Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sustainable development goals face $2.5 trillion funding shortfall

By Sophie Yeo, RTCC

The UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) will fail unless governments and businesses find an extra US$ 2.5 trillion a year to support them.

The World Investment Report 2014, which the UN launched today in Nairobi, found that between $3.3 trillion and $4.5 trillion would be needed in the developing world to deliver the goals as they appear in drafts so far.

Current investment in these sectors is around $1.4 trillion, creating an average investment gap of about $2.5 trillion.

The UN is due to release the hotly contested set of targets in 2015, which will deal with subjects including poverty, health, gender and climate change.

They will guide international development until 2030, replacing the millennium development goals (MDGs) which are due to expire next year.

“The SDGs, by their definition of goals for particular objectives for a particular infrastructure, require money,” Richard Bolwijn, one of the authors of the report, told RTCC.

A 2012 report from the OECD showed that the MDGs also faced a shortfall of around $120 billion a year in health, education and poverty expenditure.

A 2013 progress report by the UN showed that none of the MDGs had yet been achieved across all regions.

Tight budgets

With governments across the developed world facing budgetary constraints in the wake of the financial crisis, the report says that the bulk of this shortfall will have to be made up by the private sector.

“We are trying to get the international community coming up with the SDGs to define in parallel some concrete actions to boost private sector investment,” said Bolwijn, adding that this could come in the form of fundraising targets that would help to “focus the mind” of potential investors.

The UN’s new Green Climate Fund could play a part in raising some of the required capital. Board members hope it will be able to leverage billions in low carbon financing from the private sector.

Leading climate change economist Lord Stern has told RTCC trillions of dollars are needed to invest in low carbon infrastructure in the developing world, with the bulk coming from business.

Tough talks

Last month the UN released its ‘zero draft’ of 17 potential SDGs, part of a process designed to focus the minds of negotiators and accelerate discussions.

Environmentalists are concerned that climate change may lose its position as a dedicated goal due to stiff opposition from some countries, notably Saudi Arabia.

Sven Harmeling of CARE International, who is following the talks, told RTCC that so far they had focused on specific goals, avoiding notoriously complex discussions on how the final selection will actually work.

“The negotiations haven’t really touched on means of implementation and finance,” he said. “This has become obvious again that this will become one key issue.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the UN, said in the foreword to the report that it “offers a global action plan for galvanizing the role of businesses in achieving future sustainable development goals”.

But while the shortfall remains in the trillions, Bolwijn says that calculating the difference was the first step to closing it.

“I’m convinced it is difficult and should be difficult. But it is achievable,” he said.

“If we can manage to assign a rough guess for how much investment is needed to achieve the SDGs, you can actually work towards bringing that money on the table.”

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rainforest tribes seek World Cup spotlight

By Climate News Network

Tribal leaders from the Amazon rainforest are using the glare of publicity on the football World Cup in Brazil to highlight an impassioned plea for recognition of their lands and an end to dam building and deforestation

Chief Raoni Metuktire, head of the Kayapò indigenous group from the Xingu region, deep in the Amazon rainforest, sits in a packed lecture hall in London. With his jutting lip plate and large feather headdress, the elderly, gently-spoken tribal leader is an imposing presence.

“When I’m gone I want my children and grandchildren to live in the forest as I have done,” he says. “I ask for your help. In the past, we didn’t knock down the trees, destroy the land and build dams, but now all that is happening.

“The climate in the forest is changing: it is a lot hotter than it used to be, and the pattern of the winds is altering.”

Lungs of the world

The Amazon rainforest – often referred to as the lungs of the world – has a major influence on the world’s climate. Its trees and vegetation act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Megaron Txucarramãe, a long-time campaigner for land rights for indigenous tribes in the Amazon region, sits alongside Chief Raoni, his uncle.

“The logging in our region is increasing,” he says. “Our lands and those of other indigenous tribes should be properly demarcated, but the Brazilian government is seeking to alter the constitution and undermine our land rights, giving more power to loggers, dam builders and mining companies.

“We went to Brasilia [Brazil’s capital] to protest, but we were received with rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray. While the government worries about building stadiums for the World Cup, our land is being threatened. I would like to ask the world to pay attention to our problems and help us.”

In a tour of European capitals that coincided with the opening of the World Cup, the two tribal leaders met Prince Albert of Monaco and, in London, Prince Charles. They also took their message to the Norwegian royal family.

The Kayapò are by far the largest ethnic group in the Xingu region. After years of campaigning and sometimes violent struggle, the group succeeded in having 19,000 square miles of land demarcated as an indigenous reserve in 1992.

The tribal leaders say the government of President Dilma Rousseff – which faces an election in October – is now threatening the land rights of indigenous groups and the health of the whole Amazon by allowing mining and other projects to go ahead.

In recent years, Brazil has embarked on a wide-ranging dam building programme in the Amazon. The Xingu river, a major tributary of the Amazon river, runs through the Kayapò’s lands. Despite various court judgements and continuing protests by the Kayapò and other groups, construction of the Belo Monte dam − which will be one of the world’s biggest when it is completed − began on the Xingu in 2011.

After years of decline in deforestation rates in the Amazon rainforest, they then increased dramatically by 28% over the 2012 to 2013 period, with many blaming controversial reforms to Brazil’s forest laws pushed through by a powerful and extremely wealthy land lobby.
Weather patterns

In recent months, large parts of Brazil have been suffering a drought that is one of the worst on record. Environmentalists say deforestation in the Amazon has disturbed weather patterns and has resulted in less rainfall in many areas.

Patrick Cunningham, who has travelled extensively through the Xingu region, photographing and documenting the lives of the indigenous tribes, is a spokesman for Tribes Alive, a group that highlights indigenous peoples’ issues.

He said: “Chief Metuktire and Megaron are not only asking for an end to the destruction of their lands, they are also campaigning to stop what is a suicidal rush to develop their region.

“Such actions will not only be a setback for them but also for the whole of Brazil as rain patterns alter farther south, in what is the most agriculturally productive region of the country.” – Climate News Network

Rainforest tribes seek World Cup spotlight

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

South Sudan’s Wildlife Become Casualties Of War and Are Killed to Feed Soldiers and Rebels

By Charlton Doki, IPS News

While South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar agreed last week to end the country’s devastating six-month conflict by forming a transitional government within the next two months, it may come too late for this country’s wildlife as conservation officials accuse fighters on both sides of engaging in killing wild animals to feed their forces.

Poaching has always been a common practice in South Sudan. But conservationists say that since the conflict between the government and forces loyal to Machar began in December 2013, there has been an upsurge in the killing and trafficking of wildlife by government and anti-government forces as well as armed civilians.

“Since the start of this conflict we have noticed that poaching has become terrible. Rebels are poaching and the government forces are also poaching because they are all fighting in rural areas and the only available food they can get is wild meat,” Lieutenant General Alfred Akuch Omoli, an advisor to South Sudan’s Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, told IPS.

Officials say elephants are being killed for their meat and tusks while migratory animals that move in large numbers, especially the white-eared kob, the tiang (also known as the Senegal hartebeest) and reedbuck, are being killed specifically to provide bush meat.

“Our forces are also shooting wildlife animals for food. If you go from here between Mangala and Bor [just outside of the capital, Juba] you will see a lot of bush meat being sold along the road,” the director general for Wildlife in South Sudan, Philip Majak, told local radio.

The current conflict has also made it difficult for wildlife officers to stop both the government and rebel troops from poaching and is hindering their efforts to conduct routine patrols in national game parks and wildlife reserves.

“Wildlife officers have run away from their work stations, which means they can no longer conduct routine patrols to prevent poaching. So criminals and gangs can now easily kill animals in the bushes,” Omoli said.

“Things will only get better when peace is restored, fighters return to the barracks and the government disarms civilians carrying illegal guns,” he added.

Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Ministry officials say prior to the two-decade civil war between what was previously north and south Sudan, South Sudan had more than 100,000 elephants. But when the war ended in 2005, there were only 5,000 left.

Last year, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which is helping conserve wildlife in South Sudan, fitted 34 elephants with GPS satellite collars.

But between January and April WCS officials established that some of the collars were no longer visible on satellite.

“We have evidence that some of the elephants we collared have been killed. When the conflict escalated we established that one of the collars was behind rebel forces’ lines in Jonglei state. That means that elephant has most probably been killed by now,” Michael Lopidia, WCS’s deputy director for South Sudan, told IPS.

The increased availability of arms remains an issue here. Before South Sudan gained independence in 2011, it was estimated that there were between 1.9 and 3.2 million small arms in circulation in the country. Two-thirds of these small arms and light weapons were thought to be in the hands of civilians, according to a February 2012 report by Safer World titled “Civilian disarmament in South Sudan: A legacy of struggle.”

But this number is thought to have doubled or tripled in the last three years due in part to the number of rebel and militia groups that have sprung up in Jonglei and Upper Nile states in 2010 and 2011. There has also been an increased supply of small arms by traders from neighbouring countries.

“There is serious poaching here in South Sudan simply because there are a lot of guns in uncontrolled hands. Civilians who own guns just go into the forests and begin poaching without permission from the ministry,” Omoli explained.

Ethnic conflict has also played a role in hampering conservation efforts. During the 2013 war in Jonglei state’s Pibor County led by David Yau Yau of the Murle community, communities and wildlife rangers from the Boma National Park were displaced. This ultimately lead to a halt in wildlife conservation activities.

“The armed conflict between Yau Yau and the SPLA [South Sudan's army] from February to May 2013 disrupted our efforts to conserve animals. WCS lost more than 5,000 dollars worth of property. All our infrastructure, including tents, were removed and looted,” Lopidia said.

But another concerning factor is that wildlife rangers lack the capacity to deal with South Sudan’s highly militarised poachers. According to both the South Sudan Wildlife Service and WCS officials, poachers here tend to be heavily armed.

“Once we went to fix a sign post. There were seven rangers and they saw more than 10 poachers carrying G3s [automatic rifles] while the rangers were carrying AK47s [select-fire assault rifles]. We had to come back because if the rangers had approached the poachers they would have been overpowered,” Lopidia explained.

There is also currently no specific law to deal with the issues of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Though wildlife officers have arrested poachers and wildlife traffickers, because of the lack of a clear law, “sometimes in the courts ask under what section are you charging this person,” Omoli said. Most often suspected poachers are set free.

“That’s why we want to speed up the laws so that they are put in place and implemented as soon as possible,” Omoli said.

South Sudan Wildlife Service officers also do not have powers to prosecute. Arrested poachers and wildlife traffickers are often handed over to the police for prosecution.

“The problem is that when these cases are taken to police they are sometimes not tried and the cases just die out. We would prefer to try these cases. But the cases end up pending and the suspects are sometimes released and they go back to what they have been doing — poaching,” Omoli explained.

Officials say that if South Sudan’s variety of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, buffalos, white-eared-kobs, gazelles, tiang, antelopes, mongalla gazelles, reedbuck and lions, were sustainably managed, tourism for the country’s wildlife could contribute up to 10 percent of South Sudan’s GDP in 10 years time.

“We need proper planning and policies. We should identify what natural resources we have and prepare good policies guiding how they should be used for a long time to benefit the current and future generations. There should be a national plan to do that,” Dr. Leben Nelson Moro, a professor of development studies at Juba University, told IPS.

Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism officials are working with WCS to develop a legal framework that will govern how wildlife offences or violations are dealt with. The law will also guide the development of tourism.

But there will also have to be an education campaign for local communities as there is currently limited awareness among South Sudan’s communities on the importance of wildlife conservation.

At a local restaurant in Juba, 55-year-old Zachariai Lomude told IPS: “I love bush meat and have eaten it since I was a child. I will continue to eat it as long as I am alive regardless of whether killing wild animals is allowed or not.”

South Sudan’s Wildlife Become Casualties Of War and Are Killed to Feed Soldiers and Rebels

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wild vegetables contribute to food security

By Dr Sydney Mavengahama

Although indigenous (wild) leafy vegetables are consumed in small quantities, they play a vital role in boosting household food security among rural people.

This is one of the findings of a recent study in which the role wild vegetables play in improving food security among poor rural people in northern KwaZulu-Natal was investigated. The study also aimed to the gain an understanding of the knowledge and perceptions on the use of wild vegetables.

Many people in the Northern KZN area used wild vegetables as an important part of their maize-based diet. Consumed as relish, this food source is gathered from homesteads, the veld and woodlands.

People prepare wild vegetables, believed to be rich in micronutrients, as the preferred relish on their own or mixed together as substitutes for cabbage and spinach in stews and soups in cases where meat and other vegetables are too expensive.

Mixing several different indigenous vegetables in one meal contributes to dietary diversity in terms of more vegetable types as well as in terms of choice of relish. During periods of famine, indigenous vegetables can be substitutes for certain food crops.

Although these vegetables have traditionally been gathered and utilised as relish during hard times, their food security potential and their reported good nutritional status have not been fully realised to date.

Wild vegetables also increase agrobiodiversity (agricultural biodiversity) at the household level. Agrobiodiversity includes rare seed varieties and animal breeds, soil fauna, weeds, native plants and animals on a farm used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture. It acts as a buffer against pests and diseases and provides important cover for the soil.

Apart from being used as food, most wild vegetables are also believed to have medicinal properties. In a survey, people indicated that the African pumpkin (Momordica foetida, photographed) is widely used as a cure for high blood pressure and diabetes. There is a general belief that the eating these wild vegetables leads to better health.

Scientists have recently started research work to verify and corroborate these claims and beliefs further.

Availability can be a challenge

Although wild vegetables are reportedly abundant during summer, a decrease in availability during winter and the dry season leaves vulnerable people who rely on them with a food shortage.

The use of wild vegetables among rural people is reportedly declining due to over reliance on introduced and commercialised leafy green vegetables such as cabbage and Swiss chard.

Also, rural dwellers eliminate them from cultivated fields as weed species which lead to a depletion of the natural population. It might take a long time before farmers change their attitudes towards these vegetables, which although used as food, have been largely viewed as weeds.

The research conducted by Dr Mavengahama has shown that several factors including seed dormancy and premature flowering (bolting) could hamper efforts to domesticate and cultivate wild vegetables. Exposing seeds of some wild vegetable types to dry heat or hot water for a few seconds can overcome dormancy, which is caused by an impermeable seed coat.

Some wild vegetables flower prematurely before they have produced an economic yield because of temperature extremes or changes in the length of the day. This also affects many other leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and mustard rape, and leads to production losses in leaf vegetable crops.

A possible way to deal with premature flowering is to continuously pluck the flowers by hand as they appear. In his study, removing flowers resulted in a 46% increase in the harvestable leaf yield in African cabbage, also known as Cat’s whiskers (Cleome gynandra).

Adding mineral fertilisers and organic manures to the soil can help improve the quality and nutritional value of wild vegetables. The use of cattle manure resulted in increased leaf yield in wild okra (Corchorus olitorius).

Factors such as the environment, plant parts, plant age, post-harvest handling, storage, cooking and preservation can alter the nutritional composition of wild vegetables and need to be studied further.

Dr Mavengahama’s study revealed many information gaps regarding several aspects of these wild vegetables that still need to be filled. These include the selection and improvement of the genetic makeup of wild vegetables, studies on seed biology and germination, as well as their response to increased populations, fertilisers and crop mixtures.

Further research on agronomic and socio-economic aspects related to wild vegetables is required to understand the role of these vegetables in subsistence farming in South Africa. Finally, there is need to promote their increased used and cultivation among both rural and urban dwellers.

Wild vegetables contribute to food security

Friday, June 13, 2014

Delhi Threatened by Ozone Pollution

By Climate Himalaya

After experiencing the soaring temperature this summer, bad news follows Delhites once again. According to a recent study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the ground-level ozone, a highly reactive and harmful gas, has far been exceeded the permissible limit.

The report, released on Monday, said that the ozone layer has increased due to the heat waves Delhi is experiencing in June. The harmful ozone gas is very dangerous for people suffering from asthma and respiratory problems as it may cause premature death.

“With heat wave raging in early June, ozone peaks to dangerous levels. Rising NOx levels and volatile gases in the air, primarily from vehicles, form the recipe for ozone when exposed to intense sunlight and high temperature. Ozone is a serious threat to those suffering from asthma and respiratory problems and can cause premature deaths if it is high even for a short duration during the day,” said executive director, research and advocacy and head of CSE’s air pollution programme, Anumita Roy Chowdhury.

The study claims that within a week Ozone levels have gone up by 315% at Delhi’s Mandir Marg and 82% at Indira Gandhi International airport. In addition, 87% have gone up in Civil Lines and 171% in Punjabi Bagh, in just a week. At all locations the average ozone level was 73 micrograms per cubic meter on June 1, which hastily doubled further than the standards by June 5.

Research carried out by real-time air quality data from key monitoring stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) from January to early June reveals that ozone level has rapidly been built and has gone beyond the permissible limits.

According to Dr Randeeep Guleria, head of the department of pulmonary medicine at All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), “A person with chronic respiratory problems and bronchitis is prone to more attacks when he or she is exposed to high level of pollution. The person will have breathing difficulties and cough when exposed to the heat. One should avoid places with high levels of pollution like crossings and terminals.”

“It is advisable for them to stay indoors and drink lot of fluids and electrolytes and wear loose clothes. People suffering from chronic respiratory problems should increase their medication and a consult doctor. Elderly people should be very careful and always carry an umbrella when stepping out,” he advised.

Delhi Threatened by Ozone Pollution

Monday, June 9, 2014

Venezuela urges civil society to boost "boring" UN talks

By Sophie Yeo, RTCC in Bonn

Venezuela plans to canvass civil society for their views on climate change during a four-day meeting in July—an attempt to rejuvenate “boring” UN talks, according to the country’s chief climate negotiator.

The meeting will focus on the “social impact of climate change”, said Claudia Salerno, who outlined her intentions during UN negotiations taking place this week in Bonn.

“It is a humbling process for us [the government], and it is an empowering process for people,” she said, adding that it was an opportunity to “change the debate a little bit”, including issues such as gender, health and ethics—topics which are frequently sidelined in favour of discussions such as reform of the energy and transport sectors.

The meeting, called the “Social Pre-COP”, is being held in advance of the UN’s forthcoming December Conference in Lima—the world’s final chance to discuss dangerous climate change before a landmark treaty is scheduled to be signed off in Paris in 2015.

Leading green groups walked out of the last major UN climate summit in Warsaw, claiming “rich industrialised countries had held action on climate change hostage.”

While NGOs do not have a seat at the negotiating table, various organisations play an active role behind the scenes, lobbying and advising governments. Many poorer countries rely heavily on the expertise and manpower of these groups to guide them through the talks.

Venezuela’s decision to focus on civil society prior to the UN’s 2014 climate talk was first announced last November in Warsaw. Since then, the country has faced violent clashes between government and opposition student protesters, which have resulted in 42 fatalities since February.

On 4 June, the US state department issued a travel warning, saying that demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are expected to continue and “may pose a security risk”.

Guy Edwards, a research fellow on Latin American climate policy at Brown University, told RTCC that Venezuela’s attitude towards its domestic civil society, as well as its positioning within the UN climate talks and its large oil reserves, could cast a shadow over the meeting.

“Raising the volume of civil society at the negotiations is an important goal, but whether Venezuela is a credible and appropriate host is questionable,” he said.

But Salerno said that “peace was back” in Venezuela, and that the recent conflict would was not likely to undermine the upcoming gathering, repeating President Maduro’s suggestion that the current protesters were more like “terrorists” than protesters.

“I think the way we handled that extreme situation shows the world that are committed to peace and to wellbeing of everybody,” she said. “We are engaging constructively and trying to build peace above everything.”

Unwrapping the jargon

The focus on social issues and civil society means that, while ministers are not being expressly forbidden from the meeting, Salerno warned that they should not expect any special treatment if they decide to attend.

“We are not encouraging ministers to come to July because that is not supposed to be a minister ‘I’m king of the world’ kind of thing,” she said. “If ministers want to come, they will be there as one more person in the room.”

She added that the government had hired two anthropologists to translate the UN’s notoriously complex jargon into everyday language that will allow the general public to engage more effectively with the process.

As an untested approach, focusing on the social aspects of climate change is a risk, said Salerno, but she hopes that its messages could be taken forward not only at the Lima Conference, but also a climate summit to be hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September.

“The process is already so boring, so what can we do that will be worse?” she said.


The meeting will take place on Margarita Island from 15-18 July, and will be followed by a further ministerial meeting on 4-7 November, where ministers will be presented with a document summarising the ideas of civil society.

The July meeting was welcomed by civil society groups present at Saturday’s briefing. Wael Hmaiden, president of campaigning group CAN International, said: “We welcome the social pre-COP and we definitely want it to be a success.”

He added: “For us to see it as a success, it is to have it replicated beyond this year as well, and that means the ministers have to see it as valuable.

“If it was a nightmare for them, they’re definitely going to go back and say, ‘never bring me to something like this again,’ and definitely [COP21 host] France will not do it.”

Venezuela urges civil society to boost "boring" UN talks

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Finland reveals new climate change laws

agrees to target 80% emissions reduction by 2050 and promote use of
renewable energy - See more at:
By Ed King, RTCC

Finland has become the latest country to announce a new climate change act, which will put into law a long-term mitigation target of 80% emissions reduction by 2050.

Describing the news as ‘super’, Environment Minister Ville Niinistö said it would place Finland on a path towards “a position as a pioneer of low-carbon society”.

“Climate change policy will be open to a more democratic preparation, and public participation opportunities will improve,” he said in a statement.

“Predictable climate policy for business, in turn, creates an excellent platform for low-carbon solutions for reducing emissions. Research and policy to strengthen dialogue is also important.”

In 2013 Finland’s total emissions of greenhouse gases were equal to 60.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, almost unchanged from 2012.

Government data reveals coal consumption increased but the peat, oil and natural gas use fell.

In an interview with RTCC last December Niinistö said Finland would push for ambitious European 2030 climate targets in line with science

OFFICIAL PDF: Finland’s Climate Change Act

“The biggest national interest is keeping climate change under control, having a sustainable planet we can continue building social, wellbeing and economic prosperity, we need to address climate change,” he said.

“If we don’t do smart green growth there isn’t going to be any economic growth on the planet”

Finland joins the UK, Denmark, Ireland, South Korea, Mexico and Vietnam as countries which have legally binding carbon targets.

Around 400 MPs are meeting in Mexico City this week to try and boost those numbers. National laws are expected to underpin any future UN climate agreement.

Tasneem Essop, leader of WWF’s UN climate negotiating team at UN talks Bonn welcomed the news.

“The announcement by Finland is timely, demonstrates leadership and commitment. It should send a strong signal to other countries to also act urgently and contribute to the global effort to fight climate change.”

Earlier this week the US released details of plans to cut carbon from the power sector by 30%, while senior Chinese officials indicated it was working on proposals to cap emissions.

Yesterday the UN released a set of guidelines for governments to follow when submitting their ‘nationally determined contributions’ to a proposed UN climate deal.

All developed and major economies are expected to deliver emission reduction targets to the UN by the end of March 2015.

Finland reveals new climate change laws

Friday, June 6, 2014

Women can lead the transition to a cleaner, sustainable environment | UN Women - Beijing+20

y Rajendra K. Pachauri, Ph.D.
y Rajendra K. Pachauri, Ph.D.
By Rajendra K. Pachauri, Ph.D.

When it comes to climate change, no one is immune. Changes wrought by a warming climate will affect everyone in every corner of the globe.

The effects will be anything but uniform. Poorer, low-lying countries will suffer disproportionately unless the global community commits to reducing and ultimately eliminating the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. And within this already disadvantaged group, women and their children in rural areas are among the most vulnerable. As the IPCC’s Working Group II report pointed out in March:

“Price rises, which may be induced by climate shocks as well as other factors, have a disproportionate impact on the welfare of the poor in rural areas, such as female-headed households and those with limited access to modern agricultural inputs, infrastructure, and education.”

The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen, and concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased – all testaments to a warming climate. However, I remain hopeful that the rapidly accumulating evidence of climate change and its deeply troubling consequences for the future of our planet will prompt world leaders to take decisive action soon to transition to a global economy powered by clean, affordable and renewable energy. We have the technology to make the transition. We just need the political will to support its global adoption.

Women will play a critical role in this transition. Indeed, they may well lead it. After all, it was a woman, Rachel Carson, who founded the modern environmental movement with her book Silent Spring. And, as the World Bank has noted, women play an essential role in managing natural resources and, in my experience, are often more in touch with their natural surroundings. It is their voices that will ring the loudest in support of policies that encourage the creation of a safer environment for their children.

The transition to clean, renewable energy will have benefits for women that go well beyond averting climate change. More than 1.3 billion people around the world live without electricity – a particular hardship for women who are forced to cook over crude cook stoves that emit harmful particulates and who struggle to educate their children by kerosene or candlelight.

Through a programme called Lighting a Billion Lives administered by my institute, TERI, I have seen how the lives of women in poor, rural villages have been transformed with small, locally based solar power. With access to electricity for the first time in their lives, they and their children are able to read at night and power small businesses. Gone are the wood-fired stoves, kerosene lamps and their toxic by-products.

Let me tell you the story of Baby Devi to illustrate my point. Ms. Devi was selected to administer a solar charging station that our programme had installed at her village of Mahmuda in 2012. With the new station, villagers were able to charge solar lanterns that allowed them to start small businesses.

With her effective management of the charging station, Ms. Devi was given the opportunity to train women to make incense – something that would have been far more difficult without the solar lanterns to light their work after sunset. Today, in addition to renting out the lanterns, Ms. Devi runs an incense production facility that employs a dozen women who now earn livable incomes.

Clean and affordable energy is elementary to one’s quality of life, and for ensuring socioeconomic development. Without access to affordable energy, it will be impossible to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, or even to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

And without access to affordable energy generated by clean, renewable sources, it will be impossible to avert the potentially devastating impacts of climate change.

So we have a choice: continue business as usual towards an ever hotter and inhospitable planet, or take steps now to create a healthier, more verdant and equitable world. The choice is abundantly clear: If we treat Mother Earth with kindness, she will return the favour.

For more information on Women and the Environment, check out the In Focus editorial package on the new Beijing+20 campaign website.

Women can lead the transition to a cleaner, sustainable environment | UN Women - Beijing+20