Sunday, December 30, 2012

How We Can Finally Get a Worldwide Climate Resolution for 2013

By Joel Boyce

Another year is gone and we still lack a binding international agreement on how to deal with our world’s changing climate. As the effects of our atmospheric changes have become more pronounced, I’ve noticed a sea change in climate denialism in just the past year or two. Despite the increasing extremism amongst the political right, almost everybody now admits that climate change is real.

What I haven’t seen is very many political leaders stepping up to the plate to make changes to mitigate the problem. This year, in fact, it’s been quite the opposite. The United States and China are two major players that really need to take a leadership role if one of these myriad climate summits is going to accomplish anything of significance. But politically and economically, both nations are currently in a position where sweeping changes are a challenge.

At the recent Doha conference, the most the U.S. and China would agree to is that everyone would meet again in 2015 and set binding measures then. This was all that could be salvaged from, by all accounts, a frustrating and wheel-spinning meeting. But our climate disaster is an approaching asteroid. It gets harder to push out of the way the longer we wait. Every time someone passes the buck to the next administration, the next generation, the problem grows.

My own country, a major home to the world’s doomed climate change mascot, the polar bear, is doing even worse. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has officially walked out on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Despite the fact that more than half of Canadians feel the country is not doing enough in addressing climate change, the Harper government is taking us backwards. Besides making liars of all of us, this fossil fuel crony has been pushing the dirtiest, most reprehensible energy projects with as little oversight as possible.
These actions (or inaction) by leading nations are a real concern, not only for their major contribution to the problem (the opulent energy usage of North America and the large population of a rapidly-industrializing China make for huge greenhouse gas contributions), but the effect it will have on energy policies throughout the world. While island nations are fighting hard for significant action, small fossil-fuel reliant states are afraid of bearing the economic brunt of energy infrastructure changes. Belarus is currently leading the charge to bail on saving the world, and it’s hard to say boo if our richer countries aren’t doing any better.
We even see hypocrisy amongst those who should be setting an example. The World Bank, after just releasing a report on the danger of the world’s average temperature increase reaching four degrees Celsius, is now looking into funding a mine with a coal-fired plant.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, tries to put it all into perspective. In her op-ed she reminds readers that any major energy transition takes time. We can still get an agreement, and, not to put too fine a point on it, we really have to.

But is it time for a different approach? Some experts are saying there are just too many players involved for this process to work. The mathematics of combinations make for too many intersecting relationships and interests when groups get very large, let alone the 194 countries represented in the United Nations. Too many cooks spoil the broth — the broth in this case being a binding international agreement.

In this view, it’s time to put an end to these summits entirely. Instead, perhaps the U.S. and China, as the leading emitters, should come up with a technology-sharing green development agreement that includes major emission reductions on a cooperative basis. With U.S. technology and Chinese manpower, transforming the industrial economies of both nations might suddenly seem very doable.

The agreement made, other nations might then join in, remaking the world in a truly collaborative process. That’s my proposed New Year’s Resolution for the world’s political leaders, in particular those of the above-mentioned nations.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Why do we lack the political will when the threat is so dire? Perhaps we need a resolution for the rest of us, as well. As voting citizens and outspoken activists, why don’t we make inaction on this issue completely untenable politically? Someone like Stephen Harper should frankly have no chance of getting into political office. If we can’t manage to vote someone in who won’t doom the world, how can our species possibly endure?

How We Can Finally Get a Worldwide Climate Resolution for 2013

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do global summits help to tackle poverty?

Disappointment at the collective performance of our leaders at global summits goes far beyond the development movement. Eight hundred or more journalists attend the average G20, to shine a spotlight on the failure of the group to fulfil its self-proclaimed mandate to manage the global economy.

These disappointments have deep roots, and there's nothing unique about the current position. They are the product of long-standing weaknesses in the multilateral process, exacerbated by recent shifts in power relations that are present in pretty much every global negotiation.

Few NGOs found much to celebrate at December's COP18 climate talks in Doha. The G8 and the G20 have produced similarly disappointing results in recent years. The Rio+20 summit in June was a particularly egregious example. With 50,000 delegates and campaigners present, not one meaningful new commitment was made other than agreement to develop new global goals. It was agreed after much intensive negotiation that these would be developed by an inter-governmental committee of 30 countries. Six months later it has not yet met, because there is no agreement about who should be on it.

So if you're concerned about global poverty, why bother with global summits?

Summits exist to negotiate global goals and policies, and our view of their utility should depend on their success at doing so. Meaningful commitments are getting rarer; but they do still emerge. Last year, a deal was agreed in Busan, South Korea, on how to make aid more effective by co-operating with new players such as Mexico. The deal was followed this year by a set of agreed indicators for a global monitoring framework for development assistance. And a new set of voluntary guidelines on land tenure was decided by the committee for food security; positive steps that came about in large part as a result of sustained civil society pressure.

As always, this success was a result of influencing negotiations over many months, culminating in the final round of talks in the media spotlight. But there are too few of these advances. Oxfam recently chronicled four years of text but no substantial progress from the G20 on food.

But there's far more to summits than the formal communique. Sometimes the text can obscure the real story and the long-term significance of the meetings. There are three other very good reasons why summits matter. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Turning Israeli roofs into green habitats | ISRAEL21c

Anybody can plunk down some potted trees and pretty planters on a roof, but a rooftop garden does not offer the same environmental and ecological benefits as a “green roof” – a layer of low-maintenance vegetation that insulates the building underneath and reduces flash flooding on paved streets below by acting as a sponge for rainfall.

Prof. Leon Blaustein, director of the University of Haifa’s new Green Roofs Ecology Center, says the Israeli center is the first of its kind in the Middle East and one of the first worldwide to focus specifically on how to conserve biodiversity in an urban setting.

“When you create a city, you’re destroying much of the natural habitat for plants and animals, and we want to mitigate this as much as possible with our rooftop habitats,” Blaustein tells ISRAEL21c.

Blaustein and his team have installed 48 experimental modules on top of the university’s Student Union, each with a different growing material, drainage configuration and plant grouping.

Ecology researchers around the world will be watching as the Israelis monitor how well each of the modules thrives and attracts insects, birds and other fauna, in the hope of determining the most successful recipe for developing biodiverse green roofs in arid climates.

Eventually, they hope to create experimental green roof plots on additional buildings on the campus and around the city of Haifa, as well as other Israeli cities.

Turning Israeli roofs into green habitats | ISRAEL21c

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sewage treatment wetland in making | Down To Earth

To demonstrate the use of wastewater in agriculture, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) is constructing a wetland in its Delhi campus. Spread over 1.42 hectares, the wetland is capable of holding and treating two million litres of sewage a day from the Krishi Kunj Colony adjoining IARI's campus. The institute plans to use the treated sewage in its farms to grow crops.

Developed by IARI's Water Technology Centre (IWTC) at a cost of Rs 1.4 crore, the wetland consists of one holding tank and three treatment tanks. IWTC's project director Ravinder Kaur says the institute had wasteland in a corner with the remnants of an old pond, sumps and pumps. The tanks were developed from these detritus.

Sewage from the Krishi Kunj Colony is first let into one sump where any lumps or larger pieces settle down to the bottom. The wastewater is then pumped into the second sump for further sedimentation. These sumps are cleaned periodically. From here it goes to a grit chamber filled with broken pieces of bricks and then to the tanks of the wetland. The effluent entering the tanks are now clear of any large floating pieces that could clog inlet pipes. The wastewater is stored in these treatment tanks for 2.2 days. Each treatment tank is layered with 60 cm thick layer of stones, on which different species of plants such as phragmites, typha and acorus are planted. These aquatic plants grow by absorbing micronutrients (nitrates, phosphates, heavy metals, potassium and sulphate) from the sewage and thereby disinfecting the wastewater. Water flow into these tanks is regulated so that its level does not rise beyond the gravel layer. This prevents mosquitoes from breeding.

Sewage treatment wetland in making | Down To Earth

Monday, December 24, 2012

Emerging Economists Envision Green South Asian Cities of the Future

While South Asia is among the most densely populated regions in the world, it is also one the least urbanized. As rural to urban migration increases in South Asia, its cities across all countries increasingly face development stresses in terms of congestion, pollution, and quality of life issues. In the spirit of the theme of Towards a Green South Asia at the 9th South Asia Economic Students’ Meet (SAESM) held in Nepal last week as well as in preparation for the upcoming 2014 World Bank regional flagship on urbanization, the World Bank asked the emerging economists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to share their ideas about how they envision Green Growth in South Asian cities of the future through a writing competition.

Padam Raj Panaru from Nepal stressed that developing countries need technology transfers from more industrialized countries to promote green investment and entrepreneurship. Fostering greater interaction around green ideas with create opportunities for knowledge sharing.

From India, Shruti Lakhtakia noted that individual energy use in industrialized countries is still much greater than in South Asia countries. In terms of urban planning, she recommended that urban design and allocation of resources should be decentralized to be tailored to the needs of local communities. However, she stressed urban planning needs to be professionalized so that policies are consistent over time and can be implemented.

Sunera Saha Khan from Bangladesh encouraged social forestry in which residents are encouraged to plant trees as well as promoting urban agriculture and help South Asia realize it’s green dreams.

Emerging Economists Envision Green South Asian Cities of the Future

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solar lamps reduce childbirth risks in remote northern Kenya - AlertNet

Hasna Muktar, a traditional birth attendant in remote Sankuri village in northern Kenya, has met her share of challenges while delivering babies, from snakebite and threatening hyenas to the choking fumes of kerosene lamps that are widely used to provide a feeble light at night-time deliveries.

But that last problem, at least, is now being overcome, thanks to the installation of solar panels and bright, low-energy LED lights.

The lack of power in the past meant Muktar had to use a kerosene lamp at night to attend to births and other emergencies, and to wind her way through the bush and along village paths to home, facing dangers such as snake bites, attack by hyenas and stepping on thorn trees used for fencing.

‘’For 25 years I have been using kerosene lamps and sometime bright lights from the moon. I have been bitten three times by snakes and that affected my work and inconvenienced many pregnant women in Sankuri village,” she said.

As well, “the kerosene lamp made health problems both to me and mothers with their newborn babies. I have contracted respiratory infections on various occasions and also the use of moonlight is quite tricky as I have to conduct deliveries in the open air.  I use moonlight only when kerosene is out of stock or when I contract respiratory sickness,‘’ she said.

But now Muktar and other traditional birth attendants have less to worry about after receiving portable solar LED lamps and solar panels to charge them from Pajan Kenya, a local non-governmental group backed by international NGO Afri-Ireland.

The system, which has been delivered to 30 traditional birth attendants, takes five hours of sunshine to charge lamps that then last as long as 12 hours.

The lamps are used by the birth attendants to attend to women at night, and also during women’s education sessions where a traditional attendant congregates more than 20 pregnant women at her compound to go through family planning and behavioural change education.

Solar lamps reduce childbirth risks in remote northern Kenya - AlertNet

Friday, December 21, 2012

2013: Year of the Water-Energy Nexus? : Greentech Media

Water and energy production have always been inextricably linked, but the amount of water needed to power our lives is increasing, according to the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency.

The role of water in energy, often referred to as the water-energy nexus, is getting more attention than ever before, and last month’s report from the IEA was the first time that the report has given water issues related to energy production its own section.

Energy production sucks up about 15 percent of the world’s total water withdrawal, which could increase by about 20 percent between 2010 and 2035. Much of the increase will be driven by higher-efficiency power plants and expanding biofuels production, according to the report.

“In an increasingly water-constrained world, the vulnerability of the energy sector to constraints in water availability can be expected to increase, as can issues around how the quality of water is affected by energy operations,” the IEA’s report stated.

The water-energy nexus will be a central focus at the inaugural International Water Summit, which is to be held during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January and hosted by Masdar. For the companies that provide energy infrastructure and the governments that regulate that infrastructure, now is the time to take an increasingly holistic approach wherein water and energy are seen not just as intersecting, but rather are recognized as two equal parts of the same whole.

A holistic approach means looking at every aspect of water use in energy. Sometimes, energy efficiency requires higher energy use, such as with some high efficiency power plant technologies, according to the International Energy Agency. In the U.S., water continues to be the second biggest concern of utilities.

But there are technologies that can vastly reduce carbon emissions and water at the same time. A new coal plant in South Africa, the Kusile project, will use 5 percent of the volume of water compared to a conventional new coal-fired power plant (thanks to dry cooling), according to Dean Oskvig, CEO of the energy division at Black & Veatch, a consultant and project manager for the Kusile power station.

2013: Year of the Water-Energy Nexus? : Greentech Media

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mekong: A River, its people and Big Dams | TheWaterBlog

Dam building is a complicated and messy business. The Mekong region exemplifies the contradictions, problems and concerns that different groups hold. More than 140 dams are planned for the lower Mekong Basin and many are being built quickly as investment pours in.

On the one hand, there are the pro-hydropower advocates who propose that this development is the way for countries like Laos and Cambodia to move out of poverty and supply the growing energy demands of Southeast Asia. On the other, there are those who are extremely vocal about the social and environmental costs such massive dam building could cause. There is concern that any benefits derived from hydropower will not reach those who are most affected by the dams, as governance and compensation mechanisms are incredibly weak in all lower Mekong countries, particularly Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Unfortunately the debate has become too polarized for either side to work together for practical solutions. Likewise, many of the countries involved are emerging from years of isolation; constructive debates and information are not always accessible to citizens in formats and languages they can understand.

With this in mind, we started to look for different ways to engage different sides and push dialogue forward.  The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, IUCN’s Mekong Water Dialogues project and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) tasked Douglas Varchol, a recognized director and producer, to examine regional dam building in a balanced way.

The final product, filmed in four countries and narrated and subtitled in five languages (English, Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese), includes footage of China's Mekong [Lancang] dams, as well as on-site footage of the controversial Xayaburi Dam in Laos.

The film is neither pro- nor anti-dam. While it shows that the fish ladder installed at the Pak Mun dam in Thailand has been completely ineffective, it also highlights National University of Lao experts working on how to construct an effective fish ladder system for Mekong species, an initiative that will take years of research to perfect a design. The innovative fish pass design on the Xayaburi (comprising three possible routes for fish to follow) is untested, but may work and set a standard for other dams built in the basin.

 The film also explores issues around resettlement and relocation. In central Laos, dam builders at the Namtheun Hinboun Dam expansion project site have been commended for their innovative approach to relocation and support to those who have been affected by dam construction. Such a positive example is juxtaposed with a less clear picture in the lower Sesan in Cambodia, where villagers have been told a massive dam will be built, but have had little access to information on the dam construction, compensation schemes or what will happen to them.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bangladesh launches community insurance for 2 million fishermen - AlertNet

Bangladesh has launched a community-based insurance scheme to provide financial security to over two million coastal fishermen whose work is becoming increasingly dangerous as the number and severity of storms increase and become more unpredictable.

Fishermen have welcomed the scheme, which is being introduced by the state-run Jiban Bima Corporation (JBC) in 15 coastal districts, and a significant number have already enrolled in it, each paying Tk 1,240 ($16) a year for insurance cover of Tk 200,000 ($2,500).

“If any fisherman dies after buying a policy, his family members or nominated person will get Tk 200,000 as compensation,” project manager Dulal Chandra Nandi told  AlertNet. “If any policy buyer remains missing for six months, his heirs will get 50 percent of the claim and the rest will be given after another six months if the policy holder remains untraced.”

He said coastal fishermen are very poor and highly vulnerable to cyclones and other disastrous weather events. They are also easy prey for river pirates, and subject to attacks by tigers while fishing near the Sundarbans.

“We found that when fishermen die or go missing, their family members suffer severe financial problems. We have considered their agony while planning the insurance policy,” said Nandi. There are some 2 million members of the National Fishermen Samity (Association) who save some money every month, and the JBC plans to provide all of them with insurance cover eventually. 

“The insurance policy is community based. The Samity will pay us the premium direct through banking channels from the fishermen’s savings. Paying only Tk 1,240 won’t be very tough for them, they earn a good sum during the peak season,” he said.

Bangladesh launches community insurance for 2 million fishermen - AlertNet

Top 10 ways Israel fights desertification | ISRAEL21c

With desert covering a large part of its surface, Israel has had to quickly develop solutions for its lack of arable land and potable water. Israeli research, innovation, achievements and education on this topic now span the globe in tackling problems common to all desert dwellers.

“We’ve done a lot of research on ecosystem response to drought because we have this problem on our doorstep,” says Prof. Pedro Berliner, director of Israel’s foremost research center for desert research, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev Desert.

ISRAEL21c looks at Israel’s top 10 advances to combat desertification, putting special focus on the work done by researchers at the Blaustein Institute.

Top 10 ways Israel fights desertification | ISRAEL21c

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CLIMATE CHANGE: Snapshot of wins and losses at the Doha talks

Like last year’s UN climate change talks, this year’s conference in Doha culminated in an all-night session to hammer out a deal on preventing further global warming and protecting people from the effects of climate change. While some promising compromises were made, the absence of a strong commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable populations adapt to climate change was evident in the conference’s 39 decisions

IRIN provides a snapshot of the three overarching themes of the decisions that came out of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and what these decisions mean for humanitarian actors.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Snapshot of wins and losses at the Doha talks

Monday, December 17, 2012

Innovative finance critical to scaling up green shift - experts - AlertNet

For the world to shift to a resilient green economy and effectively tackle climate change, an investment of additional two or three percent of world GDP or $2 trillion per year will be required, economists and climate experts say.

“It is a huge amount of money, but not that huge when reckoning the world resources at stake from unfolding climate change risks. It’s, in fact, a process that will yield great returns by reversing economic downturn and halting climate change,” said Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the landmark 2010 Stern review of the economics of climate change, during a panel on financing climate friendly investment at the UN-led global climate talks in Doha last week.

He said that with billions planned in spending by governments on energy, buildings and transport, it is important that these public investments don’t lock the world into an unsustainable high-carbon economy for decades to come.

Rather than saying economic slowdowns around the world make clean investment impossible, countries should make action to tackle climate change an integral part of fiscal packages to stimulate national economies, he said.

Innovative finance critical to scaling up green shift - experts - AlertNet

CoP18, Doha: An assessment A Gateway that leads nowhere | Centre for Science and Environment

It was a nail-biting end that came in a no-ball game. For the past 20 years, the world has been haggling about who will cut greenhouse gas emissions and how much. In the same 20 years, the science of climate change has become more certain. The world is beginning to witness what the future will look like – more extreme events like the typhoon Bopha and the tropical storm Sandy are expected to cripple life and livelihoods across the world. In fact, as the leader of the Philippine delegation emotionally pointed out, the world is running out of time -- his ocean nation has seen 17 killer typhoons in the past year.

But even as science has become more certain, action has become uncertain. Take the Doha package, for instance: it is full of words, but no action. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) has been agreed upon, but with weak targets and loopholes. The US has not agreed to any meaningful emission reduction. The financial package is a broken promise.

But Doha is still significant for one thing: the fact that the world has not dismantled the principles that will govern its efforts to cut emissions. These principles, after the bitterest of fights, have been retained and strengthened. The outcome of the conference states that efforts of parties will be taken on the “basis of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respected capabilities”.

CoP18, Doha: An assessment A Gateway that leads nowhere | Centre for Science and Environment

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lagos school girls harness the power of pee | Video |

A group of enterprising Nigerian teenagers have developed a generator powered by urine to counter the country's chronic shortage of reliable electricity. It is estimated that more than half of Nigeria's 160 million citizens have no access to electric power, but the four Lagos schoolgirls believe one solution may lie in the power of pee. Jim Drury has more. 

Lagos school girls harness the power of pee | Video |

Friday, December 14, 2012

Green Economy case study - Zuid Afrikaans Hospital | ITWeb

In February 2012, the Zuid Afrikaans Hospital (ZAH), in Mucleneuk, Pretoria, gave Michelangelo Technology the go-ahead to do a comprehensive Green Audit to determine what could be done to save on water and lights consumption. After a thorough consultation process, and presenting the Green Audit report to the board, the General Manager, Tienie van den Berg, contracted Michelangelo in June 2012 to start a Green Economy solution implementation.

“We are committed to improving the infrastructure at the hospital,” says Van den Berg.” The green approach proposed by Michelangelo can save significantly on our water and lights bill and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint, making Zuid Afrikaans the greenest hospital in the country,” he said.

Michelangelo Green Economy entry-level solutions include LED lights, heat pumps with solar pre-heating, inverter air-conditioners, improved insulation, as well as eco-shower heads with rainwater catchment tanks that in combination ensure a payback period of just two years and can help reduce consumption by more than 50%. More advanced Green Economy solutions include building energy and water management with real-time monitoring as well as solar PV renewable energy generation with battery backup to manage peak demand and provide uninterrupted stand-by power until backup generators are online.

Green Economy case study - Zuid Afrikaans Hospital | ITWeb

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nigeria 'must close climate change communication gap' - SciDev.Net

Nigeria must close a "communication gap" to ensure that vital information on climate change-related events reaches all those who could use it to help minimise their impact, the head of the country's meteorological body has warned.
Speaking at the yearly meeting of the African Science Academies, held in Lagos last month (12-14 November), Anthony Anuforom, director-general of the Nigerian Meteorology Agency (NIMET), said that a 'national climate service policy' would ensure greater management and use of data on events such as flooding, prolonged droughts and heat waves.
"Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. We have evidence of an increasing frequency of thunderstorms. We need to think of establishing a national framework for climate service," he said.
Anuforom said the framework would ensure better public communication of climate issues such as rainfall, flooding, drought and rising temperatures.
"Users would include farmers, policymakers, health workers, environmentalists and universities in Nigeria," he said.
According to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, 363 people died and a further 2.1 million were displaced between July to October because of flooding.
Anuforom said that inadequate information on disaster risk reduction and the lack of a framework to ensure that climate data are passed between agencies such as NIMET and policymakers was partly responsible for the damage and deaths caused by these floods.
"Part of the problem of the recent floods was due to a communication gap. There is no formal policy connecting service providers like us with the users of the information," he explained.

Nigeria 'must close climate change communication gap' - SciDev.Net

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unlocking a green economy

Humans are making Earth unliveable with assaults on climate, topsoil, fisheries, biodiversity and other ecological systems, says Simon Zadek, a senior fellow at the Global Green Growth Institute in Seoul.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the green economy at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) in November, Zadek said that the world is on track to overshoot the climate safety threshold of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration levels, making it perfectly aligned to a five to six degree increase in average global temperatures. “Two degrees is safe – maybe,” said Zadek, an economist, activist and advisor to the International Institute of Sustainable Development.

The reason for this assault on the planet’s social and natural capital is simple – the traditional model of economic growth has been built on an assumption of open-ended, unlimited resource availability.

Unlocking a green economy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pilot Project in Ghana Turns Human Waste into Renewable Biofuel

Biomass power plants that mainly use manure or other similar waste materials are not that uncommon. However, we do find a peculiar shortage for projects that include human waste. Indeed, there are only a few publicized projects using the idea, and most alternative human waste management usually heads towards composting strategies.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Engineering School, Waste Enterprisers Ltd., Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly joined together last Novermber 19 in the launching of a pilot facility in Kumasi, Ghana that converts fecal “sludge” into biofuel. This was part in celebration and commemoration for the World Toilet Day, which is also set on the same date.

The technology that is used for the facility doesn’t seem to be different than the one used by most biomass plants and facilities (anaerobic digester/composter). In fact, according to the “trail” left by the details of the report, the actual objective of the pilot facility was to create a link and a loop between human waste management and energy production. They sought to address the problem of sustaining the efficient production of alternative energy sources. In the case of biofuels, it is the search for a way to produce it without affecting food production, as most biofuels today are derived from crops.

There are two major benefits that we can clearly see with a facility that can directly use and convert human fecal waste into usable energy. The first one of course is the addition of yet another possible source of fuel-based energy. The second, more important one is the conversion of something that has no value (but gets produced in large quantities) into something that can even be profitable.

Both benefits create the complete sustainability loop, where both the problems of sanitation and energy production are solved using just one convenient system. As indicated in the report, they plan on turning the “burdens” of a waste processing facility into a highly productive investment.

Pilot Project in Ghana Turns Human Waste into Renewable Biofuel

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ignoring Planetary Peril, a Profound 'Disconnect' Between Science and Doha

In one of the most poignant moments of the Doha climate talks, the Philippine climate change commissioner, Naderev M. Sano, appealed to his fellow negotiators at a session deciding the contours of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

“Please let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around,” he said as he choked back tears.

Just days before, Typhoon Bopha had hit the Philippines, killing hundreds of people. The typhoon, having been both unusually forceful and out of season, was deemed — like Hurricane Sandy — to be an extreme weather event, exacerbated by climate change.

Ignoring Planetary Peril, a Profound 'Disconnect' Between Science and Doha

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ekurhuleni’s Green Economy Initiative -

The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM) in South Africa is forging forward with its mission to achieve a “Cleaner and Greener Ekurhuleni” by kick-starting a recycling initiative in the communities of Wattville and Actonville in Benoni.

The project involved capacitating 45 informal waste collectors who have now formed the Nkoza Environment and Cleaning Primary Co-operative. The organisation will be responsible for collecting waste in areas of Wattville and Actonville where the Municipality is not already rendering this service. The waste will be sorted and sold for recycling purposes.

The collection of recycling waste involves the placement of bins in areas where there is illegal dumping and door-to-door collection with refuse bags at households.

This system seeks to allow for contact with individual residents in order to encourage them to enlist in the culture of recycling. The co-operative will make use of a truck and tri-cycles with a front mesh cage for the collection of recyclable waste which they will deliver to the drop-off centres for sorting and storage until it is sold. 

Ekurhuleni’s Green Economy Initiative -

Friday, December 7, 2012

Keeper of grains | Down To Earth

Lit by a kerosene lamp, the two-room hut just outside a sleepy hamlet in Odisha’s Rayagada district can easily pass off as any other farmer’s house in this tribal region. Step inside it, and one is taken aback by the hundreds of earthen pots labelled with coded stickers stacked in a corner as well as under the bed.

These pots treasure over 750 varieties of rice grains, some on the verge of extinction. Keeper of the seed bank, Debal Deb, has been collecting and conserving these rare native varieties for over 16 years. His only help are the farmers who still depend on heirloom seeds.

Keeper of grains | Down To Earth

Thursday, December 6, 2012

“Green” Economic Development Can Hurt the World’s Poor

There is a dark side to the green economy. Or so say researchers with the STEPS Centre, a U.K.-based interdisciplinary research and policy center that unites development studies with science and technology studies.

The group’s observations in Africa and elsewhere suggest that land and resources in developing countries are increasingly being appropriated—transferred from the poor to the powerful—in the name of “green” economic development, ranging from efforts to promote biofuels, to carbon-offset schemes, to conservation and ecotourism initiatives. This rapidly growing practice, known informally as “green grabbing,” is forcing people to leave their homes and their land, and is responsible for increasing poverty worldwide, they say.

“Across the world, ecosystems are for sale,” writes Melissa Leach, director of the STEPS Centre, in an op-ed published last June by the news network Al Jazeera. She notes that businesses, environmental organizations, and governments are buying up huge tracts of land for “green” initiatives worldwide, often with unsettling consequences. Leach writes that in Mozambique, for example, “a company with British capital is negotiating a lease with the government for 15 million hectares, or 19 percent, of the country’s surface,” in order to capitalize on the “carbon credits” that can be derived from trees grown on the land and traded internationally.

In some cases, the sale of land for “green” purposes excludes local populations from accessing the natural resources on which they depend. In other cases, the sale of land for such purposes excludes residents from their land and homes altogether. Leach notes, “green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment.”

“Green grabbing” is likely to further impoverish the world’s poor, according to 17 case studies recently published in a massive special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies. When farmers and pastoralists are excluded from their land, they are excluded from their livelihoods, the studies argue. And such exclusion can stall and reverse indigenous economic development.
According to Leach, both environmental principles and principles of fairness should guide the development of the green economy: “If market-based mechanisms are to contribute to sustainable development and the building of economies that are not only green but also fair, then fostering an agenda focused on distribution, equity, and justice in green market arrangements is vital.”

This perspective mirrors other recent criticisms of the green economy as being just another route to the “financialization of nature,” to the detriment of “commonly shared” resources such as water, forests, and fish.
Leach concludes by noting that true sustainable development must incorporate an emphasis on “nurturing and legitimizing more interconnected human-ecological relationships and understandings,” so that nature is recaptured “from the market’s grasp.”

“Green” Economic Development Can Hurt the World’s Poor

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pablo Solon: Right not to migrate fundamental to climate debate | RTCC - Responding to Climate Change

Climate related events have always been a cause for migration in the history of humanity.

This was the story of Egypt, Mesopotamia and other ancient societies. But in modern times the scale has been unprecedented. In 1995 there were at least 25 million climate refugees.

Only 15 years later, in 2010, 50 million were displaced. In 2050 the estimations are between 200 million to one billion people that can be forced to migrate.

Some will have to migrate because of direct impacts of natural disasters like floods, droughts, water shortage, health and others, and some because of indirect impacts that can happen thousand of miles away due to, for example, the scarcity in food and increase in food prices.

Forced migration due to climate change will increase the pressure on infrastructure and urban services, especially in sanitation, education and social sectors, as a result increasing also the risk of conflicts even among migrants.

As we have seen recently in Haiti with hurricane Sandy, climate change will impact more the poor and what the United Nations calls the developing countries.

Asia will be the region with the majority of climate migrants. The countries that have least contributed  green house gas emissions like Bangladesh will be probably the ones that will be most affected.

The “Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights” held in 2010 in Cochabamba Bolivia said: “There is a close relation between the occidental development model and ecology and consequently with migration, and this is why developed countries are the ones that have to assume a responsibility according to what they have done.”

The first measure that developed countries have to adopt is to reduce their GHG emissions by at least 40 to 50 percent of the levels of 1990 until 2020. If the historical emitters don’t do this, we are going to face series of increasing calamities.

We must try to reduce as much as possible the increase in temperature to ease  climate forced migration.
But also, emerging economies have to follow a different path of development. If governments in developing countries keep promoting the unsustainable model of consumption and production of capitalism, there will be no way to reduce the impact of this new wave of migration.

The approach to address climate migration has to be first focused on mitigation and the reduction of emissions of green house gases. Proposals like the ones from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in the 2012 General Assembly (Report A/67/299) are a resignation to calamity.

Pablo Solon: Right not to migrate fundamental to climate debate | RTCC - Responding to Climate Change

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A low carbon future is the one we must all fight for

 An innocent observer could be forgiven for thinking that the United Nations climate talks, now hotting up in the Qatar capital of Doha, would be the focus of the international fight to combat global warming. But the innocent observer would be wrong. There is indeed a battle going on, one that will determine the planet's future, but it is not between the negotiators finding new ways to disagree over the implementation of decisions they have already made.

The battle is being waged in energy and finance ministries around the world, and in the boardrooms of energy companies and their bankers. It is the battle between a high-carbon and a low-carbon energy future. And the outcome is unclear.

On the one hand, global investment in renewable technologies, particularly wind and solar, has been racing ahead: for the past three years it has exceeded investment in generation from fossil fuels. Last year, fully 70% of all European power investment was in renewables.

Leading Europe's drive towards decarbonisation is Germany, whose national "energy transition" will reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 without use of nuclear power – using renewables and energy efficiency alone. Meanwhile, China has become the world's largest producer of both wind and solar power. In California, South Korea and Australia new emissions-trading schemes have recently put a price on carbon.

Yet at the same time the world is also going in the opposite direction. More coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – was used to produce electricity last year than for 40 years. As the International Energy Agency warned this month, this is driving up global carbon emissions, which rose by an alarming 3% in 2011. Coal burning now represents almost a third of all power generation; it is rising even in Europe, as the economic slump slashes the carbon price. And there is more to come: the World Resources Institute reports that globally no fewer than 1,200 new coal plants are currently proposed, two-thirds of them in India and China. Meanwhile, Canada leads the countries exploiting highly carbon-polluting tar sands, and the oil majors eye up the Arctic for new oil.

A low carbon future is the one we must all fight for

Monday, December 3, 2012

Africa expert: 'Sustainable living is a luxury' | Globalization | DW.DE | 30.11.2012

Sustainability and green economy have nothing to do with the reality of African people, says Kenyan sociologist Auma Obama, founder of the aid organisation Sauti Kuu and half sister of US President Barack Obama.
"Green economy is a western term meaning that the economy has to become more environmentally friendly. However, often that doesn't come up in African countries. The majority of people struggle for survival every single day. If you talk to these people about green economy they will ask 'what is in it for me? In what way will my life change?' Often these questions are left unanswered."
Africa expert: 'Sustainable living is a luxury' | Globalization | DW.DE | 30.11.2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

OECD-GGGI Workshop Discusses Green Growth Opportunities in Developing Countries - Sustainable Development Policy & Practice

 The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) have organized a workshop, titled “Green Growth Development Paths for a Better Future,” which brought together policy makers and experts from developing countries to discuss the creation of an enabling framework and effective policies to support inclusive green growth opportunities.

The workshop took place on 22 November in the context the 2012 Green Growth and Sustainable Development Forum (GG-SD). The workshop featured two sessions, which covered a range of topics, including: A global green growth architecture; innovations in green technologies and options for developing countries; the role of public policies in leveraging private financing for green growth; green growth in Africa; the role of development cooperation in supporting green growth; and case studies from Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Kyrgyzstan.

All the presentations are available on the OECD website

OECD-GGGI Workshop Discusses Green Growth Opportunities in Developing Countries - Sustainable Development Policy & Practice

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lesotho: hungry and largely forgotten as donor pledges ring hollow

 Lesotho has suffered a drop in agricultural production of more than 70% due to flooding, late rains and early frost. This year's crop failures follow poor harvests in 2011, making many of the country's poorest farmers even more vulnerable. In addition to the latest natural calamities, Lesotho has long-term agricultural problems: lack of access to technology and inputs, and a reduction of arable land through soil erosion by rain and overgrazing.
Most of the population live in rural areas and rely largely on subsistence farming. Normally, families sell their surplus maize for extra cash. This year, however, most had to dip into that surplus to survive. Domestic production will meet only 10% of Lesotho's cereal needs, and many cannot afford imported food.

Chronic malnutrition is already extremely high. More than one in three children under five are stunted, and the current food insecurity could increase malnutrition, especially among young children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

HIV and Aids is another complicating factor. Almost a quarter of the population is HIV positive or living with Aids. The combination of low household food production and high food costs is forcing people who have Aids to make choices between buying food or life-saving medications.

Lesotho: hungry and largely forgotten as donor pledges ring hollow