In the past decade, renewable energy growth has broken records year after year, and 2015 was a remarkable one for developing countries.
For the first time in history, according to the United Nations Environment Program, total investment in renewables exceeded that in developed economies, driven in part by national policies and the improving cost-competitiveness of renewable technologies. Investors, multinational energy players and renewable developers actively are pursuing new business opportunities in these electricity-thirsty markets.
Even so, the increase in renewable capacity, most often integrated into national and local grids, is very unlikely to electrify disconnected areas. Grid connection can carry high costs for building infrastructure and low investment attractiveness for private-sector utility players, and state budgets for electrification often are limited.
According to the International Energy Agency, 95 percent of the 1.2 billion people who lack access to energy today live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia and, due to very limited conventional grid connections in remote areas, they are predominantly in rural communities (around 80 percent).
But conventional grid connection is not the only option available. Projections from theInternational Energy Agency (PDF) show that of the 315 million people in rural areas who are expected to gain access to electricity by 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa, around 65 percent will be connected through unconventional means, such as off-grid and mini-grid systems. And as we wrote in a previous blog, the unconventional grid market is booming: The rollout of well-designed systems can provide electricity to a large number of people, as demonstrated in successful models in many developing countries.
In the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 7 — ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all” — it’s time to close the energy-access gap. Business is well positioned for leadership in this area through partnerships, community investment and stakeholder engagement.
Different off-grid solutions for different needs
To drive access to energy, companies, governments and civil society partners first need to define what off- or mini-grid solutions are available and most appropriate to address the needs of remote communities. Then they can move to how to use investments, partnerships and more to make access possible.
The quickest win is household-level solutions such as LED-based solar lanterns. These lanterns provide basic light for individual households and can be a cheaper and cleaner substitute for kerosene lanterns, which require families to buy fuel and can cause indoor pollution. Solar lanterns can help families save money, provide illumination at night for students to do their homework, and improve health and air quality, among other benefits.
However, solar lanterns clearly cannot respond to all the energy-related needs of families and communities. Standalone, off-grid applications, such as solar photovoltaic technologies backed up by battery-storage systems, can provide reliable supply to houses or facilities disconnected from the main grid. At the household level, this means that families will be able to power additional appliances, increasing access to communication and information, such as television, mobile phones and the internet.
Standalone, off-grid technologies also can power facilities offering essential services, such as healthcare. For instance, 1 billion people (PDF) in the world are served by health centers that completely lack electricity. Healthcare facilities need round-the-clock, reliable electricity to power lights, sterilization equipment and refrigerators for perishable medicines and vaccines.
The third option is mini-grids, or community-based network systems with small-scale, locally connected electricity production facilities, which can serve the village or community level. Mini-grids connect and power community services and buildings, households and local businesses.
According to REN21 (PDF), mini-grids are an attractive option: They can be quickly deployed, encourage private-sector growth and are efficient and flexible. When powered locally by renewable sources, they also can guarantee energy security: In disconnected rural areas, local power generation usually relies on diesel fuel, often imported over long distances and carrying high costs for the communities and the environment. Yet, as shown by a recent study, these costs can be reduced by hybridizing mini-grids with solar photovoltaic or other renewable power sources.
Access to energy partnerships for corporate social investment strategies
Once they have identified which solutions are best for communities, companies with operations in or near rural communities that lack access to grid connection should consider including programs on access to energy in their social investment strategies. In particular, extractives, energy players, renewable developers and multinational utilities that operate in such markets could invest in or finance systems such as standalone or mini-grid installations.
Local stakeholder engagement is an essential element to identify the right scale and solution for community energy needs. In particular, renewables developers and utilities have the opportunity to provide tangible demonstrations of the local benefits that they can bring — and at the same time build good neighborly relations.
Access-to-energy programs can be designed and implemented through a range of models, from direct investments and project implementation, to co-ownership with local partners and incubation support. By building partnerships among donors or for-profit investors that have funding, community-based organizations or nonprofits that have experience or networks to reach and engage communities and organizations or businesses with technical expertise, companies can ensure scalable, successful solutions to help close the energy gap.
Opportunities also exist, particularly for utilities and energy players that have in-house expertise, to provide capacity-building trainings on how to run and maintain appliances once they have been installed. This would allow effective knowledge transfer and also create job opportunities and enhance local skills.
A multitude of stakeholders across different geographies, sectors and industries are already contributing to Goal 7 and are pioneering innovative models built or financed in partnership with companies such as Total, Engie, Enel, EDP and other funders such as national development banks. Model partnerships include those with Barefoot College (active in India and in 76 other countries with its solar programs), Powerhive in Kenya, Devergy in Tanzania and Egg Energy in East Africa. These initiatives, however, need more business leadership to reach scalable impacts.
The rallying cry of Goal 7 is mobilizing efforts to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. It is now time for companies to fully connect to this movement.
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Experts in tourism sector from Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional bloc that includes governments from the Horn of Africa, Nile Valley and the Great Lakes, are meeting in Kigali to discuss ways to market regional tourism products in Eastern Africa.
The three-day meeting will focus on marketing regional tourism products in Eastern Africa and addressing the obstacles to regional tourism development.
At the meeting, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, sub-regional office for eastern Africa (UNECA, SRO-EA) and tourism bodies in the region, participants stressed the need to work together to promote tourism in the region.
“It is imperative that we work together to improve every aspect of the experience we offer to our visitors, from their arrival, their movement and experiences within and across our countries but, most importantly, customer care and quality service,” said Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer at Rwanda Development Board.
It was also observed that regional initiatives like East Africa Tourist visa, use of ID cards as well as open skies and joint marketing through various platforms such as international fairs, would boost intra-regional tourism in Africa.
“These initiatives will enhance regional tourism development and trade opportunities among others. In my view, they need to be upgraded,” Kariza said.
“Tourism is an important contributor to Africa’s economy. Thus, Africa needs to maximise tourism development through regional cooperation.
“Product diversification is also important if we are to realise our growth targets. We should diversify tourism products based on potential segments such as traditional products, MICE, among others.”
Geoffrey Manyara, economic affairs officer for UNECA, SRO-EA called on countries to create special tourism products attractive to tourists.
“We have abundant natural resources but our products are similar. We should create attractions that are unique,” he said.
“In Rwanda, tourism contributes 8. 3 per cent to the national GDP while in countries like Uganda and Kenya it contributes 6 to 7 per cent. Tourism is significant and can be a vehicle for development of other sectors,” Manyara added.
Despite the commitment to collaborate, infrastructure deficiency, perceived insecurity and negative publicity from the western media are some of the challenges that tourism in the region encounters.
“We also have different levels of development and some countries do not prioritise tourism. This is a challenge to address holistically as a region. We need to work together and market the region as a single destination,” said Grace Aulo, director of tourism in Uganda’s ministry of tourism.
To address the issues, a sustainable tourism master plan that aims to ensure lasting peace and security in IGAD region as a prerequisite for sustainable tourism development in Eastern Africa was drawn up.
Participants also called on citizens to use social media to promote tourism in their countries.
Four years after the United Nations announced that it cut the number of people without access to cleaner water by half, getting to that water is still a major hardship for much of sub-Saharan Africa, a new analysis shows.
More than two-thirds of the region’s population reported that they leave home to collect water and haul it as far as two football fields, and that backbreaking work falls mostly on women and children in 24 countries carrying buckets that weigh as much as 40 pounds each. The result, says the analysis released Wednesday and published in the journal PLOS One, is “fatigue, musculoskeletal damage and early degenerative bone and soft tissue damage” on water bearers who are often frail to begin with.
Among households that spent 30 minutes to collect water from a well or some other protected source, 13.5 million were women and 3.5 million were children in nations such as Niger, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Burundi, South Africa, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. Girls vastly outnumbered boys who carry out the chore, 62 percent to 38 percent, the analysis said. Adult women tasked with water collection ranged from about 45 percent in Liberia to 90 percent in the Ivory Coast.
Jay Graham, an assistant professor at George Washington University in Washington, said he undertook the analysis with the help of two graduate students because the costs of constantly collecting water have been overlooked, with few scientific studies or reports that focus on the topic. As the world works toward improving water sources through the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, the labor of retrieving it should be considered, he said.
The authors suggested that the time and toll of water collection by children and women should be taken into consideration when measuring the progress of making water available, as well as the benefits of sanitation and hygiene.
“Water transport can take considerable time and energy, placing high demands on the metabolism, and result in pressure on the skeletal system leading to early arthritis,” the analysis said. “The most commonly reported adverse effect among the 39 water transporters in South Africa was spinal pain, at 69 percent. People who carry water may be more prone to injury in rural areas due to higher rates of poverty, chronic malnutrition and poor health.”
On top of that, people worn down by the weight of collection are far less likely to use water for common tasks such as hand washing. “It’s shown to increase infectious diseases such as diarrhea,” Graham said. Researchers think hauling water by hand and foot is so labor intensive that “people collect less, so there’s no hygiene in the home. You don’t want to use it up on hand washing.
“What I’m trying to do is highlight that we’ve been measuring one aspect, where the water comes from,” said Graham. “We’re totally missing this other metric — how long people are spending collecting water and the gender inequality associated with water collection.” Public health officials in Africa and across the world have rightly zeroed in on quality, he said, “but we don’t focus on things like … the health impacts that are indirect — faster pregnancy for girls who miss school to do the work and a shorter life span. This is going to become more exacerbated with climate change as people are expected to walk farther.”
Even in a more developed country like South Africa, more than half of water bearers were adult women — 56 percent. Female children followed them at 31 percent, male children at 31 percent, and finally adult males at 3 percent.
The analysis references reports that said reduced water collection carried benefits for women in the Namaqualand of South Africa, providing nearly an hour of extra rest per day and time spent with children. Other observational reports in the country showed the impacts on children forced to collect water — fatigue, early dismissal from school and difficulty focusing on studies while in class.
The authors said their analysis relied on data from two major international surveys, “the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys conducted by governments in collaboration with UNICEF, and the Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the ICF International and funded by the United States Agency for International Development.” This analysis included the Sub-Saharan African countries that had conducted DHS or MICS household surveys between 2005 and 2012,” it said.
Five internationally acclaimed leaders on sustainability will headline this year’s trailblazing Green Building Conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 to 28 July 2016.
The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) hosts the event and CEO Brian Wilkinson says the keynote speakers – Dr Ian McCallum, John Elkington, Paul Clements-Hunt, Mario Molina, Jeff Speck, Terri Wills and Evan Rice, will share their unique expertise to guide Africa and the world towards a thriving future for all.
“We know time is not on our side. Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action. Small steps won’t get us where we need to go. Now is the time for bold leadership focused on purpose and on collaborative communities and cities, and it’s time for innovative and disruptive technology. We have to unite with one common purpose – to build a better world now, so we have chosen this as the theme for the 2016 convention,” says Wilkinson.
John Elkington is a writer of over 30 ground-breaking books, including The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier. Known as an ‘advisor from the future’, Elkington works with large corporations, the finance and investment community, industry bodies, media, academia, government, innovators and entrepreneurs across the globe. He has been described as a true green business guru and a dean of the corporate responsibility movement.
Dr Ian McCallum is a medical doctor, analytical psychologist, psychiatrist and former Springbok. McCallum is a specialist wilderness guide, an author and poet as well as a director of the Wilderness Foundation. His award-winning book, Ecological Intelligence, Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature, addresses the interconnectedness of all living things and ultimately, the survival of the human animal.
Paul Clements-Hunt is former head of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and a founding board member of the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, an initiative supported by more than 1 000 of the world’s largest institutional investors. Clements-Hunt has worked across business, investment, international affairs and the media to promote sustainable finance and responsible investment.
Jeff Speck is an urban designer and author who advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design, Speck was the former director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts. As the overseer of the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, he has helped many American mayors overcome pressing city planning challenges. Speck has dedicated his career to determining the one key factor which makes cities thrive – walkability.
Mario Molina is responsible for the design, strategic goals and engagement programmes for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps in the USA and abroad. Molina joined the Climate Reality Project in 2013 and has spearheaded training for over 4,000 leaders around the world. His expertise in international climate policy and strategy drives the Leadership Corps with data-driven engagement across multiple sectors.
Evan Rice is Business Development Manager for Tesla Energy, South Africa. Over the past decade he has been active in energy across both the public and private sectors. Most recently he headed up GreenCape, an agency set up to support the accelerated development of an investment in the renewable energy and clean tech sectors in South Africa.
Terri Wills is CEO of the World Green Building Council, an organisation uniting 100 Green Building Councils. She previously headed the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change and served as the London City Director for the Clinton Climate Initiative.
It is these inspiring green luminaries that Green Building Convention delegates can look forward to gaining insights from and interacting with.
“In their experience and ideas lie the solutions; some outrageous and some extremely simple, but all revolutionary in their power to affect positive change and build a better world now. There is no better platform than this convention to network and engage with these change agents,” says Wilkinson.
These keynote speakers, and others on the compelling programme of the country’s top green gathering, will tackle topics that South Africans have proven they care deeply about. South African green building is driven by an acknowledgement that green building is the right thing to do, rather than by regulations, according to new research published in World Green Building Trends 2016.
The report also predicts that South Africa could be a leader in the global green market in the next three years.
“It’s a clear sign that green building practices are gaining significant momentum in South Africa, along with an acknowledgment that Green Star-certified projects are not only world-class and innovative, but benefit people, the planet and profits,” says Wilkinson.
Even with these remarkable achievements, the GBCSA is unstoppable in pursuing its ambitious targets.
At the United Nations’ COP21 in Paris, in December 2015, the GBCSA announced its commitment to introduce a net zero/positive building certification scheme by 2020. It also set itself challenging green goals to grow its number of certifications and accredited professionals, expand its training reach and grow fledgling green building councils across Africa.
The annual Green Building Convention has become a powerful platform for the country’s and the continent’s green building movement.
A quiet revolution is taking place in the financial industry. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, sustainable development is increasingly being integrated into financial decision-making.
The European Union has been rather passive so far in this transformation, but financial regulators in a number of countries are leading the charge. France recently introduced the world’s first mandatory climate disclosure requirements for institutional investors. Norway is divesting its sovereign wealth fund from coal. South Africa has embedded sustainable development into listing requirements on its stock exchange.
Likewise, Brazil’s banking regulations now require accounting for environmental risk. And the Swedish government is pushing an ambitious sustainability agenda featuring a series of proposals aimed at improving information for investors and determining which climate-related risks regulators and financial firms must address.
Private industry is also moving rapidly. The world’s largest asset manager, Blackrock, is launching a fossil-fuel-free index, and Axa, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, has pledged to divest from coal.
Meanwhile, the divestment movement is snowballing, with faith-based communities, municipalities, celebrities, trade unions, universities and institutional investors all pledging to unload their fossil-fuel assets. Altogether, institutions worth more than $2.6 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels.
The revolution may be quiet, but it is getting louder. Fossil-fuel companies are increasingly being delegitimized; their current business model is irreconcilable with a climate-conscious investment portfolio.
At the same time, investors are starting to understand that paying attention to climate risk is an integral part of a sound investment strategy that seeks to minimize risk and help to promote financial stability. Axa’s CEO Henri de Castries has endorsed such motives, stating that divesting from coal helps remove risk from investment portfolios and contributes to building a more sustainable society.
Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney has been particularly frank in highlighting the dangers that climate change poses to financial markets. In a speech at Lloyd’s of London in September, he cautioned that a delayed transition to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would increase risks to financial stability. A range of institutions has echoed his warning.
Meanwhile, McKinsey and the Carbon Trust have estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the value of fossil-fuel companies could be endangered because of a “carbon bubble,” an overvaluation of fossil-fuel reserves.
According to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of these reserves must be kept in the ground if the world is to avoid runaway climate change, which implies that companies may not be able to exploit their full economic potential. Given that the European financial sector has invested more than €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) in fossil-fuel assets, the EU is particularly at risk of a carbon bubble.
The issue has become serious enough that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has asked the European Systemic Risk Board to investigate it. Financial regulators in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are all studying the impact of climate change on financial markets. The Group of 20 has also asked the Basel-based Financial Stability Board to convene a public-private inquiry into the carbon bubble.
Last September, European Commissioner Jonathan Hill published his long-awaited Capital Markets Union proposal. But while his call for more integrated and diversified capital markets in the EU is admirable, his proposal lacks both a road map for the integration of sustainable development into the financial system and a strategy for addressing the carbon bubble.
The European Parliament and the European Council have the opportunity to improve Hill’s proposal. The parliament has already established an informal cross-party grouping, called the Carbon Group, which aims to tackle the carbon bubble and advance sustainable finance. And within the council, a range of countries, most notably Sweden and France, are working for greater integration of sustainability metrics into financial markets.
A range of institutions are starting to embrace sustainable development considerations in their financial decision-making. Policymakers — especially in the EU — have a responsibility to advance such forward-looking thinking and to protect the global economy from climate-induced financial distress.
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.
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.
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:
averda Dubai has signed a Partnership Memorandum with Dubai Municipality to provide an electronic waste collection service in the Emirate of Dubai. This initiative that stems from the Dubai Municipality ‘s commitment to promote integrated and effective sustainable waste management practices and thereby enhance the environmental and health standards of the Emirate of Dubai, falls under averda Group’s commitment to protect the environment, minimize the quantity of waste that cannot be reused or recycled and to ensure that our partners are provided with the latest technological developments in the field of waste management.
averda Dubai has provided the Municipality of Dubai with smart e-waste bins during 2014 – 2015, the bins being equipped with sensors that interact live, online, with averda Dubai Operations Department, via GPRS. The bins’ intelligent systems provide the desk-based analysts with data related to their filling level and expected dates for collection. In addition to the smart e-bins already provided, averda will commission additional bins in the very near future.
With a capacity of 1 cubic meter, the e-bins collect small electronic items such as mobile phones, tablets, trimmers, laptops, hair dryers, chargers and any other type of electronic items that can fit into the anti-scavengers bin lid of 40×40 cm. Any waste that is categorized by Dubai Municipality as hazardous, such as light bulbs and batteries, is not accepted for disposal in the e-bins.
All items collected, except for laptops, are sorted in Averda Dubai’s waste processing facilities and handed over to one of averda’s recycling partners for appropriate recycling. The laptops are being collected and delivered to Dubai Municipality whom will attempt to refurbish them and hand them out for free to those who come from socially disadvantaged groups.
Mr Oussama Natour, averda’s UAE Managing Director, said: “In the past years, the level of electronic waste has seen an unprecedented increase. E-waste is an important global environmental and health issue and we need to identify better methods and means of not just disposing of the e-waste but, most importantly, reusing and recycling it, primarily given that the United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that between 2007 and 2020, the domestic television e-waste will double, computer e-waste will increase five times and cell phones waste will increase 18 times.”
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.
Businesses ignore climate change at their own peril, as it will affect their supply chains and profit margins, among other things. Taking the effort to mitigate climate change and prepare for potential risks will pay off in the long run, said experts at the 2015 International CSR Summit.
The upcoming United Nations climate conference in Paris this December will see governments across the world try to ink a legal treaty to curb climate change, but no progress will be made if business is not involved.
Companies must cut their fair share of emissions – not only because they bear much responsibility for causing climate change, but their profits, brand image, and the stability of their supply chains could also be threatened if their inaction allows global temperature rise to reach dangerous extents.
This was the consensus among government and business leaders at the 2015 International CSR Summit, held on August 26 at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Tang Tuck Weng, senior director of the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) – the agency in charge of Singapore’s efforts to tackle climate change – cited the 2011 floods in Thailand – which destroyed factories owned by multinational giants such as Seagate and Honda – as a reminder that even if extreme weather events do not happen in Singapore, they can have an impact on businesses and operations here”.
“It isn’t enough to plan for what happens just in Singapore,” he said. “Instead, we must look at the global value chain”.
David Vincent, head of the United Kingdom’s Southeast East Asia Regional Climate Change Network, British High Commission Singapore, added that the private sector is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and therefore must “help deliver the emissions reductions we need to see”.
For example, he shared that in 2013, just 50 of the world’s largest companies were responsible for about 10 percent of total global emissions – or 3.6 billion metric tonnes of emissions – according to non-profit CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Investing in energy saving equipment, developing resource-efficient manufacturing methods, and offering repair services to extend the lifespan of products are some ways that businesses can reduce their environmental impact, Vincent told an audience of about 200 guests at a panel discussion on business and climate change.
The annual conference was organised by the Global Compact Network Singapore – the local branch of the United Nations Global Compact – and convened business leaders, government officials, corporate social responsibility practitioners, and civil society leaders over two days to exchange ideas on corporate social responsibility.
Tang added that such measures are bound to be a “no-regrets strategy” for most companies, due to their positive impact on long-term profit margins, stakeholder satisfaction and public reputation, among other benefits.
Sustainability pays off
One company that can attest to this is American carpet tile makers Interface. The outfit has invested much effort and resources into sustainability, and as a result, “absolutely seen profits and resilience go up” said Rob Coombs, president and chief executive officer of Interface Asia Pacific.
He explained that traditionally, carpet tiles are a very resource-intensive products, but Interface in 1994 promised to “eliminate any negative impact our company may have on the environment” by 2020. Under an initiative known as Mission Zero, the company set targets on reducing the use of energy, raw materials, water, and cutting down waste generation and carbon emissions.
With five years to go before the 2020 deadline, Interface is “about 65 percent of the way there”, said Coombs. Strategies such as incorporating biomimicry – which copies natural processes into product design to make it more sustainable – have helped it be more environmentally and socially responsible.
Including marginalised communities into the company’s supply chain has also boosted the business’s sustainability efforts, Coombs added. An example of this is an initiative known as Net-Works, which Interface runs with the conservation charity Zoological Society of London.
Interface buys discarded fishing nets from fishing communities in the Philippines and turns them into carpet tiles, which simultaneously provides an additional income to villagers, prevents discarded nets from contributing to marine pollution, and helps Interface meet its goal of sourcing 100 percent recycled material.
The firm is also experimenting with a business model which leases, rather than sells, carpets to clients, so that it can eventually take them back and recycle or dispose the tiles responsibly, shared Coombs.
“This is the only smart way to run a business,” he said, adding that these measures have reduced costs for the company, made manufacturing processes more efficient, and helped design a better product. They have also won Interface business from sustainability-conscious customers and boosted employee engagement, he added.
Meanwhile, Japanese electronics multinational Ricoh is trying to reduce its environmental impact by shifting away from a business model where customers must buy new products when they break to one where products are designed to be easily repaired, or refurbished and re-sold to price-conscious buyers.
Adrian Lim, head of Ricoh Singapore’s managing director’s office, added that the company also offers consultancy services to encourage behaviours such as reducing printing, energy conservation, and recycling in offices. Through these efforts, Ricoh hopes to engage its vendors and clients on sustainability, he noted.
Ahead of the carbon market curve
NCCS’s Tang noted that sustainability in the private sector could be greatly accelerated with the introduction of carbon pricing, a policy where companies must pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, either in the form of a tax or by purchasing permits for emissions.
The current price of many goods and services does not include the negative externality – that is, the hidden cost on the environment – explained Tang. But he said he hopes that the global agreement in Paris will set in motion the process for a global carbon pricing scheme.
Companies can pre-empt a global price on carbon by reducing their carbon emissions now, said the panel members. Many solutions already exist, such as switching to cleaner energy, improving energy efficiency, and cutting down on energy use, they noted.
As for companies which continue to ignore climate pressures, they “will find life difficult under an effective carbon market”, said Vincent.
Wayne Visser, director of British advisory firm Kaleidoscope Futures Lab, who also spoke at the event, noted in a separate keynote address that “it is very easy to create short term value in a business, but that quickly comes crashing down when we hit resource limits”.
Only when companies focus on creating long-term economic, social, and environmental value do they become “truly sustainable”, he added.
HARARE, Aug 5 2015 (IPS) – Hillary Thompson, aged 62, throws some grains of left-over rice from his last meal, mixed with some beer dregs from his sorghum brew, into a swimming pool that he has converted into a fish pond.
“For over a decade, fish farming has become a hobby that has earned me a fortune,” Thompson, who lives in Milton Park, a low density area in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, told IPS. In fact, he has been able to acquire a number of properties which he now rents out.
Thompson is just one of many here who have struck gold through fish farming.
African strides in fish farming are gaining momentum at a time the United Nations is urging nations the world over to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns as part of its proposed new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire this year.
The SDGs are a universal set of 17 goals, targets and indicators that U.N. member states are expected to use as development benchmarks in framing their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.
Faced with nutritional deficits, a number of Africans have turned to fish farming even in towns and cities to complement their diets.
In Zimbabwe, an estimated 22,000 people are involved in fish farming, according to statistics from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Behind the success of many of these fish farmers stands the Aquaculture Zimbabwe Trust, which was established in 2008 to mobilise resources for the sustainable development of environmentally-friendly fisheries in Zimbabwe as a strategy to counter chronic poverty and improve people’s livelihoods.
Over the years, it has been on the ground offering training aimed at building capacity to support the development of fish farming.
The figure for fish farmers is even higher in Malawi, where some 30,000 people are active in fish farming-related activities, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Fisheries are reported to contribute about 70 percent to the protein intake of the developing country’s estimated 14 million people, most of whom are too poor to afford meat.
For many Malawians like Lewis Banda from Blantyre, the country’s second largest city, fish farming has become the way to go. “Fish breeding is a less demanding economic venture, which anyone willing can undertake to do, and fish sell faster because they are cheaper,” he told IPS.
In many African towns and cities, thriving fish farmers have converted their swimming pools and backyards into small-scale fish farming ponds, and many like Banda have seen fish farming trigger their proverbial rise from rags to riches.
“I was destitute when I came to Blantyre eight years ago, but now thanks to fish farming, I have become a proud owner of home rights in the city,” Banda said.
Globally, FAO estimates the value of fish trade to be 51 billion dollars per annum, with over 36 million people employed directly through fishing and aquaculture, while as many as 200 million people derive direct and indirect income from fish.
FAO also reports that, across Africa, fishing provides direct incomes for about 10 million people – half of whom are women – and contributes to the food supply of 200 million more people.
In Uganda, for example, lake fishing yield catches are worth more than 200 million dollars a year, contributing 2.2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while fish farming employs approximately 135,000 fishers and 700,000 more in fish processing and trading.
The rising fish farming trend comes at a time when the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been on record as calling for initiatives such as fish farming to be replicated in order for Africa to harness the full potential of its fisheries in order to strengthen national economies, combat poverty and improve people’s food security and nutrition.
Last year in South Africa, Alan Fleming, the director of The Business Place, an entrepreneur development and assistance organisation based in Cape Town, came up with the idea of using shipping containers as fish ponds, an idea that was well received by the country’s poor communities.
“My children are now all in school thanks to the noble idea hatched by Fleming of having a fish farm designed within the confines of a shipping container, which is indeed an affordable idea for many low-income earners like me,” Mpho Ntabiseni from Philippi, a low-income township in Cape Town, told IPS.
Citing a growing shortage of traditionally harvested fish, the South African government invested 100 million rands (7.8 million dollars) last year in aquaculture projects in all four of the country’s coastal provinces.
In 2014, some 71,000 South Africans were involved in fish farming, according to figures from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs.
Nutrition experts say that fish farming has added nutritional value to many poor people’s diets. “Fish farming helps poor African communities to add high-value protein to their diet since Africa often suffer challenges of malnutrition,” Agness Mwansa, an independent nutritionist based in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, told IPS.
Adding an environmental concern to the benefits of fish farming, Julius Sadi of the Aquaculture Zimbabwe Trust, told IPS that “fish from aquaculture ponds are preferred by consumers because they are bred in water that is exposed to very little or no pollution, which means that there is high demand and therefore high income for fish farmers.”
As a result, donor agencies such as the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) have helped to give Africa’s aquaculture industry a kick-start over the last decade.
According to FAO studies, about 9.2 million square kilometres (31 percent of the land area) of sub-Saharan Africa is suitable for smallholder fish farming, while 24 countries in the region are battling with food crises, twice as many as in 1990.
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report released jointly by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) says that the East and Central Africa regions are most affected, with more than 30 percent of the people in the two regions classified as undernourished.
With fish farming gaining popularity, it could be the only means for many African to beat poverty and hunger. “Fish breeding has emancipated many of us from poverty,” said Banda.