Inter Press ServiceEnvironment – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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Will Climate Change Cause More Migrants than Wars?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 23:00:27 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155814 Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even have a more significant role in the displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause major refugee crises. This was the warning sounded by Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention […]

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Africa Gains Momentum in Green Climate Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 13:07:54 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155804 Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, […]

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Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 2018 (IPS)

Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, technology, and investment choices that lead to better approaches for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.A satellite program in Kenya measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage, triggering timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists.

From biogas to solar installations and improved water conservation, success stories abound on the continent. The challenge now, experts say, is to scale them up. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s renewable power installed capacity could increase by 290 percent between 2015 and 2030 — compared to 161 percent for Asia and 43 percent for Latin America.

The global Paris Accord is underpinned by its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, securing funding for alternative sources of energy and adaptation of technology in everyday activities that are geared towards shrinking humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.

African countries have internalised and made considerable efforts towards these goals despite budgetary constraints, with the United Nations lauding the continent for embracing technology and innovation in its journey to fight climate change.

Jukka Uosukainen, CTCN’s director, spoke with IPS during the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) Africa Regional Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9–10, stressing that technology is already changing the fortunes of people in the continent.

For instance, Mali has successfully applied field contouring technology in rural areas such as Koutiala, reducing the volume of water runoff from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the soil type.

“This has improved the yield of crops in an area that experienced severe drought and bettered the quality of livelihoods owing to a rise in income,” he noted.

Uosukainen said that Senegal has launched massive biogas digester projects through the National Biogas Program by implementing biomethanisation technologies that facilitate faster access to cleaner energy within the republic. The country also utilises tri-generation and co-generation technologies that use waste as raw materials for energy production.

Furthermore, Mauritius has aptly integrated the use of boiler economizers, which capture the waste heat from boiler stack gases (called flue gas) and transfer it to the boiler feedwater.

This has reduced the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, cutting energy costs and boosting socioeconomic growth amongst its citizens.

Morocco has adopted photovoltaic technology that harnesses solar power for greater energy production. The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station spans 137 square kilometres and generates 582 megawatts of renewable energy for over 1 million people. This has helped increase the nation’s uptake of renewable energy sources to an impressive 42 percent, lessening the rate of air pollution and enhancing quality of life.

In Kenya, a 630 MW geothermal plant has come on line, providing electricity for 500,000 households and 300,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Kenya alone has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts from its geothermal resources, says an analysis by Bridges Africa.

Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said that most African countries have chosen clean energy technologies as a part of their environmental solutions and ICRAF supports these efforts through its work in developing cleaner options for woody biomass-based energy, a key technology used across the continent.

According to ICRAF, Kenya is using water conservation technologies like sunken-bed kitchen gardens and terracing to successfully increase yield production and improve food security.

ICRAF has partnered with several eastern Africa countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi in a project dubbed Trees for Food Security Project which conducts extensive research and development into special tree species for each nation.

This involves detecting the seedlings suitable for specific areas and ensuring modern agricultural techniques are employed during planting. The forest cover helps prevent desertification, reduces carbon dioxide emissions through photosynthesis and enhances of the aesthetic beauty of the lands.

And the Green Cooling Africa Initiative implemented in Ghana and Namibia encompasses modern air conditioning and refrigeration appliances that use minimal electricity and generate lower volumes of toxins into the atmosphere.

Simons called for gender equality in any strategies to address climate change because in all communities, knowledge of agricultural and natural resource management differs by gender, making it is essential to include women’s perspectives in addressing climate change at the farm and local level.

Rehabilitation of water projects is another field that’s getting attention, as African countries seek to reduce the overexploitation of such resources for the benefit of all stakeholders.

For instance, in Kenya, a policy of “green water” technology has been operationalized with the support of various local and international partners with the aim of curbing water shortages and channeling it to better uses.

This technology has enabled arid and semi-arid areas to have regular instances of water supply which is used for irrigation, animal husbandry and subsistence in homesteads. Therefore, it has limited the struggles that rural people undergo in search of water and pasture.

Also the government of Kenya, in partnership with the World Bank Group, the International Livestock Research Institute, and Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, implemented the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) in the northern part of the county. KLIP, which is Africa’s large scale public-private partnership livestock insurance program, uses satellite imagery technology to provide early warning of drought.

The satellite measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage in the vulnerable pastoral regions of Kenya. It then triggers timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding alive until the drought has passed.

Acceptance of climate change technologies and innovations has resulted in better farming methods, higher crop yields, lower energy consumption and a reduction in carbon emissions throughout Africa.

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Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 18:22:15 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155775 As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless. The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference […]

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UN Climate chief Patricia Espinosa making a point during a media roundtable. Credit: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
BONN, May 15 2018 (IPS)

As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless.

The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.

The guidelines are essential for determining whether total world emissions are declining fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which include boosting adaptation and limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Climate finance dialoge

However, the catch is that all this requires financing to achieve. For instance, the conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from developing countries in implementing the Paris Agreement are pegged at the cost of 4.3 trillion dollars to be achieved.

“Finance is a very critical component for us,” said Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Zambian Delegation leader and UNFCCC focal point person. “Agriculture, general adaptation and the APA agenda for implementation modalities form the core issues we are following keenly but we believe all these are meaningless without finance.”

It has always been the cry of developing countries to receive support through predictable and sustainable finance for it is the lifeblood of implementation of mitigation and/or adaptation activities. And Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair Gebru Jember Endalew agrees with Zambia’s Shitima on the importance of finance.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support,” he said.

The civil society movement was particularly unhappy with the lukewarm finance dialogue outcome. “The radio silence on money has sown fears among poor countries that their wealthier counterparts are not serious about honouring their promises,” said Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid.

He said funding is not just a bargaining chip, but an essential tool for delivering the national plans that make up the Paris Agreement. And adding his voice to the debate, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Justice Allaince (PACJA) expressed dismay at the lack of concrete commitments from developed country parties.

“We are dismayed with the shifting of goal posts by our partners who intend to delay the realization of actual financing of full costs of adaptation in Africa,” said Mwenda.

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

But for Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the final analysis of the talks revealed a more hopeful outlook.

“I am satisfied that some progress was made here in Bonn,” said Espinosa at the close of the ten-day talks. “But many voices are underlining the urgency of advancing more rapidly on finalizing the operational guidelines. The package being negotiated is highly technical and complex. We need to put it in place so that the world can monitor progress on climate action.”

According to Espinosa, the presiding officers of the three working bodies coordinated discussions on a wide range of items under the Paris Agreement Work Programme, and delegations tasked them to publish a “reflection note” to help governments prepare for the next round of talks.

She said the preparatory talks would continue at a supplementary meeting in Bangkok from September 3-8, at which the reflection note and the views and inputs by governments captured in various texts in Bonn would be considered.

The Bangkok meeting would then forward texts and draft decisions for adoption to the annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Poland.

“We have made progress here in Bonn, but we need now to accelerate the negotiations. Continuing intersessional streamlining of the text-based output from Bonn will greatly assist all governments, who will meet in Bangkok to work towards clear options for the final set of implementation guidelines,” she explained.

The Talanoa Dialogue

In parallel to the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue.

Following the tradition in the Pacific region, the goal of a ‘talanoa’ is to share stories to find solutions for the common good. In this spirit, the dialogue witnessed some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas and renewed determination to raise ambition.

“Now is the time for action,” said Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23. “Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make. We must complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement on time. And we must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans.”

The dialogue wrote history when countries and non-Party stakeholders including cities, businesses, investors and regions engaged in interactive story-telling for the first time.

“The Talanoa Dialogue has provided a broad and real picture of where we are and has set a new standard of conversation,” said the President-designate of COP24, Michał Kurtyka of Poland. “Now it is time to move from this preparatory phase of the dialogue to prepare for its political phase, which will take place at COP24,” he added.

All input received to date and up to October 29, 2018 will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s second, more political phase at COP24.

The Koronovia work Programme on Agriculture  

Farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as prolonged droughts and shifting rainfall patterns, and agriculture is an important source of emissions.

Despite this importance however, agriculture had been missing and was only discussed as an appendage at the UN climate negotiating table, until November 2017 when it was included as a work programme.

Recognising the urgency of addressing this sector, the Bonn conference made a significant advance on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture” by adopting a roadmap for the next two-and-a-half years.

“From our perspective as Zambia, our interest is in line with the expectations of the African group which is seeking to protect our smallholders who are the majority producers from the negative impacts of climate change,” said Morton Mwanza, Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture focal point person on Climate Smart Agriculture.

And according to the outcome at the Bonn talks, the roadmap responds to the world’s farming community of more than 1 billion people and to the 800 million people who live in food-insecure circumstances, mainly in developing countries. It addresses a range of issues including the socio-economic and food-security dimensions of climate change, assessments of adaptation in agriculture, co-benefits and resilience, and livestock management.

Nevertheless, key to this roadmap is undoubtedly means of implementation—finance and technology. Developed countries pledged, since 2009, to deliver to developing countries 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for climate action.

However, the withdrawal of 2 billion dollars’ worth of support by the Trump administration because of its decision to leave the Paris Agreement, leaves the climate finance debate unsettled, and a major sticking point in the talks.

Big polluters influence

And some campaigners now accuse some fossil fuel lobbyists allegedly sitting on the negotiating table to be behind delayed climate action.

According to a study, titled “Revolving doors and the fossil fuel industry,” carried out in 13 European countries, failure to deal with conflict of interest by the EU is due to cosy relationships built up with the fossil fuel sector over the years. It calls for the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy that would avoid the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international climate change negotiations.

“There is a revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby all across Europe,” said Max Andersson, Member of the European Parliament, at the Bonn Climate Talks. “It’s not just a handful of cases—it is systematic. The fossil fuel industry has an enormous economic interest in delaying climate action and the revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby is a serious cause for alarm.”

According to Andersson, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to as close as 1.5 degrees as possible, there is need to clamp down on conflicts of interest to stop coal, gas and oil from leaving “their dirty fingerprints over our climate policy.”

Interestingly, there was good news for the ‘big polluters out’ campaigners at the close of the talks. “No amount of obstruction from the US and its big polluter allies will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing,” Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability told IPS. “Global South leaders prevailed in securing a clear path forward for the conflict of interest movement, ensuring the issue will be front and center next year.”

And so, it seems, climate finance holds all the cards. Until it is sorted, the implementation of the Paris Agreement in two years’ time hangs in the balance.

 

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Fighting Inequality in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-inequality-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 13:46:12 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155771 Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15 2018 (IPS)

Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s remarkable economic success story belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, could thwart our ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge heads of state and government will be considering this week at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A strengthened regional approach to more sustainable, inclusive growth must be this Commission’s outcome.

Shamshad Akhtar

It’s imperative, because ESCAP’s Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows that at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There has been some welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region. Healthier lives are being led and wellbeing has increased. Poverty levels are declining, albeit too slowly. But only one SDG, focused on achieving quality education and lifelong learning, is on track to be met.

In several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction. Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.

Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.

The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. There’s no silver bullet, no handy lever we can reach for to reduce it overnight. But an integrated, coordinated approach can over time return our economies and our societies to a sustainable footing. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations on how to do just that.

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education.

Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society.

Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.

Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.

This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution. Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.

The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted. More effective taxations systems would increase the tax take, and better governance would increase people’s willingness to contribute. Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.

My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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United Arab Emirates: Entering into a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 20:35:53 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155763    The end of the oil age In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most […]

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View from the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Ravin Vimesh

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

 
 
The end of the oil age
In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, if not the world: its per capita GDP is equal to those of highly developed European nations ($68,000 – 2017 est.).

Wealth in the UAE, as in other Gulf countries, is derived mainly from oil but the black gold will run out someday soon. For this reason, the UAE, similar to other petro-rich countries in the region, is activating a list of local and national strategies and initiatives to build a new framework for the future. This framework aims to be run only by renewable energies but keeping the same level of wealth, if not improving it. Therefore rich, but without depending on oil.

Indeed, the UAE has recently embarked on a new path of investments, to end oil dependence and turn around most of its infrastructures run by renewable energies. Launched in 2017, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims “to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, thus saving AED 700 billion by 2050.” The Strategy also seeks to increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40 percent and it targets an energy mix that aims to combine renewable, nuclear and clean sources as follows: 44 percent clean energy, 38 percent gas, 12 percent clean coal and 6 percent nuclear.

For example, the city of Masdar is the first city in the world to have a zero carbon footprint and zero waste and it is a car-free city. The city is still not fully developed but it currently aims to be home to 40 to 50 thousand people in a total area of six kilometres.

Back to the future
Energy is not the only field in which the UAE is at the forefront for development and innovation. Transportation, health, education, tackling climate change, visionary architecture, tourism, cyber security and so forth: these and others are all sectors in which the UAE is showing the world its willingness to improve and possibly become the leader, shocking the planet in terms of innovation.

Today the UAE is a country where skyscrapers nearly touch the sky, streets are clean, electric and hybrid cars are gradually becoming more common than cars run on fuel and the crime rate is very low. According to Numbeo, which surveyed 50,175 people in 4,574 cities, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world, ranking 16th and with a very low crime index (11.85) and a quite high safety index (88.15).

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Martin Adams

The UAE is also planning to build a high-speed train, named Hyperloop, which will be able to reach 1.200 kph and connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi (120 km) in 12 minutes by 2021. In addition, in 2016, the world applauded the first journey to be ever completed by a solar airplane, which, not surprisingly, was an UAE product. Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered aircraft equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells. The airplane landed in Abu Dhabi after a journey of 505 days and 26,000 miles at an average speed of about 70 kph. The UAE government is even planning to establish the first human settlements in Mars by 2117.

However, this is just a small portion of the wider picture that describes the UAE’s way to the future. In December 2016, Gulf News had launched “The Amazing Nation”, a book to celebrate UAE’s 45th anniversary that aimed to tell the story of the innovative and modern UAE while also exploring its deep cultural roots. The book shows – through 117 pages with more than 40 double-page spreads filled with highly informative vignettes and varying forms of visual illustrations, photographs and multi-dimensional renderings – how the UAE’s famed architectural prowess will be visible in intelligent and energy-efficient buildings in the coming future.

According to this book, homes of the future will be incredibly smart and capable of growing their own food in a sustainable way. 3D and 4D printing in construction will allow unique innovations in terms of sustainable architecture and homes will also be folded up and transported by drones to any location. The country is also planning to build below the waterline and make underwater living possible. If there is one country that is projecting itself into the future, that is certainly the UAE.

An attractive country: UAE aims to become a crucial business hub
The strong belief of Emirates policy makers in the importance of spending in education, innovation and development, has made the country one of the most attractive hubs for business people and corporations from all over the world. According to the Arcadis Global Infrastructure Investment Index, the UAE is the third most attractive place in the world to invest in infrastructure.

Indeed, the UAE is extremely conducive to private business and the free market. In the thirty-eight free trade zones of UAE, businesses and corporations, even those that are owned by foreigners, are exempt from all taxes. This lack of taxation is a feature of those known as “rentier States”. A “rentier State” gets most (or all) of its income from natural resources revenues. These revenues are used to modernize the economy and to finance the public sector and ultimately to guarantee a fixed income for its citizens. Due in no small part to this system, taxation is almost inexistent in rentier States and makes them the perfect place to invest.

Development in a conflict region
The UAE, like some other Gulf countries, is clearly projecting itself into the future. These countries want to diversify the portfolio of their investments and provide an alternative source of revenues away from those related to oil. This unfolding situation must be addressed and monitored in the long run. The unprecedented modernisation occurring in the Gulf region is inspired by a new and young leadership that is gradually replacing the elders. These leaders are showing a remarkable enthusiasm for innovation but, at the same time, they are the protagonists of a provocative foreign policy, which is ultimately contributing to fuel tensions and conflict across the Middle East. Therefore, this modernisation needs to be examined also assessing the constant political instability in the region.

Indeed, unless this region does not find political compromises which allows enduring peace and a reliable stability, those same people who would enjoy the remarkable technological innovations, will constantly be concerned because of the lack of security in their countries.

Economic and social development needs to be accompanied by a wise and peaceful foreign policy, particularly in the Gulf and in the broader Middle East.

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Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

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By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

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“Green Development Has to Be Equal for All”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-development-equal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 00:57:29 +0000 Diana Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155745 IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to […]

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Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Credit: Diana Mendoza/IPS

By Diana Mendoza
MANILA, May 14 2018 (IPS)

IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to create sustainable infrastructure and promote green growth pathways.

In this brief chat with IPS correspondent Diana Mendoza, Dr. Rijsberman noted the success of just a few countries with successful environmental protection policies, while many others have yet to adopt green growth policies.

Q: China is obviously the major player in the BRI. How does GGGI see China influencing other countries to actively take part in it and adopt green growth policies?

A: China is a huge investor. Among the countries in the BRI, China is the most important foreign direct investor, if not one of the most important. What we are particularly interested from our GGGI perspective is that China has also become, out of necessity, an important source of green technology because it implements renewable energy policies at a large scale. It is but fitting for it to have initiated the BRI. It is a leader in electric mobility, green technology and policy. It is keen on its air quality around Beijing and has very rapidly cleaned it up in just the last two years. What we’re interested in also is not just having large direct investments as part of their BRI initiative but how it will influence its government to export green technology.

Q: On one hand, China has also upset its Asian neighbors, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that claim China is exploring their islands and upsetting territorial boundaries.

A: I know basically nothing about territorial disputes but it’s clear that China is a world power, a dominant force.  It is very influential and we are hoping it will use this to bring opportunities for other countries to prosper. We’ve been seeing China for decades as having relations with countries in bringing resources such as Afghan steel or mineral resources to which China is a huge importer. That’s basically the first relationship we’re seeing in a bilateral way. It is also starting its ODA ministry to bring more support to developing countries and is willing share more environmental technology and hopefully, to also share the benefits of the equal civilization approach.

Q: What would the equal civilization approach mean to countries around the BRI?

A: There are small and relatively poor countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Growth and development should also benefit them. The impact of climate change and the unhealthy effects of modernization and urbanization affect all countries, but green development has to be equal for all.

Q: What are GGGI’s priorities in the next five years?

A: We would like to see countries adopting renewable energy policies. Many countries are not introducing renewable energy to the potential that they have. Many countries also have some policies but we see they only have something like 1 percent solar, where it could be 20 or 30 percent. Only in China do we see a very rapid transition to renewable energy and electricity generation. But I live in Korea and they only have 2 percent. The government recently increased the target for renewable energy to 20 percent, but you know even 20 percent is still modest.

Q: How much is the ideal target for renewable energy?

A: It should be 50 or 60 percent if we want to achieve what was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. Vietnam is still planning to build 24 more coal fire-powered plants. The current paths that many governments are on are still very far away from achieving the Paris Agreement. We need to see a rapid switch to renewable energy and we think it’s much more feasible than governments are aware of. Prices have come down so quickly that you know I’ve been spending most of my week in the Philippines and the provincial governments are still talking about hydropower because that’s what they know. You go to Mindanao and they’re talking about this big project in 1953 and they know that renewable energy is hydro.

Q: So hydro is not the answer?

A: We told them that if they want more hydro they should realize there are much better opportunities now in solar energy.  Even if the potential in hydro is there, it’s complex. It takes a long time and it has a big environmental risks. It takes five years to put it in place and construction is complicated. You can have solar in six months if you have enough land. In Manila, every school, factory and shopping mall should have solar rooftops already. In Canberra, even if the central government was not all active in this movement, it adopted in 2016 the 100 percent renewable policy by 2020. It is doing just that and it looks good.

Q: What can you say about tiny efforts to protect the environment such as opting for paper bags instead of plastic bags?  

A: A plastic bag should no longer be available. We should absolutely stop using all those disposable plastic bags. We should all look at the major impact that plastics cause, that micro-plastics go into the sea and the fish eat them. It goes back to our body when we eat the fish. It goes right back in the body.

Q: So which counties have totally eradicated plastic?

A: Rwanda — they said no more plastic bags. There will be many more countries that will do that. They will say you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you didn’t bring your eco bag or there’s no available paper bag. If there is plastic, it has to be biodegradable. The cheap plastic in the supermarket lasts forever. It looks biodegradable if you leave it in the sun, but it’s more dangerous when it is thrown into the sea. But either way, there should be no more plastic bags anywhere.

Q: You live in Seoul and you mentioned about your child not going to an event because of bad air. How do you think kids understand environmental issues?  

A: The school nurse checks the air quality and informs us in the morning. My wife also does that. Our nine-year-old is totally aware of that. Even if it’s not too bad, the kids go to school wearing masks. The kids’ experiences on a daily basis will help them understand the need for clean, quality air.  This way, they will learn about the rest of the environment concerns as they grow up.

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20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 15:33:54 +0000 Tianyi Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155728 Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

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Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

By Tianyi Luo
WASHINGTON DC, May 11 2018 (IPS)

Most power generation consumes water, whether to cool steam in thermoelectric plants or power turbines for hydropower. And the global demand for both water and electricity will continue to increase substantially in the coming decades.

Although growth is generally a good thing for the economy, it challenges nations—particularly ones that are water-stressed—to better manage their limited water resources and invest in the right energy systems.

Power generation from solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind is clean and requires zero or little water use. These renewable forms of energy can help countries meet their increased demand for electricity without adding carbon emissions or consuming water.

This could be particularly beneficial in countries where growing populations, farms and industries are already competing for scant water supplies. For example, a recent WRI analysis shows that India could reduce its water consumption intensity by more than 25 percent just by achieving its renewable energy targets.

Leveraging WRI’s Resource Watch, a new global data platform, we overlaid map-based data sets to identify countries that are water-stressed and have high solar and wind energy potential. These countries are places where solar PV and wind technologies are more likely to be financially attractive and provide water savings that would benefit the public greatly.

Water Stress and Solar Energy Potential

The top 20 water-stressed countries with the most average solar energy potential are in the Middle East and North African region; the rest are from Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The list includes countries at all economic stages: three are developed (Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia), four are some of the least developed (Afghanistan, Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Yemen), and the rest are from emerging or developing markets.

Yemen has the highest average solar energy potential in terms of global horizontal irradiance (GHI), a proxy of the strength and concentration of solar energy hitting a PV panel. It’s also one of the world’s most water-stressed and least developed countries.

The World Bank just invested $50 million in solar PV projects to restore electricity to more than one million Yemenis. However, with the ongoing civil war in the country, renewables development could still be challenging.

Eritrea and Saudi Arabia have the second- and third-highest average solar energy potential, but very different economic power. It is more challenging for countries with constrained financial resources to adopt renewable technologies at a large scale.

However, as the cost for solar and wind energy continues to decline, these options are becoming more attractive. Even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in solar energy for domestic consumption, with a target of 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind by 2023.

Water Stress and Wind Energy Potential

Of the 20 water-stressed countries with the most wind energy potential, eight are from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), six from Europe, and the rest from Asia Pacific and North America. Eight of the countries are developed, 11 are from emerging and developing markets, and one is among the world’s least developed.

Andorra has the highest wind energy potential, followed by Belgium and Kazakhstan. However, for wind to be attractive in Andorra, the costs would need to be cheaper than its current electricity imports from Spain.

Seven water-stressed countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Yemen) in the MENA region have high average energy potentials for both solar and wind, as well as Australia. Some of these countries have plans to harness solar and wind energy, but many do not, and many goals fall short of their potential. Also, because of their oil wealth, some of these countries rely on desalination for water supply and might not have a water scarcity problem for now.

A full list of all countries with high water stress and their average wind energy potentials can be found at the bottom of this post.

Note: For countries that span large areas, there could be spatial mismatch between water stress and renewable potential and electricity demands, which is not accounted for in this analysis. Additionally, more comprehensive analysis would require looking at local governance, regulations, availability and cost of competing energy resources and economics. While local contexts may differ, these aggregate averages show which countries have the most to gain from renewables’ water savings overall. More granular data could be found and visualized on Resource Watch.

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Excerpt:

Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

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Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 13:33:08 +0000 Savio Carvalho http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155713 Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

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Six-year-old Mamisoa gathers water at one of the three new fountains in his village in Mangasoavina commune, Madagascar. "I am happy as it is so easy to get water from the tap." Credit: WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

By Savio Carvalho
LONDON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

They are the foundations of a happy, healthy childhood: good nutrition, health care which includes immunisations and preventative care as well as treatment for illness, a good education.

How many among us would even think to list clean water to drink, a safe place to go to the toilet and the ability to keep hands, bodies and surroundings clean with soap and water?

Yet far too many children are deprived of these, affecting their health, education and life chances. Some 480,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoea, more than half of these directly linked to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

And 880,000 children under five die each year of pneumonia – which also has links to dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

The solutions are familiar, and close to home. New research by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat DD initiative has found that combining clean water, decent household toilets and good hygiene with routine childhood vaccinations and nutrition support could potentially save the lives of nearly 700,000 young children and prevent billions of harmful bouts of diarrhoeal illness and pneumonia in under-fives each year.

Produced by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat Diarrheal Disease (Defeat DD) Initiative, this new analysis is published in the report Coordinate, Integrate, Invest: how joint child health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions can deliver for your country’s future.

Our modelling shows that if every child in the world had access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene including handwashing with soap, along with routine rotavirus immunisation and other nutritional interventions such as zinc supplementation and breastfeeding, we could cut the rate of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by half, and reduce incidences of diarrhoea and pneumonia by two-thirds.

That is millions of episodes of illness. Imagine what that would mean for these young children, their parents, and the impact on the health care system.

Esther breastfeeding her youngest daughter, Tendry, inside her house in Amberomena village. Belavabary commune, Madagascar. She said: “My kids get diarrhoea often and during the rainy season, there is a case almost every day. I know that some of our sicknesses are caused by the dirty water we drink. “We try to avoid going to the doctor because we don’t have money to pay them. When we really need to go to the doctor then we have to sell our crops if we still have some, if not then we have to borrow money from our neighbours and pay them back later.” Credit: WaterAid/ PATH/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Specifically, ensuring 100% coverage with water, sanitation and hygiene, rotavirus vaccination and nutritional interventions such as breastfeeding promotion and zinc supplements could potentially reduce illness by nearly two thirds (63%) and almost halve the number of child deaths (49%) from diarrhoea and pneumonia.

None of this requires new technology or invention. It requires coordination, the integration of programmes for health and nutrition and for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and investment to make it happen.

It’s not just a matter of health – it’s also a matter of wealth. For every US$1 invested in water and sanitation globally, there is a US$4.3 return in the form of reduced healthcare costs.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that have not tackled child stunting are facing punishing economic losses of up to 9-10% of GDP per capita, due to the potential lost in children who are stunted. Combining actions on health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene could help to create a more productive workforce and economic growth, lifting countries out of poverty.

72-year Heng with her granddaughter, 2-year-old Chinh, who is often sick, at their home in Cambodia. “My granddaughter drank a lot of water, and became sick with diarrhoea and fever.” The family almost never use soap for handwashing. “I don’t have money for soap.” Credit: WaterAid/PATH/Philong Sovan

The report also highlights examples of where countries are making good progress with integrating health, nutrition, water and sanitation efforts. In Madagascar, for example, the government is using this kind of coordination to tackle high rates of malnutrition.

In Nepal, promoting good hygiene during health clinic visits for rotavirus vaccinations is improving parents’ knowledge and actions around food safety, handwashing and safe disposal of children’s faeces, while also improving immunisation coverage and helping to reach those families hardest to reach because of remote locations and poverty.

If children are to grow and thrive, they need clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene alongside good healthcare, vaccinations and good nutrition. Each year, nearly 300,000 young children die of diarrhoea directly linked to dirty water, poor toilets and poor hygiene, and the greatest tragedy of all is that we know how to address this.

This study adds to the evidence that the lives of hundreds of thousands of young children could be saved each year if these pillars of development were combined with other health interventions.

WaterAid and Defeat DD are calling on governments and donors to align child health and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, policies and financing to address this unnecessary health crisis more effectively and more efficiently. These investments create a positive cycle that builds human capital, strengthens economies, reduces future healthcare costs and contributes to national development.

This July the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030 – comes under review in New York. We are calling on decision-makers to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority, because they are essential to child health, nutrition and the success of the next generation.

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Excerpt:

Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

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Optimal Use of Water Works Miracles in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 15:49:14 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155678 Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water. José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in […]

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José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
IPIRÁ-PINTADAS, Brazil, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water.

José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in the basin, in the northeastern state of Bahia, almost tripled his milk production over the last two years, up to 400 litres per day, without increasing his herd.

To achieve this, he was assisted by technicians from Adapta Sertão, a project promoted by a coalition of organisations under the coordination of the Human Development Network (Redeh), based in Rio de Janeiro.

“If I wake up and I don’t hear the cows mooing, I cannot live,” said Borges to emphasise his vocation that prevented him from abandoning cattle farming in the worst moments of the drought which in the last six years lashed the semi-arid ecoregion, an area of low rainfall in the interior of the Brazilian Northeast.

But his wife, Eliete Brandão Borges, did give up and moved to Ipirá, the capital city of the municipality, where she works as a seamstress. Their 13-year-old son lives in town with her, in order to study. But he does not rule out returning to the farm, “if a good project comes up, like raising chickens.”

Borges, who “feels overwhelmed after a few hours in the city,” points out as factors for the increased dairy productivity the forage cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica Mill), a species from Mexico, which he uses as a food supplement for the cattle, and the second daily milking.

“The neighbours called me crazy for planting the cactus in an intensive way,” he said. “We used to use it, but we planted it more spread out.” Today, at the age of 39, Borges is an example to be followed and receives visits from other farmers interested in learning about how he has increased his productivity.

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil's Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil’s Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He started after being taken to visit another property that used intensive planting, in an effort to convince him, said Jocivaldo Bastos, the Adapta Sertão technician who advised him. “Actually I don’t use cacti,” Borges acknowledged when he learned about the innovative tecnique.

The thornless, drought-resistant cactus became a lifesaving source of forage for livestock during drought, and is an efficient way to store water during the dry season in the Sertão, the popular name for the driest area in the Northeast, which also covers other areas of the sparsely populated and inhospitable interior of Brazil.

Also extending through the semi-arid region is the construction of concrete tanks designed to capture rainwater, which cost 12,000 reais (3,400 dollars) and can store up to 70,000 litres a year. With this money, 0.4 hectares of cactus can be planted, equivalent to 121,000 litres of water a year, according to a study by Adapta Sertão.

But that requires attention to the details, such as fertilisers, drip irrigation, clearing brush and selecting seedlings. Borges “lost everything” from his first intensive planting of the Opuntia forage cactus.

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as "the forest" where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as “the forest” where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Then he received advice from agricultural technician Bastos and currently has three hectares of cactus plantations and plans to expand.

At the beginning, he was frightened by the need to increase investments, previously limited to 500 Brazilian reais (142 dollars) per month. Now he spends twelve times more, but he earns gross revenues of 13,000 reais (3,700 dollars), according to Bastos.

The second milking, in the afternoon, was also key for Normaleide de Oliveira, a 55-year-old widow, to almost double her milk production. Today it reaches between 150 and 200 liters a day with only 12 dairy cows, on her farm located 12 km from Pintadas, the city in the centre of the Jacuípe basin.

“It is the milk that provides the income I live on,” said the farmer, who owns 30 more cattle. “I used to have 60 in total, but I sold some because of the drought, which almost made me give it all up,” she said.

The Jacuípe basin is seen as privileged compared to other parts of the semi-arid Northeast. The rivers have dried up, but in the drilled wells there is abundant water that, when pumped, irrigates the crops and drinking troughs.

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Oliveira has the advantage of having two natural ponds on her property, one of which never completely dried up during the six years of drought.

Now she is building a concrete tank on a large rock near her house that she will devote to raising fish and irrigating her gardens. Its location up on a rock will allow gravity-fed irrigation for the watermelon, squash and vegetables that Oliveira, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law, plans to grow.

The pond was proposed by Jorge Nava, an expert in permaculture who has been working with Adapta Sertão since last year, contributing new techniques to optimise the use of available water.

Adapta Sertão’s aims are to diversify production and strengthen conservation, and incorporate sustainability and adaptability to climate change in family farming.

In Ipirá, Borges has a pond one metre deep and six metres in diameter, with 23,000 litres of water, surrounded by his cilantro crop. In the pond he raises 1,000 tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species increasingly popular in fish farming.

Nearby is what he calls “the forest” – several dozen fruit trees on sloping ground with contour furrows, where he already used to plant watermelons using drip irrigation, which now coexist with the new project.

José Antonio Borges' family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

José Antonio Borges’ family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

“In 70 days he harvested 260 watermelons” and soil that was so dried up and hardened that the tractor had to plow several times, by thin layers each time, is now covered in vegetation, said Nava. “In 40 days the dry land became green,” he stated.

Contour furrows contain the water runoff and moisten the soil evenly. If the furrows were sloping they would flood the lower part, leaving the top dry, which would ruin the irrigation, the expert in permaculture explained.

This “forest” will fulfill the function of providing fruit and regenerating the landscape as well as making better use of water, boosting soil infiltration and acting as a barrier to the wind which increases evaporation, he said.

These are small gestures of respect for natural laws, to avoid waste and to multiply the water by reusing it, making it possible to live well on small farms with less water, he said.

In critical situations it is only about keeping plants alive with millilitres of water, until the next rain ensures production, as in the case of Borges’ watermelons.

Nava attributes his mission and dedication to seeking solutions in accordance with local conditions and demands to what happened to his family, who migrated from the southern tip of Brazil to Apuí, deep in the Amazon rainforest, in 1981, when he was three years old.

To go to school sometimes he had to travel nine days from his home, through the jungle. He became aware of the risk of desertification in the Amazon. The shallow-rooted forests are highly vulnerable to drought and deforestation, he learned.

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

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Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific 2018 – Mobilizing finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 12:19:06 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155652 Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is […]

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By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is robust, sustainable and mobilised to provide more financing for development. It is certainly an opportunity to accelerate progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Shamshad Akhtar

Recent figures estimate economic growth across the region at 5.8 per cent in 2017 compared with 5.4 per cent in 2016. This reflects growing dynamism amid relatively favourable global economic conditions, underpinned by a revival of demand and steady inflation. Robust domestic consumption and recovering investment and trade all contributed to the 2017 growth trajectory and underpin a stable outlook.

Risks and challenges nevertheless remain. Rising private and corporate debt, particularly in China and countries in South-East Asia, low or declining foreign exchange reserves in a few South Asian economies, and trends in oil prices are among the chief concerns. Policy simulation for 18 countries suggests a $10 rise in the price of oil per barrel could dampen GDP growth by 0.14 to 0.4 per cent, widen external current account deficits by 0.5-to 1.0 percentage points and build inflationary pressures in oil-importing economies. Oil exporters, however, would see a positive impact.

These challenges come against the backdrop of looming trade protectionism. Inward-looking trade policies will create uncertainty and would entail widespread risks to region’s export and their backbone industries and labour markets. While prospects for the least developed countries in the region are close to 7 per cent, concerns persist given their inherent vulnerabilities to terms-of-trade shocks or exposure to natural disasters.

The key questions are how we can collectively take advantage of the solid pace of economic expansion to facilitate and improve the long-term prospects of economies and mobilize finance for development as well as whether multilateral institutions, such as the World Trade Organization membership can resolve the global gridlock on international trade?

Economic and financial stability along with liberal trade access to international markets will be critical for effective pursuit of the 2030 Agenda. Regional economies, whose tax potential remains untapped, now need to lift domestic resource mobilization and prudently manage fiscal affairs. Unleashing their financial resource potential need to be accompanied by renewed efforts to leverage private capital and deploy innovative financing mechanisms. The investment requirements to make economies resilient, inclusive and sustainable are sizeable − as high as $2.5 trillion per year on average for all developing countries worldwide. In the Asia-Pacific region, investment requirements are also substantial but so are potential resources. The combined value of international reserves, market capitalization of listed companies and assets held by financial institutions, insurance companies and various funds is estimated at some $56 trillion. Effectively channelling these resources to finance sustainable development is a key challenge for the region.

The need to come up with supplementary financial resources will remain. Public finances are frequently undermined by a narrow tax base, distorted taxation structures, weak tax administrations, and ineffective public expenditure management. This has created problems of balanced fiscalization of sustainable development, even if the national planning organizations have embraced and integrated sustainable development agenda in their forward looking plans.

Despite a vibrant business sector, the lack of enabling policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, and large informal sectors, have deterred sustainability and its appropriate financing. The external assistance from which some countries benefit is insufficient to meet sustainable development investment requirements, a problem often compounded by low inbound foreign direct investment. Capital markets in many countries are underdeveloped and bond markets are still in their infancy. Fiscal pre-emption of banking resources is quite common. For those emerging countries which have successfully tapped international capital markets, a tightening of global financial conditions means borrowing costs are on the rise.

Our ESCAP flagship report, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2018 (Survey 2018) which has been launched today calls for stronger political will and governments strengthening tax administrations and expanding the tax base. If the quality of the tax policy and administrations in Asia-Pacific economies matches developed economies, the incremental revenue impact could be as high as 3 to 4 per cent of GDP in major economies such as China, India and Indonesia and steeper in developing countries. Broadening the tax base by rationalizing tax incentives for foreign direct investment and introducing a carbon tax could generate almost $60 billion in additional tax revenue per year.

But government action must be complemented by the private sector to effectively pursue sustainable development. The right policy environment could encourage private investment by institutional investors in long-term infrastructure projects. Structural reforms should focus on developing enabling policy environment and institutional setting designed to facilitate public-private partnerships, stable macroeconomic conditions, relatively developed financial markets, and responsive legal and regulatory frameworks.

Finally, while much of the success in mobilizing development finance will depend on the design of national policies, regional cooperation is vital. Coordinated policy actions are needed to reduce tax incentives for foreign direct investment and to introduce a carbon tax. For many least developed countries, the role of external sources of finance remains critical. In many cases, the success of resource mobilization strategies in one country is conditional on closer regional cooperation. ESCAP’s remains engaged and its analysis can support the planning and cooperation needed to effectively mobilize finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Low Awareness Restrains Growth of Solar Technologieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 00:04:46 +0000 Tonderayi Mukeredzi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155638 Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores. “I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, […]

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A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

By Tonderayi Mukeredzi
RUSAPE, Zimbabwe, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores.

“I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, but I cannot do much with the water because I lack the necessary technology to mechanise my farming. Installing an electric or diesel water pump have been options, but that is expensive,” he tells IPS.Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives.

In February, Chandiringa was privileged to host a combined farmers’ field day and solar fair at his homestead for the first time in his area and in the history of his farming career.

Solar entrepreneur Isaac Nyakusendwa says farmers like Chandiriga could make light work of their farming and multiply their yields if they used solar pumps to draw water from the dam to irrigate their crops or to use in the home.

Although farming is the occupation of most people in Rusape and other areas of rural Zimbabwe, the usage of solar photovoltaic systems remains limited mainly to lighting and entertainment.

Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives by providing better crop yields, higher incomes and reducing the physical labor of farming.

Nemaire councillor Sam Maungwe says farmers in his area earn good money, mostly from tobacco farming, but due to poor knowledge of solar technologies, many of them spend their earnings on radios and household furniture.

“Farmers here largely grow tobacco, hence the area suffers from a double strain of wood cutting for tobacco curing and firewood. The use of solar in farming by our farmers would be good as it will lengthen their farming season and increase their income,” Maungwe tells IPS. “But more importantly, we want our farmers to extend the use of solar to tobacco barns so that they stop the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for tobacco curing.”

Petronella Karima, an extension officer, says there should be more platforms to educate rural farmers and expose them to new, affordable technologies because most of them are not aware of the capabilities of solar products.

“Many use solar for entertainment. Some have big solar home systems in their homes, but they don’t know that they can use it to water their crops and install water in their homes. With the knowledge they got from the solar exhibition, I believe many will now use solar to irrigate their crops and to harvest water,” Karima says.

Chiedza Mazaiwana, the Power for All Campaign Manager at Practical Action Zimbabwe, says awareness of renewable energy solutions is relatively low, with market penetration of solar lighting and home systems estimated at only 3%.

She says consumer literacy on renewable energy products is critical in unlocking the huge potential of renewable products in off grid rural communities.

“Lack of knowledge is a major barrier to the development of the solar market. Most potential rural customers are unaware of recent advances in solar technology, reductions in the cost of the technology, availability of financing solutions such as the pay-as you-go (PAYG) model that allows them to access technologies and products that would ordinarily be beyond their reach,” she adds.

The past distribution of poor quality products and installations have also undermined trust and reduced demand, making it very hard for businesses to establish a presence in rural areas.

However, as part of a rural solar market development effort, government, renewable energy firms and development agencies are concertedly using field days and solar fairs to encourage the use of solar energy as a way of improving livelihoods in rural areas.

Solar fairs are emerging as a key platform for awareness raising and consumer education on solar for off-grid communities and for solar distributors to create business linkages with farmers. Other methods include media campaigns and the use of trusted opinion leaders such as chiefs, head teachers and faith leaders to spread the word about the novelty of renewable energy solutions. This method has proved particularly effective in East Africa.

Nyakusenda, who is the chairman of the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe, a grouping of solar distribution companies says, “Lack of knowledge about solar energy and its capabilities is one of the many barriers scuttling the development of the solar market. Through combined field day and solar fairs, we are facilitating, and giving farmers a perfect and rare opportunity to shop for and to interact with suppliers of solar products in one place thereby expose them to quality products and genuine companies.”

He says the PAYG model allows the farmers to pay a nominal deposit for a renewable product of their choice, and finish the payment in small, cheap monthly instalments.

During the fairs, young males and females have been particularly attracted to solar powered lighting, entertainment and communication gadgets while women liked solar cooking stoves and older males got attracted to water pumping systems.

Practical Action’s gender officer Tony Zibani says the use of solar technology can ease the triple burden of work on women and reduce gender-based violence in the homes as chores performed by women would be lessened by technology.

Over 60% of Zimbabwe’s population do not have access to energy and rely on solid biomass fuels such as firewood, charcoal and kerosene as their main cooking fuel – solutions that are expensive, unreliable and environmentally unsustainable.

While the demand for energy in rural areas is increasing, the provision of electricity is skewed greatly towards higher-income households and urban areas, leaving out a large proportion of the rural population.

Mazaiwana asserts that decentralized electrification solutions are the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access, in addition to providing economic opportunities for communities.

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FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

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Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

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Central Americans Demand to be Consulted About Mining Projectshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/central-americans-demand-consulted-mining-projects/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-americans-demand-consulted-mining-projects http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/central-americans-demand-consulted-mining-projects/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 02:30:33 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155612 Rosa Dávila is busy cooking ears of corn, to be eaten by the men and women who have set up a checkpoint on the side of the road to block the passage of supplies sent to a mining company that operates in the area. The San Rafael mining company, a subsidiary of the Canadian company […]

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Residents of the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores maintain a permanent sit-down in front of the Constitutional Court, in the centre of Guatemala’s capital, to demand that the country's highest court rule on the demand for a suspension of the San Rafael mining company's permit to operate a mine in that municipality. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Residents of the municipality of San Rafael Las Flores maintain a permanent sit-down in front of the Constitutional Court, in the centre of Guatemala’s capital, to demand that the country's highest court rule on the demand for a suspension of the San Rafael mining company's permit to operate a mine in that municipality. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
GUATEMALA CITY, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Rosa Dávila is busy cooking ears of corn, to be eaten by the men and women who have set up a checkpoint on the side of the road to block the passage of supplies sent to a mining company that operates in the area.

The San Rafael mining company, a subsidiary of the Canadian company Tahoe Resources, is located on the outskirts of San Rafael Las Flores, a town 96 km southeast of Guatemala City, in the department of Santa Rosa.

The roadblock has been mounted by the inhabitants of Casillas, a neighbouring rural municipality, located a few kilometres down the road, and which cannot be avoided on the way to the mine. Other transit points have also been blocked by the “resistance”, as the anti-mining protesters refer to themselves.

“The first thing we want, for God’s sake, is for them to go back to their country,” said Dávila, a 48-year-old homemaker and mother of seven, as she stoked the fire.

The residents of this and other neighbouring municipalities are firmly opposed to the company’s mining operations, due to the social and environmental damage they say has been caused since they began in 2007.

Conflicts like this have broken out in other areas of Guatemala and in other Central American countries, not only with mining companies but also with hydroelectric power companies.

“It’s not fair, and the worst thing is that they never asked us if we wanted these companies to come here,” Dávila told IPS while moving about in the kitchen set up in an improvised camp, which IPS visited on Apr. 29.

The lack of prior consultations with the communities where such projects are installed is a recurrent problem in the countries of Central America, whose governments fail to comply with international regulations that call for prior consultation over whether or not the population approves of these investments.

In late April, environmental organisations held in the Guatemalan capital the Second Regional Meeting of the Central American Alliance against Mining, which concluded with the requirement that the governments of the region comply with international and regional obligations to guarantee the right to free, prior and informed consultation.

“We call upon Central American governments to reflect on the viability of what they call development, when we know that the extractive industry is a model of destruction and death for our countries,” explained Julio González, of the Guatemalan environmental organisation MadreSelva, at the end of the meeting, on Apr. 27.

That organisation and the other participants in the meeting have joined forces in the regional Alliance against mining, in order to constitute a block with more power in the face of the activities of the extractive industries in Central America.

In the municipality of Casillas, in the department of Santa Rosa, in Guatemala, local inhabitants erected a roadblock on the road that leads to the San Rafael Las Flores mine, blocking the passage of trucks carrying supplies to the site. In the picture, Rosa Dávila (centre) peels ears of corn in the activists’ improvised camp. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

In the municipality of Casillas, in the department of Santa Rosa, in Guatemala, local inhabitants erected a roadblock on the road that leads to the San Rafael Las Flores mine, blocking the passage of trucks carrying supplies to the site. In the picture, Rosa Dávila (centre) peels ears of corn in the activists’ improvised camp. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

One of the rules under which the organisation operates is ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, in force since September 1991, which has been ratified by 22 countries, including all countries in Central America except El Salvador and Panama.

Article 6 of the Convention establishes that governments shall “consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures (…) whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly,” such as when a national or municipal state institution grants a concession to international consortiums.

But that is basically dead letter in the Central American countries that have ratified it, said activists consulted by IPS during the meeting.

The governments have not promoted consultations, because they believe that important development projects would be halted, so it is the affected communities that have carried out their own consultations, they added.

In Guatemala, where 63 percent of the population is indigenous, around 90 such consultations have been held, by show of hands.

“Before the hydroelectric companies were to arrive, we began to carry out consultations, and we asked whether these businesses have the right to take our rivers, and the vast majority said no,” 69-year-old Mayan Indian Cirilo Acabal Osorio told IPS.

So far they have managed to stop attempts by companies to install projects in the eight communities putting up resistance in that region, which are predominantly Mayan, said the native of Zona Reina, municipality of Uspatán, in the department of Quiche in northwestern Guatemala.

In Honduras more than 40 open town meetings have been held in which the population of different localities has rejected similar projects, said Pedro Landa, of the Reflection, Research and Communication Team (ERIC), attached to the Jesuits.

“But the State continues to ignore the will of the people,” he said.

Environmentalist activists said local governments in the area consider the consultation processes to be non-binding, and as a result do not take them into account.

Before the Salvadoran legislature approved, in March 2017, a historic law prohibiting metal mining in all its forms, civil society organisations carried out popular consultations in at least four municipalities, under the Municipal Code.

For now there is no need for further consultations, as the law banned mining company investments. But the spectre of mining is still present after the right-wing parties, its natural allies, obtained an overwhelming majority in the Legislative Assembly in the Mar. 4 elections, warned Rodolfo Calles, of the Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES).

Convention 169 refers only to indigenous peoples, although the experts said in the meeting that national laws that serve the same purpose can be applied: people affected by any industrial activity must be informed and consulted beforehand.

“In the case of countries that do not have indigenous communities, they will use other mechanisms that they undoubtedly have, such as referendums,” Sonia Gutiérrez, an expert with the Association of Mayan Lawyers and Notaries of Guatemala, told IPS.

The extractive industry has no economic weight in the region, despite its impacts on the environment and on production in the communities where it operates, Nicaraguan activist Olman Onel told IPS. He pointed out that in his country, for example, it only contributes one percent of GDP and 0.66 percent of employment.

On the other hand, the participants in the forum denounced the police and judicial persecution suffered by environmentalists in the whole region, as a mechanism to silence opposition to such projects.

Landa, of ERIC, said that in Honduras, where more than 800 extractive projects and 143 hydroelectric projects have been approved in recent years, at least 127 environmentalists have been killed, including Berta Cáceres.

She was riddled by bullets on Mar. 3, 2016, for her fierce opposition to the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, located between the departments of Santa Bárbara and Intibucá, in the northwest of the country.

Meanwhile, in San Rafael Las Flores, local inhabitants have organised to defend their land and their livelihood, agriculture, although the damage caused by the extractive activity is already evident, they said.

Rudy Pivaral, a 62-year-old farmer, told IPS that the impacts on the flora and fauna are already being felt, and there is a decrease and drying up of water sources, which makes it impossible to continue producing two or three harvests a year, in addition to the health problems associated with water pollution.

Around 96 families in the village of La Cuchilla, on a hill next to the site, had to be evicted because of damage to the walls of the houses, due to the vibrations produced by the drilling in the ground.

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Leading from the Front: Zambia Launches Plant a Million Trees Initiativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 12:42:00 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155598 As global climate experts meet in Bonn this week to discuss how to take climate action forward, Zambia counts itself amongst the leaders as President Edgar Lungu officially launches the Plant a Million (PAM) trees Initiative. In fact, the initiative is even more ambitious than its name implies, and aims at planting at least two […]

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President Edgar Lungu just before planting a tree during the launch of Plant a Million Trees Initiative in Chinsali District. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

President Edgar Lungu just before planting a tree during the launch of Plant a Million Trees Initiative in Chinsali District. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

By Friday Phiri
CHINSALI, Zambia, May 3 2018 (IPS)

As global climate experts meet in Bonn this week to discuss how to take climate action forward, Zambia counts itself amongst the leaders as President Edgar Lungu officially launches the Plant a Million (PAM) trees Initiative.

In fact, the initiative is even more ambitious than its name implies, and aims at planting at least two billion trees by 2021. According to President Lungu, the initiative is in line with the country’s Seventh National Development Plan whose aim is to diversify the economy from copper dependency.

President Lungu says the initiative, which targets young people through schools, colleges and universities, will be used as a vehicle for mindset change among Zambians to begin to value the importance of planting trees as a tool for economic diversification.

“This initiative marks the beginning of growing money through trees and government stands ready to support it and ensure that it succeeds,” he said during the launch at Kapasa Makasa University in Muchinga Province, Northern Zambia.

In line with the country’s commitments to international treaties, especially the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, President Lungu said government envisages not only creating a tree-based economy, but also mitigating climate change through the initiative.

He is particularly concerned with the country’s alarming deforestation rate of 276,021 hectares per year, making Zambia one of the most deforested countries in Africa.

“The Plant A Million initiative will significantly contribute to reducing deforestation which has earned Zambia a bad name of being one of the most deforested countries in Africa as a result of uncontrolled harvesting of trees,” he said.

The Zambian president added that he was impressed with the youth involvement model through schools, colleges and universities, saying it will help push the agenda of mindset change because “when our learners appreciate the importance of trees, it will in turn create a positive impact in families and the communities at large.”

President Edgar Chagwa Lungu planting a tree while Minister of Lands and Natural Resources looks on. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

Speaking earlier, Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo said her Ministry would use the initiative to redefine the education system from exam-based to real-world practices.

“Over the years, the thinking in our school system has been that education is passing exams but we are redefining this thinking, so that people know that education is total transformation of a human being, and this programme is one of the ways to do it,” she said.

As one of the brains behind the initiative, Professor Luo said that Zambia was aiming to break the world record of planting the most trees, which is currently held by India. Last year, Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive.

About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh throughout Sunday.

India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.

“We are aiming to beat the world record, to go above 66 million trees done by India. We aim to plant at least a billion trees by 2019, and another billion plus by 2021; and I am positive that with universities’ involvement, it is doable,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata is optimistic that the initiative will not only add value to people’s livelihoods through income from the sale of fruit and other forest products, but also contribute to the country’s ambitious mitigation targets as set in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).

“As you may be aware, tree planting plays an important role in addressing impacts of climate change, and mitigating effects of climate change. In this regard, the Zambia Plant A Million initiative is also responding to national efforts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Zambia has undertaken, and is still implementing, several tree planting and preservation projects across the country. Central to such initiatives has been the goodwill of the country’s first president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who was a pioneer of tree planting during his time in office.

And according to Emmanuel Chibesakunda, PAM initiator and project manager, the initiative wants to build on this foresight and activism of the 94-year-old freedom fighter and founding father of the nation.

“I am pleased to announce this morning that Dr. Kenneth Kaunda has kindly agreed to be the goodwill ambassador for this initiative,” announced Chibesakunda amid thunderous applause from those who gathered to witness the ceremony in a district which is also home to Dr. Kaunda. “Dr. Kaunda did not only lead our country into independence, but also pioneered tree planting in Zambia.”

Chibesakunda shared his inspiration for the initiative, which he said was from his father who taught him that talent was like a seed which needed to be planted in the right soil to germinate into beautiful fruit. This led to his passion for trees, and especially the involvement of children and young people.

“My father told me that we all have talents, but what matters is where we plant them,” he told the gathering. “And my desire for this project is that we plant the knowledge in the young generation, let us put the future into their hands.”

So far, tree nurseries have been set up at 12 schools in Lusaka, and the project expects to reach 720 schools in the next two years in 60 districts across the country.

 

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Why Does Rural Poverty Equal Invisibility?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/rural-poverty-equal-invisibility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poverty-equal-invisibility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/rural-poverty-equal-invisibility/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 10:45:00 +0000 Alison Small http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155532 Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

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Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

By Alison Small
NAPIER, New Zealand, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

If an estimated 500 million smallholder farmers at a conservative estimate, produce 70 percent of the food we eat, why are they still so invisible in many countries?

Governments, development agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector have been working for decades on rural development in developing countries but still rural areas lag far behind cities and outlying areas in terms of infrastructure, services, social and economic development, notwithstanding the contribution that rural producers make to supplying us with food.

A tea farmer in Nyeri County, central Kenya contemplates what to do after his crop was damaged by severe weather patterns. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

In the United States the vote for President Trump was heavily supported by disheartened voters in rural areas while India is singular for having a high turnout amongst rural voters.

In most developing countries, rural producers are especially vulnerable to extremes of climate, drought followed by flooding, and other weather related issues, along with restricted services of almost every kind. Not by coincidence do we find that three-quarters of the world’s 836 million people living in extreme poverty are found in rural areas.

Smallholder farmers continue therefore to be largely invisible, notwithstanding our dependence on the food and other goods they produce. Its a paradox that appears to have become an inevitability. What you don’t see, doesn’t affect you.

In developed countries we worry about the rise of beggars on the streets, who make us feel uncomfortable as we step around them to enter our favourite cafe, bank or shop, and sometimes we offer them a coin or something to eat or drink. But the poor in rural areas, barely affect us. Perhaps subconsciously we think, they are living on the land, they can produce their own food, whereas seeing beggars in urban areas surrounded by concrete is perhaps more identifiable as poverty.

How many tourists visit rural areas, how many people actually witness rural poverty in developing countries, and if they do, perhaps the problem seems so entrenched that it appears intractable. The rural poor are largely off our radar, even off the radar of many governments it would appear. They exist, we exist but we seem unable to bridge the divide effectively.

Development agencies can point to hundreds of millions of dollars spent in projects and programmes aimed at improving the conditions of the rural poor, schools, shelter, wells for water, the provision of planting materials and other assistance to farmers, including significant assistance to rural women, women’s groups, women farmers, as well as access to extension and even some limited banking services. The fact is that distance, entrenched poverty, cultural biases, and poor governance, exacerbate the rural-urban divide.

The irony is that rural poverty increases the vulnerability of governments to instability, terrorism and economic vulnerability because poverty can easily be exploited and the poor manipulated. But if we are seeking solutions to feed a growing world population projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, the problem is fundamental to human survival. We help the food producers, the majority of them in rural areas and smallholders, we help ourselves, we also add to political stability and economic prosperity.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious, and the measurement of progress to achieve the goals is a hugely expensive development process of its own, but are real efforts being made by governments or is this just lipservice to the UN and for the UN to show some sort of progress without effecting any systemic change in the way resources including goods and services are divvied out by governments?

The Agenda 2030 vision and commitment are that no one will be left behind. It was adopted by 150 world leaders in 2015 but we have a long way to go before we can expect to see any progress to reach the 2030 target date.

New Zealand’s Helen Clarke, then Executive Head of the United Nations Development Programme stated “that ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty, for which reason, fearless leadership is needed”. But more than leadership, we need to keep the momentum going and we need to really consider what is actually working and what may need to be scrapped.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, one of the three Rome food and agriculture based agencies, will be holding an international conference on rural inequalities to consider how to overcome disparities from 2 to 3 May.

Can the 60 international speakers come up with anything new that may give us some hope for progress . It would be an encouraging sign to see concrete suggestions by practitioners and even if a handful of governments could take some of the suggestions or proposals , set aside serious money and constructively work to improve the lives of the rural poor in a bid to keep humanity moving in the right direction over the next 33 years when we have 2.2 million more mouths to feed.

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Excerpt:

Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

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New Index Measures Empowerment & Inclusion of Women in Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 14:32:23 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155517 The pilot version of a new index for measuring empowerment and the inclusion of women in agriculture was launched April 27 in Washington DC. Described as the Project-Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (Pro-WEAI), it was developed jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and thirteen […]

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Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

The pilot version of a new index for measuring empowerment and the inclusion of women in agriculture was launched April 27 in Washington DC.

Described as the Project-Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (Pro-WEAI), it was developed jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and thirteen partner projects.

The tool helps agricultural developmental projects to assess women’s empowerment in a project setting, diagnose areas of women’s disempowerment, design strategies to address deficiencies, and monitor project outcomes, according to a press release.

“The pro-WEAI is a new tool that tells us what is happening within the household: Did participation in the project improve women’s control of income or intrahousehold harmony? Did it increase the possibility of domestic violence?” said Agnes Quisumbing, senior research fellow, IFPRI.

“It measures aspects of empowerment key to health and nutrition outcomes, an integral part of nutrition-sensitive agricultural projects.”

Pro-WEAI builds on the success of the original Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), launched in 2012, by directly capturing indicators of women’s empowerment at the project level, instituting a mechanism by which programs can measure the impact of an intervention.

Based on an initial round of project data, the core empowerment module of pro-WEAI measures three domains of power: power from within (intrinsic agency), power to (instrumental agency), and power with (collective agency).

Seven of the Pro-WEAI indicators build on the original WEAI indicators with some modifications: input in productive decisions; autonomy in decisions about income; ownership of land and other assets; access to and decisions on credit; control over income; work balance; and group membership.

Pro-WEAI strengthens the linkages to the three types of powers by including 5 new indicators: self-efficacy; attitudes toward domestic violence; visiting important locations; membership in influential groups; and respect among household members. A woman is considered empowered in pro-WEAI if she has adequate achievements in 75 percent, or 9 out of the 12 indicators, according to the press release.

“Combining qualitative and quantitative study has helped us understand empowerment,” said Ruth Meinzen-Dick, senior research fellow, IFPRI. “In the qualitative study, people described an empowered woman as someone who helps others. That fits well with the ‘power with’ domain in the quantitative indicators, and shows that empowerment is not just an individual activity,” she added.

The index was developed as part of the Gender Agriculture and Assets Project 2 (GAAP2), which works with 13 agricultural development projects that expressed the need for ways to measure if the interventions improved women’s lives. For instance, health and nutrition projects wanted to know if the intervention increased women’s decision-making in areas related to health and nutrition outcomes. These partner projects collected data to pilot pro-WEAI in the nine countries in which they work.

“By linking both quantitative and qualitative tools, pro-WEAI has improved understanding of how men and women define complex aspects such as empowerment, status, self-esteem, and tangible outcomes that are derived from being empowered,” said Susan Kaaria, Senior Gender Officer, Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Pro-WEAI is helping the UN Joint programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women, implemented by FAO, International Fund for Agriculture Development, World Food Programme and UN Women, in assessing the programme’s contribution to the empowerment of rural women in the Adami Tulu and Yaya Gulele districts of Ethiopia.

“I believe the use of the Pro-WEAI tools is going to result in more approaches being designed in the future that engage men and women, maybe equally or in equitable ways—even if it’s for the benefit of women’s empowerment,” said Bobbi Gray, research director, Grameen Foundation. “This has been an eye-opening experience, and we look forward to continuing this sort of research in our other projects.”

Pro-WEAI validation and testing is still ongoing. The final version of the pro-WEAI will be informed by the endline data collection and feedback received from stakeholders and project partners.

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Revving Up Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/revving-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=revving-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/revving-green-growth/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 09:55:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155503 While sustainable development may still seem elusive to some, a new initiative wants to pave a path for nations working towards a greener future. Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, or P4G, is a new partnership initiative that aims to boost countries’ efforts in achieving the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). […]

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African cities are prone to feeling the effects of climate change. Pictured here is the Democratic Republic of Congo capital, Kinshasa. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

While sustainable development may still seem elusive to some, a new initiative wants to pave a path for nations working towards a greener future.

Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, or P4G, is a new partnership initiative that aims to boost countries’ efforts in achieving the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By creating and accelerating public-private partnerships, P4G could provide market-driven solutions to real life challenges in developing nations.

“There is an increasing conviction and need that to solve some of the more challenging problems, people are wanting an inter-disciplinary forum where they can talk to financiers, companies, banks…they want a forum like that and they want a forum to be quick, practical, and action-oriented,” Global Green Growth Institute’s (GGGI) Assistant Director-General and Head of its Investment and Policy Solutions Division Mahua Acharya told IPS.

“P4G is really one of those coalitions that is responding to needs…where you can bring private companies, governments, and others together and try to get around a single problem,” she continued.

Established by the Government of Denmark, the initiative will bring together leaders in government, civil society, and business to work together in five key sectors in sustainable development: food, water, energy, healthy cities, and circular economy.

But why these sectors in particular?

“Because they present the biggest climate change challenges,” Acharya told IPS.

The world’s cities emit up to 70 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide—and the figure is likely to be even higher when consumption emissions are included, one of P4G’s organizational partners C40 Cities found.

As city populations are predicted to double by 2050, the amount of carbon emissions is only expected to increase.

In response, cities such as New York have already begun to step up and lead the way against climate change.

Despite the United States’ announced withdrawal from the landmark Paris climate accord, New York aims to cut its carbon emissions from buildings by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

Buildings account for almost three quarters of the Northeastern American city’s contribution to climate change.

Like what P4G represents, New York’s government has partnered with leaders in the private and non-profit sectors in order to achieve its ambitious goal. With assistance from the Mayor’s Office, a number of partners from universities, hospitals, and commercial offices have already met their 30 percent goal.

Acharya also pointed to the role that innovative partnerships have played in food waste.

Around the world, entrepreneurs have launched apps to help reduce food waste among households, restaurants, and supermarkets.

In the United Kingdom, FoodCloud allows supermarkets and farms to work with charities in order to donate surplus food, while YourLocal in Denmark gives consumers a discount to food that would otherwise go to waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food loss and waste account for 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Food waste is also a major source of other greenhouse gases such as methane, a pollutant that is at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

With apps like FoodCloud and YourLocal, stakeholders can work together to create a cleaner, greener society.

Though it will take time for P4G’s partnerships to have concrete results, the initiative acts as a foundation to get the conversation started.

“Can the public sector start to work with private companies towards a solution—short-term, quick, commercial, action-oriented solutions? Can private companies offer solutions that are not just observing but are creating solutions to issues affecting society? They need to come a little closer together and try to speak the same language,” Acharya told IPS.

Over 400 public-private partnerships from over 80 countries have applied to receive funding or support through P4G, proposing a range of solutions to drive sustainable development.

“It was really encouraging, I saw some really revolutionary ideas…I’m very inspired by these partnerships,” Acharya said.

Launched in 2017, P4G awards up to 4 million dollars annually to help between 10-15 partnerships and accelerate sustainable development solutions. Winners will be announced at the first P4G Summit in 19-20 October 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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