Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UN climate deal will come too late for Kiribati, says leader | RTCC

By Ed King, RTCC

A proposed UN pact to address climate change will come too late for the population of Kiribati, the president of the tiny Pacific state told the UN General Assembly on Monday.

“No matter how ambitious it is – for us on low lying atoll islands it is already too late,” Anote Tong told an audience including UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon and government officials.

“King tides combined with strong winds wreak havoc among our people… in some parts whole villages have had to relocate.”

Tong said the country had already embarked on a plan to evacuate some of the Kiribati’s 32 atolls, adding: “We don’t have a lot of options.”

But he urged countries to use Kiribati’s plight as inspiration to develop an ambitious deal to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions and avert further consequences from rising temperatures.

“There have been times I have almost lost hope – there’s a limit to how many times you can tell a story people are not listening to,” he said. “We cannot afford to be paralysed into inaction.”

Tong’s intervention came on a day when the world’s top emerging economies warned promises from developed nations to help fund clean energy projects were not being kept.

The BASIC group of India, China, South Africa and Brazil said a 2009 promise to deliver US$100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer countries was well off course.

“There is still a clear expectation and so I hope the developing countries can fulfill their commitment before the Paris meeting,” said China’s climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua, in quotes reported by the Guardian.

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s environment minister, said the goal to deliver $100 billion was “very far” from what was needed.

“It is important therefore that this scaling up happens… there is still a lot of money that is required.”

According to Oxfam, less than $20 billion (£13 bn) a year is flowing from developed country public funds.

Of that, only $2.5-4.5 bn is being used to help countries prepare for future extreme weather events, a level the World Bank has warned is far too low to protect those vulnerable to future impacts.

Developing countries have long stressed that a clear financial package will be central to any agreement in Paris later this year, while the French hosts have made funding one of a proposed pact’s four “pillars”.

The funds are needed to both help countries invest in cleaner forms of energy and avoid long term fossil fuel investments, and also to prepare for future floods, droughts and rising sea levels that scientists say could intensify as a result of climate change.

UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon urged developed countries to work on a “credible” climate financing package in the coming months.

“I count on leaders to exercise political direction… now is when true leadership is needed from the highest level,” he said.

“Heads of state must give clear guidance to negotiators so that they take personal responsibility in Paris.”

Anote Tong says plans for migration advanced with rising sea levels already causing havoc in his country - See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2015/06/29/un-climate-deal-will-come-too-late-for-kiribati-says-leader/#sthash.guQmvraw.dpuf

Saturday, June 13, 2015

U.N. Chief Backs New Int’l Decade for Water for Sustainable Development

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

As the United Nations continues its negotiations to both define and refine a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before a summit meeting of world leaders in September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed support for a new “International Decade for Water for Sustainable Development.”

“It would complement and support the achievement of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals – for water,” he said.

The proposal for a new International Decade, which has to be eventually approved by the 193-member General Assembly, was initiated Tuesday by the president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, at a ‘Water for Life” high-level international conference in the capital of Dushanbe.

Tajikistan, which has taken a leading role in highlighting the significance of water as a source of life, also sponsored the International Decade of Water For Life (2005-2015) “to raise awareness and galvanize action.”

The proposed new International Decade will be a successor to Water for Life which concludes in December this year.

Ban told delegates water’s place in the SDGs go well beyond access — taking into account critical issues such as integrated water resources management, efficiency of use, water quality, transboundary cooperation, water-related ecosystems, and water-related disasters.

“Water, like other areas of the post-2015 development agenda, is intricately interconnected with other challenges,” he noted.

John Garrett, senior policy analyst of development finance at the London-based WaterAid, told IPS: “We at WaterAid are glad to see U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighting in Tajikistan the human right to water and sanitation, and the enormous need that still exists for these essential services among the world’s poorest and most marginalised populations.”

The new SDGs, he pointed out, represent a once-in-a-generation chance to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water, decent toilets and a way to keep themselves and their surroundings clean.

“A new decade for action on Water for Sustainable Development would continue a much-needed focus on the enormous challenges ahead,” he said.

However, he cautioned, the action should also focus on sanitation and hygiene, because without these, clean water is neither achievable nor sustainable, and neither are the health benefits nor economic progress that results.

Over the years, the United Nations has continued to place water-related issues on its socio-economic agenda: the first-ever International Year of Water Cooperation; World Water Day commemorated every year on Mar. 22; and the annual World Toilet Day on Nov. 19.

Ban said the world achieved the Millennium Development Goal target for safe and sustainable drinking water five years ahead of schedule.

In the course of one generation, 2.3 billion people – one-third of humanity – have gained access to an improved drinking water source.

The United Nations General Assembly declared access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation to be a human right, he pointed out.

Torgny Holmgren, executive director at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), told IPS his organisation welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s strong support for water as a key ingredient in all efforts towards sustainable development.

It is clear that the global community increasingly realises the challenges caused by growing water stress and unwise water management, he added.

“A dedicated Sustainable Development Goal, explicitly addressing the multifaceted nature of water – as a social issue, an economic issue, an environmental issue, as well as the main cause of disasters on our planet – is an imperative, but by no means sufficient, step towards the world we want.”

It is therefore particularly inspiring, he said, to see Ban’s encouragement for a process beyond the SDGs – “a process that allows and requires the involvement of all sectors and actors, public and private, individuals and organisations to collectively take a giant leap towards a water wise world.”

Garrett of WaterAid told IPS progress in the next decade will be critical and “we welcome efforts to keep these issues in the spotlight”.

The Millennium Development Goals succeeded in halving the number of people in the world without improved water, but left many of those most in need without.

Sanitation is among the most off-track of those goals. “We must refocus efforts in the next decade to ensure no one is left behind.”

Ban said sanitation has also made progress during the Decade, with more than 1.9 billion people gaining access to improved sanitation.

“That is all good news. Yet we also know that even today, in the 21st century, some 2.5 billion people still lack access to adequate sanitation”, while some one billion people still practice open defecation.

Even today, in the 21st century, nearly 1,000 children under the age of five are killed each day by a toxic mix of unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene, he said.

And inadequate water supply and sanitation cost economies about 260 billion dollars worldwide every year.

Just 10 years from now, 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two out of three people around the world could live under water-stressed conditions.

“It is little wonder that many global experts have called the ‘water crisis’ one of the greatest global risks that we face,” warned Ban.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Warning that tech fixes for rubbish often go to waste | Scidev.net

By Scidev.net

Decision-makers dealing with waste management tend to overlook the behavioral, economic and institutional factors around waste creation, according to an award-winning paper.

When confronted with waste problems, municipalities tend to target technical solutions, the paper found. But these are not always the best way to deal with solid waste, it shows. A focus on factors such as education, consumption patterns and sanitation habits could help reduce solid waste creation and littering, the paper says.

Last week the paper’s lead author, Lilliana Abarca-Guerrero, collected the monthly Atlas Award, which highlights papers published by Elsevier that could promote social development.

For the research, Abarca-Guerrero studied solid waste management in 30 cities in 22 developing countries during field visits and workshops with local waste managers.

“Decision-makers are tempted to believe in technology as a magical solution,” she says.

Waste creation is directly linked to economic development, meaning many growing countries have to figure out how to collect and treat increasing amounts of rubbish.

Abarca-Guerrero describes a municipality in the Andes that bought large and expensive compactors to compress plastic waste. But the machines could not be used on hilly roads and could not process the organic material that made up most of the local waste.

In another example, Sri Lankan administrators wanted to buy modern vacuum-cleaner vehicles to clean pavements, but they proved unsuitable for the country’s dusty roads and tracks.

According to Abarca-Guerrero, the companies that sell such machinery should be more transparent about its suitability and maintenance costs. Municipalities should also talk more to local people and NGOs, and educate local residents about waste issues to figure out the best way to manage solid waste, the paper says.

The paper, published in Waste Management, includes a questionnaire that government agencies can use to create a snapshot of their waste management system. This is designed to enable them to prepare a management plan and make better decisions on waste collection and disposal, says Abarca-Guerrero.

“Quick fixes are not the solution,” she says. “Besides technology, educated people, rules and regulations, and the participation of households are needed.”

Agamuthu Pariatamby, a waste researcher at the University of Malaya in Malaysia, agrees the findings should alert decision-makers in developing countries to the dangers of trying to solve waste issues superficially.

“Awareness and attitude are bigger issues, which need proper education and training before bringing in technology,” he says. “Like the examples given, there are similar white elephants in every developing country, where technology alone has failed miserably, causing unnecessary financial loss.” 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Environmental Change, Natural Disasters and Human Mobility in Haiti | IOM Haiti

Environmental Change, Natural Disasters and Human Mobility in Haiti captures some of the environmental challenges that Haiti is facing. The film was produced during field work carried out by an IOM Haiti survey team, as they conducted a household survey for the MECLEP project. The
documentary shows the measures people have taken to adapt to the changing environment. These include changing their housing materials, changes in agricultural practices, remittances invested in adaptation measures, and moving to other areas in Haiti or to other countries.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sustainable consumption and production: the story so far

By Mandira Thakur, IRF2015

Sustainable consumption and production is inter-weaved into the Sustainable Development Goals, but realising this will require a deeper understanding of how societies consume and robust monitoring, argues Mandira Thakur from IRF2015 partner Development Alternatives.

Burgeoning consumption and the corresponding exploitation of our planet’s finite natural resources have largely contributed to the sustainability problems the 21st century faces. The creation of such an ‘accumulation economy’ [pdf] has not only put ecological services at risk but also poverty alleviation and development gains, undermining present and future human and planetary welfare.

A part of the global development agenda for over two decades, Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is a powerful response to these unprecedented challenges. The most commonly accepted definition of SCP is ‘the use of services and related products which respond to basic needs and bring better quality of life while minimising the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations’.

It must be pointed out here that SCP does not simply imply consuming or producing lesser goods and services. It is about adopting different consumption and production patterns that are more efficient and less resource intensive. Looking at both the demand (consumption) and supply (production) side, SCP envisions well-being for both – people and the planet.

Despite being designated as one of the overarching objectives of sustainable development, the progress on the SCP front has been rather ponderously slow. The‘add-on’ [pdf] like treatment of SCP is a result of poor political will, short-sightedness of policy discourses and a considerable lack of its integration with other areas.

In this sense, 2015 is in the making of a historic year, with adoption of a new global agenda in the form of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Open Working Group (OWG) has tried to create a universally relevant and transformative global development agenda in the form of 17 goals for a sustainable future. OWG has not only created a stand-alone goal (goal 12) on SCP but also tried to inter-weave it with the other SDGs.

The attempted linking of Goal 12 with the other SDGs and 10-Year Framework of Programmes on SCP will ensure treatment of social-ecological-economic systems as integrated parts of a whole system rather than as silos. However, putting aside this mainstreaming of SCP, laudable as it maybe, the real question is ‘how to implement?’ given the complex web of systemic issues.

To begin with, the shift to SCP will demand a deeper understanding of not only how (including the why) we produce, distribute and consume our products but also how we organise our societies, international and national policies and our everyday lives. It is about creating a leapfrog in our actions, currently limited to technology tweaks, recycling or promotion of green products. Akenji & Bengtsson rightly point out the need for the SCP framework to address ‘social and cultural aspects that facilitate and constrain production and consumption patterns’. This allows the SCP targets to be aligned to a country’s belief systems and development agenda, circumventing any conflict that may undermine social cohesion. Such resonance along with an enabling policy framework will help in ‘mobilising a broader coalition of actors’ (such as citizens, businesses and civil society) towards building partnerships and collaborative action.

The movement towards SCP systems needs to be fully exploited by designing a robust monitoring framework with a comprehensive set of indicators, giving the SCP targets teeth. UNEP has proposed a set of indicators that can be classified into six domains (1) scale of resource use, (2) decoupling, (3) environment impact, (4) technology and lifestyles, (5) financing and investing for SCP and (6) policy support for SCP.

The integration of SCP in SDGs framework is a step in the right direction. Realising SCP systems will fulfil not only the aspirations of today’s generations, but also the hopes and dreams of future ones. It is time to make this paradigm shift.