jul. 22, 2015,” Ekwee Ethuro, Speaker of the Senate, told IPS.

“After this, we are going to return it to the National Assembly so that it can be forwarded to the president for signing it into law.”

The same bill was first rejected by former President Mwai Kibaki on the grounds that there had been a lack of public involvement in its creation. “We are very careful this time not to repeat the same mistake,” said Ethuro.

Under the law, a National Climate Change Council is to be set up which, among others, will coordinate the formulation of national and county climate change action plans, strategies and policies, and make them available to the public.

“This law is a very important tool for civil society and all other players because it will give us an opportunity to manage and even fund-raise for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects,” said, John Kioli, chair of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG).

Evidence of climate change in Kenya is based on statistical analysis of trends in historical records of temperature, rainfall, sea level rise, mountain glacier coverage, and climate extremes.

Temperature and rainfall records from the Kenya Meteorological Department over the last 50 years provide clear evidence of climate change in Kenya, with temperatures generally showing increasing trends in many parts of the country starting from the early 1960s. This has also been confirmed by data in the State of the Environment reports published by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

As a result, the country now experiences prolonged droughts, unreliable rainfall patterns, floods, landslides and many more effects of climate change, which experts say will worsen with time.

Furthermore, 83 percent of Kenya’s landmass is either arid or semi-arid, making the country even more vulnerable to climate change, whose impacts cut across diverse aspects of society, economy, health and the environment.

“We seek to embrace climate-friendly food production systems such as use of greenhouses, we need to minimise post-harvest losses and food wastages, and we need to adapt to new climate friendly technologies,” said Ottichilo. “All these will work very well for us once we have a supporting legal environment.”

Edited by Phil Harris

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Faith Leaders Issue Global “Call to Conscience” on Climate Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:36:34 +0000 A. D. McKenzie Patricia Gualinga (right), a representative of the Serayaku community in the Amazonic part of Ecuador, told the Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Paris: “We’re here because we want the voices of indigenous people to be heard”. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

Patricia Gualinga (right), a representative of the Serayaku community in the Amazonic part of Ecuador, told the Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Paris: “We’re here because we want the voices of indigenous people to be heard”. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, Jul 24 2015 (IPS)

“We received a garden as our home, and we must not turn it into a wilderness for our children.”

These words by Cardinal Peter Turkson summed up the appeal launched by dozens of religious leaders and “moral” thinkers at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate, a one-day gathering in Paris earlier this week aimed at mobilising action ahead of the next United Nations climate change conference (COP 21) scheduled to take place in the French capital in just over four months.

“The single biggest obstacle to changing course [over climate change] is our minds and hearts” – Cardinal Peter Turkson, an adviser for Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change
“Our prayerful wish is that governments will be as committed at COP 21 as we are here,” said Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and one of the advisers for Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, released in June.

With the theme of “Why Do I Care”, the Summit of Conscience drew participants from around the globe, representing the world’s major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – and other faiths and movements.

Government representatives also joined activists from environmental groups, indigenous communities and the arts sector to call for an end to the world’s “throw-away consumerist culture” and the “disastrous indifference to the environment”, as Turkson put it.

“The single biggest obstacle to changing course is our minds and hearts,” he said, after pointing out that “climate change is being borne by those who have contributed least to it”.

The summit was used to highlight an international “Call to Conscience for the climate” and to launch a new organisation called ‘Green Faith in Action’, aimed at raising awareness about environmental and sustainable development issues among adherents of different religions.

Participants drew up a letter that will be delivered to the 195 state parties at COP 21, signed by summit speakers including Prince Albert II of Monaco; Sheikh Khaled Bentounès, Sufi Master of the Alawiya in Algeria; Rajwant Singh, director of an international network called Eco Sikh; and Nigel Savage, president of the Jewish environmental organisation Hazon.

Voicing the concerns of religious groups and faith leaders, the letter is equally a reflection of the challenges faced by indigenous communities, who made their voices heard in Paris, describing attacks on their territories and way of life by the petroleum industry, for example.

“We’re not some kind of folkloric tradition, we’re living beings,” said Valdelice Veron, spokesperson of the Guarani-Kaoiwa people of Brazil, who delivered her speech in traditional dress.

She and other indigenous delegates spoke of their culture also being decimated by the practice of mono-cropping, where large soybean plantations are causing ecological damage.

“We’re here because we want the voices of indigenous people to be heard,” Patricia Gualinga, a representative of the Serayaku community in the Amazonic part of Ecuador, told IPS.

“We share all the concerns about the climate and we too are being affected in many different ways,” she said.

Ségolène Royal, the French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy who spoke near the end of the summit, said the participants’ appeal was “first and foremost, an appeal for action”.

“Climate change should be considered as an opportunity – for business, technology, [and other sectors],” Royal said. “We need to pave the way together.”

Three participants at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate stand  together for a photo. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

Three participants at the Summit of Conscience for the Climate stand together for a photo. Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

For Samantha Smith, leader of the “Global Climate and Energy Initiative” at green group WWF, the Summit of Conscience reflected a “really big and unprecedented social mobilisation” of civil society, which she hopes will continue beyond COP 21.

“When I read the latest climate science report, it keeps me awake at night. But when I see the mobilisation and the strength of the conviction, I’m optimistic,” Smith said in an interview on the sidelines of the summit.

“Now is not the time to focus on where we disagree. Now is the time to work together,” she added.

But not everyone is invited to the same table – the alliances do not necessarily extend to companies in the fossil fuel industry, said Smith.

“When I say that we need to be united, it doesn’t mean that we need to be united with the fossil fuel industry,” Smith told IPS. “That is an industry which has contributed vastly to the problem and so far is not showing a very substantial contribution to the solution.”

The business sector, including oil producers, held their own conference in May, titled the Business & Climate Summit. At that event, which also took place in Paris, around 2,000 representatives of some of the world’s largest companies declared that they wanted “a global climate deal that achieves net zero emissions” and that they wished to see this achieved at COP 21.

Then at the beginning of July, hundreds of local authority representatives, civil society members and other “non-state actors” took part in the World Summit on Climate & Territories in Lyon, France.

There, participants pledged to take on the “challenge” of keeping global temperatures below a 2 degree Celsius increase “by aligning their daily local and regional actions with the decarbonisation of the world economy scenario”.

The scientific community also held their meeting on climate this month at the Paris headquarters of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

At most of these conferences, French president François Hollande has been a keynote speaker, reiterating his message that the stakes are high and that governments need to show commitment to reach a legally binding, global accord at COP 21, which will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

“We need everyone’s commitment to reach this accord,” Hollande said at the Summit of Conscience. “We need the heads of state and government … local actors, businesses. But we also need the citizens of the world.”

Even as he delivered his speech, another conference on the climate was taking place – at the Vatican, with the mayors of about 60 cities meeting with Pope Francis to formulate a pledge on combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayors from around the world will meet again, in Paris during COP 21, through an initiative organised by the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, and by Michael Bloomberg, U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former mayor of New York. Billed as the Climate Summit for Local Leaders, this meeting will be held Dec. 4 and should bring together 1,000 mayors.

A question that some observers have been asking, however, is how does one cut through all the grandiose and repetitive speeches at these incessant “summits” and get to real, sustainable action?

Nicolas Hulot, the “Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet” and the main organiser of the Summit of Conscience, said he has faced similar queries.

“I’ve been asked ‘what is this going to be useful for’,” he said. “But a light has emerged today, and I hope it will light us up.”

Hulot sought to encourage indigenous groups and others who had travelled from South America, Africa and other regions to Paris for the event, promising them continued support.

“Don’t you doubt the fact that we’re all involved, and we’ll never give in to despair,” he said. “We want to make sure that everybody hears your message because we heard it.”

Edited by Phil Harris

The writer can be followed on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

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Opinion: Addis Outcome Will Impact Heavily on Post-2015 Agenda – Part 2 Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:00:31 +0000 Bhumika Muchhala Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

By Bhumika Muchhala
ADDIS ABABA, Jul 23 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is the only universal forum that connects systemic issues to the global partnership for development. The latter recognises North-South cooperation based on historical responsibility and varying levels of development and capacity among member states of the U.N.

And there is a vital acknowledgement of the global rules and drivers that determine national policy space for development.While prospects are uncertain for now, what is increasingly clear is the stark fact that the geopolitical offensive in the U.N. has not abated. If anything, it has become even more pronounced.

With regard to such systemic reforms, the Addis Ababa outcome on Financing for Development (FfD) explicitly ignores a landmark initiative in the U.N. itself to establish an international statutory legal framework for debt restructuring.

Instead, it reaffirms the dominance of creditor-led mechanisms, such as the Paris Club, whose inequitable governance was criticised in the Doha Declaration of 2008.

The Addis outcome also welcomes existing OECD and IMF initiatives which do not address the scale of debt problems afflicting many developing countries today, such as Jamaica, which according to its finance minister’s intervention in Addis Ababa, won’t be able to finance its SDGs until its external debt can achieve sustainability in 2025.

Clearly, servicing creditors has to precede development goals. Reversing this order by incorporating national development financing needs into debt sustainability analyses was neglected by most member states in the FFD negotiations.

In spite of the global recognition that capital controls are crucial to developing countries ability to protect themselves from financial crises, the outcome document demotes the use of “capital flow management measures” as a last resort “after necessary macroeconomic policy adjustment.”

This is a regression from the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, which recognised that “Measures that mitigate the impact of excessive volatility of short-term capital flows are important and must be considered.” Financial regulations, particularly on derivatives trading, goes unheeded.

Similarly, the Addis outcome makes no call for special drawing rights (SDR) allocations. Again, this is a step back from Monterrey, which addressed SDR allocations in two clauses. SDR allocations, if carried out on the basis of need, could serve as a development finance tool by boosting developing countries foreign exchange reserves without creating additional dependency on primary reserve currencies.

Unlike most global economic arenas, FfD has the mandate to address international monetary system reform in a development-oriented manner. The Addis outcome, again, missed this chance entirely.

Despite these critical retrogressions, there are two beacons of light in the Addis outcome: the establishment of a Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) in the UN that supports SDG achievement, and an institutionalized FFD follow-up mechanism that will involve up to five days of review every year to generate “agreed conclusions and recommendations.”

However, this follow-up forum is to be shared with the review of MOI for the post-2015 development agenda, going against developing countries call for the FFD follow-up to be distinct and independent from that for the post-2015 development agenda in order to maintain focus on the specificities of the FFD agenda.

While the TFM has positive potential, especially if it address intellectual property rights and endogenous technological development in developing countries and does not become a platform to facilitate the ‘green economy’ through the , it is at the same time not tantamount to the financing items that comprise the development agenda. As such, the TFM helps obscure the paucity of political ambition on the FFD agenda.

A crisis of multilateralism

Perhaps the most sordid mark of a process that occurred in bad faith is the fact that negotiations never transpired in Addis Ababa. There was no official plenary, no proposals articulated and no document projected onto a screen to amend.

Instead, what took place over four days in Addis Ababa was a behind-the-scenes pressure campaign exerted by the most powerful countries onto most developing countries. One developing country delegate revealed that the pressure included bullying and blackmailing to silence many developing countries who can’t afford to be politically defiant.

Another delegate disclosed that he had never before experienced such an absence of transparency within the U.N. Some observers commented that what transpired in Addis Ababa was akin to a ‘Green Room’ style of discussions, where private talks are held in small groups without any gesture of openness or transparency.

A central strategy of developed countries was the distortion of developing country narratives and the creation of new narratives to undermine the longstanding arguments of developing countries. Throughout the FFD negotiations in New York, the European Union (EU) created a narrative of ‘the world has changed.’

They argued that developing countries’ emphasis on international public finance as the primary source for financial resources and developing countries’ red line on the Rio principle of CBDR does not reflect a world that has changed since Monterrey in 2002.

Much of the FfD text is still premised on an outdated North-South construct, the EU said, which does not reflect the complexity of today’s world. Germany reinforced the EU’s position, adding that the G77’s positions do not consider the reality that emerging economies are now capable of taking on some of the financing burdens for development.

In response to this challenge laid on middle-income countries, India provided a succinct response. India pointed out that the 30 richest countries of the world account for only 17 percent of the global population, but over 60 percent of global GDP, more than 50% of global electricity consumption and nearly 40 percent of global CO2 emissions.

The UN report on “Inequality Matters – World Social Situation 2013,” said that in 2010, high-income countries generated 55 percent of global income, while low-income countries created just above 1 percent of global income even though they contained 72 percent of the global population. India clarified that despite the relatively faster rates of growth in developing countries, international inequality has not fallen.

The above UN report on inequality shows that that excluding one large developing country (e.g. China), the Gini coefficient of international inequality was higher in 2010 than as compared to 1980. India concluded that these figures attest to the fact of the North-South gap, saying that member states will be doing themselves a disservice if reality is misrepresented.

Implications for post-2015 and climate change

The ways in which key words such as “transformative,” “ambitious,” “rule of law” and “enabling environment” were used, or misused, by developed country negotiators in the FFD negotiations have made their developing country counterparts wary of the gap between actual meaning and rhetorical application.

The phrase ‘enabling environment’ is used by developing countries to refer to an enabling environment for development. This involves development-oriented reforms in the international financial and trade architecture, such as addressing unfair agricultural subsidies in developed countries or pro-cyclical macroeconomic conditions attached to financial loans.

However, developed countries also use the phrase ‘enabling environment’ with equivalent vigor. Except that they are referring to an enabling environment for private investment, such as business-friendly taxes and labour market deregulation.

The experience of the FfD negotiations suggests that when these terms are tossed about in the post-2015 and COP 21 negotiations, they will be associated with limiting the policy space of developing countries. For the most part, this limitation is linked to facilitating private sector activity through multi-stakeholder or public-private partnerships that involve shared financing between multiple entities while most decision-making remains in the seat of the private sector.

Meanwhile, an implicit ebbing, if not a reneging, takes place on the public and international financing obligations of developing countries. Consequently, financing and decision-making shifts to institutions where developing countries have to compete with representatives of the private sector and private foundations for voice and representation.

As the last two weeks of post-2015 development agenda negotiations conclude in New York, the repercussions of the FFD experience remain to be witnessed. Will developing countries unite with renewed strength and determination to bring multilateralism back? Or will the retrogression in commitments and actions induced by Addis Ababa drag the post-2015 outcome down to its lowly ambition?

While prospects are uncertain for now, what is increasingly clear is the stark fact that the geopolitical offensive in the U.N. has not abated. If anything, it has become even more pronounced.

In fact, the current geopolitical dynamics in the U.N. renders a troubling irony to the international community as it embarks on its most ambitious sustainable development paradigm for the next 15 years.

Part of this Op-Ed can be read here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Africa Advised to Take DIY Approach to Climate Resilience Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:14:19 +0000 Fabiola Ortiz Carcases of dead sheep and goats stretch across the landscape following drought in Somaliland in 2011, one of the climate impacts that experts say should be actively tackled by African countries themselves without passively relying on international assistance. Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa/CC by 2.0

Carcases of dead sheep and goats stretch across the landscape following drought in Somaliland in 2011, one of the climate impacts that experts say should be actively tackled by African countries themselves without passively relying on international assistance. Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa/CC by 2.0

By Fabiola Ortiz
PARIS, Jul 23 2015 (IPS)

African countries would do well to take their own lead in finding ways to better adapt to and mitigate the changes that climate may impose on future  generations instead of relying only on foreign aid.

This was one of the messages that rang out during the international scientific conference on ‘Our Common Future under Climate Change’ held earlier this month in Paris, six months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), also to be held in Paris, that is supposed to pave the way for a global agreement to keep the rise in the Earth’s temperature under 2°C.African countries would do well to take their own lead in finding ways to better adapt to and mitigate the changes that climate may impose on future generations instead of relying only on foreign aid

Africa is already feeling climate change effects on a daily basis, according to Penny Urquhart from South Africa, an independent specialist and one of the lead authors of the 5th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Projections suggest that temperature rise on the continent will likely exceed 2°C by 2100 with land temperatures rising faster than the global land average. Scientific assessments agree that Africa will also face more climate changes in the future, with extreme weather events increasing in terms of frequency, intensity and duration.

“Most sub-Saharan countries have high levels of climate vulnerability,” Urquhart told IPS. “Over the years, people became good at adapting to those changes but what we are seeing is increasing risks associated with climate change as this becomes more and more pressing.”

Although data monitoring systems are still poor and sparse over the region, “we do know there is an increase in temperature,” she added, warning that if the global average temperature increases by 2°C by the end of the century, this will be experienced as if it had increased by 4°C in Southern Africa, stated Urquhart.

According to the South African expert, vulnerability to climate variation is very context-specific and depends on people’s exposure to the impacts, so it is hard to estimate the number of people affected by global warming on the continent.

However, IPCC says that of the estimated 800 million people who live in Africa, more than 300 million survive in conditions of water scarcity, and the numbers of people at risk of increased water stress on the continent is projected to be 350-600 million by 2050.

In some areas, noted Urquhart, it is not easy to predict what is happening with the rainfall. “In the Horn of Africa region the observations seem to be showing decreasing rainfall but models are projecting increasing rainfall.”

There have been extreme weather events along the Western coast of the continent, while Mozambique has seen an increase in cyclones that lead to flooding. “Those are the sum of trends that we are seeing,” Urquhart, “drying mostly along the West and increase precipitations in the East of Africa”.

For Edith Ofwona, senior programme specialist of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate variation in Africa is agriculture – the backbone of most African economies – and this could have direct negative impacts on food security.

“The biggest challenge,” she said, “is how to work with communities not only to cope with short-term impacts but actually to be able to adapt and be resilient over time. We should come up with practical solutions that are affordable and built on the knowledge that communities have.”

Experts agree that any measure to address climate change should be responsive to social needs, particularly where severe weather events risk uprooting communities from their homelands by leaving families with no option but to migrate in search of better opportunities.

This new phenomenon has created what it is starting to be called “climate migrants”, said Ofwona.

Climate change could also exacerbate social conflicts that are aggravated by other drivers such as competition over resources and land degradation. According to the IDRC expert, “you need to consider the multi-stress nature of poverty on people’s livelihoods … and while richer people may be able to adapt, poor people will struggle.”

Ofwona said that the key is to combine scientific evidence with what communities themselves know, and make it affordable and sustainable. “It is important to link science to society and make it practical to be able to change lives and deal with the challenges people face, especially in addressing food security requirements.”

Meanwhile, she added, consciousness in Africa of the impacts of climate change is “fairly high” – some countries have already defined their own climate policies and strategies, and others have green growth strategies with low carbon and sustainable development.

Stressing the critical role that African nations themselves play in terms of creating the right environmental policy, Ofwona said that they should be protagonists in dealing with climate impacts and not only passive in receiving international help.

African governments should provide some of the funding that will be needed to implement adaptation and mitigation projects and while “we can also source internationally, to some extent we need to contribute with our own money. While the consciousness is high, the extent of the commitment is not equally high.”

Edited by Phil Harris    

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Tribal Priestesses Become Guardians of Seeds in Eastern India Wed, 22 Jul 2015 19:51:15 +0000 Manipadma Jena Priestesses from the Dongria Kondh tribal community in the eastern Indian mountain range of Niyamgiri perform an elaborate ritual before setting out on a quest for ancient seeds. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Priestesses from the Dongria Kondh tribal community in the eastern Indian mountain range of Niyamgiri perform an elaborate ritual before setting out on a quest for ancient seeds. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NIYAMGIRI, India, Jul 22 2015 (IPS)

As the rhythmic thumping of dancing feet reaches a crescendo, the women offer a song to their forest god for a bountiful harvest.

“We are Dongria Kondh. We will die without our sacred hills and seeds.” -- a priestess from the Niyamgiri Hills in eastern India
Then, with earthen pots on their heads and their spiritual creatures – a pigeon and a hen – in tow, they proceed in single file on a long march away from their village of Kadaraguma, located on the Niyamgiri mountain range in the Rayagada District of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.

Members of the forest-dwelling Dongria Kondh tribe, who worship these hills as the sacred abode of their god Niyam Raja, these women are priestesses, known in the local dialect as ‘bejuni’.

The ceremony today is the first stage in a journey to a neighbouring village to collect a rare variety of heirloom millet, the traditional staple food source of the 10,000-strong tribe.

The hardy, highly nutritious cereal was once cultivated on massive swathes of farmland throughout India. Here on the Niyamgiri Hills, the Dongria Kondh tribe has long sworn by the benefits of millet and dedicated stretches of the mountainside to its production.

Over the past several decades, however, industrial and extractive development in the resource-rich state has swallowed up many acres of land and pushed the drought-resilient crop to the sidelines.

A government rice subsidy scheme has also contributed to a decline in millet production and consumption, much to the dismay of indigenous communities like the Dongria Kondh who attach not only good health, but also spiritual and cultural value to the local food source.

Determined to preserve it, the priestesses are going door-to-door, from village to village, encouraging their members to revive the unique heritage.

An intricate ritual

“As a girl, I heard that we harvested over 30 traditional varieties of millet,” 68-year-old Dasara Kadraka, the senior-most priestess from the 22 villages working together on millet preservation, tells IPS. “Ten years ago, that was down to 11 varieties and today, only two varieties are grown.”

Dasara hails from Kadaraguma, a village comprised of 31 households that is playing a key role in the project.

Above it, in high-reach hamlets of the hills that can only be reached by foot and located a good 15 km from Kadaraguna, smaller village communities have already preserved several dying varieties of the plant including one called ‘kodo’ millet, a high-fibre variation that is ideal for treating diabetes.

Seed collection follows an intricate ritual. Traveling by foot, a group of priestesses visit villages where they have been told an ancient millet variety is being preserved. Offering the hen and the pigeon to the local bejuni, the seed savers then request four measures of the seeds – enough to fill four bamboo baskets – to be poured into a white cloth.

Dasara Kadraka, the senior-most priestess from the 22 villages that are working together to revive millet varieties in the Indian state of Odisha, explains why the tribe embarked on their initiative. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Dasara Kadraka, the senior-most priestess from the 22 villages that are working together to revive millet varieties in the Indian state of Odisha, explains why the tribe embarked on their initiative. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The seed is then distributed equally among five families in the traveling priestesses’ village, to be sown during the month of June. Rain-fed, the crop delivers a harvest in December that is on average 50 times the quantity of seed planted.

In payment, the priestesses deliver eight basketsful of grain to their neighbours – double the amount of seed they received.

News of rare seed varieties travels by word of mouth, with the members of the Dom community – a primarily Dalit tribe who have lived for centuries as neighbours with the Dongria Kondh people – acting as messengers.

Visits by Dom community members to far-flung, remote hamlets recently yielded reports on two ‘vanishing’ millet species: the ‘khidi janha’, a close relation of sorghum, in Jangojodi village; and a version of the foxtail millet, called ‘kanga-arka’, in Sagadi village.

The more people hear of these stories, the more involved the entire community becomes. Whenever they meet, during village rituals or at the weekly market, bejuni networks eagerly inquire about news of revived seeds.

When major clans of the Dongria Kondh tribe – who are spread across some 120 villages on the Niyamgiri Hills – get together for marriages or clan feasts, the first question is if a family is preserving a millet variety that others have abandoned.

Local habits, wholesome diets

In 2013, Dongria Kondh people made front page news all around the world when their determined opposition to a British mining company’s bauxite extraction operation on the revered mountain range resulted in the private multinational’s departure from Niyamgiri.

In chasing away the mining giant, the tribe showed the same reverence for this ancient land as it now displays in its efforts to protect an old agricultural custom.

Sixty years ago millet was grown in 40 percent of all cereal cultivated areas in India, a figure that has today fallen to just 11 percent of the country’s harvested land.

Data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations reveals that while millet production was rising steadily 20 years ago, it began to fall again at the turn of the millennium, with production levels in 2010 barely exceeding those of 1990.

In Niyamgiri, the numbers are even starker. “A government scheme to promote cash crops like pineapple, turmeric and ginger among the Dongria Kondh community has cut into 50 percent of millet land over the past fifteen years,” Susanta Kumar Dalai, a social sector volunteer who has worked closely with the Dongria Kondh tribe, tells IPS.

Given that the crop grows well in adverse settings, able to thrive in drought-like conditions and requiring no irrigation beyond what the seasonal rains can provide, rural communities have been at a loss to explain the government’s decision to reign in its production.

Millet also adds high amounts of protein, vitamin B and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper to the simple diets of tribal people, filling crucial nutritional gaps that cannot be supplemented with other, costlier foods.

Malnutrition in the community is common, seen in six out of 10 school-age children, while 55 percent of adults show chronic energy deficiencies.

Millet gruel is carried in natural gourd containers that maintain an even temperature, even under the sun. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Millet gruel is carried in natural gourd containers that maintain an even temperature, even under the sun. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Extreme hunger in Niyamgiri – measured according to the government’s benchmark of a daily intake of 2,400 calories – stands at 83 percent.

None of the Dongria Kondh villages have access to electricity, sanitation or safe drinking water facilities. While this seldom interferes with their traditional lifestyle, it does present severe challenges in terms of healthcare.

Communities mostly rely on traditional medicines sourced directly from their ancestral forests, but more serious and ‘modern’ epidemics – such as chronic diarrhoea or other water-borne diseases – call for advanced medical interventions.

These are not easily accessible, with primary health facilities located anywhere from one to 22 km from the remote villages. Often, these centres are reachable only by foot, with the sick transported in makeshift hammocks or ‘rope cots’.

Too frequently, the journeys are fatal. The situation is made worse by the fact that many tribe members – including the elderly – are forced to navigate steep terrain in order to reach government services, neighbouring villages or even farmlands.

Locals tell IPS that falling back on traditional farming practices like mixed cropping and old dietary habits could solve many of these problems.

“When we had more millet varieties we would sow up to nine different cereals and lentils in a single patch,” explains 53-year-old Krusna Kadraka, headman of Kadaraguma village.

At harvest time every house would have several overflowing ‘guli’ – cow dung-coated bamboo baskets able to hold up to 200 kg of grain.

Now, as cereal varieties vanish, replaced by mono-crops like rice, 27 out of 31 households in this village who each own a hectare of hilly farmland harvest barely two guli of grain annually.

The ‘grain caste system’

Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, a prominent 88-year-old geneticist, tells IPS that India has developed a ‘grain hierarchy’, with white rice – a money-maker for industrialists in the business of selling fertilizer and a major export-earner for the government – considered superior to more traditional crops.

At Swaminathan’s insistence, millet will soon be included in the country’s public food distribution system, a massive state programme that promises subsidised grain to two-thirds of India’s population of 1.2 billion – essentially feeding 820 million people.

While the scheme is riddled with corruption, it has reached millions of families, converting large rural populations into rice consumers and positing millet as a “coarse” grain, destined to become fodder for livestock rather than a dietary staple for humans.

Swaminathan tells IPS he is urging not only the Indian government to recognize the value of millet, but also the United Nations to name an international year after what he calls the “orphan crop” – one that was once popular around the world but has largely been forsaken in an increasingly globalised, export-driven food system.

Such a move could be just what the doctor ordered for a country that has one of the highest rates of hunger in the world, with 194.6 million people defined as ‘undernourished’ by the FAO, putting it ahead of neighbouring China in both absolute and relative terms.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also estimates that close to 1.3 million children die every year in India because of malnutrition, while the country’s prevalence of underweight kids is nearly double that of sub-Saharan Africa.

While the matter is being debated at the highest level of politics, communities here on the sloping hillsides in eastern India are already setting processes in motion that could make the region nutritionally self-sufficient.

Forty-year-old resident Gulpa Kadraka tells IPS that he tried replacing his millet gruel with rice, but found it did not sustain him as he climbed steep hills and crossed streams to reach his farmland. “It never gave me the energy that millet does,” he explains.

Like many of his community members, he is invested in the attempt to preserve the old agricultural ways and eating habits. Others feel that the millet revival scheme will deter corporations, and particularly mining companies, who still have their eye on these lucrative hills.

A group of priestesses discuss their plans before setting off in search of ‘vanishing’ millet varieties from a neighbouring village in eastern India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

A group of priestesses discuss their plans before setting off in search of ‘vanishing’ millet varieties from a neighbouring village in eastern India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Kone Wadaka, a 64-year-old priestess, tells IPS, “Even though we chased away Vedanta [the British mining company], we are still afraid it will come back to take away our hills, our streams and our hillside farms.

“We will not be able to grow millet on the plains where the company wanted to re-settle us. Also, on lowland areas we will not have access to the forests’ yams, the edible leaves and all the fruits on our sacred hills that are untouched by chemical pesticides and fertilizers,” she adds.

By rekindling their old traditions, and re-planting large sections of the hills with millet, the community feels they will be sending a strong signal to any potential intruders who see the tribe merely as an obstacle to the extraction of natural wealth, rather than a permanent fixture in Niyamgiri’s ecosystem.

“We are Dongria Kondh,” another priestess tells IPS. “We will die without our sacred hills and seeds.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

This article is part of a special series entitled ‘The Future Is Now: Inside the World’s Most Sustainable Communities’. Read the other articles in the series here

This reporting series was conceived in collaboration with Ecosocialist Horizons
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Goats Take the Bite Out of Climate Change in Zimbabwe Wed, 22 Jul 2015 09:11:34 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo Many Zimbabweans are turning to raising small livestock like goats which survive dry conditions to avert climate change impacts that have claimed their cattle over the years. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Many Zimbabweans are turning to raising small livestock like goats which survive dry conditions to avert climate change impacts that have claimed their cattle over the years. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Jul 22 2015 (IPS)

With unusually hot and dry weather beating down on this Southern African nation, climate change and the accompanying drought have cost farmers much of their cattle herds. In response, many ranchers are turning to goats to preserve their livestock assets.

Climate change experts agree that breeding drought-tolerant animals like goats, which survive on shrubs and need less manpower to tend, is a better choice than high-maintenance cattle.

This is happening at a time the United Nations is urging nations the world over to take urgent action to combat climate change and manage its impact as part of the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a universal set of 17 goals, targets and indicators that U.N. member states are expected to use as development benchmarks in framing their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.“With rainfall patterns fluctuating in Zimbabwe, rearing cattle is becoming unsustainable. But breeding goats, which are drought-tolerant, can be much more rewarding” – Happison Chikova, an independent Zimbabwean environment and climate change expert

“With rainfall patterns fluctuating in Zimbabwe, rearing cattle is becoming unsustainable.  But breeding goats, which are drought-tolerant, can be much more rewarding,” Happison Chikova, an independent environment and climate change expert, who holds a degree in geography and environmental studies from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University, told IPS.

“Plans are imminent to boost production of goats in Zimbabwe’s dry regions where small livestock like goats thrive and we have identified meat export markets in countries like South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria and the Middle East, where goat meat is a delicacy,” Chrispen Kadiramwando,  president of the Goat Breeders Association of Zimbabwe, told IPS.

Official statistics from the country’s Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development show that there are approximately 136,000 goat breeders countrywide, ranging from ordinary communal goat breeders to peri-urban goat breeders.

Livias Ncube, from the country’s Region 5, the hottest part of the country in Mwenezi district, is one of the Zimbabweans who have shifted to goat-breeding, raising and selling.

“There are hardly adequate rains in this part of the country, which is the driest area here in Zimbabwe, but I don’t use any stock feeds to nourish my goats as they adapt to the conditions, and they are even fatter,” Ncube told IPS.

Besides selling the goats locally, Ncube told IPS that he has now become an exporter of goat meat to neighbouring countries like South Africa and Mozambique.

“Although I maintain a sizeable herd of cattle after a series of droughts here which killed many cows, I now have a flock of 130 goats and I’m also earning money through selling these goats,” Ncube told IPS.

Ncube said he earns an estimated 1600 dollars each month through goat selling, with each goat trading at around 70 dollars.  His goats multiply at a faster pace than cows in spite of the dry conditions in this region.

Through the Zimbabwe Livestock for Accelerated Recovery and Improved Resiliency (ZRR) programme, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Ncube learned how to manage and market his goats to improve their livelihoods.

ZRR is a programme that provides farmers with training in goat husbandry and health management, and trains community livestock workers on preventative and curative animal health techniques.

According to a research paper by the Matobo Research station on goat breeding and development activities in Zimbabwe, there are already more than two million goats in Zimbabwe, with nearly all goats (about 98 percent) reared in communal areas.

However, agricultural experts fear that indigenous goat breeders are not realising the monetary value vested in their small livestock.

“Thousands of farmers are into goat breeding here, but few have been able to ascertain the value in their animals due to lack of adequate information flow between the goat producers and the market, resulting in rural farmers ending up engaging in barter trade thereby stifling the commercialisation of goats,” Leonard Vazungu, a government agricultural extension officer, told IPS.

At the beginning of this year, the Zimbabwean government distributed 10,000 goats for breeding stock and aims to increase the number to 44 million by 2018.

This comes at a time when this Southern African nation’s cattle population has declined from 6.8 million in 2000 to the current 5.2 million.

“Investing in small livestock like goats, which have higher chances of survival in drought-prone areas, cautions the country against livestock loss,” Barnabas Mawire, country director for Environment Africa, told journalists a climate change workshop held this month in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

But this may not be easy without a national climate change policy.

Earlier this year, citing Zimbabwe’s growing climate change effects, non-constituency parliamentarian Annastancia Ndlovu pushed a motion for the formulation of a national climate change policy in the National Assembly.

Ndlovu is chairperson of Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

For Zimbabwe, financial shortfalls have not made the war against climate change any easier.

“The drop in government funding for climate change means we must work with other partners to move the climate change agenda forward and we are currently developing the national climate policy – the country’s first for which we need as many resources as we can get,” Veronica Gundu, principal environment officer for Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water and Climate ministry, told IPS.

However, with or without the national climate change policy, many Zimbabwean goat breeders like Ncube say they have moved single-handedly to address climate change impacts.

“We have moved on with our lives in the face of deepening climate change impacts and through goat breeding.  For us life goes on although climate change effects have claimed most of our cattle,” said Ncube.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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First Six Months of 2015 “Hottest on Record” Since 1880 Tue, 21 Jul 2015 21:45:02 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida U.N. agencies are growing increasingly concerned about the health impacts of hotter temperatures driven by global warming. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

U.N. agencies are growing increasingly concerned about the health impacts of hotter temperatures driven by global warming. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Kanya D'Almeida

According to new data released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tuesday, globally averaged temperatures over ocean and land surfaces between January and June of 2015 were the hottest on record since 1880.

A statement by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) revealed on Jul. 21 that “the average temperature for the six-month period was 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C (59.9°F), surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09°C (0.16°F).”

Average global sea surface temperatures for the January-June 2015 period outstripped the previous record in 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).

Land surface temperatures also hit record levels, surpassing the previous 2007 high by 0.13°C (0.23°F), according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The average land surface temperature from January to June was +1.40°C (2.52°F).

“Most of the world’s land areas were much warmer than average,” the organisation stated. “These regions include nearly all of Eurasia, South America, Africa, and western North America, with pockets of record warmth across these areas. All of Australia was warmer than average.”

March, May and June of 2015 all broke their monthly temperature records this year; January and February each witnessed the “second warmest” temperatures recorded and April experienced the fourth warmest monthly temperature ever.

NOAA’s Global Analysis for June 2015 further stated, “These six warm months combined with the previous six months (four of which were also record warm) to make the period July 2014–June 2015 the warmest 12-month period in the 136-year period of record, surpassing the previous record set just last month (June 2014–May 2015).”

In an even more disturbing trend, the world’s leading meteorological body stated that the average Arctic sea ice extent for June 2015 was 350,000 square miles (7.7 percent) below the 1981-2010 average and 60,000 square miles larger than the smallest June sea ice extent on record that occurred in 2010.

“This was the third smallest June extent since records began in 1979 according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA,” the WMO release explained.

Meanwhile, the Antarctic sea ice extent in June was 380,000 square miles (7.2. percent) larger than the average for the 1981-2010 period, making it the largest ever Antarctic sea ice extent for the month of June.

Just prior to the release of this new data, on Jul. 1, the WMO together with the World Health Organisaiton (WHO) put out a set of guidelines designed to deal with the health risks associated with hotter global temperatures.

The joint guidance on Heat–Health Warning Systems, released earlier this month, aims to address “health risks posed by heatwaves, which are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change,” the agencies said.

“Heatwaves are a dangerous natural hazard, and one that requires increased attention,” said Maxx Dilley, Director of WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, and Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmenl and Social Determinants of Health.

“They lack the spectacular and sudden violence of other hazards, such as tropical cyclones or flash floods but the consequences can be severe.”

Over the past 50 years, according to WHO data, hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted, “The length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase over most land areas during this century.”

Heatwaves also place an increased strain on infrastructure such as power, water and transport.

The agency cited the recent heatwaves in both India and Pakistan that killed thousands of people this summer.

In Pakistan alone, 1,200 perished in the month of June, mostly poor people and manual labourers who were forced to remain in the streets despite government warnings to stay indoors to avoid the blistering 45-degree heat.

According to the WHO, the European heatwaves in the northern hemisphere summer of 2003 were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, as were the Russian heatwaves, forest fires and associated air pollution in 2010.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Calls Mount for “Bold” Climate Deal in Paris Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:47:15 +0000 Kitty Stapp By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Jul 21 2015 (IPS)

A diverse coalition of 24 leading British scientific institutions has issued a communique urging strong and immediate government action at the U.N. climate change conference set for Paris in December.

Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank and president of the British Academy, has called for a strong international climate agreement in Paris this year. Credit: public domain

Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank and president of the British Academy, has called for a strong international climate agreement in Paris this year. Credit: public domain

The statement, issued Tuesday, points to overwhelming evidence that if humanity is to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to two degrees C, the world economy must transition to zero-carbon by early in the second half of the century.

Climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, president of the British Academy, one of the signers, said it “demonstrates the strength of the agreement among the UK’s research institutions about the risks created by rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“Our research community has for many decades been at the forefront of efforts to expand our understanding and knowledge of the causes and potential consequences of climate change,” he said.

“While some of our politicians and newspapers continue to embrace irrational and reckless denial of the risks of climate change, the UK’s leading research institutions are united in recognising the unequivocal evidence that human activities are driving climate change.”

Other signatories include the British Ecological Society, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Meteorological Society and the Wellcome Trust.

The letter notes that the dangers are hardly theoretical, and in fact, many systems are already at risk. A two-degree rise would bring ever more extreme weather, placing entire ecosystems and cultures in harm’s way.

At or above 4 degrees, it notes, the world faces substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, and fundamental changes to human activities that today are taken for granted.

It also stresses that addressing the problem has vast potential for innovation, for example in low-carbon technologies.

Climate mitigation and adaptation actions, including food, energy and water security, air quality, health improvements, and safeguarding the services that ecosystems provide, would bring considerable economic benefits.

Also on Tuesday, the Vatican hosted mayors and governors from major world cities who signed a declaration urging global leaders to take bold action at the U.N. summit.

Mayors from South America, Africa, the United States, Europe and Asia signed a declaration stating that the Paris summit “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees centigrade.”

Leaders should come to a “bold agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity while protecting the poor and the vulnerable,” said the declaration, which Pope Francis, who has taken a strong public stand on climate change, also signed.

California Governor Jerry Brown, who is in Rome this week, skewered climate change deniers in an interview with the Sacramento Bee, calling them “troglodytes.”

“Because the other side, the Koch brothers, are not sitting still,” Brown said. “They’re raising money, they’re supporting candidates, they’re putting money into think tanks, and denial, doubt and skepticism is being spewed through various media channels, and therefore the sincerity and the authority of the pope is a welcome antidote to that rather virulent strain of climate change denial.”

According to research by Greenpeace, Charles and David Koch (who also funded the right-wing U.S. Tea Party) have sent at least 79,048,951 dollars to groups denying climate change science since 1997.

“We don’t even know how far we’ve gone, or if we’ve gone over the edge,” Brown said in a speech at the Vatican climate summit. “There are tipping points, feedback loops, this is not some linear set of problems that we can predict.

“We have to take measures against an uncertain future which may well be something no one ever wants. We are talking about extinction. We are talking about climate regimes that have not been seen for tens of millions of years. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Caribbean Seeks Funding for Renewable Energy Mix Tue, 21 Jul 2015 10:31:18 +0000 Desmond Brown St Kitts and Nevis has launched a 1-megawatt solar farm at the country’s Robert L Bradshaw International Airport. A second solar project is also nearing completion. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

St Kitts and Nevis has launched a 1-megawatt solar farm at the country’s Robert L Bradshaw International Airport. A second solar project is also nearing completion. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique, Jul 21 2015 (IPS)

A leading geothermal expert warns that the small island states in the Caribbean face “a ticking time bomb” due to the effects of global warming and suggests a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the only way to defuse it.

President of the Ocean Geothermal Energy Foundation Jim Shnell says to solve the problems of global warming and climate change, the world needs a new energy source to replace coal, oil and other carbon-based fuels.  OGEF’s mission is to fund the R&D needed to tap into the earth’s vast geothermal energy resources."You need to have a balance of your resources but it is quite possible to have that balance and still make it 100 percent renewable and do without fossil fuels altogether." -- Jim Shnell

“With global warming comes the melting of the icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica and the projection is that at the rate we are going, they will both melt by the end of this century,” Shnell told IPS, adding “if that happens the water levels in the ocean will rise by approximately 200 feet and there are some islands that will disappear altogether.

“So you’ve got a ticking bomb there and we’ve got to defuse that bomb and if I were to rate the issues for the Caribbean countries, I would put a heavyweight on that one.”

It has taken just eight inches of water for Jamaica to be affected by rising sea levels, with one of a set of cays called Pedro Cays disappearing in recent years.

Scientists have warned that as the seas continue to swell, they will swallow entire island nations from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

In the Caribbean, scientists have also pointed to the likelihood of Barbuda disappearing in 40 years.

Shnell said countries could “essentially eliminate” the threat by turning to renewable energy, thereby decreasing the amount of fossil fuels or carbon-based fuels they burn.

“The primary driver of climate change is greenhouse gasses and one of the principal ones in terms of volume is carbon dioxide,” he said.

“For a long time a lot of electricity, 40 per cent of the electricity produced in many countries, would come from coal because it was a very inexpensive, plentiful form of carbon to burn.

“But now countries have seen that they need to move away from that and in fact the G7 just earlier this month got together and in their meeting, the leaders declared that they were going to be 100 percent renewable, that is completely stop burning carbon, coals and other forms of fossil fuels by the end of this century. The only problem is that for global warming purposes that’s probably too late,” Shnell added.

Shnell was among some of the world’s leading renewable energy experts who met here late last month to consider options for renewable energy development in the Caribbean.

The Martinique Conference on Island Energy Transitions was organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the French Government, which will host the United Nations International Climate Change Conference, COP 21, at the Le Bourget site in Paris from Nov. 30 Dec. 11 2015.

Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank Migara Jaywardena said the conference was useful and timely in bringing all the practitioners from different technical people, financial people and government together.

“There’s a lot of climate funds that are being deployed to support and promote clean energy…and we talked about the challenges that small islands, highly indebted countries have with mobilising some of this capital and making that connection to clean energy,” Jaywardena told IPS.

“They want to do it but there isn’t enough funds and remember there’s a lot of other competing development interests, not just energy but non-energy interests as well. Since this conference leads to the COP in Paris, I think being a part of that climate dialogue is important because it creates an opportunity to begin to access some of those funds.”

“As an example, for Dominica we have an allocation of 10 million dollars from the clean technology fund to support the geothermal and that’s a perfect example of where climate funds could be mobilised to support clean energy in the islands,” Jaywardena added.

Shnell said Caribbean economies are severely affected by the cost of fuel but that should be an incentive to redouble their efforts to get away from importing oil.

“The oil that you import and burn turns right around and contributes to global warming and the potential flooding of the islands, whereas you have some great potential resources there in terms of solar and wind and certainly geothermal,” he said.

“What we’re advocating is the mixture of those resources. We feel it would be a mistake to try to select one and make that your 100 percent source of power or energy but it’s the mix, because of different characteristics of each of them and different timing of availability and so forth, they work much better together.”

He noted that wind and solar are intermittent while utility companies have to provide power all the time.

“So you need something like geothermal or hydropower that works all the time and provides enough energy to keep the grid running even when there is no solar energy. So you need to have a balance of your resources but it is quite possible to have that balance and still make it 100 percent renewable and do without fossil fuels altogether,” Shnell said.

A legislator in St. Kitts and Nevis said the twin island federation has gone past fossil fuel generation and is now adopting solar energy with one plant on St. Kitts generating just below 1 megawatt of electricity and another being developed which would produce 5 megawatts.

“In terms of solar we’ll be near production of 1.5 megawatts of renewable energy. As a government we are going full speed ahead in relation to ensuring that there’s renewable energy, of course, where the objective is to reduce electricity costs in St. Kitts and Nevis,” Energy Minister Ian Liburd told IPS.

In late 2013 legislators in Nevis selected Nevis Renewable Energy International (NREI) to develop a geothermal energy project, which they said would eventually eliminate the need for existing diesel-fired electrical generation by replacing it with renewable energy.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Big Oil Privately Accepted Global Warming, but Publicly Battled Climate Science Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:42:42 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz Exxon was responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Here, part of the spill in the Chenega Bay, Evans lsland (Prince William Sound). Credit: ARLIS Reference.

Exxon was responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Here, part of the spill in the Chenega Bay, Evans lsland (Prince William Sound). Credit: ARLIS Reference.

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jul 17 2015 (IPS)

For decades, executives and decision makers at major U.S. and European fossil fuel companies were aware that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused global warming, but still provided millions in funding to boost disinformation campaigns and sponsor scientists who denied climate change.

As early as 1981, more than a decade before the first meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), leaders at oil giant Exxon acknowledged the connection between fossil fuels and climate change.“Their aim was to sell doubt. They don't have to disprove climate change, [they] just have to make people believe there was not consensus." -- Nancy Cole

The revelations emerged as part of a report released by the Washington, D.C.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), called the Climate Deception Dossiers, which explores the tactics promoted by companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Peabody Energy, Chevron and Conoco-Phillips to undermine climate science.

“They were already factoring the risks of climate change in their business as early as 1981, and 34 years later they continue to lie to the people and undermining climate science”, Nancy Cole, Director of Campaigns for the UCS Climate and Energy Program and contributor to the report, told IPS.

The Dossiers show how Exxon and other major companies funded a vast disinformation campaign that included climate deniers, contrarian think tanks and public relations firms, with evidence pointing in their direction as recently as 2015.

“Their aim was to sell doubt. They don’t have to disprove climate change, [they] just have to make people believe there was not consensus,” said Cole.

One of the climate rebukers is Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, an engineer affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who received more than 1.2 million dollars in big-oil funding between 2001 and 2012 and whose salary relied exclusively on their grants, according to UCS.

For years, Soon’s academic papers have largely overstated the solar influence in global warming and have been methodically discredited by fellow researchers, scientific journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but have been used by conservative politicians and big oil companies to cast doubt on the climate consensus.

A 2014 e-mail by climate scientist Lenny Bernstein, an Exxon employee during the 1980s, revealed that the company was aware as early as 1981 of CO2 emissions. The oil giant decided against exploring the Natuna gas field, off the coast of Indonesia, after being alerted about the massive amount of CO2 trapped in it and the potential for future carbon-cutting regulations.

If exploited, its release would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time, accounting to roughly one per cent of the world’s emissions in 1981.

“In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects,” wrote Bernstein, a veteran of almost 30 years in the industry.

The full UCS report includes over 330 pages of document from around 85 internal company and trade association documents spanning 27 years.

For instance, during the 2009 discussion of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which proposed a federal carbon emission reduction plan, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) hired a PR firm which forged letters from diverse organisations to lobby congressmen and women against the bill.

Another major player in the report is the American Petroleum Institute (API), self-proclaimed “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry”.

A 1998 internal API strategy document outlines the roadmap devised to confront the ever-growing climate change science and explicitly aimed to confuse and misinform the public, by sponsoring contrarian scientists and targeting teachers, schools and students across the United States.

The document states that victory would be achieved when “average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science.” IPS reached out to API by e-mail but got no answer.

Their modus operandi mimics that of tobacco companies, according to former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Sharon Eubanks who led the Department’s successful lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

“It’s like what we discovered with tobacco – the more you push back the date of knowledge of the harm, the more you delay any remediation, the more people are affected,” Eubanks told DeSmog website.

This was echoed by Katherine Sawyer, the International Climate Organiser at the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, who told IPS that “we wouldn’t let the tobacco industry create tobacco control policy, so why are we letting the fossil fuel industry create climate change policy?” – referring to their participation in U.N. processes.

Some fossil fuel companies appear, at least publicly, to be willing to contribute to a solution. Six major European companies (Shell, BP, Total, Statoil, BG Group, and Eni) sent an open letter to the UNFCCC and the French Government stating they can take faster climate action if governments provide a global interlinked system of carbon pricing.

“If governments act to price carbon, this discourages high carbon options and encourages the most efficient ways of reducing emissions widely,” states their letter.

But the decades-long opposition of fossil fuel companies has eroded their credibility among climate scientists, activists and much of the public.

“For 20 years, the world’s largest polluters have stymied progress in the UNFCCC by exerting undue influence over the treaty process—from direct lobbying to sponsoring the talks themselves,” said Sawyer, recalling that this year’s COP21 climate talks in Paris will be sponsored by corporations like EDF and ENGIE whose coal operations contribute to the equivalent of nearly 50 percent of France’s emissions

“In order for the UNFCCC process to create the meaningful policy our planet desperately needs, negotiators need to kick big polluters out,” she said.

Throughout the world, fossil fuel companies have been hit both in their image and their financial appeal after years of campaigning by divestment groups, organisations that promote getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds linked to high-carbon industries such as coal, oil, and carbon.

“I definitely feel like the fossil fuel divestment movement is David against Goliath,” Perri Haser, lead organiser of the divestment campaign at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, told IPS. “But here’s the thing about David and Goliath: we know how that story ends.”

A 2013 report highlighted how 90 companies, 50 of them publicly traded, were responsible for almost two-thirds of the world’s industrial carbon emissions over the past two and a half centuries.

That several major oil companies acknowledged risks from CO2 emissions as early as the 1980s doubles its significance since more than half of all industrial carbon emissions from 1750 onwards have been released since 1988.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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2014 Another Record-Shattering Year for Climate Fri, 17 Jul 2015 17:06:35 +0000 Kitty Stapp Tacloban City, in the Leyte Province of the Philippines, after Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tacloban City, in the Leyte Province of the Philippines, after Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Jul 17 2015 (IPS)

A new report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Weather and Climate has found that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded, with Eastern North America the only major region in the world to experience below-average annual temperatures.

“The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas R. Karl, director, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

“It’s been a pretty persistent and continuous message over the past 10 years at least that we are seeing a planet that is warming,” Karl told reporters.

The report is based on contributions from 413 scientists from 58 countries around the world.

The report’s climate indicators show patterns, changes and trends of the global climate system. Examples include various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover.

The greenhouse gases causing this warming continued to climb to historic highs, with atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations increasing by 1.9 ppm (parts per million) in 2014, reaching a global average of 397.2 ppm for the year. This compares with a global average of 354.0 in 1990 when the report was first published just 25 years ago.

Record temperatures were also observed near the Earth’s surface, with almost no region escaping unscathed.

Europe had its warmest year on record, with more than 20 countries exceeding their previous records. Africa had above-average temperatures across most of the continent throughout 2014, Australia saw its third warmest year on record, Mexico had its warmest year on record, and Argentina and Uruguay each had their second warmest year on record.

Sea surface temperatures, sea levels and global upper ocean heat content also hit record highs.

As a result, there were 91 tropical cyclones in 2014, well above the 1981–2010 average of 82 storms.

Greg Johnson, an oceanographer at the NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, told reporters on a conference call that climate change is now irreversible.

“I think of it more like a fly wheel or a freight train,” he said. “It takes a big push to get it going but it is moving now and will contiue to move long after we continue to pushing it.

“Even if we were to freeze greenhouse gases at current levels, the sea would actually continue to warm for centuries and millennia, and as they continue to warm and expand the sea levels will continue to rise.”

The report adds to a mountain of data warning of the catastrophic effects of climate change.

This December, government and civil society delegations will assemble for COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. It will be the first time in over 20 years of U.N. negotiations that a new a legally binding and universal treaty will be agreed on climate change, with the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees C.

But many are sceptical that COP21 will achieve the drastic and immediate CO2 cuts required to avert the worst.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: Unrestrained ‘Privatisation of Poverty-Reduction’ Puts Human Rights at Risk Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:54:44 +0000 Savio Carvalho

Savio Carvalho is Senior Advisor, Campaigning on International Development and Human Rights, Amnesty International, International Secretariat, London, and has worked for two decades in the Development and Human Rights sector in South and Central Asia, East Africa and Europe.

By Savio Carvalho
LONDON, Jul 16 2015 (IPS)

Corporate lobbyists are unusual guests at development meetings, but when the United Nations held its Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa this week to decide who pays for its new “Sustainable Development Goals”, some governments laid out the red carpet for the private sector.

Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International

Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International

Unfortunately, the conference failed to agree on any mechanism for making sure the role of companies in development is kept transparent and accountable.

Some see giving companies a bigger role in development as a simple win-win. Governments get access to financing to take the pressure off aid budgets and come up with the 2.5 trillion dollars needed to respond to poverty and climate change, while meeting the housing, health, education and infrastructure targets in the post-2015 agenda.

On the other hand, companies get a potential say in policy making and access to juicy public contracts.

But before governments allow companies to shoulder significant responsibility for fighting poverty, climate change and other global challenges, they will have to convince critics who warn that they are putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

While getting companies involved in development has the potential to provide important sources of funding to improve lives, experience equally shows that when companies are not held to account, people and communities can be seriously harmed. If private sector involvement in development is going to pay off for the people who need it and not just corporate shareholders, states have to leave impunity at the door.

Increasing the role of the private sector in the delivery of crucial public services such as water, education and health is fraught with risk. On July 2, the U.N. Human Rights Council warned that without proper regulation the privatisation of education could put the right to education at risk for countless children, especially if it means those children who cannot afford to pay lose out on quality education.

Around the world, Amnesty International has documented too many cases of marginalised communities waiting to see justice done, sometimes for decades, for human rights abuses perpetrated after a multinational company rolled into town. States who seek the involvement of the private sector in advancing development goals without putting effective safeguards in place, forget these cases at their peril.

The more than 570,000 victims of the 1984 Bhopal toxic gas leak, India’s worst industrial disaster, are still waiting for justice more than 30 years later. The firm responsible, Union Carbide, is now owned by U.S.-based Dow Chemical. A Bhopal court is pursuing criminal charges against Dow but the company has failed to even show up to multiple hearings over the last year. Meanwhile, survivors have tried and failed to seek justice in both India and the U.S.

While Union Carbide paid some compensation to those affected under a 1989 settlement agreement with the Indian government, it was wholly inadequate to cover the harm caused and there were serious issues with the way it was paid out to victims. At the time, the Indian government lacked the leverage to effectively hold a powerful global company to account.

Foreign companies operating in countries that are rich in natural resources and poor in regulation can reap huge profits at the expense of vulnerable people.

Earlier this year Amnesty International warned that Canadian and Chinese mining giants have profited from, and in some cases colluded, with  human rights abuses by the Myanmar authorities to exploit one of the country’s most important copper mines, with thousands of people being illegally driven off their lands, serious environmental risks going unchecked, and peaceful protest brutally suppressed.

Far from investigating the abuses, one multinational company involved used an opaque trust fund in the British Virgin Islands to divest its investment, in a manner which possibly breached economic sanctions applicable at the time. Reducing their exposure to the problem, rather than fixing it, has often been the mantra of companies faced by scandalous abuses.

For residents of Niger Delta, the legacy of half a century of oil production in Nigeria is the devastation of their farming and fishing lands. Today the oil spills continue unabated. In Shell’s operations alone, there were 204 spills in 2014. Shell blames sabotage and theft, but old pipelines and badly maintained infrastructure are a major cause of pollution.

This year one local community in Bodo has finally won 80 million dollars in compensation from Shell for the impacts of a massive spill, but only after a lengthy court battle in the UK and years of false claims by the company.

These are cautionary tales world leaders should consider as they plan to entrust the private sector with responsibility for funding and carrying out development projects. In all these cases, corporate political and financial clout created barriers to local communities accessing justice and accountability.

Governments have watched corporate political power grow for decades, often doing their best to get out of its way instead of properly regulating it to ensure that human rights are not violated.

Corporate lobbyists, meanwhile, have done everything possible to ensure that the important international standards addressing these risks remain entirely voluntary.  Voluntary codes of conduct and standards that have no enforcement mechanism ultimately lack the teeth to really change corporate behaviour, and when abuses occur, they can leave victims with little or no hope of remedy.

If private sector involvement in development is going to pay off for the people who need it and not just corporate shareholders, states have to leave impunity at the door. Companies that want to make a profit through work on sustainable development must be required to show they have a clean track record when it comes to human rights.

They must demonstrate that they have internal systems that ensure they do not cause human rights abuses. They must disclose information to communities about any local operations that impact them, as well as any payments they make to the authorities.

Crucially, governments must be ready to hold companies to account when abuses happen. The failure of all but five countries to meet the U.N.’s official aid targets is a crying shame, but if filling the gap by giving the private sector free rein leads to human rights abuses in already vulnerable communities, it will only rub salt in the wounds that sustainable development is supposed to heal.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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U.N. Panel Lays Out Vision of “Just Security” Wed, 15 Jul 2015 18:27:35 +0000 Nora Happel By Nora Happel

Amid a range of new and old challenges, from climate change to gender equality and war crimes, a new report by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance emphasises the need to reform the U.N. system.

Highlighting a vision of “just security”, the report titled “Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance” provides reform proposals to address key global challenges at the intersection of justice and security. It is based on three thematic categories: state-fragility and violent conflict, climate and people, and the interconnected global economy.

The 12 reforms suggested in the report range from U.N. conflict mediation, empowerment of women, implementation of the responsibility to prevent, protect and rebuild, climate governance and green climate technology to a reform of the U.N. Security Council and the creation of a parliamentary advisory body for the U.N. General Assembly to encourage civic participation.

The Commission was co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright and former Nigerian Foreign Minister and U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari.

Albright, who spoke at Tuesday’s launch event, pointed to major shortcomings of the current U.N. system, including the workings and composition of the Security Council and a deficit of democracy shown by a lack of civil society involvement. She said the aim of the report is to present concrete ideas for solving these problems.

According to the former U.N. ambassador, last week’s veto of the Security Council resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 as “genocide” is a “sign that the international system in this regard is not keeping pace with our problems”.

“The work of the Commission is about Security and Justice. In Srebrenica, there was a breakdown of security and actions at the U.N. show how hard it still is to achieve justice.”

On the other hand, she said, examples such as the concept of “responsibility to protect” show that the U.N. is able to “[adjust] itself to changed situations”.

The report was released amidst ongoing international debates on the post-2015 development agenda, including the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September and the Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in November and December.

In this political context, the goal of the report is to ensure key challenges to global governance such as rising numbers of political conflicts within states, fragile states, forced displacements, migration crises, continued discrimination of women, especially in terms of education, employment and reproductive health, climate change and environmental degradation are being given appropriate consideration by the international community.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Is Climate Change or ISIS the Greater Threat to Humankind? Tue, 14 Jul 2015 21:17:54 +0000 Thalif Deen Severe flooding is one of many devastating effects of climate change, as the Caribbean island nation Dominica experienced in 2011. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Severe flooding is one of many devastating effects of climate change, as the Caribbean island nation Dominica experienced in 2011. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Thalif Deen

The world at large is apparently divided over what constitutes the biggest single threat to human kind: the devastation caused by climate change or the unbridled terror unleashed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?
According to a new Pew Research Center survey designed to measure perceptions of international threats, climate change is viewed as the “top concern” by people around the world.

“However, Americans, Europeans and Middle Easterners most frequently cite ISIS as the top threat among international issues,” says the survey.“It's those on the front lines of climate change, and its catastrophic results, who are often the first to recognise the real threat it presents." -- Patricia Lerner of Greenpeace

People in 19 of 40 nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry, making it the most widespread concern of any issue in the survey.

A median of 61 percent of Latin Americans say they are very concerned about climate change, the highest share of any region.

These are among some of the findings of the survey by Pew Research Center, which describes itself as a non-partisan “fact tank,” conducted in 40 countries among 45,435 respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015

Dr. Michael Dorsey, a member of the Club of Rome and an expert on global governance and sustainability, told IPS: “If publics fear climate change more than terrorism, we might have to re-think collective and regulatory approaches for entities responsible for carbon pollution.

“If we accept the fact that carbon pollution drives both human mortality and morbidity, compromises ecosystems, and threatens society, then institutions and firms that produce carbon pollution, as well as those who opt to finance carbon polluters are akin to those who work with entities engaged in and financing terrorism,” he said.

It should come as no surprise that in some jurisdictions, elected officials are considering laws usually used to fight organised crime against those that deny the unfolding climate crisis, said Dr Dorsey, a visiting professor and lecturer at several universities in Africa and Europe and interim director of energy and environment at the Joint Centre for Political and Economic Studies.

He also said “a U.S. Senator [Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island] has suggested that we use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, against the fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes who openly deny climate change and exacerbate it.”

The survey points out that global economic instability also figures prominently as the top concern in several countries, and it is the second biggest concern in half of those surveyed.

“In contrast, concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme as well as cyberattacks on governments, banks or corporations are limited to a few nations. Tensions between Russia and its neighbours and territorial disputes in Asia largely remain regional concerns,” the survey added.

Patricia Lerner, senior political adviser at Greenpeace International, told IPS it is not surprising that nearly half of the nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry.

“It’s those on the front lines of climate change, and its catastrophic results, who are often the first to recognise the real threat it presents,” she said.

For others, it can seem an invisible threat and they don’t yet recognise it as an existential one that will exacerbate all their other fears, such as over terrorism, international tensions and economic instability, as people are driven from their homes by drought, flood or rising sea levels, she pointed out.

Lerner also said “the deadly cycle of drilling in the Arctic for oil which is burned, creating CO2, which then further melts the Arctic, raising sea-levels and displacing people living on small islands is a clear illustration of the myopia of governments and businesses which are failing to recognise climate change is an issue that threatens all of us – wherever we live.”

Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, professor of global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic, Maine, told IPS that “noteworthy to me is the heightened concern of Latin American and African countries.”

These regions are on the frontlines of climate change, and the risks there are turning into grim realities of more extreme storms, droughts and falling crop yields, she added.

“One hopes that this heightened concern of the public translates into political resolve on the part of their governments in Paris in December, where those rich countries responsible for these impacts must be convinced to seriously curtail emissions and provide necessary financial support to developing countries to do the same,” said Dr Stabinsky, who is visiting professor of climate change leadership at the Uppsala University in Sweden.

The survey also revealed that people in 14 countries expressed the greatest concern about ISIS.

In Europe, a median of 70 percent expressed serious concerns about the threat ISIS poses, while a majority of Americans (68 percent), Canadians (58 percent) and Lebanese (84 percent) were also very concerned.

Israelis were the only public surveyed to rate Iran as their top concern among the international issues tested. Americans also see Iran’s nuclear programme as a major issue.

Roughly six-in-10 Americans (62 percent) said they are very concerned, making Iran the second-highest-ranked threat of those included in the poll.

Economic instability was a top concern in five countries and the second highest concern in 20 countries. In Russia, 43 percent said they are very concerned about the economy, the highest-ranking concern of any issue tested there.

The threat of cyberattacks on governments, banks or corporations does not resonate as a top-tier worry globally, though there are pockets of anxiety, including the U.S. (59 percent) and South Korea (55 percent).

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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Jamaica’s Coral Gardens Give New Hope for Dying Reefs Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:34:15 +0000 Zadie Neufville A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. Credit: Andrew Ross

A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. Credit: Andrew Ross

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jul 13 2015 (IPS)

With time running out for Jamaica’s coral reefs, local marine scientists are taking things into their own hands, rebuilding the island’s reefs and coastal defences one tiny fragment at a time – a step authorities say is critical to the country’s climate change and disaster mitigation plans.

Five years ago, local hoteliers turned to experimental coral gardening in a desperate bid to improve their diving attractions, protect their properties from frequent storms surges and arrest beach erosion.“The fishermen have done a beautiful job of keeping the corals alive and the fish sanctuary successful." -- Andrew Ross

In 2014, their efforts were boosted when the Centre for Marine Science (CMS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona scored a 350,000-dollar grant from the International Development Bank (IDB) for the Coral Reef Restoration Project.

Project director and coastal ecologist Dale Webber told IPS that his team will carry out genetic research, attempt to crack the secrets of coral spawning and re-grow coral at several locations across the island and at the centre’s Discovery Bay site. The project will also share the research findings with other islands as well as another IDB project, Belize’s Fragments of Hope.

The reefs of Discovery Bay have been studied for more than 40 years, and are the centre of reef research in Jamaica. It is also home to several species of both fast and slow growing corals that Webber says are particularly resilient.

“They have tolerated disease, global warming, sea level rise, bleaching, etc. – all man and the environment have thrown at them – and are still flourishing. So they have naturally selected based on their resilience,” he explains.

A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. The five species are Orbicella annularis; Orbicella faveolata; Siderastrea siderea; Acropora palmata and Undaria agaricites. These fragments are being monitored as they grow and will be planted on the reefs.

Jamaica’s reefs – which make up more than 50 per cent of the 1022 kilometres of coastline, have over the years been battered by pollution, overfishing and improper development.  Finally in 1980 Hurricane Allen smashed them.

Many hoped the reefs would regenerate, but sluggish growth caused by, among other things, frequent severe weather events and an increase in bleaching incidences due to climatic changes sent stakeholders searching for options.

A massive Caribbean-wide bleaching event in 2005 resulted in widespread coral death and focussed attention on continuing sand loss at some of the island’s most valuable beaches. But aside from the devastation caused by the hurricane, scientists say the poor condition of the reefs are also the result of a die-off of the sea urchin population in 1982 and the continued capture of juvenile reef fish and the parrot.

Predictions are that the region could lose all its coral in 20 years. Some reports say that only about eight per cent of Jamaican corals are alive. However, new surveys conducted by the UWI at several sites across the island show coral cover of between 12 and 20 per cent.

Along Jamaica’s north coast from Oracabessa in St. Mary to Montego Bay, coral recovery projects have yielded varying levels of success. The Golden Eye Beach Club, the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary and Montego Bay Marine Park are among those that have experimented with coral gardening.

The process is tedious, as divers must tend the nurseries/gardens, removing algae from the fragments of corals as they grow. The pieces are then fixed to the reefs. The results are encouraging and many see this is an expensive but sure way to repopulate dying reefs. A combination of techniques, management measures and regeneration have boosted coral cover at Discovery Bay from five percent to 14 per cent in recent years.

“We hope to supplement this and get it growing faster,” Webber who also heads UWI’s Centre for Marine Sciences says.

At the Centre’s newest Alligator Head location in the east of the island, the aim is to increase the coral cover from the existing 40 per cent. The nurseries have also been set up at the site in Portland to compare the differences in growth rate between sites.

At the NGO-operated Montego Bay Marine Park, where an artificial reef and coral nursery was established in the fish sanctuary, outreach officer Joshua Bailey reports:  “There have been moderate successes. New corals are spawning and attracting fish.”

He cautioned that the impact of “urban stressors” on the park and in surrounding communities – high human population density  and high levels of run-off – makes it difficult to judge the success of the restoration.

One of the most recent projects proposed the construction of an artificial reef off the shore of Sandals Resorts International Negril, as one of many solutions to reduce beach erosion along the famous ‘Seven Mile’ stretch of the Negril coast. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) approved the construction of an artificial reef in 1.2 metres of water offshore the Resort’s Negril bay property.

Andrew Ross is responsible for the Sandals and several other projects. A marine biologist and head of Seascape Caribbean, he explains that the Negril project lasted one year. It allowed for the study of fast and slow growing coral species and included the construction of a wave attenuation structure to determine how wave action influences sand accumulation. The coral nursery and the structures were populated with soft corals, sponges and a variety of other corals from the area.

In Oracabessa, a fishing village on 16 kilometres east of the tourist town of Ocho Rios, the commitment of the fishermen who initiated the project and their private sector partners have kept the reef and replanted corals clean and healthy, demonstrating how successful the process can be in restoring the local fisheries.

“The fishermen have done a beautiful job of keeping the corals alive and the fish sanctuary successful,” Ross says of the project he started in 2009.

Much of Jamaica’s reefs have reportedly been smothered by silt from eroding hillsides, the algal blooms from eutrophication as a result of agricultural run-offs and the disposal of sewage in the coastal waters.

The reefs are critical to Jamaica’s economy as tourism services account for a quarter of all jobs and more than 50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.  Fisheries directly employ an estimated 33,000 people. Overall, the Caribbean makes between 5.0 and 11 billion dollars each year from fishing and tourism, an indication of the importance of reefs to the economies of the islands.

The Restoration Project provides the CMS with the resources to undertake a series of research activities “to among other things mitigate coral depletion, and identify and cultivate species that are resistant to the ravages of the impact of climate change,” Webber says.

In an email outlining the process, he notes that the project will provide “applicable information and techniques to other countries in the region that are experiencing similar challenges,” during its 18-month lifetime.

Expectations are that at the end of the project, there will be visible changes in coral cover. The successes seen in Oracabessa, where fishermen report improvements in catch rates and fish sizes, and at other sites are an indication that coral gardening is working.

Like Ross, Webber expects that there will be changes in coral cover at replanting sites within a three- to five-year period.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: From New York to Addis Ababa, Financing for Development on Life-Support – Part Two Fri, 10 Jul 2015 15:49:23 +0000 Bhumika Muchhala Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Bhumika Muchhala of Third World Network. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

By Bhumika Muchhala
NEW YORK, Jul 10 2015 (IPS)

The key priorities of the Group of 77 developing countries (G77) remain somewhat aligned around a set of issues that have been present from the beginning of the FfD negotiations in New York.

This set of issues includes a re-commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) by developed countries, including the provision that climate finance and biodiversity financing is new and additional to traditional official development assistance (ODA). This language, regrettably, is not present in the current July 7 draft outcome document.In the context of vested geo-political interests and the wide gap between North and South, a strengthened ethos of multilateralism is at its most critical imperative next week in Addis Ababa.

In the final plenary, the tone of the G77 was to remain within the main areas of debate while leaving the majority of the text, whose language has been arrived and agreed upon through arduous negotiations, closed to further negotiation in Addis Ababa. In other words, the entire text should, preferably, not be re-opened to negotiation.

However, the U.S. and Japan were far more aggressive, with Japan stating that it is important to emphasise that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and the U.S. making note of “a list” of problem issues, essentially warning Member States that some of the text could be at risk if consensus was not achieved.

The European Union noted that they were not in agreement with the formulation of South-South cooperation and fossil fuel subsidies, in that these sections are “too weak.” The long-standing position of the EU is that more obligations and commitments should be taken on through South-South cooperation and that fossil fuel subsidies should be rationalised with more determination.

Across all U.N. discussions, the issue of South-South cooperation is a centrifugal point. Developing countries routinely clarify that South-South cooperation is a complement, not a substitute, to North-South cooperation and that international development financing commitments are to be met by developed countries taking the lead in the framework of the global partnership for development.

Paragraph 56 in the July 7 text mentions South-South cooperation as having increased importance and different history and particularities, and stresses that “South-South cooperation should be seen as an expression of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South, based on their shared experiences and objectives.

It should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.”

Paragraph 57 welcomes the increased contributions of South-South cooperation to poverty eradication and sustainable development and encourages developing countries to voluntarily step up their efforts to strengthen South-South cooperation, and to further improve its development effectiveness in accordance with the provisions of the Nairobi Outcome document of the High Level U.N. Conference on South-South Cooperation.

The U.S. referred to a “list” of issues that, in their view, have not been agreed upon, and which they did not clarify. This list is a potential source of stalemate in Addis Ababa. It could become the foundation for contentious trade-offs and further dilution of an already extremely diluted outcome document.

The danger here is the reopening of hard-won text where there is already some degree of intergovernmental agreement. If developed countries reserve their option to ask for further movement in their favour, across the spectrum of issues ranging from public and private finance, debt and systemic issues, the opening paragraphs and systemic issues, a united G77 defence of FfD for developing countries would be critical.

In the context of vested geo-political interests and the wide gap between North and South, a strengthened ethos of multilateralism is at its most critical imperative next week in Addis Ababa. There is still ample space and prospect for Member States to push for the best possible compromise and outcome in Addis Ababa.

A genuine global partnership for development requires efforts where negotiations are conducted in good faith, without backhanded tactics to manipulate text, and without resorting to undemocratic measures to influence the text.

The very integrity of FfD as an international conference is that it addresses, with the most universal membership available in global governance fora to date, systemic issues in the international architecture for development finance, private finance, capital flows, debt, trade and now this year, technology as well.

The significance of FfD is that it can decide on intergovernmental commitments to deliver concrete and actionable commitments on development finance, as well as generate political momentum for much-needed reforms in the international systemic and structural architecture.

For example, it has the potential to push for reforms on financial regulation, debt sustainability, trade and the international monetary system. The history of political and social change involves a vital role for the international norm setting that can take place through the FfD conference.

As the draft civil society declaration for Addis Ababa states, the level of ambition witnessed in this year’s FfD negotiations is hardly suited to function as the operational MOI for the post-2015 development agenda, which is one of the goals, though not the only one, of this conference.

Even more unfortunately, there is now a serious risk of retrogression from the agreements in the Monterrey Consensus of 2002 and the Doha Declaration of 2008. The countries that historically, and with good reason, have taken on a large part of the responsibility to lead in delivering MOI, have gone to great lengths to shed this responsibility or shift them to others.

The FfD text as of the current draft of July 7 fails to ensure the space to undertake normative and systemic reforms that would enable developing countries to mobilise their own available resources. This combination makes it impossible for countries to generate the requisite resources to deliver a sustainable agenda.

Civil society has expressed its disappointment that save for an explicit decision in Paragraph 123 to establish a Technology Facilitation Mechanism at the U.N. post-2015 Development Summit in order to support the SDGs, the FfD draft outcome document is almost entirely devoid of actionable deliverables.

While not a pledging conference it is deplorable that a conference on financing fails to scale up existing sources and commit new financial resources. This calls into question governments’ commitment to realize a development agenda as expansive and multi-dimensional as the SDGs.

In particular, civil society notes the rejection of a U.N. tax body which would create significant sustainable financing for development through, for example, combating corporate tax dodging in developing countries.

A very low window of opportunity was expected if the FfD outcome document was closed in New York. On this note, it is a positive development that concrete negotiations will carry forth into Addis Ababa next week.

While inevitable friction will ensue across well-established battle-lines, the 3rd FfD conference still has a breath of hope for a better outcome.

Part One can be found here.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Opinion: En Route to Paris Fri, 10 Jul 2015 15:15:28 +0000 Gunter Nooke

Günter Nooke is the Personal Representative for Africa of the German Chancellor

By Gunter Nooke
BERLIN, Jul 10 2015 (IPS)

When the three-day conference on Financing for Development begins on Jul. 13 in Addis Ababa, the competitors in this year’s Tour de France will have reached the mountains. They will have already experienced a few spills and will still have many kilometres to go.

A similar situation is facing us with the many important conferences taking place in this important, watershed year for development.

Günter Nooke. Credit: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Günter Nooke. Credit: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The journey began with a successful and financially productive pledging conference organised by Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, in Berlin in January, and it is set to end in December with the conclusion in Paris of a climate agreement that is binding under international law.

In between, we had a G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria in June that will surely remain in our memories for a long time. For one thing, this was probably the first summit where so many guests were invited to attend for such a long time and where development issues were so prominent on the agenda.

Heads of government from Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Liberia, Tunisia and Iraq were joined by the heads of international organisations such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

As announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels back in 2014, it was a true development outreach focusing on Africa for all that security issues also played a major role.

For the first time ever the heads of state and government of the G7 countries agreed to strive for a carbon-free world by the end of the century. Merkel, Germany’s environment minister at Kyoto in 1997 and the climate chancellor of Heiligendamm in 2007, has once again succeeded in convincing others to join forces in forging ahead with regard to an important issue.“If the countries of Europe and Africa could agree that those who use up more of the permitted volume for storing CO2 in the atmosphere than others should pay more into the climate fund, then we would have taken a huge step forward. And those whose CO2 emissions are lower … should enjoy a comparatively greater benefit from this climate money"

So far what we mostly have are words. Germany is the only industrialised country to have significantly increased its Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2015.Germany stands by the 0.7 percent target, but is unwilling to commit to a rigid timetable with fixed increments for increasing ODA.

Of course, ODA remains important but there are other sources for financing development. Above all it is about how efficiently the money is spent and whether the burden is fairly shared. That should also be the most important leitmotif for the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa.

It will scarcely be possible to get binding financial commitments from everyone in Addis. It would also be a great shame if developing countries were to call for more money from the industrialised countries and donors and the “accused”, having been put on the spot, were to respond by pointing the finger at the poor performances of the developing countries when it comes to governance, legal certainty, human rights and an independent judiciary.

Instead of confrontation it would be better if efforts were made in Addis, as they were in Elmau, to continue laying the ground for working together on a basis of mutual trust, with concrete topics and fields of cooperation being named.

Before the December climate conference in Paris, there will be the General Assembly week in New York with all the heads of state and government, a meeting that is especially important this year.

This will be the occasion for agreeing on new goals for sustainable development, on a new pact on the world’s future with concrete goals (Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs), with targets for both developing and industrialised countries.

The intention is that all countries should each make their own contribution. The SDGs are to be universally applicable, but with shared yet differentiated responsibilities for achieving them jointly.

The success of the Elmau summit was the outcome of a rare harmony between language and substance. The Group of Seven is not just a group formed by the world’s strongest industrialised countries. Following the exclusion of Russia, it has once more become evident how much we need a partnership of countries that really want to build a community of values.

The situation at the United Nations, where 193 nations are represented by their national governments, is different.

Surely, in this critical situation and in the interests of Germans and Europeans, it behoves us to work towards a special trust-based partnership between Africa and Europe. The only way for the countries of Europe and of Africa to develop in peace is by working together as good neighbours.

If we take this partnership a bit further in Addis and in New York, then we will also be successful in Paris and will reach a binding climate agreement. And then we will no longer be able to get away with being vague about the numbers, we will have to share out the CO2 savings among us and, from 2020 onwards, find the 100 billion dollars for the Green Climate Fund.

If the countries of Europe and Africa could agree that those who use up more of the permitted volume for storing CO2 in the atmosphere than others should pay more into the climate fund, then we would have taken a huge step forward. And those whose CO2 emissions are lower than the average level or the maximum level per head according to the dictates of sustainability should enjoy a comparatively greater benefit from this climate money.

This arrangement would be good for everyone in Europe and in Africa. Germany, the strong export nation with emissions levels of about nine tonnes a head, would have to pay a lot of money and countries like Burkina Faso or Malawi would receive a lot. And a country like Nigeria would also finally have an incentive to put an end to gas flaring once and for all.

There are many mountains and cliffs to overcome before reaching Paris, not just for the participants in the Tour de France. However, it is important that we know the route. Otherwise we may find that there are only two parties sitting at the table together in Paris and talking about what they – the United States and China – consider acceptable.

Europe and Africa would be out of the running. This other way is not the route that will lead us to our goal.

Edited by Phil Harris    

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

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Science and Technology a Game Changer for Post-2015 Development Agenda Thu, 09 Jul 2015 21:01:36 +0000 Thalif Deen Solar cells on the wings of the Solar Impulse plane. Credit: Solar Impulse

Solar cells on the wings of the Solar Impulse plane. Credit: Solar Impulse

By Thalif Deen

A group of international scientists, designated as advisers to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has conveyed a significantly timely message to him: science, technology and innovation (STI) can be “the game changer” for the U.N.’s future development efforts.

Closing the gap between developed and developing countries depends on first closing investment gaps in international science, technology and innovation, says a report released Thursday.The Board calls for an annual Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) - a flagship UN publication, like the Human Development Report - that monitors progress, identifies critical issues and root causes of challenges, and offers potential ways forward.

The Secretary-General’s 26-member Scientific Advisory Board says while a target of one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for research and development (R&D) is perceived as high by many governments, countries with strong and effective STI systems invest up to 3.5 percent of their GPD in R&D.

“If countries wish to break the poverty cycle and achieve (post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals), they will have to set up ambitious national minimum target investments for STI, including special allotments for the promotion of basic science and science education and literacy.”

These investments “can contribute to alleviating poverty, creating jobs, reducing inequalities, increasing income and enhancing health and well-being.”

It can assist in solving critical problems such as access to energy, food and water security, climate change and biodiversity loss, according to the report.

The Board recommends specific investment areas, including “novel alternative energy solutions, water filters that remove pathogens at the point-of-use, new robust building materials from locally available materials, nanotechnology for health and agriculture, and biological approaches to industrial production, environmental remediation and management.”

Created by the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on behalf of the Secretary-General, the Board is comprised of experts from a range of scientific disciplines relevant to sustainable development, including its social and ethical dimensions.

Dr Salvatore Arico, senior programme specialist and team leader, Science-Policy Interface and Assessments Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building Natural Sciences Sector at UNESCO, told IPS STI can be found in all of the four main elements of the post-2015 development agenda: Declaration; SDGs/Targets/indicators; Means of Implementation; and Accountability Frameworks for monitoring & evaluation – in different degrees and in relation to specific systems and sectors.

He pointed out that STI contributes to the knowledge basis, and can and should play an important role for data gathering and analysis, in relation to the several of the proposed 17 SDGs and, particularly, those on water (SDG 6), the food-energy-water nexus (SDGs 2, 6 and 7), and the crosscutting contribution of STI inter alia in relation to ensuring access to energy for all, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, building resilient infrastructures, including of cities and human settlements, combating climate change, and promoting inclusive societies (SDGs 7, 8, 9, 11 and 13 and 16, respectively).

Among its recommendations, the Board calls for an annual Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) – a flagship U.N. publication, like the Human Development Report – that monitors progress, identifies critical issues and root causes of challenges, and offers potential ways forward.

The GSDR would synthesise and integrate findings from a wide range of scientific fields and institutions, developed with strong inter-agency support involving a suggested consortium of U.N. agencies working on sustainable development.

Asked how this should be implemented, Dr Arico told IPS there are indications, especially on the Scientific Advisory Board, that the GDSR should be ‘elevated’ and be designed and conducted so as to become the equivalent of the Human Development Report, which is one of the best known publications in the U.N. system.

“This would require resources and a great level of U.N. inter-agency coordination,” he added.

Additionally, the Board also calls for a dedicated seat for science at an influential new world leaders’ forum created to promote and monitor sustainable development – the U.N. High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development – since science needs to be engaged “formally in the HLPF as an advisor rather than an observer.”

“This could be accomplished by creating a formal seat for science on the HLPF, and/or by involving the Scientific Advisory Board and organisations such as the National Academies of Sciences, UNESCO, International Council for Science (ICSU), Future Earth, regional scientific bodies, and others,” says the report.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at

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Groups Slam Green Climate Fund Approval of Firms Tied to Dirty Energy Thu, 09 Jul 2015 13:19:54 +0000 Kitty Stapp By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Jul 9 2015 (IPS)

Civil society representatives attending the board meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Songdo, South Korea expressed strong disappointment Thursday with the board’s decision to accredit Deutsche Bank – one of the world’s largest financiers of coal – to receive and distribute GCF funds.

The Fund is the United Nations’ premier mechanism for funding climate change-related mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, donors agreed to mobilise 100 billion dollars a year by 2020, in an undefined mix of public and private funding, to help developing countries. The GCF is to be a cornerstone of this mobilisation, using the money to fund an even split between mitigation and adaptation projects.

But representatives of development, environment and social justice organisations say that while they support the Fund in principle, “it needs to change direction away from accrediting controversial big banks that are heavily invested in fossil fuels and thus actually exacerbating climate change.”

They say the Board chose to approve all 13 applicants presented for accreditation at the current GCF meeting in a single bloc, accrediting groups of entities in one go. Besides Deutsche Bank, they included the World Bank, whose record is also controversial for its “top-down, donor-driven nature.”

“This encouraged political horse-trading between Board members over which applicants get approved, leading to tit-for-tat approval of applicants despite very serious reservations,” the groups said in a statement Thursday.

They include ActionAid International, Third World Network, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Friends of the Earth, and a host of other development policy and grassroots organisations.

“[Deutsche Bank] has been criticized for its very poor record on human rights monitoring, was awarded the ‘Black Planet Award’ for environmentally destructive business policies, and recently received a record fine for market manipulation and obstructing regulators,” the statement says.

“The GCF claims zero tolerance towards money-laundering, but has accredited Deutsche Bank despite the fact that two national regulators have this year fined it for the poor state of its anti-money-laundering governance.”

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), one of the representatives at the GCF board meeting, said, “Neither Deutsche Bank nor the World Bank can hold up to the highest fiduciary and financial accountability standards, as well as enforce social-economic and environmental safeguards.

“In addition, they continue to be among the biggest bankrollers of dirty energy, as well as false solutions such as palm oil and agrofuels. And despite their public commitment to the transition to renewables and clean energy, they show no signs of slowing down,” she added in a statement.

The 11 other entities accredited by the GCF board are Namibia’s Environmental Investment Fund, Rwanda’s Ministry of Natural Resources, India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Corporación Andina de Fomento (Development Bank of Latin America), Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, Africa Finance Corporation, Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank and United Nations Environment Programme.

They and the seven previously-accredited institutions are allowed to access GCF funds, and in turn disburse them to other groups who will be implementing projects and programs in developing countries.

“Unfortunately, with this decision [to accredit Deutsche Bank and the World Bank], the Green Climate Fund is proving to be more ‘business as usual’ rather than ‘transformational,’” Nacpil said.

Athena Ballesteros, director of the World Resources Institute’s Finance Center, who is attending the meetings, said the group welcomed the inclusion of many of these national entities.

“The future of effectiveness of climate financing rests on empowered national institutions which will be the main engine of countries’ implementation of climate action plans,” she said.

“Today’s decision demonstrates that developing country institutions, even relatively small ones, can meet international standards of best practice in financial and project management and environmental and social protections.”

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Opinion: ASEAN Must Unite Against Climate Change Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:26:15 +0000 Jed Alegado Stanzin Dolma of Choglamsar-Leh breaks down while showing the ruins of her home, wrecked by the August floods and landslides in India in 2010. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

Stanzin Dolma of Choglamsar-Leh breaks down while showing the ruins of her home, wrecked by the August floods and landslides in India in 2010. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

By Jed Alegado
MANILA, Jul 8 2015 (IPS)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) started as a cooperation bloc in 1968. Founded by five countries – Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines – ASEAN has since evolved into a regional force which is slowly changing the landscape in global politics.

Five decades later, amid changing geopolitics and dynamics in the region, ASEAN faces a daunting task this year as it gears up for ASEAN 2015 economic integration amidst uncertainty in light of climate change impacts.

Agriculture – ASEAN’s key driver of growth

ASEAN banks on agriculture as the key driver of growth in the region. Its member-countries rely on agriculture as the primary source of income for their peoples. Food security, livelihoods and other needs of ASEAN citizens are at stake in the region’s vast resources, such as forests, seas, rivers, lands and ecosystems. However, climate change is threatening shared growth reliant on agriculture and natural resources.

With a region dependent on agriculture for food security and livelihoods, ASEAN needs to step up its fight against climate change. Oxfam GROW East Asia campaign recently released a report titled “Harmless Harvest: How sustainable agriculture can help ASEAN countries adapt in a changing climate.”

It argues that “climate change is undermining the viability of agriculture in the region and putting many small-scale farmers’ and fisherfolk’ livelihoods at risk.”

Data from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) revealed that rice yields drop as much as 10 percent for every 1 percent rise in temperature – an alarming fact for a region which counts rice as the staple food.

ASEAN 2015 in Paris?

The planned 2015 economic integration is unveiling amidst a backdrop of threats to agriculture in the region due to impacts of climate change. For ASEAN 2015 integration to prosper and its promised economic growth to be shared mutually, ASEAN must unite against climate change by taking a definitive stand as a regional bloc.

First, at the global climate negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, ASEAN leaders must unite behind a fair and binding agreement toward building a global climate deal in Paris this year.

Second, in terms of climate change mitigation, ASEAN needs to harmonise existing policies on coal and level the playing field where renewable energies can compete with other sources of energy. Furthermore, the 2015 economic integration must be clear on charting a low-carbon development plan for the region.

Third, ASEAN must ensure that its economic community-building is geared toward low-carbon development anchored on sustainability and inclusive growth. It can start by ensuring that regional policies in public and private investments in agriculture and energy do not threaten food security, improve resilience against climate-related disasters, and respect asset reform policies and the rights of small food producers.

Lastly, ASEAN leaders must also ensure that policies will be in place to shift the funding support from industrial agriculture to sustainable agricultural practices promoting agro-ecology and sustainable ecosystems.

ASEAN can do this by ensuring that each governments allocate sufficient financial resources for community-driven climate change adaptation practices while working with communities and peoples’ organisations on knowledge-sharing and learning best practices.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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