On the erroneous belief of understanding the arrival point of development

Are “developed countries” deluding others or themselves?


Ryan Murphy (2010): Eat Pray Love

Diligent students of Economics might wonder what a scene from a Julia Roberts movie and the Italian expression “dolce far niente” have to do with development. Having been an Economics student myself confronted with heavy loads of neoclassical and neoliberalism theory, I would like to shed some light on the coherence of the aforementioned from a new point of view.

When researching definitions of “development”, one encounters numerous versions with rather diverse quintessences. For the purpose of this blog post I would like to concentrate on the following interpretation by the G8 of development as “… a strong, dynamic, open and growing global economy“. This choice is not one taken out of agreement, but one that tries to focus on the pivotal assertion that still drives the development discussion today. It is a discussion that is dominated by only a few parties, namely the Western nations 1, and it is directed if not to a single pathway of development at least to a single arrival point: consumerism. Post-development thinkers, such as Wolfgang Sachs, refer to the 1949 inauguration speech of Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, as the corner stone of the first world hegemony in development. In this inauguration speech Truman proclaimed:

“[…] we must embark on a bold new program […] for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. […] Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. […] Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace.”

By coining the term “underdeveloped areas”, Truman constructed a hierarchical system that imposed a materialistic Western lifestyle, an “American World Dream”, as the ultimate goal of development on the rest of the world. On the verge of the Cold War, it was a strategic move to demand allegiance of the decolonizing countries of the third world to the first world reinforcing its supremacy against the communist-socialist bloc. US economist W.W. Rostow argued in his 1960 “The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto” that with the right development assistance of capital and technology all countries would eventually converge to the ultimate stage of development, “high mass consumption”, from which the USA had already emerged from.

Largely concealing the fact that this prevailing notion of development is socially constructed and is an ideological concept generating power for the first world, it has found its way into the syllabi of leading universities in the form of varying development theories and it has successfully been perpetuated from there on. As a response to the failure of “improving the life of the masses”, development policies shifted repeatedly during the last 60 years: from growth orientation over poverty alleviation towards the aggressive neo-liberal policies of the Washington Consensus 2 implemented by the Structural Adjustment Programmes by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the 1980s, when debt levels and aid-dependency spiked (Moyo, 2010, p. 20-21).

Despite the failure to advance development, it “… had achieved the status of a certainty in the social imaginary” (Escobar,1995, p.5) in such a way that even the opponents of capitalism looked for alternative ways to develop, rather than questioning the construct of development and its arrival point itself. This mistake is equally reflected in the different ways and the evolution of how development has been measured ranging from purely economic indices that depict economic growth (e.g. gross national income per capita, gross domestic product) or defining the percentage of people living below the poverty line 3 to multidimensional indicators of human development such as the New Human Development Index (2010) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The latter include factors such as life expectancy, birth rates, literacy, years of schooling and income, which again play into the hands of the already known development front runners. Despite the creation of hierarchies and the homogenisation of “under-developed countries”, I believe that the biggest mistake herein lies in the assumption to know the arrival point of development, which in turn leaves little necessity, but also little freedom for the front runners to change.

From a Western perspective, what assures us in the end that we objectively chose the right path to development? Based on national footprint data from the Global Footprint Network, Tim De Chant calculated that at least 4.1 worlds would be needed in order for 7 billion people to live an average American lifestyle 4. Luckily we only have one world. So, if the development myth of the last 60 years neither has worked nor has been proven to be a realistic vision for the entire world at all, has it brought any good for the countries that reached the “top of the ladder”?

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Source: Illustration © 2012 Tim De Chant, Data from Global Footprint Network

Aristotle firstly described that happiness (eudaimonia 5) is the ultimate end for all human activities and all activities are therefore only means to pursuing happiness, not ends in themselves. It is enticing to assume that if there could possibly be a universal goal for development, it could only be the pursuit of happiness. Despite the fact that the Unites States had already recognised precisely this as an inalienable right in their Declaration of Independence in 1776, it took over 200 years for happiness to take center stage in the broader discourse about development. In 2006, the New Economics Foundation introduced the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which measures “the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them”. Four years later, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network followed with the first World Happiness Report (2012). Attempting to measure happiness on a global scale, six factors are being used: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. Critics of the past approaches to development might favour this new course and feel vindicated by the fact that the report highlighted the circumstance that “despite strong economic growth” happiness had stagnated in the USA since the 1950s (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2012, p.61). It would be hypocritical, however, to incautiously declare happiness as the new panacea for development and it might result in making the same mistake this post is trying to highlight in the first place. The following should explain how the newest debate of development is still caught up in its initial mistake.

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Source: Happy Planet Index, Map for Experienced Well-Being 6

The initial development debate described high mass consumption as the arrival point of development and with it a set of policies was created by first world countries that allowed for interventions in “poorer countries” that were seldom altruistic. In contrast, the theoretical beauty of defining happiness as the ultimate arrival point of development is that happiness in its philosophical sense is something utterly subjective, a self- determined measure of achieving what one wants in life — whatever that be and by whatever means this can be achieved. But it seems rather naive to believe that the concept of happiness is not strongly subject to ideological contextualisation and that we actually open up the way to a freely open discussion about “development”. I dare to raise the question whether the attempt to measure happiness using constructed proxies such as generosity destroys the exact justification of the pursuit of happiness as the only universally favourable concept of development: subjectivity. Does it not declare the “status of certainty” 7 of just another constructed arrival point of development despite being barely less ideologically biased than the previous development agendas? Is the pursuit of happiness a new “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to perpetuate the hegemony of a few countries?

To refer back to the introduction of this article, I believe that in many Western cultures we are indoctrinated that happiness is achieved by increased economic productivity, efficiency and consumerism. Forced onto society with the help of vast quantities of advertisement, this absolutely fails the liberal definition of happiness, but helps to ensure the economic system from within. By making happiness measurable and comparable, the only thing we achieve is giving a new name to an old strategy.

In the first World Happiness Report of 2012, American Economist Jeffrey Sachs successfully describes the phenomenon of “the ills of modern life” (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2012, p. 3-4) such as obesity, smoking, diabetes and depression and calls them “disorders of development”. The subsequent report in 2013 promisingly even devoted a whole chapter to mental illness “as the main cause of unhappiness”, but I believe that it disappointed in two facts: Firstly, the report states that “…the large majority of persons with a mental disorder reside in low- and middle-income countries of the world” (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2013, p. 41). However, the report then follows with data from the World Health Survey describing depression rates by groups of countries showing the following results: high-income countries 7.1%, upper middle-income 7.6%, lower middle- income 6.4% and low-income 6.0%. It seems that the initial statement is therefore not coherent with the findings of this study, but tries to reinforce the economic hierarchy constructed at the historical beginning of the development debate. My statement should in no way question the existence of equal importance of mental illnesses in the “developing countries”, but rather suggest a perceptual bias in the interpretation. Secondly and most importantly though, the World Happiness Report 2013 defines risk factors for mental illness such as loneliness, bereavement or a low self-esteem. Despite briefly explaining the problem of under-treatment of mental illnesses and introducing effective ways for treatment, the report does not question at all what causes or favours the risk factors of mental illness to originate or to increase. I believe that the World Happiness Report capitulates to the past development approach and does not reflect sufficiently on the possible influence of systemic errors in the contribution to mental illnesses and therefore reduced happiness.

Like other development approaches before, the pursuit of happiness in the ascribed way is looking for remedies to problems that are caused by a system that the approach itself tries to uphold, because dealing with the actual cause of the problem would most likely require a change in that same system. The initial movie scene from “Eat, Pray, Love” should surely not be used as a serious reference, but it puts in a nutshell what from a societal point of view is starting to be recognised in different movements: We live in a world where happiness is imposed to come from economic wealth and in which technology helps us to become more and more efficient and time saving in what we do. But instead of directing this newly achieved time towards things that essentially would make us happy, we use the time to become even more productive and more busy. Sadly, “dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing, became socially unacceptable in many contexts.

Ultimately, I wonder if followers of movements that try to “slow down life” and reconnect it to real terms can teach us anything about development? The only fact that it can hopefully support is that the assumption to know a generalised ending point of development is an erroneous belief. Or did Rostow actually expect the emergence of a social group that would prefer to be modern traditionalists rather than pure modernists?

1  The “first world” or “the West” describes a group of capitalist countries aligned with the United States after World War II that were opposed to the “second world” communist-socialist countries states headed by the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic. Accordingly, the third world incorporated non-alined states.

2  The Washington Consensus are ten economic policy prescriptions developed by John Williamson that are used for the structural reform of countries in crisis.

3  In the EU the poverty line is defined as 60% of median income.

4  Highest ranked were the United Arab Emirates with an estimate of 5.4 worlds needed.

5  Aristotle described the concept of happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics.

6  Experienced well-being is assessed in the HPI using data from the Gallup World Poll, which asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder they feel they currently stand on.

7  Compare to Escobar, 1995.


References:

De Chant, T. (2012). If the world’s population lived like…. Available: http:// persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/. Last accessed 5th January.

Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development: The making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

European Anti-Poverty Network. (n.d.). Poverty and Inequality in the European Union. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/eapn.shtml. Last accessed 4th January 2016.

G8. (2001). G8: The Final Official Notice. Available: http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/themes/ g8-5.htm. Last accessed 3rd Jan, 2016.

Jefferson, T. (1776). The Declaration of Independence. Available: http://www.ushistory.org/ declaration/document/rough.htm. Last accessed 5th January.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2012). World Happiness Report. New York: The Earth Institute, Columbia University.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2013). World Happiness Report 2013. New York: UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2015). World Happiness Report 2015. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Moyo, D. (2010). Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.

Rostow, W W. (1960). The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sachs, W. (2010). The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. 2nd ed. London: Zed Books.

Taylor, C. (2006). Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics: Books II-IV. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The New Economics Foundation. (2006). The Happy Planet Index. Available: http://www.happyplanetindex.org. Last accessed 8th Jan 2016.

Todaro, M & Smith, S. (2012). Economic Development. 11th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Truman, H. (1949). Inaugural Address. Available: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/? pid=13282. Last accessed 3rd Jan, 2016.


Sowing money

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COP22 (22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was held from November´s 7th to 18th at Marrakesh, and the main goal was to discuss how to implement and regulate the Paris Agreement (COP21) proposals. This last year Climate action event was one of the most international success main UN meetings in several years. It has established unknown precedents on Climate Change negotiations, in which 177 parties finally signed, and compromise themselves to reach the objective of staying below 2°C (if possible 1.5°C) on the earth temperature.

From that date on, 114 parties has already ratified the agreement presenting their INDC (Internal nationally determined contribution). At least 80% of the submitted plans are on agriculture mitigation action, and 64% on agriculture adaptation action. Having considered these priorities from the parties, there is a “clear increasing recognition that climate action in agriculture is part of the solution” said the FAO General Director José Graziano da Silva, who also add that it is “an opportunity to tackle climate change WHILE fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition”.

THE TRACKING PROGRESS FROM COP21

The focused initiatives on low emission agriculture such as ASAP, SAVE FOOD, LIFE BEEF CARBON and 4pour1000 not only demonstrate a big progress on agriculture awareness dimension at COP21, but also have already being taking place during this 2016.

LAUNCHED SOLUTIONS at COP22

Besides the four mention projects described, arriving on COP22 three new initiatives that highlight this potential in agricultural adaptation were presented. Morocco got advantage on the meeting to formally launch its Adaptation of African Agriculture initiative, but therefore, Global Framework on Water Scarcity and Milan Urban Food Policy Pact also reach main relevance. The three of them had already initiated before their presentation.

 

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BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN

Smallscale farmers produce 80% of the food consumed in the developing world, yet the paradox is that this is where hunger and poverty is mostly found. Developing countries are the home of around half- billion smallholder farm families who produce food and other agricultural products. So is clearly shown that Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries) is the most threatened and affected sector by the industry, climate change, and inequality. Although at the same time is one of the huge responsible of world’s GHG emissions (producing over 20% to 21%) is not the only, but one if the biggest responsible on fighting against poverty and hunger.

Reducing gas emission, building agricultural resilience, and increasing productivity for farmers, are some ideas of this mitigation/adaptation plan. But, is only under large-scale projects such as re-designing the completely agricultural support policies and incentives, or changing actual agricultural practices to sustainable ones, that real and deep transformations can be carried out.

Investments on infrastructure such as extending irrigation systems to guarantee independent food production from weather and climatological fluctuations, funding and improved access to credit, insurance and other financial services for smallholder farmers, and progressing in science research and education are initiatives that cost much more than the mount of 20.000 to 30.000 million dollars that African Development Bank propose in their last inform.

Faucet putting Gold coins and seed in clear bottle

Bringing FAO´s general director last words at COP22, I just can end this article saying that without action, agriculture will continue to be a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Adopting climate-smart practices emissions can reduce while stepping up food production to feed the world’s growing population and stop hunger.

Then, let´s start sowing money.

Sources:
REPORTS:
ecdpm.org/cop22-agriculture-africa-and-action
(video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUgRKLTRRkw)
Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations reports
(http://www.fao.org/home/en/)
Adaptation of Africa Agriculture
http://www.aaainitiative.org/initiative
UN Climate Change Newsroom COP22
http://newsroom.unfccc.int
Agencia Europea de Medio ambiente
http://www.eea.europa.eu/downloads/9952cbf12e2544c5bb3a4549a2f8c3c5/1468248918/la-agricultura-y-el-cambio-climatico.pdf
Newspaper ARTICLES:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/world-on-a-plate/2016/nov/19/smallscale-farmers-need-the-spotlight-now-africa-food-prize-winner-kanayo-nwanze-speaks-out-at-cop22
http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/10/15/planeta_futuro/1476527682_057265.html
http://elpais.com/elpais/2016/11/16/planeta_futuro/1479328266_041681.html

Gains and Losses: a happy ending for human kind?

2050

A huge gain for climate change combating: the corporate world.

Our economy has been based on capitalism, consumption and money, an economy where there was no room to take on climate change. But nowadays it seems there is a shift taking place. A shift towards a new era of action, approaching climate change and sustainable development, not just by governments but by the corporate world as well. Copp22 has shown an unstoppable global momentum on climate change actions by governments, businesses, investors, sub-regional government and cities.[i]

It is a quite new, interesting and important tendency that for profit organizations and big capitalistic leaders are committed as well to stop climate change.  More than 100 high-level business leaders and investors met with leaders from Governments, civil society and the United Nations at Cop22 to show their support and commitment to taking action on the climate agreement developed in Paris last year. [ii] You can say that we are at the beginning of a macro economic shift from profit maximization to an increasing importance of going beyond just focussing on money. Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Lise Kingo mentioned this tendency during Cop22 as: “The climate movement is unstoppable. More and more companies are taking action, and seeing new opportunities for growth and innovation.”[iii] Climate change has clearly shifted from having a ‘tree hugging’ and not ‘sexy’ image to being at the center of international relations. Last year, 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, a binding arrangement that aims to limit global warming to 2 °C.[iv]

More and more business opportunities occur with the growing global acknowledgment of the importance of climate change. As a result, the global community is becoming more and more committed to countering climate change. We can see here an interrelation between the two. Because of climate change more business opportunities appear and because of these business opportunities the needs and resources of countering climate change rapidly increase. Isabelle Kocher underpinned this phenomenon at COP22 by saying: “Affordable solar for all is our best option to tackle emission issues”[v]

It is clear that businesses increasingly commit to climate change prevention. At Cop22 the UN Global Compact and its partners released the 2016 Status Report on the Business Contribution to Global Climate Action, an assessment of the impact of business initiatives on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).[vi] Moreover, there was a ‘business and industry day’ during Cop22. The outcomes underline as well the growing commitment of companies. An example of the outcomes: 200 companies representing USD $4.8 trillion in market value and responsible for 627 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year have committed to set targets aligned with the Paris climate agreement and this number is growing. Amongst these companies are Walmart, Mars Inc. and Sony.[vii]

 

A terrible loss for climate change combatting:  Developing countries

The biggest fail of this year’s climate summit was the unanswered question for finance for developing countries. The $100 billion per year, by 2020, promised by developed countries, in the Paris climate agreement, to help the most vulnerable countries cope with the effects of climate change, has not been implemented.[viii] Until now there is no solution or concrete method in how to implement this highly important aspect of achieving the Paris agreement goals. It is key to the global deal for climate change commitment to provide developing countries with the tools they need to tackle climate change challenges. Moreover, the countries that suffer the most from climate change are developing countries. They need the money to pay the damages climate change causes.                                                        

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Bangladesh (6th on the CRI) is one of these developing countries that suffers extensively from climate change. I have seen the huge effects of global warming in this country. Villages are over flooded everyday so millions of people are forced to leave their homes and become climate refugees. Most of these refugees flee to the capital Dhaka. This in itself is a huge global warming issue but the problems that come with it are just as horrifying.

 

What’s next?

Cop22 has shown the great sense of urgency for combating climate change and the commitment amongst all participants, as well as corporations. The fight against climate change is gaining more and more ground. It has become an unstoppable movement and a global top priority. But what has almost been forgotten in the process is the great importance for helping developing countries, the countries that suffer the most climate change.

The highest importance should be addressed to developing a sustainable plan and actually implementing it. Because without having the developing countries on board, the global climate change movement will be a never-ending story. Or the worst scenario will be that the story will end but not with a happy-ending for humankind. Earth will survive, earth has been here for billions of years. So we need to take care of our home, not in the first place for earth itself but for the happy ending of humankind.

 

Sources

[i]http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/marrakech_nov_2016/application/pdf/marrakech_action_proclamation.pdf

[ii] https://www.unglobalcompact.org/take-action/events/891-cop-22-cmp-12-high-level-meeting-on-climate-change#overview

[iii] https://www.unglobalcompact.org/news/3811-11-14-2016

[iv] http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en

[v] http://www.engie.com/en/innovation-energy-transition/isabelle-kocher-solarcop-marrakech-terrawatt-initative/

[vi]  https://www.unglobalcompact.org/library/4851

[vii] https://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/news_events/COP22/Business-Events-During-COP22.pdf

[viii] https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/cop22-climate-finance-pushed-back-to-2018/


Clean energy = Decarbonisation of energy

Goal #7 objective is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all… is this possible? Such an important issue was address for one complete day at COP22 (Conference of the Parties) in Morocco.

The main goal is to provide energy to 1.1 billion people in the world that currently have few or no access to electricity, but right now I want to focus in all the people that already have access to energy and are contributing to the greenhouse emissions. One of the most ambitious commitments is to decarbonize the use of energy around 2050.

“The climate objectives agreed in Paris require nothing less than the radical decarbonisation of the global economy,” Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General

By now governments and private companies are making the transition to renewable energy, more than 300 cities pledged to go 100% renewable and on the private sector we can find influential companies committed to achieve this. But how much money does this represents? According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) it represents 1.8 trillion dollars.

There are different action plans to finance this goal, for example the Green Climate Fund a mechanism of the UN that regulates the money between developed countries and economically fragile countries. Also nowadays we face new energy realities so it is easier to have the banks support for investments due to the low tendency of carbon.  Another example are NGO like MobiliseYourCirty that supports governments in planning sustainable and clean mobility. In addition the carbon market was mention at COP22 for the greenhouse reduction trading.

On the conference “Energy for economic growth” Diego Pavía CEO EIT Innoenergy mention that there were 3 energy goals and 3 economic goals to innovate and have an impact in sustainable energy.

To achieve this all the investment need to fulfill these objectives.

Based on these 6 energy and economic goals I selected to focus on the decrease of greenhouse emissions specifically on the transport sector, which is responsible for a quarter of the total emissions, as one of the main consumers of fossil fuels.

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On COP22 there were different discussions about how to finance the transition to electric transportation, for example to reduce or stop the subsidy of fossil fuels. If the governments stop investing in this they could use this money to support renewable energy for the transportation sector. Another cheaper alternative with a significant impact in the transportation is encouraging people to use more public transport and share rides, this could reduce emissions in 30% without a huge investment. A different solution could be a proper policy for taxation for example carbon pricing.

The World Bank plays a critical role supporting and financing countries, they can bring a structured framework and facilitate the road to become more efficient.

Electric cars /”clean cars” are only a half solution if the electrical energy that they use to charge comes from oil or coal. We need to go deeper and have a holistic solution. Maybe we don’t use directly fossil fuels for the car but we will use them indirectly when we charge it and as a result we would have a higher consumption of electrical energy.

During COP22 on the “green” transport sector I notice a strong presence of private companies and not many participation of governments.From my point of view private companies are the engine of the economy and have a huge impact in the environment. If the decision they made are based on the impact they will have economically, socially and environmentally we could move forward.

I think the government need to boost incentives for private “clean transport” so we can see drastic changes. Governments play a fundamental roll in achieving and keeping sustainable transport.

For example in Norway the government gave different incentives to promote electric vehicles and we can see an exponential growth in the past three years. Electric cars don’t pay taxes, don’t pay toll roads, can park for free and use the bus lanes. This is a clear case of a successful policy that other governments should implement.

 

We need solutions where the transport supports economic and social development that facilitate the access to mobility and create value. Mohamed Boussaid

 

Cooperation and partnership is the key to achieve any of the Sustainable Development goals, we need the collaboration between governments, companies, cities, investors and the society.

With our choices we can make a difference…

 

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Credit: Enio F / FLICKR

 


Sources

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (12 November 2016) “Acelerando la acción climática hacia un transporte bajo en emisiones” Available at: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/es/accion-climatica/cp-agenda-de-accion-transporte/
  2. Alice Yiu (14 November 2016) “Shifting gear towards low carbón tranport – Global Climate Action” Available at: http://www.slocat.net/news/1776
  3. Leo Mirani (07 May 2015) “Norway`s electric-car incentives were so good they had to be stopped” Available at: http://qz.com/400277/norway-electric-car-incentives-were-so-good-they-had-to-be-stopped/
  4. Climate Action Now Summary for Policymakers 2016, United Nations Climate Change Secretariat Available at: http://climateaction2020.unfccc.int/media/1281/unfccc_spm_2016.pdf
  5. UITP Advancing Public Transport (11 November 2016) “COP22 and Public Transport” Available at: http://www.uitp.org/news/COP22-in-Marrakesh
  6. Sustainable Energy for all (2016) Available at: http://www.se4all.org/energyefficiencyplatform_transport-motor-vehicle-fuel-efficiency
  7. IRENA International Renewable Energy Agency (2016) “The Renewable rout to sustainable transport” Available at:http://www.irena.org/DocumentDownloads/Publications/IRENA_REmap_Transport_working_paper_2016.pdf
  8. Video: Energy for economic growth, European Union Energy Day (15 November 2016) Available at: http://euenergyday.eu/webstreaming.html
  9. United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 7: energy Available at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/energy/

 


COP22: Impact of Water Scarcity

As a master’s student studying Sustainable Development I am continually learning about potential resolutions to climate change, global poverty, business ethics and trade practices. However, despite all of this, there is one question running through my mind at night, keeping me awake:

                   What impact will water scarcity have on the future of our planet?

I was encouraged to learn that a historical moment was reached at the 22nd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Agreement on Climate Change (COP). Where, for the first time, a spotlight was shone on implementing actions for global water issues with, Water Action Day.

With the world’s population increasing exponentially, and the World Bank projecting figures of 8.5 billion people by 20301, the resulting strain on fresh water as a resource for human health, energy production, food production, industry and agriculture is extreme. With 97% of the world’s water being held as saline in the oceans there is only 3% available as fresh water, it is imperative to protect water to maintain the security of all of these processes. Water is an under-priced commodity around the industrialised world, people and businesses do not value it in the same way they do oil or energy, resulting in a less prominent position. As Aristotle said, “What is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it”

According to the World Health Organisation, “over 1 billion people globally lack access to safe drinking-water, 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation; diseases related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene result in an estimated 1.7 million deaths every year”2 There is a growing recognition today, mainly expressed by NGOs, that countries and businesses are acting with short term financial interests as their goal and paying lip-service to the long-term consequences on the environment and water conservation. In effect, a disregard to their impacts which are generating water challenges. The economic theory, tragedy of the commons, helps to identify how the earth is reaching a tipping point for water scarcity; when no one individual, business or association has entitlements to a resource, it leads to over exploitation because preservation is not in the user’s interests.
Deaths from unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene

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Source: World Health Organisation 3

Africa, as can be seen in the ‘Deaths from unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene’ graph has an average of 500-1050 death per million resulting from polluted water due to agriculture, industrial processes, mining and urbanisation. Deforestation, an example of tragedy of the commons, does not only negatively impact trees, but the forests entire micro-climate, resulting in a range of negative consequences. Forests initiate a hydraulic cycle, allowing evaporation and transpiration of water into and from the atmosphere. Through deforestation this cycle is lost, causing the ground to flood and through degradation of the soil contaminate water supplies, making it unfit for human consumption. Soil degradation results in a vicious cycle of major seasonal flooding, further exacerbating soil erosion with consequential deaths, reduced land fertility and loss of properties.

As an outcome of COP22, three water action recommendations were set4:

  1. Harmonising water and climate policies
  2. Extending water access and sanitation services in Africa
  3. Reinforcing resilient water governance promoting inclusive and integrated water resources management.

Water and climate change are inextricably linked, as a lot of the technologies required to tackle climate change require an accessible source of water. By harmonising water and climate policies, it will help to streamline the whole environmental system. In addition, by increasing water conservation this will reduce the need for infrastructure to be erected for expensive desalination facilities across the world. In order to extend water access in Africa, water governance for issues such as deforestation and urbanisation will require tackling at the source of the issue. Consequently, resulting in a larger impact on the economy of the country through the reduction of money necessary to be spent on health care for water pollution related illnesses

Water is a resource which has no boarders, 260 international rivers and transboundary aquifers5 across the globe, water flows through rivers and oceans connecting every person in the world. It should be seen as a reason for global cooperation and not conflicts, but currently the risk is the opposite.

To help me sleep soundly at night once again, it is up to us, civil society, to put pressure on governments to regulate industrial use of water with effective enforcement and monitoring, and to ensure the implementation of Water Action Recommendations are carried out.

In short, taking the lessons that have been learned from a lack of adoption of the Kyoto protocol, and providing incentives to all countries involved for the implementation of climate initiatives agreed upon in the Paris and Morocco Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Agreement on Climate Change. I believe the new Carbon Disclosue Project (CDP) report which revealed that “water risks fuelled by climate change cost the private sector $14bn (£11.3bn) over the last year”, is a large incentive to enforce change6.

Paris agreed plan ⇒Marrakech prepare the roadmap ⇒ Review implementation

There is a long way to go before the water scarcity problems are solved across the globe, however collaborative projects such as COP22 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for sustainable management of water and sanitation, are a huge step in the direction of water conservation for all.

 

Sources

1 UN, Poverty (July 29th, 2015) “UN projects world population to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, driven by growth in developing countries” In un.org. Retrieved 27 November 2016 http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/07/un-projects-world-population-to-reach-8-5-billion-by-2030-driven-by-growth-in-developing-countries/

2The state of the environment; freshwater. GEO-2000: Global Environment Outlook. Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme, 1999.

3 WHO (2016) “Water, Health and Ecosystems” in WHO . Retrieved 27 November 2016 http://www.who.int/heli/risks/water/water/en/

4Ogleby, George  (November 18th 2016) “An unstoppable force: Seven things we learned from the COP22 climate talks” Retrieved 27 November 2016http://www.edie.net/news/9/COP22-round-up/

5  UN, News Centre (22nd, November 2016) “UN projects world population to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, driven by growth in developing countries” In un.org. Retrieved 27 November 2016 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55626#.WDsOiPkrLIU

6 Ogleby, George  (November 18th 2016) “An unstoppable force: Seven things we learned from the COP22 climate talks” Retrieved 27 November 2016http://www.edie.net/news/9/COP22-round-up/


COP22: Cities as key players in the fight against climate change?

Cities are one of the big emitters of CO2. Why do not collaborate to make cities more sustainable?

With the continuous growing of the population and the continuous process of migration to the cities from rural environment, the cities have to assumed the growth of infrastructures why do not doing in a sustainable way and try to protect the world controlling C02 emissions. Taking into account that cities are one of the biggest emitters of C02, responsible for over 20% of global GHG emissions.

This month the 22nd Annual Conference of the parties (COP22) included on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Marrakech, to continue the path started in Paris. Companies, investors, cities and regions announce new commitments in support of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This year COP22 celebrate the day of cities and human settlements that have been organised to inspire, structure, and showcase climate action in the field of resilience in cities and buildings. The milestone achievements in 2015 have important implications for cities and human settlements. These include for example the Sendai Framework, Paris Climate Agreement, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including SDG:11 focusing on cities and human settlements, and the Addis Ababa Agenda for Financing Development 1

In COP21 cities won landmark recognition and in Marrakech, they expect to turn that urgency into action. Cities, which made a strong case in Paris, they are uniquely equipped to address climate change, anticipate the talks will further solidify and detail their role in responding to climate change, as formally recognised in the Paris Agreement.2

“The early entry into force of the Paris Agreement is a wonderful breakthrough for all non-state actors committed to act against climate change,” said Emmanuelle Pinault, head of city diplomacy for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “It shows that nations were serious with their commitment last year and have at least understood the urgency to act.”

With this sentence, Pinault make clear how cities can be the motor that pushes away the climate change and how cities with support of their citizens and government can help to reach these goals and it the end protect and fix our world

“No country will be able to reach its climate goals without significant help from its cities,” said Steve Hammer, climate specialist for the World Bank. “Cities are the most important factor in the climate equation, and need additional tools and support to put them on a sustainable, resilient, low-carbon path.” Demonstrating us how these is a common opinion between the people that participate in the conference held in Marrakech.

One goal of in COP22 is to ensure that cities are fully integrated into the implementation of Paris Agreement. “In Marrakech, the focus was on how to implement the Paris agreement, and bring national and local governments together to tackle what is likely the most enormous challenge in our lifetime.” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, senior director for the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.

City advocates insist that whatever agreement nation-states reach, political actors at the local level are poised to go beyond these targets and to do so more quickly. For example, cities can boost action immediately, rather than waiting until 2020, the first year when national governments are expected to deliver on their COP 21 commitments. Further, mobilizing cities to do this could help countries get an important jump-start on fulfilling those pledges.

Besides cities are already acting on climate change making their cities and municipalities more sustainable through initiatives in areas like low-carbon developments and green infrastructure. So why cannot be cities the motor to fight against the climate change?

Furthermore, over 500 cities are now reporting to the Carbon Climate Registry (cCR), letting us know how cities are now committing to measurable, reportable and verifiable actions. 3

Cities have anticipated working closely with their national counterparts to guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Supporters for urban-level action argue that cities are home to the majority of the world’s population and the increase in global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will rely closely on our ability to transition to a green economy; these themes have been taking into account in the Conference held in Marrakech .

With this budget why not destine some part to make cities more sustainable? Why not engage and encourage the governments to make their cities more sustainable, more resilient? And the most important question, why do not inspired us to help our cities and our world.

COP22 may help with the technical question of how to integrate the system with existing infrastructure, the financial question of how to raise capital, the economic question of how to engage with local businesses. None of the solutions to climate change come from a single actor, and that is why cities are powerful assemblies for creating coalitions that address climate change. COP22 is a great opportunity to discover new initiatives, a fundraising opportunity and a way to raise awareness in the world

The Conference held in Marrakech has been essential to identify obstacles and encourage investment and how in this conference different countries and organizations shows different initiatives and “tools” to get financial and economic support.

There are several initiatives launched in COP21 that are continuing in this COP22 like the Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GABC) and The Covenant of Mayors for climate and energy heralded as the “world’s biggest urban climate and energy initiative” through the can help or the initiative C40 cities. The World Bank is a huge backer of initiatives and tools that help cities reaching their Climate Goals.

Smart Cities can be a good example on how to push these changes supported by technology. Because smart city is not only about technology, it is about having leaders, businesses, and citizens make smart, informed decisions.

As a conclusion cities and what is more important us as citizens can be the motor of the fight against climate change.

reportajeciudadsostenibletcm7-670442

Lara Sastre-Estévez de la Torre

 

1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2016). Cities & human settlements (resilience in cities). [online] Available at: http://climateaction.unfccc.int/event-calendar/events/cop22-gca-cities-human-settlements-resilience-in-cities/ [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

2.Citiscope. (2016). Cities seek to build on enhanced role as global climate talks turn to implementation. [online] Available at: http://citiscope.org/habitatIII/news/2016/11/cities-seek-build-enhanced-role-global-climate-talks-turn-implementation  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

3. Cityscope. (2016). Cities can lead climate action head 2020 pledges. [online] Available at: http://citiscope.org/habitatIII/commentary/2015/07/cities-can-lead-climate-action-ahead-2020-pledges [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

SOURCES

Change, U. (2016). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. [online] Unfccc.int. Available at: http://unfccc.int/2860.php  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

Citiscope.org. (2016). Citiscope | Spreading urban innovation. [online] Available at: http://citiscope.org  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

Cop22.org. (2016). COP22 Marrakech Morocco – Sustainable Innovation Forum in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) | COP22 Marrakech. [online] Available at: http://www.cop22.org/  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

World Bank. (2016). COP 22: Three New Ways to Help Cities Reach Their Climate Goals. [online] Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/11/28/cop-22-three-new-ways-to-help-cities-reach-their-climate-goals  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

Desarrollo Sostenible. (2016). Portada – Desarrollo Sostenible. [online] Available at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

Sustainablecitiesinstitute.org. (2016). [online] Available at: http://www.sustainablecitiesinstitute.org/  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

Wri.org. (2016). Why Cities are the Solution to Climate Change: Q&A with Ani Dasgupta | World Resources Institute. [online] Available at: http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/01/why-cities-are-solution-climate-change-qa-ani-dasgupta  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].


European Union reactions to Marrakech Climate Change Conference (COP22).

Since time ago Europe has been praised and criticized alike in terms of climate change: By one hand Europe has been consider a leader in the fight against climate change due mainly to their investment in renewables or new efficient technologies, but in the other, has been criticized due the high unused potential that owns, heavy bureaucracy of their actions, and lack of commitment of some of their members to follow the policies that the EU imposes.

After the hopeful climate change agreement achieved in COP21 in Paris one year ago, past November 7th took place the Marrakech Climate Change Conference (COP22/CMP12), where during 9 days the different parties tried to give continuity to the decisions taken in the COP21. Whereas in Paris Agreement was about achieve an agreement involving all the parties to create a world-guideline against the climate change, the main goal of the COP 22 was establish different patterns to its implement the guideline  in favor of a cleaner and more sustainable scenario than the current one.

http://hablandoenvidrio.com/claves-cop-22-marrakech/

COP22: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

 

Much has been said about the position of Europe in this context, where different points between European Parliament, Member States and European Commission made to fear an insufficient commitment. Finally, today, 30th of November of 2016, the UE new roadmap and objectives for 2030 have been unveiled.

Will Europe be able to take advantage of the COP22 in order to lead the energy model change by other more sustainable scenario?

The European Commission, under the motto “Clean Energy for All Europeans – unlocking Europe’s growth potential has presented a legislative proposal that will help Europe to achieve the 2030 climate change goals, committing to cut CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030 (1) focus in three main areas:

Moreover, the agreement will ensure the correct coordination between State Members, provide regulation in order to reduce the investment risk and raise the transparency, decreasing too the high administrative burden and bureaucracy.

http://globe-net.com/eu-emissions-trading-system-time-change-now/

European Union

 

If these actions and guidelines mentioned above are properly implemented, it will drive Europe to a new energy model, more efficient, clean and sustainable which lets multiple advantages:

Although Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker fulfil his promise (6) of achieve at least the 30% energy efficiency target, some critics argue that the agreement can be considered insufficient; Both European Parliament (7) and  part of the business communities and think tanks (8) called for an increase in the energy efficiency objective of 40%, which compared with the oldest target of 27%  (which was defended by some State Members), would increase the average real income for all households by 2%, create jobs for 860.000 people in efficiency area and cut air pollution, saving high quantity of lives between now and 2030 (6).

Is for Europe this roadmap the key for the final transformation of the good propose and ideas in actions?

From International Master in Sustainable Development student’s blog at EOI, we encourage you to share your opinion.   

 

Alejandro Rodríguez Bolaños.

Energy Engineer, International Master in Sustainable Development and CR.

 

References

(1).http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-4009_en.htm

(2).http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3986_en.htm

(3).http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3986_en.htm

(4).http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/opinion/who-is-trying-to-kill-eu-ambition-on-renewables-and-energy-savings/

(5).Based on PRIMES EUCO30 scenario, carbon Intensity of GDP. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3986_en.htm

(6).http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/opinion/who-is-trying-to-kill-eu-ambition-on-renewables-and-energy-savings/

(7).http://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/commission-sets-up-energy-efficiency-battle-between-meps-and-member-states/

(8).http://www.euase.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/EU-ASE-letter-to-College-of-Commissioners-ahead-Winter-Package.pdf

 


COP22: Is The Private Sector Finally Joining the Battle?

Recently the COP22 (conference of the parties) was held in Marrakech Morocco. For those who don’t know what the COP is, the COP is the annual global climate change conference. Let me begin my post with the most important development from last year’s conference: One year ago representatives from over 200 countries managed to reach the first comprehensive agreement on climate change ever after having discussed many things concerning environmental issues. Because the COP21 blog2was held in Paris and agreements were made the conference is more famously referred to as “The Paris Agreements.

 

Now of course global agreements are a good starting point, but it’s important to acknowledge that these “agreements” lacked any substantial amount of follow through. There are no consequences for those who do not comply with the accords. COP22 now focuses on reinforcing said agreements by creating solid plans. Countries have agreed on setting national targets to comply with the previously made agreements.

 

Apart from nations (the public sector) there is another major player that needs to contribute to climate change, the private sector. Without the participation of the private sector in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions all the agreements made by the public sector will only have a limited effect. The optimistic perspective on this is that the public and private sector are inextricably linked.

 

The Paris agreements sent a message to the private sector that the transition
towards a “green economy” is inevitable because of a growing awareness and demand for renewable energy and sustainable business practices by stakeholders. It is expected that businesses with strategies that are more sustainable will attract more investment confidence and gain a competitive advantage in their markets. This last development will ignite a trend for companies to change their strategies to become more sustainable. You could argue that this is not the right incentive for tackling climate change but if you ask me… Who cares!? As long as there are meaningful quantifiable results.

 

During Cop-22, the launch of The Marrakech partnership for Global Climate Action was announced. This partnership was created to boost the cooperation between the public/private sectors and citizens. Everyone joined together with the purpose of promoting the lowering of emissions and to accelerate climate action. Allow me to point out another of the initiatives announced: The REBA (Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance) is an initiative that aims to build connections between corporate electricity demands and renewable energy suppliers. REBA will help companies in their transition towards renewable energy and help promote the benefits of renewable energy. I believe this is an especially strong initiative because it will try to create a growth in demand for renewable energy by playing to corporations self-interests through highlighting the commercial benefits which “going green” can unlock. When the ball starts rolling scale will allow the costs of renewable energy to become lower. When this happens even the companies that weren’t convinced before will want to transition.

 

Just to show you readers that there most certainly is hope in the private sector I will give you an example of what recently happened near the end of Cop-22, after the American presidential elections. Trump, who many people believe to be a threat against all recent progress made with climate change, has threatened to step out of all climate agreements and has publicly denied climate change? In reaction more than 340 businesses collaborated to write the president elect a letter stating that they will keep working to accelerate climate action, with or without his administration. Exhibiting that the private sector is moving past needing governmental regulation to invest in the environment and hopefully putting some pressure on Donald Trump and the United States to continue its commitments towards climate action

 

Enough summarization though, I want to finalize my blog post by looking forward. I can honestly say that I am hopeful for what the future will bring. I believe that the wheels have been set in motion by more and more corporations proactively participating and consumers demanding businesses to embrace sustainable practices. There is no successful future for businesses who do not shift towards more sustainable strategies as social and governmental backlash will weaken their positions in the market. Amongst the many goals businesses strive towards, revenue growth, increasing brand image, maximizing profits and increasing market share are surely ranked right on top of the list. When businesses can start wielding a “greener perspective” as a tool to achieve these goals we as a society will finally be collectively contributing to a better future for everyone living on this planet and for the planet we are living on.

Yours truly,blog1

 

Tim Wierks

 

 


References 

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/11/countries-at-cop22-pledge-to-press-ahead-with-implementation-of-paris-agreement/

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/11/private-sector-commits-to-further-actions-on-sustainable-energy/

 

http://www.robertstavinsblog.org/tag/cop-22/

http://www.c2es.org/docUploads/cop-22-marrakech-summary.pdf

Podcast: Greenbiz 350 episodes on Marakech Cop-22 2016

 

Marakech Cop-22 2016 youtube channel

http://lowcarbonusa.org/

https://unfccc.int/files/meetings/marrakech_nov_2016/application/pdf/marrakech_action_proclamation.pdf


EXTRA, EXTRA!!!!! There Is No Planet B

I perfectly remember my first contact with climate change as a child: it was October 1998 when the powerful and destructive Hurricane Mitch literally blew away thousands of lives in Central America. As a little girl, I felt the urge to do something for the planet and those people who were struggling at that time, so I asked my parents to give away all of my savings so I could do my bit to solve this terrible situation.

As you can imagine, the life savings of a seven year old girl didn’t change the situation in the Caribbean, but from that moment something switched on in my head.

It was just a little later on in time when my mom showed me the video of a girl just a few years older than me, she was speaking to adults who listened to her very carefully, they looked worried rather concerned about what this twelve year old Canadian girl was putting on the table.

I saw that video a few years after the Earth Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, so I could understand it, but even nowadays –twenty four years after- Severn Cullis-Suzuki had such a powerful and challenging message to the world.

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This U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (best known as the Earth Summit) was an historic event and among other outcomes, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) was created.

Five years after the summit in the Brazilian city, the scientific community, -some- governments and the civil society in general, started realizing the dimensions of the impacts climate change could have on livelihoods across the world, so was during this COP3 in Kyoto when the Kyoto Protocol was established, which went into effect in 2005.

Despite the noble intentions of this agreement, it was not only weak but far from being ratified by the biggest Green House Gasses emitters (GHG from now on), such as United States, China or Australia.

After this event in 2005, summits have been happening year after year without noticeable changes occupying the headlines of the newspapers although, let’s face it, issues such as climate change or sustainability never do. And I ask myself, how costly might be getting together leaders from almost 200 countries in some beautiful city to not agree absolutely anything convincing that will change our roadmap towards collapse?

there_is_no_planet_b_photo_by_freya_schork_2013

It is a matter of fact that civil society is aware of climate change and its consequences, but we are only starting to realize the power we have as inhabitants of the planet and as consumers.

For instance, on the road to Paris (Cop21), things began to switch the year before when hundreds of thousands of climate activists (people, businesses, schools and other organizations) gathered in for the People’s Climate March in New York for the largest climate march in history. This was nothing but a great prelude to the summit which would change the rules of the game.

The Cop21 established more tangible indicators and roofs to contamination levels, being the main topic –and resolution- of the discussion “To avoid that the increase of the average global temperature exceeds 2ºC with respect to the pre-industrial levels and also seeks to promote additional efforts that make it possible for global warming not to exceed 1.5ºC”. One of the ways how they will try to make this happen is through a “review cycle or system of ambition that states that every five years (starting in 2023), it is necessary to take stock of the state of implementation of the Agreement”

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The Paris Agreenment established the framework for international climate action. But setting out the details is a longer process, which the countries participating in COP22 have decided should be completed by 2018, with a review of progress in 2017.

This timeline channels that few of the loose ends left by the COP21 in the French capital were tied up in Marrakech this November.

On the other hand, another mayor event took place during the summit: during the first session everything went as planned, but on Tuesday the US elections took place and despite the hopes or previsions of many, Mr Trump was the president-elect, making the whole thing shake and the biggest question hanging over the summit was whether he will pull out “the land of opportunity” out of the Paris Agreement.

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The effects of climate change are now more tangible than ever, and even this is an event without historical precedents, we must face it without contemplations.

Moreover, even looking at this issue with selfishness and taking out of the equation the global welfare of the planet itself and all the life in it –from plants to human beings passing through animals-, we need to have in mind that each of the countries on earth are struggling due to climate change through a wide range of reasons: floods, hurricanes, desertification, hunger… everybody suffers, somehow. So, if we stop trying to individually patch our local situation and we row together towards a better solution for all of us?


WOMEN: KEY PLAYERS IN CLIMATE CHANGE

Gender has been included in the climate change agenda and many could wonder why a social topic is a priority in the environmental world plan, and the answer might seem confusing in the sense that women are more vulnerable to the climate change challenges but at the same time they are seen as a main key for the development of new ideas and solution to this issues. So a question remains, are Cop objectives enough to encourage countries to work in this tow ways?

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate change will mainly affect population economically dependent on natural resources and that are situated in places that present extreme conditions such as scarcity or floods. In addition, poor people are even more exposed to the impacts in climate change and since women represent majority of people living in poverty this becomes a disturbing picture concern to women development and in general economic growth since in most of the cases they are the base o economic support in their families.

(COP – Gender) “Parties should when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity“.

 Analyzing climate change impacts in main sectors, it can be seen that agriculture is one of the main sector that will suffer the consequences of it. It is estimated that under the scenario of an increase of 1,5 Cº, by 2100 productivity of the land will decrease 50% and revenues will drop 90%[1]. Likewise, according to a FAO investigation, in 2011, 43% agricultures in the world were women[2], and in places like India, Pakistan, Kenya and Ethiopia could reach levels over de 70% (World Bank 2005[3]). In addition to this, most of them are not the owners of the land due to cultural and gender inequity issues. In this cases, a rise of temperature will have an impact in economic revenues of many women that at the same time are the heads and providers for millions of families, which could be translated in increasing levels of poverty and social situations within children development that in time will contribute to the perpetuation of poverty cycle.

Additionally, to the role of women in agriculture development, women are also heads of families and so for house responsibilities, like bringing basic resources such as water and energy sources for cooking. It takes worldwide 200 millions hours per day by women and children to get water[4] (UN Water).  But not only is this a concern, the use of biomass for cooking is also a relevant issue related not only to premature dead of children and women but to the contribution to 25% of global black carbon emissions, number that will continue growing in parallel to population growth if no changes towards sustainable energy sources is made.

As temperature rise there will be also changes in raining patterns, land fertility, raise of oceans, among others. These will make people to move from one place to another making them to adjust to a new place, find an economic activity in order to have an income, and find a place to live in. This instability becomes a major problem, specially for women and children, since they are vulnerable to insecurity, gender discrimination and isolation in which case increase women discrimination, economic dependency on men and so for poverty.

But, since it is considered that women are an important group that are and will be affected by climate change, in COP 22 they reinforce the idea that women are also consider a key factors in the reduction of emissions. Due to their capacities, their role in society, their determination and as decision makers, women participation, both in developed and developing countries, are necessary in the development of projects for agriculture adaptation for climate change, developing new projects for sustainable energy production, they are also de ones that can make changes in the amount and sources of energy they use in the houses and finally they are the ones that could  help to design new mechanism that will contribute to climate change mitigation at the same time that helps them improve their life conditions and with this moving forward in poverty issues.

Main objectives of COP in this area are:

  1. Improving gender balance and increasing the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes, including in delegations and in bodies constituted under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and
  2. Increasing awareness and support for the development and effective implementation of
    gender-responsive climate policy at the regional, national and local levels
    .

Even though there have been advances in this topic and some topics have been worked in the Lima Work program (launched in Cop20), just since Cop 21, 40% (57) of the Parties had included gender in their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) and the numbers are even lower when it comes to the relation between women and agriculture (10 Parties) and only Jordan, Peru and Liberia includes gender action plans[5]. In Cop 22 there was an agreement to extend the Lima Work program for three more years in which they expect to make some advances in obligation in reporting of gender efforts, inclusion of women in climate change negotiations, and reach gender balance.

Reality is that the impacts and role of women in climate change unfortunately is underestimated, reason why they are just taking the first steps to understand the magnitude of the problem. During Cop 22 the main considered issue was the participation of women in the institutions in charge of addressing the climate change projects, but not even in this topic advances were made because the participation of women is still to low and in some cases it even decrease.

Considering the first objective of Cop in this area and the Lima program, they have just reached the step of awareness but the path is still long and full of barriers. There is no secret that gender equality is still a major issue in the world, and with no surprise it also can bee seen in how climate change is address by countries. Some of them are starting to stablish a political framework to the topic but this are baby steps considering the big implications it could carry on over economic and sustainable development if it is not prioritized. The general efforts are far from contributing to the achievement of the second Cop objective since it is not fully recognized the impact over women neither considered part of the solution.

Not addressing this topic will be like going backwards in the sustainable development goals, therefore the achievement of the ODS like gender equality, poverty eradiation, cero hunger and reduction of inequity wouldn’t be even possible, compromising the targets settle by countries and society for 2030.

So the call is for governments to move forward. Time is counting and real compromise is needed not only written in a policy, but making the proper studies of the implication of climate change for women in their countries (since for every country could be different) involve them in the transformation agenda and settle goals that really demonstrate compromise over it. Cultural, religious and political barriers should be taken down in order to progress, because if society still superimpose these aspects, the role of gender equity in climate change has no clear future.

[1] Taken from FAO:  ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/ak915e/ak915e00.pdf

[2] Taken from FAO: http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/am307e/am307e00.pdf

[3] Taken from the World Bank http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.AGR.EMPL.FE.ZS?end=2005&start=2004&view=chart&year=2005

[4] Taken from UN Water: http://www.unwater.org/fileadmin/user_upload/worldwaterday2015/docs/Water%20For%20Women.pdf

[5] Taken from CGIAR https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/71106/GenderCOP21InfoNote.pdf?sequence=5

 

Sources 

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2004) ¨What is the connection and why is Gender and Climate Change important¨ Retrieved from:http://unfccc.int/gender_and_climate_change/items/7516.php

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2004) ¨Gender and Climate Change-Intergovernmental Process¨ Retrieved from:http://unfccc.int/gender_and_climate_change/items/9619.php

Convención Marco sobre el Cambio Climático (19/9/2016) ¨Composición por sexos¨, Informe de la secretaria Retrieved: 28/11/2016 from:http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2016/cop22/spa/04s.pdf

Bossuet (2016) ¨Gender and climate change policy after COP 21¨. Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from: https://ccafs.cgiar.org/es/blog/gender-and-climate-change-policy#.WDxy_qLhCAw

Huyer (2016) Gender and international climate policy¨ Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from: https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/71106/GenderCOP21InfoNote.pdf?sequence=5

Abdul Nasser (2009). ¨Climate change in Africa: The threat to agriculture¨. Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from:ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/ak915e/ak915e00.pdf

COP22- Cumbre de las Mujeres Líderes por el Cambio (16/11/2016). Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from: http://cop22.ma/es/#actualites/cop22-cumbre-de-mujeres-lideres-por-el-cambio

COP22- Grupo Mujeres y Género – La protección de las mujeres, las primeras víctimas del calentamiento global (14/11/16). Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from: http://cop22.ma/es/#actualites/grupo-mujeres-y-genero-proteccion-de-las-mujeres-las-primeras-victimas-del-calentamiento-global

COP22- wPower Hub, poner a las mujeres empresarias en el centro de la transforación de energya limpia en África (16/11/16). Retrieved: 27/11/2016 from:http://cop22.ma/es/#actualites/wpower-hub-poner-a-las-mujeres-empresarias-el-centro-de-transformacion-de-energia-limpia-africa

COP20- Lima work programme on gender- Draft decision. Retrieved: 28/11/2016 from:https://unfccc.int/files/meetings/lima_dec_2014/decisions/application/pdf/auv_cop20_gender.pdf


CoP22 revealed Sub-Saharan Africa as the perfect setting to implement renewable energies.

On his last tour, Justin Bieber raised more than 56 million dollars. According to CBS, a 30-second ad at the 2016 Super Bowl costed 5 million dollars. The most expensive English-language words at Google Ad Words are insurance-related; some of them can cost up to US$1.000 for every click.

These themes have little to do with sustainability. Still, on the last years they started to share two important aspects with it. One of them is that they attract the attention of lots of people; thanks to that, issues like the energy development in Africa have started to attract the business sector.

In this sense, the Cop22 unveiled as an opportunity for companies to set agreements related to sustainable development, particularly on the energy sector, which promises to grow substantially in the following years. A proof of this projection is the announcement of companies like Dalmia Cement or Swiss Re, to join the RE100 and EP100 initiatives. These agreements signify a big step towards the provision of sustainable tools to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement to replace fossil fuels.

RE100 is a collaborative, global initiative of influential businesses committed to working to increase demand for – and delivery of – renewable energy. It groups businesses from all over the world and from a wide range of industrial sectors – from telecommunications and IT to retail and food. Companies joining RE100 are encouraged to set a public goal to procure 100% of their electricity from renewable sources of energy by a specified year.

EP100 was launched on May 2016, with aims to promote energy efficiency as the ‘first fuel’ of any business activity. The concept is described as ‘getting more economic output from each unit of energy’, for greater economic output. This global initiative supports the growth of energy efficiency among the world’s biggest companies, who are pledging to double their energy productivity and maximize economic output.

November 11th was adaptation day at CoP22; a whole day focused on how to achieve the seventh Sustainable Development Goal. In words of the Executive Director and special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All initiative, Rachel Kyte “To ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, that can connect the world’s 1.1 billion people without access to Electricity (or can barely access it) and the 2.9 billion people still relying on hazardous solid fuels”. “Moreover”, she and added, “Closing the energy gap offers us one of the opportunities of our life”.

Cop22 is the most important event related to stopping climate change. Since its creation in 1992, it has been a decision-making entity to “protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations” and therefore a beacon for all those who relate directly to issues related to ecology and sustainability.

Truth be told, when compared to developed economies, Africa’s critical lack of infrastructure makes it a magnet to attract international funding. In a way, USA’s reticence to fully commit to reduce its carbon emissions is understandable, for it would mean the dismantling of huge investments, destined to last for many years to come, and replace them with new (and not-so-new) technologies.

The point is that there is a general understanding that with the reduction of the prices of technologies for renewable energy, it is possible to imagine that people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will soon have electricity. On this sense, Kyte considered that the private sector will have a key role in this effort for most people would not get their energy from the general network.  “There will be an integrated system where people will receive their energy from small-scale power grids. With the new technologies and the new business models, we can accelerate these processes and close the gap on energy access”.

World yearly CO2 emissions have reached 34.000 million metric tons. African continent is responsible of 3,5% of this total; a quantity slightly inferior to Japan´s emissions.

On this matter, the future prospects look promising. Important companies like Dalmia Cement and Helvetia announced at a press conference their new commitments, in which they have publicly forced to use 100% renewable energy in their operations and join RE100. Additionally, on the last few days, Swiss Re announced its commitment to double its energy productivity and join EP100.

Nevertheless, this objectives need of everybody’s collaboration. Linah Mohohlo, Member of the Africa Progress Panel -Chaired by Kofi Annan, Ex-governor of the Bank of Botswana- announced “African countries need to know when the funds will be available so that they can confidently plan their transition to a low-carbon economy and use the funds to attract co-financing. For all these reasons, it is vital that all developed countries contribute their part of the USD100 billion”.

Another issue mentioned by Kofi Annan was the fragmentation and labyrinthine-like system of the international climate financing architecture. He adverted that “Modest funding has been transferred through overly bureaucratic delivery structures that combine high transaction costs with low impact. There are now 50 climate funds in operation in Africa; most finance has been earmarked for small-scale projects rather than national programmes.”

African continent is the target of approximately 50% of all worldwide international cooperation funds (Statistics from a study made by the Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo (OCDE), “Mapeo de la inversión social para el desarrollo en la Argentina”).

It is important to admit that investors still see Africa as a risky investment, partly because of conflict driven by climate and socio-historic factors, but also because of the region’s chaotic regulatory environment. Public and private investment are usually obstructed by deficient regulatory frameworks, limited infrastructure in financial and economic spheres, corruption, or a political instability. Therefore, economic organizations constantly ask African governments to harmonize energy laws and legal conditions across the continent.

In spite of the doubts and uncertainties that political events constantly bring to the global outlook, economic conditions are slowly turning on favor of a responsible way of living. A huge commitment will be required from all stakeholders, to ensure a sustainable exploitation of the economic and political conditions that our generation is constructing around the globe.

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