Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Green Economies with Social Futures: A focus on the Caribbean

OP-Ed Article by Leisa Perch, IPC-IG/Team Leader – Rural and Sustainable Development

The Rio +20 meeting in 2012 is an opportunity for global policy makers to review twenty years of action on Agenda 21 and what has been delivered. Thus far, the score-card is mixed; neither wholly positive nor wholly negative. Significant challenges lie ahead. Global food prices have escalated sharply and malnutrition is on the rise. While a recent report suggests that globally efforts to sharply reduce extreme poverty by 2015 are on track, hunger remains persistent. The triple effects of the global economic crisis i.e. the weakening of the insurance sector, lower demand for exports and reduced remittances have exposed the fragility of economies and households alike. Fiscal space constraints narrowed the options for mitigating the worst of the crisis on households. Nine (9) Caribbean countries registered debt to GDP ratios in excess of 80 percent in 2010.

CO2 emissions reached a new high in 2010 and by some estimates, global disasters now cost at more than$100 billion and have impacted the lives of millions. Estimates for 2010, alone, suggest that over 40 million people were displaced by disasters.

Rio +20, therefore, must deliver an agenda: (i) focused on people-centred development, building on the MDG Summit in 2010; (ii) informed by a critical review of collective success and failures; and (iii) anchored in inclusion and inclusiveness within states and between states.

As attention turns to “greener pathways” of growth and development, in the context of the “green economy”, one can speculate on some of the questions facing heads of governments, ministers and technical advisers: How can a green economy process really bring the poor into the centre of growth and development? How can a greening economy help to bridge the current gap between those seeking work and the jobs available? How can the tourism sector be greened and still be competitive? Which pathways will stimulate new sources of growth and provide opportunities for small and micro-business? Once “green”, how to stay green? How can greening economy offer real opportunities for the working poor?

It is also not yet very clear how the green economy process will increase resilience in the face of the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters that remains one of the more significant challenges to sustained growth and development in Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) worldwide and in the Caribbean.

Hurricanes, storms, heavy rains, tsunamis and earthquakes can potentially erase years of progress and investment, with predicted patterns of climate variability and change potentially putting Caribbean SIDS on a continuous cycle of “build, repair and recover”. Hurricane Ivan’s impact on Grenada in 2004 was estimated at over 200% of GDP and recent analyses estimate that Caribbean governments could end up spending as much as 20% of their GDP on coping with climate change.


Pacific region views on 'Green Growth'

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Government of Samoa convened the Open Forum on Green Growth. The Forum aimed to increase understanding of green growth in a practical context in the Pacific region, and to contribute to the UN Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) Subregional Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for Pacific Countries.

Iosefa Maiava, ESCAP, said green growth is a practical way to achieve sustainable development in the Pacific. He said the five pathways to green growth are:

- investment in natural capital;
- sustainable consumption and production (SCP);
- promotion of sustainable infrastructure;
- greening business and markets;
- and an enabling policy environment created by regulatory changes.

Mereia Volavola, Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation, outlined the challenges of greening businesses and markets faced by the private sector, including the need to address efficiency mechanisms, sustainable financing and capacity building.

A representative from the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlighted the value of green jobs within green growth. He said the sectors with potential for creating sustainable green jobs include tourism, renewable energy, agriculture, waste management and others.

Jackie Thomas, WWF, emphasized the value of energy efficiency within the tourism industry, with a focus on simple technology to improve profitability and sustainability. Karen Maposua, Women in Business Development, underscored the need for cultural and traditional practices to be part of the organic certification process in the Pacific, and provided examples of the growth of organic-focused businesses.

Aru Matthias, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), underscored that young people are the future and need to be recognized for their accomplishments in innovating in the agricultural sector


Friday, July 22, 2011

A Senegalese entrepreneur is turning the refuse at local beaches into a source of revenue

By Rose Skelton in Dakar

The beach at Petit Mbao on the outskirts of Dakar is awash with rubbish, like most other beaches in this Atlantic city. But the rubbish at this beach is different: it’s heaped into neat piles and a man in a high-visibility vest is scooping it onto the back of a horse-cart. The man works for Stephan Senghor, a Senegalese businessman who’s trying to find a way to turn Senegal’s love of plastic into a profitable business, whilst cleaning up Dakar along the way.

The cupboards of Senghor's house, just behind the beach, are filled with rubbish. “I’m seeing what companies pile up,” he says, picking up a tin can made by a French supermarket chain, which has the ‘please recycle’ symbol printed on the label, despite being distributed in a country where there is no formal recycling system. “Then I’ll find out how those companies can be part of the solution.”

Senegalese-born Senghor returned from living in Canada 18 months ago to help with the clean-up operation after heavy rains flooded Dakar’s outskirts well into the dry season. Working with a local team, he emptied water canals and natural drainage lakes that had become blocked. The clean-up team were left with plastic bottles, sachets, bags, rice sacks, shoes, buckets and tyres.

Senghor decided to find a way he could make this discarded plastic into something profitable, which would employ local people. He started melting different plastics with sand to create different products – paving stones, bollards, and pylons – to see what would work. “The idea of plastic recycling has been around in Europe for a long time, we are all used to it now. But here it is a relatively new thing,” he says.

The business angle is threefold: to produce high-quality construction materials at a competitive price (the base materials are largely free, after all); to sell the low-grade plastic as fuel to companies such as cement producers who are keen to find an alternative to oil and gas; and to re-use as much as possible – viable in a country where small-scale producers struggle to find affordable packaging for their products.

The side effects of the business have also been encouraging. The beach at Mbao has bins on it and people are using them. Senghor employs a team of 50 people during the rainy season to pump out flood water and clear the canals of plastic, and a team of 10 during the rest of the year. He wants to turn Mbao into a tourist spot, with its beautiful clean beaches and proximity to Dakar. 

“I’m not a non-profit organisation,” he says, looking out across the turquoise bay to Dakar shimmering in the distance. “I’m a business. I’m just finding ways to make money out of cleanliness.”


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A concept for every home: A Rainwater Harvesting theme park in Bangalore, India!

By S. Vishwanath

A rainwater harvesting theme park has been set up to demonstrate how citizens can implement rainwater systems and conform to the law that has placed a deadline of December 31 on all applicable buildings in Bangalore (India).

Located in the southern part of the city, on 40th Cross, 5th Block, Jayanagar, the Sir M.Visvesvariah rainwater harvesting theme park is a wonderful gift of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board to the city. Spread over an acre the park displays all that is good about water, the specific situation of Bangalore city and what can be done by any citizen to help the city on the issue.

Faced with a water crisis of enormous proportions the city has been responding in many ways. One of them is to bring another 500 million litres of water per day in what could be the last and final stage of the Cauvery water supply scheme. Finding this water needing to be supplemented the city utility has also got passed a law making rainwater harvesting compulsory. The rainwater theme park has been set up to demonstrate how citizens can go about implementing rainwater systems and conform to the law that has placed a deadline of December 31, 2011, on all applicable buildings.
Many ideas and working models

The theme park shows the many ideas by which rainwater can be harvested, from rain barrels to above-the-ground storage tanks to recharge structures for the shallow aquifer and deeper borewells. Porous pavements, landscapes appropriate to the city and even a rain gauge which shows how to measure rainfall are all on display.

The four recharge wells on site, of a depth of just 20 ft. and made of concrete rings, already have water in them. One of the wells actually has potable water which shows the potential of rainwater harvesting in a city with close to five lakh borewells.

Various types of filters are on display all around the building and the best part is that these are working models which show how they can be installed and maintained.

An exhibition hall has many posters and working models showing fun things such as each individual's body mass of water, how to use water efficient taps, and a rooftop rainwater harvesting model which shows the rain becoming usable water in a house.

A state-of-the-art auditorium shows films on the theme of water and its conservation. School children especially are encouraged to visit the park to have fun and learn about the situation of water in Bangalore and what each of us can do to ensure its sustained availability.

Four young engineers of the BWSSB sit in the help desk at the park and are prepared to show visitors around and explain all facilities on site to the curious. They are also able to provide design help at the help desk and put one in touch with trained plumbers from the particular locality to help implement rainwater harvesting solutions.

A consortium of people and institutions has come around to make the first of its kind in India rainwater theme park possible. Bangalore is lucky to have one more such display at the Planetarium and one at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Renewable Energy Development at Jakkur.

A visit to the rainwater theme park is recommended as a must for parents with children, for school, for resident welfare associations and all those citizens concerned with Bangalore's environment and sustainability.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DHAKA DECLARATION: SWAN (South Asia Women's Network)’s Positions on an emerging Green Economy

The Third Annual Conference of SWAN (South Asia Women’s Network), which was dedicated to the theme of “Women of South Asia and the Green Economy” took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 2 and 3, 2011 with participants from nine South Asian countries : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

At the end of the Conference, a DHAKA DECLARATION: SWAN (South Asia Women's Network)’s Positions on an emerging Green Economy was released. In relation to Green economy, this Declaration notes among others that:

A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social justice and equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. Such a Green Economy should replace the current economic order, which is based on inequity, environmental destruction and greed, which has resulted in keeping nearly half the world’s population in poverty, and has brought the planet to the point of a severe environmental catastrophe through climate change. The core idea of a Green Economy must be poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability through maintaining biodiversity, and the well-being of all the people.

As SWANs, we embrace such a Green Economy. We commit ourselves to raising our collective voices for it. We will transcend the fragmenting boundaries that attempt to divide us, and will unify our energies to create a better world for all.

Our local economies have always been in harmony with nature. We have used resources prudently, and shared them equitably. SWAN believes that agriculturists and craftspeople around the world have always worked in tandem with the seasons and in harmony with nature. A craftswoman carries with her the wisdom of generations that did not pillage the planet for profit. She has a deep commitment towards nurturing the natural world for sustaining livelihoods. The only raw materials needed to keep
millions employed is a thriving green environment with rich forests, wild grasses, clean waters, and unravaged hillsides. The dignity and creativity of hand-work greatly contributes towards sound rural economies. This work of women across the South Asian region must be acknowledged by all those who wish to build an inclusive and truly integrated, ecologically balanced world.

Today, those who have created the ecological crisis talk of the Green Economy. For them, the Green Economy means appropriating the remaining resources of the planet for profit — from seed and biodiversity to land and water as well as our skills, such as the environmental services we provide.

For us, the privatization and commodification of nature, her species, her ecosystems, and her ecosystem services cannot be part of a Green Economy, for such an approach cannot take into account our traditions. The resources of the Earth are for the welfare of all, not the profits of a few.

Sharing our vital resources equitably and using them sustainably for livelihoods and basic needs is at the heart of our concept of a Green Economy. Our rich knowledge of biodiversity, our ecologically sustainable agriculture, and our crafts techniques are free of fossil fuels and toxics. They generate creative and dignified livelihoods and they provide the basis for poverty alleviation.

We stand committed to strengthening these life-giving traditions. It is of vital importance to spread awareness about these issues through the media and through the educational process, which reaches out to youth and children. Awareness about the Green Economy and the significance of its diverse impacts is essential in order to enable all segments of society to make informed choices. Recognizing the changing face of the media, SWAN encourages the use of new media, including social networking tools, to reach out and support the women of South Asia in their struggle to
meet the challenges of ensuring the Green Economy for sustainable development.

Our Green Economies are diverse and decentralized and therefore are a path of empowerment for all. Women are the storehouse of knowledge and provide the cultural base to create and build economies that increase wellbeing and happiness, joy and beauty, sustainability and equity. It is from our region of South Asia that the concept of Gross National Happiness has spread worldwide. We will deepen this
concept and make it the basis of the Green Economy.

We stand committed to peace in our region and to strengthening these life-giving traditions. We commit ourselves to defending the ecological integrity of our region — our mountains and rivers, our land and oceans, our natural forests, biodiversity and seeds. We commit ourselves to creating prosperity and peace through the Green Economy that protects and enriches our natural and cultural heritage. We commit ourselves to resisting those irresponsible policies and armed conflicts that directly harm women
and children. We commit ourselves to equity and to defending vital resources, like forests, seed and biodiversity, rivers and water, as a commons. We recognize that the Green Economy we envisage will greatly facilitate and strengthen women’s empowerment in South Asia and in other parts of the world.

We commit ourselves to working together to show that a better world is possible. We commit ourselves to making our voices heard at all important regional and multilateral forums where these issues are being discussed.

Read the full DHAKA DECLARATION: SWAN (South Asia Women's Network)’s Positions on an emerging Green Economy, here

Rio+20 Briefing #2: Forests and the green economy (by ICTSD, July 2011)

Forests naturally embody the ideal characteristics of a green economy: low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. They also offer exceptional opportunities for green employment with jobs that can reduce consumption of energy and raw materials, avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and minimise waste and pollution while protecting and restoring ecosystems. In order to be brought to fruition, these natural characteristics of forests require proper governance.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will have the opportunity to draft a framework of forest governance schemes with the context of the global initiative to transition to a green economy. Products and services from forests not only constitute a significant portion of the global economy but they are also tools that can instigate sustainable development within the context of a green economy. Forest management, meanwhile, adds to production and services by bolstering the green job market. Reports produced by UNEP, UNECE - in cooperation with the FAO, and the Pardee Center all make the case that forests must play a major role in transitioning to a more sustainable economic system.

Mounting pressures on forests

World forest cover continues to shrink by 13 million hectares a year. With the world’s population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050 and consumption per capita on the rise, the pressure to tear down forests for urban construction and agricultural use will undoubtedly intensify. The competition in developing countries over use of agricultural land for food production or for biofuel cultivation will put forests at even greater risk. Coupled with the destructive effects of climate change on land, such as desertification in Africa and land erosion in costal nations, forests worldwide are increasingly under threat. The global economic downturn, multiple financial crises, and competition over use of dwindling natural resources are also major factors accelerating deforestation.

The fact that forests are influenced by everything from population and development to climate change and economics, is evidence of how interweaved forests are into the web of global society. Therefore, if forests can be impacted by various factors occurring in the world today, one can imply that the reverse is also true.

UNEP, in their Green Economy Report, advocate for the international community to take on a role that strengthens forest-related governance by creating, implementing, and supporting transparency mechanisms. According the report, the best opportunity the international community has to both address poor forest management and to raise funds to protect forests is by passing the enhanced UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme. The REDD+ scheme would offer monetary and competitiveness incentives for actors in the forestry sector to embrace a paradigm shift to a more sustainable forest value chain, the UNEP report finds.

But some critics argue that a “greening” of the forestry sector is inherently impossible because products produced from forests automatically represent ecological damage to the forest itself. This argument hinges on the concept that standing forests could never be properly assessed for their value to society. But stakeholder consultations have already led to a better realisation of the private and social benefits of forests, according to UNEP.

Read this full article from The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guyana: Jagdeo upset about non-release of Norway Climate funds

President Bharrat Jagdeo continues to fret about the non-release of the Norway climate funds, and has decided to push ahead with the project to give Amerindians electricity using funds from the treasury.

The solar panel project, which President Jagdeo yesterday said would cost US$2.5 million, was expected to be financed through the five-year forest-saving deal with Norway.

Under the agreement with Norway, the funds are channeled through a World Bank account, with the Inter-American Development Bank being a partner entity. So far, US$70M has been deposited into the account, but not a cent has reached Guyana.

The head of state said that it has been a “nightmare” to unlock the funds from the World Bank. The “tools” being used by the banks do not allow for easy disbursement, he added.

According to Jagdeo, a committee has been set up to see how the World Bank is managing the so-called Guyana REDD Investment Fund.

The World Bank and the IDB are treating the money as grant financing, and “grants come in dribbles” and a lot of the money goes back to pay consultants, etc, President Jagdeo said.

“This is our money that we earned,” he declared. “It’s not the World Bank’s money; it is not the IDB’s money,” he added.

Jagdeo jumped ahead of suggestions that trying to change the way the World Bank has decided to manage the Norway funds is intended to compromise on accountability or environmental and social safeguards.

He said that the Guyana Government wants the highest standards of accountability.
But while that is so, he said that the money is still Guyana’s money at the end of the day.

“They (the World Bank and the IDB) want to treat it as though it is their money; this is our money.”

Last weekend, the government announced that Cabinet – the council of ministers chaired by the President – had approved the procurement of up to 11,000 Solar Home Systems under the under the Hinterland Electrification Programme. These are to be 65W systems.
The project falls under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which formed the basis of the five-year agreement between Guyana and Norway.

Jagdeo first announced the solar panel project at the launch of Amerindian Heritage Month celebrations last September.

He said the first tranche of the Norway funds – US$30 million – will go towards demarcating Amerindian lands and fitting every Amerindian home with solar panels over a two-year period.

While Government has announced the procurement of the solar panels, it did not say how it was being funded, given that the Norway funds are yet to trickle down to Guyana.

The confirmation came from Jagdeo that funds from the treasury will be used to finance the project and when the Norway funds come, it would be treated in a “retroactive” way.
An estimated 135 Amerindian communities that remain without electricity are expected to benefit from the project.

The programme, it was previously announced, would cover installation costs, transportation, wiring, light fittings, maintenance and management training. The households who would benefit from the project would have to pay a monthly maintenance fee.

Under a previous Unserved Areas Electrification Project (UAEP), selected villages with less than 1,000 residents were fitted with solar panels.

The government said that at present the majority of hinterland households, including some 80 percent of Guyana’s Amerindian population, are without electricity.

“The programme will rectify this long-pervading inequity by providing access to clean and renewable energy throughout hinterland communities and significantly contribute to Guyana’s overall Low Carbon Development Strategy,” the government stated.

According to the government, the solar home systems will provide each home with power for lighting, small household appliances – such as a sewing machine to generate income – and radios, enhancing the communication capacity of these communities.

The programme is being executed by the Hinterland Electrification Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, serving as overall project Coordinator in collaboration with the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

The Cabinet decision to approve the procurement of the panels followed the conclusion of an international bidding process that resulted in over 40 expressions of interest. The bids were closed on May 31, last.

The government accepted the bid of a Danish company to supply the solar panels.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Kenya, Western Province: Lifestraw’s “Carbon for Water” program is “bogus” says Kevin Starr

A project to use carbon credits to finance the free delivery of water filters to 4.5 million people has been sharply criticised by a US expert. Mulago Foundation director Kevin Starr calls Verstergaard Frandsen’s Carbon for Water initiative a “loopy funding scheme paired with a lousy public health solution”. The company maintains it is providing a sustainable solution by guaranteeing free service and repair for the next 10 years.

The Verstergaard Frandsen company, in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, has delivered 900,000 of their LifeStraw Family water filters free-of-charge to households in the Western Province of Kenya through their Carbon for Water programme.

Using filters instead of boiling water with firewood will lead to significant reduction in carbon emissions the company says. This earns them carbon credits that they can sell to companies in countries that have carbon caps and exchanges. Vertergaard Frandsen is investing US$ 30 million (Euros 20.7 million) in the project. It expects to generate a CO2 emission reduction of two to 2.5 million tonnes per year which it will sell on the voluntary carbon credit market. The company says it has already made an advance deal worth 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions with the US bank JP Morgan Chase, adding that the current market value oscillates between six and 10 euros per tonne.

Mulago Foundation director Kevin Starr wrote that this was a “bogus application of carbon credits” because “people in western Kenya, by and large, don’t boil their water”. Starr based this on a Poverty Action Lab study that found

only 25% of householders said they boiled their water, and the research team found
that many samples of water claimed as boiled were still contaminated with high
levels of e. coli, leading to the conclusion that real boiling rates are probably
much lower.

A survey cited by Vestgard Fransden gives found a 29% boiling rate, but the company reportedly used the “suppressed demand” concept to inflate this to 71% for its carbon emission calculations. This percentage is the number of people whose future “demand” for wood to boil water is “suppressed” by getting a LifeStraw Family filter. In Starr’s view

it is absurd to project an imaginary future where prospering Kenyans buy more
firewood so they can start boiling their water.


the notion that you’re going to prevent lots of carbon going into the atmosphere
by distributing water filters is ridiculous, and anyone involved in this charade
should be ashamed of themselves—especially the Gold Standard Foundation, which
certified it.

A second objection that Kevin Starr raises is that no studies have proven that a positive health impact of the Lifestraw in a real life situation. The only rigorous study on the LifeStraw Family water filter carried out in Congo by Boisson in 2010 was inconclusive but it did find that after 12 months, 24 percent of households didn’t use them at all, and only 56 percent understood how to use them properly.

In one of the comments to Starr’s post, Nick Moon described the Lifestraw Family filter as being “complicated, fidgety, and frustrating”, especially given the fact that there were simple, locally-made ceramic water filters already available.
The third objection Starr gives is that

the LifeStraw Family water filter is just too damn expensive, and it has to be
replaced every three years. There are only two ways that a product like this can
get to real scale: the market or free government distribution. The wholesale cost
of the device from VF is about $25; the real cost to a customer, if you include
distribution and marketing, would be more like $50 to $70.

In a response, Vestgard Fransden CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen counters arguments that the Carbon for Water programme is not sustainable by stressing his company’s long-term commitment to the Kenyan initiative:

we will, over the coming two months, build 34 service centers, more than one in
each district, where users of LifeStraw can come for free service and repair for
the next 10 years. What is also noteworthy about this approach is that a majority
of potential revenue that comes in as a result of carbon offset is directly
re-invested in on-going community education, communication and monitoring.
Actually, the campaign provided employment for more than 8,000 Kenyans across the
31 Western Province districts. Moving forward, another 2,000 Kenyans will be
involved in the monitoring, community education and social mobilization annually.

Starr remains unconvinced

projects like Carbon for Water make a mockery of the effort to prevent carbon
emissions, and as a physician, it’s especially depressing to see a loopy funding
scheme paired with a lousy public health solution. The social sector has got to
escape this pattern of bogus idea, hyperventilating media, and eventual, invisible


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sustainable Development, Not 'Green Economy'

By By Emilio Godoy, IPS

With less than a year to go for the Rio+20 Summit, civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean is mustering its strength to defend the principles of sustainable development, as opposed to the model of a "green economy", which it views as only benefiting the business interests of big companies.

"The green economy is the new international environmental vogue, but it has lost all vestiges of the concept of sustainable development and has taken another direction," Maureen Santos, an expert on international issues at the Brazilian Federation of Agencies for Social and Educational Assistance (FASE), told IPS.

"It's an attempt to shore up the present system that is in crisis," she said.

The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will be held Jun. 4-6, 2012 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, marking the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit which took place in Rio in 1992.

The goals of the Rio+20 conference are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.

The conference will focus on building a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.

"Putting a price on nature is no solution, because it isn't a commodity," Katu Arkonada, a researcher at Bolivia's Centre for Applied Studies on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CEADESC), told IPS. "The green economy must not distort or divert the basic principles of sustainable development. It is a mistake to say that people will only look after goods if they have a price-tag and an owner and generate profits."

The first Earth Summit led to a series of international treaties, like the conventions on climate change and biological diversity, the Sustainable Development Commission, and what is known as Agenda 21, an action plan for U.N. agencies, governments, companies and non-governmental organisations in every area in which people have an impact on the environment.

However, two decades later, progress towards sustainable development is still slow: greenhouse gas emissions, species loss and environmental degradation have increased, and the planet's natural resources are being exhausted.

Debate should focus on "the greening of growth, equity in a world of limits, and building resilience to shocks and stresses," says a study titled "Making Rio 2012 Work: Setting the stage for global economic, social and ecological renewal" by Alex Evans and David Steven.

The authors are academics with the Centre on International Cooperation (CIC) at New York University, which published the document in June.

Preliminary work on the agendas for the official and alternative conferences is advancing apace, on the part of both governments and civil society organisations. Preparatory meetings for the summit were held May 2010 and March this year at U.N. headquarters in New York.

In January and February 2012, further meetings will take place there to discuss the draft declaration to be adopted in Brazil.

Meanwhile, an international seminar was held Jun. 30- Jul. 2 in Rio de Janeiro to organise the parallel meeting, convened by the Civil Society Facilitating Committee for Rio+20.

Civil society organisations prefer to talk about greening the economy, rather than promoting a green economy. In fact, these definitions are already a cause of dissension between industrialised countries and developing nations.

"The debate on the green economy is very diverse. Latin American positions are very fragmented," said FASE's Santos, who is also a member of the Brazilian Network for Peoples' Integration (REBRIP).

Governments and social organisations from the region will plan for the Rio+20 Summit at the Regional Preparatory Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held Sept. 7-9 at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.

The session's tentative agenda includes a report on preparations for Rio+20 and debates on progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and the key topics of the summit, as well as analysis and approval of the regional declaration.

"The two key challenges of sustainable development are, on the one hand, to overcome poverty and inequality, and on the other, to restore the balance of the Earth. Both goals are intrinsically linked, and one cannot be achieved without the other. Human beings and nature are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development," Arkonada said.

The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, recommends investing 1.9 trillion dollars a year in green technologies over the next 40 years, to combat the effects of climate change.

"But the current green economy agenda lacks much real substance. To give it a harder edge, it should be focused more specifically on the issue of growth - above all, the growth path of emerging economies," Evans and Steven's study says.

It argues that "emerging economies will account for the majority of additional demand between now and 2030; they are laboratories of the future; they are the model that other developing countries want to follow; and they have the potential to force rich countries to make belated efforts to upgrade their economies."


Friday, July 15, 2011

Renewable Energy for Accelerating Africa’s Development: Abu Dhabi Communiqué on Adopted at IRENA-Africa High -Level Consultation

The International Renewable Energy Agency held a High – Level Africa Consultation (IRENA-Africa High-Level Consultations) on Partnership on Accelerating Renewable Energy Uptake for Africa’s Sustainable Development, 08-09 July 2011

According to the Communique released after the Consultations, Ministers of Energy and heads of delegations of African countries and the African Union Commission and the Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa (CEMA), the significant potential of renewable energy to accelerate African low carbon development and address climate change mitigation and adaptation was recognized. But achieving these outcomes will require:

- Assessment of existing conditions and needs and building regional cooperation in order to address those needs and opportunities
- Strengthening national, regional and continental policy frameworks to stimulate investment in and ensure sustainable deployment of renewable energy
- Supporting research and development on RE technology and innovation within the continent and through South-South cooperation.
The African continent sees great promise in working with IRENA, whose Assembly has given it a strong mandate regionally and globally to support member states in accelerating the adoption of renewable energy.

The Meeting agreed among others on, agreed the following:

• Launching a concerted effort among all participating governments, agencies, non-governmental bodies and the private sector to promote intensified utilization of Africa’s vast renewable energy resources for accelerating Africa’s development, considering the need to ensure that IRENA's policy for Africa responds to the priority concerns of the continent, and to develop a concrete and practical approach to supporting the knowledge, technology, capacity and policy needs of African countries.

• A crucial first step will be to better understand the opportunities and constraints in our countries and regions by mapping “Renewable Energy Readiness”, a collaborative process that will provide a rapid, objective assessment of the status of renewable energy opportunities, and identify pathways to address gaps.

• Further engage with IRENA, as the key inter-governmental forum on renewable energy, in providing a platform for charting collaborative action strategies for accelerating implementation of African policies, and initiatives on renewable energy, focusing in particular on:

a. Improving policy frameworks to ensure investment grade public/private financing,while taking into account special measures needed to ensure social inclusion
b. Brokering services in capacity building including for entrepreneurs in renewable energy
c. Cooperation on technology and innovation to enhance endogenous human and physical capacity to accommodate expanded renewables deployment
d. Fostering regional and local level renewable energy technology production and
service industries

e. Supporting communication campaigns to promote uptake of renewable energy

Participants urged IRENA, in its messages to the international community at CoP-17, Rio+20 and other major events, to build on this communiqué and emphasize the following:

a. Providing strategic support for renewable energy in the context of the Green
Economy, including assessment of the impact of market distorting subsidies that
inhibit the deployment of renewable energy; targeted studies on employment
implications of expanded renewables deployment, policies for employment creation
through renewable energy
and related themes,

b. advocating increased international support to Africa on technical capacity
building, policy advisory services, investment financing tools and industrial
strategies for accelerating renewable energy up-take, while ensuring adequate
provision of domestic resources

c. Using the 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All to carry forward
Africa’s renewable energy strategies.

• We agree to work towards formalizing IRENA’s strategic presence in Africa and concretizing institutional arrangements for cooperation with African regional bodies and strategic partners in the sector; furthermore, we urge all African states who have not done so to become full members of IRENA.

• We shall extend full cooperation and support to IRENA to ensure it fulfils its critical mandate to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy globally, and to work together to make Africa a lead region in the transition to renewable energy.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rio + 20: New and Emerging Challenges by Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang

Recently the Rio+20 Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang elaborated on new and emerging challenges, as well as the two main themes of Rio+20 for the first time. He underscored the following challenges that UN Member States, Civil Society and other stakeholders had highlighted for priority attention. They include:

* green jobs and social inclusion;
* energy access, efficiency and sustainability;
* food security and sustainable agriculture;
* sound water management;
* sustainable cities;
* management of the oceans; and
* improved resilience and disaster preparedness.

Climate change cuts across all of these areas, as well as being a high priority in its own right, as is the means of implementation, including technology, financing and capacity building especially for developing countries. Read the full contribution here

I like the focus on sound water management; food security and sustainable agriculture and energy poverty. This must be the core concern for the South. At the moment in East Africa for example, food prices have skyrocketed due to high fuel prices which has made it unaffordable for many poor people. In addition extended droughts and sporadic rains make it impossible to access safe and clean water, while over 80% of East Africans use traditional biomass burnt in open three-stone stoves that continue to contribute to rapid deforestation.

But Secretary General Sha Zukang needs to 'balance' this by prominently highlighting the need to address sustainable production and consumption in case of the rich North, so that we work towards a more equitable distribution of resources (using energy and water conservation technology promotion, policies, incentives and penalties etc)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The High Cost of Cheap Energy: Russia’s Fossil-Fuel Subsidies Undermine Sustainable Development (Opinion)

Writing for Bridges Trade BioRes of the International Centre for trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Tara Laan below, provides an opinion on the ‘high Cost of Cheap (fossil fuel) energy’ provided buy subsidies in Russia, with implications for sustainable development.

Subsidies might be a solution to the current situation of escalating cost of petroleum products in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Can fuel subsidies be a solution to spur growth in the South? What other options exist to counter the escalating fuel prices that in turn determine even access to basin necessities like food (due to high transport costs)?

Tara’s opinion though based on the Russian experiences reflect the situation and the long-term visions of many countries in the South, and the hard choices they may have to make in the short and long run.

By Tara Laan

Russia provides some of the largest subsidies for fossil-fuels in the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that Russian subsidies for the consumption of fossil-fuels totalled almost US$34 billion in 2009. Russia is not alone in reducing the prices of fuels for its citizens. The IEA estimated that in 2009 global consumer subsidies for fossil fuels totalled US$312 billion (see graph). These estimates do not include subsidies to fossil-fuel producers, which may be another US$100 billion per year globally.

Russia’s fossil fuel subsidies are concentrated around natural gas and electricity (most of which is produced from gas) as consumer prices for oil products and coal have not been subsidised since the 1990s. Russia is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, the largest exporter and the biggest reserve holder. After the United States, China, and Japan, Russia is the world’s fourth largest electricity producer. Both gas and electricity are sold within Russia at average prices that are well below international market prices. This “price gap” between domestic and international prices was estimated to be approximately US$19 billion for gas and US$15 billion for electricity in 2009: equivalent to US$238 per person and 2.7 percent of GDP, according to IEA estimates. Fossil-fuel consumption was subsidised at an average rate of 23 percent, meaning that consumers paid 77 percent of the full economic cost of energy prices.

This sounds like good news for the Russian people, especially poorer households. But appearances can be deceptive. Energy subsidies actually hold back economic development and are not an effective way to help the poor, not to mention the adverse environmental impacts.

Looking at the social impacts first, studies have found that energy subsidies tend to disproportionately benefit the middle-class and rich. This is because energy subsidies are not usually income tested but provided per unit of energy consumed. There is a strong correlation between wealth and energy consumption. Therefore those consuming more energy receive more of the benefits. A more effective way to help the poor would be to sell energy at market prices and use the revenue (US$34 billion in the case of Russia in 2009) to provide direct assistance to those most in need. This could be delivered through the social safety net as cash payments or through increased spending on social services such as health, education and housing.

From an economic perspective, subsidies artificially reduce prices thus encouraging higher consumption and discouraging investment in new energy infrastructure and efficiency measures. Russia scores poorly compared with other countries in converting its energy resources into economic growth. For example, Russian gas consumption per capita is similar to Canada but consumption per unit of GDP is roughly five times higher than IEA countries. The inefficient use of energy hastens resource depletion and reduces the amount of energy available for export, thereby reducing government revenues available for social programs and infrastructure.

Low prices have also meant that there has been little incentive for energy suppliers to invest in new production or distribution infrastructure, due to the prospect of low financial returns. As a result, Solanko finds that Russian communities have suffered from electricity shortages and there have been large energy losses from an unreliable and inefficient electricity grid. In the gas sector, under-investment has hindered the development of new gas production and distribution infrastructure such as pipelines and transportation, which has put a break on economic development.

The other logical consequence of higher consumption is greater greenhouse-gas emissions and local air pollution. The IEA estimates that phasing out global consumption subsidies for fossil fuels between 2011 and 2020 could cut global CO2 emissions by 5.8 percent compared with a “business as usual” scenario. The OECD estimates that emissions reductions could be as high as 10 percent by 2050 if the same subsidies for fossil-fuel consumption are removed by 2020. Eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies provides a way for countries like Russia to make a major contribution to greenhouse gas reduction without introducing carbon taxes or an emissions trading system.

Subsidies also undermine the incentive to invest in existing cleaner energy sources and technologies by artificially reducing the consumer price for fossil-fuel products. In the same way, energy subsidies discourage innovation in the production and deployment of cleaner types of energy, such as renewables.

The Government of Russia recognises these negative impacts of subsidies and has embarked on a program of bringing gas and electricity prices up to market levels. Gas prices are being gradually increased towards the prices charged to European importers (minus export taxes and transport costs). This process is due to be completed in 2014. According to Solenko, from January 2011, all electricity purchased from the wholesale market for industrial purposes will be at market prices.

But the liberalisation program is far from comprehensive. Household electricity will continue to be cross-subsidised by industry until at least 2014 (Solenko, 2011). Household consumption is 10 percent to 15 percent of total electricity consumption. There also remains significant government ownership in the gas and electricity sector. Gazprom, a state-controlled company, accounts for over 60 percent of Russian reserves and almost 85 percent of Russian production, according to Simmons and Murray. Gazprom owns the Russian gas pipeline system and has a legal monopoly on gas exports. The state is also a major owner of power generation. Three state-owned companies control over one third of power generation capacities. If pricing from state-controlled Gazprom assets are also taken into consideration, Solenko estimates that over half of the electricity generation in Russia remains state-controlled.

Continuing government ownership and control over energy resources may prevent competition and under-pricing could contribute to on-going inefficiency and under-investment. The chief economist of Fortum, a Finnish company with significant investments in power generation and district heating in Russia, commented that subsidies for heating and household electricity remained an impediment to the operation of efficient markets in Russia.

While eliminating gas and electricity subsidies will clearly deliver economic and environmental benefits, it remains true that poorer households will find it difficult to cope with the higher prices. In a survey conducted in 2006, 57 percent of respondents in Russia indicated that higher utility bills had had a significant impact on their lives. For households that depend on subsidies to make energy affordable, energy price rises and possible inflation can put poor households under severe financial stress.

But subsidy reform can be designed and implemented in a way that minimises the negative impacts for poor households. A suite of policies have been used by countries around the world to ease the transition away from energy subsidies. The government can use the revenue gained from subsidies (that are mostly harnessed by the middle class and rich) to those vulnerable to energy poverty. As discussed earlier, this can be delivered through the tax system, social payments, cash transfers, or increased social spending.

The way in which subsidies are eliminated can also ease the transition to market prices and build public support for reform. Best practice includes a clear communications campaign to articulate the benefits of reform, stakeholder consultation, transparency about energy prices, a gradual phase-out of subsidies, and monitoring of the impacts of implementation with adjustments if necessary.

Energy subsidies have played an important role in Russia’s past as a way to make energy affordable for industrial and residential consumers. But subsidies are a blunt instrument for delivering support and they cause market distortions that-ironically-lead to energy shortages and waste. Greater efficiency in the sector will help Russia maximise its economic gain from its vast energy resources, so long as policies are in place to ease the transition away from subsidies particularly programs to help those vulnerable to higher energy prices.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Africa Analysis: Regional climate plan deserves support

A new southern African climate plan is impressive, but needs more funding if it is to plug the continent's data gap, writes Linda Nordling in Science and Development Network.

Africa's rain-fed agriculture and high poverty levels mean it can’t roll with the punches of an unpredictable climate.

But detailed studies on how climate change might affect areas of Africa are often thwarted by a lack of climate data.

Now the continent's southern countries have agreed a plan to strengthen climate data collection and interpretation in the region. And the global climate summit to be held in South Africa in December is a great opportunity to raise funds to put the plan into action.

A regional first

The Southern African Development Community's (SADC) Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Implementation Framework to Support Climate Change Response was adopted by the region's science ministers in May.

It sets out how SADC's 15 member states will collect and share climate information, and coordinate their scientific response to the threat of climate change.

Other African regions — such as the East African Community — are working on joint policies to address climate change. But SADC's is set to become the first transnational framework on climate change that is specific to science, the SADC secretariat says.

Africa is short of the data it needs to understand its specific climate trends and build reliable models to anticipate the impacts of climate change.

The density of meteorological stations is about eight times lower than the minimum recommended by the World Meteorological Organization.

According to Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, a researcher from the Centre for Development and Environment in Bern, Switzerland, investment in equipment and personnel is patchy across Africa and measurements are rare in rural regions, where predictions are particularly important for agriculture.

The data gap also affects the credibility and use of existing information in decisions, undermining the continent's attempts to mitigate climate change and plan for its impacts.

Mapping the risks

The SADC document describes activities in four areas where STI is crucial to tackling climate change: observation and monitoring; impacts, vulnerability and risks; mitigation; and adaptation.

Under the first area, countries in the region will audit existing climate data — a five-year exercise that will include integrating archived data and regularly collecting new data. Based on this audit, the network of meteorological stations will be expanded where needed.

The plan also focuses on identifying sectors vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including producing a vulnerability atlas identifying areas at increased risk of flooding or drought.

Under mitigation, the framework will audit carbon-offset projects in the SADC region and fund research to test ways of quantifying their carbon removal potential. Biofuels will be investigated as a way of cutting dependence on fossil fuels.

Finally, the adaptation strategy includes developing a portfolio of green technology projects, as well as research into disease-resistant and stress-tolerant crops.

A positive reception

The plan has received mostly good reviews by the region's scientists.

Phoebe Barnard, climate and biodiversity scientist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, is glad it provides for more climate observation equipment.

"This ... has been a constant source of weakness in developing accurate climate projections for the region. In Namibia, for instance, there are only a handful of meteorological stations with long-term records of much depth and accuracy," she says.

Bruce Hewitson, from the University of Cape Town's Climate Systems Analysis Group, agrees the plan is good news. "[It] has some exceptionally positive elements, most notably the intention to consolidate the observational record and network which has for a long time constrained the research on regional climate dynamics."

But he is concerned that the plan overlooks training the people needed to expand climate data gathering and analysis. The region's small group of climate scientists is already stretched.

The plan has admirable objectives, says Hewitson, but doesn't identify some implicit challenges. For example, there is a danger of underestimating the challenge of packaging climate information for policymakers. "In practice the development of actionable information is not simply one of running some procedures to generate numbers."

A plea to donors

The plan is ambitious, and the political backing for it means the region is taking climate science seriously. But who will foot the bill?

The document does not identify the cost of the projects. But some money has already been committed. The South African government is sponsoring the programme to the tune of 1.5 million South African rand (around US$220,000), matched by the Australian government.

This is unlikely to support all planned activities, but funding will also come from SADC governments — not least by the countries' realigning of their research funding with the framework.

SADC is also seeking donor funding. In a meeting hosted by South Africa's Department for Science and Technology last month (29 June), the plan was presented to 17 development partners.

The framework comes too late to bear fruit with new data by December, when South Africa hosts the annual international climate summit COP 17 in Durban. A better understanding of the region's climate would improve the chances of influencing global carbon-cutting targets in its favour.

However, southern Africa can and should use the spotlight that will shine on the region in the lead-up to the summit to highlight the climate data gap and lobby for funding to plug it. Despite its shortcomings, the region's climate science framework is a great blueprint, and it deserves support


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prospects for Rio Plus 20?

By Peter M. Haas, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

The Rio Plus 20 Conference (or Summit) is scheduled to be held on 4-6 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is being described within UN circles as the last policy opportunity for promoting green governance and institutional reform. Unfortunately the political climate does not seem favorably disposed towards supporting the ambitious goals of advancing a “green economy” as provisionally laid out in the Conference agenda.

Lessons from the past are not comforting.

Prior successful large scale international environmental conferences – such as Stockholm 1972 and Rio 1992- enjoyed public support, a well-developed agenda with deliverable treaties and policy proposals, and the absence of major power political cleavages.

Past successful technological transformations akin to the green economy – such as the Industrial Revolution in early 19th century England, the spread of free trade in the 1870s, and the reconstruction of Europe and the world economy in the aftermath of World War II – rested on a widely shared common purpose, political support by a transnational network of influential actors, and strong treaty obligations and international organizations capable of coordinating national policies.

None of these broad set of political preconditions for success appear to be present yet for Rio Plus 20. Governments and publics are preoccupied by the Arab Spring, restoring financial health, the war in Afghanistan, and terrorism.

The ‘green economy’ concept remains contested. Beyond the problem of defining a ‘green economy ‘, countries will compete over access to the commanding heights of the new economy, and thus are divided on their anticipated benefits from it. Some governments support the green economy approach, anticipating that their economies may benefit from a new epoch of green technology: including Japan, S. Korea, Germany, China, and possibly Brazil. Others are ambivalent – such as the USA and Russia – in large part because of the divided nature of their industrial sector which continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels and on manufacturing products for the older technology. Still others, including many in the developing world, are fearful that new technologies will be more competitive than their exports, that they may not enjoy cheap access to the new technologies, and that they may not contribute to job creation in their societies.

Green markets are still immature. The various green sectors remain too small in their respective countries to be able to command significant political clout. International institutions, and in particular the envisioned reforms so far discussed in the Rio Plus 20 preparatory process are insufficiently bold to be able to sway governments to change their dominant economic policy paradigms.

The Conference planners are thus faced with a dilemma, and few realistic options. The dilemma is that bold action requires more political support than is presently available. The challenge is how, with less than a year, and realistically more like 8 months, can sufficient political support be created to induce governmental support for developing a serious road-map for a green economy?

What options are available to claim a success at the conference?

- One option of course is to recognize bleak political realities, and delay the
conference until the political climate appears more felicitous.
- Another option is to try to change those realities by building the
domestic support for the conference, through efforts to mobilize green sectors

- A third option is to plan for the day after the conference, and develop
conference outputs that will continue to advance the longer process towards
Sustainable Development and a green economy from June 7th.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Tanzania’s burning question: Can REDD succeed amid a charcoal addiction?

By Salla Rantala

Driving along a narrow country road leading towards the Rubeho mountains in Central Tanzania’s Kilosa district, we come across bicycle after bicycle loaded with sacks of charcoal, heading towards sprawling urban centres.

Two weeks later, I write this to the loud churning sound of the diesel generator of our compound in Dar es Salaam, during another one of the programmed 16-hour power cuts across the city. The links between the two situations are multiple, with a number of implications for the success of a national initiative of mitigating climate change through reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Over 90% of Tanzanians depend on wood fuels for domestic energy, and in the urban centers, charcoal is the fuel of choice. In Dar es Salaam, the proportion of households using charcoal as the primary source energy arose from 47% to 71% between 2002-2007. It is a reliable source of energy – unlike electricity – and does not require expensive appliances to use it.

On May 23rd 2011, in an event celebrating three years of climate change partnership between the governments of Tanzania and Norway, the Environment Minister of Tanzania, Terezya Huvisa, posed a question to the audience: how many of you do not use charcoal when cooking at home? Only three people out of the 50+ participants, consisting largely of urbanite government officials and donor and NGO representatives in the forestry sector, raised their hands. The myth of wood fuel as primarily the energy source of the poor and the rural was definitely debunked. Even those battling deforestation in the policy arenas are using it.

Policy discussions around forests and climate change frequently refer to charcoal production as one of the main culprits of deforestation and forest carbon emissions. This is explicitly articulated in the Tanzanian Draft National Strategy for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) published in January 2011. Future “business as usual” scenarios predict a worsening of the situation.

The demand for charcoal is projected to increase along with rapid urbanization and population growth. A recent study describes a deforestation ring expanding around Dar es Salaam in waves, the outer boundary of the charcoal production area having moved 30 km between 1991 and 2005 (2 km/y). As nearby forests are exhausted, increasing charcoal prices (from less than 3,000 Tanzanian shillings/sack in 2003 to over TZS 20,000/sack in 2007) offset the cost of transporting the product longer distances, and the boundary is pushed further.

The consequences of deforestation and forest degradation extend beyond CO2 emissions. In terms of environmental services, they include biodiversity losses and decreased water services. The inhabitants of Tanzanian cities have become accustomed to intermittent power cuts as water levels in the hydroelectric dams, which supply most of the country’s electricity, fall under comfortable levels. While citizens complain, then submissively shrug at the inconvenience, prolonged power rationing adversely affects especially small- and medium-sized businesses and causes economic losses.

The proposed measures to counter the charcoal driver of deforestation in the draft National REDD+ Strategy include supporting access to alternative energy sources and increasing the efficiency of both biomass energy production and utilization. Civil society actors commend the latter measure as a step forward from the idea of an overnight transformation of the whole energy sector by a complete abandoning of biomass fuels.

This “quick fix” solution has tended to dominate the public energy discourse in Tanzania, although deemed unrealistic by an increasing number of stakeholders. Yet, the broader political economy ramifications of the charcoal challenge are vaguely analyzed and not explicitly addressed in the national policy proposals.

The multi-billion Tanzania shilling charcoal economy is largely unregulated, and escapes government tax collectors. Most of the charcoal is derived from lands with contested tenure. As in many other sub-Saharan countries, in Tanzania there has been a push towards decentralized natural resource governance and devolution of forest rights to local communities since 1990s.

Yet in practice, skewed interpretation of laws by government officials undermines tenure by communities and individuals, who then have little incentive to sustainably manage their resources. Charcoal production is often the byproduct of clearing more land for agriculture – another frequently cited driver of deforestation. In Iringa region in central Tanzania, villages engage in sustainable community-based charcoal production.

The sustainable charcoal, however, has to compete in the market with illegal, unregulated charcoal, the cheaper price of which does not reflect the full value of the product with the raw material costs excluded. In addition, the shares from illegal charcoal that remain with local producers are a fraction of the final market price. The trade is dominated by a narrow band of powerful elites.

Empowering communities to access charcoal levies might enhance incentives for local enforcement, but it would also mean decreased revenue to central and district governments. Bringing the charcoal business under regulation and changing the current status quo would therefore require considerable political will.

There is a broad consensus among policy actors in Tanzania that it is crucial to address the charcoal question for REDD+ policies to be effective. But with the REDD+ discussion largely compartmentalized inside the forest sector, do they have the will and the adequate means to act on it?