Inter Press ServiceEnvironment – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:36:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Lobbying & Sponsorships at COP23 Corrupted Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/lobbying-sponsorships-cop23-corrupted-climate-talks/#comments Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:44:02 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153106 The world’s nations got together in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where nearly 200 countries and some 23, 000 delegates met to discuss and influence the negotiations over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement. The agreement, reached at the COP21 […]

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Carbon Projects Waiting to Exhale. Credit : IPS

By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

The world’s nations got together in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where nearly 200 countries and some 23, 000 delegates met to discuss and influence the negotiations over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement.

The agreement, reached at the COP21 in Paris, brought 195 countries together to adopt the first-ever legally binding global agreement to deal with climate changes through mitigations and financial policies starting in the year 2020.

This is why, COP23, the climate negotiations held in Bonn and which concluded November 18, proved to be extremely technical – the Paris agreement was essentially what a constitution is to a new regime and now, it was time to pass the laws.

And where there is law-making, there are lobbyists.

Both nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and industry representatives lobbied at COP but not for the same things – businesses have become ever more involved in the UN climate process and this has led to some uncomfortable interactions between the two groups.

A recently published report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) found that energy industries are, in fact, some of the most powerful lobbyists at climate talks such as COP.

“Big Polluters like oil, gas, coal, and agricultural transnational corporations (TNCs) are not only the largest emitters; their climate denial, lobbying, and policy interference make these industries one of the primary obstacles to sound climate policy at the local, national, and international levels,” states the CAI report, Polluting Paris.

For almost as long as the UNFCCC has existed, the same industries whose profits depend on the burning of oil, coal, and gas have been permitted to bankroll the UN climate talks, it elaborated.

This has long been a contentious issue because it allows some of the corporations to write checks to bolster the COP Presidency’s budget, provide services such as cars for delegates, or even build the negotiating halls where world leaders gather to address climate change.

For instance, during COP17 in Durban, corporations were given a choice by the South African government to fund entertaining jazz concerts, fancy gala dinners, or a lounge.

The British-South African mining giant, Anglo American, sponsored a number of keynote events, including the official opening ceremony and also co-hosted a cocktail rception hand in hand with the South African government, during which its chief executive warned that an energy future without coal is not an option.

The football-stadium-turned-conference-center where the talks took place during COP19 in Warsaw was covered in corporate logos, including PGE and LOTOS, both majority state-owned coal and oil companies. Not only did the Polish government co-organize the “International Coal and Climate Summit” alongside the industry-funded World Coal Association, they also used their official COP19 website to push for oil drilling in the Arctic (which LOTOS is involved in).

Poland will also host COP24 in 2018, when the guidelines and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement will be agreed upon.

However, after years of pressure from advocates and civil society, a call for a conflict of interest policy that ensures that participants with interests at odds with the objectives of the UNFCCC to not be invited to participate was finally culminated at the climate change conference held ahead of this year’s COP in Bonn in May.

Yet when, Fiji, the first small-island developing country to preside over these climate talks, understandably so established a trust fund to raise US 26 million to help to finance this COP23 and was actively requesting financial support, numerous fossil fuel based corporations and developed countries wrote cheques.

These include Fiji Airways, which then also sported the COP23 logo on one of its planes as well as Australia, Japan, the EU and even the US that has infamously decided to pull out of the Paris agreement and had reneged on its financial contributions to the UNFCCC or the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help countries like Fiji respond to climate change.

“The dirtiest polluters have long used their sponsorship of climate talks as part of a PR strategy to pretend they are part of the solution,” says Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory. “By sponsoring these talks, a Big Polluter can prop itself up as a legitimate actor, which in turn makes politicians more receptive to its deceptive lobbying”

This, he adds, swings the door open even wider for Big Polluters to expand their influence over climate policy.

Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron, for example, have all previously pledged their support for the Paris accord and even released statements to show their disagreement with Trump’s decision to default from the agreement.

But the fossil fuel industry has, in fact, known for decades that its products and practices were a danger to the planet – only 25 fossil fuel producers are responsible for over half of global emissions, according to a Carbon Majors Report.

But the industry giants have secured a seat at the head of the international climate policymaking table, elaborates the CAI report.

Since corporations are able to effectively buy their way into high-level events attended by world climate leaders, sponsorship itself often directly provides them with the lobbying prospects they need to undermine climate policy.

At UNFCCC, these fossil fuel TNCs then exploit the climate crisis by hijacking the talks, stifling ambition, pushing false solutions, and blocking the financing (and therefore withholding the availability) of real solutions, according to the report.

During COP23, for example, during a roundtable discussion on non-market approaches to implement the Paris Agreement, the Ukrainian delegation rolled out a proposal for the creation of a new permanent subsidiary body that would be called ‘Committee for Future’. This committee would place energy companies directly between the international climate negotiations and their national implementation.

The Ukrainian presenter of the proposal stated that “the Committee for the Future functions in between the global UNFCCC and national [climate plans and] allows direct participation of the corporates. US energy majors and other non-state actors will be brought to the UN table.”

In the lead-up to COP23, the US Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, had struck an $80 million dollar deal to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal to Ukraine by the end of the year.

In fact, the Trump administration in the US is, perhaps, the most relevant example of how this industry –puppet-show plays out.

“Who can doubt, for example, that the failure of the United States to secure domestic climate legislation, or ratify the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement, is largely the result of industry interference?” asks the CAI report.

And it is not just the US, many of these UNFCCC-accredited organizations publicly declare support for the Paris Agreement and climate policy more broadly but an in-depth look at who constitute their board of directors and where their money goes shows otherwise.

For example, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) member base is made up of 127 CEOs from Australia’s largest and wealthiest corporations and BusinessEurope’s membership and leadership also includes many polluting corporations yet both have aggressively obstructed climate policy initiatives for years.

This in no way, undermines the role of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement – according to Corporate Accountability, without UNFCC, these Global North governments are left free to do what they want while the rest of the world, especially Global South countries, low-income communities, people of colour, women, and children continue to pay the price.

World governments are again slated to take up the issue of conflicts of interest at the climate talks in May 2018.

“Fossil fuels must be left in the ground and Big Polluters must be delinked from the climate talks. To do this, we must end the corporate capture of the UNFCCC,” says Nnimmo Bassey, from Health of Mother Earth Foundation.

The only way Parties to the UNFCCC, it seems, can develop and implement real solutions to climate change is if those working on behalf of Big Oil, Coal, Gas and other Big Polluters aren’t allowed to weaken the guidelines world governments are currently developing for implementation of the Paris Agreement,

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

A Pollution-Free Planet?

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

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

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

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

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

 

1 in 4 Deaths Worldwide

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

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

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

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

 

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

Paris Is Not Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carbon Dioxide Levels Surge to New High

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

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

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

 

And Not At All in the Right Direction

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

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

10 to 20 Times Faster than Ever

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

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

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

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

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At Climate Summit, Two Global Energy Alliances Emergehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-summit-two-global-energy-alliances-emerge/#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:50:58 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153088 As the summit of governments known as COP23 reached its conclusion in Bonn, Germany this week, two clear alliances have emerged in the global energy landscape. One of them, the International Solar Alliance, was launched in Paris and is all set to become a legal entity. The other, an alliance to phase out coal, was […]

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Protesters at the COP3 in Bonn demand the complete phase-out of coal, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Protesters at the COP3 in Bonn demand the complete phase-out of coal, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Nov 19 2017 (IPS)

As the summit of governments known as COP23 reached its conclusion in Bonn, Germany this week, two clear alliances have emerged in the global energy landscape.

One of them, the International Solar Alliance, was launched in Paris and is all set to become a legal entity. The other, an alliance to phase out coal, was announced on Dec. 16 in one of the biggest developments at COP23.“Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health and for our kids." --Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Jointly launched by Britain and Canada – both developed countries – the alliance already has 20 members, including Italy, France, Mexico, Norway, El Salvador and several U.S. states.

The International Solar Alliance, on the other hand, is led by India – an emerging economy. Forty-four countries have already joined this alliance, of which 16 have also ratified it. As a result, the alliance will come into force on Dec. 6.

New Emissions Data, New Alliances

The launch of the Global Alliance to Power Past Coal comes at a time when global carbon emissions are rising. Earlier in the week, the University of East Anglia and Global Carbon Project global emissions report showed a significant rise in global carbon emissions in 2017. The rise was observed after three years during which emissions figures were static. The biggest increase in carbon emissions occurred in China and India.

According to the report, Global CO2 emissions from all human activities are set to reach 41 billion tons (41 Gt CO2) by the end of 2017. Meanwhile emissions from fossil fuels are set to reach 37 Gt CO2 – a record high. China’s emissions are projected to grow by 3.5 percent while India’s emissions are projected to grow by 2 percent.

Launching the new alliance to phase out coal, Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said, “Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health and for our kids. Coal is literally choking our cities with close to a million dying every year from coal pollution. I am thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.”

The members of the new alliance, which aims to grow to 50 by the next COP in 2018, would not only phase out coal in their own countries by 2030 but also stop investing in coal-fired electricity both within and outside of their countries.

In sharp contrast, the members of the other alliance – the ISA – are reluctant to make any commitment to end coal energy before 2030. India, the leader of the alliance and a major coal producer, argues that coal is needed to end poverty and provide its poor citizens access to electricity. The country plans to produce 1.5 billion tons of coal by 2020 – double the amount it produces now.

“From the Indian perspective, let me make it very clear: there are development imperatives which as a country we need to fulfill. If you look at the total emissions, our contribution is miniscule. The point is, while this factor is spoken of, what is not spoken [about] is India’s extreme effort at trying to get energy much better,” said India’s Environment Secretary in a definite statement to the press.

“Today we are talking of producing 175 gigawatt of energy from renewable sources by 2022. Of that 120 GW will be from solar and the rest from biomass and others. Coal will continue to be used for some time, but we are continuously looking at alternative sources of energy.”

Anand Kumar, secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said that IAS’s core goal is to bring 121 countries on a single platform to explore ways to utilize and promote solar energy.

Besides production, the alliance would also focus on making solar energy cheaper and more accessible by garnering investment, bringing down the cost of solar cells, solar modules and solar storage.

The other prominent members of the alliance – China, Australia and New Zealand – still heavily invest in coal, even as they’re trying to produce more energy from renewable sources. At the COP, soon after the emissions report was presented by the University of East Anglia, Brazil, India, South Africa and China – known as the BASIC countries – released a joint statement reiterating their right to grow and asking the world to look at their emissions from the perspective of equity.

No coal vs no unabated coal

However, even as the new Global Alliance to Power Past Coal was announced, some of the statements raised doubts over whether the alliance only wanted to end unabated coal or coal in general.

Unabated coal refers to plants that are not fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which captures the harmful emissions that cause global warming.

According to Claire Perry, Minister for Climate Change and Industry in the UK and one of the alliance’s leaders, unabated coal was “the dirtiest” and her country would try to end using it. “The UK is committed to completely phasing out unabated coal-fire power generation no later than 2015 and we hope to inspire others to follow suit.”

Perry did not elaborate if the UK or the new alliance would still support use of abated or partially abated coal.

India, which otherwise refuses to end its use of coal, is also in favor of using partially abated or so-called “clean coal.” Says C K Mishra, “We are also looking at making use of better quality coals.”

Sitting on the Fence: Germany’s non-partisan status

Interestingly, Germany – which provided the venue for COP 23 – has not announced its intention to join either of these alliances. This has been severely criticized by anti-coal activists who have accused Germany of having a double standard by organizing the climate conference while not taking a strong step on either ending coal or shifting to renewable energy.

On Nov. 15, as Angela Merkel reached the COP to address the parties, the activists laid out a red banner that read “keep it in the ground” for the chancellor to walk on.

“We want no coal. We want no dirty power,” said one of the activists who was not allowed inside the conference.

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Financing Will Continue to be Key Issue in Battling Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/financing-will-continue-key-issue-battling-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=financing-will-continue-key-issue-battling-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/financing-will-continue-key-issue-battling-climate-change/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:02:57 +0000 Paula Caballero http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153082 “The Bonn climate talks were foundational, paving the way to finalize the rules that underpin the Paris Agreement next year and setting the stage for countries to commit to enhance their national climate plans by 2020. On both counts, the climate talks in Bonn were a success. However, negotiators have plenty of homework to do […]

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Extreme poverty makes women more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Credit: IPS

By Paula Caballero
BONN, Nov 17 2017 (IPS)

“The Bonn climate talks were foundational, paving the way to finalize the rules that underpin the Paris Agreement next year and setting the stage for countries to commit to enhance their national climate plans by 2020. On both counts, the climate talks in Bonn were a success. However, negotiators have plenty of homework to do to get there.

“An appeal for developed countries to ramp up their climate efforts before 2020 became an unexpectedly prominent topic at the talks. Delegates reached common ground by agreeing to form special stocktaking sessions to review progress towards curbing emissions and delivering on climate finance in the immediate term.

“Today, the Fiji Presidency unveiled a roadmap for the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue, a year-long process to assess progress and identify opportunities for countries to make bolder commitments. This process will conclude at the climate summit in Poland next year. As the birth place for nationally determined contributions (NDCs), Poland can uphold its legacy by facilitating a smooth path to the next round of national climate commitments.

“As climate change intensifies, so too will its devastating impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people. Climate finance is critical to help developing countries respond to climate change. Support is and will continue to be an important issue in these negotiations.

“Outside the negotiating rooms, a broad range of voices continue to show strong support for climate action. We heard from companies like HP Inc., Mars, and Wal-Mart, which are among over 320 major companies that have committed to or have already set science-based emissions targets.

The Global Covenant of Mayors brings together 7,500 cities and local government with the potential to reduce the equivalent of 1.7 billion tons of emissions.

“Having already abandoned its leadership role, the Trump administration appears to be living in an alternate universe with its ill-advised focus on fossil fuels. And now that the United States is the only nation that is not on board with the Paris Agreement, the Trump Administration should carefully consider whether being completely isolated on the climate issue really benefits their agenda.

“While the U.S. official presence was subdued in the negotiations, the surge of subnational action in the U.S. is undeniable. The America’s Pledge report shows that a coalition of U.S. states, cities and businesses – equivalent to more than half of the U.S. economy and population – are carrying U.S. climate action forward.

“We are living in unusual and alarming times. The latest studies show that global emissions are again on the rise and the world is off track of where it needs to be. People are feeling the impacts from climate change that have long been predicted — from mega-storms that struck Florida and Texas, to hurricanes in the Caribbean and massive flooding in parts of Africa and South Asia.

In the coming months, we need a greater sense of urgency to make the deep shifts needed in our economies to address the global climate challenge. 2018 needs to be the year for countries step up.”

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Rejoicing in the Other and Celebrating Diversity Are Needed More than Ever to Address the Root-Causes of Intolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/rejoicing-celebrating-diversity-needed-ever-address-root-causes-intolerance/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:39:19 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153069 The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world. In his statement issued in relation to […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim deplored the rise of xenophobia, bigotry and marginalization – targeting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons – that is taking effect in many regions of the world.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

In his statement issued in relation to the observation of the 2017 International Day for Tolerance, the Geneva Centre’s Chairman remarked that people in conflict zones or in areas affected by climate change are left with no other option than to flee their home societies owing to the rise of violent extremism and the adverse impact of armed conflict. Dr. Al Qassim said:

“Meanwhile, populist movements and right-wing parties seek to legitimize their political ideologies through hate rhetoric, bigotry and stereotyping of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

“Exclusion and marginalization of displaced people – as witnessed in several countries – exacerbate xenophobia, bigotry and racism. Differences related to cultures and to religions are presented as obstacles and as being damaging to modern societies. This explains the rise of social exclusion which leaves the impression that cultural diversity is a threat, and not a source of richness,” stated the Chairman of the Geneva Centre.

Dr. Al Qassim called upon societies both in the Arab region and in the West to stand united in addressing simultaneously the rise of violent extremism and of populism. He also appealed to global decision-makers to step up their efforts to create a climate that is conducive to respecting the dignity of all communities and to the achievement of peace and stability in regions affected by conflict and violence.

“Changing people’s narratives and managing diversity is key to facilitating a successful integration process of displaced people in host societies and to overcome the worrying trend of a toxic discourse against the ‘Other’ that is gaining ground in many societies around the world.

“We need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about one another and to break down the walls of ignorance and prejudice that have insulated societies,”
highlighted Dr. Al. Qassim.

Against this background, he added the Geneva Centre is in the process of arranging a World Conference entitled “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.” This event – Dr. Al Qassim noted – will be convened at the United Nations Office in Geneva in June 2018 and will bring together leaders from the world’s main religions whether spiritual or lay.

“The ambition of this conference is to chart a more inclusive understanding and forward-looking discussion in addressing religious intolerance and in the pursuit of equal citizenship rights. This will obviate the need for diverse segments of a native population to fall back on sub-identities heretofore referred to as ‘minorities’.

“The World Conference will become an opportunity to harness the collective energy of religious and lay leaders to capitalize on the convergence between religious faiths, beliefs and value systems to respond with a unified voice to the sweeping rise of intolerance affecting the world.

“In moments where the fear of the stranger has become the norm in many societies, rejoicing in the Other and celebrating diversity are needed more than ever to address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/decent-toilets-women-girls-vital-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:55:54 +0000 Tim Wainwright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153067 Tim Wainwright is Chief Executive at WaterAid

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Decent Toilets for Women & Girls Vital for Gender Equality

Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Tim Wainwright
LONDON, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

This weekend marks World Toilet Day (November 19)– and the news is disheartening. One in three people are still waiting for a toilet; still having to face the indignity and often fear of relieving themselves in the open or using unsafe or unhygienic toilets.

It is frustrating that the headline statistics have not made greater progress two years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), when having a toilet is such a fundamental boost to gender equality, as well as health, education and economic opportunity.

Tim Wainwright, CEO, WaterAid UK

In ‘Out of Order: State of the World’s Toilets 2017’, WaterAid’s annual analysis based on WHO-Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) data, we show that Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.

Being denied access to safe, private toilets is particularly dangerous for women and girls, impacting on their health and education, and exposing them to an increased risk of harassment and even attack.

There have been some improvements. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of people defecating in the open globally dropped from 1.2 billion (20% of the world’s population) to 892 million (12%). India is making incredible strides with its Clean India Mission, progress that has not yet been fully captured in the JMP data. In Ethiopia, the number of people defecating in the open has dropped from nearly 80% in 2000 to 27% today – a tremendous step towards the goal of safe sanitation for all.

However, change is not happening fast enough.

The 10 worst countries for access to basic sanitation are all in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress has been abysmally slow. In 2000, 75% of people lacked access to even basic toilets; by 2015, this had only dropped to 72%.

Population growth and the huge numbers of people moving to cities where services can’t keep up means sanitation is falling behind; the number of people practising open defecation in the region has actually increased.

Ethiopia is now the worst country in the world for having the highest percentage of people without toilets, with a staggering 93% lacking access to basic household facilities. India remains the nation with the most people without toilets – 732.2 million people are still waiting for even basic sanitation.
Nigeria is among the countries where open defecation is increasing and is No. 3 in the world’s worst countries for the number of people without toilets. This comes at a heavy price: A WaterAid survey revealed one in five women in Lagos have experienced harassment or been physically threatened or assaulted when going for open defecation or using shared latrines. Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem may be underreported.

Rahab, 20, lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Abuja, where there are no decent toilets.

She said: “We go to the toilet in the bush. It is risky as there are snakes, and I have also experienced some attacks from boys. It is not safe early in the morning or in the night as you can meet anyone. They drink alcohol and will touch you and if you don’t like it, they will force you. If I see men when I go to the toilet, I go back home and hold it in.”

Imagine every time you need the toilet you are frightened. And what scares you is not only the threats you can see – any community without decent toilets is contaminated with human waste.

Diarrhoeal diseases linked to dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene claim the lives of 289,000 children under 5 each year, while repeated bouts of diarrhoea contribute to malnutrition and stunting, causing impaired development and weakened immune systems.

Women who have suffered stunting are more likely to experience obstructions when giving birth. Poor sanitation and hygiene also increase the risk of infection during and after childbirth, with sepsis accounting for over one in ten of maternal deaths worldwide.

Girls are more likely to miss classes while on their periods when their schools don’t have private toilets, and the same goes for female workers in factories that don’t have decent facilities. None of this is acceptable and so much is preventable.

The world promised that by 2030 everyone will have a safe toilet, but at the current rate of progress, even the moment when everyone basic provision will be decades after that. Next summer, leaders will review progress on Goal 6 to ensure universal access to water and sanitation. As countries prepare for this, there needs to be a dramatic step change in ambition and action.

It is a no-brainer. For every $1 spent on water and sanitation, $4 is returned in increased productivity as less time is lost through sickness. We need governments and donors to acknowledge the importance of sanitation and make the urgent long-term investments needed.

Girls and women should feed into the decision making process to make sure the services meet their needs whatever their age or physical ability. And the issue of sanitation must be taken out of its cubicle – the health, education and business sector must realise that providing safe, accessible toilets to all within their premises is non-negotiable.

Only then girls and women be able to fully participate in their communities, enjoying the health, education and gender equality premiums brought by just being able to use a safe toilet.

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

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

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

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

Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Examples

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

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

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

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

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

2. Soils and Water

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

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

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

3. Pests

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

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

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

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

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

4. Food Safety

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

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

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

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

5. Emergency Response

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

6. Climate Change

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

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

7. Seasonal Famine

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Emilio Godoy
BONN, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Girls in Afghanistan—and Everywhere Else—Need Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/girls-afghanistan-everywhere-else-need-toilets/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:04:55 +0000 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153051 Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing are senior women’s rights researchers at Human Rights Watch.

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Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

Girls cover their faces to protect themselves from the stench of a filthy and malfunctioning restroom in their school. at this school, girls have no toilets of their own and their only option is to use the ones on the far side of the buildings where the boys study. They do not have locking doors and are several minutes’ walk from a water point. ©2017 Paula Bronstein for Human Rights Watch

By Heather Barr and Amanda Klasing
LONDON/WASHINGTON DC, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“I never come here, just because of boys,” Atifa says, pointing at the door of the stall. “They’re opening the door.” Atifa, a sixth grader in Kabul, Afghanistan, attends a school of 650 girls. Since they study in tents in a vacant lot, the only toilets the girls have access to are on the far side of the boys’ school next door. The school is one of a very few for girls in the area, so some students walk over an hour each way to get there.

The toilets in the boys’ school consist of two separate blocks of pit toilets with four stalls per block. Both blocks are used by the boys, none of the stalls have locking doors, and none are reserved for  the girls’ use. On the day Atifa showed Human Rights Watch around, the floors were awash with urine and feces.

The school’s only water point—for drinking, handwashing, and any other uses— is a several-minute walk down a hill. Girls using the toilets have to cope with sexual harassment from male students on the way there, and boys trying to open the stall doors while girls are using the toilet.

When we interviewed girls, parents, and experts about this situation for a new report they said  that lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. Sixty  percent of schools here do not have toilets, 85 percent of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.

Lack of access to toilets is a major barrier to education for girls in Afghanistan. 60% of schools here do not have toilets, 85% of out-of-school children are girls, and two-thirds of girls ages 12 to 15 are out of school.
Lack of access to clean, safe, private toilets is a major barrier around the world to girls like Atifa, and it’s an issue that disproportionately affects girls. No child should have to attend a school without toilets. But put bluntly, where toilets are not available it is easier–and more socially accepted–for boys to urinate outside than for girls, even in countries with far less strict views on girls’ behavior than Afghanistan.

When girls reach puberty and begin menstruation, the problem becomes even worse. Without privacy in the toilets, somewhere to dispose of waste or clean reusable hygiene materials, and running water in close proximity to toilets, girls face great difficulty managing menstrual hygiene. This leads many girls to stay home during their periods, and as these absences accumulate, they fall behind on their studies, suffer poor academic achievement, and are at increased risk of dropping out completely.

Countries around the world have recognized the need to reach universal coverage for sanitation—put simply people should be able to use a safe, hygienic toilet wherever they are—home, work, the hospital, and, yes, at school. As part of the global sustainable development goals– the 17 goals agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015 as part of a new sustainable development agenda– governments have set ambitious targets to end open defecation and achieve universal access to basic sanitation services by 2030.

Such a clarion call is nearly herculean. Six out of every 10 people in the world lack safely managed sanitation. That is 4.5 billion people. Given these numbers, it is easy to conclude a safe toilet is a privilege of the rich and urban, not a universal right.

 

 

Today is World Toilet Day. An odd thing to celebrate, perhaps. Yet, given those numbers it’s easy to see why we should stop and consider the humble toilet and all the benefits it provides to those who have access to it. For starters, those of us who can use the toilet and wash our hands are at reduced risk of the diarrheal diseases that claim the lives of more than 350,000 children a year.

But sanitation is more than just a privilege or a tool to prevent disease. It is a fundamental human right, one that can  enable people to realize other rights—like the right to health. For girls like Atifa, a simple, safe and private toilet can be essential to putting education within reach.

Governments will face many competing demands as they work to try to reach universal coverage by 2030. In the crush of priorities, there is a grave risk that the most marginalized and vulnerable will be left behind. In Afghanistan and in places around the world where girls have to fight and struggle to receive a basic education, toilets in school for girls should  not be lost in the shuffle.

 

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Climate Change is Already Upon us & Will Only Worsen in Short Termhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-already-upon-us-will-worsen-short-term/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-already-upon-us-will-worsen-short-term http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-already-upon-us-will-worsen-short-term/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 18:07:03 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153043 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 23) in Bonn

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 23) in Bonn

By António Guterres
BONN, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

It is fitting that this year’s conference of parties (on climate change, COP 23) is led by Fiji, a nation on the frontlines.

Last month I visited other small islands facing the impacts of a warming world: Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica. The hurricane damage was beyond belief. The catastrophic effects of climate change are upon us. Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years. Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty — to each other and to future generations — is to raise ambition.

We need to do more on five ambition action areas: emissions, adaptation, finance, partnerships and leadership.

First, reducing emissions.

The latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report shows that current pledges will only deliver a third of what is needed to stay in the safety zones of the Paris Agreement.

The Global Carbon Project reported earlier this week that 2017 will see the first increase in CO2 emissions in three years.

The window of opportunity to meet the 2-degree target may close in 20 years or less. And we may have only five years to bend the emissions curve towards 1.5 degrees.

We need at least a further 25 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. Yet there are also encouraging signs of progress.

For years, many insisted that lowering emissions would stifle growth, and that high emissions were the unavoidable cost of progress. Today that dogma is dead. We are beginning to de-couple emissions from economic growth.

Massive economies such as China and India are on track to surpass their Paris pledges. Carbon markets are growing and merging. The Green Bond market is expanding.

It is crucial for all countries to follow through on their Paris commitments. The agreement itself calls for raising ambition — and so I urge you to use the 2020 revision of the Nationally Determined Contributions to close the 2030 emissions gap.

The second area for greater ambition is: Adaptation.

Mitigation is essential, but climate change is already upon us, and will only worsen in the short-term. It is essential that we adapt and that we strengthen resilience.

The Green Climate Fund can play a catalytic role on this, and I appeal to its members, especially donor nations, to bring this mechanism fully to life. I have also asked the UN system to promote adaptation and resilience efforts at the country level.

I commend the 2015 pledge by G7 nations to provide insurance against extreme weather events for 400 million more vulnerable people by 2020. And I welcome the announcement here in Bonn, led by the Government of Germany, to fast forward this ambition.

The insurance industry itself has long sounded the alarm about climate change. The industry is keen to promote coverage for people at risk — and it is pressing business and governments alike to figure climate shocks into their planning, policies and operations. I will facilitate these efforts.

Third, finance.

Greater ambition on emissions, adaptation and resilience is inextricably linked to funding. We need to mobilize the agreed 100-billion-dollars annually for developing countries.

Upholding this promise is essential for building confidence and trust. It is crucial for enabling all countries, but especially the most vulnerable, to face inevitable climate impacts and grow their economies cleanly.

In addition, markets can and must play a central role in financing a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. Yet markets need to be re-oriented away from the counter-productive and the short-term.

In 2016, an estimated 825 billion dollars were invested in fossil fuels and high-emissions sectors. We must stop making bets on an unsustainable future that will place savings and societies at risk.

Earlier this year, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that bringing together the growth and climate agendas could add 1 per cent to average economic output in the G20 countries by 2021.

If we add the economic benefits of avoiding the devastation of climate change impacts, gross domestic product in 2050 would soar by 5 per cent. Infrastructure investment will be crucial.

The world should adopt a simple rule: If big infrastructure projects aren’t green, they shouldn’t be given the green light. Otherwise we will be locked into bad choices for decades to come.

Investing in climate-friendly development is where the smart money is headed. I welcome the initiative of President Macron to convene the “One Planet summit” next month to focus on financing.

I will be working to scale up international financing in renewable and energy efficiency projects to reduce at least 1 gigaton or more of carbon emissions by 2020. The formation of a clean energy investment coalition, as proposed by Denmark, is an idea worth pursuing.

We should also work with greater determination towards carbon pricing. This is a key instrument for driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

More than half of the nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement cite the need for carbon pricing. Last year, carbon pricing initiatives generated 22 billion dollars.

Growing carbon markets in Europe and North America, and China’s expected announcement of one of the world’s largest emissions trading systems, are a good sign.

But to meet the Paris goals we need at least 50 per cent global coverage and a higher price on carbon to drive large-scale climate action. I urge G20 countries to set a strong example.

The fourth ambition action area is partnerships.

The dramatic steps we need require action coalitions across all key sectors and by all actors. Partnership –with the private sector, local and regional governments and civil society — will make or break efforts to implement the Paris Agreement.

In particular, the only way to keep below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees is to mobilize the private sector to move on an energy transformation. With government incentives, such as clean energy and transport policies, business can move the markets to promote the green economy we need.

We need to engage global technology giants, the oil and gas sector and the automotive industry so their business plans are consistent with the Paris goals. And we need to engage the agricultural and forestry sectors to ensure climate friendly land use.

But we must engage all actors — national, regional and local governments, philanthropists and investors and consumers — in the transformation to a low-emission economy. Next year, the Governor of California and my special envoy Michael Bloomberg, together with Anand Mahindra, will bring together cities, states, businesses and citizens’ groups to encourage further commitments from these vital actors.

One can see action everywhere, at all scales, at all levels, involving an ever-wider landscape of actors and institutions. Let us build on this momentum.

Fifth, we need heights of political leadership.

Solutions to climate change will enable us to meet many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I encourage you to be bold in your deliberations and decisions here in Bonn – and at home.

By embracing low-carbon climate-resilient policy making you can set the world on the right path. And where you lead, business and civil society will follow.

In September 2019, I will convene a Climate Summit to mobilize political and economic energy at the highest levels. More immediately — in this 20th anniversary year of the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Climate Change Convention — I call on all nations that have not yet done so to ratify the Doha Amendment.

I also call on world leaders to ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which destroy the ozone layer and contribute significantly to temperature rise.

I can think of no greater way to show your people that you care for the well-being of your citizens than to claim the mantle of climate leadership. Show courage in combatting entrenched interests.

Show wisdom in investing in the opportunities of the future. Show compassion in caring what kind of world we build for our children.

As a former politician myself, I have no doubt that in today’s world, this is the path to progress today and a meaningful legacy for tomorrow.

Ultimately, there is only one ambition that matters – to build a secure world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.

The world counts on your wisdom and foresight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Gender Day at Climate Meet, Some Progress, Many Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:42:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153031 “Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj. Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of […]

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Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj.

Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it." --indigenous leader Lina Gualinga

Established in 2009, the WGC is an umbrella group of 27 organizations working to make women’s voices and rights central to the ongoing discussions within the UNFCCC and the climate discussions known as COP23 in Bonn.

On Tuesday, as the COP observed Gender Day – a day specifically dedicated to address gender issues in climate change and celebrate women’s climate action – UNFCCC had just accepted the Gender Action Plan, a roadmap to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its discussions and actions.  For WGC and other women leaders attending the COP, this is a clear indication of progress on the gender front.

“For the first time ever, we are going to adopt a Gender Action Plan. It’s very good and over one year, it will be a matter of implementing it. So that’s where we are,” said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Climate Change.

Gender Action Plan: The main points

The creation of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) was agreed upon by the countries at last year’s conference (COP22) in Morocco. All over the world, women face higher climate risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change. Yet they are often left out of the picture when decisions on climate action are made.

The aim of the GAP is to ensure that women can influence climate change decisions, and that women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the UNFCCC as a way to increase its effectiveness.

The GAP is made of five key goals that are crucial for improving the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensuring their representation in climate policy. These range from increasing knowledge and capacities of women and men to full, equal and meaningful participation of women in national delegations, including women from grassroots organizations, local and indigenous peoples and women from Small Island Developing States.

In brief, the five goals are:

  • Gender-responsive climate policy including gender budgeting
  • Increased availability of sex and gender disaggregated data and analysis at all levels
  • Gender balance in all aspects of climate change policy including all levels of UNFCCC.
  • 100% gender-responsive climate finance
  • 100% gender responsive approach in technology transfer and development.

The adopted draft, however, is a much watered-down version of the draft GAP that the GEC submitted. It has omitted several of the demands, especially on including indigenous women and women human rights defenders in the climate action plan.

“I would have expected a much-expressed acknowledgement of the participation, the voices and the knowledge of the indigenous and local women. We worked very hard to get that in, but it’s not there as much as I would have liked,” said Robinson, before adding that the adoption of the GAP, nonetheless, is “definitely some progress.”

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Omission leads to disappointment

Not everyone, however, is taking the omissions in the GAP quietly. At Tuesday noon, representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia gathered at Bula zone 1 – where the negotiations are taking place and held a protest.

“We are here because we want to tell the parties that women human rights defenders are legitimate and critical actors not only in SDG 5, but all the SDGs including combating climate change and all areas of 2030 agenda and Paris Agreement,” said a protester as others nodded in silence, their mouth sealed with black tape.

Prior to the protest, however, Lina Gualinga, an indigenous leader from the Kichwa tribe in Ecuador shared some details of how women environmental activists feel.

“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it. So, very few women can actually be here and be part of the COP,” she said.

“In the meantime, the language of the negotiations is drafted and shaped leaving no room to address our concerns. For example, what is sustainable development? For us, it’s nothing but clean water, fresh air, fertile land. Is that reflected in the language of the COP?” she asked.

No access to climate finance

Besides the continuous disappointment over human rights and indigenous issues, accessing finance has emerged as the biggest hurdle for women climate leaders. According to Robinson, the number of women who are getting climate finance is shockingly small.

“The latest figures by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that only 2 percent of the finance is going to women in the grassroots and southern groups. Only 2 percent! Its tiny. And yet that is where an awful lot of climate work is taking place, where women are trying to make themselves resilient,” Robinson said.

There are three simple ways to solve this, she said:  One, increase local funding. Two, simplify the process to access climate. And three, train women in new, green technologies.

Citing the example of the Barefoot College in India –  a government funded and NGO-run institution that trains women from developing countries in solar technologies before they become “Solar Mamas” or solar entrepreneurs – Robinson said that trainings like this are a great way to include women in climate action at the local level.

“This not only builds their capacity to be more climate resilient, but also helps them become economically empowered,” she said, before admitting that more such initiatives would require more direct funding by local institutions.

Numbers still missing

White the central debate is on mainstreaming gender in the core process of negotiations, some also want to draw attention to the low representation of women in the conference. At the 2015 Paris summit, just over 38 percent of national delegations were women, with Peru, Hungary, Lesotho, Italy and Kiribati among the most balanced delegations and Mauritius, Yemen, Afghanistan and Oman the least.

This year, some countries such as Turkey, Poland and Fiji have 50 percent female delegates while three countries – Latvia, Albania and Guyana – have sent all-female delegations. But the average percentage of female negotiators at country delegations is still 38. Several countries, including Somalia, Eritrea and Uzbekistan, did not include a single women in their delegations.

Noelene Nabulivou, an activist from Fiji, said that it’s time to seriously fill the gender gap at the conference.

“If we are asking for equal opportunity, why can’t we ask for equal participation?” asked Nabulivou.

Meanwhile, Kalyani Raj thinks that quotas could limit the potential scope. “We want a balance, but at the same time, why limit ourselves to a mere 50 percent? It could be anything!” said Raj.

The first report to evaluate the progress on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan will be presented in November 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

Olga Speckhardt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

Key facts

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

Source: FAO

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

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

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

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

Child Farmers, Hederos, Fishers…

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

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

What Is Child Labour?

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

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

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

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

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

Any Chance to Eradicate Child Labour?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Prospects of Rural Youth Employment in Africa a Mirage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:59:35 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153004 (Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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(Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Many recent accounts tend to dismiss productive employment of youth in rural areas in Africa as a mirage largely because they exhibit strong resistance to eking out a bare subsistence in dismal working and living conditions. We argue below on recent evidence of agricultural transformation that this view is overly pessimistic, if not largely mistaken.

Raghav Gaiha

The 15–24-year-old age group represents 20% of SSA’s population today and, unlike in other regions, this youth share will remain high and stable (19% in 2050). In absolute terms, SSA’s youth will grow from nearly 200 million in 2015 to nearly 400 million in 2050, and its share in the labour force will remain the highest in the world, even if following a declining trend. Representing 37% today – in comparison with 30% in India, 25% in China and 20% in Europe – it should still account for 30% in 2050 (ILO, 2016).

Agriculture has a substantial role in meeting the youth employment challenge facing Africa. Even in a most optimistic scenario, non-farm and urban sectors are not likely to absorb more than two-thirds of young labour market entrants over the next decade. But there will be vast opportunities for the innovative young people in agricultural systems as they adapt to a range of challenges in the near future. These challenges relate to raising productivity in a sustainable way, integration into emerging high value chains, and healthy diets.

While the challenges are daunting, the potential benefits of addressing them are enormous. Higher prices, more integrated value chains, widening connectivity to markets in some areas, and greater private and public engagement in the sector are creating new opportunities. A major barrier is, however, strong negative preferences/attitudes of the youth towards agriculture.

A survey of rural in- and out-of school young people towards agriculture, based on field-work in two regions in Ethiopia, is remarkably rich and insightful (IDS Bulletin Volume 43 Number 6, 2012). Life as a farmer was tied to life in a village which most respondents saw as hard and demanding. Yet there was considerable heterogeneity in the views of the young. Participants in both regions concurred that agriculture has changed significantly over the last decade. The introduction and adoption of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and better farming methods (such as slash ploughing, sowing seeds in rows, water pumps, modern beehives) have produced significant increases in productivity and earnings.

There were competing narratives on whether agriculture was becoming more desirable to young people as a result. Participants felt that these developments were making agriculture more and more profitable and therefore more appealing. But they felt that there was a huge obstacle in engaging in it – scarcity of land. Although the dominant view was that young people are disinterested in agriculture, some participants pointed out that this was not always the case.

A slightly more positive attitude towards agriculture was evident among young people who had left school, either failing to complete high school for various reasons or to qualify for higher level education. Although this group of respondents were equally aware of the grimness of traditional agriculture and the life of the common farmer, many were not dismissive of agriculture as a possible future livelihood, while a few even saw it as a preferred livelihood option, under improved conditions.

Recognizing agriculture as a viable employment option is even more challenging when economic and social restrictions related to access to productive resources (eg land, credit and improved seeds) are taken into account. All these limitations are exacerbated for young women who, in general, have no prospect of land access due to rules of inheritance, and who know that they will mainly have to work for their husbands (ILO, 2016).

Although the government considers rural educated youth as instrumental in bringing about a transformation in agricultural skills, knowledge and productivity, it has not effectively addressed either the attitude of many young people towards agriculture or the obstacles preventing their entry into the sector.

To create opportunities commensurate with the number of young people who will need employment, constraints on the acquisition of capital, land, and skills must be removed or relaxed.

A few selected initiatives are delineated below.

Allowing alternative forms of collateral, such as chattel mortgages, warehouse receipts, and the future harvest, can ease the credit constraints-especially for young farmers. The OHADA7 Uniform Act on Secured Transactions, in effect in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, was amended at the end of 2010 to allow borrowers to use a wide range of assets as collateral, including warehouse receipts and movable property such as machinery, equipment, and receivables that remain in the hands of the debtor. Leasing also offers young farmers some relief, as it requires either no or less collateral than typically required by loans. A case in point is DFCU Leasing in Uganda, which gave more than US$4 million in farm equipment leases in 2002 for items such as rice hullers, dairy processing equipment, and maize milling equipment. Some outgrower arrangements prefinance inputs and assure marketing channels. In Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, Rabo Development (a subsidiary of Rabobank) offers management services and technical assistance to financial institutions, which, in turn, finance supply chains with a range of agricultural clients.

The two aspects of land administration that matter most to young entrants to the labour force are the need to improve security of tenure and the need to relax controls on rental. Land redistribution will also enhance young people’s access to land. In general, policies and measures that help the poor to gain access to land will also help young people.

The growing food demand in Africa is a major avenue for agro-processing, which can easily be developed using small and medium-sized entities (SMEs). This option requires less capital, is more labour intensive and facilitates the proliferation of units in rural boroughs and small towns, offering employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, local value added and new incomes. Agro-processing SMEs can also facilitate the resolution of post-harvest problems, which are a significant issue in SSA resulting in a loss of revenue for farmers.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the IFAD-supported Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme is promoting a new category of entrepreneur-cum-mentor called the ‘N-Agripreneur’. These N-Agripreneurs own and run medium-scale enterprises at different stages of food value chains. They deliver business development services to producers, especially young people, who are interested in agro-based activities, such as farming as a business, small-scale processing, input supply and marketing.

In order to enable young people to respond to the environmental, economic and nutrition challenges of the future, they must develop suitable capacities. A case in point is ICTs which can develop young people’s capacities, while improving communication and easing access to information and decision-making processes. Investing in extending these technologies to rural areas, in particular targeting young people – who are generally more adaptable to their use – has allowed them to keep themselves up-to-date with market information and new opportunities.

In sum, there is an abundance of remunerative employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas that could dispel the mirage through imaginative government policies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

American States, Cities and Businesses Are Reducing Emissions

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

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

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

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

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

Decarbonization and GDP Growth Are Happening Simultaneously

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

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

We Still Need More

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

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

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

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Global Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry Targets Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/global-campaign-mercury-free-dentistry-targets-africa/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:36:10 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152996 A vibrant global campaign to ban the use of mercury in dentistry is shifting direction: moving from Europe to the developing world. Charlie Brown, Attorney & President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, an organization which is spearheading the campaign, told African and Asian delegates at a meeting in Geneva late September: “When you […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

A vibrant global campaign to ban the use of mercury in dentistry is shifting direction: moving from Europe to the developing world.

Charlie Brown, Attorney & President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, an organization which is spearheading the campaign, told African and Asian delegates at a meeting in Geneva late September: “When you return to your home countries, please do as the European Union has done: phase out amalgam for children now, for one simple reason: The children of your nation are equally important as the children of Europe.”

President of World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, Charlie Brown (2nd right), Dominique Bally (centre) at a meeting during Charlie Brown’s visit to West Africa.

Billed as the Conference of Parties (COP1), the Geneva meeting was a gathering of signatories and ratifiers of the Minamata Convention, a legally-binding landmark treaty aimed at protecting “human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade and which entered into force August 16, has been signed by 128 of the 193 UN member states and ratified by 84 countries, which are now legally obliged to comply with its provisions.
http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

In an interview with IPS, Brown said: “We made clear our short-term goal in the march toward mercury-free dentistry: ban amalgam for children – worldwide and quickly – as the European Union has done.”

In his opening statement to the plenary session of COP1, he cited major progress phasing down amalgam in nations across Africa and Asia.

Immediately after COP1, the World Alliance intensified its Africa campaign. “I went to five nations in West Africa and Central Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Bénin, Cameroon, and Nigeria,” Brown told IPS.

In Geneva, the World Alliance fielded a talented team from across the globe, including a coalition of environmental, dental, and consumer non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – each with a record of major achievements in its home country.

The progress in Africa was described as exceptional. Nigeria, being the economic and population colossus of Africa, got the attention it deserves, said Brown.

The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, working with the NGO SEDI of Benin City, Nigeria, held a workshop for Edo State in the South-South region.

The workshop concluded with the Edo State Stakeholder Resolution calling for amalgam use to cease in Edo State, Nigeria, on 1 July 2018—specifically for children under 16, for pregnant women, and for nursing mothers.

Tom Aneni of SEDI said: “The Edo State Stakeholder Resolution is a model for Nigeria and for the continent. For the children of Africa, we must do, as we already decided in this state in Nigeria’s South-South: No amalgam for children, no amalgam for pregnant women, no amalgam for breastfeeding women.”

Other recommendations include “updating dental schools training curriculum to emphasize mercury-free dentistry and implementation of a phase down work plan. This must also include legislative review and development of guidelines, gathering baseline data and developing the national overview”.

The participants also called for an urgent need for Nigeria to domesticate the Minamata Convention as soon as possible.

The meeting in Nigeria also declared that “mercury is a chemical of global concern owing to its long range atmospheric transport, its persistence in the environment once anthropogenically introduced and its ability to bio-accumulate in ecosystems.

Leslie Adogame of the NGO SRADev, Lagos, pointed to the paradigm shift at Nigerian dental colleges.

“The major dental schools have reversed their teaching, stressing the teaching of mercury-free fillings, which are non-polluting and tooth-friendly, in contrast to dental amalgam. The dental colleges are instructing the dental students that amalgam has no future in Africa.”

The English-language daily, the Guardian of Nigeria, reported that stakeholders from the health sector, media, civil societies, called on governments at all levels to end the use of dental amalgam, a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used to fill cavities caused by tooth decay in children under 16 years, regnant and breast feeding women. The chemical is said to be injurious to health.

They therefore advocated that this should become a government policy that should take effect from July 1 2018.

The decision was reached at a stakeholders workshop on phase down of dental amalgam organised by the Sustainable Environment Development Initiative (SEDl), where its Executive Director, Tom Aneni, said exposure to mercury could harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular and immune systems in women, unborn children and infants.

Meanwhile, Cameroon has been witnessing significant changes towards mercury-free dentistry not only in cities like Yaoundé but in more rural areas too, such as the Far North Region.

Gilbert Kuepouo of the NGO CREPD said, “Cameroon civil society – comprising dentists, consumers, hospitals, dental schools – is ready for mercury-free dentistry. Our goal is nothing less than the end of amalgam in Cameroon – a goal that is now realistic.”

Dominique Bally of the African Center for Environmental Health took Brown through three francophone West African nations: Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and Bénin, where they had meetings with top officials of the three environmental ministries, toured dental colleges, consulted with a top military dentist, and met with NGO leaders.

Bally said, “To donate, sell, or otherwise bring amalgam to Africa is not helping the people of our region – it is dumping a neurotoxin into our environment and our bodies. Africans are tired to see their continent being seen as the world dumping site”.

The World Alliance President, together with the President of the African Centre for Environmental Health, Dominique Bally, an Ivoirian, are partnering with environmental NGOs, Les Amis de la Terre in Togo and with GAPROFFA in Benin.

While delivering his opening speech at COP 1, Brown saluted the work of the Africa region and of the African governments in the march toward mercury-free dentistry.

He said, “The Abuja Declaration for Mercury-Free Dentistry for Africa sets the pace. The government of Mauritius ended amalgam use for children. Dental schools from “Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria across to Tanzania and Kenya have made major curriculum shifts to educate this generation of dentists.”

Meanwhile, the Minamata Convention holds critical obligations for all 84 State Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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