Monday, 9 December 2013

Stakeholders In Gambia Meet to Develop National Greenhouse Gas Inventory


Stakeholders under the aegis of the Ministry of the Environment, Parks and Wildlife and its partners have gathered at the conference hall of the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) for a training workshop, designed to build the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The Inventory guidelines are expected to be used to ensure that The Gambia meets the demands of all the international conventions and treaties it has so far ratified on climate change and its related issues. The Environment, Parks and Wildlife minister, Fatou Ndey Gaye at the event, described the workshop as an important milestone in the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in The Gambia. The minister hastened to thank all the members of the National Climate Committee (NCC), the UNFCCC focal point and secretariat, as well as various national experts for their solid engagement in the development of the National Greenhouse Inventory Report (NIR) of the Third National Communications of The Gambia. She informed that The Gambia has prepared and submitted two Green House Gas (GHG) Inventories as a component of its Initial and Second National Communications. In line with the more recent developments of the UNFCCC, namely more regular reporting and emphasis on emissions/sinks and mitigation, she said it is felt that this process should now be institutionalised. The minister used the opportunity to reiterate that The Gambia has emitted about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2000, representing only about 0.01% of global emissions. Minister Gaye however lamented that the 'temperature warming' in The Gambia is projected to increase by about 4OC, while rainfall is projected to decrease by about 54% in 2100. Food and nutrition security of The Gambia, she added, would be seriously threatened by climate change, as crop production is likely to reduce by about 30%. "Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, contributing 64% to radioactive forcing by Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (LLGHGs). It is responsible for 84% of the increase in radioactive forcing over the past decade and 82% over the past five years. Atmospheric CO2 reached 141%of the pre-industrial level in 2012, primarily because of emission from combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation and other land use," she explained. The minister reminded participants that their task is to develop the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in The Gambia, stressing that they have to ensure that specific tasks relating to the national GHG inventory are carried out in a timely manner and ensure efficient coordination of outputs of consultants and national institutions. "The activities undertaken by the national institutions will contribute to strengthening institutional arrangements for compiling, archiving, updating and managing GHG inventories," she maintained. The UNFCCC focal person in The Gambia, Pa Ousman Jarju, who is also the director of Water Resources, said the objective of the UNFCCC is to achieve the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. He stressed that in order to achieve this, all parties shall develop and periodically update national greenhouse gas inventories, formulate, implement, publish and regularly update programmes containing mitigation and adaptation measures, while communicating information to the conference of the parties that is related to the implementation of commitments.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

President Jonathan of Nigeria Opens International Palm Produce Conference

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has declared open the 1st International Palm Produce Conference (IPPC) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Southern Niegria with a call on stakeholders in the sector to explore available investment opportunities in the palm produce industry in Nigeria. The 3-Day conference which was jointly organized by the Country's Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN) has as its theme: "Investment in Oil Palm and Its Derivatives - A Panacea for Economic Growth and Sustenance." In his address read by the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Samuel Ortom, President Jonathan pointed out that the aim of the landmark conference was to bring together global stakeholders to share ideas on new technological development and ways of improving the quality and availability of palm produce. This, he said is to maximize the growing investment opportunities in both domestic and international palm produce trade as well as to utilize the investment-friendly climate and the incentives put in place by the present administration. He expressed satisfaction with the timing of the conference, saying it held at a time when the government has established the necessary policies towards creating the enabling environments and frameworks for sustainable businesses and economic growth in agricultural produce such as oil palm in which the country has significant comparative advantage. President Jonathan identified the stimulus for the creation of over 3.5 million jobs along the agriculture value - chains; noting that his government has recognized oil palm as one of the important commodities and key drivers to promote and has intensified efforts to provide enabling environments for accomplishing this task. In the address, the President pointed out that Nigeria is an oil palm producing nation and was a foremost producer and exporter especially in the fifties and sixties when the nation dominated the palm produce industry and became world largest producer and marketer between 1961 and 1965. He added that the country as at then contributed an average world production share of 39 percent. He however, regretted that the Government allowed this position to slip away from the country.
Nigeria
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Bottling Pollution? Liberia Coke Firm Mute Amid Accusations

The Liberia Coca Cola Bottling Company (LCCBC) has remained tight lip for two days following a huge protest action against the institution by students and community dwellers. Reporters who had gone to hear the company's side of the story were stopped from entering the compound or told that executives of the company were in meeting that could not end. The company is accused of pollution caused by a black liquid with foul odor that runs at the back of the industrial complex into the community. The young people who stalled the movement of people in and out of the main entrance chanted, "Factory Pollution -We're Tired With It". Yea Akoi, a resident of the Coca Cola factory area lamented: "Yesterday evening a snake dropped into this gutter here and it died quick, quick." "Even when chicken drink this water it can die. This thing has been going on for years we tired now. When they released that bad chemical water it can't be easy here. The scent can take over the whole place". Akoi's statement is in support of the protest that began when students and youth of community gathered before the main entrance of the LCCBC to demand an end to the pollution that is said to be hindering their learning, proper growth and development. Hannah W. Saah, a 10th grader, told reporters she is hoping that the company will agree to their demands and stop polluting the area. "The chemical they have smells like toilet. It is hard to learn when you have that thing going through your noise. If the company doesn't say anything we will continue to come here." "I don't live in this community but I can come to school here and the pollution is very terrible," says student Josiah Cooper. "The students thought it wise to join the community in the process because they are greatly affected by what is going on." "We have been dismissing school on many occasions because the company can release that their chemical and there can be no way to breathe," says James P. Mulbah Principal of the Factory Community Christian Academy who part the protest. "We are calling on stake holders in our country and others who have influence to come to the aid of community." "There is a need that this factory be relocated or else it will create a huge health hazard. We are going to continue this action peacefully until the government can address our plight," Mulbah stressed. According to the community their lawmakers past and present are aware about the situation. "We had meetings with Kuku Dorbor." "We have also engaged honorable Henry Fahnbulleh but they have all been on a slower pace with regards to the issue that is why we are here to tell central government that we are dying, embarrassed and constrained to do what we are doing and it is impossible to learn here," Mulbah says shaking his head.

Angola denies impact of severe drought

The Angolan government has been accused of being in denial over a drought that has affected 1.8 million people because the crisis threatens to tarnish the country's image as a booming economy. Children as young as nine are digging wells to fetch water, amid a severe drought in southern regions of Angola that has forced people to use unclean water for consumption and cooking, according to the UN. Neighbouring Namibia, which has also been badly affected, has declared a drought emergency and appealed for humanitarian aid. Angola has done neither, although it has appointed a special inter-ministerial commission to respond to the drought, delivered food aid and drilled boreholes. Government sources have told the UN that funding requirements are between $150m (£242.3m) and $350m, but amounts disbursed so far have not been confirmed. International relief agencies, including Unicef, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, began responding to Angola's drought in 2012, but the Angolan government was slow to respond, according to aid officials. Unicef, the UN agency for children, says approximately 3 million children under five will potentially be affected by the effects of the prolonged drought. Between December last year and June this year, 17,746 malnourished children went through outreach community programmes, 5,337 with severe acute malnutrition and 11,097 with moderate acute malnutrition. Drinking water is a concern, particularly in Cunene and Namibe. Cunene has been the hardest-hit province, where an estimated 542,979 people – half of Cunene's population – have been affected, especially farmers, including semi-nomadic communities, and children under five. Almost 1.2m livestock are at risk. Provincial authorities have indicated that 430 water points are not working, affecting 100,000 people. The wells are as deep as 15-25 metres, and dug where a stream has dried up. Children, mostly boys between the ages of nine and 18 have to cover distances of 15-30km to dig wells and fetch water. Malnutrition has reached 24.4% of the population in Cunene, with a prevalence of severe acute malnutrition of 5.7%. Food production has been badly hit. In some areas – Cunene, Namibe, Benguela coast and the southern part of Huila – almost all production of cereals and legumes was lost. Poor rainfall has particularly affected five southern Angolan provinces: Cunene, Namibe, Kuando Kubango, Benguela and Huila. Rainfall during the 2011-12 season was 60% below average. Rainfall in 2012-13 was also well below average in large parts of the country, particularly in the southwest on the Namibian border. The drought comes against a backdrop of strong economic growth. According to the World Bank, Angola's gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by more than 8% in 2012, spurred by high oil export price and rising production volume. According to the UN Committee for Development Policy, Angola's gross national product was more than double a threshold of $1,190 per capita a year to qualify for the move from least-developed country status.

Climate change predictions should stimulate us into action


The question about climate change is no longer whether it is real. The question is what the world is going to look like for generations yet unborn. Despite the global community's best intentions to keep global warming below a 2C increase from the pre-industrial climate, higher levels of warming are increasingly likely. 
Scientists agree that countries' current emission pledges and commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change would most likely result in 3.5-4C warming. And the longer those pledges remain unmet, the more likely it is that we will be living in a world that is four degrees warmer by the end of this century. The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach for millions of people in the developing world; it also threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.   Care must be taken so as not to focus only on doomsday scenarios. In fact, there are tremendously exciting possibilities in what it would look like to live in a very low-carbon world. Our work on inclusive green growth shows that, through more efficient and smarter use of energy and natural resources, there are opportunities to drastically reduce the climate impact of development without slowing poverty alleviation or economic growth. Those initiatives include: putting of fossil fuel and other harmful subsidies to better use; factoring the value of the natural environment into economic decision-making; expanding public and private expenditures on green infrastructure that is able to withstand extreme weather; investing in urban public transport systems designed to minimise carbon emission and maximise access to jobs and services; supporting carbon pricing and international and national emissions trading schemes; and increasing energy efficiency – especially in buildings – and the share of renewable power produced. That is our challenge. The best and brightest companies and developed and developing countries should be encouraged to seize new opportunities connected to inclusive green growth. They must know that the path to economic growth could very well be engaging in finding new technologies and new approaches of mitigating climate change. Can we create an enormous market for new technologies focused on mitigation of climate change? I think there's only one answer: we simply must. We at GreenEco hope that  the vision of economic opportunity arising from the need to create a low-carbon world inspires us to create new technologies. It is these technologies that can become drivers of economic growth as well as saviours of our planet from catastrophe.

African Countries and Cost of climate change adaptation: Destabilisation ensues

African countries are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and could struggle to feed and defend their people as temperatures rise, according to a major UN report. The cost of developing drought-resistant crops, providing early-warning systems for floods, droughts and fires, and building seawalls, dykes, and wave breaks will be vast, says the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) emissions gap report, launched at an African environment ministers' meeting in Warsaw. It will cost Africa approximately $350bn a year to adapt its farming and infrastructure to climate change if governments fail to hold temperatures to less than 2C and allow them to rise to about 4C, according to the report. The higher temperatures rise, the greater the financial and human challenge to adapt, says the report, which argues that present policies point to temperatures rising to 3-4C by 2100, a turn of events it claims would be catastrophic. The report claims coral reefs will die, sea levels will rise, freshwater reserves will decline over wide areas, and rainfall in southern Africa will decrease by 30%. Countries that fail to adapt to even the minimum expected temperature increase of 2C will be in dire straits, the report says. "Climate change in Africa is a reality," said Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda's minister for water and environment. "We have to adapt or perish, but our capacity to respond is limited. The cost of waiting to do something is far greater than doing something now. How many super-typhoons do we need before we have to take action. This is a matter of survival; what are we waiting for?". "The plight of Africa is not of our making," said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lead negotiator for the Africa group of nations. "The developed countries have caused the problem and Africa are asking for the funds to help but so far they are not forthcoming. "One billion Africans are in harm's way. We witness instability in rainfall, diseases spreading, sea level rise and floods. One of the effects of climate change is to send Africans further and further to seek water. This brings them into conflict with other Africans. We are faced with wars on African soil that are not created in Africa." The report warns: "Even with a warming scenario of under 2C Africa's undernourished would increase 25-90%. Crop production would be reduced across much of the continent as optimal growing conditions are exceeded. The capacity of African communities to cope will be significantly challenged." It suggests the magnitude of adaptation requirements could destabilise countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, water supply, infrastructure, and agriculture can be expected to incur the highest costs. In north Africa, infrastructure and adapting to extreme weather events are expected to prove costliest.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Biodiversity: Knowledge is key, not technology


Agricultural biodiversity entails growing a variety of plants on a smallholding or farm instead of a large expanse of a single plant in monocultures of maize or soybean or plantations of oil palms. Biodiversity can not only provide food and a nutritious varied diet, but also fodder and ecosystem services like pest control by encouraging beneficial predators and fertilization by planting legumes and fertilizer trees. Biodiversity is also the basis and the result, of a good forest conservation policy. A common misconception is that sound agricultural policies cannot go hand in hand with the protection of forested areas. A smallholder rotating cereals and vegetables, growing coffee under a canopy of fruit or cocoa trees or oil palms will contribute to their household’s food security and nutrition by hedging their bets – if one crop fails, others can fill the gap and provide the family with a varied diet. Furthermore forest canopies continue to be protected and important corridors maintained for wildlife. Any surplus fruit or cash crops of coffee and cocoa can supplement the family income. By relying on biodiversity to deter pest infestations and provide fertilisation, the smallholder reduces reliance on external inputs, like expensive chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which in turn prevents the pollution of soil and water and even improves the household balance sheet. Ecological farming relies on agro-biodiversity by working with nature. In contrast, uncontrolled industrial agriculture threatens to suppress biodiversity by promoting an agricultural model that relies on monocultures of plants like GE cereals or plantations of oil palm or cocoa, to the exclusion of any other plant.  The lack of biodiversity increases the vulnerability of the monoculture to pest infestations, that industrial agriculture usually "solves" by selling toxic chemical pesticides, which often kill organisms indiscriminately, including beneficial insects like pest predators and pollinators such as bees .By following a strategy of "Zero deforestation" countries that are home to large forested areas can ensure food sovereignty for their people by making the most of their natural resources without putting them at risk.  If smallholders are growing a variety of plants that provide a varied diet, they won’t be suffering from nutrient deficiency. This will sap demand for one of the latest technology fixes being developed by Big Food to make more money from our broken food system - biofortification.  It would also provide a raison d’etre for releasing GMOs into the environment. There will be no market for these false solutions if smallholders embrace agro-biodiversity. "The best solution to tackle Vitamin A Deficiency already exists and it’s called vegetables."

Having healthy food for all Africans


Thinking about farming in Africa, one of the major goals is to see local farmers being able to grow safe and healthy food in balance with nature.  It is called ecological farming, and it would not only feed Africa’s people but also maintain livelihoods, alleviate poverty, and prevent the corporate takeover of agriculture currently happening across the continent. Ecological farming is about nurturing our soils, cultivating diversity, and supplying families with safe and nutritious food. It is the only way to effectively address the serious triple crises of food insecurity, water scarcity, and climate change. Today Africa is increasingly being targeted as the new market for industrial agriculture: an agriculture driven by corporate interests and supported by governments in the North and South. Industrial agriculture relies on farmers using inputs for their crops. These inputs include synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and genetically engineered (GE) seeds – and they are very expensive. Using them often results in debt and economic insecurity for farmers. This debt-driven agriculture is also a big contributor to global climate change, and it destroys biodiversity, degrades soils, and pollutes land, freshwater, and coastlines. From field to fork, chemically intensive industrial agriculture is bad for Africa. The invasion of agribusiness in Africa’s agriculture is threatening this control and the ability of small-scale farmers, who are mostly women, to continue feeding the majority of Africa’s people. Stakeholders who are contributing to agricultural development in Africa support and the millions of farmers who grow Africa’s food and feed Africa directly, have supported ecological farming. Using ecological farming, local farmers can nurture the soil that feeds the crops and which ultimately feeds the continent. Voices of African farmers should be heard on the development of our continent’s agriculture.

Stabilization of food supply: The grain reserve approach

Given the challenges posed by climate change, here is an idea that makes a lot of sense: grain reserves. Why? Because grain reserves are a relatively cheap public insurance policy in the face of tremendous uncertainty, when the risks of failure include starvation. Governments can use a reserves policy to invest in storage and transportation infrastructure; to work with the private sector to cover gaps and market failures; to provide farmers with guarantees that encourage investment; and to increase transparency to discourage hoarding and speculation.
Confronted with the reality of climate change, governments must take a smarter approach towards managing our food supply. Grain reserves have an impressive pedigree. For thousands of years, households and governments have stored some of each harvest as an insurance against the uncertainties of the next. Food reserves respond to inherent characteristics of agriculture, particularly the presence of relatively constant, inelastic demand coupled with much more variable short-term supply. Unregulated agricultural markets often over-produce, leading to a pattern of many years of declining prices, interrupted by short, sharp, upward spikes. Food reserves can lessen the unwanted consequences of unstable agricultural markets.
There are many models to choose from—indeed, most governments have some form of reserve in place—though most have been scaled back considerably since the days when food reserves were the norm. In the past, some of the major exporting countries (notably Canada and the U.S., in the case of wheat) held reserves that effectively both established a price floor for their growers and gave wheat importers confi dence that the grain supply was safe, even if one year’s harvest was poor.
In other cases, national governments have operated domestic focused reserves. Many such national reserves in sub-Saharan Africa were troubled by poor finance and oversight. Even those that worked relatively well were dismantled over the 1990s, largely because they did not fi t in the model of economic liberalization that dominated donor thinking at the time. But there are compelling reasons to consider their re-establishment given the vital nature of food security, the effects of climate change on agricultural production, and the failure of purely market-based approaches to provide an adequate and appropriate food supply and distribution. Countries can learn from their experiences in establishing independent and accountable central banks, which in the past were similarly crippled by poor governance and a lack of accountability. They can also benefit from the dramatic changes in information technology, communications and transportation to build reserves that are flexible, and that are responsive to change in market conditions.

Electronics companies can lead the way on clean energy



Electronic gadgets can make our lives better, but the rate at which we collectively purchase and discard them is having a serious impact on our planet. So people often ask us: "Who is the greenest tech company?" Often the greenest option for people is to buy only what they truly need, to buy used electronics, and to extend the life of their devices by upgrading parts or replacing a weak battery. The greenest electronic gadget is usually the one you don't buy.
However, when people do need to purchase a new product, there is some good news to report: many electronic companies have improved at removing toxic chemicals from mobile phones, computers and tablets, an important step in the right direction. This change did not happen by accident or altruism; companies changed in large part because of creative people-powered campaigns. 
The next big challenge for the tech sector is to address the dirty energy embedded in the devices’ manufacturing and supply chains that causes climate change. With an expected 1 trillion USD in sales in 2012, the industry can prevent a lot of global warming pollution if it moves to clean energy in its manufacturing processes. These companies need to lead so that they can prevent electronic waste from piling up in places such as China, and can ensure that their products are made from clean power, not dirty energy. Electronic companies have also gained political power in many countries, meaning their advocacy for clean energy can have a big impact on government policies. All of us – companies and individuals alike – have a responsibility to make our planet more sustainable.

Fighting World Hunger: The Agroecology Perspective


Now, in 2013, almost one in seven people in the world experience chronic hunger – which doesn’t include those who face hunger due to “short-term” emergencies such as natural disasters or war. Women make up a little over half of the world’s population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world’s hungry. The vast majority of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition are living in rural areas – where food is produced – with up to 60 percent living in poverty.
The causes of hunger range from extreme weather events, predictable cycles of drought, food price volatility, ineffective or discriminatory distribution of food supplies, corporate dominance of the global food system and international trade policies, to chronic poverty and lack of social protection.  Taken together, they point to national and international policies that fail to adequately address – let alone ensure – food and nutrition security.
Now the response.
We produce enough food, but our production, distribution and consumption patterns are neither just nor sustainable. Continued high rates of hunger demonstrate that most mainstream approaches to food production have failed us.
Large-scale, industrial agriculture and GMOs have not been successful in solving global food security challenges. Rather, these practices have degraded our soils, polluted our water, and reduced biodiversity through the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and through clear-cutting practices for monocropping. Sustainable agroecological food production methods (also called ecological farming) aim to increase productivity through enhancing natural and sustainable processes, using local knowledge and resources.
In contrast to industrial and chemical agriculture, which is a linear system that relies on costly external inputs (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, etc.), agroecology is a closed loop system of production, which recycles organic materials into the soil to increase nutrients over time, making  food systems less dependent on fossils fuel-based fertilizers.
Therefore the answer is leveraging the potential of sustainable agriculture methods with policies designed to scale up and mainstream the systems that have proven records of success in terms of sustainable productivity and resilience, and linking these systems to markets that enhance livelihoods and communities. This will not only preserve land and other natural resources for future generations but help restore depleted soils and protect the precious biodiversity that still remains to us. Such a holistic and ecological approach to food security is needed now more than ever.
Agroecology is simply a better way to fight hunger while protecting the environment and helping communities to prosper.

Kenya’s challenge: How best to manage its new-found water wealth!




In the midst of worrisome news about droughts, desertification, unreliable monsoons and growing concerns around water security around the world, the announcement by the UNESCO and Kenyan officials at the recent International Water Security Conference in Nairobi was anything but gloomy. The finding of potentially huge groundwater resources in northwestern Kenya is indeed a blessing, not only for the herding communities of drought-prone Turkana, but also for the region as a whole. Until very recently the region was best known to the global water community both for the lack of access to water that mark the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities that live there, and for their efforts to save Turkana Lake, the largest permanent desert lake in the world according to International Rivers. But a recent survey by RTI, a company hired by U.N., found groundwater systems with a potential of storing about 250 billion cubic meters (or about 66 trillion gallons) in the Kachoda, Gatome, Nkalale and Lockichar areas, with the largest aquifer being located in the Lokitipi Basin—all of them in Turkana county, one of the 47 counties in Kenya.  Of these, the three smaller aquifers combined are estimated to store about 30 billion cubic meters of water, once confirmed by drilling. But the Lotikipi Basin Aquifer, the largest of them—it has already been confirmed—is likely to store about 207 billion cubic meters, and has a recharge rate of 1.2 billion cubic meters or about 317 billion gallons a year, equivalent to 40 percent of the current annual water use in Kenya. Kenyan water resource planners, with their ability to estimate the recharge rate, are in a better position today to plan and keep the water withdrawal below this rate. The Kenyan government, which has ushered in policy reforms in several sectors, might be in a position to ensure this environmental cap. Yet, some of the issues I raised in an earlier blog come to mind. Referring to a Guardian report on a study that looked at rising sea levels from a new angle, we urged caution. That study found that efforts to meet increasing freshwater demand by harnessing “fossil” groundwater [which cannot be replenished for millennia under current climate conditions] contributes more to rising sea levels than melting glaciers. The authors were particularly concerned about deep tube-well drilling—a technology adapted from the oil industry—which has contributed to a number of problems associated with irrigated agriculture.  New initiatives in groundwater development could learn from past lessons (India, China and the United States to list a few), and in view of these experiences the temptation to promote groundwater development in Kenya needs to be tempered with caution. This is especially important in the Kenyan context. Along with the new ground water resources, RTI has also located some oil reserves in the region. As far as the Kenyan government is concerned, the temptation to exploit oil will be high, as will the temptation to extract water to ensure food security. As far as international investors and international institutions are concerned, the temptation to appropriate the newfound wealth for global good will be high. Turkana is also the poorest county in the country, ranking 47th in poverty rate (94.3 percent, while the national average is 47.2 percent as per the Kenya Household and Budget Survey). Most people who live there, especially in the rural areas, belong to herding/ fishing communities which have a different relation with natural resources as well as with cash economy. As the state and private sector begin investing in the region, it is up to democratic institutions in Kenya to ensure that marginalized groups amongst the Turkana inhabitants have a say in the development of these water resources. 

False Solutions in Agriculture & Climate Change


Palm oil plantation, Uganda. Photograph by Will Baxter.False Solutions to refer to those solutions which reinforce the systems which have resulted in climate change and the food and energy crisis.  
Industrial agriculture and the food system, which are becoming larger and more centralised, not only destroys biodiversity, soils, nutrition and local food systems, but are responsible for at least 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which trigger climate change. And in addition to this destruction, an estimated 20 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain during its journey from chemical drenched fields to the plate. Research shows that a third of the world's entire food supply could be saved by reducing waste - that's enough to feed 3 billion people.

Why then do advocates for industrial agriculture continually raise the alarm about feeding the growing global population, and the need for them to have more land, technology, investment so that they can "feed the world"? Is this because they have become charitable organisations? Or because they have to find ways to grow their markets, to grow their profits? 

Genetically Modified crops are patended because corporations claim that they have engineered a new variety of seed by introducing foreign genes into the seed. They therefore claim that they can "own" seed - and treat it as any other patented commodity. But Nature's Laws defy ownership and control. These seeds multiply and cross-polinate with other non-GM seeds. The companies controlling their patents have reacted to this by suing farmers with land where there are any who have traces of "their" GMO seeds without license or purchase. These farmers have little chance of survival against the corporate legal teams who push for ever more stringent laws to further the interests of their clients, against all odds.

These monocultures offer farmers and our increasingly fragile food system, little resilience to the volatile climate of today. Resilience is found in the diversity of locally adapted seeds. With the loss of seed diversity comes the loss of local and indigenous knowledge and practices which enhance seed diversity. These complex farming systems, which have evolved over thousands of years, have stood the test of time by following the laws of Nature. The GMO experiment, driven by corporations rather than independent scientists, is a few decades old, yet its proponents want us to put our food security in their hands.

Agrofuels - or Biofuels - are fuels produced from organic matter, such as palm oil plants. They are cultivated in large-scale monocultures and have been promoted as the answer to our fossil fuel dependent societies; a 'green' fuel which can be used in place of petrol or diesel. They may purport to be a solution to climate change, but in actual fact they emit more CO2 in their production and processing than fossil fuels. The push for biofuels is leading to large-scale deforestation, and a global land grab which has contibuted to the global food crises as land for food is converted into land for fuel.

There are numerous other 'solutions' being proposed to deal climate change and food insecurity. These are founded on the same principles as industrial agriculture, GMOs and agrofuels; large-scale moncrops, hi-tech investment, and chemical input systems which require capital and centralised control. All believe the market will deliver the solutions.

Carbon offsets, Geo-engineering, Biochar, Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology are all promoted at the expense of the decentralised, culturally and biologically diverse systems and responses which peoples movements across the world are re-building from the grassroots up. These systems provide solutions which are challenging the thinking that has driven us into the multiple crises we now face. They are demonstrating that there is a more socially, ecologically and economically just way to solve these problems; a way which decentralises control and capital. This goes to the heart of the challenge.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Norway, UK, US chip in to help halt deforestation


The governments of Norway, Britain and the United States said they will allocate $US280 million ($299 million) of their multi-billion dollar climate change finances to a new initiative aimed at halting deforestation.
The announcement was made at U.N. talks in Warsaw, where more than 9,000 delegates are meeting to hammer out the foundations of a new global treaty to combat climate change.
The money, part of the nations' previously announced climate finances, will be administered by the World Bank's BioCarbon Fund and aims to fund sustainable farming and better land use.
Agriculture drives around 80 per cent of the planet's deforestation, causing nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions as forest roughly the size of Costa Rica is chopped down worldwide each year.
"This isn't just an environmental issue. It's an economic issue. It's an energy issue," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a video message at the launch.
Norway will contribute up to $US135 million to the initiative, Britain $US120 million and the United States $US25 million. The fund also hopes to attract further private and public funding.
The U.N. summit is struggling to make progress on an effort to protect forests and cut carbon emissions, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
Nations had aimed to set up a mechanism for funding forest projects to help unlock greater investments from governments and the private sector, but with only three days to go negotiators remain bogged down in a quarrel over institutional arrangements.
"Parties are focusing all their energy arguing about the politics of who governs REDD+ finance, when the real issue is a lack of demand," said Matt Leggett, head of policy at forest think-tank Global Canopy Programme.
He said the programme must create demand for nearly 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to cut deforestation by half, but current projects are only set to cut emissions by 160 million tonnes.

India rejects US, EU moves to limit powerful greenhouse gases used in fridges


India opposed using the Montreal Protocol ozone-protection treaty to restrict powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, pouring cold water on efforts by the U.S. and the European Union.
“It's honestly beyond me how a non-ozone depleting substance like HFCs can be taken into the Montreal Protocol, which deals only with ozone-depleting substances,” Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told envoys at United Nations climate talks in Warsaw today. “We are unable to fathom what prevents addressing this issue” under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
U.S. and EU envoys have suggested using the ozone treaty to pare back the gases. That would bypass slow-moving UN climate talks, which often deadlock on unrelated issues. The gases are made by companies including Honeywell International Inc. and DuPont Co. in a $US4 billion ($4.4 billion) global refrigerant industry.
Tackling HFCs is important because the gases are up to 11,700 more powerful agents of global warming than carbon dioxide, according to the UN. Phasing them down has the potential to slash 90 billion tons of greenhouse gases through 2050, said Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change. That's almost two years of greenhouse-gas output at current levels.
“The Montreal Protocol is made for this kind of task,” Stern said today. “It's what it does, It phases down industrial chemicals. Let's start making progress here instead of making excuses.”
Environmental success
The Montreal Protocol, touted as the most successful environmental treaty, was rolled out in 1987 to eliminate the use of CFCs, once a mainstay of air conditioners, refrigerants and aerosols. Ratified by all nations, it has cut CFCs and other regulated chemicals by 98 per cent, replacing them with HFCs.
India also blocked discussions on the proposed transfer of responsibility at talks of the Montreal Protocol last month. The opposition contradicts a Sept. 6 declaration in St. Petersburg by G-20 members, including India, supporting use of the Montreal Protocol to curb the gases. U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh issued a statement later that month agreeing to discuss using the treaty.
“The transfer of mandate of phasedown of HFCs is simply not possible unless we have complete clarity on identified substitutes, costs, safety and economic feasibility,” Natarajan said. “It will very adversely impact our people and our countries.”
While HFCs don't deplete ozone, they're substitutes for the chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which the Montreal Protocol has been successful in curtailing. The EU estimates that while HFCs make up about 1 per cent of greenhouse gases now, they may account for more than 20 per cent by 2050, and the 28-nation bloc is also pushing to regulate them under the ozone deal

Methane emissions from gas far exceed estimates, US study finds

COAL SEAM GAS.US emissions of methane - a greenhouse gas - are probably 50 per cent higher than current estimates show, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The study estimated emissions in 2007 and 2008, using measurements on the ground, in telecommunications towers and from aircraft for a comprehensive inventory of the second most abundant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.
It found that the US now underestimates methane releases from the raising of livestock and the extraction of oil and natural gas.
That may mean methane has a bigger role in climate change than now thought, as state officials and the US Environmental Protection Agency consider new rules designed to limit emissions that may lead to global warming.
“Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant, and the study gives greater impetus to the EPA and states to establish stronger standards to reduce leaks from the oil and gas system,” Dan Lashof, who directs the climate and clear air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said.
Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas represent a significant source of domestic methane emissions, Scot Miller, a co-author of the study, said.
“The fossil fuel industry are probably an important source of methane gas emissions in that part of the country,” said Miller, who's pursuing a doctorate in Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Fracking factor
Emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas, have newfound prominence with the rise of hydraulic fracturing and the sharp growth of oil and natural gas production in the US In the fracking process, water, sand and chemicals are shot underground to break apart rocks and free trapped natural gas or oil.
Methane accounted for 9 per cent of the greenhouse gases emitted in the US in 2011, according to the EPA. While methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere, it stays in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide.
Burning natural gas emits about half of the carbon that coal does when burned, but its climate benefits can be undercut by methane leaks at well sites and in transporting the fuel. Carbon dioxide accounted for 84 per cent of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, according to the EPA.
Miller said the study's authors are now examining more recent data, which would account for the sharp increase in oil and gas drilling in the US in recent years.
In a statement, the EPA said it was “encouraged that more methane emissions measurement data are now available to the public.”
Colorado said last week that it would become the first state to limit methane emissions from oil and gas production.

UK to invest $73b in renewable energy by 2020

The U.K. government said it expects 40 billion pounds ($73 billion) of investment in renewables by 2020 after shifting incentives toward offshore wind power and away from projects on land in areas where residents object.
The Treasury published a list of final “strike prices” for electricity from renewables in its national infrastructure plan today, cutting support for solar parks and onshore wind farms and raising them for turbines at sea. The sums represent the guaranteed amount that generators earn under long-term contracts designed to stimulate investment in low-carbon energy.
“This package will deliver record levels of investment in green energy by 2020,” Energy Secretary Ed Davey said. “Our reforms are succeeding in attracting investors from around the world so Britain can replace our aging power station and keep the lights on.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has faced opposition from rural communities to expanding wind farms and solar parks, which some residents say are a blight on the countryside. The government must balance those concerns with the need to attract 110 billion pounds ($200 billion) to replace aging power stations and meet renewable energy and carbon targets.
The government is trying to spur offshore wind in an effort to boost U.K. jobs and manufacturing. Those have been set back in the past month after RWE AG scrapped a 4.5 billion-pound offshore project, and Centrica Plc said it's still deciding whether to push ahead with another.
The energy department said today that deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2020 is “achievable,” while emphasizing that figure doesn't represent a target.
Projects benefiting
Sixteen renewable power projects are in the pipeline to receive contracts guaranteeing energy prices, Davey's department said. Almost 11 gigawatts of onshore and offshore wind have planning consent and are awaiting construction, compared with total installed renewable capacity of over 20 gigawatts at present, the department said.
Two of Drax Group Plc's units were included in the list of projects that have progressed in their bids for contracts. Shares of the company, which runs the U.K.'s largest coal-fired power plant and has already converted one of six units to run on biomass, rose to their highest since October 2008. The government confirmed incentives for those biomass plants would be unchanged from an earlier draft proposal.
Eggborough Power Ltd. has also progressed to the next stage in its bid for contracts guaranteeing power prices for coal units converted to run on biomass, the Energy Department said. Denmark's Dong Energy A/S advanced with bids for three offshore wind farms.
The guaranteed price for onshore wind was cut to 95 pounds per megawatt-hour from 2015 and 90 pounds from 2017. That's lower than draft levels proposed in June for 100 pounds and 95 pounds in those years. Support for large-scale solar farms was cut by 5 pounds in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and by 10 pounds in 2018.
“The price we're willing to pay for onshore wind and large-scale solar plants is coming down,” said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. Even so, “the need for investment in our energy sector is enormous.”
The level offshore wind will get from 2018 was raised by 5 pounds to 140 pounds.
“Today's cuts to onshore wind and solar support schemes show how quickly the cost of clean energy technologies are falling,” Greenpeace Policy Director Doug Parr said. “It's right ministers should now put emphasis onto helping drive down the cost of offshore wind so that the U.K. can reap the rewards of new turbine factories and thousands of new jobs.”
Offshore wind
The U.K., with almost 3,000 megawatts of wind turbines installed at sea at the end of 2012, has more offshore wind power than the rest of the world put together, though at present none of the turbines are made domestically.
Government spending on environmental measures has become a political focal point after five of the nation's “Big Six” energy providers raised bills to consumers.
Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, pledged to freeze prices if he wins the election due in 2015. The government responded by reviewing surcharges to energy bills that pay for green and social programs, resulting in changes to energy efficiency programs announced two days ago.
Aesthetics
The revisions also show a continued push-back against large-scale renewable projects on land.
Energy Minister Greg Barker said in July that the government planned guidelines for large-scale photovoltaic plants designed to “preserve heritage assets and beautiful countryside.” Former energy minister John Hayes last year made similar comments about onshore wind, saying more weight should be given to aesthetics when making planning decisions.
The government also in June announced higher payments to communities that host onshore wind farms, and introduced guidance for planning authorities to ensure local residents are consulted earlier about applications for the installations.
In a separate announcement, the Department of Energy and Climate Change proposed raising incentives to companies and communities that install renewable heat facilities, including biomass boilers over 1-megawatt, deep geothermal, combined heat and power plants, ground-source heat pumps, solar thermal installations and biogas burners.
“It is vital that we get the level of support right so that the market can invest with confidence, cost reductions can be achieved and the market can grow sustainably,” Barker said today in a written statement to Parliament.

Living Greener: A Checklist for Creating An Environmentally Friendly Home

window-treatmentSome of the most minor changes around your home can benefit our planet, increase your own wellbeing, and bring happiness to your wallet.  With green products and techniques no longer part of a boutique industry, the chance to plant your own footprint into making a difference has never been easier.
Here are few ideas to improve your home’s efficiency so you can live in an environmentally friendly home.
Window Treatments
When greening your home the number one consideration is windows. Because much of your home’s energy loss is through them, ensuring you have coated glass or energy efficient curtains or blinds is important.
Most window coverings offer some sort of insulation, but some perform more efficiently than others—lowering heating and cooling costs without compromising your d├ęcor and design.  For those that want the best of both worlds, curtains and blinds, such as readymade roman blinds, make for a fantastic choice giving the luxurious appearance of curtains combined with the mechanisms of blinds.
The amount of light that enters the room can easily be controlled through the type of fabric providing an energy efficient solution. To keep your home cooler in summer it’s a good idea to make sure your east and west windows are shaded.
The frame of your windows can also play a big part in green living as the commonly used material UPVC (unplasticized poly vinyl chloride) can release toxic compounds. Wood-framed windows are a much greener alternative – they are more insulated, easier to repair and last longer.
Green Up Your Appliances
If your appliances are more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to start working towards replacing them with energy efficient models that display the “Energy Star” logo.  Every device normally has a label that shows how much power it consumes, so the old fridge out the back holding just a carton of beer could be costing you $200 a year.
Once you have studied your power bill, cross checked with these labels, you will be able to figure out how much each appliance costs to run and whether replacing it would be a cheaper option.  For appliances that don’t require replacing, make sure you do a regular check for leaky parts and get them repaired as soon as possible. This will help significantly on your water saving too.
Energy Efficiency Lighting
LED are the most durable and eco-friendly of lighting options. Not only will they save you on the power bills, but they are low maintenance and super pleasant on the environment.
As opposed to standard halogen lights, LEDs consumer a fraction of the energy, providing more light and less heat and energy. Because of the significant drop in temperature from these lights, it lowers the use of air conditioning making it very cost effective.
Reduce Your Water Use
To reduce your outdoor water use, optimize your lawn watering schedule and adjust your sprinklers to minimize waste.
Running your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full will also help in reducing water wastage.
Clean Air Conditioning
When you’re doing your regular spring clean, not many people will think to put the air conditioner on the list of things to do – but you should. Cleaning out the filters of your air conditioning or replacing them regularly will ensure the airflow is doing its job properly.
Keep Your Garden Green
Creating compost is a great way to keep your garden even greener with its multiple eco-friendly benefits. Scraps such as eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, tea bags and stale bread are the perfect food for your compost pile and can improve the health of your soil whilst giving back to the environment and controlling household waste.
Going green isn’t a tough task to achieve and even just applying one or two of the above points can make a world of difference. What are you going to do to leave your imprint on the environment?

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