Thursday, June 30, 2011

Central Kenya farmers turn to solar irrigation

Farmers in Central Kenya are embracing solar technology as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to irrigate their land.

Joseph Mutua has begun using a solar-powered pump to bring water from the nearby Nyamindi River to irrigate his export-bound food crops, which include French beans, baby corn and kale.

Solar panels standing on tall metal poles are connected to a pump immersed in the river, 200 metres away. A pipe carries water from the pump to a storage tank at the farm, and from there it is directed through pipes to irrigate Mutua’s farmland.

Farmers generally use diesel or petrol engines to pump water, but increases in the price of oil are making these pumps increasingly expensive to run.

"A farmer using a diesel pump spends up to 5,000 Kenyan shillings a day (about $60) to pump water to a medium piece of land," Mutua said.

By contrast, the solar pump, once purchased and installed, costs nothing to run. That enables farmers to spend their money on things like seeds instead of irrigation, Mutua said.

"For over a year now since I bought the solar pump, I have not had any maintenance. It has really saved me a lot of money," said Mutua.


The pump is not cheap. A solar pump with eight panels costs around 1.2 million shillings (about $14,000). Mutua started with the smallest possible unit – two solar panels ­– which, together with a tank and irrigation pipes, enabled him to irrigate 0.2 hectares (half an acre) of vegetables.

The initial cost was 170,000 shillings (about $1,900), which he paid out of his farming income and from savings.

In addition to its minimal running costs, the solar technology is environmentally clean. Unlike diesel engines, the solar-powered pump emits no pollution or climate changing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The pump also is helping to conserve water from the Nayamindi river. Low rainfall, likely caused by climatic change, is causing the river to dry up at certain times of year.

In drought-prone areas of Kenya, irrigation is widely used in farming. But uncontrolled irrigation methods, such as flooding furrows with water and letting it soak into the soil, are endangering water supplies.

"Every drop of water matters. Twenty years from now, if we don't keep our environment safe, we shall perish," warned Edwin Munge, a regional agronomist in Kirinyaga district.

Munge works with Kenya Horticultural Exporters, a local company to which Joseph Mutua sells his French beans. Munge is helping small-scale farmers such as Mutua adopt ways of conserving water, including the solar pump technology.

By pumping river water into storage tanks, farmer can practice drip irrigation, releasing water drip by drip through pipes lying on the surface of their land.

"Flooding takes 20 cubic metres of water per acre (8 cubic metres per hectare) while drip irrigation takes only two cubic metres per acre (0.8 cubic meters per hectare)," Munge said.

As more farmers adopt the new technology, there is hope that food can be produced even when conditions are harsh. Some farmers in the area now harvest runoff water, which is collected in underground reservoirs. The water can be used for irrigation during the dry season and pumped to gardens using the solar technology.

Mutua started using the solar-powered pump in 2010, and is eager to promote it.

“This has excited so many farmers, who are saving money to acquire theirs as well,” he said.

Source: Alertnet

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Towards a low carbon industrial strategy for Nigeria (May 2011)

The Federal Government of Nigeria has set an ambitious growth target for the economy in the coming decade. Diversifying the economy away from the dominance of petroleum and expanding industrial production are important cornerstones of Vision 2020 – the country‟s economic development blueprint. Nigeria has over the years experienced de-industrialisation as a result of weak infrastructure, especially lack of access to power and financial resources to replace outmoded technologies. Most companies depend on expensive diesel to generate electricity to run their plants.

A low carbon industrial strategy is consistent with the County’s Vision 2020 plan to diversify and decarbonise the Nigerian economy. The strategy aims to achieve a structural transformation of the economy as a basis to launch industrial growth, create jobs as well as contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, the Vision 2020 fell short of identifying specific nuts and bolts of a low carbon industrial strategy. Low carbon development for Nigerian industries will require a switch from diesel to gas and renewable energy as well as the acquisition of more efficient technologies.

This paper identifies three priority sectors (energy, cement production and textile industries) where growth in low carbon technologies will make a difference and proposes a number of initial steps to expand low carbon industrial development in Nigeria.

However, the transition to high growth and low carbon development in all three identified priority industrial sectors is hampered by a number of factors, and these include the following

- Lack of infrastructure and high cost of industrial production. Power, water, roads and other vital infrastructure are in poor condition in Nigeria. As companies are made to provide these services for themselves, the cost of doing business remains high for them. As a result, companies experience cash squeeze and are often unable to make vital investments in technology renewal.

- Policy inconsistencies. Even though government has embarked on a number of stimulus packages for several industrial sectors, the implementation is often fraught with conflicting laws and regulations. As industrial associations recount various reversals in industrial strategies, the trust of investors on new government initiatives wane.

- No incentives for converting to low carbon energy technologies. Even though companies will benefit from fuel and technology switch programmes –allowing them to have more cost effective energy services, there are currently no incentives for converting to low carbon energy technologies for Nigerian industries.

- Inadequate inter-agency coordination. Industrial stakeholders are also concerned that government agencies often do not coordinate their policies – resulting in conflicting signals from a myriad of government agencies.

- Financing constraints. The Nigerian financial market is presently not deep enough to offer long-term loans at reasonable interest rates. This raises the cost of doing business and stymies efforts to invest in new technologies.

- Poor public awareness. Several leaders of industries are unaware of new efficient technologies, including domestic and international programmes that support their acquisition. As a result, only very few Nigerian companies have embarked on Clean Development Mechanism projects to meet the additional costs of cleaner technologies.

Noting the imperatives of growing the industrial sector along a low carbon pathway, the following recommendations have been proposed by senior leaders in government, industries, financial sector, international agencies and civil society:

- Set up a multi-stakeholder committee. This committee will include key stakeholders, such as government agencies, representatives of key industries, international agencies and civil society groups. The strategy will include a comprehensive package of incentives to stimulate the transition to more prosperous and efficient technology-driven industries in Nigeria.

- Build a political coalition. Stakeholders are concerned that agreed policies often are not followed up with effective implementation. A political platform is therefore needed to ensure that agreed green stimulus packages are fully implemented.

- Set up a green industrial fund. The Bank of Industry has set up a number of special purpose funds to address the challenges faced by Nigerian industries. The time has come for a clean technology fund to stimulate competitiveness of Nigerian industries, boost growth and contribute to emission reduction.

- Conduct clean technology research and advocacy. Both policymakers and industry leaders have significant gaps in their knowledge of the technology and financial requirements for low carbon industrial growth in priority sectors. An evidence-based advocacy programme will lead to greater awareness, stronger policies and better decisions by companies.

- Build international partnership. A number of Nigeria‟s bilateral partners and multi-lateral financial institutions have technology cooperation programmes that will benefit Nigeria‟s industries. These programmes include the Clean Development Mechanism under the UNFCCC. The government should promote these opportunities for technology and financial partnerships to support low carbon development in Nigerian industries.

Read the full paper ‘Towards a low carbon industrial strategy for Nigeria (May 2011) by Ewah O. Eleru et. al.from here

Monday, June 27, 2011

Going Beyond Jatropha: Can an Expanded Land and Feedstock Base Help India Meet its Ambitious Biodiesel Target?

A working paper titled "Going Beyond Jatropha: Can an Expanded Land and Feedstock Base Help India Meet its Ambitious Biodiesel Target?:" by Dr Promode Kant, Dr Wu Shuirong, Ms Swati Chaliha and Rajeshwar Jasrotia has been published by the Institute of Green Economy (IGREC).

The issues raised in this Working Paper related to production of biodiesel, though written with particular reference to India and China, have strong implications for developing countries like Africa where concern over 'land grabbing' by foreign companies seeking agricultural investment opportunities looms high.

Increased use of biodiesel is an important part of India’s strategy for climate change mitigation. After its earlier plans to begin mandatory blending of fossil diesel with biodiesel by the year 2005 failed to take off due to inadequate production of biodiesel caused by near complete reliance on one species, Jatropha curcas, India decided to broadbase its feedstock and land choices in order to achieve 17% blending by year 2017.

This research work uses information on land and oil seed species available in the databases of relevant Indian institutions for identifying marginal lands unsuited for agriculture in various agro-climatic zones. After accounting for other existing uses and impracticality of use, the marginal lands actually available is estimated at 11.2 million hectares and thirteen species of trees bearing oil seeds suitable for planting on these lands have been identified. In addition, 20% of seeds of Sal (Shorea robusta) occurring gregariously over 10 million hectares of natural forests across the country, and of Rubber (Hevea brasilensis) over about 0.5 million hectares of large scale plantations in peninsular India, could be beneficially used for this purpose. But even after this resource base enlargement, the annual biodiesel yield in 2020 is estimated at only 8.83 million tons enabling about 8% blending by that year. Since China is also
intending to develop an ambitious biodiesel blending plan a limited comparison with China has been drawn.

Huge demands for biodiesel in these countries would necessitate large scale
imports unless there is a major technological breakthrough in lignocellulosic liquid biofuels. Experiences of past indicates that import of biodiesel in such large quantities could create severe adverse ecological and socio-economic consequences for the producing country, particularly if it happens to be a developing country with inadequate governance.

For ecologically sustainable imports of such large quantities of biodiesel India and China would need to coordinate with concerned international bodies like FAO to develop appropriate import strategies well in advance.

Read this full Working Paper: "Going Beyond Jatropha: Can an Expanded Land and Feedstock Base Help India Meet its Ambitious Biodiesel Target?:" by Dr Promode Kant, Dr Wu Shuirong, Ms Swati Chaliha and Rajeshwar Jasrotia from here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

G20 Agriculture: 5 priorities to end food crises

Ahead of the G20 Agriculture Ministers' meeting in Paris on June 22 and 23 to make progress on key issues such as reducing commodity price volatility, limiting financial speculation and establishing a global action plan against food crises, The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food - Olivier De Schutter provided five priorities may give this G20 summit a vital role in improving long-term global food security.

Olivier De Schutter calls upon our G20 leaders to endorse these priorities, and act upon them:

1. Regulate and make more transparent, the markets for agricultural products. The impact of financial speculation on food prices is now widely recognized, and this needs to be subject to control without delay. The United States legislated on derivatives nearly a year ago. The G20, under French presidency, could encourage other major economies to follow the same path.

2. Encourage the development of regional storage facilities. As we are faced with growing instability in production due to climate change, it is urgent to strengthen systems of storage at the regional level. Currently, in developing countries, 30% of crops – 40% of fruits and vegetables – are lost because of lack of adequate storage facilities. We may in fact move beyond storage facilities to the establishment of food reserves, not just to allow the humanitarian agencies to respond to emergencies, but also to reduce price volatility across seasons. Provided they are managed in a transparent and participatory way, food reserves may be capable of smoothing prices between periods of good harvests and low periods, characterized by rising prices. The G20 should encourage international institutions and cooperating agencies to further support these regional storage facilities.

3. Support the provision of public goods. To enhance the productivity of small farmers in developing countries, it is necessary to accelerate the provision of public goods such as agricultural extension services or construction of roads linking farmers to urban consumers. It is also crucial to help small producers organize themselves into cooperatives and unions in order to strengthen their positions in food chains and to collaborate with governments in designing programs that are supposed to benefit them.

4. Support the capacity of all countries to feed themselves by strategies based on the right to food. Since the early 1990s, the food bills of the least developed countries have increased five- or six-fold due to lack of investment in the production of food crops. The continued promotion of export agriculture has made these countries highly vulnerable to exchange rate volatility and price spikes in international markets. This trend can be reversed by the implementation of multi-year national strategies, designed to restore efficient subsistence agriculture. Where they are adopted in a participatory way, and where they include mechanisms for monitoring the commitments of governments, such national strategies can improve accountability of governments. The experience of some Latin American countries shows that such strategies focusing on the right to food may improve food security in a sustainable manner. The G20 should reiterate this message and recognize the importance of institutional frameworks and adequate governance in any strategy for food security.

5. Strengthen global food security governance. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has been reformed in the wake of the 2007-2008 food crisis to strengthen cooperation and coordination between States and international agencies. CFS is now the only forum linking governments, international institutions and civil society in improving food security policies. The G20 should affirm its support for this important step towards better coordination of efforts at international level. It is no longer acceptable that policies in trade or international investment policies, for example, contradict rural development programs in the field that are aimed at improving the situation of poor farmers.

Hunger is not a natural disaster – it is, rather, a political problem. And that is precisely why this scandal must and can be stopped. Today, France, together with its G20 partners, has the unique opportunity of contributing decisively to this end, and I am confident it will do so.


Rain Water Harvesting Improves Lives of Small Farmers

"If there's a bad year, we can stay up to 20 days without rain. The young crops die, that's the problem over here", says Rabiet E. Mkumbwa, 60, in front of his home in Mwembe village in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region.

With less than 400 mm of rain annually, when 900-1000 mm is the average in the country, this is one of Tanzania’s driest region. Climate change is affecting the rain patterns and this year, like last, the traditionally rainy months of October and November brought no steady showers. Erosion is another serious problem that reduces soil fertility and crop yield.

To help the villagers farm their land, feed their families and earn an income, UNDP supported a local NGO, the Same Agricultural Improvement Project (SAIPRO) in constructing large pools to collect water streaming down the hills. These micro-dams are based on the concept of traditional local water reservoirs known as ndiva.

The dam is owned and maintained by a group of community members, 20 women and 30 men, who clean out the mud from the pool and manage the distribution and channeling of the water.

The micro-dam in Mwembe can store up to 220 000 litres of rain water that flows down the surrounding hills. The dam’s valve is opened once a week to distribute water to the community members’ farm plots. Once released, the water is manually channeled to the plots that cover 200 acres of farmland and serve up to 150 households.

With improved water supply to their plots, small-scale farmers in the region are not only feeding their families but also earning extra income from selling their produce at local markets. Their children can attend school, they can afford keeping poultry and cows and their houses have been improved with iron sheets replacing hay roofs.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Health in the Green Economy

The World Health Organization’s Health in the Green Economy series, to be published in 2011, is reviewing the evidence about expected health impacts of greenhouse gas mitigation strategies in light of mitigation options for key economic sectors, considered in the Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 (IPCC).

The aim is to propose important health co-benefits for sector and health policy-makers, and for consideration in the next round of IPCC mitigation reviews (Working Group III – Fifth Assessment Report [AR5]). Opportunities for potential health and environment synergies are identified here for household energy in developing countries.

IPCC assessment notes that the residential and commercial building sector has the highest immediate mitigation potential to reduce climate change pollutants. In comparison with other sectors, larger absolute reductions in CO2-equivalent emissions of climate change pollutants addressed in the Kyoto protocol are possible by the year 2030 – at a cost of less than US$ 100 per ton of CO2-equivalent. This arises from opportunities to markedly reduce energy consumption in buildings, to switch to low-carbon and renewable fuels and to control emissions of climate change pollutants other than CO2 (e.g. methane).

Particularly in developing countries, household solid fuel use also results in a substantial disease burden. Close to three billion people obtain their household energy for cooking and heating from solid fuels (wood, coal, charcoal, dung and crop wastes) burned in open fires and traditional stoves.

Such indoor air pollution is a major risk factor for childhood pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and also lung cancer where coal is used. Recent evidence has also shown associations with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and tuberculosis, as well as other cancers. In low-income countries, indoor smoke was responsible for an estimated 4.0% of the overall disease burden in 2004, making it the most important cause of death and illness after childhood underweight, unsafe sex, lack of safe water and sanitation and suboptimal breastfeeding.

Women and children are most directly exposed to indoor air pollution, as well as being more at risk for burns and scalding, and vulnerable to attack and injury during fuel collection.

But new technologies for more efficient household fuel use in developing regions hold some of the greatest potential co-benefits for both health and climate in the household energy sector because they greatly reduce emissions. These interventions offer other co-benefits to health, gender equity and sustainable development for billions of people.

For example, in India, household and community-level photovoltaic systems are already being widely used to power domestic lights. Photovoltaic (PV) electricity also offers potential for expanded use and development of other low-power direct current (DC) devices, including for communications and refrigeration.

Read the full WHO brief from here

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rio+20: From Earth Summit to Earth Grab?

Diana Bronson, ETC Group writing in the UN Non Governmental Liaison Services' first edition of its “Road to Rio” e-newsletter argues that Rioplus2012 could be our best opportunity to tackle the intertwined environmental, economic, food and climate crises, or it could be the launching pad for an unprecedented attack on the Earth’s natural systems and the most vulnerable populations on the planet.

She adds that there are two paths we could take: one relies on market mechanisms and technological fixes and will be led by bankers and engineers. The other relies on fostering greater global equality and democratic governance, and it will bring affected communities and countries into the centre of decision-making.

Reflecting on what has happened to the commitment on technology assessment, Diana reveals that back in 1992, Agenda 21 had a whole chapter (34) [link to] on the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. Governments spoke about a programme of technology cooperation, improved access, capacity building, facilitating informed choices, even transferring patented technologies on non-commercial terms!

Two years after this, open trade, investment liberalization and structural adjustment became the table d’h├┤te of development policy and any remaining notions of government stewardship over markets or technology to ensure sustainability went out of fashion.

There has been an extremely rapid technological development – the internet, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, genomics, geoengineering – each innovation more rapid, more astonishing and more obscure in its implications than the last. For example, Big Oil and the chemical industry have also begun serious investment in bio-based “renewables,” which will compete with food production, threaten biodiversity and will have potentially devastating implications for Southern countries where 86% of global “biomass” is located and where three-quarters of it, is regarded as ripe for commercialization.

Many of these new technologies are parading as “green.” Many of them are seeking accreditation under various market mechanisms such as carbon-offset schemes, thereby multiplying the financial stakes and the incentives for corruption. Corporate-sponsored think tanks make independent assessment hard to come by. And workers, local communities and indigenous people, when affected by their testing or deployment, have poor access to decision makers and little, if any, possibility for judicial recourse when things go wrong. They are affecting commodity prices, resource distribution, and manipulating the minutest elements of life – the DNA of the natural world. Their technical merits are unproven and their applicability to national needs is speculative, and yet, the industrial and financial interests backing them will posit them as essential to the Green Economy.

That means big subsidies and little regulation. The global South will be the guinea pig for testing these powerful technological packages as well as the source of the raw materials needed to keep the industrialized north powered up. The debacle of corn ethanol – which managed to increase hunger and greenhouse gas emissions while attracting massive subsidies by successfully portraying itself as a green solution – could be repeated many times over.

Diana then makes a worthwhile proposal: Rio+20 must break this pattern. Rio+20 should be the launching pad for inter-governmental negotiations on a new treaty – the International Convention for the Evaluation of New Technologies (ICENT). This treaty would have institutional mechanisms to identify new technologies requiring special scrutiny for their anticipated environmental or social risks, it would undertake ongoing evaluation and monitoring, and would share information about technologies, supporting their transfer and diffusion when warranted.

Read Diana Bronson's full article in the UN Non Governmental Liaison Services' first edition of its “Road to Rio” e-newsletter here

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lifeline for Africa’s freshwater species

Edmund Smith-Asante from Ghana Business News, reports on an online interactive map, released by IUCN for each of the 7,079 river and lake sub-catchments across mainland Africa that reveals information on the distribution, conservation and ecological needs of 4,989 freshwater species, of which 21% are already threatened.

This tool and the accompanying IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ report ‘The Diversity of Life in African Freshwaters: Underwater, Under Threat’ provide vital information to help plan development in ways that minimize or avoid impacts to freshwater species.

According to the report the number of threatened freshwater species in Africa will increase dramatically if development of water resources is not planned sustainably. Major threats include loss or degradation of habitat to agriculture, and impacts of new infrastructure such as dams for irrigation and hydropeower.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Bolivia Proposes A Six-step Pathway to Solve Climate Talks

Ambassador Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia addressed reporters at the UN climate talks in Germany. Ambassador Solon outlined a clear plan, based on submissions from other countries and civil society, on how to move the talks forward in 2011, ahead of the UNFCCC COP17 in Durban later this year.

“The key issue at these talks is the gap between how much climate pollution we need to reduce and how much countries are committed to reducing. We call that the “gap” and it’s the difference between 4C of warming and 2C of warming. The Cancun outcome sets us on a path to 4C.” Ambassador Solon Said.

Solon highlighted Article 4.2 (a) of the UN Convention on Climate Change, which all countries had agreed to in 1992, which required developed countries to ‘peak’ their emissions by the year 2000.

To respond to the current deadlock in talks Ambassador Solon proposed a six-step path:

- Agreement on the size of the gap (12-14 Gigatonnes of C02e)

- Recognise that developed countries will need to take a larger share of the reduction.

- Agree on parameters for sharing the burden, based on historical responsibility and
capacity of the parties.

- Have developed countries’ emissions peak immediately.

- Represent every countries’ target in terms of gigatonnes, defined as reductions from
domestic emission levels and without the use of ‘offsets’.

- Agreement on legal actions for parties that do not fulfil their obligations under
the Kyoto Protocol (for a second commitment period) and under the Convention.

Read the full submission from here

One million Bangladesh homes on solar power

The number of households in electricity-starved Bangladesh using solar panels has crossed the one million mark -- the fastest expansion of solar use in the world, officials said Wednesday.

In 2002, just 7,000 households were using solar panels but now more than a million households -- or some five million people -- gather solar energy, said Nazmul Haq of the Infrastructure Development Company (IDCOL).

"It's the fastest expansion of solar energy anywhere in the world," said Haq, who heads the state-run IDCOL, which provides financing for clean energy projects.

"We crossed the one million threshold more than 18 months ahead of schedule (and) we have set a new target to cross 2.5 million by 2014," he said.

Rural households in Bangladesh are frequently not on the state electrical grid and so have embraced solar power, helped by NGOs providing panels which can be paid for in small monthly instalments.

Some 60 percent of Bangladesh's 150 million people have no access to mains electricity, with many relying on costly kerosene lamps for lighting.

Years of under-investment in infrastructure means state-owned power plants generate only around 4,700 megawatts of electricity a day against demand of 6,000 megawatts -- which is growing by 500 megawatts a year.

A World Bank report last month said solar panels had "changed the face of the remote, rural areas of Bangladesh," by providing cheap, reliable electricity.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Following the footprints

Carbon-footprint labels are visual symbols of a brand’s solid commitment to reduce their impact on the environment and reduce their carbon footprint.According to an Article in The Economist (June 2, 2011), sections of which are available below, Carbon-footprint labels are quietly spreading. Consumers may not have noticed them yet, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

From a Southern perspective, carbon-foot printing could raise different questions: How far is this process useful to ‘integrate true Green House Gas Accounting’ directly into the foundation of the global economy? Who eventually meets the ‘carbon foot-print’ cost (consumer or producer)? Would this ‘effort’ have been diverted elsewhere or in another form, where more global benefits would accrue?


The idea with carbon labels is to let shoppers identify products with the smallest carbon footprints, just as other labels already indicate dolphin-friendly tuna, organic milk or Fairtrade coffee. Producers would compete to reduce the carbon footprints of their products, and consumers would be able to tell whether, for example, locally made goods really were greener than imported ones.

Carbon labels have yet to become as widely recognised by consumers as other eco-labels, however. A survey carried out in 2010 by a British consumer group, found that just a fifth of British shoppers recognised the carbon footprint label, compared with recognition rates of 82% for Fairtrade and 54% for organic labelling. This is understandable, because carbon labelling is a much more recent development—organic labelling dates back to the 1970s, and Fairtrade to the late 1980s—and the right ways to do it are still being worked out. Adding a carbon label to a product is a complex and often costly process that involves tracing its ingredients back up their respective supply chains and through their manufacturing processes, to work out their associated emissions. According to 3M, an American industrial giant that makes over 55,000 different products, this can cost $30,000 for a single product. To further confuse matters, different carbon footprinting and labelling standards have emerged in different countries, preventing direct comparisons between the various types of label.

The value of carbon footprinting and labelling lies in identifying these sorts of savings, rather than informing consumers or making companies look green. According to a report issued in 2009 by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, in England, “the main benefits of carbon labelling are likely to be incurred not via communication of emissions values to consumers, but upstream via manufacturers looking for additional ways to reduce emissions.” It is not so much the label itself that matters, in other words, but the process that must be gone through to create it. Walkers has reduced the footprint of its crisps by 7% since the introduction of its first carbon labels. Indeed, to use the Carbon Trust’s label, companies must do more than just measure the footprint of a product: they must commit themselves to reducing it.

In France, a year-long experiment will begin in July, involving 168 firms in a range of industries, to apply carbon labels to products including clothing, furniture and cleaning products. An accompanying campaign will try to raise awareness of carbon labels among consumers. This is a prelude to the planned introduction of compulsory carbon-labelling rules, possibly as soon as 2012, which will apply to imported goods as well as those made in France. The new rules, devised by AFNOR, the French Standards Agency, require labels to show more than just the carbon footprint. Depending on the product category, they must also include other environmental data, such as the product’s water footprint and impact on biodiversity. Product-category rules have already been drawn up by AFNOR and the French environment ministry for shoes, wood, furniture, shampoo and fabric chairs. The project is the result of Grenelle 2, a law passed in 2010 which marks the first time a government has tried to make environmental labelling mandatory.

Read the full article

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Climate and Development Knowledge Network seeks your views on green growth – join the debate

In an exclusive The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) discussion series, Executive Chair Simon Maxwell is seeking your views on what green growth means for developing countries. Simon has put together ten propositions on green growth, and will be answering your questions and comments on two of these propositions each week for the next five weeks. Visit the CDKN website to read the paper in full.

The impact of climate change on growth, and the impact of growth on climate change, are much debated. Growth optimists argue that green growth options will make it possible for economies to expand, while preventing irreversible global warming. Growth pessimists say this is unachievable, adding that we consume too much, and should accept lower growth rates.

But from the perspective of developing countries, continued growth seems to be an imperative if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met. Developing country governments’ main concern is that measures taken to combat climate change might dampen growth prospects. Yet fast-growing developing economies are increasingly contributing to climate change: what should be done?

Much of the current debate focuses on mitigation and adaptation, important components of climate-related policy. At CDKN, we add a third dimension, development. Climate compatible development is development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by a low- emissions, more resilient future.

Fuel-Efficient Stoves Protect Women’s Health and Forests

Regan Suzuki from the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) thinks focusing on something as small as a stove could make big changes for women in forests. If women were more deliberately considered in REDD+ and development projects, the significant potential of fuel-efficient stoves for improving their lives and reducing deforestation would make it a high priority.

When considering underlying drivers of deforestation, there is an important — and gendered — factor that gets far less attention than it should. Biomass plays an enormously important role in the lives of the rural poor in developing countries, serving as the primary source of energy for cooking and household heating. The collection of fuel wood is done primarily by women and children, with men’s involvement growing only when these activities are commercialized.

As forests reduce or become degraded, women and children need to spend increasing amounts of time collecting firewood, leaving little time for other activities such as study for girls. More

Monday, June 13, 2011

Unregulated brick-making choking the environment

Joshua Zake in a letter to the Editor in Uganda's Monitor Newspaper, points at the challenge of brick-making a lucrative business in an economy that has a booming construction sector. To avert this, he mentions an existing technology that does not seem to be popularised yet. Other potential solutions like the 'bottle brick' also seem not to be taken up.

With a population of about 31 million Ugandans, there is very high demand for housing facilities. This demand will continue because Uganda’s population is exploding. Construction is a fast-growing industry with a growth rate 13 per cent, thus responding to the high demand for housing given a housing deficit of 550,000 units.

Most houses are made from traditional bricks. These are cured bricks made from clay or arable soil. Brick-making is a lucrative business and hence creates employment opportunities. Cured bricks in Uganda cost about Shs200 each.

The high requirements for firewood in curing bricks and the associated scarcity of firewood has pushed some communities in Wakiso, Mukono, Yumbe, Arua and other parts of Uganda to use fruit trees such as mangoes and jack fruits. In Lukwanga, Wakiso District, brick layers are using arable land thinking brick-making is more lucrative than farming on depleted soils. This will advance food insecurity considering that all the arable land will be mined for brick-making.

This is worrying because the process of curing bricks is associated with loss of trees and forest. This has negative impact on the climate since it has an effect on rainfall patterns, resulting in droughts, crop failures, and limited access to firewood for household energy use.

There are modern, sustainable technologies for brick-making though underutilized. The Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks machine is a good option. In Uganda, since 1991, Dr Moses Musaazi, an engineer at Makerere University, developed a technique which, by mixing soil and cement and then compressing the dampened mixture, produces an interlocking block that is stronger and uniformly shaped than a conventional traditional brick.

With this technology, 35 bricks are produced every 8 hours, saves 10 tonnes of trees because firing is not required.

Unfortunately, there are weak initiatives by the national and local governments to regulate and control brick-making. At the national level, the Draft National Soils Policy (2002), one of the key policy instruments for regulating brick-making, has been in offing for the last 16 years.

Furthermore, there is limited education of brick layers about modern technologies that are more sustainable with minimum impacts on the environment. Awareness creation about the implication of unregulated brick-making should be advanced while demonstrating and supporting sustainable technologies for brick-making in Uganda.

Monday, June 6, 2011

UN officials call for political will to put world on path to green economy

United Nations officials appealed for greater political will in both developed and developing countries to make the transition to the “green economy” for sustainable development to protect humanity from environmental disaster and economic ruin which might result from current dependence on non-renewable energy.

“Will we be able to evolve towards a green economy and sustainable development? Will we be able to stop destroying ourselves?,” asked Joseph Deiss, the President of the UN General Assembly in his remarks to the Assembly’s debate on the green economy.

Mr. Deiss stressed that while there is currently no internationally recognized definition of “green economy,” the term implied “decoupling economic growth from the use of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources.”

Outlining the measures that could encourage both producers and consumers to adopt environmentally-friendly behaviour, Mr. Deiss mentioned a broad range of approaches, including subsidies, environmental taxes and paying for pollution rights, while underlining the need to eliminate subsidies harmful to the environment, such as those that promote the use of fossil fuels.

“The green economy can take different forms, depending on the context of each country, its level of development, and its geographic location in particular,” said Mr. Deiss. “Some will begin by greening their transport infrastructure, others will prefer to promote ecotourism or organic agriculture,” he said.

He said adopting greener economic models would require structural changes, with job losses in certain sectors and gains in others.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro emphasized that the green economy must be adapted to specific national circumstances, with each country determining how it can work for its people and for the planet.

“For countries where poverty is rife, green economy measures must create abundant jobs and sustainable livelihoods. For countries that depend heavily on raw material exports, green economy measures must not displace vital economic sectors, but instead create dynamic new growth sectors,” she added.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

World Environment Day 2011: Charcoal production is fast endangering East African’s forests

According to UNEP (2011), forest degradation and deforestation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Broadly, there are three main sources of forest degradation: commercial logging, fires, and gathering wood for fuel. Insects and pests also cause considerable forest degradation. For example, at the beginning of the 20th Century, Uganda’s tropical high forests covered 3,090,000 ha or 12% of the country’s area. Over the years, the forests have been gradually cleared and today estimates indicate reduction to about 730,000 ha, which is only 3% of Uganda’s area (NEMA, 2009).

Based on the above situation, this year’s World Environment Day theme on Forests: Nature at Your Service is like a notice to users that this service is soon closing if nothing happens to address the current human-induced lapses – deforestation and degradation.

For East Africa, degradation (the loss of quality of the forests, rather than coverage) manifests itself prominently in the need to meet the insatiable, growing demand for fuel wood and charcoal.Looking at the charcoal production process, in addition to the above inefficiencies, it results in loss of future trees as the burning, trampling on them occurs, while other forms of life and life support systems (biodiversity) just vanish due to forest clearance (which is a habitat and source of food for birds, and other innumerable animals).

As we celebrate this year’s World Environment Day we pose the crucial questions: How we make charcoal production a viable and sustainable income generating activity; what interventions can be taken up in a holistic manner to address the bigger energy demand, while securing economic growth and poverty reduction? What technology is available to contain the ‘demand’ at the local levels where charcoal production takes place?

Read the full article from here