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Are hotels finally doing their bit for the planet? I have some reservations

Hotels are slowly getting more eco-friendly, but travel journalist Dan F Stapleton says there’s still much more to do before the industry moves beyond towels-on-the-floor tokenism

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City bolstered his environmental credentials in December when he announced that he had convinced 16 major hotels, including the Grand Hyatt and the Waldorf Astoria, to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 per cent over the next 10 years. The plan, which forms part of New York’s broader carbon-reduction strategy, is the clearest signal yet that this low-lying coastal city is taking climate change seriously, and that its key players understand the importance of limiting global warming.

“De Blasio’s announcement signals a shift in the way that both the hospitality industry and those who travel view sustainability”

The symbolism of such a move cannot be overstated. Until recently, the only hotels that emphasised green living were so-called ‘eco lodges’ in remote – and usually tropical – climes. The idea of such places was to enable guests to commune with nature without damaging it, but there were few concrete promises from hoteliers about exactly how these resorts would operate sustainably, and the light planes and Jeeps required to reach the resorts often cancelled out any carbon savings.

De Blasio’s announcement signals a shift in the way that both the hospitality industry and those who travel view sustainability. Increasingly, travellers expect accommodation to be responsibly managed – whether it’s in a bustling urban location or on a faraway island. Hoteliers, meanwhile, have begun to recognise that going green doesn’t only please customers – it makes financial sense, simply through reduced utility bills.

Across the globe, hotels are moving towards a new, sustainable model. In the US, the new hospitality group 1 Hotels is pioneering the concept of eco-focused properties in dense urban areas. To date, three hotels have opened (two in New York and one in Miami) with meaningful policies like no paper or plastic in guestrooms, plant-based soap in laundry rooms, and organic linens on beds. Repurposed timber features prominently at each property, and guests can borrow bicycles and electric cars.

More broadly, the hospitality industry is responding to consumer demand for green policies by offering not to wash towels and bed linen every day – even at five-star properties, where such a move was once considered ‘cheap’. In America, most hotel companies now aim to achieve LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for new properties.

The stories coming out of the United States and elsewhere sound promising – but it’s too early to say that a hospitality revolution is underway. Announcing a planned 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions may be great PR, but it’s hardly a game-changer at opulent properties like the Waldorf Astoria. Gestures like re-using bed-sheets may make guests feel good, but they’re insignificant when measured against the energy used to heat and cool old, poorly designed hotels. It seems that many hotel groups are tinkering around the edges – acknowledging the importance of sustainability but limiting their action until compelled to do otherwise.

“Let’s be optimistic about the future of green hotel accommodation, without taking these moves towards sustainability for granted.”

There are exceptions to the rule, like the Belgian brand Martin’s Hotels, which now operates nine carbon-neutral properties. Even the old-fashioned eco-lodge concept is getting a shake up thanks to companies like Pacific Beachcomber, which recently opened an incredibly luxurious (and carbon neutral) tropical resort, The Brando, in French Polynesia. The suite of innovative programs at the resort includes industrial-strength air conditioning powered by cold water pumped from the ocean floor – the type of too-good-to-be-true concept that can only become reality if businesses commit themselves.

Let’s be optimistic about the future of green hotel accommodation, without taking these moves towards sustainability for granted. After all, in any market, meaningful change only occurs when consumers demand it.

Source: collectively


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Multifaceted Effort to Build Green Economy, Mitigate Effects of Climate Change

Though, the major factor attributed to climate change is the emission of toxic gas such as Carbon dioxide to the atmosphere mostly from industrial countries in the past hundred years, it is developing countries that are highly vulnerable to its effects. Countries all over the world have come up with adoptive and mitigation mechanisms based on their respective capacity to respond to the change. Most importantly, it is vital to building environmentally friendly green economy to withstand the effects of climate change in the long run.

Ethiopia has been trying to build a Climate-Resilient Green Economy to addressing both climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives. Various institutions were also established to follow up the proper implementation of the green economy strategy.

The government for more than a decade has devoted its time, finance and energy to establishing institutions and providing capacity building training for their staffs. In addition, significant amount of budget for conducting research on climate change and global warming were allocated to several pertinent institution. Among such institutions, the Ethiopian Environmental and Forest Research Institute (EEFRI) which is set to play pivotal role in sustaining the continued building efforts of the green economy for which the country has gained recognition internationally. The institute would in particular help to reduce the widespread deforestation and enhance the utilization of forest.

Recently, the institution held its annual meeting. Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry, State Minister Kebede Yimam on the occasion said global warming climate change has become a burning global issue as it endangered the very livelihood of human beings. In continents like Africa where economies are mainly dependent on agriculture, the extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change have put the success of the struggle against poverty into question, he said adding, to address this challenge, action plans based on relevant research should be made available for environmental protection, proper land management system and afforestation and EEFRI could play an immense role in this regard.

He further added that while there are several institutions which are concerned about issues of climate change, because of lack of coordination, their joint efforts to mitigate the problem has gone disarray. Hence, coordinating the effort for common action is essential, he added.

The EEFRI Director Dr Wobalem Tadese on his part said EEFRI is established to introduce and adopt new environmental and forest research technologies with the support of stakeholders. It also coordinates national environmental researches and their outcomes to ensuring future achievement.

Currently based on the mission given to it in the second Growth and Transformation Plan, the institution has prepared its own plan and equipped itself with the necessary manpower and laboratory apparatus for the successful implementation of the plan.

He further said based on the 40 years accumulated research documents on forests, the institution has prepared research strategy which will be implemented in the next 10 years. Besides, research will also be conducted to enhance the contribution of the forest sub-sector to the GDP and to deter water and soil pollution.

According to one paper presented at the meeting, Ethiopia spends considerable amount of hard currency to importing forest products. Hence, supporting the sector through scientific research is vital to substitute the import and save the hard currency.

On the other hand, the issue of climate change should also take both dry and liquid waste management into consideration. Because, if not properly managed, the waste generated from individual households, hospitals, garages, open latrine and industries would cause pollution and endanger the various ecosystems. Thus the cumulative effect further aggravate climate change and global warming.

Special adviser to the EEFRI, Professor Fasil Kebede who was also a presenter of a paper emphasized that environmental pollution occurs when the physical, chemical and biological character of land, water and air changes because of pollution.

Study shows that in Addis Ababa and its vicinity, there are about 2500 medium and small industries and 90 percent of them have no liquid waste treatment plant. Annually, they release about 5 million cubic meter of polluted water which is released to rivers around Akaki. As a result, in downstream areas near Akaki, farms and their cattle who utilize the water from the main Akaki river have been affected and exposed to health risks. As to Fasil, though the Addis Ababa city administration environmental protection proclamation clearly stipulate that polluters should be accountable to their actions, there is still gap in enforcing the law.

Regarding dry waste management, Fasil noted that, each day about 250 tones of waste is released from households, institutions, markets and factories. However, only 65 percent of the waste is properly dumped while 20 percent is utilized for compost and recycled.

Fasil further said that 60 percent of Addis Ababa’s waste is bio-waste and it can easily be converted to fertilizer but though a lot remain to be done in this regard. In addition, the waste generated from aggro-industries can be converted to bio-gas and bio-fertilizers. In general, if the necessary technology, finance and human resources are made available, waste can be converted into something useful.

Source: allafrica


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What is global warming?

UN climate talks in Paris tasked with beating back the threat of global warming are scheduled to conclude on Friday.

This is what brought them together in the first place: The so-called “greenhouse effect” is a natural phenomenon that has made Earth warm enough for humans to survive on it comfortably.

An invisible blanket of nitrogen, oxygen and small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases envelops our planet, allowing it to retain the Sun’s heat.

However, human activities such as burning coal and oil inject additional CO2 into the atmosphere, which acts as an extra blanket to trap more — in fact too much — solar radiation.    Humanity’s annual output of greenhouse gases is higher than ever, totalling the equivalent of just under 53 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2014, according to the UN.

And the rate of increase is accelerating. It jumped 2.2% per year during the 2000s, compared to 1.3% per year from 1970-2000.

Energy production is the single biggest source of greenhouse gases at 35% of the total. Agriculture and deforestation come in second at 24%. Heavy industry is next at 21%, followed by transportation with 14%. Buildings contribute 6% of total emissions.    The average concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was 430 particles per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2011 — a level not seen on Earth for more than 800,000 years.

To stand a two-in-three chance at limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels — the United Nations target — the level must not exceed 450 ppm of CO2e by century’s end.

Earth’s average temperature has already climbed almost 1C from 1880 to 2015 — halfway to the 2C target. But the increase has not been evenly distributed, with higher temperatures detected over land than the ocean, and increases have been particularly intense at the north and south poles.  The last three decades have been the hottest recorded on the planet since 1850. The surface temperature of oceans climbed 0.11C per decade between 1971 and 2010.

The UN’s climate science body has predicted that without reducing emissions, global temperatures would likely rise 3.7-4.8C by 2100.

To stay under the 2C ceiling, humanity must not emit more than one trillion tonnes of CO2 in total, on top of the 1.9 trillion tonnes already emitted.

And greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 40-70% over 2010 levels by 2050, and be eliminated entirely by century’s end.

Cutting emissions requires investments of hundreds of billions of dollars per year between now and 2030.

Source: sowetanlive


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The Price of Climate-Change Related Disasters on Agriculture is Astronomical

While the world’s leaders meet near Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to hash out strategies to limit global warming, they have an added incentive: A new study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) finds that the average number of global natural disasters, including those related to climate change, have doubled since the 1980s. Additionally, the report determined that in a single decade (2003 to 2013), the economic damage from these events came at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion—with $80 billion in losses due to decreased crop and livestock production in the developing world.

The 53-page report, titled “The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security,” focuses on climate-related disasters in developing countries and finds that the agriculture sector—and thus food security—suffers the most. In general, crop, livestock, fisheries, and forestry bear 25 percent of the negative impacts from such disasters as droughts, floods, and tropical storms. In the case of droughts, more than 80 percent of damage and losses are borne by crop and livestock producers.

According to Stephan Baas, the FAO’s natural resources officer, it’s likely the global figures are higher than what was presented in this study since it solely focused on medium to large-scale disasters in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Central America, and the Caribbean.

“The overall impacts are likely to be much higher, especially when including impacts of small-scale events as well,” Baas tells Modern Farmer in an email.

The FAO report is based on a review of 78 post-disaster needs-assessments conducted in developing countries as well as a statistical analysis of production losses, changes in trade flow, and agricultural sector growth connected with 140 medium- to large-scale disasters (those affecting at least 250,000 people). Among those included are the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, which caused $860 million in agricultural losses; a series of droughts in Kenya from 2008 to 2011, with a loss of $10.5 billion; and flooding in Pakistan in 2010, with associated losses of $5.3 billion.

This study assesses the impact of medium to large scale natural hazards and disasters on the agriculture sector and sebsectors.
This study assesses the impact of medium to large scale natural hazards and disasters on the agriculture sector and sebsectors.

Baas says the report finds that the economic damage from climate-related disasters goes beyond losses of crops and farming equipment; it also includes the loss of facilities used for storage and processing, transportation, and even the government agencies that oversee agriculture. He cites the 2010 floods in Pakistan, which caused about $5 billion in damage, as an example. In that case, besides the 2.4 million hectares of unharvested crops (mostly cotton, rice, sugarcane, and vegetables) that were lost due to flooding, there were also negative impacts on cotton ginning, rice processing, and flour and sugar milling, among others.

“The floods caused a decline in both agriculture growth and overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Livelihoods, food security, and nutrition were also strongly impacted: More than two-third of Pakistani farmers lost 50 percent of their expected income, and almost one-third of the population had poor consumption intake,” says Baas.

A link is very likely between these disasters and climate change, according to Baas. The data indicates a correlation between climate change and the increase in climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and storms. But, at this point, the researchers still can’t say that climate is the only driver of enhanced risk; nor what additional percentage of an impact climate change plays in the severity and frequency of natural hazards. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body for the assessment of climate change formed by the UN in 1988, is still working on that answer.

What we do know for certain is that these disasters have a direct impact on agricultural livelihoods, food security, and nutrition. Disasters can cause either unemployment or a decline in wages and income for farm laborers and lower the availability of food in local markets leading to inflation of food prices.

“Such pressures reduce the purchasing capacity of households, restrict access to food, deplete savings, force the sale of vital productive assets, increase indebtedness, and erode livelihoods,” Baas says. “Such negative cascading effects often lead to an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly among the most vulnerable households.”

There are also negative cascading effects along the value chain that can lead to additional costs for governments, including increased imports of food and agricultural commodities; reduced exports and revenues; and a reduction in manufacturing and industrial output in sectors that depend on agriculture and raw materials, such as food processing and textile industries.

This study assesses the impact of medium to large scale natural hazards and disasters on the agriculture sector and sebsectors.
This study assesses the impact of medium to large scale natural hazards and disasters on the agriculture sector and sebsectors.

The report was strategically released to coincide with the climate-change conference in Paris, which runs until December 11. The FAO believes that agriculture, food security, and nutrition are still not yet prominent enough in the climate-change talks, according to Baas.

Worldwide, the agriculture sector, while being hit the hardest by natural disasters, receives only a small portion of the total post-disaster humanitarian aid that finds its way to developing countries. Between 2003 and 2013, about $121 billion was spent on humanitarian assistance for all types of disasters and crises, with just 3.4 percent going to the agriculture sector, averaging about $374 million annually. Additionally, in certain parts of the world, notably Africa, governments aren’t investing enough in agriculture in general, according to the report.

“The situation simply reflects the priority setting in funding over the past two decades during which funding to agriculture went down significantly. This has to be reversed,” Baas says. “Currently 2.5 billion people worldwide depend on agriculture as the main source of their livelihoods. The main intention of the study was exactly to raise awareness is of what is at stake if we do not proactively put approaches and mechanisms in place to mitigate the impact of disasters on agriculture.”

While the FAO report gives us a good look at the issue of climate-related natural disasters 0n agriculture, there still needs to be more reporting in order to fully understand the problem. One big issue: There’s currently no standardized international system in place to monitor and report on how farming is affected by natural disasters, making it harder to assess associated needs.

“Systematic reporting is crucial to support the monitoring of progress towards the achievement of global and national goals and targets on disaster risk reduction and resilience,” Baas says. “In order to meet these challenges and as part of the Organization’s commitment to resilience, FAO is ready to support efforts to further improve monitoring and reporting of disaster impact on the agriculture sector.”

Here’s Dominique Burgeon, director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, giving some of the report’s highlights:
Source: modernfarmer


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Global climate deal is vital

Paris – France is counting on Brazil to convince world leaders to strike a deal to limit annual temperature rise at an upcoming Paris summit, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.

With one week to go to a crucial global warming summit, 170 countries have submitted pledges for greenhouse gas (GHG) curbs meant to underpin a 195-nation climate rescue pact.

Those countries account for about 93 percent of the world population and are responsible for roughly the same proportion of emissions blamed for driving dangerous levels of climate change.

The voluntary pledges, dubbed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, are the chosen means for staying under the UN-agreed global warming ceiling of two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Fabius met Sunday in Brasilia with President Dilma Rousseff, his counterpart Mauro Vieira and Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira on a three-day world tour.

Earlier, he stopped in India, the fourth largest emitter of GHGs, and in G77 leader South Africa. The emerging nations are crucial to getting a deal done.

“Brazil has made very ambitious and exemplary commitments, and that lends to its credibility as a historic partner in the negotiations on climate [change] since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,” Fabius said.

“I am really counting on Brazil’s drive to succeed in this area – and on its strong reputation [on climate change] – to help convince others. That was really the main reason for my visit.”

Brazil has pledged to reduce GHG emissions by 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to its 2005 levels.

Other large developing countries in many cases so far have only pledged to keep GHG emissions from increasing.

Brazil also has committed to eliminating illegal logging in the Amazon basin region – one of the world’s critical huge green areas.

Some non governmental groups say the pledge is not realistic due to lax rules and enforcement.

With the summit fast approaching from November 30-December 11, Fabius said “it must be a success.”

“There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B,” Fabius stressed.

With time was running out to put a dent in damage done, “Paris must be a turning point,” he stressed.

Source: iol


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The Guardian view on Paris, terror and climate change: shaping the future

While Europe is on high alert against another murderous terrorist attack, it will be hard for Paris to look beyond the next 24 hours. But soon delegates start arriving in the French capital for preliminary meetings ahead of COP21, the United Nations climate change summit which will be launched on 30 November with all the grandeur attendant on a gathering of global leaders. There is a certain symmetry to the two events that goes beyond the nightmare task facing France’s overstretched security forces. As the UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond pointed out in an important speech in the US only days before the Paris attacks last Friday: “Unchecked climate change … could have catastrophic consequences – a rise in global temperatures … leading in turn to rising sea levels and huge movements of people fuelling conflict and instability.

”There are reasons to be optimistic about a useful outcome from these negotiations, not least the determination of President Barack Obama’s team to deliver a deal with some kind of legal force. But any deal will mark the start rather than the end of the process.

The world has learned from previous failures. The innovation of asking every country for its own intended nationally determined contributions in advance of COP21 is that they reduce the wriggle room, at least for the time being. Wednesday’s big speech from the UK energy secretary Amber Rudd, setting a cut-off date of 2025 for coal-fired power stations, will underline that sense of commitment and should help to build some momentum ahead of the talks, even though it is only a small advance on the policies she inherited. It is also a necessary reaffirmation of the Conservatives’ pledge to green the electricity supply which had begun to seem questionable after its widely criticised decision to end subsidies to wind and solar power unexpectedly early.

Ms Rudd said she was resetting UK energy policy and if she didn’t quite do that, she did make a more or less coherent pattern from the fragments that have emerged since the election in May. It is a plan. Yet with its contradictions and conditional undertakings, it did not quite add up to a clear path through the so-called energy trilemma: the balance to be struck between security, sustainability and affordability. Take the commitment to phase out coal over the next 10 years: it came with the caveat that it would not happen unless there was a clear and reliable alternative. Given the continuing uncertainty over new nuclear (which, in the Rudd plan, is what stands between decarbonisation of electricity supply and the lights going off), that means new gas-fired power stations – less dirty than coal, but still a finite fossil fuel. The plan will also entail exploiting shale gas, which is so far entirely untested in the UK and already politically neuralgic. And if gas is to be the core of energy supply beyond 2030, when electricity is supposed to become carbon free, then serious money needs to go into developing carbon capture and storage. CCS merited just one mention in Ms Rudd’s speech.

As for the decision to phase out subsidies for renewables, it was defended as part of a necessary move towards making green energy competitive with other fuels, even though that is something nuclear power will not be for the foreseeable future. However, there was a little good news for renewables: there will be subsidy for new offshore wind, when it can compete with the cost of new nuclear. The bad news is that although off-shore generation costs have fallen by a fifth in two years, there is still a distance to travel.

Decarbonising power supply is proving hard enough. But it poses a lesser challenge than weaning the nation off its gas-fired heating, and luring it out of its diesel- and petrol-powered cars. That puts the greatest burden of reducing carbon emissions on electricity generation. The cheapest way to get there, the way that would make most difference to consumers and shrink their energy bills by the greatest amount, is to increase energy efficiency. Ms Rudd seems to have left that part of her plan in her pending tray.

Britain does have a positive message to deliver in Paris, and that can only be good news. But the world has not yet come up with a way of holding global warming below the critical 2C. The serious negotiation in Paris will be about monitoring and enforcing compliance and setting a formula to ratchet up commitments into the future. For the UK, the Rudd plan, heavy on gas and light on efficiency, will make the next step in carbon emission cuts harder than it needs to be.

Source: theguardian


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More warming will bring a more polluted future

Global warming will increase airborne aerosols and cause more atmospheric pollution, scientists say.

he future is slightly obscured. The outlook is less than clear. For once, such phrases are not metaphorical.

A world of global warming could mean a growing haze of solid and liquid aerosols – tiny specks of salt, fine dust, sulphates, black carbon and other particles in the atmosphere, according to new research.

Robert Allen, an earth scientist at the University of California, Riverside and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that as the planet warms because of greater concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, driven by ever greater human burning of fossil fuels, so too the air could become more murky.

Aerosols happen naturally and because of human activity. They are exquisitely small blobs of liquid or solid afloat in the atmosphere, the product of dust storms, plant pollen, wildfires, kitchen fires, smoke from factory chimneys and vehicle exhausts, volatile discharges from forests and so on. They may make humans cough or choke, and they exact a long-term toll on human health, but they also affect the climate.

Increase inevitable

These aerosols both scatter sunlight and absorb it, and climate scientists who try to model the future must also calculate the impact of aerosols on global warming: will these reflect or screen out solar radiation to slow down the process, or accelerate it?

Dr Allen and his colleagues turned the question around: what will increasing average levels of planetary temperature do for aerosols? The latest and most up-to-date climate computer simulations delivered the answer. Warmer means more haze.

“Our work on the models shows that nearly all aerosol species will increase under greenhouse gas-induced climate change,” Dr Allen said. “This includes natural aerosols like dust and sea salt, and also anthropogenic aerosols like sulphate, black carbon and primary organic matter. Stricter reductions in natural emissions will be necessary for attaining a desired level of air quality throughout the 21st century.”

Consistent result

Research like this poses a series of complex questions: what will global warming and climate change do for air circulation, and therefore winds? Will there be more clouds, and if so, more rainfall? And will that reduce air pollution? Or will a warmer world stir up the waves, and set the winds swirling ever more powerfully through the desert soils, and blow the soot of the cities over the forests and farmland?

Although the scientists used a range of models and different climate predictions to test a series of hypothetical futures, the outcome was consistent. The research showed that greenhouse gas warming means overall more rain and snow, which means more aerosols are rinsed out of the air. But that is on average. Some places will become ever more parched, and the rains, when they come, will be less frequent.

“These latter two changes,” says Dr Allen, “which would be expected to increase the burden of atmospheric aerosols, outweigh the former change. The result is more aerosols in the atmosphere.”

Source: eco-business


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The $90 trillion question

(CNN)-Infrastructure may not be a word that sets hearts racing, but it’s vitally important for the future of our planet.

How important is it? Try $90 trillion. That’s the amount of money the world is expected to invest in infrastructure in cities, land use and energy over the next 15 years. As we continue to see shift of the economic center of gravity from developed to developing countries, rapid urbanization, changes in transportation and energy use, we need to make sure we’re investing that money wisely.

We must set course to a low-carbon future if we are to avoid the immense risks of climate change. Due to the long life of most infrastructure, the choices we make today will lock in emissions for decades to come.

On the one hand, we could keep building infrastructure that leads to more congested and polluted cities, low productivity and unsustainable agriculture, and dirty and inefficient fossil fuels. On the other, we could invest in more compact and connected cities, energy-efficient buildings, climate-resilient agriculture and cleaner forms of energy.

The low-carbon option is clearly a better choice. If we invest in more sustainable and climate-smart infrastructure, we could see very attractive returns. Because low-carbon structures generally cost less to operate, the additional upfront investments could potentially be offset by longer-term operational savings, including from reduced fossil-fuel use. And it would help us avoid the 3.7 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution each year, the vast majority of which take place in low- and middle-income countries.

All countries will play a role in this economic transition, although their starting point and methods of change will depend on national circumstances. That being said, there are important steps that we should take today to avoid lock-in to unsustainable development patterns.

A strong, clear and credible policy environment will be crucial. Central to this will be extending and strengthening carbon prices around the world, including reforms to fossil-fuel subsidies, which are essentially negative carbon and pollution prices.

Around 40 countries and more than 20 states and cities are already applying carbon pricing either directly or through emissions trading schemes. China has just announced that it will launch a national carbon market in 2017. The growing evidence from countries around the world shows that carbon pricing is effective at reducing emissions without harming the economy.

Globally, subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuels represent around $600 billion annually. Government support to fossil-fuel consumption and production in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and key emerging economies remains high, at $160 billion to $200 billion annually.

When also accounting for the wider health and environmental impacts of the fuels, as the International Monetary Fund has highlighted, that cost is much higher. Phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies would also free up government spending, which could be used to boost welfare and help protect the poor.

Financing the investments for the economic transition will take a mix of public and private funds. Public finance has a crucial role in leveraging private capital and directing it toward the right assets. South Africa’s renewable energy program, for example, has successfully mobilized $14 billion in domestic private finance for sustainable infrastructure.

Development banks have a particular role to play in providing finance and attracting private capital to developing countries. They can help reduce policy risks, take a longer-term view than many other investors and muster a range of instruments, such as guarantees and bonds, to support climate-smart and climate-resilient infrastructure financing. And they are trusted conveners of partnerships.

Several development banks are already taking steps to shift to more sustainable infrastructure financing. For example, the World Bank Group, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are limiting new financing for coal power plants. New infrastructure banks such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank have both opportunity and intention to establish investment policies that support sustainable infrastructure.

However, efforts to date are far from comprehensive, and in many institutions infrastructure financing and climate policies continue to exist in separate units. The G20 Global Infrastructure Initiative, for instance, needs to strengthen the links between infrastructure investment and climate change. In particular, this is because the G20 countries that support the initiative are taking on important commitments to reduce emissions ahead of the U.N. conference on climate change in Paris, which will inevitably require a significant shift in the infrastructure that is built. Now is the time to make policies more coherent, to ensure effective investments and minimize costs.

All countries, but those in the G20 in particular, should first ensure that climate risk and resilience are integrated into national infrastructure policies, plans and projects. Increasing the resilience of existing and new infrastructure will be needed in developing countries, which are hit earliest and hardest by climate impacts. Second, these plans and projects should be consistent with the climate pledges that are being made this year and the long-term goal of holding average global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

Above all, mainstreaming climate considerations into infrastructure decisions will ensure that we’re spending our $90 trillion wisely. That will set us on a course to grasp the special, time-limited opportunity we now have to overcome poverty and foster sustainable growth while securing the climate for future generations. That thought certainly sets our hearts aflutter.

Source: edition.cnn


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South African region faces rising food insecurity concerns

Rising food insecurity in Southern Africa is a concern said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Monday.

The organisation said the Southern Africa region is increasingly experiencing food insecurity “as a result of poor harvests” across the region.

The Southern African Development Community reported in their 2015 Vulnerability Assessments that “there will be an estimated 27,4 million food-insecure people in the region during the next six months”.

This is a frightening estimate to consider, and if nothing is done about it, millions would suffer FAO spokesperson David Orr said.

These areas also have to contend with global warming, changing weather patterns, and the El Niño weather phenomenon, which Orr said “could significantly impact Southern Africa following a poor agricultural season in 2014 – 2015”.

Orr said they are constantly monitoring weather patterns as the “intensity of the El Niño is increasing towards a peak expected in late 2015, and may become one of the strongest such events on record”. This means that the region faces another “poor rainfall season and harvest”.

In addition, food insecure countries in the region have to cope with “high levels of chronic malnutrition in children and of HIV prevalence in adults”.

“The poor harvest experienced by farmers across the region will negatively impact the capacity of vulnerable farmers to purchase seeds, fertilizer and other necessities for the current planting season,” said Orr.

Earlier this year, Botswana and Namibia endured an extensive drought season.

Orr cited Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar as being three of the countries in the region most at risk for food insecurity. These three countries, the FAO noted, “all suffered severe crop failure due to extended dry spells”.

Malawi, said Orr, was experiencing its worst food insecurity crisis in a decade, with 2,8 million people facing food insecurity.

Zimbabwe’s harvest season was cut by half, and the impact of this harvest would be seen in the coming months, with 1,5 million people facing food insecurity.

Orr said Lesotho and the southern parts of Angola and Mozambique were facing growing food insecurity concerns, and while Botswana and Namibia faced drought conditions earlier this year, they weren’t considered to be in the most vulnerable group.

Food insecurity, together with rising food prices, brings with it uncertainty about the future.

Orr said, “Food insecurity means that people struggle to buy or produce enough nutritious food to lead a healthy life”.

Orr said that FAO, together with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), have joined forces to expand their operations in these regions.

He said the WFP planned to provide assistance to 2,4 million food-insecure people “during the height of the lean season, the period prior to the next harvest when domestic food stocks become depleted”.

He said, “lean season activities will combine food assistance with cash transfers in areas where market conditions allow. So far this year, WFP has already provided food assistance to one million people who have been affected by floods”.

Orr said they are working with governments to combat rising food prices and implement crisis management plans.

Orr added that in Malawi’s case, the country needs about US $44 million to avert the impending crisis.

The response plan, he said, would include “provision of inputs, with an emphasis on drought-tolerant crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum and millet and on supplementary irrigation in order to cope with potential prolonged dry spells”.

He said that in Zimbabwe, the “FAO is working with the government to support resilience building approaches among vulnerable groups”. This support, he said, included 34 irrigation schemes in drought prone districts which were being rehabilitated.

“As many as 127,000 smallholder farmers are receiving support to adopt climate smart technologies and increase their access to rural finance,” he said.

The adoption of climate smart technologies could be one way in which sustainable production and increased resilience among communities could be used to combat food insecurity.

One such way in which communities could help solve the problem is through cash and food for work projects. Orr said these projects see “rural communities work on the refurbishment or construction of schemes such as water management systems, tree planting and terracing to prevent soil erosion”.

In addition, “FAO is providing support to 40,000 smallholder households to engage in commercial livestock production,” he said.

This support extended to drafting a drought mitigation programme that required US $32 million, responding to foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks which required 5,4 million vaccine doses, and providing stock feeds and seeds to farmers.

Orr said that they were “working with the government and partners to assist some 400,000 of the most vulnerable people, scaling up to reach 850,000 people at the height of the lean season”. He said assistance would be provided through food and cash transfers.

Funding, Orr said, is critical to address food insecurity in the region, and provide assistance to all in need. – ANA

Source: jacarandafm


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Water a finite resource, use it with care

CLEAN drinking water and clean air available for breathing are some of the most precious natural resources we take for granted.

If the observed behaviour of waste and neglect is anything to go by, it seems like it never occurs to some people that clean drinking water may only continue to be available for a limited time.

This is despite many calls for a change in behaviour and for peple to take an active part in protecting our country’s water resources.

The natural resources of our planet are under threat.

There have been warning signs for a number of years.

It is unfortunate that the continuous calls for the protection of water and other natural resources have not elicited a positive response to curb global warming, protecting the environment and protecting the finite resources of our planet.

To many people it seems like water will always be there, that the air we breathe will never run short; for many it is not a priority to modify their behaviour and not to harm the atmosphere.

We know that many poor people from different parts of the world have been alienated from their global human responsibility of protecting the environment, the planet and all natural resources of Mother Earth by the actions of a few rich people.

Many rich economies of today were the greatest polluters of the atmosphere during years of industrialisation.

They polluted the environment and forced many poor people to do things that were harmful to the environment, such as chopping down trees for fire and cooking, in order for them to survive.

Governments across the globe have not prioritised environmental education.

This has led to ignorance among many people of the world, rich and poor, about the need to protect and preserve the finite natural resources.

The harm that we have caused to the environment has led, among other things, to the melting of icebergs, which in turn has led to a rise in sea levels, excessive heat waves, heavy and disastrous rainfalls, unpredictable weather patterns and seasons that no longer conform to known patterns.

We have experienced overly long summers and winters with very little in between of spring and autumn. These are some of the negative effects of climate change that are affecting our lives.

We have been experiencing extremes in weather conditions, which have manifested in El Niño and and its flipside, La Niña.

These are the ugly facts that require urgent and drastic changes in our relationship with Mother Nature and the other inhabitants of our planet.

I am one of the marginal voices who have warned that the wars of the 21st century would be over water and other natural resources, if no drastic measure is taken to protect these and share them equally among the people and countries of the world.

The Free State Provincial Government has declared the province a drought disaster area through a proclamation by Premier Ace Magashule.

This comes after observations of unusual rainfall trends by scientists. The policy action of government has also been informed by recommendations from experts and think-tank panels who have evaluated the data collected by scientists.

We know that since 1994, the government of South Africa has been working hard to give the the people of our country access to decent potable water for household, agricultural and industrial use and for sanitation purposes.

We also know that providing this universal access has been very costly to the government, because more people than had been expected have been gaining access to this resource, both in the formal dwellings and in marginalised parts of our country, such as informal settlements.

In the Free State, we know that mountainous areas such as Qwaqwa, Makholokoeng and Diyatalawa have been hard to reach, as government has been installing pipelines that extract water from sources situated many kilometres away.

We know that Botshabelo, as one of the biggest townships in South Africa, has not had access to water sources and decent sanitation since the days of apartheid.

The principle of enabling universal access to decent water services and sanitation has placed a huge burden on the state to reach all people in all places at once.

As a result, we have experienced the non-waterborne sanitation methods that were implemented in places like Botshabelo, e.g. “the VIP” toilet.

Whilst the intentions of the state are to eventually provide waterborne sanitation to all people in the country, the challenge of global climate change has made it imperative to think differently about this scarce resource.

Water is scarce. Water is not available in the quantities that are able to meet all the human demands.

In other parts of the world, people have started to recycle water and they have restrictions regarding access and use of water.

We know that in ther countries people who waste water pay heavy penalties.

In our country, we know that the province of KwaZulu-Natal is already experiencing water scarcity and has been implementing water restrictions.

Our own Mangaung Metro has posters all over the City warning us about the need to use water sparingly and alerting us to the water restrictions.

We need to learn new ways of preser-ving water such as:

) Use a glass of water when brushing your teeth, rather than letting the tap run while you brush.

) Do not take your time in the shower. Smear soap all over your body and then open the shower only to rinse.

) Refrain from filling the bathtub to capacity every time you wash.

) Refrain from neglecting communal taps by letting them run unattended

) Report water leaks to the local municipality.

The Mangaung Metro has a dedicated hotline and the idea is to expand this into a provincial hotline.

) Refrain from recklessly using fresh water to wash cars, fill up swimming pools and irrigate gardens.

) Find alternative means of sanitation other than water for townships and suburbs.

Make every minute a water-saving minute.

Integrity is what you have when no one is watching you.

) Mvambi is the Free State Provincial government spokesperson

Source: news24


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