Saturday, December 28, 2013

Garbage Increases Epidemic Deaths by 5 Times in One Year - The New Indian Express

By Sharadha Kalyanam, The New Indian Express

Leptospirosis, a deadly disease whose spread is aided by poor garbage management, is on the rise in Karnataka. Deaths resulting from the disease have increased by five times in 2013.

In all, 1,293 cases of leptospirosis were reported across the state in 2013, with the disease claiming 40 lives. In 2012, only eight people died of it. The incidence is 2.8 times that in the previous year, when 462 cases were registered by Health authorities. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease transmitted from animals to humans through contaminated soil and water. It spreads when contaminated water or food is consumed, or if open wounds come in contact with infected soil and water. It is caused the bacterium Leptospira and spreads through vermin such as rats and raccoons.

Karnataka is one of only five states in the country where leptospirosis is endemic, according to statistics made available by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The highest incidence this year was recorded in Tamil Nadu, with 2,272 cases. Karnataka is a close second, followed by Kerala with 740 cases.

BBMP continues to have a tough time handling garbage in the city. Usha Gowda, an RT Nagar resident, said the garbage problem in her area has led to a huge population of rats, which routinely raid homes.

“Garbage around the street is never cleared, and if our doors are open just for a minute, rats enter,” she said.

“Contamination and infection are no surprise then,” she added.

When a person contracts Leptospirosis, the initial symptoms are fever and chills and in the second phase, it results in inflammation of nerves and affects other organs in the body.

In 2012, the outbreak occurred despite efforts from the Health Ministry’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Project to detect and respond to epidemic outbreaks.

Districts and states were provided with additional manpower, training given to Rapid Response Teams and laboratories strengthened to detect the disease.

Rodent control was also one of the strategies along with early diagnosis of infected patients and preventive treatment.

Dr Vijayashree, faculty member at the Institute of Public Health, said the increase in rat population is linked to the spurt in the number of Leptospirosis cases.

Rats multiply rapidly living in garbage as it provides them with food, and a temperature conducive to reproduction.

“Rat excreta and urine also tend to increase around these areas, and in shops and closed spaces where food or canned drinks are stored. When these substances get contaminated with rat excreta, they cause Leptospirosis,” she said.

The incidence of the disease is also high in regions where huge quantities of food grains are stored in silos and godowns.

Back in 2010, Karnataka recorded only 148 cases of the disease and it has risen almost ten-fold in just three years.

Dr Giridhara R Babu, epidemiologist at Public Health Foundation of India, said this could be because of better investigation and reporting of cases.

The State government, with partial funding from the centre, has launched Leptospirosis detection facilities in Shimoga and Dakshina Kannada, which could have led to the higher number of cases reported, said Health Department officials.

Garbage Increases Epidemic Deaths by 5 Times in One Year - The New Indian Express

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China

By Tamasin Ford, The Guardian - UK

Blood-red sawdust coats every surface in the small carpentry workshop, where Primo Jean Besy is at the lathe fashioning vases out of ruby-coloured logs.

Besy and his father are small-scale carpenters in Antalaha in north-east Madagascar, and are taking advantage of a recent resurgence in demand for wood from the bois de rose tree, prized for the extraordinary coloured streaks that weave through its centre.

"It's easy to sell because the wood is so famous," said Besy, whose skin glistens with red powder. "People from [the capital] Antananarivo come here [to buy goods]. They like it because they can sell it to foreigners."

The father and son pair are just the tip of the booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned.

The wood is being smuggled out of Madagascar at an alarming rate, said Randrianasolo Eliahevitra, regional director of the church-based development organisation SAF/FJKM."People are afraid to talk [about who is behind the smuggling]," said Eliahevitra, adding that he feared for his life if he named any of those responsible.

He said continuing political instability in Madagascar, a country reeling in poverty after four years of military rule and crippling economic sanctions, allowed the multimillion-dollar industry to flourish.

"At this time we don't have yet a legal government, so everyone is taking advantage of the situation and they are doing what they want," Eliahevitra said.

In the village of Cap Est, a nine-hour journey from Antalaha along a sandy coastal track interrupted by wide rivers, which motorbikes and 4x4s have to cross by precariously straddling canoes, residents say the once tiny fishing community is almost unrecognisable. Deep muddy troughs made by the constant convoys of pick-up trucks line the sandy path that cuts through the smattering of small wooden houses; crates of beer, sacks of rice and mattresses stream in on a daily basis.

Anita, 22, who is too afraid to give her real name, moved here two months ago. "It's all because of the bois de rose," she said, sitting in front of a table laden with cigarettes, bottles of beer and batteries that she sells. Cap Est has become the unofficial smuggling capital, and thousands of people have descended on the village to take advantage of trading opportunities. "Business is booming here," said Anita.

It is not hard to find men who have recently come back from bois de rose foraging expeditions in the forests.

"After I found out how much money you can get, that's when I started logging," said Randeen, 22, who also did not want to give his full name. He joined a logging team in April. He said he had to walk for two days deep into the forest before even seeing one tree big enough to cut, claiming there are at least "1,000 men" doing the same thing.

Jam Lamouche, 34, has been in the bois de rose trade for more than 10 years, and employs 20 loggers. "From October, the business has boomed," he said, explaining each man gets 3,000 Malagasy ariary (£0.81) for every kilo of wood they log, while he gets 2,000 ariary. "Yes, we are making money," he said with a smile.

Lorries weighed down with rosewood logs make their way to the port day and night, where they are loaded on to boats in full public view. "The final destination is China," claimed Guy Suzon Ramangason, director general of Madagascar National Parks (MNP), the state body tasked with managing the country's protected areas. He said the government was aware of the problem but had failed to intervene, allowing the illicit industry to flourish.

"There is a network of mafiosi of bois de rose," he said. "Money in this type of network is very, very powerful." He said the wood was first shipped to intermediary countries, where false papers were drawn up legalising the cargo. "But we have no proof," he added.

The illegal logging and smuggling of bois de rose in the Masoala and Marojejy national parks in the country's north-east exploded after the coup in 2009. An investigation by two non-governmental organisations, Global Witness and the Washington-based Environmental Investigation Agency, documented the illegal harvesting and trafficking of the wood, destined mainly for China. In addition, the US guitar manufacturer Gibson reached a settlement over claims it had used illegally sourced Madagascan bois de rose.

The transitional government reinstated a ban in early 2010 and all seemingly went quiet until the runup to the first round of presidential elections this October, when rumours spread of a bois de rose revival. An internal MNP report documenting the movement of bois de rose for November concluded that trafficking had almost returned to 2009 levels.

Mamonjy Ramamonjisoa, from the ministry of environment and forests in Antalaha, said everyone knew what was going on but "they close their mouths and they close their eyes". But while carpenters, loggers and smugglers are profiting, the precious bois de rose is rapidly vanishing from the island.

In 2009, up to £300,000 worth of bois de rose was being shipped out of Madagascar each day. There are no figures for the levels it has reached today but Ramangason said that from what he had heard, it was "worse than in 2009".

"If we don't take measures to reduce this phenomenon then maybe after 20-25 years it will be disastrous," said SAF/FJKM's Eliahevitra.

Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for rosewood in west and China

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sub-Saharan Africa loses 5.7 percent of GDP to illicit financial outflows – Africa Progress Panel


Sub-Saharan Africa lost an estimated 5.7 percent of its GDP over a ten-year period to illicit financial outflows, preventing millions of people in Africa from accessing better health and education, according to a new report by a US-based organization, Global Financial Integrity (GFI).

These illicit outflows link to tax evasion, corruption, crime, and other unlawful activities, and they harmed the sub-Saharan region proportionally more than any other region in the period measured between 2002 and 2011, the report, Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011, said.

“At an average of 5.7 percent of GDP over the period studied, the loss of capital has an outsized impact on the continent,” the report said.

Misinvoicing accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s illicit financial flows, the GFI report said, referring to the deliberate falsification of import and export declarations in order to evade tax.

“Since the act of deliberately falsifying invoices is illegal in most countries, we consider our trade misinvoicing estimates to reflect completely illicit outflows,” it added.

Trade misinvoicing should not be confused with abusive transfer pricing, the GFI report said. Abusive transfer pricing is the practice by multinational companies of distorting internal accounts to reduce tax liability by shifting profit from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax jurisdictions. Although a serious problem for developing countries, this issue is not captured in this December report, GFI said.

In resource-rich countries, the natural resource sector is usually the main source of illicit financial flows, according to a joint report by the GFI and African Development Bank published in May 2013, citing Angola as an example.

In May 2012, the IMF said it still wanted an explanation on why US$4.2 billion appeared to be missing from Angola’s national accounts.

In resource-poor countries, illicit financial flows largely arise from the mispricing of trade by companies of all sizes. This activity is a form of money laundering and tax evasion, the report, published in May 2013, said.

In 2011, the developing world lost US$947 billion from illicit financial outflows, an increase of 13.7 percent over 2010. This figure represents roughly ten times the amount of official development assistance flowing in from advanced economies, GFI said.

In its 2013 Africa Progress Report on oil, gas, and mining in Africa, the Africa Progress Panel highlighted the need for more transparency in the extractives sector and called for solutions to tax avoidance and evasion and illicit transfers of wealth.

Increased transparency – including public registries of the true, human owners of businesses, trusts, and foundations – will be critical to reducing illicit financial outflows from developing countries, the GFI report said.

Sub-Saharan Africa loses 5.7 percent of GDP to illicit financial outflows – Africa Progress Panel

Monday, December 23, 2013

Lake Victoria Fish Stocks Decline

People living along the shores of Lake Victoria defied government orders banning the fishing of the small breed of fish commonly known as Omena.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Changing Lives - Urban Farmers of Nairobi

Changing Lives - Urban Farmers of Nairobi is a 15 minute overview of Nairobi urban farmers. Through support from Rooftops Canada, Mazingira Institute provides training to young urban farmers on efficient use of urban spaces, job creation, organic crops, livestock and health issues. Women and youth farmer hubs have formed a platform and network for community practice advancing food security and urban & peri-urban agriculture.

Friday, December 20, 2013

UAE to play host to UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy conference |

By Shafaat Shahbandari,

Following on its impressive initiatives to set the country on a sustainable path, the UAE will now play host to the first UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) conference.

A platform to highlight green economy models and practices, PAGE will bring together global leaders in green technology, minsters, academics as well as financiers and insurers in a two day conference to be held in Dubai on March 4 and 5.

Being held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minster of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the conference is a joint initiative by UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and UN agencies like UN Environment Programme (UNEP), International Labour Organisation, UN Industrial Development organisation and UN Institute for Training and Research.

“I’m happy to announce that United Nations has chosen UAE and Dubai as the host of its first Green Economy conference. We believe this is a testimony to our efforts in the field of sustainability and vote for our quick turnaround in green practices,” said Rashid Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, announcing the conference to the press on Tuesday.

The conference will be a platform for UAE to showcase its impressive array of green footprints, while it will also learning from other countries about their best practices, added Bin Fahad.

Around 400 delegates are expected to attend the event that will work on implementing the Rio 20 declarations by supporting countries in interested in making the transition to green economy.

“UAE’s keenness to adopt green economy best practices and its success in several areas of sustainability has encouraged us to come here and host the conference. The event will bring the world together to review the progress on green economy practices over the last two years, following the declaration of Rio 20,” said Achim Steiner, Undersecretary General of United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP.

Hailing UAE leadership for the bold steps taken in sustainable development, Steiner said: “Over the last few years UAE has taken a lead in the field of sustainable development and UAE leadership has adopted as national strategy, which can be seen through the projects like solar energy plants, eco-friendly metro, Masdar city etc.”


Following on Shaikh Mohammad’s directions to adopt green practices Ministry of Environment and Water has charted out a roadmap that will unify the various initiatives in the different emirates and implement sustainable practices federally.

“Abu Dhabi has a green building code already and Dubai is adopting from next year but the rest of the emirates are yet to have their own system so the road map will unify such individual process and spread the benefits to each emirate,” said Aisha Al Abdooli, Assistant Undersecretary of Environment Affairs at Ministry of Environment and Water.

She added that the government has taken into confidence all the stakeholders through meaningful dialogue, which will allow for the smooth implementation of the project.

Initially, seven sectors, oil and gas, water and electricity, transport, construction, agriculture, industry and waste management will be transformed into sustainable models.

UAE to play host to UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy conference |

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where Our Work Began - Pachamama Alliance 2013 Luncheon Part 2

Pachamama Alliance co-founder Bill Twist and our indigenous partners discuss our organization's origins - a partnership with Indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest to protect their land and culture from oil exploitation - and our successes and accomplishments that resulted from this partnership.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

River partners: Managing environment and disaster risk in the Democratic...


Flooding and soil erosion are major hazards that threaten the Lukaya River basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Located in the outskirts of Kinshasa, this basin is an important source of water supply for the capital.

This pilot disaster risk reduction project being implemented by the United Nations Environment Program, the Government of DRC and local communities, with the support of the European Union, will demonstrate how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (eco-DRR) can be integrated into watershed development planning. Upstream and downstream river users are brought together to tackle disaster risk and development planning in a more integrated manner.

Reigniting The Climate Change Debate

Source: Climate Himalaya

Climate News Network: George Marshall is a co founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), an organisation based in Oxford in the UK which specialises in climate change communication.

Whenever he can, Marshall tries to engage people in conversation about global warming: he finds it a tough task.

“I’m always casual about it – after all, no one wants to find themselves sitting next to a zealot on a long-distance train journey.

“But I need not worry because, however I say it, the result is almost always the same: the words collapse, sink and die in mid-air and the conversation suddenly changes course…it’s like an invisible force field that you only discover when you barge right into it. Few people ever do, because, without having ever been told, they have somehow learned that this topic is out of bounds.”

Others in the business of communicating climate change will sympathise: they become used to eyes glazing over, people suddenly finding others to talk to or urgently expressing the need for a drink. It can be a lonely occupation.

COIN has just produced a report entitled Climate Silence, questioning why the interest of the public in global warming is still low – despite all the warnings about the threats being faced.

The report, which focuses mainly on events in the UK, says public interest in the issue was at its height back in 2008. The Stern Review, making the financial case for tackling the problem sooner rather than later had, been published, the UK had brought in its Climate Change Act, and there was optimism that a global deal on climate change could be sealed at the Copenhagen summit.

Scientists reticent

Now, says COIN, the situation is radically different.

“Civil society, exhausted by the disappointment of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations in 2009, has largely fallen silent. Scientists, cowed by personal attacks, have become increasingly reticent.

“A door that was once firmly shut – to sceptical voices in the mainstream media – has been opened again…public interest has dwindled. The debate has become stale and fatigued.”

The UK public has recently been focused on the seemingly unstoppable rise in household energy bills, says COIN. Energy companies, much of the media and some politicians have been quick to blame “eco-taxes” for escalating costs.

“Climate change – if it was mentioned at all – was presented as the enemy of the common man: an elite, costly and distant concern that should not be considered during times of austerity.”

Energy saving has been talked about solely as a question of bringing down costs to the consumer, rather than in the wider context of climate change.

“What actually needs to happen is a little more challenging than this – ultimately involving a complete overhaul of how we travel, eat, heat our homes, consume and work.”

Collective failure

Ditto the Climate Change Act, says COIN: all the talk is of achieving technical targets – rather than considering climate change as a vital social issue that needs to be talked about and discussed by the general public.

COIN’s views on the lack of engagement of the UK public on climate change would seem to be backed up by a forthcoming survey, quoted in the report, from the Royal Society of Arts. Of 2,000 people surveyed in 2013, 40% said they never speak about climate change to their friends, family or colleagues.

In the US there seems to be less public engagement in the issue. A survey this year by Yale University found that only 8% of respondents said they communicated publicly about climate change, while nearly 70% said they rarely or never spoke about it.

“We have failed, collectively, to make climate change something that inspires passion in all but a vocal minority (on either side of the argument)”, says COIN.

So what’s to be done? COIN proposes a national series of conversations embracing a broad cross-section of society – including those who might be sceptical. Ways must be found to inspire people to care about the problem. Climate change, it says, is fundamentally a human story, and public campaigns must reconnect with that basic fact.

“For too long, climate change has been stuck in a rut – pigeon-holed as a scientific and an ‘environmental’ issue – a niche topic that has little direct relevance to the lives of ordinary people.

“Without a way of translating the dry, faceless facts of climate science into living, breathing reasons to care about climate change, meaningful public engagement will remain out of sight.” – Climate News Network

Reigniting The Climate Change Debate

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

10 Tips for a Bold & Ambitious Post-2015 Development Agenda

By Molly Elgin-Cossart, Global Dash Board

Climate negotiations in Warsaw made faltering steps towards a possible 2015 agreement. Trade talks in Bali were salvaged at the last minute. As global negotiations on trade, climate and development reach a crescendo between now and 2015, success or failure to reach agreement will be seen as signals of the future of multilateralism itself.

These talks remain fraught with complexity and technical and political disagreements that have considerable potential to derail agreement. As former chief of staff for the Secretariat of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, I know first hand how difficult it will be for these groups to arrive at consensus on the world’s most contentious issues- and how besieged they will feel by the demands of governments and stakeholders from around the world.

A number of lessons we learned from the Panel could improve the prospects for consensus and the ability to put forward recommendations that effectively address the challenges the world will face in the coming decades.

In this new commentary for New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, I outline 10 critical actions.

1. Build in diverse perspectives

Not only was the Panel itself diverse – hailing from all regions of the globe, from different professions and backgrounds – but it was also the first Panel in history to have as many women as men. The depth, strength, and thoughtfulness the women on the Panel lent to the discussions is representative of what gender parity can bring to the world. It was often the women of the Panel who pushed back against what they saw as the imposition of certain interests; they also played roles in bridging differences, and bringing the group to consensus. Gender equity isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.

The consultation process ensured that diversity went even further, aiming to ensure the panel’s findings reflected an increasingly diverse and complex world. Panelists listened to people from all over the globe. Such diversity and outreach brought a new level of understanding and depth to conversations, and influenced the decision-making process.

2. Personalities – and relationships – matter

People often think that political processes are linear, that one party wanted A and another wanted B and they negotiated and got to C. The reality is much more complicated, and defies straightforward explanation. Personalities matter – good ideas are only as powerful as the coalitions built to support the ideas, and building those coalitions with many different perspectives is challenging. To assume that one’s expertise or position can build a coalition is a mistake. To build coalitions requires a solid understanding of different objectives and constraints, the space to engage in real conversations and to propose innovative solutions.

The respect and trust Panel members developed for each other mattered greatly to their collective success. To create a climate of respect and trust required sustained interactions, especially in less formal settings, to establish and cultivate relationships.

3. Decision-making requires clear leadership

The co-Chairs’ leadership was a critical ingredient to the Panel’s success. The co-Chairs were engaged and committed; and they were willing to take responsibility for making tough decisions. When it came to the final days, the co-Chairs made the very last and most difficult decisions regarding the content of the report – based upon the input from Panel members, of course. But the co-Chairs absorbed the responsibility for the thankless task of narrowing a very broad agenda into a simple and cogent message and set of 12 illustrative goals. Demonstrating leadership is not always easy and doesn’t always make everyone happy, but the willingness to stand firm ensured a successful final product.

4. Evidence is crucial, but so is a healthy dose of political reality

As in any decision-making process, the report was the result of navigating and balancing trade-offs. The Panel report – at the SG’s instruction – is grounded in evidence. In discussions, pragmatism was prized. Over and over again conversations came back to: what will have an impact? What works? What will allow people to fulfill their potential?

Potentially the biggest surprise to those of us in the secretariat was the need for research and political arguments to interact to reach a consensus. The politicians in the group were keenly aware that the success of the post-2015 agenda hinges on implementation – and implementation requires people to get behind it.

The tension between evidence and generating a compelling political narrative can create trade-offs, but balancing both is vital. Without an empirical spine, the agenda is likely to be laden with an overabundance of demands, a list of ‘good things’ that we all agree would be wonderful if properly enacted, but which may not make a difference in empowering people to improve their lives, or which may lead to a diffusion of efforts. But bereft of solid grounding in political realities, the agenda will fail.

5. Listen carefully to the sound of silence

What is not said in open discussions is just as important as what is said. For many controversial issues, formal discussions do not reveal the full range of viewpoints. This is another reason why one-on-one conversations and creating space for real dialogue are essential. Official positions and prepared statements will never capture the full picture. Smaller, private conversations can allow parties to start from interests and objectives rather than redlines. And the more trust and relationship-building that goes into the behind-the-scenes conversations, the more likely it is that solutions can be found and negotiations brokered.

6. Spend time crafting a narrative

Given a limited timeline, there was a desire to move ahead quickly. But crafting a compelling narrative is the central plank of any agenda. If there is no central argument, things quite quickly degenerate into a list. In the Panel, there was a push to adopt a vision, craft a report outline, and decide targets quite early on in the process. Quite rightly, there was a fair amount of pushback. Even with a tight deadline for report delivery, delaying these important decisions was the right call. Creating shared understandings and building common language is crucial to fostering genuine discussion, and better decision-making. A little flexibility early on in the process allows relationship building to take place, viewpoints to evolve and more sophisticated proposals to be put forward.

7. Don’t be afraid to have a real conversation

Too many international meetings become an opportunity for high-level officials to read from prepared statements in turn, without listening to each other or having any interaction to question, support, or challenge each other. After a few false starts, Panel meetings evolved to become more conversational.

The diversity of the Panel helped the conversation remain rooted in the real world and avoid grandstanding. Panel members, especially those who were not from government backgrounds, were willing to ask difficult questions and challenge common assumptions. “Can we really claim [bad governance] is the root cause of poverty? Poverty is too complex and has many causes. What about colonialism? What about different starting points?” was one important moment where a Panelist challenged a proposal. Panel discussions ranged from violence against women to health care to jobs, debating ways to measure, ways to affect outcomes, and the role of a goal framework in changing behavior. An open and honest conversation with the freedom to challenge platitudes and dig into the complexities – and often, unanswered questions – related to global challenges is essential to setting a transformational agenda.

8. Be ambitious, but have the courage to be practical, too

One Panel member, overwhelmed by a laundry list of demands including at least 43 goals presented by civil society representatives in London, finally burst out: “No, we can’t promise you all of these things! All I can promise you is that we will disappoint you. If this is the standard you are setting, then we are bound to fail.” This simple and honest moment did what so many post-2015 conversations fail to do: it interjected a sense of reality. Though the inclination is often to say what people want to hear, when you are tasked with decision-making, that mode of engagement just doesn’t work. Shaping a more realistic conversation with stakeholders was essential to the report’s reception, and ultimate success.

9. Cultivate dialogue with external stakeholders

The Panel and secretariat dedicated time to building and maintaining relationships with external stakeholders, and especially key thought leaders. This engagement influenced not only the substance, but also lay the groundwork to launch the report to favorable – or at least fair and balanced – reviews. Communiqués and summaries were made available publicly, and to civil society and other groups who were interested in the process. There was a dedicated effort to meet with as many different people as possible, as Panelists and teams met with thousands upon thousands of different stakeholders. This proved crucial to impact, as groups were aware of inside discussions and debates, and were able to receive the report with a better understanding of the discussions and trade-offs that went into its finalization.

10. Be Relevant to a global audience

The Panel explicitly wanted to write a report for the larger public, to convey that this is truly a global and universal agenda. Practically, this meant avoiding UN jargon, and putting effort into global outreach.

First priority was outreach to a broad group of stakeholders. The Panel report became the first UN report in history to make versions available for those living with disabilities – there are now braille, audio, and large-print versions of the report, in addition to translations in all six official languages of the UN as well as Bahasa, a digital version of the report, and a forthcoming children’s version.

Second was supporting Panelists in a unified outreach effort. The communications and outreach focal points in the secretariat facilitated many in-person interviews, articles, and meetings to ensure that the release of the report was part of the ongoing conversation with stakeholders. The Panelists then spent the summer months speaking with people – in their own countries and elsewhere – about the discussions that fed into the report, and where the process is headed next.

10 Tips for a Bold & Ambitious Post-2015 Development Agenda

Monday, December 16, 2013

House Construction with Plastic Bottles by Samarpan Foundation

Do you remember the last time you bought a drink in a plastic bottle? Chances are that you threw away the bottle, without a second thought, when you were done. That's what most of us do. Plastic is one of the most disposable materials in the modern world. It makes up much of the street side litter in urban and rural areas. It is rapidly filling up landfills as well as choking water bodies. Plastic bottles make up approximately 11% of the content of landfills, causing serious environmental consequences.

Samarpan Foundation has chosen to transform and repurpose this overlooked and environmentally harmful plastic bottle into one that is a useful resource. They have constructed a functional living space in New Delhi, using hundreds of used PET bottles instead of conventional bricks. Discarded PET (Polyethelene Terephthalate) bottles were collected, manually sorted by size, compactly filled with mud and sealed. Then these bottle bricks were cemented together to construct the floor, walls and roof of the dwelling.

A mud filled bottle is as strong as a brick and has many other advantages. It forms a valuable alternate building material. Low cost and maintenance, along with its long life, make it excellent value for money. PET provides very good alcohol and oil barrier properties and generally good chemical resistance. The orienting process of PET serves to improve its gas and moisture barrier properties also. PET bottles are non biodegradable. Therefore any structure made with it can last a couple of hundred years or more. And then at the end of its life, the structure may be recycled and reused once more!

Plastic has high tensile strength to weight ratio which makes it strong, durable and versatile. Samarpan Foundation has used this concept to reinforce walls of dams and wells in Goa.

Bottle walls act as heat insulators. The Indian armed forces at Siachen use mud filled jerry cans in large numbers to construct living units. The jerry can walls are covered with parachute fabric to provide effective insulation and warmth against the ruthless and freezing Karakorum winds.

Mud filled PET bottles are non brittle and can therefore withstand heavy shock loads without fatigue or failure. In earthquake prone and flood affected areas plastic bricks structures with its high impact resistance can prevent large scale damage to properties and washing away of homes.

Replacing conventional bricks with plastic bottles will help the environment in many ways. Waste creation will be greatly reduced as bottles become a resource and attract value.

Improved sustainable management of plastic bottle waste will greatly reduce pollution of land and water bodies. It will help reduce carbon emissions during baking of bricks and also considerably lower the demand for conventional construction materials. As the volunteers of Samarpan Foundation discovered, these innovative bricks are easy to use and build. In rural areas this can lead to the creation of new jobs especially for women and youth.

Recycling plastic bottles is a great idea. So next time you buy that drink in a plastic bottle, think twice before chucking the empty bottle. Your small contribution can definitely add up to make a big difference.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

African Visionary and Conservationist Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 | Environment News Service

By Environment News Service

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, one of the world’s most honored statesmen and conservationists, died at his home near Johannesburg on December 5 at the age of 95.

Born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918, Mandela became an attorney and led the struggle to replace South Africa’s apartheid regime of racial segregation with a multi-racial democracy.

Imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela emerged on on February 11, 1990.

In 1993, Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the white South African president who released him from jail. The Nobel Prize jury awarded them the prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

Mandela became South Africa’s first black president, serving from 1994 to 1999.

He is mourned across the world, in part for his conservation legacy.

In Washington, DC, Patrick Bergin, PhD, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation says that few people know that Mandela’s vision for South Africa included many programs that helped conserve the nation’s land and wildlife.

“Though we are deeply saddened by Nelson Mandela’s passing, he leaves behind an iconic legacy – one that is an inspiration to conservationists everywhere,” said Bergin.

In 1995, Mandela supported the establishment of Open Africa, a pan-African project that works to create travel routes to promote responsible tourism and contribute to rural economies.

Bergin said, “AWF will continue to celebrate Mandela’s life by helping to train the future conservation leaders of Africa, and by continuing the vital conservation work that he began. We thank Nelson Mandela for his unwavering devotion to Africa’s people, its landscapes, and its precious wildlife.”

World Wildlife Fund President and CEO Carter Roberts said in Washington, “The world has lost an iconic hero today – a historic beacon of justice and civil rights, and an inspiration to millions of people. President Mandela was a fierce proponent of conserving biodiversity, for the benefit of people and the planet. He believed in the power of conservation to empower people while also protecting wildlife and habitats. And he was a proponent of reaching across international borders to conserve large landscapes and magnificent species like elephants and rhinos. We extend our sympathies to his family, to the people of South Africa and to our colleagues at WWF South Africa.”

In 1997, Mandela co-founded Peace Parks Foundation, an organization that works to establish protected areas that preserve animal migration patterns and share wildlife resources. Co-founders were the late Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the late Dr. Anton Rupert.

Peace Parks Foundation successfully implemented the Futi Corridor, which allows elephants in Mozambique to roam freely along the Futi River, from Maputo Special Reserve to the South African border.

Mandela has been quoted expressing his passion for the Peace Parks Foundation. He said, “If we do not do something to prevent it, Africa’s animals, and the places in which they live, will be lost to our world, and her children, forever. Before it is too late, we need your help to lay the foundation that will preserve this precious legacy long after we are gone.”

Peace Parks Foundation issued a statement today saying that it “deeply regrets the passing of its founding patron, Dr. Nelson Mandela. The thoughts and prayers of Peace Parks Foundation staff are with Madiba’s family.”

Mandela actively supported the foundation’s work. On October 4, 2001 he opened the gate between Mozambique and South Africa to allow the truck transporting the first elephants translocated from South Africa’s Kruger National Park to Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park to cross the border into the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

About Peace Parks Foundation he said, “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, and no ideology which does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all. In a world beset by conflict and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future. Peace parks are building blocks in this process, not only in our region, but potentially the entire world.”

Former President Mandela is survived by his wife Graça, three daughters and 18 grandchildren.

Calling Mandela an, “outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation,” South African President Jacob Zuma announced that the former president will be accorded a state funeral. He will be laid to rest on December 15, in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.

Starting a national week of mourning, Zuma declared Sunday, December 8 as a national day of prayer and reflection, saying, “We call upon all our people to gather in halls, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and in their homes for prayer services and meditation, reflecting on the life of Madiba and his contribution to our country and the world.”

The official memorial service will be held on December 10 at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

“From the 11th to the 13th of December, the remains of our beloved Madiba will lie in state at the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he served as the first President of this young democracy,” said Zuma. During these days, official memorial services will be held in all provinces and regions.

Premier Senzo Mchunu, leader of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, paid tribute, saying, “We rejoice in the knowledge that Madiba has achieved what he sought to achieve those many years ago when he started the Long Walk to Freedom. His people are free. In his words, “May the Sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.”

African Visionary and Conservationist Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 | Environment News Service

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ecuador shuts down nonprofit environmental group

By Associated Press

President Rafael Correa’s government has shut down a nonprofit environmental group that opposes Amazon rainforest oil drilling, alleging it was involved in disturbing public order.

The closure Wednesday is the first of an advocacy group by Correa’s government, which has been criticized as hostile to free expression and has broadened state authority over nonprofits by decree this year.

More than a dozen government agents descended unannounced on the Quito offices of the Pachamama Foundation and shut it down.

“We consider it an act of violence,” foundation director Belen Paez said. “That is not how one notifies a legally constituted organization that it is being shut down.”

She says the group did nothing illegal and will file suit in Ecuador and an appeal to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.

Correa had accused Pachamama of participating in the physical harassment last week of Chile’s ambassador and a Bielorussian businessman after they left a presentation on Amazon oil concessions.

In a Saturday TV appearance, Correa showed photos of protesters and fingered some as Pachamama members. The Interior Ministry accused the nonprofit via Twitter of “straying from its statutory objectives” and endangering “internal security and public peace.”

Paez denied any Pachamama activists were involved in the harassment.

“What angers President Correa is that we are at the front lines in a conflict over this country’s economic development. We oppose the expansion of the frontier of oil exploration into the Amazon,” said Paez.

Her organization works closely with Achuar indigenous people, who oppose the exploration, said Patricia Usner, special projects director of the Pachamana Alliance, a San Francisco-based sister organization.

Pachamama means “Mother Earth” in the native Quechua and Quichua languages. The foundation says it has eight workers in Ecuador and an annual budget of $800,000 from donors including Germany, Finland, Norway, Holland, Italy and Belgium.

The protest last week followed the government’s auction of 13 oil concessions in the provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago on the Peruvian border.

The nonprofits say they oppose the drilling because the government has not sought the approval of natives living in the region.

Correa has been at loggerheads with environmentalists since announcing in August plans to extract oil from the pristine Yasuni National Park. An initiative he announced in 2007 failed to persuade rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill there.

Ecuador shuts down nonprofit environmental group

Friday, December 6, 2013

UN launches Green Climate Fund - IOL SciTech |

By Stian Reklev and Choonsik Yoo

The Green Climate Fund, designed as the United Nations' most important funding body in the battle on climate change in developing nations, launched its headquarters on Wednesday in South Korea, but uncertainty over finances clouded the event.

The launch was largely symbolic, as the Fund, set up by developed nations to channel most of the $100-billion they aim to spend each year by 2020, is not expected to be fully operational until the latter half of next year.

Rich nations, reluctant to stress their already fragile economies, have not paid up as scheduled. Now the Fund has just $40-million at its disposal, a sum promised by South Korea that must also cover administrative expenses.

“The Fund is on track to start its resource mobilisation next year with a rapid and substantial initial capitalisation, so that we can get the money flowing to the countries in greatest need,” said Jose Maria Sarte Salceda, co-chairman of the fund's board.

The Fund will help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and projects in poor nations to protect communities at risk from the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and damage to food crops.

Rich nations promised in 2010 to provide $10-billion per year in fast-start climate finance over 2011 to 2013, and scale funding up to $100-billion annually by 2020.

But inflows have fallen far short of expected levels, with new finance even dropping by more than two-thirds in 2013 from 2012, Britain's Overseas Development Institute says.

For example, it said in a recent report, “Funding in response to German flood damage in 2013 was four times higher than funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change since 2003.”

Most of the climate finance that has emerged so far will be distributed by national governments or private funds run by multilateral organisations such as the World Bank.

Germany and Sweden have signalled willingness to contribute, Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou told reporters at Wednesday's opening ceremony, with Sweden intending to pay $45-million into the fund.

“The office opening is both a symbolic and practical demonstration that the Fund is ready for business,” she said in a statement, but added it would become fully operational around the second half of next year.

The fund was set up at UN climate talks in Mexico in 2010 in recognition that climate change has historically been caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.

At climate talks in Poland last month, developing nations pushed for a detailed plan to scale up funds, and proposed a target of $70-billion in 2016, but failed to win over developed countries.

The finance aspect remains a sticking point in efforts to agree a new global pact on climate change that nearly 200 nations hope to clinch in Paris in December 2015.

Major emerging economies such as India say they do not want to commit to targets for capping carbon dioxide emissions before the developed world has delivered on its promises on climate finance. “What is wrong with the Global Climate Fund is that there is no money there,” Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told a news conference during last month's talks in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

UN launches Green Climate Fund - IOL SciTech |

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Biogas plants for Kenyan schools ease pressure on forests

By Caleb Kemboi, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Most of Kenya’s educational institutions depend on firewood as their main source of energy for cooking, contributing to deforestation and placing a financial burden on schools and universities due to rising prices for their fuel.

In response, the Kenya Forest Service and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have initiated a project dubbed “Green Zone Development”, in which biogas technology is being introduced as an alternative energy source to learning facilities in the Rift Valley.

“Boarding schools and day schools use a lot of firewood for cooking, (so) this project will reduce the dependence on the forest, and hence ease pressure on the ecosystem,” said Solomon Mibei, head of conservation for the Kenya Forest Service in the North Rift Valley area.

St. Agatha Mokwo Girls’ Secondary School in Kaptarakwa, Elgeiyo Marakwet County, is among the schools that have benefited from the initiative.

“The projects have worked very well in our school - in fact, we are now used as a demonstration centre and we have received several visitors from different places,” smiled Margaret Chebaskwony, the school’s principal.

“Apart from acquiring the gas for cooking, we also use the bio-effluent as fertiliser since it is safe for production of crops, and hence boosts food security,” Chebaskwony said.

The school’s small-scale biogas plant consists of a large digester, in which bacteria convert animal dung into methane gas through the process of anaerobic digestion. The biogas is used for cooking and lighting.

Thanks to their efforts to protect the environment, the school was awarded a Prestigious Green Award (PGA), the first for a biogas project in Kenya.

The award was created in 1999 by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND), a non-governmental organisation, to recognise innovation, groundbreaking research, ideas and extraordinary grassroots initiatives in Kenya. It aims to promote sustainable use and management of natural resources by rewarding the best examples.

St. Agatha Mokwo is also used by athletes during school holidays as a training centre. Both the bakery and fish pond, built with support from the Kenya Forest Service, have been a major attraction for athletes who want to improve their home science skills.

So far eight schools have installed biogas plants under the project, and more are at different stages of deploying the technology across the 17 counties where Green Zone Development operates.


Introducing biogas technology in schools does appear to improve environmental protection in the local area.

David Kipyego, chairman of the Eldoret Educational Resource Centre, a school in Eldoret town, said that since the biogas project began there, use of fuelwood has been cut by half.

“We have reduced the use of firewood for cooking from 24 tonnes to 12 tonnes per term (of three months), which is an added advantage for the conservation of the environment, as well as being economical for the school,” Kipyego said.

Apart from the biogas, the organic waste material used to produce the gas can serve as manure, which is more beneficial to the environment than chemical fertilisers, Kipyego said.

David Chemweno, executive director of Save Kenya Water Towers, an organisation set up in 2010 to rehabilitate degraded water catchment areas, said each of 20 schools visited by his staff consumed an average of 20 tonnes (20,000 kg) of firewood per term.

Schools are licensed to harvest dead wood but end up cutting down trees in order to get the amount they need for cooking, he added.

His organisation has also spearheaded a separate programme called the “Green Ribbon Initiative”, which involves bringing biogas to schools located near indigenous forests.

“We are targeting more than 20 schools…with subsidised biogas, where the schools will contribute 60 percent of the project while we contribute 40 percent to cover the cost of the technical knowhow,” Chemweno said, adding that Save Kenya Water Towers will also donate cows to assist in biogas production.


Minimising the use of firewood by schools will also contribute to climate change mitigation, experts say.

“Harmful greenhouses gas emissions can be reduced and the forest can now act better as a carbon sink,” said Mibei of the Kenya Forest Service. The local climate had changed due to massive deforestation in the area, with rainfall becoming less frequent, he noted.

The school biogas project is inspiring communities living nearby, and a number of them have adopted the same technology at household level.

“Most of our neighbours living around the schools have embraced the technology - some other educational institutions have also visited with a view to copying this worthy initiative,” Chebaskwony said, adding that some have come from as far afield as other parts of East Africa.

Local leaders are also backing the project, urging people to embrace the technology in order to protect the environment.

“This is the way to go - as leaders we totally support the project, we are going to rally behind it so that every household living next to the forest can hold to the idea,” said Thomas Kigen, a member of the county assembly for Kaptarakwa ward in Elgeiyo Marakwet County.

Recently, the county’s governor, Alex Tolgos, called for an end to cutting down trees. “The harvesting of the forest must stop immediately to give room for the forest to grow. Let’s support biogas technology,” he said.

“We are in the process of recovering the degraded forest by planting more trees - as many as we can to reclaim the vanished forest,” Mibei said. The forest service has planted 10 million trees in the Rift Valley alone, he added.

Kipyego, chairman of the Eldoret school, said people should take care of natural resources for their own benefit. “A well-conserved, kept and maintained environment equals good health, long life, economic growth and reduction of crime,” he argued.

Biogas plants for Kenyan schools ease pressure on forests

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How can Peru make next year’s climate summit a success?

Guy Edwards and Timmons Roberts, Eco-business

As delegates begin to reflect on the limited success of the UN Climate Change negotiations in Warsaw which ended last week, eyes are now turning optimistically to Peru as the incoming president of COP20 in 2014.

Poland, as host of COP19, has now taken three bites at the apple of leading UN climate negotiations, and a number of observers believe the country is too compromised with its coal dependency and drive for economic growth to guide the world to a low-carbon future requiring tough choices.

Although the conference in Warsaw managed to secure some progress on a range of issues, Peru will have to do some very heavy lifting to ensure the delicate timetable of agreeing a new climate deal in Paris in 2015 is kept on track.

This is all sounds slightly familiar. After the train wreck in 2009 at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Mexico rode to the rescue of multilateralism the following year at COP16 in Cancún.

Mexico created a Special Representative for Climate Change and dispatched one of its top diplomats, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to rebuild confidence in the process. De Alba spent roughly 250 days in 2010 travelling around the world, listening to countries rich and poor. Mexico lowered expectations and adopted a pragmatic approach that served to rebuild trust and encourage consensus.

Mexico’s position as a middle-income country helped to build consensus. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, put climate change at the top of the political agenda and were committed to a successful outcome at COP16.

Calderón decided that the process needed extensive multilateral experience, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took responsibility instead of the Ministry of Environment. At COP16 considerable attention was placed on the process of inclusion as much as the content.

Consequently, nearly all countries had only praise for Mexico’s stewardship (Bolivia was a lone resistor).

Peru is next up and has great potential to secure progress in the global climate negotiations at COP20 in Lima in 2014.

Peru is a bridge builder between developing and developed countries and is considered a leading actor on climate change. In 2008, it was the first developing country to announce a voluntary emission reduction pledge, offering to reduce the net deforestation of primary forests to 0 by 2021 and produce 33 per cent of its total energy use from renewable sources by 2020.

In 2010 Peru’s Ministry of Environment published its Plan of Action for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (Plan CC). However, according to the Latin American Platform on Climate, the low level of implementation of its domestic climate policies still needs urgent attention.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Peru is part of the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States (in Spanish, AILAC) alongside Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama.

AILAC attempts to build consensus between developed and developing countries on the need for all to take ambitious action on climate change, and on the importance of there being a legally binding agreement holding countries to account. However, AILAC countries at times come under fire for their domestic policies, which seem to clash with their progressive rhetoric at the UNFCCC.

Alongside its AILAC partners and others—including the United Kingdom and Bangladesh—Peru also participates in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action. The Dialogue is an informal space, open to countries working towards an ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding regime, and committed domestically to becoming or remaining low-carbon economies. The Dialogue has been able to achieve progress at the negotiations by seeking collective ambition from all countries, particularly at COP16 and COP17.

En route to COP20, Peru has a year to make a vital contribution to restore confidence and ratchet up global climate action. Otherwise, the goal of producing a draft text in Lima to be decided in Paris at COP21 in 2015 will be simply unreachable.

Peru could focus on three key strategies. First, Mexico’s extensive and tireless preparations and management of COP16 should serve as a template. Mexico’s participation in the Cartagena Dialogue as COP16 president was also crucial. This experience shows that Peru can be more active in the Dialogue without undermining its neutrality.

Peru’s climate diplomacy in 2014 could focus on the following key players. A major step is to reach across to the major emitters – including the US, Japan, Australia and Canada.

Peru and the EU share similar views on the need for ambitious action to increase progress in the negotiations. Discussions surrounding an increase in ambition by the EU and Peru and its AILAC partners could increase confidence. As Venezuela will be hosting the pre-COP20 event, close collaboration between Peru and Venezuela and the other ALBA countries (e.g., Ecuador and Bolivia, the group is the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas) will be essential in ensuring a strong regional voice calling for progress in Lima.

Peru can also attempt to facilitate dialogue between the US and the BASIC group—Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Finally, Peru’s diplomacy with the least developed countries (LDCs) and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) is paramount in ensuring that the most vulnerable are actively involved.

Second, Peru’s flexible interpretation of the critical phrase “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities”, and its view that all countries need to act to varying degrees to reduce emissions, will be essential. So will driving forward discussions on equity, which again arose this year in Warsaw.

Peru’s membership in AILAC and the idea of the “beautiful middle” can help put medium-sized countries at the center of the climate debate. A focus on reducing emissions by all—which is contingent on developed country support on climate finance, adaptation and capacity building—can help establish a more holistic narrative tying together the myriad threads of the negotiations.

As a medium-sized country, Peru can develop and drive forward this narrative and avoid the polarizing debates between the North and South that undermine the talks.

Third, when Peru put forward its voluntary pledge, it established a new climate discourse. This discourse needs a boost and a major platform to test its utility. COP20 can be that space. Peru, alongside its AILAC partners, can put ambition front and center by promoting their collective pledges. AILAC may also consider increasing their own pledges and activities in the interest of generating confidence in the process and promoting low-carbon growth.

Combining these strategies could revitalise the UNFCCC process following the modest results in in Warsaw. As a country very vulnerable to climate impacts, Peru can promote urgency, ambition and equity. Lima will be a decisive battleground to ensure the 2015 deadline for a new deal is not missed. Peru must start this daunting task now in earnest.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Cows Help Save the Planet: Climate Smart Agriculture in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has become a world leader in agricultural and forestry practices that help reduce global warming by reducing carbon output -- but the real winners are ranchers and farmers who say environmentally sound practices save them money and benefit their livestock, their crops and their livelihoods.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

As the Warsaw climate talks end, the hard work is just beginning

By Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, The Guardian (UK)

Delegates have been packed off and their homework is to prepare their country's emission reduction plan by early 2015

Weary delegates trudging home from an exhausting and sleep-deprived fortnight of climate change talks in Warsaw may be unwilling to acknowledge it, but the hard work is just beginning. Like schoolchildren after a packed day of lessons, they have been sent back to their national capitals to "do their homework".

By the first quarter of 2015, countries must come forward with their "contributions" to global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, that will come into force from 2020.

Those contributions – not the stronger "commitments" wanted by the developed countries – will be the centrepiece of any new worldwide agreement on climate change, scheduled to be struck in Paris in late 2015. They could take the form of curbs to the future growth in emissions, in the case of developing countries, and absolute reductions much tougher than those agreed up to 2020, for the developed contingent.

The contributions will be set at a national level and overseen domestically, but they will also be subject to "assessment" by other participants. The exact format of this assessment has yet to be established, but will involve attempts to judge whether the contributions are fair and equitable, and commensurate to the challenge of staying within the global carbon budget, set out starkly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in September.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, told the Guardian: "If delegates leave here with a sense of how much is left to do, then maybe that will focus efforts in the coming 12 months, because without that sense we have all reason to be very concerned."

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: "We have seen essential progress. Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference. A groundswell of action is happening at all levels of society. All major players came to COP19 [the Warsaw talks] to show not only what they have done but to think what more they can do. Next year is also the time for them to turn ideas into further concrete action."

Publishing targets in the first quarter of 2015 do not leave long for the assessment process to take place. However, that timetable has been drawn up chiefly to take account of the realities of the US electoral timetable. The US government announced earlier this year that it would set its post-2020 targets in the first quarter of 2015. That is necessary to ensure that the decision does not get tangled up in the US congressional elections in autumn 2014 – they are likely to be touchy enough, without introducing the incendiary subject of climate change.

Other countries, led by the EU, are sympathetic to the need to adopt this timetable, even though it means time will be squeezed, and some countries may try to take advantage of this to let the clock run down on the Paris talks in December 2015.

There is little indication yet of what the future targets from most countries might look like. The European Union is most advanced on this, and the proposal likely to be put forward is for a 40% cut in emissions, relative to 1990 levels, by 2030.

Getting that agreed by all member states may not be straightforward, however. There was almost an open row in Warsaw between the European commission and the Polish hosts, who were accused by high-level EU officials of deliberately dragging out negotiations, and reopening negotiations in a way that enabled some countries to backtrack on issues that were previously agreed. Poland is notably hostile to tougher emissions targets, and attracted controversy early in the talks by giving a prominent role to the coal industry, that supplies 90% of the country's power.

The biggest factor at these talks was the strong influence of the self-styled "like-minded group of developing countries" (LMDC). That grouping comprises several oil-rich nations including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Malaysia; the coal-rich and fossil fuel-dependent China and India; and satellite nations including Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

The LMDC first emerged just before last year's Doha conference, and in response to the Durban meeting in 2011 at which governments agreed to work on a post-2020 agreement. The only two countries to hold out on the "Durban platform" until the final hours were China and India.

At Warsaw, the efforts of the LMDC focused on attempting to reintroduce into the key texts a restatement of the separation of countries into "developed" and "developing" that was first set out in 1992 and enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto protocol, under which developing countries bore no obligations on their emissions and rich nations faced steep cuts.

The US, the EU and other developed countries regarded this separation as having been left behind at Copenhagen in 2009, which marked the first time both developed and developing countries signed up under a single agreement to curb their emissions.

They argue that this new arrangement is needed, as the world has moved on in 20 years: China is now the world's biggest emitter and second biggest economy, and combined emissions from developing countries are on track to overtake those of the developed world by 2020.

Arguments over either keeping or redrawing this "firewall" between developed and developing countries are likely to dominate the negotiations in the run-up to Paris. Todd Stern, the US special envoy for climate change, told the Guardian: "This is now the major faultline at the talks, and [the countries' insistence] on deciding who does what in a new agreement based on unchanging 1992 categories is more pronounced than at Durban and poses the biggest challenge to the negotiations over the next two years."

The Indian environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, said after the talks that as far as he understood, "the firewall exists and it will continue to exist".

The acrimony over the Polish role must also call into question the UN's inclination to hosting the talks in countries that have a history of hostility to tackling climate change, in the hope that the prestige of holding the talks would persuade governments to take a more constructive stance.

That was hardly apparent in Warsaw, when the COP19 president, Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec, was demoted to a mere envoy in the middle of the talks – timing that did not show a great deal of respect for the UN process.

Last year's choice of Doha in Qatar also surprised many, and few failed to note the irony of the country with the highest per capita emissions taking on the role. In 2008, the talks were also held in Poland, in the city of Poznań, and some would argue it produced insufficient progress for Copenhagen to work the following year.

Next year's hosts will be Peru, and the disruptive element there is likely to come from the same source as in this year's talks – the LMDCs, many of whom are South American.

Peru, perhaps mindful of its role as next year's COP president, is not formally a part of the like-minded group. But with so many of its close neighbours and political allies, forming the core group, it must throw a deep shadow over the next round of talks.

As negotiators return to their national capitals to do their homework, the outlook for the next exams is for a tough test of everyone's resolve.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ensuring food security: Key resources - SciDev.Net

By Michael Hoevel, SCiDev Net

From nutrition to gender issues, Michael Hoevel scans the best online resources relating to food security.

Addressing food security requires looking at multiple phenomena simultaneously — from hunger, livelihoods and nutrition to climate change, gender and market access. The resources below provide experience, information and recommendations from a range of experts around the world.

Food security and agriculture
The three UN agencies dealing with food and agriculture issues have some great resources on food security. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has condensed relevant statistics on its Hunger Portal, as well as in its yearly State of Food Insecurity in the World reports, produced with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The Trade and Environment Review 2013, published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), looks in detail at the relationship between purchasing power and food insecurity, among other issues, including sustainable resource management and climate change adaptation. For future food security projections and trends, see the FAO’s World Agriculture: Toward 2030/2050 report.

In the run-up to this year’s G8 summit, the Irish government hosted a conference on the connections between climate change, hunger and nutrition, and produced a helpful outcome document calling for greater participation to policy processes by those affected by climate change. The UK government, in its role as chair of the G8 summit, partnered with Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in June 2013 to host a conference on Nutrition for Growth, the website of which has a series of useful resources and media links.

Many think tanks and research organisations provide compelling insights through their work. The CGIAR consortium oversees global agricultural research via programmes that cut across disciplines, which are run by its 15 research centres. These centres include the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), whose Food Security Portal compiles relevant data, news and tools for food price analysis. The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative managed by IFPRI, compiles, analyses and publicises data on institutional developments, investments and capacity in agricultural research and development.

The CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security has created an online resource, Big Facts, with calls to action, visuals, statistics and references on topics related to climate change and food security. A 2012 Montpellier Panel report, Growth with Resilience: Opportunities for African Agriculture, looks broadly at agriculture’s role in supporting green growth, food and nutrition security, ecosystem services and climate change mitigation and adaptation, among other topics.

Other organisations of note include:

> ONE — a campaigning organisation that advocates for further investment in agriculture to fight poverty
> the Meridian Institute — a US-based non-profit organisation that convenes agricultural groups to address agricultural policy issues through its agriculture and food security programme
> the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) — an organisation that promotes the role of trade in creating more sustainable agricultural systems, whose policy briefs cover a wide range of global agricultural trade issues
> Future Earth — a 10-year global consortium looking at agriculture as part of a broader system of challenges to be addressed through science and technology
> the Chicago Council on Global Affairs — an international policy organisation and a major influence on US policy for agricultural development
> Oxfam’s Grow.Sell.Thrive. website — an information portal and chat forum on market-systems approaches to food security, gender and smallholder livelihoods

Hunger and nutrition
The UK Government’s Foresight programme report on global food and farming has a dedicated chapter on hunger. Comprehensive books on the subject include Sir Gordon Conway’s One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? and its fast-moving blog, which looks at the causes of hunger and phenomena such as climate change, gender and market access. Calestous Juma’s book The New Harvest focuses on the role of science, technology and leadership in transforming African agriculture.

For a more ethnographic take on hunger, Roger Thurow’s book The Last Hunger Season documents a year in the life of four Kenyan smallholder farms transitioning from food insecurity to security through better access to credit, extension and inputs offered by NGO One Acre Fund. And Benny Dembitzer’s The Attack on World Poverty is an overview of the links between food, global poverty and nutritional insecurity.

For a comprehensive overview of global and regional programmes on food security and nutrition, the coalition of agricultural development organisations Farming First has created an online directory of food and nutrition security initiatives, which also links to each initiative for more information. Farming First also publishes an infographic on the story of agriculture and the green economy, and the Farming First TV channel of expert interviews on the subject.

IFPRI’s 2013 Global Hunger Index measures national, regional, and global hunger based on three indicators, making recommendations focusing on resilience. The Scaling Up Nutrition website is a global multi-stakeholder movement to mobilise policies and funding to deliver improved nutrition. A 2011 Montpellier Panel briefing paper gives a short overview of the movement and the evidence base that supports it.

A recent scientific review by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) documents the scope for fertilising crops with micronutrients to improve nutrition and health, a relatively novel approach with particularly strong results for certain micronutrients, crops and regions, for example zinc fortification of wheat crops in Turkey.

Market access
A 2011 report from the FAO High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) outlines the threat that price volatility poses for food security and how it can be addressed through trade and policy instruments. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2103 report Advancing Global Food Security: The Power of Science, Trade, and Business urges the US government to focus its global food security strategy on prioritising science, increasing global trade flows for agriculture and food, and incentivising greater agricultural business activity in low-income countries. Another report from the UK-based Overseas Development Institute and the London-based advocacy initiative Agriculture for Impact, Leaping & Learning: Linking Smallholders to Markets, offers a comprehensive review of efforts to help African farmers access markets for agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers.

The website from the 'Making the Connection' conference, organised last year by several international organisations, hosts comprehensive information on agricultural value chains for smallholders. And a guide [check link website was down 7/11/13] prepared by the German aid agency GIZ outlines how to help farmers engage with value chains.

The proliferation of mobile phones and other communication technologies (ICTs) could potentially improve future food security by improving the affordable and reliable collection of data and provision of services. A 2011 report by Vodafone and management and technology consultants Accenture looks at the role of mobile phones in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain. And a recent report by the financial services company Rabobank focuses on the contribution ICTs make to improving food security.

Gender issues in farming
The 2010-11 Women in Agriculture Closing the Gender Gap for Development report from the FAO is arguably the most comprehensive on the subject, and is the basis for the ‘Female Face of Farming’ infographic co-produced with Farming First.

The 2010 Chicago Council’s Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies report and the Montpellier Panel briefing paper Women in African Agriculture: Farmers, Mothers, Innovators and Educators also outline the gender gap in agriculture and offer recommendations for how to bridge it. The fellowship programme African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) maintains a resources list containing academic literature on gender-sensitive approaches to agricultural research and development.

Food waste
The FAO’s 2011 report Global Food Losses and Food Waste is a comprehensive review of the extent of the problem, its causes and prevention measures. Tristram Stuart’s book Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal also discusses this challenge, from a consumer’s point of view, and his blog lists key facts. The website Food Waste News provides news, videos, facts and infographics on food waste.

The 2011 World Bank-led report Missing Food: The Case of Postharvest Grain Losses in Sub-Saharan Africa examines the scale of the food waste problem on this continent and technologies available to tackle it. The African Postharvest Losses Information System (APHLIS) has tables and maps of losses, and reviews and guidance on quality maintenance and loss reduction. For Central America the SDC Agriculture and Food Security Network programme POSTCOSECHA provides similar information and recommendations on technologies and training to address losses.

Ensuring food security: Key resources - SciDev.Net

Friday, November 22, 2013

'Landing zone' in sight for loss and damage?

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters

If there's no deal on setting up a new body to help poor nations deal with climate losses and damage here at the U.N. climate change talks in Warsaw, will there be anything substantial to call a success? That's one of the arguments the poorest countries are hoping will spur richer nations to give ground and agree to create a new mechanism for loss and damage.

The South African minister co-chairing the discussions told the conference on Thursday night she hoped to find a "landing zone" on loss and damage, and ministers were meeting on the issue on Friday.

Some 130 developing countries have called for a separate mechanism to produce new expertise, coordinate activities and help vulnerable countries cope with the aftermath of extreme weather events and address more gradual impacts, such as loss of territory, land spoiled by saltwater intrusion and creeping deserts.

But many rich countries and regions - including the United States, Norway and the European Union - have said they want to deal with the issue under work on climate change adaptation, fearing a new body could lead to fresh demands for financial reparation from the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

The European Union proposed a group or taskforce that would be led and coordinated by the Adaptation Committee of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - similar to what the United States said it wants. Norway suggested a four-year working group, also under the Adaptation Committee.

U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern explained this week why the United States thinks loss and damage should be dealt with by the UNFCCC's adaptation experts.

"If you look at what's involved in loss and damage, there is a lot of it that is exactly the same kinds of things people have been focusing on in adaptation - it's...(disaster) preparedness, risk reduction and dealing with impacts and the like," he said.

"There are some slow-onset events, like sea-level rise, that at least some countries regard as over and above, or beyond what people have traditionally talked about as adaptation. But it is essentially within that sphere. So that's the main reason why we think they should be linked."

But Friday he said that “I hope we come away with something good on this."

"We are for (an entity of some kind) under the broad rubric of adaptation… We are not trying to create a third pillar of climate change but we are quite supportive of the general concept of having some intensified focus as embodied in a new entity.”


Climate and development expert argue that losses and damage occur when people are not able to adapt to the impacts of climate change, or when adaptation has reached its limits, and should therefore be handled separately.

Tony de Brum, head of delegation for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, told the conference his Pacific island nation has been hit by both drought and floods this year. "Mine is a country where the ocean is rising faster than anywhere else in the world, where the coral beneath our feet is being eaten away, and where the window of opportunity to secure our long-term survival feels like it is closing before our eyes," he said in a speech.

"What were once distant threats are quickly becoming our new reality. However valid our concerns, we are continually directed to the next door down the hall and, it seems, all the doors are closed. For this reason, we cannot proceed a step beyond Warsaw without a real and meaningful outcome on loss and damage," he added.

Speaking to Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the talks, he conceded there may be a need for a compromise that would allow vulnerable countries to feel progress is being made, while richer states "are not tied to anything they can't swallow".

Saleemul Huq, who works closely with negotiators from least developed countries and is director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said he thought wealthy governments might sign up to an independent loss and damage mechanism if developing states promised not to talk about financial compensation - even though many of them are keen to do so.

"I think (an agreement) is within reach. We need to leave Warsaw with something that both sides can spin as a win," he told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We're willing to say it's not about compensation... There's not much else here (at Warsaw). This could be the one thing they can succeed on."

'Landing zone' in sight for loss and damage?