Inter Press Service » Climate Change News and Views from the Global South Thu, 26 Nov 2015 09:24:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Uganda, Tanzania Need Gender Sensitive Climate Change Policies Thu, 26 Nov 2015 09:24:57 +0000 Wambi Michael 0 Drought Threatens Water-Truck Lifeline in Parched Northeast Brazil Thu, 26 Nov 2015 08:55:02 +0000 Nadia Pontes A dead cow lies on a highway in drought-hit Pesqueira, northeast Brazil.

A dead cow lies on a highway in drought-hit Pesqueira, northeast Brazil.

By Nadia Pontes
São José Dos Campos, Brazil, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

For the rural community of Pacheco in northeastern Brazil, the local school has never been so important. It is now the only place in the drought-stricken area that has water on tap.

But to fill the school’s tank, water must be trucked from a reservoir some 40 km away – and it is shrinking fast.

“This is the only way to get access to water here. We don’t have any natural source of fresh water available – everything is dry. We are facing a very difficult situation,” said teacher and community leader Josilânia de Fátima dos Santos.

Local residents go to the school each day to fill three or four large buckets with water. The distribution runs smoothly, with everybody cooperating and taking home just enough to supply their family’s drinking, cooking and hygiene needs.

“We wish we could have fresh water to drink. We pray for rain – we are desperate,” said dos Santos.

“We notice the climate has changed, but we don’t know what to do to fight this problem.”

Along with Pacheco, nearly 18,000 inhabitants in the sprawling municipality of Pesqueira in Pernambuco state have no water on tap.

Brazil’s northeast is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, which scientists link both to the current strong El Niño weather phenomenon and longer-term climate change.

The semi-arid region has a history of drought, and is vulnerable to hunger and displacement. When crops fail, local people are forced to sell their possessions to pay for new seeds in the hope that rain will come.

Jonas Brito, Pesqueira’s secretary for the environment, said drought had forced the authorities to truck water into rural areas since 2010. But in the past two years, the situation has worsened and is now at crisis point.

“We are on the verge of collapse,” he said.

Seventy water trucks ply more than 800 km of dirt roads to supply rural communities in a service provided by the local government to meet the basic needs of the poor. Wealthy landowners pay for private deliveries.

According to official data, 20 to 50 litres per capita are delivered each day. Yet there is not enough water to irrigate crops, which are the main source of local income.

Corn, bean and cassava plantations are ruined. Milk production has fallen from 150,000 litres per day to 35,000 litres, as animals die of thirst.

The dam that supplies the water trucks is now operating at half its capacity, Brito said.

“Maybe it will be empty next month,” he added. If that happens, the trucks will need to travel further and the cost will rise.

Rainfall in northeastern Brazil is highly irregular, leading to catastrophic droughts – a problem that has occurred every decade or so since the 16th century.

Despite this, the city of Pesqueira, 215 km from the Pernambuco state capital of Recife, does not have a plan to deal with the loss of its productive land.

In this region, availability of water is among the lowest in the northeast, at around 40 litres per capita per day.
The drought is also affecting city dwellers, as the storage level of another dam that provides water for urban areas has dropped to 10 percent.

In 2014 the federal government launched an online tool to monitor droughts in the northeast. The map shows a dark red stain covering the city of Pesqueira, which means “exceptional drought”.

This is also the case in some parts of Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba states. The rest of the map shows “severe drought”.

Pesqueira had already drawn the attention of scientists in 2007, when José Marengo and Guillermo Obregón of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) conducted research on Brazil’s climate in the 20th century.

The researchers looked at 22 localities across five Brazilian regions: North, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and South. They found the largest temperature rise in Pesqueira, where it increased around 0.6 degrees Celsius per decade from 1981 to 2000.

These local temperature rises are linked to global warming, said the first report of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (PBMC), released in January.

“The impacts of climate change in Brazil are more evident in the Northeast region,” said Marengo, also an author of reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In addition, droughts in this region have been associated with El Niño, a large-scale interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere linked to periodic warming in Pacific sea surface temperatures.

El Niño can influence the regional and global climate, changing wind patterns and affecting rainfall in the tropics and mid-latitudes.

If average temperatures continue to rise across continents and oceans, El Niño could occur more often and become more intense, Marengo noted.

Models suggest surface water temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius above average through the end of this year, potentially placing the 2015-16 El Niño among the four strongest events since 1950.

It is already having devastating effects on communities like Pacheco.

“We notice the rainfall has decreased, the drought is more intense and it is warmer than before,” said Brito.

To address water shortages in the region, the federal government is implementing a plan to divert part of the flow of the São Francisco River along a canal that will bring water to Pesqueira.

Construction is due to be finished by the end of 2016, but that will not bring the urgent relief the people of Pacheco are desperately hoping for.

“We need help – we need public policy to fight this problem,” said Brito. “We cannot wait.”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Megan Rowling from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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Climate Refugees and a Collapsing City Wed, 25 Nov 2015 16:25:54 +0000 Sohara Mehroze A Flooded Street in Dhaka

A Flooded Street in Dhaka

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi

With multiplying impacts of climate change – increasing floods, cyclones, and drought – thousands of climate refugees are migrating to Dhaka. And the city, well beyond its carrying capacity, is bursting at the seams.

The word most often associated with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is perhaps, “overpopulated.” Supporting more than 14 million people on less than 325 square kilometers (125 square miles) of land, the city’s drainage, waste management and transportation infrastructure is on the brink of collapse.

Against that backdrop, it is hardly surprising to find the Bangladesh capital among the worst cities to live in on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 ranking.

To delve beneath the apparent reasons – overpopulation, waterlogging and congestion – is to reveal a major underlying cause: unsustainable levels of climate-induced displacement and migration.

And the problems are washing up along Bangladesh’s 700 kilometers of low-lying coast. Rising sea levels and cyclones heighten the risk of flooding, while riverbank erosion and seawater intrusion are set to have a devastating impact on the nation’s population.

“Over the next two to three decades millions of people will no longer be able to live and earn their livelihoods from farming and fishing as they are now,” said Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow with the Climate Change Group of the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Conversely, prolonged droughts are affecting arable land by causing soil erosion and damaging crops that depend on predictable monsoon patterns.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates 20 million people will be displaced in Bangladesh in the coming five years. That is more than the cumulative populations of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. And this should be very worrying.

Even now, many of the half-a-million-plus people who move their families – along with their hopes – to Dhaka, are driven there by the effects of climate change.

No streets paved with gold

But the Bangladeshi capital, which teeters on less than 1 percent of the country’s overall landmass, is far from being the promised land.

The combination of explosive population growth and land scarcity has sent its property and rental prices through the roof.

And given that most climate refugees come from humble financial backgrounds, they are left with little alternative but to join the estimated 3.4 million people who already live without gas or electricity in cramped and substandard squatter settlements, known as bosti.

Even in their new homes, they cannot escape the environmental disasters that drove them to seek shelter in the flimsy shack-like houses in this low-lying city on the banks of the Buriganga river.

The incidence of flooding in Dhaka is increasing, and the lack of water and sanitation facilities means waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid are widespread.

But health and pollution are not the only problems bosti-dwelling climate migrants face. Rahmat Ali, a resident of Dhaka’s biggest slum Korail, moved to the city when saltwater logged his farmland. Once an agricultural worker, he now scrapes out a living as a rickshaw puller.

“It is very hard work for little money. But there are few options for the likes of us, who have lost our lands and homes, and now have nothing left to go back to.”

Slow response to an urgent problem

With ubiquitous bostis and climate refugees dominating the cityscape, more affluent Dhaka residents are becoming increasingly desensitized and apathetic to their plight, and are coming to accept it as the norm.

This apathy is reflected in the country’s policy sphere. “People are migrating to cities because the nation is not responding to their risks,” says Aminul Islam, a member of the National Displacement Strategy Working Group under the Ministry of Disaster Management.

While Bangladesh has developed a solid strategic framework for tackling climate change – including its National Action Plan for Adaptation and the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan – it has not yet prescribed any adaptation programs specifically addressing climate-induced internal displacement.

And that, thinks Islam, is a failing.

“The country needs a long-term vision and adaptation plan for reducing displacement,” Islam said. “The provision of climate resilient habitat, livelihood opportunities and civil facilities for the vulnerable will reduce incentives to migrate to cities.”

Dhaka, precursor for catastrophe?

Even if Bangladesh were to increase its adaptation efforts 100-fold, it can only go so far in protecting its people. From a Bangladeshi point of view, what it desperately needs are mitigation efforts by major carbon-emitting nations.

At the end of November, the world’s leaders will congregate in Paris to try and achieve a universal, binding agreement for combating climate change. And for the millions of people living in vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh, their success at the negotiating table is crucial.

The situation in Dhaka illustrates how climate change is neither something that affects only polar bears, nor a problem only for future generations. Many fear that failure to act now will render the Bangladeshi capital a precursor for wholesale climate catastrophe.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Tamsin Walker and @DeutscheWelle.

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Africa’s Climate Change Funding May Hit 100 Billion by Mid-Century Tue, 24 Nov 2015 19:42:00 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

When the Climate Summit opens in Paris next week, one of the biggest issues facing world leaders is funding: how best to raise the billions of dollars needed to prevent the devastating consequences of global warming worldwide.

A new plan unveiled Tuesday calls for 16 billion dollars in funding to help African countries adapt to climate change and build up the continent’s resilience to climate shocks, according to the World Bank Group and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

At current estimates, the plan says the African region requires 5-10 billion dollars per year to adapt to global warming of 2°C.

However, the cost of managing climate resilience will continue to rise to 20-50 billion dollars by mid-century, and closer to 100 billion dollars, in the event of a 4°C warming.

Titled ‘Accelerating Climate-Resilient and Low-Carbon Development’, the Africa Climate Business Plan will be presented at the Conference of Parties (COP21), the global climate talks in Paris Nov 30- Dec 11, and lays out measures to boost the resilience of the continent’s assets – its people, land, water, and cities – including renewable energy and strengthening early warning systems.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is highly vulnerable to climate shocks, and our research shows that could have far-ranging impact – on everything from child stunting and malaria to food price increases and droughts,” the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, said in a statement released here.

“This plan identifies concrete steps that African governments can take to ensure that their countries will not lose hard-won gains in economic growth and poverty reduction, and they can offer some protection from climate change.”

Asked for her response, Doreen Stabinsky, Zennström visiting professor of climate change leadership at Uppsala University in Sweden, told IPS the costs of addressing climate change impacts on Africa are already huge and must be added to the current finance priorities of African countries of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

“Indeed these sums estimated by the World Bank are first needed just to protect the development gains of the past few decades and really emphasize the injustice of the climate crisis for developing countries: at a time when their own resources and foreign assistance should be invested in development, they must spend scarce funds on adapting to a problem they did not cause, and suffering losses and damages from impacts they cannot adapt to.”

She said the estimates also show the gross inadequacy of climate finance on the table.

The Global Climate Fund (GCF), she pointed out, has a meager 10 billion dollars pledged in its first tranche — to cover both mitigation and adaptation efforts across the entire developing world — and only half of that sum has yet been delivered.

If adaptation costs for Africa alone are currently 5-10 billion dollars per year, support from those responsible for climate change — developed countries — has to be scaled up significantly.

“Whether or not this scale of resources is pledged in Paris should be a significant determining factor of success at COP21”, said Stabinsky, who was also Professor of Global Environmental Politics at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Of the 16.1 billion dollars the ambitious plan proposes for fast-tracking climate adaptation, some 5.7 billion dollars are expected from the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank Group that supports the poorest countries.

About 2.2 billion dollars are expected from various climate finance instruments, 2.0 billion from others in the development community, 3.5 billion from the private sector, and 0.7 billion from domestic sources, with an additional 2.0 billion needed to deliver on the plan, according to the World Bank Group and UNEP.

“The Africa Climate Business Plan spells out a clear path to invest in the continent’s urgent climate needs and to fast-track the required climate finance to ensure millions of people are protected from sliding into extreme poverty,” says Makhtar Diop, World Bank Group Vice President for Africa.

“While adapting to climate change and mobilizing the necessary resources remain an enormous challenge, the plan represents a critical opportunity to support a priority set of climate-resilient initiatives in Africa,” he noted.

Stabinsky told IPS the World Bank announcement, unfortunately, fails to lay out what proportion of this money will come from grants and from loans.

Adapting to climate change is an additional burden being placed on developing countries — it’s not a business proposition where profits can be earned. Loans are not appropriate for adaptation finance, she added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Hunger Heralds Climate Change’s Arrival in Botswana Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:23 +0000 Baboki Kayawe Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe

A perfect storm of lower rainfall and a growing population beckons for Botswana. But others find climate change is already in the fields and paddocks. “As climate change ushers in more stress on the water sector, it is increasingly a concern that losses in rangeland productivity will result in food insecurity, especially in rural areas,” a country analysis report unveiled recently on Botswana states.

Far from the airy conference rooms where such reports are typically shared, are thousands of subsistence farmers – growing crops mainly to feed their families – for whom these words come to life in the fields and the paddocks of Botswana every harvest season.

For these farmers, the national ideals of poverty eradication and sustainable development are slipping ever further out of reach. Bathalefhi Seoroka, 65, is a subsistence farmer in Boteti, one of Botswana’s drier areas located in the central region. She mostly grows maize, sorghum, beans and melons on her six-hectare field.

Seoroka has noticed her crops have been failing because of declining rainfall since 2010. “Weather patterns have drastically changed,” she says. “I don’t know how we will be able to survive under such dry conditions.”

Another farmer, Kgasane Tsele accuses the government of responding too slowly to the 2014-2015 drought, which was declared early in June. “This is really scary for us as farmers and we eagerly wait to see how government will respond,” he says. “By now government should have announced how it is going to help farmers in alleviating the impact of this drought. The response team must always be on alert and respond early.”

The Department of Meteorological Services predicts the southeastern part of Botswana – which is already suffering from drought and water shortages – is poised to experience its driest season in 34 years.

To cope with food shortage risks, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) ordered 1,000 tons of yellow maize from South Africa, and an additional 10,000 tons of white maize is due to arrive soon.

BAMB spokesperson, Kushata Modiakgotla says strategic grain reserves currently stand at 30,000 tons of sorghum and 3,000 tons of cowpeas left, but there is no maize. “BAMB has started the process of buying 5,000 tons of white maize from Zambia and it is exploring other avenues to import an additional 5,000 tons if necessary,” she states.

Imports from both nations would help meet supply as local reserves are under threat, while yellow maize is used to produce animal feed. The government insists consumers are not in any danger of going hungry as more than 90 percent of the maize consumed in Botswana is sourced by local millers from South Africa. But despite the supply contracts, consumers will have to pay more for maize meal the longer drought persists.

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) chief executive Akolang Tombale says climate risks also present challenges to beef production and exports. “We are just emerging from a very dry season and if another drought is forecast it is a problematic state as production will be reduced,” he explains. Grasslands and pasture are an important resource for Batswana who derive most of their livelihood from livestock.

The majority of the BMC’s throughput starts at natural pastures, before being prepared with feedstock. Tombale is holding out hope for showers to replenish pastures around the country, but he acknowledges this may not be a long-term solution.

BMC has been receiving higher rates of deliveries than usual this year, since the Ministry of Agriculture advised farmers to destock as means of cutting their losses. However, this is a short-lived gain because if the situation persists in the next raining cycle, beef revenues would be badly affected. The BMC is now urging farmers to change their approach from quantity to quality-based cattle production.

President Ian Khama recently urged farmers to adopt more innovative approaches to their work in order to cope with the impacts of climate change. Speaking at the 2015 National Agricultural Show ‘Practicing Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effect of Climate Change’, he pointed to Israel, where farmers have harnessed new technologies in order to maintain production in highly water stressed environments.

“This ravaging drought we are currently experiencing is an opportunity to be innovative and resort to new methods and technologies to produce under such conditions. It is for this reason that farming methods such as conservation agriculture are promoted,” he said.

Recommendations include using improved crop varieties that are drought tolerant and high yielding, investing in breeds that can withstand the current climate, as well as adoption of proper crop husbandry practices though agricultural infrastructure. Lare Sisay, United Nations Development Programme’s deputy resident representative, predicts water shortages will lead to an increase in undesirable types of grass species.

“This has a far-reaching impact on social and economic sectors, and this has not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections,” he says. He predicts this could derail Botswana’s efforts to break through its middle-income country status.

Parliamentarians – many of whose constituents are rural and peri-urban populations involved in communal farming – are expected to tackle the climate change policy, once it appears in the National Assembly. The policy is due in the November sitting and already momentum is gathering from activists to ensure robust debate and urgent approval.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jessica Shankleman from @BusinessGreen.

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Sinking into Paradise: Climate Change Worsening Coastal Erosion in Trinidad Mon, 23 Nov 2015 23:47:45 +0000 Rajiv Coastal damages in the aftermath of the floods. Credit: Rajiv Jalim

Coastal damages in the aftermath of the floods. Credit: Rajiv Jalim

By Rajiv Jalim
PORT-of-SPAIN, TRINIDAD, Nov 23 2015 (IPS)

As unusually heavy rainfall battered Trinidad’s east coast a year ago, a lagoon here was overwhelmed, flooding a major access road to the island’s south-eastern communities. As the flood waters poured over Manzanilla beach, they washed sand away, caved in sections of road and collapsed a seawall at a tourist beach facility. Further damages were also incurred with the flooding of homes and agricultural plots.

The coastline of Trinidad is under threat as seas rise, storms grow heavier, and as sand is washed away. As iconic coconut trees are lapped by an encroaching sea, some of the dangers of climate change are becoming clear.

Seas in the region have been rising by more than 2 millimeters every year — though scientists are still trying to pinpoint the role of climate change in accelerating local beach erosion.

“On Manzanilla beach the sea is definitely getting closer to the land, but the primary reason may not be land deformation or sea level rise,” said Keith Miller, a senior lecturer and researcher at the University of West Indies.

“The Atlantic swell causes longshore drift and beach sediments move southward,” Miller said. “Research has been done to suggest that the sediment source has dried up to some extent, so material is being moved along the beach, but there is less material available to replace it.”

In addition to the problems on the east coast, Trinidad’s south-western peninsula is experiencing rapid erosion. Despite being sheltered from the open ocean, satellite images have shown large portions of it being lost to the Gulf of Paria.

According to the World Bank publication Turn Down the Heat, Earth is locked into at least a 1.5°C rise in temperature compared with pre-industrial times. Rising seas caused by rising temperatures, coupled with projected increases in the intensity and frequency of storms and hurricanes, which also affect wave energy, are expected to accelerate coastal erosion. Such effects are of grave concern for small island developing states (SIDS).

With Trinidad’s east coast sustaining several developing communities, through income from tourism, agriculture and fishing, management of the coastline — which is also a nesting site for endangered leatherback turtles — is of utmost importance.

Subsequent to reports of the extensive damage at Manzanilla, emergency services responded through a coordinated effort between government agencies and ministries to bring relief to those affected.

Disaster management and response units, including the local Risk Reduction Management Centre, assisted residents by providing basic supplies to flood victims, while personnel from the University of the West Indies conducted site visits to assess the damage and collect data. The Ministry of Works was involved in trying to reconnect the main access route to the south-eastern community.

At an estimated cost of $US5.8 million, the rehabilitation work combined the expertise of academics and researchers with coastal management organizations and engineering firms, both local and international.

One year later, key learnings are still being generated from data collected after the event. It is from these analyses that gaps in the coastal management plans and developmental strategies for the east coast can be identified.

Perhaps the most significant gap has been the lack of sufficient hydrological and maritime data for the island, which could be used to develop models and improve the predictive power for rare disasters.

Extraordinary events such as the Manzanilla flood occur infrequently, but they can cause significant and expensive damage when they do occur. Predicting and preparing for such events based on scientific knowledge can reduce not only their impacts, but also the recovery time.

Looking beyond Trinidad to the wider Caribbean region, and to other islands across the world, coastal erosion linked to climate change can be extremely dangerous.

Experts say long-term strategies should go beyond revetment and seawall repairs, and consider policy support, planning strategies and contingency mapping. Additionally, there is a need for increased public-private partnerships across the globe, where resources, creativity, expertise and innovation can be expanded and exchanged to deal with coastal management in a sustainable manner.

“I’m more on the side of investing in state-of-the-art, long-term monitoring and innovative research,” said Christopher Daly, lecturer in the Civil & Environmental Engineering department of the University of the West Indies.

“There is no real profit to be made from this so it’s difficult to get private investment,” Daly said. “This has to be funded through a national or regional science board that has the long-term interest of society at heart. It also has to have full government support but be independent of political influence.”

Developed countries have pledged to begin providing $100 billion a year through the United Nations to help developing countries slow and adapt to climate change by 2020. During climate negotiations in Paris later this year, developing countries will ask wealthier ones to produce a roadmap for raising and providing those funds.

SIDS have also been calling during the United Nations climate negotiations for a “loss-and-damage mechanism,” which could help poorer countries cope with flooding and other impacts of climate change. The concept was first proposed more than two decades ago, but the wealthier countries that would be expected to provide the funding have opposed it.

In the meantime, the hastily built seawall, boardwalk and main road on the Manzanilla beach will again have to stand the test of the Atlantic and the effects of climate change. Only time will tell if feats of engineering can withstand the changing environment, or if the island of Trinidad will be left to slowly erode into rising seas.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to John Upton and @ClimateCentral.

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Against the Odds, Caribbean Doubles Down for 1.5 Degree Deal in Paris Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:57:02 +0000 Zadie Neufville 0 Asia Wants Paris Climate Talks to Tackle Historic Emissions and Make Some Real Change Sun, 22 Nov 2015 15:14:05 +0000 Amantha Perera 0 Private Nature Reserves in Latin America Seek a Bigger Role Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:27:09 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
PUNTA LEONA, Costa Rica , Nov 20 2015 (IPS)

Private voluntary nature reserves in Latin America should be seen as allies in policies on the environment, climate change mitigation and the preservation of biological diversity in rainforests, say experts.

“Private reserves in Latin America are not included in conservation policies; they should be integrated in our national strategies,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, vice-president of conservation policies in Conservation International (CI) in Costa Rica.

Rodríguez, a former Costa Rican minister of environment, energy and mines (2002–2006), was addressing 150 environmentalists, promoters of voluntary conservation agreements, and ecotourism business owners, during the 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves, held Nov. 9-13 in the Punta Leona private nature reserve and tourism destination.

In his view, the private sector should play a more central role and governments and the owners of private nature reserves should work together to achieve compliance with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.

During the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, 193 United Nations members established 20 targets to fight the loss of biodiversity, with a 2020 deadline.

“We are losing our natural capital due to climate change and the big gap between private and public conservation,” said Rodríguez. “The owners of private reserves should become political actors, to help meet the Aichi Targets.”

The global cost of financing efforts towards the targets is estimated at 150 to 440 billion dollars a year, according to figures from the Convention itself. But currently, CI says, the world is only channeling 45 billion dollars towards that end.

Rodríguez says private conservation efforts could help mitigate the shortfall in funds.

With that aim, the Latin American Alliance of Private Reserves was formally created Nov. 6 – the first of its kind in the world. It groups 4,345 private reserves in 15 countries, with a combined total of 5,648,000 hectares of green areas.

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

“The idea is to form a conservation chain,” Martin Keller of Guatemala, the president of the new alliance, told IPS. “Private areas can form a chain with national parks and expand national conservation systems. They are also a mechanism to absorb drastic climate changes.”

He argues that there should be no borders for private reserves in the region. “We are joining together in something magnificent, and formalising associations with international institutions so that they include us in environmental projects,” he said.

During the congress in Costa Rica, a pilot programme to encourage the sale of carbon credits was announced, with the donation of 200 hectares of land by a member of the Alliance. The programme will have an estimated 3,600 tonnes of carbon.

Keller hopes Latin America will begin to sell carbon as a bloc, starting in 2017.

“We have dreams and a passion for conserving nature,” the president of the Costa Rican Network of Nature Reserves, Rafael Gallo, who is donating the 200 hectares for the pilot plan, told IPS. “We want the sale of carbon to be a mechanism for private conservation at a global level.”

Gallo has an 800-hectare property on the Banks of the Pacuare River along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Of that total, 700 hectares are a forest reserve. It is located in Siquirres, 85 km east of San José, near the Barbilla National Park, which forms part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve.

“The market is still just getting off the ground, a ton of carbon is worth three dollars,” said Gallo, who believes the mechanism will become viable when the price of a ton reaches 10 dollars.

The countries in the Alliance are Argentina, Belize, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Uruguay and Venezuela also have private reserves, but they have not yet set up local networks – a necessary step before they can join.

Keller said he hopes the initiative will expand to the entire hemisphere, including the Caribbean island nations, Canada and the United States.

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves would like to benefit from multilateral institution programmes, and with that in mind they have made contact with U.N. partners involved in one way or another with conservation issues, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

“We want to be a regional bloc, we want to be heard at an international level, and we want incentives for property owners to continue joining forces to support conservation – because we would have a massive impact as a bloc,” Claudia García de Bonilla, executive director of the Association of Private Natural Reserves of Guatemala, told IPS.

Voluntary conservation areas are set up by ecotourism businesses, academic institutions, research bodies, or organic agricultural producers, and their advocates see them as green shields against climate extremes and the loss of biodiversity.

“Forests are a sponge, absorbing storms and hurricanes. We have to keep expanding our ecological corridors,” Bonilla said.

The representative of private green areas in Chile, Mauricio Moreno, underscored benefits that nature reserves belonging to individuals or private bodies can offer a global vision of conservation.

“These areas are refuges protected with a great deal of goodwill and effort,” he told IPS. “They complement the public networks. There are reserves that border natural parks and thus create much bigger areas that make it possible to conserve species of animals. With a public and private effort, integral conservation is possible.”

According to Ariane Claussen, an engineer in renewable natural resources at the University of Chile, the budget assigned to public protected areas in the region is insufficient, which makes it difficult for countries to have the capacity to act on their own in the preservation of biodiversity.

“Rather than seeing private reserves as independent, they should be seen in an integrated manner,” she told IPS. “If these people didn’t decide to practice conservation, they would be using that land in different ways, for unsustainable monoculture or stockbreeding.”

She said “the property owners dedicate a small portion of this land to (economic) development like tourism, because they need an income.”

Claussen, along with another Chilean colleague, Tomás González, stressed the Latin American initiative Huella, aimed at voluntary cooperation in technical planning for conservation, environmental education and ecological activism in the region.

Private reserves cover gaps left by the state, she said. “The idea is that they take part in conservation as buffer zones and link up the ecosystems of public protected areas that are isolated and fragmented,” she explained.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Challenge of Climate Change: an Indian perspective Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:58:41 +0000 Arnab Jyoti Das By Arnab Jyoti Das
NEW DELHI, INDIA, Nov 19 2015 (IPS)

Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population (of over 1.2 billion) that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database, revealed that thirteen of top 20 dirtiest cities were Indian. Delhi topped the list followed by Patna, Gwalior and Raipur.

Realizing the problem, the government formulated a policy for abatement of pollution providing multi-pronged strategies in the form of regulations, legislations, agreements, fiscal incentives etc. Over time, the thrust has shifted from curative to preventive measures through adoption of clean technology, reuse and recycling, natural resource accounting, environmental audit to bring about sustainable development.

A recent example is the Rs 2,315 crore Hubli-Ankola railway line cutting across the Western Ghats in Karnataka which has been shown a red signal by the Supreme Court of India’s panel on forest and wildlife, which said that the project’s “huge and irreparable” ecological impact would “far outweigh” its actual tangible benefits.

Mobile enforcement teams have also been deployed on regular basis at various locations for prosecution of polluting vehicles and not having Pollution under control (PUC) certificates. The broad policy framework on environment and climate change has been laid down by the National Environment Policy (NEP) 2006, which promotes sustainable development along with respect for ecological constraints and the imperatives of social justice.

The country has a definite plan of action for clean energy, energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, steps to achieve lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, a major thrust to non-fossil based electricity generation and a building sector based on energy conservation.

Wind energy has been the predominant contributor to the renewable energy growth in India accounting for 23.76 GW (65.2%) of the renewable installed capacity, making India the 5th largest wind power producer in the world.

Solar power is poised to grow significantly with solar mission as a major initiative of the Government of India.

Solar power installed capacity has increased from only 3.7 MW in 2005 to about 4060 MW in 2015, with a CAGR of more than 100% over the decade. The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance the capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which is expected to be scaled up further thereafter.

India’s investment in climate change appears to be ramping up domestically as well. People are very particular in buying any vehicle or electrical equipment, they look for fuel economy and power savings guide certified by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The best way forward is by making investments in leapfrog technologies such as ‘100% renewable energy’.

Dharnai in Bihar (India), is a shining example. The village faces extreme poverty, and high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has transformed in the 10 months since an affordable solar grid arrived, the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar energy. Battery backup ensures power is available around the clock and solar water pumps has improved the access of farmers to fresh water resources.

The story of Dharnai ‘solar-powered micro-grid’ could be an exemplary model for bringing clean energy to all and combat climate change. People argue that renewable sources of power are not financially viable, especially for developing economies but they need to realize that any prototype of any model is always the most expensive to build.

It is through constant improvement that we reach an optimized process; this is a cornerstone upon which industry has been built and it is through this principle that I believe we can make our transition to a new era in sustainable development.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Urmi Goswami and @timesofindia.

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UN Advisory Board Seeks Powerful New Global Arena for Water and Sanitation Wed, 18 Nov 2015 23:00:46 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

A 21-member UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), which has just completed its 11-year mandate, is calling for a complete overhaul of how the United Nations and the international community deals with two unresolved socio-economic issues on the post-2015 development agenda: scarcity of water and inadequate sanitation.

The supreme importance of water and sanitation to development and well-being merits creation of “a powerful new global arena inside the UN”, dedicated to resolving water conflicts and common challenges while tracking progress against the world’s newly-agreed development goals, says a report released Wednesday.

The far-reaching recommendations by UNSGAB include a new intergovernmental platform on water and sanitation, supported by strong, independent panels of world scientists, counsellors and monitors.

Created by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004 to advance water-related Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets, UNSGAB warns that today’s institutional infrastructure requires a major upgrade worldwide to possibly meet water and sanitation-related objectives in the 2030 Agenda — the new “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in September.

The 17 SDGs, which include ensuring clean water and sanitation, plus the eradication of poverty and hunger, are targeted to be achieved by 2030.

“There is currently a mismatch between the integrated and ambitious 2030 vision of freshwater and sanitation management and the international political structures available to contribute to its implementation,” says the report, presented Wednesday by UNSGAB Chair Uschi Eid to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The proposed body, if created, is expected to be the world’s pre-eminent sphere for reaching consensus on common water and sanitation concerns, and to assess progress.

It would closely involve the private sector and other major stakeholders, supported by both a secretariat (UN-Water, and a panel of independent experts mandated to amass authoritative information on water and sanitation issues and stimulate research to fill knowledge gaps.

Additionally, it would support international decision-making “in a balanced, fact-based, transparent and comprehensive way.”

A fact sheet released by UNSGAP points out that the business community ranks water crisis as the number one global risk, based on impact to society, while the projected global increase in water demand between 2000 and 2050 is around 55 percent.

The number of people currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge is over 1.7 billion.

People who still lack improved drinking water sources is estimated at one in 10 (663 million in total) while people without access to improved drinking water: 8 in 10 living in rural areas.

The number of people without such access is increasing in urban areas and in sub-Saharan Africa, and the number of people who use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated is at least 1.8 billion.

Still, the world has missed the MDG target for basic sanitation by almost 700 million people.

People who still lack improved sanitation facilities number one in 3 (2.4 billion in total) and people who practice open defecation: one in 8 (946 million in total)

The estimated loss in developing countries from lack of access to improved water sources and basic sanitation: 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) while priority given to public water expenditures varies widely between countries: from less than 0.5 percent to more than 2.0 percent of GDP.

The statistics have been sourced to several international organisations and UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

Addressing the special thematic session on water and disasters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday water is the source of life, health and livelihoods across the world.

The provision of safe drinking water, he pointed out, is one of the basic responsibilities of national and local governments. Water drives the decisions of businesses and, in many places, determines the rhythm of daily life.

Too little water at the time when it is needed most can mean drought and food insecurity. And too much water – in the form of floods, storms or waves – can devastate entire cities, rich or poor, Ban said.

Contaminated water, whether from human or industrial sources, is claiming the lives of children and affecting the health of communities worldwide, with far-reaching consequences, he warned.

Currently, floods, droughts and windstorms account for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most disastrous events since 1990.

“They have caused more than 1.0 trillion dollars in damages and affected more than 4 billion people. The poor and most vulnerable have suffered first and worst,” Ban added.

UNSGAB’s recommendations include:

— A push for increased and improved financial flows, with increased priority to the water and sanitation services sector, as well as water resources management, in national budgets.

— More emphasis to the reality that water scarcity, water pollution and deterioration of water-related ecosystems pose a threat to global sustainable development.

— Develop national wastewater policies and master plans, including cost estimates, timeframes, and sustainable financing plans, to ensure that capital investment plans are matched by external and internal funding sources.

— Water-related disasters must be addressed as part of development planning, including required social protection.

The writer can be contacted at

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Jamaica’s Aging Water Systems Falter Under Intense Heat and Drought Wed, 18 Nov 2015 11:12:37 +0000 Zadie Neufville 0 When the Rains Came in Dokolo and Karamoja Tue, 17 Nov 2015 23:41:13 +0000 Christina Okello By Christina Okello
DOKOLO, UGANDA, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Households in Northern Uganda are recovering from a prolonged dry spell which has devastated harvests and led to food shortages. Long-awaited rains are expected to replenish pastures, and communities are being encouraged to plant short-term crops. But those that can, fear losing their produce again, when the rains stop.

When the rains came, residents in Dokolo, northern Uganda were milling about in the city’s bustling centre. Drenched sellers were scrambling to pack their goods, whilst mothers strapped children to their backs and scurried to get them to shelter.

Charles Ochero was held up in rush hour traffic. The farmer’s wheels kept sinking into potholes on the red sandy road, the colour of flower pots. Sheets of rain pounded his car bonnet like a freight train. The intensity, was unexpected.

“The rains weren’t meant to come now,” the farmer gestured to the above downpour. “This is meant to be the dry season.”

Unpredictable rainfall in northern Uganda has unhinged agricultural calendars. “The whole harvest cycle has been turned upside down,” he continued in his calm baritone.

A few weeks ago, severe drought caused Charles’s premature maize crops to shrivel up. Now his beans are flooding. “There is a type of bean which is planted only when it’s dry. Now there’s too much rain, so even those beans have gone to waste. It’s a big problem,” he says.

Further east, in Karamoja, the moist air tumbles down in globules of quicksilver. Withered trees and shrubs from the prolonged dry spell lap up the long-awaited rains and swallow hard.

“The harvests have failed, but the rains have come…” rejoices Sean Granville Ross, country director of the NGO Mercy Corps. “There were concerns about the condition of livestock and the conditions of the grange lands, but now it’s raining, so all the livestock will be fine.” Ross eyes new opportunities in the greening countryside: “Now it’s a case of understanding how you enable those whose harvests have failed to get through the lean season.”

dokolo1The food crisis in Karamoja had left 640,000 thousand people in desperate need of food aid in 31 out of 52 sub-counties. “People cultivated their lands but when it was time for harvesting, their crops never came,” reveals Israel Lawam, a community development officer for Moroto district, one of the worst affected areas. “The sun scorched them beyond redemption.”

At least seventeen people starved to death in September, according to official statistics. The government has since been channelling portions of cornflour and beans to stricken areas. “Too little too late,” according to Joseph Kinei, sub-county chief of Napak district. One of his family members died of hunger. “People have been pouring out in numbers to receive handouts, but many have gone back empty-handed.”

Meanwhile the rain continues to fall in this semi-arid region. The drops run down rows of maize on steep hills before draining into a nearby stream or river. With it goes the topsoil and vital nutrients contributing to silt. The farming technique of the Karamojong people, which consists in leaving fields bare, is increasingly under scrutiny.

“You’ll find communities trying to plant rice in wetlands,” decries Musa Francis Ecweru, Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness. “They clear away natural vegetation to plough farmland, which is destroying the environment.”

Compounded by cattle grazing, the main livelihood of the Karamojong, “they’re putting a strain on land resources,” he argues. A police officer was reported to have been swept away by floods in Moroto, after its river banks burst, likely because of silt.

“Communities need to change their agricultural practices,” insists Peter Odama, CEO of Uganda’s World Action Fund in Kampala. He says he often sees women and girls from Karamoja begging in the Capital because of food insecurity.

The government is encouraging households to take advantage of the enhanced rain fall to plant quick-maturing crops like vegetables. The World Food Programme points out most people have eaten those seeds due to the prolonged food shortage.

Karamoja’s food insecurity has led to other ironically self-defeating practices, like cutting down trees to sell as charcoal. Israel Lawam points out that many Karamojong people are cutting wood for commercial purposes, to be able to afford something as little as a cup of rice.

“This needs to be stopped and reversed,” argues Minister Ecweru, a vocal advocate of tree replanting. “Deserts are returning to Uganda”, he warns, and tarnishing what many describe as the Pearl of Africa. His critics however accuse the government of posturing in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections.

Figure 3: Traders sell charcoal in Kasubi market, in Kampala Capital. /Christina Okello

Figure 3: Traders sell charcoal in Kasubi market, in Kampala Capital. /Christina Okello

Back in Mercy Corps’ compound in Moroto, humanitarian coordinators welcome locals for training on resilience to climate change. One way is by limiting soil erosion.

Anna sprinkles water onto her small plot of greens. Her kitchen garden uses inputs such as straw to boost soil fertility and trap moisture. “Locals become less dependent on climatic shocks”, country director Sean Granville Ross explains. “Mulching [covering with straw] is something new to my life,” Anna says. “From the teachings I got, I was able to put up my own kitchen garden of vegetables and I intend to plant different varieties like okra and onions.”

Enhancing the Karamojong’s agricultural techniques, but also connecting farmers to markets, is the aim of Mercy Corps. That way, “they can trade livestock directly when there’s a new shock,” Ross adds.

Charles in Dokolo, yearns for such access to markets. Back in his farmhouse, he tends to a flock of chickens that he’s bought to supplement his crop farming. But food prices have gone up so much, he can’t afford chicken feed. “There are too many middlemen who bump up maize food prices,” he complains.

“I’d invested about 5 million shillings in the crops – that failed – I invested 15 million in the chickens – right now I have over 2,000, but feeding them is expensive.” The same concerns about livestock as the Karamojong.

Outside, the pitter patter of rain dances back and forth on his tin roof like a yoyo. The weather itself yoyos from sweltering heat and drought to incessant rains, in an anxious waltz. Uganda’s meteorological department predicts that the intense rains — linked to El Niño storms from the Pacific Ocean– could last up until February.

“The government wants us to plant now,” Charles says anxiously, “but what if the rains stop midway and the crops haven’t matured in time? We’ll be in a big mess,” confides the 71-year- old former prison guard, accustomed to strict timetables.

“If these rains continue up until February, then the planting season will also be disturbed because February is normally when the first season starts in this area,” he states.

If his crops fail, it will mean taking out a new loan from the bank “who want nothing more to hear about agriculture.” Charles shrugs and sighs heavily. “The weather changes are destroying everything. We’re just left at the mercy of God.”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jonathan Groubert, @RNW

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Civil Society May be Snagged at Paris Climate Talks Tue, 17 Nov 2015 22:33:00 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The rising security concerns, following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, are threatening to unsettle civil society participation in the upcoming landmark international conference on climate change in the French capital.

As a result of tight security, there is a strong possibility that a proposed Global March and several other demonstrations by civil society groups may either be curtailed, immobilized or banned altogether, according to several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Conference of Parties (COP-21), which is expected to be attended by nearly a hundred world leaders on opening day, is scheduled to take place November 30-December 11, with the adoption of a historic climate change treaty.

Over the last few years, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has continued to underline the importance of the conference in thwarting the impact of climate change worldwide – and specifically on developing countries.

Asked for his comments on the possible restrictions, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “We hope for as much coverage and as much participation by civil society at the COP-21 events in Paris as is possible”.

Of course, he cautioned, “we are well aware of security concerns in France at this difficult time and we trust that security considerations can be handled in such a way that there will still be significant access to conference.”

Journalists who had applied for accreditation also fear there may be restrictions –due both to reasons of space and security, according to sources in Paris.

Basically, the conference site holds about 20,000 people in all – half from governments, half from the UN, NGOs and the press.

So there can’t be much more than 3,000 slots for journalists, given the amount of space available.

Jean-François Julliard, executive director of Greenpeace, France, told IPS Tuesday: “We’re still waiting for the French authorities to tell us if they think the march in Paris, and other mobilization moments around the climate talks, can be made safe and secure. Huge numbers are predicted for the Paris gathering.”

“We at Greenpeace want it to happen,” he said.

“But whatever is decided, in hundreds of towns and cities across the world, people will march for the climate, for Paris and for our shared humanity. It is a vision of human cooperation that the murderers sought to destroy on Friday night. Most certainly, they must fail,” Julliard said.

March or no march, in Paris thousands of people will use their collective imagination to project their voices into the UN climate talks, he added.

“And when they do, those voices will ring loud in the ears of the politicians inside that conference center. We will be heard by those in Paris and beyond who have it within their power to call time on the fossil fuel era,” Julliard declared.

At a press conference Monday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was asked about reports that over 1,000 journalists, including UN correspondents, may be shut out of the climate talks.

“Does that concern the Secretary General, that a possibly historic landmark occasion like this, thousands of journalists, including UN correspondents from this building, are being denied access to that conference?”

Dujarric said: “Obviously, we do want journalists there. I will check with our colleagues at UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], who are managing the inscriptions for journalists, and I will get back to you.”

In a statement released Monday, ActionAid International said the Coalition CLIMAT 21 and all the organizations that are part of it express its solidarity with the victims of the 12 November in Beirut and those of 13 November in Paris, as well as their families and loved ones.

‘’The world we have always defended is not the one we saw on that night. The world that we defend is one of peace, justice, the fight against inequality and climate change.’’

‘’Our struggle for climate justice will not stop. We have a duty to stand up and continue to fight for a just and livable planet for all. We will continue to mobilize to build a world free of wars, and atrocities, and the ravages of the climate crisis. We will continue to bring solutions and alternatives to fight against climate change.’’

While taking into account the exceptional circumstances, CLIMAT 21 said, ‘’we believe that COP21 cannot take place without the participation or without the mobilizations of civil society in France. Thus, we will implement all our efforts to hold all the mobilizations currently planned. In consultation with the authorities, we will continue to ensure the security of all participants is guaranteed.’’

It is important to remember that this mobilization will be the global: hundreds of thousands of people will mobilize during the two weeks of negotiations of the COP21 and representatives from countries the world over will be present in Paris, the statement said.

‘’The whole world is concerned and we will not ignore these issues,’’ CLIMAT 21 declared.

Meanwhile, in a statement ahead of the climate talks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year – from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of air quality, food and water supplies, and sanitation.

‘’The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in Paris offers the world an important opportunity to not only reach a strong international climate agreement, but also to protect the health of current and future generations. WHO considers the Paris treaty to be a significant public health treaty – one that has the potential to save lives worldwide.’’

In 2012, WHO estimated 7 million people died from air pollution-related diseases, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is predicted that climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths per year from malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and under-nutrition between 2030 and 2050. Children, women and the poor in lower income countries will be the most vulnerable and most affected, widening health gaps.

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: Risks? What Risks? Tue, 17 Nov 2015 16:30:37 +0000 Hazel Henderson

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

By Hazel Henderson
MIAMI, Florida, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

We humans are acutely aware of risks. From our earliest times, the risks we faced were from hunger, predatory animals, extreme environmental conditions and, as our numbers grew, from other human tribes.

Hazel Henderson Credit:

Hazel Henderson

Fast forward to our growing mastery of nature, technological prowess and the Industrial Revolution. The risks humans faced changed beyond those always present in extreme environmental conditions. The technologies we developed against such risks – advancing our energy, shelter, food and health systems – also created new risks, often unforeseen for decades. Conflicts with other humans grew as the human family colonized every part of our planet, stressing ecosystems and driving other species to extinction.

Today, in the 21st century, new risks dominate our political and social issues from terrorism, barbarous attacks on civilians as in Paris, nuclear meltdowns and weapons, financial crises, desertification and famines, disappearing glaciers in the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica, water shortages, polluted air, rising sea levels, new pandemics and drug-resistant diseases.

Yet views about these risks and priorities in addressing them are all over the map. This disparity is largely due to different views on how these new risks arose, who is to blame (since they are mostly humanly self-inflicted). This underlying debate about causes of today’s risks still hampers agreement on how to address let alone solve them or mitigate their effects.

Take the view of risk prevalent in the global financial system and its millions of traders in London, Wall Street, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Shanghai. They focus on risks to corporate earnings and profitability, interest rate risk, weak GDP growth, volatile gasoline prices, grassroots opposition, government regulation, political demands for rising wages, democratic demands to reduce inequality.

I attended a conference on “Playing for the Long-term” in New York, November, 3, 2015, hosted by the New York Times convening some 500 Wall Streeters. Their views focused on these risks, as well as those disrupting finance posed by the incursions of Silicon Valley startups threatening to bypass Wall Street: crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, cellphone banking, social media and electronic startups based on Internet platforms. Risks from cyber attacks also focused much attention. Risks from the wider world received little attention – even those now impinging on coal and oil stocks from activists divesting from fossil fuels. I asked Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman if he agreed with Bank of England head Mark Carney that many fossil fuel reserves could never be lifted or burned without further damage to the global climate and that these assets would be devalued. Mr. Gorman allowed that climate change was a problem, but that it was “not our business.”

Climate risk was hardly raised until one of the last speakers, former US Vice President Al Gore, explained how his London-based investment firm Generation Investment Management had produced healthy financial returns on $10 billion dollars of client assets by investing beyond fossil fuels in the more efficient, knowledge-rich technologies of renewable energy companies and the growing next economy: the Solar Age. Unfortunately for the rest of us, financial players like economists see risk in terms of money – forgetting that currencies are simply units of account which track and keep score of human transactions and interactions with nature’s resources.

So it still seems a question of “What risks?” – where and how they arise. How can we come together to share responsibility for our common future on this planet, powered daily by free energy from the Sun? As the beleaguered beautiful city of Paris prepares to host the UN Climate Summit from November 30 to December 11, 2015, even the world’s scientists of the Convention on Climate Change find their assessments of climate risk challenged not only by those denying that humans caused it, but that their models under-estimated these risks.

A UNEP Emissions Gap Report assessed the 119 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) October 2015, covering 88 per cent of global GHG emissions in 2012. This indicates these efforts could cut up to 11 gigatons of CO2 equivalents from projected emissions by 2030. But, this is only half of the total required if there is a chance of staying below the target of below 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that these INDC levels are an increase in ambition levels but not sufficient to reach this 2C target.

Several scientists warn that sea level rises are now inevitable due to long feedback processes measured by Earth-observing satellites. These risks focus on melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, reported by scientists James Hanson, Erick Riguot, Richard Alley, Andrea Dutton, John Englander and others. David Wasdell, director of the London-based Meridian Programme, critiques the official IPCC report’s Summary for Policy Makers for downplaying the risks for political and economic expediency. Wasdell’s Climate Dynamics: Facing the Harsh Realities of Now (September 2015) concludes that human greenhouse gases already emitted, moving heat through Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, have already exceeded the 2C target and notional “available carbon budget.” Wasdell’s report concludes that any notional carbon budget allowing further emissions has already collapsed and we face a carbon debt instead.

Are these new climate risks insurmountable? Most experts say that there is time, but it is fast running out.

The good news is that more decision-makers and citizens in all sectors have ended their focus on fossil fuels and now recognize that our planet has always been amply powered by the Sun’s daily shower of free photons. Atmospheric CO2 can be returned to soils, deserts can be greened and ecosystems regenerated as finance is redirected by the 2° Investing Initiative. We humans have all the technology we need to scale up the next economy of efficient renewable resource technologies, as we track in our Green Transition Scoreboard® currently showing 6.22 trillion dollars of private investments in these Solar Age companies and technologies.

Risks also offer opportunities, and stress is evolution’s tool. Breakdowns drive breakthroughs!


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Zimbabweans Align with Climate-Smart Agriculture Amid Food Deficits Tue, 17 Nov 2015 09:03:35 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo 0 Uruguay Puts High Priority on Renewable Energies Tue, 17 Nov 2015 00:10:46 +0000 Veronica Firme Since July 2014, Uruguay’s state power utility, UTE, has 30 100 percent electric vans. After the success of this initiative, it doubled that number in its fleet of vehicles, and incorporated two electric cars, in November 2015. Credit: Verónica Firme/IPS

Since July 2014, Uruguay’s state power utility, UTE, has 30 100 percent electric vans. After the success of this initiative, it doubled that number in its fleet of vehicles, and incorporated two electric cars, in November 2015. Credit: Verónica Firme/IPS

By Veronica Firme
MONTEVIDEO, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Uruguay is modifying its energy mix with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, by means of a strategy that bolsters non-conventional clean energy sources through public-private partnerships and new investment. A majority of this South American country’s energy already comes from renewable sources.

“By the end of 2014, this country’s energy mix was made up of 55 percent renewable sources, compared to a global average of just 12 percent,” said Ramón Méndez, the president of the National Climate Change Response System, during a meeting on renewable energy.

Furthermore, 94 percent of electric power comes from renewables, he said, in a country which is only responsible for 0.06 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.

The transformation of Uruguay’s energy mix began during the first term (2005-2010) of the current president, Tabaré Vázquez, although the country was not starting from zero in terms of renewable sources, Gonzalo Abal a physicist with the Solar Energy Laboratory of the University of the Republic of Uruguay, said in an interview with IPS.

Thanks to hydropower, a significant proportion of Uruguay’s energy already came from renewables. But hydroelectricity is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Traditionally, the country depended on four old hydroelectric dams, three of which were built on the Negro River between the 1930s and the 1970s. The fourth is on the Uruguay River, shared with neighbouring Argentina, and was built in the 1970s.

In addition, two ancient thermal plants powered by fuel oil have served as a back-up when the hydropower supply drops or collapses due to water shortages. The last time this happened was in 2004.

This Southern Cone country of 3.3 million people has fully exploited its large hydropower sources, and began to turn towards wind power and later biomass, the two clean energies around which the greatest progress has been made, according to data provided by the experts and documents consulted by IPS.

The transformation of the energy mix required a legal framework, which included authorisation for clients connected to the low voltage grid to generate electric power from renewable sources – wind, solar, biomass or mini-dams – with a potential of no more than 150 kilowatts.

Also approved were several initiatives like the 2005-2030 Energy Policy, or the 2015-2024 National Energy Efficiency Plan, adopted on Aug. 3.

The Energy Efficiency Plan is aimed at reducing energy consumption in all industries and sectors of the economy, but especially in residential areas and transportation, which will be responsible for 75 percent of the total accumulated reduction by 2024.

In addition, the Investment Promotion Law was modified to offer tax breaks so that at least five percent of the investment in any given project goes towards renewable energy, for the goal of cleaner production.

Uruguay has 16 medium-sized and large wind farms, like this one in the northern department of Tacuarembó. The country already has 670 MW in installed wind power capacity and a similar amount under construction, which means that 30 percent of demand for electric power will be covered by wind energy by late 2016. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

Uruguay has 16 medium-sized and large wind farms, like this one in the northern department of Tacuarembó. The country already has 670 MW in installed wind power capacity and a similar amount under construction, which means that 30 percent of demand for electric power will be covered by wind energy by late 2016. Credit: Ana Libisch/IPS

The state power utility, UTE, is responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity to the 1.2 million clients distributed throughout Uruguay’s 176,215 square kilometres of territory.

UTE has a monopoly over energy distribution but not generation, which the private sector is also involved in, which made it difficult to include power generation in the government’s energy strategy goals.

As of late 2014, Uruguay had a total installed capacity of 3,719 MW, including generators connected to the national power grid as well as stand-alone power systems, according to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.

The supply consisted of 1,696 MW of thermal energy (from fossil fuels and biomass), 1,538 MW of hydropower, 481 MW of wind power and four MW of solar power, says the National Energy Balance 2014 report.

Breaking down the installed power capacity by source, 66 percent came from renewable sources (hydroelectricity, biomass, wind and solar), while the remaining 34 percent came from non-renewable sources (gasoil, fuel oil and natural gas).

In the economy, there was a structural shift in the energy consumption mix since 2008, which has remained unchanged for the past seven years. Industry is the biggest consumer (39 percent), followed by transportation (29 percent), residential (19 percent), commerce and services (eight percent), and lastly agriculture, fishing and mining (five percent).

From 2007 to 2014, industry overcame transportation, which was pushed to second place, driving up biomass consumption. Pulp mills played a decisive role in that, because thanks to biomass they became 90 percent self-sufficient in energy, as part of the transformation that began in 2005.

In this country, “the important change came in regard to wind power – that is where changes became necessary and challenges were addressed,” Gerardo Honty, an expert with the Latin American Centre for Social Ecology, told IPS.

Wind energy is in full expansion, “and we are nearing one gigawatt (1,000 MW) of installed capacity,” said Abal.

With respect to solar energy, “we have a 50-watt plant already in operation – that’s 100 hectares of solar panels – and a second 50-MW plant has begun to be built, with investment from Europe,” said the academic.

“The rest of the plants, around 15, are smaller, between one and five MW, and are distributed throughout the north of the country,” Abal added.

Connecting with the neighbours

Uruguay is diversifying its energy sources, but it can also “expand the grid in geographic terms; if you interconnect with Argentina and southern Brazil, the probability of having an atmospheric event that leaves you without wind power in the entire area of the pampas is very low,” said the physicist.

The national power grid has interconnections with Argentina (2,000 MW) and with Brazil (70 MW, currently being expanded to 500 MW). The latter has been delayed because the two countries’ power grids operate on different frequencies, and conversion capacity must be added to overcome the problem.

In Uruguay, “the problem isn’t the electric power industry but combustion engines that cannot run on the renewable sources mentioned,” said Honty.

Transportation, especially public transit, poses the big future challenges.

The Montevideo city government is studying the possibility of purchasing autonomous electric vehicles for the sake of energy efficiency and because they do not emit greenhouse gases while at the same time they reduce noise pollution, economist Gonzalo Márquez with the department of mobility said in a forum on energy.

But no timetable has been outlined yet, he told IPS, because there are difficulties to work out like the cost and maintenance of the vehicles, the driving range of the batteries, and the subsidy for public transport, “a hidden cost that society assumes.”

Uruguay projects that when the transformation of its energy industry is complete, greenhouse gas emissions will be 20 to 40 times lower than the global average, said Méndez, the top official in the government’s climate change response office.

This country also aims to be carbon neutral by 2030. That means “our target for that year is for the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that we absorb to be greater than what our entire economy emits,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: China’s New South-South Funds – a Global Game Changer? Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:02:16 +0000 Martin Khor

Martin Khor is the executive director of the South Center, based in Geneva.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Nov 16 2015 (IPS)

South-South cooperation is usually seen as a poor second fiddle to North-South aid in the world of development assistance. Indeed, developing countries’ policy makers themselves insist that South-South cooperation can only supplement but not replace North-South cooperation.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

However, this widespread view received a jolt recently when China announced it was setting up two new funds totalling a massive 5.1 billion dollars to assist other developing countries.

The pledges, made by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United States in September , have given an immediate boost to the status of South-South cooperation in general, and to the rapidly growing global role of China.

President Xi first announced that China would set up a China South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to provide 3.1 billion dollars to help developing countries tackle climate change.

Secondly, speaking at the United Nations, Xi said that China would set up another fund with initial spending of 2 billion dollars for South-South Cooperation and to aid developing countries to implement the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The sheer size of the pledges gives a big political weight to the Chinese contribution. Xi’s initiatives have the feel of a “game changer” in international relations.

It is significant that Xi used the framework of South-South cooperation as the basis of the two funds.

In the international system, there have been two types of development cooperation: North-South and South-South cooperation.

North-South cooperation has been based on the obligation of developed countries to assist developing countries because the former have much more resources and have also benefitted from their former colonies.

Indeed, developed countries have committed to provide 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) as development assistance, a target that is regularly monitored and taken seriously but unfortunately is currently being met by only a handful of countries.

South-South cooperation on the other hand is based on solidarity and mutual benefit between developing countries as equals, and without obligations as there is no colonial history among them.

This is the position of the developing countries and their umbrella grouping, the G77 and China.

Xi himself described South-South cooperation as “a great pioneering measure uniting the developing nations together for self-improvement, is featured by equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit, win-win result, solidarity and mutual assistance and can help developing nations pave a new path for development and prosperity.”

In recent years, as Western countries reduced their commitment towards aid, they tried to blur the distinction and have been pressing big developing countries like China and India to also commit to provide development assistance just like they do, and preferably within the framework of the OECD, the rich countries’ club.

However, the developing countries have stuck to their political position: the developed countries have the responsibility to give adequate aid to poor countries and should not shift this on to other developing countries. The developing countries however will also help one another, through the arm of South-South cooperation.

This has increasingly led some developed countries to advocate, during negotiations at several UN meetings, that for them to continue with their aid commitment, some of the developing countries should also pay their share.

The traditional framework in international cooperation may now be changed by the two Chinese pledges, both interesting in themselves.

It is noted by many that the 3.1 billion dollar Chinese climate aid exceeds the 3 billion dollars that the US has pledged (but not yet delivered) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under the United Nations Climate Convention.

China has now taken that South-South route by announcing it will set up its own South-South climate fund, with the unexpectedly big size of 3.1 billion dollars, an amount larger than any developed country has pledged at the GCF.

With such a large amount, the Chinese climate fund has the potential to facilitate many significant programmes on climate mitigation, adaptation and institutional building.

As for the other fund announced by Xi, the initial 2 billion dollars is for South-South cooperation and for implementing the post-2015 development agenda just adopted by the United Nations. The agenda’s centrepiece is the sustainable development goals. Xi mentioned poverty reduction, agriculture, health and education as some of the areas the fund may cover.

This new fund has the potential of helping developing countries learn from one another’s development experiences and practices and make leaps in policy and action.

Xi also said an Academy of South-South Cooperation and Development will be established to facilitate studies and exchanges by developing countries on theories and practices of development suited to their respective national conditions.

The next steps to implement these pledges would be for China to set up the institutional basis for the funds, and design their framework, aims and functions. It is a great opportunity to show whether South-South cooperation can contribute as positively as North-South aid.

Of course, aid is not the only dimension of South-South cooperation, which is especially prominent in the areas of trade, investment, finance and the social sectors.

The regional trade agreements in ASEAN, East Asia, and the sub-regions of Africa and Latin America, as well as the trade and investment links between the three South continents, have shown immense expansion in recent decades.

Recently, the world’s imagination was also captured by the creation of the BRICS New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Chinese One Belt One Road programme, which all contain elements of South-South cooperation.

South-South cooperation in aid, however, is symbolically and practically of great importance, as it tends to assist the more vulnerable – including poor people and countries, and fragile environments including biodiversity and the climate undergoing crisis.

Let’s hope that the two new funds being set up by China will give a much-needed boost to South-South cooperation and solidarity among the people.


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“Bringing Private Funds into Land Restoration is Risky” Mon, 16 Nov 2015 05:59:57 +0000 Manipadma Jena 0 African Experts Say the Continent Must Address Livestock Methane Emissions Sat, 14 Nov 2015 07:58:19 +0000 Miriam Gathigah 0