Thursday, May 26, 2011

CDM Carbon Sink Tree Plantations: A Case Study in Tanzania

The study documents the tree plantation project at Idete in southern Tanzania and concludes that in an African context, such monoculture tree plantation model is non-sustainable from many points of view, even with market-based mechanisms such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification in place.

Where this is not possible, mechanisms could be put in place to ensure that a substantial portion of project income is invested appropriately at the local level.

This report confirms propositions based on similar experiences included in the preliminary report (released in December 2009, titled “Potential Impacts of Tree Plantation Projects under the CDM: An African Case Study”). It would be valuable if other existing and proposed CDM carbon sink tree and agro-fuel plantation projects would conduct more thorough and wide ranging studies to establish the benefit or otherwise of such projects for each local setting, in advance of project implementation.

The negotiations at the UNFCCC COP16 in Cancun (December 2010) did not produce any definitive conclusion or recommendation in terms of including plantations in the rules for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), so tree plantation offset projects remain an uncertain issue in relation to future climate change policy developments, especially given the question mark over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

What has emerged is that there is a fundamental problem in developing countries such as Tanzania. Opportunities for resource exploitation in combination with acquisition of cheap land are being grabbed by Northern corporations and their local agents, such as Green Resources Ltd. This growing trend - not limited to the case detailed in this report - is to the disadvantage of affected communities, and results in the destruction, degradation and/or pollution of the natural landscape while impacting negatively on biodiversity, food security, cultural traditions and water resources.

Such investments can also introduce new social problems. Easier access to recreational drugs, alcohol and junk foods that come with the cash economy can exacerbate the situation. Human health is in decline. Contagious diseases, especially those transmitted sexually like HIV/AIDS, are on the increase, affecting previously un-afflicted communities. The loss of traditional knowledge, and reduced access to wild medicinal plants, is making rural people increasingly dependent on expensive western medicine. However, such circumstances can also provide money-making opportunities for foreign corporations. They soon find new markets for antibiotics, ARVs, condoms, cell-phones, sweets, genetically-engineered seeds, weapons, cheap whisky and trinkets in the most remote corners of the world. This pattern perpetuates poverty at the community level, although sometimes a few well-connected individuals will become wealthy and influential, and this can be used as ‘evidence’ that foreign economic intervention is good for the local economy.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Developing Countries Raise Concerns On “Green Economy” as Rio+20 Begins

Chee Yoke Ling and Saradha Iyer (Third World Network) report that the first session to prepare for Rio Plus 20 (the 2012 Sustainable Development Summit in Rio) in New York on 17-19 May, the “Green Economy” was one of the most significant topics.

There were many differences of views, with many developing countries expressing various concerns, including that the concept was new and complex and thus too early to be the subject of multilateral negotiations; that it should not distort or divert from the agreed and holistic concept of “sustainable development”; and that it should not be used to open the way to trade protection or new aid and finance conditionalities.

The developing countries want the priority of Rio Plus 20 to be on analyzing why the commits made at Rio and other Summits have not been fulfilled, to identify the obstacles, and get new commitments to fill in the gaps.

The concern is that before the previous commitments have been met, new concepts are emerging that may cause new complications and divert from the real issues.

For example, the G77 asked the following questions: Does an approach based on "a green economy" add value to the paradigm of sustainable development? Or does it compete with the agreed multilateral conceptual framework for sustainable development? Moreover, how does it relate to the fundamental principles agreed in Rio (Agenda 21, Rio Declaration) and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development?

The G77 also cautioned that "transition to a green economy should not lead to conditionalities, parameters or standards which might generate unjustified or unilateral restrictions in the areas of trade, financing, ODA or other forms of international assistance. Illegitimate barriers to trade - tariff and non-tariff - could emerge if the discussions are geared towards or captured by protectionist interests, which might ultimately lead to green protectionism' proposals that would run counter to the multilateral trading system".

Read full article from here

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy” from Farming First

Farming First has launched a six-part online infographic called “The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy”, which uses data from leading research organisations to tell the story of agriculture’s potential contribution to building a global green economy.

In 2009, G8 leaders made bold pledges to increase food security aid to $22bn by 2012. At this year’s meeting, the G8 should promote policy coherence on food security and price volatility issues in order to support the poorest without disrupting the market or discouraging farmers from receiving adequate prices. Funding should be coordinated, transparent and farmer-centred.

The 'Story' has 6 sections that provide important data and trends on agriculture and food security:

- How can we feed future generations?
- How can we reduce poverty around the world?
- Where do we invest to build a green economy?
- How can we build a more sustainable supply chain?
- How can we manage environmental sustainability with economic viability?

See the whole story, by visiting the full Farming First infographic here

Low Carbon Development Factsheets

A Low-Carbon Economy (LCE) or Low-Fossil-Fuel Economy (LFFE) is an economy which has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the environment biosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Recently, some scientific and public opinion has concluded that anthropogenic (human activity) caused GHG emissions are either causing climate change or making climate change worse. Those who have drawn this conclusion are concerned there will be negative impacts on humanity in the foreseeable future because of climate change.[2] Globally implemented LCE's therefore are proposed, by those who have drawn this conclusion, as a means to avoid catastrophic climate change, and as a precursor to the more advanced, zero-carbon society and renewable-energy economy.

Encouraging developing countries to invest in low carbon growth has had limited success so far. One reason for this is that developing countries are concerned how investments into a more resource efficient economy might impact on their prospects for growth. Even though there is a growing base of evidence outlining the co-benefits of a low-carbon transition, there is a large gap in the data and indicators required for robust assessments of the relationship between low carbon development, climate resilience and overall economic growth in developing countries.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) commissioned AEA (energy & climate change consultants) to develop a set of factsheets synthesising the latest work and evidence from the major economic research institutions, multilateral institutions/ organisations, and leading thinkers and consultancies working on low carbon development.

Themes were reviewed under the headline of low carbon development that include: agriculture and fisheries, climate resilience, energy systems, biodiversity, fossil fuel subsidies, domestic finance, manufacturing and industry, new economics, natural resource scarcity, new jobs, poverty reduction, transport, urbanisation and cities, and water.

Read the 9 Low Carbon Development Factsheets from AEA here

Monday, May 23, 2011

‘Lagos set to rake millions from carbon’

Onche Odeh of Nigeria's Daily Independent reports that Lagos has instituted a carbon footprint initiative that could earn the state millions in foreign exchange.

The carbon footprint, seeks to create a carbon labeling culture among consumers and manufacturers with the aim of ascertaining the amount of carbon and other environmentally harmful gases produced as by-products by products, balancing the needs of the people and the environment at the same time.

Nigeria is regarded as the world’s 43rd highest carbon emitter with estimated annual carbon footprint of 100 million metric tonnes.A Study on Nigeria’s oil and gas industry also show that the industry results in the emission of over 150 billion cubic meters of environmentally damaging air emissions. This is mostly through venting, flaring or fugitive leaks. Read Onche Odeh's full article from the Nigeria's Daily Independent here

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Erik Solheim’s reply to the Open Letter outlining eight problems with Norway’s REDD support to Guyana: “It will not be possible to go into the details of your letter here”

In March 2011, the Norwegian Minister of the Environment & International Development - Erik Solheim, visited Guyana (a country with one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, some parts of which are almost inaccessible by humans) in amidst complaints that were submitted to him by a group of CSOs about poor performance of the Norwegian supported five-year Low Carbon Development Strategy worth $US250M which was agreed in 2009 in an Open letter.

The Minister has now responded to the Open Letter. According to The REDD Monitor, Erik Solheim’s letter is extraordinary on several counts, but most importantly, it fails to address the eight problems in the Open Letter.

Read the Open Letter here and Minister Erik Solheim’s response here

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why a Green Economy Matters for the Least Developed Countries

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) have released a report titled “Why a Green Economy Matters for Least Developed Countries.”

The report was released at the the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC IV), convening from 9-13 May 2011, in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to the report, the world's 48 LDCs are positioned to jump-start the transition to a green economy by continuing to develop low-carbon, labour-intensive agriculture and community-based forestry, sustainable practices that have existed for decades. Developed and emerging countries, meanwhile, face substantial costs of “decarbonisation” and costs related to retiring inefficient fossil fuel-based technologies.

The report includes examples of achievements in a range of economic sectors, including energy and agriculture, and through government, private sector and civil society initiatives. The examples include: Uganda’s experience in quadrupling exports of organic agricultural products between 2003 and 2008, tapping into a growing global market and ensuring higher prices for products.

Uganda, the African country having the largest area under organic agricultural farming, significantly expanded its exports of organic products despite being an LDC far from its major export markets. In Uganda, certified organic exports increased from US$ 3.7 million in 2003/4, to US$ 6.2 million in 2004/5, before jumping to US$ 22.8 million in 2007/8. Studies commissioned by UNEP and UNCTAD indicate that in 2006 the farm-gate prices of organic pineapple, ginger and vanilla were 300 per cent, 185 per cent, and 150 per cent higher, respectively, than conventional products, making sustainable forms of production highly profitable for producers and local communities.

Other examples include Nepal's approach to Community Forest Management, which has succeeded in reversing the trend of decline in forest cover and continues to generate employment and income from the sustainable harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products; and Mali’s experience of supporting farmers through field training, significantly reducing the use of imported pesticides and expanding the use of organic fertilizers, simultaneously increasing production and reducing input costs. Read the full report from here

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Green growth paradigm for Africa's economy

Dominic Waughray of Nigeria’s Business Day Newspaper (May 4, 2011) looks ahead at the December 2011 United Nations annual conference on Climate Change to be held in Durban (South Africa), in relation to the much hyped Green Climate Fund (USD 100 bn per year by 2020) agreed at the Mexican-climate talks in Cancun in 2010.

He cautions that although it sounds a lot, US$100bn per year simply won't be enough to pay for the transition to a resilient, low carbon economy, even if all the money were just for Africa. For example, leaving aside the cost required to pay for the damage climate change will cause, US$100bn will not cover the cost of investing in cleaner, more widespread energy systems across the continent.

Dominic rightly ponders on the question: How best to design the Green Climate Fund to ensure that Sub Saharan Africa and other developing regions can make most use of the US$100bn a year that richer countries promised will be available annually by 2020?

Dominic suggests that to be of maximum use, the US$100bn of overseas assistance on offer within the Green Climate Fund will need to be used to attract other forms of investment into the renewables markets in Africa, particularly from the private sector.

He recommends using the US$100bn of public money to draw in a much greater private capital flow from domestic and international markets based on ‘blended public-private’ investment activities. Not only does this create an upscale in clean energy investment projects that help to reduce emissions, it also helps with energy access, an important issue for Africa. Many more decentralised solar projects, for example, could be financed, if ways of aggregating investment risk to the private sector can be identified. A further benefit is of course, that these investments would not be delivered as overseas aid, but instead as on-the-balance-sheet investments, which would boost GDP and stimulate international partnerships with the private sector in investment and technology. In this way, emissions reduction targets become reformulated as GDP enhancing "green-growth" strategies - an economically attractive, growth-orientated path for African countries, and others, to pursue.

But then, Dominic puts across a (readiness) question for Africa: what sorts of economic and industrial policies might African countries develop in order to attract these green investment partnerships, and what role can richer countries play through the Green Climate Fund and other instruments, to provide aid funds to help speed this up?

Read Dominic Waughray’s full article: Green growth paradigm for Africa's economy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bio Diesel from Castor Oil - A Green Energy Option

In this article published March 2011 in the Low Carbon Journal, Hemant Y. Shrirame et. al. put a case for biodiesel as a viable option for fossil fuels in India (the sixth biggest country in the world and second highest country after china in Asia in terms of energy demand with high dependency on imported fuel).

The main commodity sources for biodiesel in India can be non-edible oils obtained from plant species such as Ratanjot (Jatropha curcus), Karanja (Pongamia pinnata), Castor (Ricinus communis) oilseed etc. It contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petro- leum diesel to create a biodiesel blend or can be used in its pure form. It has become an interesting alternative to be used in diesel engine, because it has similar properties to the traditional fossil diesel fuel and may, thus, substitute conventional fuel with none or very minor engine modification. One of the attractive features of biodiesel is its biodegradability and being more environmental friendly than the fossil fuels, resulting in less environmental impact upon accidental release to the environment. Emissions such as total hydro carbons and CO are usually found to significantly low with biodiesel as compared to petroleum diesel. This may be due to more complete combustion caused by the increased oxygen content in the flame coming from the biodiesel molecules.

With increase in the demand of petroleum products the prices of petrol & diesel are increasing world wide. This trend is expected in years to come as the resources are also depleting. Hence alternative sources of energy for running our generators, automobiles etc. are being considered world wide.

The possibility of obtaining oil from plant resources has aroused a great interest and in several countries, vegetable oil after esterification being used as ‘Biodiesel’. The biodiesel can be used as 20% blend with petrodiesel in existing engines without any modification. Both the edible and non edible vegetable oils can be used as the raw materials for the biodiesel. Considering the cost and demand of the edible oils the non edible oils may be preferred for the preparation of biodiesel in India.

Read the full article from Hemant Y. Shrirame et. al (2011) published in the Low Carbon Economy Journal from here