The shortage of student accommodation is one of the factors that contribute to dropouts and high failure rates. African Student Accommodation Group (STAG African) is on a mission to address the student accommodation crisis in universities. To tackle the issue, the group is exploring new innovative development techniques.
Innovative building technology (IBT) is a green alternative to bricks and mortar building with lighter steel structures that are pre-fabricated off-site. In the building process, no water is required and 87 percent of the steel used is recycled. This reduces construction costs by 13 percent and time by 40 percent.
“Construction is one of the biggest drivers of climate change and within developing economies it is also a key to growth. It is the way of the future to promote green building practices and a workforce equipped to implement them,” says John Schooling, Director of STAG African.
Schooling saw an opening in the student accommodation crisis in 2008 and decided that with innovation, his company, STAG Holdings, could build affordable and sustainable residences. According to Schooling, their research found that the average spend per student per room for universities in Africa was around R280 000 ($19,500) which he thought was high at the time and saw an opportunity.
“Through optimal architectural design and product innovation, we brought construction costs down dramatically, to around R150 000 ($10,500).” says Schooling.
The University of Fort Hare has received 244 new bed facilities built by STAG African, totalling 880 facilities built for the institution this year. The company is also responsible for building a R45 million residence at the University of Stellenbosch using innovative building technology (IBT) material.
In 2014, STAG Holdings merged with the African Student Accommodation Group to form STAG African. Since inception, the company has successfully delivered over R9-billion worth of developments.
“STAG African has helped quantify the shortfall and convince government of the need to accept the use of IBTs as a solution; we still have a long road to travel, however, we can say with 100% certainty that optimal architectural design, product innovation, the reduction of operational costs and successful grant funding are key to addressing the student accommodation crisis,” Schooling says.
He believes that there is still time for an undeveloped Africa to use green construction methods to build a sustainable industrialised and developed continent which can be an example to the rest of the world.
“I have no doubt that it is the future of world, not only Africa. Africa is at a critical position in both space and time, where sustainable building methodologies and renewable energy have become a cost-effective reality,” says Schooling.
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– It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny Saturday and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom.
Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.
“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential.
“As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.
But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator.
Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.
“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.
The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.
According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.
The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.
This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels.
And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.
“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.
But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).
In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.
The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”
But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.
However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.
But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.
“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.
While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.
With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.
“This requires fundamentally rethinking our economic systems, to put them on a sustainable and more equitable footing,” the South African Nobel Laureate says in the APP 2015 report.
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The key question for South Africa is how will it be done, and how we ensure it that it does not hurt the economy, nor the poor. In any case, given the increase in electricity prices over the last few years, the tax liability of companies that have adjusted to these price hikes will be better off than companies that are stuck with old technologies or business models that make them reliant on fossil fuels or methods of production that lead to high emissions of carbon dioxide.
The carbon tax ought to help achieve three things: lower carbon intensity from improved energy efficiency or through switching to alternative energy; it ought to stimulate new growth, new technologies and enterprise; and it should encourage development of new product lines which in turn would stimulate new investments and jobs. This is why a carbon tax, unlike alarmist claims, is not a zero-sum game.
With more than 40 countries, 20 subnational jurisdictions and over 200 global companies imposing carbon pricing in some form, the writing is on the wall: a global carbon price is on the horizon. Airline emissions will be priced soon, and it is likely that shipping will be included in the near future. Basically, if South Africa does not impose carbon pricing, it will be imposed upon it. It is true that the current carbon tax proposal is not perfect, but it is nevertheless immensely better to have a flawed, but fixable, instrument in place than to have nothing at all.
Increased electricity prices already make a strong case for business and industry to invest in energy efficiency. The proposed tax price of R120 and the extent of rebates mean that the carbon tax will not change this much, with no increase in electricity price and a 1% to 4% increase in the price of fuel. It nevertheless makes sense that an initial, low-cost tax be piloted in order to iron out the monitoring and reporting structures to ensure its enforceability, while accustoming tax-liable entities to the process.
It is critical for government to adhere to the proposal to increase the carbon tax over the first phase, and when the rebates are reduced during the second phase, alternative options such as on-site renewable electricity generation and more significant efficiency investments become financially attractive. Without this increase, the carbon tax will fail to leverage any real change.
It is also important to bear in mind that those industries and businesses that act early will have an advantage, both competitively through improved efficiencies and through reduced tax liability. In effect, a carbon tax can improve business viability, by requiring investments in energy efficiency that would otherwise be uneconomic for a business.
In the transition phase the carbon tax should be used as a tool to prod change, and revenues generated from the tax should be used to assist struggling sectors and those most likely to be affected from the transfer of costs to consumers (in the first phase the effects will be negligible). In the short term there should be revenue neutrality and in the long term government will benefit its tax base through improved use of energy, new investments due to productivity, and new technology.
Accompanying the draft carbon tax bill are the just-released draft carbon offset regulations, which are an important component of the national mitigation measures. They indicate that the National Treasury has been listening to inputs from the public, and has put serious thought into the risks of carbon offsetting. At present, any tax-liable entity will be allowed to avoid some of their carbon tax liability by purchasing offsets.
The basic concept underlying carbon offsets is that a tonne of greenhouse gas is effectively the same wherever in the world it is emitted. Therefore, if the implementer of some regulated activity that emits a greenhouse gas can pay to have an equivalent amount measurably removed (or “sequestered”) from the atmosphere elsewhere, on balance he will have met his obligation.
Of course, this requires that the activity that sequesters the greenhouse gas is not itself subject to regulation, and that this removal would not have occurred anyway (termed “additionality”). Government needs to put strong requirements in place to ensure this additionality, and to regularly check that the assumptions are still valid for projects.
Offsets need careful consideration if they are not to be abused and used as false measures of progress. Offsets should reduce the overall emissions profile of the economy, not maintain the status quo or result in an increase (which is termed “leakage” in the technical jargon of the field). Offsets should not be a free pass for polluters and a financial windfall for market speculators.
There is still a need for some changes to the proposed carbon offsets structure – principally limiting it to sectors that have no alternative but to offset – but it is a necessary component of the national mix of measures required to facilitate a transition to a low carbon economy. The main risk is associated with the complexity of implementation.
Carbon offsets are a critical part of what is called the mitigation hierarchy. It is important first to both avoid emissions wherever possible through investment in renewable energy and ceasing activities that provide little benefit to society, and to reduce emissions across low energy technologies, public transport, solar water heating, and any number of means of improving energy efficiency.
However, certain essential activities such as the manufacture of steel have no alternative to greenhouse gas emissions. As long as society depends on these activities, greenhouse gas emissions are a given; offsets are the only means of reducing total emissions from these sectors. For this reason, offset allowances should be limited only to essential activities that provide the most benefit to the economy and the poor.
The appetite for offsets from these activities should suffice to catalyse improved mitigation in sectors not currently liable for a carbon tax. Not using offsets for other sectors will prevent offsets from undermining the incentive provided by a carbon tax to improve the efficiencies and reduce intensity of processes in these sectors.
Moreover, not all offsets are created equal. While the Treasury white list of approved activities excludes many of the more egregious forms of offset generation, some have more risk associated with them than others. Curtailing methane emissions from waste or dairy manure lagoons is straightforward, readily measured, and largely uneconomic at present, and therefore is a good, low-cost option that makes sense to implement.
Fuel switch options are less simple; switching between different fossil fuel types should not be encouraged as South Africa transitions towards a low carbon economy, and the economic case for renewables makes these viable even without carbon credit finance. However, for effective fuel switching to occur, reforms in the energy sector are necessary.
A more effective means of financing the switch to renewables would be the finalisation of a feed-in tariff to allow generation of electricity by homes, businesses and larger installations.
This should be decentralised to local government.
The national offsets registry should be complemented by recording all offsets generated within the country, voluntary or regulated. If this is not done, a credit could be sold to a buyer outside the country, who will record the reduction against his regulation. It will also be captured in the national Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which is part of South Africa’s regular reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is called “double counting”, where a single emission is claimed by two different people, and is one of the big risks of offsets. By ensuring that the national registry tracks where such credits are sold, it will enable South Africa to avoid double counting.
Moreover, government must ensure that the systems in place for application of the tax and offsets are up to the task. Given that many of the proposed offsets have a restricted credit period, it will be necessary for offset purchasers to replace credits once they expire: this means that seven to 20 years after a credit is purchased, the entity will have to buy new credits.
This is considerable longer than the usual period for which tax records are retained; government must ensure that this is adequately enforced or the validity of the offsets will be undermined.
Overall, it is encouraging to see that the government of South Africa is pushing forward with internal measures to make good on its international commitments and obligations to its own citizens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Representatives from African countries are gathering in Mauritius next week to deliberate on measures to counteract Africa’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change and the importance of scientific evidence to enable society to understand and respond to climate change threats.
The Academy of Science of South Africa, in collaboration with the Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and a range of other organisations, is hosting a communication event to introduce a policymakers’ booklet on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in Africa. The event will be held on 4 and 5 July 2016 in Mauritius and will be attended by some 60 representatives.
Africa is the most vulnerable continent regarding the impact of climate change and faces innumerable development challenges that are expected to be exacerbated by projected climate changes. Of concern is the direct reliance of a significant proportion of the population on natural resources, particularly, in arable and pastoral agricultural practices, but also through fishing and harvesting of natural vegetation for shelter, fuel, medicines and crafts. Present issues related to food and water security, health and safety are likely to be compounded by projected climate changes.
At the same time, populations continue to grow, placing additional stress on resources. To combat climate change effectively, mitigation and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes are crucial and need to be integrated into multi-sectorial policies and macro-economic frameworks for these issues to be adequately addressed. The focus must lie on informed, forward-thinking policies that integrate the best understandings of regional risks and vulnerabilities, together with local understandings of the environmental context and cultural needs. The African continent should determine its needs and capacities to tackle climate change impacts and adaptation and plan for sustainable adaptation to realistic future climate change scenarios.
The advisory booklet aims to assess the status and makes recommendations for African governments to consider when dealing with climate change and resilience in Africa. It focuses on why climate change adaptation and resilience is crucial for Africa and provides guidance on effective policy responses for climate change adaptation. It also conveys key messages on addressing the climate change impact through targeted policy actions and interventions specific to water, agriculture and food security, fisheries, coastal and urban zones, and human health.
The communication event will also provide opportunities to bring to the fore perspectives of young scientists, applying a youth lens, as well as considering the vulnerabilities of children to the impact of climate change. A gender lens will also be applied to climate change in accordance with the objectives of the international programme on Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering (GenderInSITE), which is a part sponsor of the event. ASSAf is the southern African focal point for GenderInSITE.
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A deal aimed to double agricultural production and end hunger in Africa has underestimated the impact climate change will have on the continent’s food production, a report has found.
The African Union’s Malabo Declaration, adopted in 2014, fails to push for investments in Africa’s scientific capacity to combat climate threats, according to a report produced by the UK-based Agriculture for Impact and launched in Rwanda this month (14 June). “Food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart”, says Gordon Conway, director of Agriculture for Impact.
Ousmane Badiane, director of Africa at the US-headquartered International Food Policy Research Institute, and a Montpellier Panel member, tells SciDev.Net that: “African smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable groups to the effects of climate change globally, and they are already feeling the effects.”
He explains that the Malabo Declaration seeks to make 30 percent of farming, pastoral and fisher households resilient to climate change by 2025. It also plans on scaling-up climate-smart agriculture practices that have been shown to work.
Badiane adds that many innovative agricultural practices and programmes are already taking place across Africa, but these can be small in scale and may remain largely unknown. “There is an urgent need for these to be identified and scaled up, with support from both the private and public sectors,” he says. “Governments need to build climate change adaptation and mitigation into their agricultural policies.”
The report highlights 15 success stories from countries such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia. These include technology and innovation, risk mitigation, and sustainable intensification of agriculture and financing.
Badiane tells SciDev.Net: “It is important that African governments have a voice in the international discussions and commitments on climate change. They also need better access to climate funds such as the Green Climate Funds that can help to implement climate-smart programmes.”
Shem O. Wandiga, acting director, Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation of Kenya’s University of Nairobi, says that the declaration acknowledges the threats posed by climate change but does not recognise the need to integrate resilience into the activities of governments. “No progress towards the goals of the declaration can be achieved without sound scientific knowledge,” he says. “Such knowledge cannot be borrowed. This is often ignored by African governments.”
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The climate change challenge cannot be isolated from the on-going need for economic development in Africa, and the aim should be to reduce CO2 emissions whilst increasing trade and economic opportunities for the growing population on the continent.
Jonathan Horn, Maersk Line Southern Africa Managing Director is shedding light on the environmental challenges that lie ahead, and aims to show that substantial reductions in CO2 are possible while still enabling trade and development across Africa.
Horn explains that in order to create a sustainable low carbon economy, an efficient shipping sector is critical.
“Maritime shipping is the most carbon-efficient method to transport goods – far more efficient than road or air transport. For example, transporting one ton of goods for one kilometre by air or truck emits 560 grams and 45 grams of CO2, respectively. If the same quantity of goods is transported by one of Maersk’s energy efficient Triple-E vessels as little as three grams of CO2 is emitted,” he says.
About 90% of global trade by volume travels by sea and trade is crucial in the pursuit of creating development opportunities. According to the World Bank, no country has significantly increased per capita income the last 50 years without greatly expanding trade.
Horn therefore highlights the need for a more sustainable and efficient trading environment in order to effectively reduce the environmental impacts of trade, still enabling growth.
“The choice of transportation method plays a significant role in the level of CO2 emitted during the transport process. We are committed to further accelerating growth on the African continent while at the same time raising the bar on carbon efficiency. Our commitment is long-term, as is our history in Africa,” adds Horn.
Since 2007, the Maersk Group’s shipping company, Maersk Line, has proven that shipping can decouple growth and fossil fuel consumption, already having reduced emissions per container moved by 42% by end 2015 from a 2007 baseline.
“Maersk Line has driven energy efficiency improvements across the company, pioneering initiatives ranging from network design and speed optimisation, to technical upgrades and the deployment of new and more efficient ships in its network, such as the Triple-E vessels.”
Despite CO2 emissions remaining relatively low in Africa, when compared to other more developed regions, severe consequences can be felt throughout the continent. According to the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, eight out of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. The continent is suffering from increased climate-related ‘shocks’, such as the extreme drought that has persisted across Southern Africa, exacerbated by an exceptionally strong El Niño weather pattern.
“Reducing our carbon footprint remains at the core of our commitment. The Maersk Group is pursuing energy efficiency across its entire portfolio and have set a target to improve CO2 efficiency across the group by 30% by 2020, compared to the 2010 baseline. By the end of 2015, Maersk Group had achieved a 23% improvement,” he says.
While Henry Ford never used the word “sustainability,” the founder of Ford Motor Company believed in its ethos.
Abhorring waste of any kind, he strived to attain self-sufficiency in manufacturing. He even pioneered experimenting with renewable materials such as soybeans — which the company uses as foam in all of its North American vehicles.
“Throughout the years, Ford has adapted to incorporate sustainability across its business globally,” said Kim Pittel, vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering at Ford, discussing a recent GreenBiz webinar sponsored by the American automaker.
This includes implementing processes that reduce carbon emissions, waste, water and energy use in facilities, incorporating recycled and renewable materials into its products and social responsibility in the supply chain.
The shift in corporate strategy is indicative of a much wider recalibration happening in the world of automotive manufacturing.
General Motors and Mercedes-Benz are both betting big on shared rides and shared cars, investing in or acquiring high profile startups in the space. Volkswagen, meanwhile, is still attempting to recover from its notorious emissions cheating scandal.
In response to evolving sustainbility challenges, Ford also recently decided change gears and redefine its focus, describing itself in marketing materials as an auto and mobility company.
“Ford is focused on using technology to find mobility solutions today to help make the world better for tomorrow,” said Pittel. “The company’s evolution is driving innovation in every part of its business as it focuses on how to best navigate global issues such as climate change, supply chain sustainability and human rights.”
A three-pronged approach to sustainability
Ford takes a three-pronged, integrated approach to sustainability, which spans social, environmental and economic components — an increasingly common corporate strategy as the disparate impacts of climate and environmental issues become more well established in the mainstream business world.
Dubbed “Going Further — The Right Way,” Ford’s sustainability strategy sets and works toward stretch targets to embrace opportunities that may arise from pressure to cut emissions or curb waste in the manufacturing process.
With vehicle manufacturing, for example, Ford has doubled down on ethical materials sourcing and sustainable materials development, along with zero-waste initiatives and closed-loop manufacturing. Likewise, the company recently announced a $4.5 billion investment in its electrification program, expected to result in 13 new electric vehicles to our lineup by 2020.
Auto sustainability beyond EVs
One result of Ford’s investment in corporate responsibility is Project Better World, a program that provides vehicles and services that meet the mobility needs of underserved communities. The initiative focuses on helping to bring access to medical care and supplies in rural Africa, as well as mapping remote areas and providing internet and connectivity in areas not currently covered.
“Project Better World is pilot program in South Africa and Nigeria, which unites multiple organizations to deliver goods and services to underserved communities using enhanced mobility and connectivity innovations,” said Pittel.
In South Africa, for example, specially equipped Ford Rangers will deliver health education, medicine and nutrition for 20,000 children and 10,000 adults.
Through its Nigerian partner, Riders for Health, donated funds and Ford Rangers will help train technicians to maintain vehicles to ensure medical professionals and supplies reach people in rural areas.
“Ensuring access to medical help is a key component of Ford’s vision for a sustainable future, moving beyond the environmental aspect of sustainability and fully incorporating social good as a pivotal value,” said Pittel.
Ford has installed a Ford OpenXC software analytics device in each Ford Ranger, which are referred to as flexible response vehicles, to collect location information, fuel economy, vehicle performance metrics and other important data that will be stored in Ford servers and shared with partners that leverage the vehicle’s services.
“We look forward to testing out new ways to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the vehicle and the services it provides through apps and algorithms currently in development,” said Pittel.
The key performance indicators for Project Better World differ for each pilot. Priorities for future project endeavors include monitoring and evaluation, bandwidth and connectivity, cold chains, reciprocal value and remote data collection.
By Andy Challinor
The most extreme El Niño weather current in history has officially been declared over, but has left some 100 million people facing severe food and water shortages in its wake. But we cannot rest easy as another, less headline-grabbing phenomenon, is already underway.
Gradual yet steady warming of the planet is posing an equally significant threat to our food supply. Our crop breeding programmes, which develop crops that will survive in high temperatures, are simply not keeping up.
In recent years, our ability to predict future climate scenarios has improved greatly. For example, we now know that mean temperatures in Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, and may reach as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. This is the good news: at least we know what is coming.
The bad news is that we have much less time than we might think to get our food systems prepared to adapt to these latest projections. In fact, research out this week shows that maize crops currently being bred will be out of date by the time they get into the field, in terms of their response to rising temperatures. 1.2 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America depend on maize as a staple food. Yet climate change is advancing quicker than we are able to breed and disseminate heat resistant varieties. As if breeding was not already complicated enough – needing to respond to complex cultural and market preferences – we now need to pay closer attention to future climate scenarios to ensure these improved seeds are fit for purpose.
As we face our eighth consecutive hottest month on record, we should be feeling the heat both literally and figuratively and accelerate the pace of our crop research accordingly.
A range of solutions are available to rectify this worrying situation. First, there are several opportunities for reducing the amount of time it takes to breed new crop varieties and get them into circulation – which currently stands at up to thirty years. Using marker aided-selection for example, that allows certain traits to be identified and used, as well as involving the farmers who will use the new seeds in a “participatory” breeding approach, have both shown promise for achieving this. New varieties could also be bred in warmer temperatures, so that they develop more heat stress tolerance along the way. This efficient solution is now being tested by teams in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia and shows much promise. Mitigating future climate change to within the agreed “safe limit” will also ensure that new crop varieties can survive. This will become particularly important in the second half of this century, when changes we make now in reducing emissions will begin to show their effects.
But none of this will be possible without significant funding. The Green Climate Fund was set up at the Cancun climate talks in 2010 to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate future climate change, yet it still has not supported agricultural research (instead focusing on clean energy, water and land restoration projects). This could be one so far untapped resource.
Of course, we cannot claim that breeding alone will solve the food shortages that record temperatures are causing; indeed some crops will simply not be suitable for cultivation in some areas of the world by as soon as 2050. Improved seeds can only contribute to food security and farmer incomes if other challenges such as access to finance and market access are also addressed in tandem.
With this in mind, existing heat and drought tolerant crops can have tremendous impact on rural livelihoods especially for smallholder farmers. For example, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project is now being used by two million farmers in 13 African countries, helping them grow enough food to feed their families and sell on the surplus – even at times when rains are erratic or scarce.
We cannot let the next phase of breeding efforts become futile. While this research only examines maize crops in certain regions of the world, it should raise alarm bells for many other global staple crops, which are also at risk of being outpaced by our changing climate. We urgently need to link climate scientists, crop modellers and breeders to identify which traits will be needed where over the next 30 years, and work collaboratively to ensure that they are successfully bred into the future crops on which we will rely.
The National Treasury yesterday released draft regulations that will allow companies to reduce their carbon tax liability by as much as 10 percent of their actual emissions.
The carbon offset scheme is part of measures South Africa is taking to reduce emissions since it voluntarily committed at the 2009 UN conference of parties on climate change in Copenhagen to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from projected “business-as-usual scenarios” by 34 percent in 2020 and 42 percent in 2025, subject to certain conditions.
The draft regulations, which set out the procedure for the use of carbon offsets by taxpayers to reduce their carbon tax liability, follow the publication of the carbon offsets paper in 2014 and the draft Carbon Tax Bill in November last year.
“Carbon offsets can be generated through investments outside of a taxable entity’s activities that results in quantifiable and verifiable GHG emission reductions,” said the Treasury. “The carbon offset projects should generate sustainable development co-benefits and employment opportunities in South Africa by encouraging investments in energy efficiency, rural development projects, and initiatives aimed at restoring landscapes, reducing land degradation and biodiversity protection.”
The Treasury said investments in transport, agriculture, forestry and waste sectors were likely to qualify for carbon offsets.
Climate Neutral Group, which provides carbon management services, yesterday said the draft regulations were long overdue.
The company’s country director in South Africa, Franz Rentel, said: “To ensure that a credible, diverse and liquid supply of carbon offset credits is available to the entities that will have tax liabilities as of January 2017, the ground rules and infrastructure needed to support an offset program must be finalised and articulated as soon as possible so that companies can maximise their carbon tax savings.
“We hope these draft regulations will encourage companies to start securing eligible carbon offsets, as demand will far outstrip supply in phase 1 of the tax (2017 to 2020). Furthermore, companies will only have until December 31, 2017, to utilise the carbon offsets from existing offset projects (which make up the bulk of the offset supply in South Africa).”
Rentel said that including carbon offsets as an additional relief mechanism under the proposed carbon tax would allow companies to access least cost mitigation options.
This would enable companies to save up to 20 percent on carbon tax a year.
“We also agree that only South African-based project credits be eligible for use within the scheme as this will hopefully boost the development of locally based projects and contribute significantly to the country’s socioeconomic challenges. That being said, it is important that there is clarity post-2020 in order for new projects to get off the ground successfully,” Rentel said.
“We also have concerns how the future South African carbon registry would function as well as the additional administrative burden of the scheme within the Department of Energy as well as others.”
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I would strongly propose that as a result, we need to use artificial intelligence for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector mapping. There is a need to identify the impact of climate change variation on functionality of water points.
More than 900 million people worldwide, are not receiving their drinking-water from improved water sources like ground water according to the UN’s Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking. The report highlights areas of stagnation and suggests the post-2015 challenges that need to be addressed. Specifically sighted is no- functionality, regarded as one of the key reasons for low access.
Most groundwater originates directly from excess rainfall infiltrating the land surface. Thus land use has a major influence on both groundwater quantity, quality and recharge rates. Different land-use practices leave distinctive signatures on the quantity, quality of groundwater recharge and, in some instances, result in low ground waters hence arid conditions, diffused groundwater pollution, irrespective of climatic conditions. Similarly, land-use practices influence groundwater recharge rates, especially under more arid conditions.
The ability to supply water directly from rainfall using rainwater harvesting, from springs and surface water (with or without piped distribution), or from groundwater using hand-dug wells and boreholes, depends fundamentally on the availability of rainfall, surface water or groundwater – in other words on water resources.
In arid and semi-arid areas of South Africa for instance (and indeed parts of Uganda), communities may only have a limited number of wells and boreholes where they can access groundwater. In dry periods, there are long queues and competition for access between different water users -including livestock.
In absence of technical bits that should be monitored such as (low yields, poor water quality, mechanical breakdown), causal factors (poor siting, poor construction, wrong materials, wrong borehole design, lack of supervision and many others) and the underlying conditions of lack of hydro geological understanding, weak procurement processes and lack of technical and financial capacity of communities, all compound threats to water supply and use. It is only through monitoring that well-informed management decisions and operating principles can be used to improve water security and ensure fair allocation of water.
There is need to strengthen sustainable monitoring approaches to better take account of ongoing threats though the use of ICT/ mobile phones, to ensure sustained access to water supply to vulnerable communities.
I would strongly propose that as a result, we need to use artificial intelligence for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector mapping. There is a need to identify the impact of climate change variation on functionality of water points.
Climate change to date stands as an obstacle to increased access to equitable water and sanitation and governments and scientists disregard a considered response only at the peril of the population, especially in Africa. To prove the concept the sector can do this through an ICT project to use mobile phones to update and repair broken down water points.
This will be the rigorous assessment of the causes of failure, and the outputs of the phone will significantly increase the capacity of availability of information to ensure investment in sustainable services that really achieves lasting water based land use success. Monitoring is essential because Water resources (rural water boreholes with hand pumps) and surface water suffer high failure rates. Understanding the causes of these failures is necessary to carry out more effective service provision. Differential water tables, Low yield and poor water quality are symptomatic of human activity and poor land use, poor siting, construction and materials selection. Underlying causes lie in poor practices of implementing agencies, and especially the lack of competent real-time information for various sustainability actions. Luckily, technology is here and must be embraced and utilised to the full.