Friday, March 25, 2011

Loopholes in Norway’s support for Low Carbon Development Strategy to Guyana exposed

The Norwegian Minister of the Environment & International Development - Erik Solheim, will be visiting Guyana (a country with one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, some parts of which are almost inaccessible by humans) in the last week of March 2011 amidst complaints about poor performance of the Norwegian supported five-year Low Carbon Development Strategy worth $US250M which was agreed in 2009. The funds have been released in agreed tranches.
But a year ago, Solheim congratulated Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo when he was awarded the United Nations’ 2010 Champion of the Earth. Solheim described Jagdeo’s promotion of low carbon development as “an example for others to follow.”

In fact the ACP / EU Courier magazine (January / February 2011) carries a special report on Guyana: Trailblazing a low carbon development: Bold or risky? and an interview with President Bharrat Jagdeo himself, on ‘developing Guyana with a low carbon footprint’. According to the President, Guyana’s Low Carbon Development strategy is designed in such a way that more donors can join in at any point

But according to members of civil society and two Members of Parliament, there are glaring loopholes that need to be sorted out before the worthwhile programme can continue in Guyana. In this regard, they have written a letter which suggests that there are at least eight reasons why Solheim should perhaps revise his opinion of President Jagdeo and take a more critical look at Norway’s support for his Low Carbon Development Strategy. The letter recommends that Norway should not release any funds to Guyana on the grounds that Guyana has “substantially failed to implement the MoU, either in spirit or in practice.”

Read the full Civil Society letter to the Norwegian Minister of the Environment & International Development - Erik Solheim, ahead of his visit to Guyana

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rio+20: Urgent Appeal to Change the Mindset

Environmentalists, economists, feminists and social activists from all over the world, after many years of criticizing governments are now calling for States to be strengthened as the only way to save the planet, threatened by a whole series of crises in climate, water, food and finances. On Monday, March 7th, sixteen members of the self-appointed Reflection Group on global development perspectives formulated a call to “change the mindset" about environmental and economic problems.

This call is aimed primarily at the negotiators who are preparing the United Nations Summit for Sustainable Development, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, twenty years after the “Earth Summit”, where the concept of sustainable development was endorsed and the foundations were laid for conventions on climate change, desertification and deforestation. The changed mindset they are now demanding begins with “restoring public rights over corporate privileges”.

The statement asserts that “unbridled market forces have favoured the strong, thereby widening the economic divide. This requires the State to redress the imbalance, eliminate discrimination, and ensure sustainable livelihoods, decent work and social inclusion. Intergenerational justice requires restraint and responsibility of the present generation. It is urgent to establish more equitable per capita rights towards the global commons and to the emission of greenhouse gases, taking fully into account historical responsibility”. The more developed countries have not accepted these last two principles, and this is what has blocked progress in negotiations about climate change.

The signatories do not adhere to Malthusian ideas about the exhaustion of resources and maintain instead that "knowledge-intensive solutions including technologies are available to restore natural systems, and dramatically reduce pressures on climate and the environment while improving human well-being”. They argue that a “green economy” is possible, but insist that this must be integrated into “a holistic concept of sustainability”. They conclude that what we need “a change of lifestyles”.

To achieve this, “The Rio 2012 Summit must re-affirm the State as the indispensable actor setting the legal frame, enforcing standards of equity and human rights, and fostering long-term ecological thinking, based on democratic legitimacy”.

View the Urgent Appeal to Change the Mindset from here

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green economy – learning from the Caribbean

Blogger - Steve shares his thoughts from a Caribbean dialogue on green economy, run by the University of the West Indies and Caribbean Natural Resources Institute. An eclectic mix of government ministers, academics, community leaders and business associations rightly kept the few international observers in check – part of the problem being that small countries suffer often overwhelming outside economic, cultural and environmental influence.

From this Dialogue, the lesson was that Caribbean green economies are about actively building resilience, including

- Regional integration, e.g. a Caribbean single market enabling free movement of labour and capital, and trade agreements built on environmental and labour standards and that do not undermine local production for local consumption

- Disaster preparedness and business continuity planning – including at the micro-enterprise level

- Fixing the housing industry to shift to low-energy and resource efficiency, and resilient buildings

- Taking industries higher up the value chain through better use of biodiversity and culture

- Realising real value from links with Caribbean diaspora all over the world e.g. through food market chains

- Recognising good natural resource management by local communities and assuring the rights and support to sustain livelihoods

In addition Steve Bass raises the questions on the concept of green economy:

- Is its elevation to UN negotiating table also good news? Many developing countries are worried that it appears to be yet another Northern consensus which will lead to overly high production standards and green protectionism.

- Why can’t green economy also mean ‘high-carbon’ landscapes, sustaining livelihoods and industries based on wise use of biodiversity and ecosystems?

- Can it foster the resource efficiency and innovation inherent in the informal sector, and not just tinker with big banks and corporations?

Steve argues that we cannot rely on the same paradigm – economic growth at all costs, stealing from the future – to solve the very problems that this paradigm creates: poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

He makes a strong observation that a serious reflection on UNEP’s Green Economy Report cannot repeat the common mistake of international bureaucracies, i.e. jumping straight to countries preparing ‘national plans’ based on a global report. This tends to both impose external ideas and miss the real (local) drivers of change. Instead, every country needs the space to reflect on what green economy means (you don’t get very far until you explore it for a particular economy), what is already in place that can be ‘scaled up’, and what constraints are in the way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Inclusive and Sustainable Development: For Whom?

The focus of the development policy discourse now seems firmly fixed on “inclusiveness”; as both process and outcome. This is clear from the focus of the UN Secretary General’s Agenda for 2011, the discussions at Davos in January 2011 and the theme of the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report: Sustainability and Equity.

As the world's attention turns towards the roll-out of the Green Climate Fund and the discussions at Rio+20, Leisa Perch of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth asks what lessons we can take forward in light of the triple challenge:

- mitigating the worst impacts of environmental change, in whatever form it takes, including climate change.

- Safeguarding the social and economic progress achieved, including the sharing of the risks and benefits of development actions, avoiding both “free riding” and “overburdening of the poor”.

- Ensuring the compatibility of development actions at various levels.

Leisa then argues that for improved development outcomes, particularly for the poor
and vulnerable, intensified efforts at the level of scope and scale will be needed. She further notes that as discussions escalate around the shape and scope of the“green economy” and about institutional frameworks for securing sustainable development, the first order of business should be to define what “green” means; particularly in a socially sustainable context. Moreover, an honest discussion on equity in the context of risk-sharing, burden-sharing and benefit-sharing is paramount.

Read the full one pager from the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth - Inclusive and Sustainable Development: For Whom?