Tuesday, May 28, 2013

RTCC Climate Change News - Governments face uphill struggle to hit UN energy goals – report

Governments will struggle to hit the UN’s sustainable energy goals without a huge shift in the rate of action, a new report has said.

The Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative was founded by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. It set three goals, to double the portion of electricity generated by renewables, to provide energy access for all and to double energy efficiency by 2030.
The Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework report warned that the rate of electrification for the world’s poorest must double if the objective on energy access is to be met.
The study, authored by 16 agencies including the World Bank and the World Energy Council, estimates that between 1990 and 2010 around 1.7bn people gained access to electricity, just surpassing the population growth of 1.6bn.
There are still 1.2bn people with no electricity and a further 2.8bn relying on wood and other solid fuels for their cooking and heating.
“Demand continues to outpace supply of electricity. That electricity needs to be affordable, and generated more and more in a sustainable way, and used more efficiently,” said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President.
“To rise to this challenge – to meet peoples’ basic needs and to do so sustainably clearly requires a scale of effort we have never seen before,” she said.
The report estimates that 18% of energy was generated from renewables in 2010, setting a notional target for 2030 at 36%.
“The report shows that there has been progress but it is also clear that much more will need to be done if we are to meet the UN secretary general’s ambitious goals,” said Dr Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council.
“The global energy system is undergoing arguably the biggest transformation in modern history and bold policy measures will be required to enable the energy sector to deliver on this challenge,” he added.

Watts for votes
Teo Sanchez has worked for Practical Action for 25 years including 16 years working on energy projects in Peru.

He told RTCC that while he welcomes the SE4All scheme and the effect it has had on political awareness of energy issues, there is a significant funding gap.

“At the top level, the policy is favourable to energy access for the poor but that doesn’t mean it is reaching them,” he said.

“The big problem is financing this. It is estimated that about a third of the $45bn that is needed is available. We hear that the private sector must bring much of that finance but we are talking about very poor markets.”

Sanchez said “big decisions” would be needed on fossil fuel subsidy reform, the distribution of money from the carbon markets and a greater emphasis on energy in government budgets.

“It is hard for politicians because many of these investments are medium to long term and they want returns tomorrow. Many will engage in ‘Watts for Votes’ campaigns where they will go to great lengths to persuade villagers that they will bring electricity but after the election, they disappear,” claimed Sanchez

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kiribati leads Pacific in sanitation | ABC Radio Australia

Kiribati's North Tarawa is the first island in the Pacific where the entire community now has access to sanitation.
North Tarawa in Kiribati is the first island in the Pacific to be declared 'open defecation-free', with the entire community having access to sanitation.
The Ministry of Public Works' project was supported by UNICEF and funded by the European Union.
Around 64 per cent of people on the island previously did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities, UNICEF said.
"Most of the people were using the beaches and mangroves for defecation and dumping their rubbish that made people sick," said Tooti Rangaba from the island's Nooto village.
UNICEF spokeswoman Nuzhat Shahzadi has told Radio Australia a lack of sanitary toilets is one of the leading causes of illness and death among children.
She says diarrhoeal diseases causes 15 per cent of the deaths of children under five in Kiribati.
This is unacceptable - we are on a modern time, society has developed and these are preventable deaths and the communities can make a difference," she said.
"Our first strategy was to raise awareness among the people, so we trained the communities on community-led total sanitation methods.
"And they decided how they should work together so that people stop defecating out in the bushes and on the beaches."
Ms Shahzadi says indigenous technology was used to build the toilets.
"They dig a pit - not very deep - and they use some local materials for the structure [overhead] . . . and they keep water and soap in one corner.
After using the toilet, they sprinkle ash in order to stop the smell and flies getting in it and they keep it covered."
Ms Shahzadi says locals on North Tarawa are very happy with the development.
"The grandmothers, the mothers, the girls - they were so happy. They don't have to go out on the beach in the middle of the night if they need to use the toilet.
"This is comfortable . . . culturally acceptable and close to their home."
Kiribati President Anote Tong has set December 2015 as the target date for the whole nation to become open defecation-free.
UNICEF says the majority of people in developing countries, mostly in the poorest households and rural areas, are still practicing open defecation - the riskiest sanitation practice.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society

For years India’s pro-liberalisation, Congress party-led coalition government chafed at civil society groups getting in the way of grand plans to boost growth through the setting up of mega nuclear power parks, opening up the vast mineral-rich tribal lands to foreign investment and selling off public assets.

Now, at the end of its tether, the Interior Ministry has cracked the whip on hundreds of non-governmental organisations engaged in activities that “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

On Apr. 30 several NGOs were informed that the bank accounts through which they receive foreign funding had been frozen.

“It is shocking what the government has done – but not surprising given the increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive measures being directed…against anyone who is seen to challenge or disagree with their positions and decisions,” Lalita Ramdas, anti-nuclear campaigner and board chair of Greenpeace International, told IPS.

Ramdas said NGOs concerned with nuclear power, human rights, environment and ecology – areas where corporate and industrial interests were likely to be questioned – appeared to be particular targets of the government order.

Among the worst affected is the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs that is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the government’s restrictions on foreign funding reaching groups that engage in activities that can be described as “political” in nature.

In its court petition INSAF described itself as an organisation that believes that “the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India need to be safeguarded against blatant and rampant violations by the State and private corporations.”

INSAF said it has “actively campaigned against land grabs by corporations, ecological disaster by mining companies, water privatisation, genetically modified foods, hazardous nuclear power (and) anti-people policies of international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

INSAF declared in court that it “firmly believes in a secular and peaceful social order and opposes communalism and the targeted attacks on the lives and rights of people including religious minorities, and regularly organises campaigns, workshops, conventions, fact-findings, people’s tribunals, solidarity actions for people’s movements and educational publications.”

“With that kind of a profile we were expecting this crackdown,” Anil Chaudhary, coordinator of INSAF, told IPS. “Still, the government could have waited for the Supreme Court verdict.”

“At this rate,” he said, “organisations working against discrimination of women and (advocating) for their empowerment through participation in local bodies could be termed “political”, as (well as) organisations working for farmers’ rights.

“The same arbitrariness can be applied to green NGOs trying to protect the environment against mindless industrialisation.”

Chaudhary thinks it unfair that NGOs critical of government policies are being singled out. “Instead of selectively freezing the funding of groups under INSAF, the government should order a blanket ban on all foreign funding.”

Among INSAF’s many campaigns is an intiative to bring international financial institutions like the World Bank under legislative scrutiny for their activities in India.

It cannot have escaped the government’s attention that INSAF’s campaigns have run parallel to powerful movements for transparency and clean governance led by social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) that plans to contest general elections due in 2014.

Kejriwal, whose social activity led to the passage of the 2005 Right to Information Act, has also been closely associated with transparency campaigns led by Anna Hazare, who mounted a Gandhian-style fast against corruption in April 2011 that rallied over 100,000 ordinary people.

Street protests demanding good governance have since been a thorn in the side of the government.  When they peaked in December 2012, following the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in the national capital, police took to beating protestors.

The government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also been frustrated by NGOs’ efforts to stall work on a string of mega nuclear parks along peninsular India’s long coastline, especially at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

In February, the government froze the accounts of two leading Tamil Nadu-based NGOs allegedly associated with the protests at the site of the Kudankulam plant, signalling a new and tough stance against civil society groups fighting the displacement of farmers and fishermen by mega development projects.

The two NGOs, the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society, received four million and eight million dollars respectively over a five-year period that ended in 2011, according to declarations they made to the government.

With strong backing from the Church, the groups continue to operate despite the freeze on their assets.
During the same five-year period a total of about 22,000 NGOs across India received roughly two billion dollars in foreign contributions, going by government records.

Unexpected protests have surfaced from among the Congress party’s partners in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Devi Prasad Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and member of parliament, reminded Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the UPA is “committed to protecting and promoting secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.”

“Effectively, the government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent,” commented Achin Vanaik, professor of political science at the Delhi University.

The government’s move stands in stark contrast to promises made not two years ago at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where 159 governments and member organisations honoured the vital role played by the non-profit sector by pledging to foster an “empowering” climate for civil society.

In his most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted with grave concern that India has repressed “peaceful protestors advocating economic, social and cultural rights, such as…local residents denouncing the health impact of nuclear power plants.”

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society

Friday, May 24, 2013

Water Flows Again in the Valley

By, IPS News

Staring out at his golden wheat field with satisfaction, 50-year old Alamgir Akbar says with a sigh of relief: “We’ve had a good crop this season.”

The farmer has waited a long time to utter those words. A resident of a small rural community on the outskirts of the Ucchali village in the Soan Valley, a 737-square-metre expanse of farmland in the Khushab district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, he has spent five years battling the impacts of a prolonged drought.
With just 12,000 acres of irrigated farmland and only saltwater lakes dotting the landscape, the Valley, which borders the hills of Punjab’s famous Salt Range, is not ideal for practicing agriculture.
Residents traditionally relied on rainwater to recharge their roughly 3,000 community wells, but half a decade of drought in the 1990s brought farming to a standstill and pitched the region’s 150,000 residents into the vortex of poverty.
Farmers here operate smallholdings of no more than five hectares, cultivating crops like cauliflower on flat land as well as terraces and selling the produce in Punjab’s big cities like Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Gujrat.
Before the drought hit, a farmer could typically earn a net profit of 600 to 800 dollars in a 75-day cropping period, but lost a considerable amount of this income on hiring trucks to transport goods to urban markets.
As the rains became increasingly infrequent, farmers were forced to bore tube wells, some as deep as 200 or 300 feet. This new system required investments in turbines to pump out the water, which in turn generated huge energy costs, as the 26-horsepower machines guzzled gallon after gallon of diesel.
Unable to afford the necessary investments, farmers turned to relatives for loans and sold their animals or other assets to continue farming.
When villagers began to chop down trees for fuel it sparked a process of deforestation, which then “accelerated the rate of soil erosion” and increased the risk of prolonged drought, Gulbaz Afaqi, director of the Soan Valley Development Programme (SVDP), told IPS.
Yields dropped, and farmers like Akbar began to despair.
Bringing back water
Driving down the mud track to Ucchali, the tranquil and almost picture-perfect pastoral scene is marred by solar panels.
But what outsiders see as an eyesore, villagers see as an angel of mercy. Owned and operated collectively by 12 families, these three-kilowatt panels are helping to pump water – and new life – into the farmers’ fields.
The landscape is once again alive with patches of cauliflower, coriander, chillies and potatoes as a pilot project spearheaded by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) begins to bear fruit.
Working with 112 partner organisations in more than 90,000 settlements spread across 120 districts in Pakistan, the fund aims to help this country of 170 million meet the targets defined in the Millennium Development Goals before the 2015 deadline.
Armed with donations from the government, international agencies and corporate entities, the PPAF embarked on a nationwide programme of drought mitigation and disaster management in 2003, which quickly identified the Soan Valley as “one of the areas that needed our attention,” PPAF spokesperson Zaffar Pervez Sabri told IPS.
Determined to avoid the worst-case scenario of locals being forced to sell their livestock or migrate from the Valley, the PPAF developed a “water balance model” to manage and conserve remaining resources and address the impacts of climate change, according to Sabri.
To date, the fund has enabled the construction of 124 irrigation pipes feeding over 8,000 acres of farmland; 60 rainwater harvesting ponds, each about the size of an acre; five delay action dams that collect surface water and are ideal for the Valley’s pitted landscape; 40 check dams, which help to prevent erosion; and 12 natural resource management schemes, benefitting over 100,000 people.
Villagers themselves raised the money for the solar panels that pump the water, giving community members a sense of ownership over the project. “We collected 6,000 dollars from the village, and the fund provided the other 6,000,” Afaqi said. By eliminating the need for diesel pumps, the panels have enabled farm communities to save over 2,000 dollars annually.
Villagers also replaced traditional open channel irrigation networks with the more efficient pipe irrigation system to avoid “huge losses and water evaporation in unpaved water courses,” said Afaqi, adding, “The PVC pipes facilitate even distribution of water into the field.”
Mohammad Ismail, an engineer working with the SVDP, told IPS that pipe irrigation is especially useful on slopes where surface water would otherwise run off.
A 50-percent increase in crop yields after this transition nudged farmers into accepting other, more comprehensive changes in their lives, such as new crops and cropping patterns.
Following the SVDP’s advice, farmers gave up cultivating cauliflower, a water-intensive crop that needs to be watered 16 times in 75 days, in favour of potatoes, “which need to be irrigated only eight times,” a local farmer named Sher Khan told IPS.
Potatoes have become a major cash crop in the area, with 46 percent of irrigated land dedicated solely to their production.
In addition, farmers grow chillies in the summer, wheat in the winter and practice year-round horticulture with nectarines and peaches.
The water scheme has made farming viable once more – with just a single acre of land, according to Afaqi, the average farmer can earn a monthly profit of 1,200 dollars on potatoes, 1,500 dollars on coriander and between 1,000 and 1,500 dollars on wheat.
“With an initial investment of about 1.3 million dollars, combined with technical assistance from the PPAF and hard work by the farming communities, we have created a new economy that generates over six million dollars annually,” said Afaqi.
The programme has also spawned interest in local water conservation efforts, including bi-monthly monitoring of ground water resources at 40 different locations, he added.
Reports from quarterly inspections suggest the groundwater table is improving. Regular monitoring also serves as a kind of early-warning system, by alerting farmers about decreasing water tables ahead of cropping cycles.
For farmers like Akbar, the project has literally helped him and his large extended family – spread between 12 homes in Ucchali – achieve their modest dreams.
“All our children go to school,” he says, pride written all over his face as he conducts a brief tour of his humble brick home. The small, attached toilet at the back symbolises huge progress: “It means we no longer have to go out into the fields to relieve ourselves,” he said with a smile.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Saint Lucia waves goodbye to fossil fuels

By BusinessGreen staff

Caribbean island signs up to Richard Branson-backed Carbon War Room initiative to phase out fossil fuel imports in favour of green energy 

The island of Saint Lucia has become the latest island state to announce its intention to phase out fossil fuels and embrace clean energy technologies.

The Caribbean nation is to explore a variety of green projects, ranging from renewable energy deployment to waste and water efficiency measures, while drawing on support from Richard Branson's Carbon War Room (CWR) initiative.

The state joins Aruba in signing up to CWR's Ten Island Challenge, which aims to reduce island economies' dependence on imported fossil fuels by highlighting commercial opportunities and attracting investment and engineering expertise from clean technology and energy firms around the world.

James Fletcher, Saint Lucia's minister of sustainable development and energy, said: "We are joining the Ten Island Challenge because it is consistent with the goals of our government to develop a renewable energy sector and transition to a green economy."

CWR said in a statement that transforming island energy systems to renewable sources is critical to marine and coastal conservation, as well as being imperative to driving growth for economies that are typically reliant on costly fossil fuel imports that are subject to volatile pricing.

Jose Maria Figueres, president of CWR, said switching island communities to renewable energy could prove globally significant, as such initiatives will provide case studies for economies around the world.

"We want to develop a renewables 'blueprint' using those islands that are ready today - and provide replicable models for many more communities isolated by water, desert or just distance from the grid," he said.

Closer to home, the approach mirrors the Isle of Wight's EcoIsland initiative, which is similarly trying to encourage islands around the world to sign up to an EcoIsland charter committing them to the rapid deployment of clean technologies.

Saint Lucia waves goodbye to fossil fuels

Monday, May 20, 2013

Linking biodiversity loss and food insecurity in the Lake Victoria basin

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22, The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) in 2013 is based on the theme Water and Biodiversity to coincide with the United Nations designation of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.

The theme comes at a time when the Lake Victoria basin (shared by 5 countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda), one of the regions of the world with the fastest population growth rate is facing stress arising from human induced activities. The five partner states, development agencies and communities to reverse this negative trend that is threatening the livelihoods of over 33 million people that rely heavily on the Lake Victoria’s natural resources to earn a living.  

The Lake Victoria National Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (NTDA) conducted by the 5 riparian countries identified a total of 22 major problems and issues and ranked them as high, medium and low priority based on each country’s own perception (EAC/LVBC, 2006). From this study, biodiversity loss ranked high amongst 4 out of the 5 countries with the related issues of land degradation, deforestation, shortage of energy, prevalence of diseases and pests; and poverty equally ranking high across the 5 countries.

So, what can be done to reverse the loss of biodiversity that promises to bankroll food security in the Lake Victoria basin?

Biodiversity richness in the Lake Victoria
The Lake Victoria basin is a unique ecosystem sustaining a rich biological diversity both flora and fauna with various micro-ecosystems that play a major role in maintaining and conserving biodiversity at the national and basin level. For example, the Lake Victoria basin has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) with 70 IBAs (EAC/LVBC, 2006). It also has some of the best wildlife areas in the world including the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and the Maasai Mara in Kenya (one of the 7 wonders of the world)

Therefore, within the context of the Lake Victoria basin, this year’s theme on Water and Biodiversity brings forth the need to reflect on this richness in water, forests and wetlands and elsewhere, with a view to sustainably use it to meet the demands of the current 35 million people as well as those after them.

In line with the Year’s theme on water and biodiversity, I would like to point out two key threats to biodiversity at the community level: food insecurity (focus on the staples – cassava and bananas) and the increasing risks from alien invasive species that further contribute to increase in poverty due to loss of assets.

Food insecurity
Small-scale and livestock keeping dominate the LVB farming systems. However due to the need to expand to new farmland and settlements, fragile ecosystems like catchment forests, wetlands, river banks and shorelines have been targeted.

The result has been decimation forest cover and wetlands encroachment that have given rise to unimpeded siltation of rivers feeding Lake Victoria.

This is one of the factors that have reportedly affected fish breeding and the proliferation of the water hyacinth. The main food crops in the Lake Victoria basin include cassava and bananas

Cassava which is a significant source of food and income, and an important industrial crop for over 300 million people across Africa (including the Lake Victoria basin) is at risk from the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) that is transmitted by insects whose numbers are surging. To make matters worse, the rising temperatures are thought to be one of the factors causing the increase, as regional temperatures rise, scientists say. Therefore, there is concern that serious food shortages may result and poverty worsen, as people will have to find alternatives and might encroach on fragile ecosystems in search of better farmland to grow other crops.

In addition, Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) remains a significant problem in Uganda, where it has spread to all the growing areas and poses serious threats to the livelihoods of many households (FEWSNET, 2007) in terms of loss of incomes and a staple source of food. In Tanzania’s Kagera region, farmers fear that the disease threatens to destabilize food security and incomes in hundreds of villages.

Alien Invasive Species
Alien species are those species (plants, animals and micro-organisms) that have been transported accidentally or deliberately by people outside their natural (pre-human) range (GEF, undated). In many cases they are very beneficial. For example most of the world’s crop plants and livestock are now found outside their native range.

However, those alien species that become invasive i.e. those that can spread without man’s assistance and are likely to have negative economic, environmental and health effects. In the Lake Victoria basin the notable invasive weeds which need attention include Azzola, Striga, duckweed, Lantana camara, Solanium nigrum, African marigold and Mexican marigold (EAC/ LVBC/2006)

The effect of these invasive species spans from choking water bodies to causing reduced food productivity due to competition they put up to food crops and diminishing the productivity of grazing lands.

The classic example is the water hyacinth that has had resurgence in Lake Victoria as it continues to flow from river systems, especially river Kagera. The effects are being felt not only to the human beings but also other animals like fish that have to migrate and change their breeding sites in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This reappearance also reportedly encourages snakes and mosquito breeding that causes public health risks.

What could be done?
Below are a few actions that can be taken up by Governments, Intergovernmental agencies, civil society groups, communities and the media to address the loss of biodiversity in the Lake Victoria basin:

·         Develop and promote better planting stock (like banana wilt resistant crops) should be availed to all farmers along with an extension service that emphasizes both the production and conservation of natural resources that are increasingly under threat due to fast growing human needs.
·        Promote agro forestry and other land management practices that suit the different needs of the 75% farming community in the Lake Victoria basin. This could range from tree planting for provision of shade, fruit, fodder and firewood, to extensive agro-forestry systems that incorporate animal production and yet have other community-wide benefits like reducing stress on fragile ecosystems.
·     Scale - up awareness - raising on the importance of biodiversity conservation to households and societies as a whole as per the Aichi Biodiversity Target 1 (a global commitment whereby by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably). This needs to be incorporated in development planning and resource allocation processes, as rural development inevitably affects or is influenced by biodiversity, for example the Lake Victoria micro-ecosystems and their constituent species like fish, birds and so on.
·         Have regular community alerts and awareness-raising on the presence and actions to contain the spread of crop diseases or alien invasive species. This should be linked to any existing or emerging local knowledge regarding control and management that should be tapped into; and encourage use of ICTs to report outbreaks to enable timely actions to be taken by the relevant authorities.
·         Ensure policy coherence in development interventions to avoid duplication of roles and conflicts in mandates by biodiversity related -Governmental and Intergovernmental agencies (conservation and production), law enforcement and strict regulations regarding importation of alien plants and animals that may turn to out to be invasive.
·         Conserve indigenous seeds and other food crop planting stock as a buffer to crop and disease occurrence through establishing community herbaria, school gardens, botanic gardens and other ex-situ centers by communities, Governments and other actors.
·         Promote food crops (like yams) and animal production systems that can withstand pest, disease and extreme weather changes, alongside the current staple food crops that are under pest and disease threats.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bangladesh: Lighting Up Rural Communities

By World Bank

In remote rural areas, where grid electricity is not economically viable, the project established solar home systems (SHS) as a practical and cost-effective alternative for electrification. Together with support from IDA and other development partners, the project has supported installation of about 2 million solar home systems in remote rural areas where the grid is difficult, expensive, or will take years to reach.


Only about 40 percent of the rural households in Bangladesh have access to grid electricity. For the rest of the areas not connected to the grid, life almost comes to a standstill after sunset. Even for those connected to the grid, power generation capacity constraints due to lack of generation capacity, and fluctuations in demand result in frequent power-cuts. Reliance on grid electricity alone will not allow the government of Bangladesh to realize its vision of universal access to electricity by the year 2020, mainly due to geographic and access limitations. Furthermore, the dispersed nature of rural settlements and the numerous rivers that crisscross the country make grid electrification in many areas difficult and expensive. In areas not connected to the grid, solar power is the most viable and sustainable way to provide power.


The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED) supports Bangladesh's efforts to increase access to electricity in rural areas of Bangladesh through both grid and off-grid options. The off-grid option promotes renewable energy sources to provide electricity to remote, hard-to-reach villages where grid electricity is not feasible.

Specifically, the project makes Solar Home Systems (SHS) available to households through a network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) under a microcredit scheme. Under the program, partner organizations (POs), mostly NGOs, procure and install the systems in rural households as per the

Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) technical standards. Households pay a 10 percent down payment while 90 percent is repaid during a three to five year credit period at market interest rates. After the systems are installed, the POs apply for refinancing from IDCOL (at a lower interest rate and for a longer repayment period). After technical and other verifications, IDCOL releases the credit and a fixed subsidy (currently $25 per system) to the POs. This refinancing provides the POs with funds to install more systems. In addition to providing IDA financing for the refinancing scheme, the World Bank has also made available subsidy amounts, initially from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and recently from the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA). The project has also piloted renewable energy-based mini-grids in remote rural areas and solar irrigation pumps.


In 2002, only 7,000 Bangladeshi households were using solar panels. Today, about 2 million low-income rural households in Bangladesh have electricity delivered by solar power.

Since 2009, more than 50,000 solar home systems have been installed every month in Bangladesh, making it the fastest growing solar home system program in the world. Initially starting as a grid electrification project, about 650,000 new grid connections were also supported under the project. The project also supported deployment of 10 million energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in exchange for incandescent lamps.
  • About 2 million remote households and rural shops have been provided with solar home systems since 2002.
  • Every month, 50,000 solar home systems are being installed.
  • 650,000 new consumers have been connected to the grid since 2009.
  • Access to electricity is changing people's lives and transforming villages into thriving centers by allowing children to do homework and businesses to be open at night.
  • Since inception in 2009, the project contributed to increasing access to electricity in Bangladesh by 3.5 percent.
Bangladesh: Lighting Up Rural Communities

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Let's reconnect green issues and development post-2015 - SciDev.Net

By Myles A. Wickstead

Post-2015 discussions offer a chance to link the environmental and development agendas — it shouldn't be bypassed, says Myles A. Wickstead.
A quarter of a century ago, scientists could justifiably take some sense of satisfaction from their ability to set in motion policy shifts towards protecting the global environment.

They had become increasingly worried by the emergence of holes in the ozone layer, which allowed harmful ultraviolet rays to pass through the Earth's atmosphere — and, in 1987, the Montreal Protocol began the process of banning CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) because of their damaging effect on this layer.

In that same year, 'Our Common Future' — known as the Brundtland report after Gro Harlem Brundtland, chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development that produced it — highlighted several other environmental concerns, leading to some of the key themes to be picked up at the 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

That conference had some important outcomes, including the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Again, the scientists justifiably deserved a pat on the back.

But one unintended consequence of the success of the 1992 summit was to reinforce the emerging breakdown of the links between 'environment' and 'international development' issues, with different international organisations, governments and specialists pursuing different agendas.

Brundtland herself had recognised the dangers of this happening and, in her foreword to 'Our Common Future', said: "The 'environment' is where we all live; and 'development' is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable."[1]

She was, of course, quite right. And there is an opportunity over the next two-and-a-half years to bring these agendas back together again as the development community looks beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have an end date of 2015.

Development goal opportunity

There is much still left to be achieved in development. Because many of the MDGs are proportional rather than absolute goals, even if the world fully meets them, hundreds of millions of people will remain in absolute poverty, millions of children will fail to reach their fifth birthday and hundreds of thousands of mothers will die needlessly in childbirth.

The discussion on what a successor to the MDGs might look like is already well under way. A High-Level Panel being co-chaired by the presidents of Indonesia and Liberia and the British prime minister is due to report to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at the end of this month, providing a framework for further discussions until September 2015.

It is already clear that any successor to the MDGs must look at progress as being not just about increased prosperity, but also about greater equity.

But there is a third element, too, that needs to be incorporated into a new set of goals. There is only one small reference to the importance of environmental sustainability in the current set of MDGs; and yet, of course, the environment could have a huge impact on progress towards the other goals.

The pollution of the oceans, overfishing, changes in land use and the loss of biodiversity are key areas of concern. And no common challenge is greater than that of climate change: unchecked rises in temperature will have — indeed, are already having — profound consequences for food security and agriculture, and for the very survival of the nine billion people likely to inhabit the planet by 2050.

Parallel processes

As the post-2015 High-Level Panel prepares to report, a parallel process is under way. An inter-governmental Open Working Group established as a result of last June's 'Rio+20' conference — following on from the original Rio de Janeiro summit two decades earlier — is beginning work to look at the creation of a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The working group is due to report to Ban in mid-2014.

The danger is that the post-2015 and SDG processes take on separate lives, simply deepening the existing chasm between the environmental and developmental communities. But there is also an opportunity to make the two processes mutually coherent, so that over the next couple of years, the two sets of goals can be brought together in recognition that they are not only compatible but inextricably linked.

Ban has already made it very clear that he wants the two processes to be integrated. One very welcome development is the widespread consultation process — the My World global survey, for example — that has been put in place by the UN and supported by DFID and others.

Scientists must ensure that they become an integral part of that process. They need to communicate the fact that environmental degradation and climate change are already affecting food security, access to water and the health of the world's poorest people, and that the medium- and long-term consequences can impact on the very sustainability of the planet on which we all depend. It is a crucial — indeed an existential — debate.

An article by SciDev.Net's Nick Perkins and Anita Makri in the latest edition of The Networker, the quarterly publication of the international development NGO umbrella organisation BOND, lays out some of the common ground between science and development practice. [1] It shows how scientists and writers about science and technology can help to build bridges — in the context of post-2015 debates — between the environment and development communities.

Whether or not they will remains to be seen. But our common future depends on it.          

Let's reconnect green issues and development post-2015 - SciDev.Net

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rising temperatures threaten Africa cassava crops | RTCC - Climate change news

By Alex Kirby

A plant which is a staple food crop for millions of people across Africa is at risk from disease as regional temperatures rise, scientists say.

The plant, cassava, is a significant source of food and income, and is an important industrial crop, and there is concern that serious food shortages may result and poverty worsen.
Experts say the spread of the disease could halve cassava production and threaten the diets of 300 million people.

The disease responsible, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is transmitted by insects whose numbers are surging, with rising temperatures thought to be one of the factors causing the increase.

CBSD was first identified in East Africa in the 1930s. It is deceptive, because an infected plant’s leaves may continue to look healthy while the roots beneath are being destroyed.

It is only when the roots are dug up and found to be streaked with brown that farmers know their crop is infected. The roots are rich in carbohydrates and are used both for food and to make starch, flour, biofuel and beer.

New outbreaks of CBSD have been reported recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo – the world’s third largest cassava producer – and Angola.

Rambo crop

If it spreads to West Africa that will be especially serious. Nigeria alone now produces 50 million tons of cassava annually and plans to use the crop widely in its agricultural and industrial development.

“Cassava is already incredibly important for Africa and is poised to play an even bigger role in the future, which is why we need to move quickly to contain and eliminate this plague”, says Claude Fauquet, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture who heads the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21).

“We are particularly concerned that the disease could spread to West Africa and particularly Nigeria – the world’s largest producer and consumer of cassava – because Nigeria would provide a gateway for an invasion of West Africa where about 150 million people depend on the crop.”

To counter another viral scourge, Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), scientists developed varieties of the plant which are resistant to it. Unfortunately, though, the CMD-resistant varieties are not proof against Brown Streak Disease.

Cassava has a reputation as a tough and resilient performer in conditions where many other crops cannot flourish, and so has been seen as a good way for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to guard against the effects of climate change.

Research published in the journal Tropical Plant Biology found it could cope with the temperature rises of up to 2°C expected in West Africa by 2030, and would generally outperform six other crops – potato, maize, bean, banana, millet, and sorghum.

The report’s lead author, Andy Jarvis, said: “Cassava is a survivor; it’s like the Rambo of the food crops. It deals with almost anything the climate throws at it.


“It thrives in high temperatures, and if drought hits it simply shuts down until the rains come again. There’s no other staple out there with this level of toughness.

“The ideal situation is for farmers to have a diversity of crops, with cassava acting as a failsafe. This would enhance nutrition and reduce climate risk.”

But, in another twist of fate, it is rising temperatures which now threaten cassava because they appear to be one of several factors which are causing an explosion in whiteflies, the insects which carry the viruses that cause CMD and CBSD.

This, coupled with what scientists think are genetic changes leading to the emergence of “super” whiteflies, now means that large swathes of Africa face the prospect of intensified food insecurity.

“We used to see only three or four whiteflies per plant; now we’re seeing thousands”, said James Legg, a leading cassava expert at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. “You have a situation where human beings are competing for food – with whiteflies.”

Claude Fauquet says: “It’s time for the world to recalibrate its scientific priorities. More than any other crop, cassava has the greatest potential to reduce hunger and poverty in Africa, but CBSD and other viruses are crippling yields.

“We need to treat CBSD and other destructive viruses like the smallpox of cassava – formidable diseases, but threats we can eradicate if everyone pulls together.”

Rising temperatures threaten Africa cassava crops | RTCC - Climate change news

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Do You Explain Climate Change To A Taxi Driver?

Source: Climate Himalaya

BBC: “How do you explain climate change to a taxi driver?”

This was our question to a panel of international journalists, as we led the opening session of the second annual climate communications day at the UN climate change talks in Doha.
It wasn’t a gimmick. We genuinely want to know.
Our research for BBC Media Action’s communications project Climate Asia has introduced us to all kinds of audiences. From the policy maker to the journalist to the driver taking us to our next focus group, each person has a different understanding of climate change and some find this term difficult to link up with their own experiences. In the course of nine months, Climate Asia has involved us talking to more than 30,000 people in seven Asian countries to understand how people experience, understand and are responding to an often changing environment.
“When I talk to people about climate change in Bangladesh, what they really want to talk about is water and sanitation,” said Lisa Friedman of Climate Wire. “We should stop making people emblematic of climate change. Our job is to write about specific audiences and the nuances of their needs.”
“(The term) ‘climate change’ is so freaking boring,” said another presenter later that day, whose name I will withhold as I know he said this to make a point – and we do get his point – that ‘climate’ terminology can sometimes get in the way of what we really want to talk about.
As we presented Climate Asia to our audience of journalists, researchers, scientists and communicators, we used the story of Suraiya, a young mother living in a Dhaka slum, whose photograph was used in global report on climate change.
We wanted to turn the tables and stress the importance of thinking about her as an individual with her own unique set of challenges and her own lived experience rather than as a victim or as an illustration. We wanted to stress the importance of taking into account her individual needs, her own perceptions of how she is experiencing the consequences of climate change and the unique things she can tell us about herself: her values, whom she trusts and even how she likes soap operas on TV.
There was a consensus that we need to provide people with access to relevant information on climate change. “Climate information is as important as health information,” one panellist stated and the need to communicate more effectively was stressed throughout the day.
But it seems, when it comes to climate change, not a lot of time has gone into thinking about how to present this information to any particular group or target audience.
It was reassuring to hear questions from people who wanted to know more about how they could make the issues surrounding climate change digestible for their audience.
“How do I convince journalists to write about my research?” asked one scientist. “Keep it simple, keep it short, keep it locally relevant” came the succinct response from a journalist.
This echoes what some media professionals have told us in Asia and it shows us that there is a space for Climate Asia research in helping many actors develop communications.

How Do You Explain Climate Change To A Taxi Driver?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


By Jan Künzl and Jörn Barkemeyer

Did you know that 3,5 Million people die every year due to the lack of clean drinking water?!

On January the 1st 2013, the United Nations introduced the International Year of Water Cooperation. The access to clean water is a Human Right. Cutting the number of people without access to safe fresh water is one of the Millennium Development Goals. This high appreciation in international agreements has a reasons. Water is crucial for the development in many different sectors. For example, the agriculture sector, the health sector and sometimes even the security sector. How exactly do these relationships work and what are the main problems in the water sector?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Poor nations call on post-2015 sustainability goals to target consumption | RTCC - Climate change news

Proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) must focus on cutting rich nations’ environmental footprint rather than boosting flows of overseas aid, a new group representing some of the world’s poorest nations warns.

Targetting rising consumption levels of developed countries and the resulting pollution this creates is likely to be more effective than ‘bad aid’, they say.

The Independent Expert Group of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), supported by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), met in London for the first time this week, and plans to submit recommendations to the UN’s SDG working group in June.

“In the past with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the framing was getting poor people out of poverty. It was about the developed countries funding that,” the IIED’s Saleemul Huq said.

“The next era is much less in our view about that paradigm continuing – it’s not about the rich giving money to the poor. That remains an unfinished but minor part of the agenda.

“A bigger part of the agenda is the whole world reaching sustainability, in which the rich are over-consuming and over-polluting. It’s not about them sending money to the poor. It’s about them doing something at home.”
The former prime minister of Haiti – Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis – will co-chair the group, whose other members come from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Nepal, Uganda and Senegal.

Consumption levels are soaring around the world, a consequence of a rising global population and greater levels of choice for consumers in terms of food, travel and other material goods.

This in turn is causing a surge in environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, where many of these products are manufactured.

Scientists warn that the collapse of natural ecosystems is undermining attempts to combat poverty.

In an article in the journal Nature, David Griggs from the Monash Sustainability Institute argued: “the stable functioning of Earth systems – including the atmosphere, oceans, forests, waterways, biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles – is a prerequisite for a thriving global society.”

A 2012 report by a UK Parliament Committee calculated that 40% of China’s total emissions were due to export orders, in effect outsourced by rich nations.

“One part of sustainability is not addressed – and that is consumption. They address poverty but not consumption,” said Youba Sokona, Mali’s representative on the group.

New era
Countries began the process of constructing post-2015 targets in February this year. The SDGs are likely to replace the MDGs, which expire in 2015.

Most developing nations want their richer counterparts to take the lead in combatting the environmental stresses the world faces on the grounds of historical responsibility.

But in what has already proved a contentious move for some developing country representatives at the UN, the LDC group wants to move discussions on the proposed SDGs away from finance and back onto what domestic actions donor countries can take.

It says ‘bad aid’ is actually holding back their own development: “It corrupts politicians, those who should be guardians of our societies. It corrupts legal systems. It pushes funding to fossil fuels,” said Dipak Gyawali, a group member and former Nepal Minister of Water Resources.

“Wherever we see things in our countries where there are moments of hope, where we see amazing innovations in villages such as technology or new practices and energy, micro, hydro, solar, these are happening by some mysterious means that really has little connection to the global discourse on foreign aid, development and MDGs.

“The time is gone to think of this whole thing in terms of aid. I am one of those who argues the age of aid is over.”

Huq points to Bangladesh’s new US$350 million national climate change fund as proof developing nations can survive without aid from abroad, while Gyawali says community projects in Nepal have a better track record than larger internationally funded efforts.

Target battle
While there appears to be reluctance at UN level to directly tackle global consumption, pressure from development NGOs is growing.

Stakeholder Forum’s recently launched SDG e-inventory already contains a variety of proposals on how sustainable consumption and production could be integrated into the post-2015 agenda.

“It is clear that eradicating poverty whilst remaining within our planet’s environmental limits, as the core objectives of the SDGs, are simply not possible unless developed nations address their issues of over-consumption and unsustainable production,” said Stakeholder Forum’s Jack Cornforth.

“Nonetheless these are not the only drivers of poverty and environmental degradation, therefore SDG targets on consumption and production should be set for all countries, accompanied by other targets pertaining to interrelated factors also key for sustainable development such as such as governance, health and education. ”

Despite their small economic status and relatively weak diplomatic power, the 49-nation LDC group has risen to prominence in recent months, notably at the UN climate change talks.

One of the group’s major strengths appears to be its ability to encourage the major emerging economies of China, India and Brazil to recognise their responsibilities in implementing change.

Huq added: “We want to show the LDCs as a positive force with a lot to contribute to the global agenda, and not just be recipients of aid which is the frame in which they are stuck – we want to break out of that framing of them as victims.”