Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sustainable energy access critical for development in Africa - Helen Clark

By UNDP, December 29, 2011

Almost 45 per cent of those who lack access to energy live in Sub-Saharan Africa, making up 69 per cent of the region’s population. They number 585 million people. Seventy eight per cent of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa use traditional biomass for cooking and heating (650 million).

Energy needs extend well beyond having electricity available in homes. In Africa, where so many depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, expanding access to energy for irrigation, food production, and processing is vital. It can boost agricultural productivity and rural incomes, and empower women who make up a significant proportion of the continent’s farmers.

For UNDP, access to sustainable energy is critical for making societies more equitable and inclusive, and for encouraging green growth and sustainable development overall. We advocate for equity, inclusiveness, resilience, and sustainability to be the guiding principles for efforts to achieve universal energy access.

We recognize that different groups have different energy needs. Therefore, governments need to balance the financing of large-scale energy projects with support for the off-grid, decentralized energy solutions which will help meet the needs of the poorest and most marginalised people. Cleaner cooking and heating fuels and motor power for productive activities are also needed.

If Africa’s abundant sources of renewable energy can be harnessed to help provide universal energy access, then poverty can be reduced and growth stimulated without damaging our climate ecosystems further. The International Energy Agency estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa will need cumulative investments of $US 389 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 and of $US 22 billion for clean fuels and devices for cooking and heating by 2030.

Public funding alone will not be enough to cover the costs, African countries need to be able to attract and access different sources of finance.

The UN Secretary General’s initiative on Sustainable Energy for All is building a coalition of support for energy access which can help establish enabling conditions and give confidence to investors to support ambitious energy expansion and make energy poverty history.

Achieving sustainable energy for all will reduce energy poverty, and help combat climate change.

A strong outcome on sustainable energy is needed at Rio +20. It is highly relevant to all three pillars of sustainable development - the economic, social and environmental.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Lighting up on Solar Power

By Naimul Haq, IPS news

The sun never shone brighter on rural Bangladesh with low power solar systems transforming the lives of tens of millions of marginalised rural people who are unconnected to the national grid.

Nizamuddin Sheikh, 52, who runs a small eatery in Foilerhat market in Bagerhat district, thinks that the Bangladeshi Taka 1,900 (24 dollars) he paid for a 20 watt solar set, that includes solar panels, battery, regulator and a set of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and LED lights, is the best investment he ever made.

"Before I bought the set from GS (Grameen Shakthi, a sister concern of Grameen Bank) my restaurant was kept open only during the daytime, but now I have extended my business well into the evenings," Nizamuddin told IPS. "My income has doubled."

Nizamuddin has to repay the rest of the cost of the solar home system (SHS) over the next 36 months at five dollars per month, which, he says, is no burden.

"Once we demonstrate the benefits of SHS, people respond with tremendous interest," said Habibur Rahman, GS regional manager in Bagerhat. "And then we offer easy and affordable monthly installment facilities."

There are various packages on offer suited to different income groups of people in the rural areas. The very poor can own an SHS, paying as low as ten percent of the total cost with the rest payable in 36 equal installments.

Typically, people from the poorer sections opt for an SHS set that costs 124 dollars and capable of generating about 10 watts of electricity to light a five watt CFL for about three hours.

Better off people buy more powerful systems, paying 35 percent of the total cost of the SHS in advance and the balance over a 12-month period. Costs vary with energy output, with the most expensive model costing 925 dollars and providing 135 watts of uninterrupted power for four hours.

Acting managing director of GS, Abser Kamal, told IPS, "SHS units are in demand due to many advantages, but especially because it is far cheaper than conventional fuels like kerosene and diesel and has no maintenance expenses."

"In the villages solar power provides extended working hours for students, shopkeepers and housewives. Now they can do things like conveniently charge mobile phones – which have already been changing lives," Kamal said.

"Without solar power many villagers would probably have had to wait years to get electricity from the national grid," he said. "Solar is transforming their lives – this is quick social and economical development."

Only 41 percent of Bangladesh’s 142 million people have access to electricity from the sluggish national grid.

GS, a pioneer in promoting ‘green energy’, started out in 1996 as a lone player and today is the largest distributor of SHS - over 700,000 units out of a total of about 1.1 million in the country - contributing to the daily generation of about 60 Mw of solar power.

So successful was the initial programme of promoting SHS that the private sector sold 50,000 sets in about five years - two years ahead of the target of 2008.

In 2008, the government set a target of five percent of total energy from renewable sources and 10 percent by 2020.

Current power generation from some 81 power plants amounts to 6,700 Mw, with 95 percent of it coming from burning fossil fuels like coal, furnace oil, gas and diesel. Hydroelectric power accounts for another 3.3 percent

Bangladesh’s energy minister Muhammad Enamul Huq told IPS, "We want to promote solar system in every corner of the country and so we are giving huge incentives to the private sector to make solar affordable."

Government incentives for companies setting up solar plants include a 15-year tax holiday and exemption from paying import duty on equipment.

Foreign investors get exemptions on royalties, technical knowhow, technical assistance fees and facilities for their repatriation of profits. Foreigners working in solar energy projects need pay no income tax for the first three years of their stay in this country.

Last year the government also made it mandatory for all newly constructed domestic and commercial buildings to have solar systems installed on rooftops.

"Today we are helping to change the lives of 7,000 rural people every day through solar technology," said Islam Sharif, chief of the state-owned financier, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), which funds 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 1.1 million SHS - mostly in partnership with GS, but also with other companies and NGOs.

Speaking to IPS, Sharif said, "Through our 29 partners we are now helping to add 24 Mw of solar power in Bangladesh every year."

M. A. Gofran, a leading Bangladeshi expert on renewable energy told IPS: "In ten years from now we want to celebrate the 50 years of independence of the nation by seeing all our villages using renewable energy."


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Going Green: 12 Simple Steps for 2012

By Nourishing the Planet (Worldwatch Institute)

As we head into 2012, many of us will be resolving to lose those few extra pounds, save more money, or spend a few more hours with our families and friends. But there are also some resolutions we can make to make our lives a little greener. Each of us, especially in the United States, can make a commitment to reducing our environmental impacts.

The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty.

Hunger, poverty, and climate change are issues that we can all help address. Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:

(1) Recycle

Recycling programs exist in cities and towns across the United States, helping to save energy and protect the environment. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require all homes and businesses to use recycling and composting collection programs. As a result, more than 75 percent of all material collected is being recycled, diverting 1.6 million tons from the landfills annually—double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for each pound of aluminum recovered, Americans save the energy resources necessary to generate roughly 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years!

What you can do:

Put a separate container next to your trash can or printer, making it easier to recycle your bottles, cans, and paper.

(2) Turn off the lights
On the last Saturday in March—March 31 in 2012—hundreds of people, businesses, and governments around the world turn off their lights for an hour as part of Earth Hour, a movement to address climate change.

What you can do:

Earth Hour happens only once a year, but you can make an impact every day by turning off lights during bright daylight, or whenever you will be away for an extended period of time.

(3) Make the switch

In 2007, Australia became the first country to “ban the bulb,” drastically reducing domestic usage of incandescent light bulbs. By late 2010, incandescent bulbs had been totally phased out, and, according to the country’s environment minister, this simple move has made a big difference, cutting an estimated 4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. China also recently pledged to replace the 1 billion incandescent bulbs used in its government offices with more energy efficient models within five years.

What you can do:

A bill in Congress to eliminate incandescent in the United States failed in 2011, but you can still make the switch at home. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use only 20–30 percent of the energy required by incandescents to create the same amount of light, and LEDs use only 10 percent, helping reduce both electric bills and carbon emissions.

(4) Turn on the tap

The bottled water industry sold 8.8 billion gallons of water in 2010, generating nearly $11 billion in profits. Yet plastic water bottles create huge environmental problems. The energy required to produce and transport these bottles could fuel an estimated 1.5 million cars for a year, yet approximately 75 percent of water bottles are not recycled—they end up in landfills, litter roadsides, and pollute waterways and oceans. And while public tap water is subject to strict safety regulations, the bottled water industry is not required to report testing results for its products. According to a study, 10 of the most popular brands of bottled water contain a wide range of pollutants, including pharmaceuticals, fertilizer residue, and arsenic.

What you can do:

Fill up your glasses and reusable water bottles with water from the sink. The United States has more than 160,000 public water systems, and by eliminating bottled water you can help to keep nearly 1 million tons of bottles out of the landfill, as well as save money on water costs.

(5) Turn down the heat

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that consumers can save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills just by adjusting their thermostats. Turning down the heat by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours can result in savings of 5–15 percent on your home heating bill.

What you can do:

Turn down your thermostat when you leave for work, or use a programmable thermostat to control your heating settings.

(6) Support food recovery programs

Each year, roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption—approximately 1.3 billion tons—gets lost or wasted, including 34 million tons in the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Grocery stores, bakeries, and other food providers throw away tons of food daily that is perfectly edible but is cosmetically imperfect or has passed its expiration date. In response, food recovery programs run by homeless shelters or food banks collect this food and use it to provide meals for the hungry, helping to divert food away from landfills and into the bellies of people who need it most.

What you can do:

Encourage your local restaurants and grocery stores to partner with food rescue organizations, like City Harvest in New York City or Second Harvest Heartland in Minnesota.

Go through your cabinets and shelves and donate any non-perishable canned and dried foods that you won’t be using to your nearest food bank or shelter.

(7) Buy local

“Small Business Saturday,” falling between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” was established in 2010 as a way to support small businesses during the busiest shopping time of the year. Author and consumer advocate Michael Shuman argues that local small businesses are more sustainable because they are often more accountable for their actions, have smaller environmental footprints, and innovate to meet local conditions—providing models for others to learn from.

What you can do:

Instead of relying exclusively on large supermarkets, consider farmers markets and local farms for your produce, eggs, dairy, and meat. Food from these sources is usually fresher and more flavorful, and your money will be going directly to these food producers.

(8) Get out and ride

We all know that carpooling and using public transportation helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as our gas bills. Now, cities across the country are investing in new mobility options that provide exercise and offer an alternative to being cramped in subways or buses. Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C. have major bike sharing programs that allow people to rent bikes for short-term use. Similar programs exist in other cities, and more are planned for places from Miami, Florida, to Madison, Wisconsin.

What you can do:

If available, use your city’s bike share program to run short errands or commute to work. Memberships are generally inexpensive (only $75 for the year in Washington, D.C.), and by eliminating transportation costs, as well as a gym membership, you can save quite a bit of money!

Even if without bike share programs, many cities and towns are incorporating bike lanes and trails, making it easier and safer to use your bike for transportation and recreation.

(9) Share a car

Car sharing programs spread from Europe to the United States nearly 13 years ago and are increasingly popular, with U.S. membership jumping 117 percent between 2007 and 2009. According to the University of California Transportation Center, each shared car replaces 15 personally owned vehicles, and roughly 80 percent of more than 6,000 car-sharing households surveyed across North America got rid of their cars after joining a sharing service. In 2009, car-sharing was credited with reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons. Innovative programs such as Chicago’s I-GO are even introducing solar-powered cars to their fleets, making the impact of these programs even more eco-friendly.

What you can do:

Join a car share program! As of July 2011, there were 26 such programs in the U.S., with more than 560,000 people sharing over 10,000 vehicles. Even if you don’t want to get rid of your own car, using a shared car when traveling in a city can greatly reduce the challenges of finding parking (car share programs have their own designated spots), as well as your environmental impact as you run errands or commute to work.

(10) Plant a garden

Whether you live in a studio loft or a suburban McMansion, growing your own vegetables is a simple way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your doorstep. Researchers at the FAO and the United Nations Development Programme estimate that 200 million city dwellers around the world are already growing and selling their own food, feeding some 800 million of their neighbors. Growing a garden doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, and in light of high food prices and recent food safety scares, even a small plot can make a big impact on your diet and wallet.

What you can do:

Plant some lettuce in a window box. Lettuce seeds are cheap and easy to find, and when planted in full sun, one window box can provide enough to make several salads worth throughout a season.

(11) Compost

And what better way to fertilize your garden than using your own composted organic waste. You will not only reduce costs by buying less fertilizer, but you will also help to cut down on food and other organic waste.

What you can do:

If you are unsure about the right ways to compost, websites such as and organizations such as the U.S. Composting Council, provide easy steps to reuse your organic waste.

(12) Reduce your meat consumption

Livestock production accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for about 23 percent of all global water used in agriculture. Yet global meat production has experienced a 20 percent growth rate since 2000 to meet the per capita increase of meat consumption of about 42 kilograms.

What you can do:

You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but by simply cutting down on the amount of meat you consume can go a long way. Consider substituting one meal day with a vegetarian option. And if you are unable to think of how to substitute your meat-heavy diet, websites such as Meatless Monday and Eating Well offer numerous vegetarian recipes that are healthy for you and the environment.

The most successful and lasting New Year’s resolutions are those that are practiced regularly and have an important goal. Watching the ball drop in Times Square happens only once a year, but for more and more people across the world, the impacts of hunger, poverty, and climate change are felt every day. Thankfully, simple practices, such as recycling or riding a bike, can have great impact. As we prepare to ring in the new year, let’s all resolve to make 2012 a healthier, happier, and greener year for all.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How Farm Waste Provides Clean Energy for Homes in Pakistan

By UNEP News Centre, December 27, 2011

A project backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working to make clean energy a reality for households in a rural region of Pakistan.

Sanghar, a farming district in Sindh province in east-central Pakistan, is home to nearly two million people. Wheat, cotton, sugar cane, rice and maize are grown here, providing livelihoods and food for local communities.

In the villages and towns of the district, access to reliable sources of energy is difficult. Indeed, in households all over Sanghar, women prepare meals and heat water by burning wood or biomass in rudimentary stoves that release choking, black smoke.

Now a new project backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working to make clean energy a reality for local households.

Realizing that the district was a rich source of agricultural waste, UNEP's International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), based in Japan, began working on a project to convert agricultural waste left in the fields into clean, sustainable energy.

As a first step, the IETC worked with the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro to quantify the amount of agricultural waste in the district. A survey found that 2.5 million tonnes of waste ? wheat and canola straw, cotton stalks, cotton gin waste, sugarcane tops, bagasse, rice straw and husks, and banana plant ? was produced in the district, although not all was available for conversion into energy.

A subsequent calculation found that the energy potential of the available waste was equivalent to 1.07 million tonnes of fire wood, or 910 million units of electricity (with a conversion efficiency rate of 20 per cent). If this energy potential was fully realised, the converted waste could meet the energy demands of roughly 400,000 households (at 2400 units per household).

Further research was done to determine how agricultural waste was managed and used, to avoid future conflicts. For instance, it was learnt that 20 per cent of sugarcane tops was being fed to animals, but 80 per cent was being burnt in the fields, along with the entire quantity of banana plant waste and about 70-80 per cent of rice straw. These materials could therefore be used for energy conversion without impacting on food supplies or other needs.

The next step was to decide which technology to use. Several were considered, but after careful analysis a biogas plant was selected, as it had the twin benefits of being able to supply clean fuel (biogas) to surrounding households and produce a good supply of compost, which could be used as fertilizer. A site was chosen at the back of the Sanghar Sugar Mills, which agreed to provide the land and funds to build the plant.

Built at a cost of two million rupees (about US$ 23,000), the biogas plant opened on 1 August 2011. It is producing 50 cubic metres of biogas a day, using 400 kilograms a day of agriculture waste. As well, it produces 200 kilograms a day of liquid fertilizer and 150 kilograms a day of solid fertilizer.

The biogas produced is enough to provide energy to about 20 households, putting to good use a resource that would otherwise have gone to waste.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Decision on Green Climate Fund adopted at Durban

By Meena Raman, Third World Network

One significant outcome of the Durban climate talks was the adoption on 11 December of a decision by the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) on the Green Climate Fund, thus clearing the way for further development of the fund that had been established at the Cancun conference a year ago.

The COP decision agreed to approve the governing instrument for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as transmitted to it (although without consensus) by the Transitional Committee to design the Fund, without any changes to the instrument. However, the accompanying decision that agreed to the instrument contained several important points that clarified or elaborated further on the instrument as well as on transitional arrangements for the initial work and operation of the Fund.

Through a decision adopted by the COP early morning on Sunday, December 11, the COP welcomed the report of the Transitional Committee (tasked to develop the instrument by the Cancun decision) and approved the governing instrument for the GCF, which was annexed to the decision.

In Durban, while some countries did not want a re-negotiation of the governing instrument of the Fund, others wanted their concerns to be addressed. These concerns were addressed via the decision of the COP. Among the key points negotiated at Durban were the legal personality of the Fund, the role of national authorities in agreeing to activities financed by the Fund (including via the private sector), and the location of the transitional secretariat.

The decision concerning the GCF was one of the outcomes of the so-called ‘Durban Package’ and was the subject of intense negotiations, given that the report of the Transitional Committee (TC), which included the governing instrument, was transmitted to the COP without consensus by the Chairs of the TC.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, as members of the TC, had withheld consensus to the adoption of the report in the final meeting of the TC in October, while several developing country TC members had also expressed concerns over many parts of the GCF instrument.

At the plenary session of the COP on November 30, the G77 and China called for an open, transparent and inclusive process through a contact group to draft the decision necessary for the COP in relation to the GCF.

South African COP President, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane proposed to conduct informal consultations based on the report of the TC, which led to negotiations over the draft decision.

Parties through intense negotiations arrived at near consensus over the draft decision on 8 December, except over a key issue as to who is to host the interim secretariat of the GCF.

The options on the table were (i) the UNFCCC Secretariat, (ii) the Global Environment Facility Secretariat (GEF), or (iii) the UN Office in Geneva.

The G77 and China rejected the GEF Secretariat as an option, while developed countries were insisting otherwise.

Following intense wrangling, a compromise was reached at Ministerial level informal consultations on Saturday for the UNFCCC secretariat jointly with the GEF secretariat to take the necessary administrative steps to set up the interim secretariat of the GCF as an autonomous unit within the UNFCCC secretariat premises in Bonn.

Another issue that took much squabbling was the issue of how the GCF is to have legal personality and legal capacity. Parties managed to arrive at a decision over this, which is reflected below in paragraphs 11 and 12 of the decision.

A further issue of concern for many developing countries was the provision in the governing instrument in paragraph 46 that allowed the private sector to directly access the GCF funds without the need for their funding proposals to be approved by the national designated authorities.

Paragraph 46 of the governing instrument reads: “Recipient countries may designate a national authority. This national designated authority will recommend to the Board funding proposals in the context of national climate strategies and plans, including through consultation processes. The national designated authorities will be consulted on other funding proposals for consideration prior to submission to the Fund to ensure consistency with national climate strategies and plans.”

Following negotiations in Durban, this concern was addressed with the following compromise in paragraph 7 of the decision which reads: “….requests the Board to develop a transparent no-objection procedure to be conducted through national designated authorities referred to in paragraph 46 of the governing instrument, in order to ensure consistency with national climate strategies and plans and a country driven approach and to provide for effective direct and indirect public and private sector financing by the Green Climate Fund. Further requests the Board to determine this procedure prior to approval of funding proposals by the Fund.”

The decision adopted by the COP as regards the GCF is as follows:

“The Conference of Parties

1. Welcomes the report of the Transitional Committee (FCCC/CP/2011/6 and Add.1), taking note with appreciation of the work of the Transitional Committee in responding to its mandate given in decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 109;

2. Approves the governing instrument for the Green Climate Fund annexed to this decision;

3. Decides to designate the Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention, with arrangements to be concluded between the Conference of the Parties and the Fund at the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to ensure that it is accountable to and functions under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties;

4. Notes that the Green Climate Fund will be guided by the principles and provisions of the Convention;

5. Decides to provide guidance to the Board of the Green Climate Fund, including on matters related to policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria and matters related thereto, taking into account the Boards annual reports to the Conference of the Parties on its activities;

6. Requests the Board to operationalize the Fund in an expedited manner;

7. Also requests the Board to develop a transparent no-objection procedure to be conducted through national designated authorities referred to in paragraph 46 of the governing instrument, in order to ensure consistency with national climate strategies and plans and a country driven approach and to provide for effective direct and indirect public and private sector financing by the Green Climate Fund. Further requests the Board to determine this procedure prior to approval of funding proposals by the Fund;

8. Further requests the Board to balance the allocation of the Green Climate Fund resources between adaptation and mitigation activities;

9. Stresses the need to secure funding for the Green Climate Fund, taking into account paragraphs 29 and 30 of the governing instrument, to facilitate its expeditious operationalization, and requests the Board to establish necessary policies and procedures, which will enable an early and adequate replenishment process;

(Paragraphs 29 and 30 of the governing instrument relate to ‘financial inputs’ and provide as follows:

“29. The Fund will receive financial inputs from developed country Parties to the Convention.

30. The Fund may also receive financial inputs from a variety of other sources, public and private, including alternative sources.”)

10. Invites Parties, through their regional groupings and constituencies, to submit their nominations for the members of the Board to the interim secretariat by 31 March 2012, in accordance with paragraph 11 of the governing instrument;

(Paragraph 11 reads:

“The members of the Board and their alternates will be selected by their respective constituency or regional group within a constituency. Members of the Board will have the necessary experience and skills, notably in the areas of climate change and development finance, with due consideration given to gender balance.”)

11. Decides that the Green Climate Fund be conferred juridical personality and legal capacity and shall enjoy such privileges and immunities related to the discharge and fulfillment of its functions, in accordance with paragraphs 7 and 8 of the governing instrument;

(Paragraphs 7 and 8 on the ‘Legal status’ of the Fund read as follows:

“7. In order to operate effectively internationally, the Fund will posses juridical personality and will have such legal capacity as is necessary for the exercise of its functions and the protection of its interests.

8. The Fund will enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes. The officials of the Fund will similarly enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the independent exercise of their official functions in connection with the Fund.”

This was one of the most controversial issues in the Durban negotiations. The issue was how the GCF is to have juridical personality and legal capacity and whether such legal status was sufficient to be conferred by a decision of the COP or whether there was need for other legal arrangements.)

12. Invites Parties, in line with the objectives set forth in paragraph 11 above, to submit to the Board expressions of interest for hosting the Green Climate Fund by 15 April 2012, based on the following criteria:

(a) The ability to confer and/or recognize juridical personality and legal capacity to the Fund for the protection of its interests and the exercise of its functions, to give effect to paragraphs 7 and 8 of the governing instrument, including but not limited to the ability to contract, acquire and dispose of immovable and movable property, and institute legal proceedings;

(b) The ability to provide privileges and immunities to the Fund as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes, and to the officials of the Fund as are necessary for the independent exercise of their official functions in connection with the Fund;

(c) Financial arrangements, administrative and logistical support to the Fund;

(d) Any other information that the host country wishes to provide;

13. Requests the Board, following the receipt of expressions of interest, to conduct an open and transparent process for the selection of the host country, and decide on a host country for endorsement by the Conference of the Parties at its eighteenth session, in accordance with paragraph 22 of the governing instrument;

(Paragraph 22 reads:

“The selection of the host country of the Fund will be an open and transparent process. The selection of the host country will be endorsed by the COP.”)

14. Requests the Board and the host country of the Green Climate Fund to develop, in accordance with paragraphs 7 and 8 of the governing instrument, the legal and administrative arrangements for hosting the Fund and to ensure that juridical personality and legal capacity are conferred to the Fund, and privileges and immunities as are necessary are granted to the Fund and its officials in an expedited manner;

15. Also requests the Board to establish the independent secretariat of the Green Climate Fund in the host country in an expedited manner as soon as possible, in accordance with paragraph 19 of the governing instrument;

(Paragraph 19 provides as follows:

“The Fund will establish a secretariat, which will be fully independent. The secretariat will service and be accountable to the Board. It will have effective management capabilities to execute the day-to-day operations of the Fund.”).

16. Invites the Board to select the trustee of the Green Climate Fund through an open, transparent and competitive bidding process in a timely manner to ensure there is no discontinuity in trustee services;

17. Requests the Board to initiate a process to collaborate with the Adaptation Committee and the Technology Executive Committee, as well as other relevant thematic bodies under the Convention, to define linkages between the Fund and these bodies, as appropriate;

18. Recognizing the need to facilitate the immediate functioning of the Green Climate Fund and ensure its independence, requests the UNFCCC secretariat jointly with the Global Environment Facility secretariat to take the necessary administrative steps to set up the interim secretariat of the Green Climate Fund as an autonomous unit within the UNFCCC secretariat premises without undue delay after the seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties so that the interim secretariat can provide technical, administrative and logistical support to the Board until the independent secretariat of the Green Climate Fund is established;

19. Decides that the interim arrangements should terminate no later than the nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties;

20. Decides that the interim secretariat shall be fully accountable to the Board and shall function under its guidance and authority, and that its head shall report to the Board;

21. Urges the Board to move promptly to appoint the head of the interim secretariat;

22. Decides that the criteria for the selection of the head of the interim secretariat shall include, inter alia, expertise in the design or management of funds, relevant administrative and management experience, experience in or working with developing countries, and policy expertise;

23. Requests the interim secretariat to make arrangements for convening the first Board meeting by 30 April 2012;

24. Welcomes the offers of Switzerland and the Republic of Korea to host the first and second meetings of the Board respectively, and invites Parties to host subsequent meetings;

25. Invites Parties to make financial contributions for the start-up of the Green Climate Fund, including administrative costs of the Board and its interim secretariat;

26. Welcomes the generous offer of the Republic of Korea to contribute to the start-up cost of the Green Climate Fund.”


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three major development challenges for the upcoming decade

By Charles Kenny, Zunia

In this series, Zunia asks experts from various fields to identify three major development challenges facing us in the upcoming decade and steps we can take to address them. We talked to Charles Kenny, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development. His current work covers topics including the demand side of development, the role of technology in quality of life improvements, and governance and anticorruption in aid.

Consolidating our gains against disease. The last ten years have seen truly spectacular progress in rolling out vaccines and other treatments to reduce deaths from killers like measles and malaria. Over the next ten years, we should continue the progress –to extinction in the case of polio and to medical irrelevance in the case of diseases like malaria and measles. Hopefully we can add AIDS to the list of diseases on retreat, too.

Progress is going to take a combination of approaches –developing more vaccines like the recent breakthrough with a vaccine against pneumococcal disease suitable for poorer countries. Rolling out vaccines and other treatments. And, perhaps in particular, working on the demand side. We need to roll out more approaches from conditional cash transfers to marketing campaigns to ensure parents get their kids vaccinated, sleeping under bednets, washing their hands and so on.

At the same time, we’re going to need to ramp up our work on the new big killers –non communicable diseases like cancer and obesity. Not least, we’ve got to reverse the global growth of smoking.

Opening borders. For fifty years, we’ve seen the slow dismantling of global barriers to the movement of goods, money and ideas. Even the recent economic crisis hasn’t led to much in the way of backsliding on open trading commitments. That’s great news. Trade in particular has been central to the global improvement of quality of life over the past half century. But there’s been one important exception to increased mobility –the permanent movement of people. It is now way easier for a Mexican cow to cross the border into the US than a Mexican human. That’s a moral travesty and huge economic opportunity wasted.

Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development suggests that “A degree of increased labor movement from poor to rich countries of just 5%… would bring more economic gains than the total elimination of every tariff, quota, and barrier to capital movement in the world.” That’s a benefit that would flow to migrants, the countries they move to, and the countries they move from. It is, as Michael puts it, a trillion dollar bill lying on the sidewalk, and it is time the world moved to pick it up.

Sustainable development. This is an issue of climate change, but it spreads far beyond that –soil, water, energy, the list of resources that we’ve got to use with greater care is a long one. This is far from an insurmountable challenge. Progress in areas like solar power suggest we can have improved qualities of life for the very poorest even while reducing humanity’s environmental footprint. The important emphasis here is that the focus should be on development that is sustainable –people living on a dollar a day shouldn’t have to pay the price for a problem created by people earning a hundred times that. But getting rich countries to do their fair share is going to be a real challenge.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Local Communities Divided Over Mining in Rainforest

By Meena Bhandari, IPS News (December 22, 2011)

Sierra Leone’s Gola Rainforest remains a centre of contention as the local community here plan to take their chief to court next week over a controversial 50-year land lease to a mining company.

Members of the Tonkia Chiefdom claim their ancestral land of Bagla Hills in Gola Rainforest was illegally leased by their chief to UK-owned Sable Mining in April.

Mining companies have long coveted the land here for its iron ore potential as deposits in Bagla Hills are estimated to be worth 150 billion dollars.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that because of this natural resource, Sierra Leone’s small economy will have one of the biggest growth rates in the world at a staggering 51.4 percent in 2012, on the back of legal iron ore activity and exports.

But the community of Tonika remains furious about the deal.

"The chief is guardian of the land - he can't sell it," Alfred Williams, a member of the Tonkia Descendants Association, told IPS. Williams says the local community knew nothing of the sale until it appeared in the local media following Sable Mining's statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Sable Mining issued a statement in May announcing its purchase of an 80 percent interest in Red Rock Mining, which had apparently bought the lease for 206 square kilometres of Bagla Hills from the local Tonkia Paramount Chief.

But the lease has become even more controversial as the country’s President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the 75,000-hectare rainforest a protected area and a national park in December. The forest type is one of the world's 25 global bio-diversity hotspots.

The government has also launched an investigation into what they describe as an illegal land sale.

Kate Garnett, from the government's Forestry Conservation and Wildlife Management Unit, says Bagla Hills "is a case of Sable Mining having been deceived by a local man." The government issued a statement saying that any sale of Bagla Hills, as well as mining in the rainforest, is illegal.

The government's Director of Mines Jonathan Sharkar said that the Ministry of Mineral Resources has never dealt with Sable Mining Africa.

"Sable Mining have never applied for a mining concession in this country - we have no dealings with them," Sharkar says. He also points out that any land rights are also only surface rights - any minerals are owned by the government.

A Sable Mining spokesperson, who did not want to be named, confirmed that they do not hold a current mining licence for Bagla Hills.

Sable Mining would not comment on the land rights and referred IPS to their statements from earlier this year. These claim land registration documents proving ownership of Bagla Hills by Sable Mining have been filed at the land registry. The government, however, denies this.

But the case still dominates talk shows in this West African country. It led to a local demonstration, and in September the country’s Resident Minister William Juana Smith requested journalists refrain from reporting stories that had "the potential of creating conflict." He had threatened that serious action would be taken against anyone doing so.

But the issue remains volatile as it concerns the livelihoods of the community. The Tonika community once made a good living mining gold in the forest, selling timber, farming and hunting. This will now stop because of the lease, says Williams.

"While the chief gets rich, people in Tonkia are left poor and aggrieved, without schools, hospitals and jobs. Young people need work - some of us say through mining, some say through the Gola reserve," says Williams.

Augustine Sannoh, from the civil society movement, East Kenema, says that the chief has mobilised a small band of pro-mining individuals.

"He continues to galvanise support – even though there's a court case to answer. The problem is that local people struggle to see the financial benefits of Gola Rainforest National Park. You can now only take firewood and fish for personal consumption. You can make honey or rattan products to sell, but these have a lower economic value than hunting and mining. It's a big local dispute still."

Williams also says the Gola Forest Programme (GFP) that manages the national park is yet to help people find alternative livelihoods as promised.

GFP's Guy Marris denies this.

"We've supported with roads, bridges, culverts, and medical centres," he says. Marris says the GFP recognises that providing alternative livelihoods to the community is a key strategy to forest preservation.

Plans are underway for various projects including carbon trading "which could earn tens of millions dollars," as well as small enterprise development, and eco-tourism.

"It's a process, it'll take time, but in the meantime, we are mandated to represent government - no mining is permitted by individuals or by companies," says Marris.

However, Garnett says communities still believe that mining will transform their lives.

"There are many examples where only environmental destruction has been left behind," Garnett says.

She says the Forestry division was planning to take communities on visits to mined sites, "to show how mining can leave little positive community impact."

"The law says no mining and we agree with conservation for now, but I have to say people want mining here because it is a quick way of getting money. No one wants to be poor, everyone wants to be rich," Musa Taimeh, chairperson of the Tonkia Descendants Association, says.

Natalie Ashworth, from watchdog group Global Witness, says that people have an unrealistic expectation of what mining can offer them.

"People think it is going to change everything and provide thousands of jobs, which of course it is not. I doubt Sable Mining would have acquired Red Rock if they did not think they would be able to apply for a mining license at some point. As long as Sierra Leone is poor and has so few options, Gola Rainforest will always be threatened," she says.  


Has Malawi gained from COP17?

By Tiwonge Ng'ona, The Daily Times - Malawi (December 21, 2011)

They came in their large numbers to Durban. These were great minds who met to explore the future in the thick of a climate change scare. The talks raised hopes to the poor and peasant farmers of possible ways to reduce the effects, which are negatively changing people's lives.

For two weeks they locked themselves in meetings both closed and open, spending hours and hours negotiating and opposing and yet the result lacks a lot to be desired.

Now they are back or heading to their respective countries. These are big brains from over 190 countries who gathered to ponder on the positive ways to address climate change.

To a poor Malawian the United Nations climate change talks might mean nothing because no matter how long policy makers meet, on behalf of the voiceless, people continue to experience climate change effects.

But the Malawi delegates who went to the talks either as an observer or negotiator, to them the talks have got a different meaning all together.

For youthful Heather Maseko, a Chancellor College student, who went to Durban under National Youth Network on Climate Change (NYNCC), she came to Durban to learn how negotiations are made.

"As a youth this is a platform to gain experience on the process of negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a future leader," she said adding that though the talks have not met her expectations, she hopes there is always a next time.

The faith community was also part of the talks as observers. National Coordinator for Act Alliance, Dingiswayo Jere, feels the talks need to be taken more seriously as it is happening now.

He cited the absence of President Bingu wa Mutharika and his ministers and other influential leaders like United States President Barack Obama, Robert Mugabe at the talks as discouraging and degrading to the impact of such talks.

"We needed as a country to have our President here because some of these issues they need a political voice which in this case can better come from him (President)" he said adding that the absence of other key leaders has also negatively affected the outcome of the talks.

Small-holder farmer Eunice Chipengule who was among African women farmers who presented a petition to the COP president hoping that before COP17 ends they will have their concerns addressed, should be among frustrated people because as African farmers among others they were advocating for the Kyoto Protocol extension.

But Leader of delegation Evans Njewa, who is the Environmental Officer for Policy and Planning, Climate Change and Global Environment Facility, took courage to say that even if it might seem that the Durban summit failed to bear fruits, talks on climate change continue outside the Conference of Parties (COP).

"We might have failed to come up with something positive, but we are hoping that talks will continue until we reach an agreement on the second Kyoto Protocol," he said.

Njewa said the talks have been beneficial for Malawi as they provided a forum for the country to present its position in as far as climate change is concerned.

Mainly Malawi stressed on the need for donor support towards adaptation activities. Another delegate who did not want to be identified said he feels the talks are a waste of time and money because they are there to blindfold people as decisions are made prior.

"I can assure you that the talks will not yield anything positive, rich countries do not want to endorse the second commitment," he said.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Anthony Livuza said: "We came with a lot of hope but that hope is being tampered with. We are facing difficulties in negotiating because countries like the US are unwilling to clearly put the cards on table so that we move forward."

But he disagreed the meetings are a waste of time but bemoaned their slow pace.

"We want progress so that we have the Green climate fund operational and we put in place the second Kyoto protocol. These two issues are key for Malawi because we face lots of constraints in terms of funds and capacity that would allow us to trade with complex issues like afforestation," he said.

Different organisations have come up with statements criticising developed countries' efforts to undermine the climate convention principles and legally binding agreements. For Malawians this means tougher times ahead.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Durban illuminates the emerging new world order

By John Gummer (Africa Review), December 21, 2011

The outcome of the latest round of climate change negotiations in Durban was as good as any dared hope for. A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, together with agreement from all countries to begin negotiations on a new legally binding instrument, or an agreement with “legal force” is a major step forward. However, Durban will be remembered for much more than that; as the place where the tectonic plates of international relations fundamentally shifted.

The group of countries that drove the outcome in South Africa was a new coalition involving the EU and the BASIC countries - Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

The emergence of this alliance of countries is significant for two reasons. First, these countries share a vision about the future and are committed to a path of low carbon, sustainable development. They recognise that this is the only pro-growth, pro-development strategy.

Second, this grouping signals a dissolving of the traditional divide between rich and poor countries. For long international negotiations have been hampered by an overriding solidarity between developing countries and a culture of blame. Durban saw a new maturity with the major developing countries partnering with progressive, developed countries and beginning to take responsibility for the future direction of the global economy.

This shift of the tectonic plates is based on enlightened self-interest.

On the one hand, there is no long-term scenario under which a fossil fuels-based economy is either sustainable or desirable for the human race as a whole. Reliance on fossil fuels, with supply risks in terms of political stability in oil producing regions, dwindling supplies and volatile prices together with an unstable climate caused by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, present serious risks to a growing economy.

On the other hand, the economic opportunities presented by the low carbon economy represent a major source of sustainable growth over the next few decades, while protecting the climate from dangerous human interference. With the existing regulatory and legislative frameworks, investment in clean energy is already rising fast and these countries were at the forefront.

In 2010, the clean energy sector increased in value by 30 per cent and was worth $243 billion. The EU – with a long-term and credible legislative framework to tackle climate change - claimed the largest share with $94.4 billion. Asia, led by China, was second with $82.8 billion. And the Americas, where the US has no legislative framework to price carbon or tackle climate change, fell into third place with $65.8 billion, reflecting the regulatory risk for investors of policy uncertainty.

New order

The new coalition of countries that surfaced in Durban is building on this foundation by developing the regulatory and legislative frameworks to strengthen progress. As the 2nd Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) Climate Legislation Study – launched last week in Durban – shows:

Brazil has recently passed legislation to introduce a system of payments for ecosystem services to properly value natural resources and has updated the forest code to reduce the rate of deforestation – its major source of emissions.

China’s 12th Five Year Plan sets carbon intensity targets for the first time, alongside energy intensity targets, and it is developing climate change legislation, expected to create further incentives for clean energy.

India has adopted a “Solar Mission”, setting ambitious goals for the development of solar power generation.
Mexico passed a comprehensive climate change law in the Senate last week, expected to pass the lower house within days.

South Africa has a comprehensive White Paper on climate change that sets out its vision for moving to a low carbon economy and adapting the inevitable impacts of climate change that are happening now.

These are all investments in the future, a future that will belong to the major developing countries. After all, the projected population of the Earth in 2050 is 9 billion, 8 billion of which will be living in what we currently call developing countries. It will be their world and they are beginning to prepare their economies to provide sustainable prosperity for their people.

As President of GLOBE International, the group of international legislators from the G20 economies, I am working hard to help facilitate the move to a low carbon economy.


Paraguay advocates for 'green development'

Adapted from the preliminary proposal of Paraguay for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio +20

Paraguay advocates the innovative concept of green development, which is much broader than the concept of a green economy. Green development incorporates economic aspects (green economy), social aspects and ecological/land use aspects in a fully synergistic manner respectful of the interplay between the different aspects. Participation is essential to green development, with workers, women, peasants, indigenous people, young persons, scientists and all sectors of society making their contributions to a new form of social coexistence, with diversity and in harmony with nature, in order to achieve the goal of "buen vivir" ("collective well-being"), respectful of nature of which we are all part and which is vital for our existence.

Green development is in harmony with the fundamental principles of sustainable development. It is mistake to assert that the only things that matter are those which have a price, are owned and generate profit. Market mechanisms have proven to be incapable of promoting an equitable distribution of wealth among human beings. A market approach cannot be used to address social and environmental imbalances.

The two central challenges for sustainable development in this century are to overcome poverty and inequality, and to restore the equilibrium of the planet. The two objectives are intimately intertwined and neither one can be attained separately.

It must be recognized that uncontrolled development is neither possible nor sustainable, since the regenerative capacity of ecosystems imposes limits. However, the developing countries, especially the least developed among them, need to attain higher levels of development in order to meet the basic needs of their peoples and guarantee their human rights.

Paraguay proposes that the implementation of the 1992 Rio conventions be coordinated with other conventions and protocols on the environment (Ramsar, Montreal, Stockholm, Basel, CITES, etc.) and that a fresh impetus be given to the ideals formulated 20 years ago as part of a concerted effort by the international community, with the full participation of civil society in decision-making, to address the structural causes of climate change, desertification, soil degradation, drought and the loss of biodiversity.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

In connection with the common but differentiated responsibilities established in the 1992 Rio Declaration, the countries referred to as developed must pay the historical debt they owe as a result of the greater role they have played in causing the deterioration of the environment. Payment of this ecological debt towards the countries referred to as developing and the hardest hit segments of their populations must take the form of financial resources from public sources and the effective transfer of appropriate technology which the developing countries may in their sovereign judgement consider necessary. The so-called developed countries must reduce their consumption in order to restore harmony between human beings and nature, thereby making sustainable development possible in all developing countries.

The developing countries must adopt patterns and models different from those followed in the developed countries in order to meet the fundamental needs of their populations and restore harmony with nature; that is why Paraguay advocates implementation of the "Green Development" model, which contrasts with an economy based on unsustainable practices and the use of capital exclusively for profit-making activities. Capital should instead be channelled to sustainable practices based on the ideals of solidarity and redistributive justice, which make poverty eradication, along with the right of future generations to the equal enjoyment of natural resources, a priority.

The environmental pillar of sustainable development can be achieved only through a global approach, with strong support from triangular cooperation, which operates as a means of linking South-South and North-South cooperation.


Ecuador proposes 'living well' to 'economic growth' as a measure of development

Adapted from Republic of Ecuador's inputs for the Compilation Document for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20

Expectations concerning the outcome of Rio+20

- The Conference’s main outcomes should include a framework for action for the next 10 years that offers a comprehensive response to the challenges of sustainable development and compliance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Rio Conventions. It should cover the issues pending since the 1992 Rio Conference, with an updated approach reflecting the current situation and context, as well as new issues.

- It should define a process ensuring the transition of the development model to a new economic paradigm that does not focus on the endless physical accumulation of goods, but promotes an inclusive, sustainable and democratic economic strategy respecting nature’s limits. This requires, among other things, creation of a new development yardstick based on well-being indicators and the ecological footprint.

- A discussion should be held and action taken to transform the current inequitable economic and financial system, whose rationale is contrary to the principles of sustainable development. The Conference should agree on alternatives based on a new economic order and a new international financial architecture that take into account the principles of fairness, transparency, sovereignty, equality, interdependence, common interest, cooperation and solidarity between peoples, with effective participation by developing countries in the decision-making process at the international level.

- The Conference should rationalize the flow of resources between North and South countries. In 2007, the flow from North to South was negative (-US$ 869 billion) and in the case of Latin America was -US$ 99.8 billion. Similarly, the prioritization of investment should be analysed to reduce the huge sums devoted to military spending.

- The amounts pledged for official development assistance must be respected, with new and additional resources.

- The Conference should establish a monitoring, evaluation and reporting system for the technologies to be developed and promoted, which should meet safety standards and take ethical, social and environmental issues into account.

New and urgent issues

- The Conference should encourage recognition of the rights of nature, that is to say, the right to full respect for its existence, maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structures, functions and evolutionary processes. States should be urged to take precautionary measures and restrict activities that could lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems or permanent changes to natural cycles.

- We hereby call for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature, as a response that would ensure that present and future generations can live well.

- Ecuador proposes living well as an alternative to development, as a new paradigm to replace the prevailing model based on endless economic growth, which has led to overexploitation of natural resources and to poverty, inequality and exclusion of the majority of the population. Living well is a work in progress, borrowed from the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous peoples and nationalities, which involves living in harmony with oneself, nature and others to build democratic, inclusive, plurinational and multicultural States.


Proposal of Bolivia to Rio +20: The Green Economy and its dangerous and false solutions

Adapted from the Proposal of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

The proposals developed by the Plurinational State of Bolivia bring together and build upon the progress made in the World Charter for Nature (1982), the Rio Declaration (1992), the Earth Charter (2000), and the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (2010)

Regarding green economy, Bolivia notes that at a global scale, the supposed objective of the Green Economy of disassociating economic growth from environmental deterioration is not viable. Those that promote the Green Economy promote a threedimensional capitalism that includes physical capital, human capital, and natural capital (rivers, wetlands, forests, coral reefs, biological diversity and other elements). For the Green Economy, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the energy crisis share a common characteristic: the failed allocation of capital. As a result, they try to treat nature as capital – “natural capital.”

The Green Economy considers it essential to put a price on the free services that plants, animals and ecosystems offer to humanity in the struggle for the conservation of biodiversity, water purification, pollination of plants, the protection of coral reefs and regulation of the climate. For the Green Economy, it is necessary to identify the specific functions of ecosystems and biodiversity and assign them a monetary value, evaluate their current status, set a limit after which they will cease to provide services, and concretize in economic terms the cost of their conservation in order to develop a market for each particular environmental service. For the Green Economy, the instruments of the market are powerful tools for managing the “economic invisibility of nature.”

One of the examples most cited by the Green Economy is the initiative known as REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which consists of isolating and measuring the capacity of the forest to capture and store carbon dioxide in order to issue certificates for greenhouse gas emissions reductions that can be commercialized and acquired by companies in developed countries that cannot meet their mitigation commitments. In this way, the developing countries will end up financing the developed countries.

It is wrong to attempt to fragment nature into “environmental services” with a monetary value for market exchange. We should not put a price on the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks, nor promote their commercialization as does REDD. The market for carbon credits based on forests will lead to: a) noncompliance with effective emission reduction commitments by developed countries; b) the bulk of resources being appropriated by intermediaries and financial entities and rarely benefitting countries, indigenous peoples and forests themselves; c) the generation of speculative bubbles based on the sale and purchase of said certificates; and d) the establishment of new property rights over the capacity of forests to capture carbon dioxide, which will clash with the sovereign rights of States and the indigenous peoples that live in forests. The promotion of market mechanisms based on the economic needs of developing countries is a new form of neocolonialism.

The postulates promoted under the Green Economy are wrong. The current environmental and climate crisis is not a simple market failure. The solution is not to put a price on nature. Nature is not a form of capital. It is wrong to say that we only value that which has a price, an owner, and brings profits. The market mechanisms that permit exchange among human beings and nations have proven incapable of contributing to an equitable distribution of wealth. The Green Economy should not distort the fundamental principles of sustainable development.

Not all that glitters is gold. Not all that is labeled “green” is environmentally friendly. We must use the precautionary principle and deeply analyze the different “green” alternatives that are presented before proceeding with their experimentation and implementation.

Nature cannot be subject to manipulation by new technologies without consequences in the future. History shows us that many dangerous technologies have been released in the market before their environmental or health impacts are known, or before their social and economic impacts on poor people and developing countries are understood. This is currently the case with genetically modified organisms, agrochemicals, biofuels, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. These technologies should be avoided.

Geoengineering and all forms of artificial manipulation of the climate should be prohibited, for they bring the enormous risk of further destabilizing the climate, biodiversity and nature. It is necessary to create public and multilateral mechanisms within the United Nations to evaluate in an independent manner and without conflict of interest the potential environmental, health, social, and economic impacts of new technologies before they are spread. This mechanism must involve transparency and social participation by potentially affected groups.

“Green” capitalism will bring about natural resource grabbing, displacing humanity and nature from the essential elements needed for their survival. The drive for profit, instead of reestablishing harmony within the system, will provoke even greater imbalances, concentrations of wealth, and speculative processes.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Green Economy: the Wolf in Sheep’s clothing

By Rio+20 Portal (Building the Peoples Summit Rio+20)

I. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992: sustainable development

In 1983, when the Earth’s ecological crisis was becoming ever more apparent, the United Nations General Assembly decided to create an international commission (the World Commission on Environment and Development) to analyse the planet’s environmental situation and how it related to development goals. Based on this they presented a set of recommendations for action. The report, Our Common Future[1], was submitted in 1987 and is known as the Brundtland Report, named after the project’s overall coordinator. This report provided the basis of negotiations at the Earth Summit that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

It is a document plagued by contradictions. The report provides broad documentation of the severe environmental problems facing the planet. Nevertheless, it proved incapable of identifying the fundamental causes of those problems. It would not consider options that fall outside the dominant framework and the capitalist logic of unlimited economic growth. The report claims that the best way of responding to the challenges posed by the environmental destruction and poverty, which it so thoroughly diagnoses, is through more growth. It stresses the need to “revive growth” to annual rates of between 5 and 6% for the countries of the Global South.

Faced with growing criticism of the idea of unlimited growth on a limited planet, the Brundtland Report performs an extraordinary conceptual juggling act, in order to give new life to the concept of development, giving it the new title of sustainable development. This new category would, according to the report, enable the relaunching of growth across the globe and eliminate poverty, and all in a sustainable way, as technological transformations would enable production with less and less material and energy input.

The concept of sustainable development was extraordinarily effective both politically and ideologically. It responded in terms that seemed to take into account the criticisms of the development model, while in fact reinforcing it. It functioned like a tranquilliser in that it created the illusion that effective measures were being taken to respond to the diagnosed crisis. By not questioning the logic of capitalist accumulation and the model of industrial society as the fundamental causes of the destruction of the conditions that make life possible, it provided new legitimacy to neoliberal globalisation, which began to present itself as sustainable, despite its overwhelmingly devastating dynamic.

Given that the environmental crisis was responded to from this perspective, it is no surprise that, 20 years later, each and every one of the problems described in the report is now far more severe, and that life on this planet is facing ever greater threats.

Today, faced with evidence of the planet’s limitations, and of the terminal crisis caused by this pattern of civilisation, it is even more urgent to stop the capitalist machinery of systematic destruction, industrial society and the idea of development. Popular struggles across the world are resisting the expansion of the frontiers of accumulation by dispossession through opencast mining, oil extraction, massive dams, and genetically modified monoculture. These are seen as threats both to their own territories and to life on Earth. Faced with the absolute control that the governments of the industrial North and the transnational corporations exercise over negotiations at the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, each of these conferences has become an opportunity for gathering, mobilising, articulation and protest by a broad convergence of global movements.

These movements call for radical measures destined to stop the destructive dominant dynamics and at the same time demand payment of ecological debt, equality, and justice. They reject responses such as carbon trading which, as experience has shown, far from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, have simply advanced the commercialisation of the atmosphere and the creation of new sources of accumulation and speculation for finance capital.

II. Rio+20: the Green Economy
In June of 2012, two decades after the last summit, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio +20, will take place in Rio de Janeiro. In preparation for this conference, governments, multilateral bodies and their complicit scientific and academic institutions, are once again mobilising all the mechanisms of science and reproduction of knowledge and thought. Over and above the potentially very good intentions of the contributors, what is taking place is a new and sophisticated offensive geared towards limiting the debate over this terminal crisis of the hegemonic pattern of civilisation in terms that don’t call into question the global operation of the political and economic relationships that today dominate the planet.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the contributions of experts around the world, has produced a document containing more than 600 pages that explore environmental problems in great detail2, together with a synthesis for “policy makers”.[3] These documents, and the very concept of the green economy define the new framework used in almost all the multilateral bodies where debates, negotiations and policy making are currently taking place.

Is this an effective device for producing the profound transformations necessary to save life on Earth? Or, on the contrary, is the green economy a new tool for the global powers to appear to incorporate criticisms of the destructive model of civilisation on the understanding that the assumptions and underlying logics of this model must remain unquestioned? Does this report seek the urgent action necessary to put a brake on the devastating dominant dynamics, or, on the contrary, is its intention to calm our fears, and try to convince us not only is a transition to a green economy possible, but that that transition has already begun?

A detailed reading of the texts brings us to the unequivocal conclusion that these are not the diagnoses and responses so urgently required. Instead it is a sophisticated effort to demonstrate that it is possible to resolve the problems of the planet’s environmental crises without altering the existing power structures, nor the relations of domination and exploitation. Throughout the report it is argued that the same market mechanisms and scientific and technological patterns, the same logic of sustained growth, can save life on Earth.

According to the UNEP, through a transition to the green economy it will be possible to relaunch the global economy with rates of growth far higher than the current model. It will be possible to create more and better employment, reduce poverty, reach greater levels of equality, meet the millennium objectives, and all in a sustainable way, recognising the value of nature and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This would reduce pressure on the natural environment, allowing it to recover4, while, at the same time, creating new and profitable areas of investment that will enable global capital to escape from the crisis and increase its profits.

III. What would a transition to the green economy look like?
For the UNEP, one of the fundamental bases for its green economy is in the rejection of what they call the myth that there is a dilemma between economic progress and environmental sustainability.[5]

They claim that it is not a matter of questioning sustained economic growth, or the notion of progress, but of reorientating investments and technological innovation towards the green economy. Having confirmed that in the past decade “concurrent crises of different kinds” (the climate crisis, the crisis in biodiversity, fuel, food and water, and finally the financial system and the entire economy) have all accelerated, they state that the fundamental cause of all this has been the result of “the evident misallocation of capital”: Although the causes of these crises vary, at a fundamental level they all share a common feature: the gross misallocation of capital. During the last two decades, much capital was poured into property, fossil fuels and structured financial assets with embedded derivatives, but relatively little in comparison was invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transportation, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and land and water conservation. Indeed, most economic development and growth strategies encouraged rapid accumulation of physical, financial and human capital, but at the expense of excessive depletion and degradation of natural capital, which includes our endowment of natural resources and ecosystems. By depleting the world’s stock of natural wealth – often irreversibly – this pattern of development and growth has had detrimental impacts on the well-being of current generations and presents tremendous risks and challenges for future generations. The recent multiple crises are symptomatic of this pattern. (Op. cit., pp. 1-2)

For UNEP, we are dealing with what they describe “market failures”. However, their response to these severe “market failures” and their extraordinarily dangerous consequences for life on the planet does not even contemplate the possibility that they might be a consequence of the growing power of the financial markets, of the increasing subjugation of any other social logic, be that democracy, equality, solidarity, or even the preservation of life, to a single criteria: the maximisation of short-term profits for capital. According to the report in question, the problem is much more limited, and could be resolved without the need for structural transformations in the operation of the system. It is just that “the markets” have been operating based on “faulty information”, which fails to incorporate the cost of “the consequences”, and is based on inadequate public policies such as “perverse or prejudicial anti-environmental subsidies”. The solutions they propose are a set of “guidelines related to the necessary policies” to achieve changes in the regulatory context, the incentives and the conditions of access to information in which the market operates. In this way, through “incentives based on the market” it would be possible to reorientate capital investment in the direction of green investments and green innovations.

Based on their economic models, they reach the conclusion that the transition to the green economy will be possible through an increase of “green” investments amounting to 2% of the planet’s GDP. This “corresponds to less than a tenth of annual global investments”, which implies the re-allocation of investments totalling 1.3 billion dollars per year (UNEP, p. 5). According to the report: The financial services and investment sectors control trillions of dollars and are positioned to provide the bulk of financing for a green economy transition. (Op. cit., p. 35.)

This analysis sees the future of the planet depending on States imposing policies, regulations, incentives and investments, and being able to reorientate this amount of private investments from the “brown” to the “green economy”. Operating within the dogmas of the free market, which the era of neoliberal globalisation has established as the only possible world view for the multilateral organisms and those “in charge of formulating policy”, UNEP warns that for these public policies to achieve the proposed objectives, it is necessary for investors to perceive that these green investments will increase their competitiveness. (UNEP, p. 249) This seems to be the reason for the fact that, throughout the text, it is stressed over and over again that growth indexes and profits could be even bigger with a green economy. Thus, for example, in terms of the need to accelerate the development of renewable energy, one of the central themes of the report states that:

The financial sector treats investments in renewable energy like any other. If a project or company has an expected risk-adjusted rate of return on investment that is sufficiently high, it is considered an interesting investment… (UNEP, p. 226)

In its recognition that capital is completely amoral (it is all the same to them to invest in green technologies or destructive technologies, the only factor of interest is the rate of expected gain), the conclusion that the UNEP seems to reach is that the future of the planet depends on it being possible to formulate public policies capable of bribing investors, guaranteeing them sufficiently high profits to behave as good guardians of the planet. All this must, of course, be done within the rules of free trade that neoliberalism has imposed on a global scale. According to the report, it would not, for example, be acceptable to stimulate the development of investments and innovations in green technologies and products if those generate advantage for national producers that could be interpreted as protectionism.

It is therefore crucial for countries to combine and balance environmental protection with safeguarding market access. (UNEP, 3A Synthesis for Policy Makers, p.34)

Policies destined to defend the planet will be limited by the need to respect the sacred rights of the free market.

IV. On the reductionism of the economy
The report recognises that the current economic model is inadequate in that it does not incorporate into its calculation of costs the consequences, which include the environmental impact, of the productive processes[6]. Nevertheless, it is incapable of looking beyond neoliberal fundamentalism, and cannot even entertain the possibility that human beings could relate with their environment in any other way, nor explore the significance of other cosmovisions and/or cultural patterns, such as those based on the recognition of the rights of nature or of our Mother Earth. On the contrary, radicalising the instrumental anthropocentrism that runs throughout the report, it would rather have the markets incorporate all these other “factors” in its economic calculation. It is therefore not a matter of questioning the fact that the fundamental decisions in society are made by “the market”, but of expanding the market’s sphere of information and action to explicitly incorporate nature into its logic of values. This requires overcoming all obstacles and resistance to the full commercialisation of nature. For the good functioning of the markets, everything must have a price, opening up new spheres for speculation and capital value. It should therefore come as no surprise that they defend the fundamental role to be played by carbon markets and the market-based Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) In fact they don’t even pay lip service to the existence of critiques, disagreements and resistance to these flawed mechanisms.

V. The multiple gaps
In all its hundreds of pages, the UNEP presents many possibilities for altering patterns of production, industry, agriculture, the organisation of cities, construction systems, transport. It also brings together a wide range of rich experiences in alternative technology, renewable energy and new regulatory regimes that exist in different parts of the world. This shows that there are many processes around the world today seeking alternatives to the destructive logic of the hegemonic models of production and consumption. This should be recognised as an important contribution made by the report to debates on alternatives. Nevertheless, the gaps in the report are much more notable.

Corresponding to the superficial approach that characterises most documents of this kind, this report completely ignores all the most controversial issues, creating a fictional world that does not operate responding to powerful interests, but on the idea of political leaders building consensus for the benefit of all.

An example of the issues not touched upon is the case of war and the military industrial complex, one of the most devastating dynamics, in human and environmental terms, existing in the world today. Given the massive amounts of material and energy it consumes for the manufacture and transport of military equipment, and through the impact, and long-term consequences, of their use in military conflicts, it must be considered a central dimension of the reigning logic of destruction. Yet this issue is apparently taboo, and cannot be mentioned in international bodies without offending the United States.

Even more fundamental is the complete absence of any consideration of the significance of the extraordinarily unequal power relations that exist in today’s world, and the interests that are at play in the operation of this global system. The report repeatedly refers to policies, but never to politics, never to power. In political terms, the authors declare themselves to be neutral, and state that the “green economy does not favour one or other political currents, as it is applies to all economies, be they controlled by the State or by the market” (UNEP, p. 5). The authors of this report appear to live in a fantasy world in which governments are democratic and make their decisions based on the will of the majority and the welfare needs of current and future generations.

They seem to believe (or they would have us believe) that the existing political regimes and the so-called “policy formulators”, are able to impose norms of behaviour on the corporations and the financial markets. They seem to assume that finance capital and the transnational corporations that are operating as active agents of the accelerated devastation of the planet, do so not because that is how they seek to maximise their profit margins in the short term, but because they do not have enough information, or because the signals they receive from the regulatory frameworks within which they operate are not clear enough.

These authors opt to ignore the fact that the capacity of existing political systems to establish regulations and restrictions to the free operation of the markets – even when a large majority of the population call for them – is seriously limited by the political and financial power of the corporations. This is particularly evident in the United States. No environmental regulatory policy and no international commitment can be assumed by the government of that country if it does not have the prior approval of the major corporations potentially affected by the measures. In fact, these corporations have the capacity to veto the policies with which they do not agree. They demonstrate this powerfully in the way the United States has been prevented from making any commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United Nations climate change negotiations, and in the way they have prevented the passing of even the most timid environmental regulations that have been proposed in recent years.

For governments, the political cost of affecting corporate interests is simply too high.

The structural adjustment programmes with which European governments have responded to the current crisis, that have even included constitutional reform in Spain, are being implemented to respond to the ever more precise demands coming from “the markets”. This is leading to new steps to undermine any notion of democracy and towards growing levels of concentration of both wealth and power in decision-making on a global scale.

In these conditions, the list of recommendations and political proposals that the UNEP calls on the governments of the world to negotiate and implement is nothing more than the naïve expression of very good intentions, without any possibility of altering the current course of the planet. No proposal based on completely ignoring contemporary geopolitical realities has any hope of making a significant contribution to the global struggles we face today.

The resistance movements in struggle around the world today are all too aware of this fact. It is therefore very unlikely that they will be fooled by the false promises of the green economy.


Monday, December 19, 2011

The Durban Package: “Laisser faire, laisser passer”

By Pablo Solón

The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were even not complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum of “Take it or leave it”. Only the European Union was allowed to make last minute amendments at the plenary.

Several delegations made harsh criticisms to the documents and expressed their opposition to sections of them. However, no delegation explicitly objected the subsequent adoption of these decisions. At the end, the whole package was adopted by consensus without the objection of any delegation. The core elements of the Durban Package can be summarized as follows:

1) A Zombie called Kyoto Protocol

- A soulless undead: The promises of reducing greenhouse gas emission for the second period of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol represent less than half of what is necessary to keep the temperature increase below 2°C.
- This Zombie (second period of the Kyoto Protocol) will only finally go into effect next year (COP 18).
- It is not known if the second period of the Kyoto Protocol will cover 5 or 8 years.United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand will be out of this second period of the Kyoto Protocol.
- This will be known as the lost decade in the fight against climate change.

2) New regime of “Laisser Faire, Laisser Faisser”

- In 2020 a new legal instrument will come into effect that will replace the Kyoto Protocol and will seriously impact the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- The core elements of this new legal instrument can be already seen due to the results of the negotiations: a) voluntary promises rather than binding commitments to reduce emissions, b) more flexibilities (carbon markets) for developed countries to meet their emission reduction promises, and c) an even weaker compliance mechanism than the Kyoto Protocol.
- The new legal instrument will cover all the States, effectively removing the difference between developing and developed countries. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” already established in the Climate Change Convention will disappear.
- The result will be the deepening of the “Laisser Faire, laisser passer” regime inaugurated in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban which will lead to an increase in temperature of more than 4°C.

3) A Green Fund with no funds

- The Green Fund now has an institutional structure in which the World Bank is a key player.
- The 100 billion is only a promise and will NOT be provided for by the developed countries.
- The money will come from the carbon markets (which are collapsing), from private investments, from credits (to be paid) and from the developing countries themselves.

4) A lifesaver for the Carbon Markets

- The existing carbon markets will live regardless of the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Also, new carbon market mechanisms will be created to meet the emissions reduction pledges of this decade.
- It is a desperate attempt to avoid the loss of the carbon markets, which are collapsing due to the fall of the carbon credits, from 30 Euros per ton to 3 Euros per ton of CO2.
- Developed countries will reduce less than what they promise because they will buy Emission Reduction Certificates from developing countries.

5) REDD: a perverse incentive to deforest in this decade

- If you don’t cut down trees you won’t be able to issue certificates of reduction of deforestation when the REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism comes into operation.
- CONSEQUENCES: deforest now if you want to be ready for REDD.
- The safeguards for indigenous peoples will be flexible and discretionary for each country.
- The offer of funding for forests is postponed until the next decade due to the fact that demand for Carbon Credits will not increase until then because of the low emission reduction promises.

¡Amandla! ¡Jallalla!

In the actions and events of the social movements in Durban, two battle cries emerged: “Amandla” and “Jallalla”. The first one is a Xhosa and Zulu word from South Africa which means “power”. The second word is an expression in aymara which means “for life”. “¡Amandla¡ °Jallalla!” means “¡Power for life!”

This is the “power for life” that we must build, that transcends borders, from our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces and place of study in order to stop this ongoing genocide and ecocide.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Farmers Condemn the Durban Platform: Sustainable peasant agriculture is the genuine solution to climate change

By La Via Campesina

La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants, small-scale and agricultural family farmers, denounces the attempts of the largest carbon emitters to further escape their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false and market based solutions to the climate crisis. This Durban Platform, the latest climate deal struck at the UNFCCC 17th Conference of Parties in Durban, allows the polluters to get away with even more polluting while securing their market mechanisms.

The UNFCCC has hailed the Durban Platform as a breakthrough and a way forward in the fight against climate change. But what is there to hail as closer inspection shows that there are no commitments for real emission cuts from the developed countries. Others have said this was a success as it saved the Kyoto Protocol but in fact, the only thing that was saved are the market mechanisms of the Protocol. The second commitment period was not agreed and in fact postponed to next year but all the while, secured that market mechanisms would continue to be operational. The Green Climate Fund, which will be controlled by the World Bank if ever funded by industrialized countries (clearly unconcerned about their historical debt with the global south), is likely to be a source of financing false solutions in the most impacted countries.

Most disturbing of all from Durban is the opening of the doors for agriculture to be included in the carbon markets. Agriculture, which has since recently, not been included in the negotiations, will now be discussed in subsequent negotiations and the writing on the wall tells us that these would be the initial steps for agriculture to be included in carbon markets. The proliferation of side events on "climate smart agriculture" promoted by the agro-industry showed the high agribusiness interest to tap this new bonanza. La Via Campesina strongly denounces this move and reiterates its call to keep agriculture out of carbon markets as agriculture should not be treated as a mere carbon sink and that carbon accounting should not determine agricultural policy.

Peasant based agro-ecological agriculture, what La Via Campesina continues to promote and practice through its members in several countries around the world, is the best way to cool down the planet. La Via Campesina promotes peasant agriculture as the way to feed people with healthy food and at the same time to guarantee a balance in the ecosystem and the farms. The logic of carbon markets and trading run counter to the system of agroecology and should not be allowed to enter into agriculture.

We are now at the worst moment for agriculture, small farmers and for nature. The impacts of climate change are steadily worsening, leading to harvest failures, destruction of habitats and homes, hunger and famine and loss of lives. The future of humanity and the planet is in critical danger and if these false solutions push through, it will be a catastrophe for nature, future generations and the whole planet.

Now, more than ever, it is even more urgent for the demands and proposals from the Cochabamba people’s agreement to be pushed forward.