Friday, March 27, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
We live in a world of growing resource scarcity. The oft-quoted statistic is that by 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will live in areas of water stress or scarcity.
Currently, agriculture is the largest user of water, but as the World Bank’s Thirsty Energyinitiative points out, increasing demands for energy will also require increasing use of freshwater. And as populations rise, so will the need for more water and energy for food production.
Many say we need greater efficiency in order to help manage some of these difficult trade-offs between water, energy and food. Much of this debate is focused on macro-level solutions. However, the International Energy Agency has calculated that 55% of all new electricity supply will need to come from decentralised systems if we are to reach the goal of universal energy access by 2030.
So could decentralised, off-grid solutions hold the key? For many years, influencers have debated whether community-based, off-grid schemes can deliver energy sustainably. But this battle has not yet been won. Recently new lines have been drawn by Bill Gates, who called for centralised, fossil-fuel based electrification to solve energy poverty and SunEdison founder Jigar Shah who responded by putting forward the case for distributed renewable solutions.
While this debates goes on at the policy level, what do experiences on the ground tell us? At Practical Action, we have found that micro hydropower (or microhydro) systems, which produce power from streams and small rivers, provide huge potential for sustainable energy.
For example in Peru, microhydro systems installed in the mid- to late-1990s are still running today. Not only do they provide electricity for light bulbs and other small appliances, they can also supply continuous power for local clinics, allow people to use fridges and run small businesses. We found they reduced household energy expenditure by more than half, and 60% of families said their incomes had increased.
However, there is still unexplored potential for decentralised hydropower. In both Peru and Nepal (where micro-hydro schemes are widespread), there was rarely any deliberate attempt to connect the electricity generated to agricultural systems, or to make use of the channelled water for irrigation. This means missing out on a set of potentially transformational opportunities. Decentralised energy systems can not only improve energy access, but also help to maximise the relationships between water, energy and food, both now and in the future.
More recently, and learning from our experiences, we have been making the connection between agriculture and energy more directly. Together with Oxfam we have been working in Zimbabwe, for example in the Himalaya scheme which uses the electricity generated by the microhydro plant, as well as the channelled water, for much-needed irrigation.
The approach does of course have it’s challenges. Across the schemes we’ve developed in Zimbabwe familiar challenges and trade-offs emerge, particularly with a recent severe two-year drought followed by heavy rains. For example, in Chipendeke in Zimbabwe, initial planning for hydropower failed to fully accommodate existing irrigation needs. As a result during the dry season, there was insufficient water to run both the irrigation and the hydro simultaneously. Eventually the villagers reached a compromise where the microhydro plant was switched off for short periods to allow more water for irrigation.
In Ngarura, there were delays in construction of the microhydro project and farmers lost trust. They continued cultivating the steep river banks, and when the rains came there was heavy siltation of the system. The lesson there was that farmers have to be convinced of the benefit of the scheme in order to preserve the river banks.
Despite these problems, in both cases solutions were reached through dialogue and the community balancing their priorities. It is important not only to focus on the infrastructure for hydropower but also the institutions to support it and that is as much part of increasing resilience as the energy or water itself.
Development organisations can sometimes be rightly accused of being starry-eyed about the potential of community ownership and management. In the case of a microhydro plant this can impose unrealistic burdens, and in the absence of support structures from local technicians, spare parts, and a clear sense of ownership infrastructure can quickly fall into disuse. But the sector has been learning, as research shows. The right systems for decentralised energy production can be created and it can provide a sustainable solution to energy poverty. More
Sunday, March 22, 2015
|Lee Kuan Yew - Father of Singapore|
Lee Kuan Yew - The wise man of the East
IF YOU seek his monument: look around Singapore. Prosperous, orderly, clean, efficient and honestly governed, it is not the work of Lee Kuan Yew alone. But even his severest critics would agree that Mr Lee, who died early on March 23rd (Singapore time) at the age of 91, played an enormous part. Singapore’s leader from before "self-government" from Britain in 1959, he was prime minister until 1990, and retired in stages, leaving the cabinet only in 2011, and remaining a member of parliament until his death. Under him Singapore, with no natural resources, has become one of the world’s richest countries. Many admirers look to it as a model, and Mr Lee as a sage. He did indeed have much to teach the world; but some, especially in China, draw the wrong lesson: that authoritarianism works.
Part of Mr Lee’s influence stemmed from his role as a clear-eyed, blunt-speaking geostrategist. He was an astute observer of the defining contest of our era—China’s emergence and how America reacts to it. He was also a respected interpreter of each to the other, and an important voice, with unique access in both countries, arguing for continued American engagement in Asia and for Chinese tolerance of it.
Critics mock Singapore for being like North Korea or as "Disneyland with the death penalty", as William Gibson described it in 1993. However, Mr Lee’s defenders argue that the restrictions are a small price to pay for stability and prosperity. GDP figures do not lie: Mr Lee’s policies have worked. Singapore is a thriving city-state. Unlike North Korea or Disneyland, it offers a real challenge to the liberal notion that growth, prosperity and freedom should and do go together.
China’s leaders, especially, are fascinated by Singapore’s style of one-party rule. They see flaws in "Western-style democracy": its short-termism; its disregard for non-voters such as children and foreigners; and its habit of throwing up unqualified leaders. Mr Lee’s "meritocracy" promises a solution.
But four peculiarities of Singapore make it look like an anomaly. First is its size. It is a city with a foreign policy, which means it has a cohesion that vast, diverse countries cannot match. Second, this cohesion is reinforced by the turbulent circumstances of its birth. After a painful divorce from Malaysia in 1965, the government has never let Singaporeans forget that a Chinese-majority island, surrounded by Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, would always be vulnerable. Geography is third. Singapore has flourished in part because of the failings of the rest of its region. Rather as Hong Kong’s prosperity was based on being Chinese but not entirely part of China, so Singapore is in South-East Asia, but not of it.
Only one Lee Kuan Yew
However, the most important reason for Singapore’s singular experience is Mr Lee himself. Incorruptible himself, he kept government unusually clean. He ensured that Singapore pays its ministers and civil servants high salaries. Under today’s prime minister, his son Lee Hsien Loong, the bureaucracy has remained orderly and clean. Unlike many other independence leaders, Mr Lee designed a system to outlast him. Singapore’s government claims it has faced enough electoral competition to keep it honest but not so much that there was a high risk of losing power. So it has been able to eschew populism and take decisions in the country’s long-term interests.
But in most countries, probity requires checks, balances and an opposition that is not always condemned as unpatriotic. In China, for example, Xi Jinping, two years into an anti-corruption campaign, shows no sign of winning the battle. Across much of the developing world, those in opposition are treated as traitors whether their criticisms make sense or not.
Even in Singapore the model may not outlast its creator for long. Singaporeans are having few children and ageing fast, so the government faces demands for more generous social-welfare provisions. And growth has become dependent on high levels of immigration, angering natives who feel the influx is suppressing their wages and making it impossible to get a seat on the tube. That balance between competition and inevitable re-election is shifting uncomfortably. The Singapore model may prove unsustainable even in Singapore. More
Thursday, March 19, 2015
The Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN) Project produced a local music video: This Is Who WE ARE by Ambi, J Mouse, Famus and Bridget Barkan for respecting Marine Life across 6 Caribbean Islands. Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Lucia. More
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Samuel walks through through the ruins of his family home with his father Phillip, on March 16, 2015 in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
The president of the Seychelles on Monday called on the international community to "wake up" to climate change after a massive tropical cyclone devastated the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
"The cyclone, which has just struck Vanuatu — a sister Small Island State — with such catastrophic effects and the tragic loss of lives is a clear manifestation of climate change, which some persist to deny," Seychelles President James Michel said in a statement.
"Today it is the South Pacific, tomorrow it could be us," he added.
His comments echoed those of Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale. "Climate change is contributing to the disaster in Vanuatu," he said Monday, as relief agencies surveyed the scale of damage caused by Super Cyclone Pam.
Reports from the outer islands of Vanuatu on Monday painted a picture of utter destruction after the monster storm tore through the South Pacific island nation, flattening buildings and killing at least 24 people.
Disaster management officials and relief workers were struggling to establish contact with the islands that bore the brunt of Cyclone Pam’s winds of more than 185 mph, which destroyed homes, smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday.
The official toll of 24 killed looked certain to rise as reports began to trickle from the hardest hit parts of the scattered archipelago.
"Many of the buildings and houses have been completely destroyed," Lonsdale told Reuters. "More than 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed."
President James Michel blames devastating Cyclone Pam on global warming, issues warning to world
Military flights from New Zealand and Australia were bringing in water, sanitation kits, medicines and temporary shelters for the estimated 10,000 made homeless on the main island, with supplies being unloaded late into the evening at the airport. France and the United States were also sending aid.
Commercial flights resumed on Monday, bringing in more aid and taking out tourists.
Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is a sprawling cluster of more than 80 islands home to 260,000 people, about 1,250 miles northeast of the Australian city of Brisbane.
Perched on the geologically active Ring of Fire, Vanuatu of the world’s poorest nations suffers from frequent earthquakes and tsunamis and has several active volcanoes, in addition to threats from storms and rising sea levels.
Low-lying island nations, some of which are little more than three feet above sea level, are regarded as some of the most vulnerable to rising seas blamed on climate change.
"When will the international community wake up to reality and put our efforts and resources to get a binding agreement to reduce global warming and sustain the survival of our planet?" Michel said.
In November last year, Michel urged the planet’s small island nations to unite for an unprecedented campaign against climate change or else be treated as global "bystanders" and be allowed to drown. The Alliance of Small Island States, a group of 44 coastal and low-lying countries, repeated that goal and presented measures to keep the global temperature from rising even further at the climate change summit in Lima, Peru in December. More
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Should you be in Sendai attending the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction we would like to cordially invite you to attend our Pacific side event “Building Resilience to Disasters and Climate Change in the Pacific for Sustainable Development” on Monday, 16 March from 9.45am – 12pm at B104 Kawauchi-Kita Camps, Tohoku University.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Pacific leaders tell Human Rights Council they fear for the future of their civilisations as climate impacts intensify
Just three weeks after the conclusion of the most recent climate negotiations, Geneva has once again offered a space for governments to consider how to address the human rights implications of climate change.
As the issue recently emerged as one of the elements that many countries wish to see integrated to the Paris climate agreement, these discussions provided insights on opportunities for states and UN bodies to better address this issue in the coming months.
Last Friday, the Human Rights Council hosted two high-level panels dedicated to the issue of human rights and climate change, with specific focus on the importance of international cooperation and on the impacts of climate change on the exercise of the right to food.
Representatives from small islands states called for urgent action to mitigate climate change, pointing at the fact that climate change threatens the progress made with the promotion of human rights.
The prime minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga warned that climate change will worsen existing inequities in world already riven with inequality, poverty and conflict. Tuvalu, the prime minister warned, has neither the resources nor the capacity to cope with these impacts.
Kiribati’s President Anote Tong reminded the Human Rights Council that, despite all the efforts by his government, climate change remains an existential threat to his people.
“Who do we appeal and turn to for our people’s right to survive?” president Tong asked the Council. “If there is a major challenge on human rights that deserves global commitment, leadership and collaboration, this is the one: the moral responsibility to act now against climate change.”
Both Sopoaga and Tong challenged the Council to consider how the international community should respond to the climate crisis and to urge more strongly for climate action in order to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people.
Other speakers discussed in their interventions the benefits of integrating human rights into climate policies. UN Special Envoy on Climate Change (and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) Mary Robinson emphasized that a “human rights framing to our development and climate responses can maximize the potential for inclusion, participation and equality”.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, insisted more specifically on the importance to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular land rights and participatory rights, when designing climate policies.
Quoting the fifth assessment report from the UN’s IPCC climate science panel, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz also highlighted that “indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge systems and practices, including indigenous peoples’ holistic view of community and environment, are a major resource for adapting to climate change, but these have not been used consistently in existing adaptation efforts”.
The panels were followed by an interactive dialogue with representatives from governments and civil society.
Several common threads emerged from this discussion, including the importance to fully implement the right of the public to take part in decision-making related to climate change, the recognition of the impacts of climate change on economic and social rights, and the importance to consider the linkages between the need to address climate change while protecting the right to development.
Several speakers also spoke in favor of two specific proposals for UN institutions: the importance to include strong references to human rights in the Paris 2015 climate agreement and the opportunity for the Human Rights Council to nominate a UN special rapporteur on human rights and climate change.
Germany also announced during the panels that the country would join the “Geneva Pledge on Human Rights and Climate Action” signed by 18 countries during the most recent round of climate negotiations.
However, the impact of the high political stakes related to the preparation of the Paris Climate Agreement could also be felt throughout the panels.
The interventions by most countries reflected mainly well-entrenched positions in the Council and at the climate negotiations.
The United States in particular suggested that attempts to push for the inclusion in the climate negotiations of references to the work of the Human Rights Council could lead to the “sabotage of the 2015 climate agreement”, a statement that many participants to the session considered out of tone with the discussions.
The panels were followed by the presentation, on Monday, of the report of the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox.
In his presentation, Prof. Knox emphasized that climate change is likely the most serious threat to the enjoyment of human rights.
Referring to the Geneva Pledge as an example of a good practice to better integrate human rights and climate policies, he challenged relevant UN bodies, such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNEP and UNDP, to establish focal points for human rights and climate change.
The ongoing discussions in Geneva this week are not expected to lead to immediate concrete results. These exchanges could nevertheless provide additional momentum when related sessions will resume in June, both in Geneva and in Bonn.
For the first half of the month, UN climate negotiations will continue to advance work towards the Paris climate agreement.
Several governments having insisted last month on the need to insert human rights language in the negotiating text, the June meeting of the climate talks will be crucial to determine whether this proposals are retained in the draft agreement.
Upon the closing of the climate negotiations in Bonn, the Human Rights Council will gather once again in Geneva to consider, among other matters, the adoption of a new resolution on human rights and climate change.
Over the past two months, Geneva offered two opportunities for governments to deepen their understanding of the interplay between human rights and climate action.
The coming months will now be critical to determine whether, through the UN climate body and the Human Rights Council, states are willing to commit to take steps towards ensuring that climate policies address climate change in a way that promotes human rights at the same time. More