Why is the EU not going to achieve the energy saving target?

The EU 20-20-20 target has been the topic of many discussions. Since 2009 Member States have been working on the 20% increase in energy efficiency (EE), 20% reduction of CO2 emissions and 20% increase in the use of renewable energy resources, being the latter two binding targets at the Member State level, meanwhile the EE only became binding at the EU level in 2012. Nevertheless, the first one is giving everybody a hard time since it was only an indicative target with less political support.

Energy efficiency means using less energy input to produce the same work or activity, which is different from reduction in consumption, where both input and work decrease. In the context of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), EE can be achieved by saving energy because it is set in terms of energy use. Cost-effective measures are the key to have savings in the energy bills.

The EU set a first goal of 14% increase in EE in 2006 with the Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP), before the 20-20-20 package in 2009, when it was acknowledged the need of further measures and a new Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP). To support the preparation of the new plan the European Commission did an Impact Assessment (IA) in 2011. The document states that in a business as usual scenario (BAS), the EU will achieve only 9% of energy efficiency. So, why are the efforts not enough? The IA has identified 3 main reasons:

1. Market failures

Energy prices do not consider the cost of negative externalities like pollution, GHG emissions and depletion of natural resources. Split incentives are another cause, which means that e.g. the person paying for energy renovation costs will not be the one benefiting from it. There are some cost-effective measures that have not mainstreamed due to the limited knowledge on the benefits and costs. We also need to consider missing and incomplete markets related to the lack of experts in the field and the infrastructure that do not allow the market to reach a maturity phase. Initial costs are a barrier as well, people want short-term payback and usually the profitability of the investment can be perceived in the long-term. This is reflected in the lack of knowledge of the financial institutions to support energy efficiency projects. Last but not least, we have harmful subsidies for fossil fuels, regulated prices for gas and electricity in some Member States that can provide distorted market signals, and negative incentives like the increase in taxes for buildings with higher values as a result of energy efficiency improvements.

2. Regulatory failures

The technical aspect of energy efficiency doesn’t affect consumers, but also policy makers at the moment of developing regulations, this is translated into lack of political visibility. With little understanding of politicians on this topic, comes the lack of a comprehensive policy framework including regulatory and support instruments, and a poor enforcement, specially at a country level where some of them lack the administrative capacity to work on their policies. Also the constant changes represent a risk for investment.

3. Other barriers

The rebound effect occurs when the savings target is not met. When you develop and sell energy efficiency appliances, the new technology can increase the use of these appliances, not allowing a decrease in the total energy consumption, or even worst, the consumption could be higher.

In the same IA document, the EU identifies the main sectors and the savings potential, and then evaluates for each sector different options to cover the gap. The result is the new policy mix as explained in the following graphic:

Source: Impact Assessment for the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011

According to the distribution of the final energy consumption in the EU, there are some savings potential in all sectors. Taking a look at the pie graph we can see that the third sector (residential and services) and the transport sector are the main consumers, but these two have the potential of achieving 21% of energy savings by 2020 with cost-effective measures. In the case of the industry sector, they have already done most of their savings due to their energy intensive nature; the remaining savings potential is 3%. It is important to consider the energy sector and the possibilities to improve the efficiency in energy transformation and the increased utilization of recoverable energy.

Source: Impact Assessment for the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011. Own elaboration.

Some of the potential savings can be addressed with existing policies like:

To cover the difference the IA goes through different policy alternatives:

“As a conclusion, it is proposed that the third policy alternative, a policy framework for Member States with EU support, is followed. This would recognize the importance of Member States in the implementation of energy savings policies, give the EU an important supporting role, and provide for clear objectives and indicators to follow the progress in the realization of the energy savings potential.”

To end with the exercise, the analysis goes further into the various types of policy instruments for each sector, considering voluntary, regulatory, financing, awareness and training schemes. This reveals the need of EU intervention for the sectors to comply with the savings target.

Eventually, in 2012 the Energy Efficiency Directive was jointly adopted by the EU Council and Parliament, which includes mandatory measures for energy efficiency. Some of the changes introduced are:

The EED forces Member States to come up with indicative national energy efficiency targets, but will that be enough? Marta Toporek believes that:

“One of the most important measures in the EED package is the 1.5% annual savings target for energy companies, which has the potential to create significant savings and encourage energy efficiency financing. However, its impact could be weakened by too-flexible targets and measures. Other provisions – such as overhauling Europe’s public buildings to make them more energy efficient – also lack teeth. With no binding national energy saving targets and weak energy efficiency measures, the EU will struggle to cut the cost of energy imports, which stood at €488 billion in 2011, or 3.9% of GDP.”

In mid-2014 the EED will be reviewed, giving the European Commission the opportunity to push for an amendment and set binding targets at Member States level. The results of this review will also be a key element to the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework that is proposing not to set national binding targets for renewable energies anymore because it has not been cost-effective. This framework includes a new goal for greenhouse gas reduction as well, but in terms of EE it is still on hold until June before considering the next steps.

Hopefully Member States will not underestimate the importance of energy services and the key role of the utility companies to bridge the gap.


Stakeholder Dialogue… practice it!

When people think about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) they usually relate it to big companies or multinationals, even people who work for an SME (small and medium enterprises) may do the same, without realizing that it has also to do with them. The problem is that many SMEs do not know what to do or where to start applying these practices beyond some basic actions like recycling paper or reducing electricity consumption. If you ask me I would say there is no magic answer for everybody, but you can find out what you need to through DIALOGUE.

In the context of CSR it is known as stakeholder dialogue, and you will need it for every phase of a plan, from collecting information or data, to developing the actual plan, implementing it and then measuring, controling and reporting the results. The Collective Leadership Institute developed The Dialogic Change Model, which divides the stakeholder dialogue in 4 phases:

The model requires the participation of both parties until the end, do not forget it is a dialogue, not a monologue. Engaging with your stakeholders is not easy, but dialogue helps to facilitate the process because it represents a combined effort from the beginning. Identifying the issues and possible solutions are the result of collective thinking. In order to succeed practice your communication skills, be clear and precise, explain your intentions and listen carefully to the opinion of others. Make sure to establish together shared goals and objectives, the results should be a win-win situation.

The purpose of CSR is to contribute to sustainable development, which is, I believe, the most important challenge of our times. The isolated actions of one SME may seem irrelevant, but with so many microenterprises and SMEs around the world their impact in terms of employment, GDP and pollution matters. Here is where the role of CSR gains its importance and the only way forward is by taking action, starting with stakeholder dialogue. For a small company it may sound overwhelming, nevertheless by working with the stakeholders they will not be alone. What if a big company turns out to be one of their customers or suppliers? they have the capacity to assist a smaller one in this path.

So think about your supply chain, the environment, the government, your employees, your shareholders and the community. Learn about your product or services, the impacts your activities may have and dialogue with the parts involved to understand the bigger picture, to bear in mind different approaches and to come up with innovative social, environmental and economic solutions. For an SME employees may be the most important stakeholder, but do not be afraid to widen up your scope and have meetings with others to create a space where they can commit to change. The opportunities are there, it is up to you to take advantage of them and be the one who makes the first move.

Remember that your efforts may not save the world, but at least you will be the one trying to make a difference.


Social Entrepreneurs and Sustainability

“Often society blames young people for instigating conflicts, when they are in reality the mirror of society. They reflect back to us what we don’t want to see, and as a society what we don’t want to aknowledge.” – Nelsa Curbelo

Nelsa Curbelo is a women that I truly admire, she was nominated twice for a Nobel Peace Prize and I had the honor to have her as a professor a few years ago in the university. She is specialized in Human Rights and conflict management, being the last one the course she gave me. She talked to us about her project called “Ser Paz” (Being Peace) and the work she does with gang in my city, Guayaquil.

Fundación Ser Paz

This NGO was founded in 1999 and works with youngsters to create the so called “Barrios de Paz” or Peace Towns, by providing them alternative roads from violence. The plan focuses on 49 blocks in a conflicting and insecure zone of the city, where around 1,000 families live and 5 different gangs are located. The gang members can participate in mediation workshops and community development training to put an end to the rivalry that lies within them. In this workshops they have to come up with ideas to bring peace to the community, but they also brainstorm to think about their future business thanks to the education they receive in microenterprises.The workshops are in school hours but Nelsa also has sessions during the weekends with the parents, informal teachers and young people who dropped out of school.

Another way of offering non-violent activities is through sports. With the creation of the program “Tarjeta Roja a la Violencia” (Red Card to Violence) the youngsters play street football with their own made-up rules approved by all players. There is no referee, they have to comply with the rules or raise the hand when somebody is not following them. The objective is to evaluate their performance based on values and not goals, to reach agreements, to respect the rules and your apponent, just to name a few.

There are other programs and ideas to be developed, but the two mentioned before are the main ones. If you are interested in learning more about Fundación Ser Paz (in spanish), please click here.

The lady behind the idea

Nelsa Curbelo is Uruguayan-Ecuadorian, she is a charismatic 71 year-old woman with a vibrant spirit. Former nun and school teacher, has worked with indigenous, young people and communities during her life. In 2000 she was recognized by Ashoka as Social Entrepreneur and then named as “fellow” for this reason. Her work and effort was compensated with many other recognitions and awards, like Dra. Honoris Causa by the Universitat Ramon Llull (URL) in Barcelona.

She sees in young people the future, but in Ecuador the majority live in poor conditions and expelled from society. For her is important that people understand that not every gangster is a criminal, some are just looking for someone to care about them and that provides a sense of belonging. She want to use the positive characteristics of their beviour like team work, frienship and solidarity, as drivers of social change. In the following video Nelsa explains why gangs are formed.

How sustainable is the NGO?

From the 60,000 gangsters in the city, she has helped around 5,000 and now other cities and countries want to start a similar project. Pizza places, music studios, hair salons and 7 other microenterprises have been created. Everything seems to work, but I have identified a few issues.

Nelsa has the social entrepreneur profile: the motivation to solve a social issue, passionate, visionary with holistic solutions, innovative, determined, and persevering. Her idea is replicable and scalable, nevertheless I don’t think is economically sustainable. She mostly relies on the Ministry of Labour to provide the funding for the workshops and the microenterprises and in 2009 they almost had to close the foundation because the government stopped giving them money despite the written agreement. Apparently in the end they didn’t close because there are recent articles about Ser Paz.

Hopefully this will not happen again, but unless they manage to generate their own income, the odds are probably not good. This is why business skills are imporant for a social entrepreneur. Maybe the people who manage to create their businesses can start paying back with small montly contributions, and people who attend the workshops can do the same. The government can hire gang members to work as advisors for decisions in policy-making, or even with local police to create a bond between them find, analyze the insecurity issues and work together in the solutions. The mediation workshops and the experience of bringing together the rival gangs will be useful in this case.

Another issue that I see is sustainability in terms of leadership. Can they continue without Nelsa? She is the mind, heart and soul of the NGO, she is known as the “grandma of the gangsters” because that is how close their relationship is. They really care about her and would literally die to protect her. She has gone throught many dangerous situations, but her strong character has saved her every time. She is training teachers and doing many things to expand the project, but she also needs to find someone who can walk at her side and win the respect of the gangs.

 


Food waste is not only food waste

“Don’t waste food, do you know how many people do not have enough to eat?” It is very common to hear people saying things like this, but how many times have you heard something like “don’t waste your food, do you know how many people do not have access to water and energy?… Probably not once!

Food waste is a term that we have always used, but ignore its complete meaning. Around one third of the food produced in one year for human consumption gets lost or wasted, that is 1.3 billion tonnes. What we see is food, but blind to our eyes are all the other ingredients that may not be so obvious like water, energy and land. Just take a look at the following information provided by GRACE Communications Foundation in their report Food, Water and Energy: Know the Nexus

“To make a single pizza requires 333 gallons (1,260 liters) of water, enough to fill almost ten bathtubs!”

“Producing one calorie of food requires about one liter of water. That means you “eat” more water than you drink.”

“Approximately 2.5 percent of the U.S. energy budget is “thrown away” annually as food waste.”

“About 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually in the U.S. is associated with discarded food; globally such waste consumes as much water as in Lake Erie.”

“If we wasted just 5 percent less food, it would be enough to feed four million Americans; 15 percent less waste could feed 25 million Americans annually.”

Food, water and energy are interrelated, the two latter are necesary to produce and transport everything we eat.

Water is used in crops irrigation, in industrial livestock farms, for energy generation, for cleaning and maintaining hygenic production, for cooling purposes e.g. to cool the steam to turn turbines in a nuclear power plant… and the list goes on and on.

Energy involves fuel production and electricity used for transportation, to operate machinery, produce fertilizers, move and pump water, and for processing and packaging food.

But also land is very important, since it is used to grow crops and as landfill. Agriculture leads to land degradation, and the regeneration process is slow and sometimes it is not even possible. Close to 30% of the fertile land is used to produce the food that ends up wasted, that is around 1.4 hectares of land.

And what about CO2 emissions? we not only emmit more by transporting the waste, the waste itself produces methane, which is one most harmful greenhouse gases. It is estimated that 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent come from the food that is produced but not eaten.

Food waste by itself is already a big issue considering that there are 842 million hungry people around the world. However, we need to add  the 780 million people that lack access to an improved water source, as well as the 1.3 billion people who lack access to electricity and the 2.6 billion people who use biomass for cooking, causing harmful indoor pollution.

Said in different words, 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry each night, 1 in 9 people do not have clean water for drinking and sanitation and 1 in 5 people still need electricity at home.

So food waste is not only food waste, it is misspending a variety of resources that are scarce, difficult to regenerate and not accesible for everybody. Next time you decide to throw away some food remember that it is not just about food. If you go to the supermarket buy the amount of food that you can eat before it gets rotten, or if you go to a restaurant only order the amount of food that you can actually eat. Try to measure your eating habits and modify your purchases according to them.

 


Empathy as a tool for Development: Animal rights in Ecuador

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If we judge Ecuador based on Gandhi’s principle, what can we say? In order to do this, let’s analyze the situation that animals live in (focusing on pets), the existing laws in the country to protect animal rights, and the expected changes in the future.

Sadly, there are no official statistics regarding the amount of animals that live in the street. A local newspaper called “Hoy” published an article in 2011 saying that there are 190.000 stray dogs in Quito, the capital of the country. Maybe it’s not an accurate number but it gives us an idea of how big this issue is on a national level, and it gets worst when we take into account the reproduction rate (see pictures below). It’s clear that overpopulation of animals not only affects their quality of life and their chances of having a family, but also creates an unhealthy environment for people as well.

Animals live in a cruel reality where they face abandonment, hunger, disease and, what’s even worse, abuse. Some are born in clandestine breeding places where they are kept in inhumane conditions until they can be illegally sold on the streets. The worst part is that the police won’t do anything to these street sellers because they aren’t aware that this practice is illegal. But if the authorities and civil society doesn’t take care of this problem then who will? Who is responsible for raising the voice for those who can’t speak for their own rights?

To deal with overpopulation and animal abuse we need strong laws to protect animals. In Ecuador the ones that exist are, in many cases, not even respected by the authorities. The “missing” dogs before the World Surfing Championship last March in a small town called Montañita, and the recent elimination of the text related to animal abuse from the penal code (that was included again after the protest of animal rights activists), are clear examples of the hard work that has to be done.

Currently the penal code considers animal cruelty as a contravention and the sanctions applied are community service for some cases, and 3 to 7 days of prison, along with a fine, for those who cause the death of an animal. Some people think this is adequate, but killing an animal is considered a contravention and not a crime. You cannot demand an investigation and to file a complaint as a contravention you need to know the person who killed the animal. In this case the only option is to claim property damage because, sadly, in the eyes of the law animals are things instead of living beings. 2014 was not a good start for a couple that found themselves in this situation.

Many countries consider animal abuse a crime and have taken necessary measures not only by changing the laws but by actually acting according to them. However, in Ecuador animal rights activists and different foundations have worked on an animal protection law that has been in the hands of the Assembly for months without achieving anything yet. The scenario is not very encouraging but civil society is probably more organized than ever before to fight for this common purpose.

Picture taken by a witness when local authorities where capturing dogs

To fight for better animal rights we need to be empathetic and proactive. Empathy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If we teach our society to respect animal rights won’t they also respect each other as well? Is a person that has empathy with animals capable of harming another human being? And most important, can better standards of living and wellbeing for animals lead us to a more developed and responsible society? Or should we measure development using only economic factors?

As an animal right activist from Ecuador I have been questioned many times about what I do. People always tell me that children are more important than animals and I don’t think they are wrong. But they are missing something really important, and that is that animals are as vulnerable as a baby, so if we don’t have laws to protect the most helpless living beings, what can we expect for the rest? It’s a matter of empathy and being responsible for those who may be weaker than ourselves, and that includes animals. It also tends to be the case that people who are empathic with animals are always empathic with people, but it doesn’t always work the other way around.

Captain Paul Watson said: “If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.”
The government uses the slogan “Ecuador ama la vida”, which means Ecuador loves life, so it is time to honor these words. Torturing an animal should be considered UNACCEPTABLE.

 

 

 

 

For more information on the work I have been involved with (in Spanish), please see:

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

 


Are we using Natural Resources in a Sustainable Way?

During the first session of Environment and Natural Resources Management we discussed the difference between sustained and sustainable practices. To use the example from the class, a sustained practice would be cutting 4 trees and then planting 4 trees again; a sustainable practice would consider other factors, for instance, the affected species that live in those trees.

While doing some research for the next post I’m going to publish about a key development issue, the topic of factory farming came up after I was told to read the blog post of a former IMSD student called Daniel Salter. It really caught my attention, but I want to focus on the following ideas he highlighed and quoted from the Animals Autralia video:

“According to the UN, raising animals for food, contributes more to climate change than all of the world’s trains, planes and automobiles combined… not to mention water pollution, species extinction, and almost every other major environmental threat.”

“The reality is, factory farms use more food than they produce, which means less food for everyone else. At a time when globally, more than one billion people are suffering from malnutrition, one third of the worlds edible cereal harvest is being fed to farm animals… that cereal would be enough to feed around three billion people.”

I wasn’t aware of this issue, I see factory farming as a cruel practice, but I never thought about it from the point of view of how sustainable it is based on the amount of food livestock needs. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) talks about this challenge in the document Why animals matter in achieving “The Future we Want”, they believe that it is necesssary to include animal welfare in the Sustainable Development Goals (Rio+20) to have a positive impact in poverty eradication and economic development, food security, public health, climate change and the preservation of biodiversity.

The figures are really disturbing, the WSPA states that, globally, 53% of all oil crops (soybeans, palm oil and rapeseed) and 38% of all cereals (mainly wheat, maize and some rice) are used for livestock feed, and this production occupies large areas of land and forest. When it comes to the food chain, meat production accounts for 18-25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 this number could increase to 70%. The increasing use of livestock production is generating overexploitation of the ecosystems, affecting biodiversity and the natural habitat for animals.

The American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) also raises factory farming and climate change as one of the Grand Challenges 2012, where they mention that animal agriculture affects climate change, but it also works the other way around. According to them, the major concern is the prediction that the global human population will double by 2050. As a result, animal agriculture will have to produce more food with fewer resources in a changing environment.

Philip Lymbery is the Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming and in the following video he exposes the competition between feeding people and feeding farmed animals, as well as the impact on the environment and our resources:

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

In another video Philip Lymbery talks about the commission they formed with Friends of the Earth, The Institute for Social Ecology (Austria) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany) to find a way to feed the world without factory farming and moving to a model that is better for the people, for the animals and for the planet. Compassion in World Farming prepared a report with a series of recommendations to provide humane conditions to animals and at the same time face the challenge of the increasing population. One of them is changing our diet into a sustainable one by eating a better quality meat, but less of it.

To complement the recommendations from the report, I think sometimes it is useful to go back to basics and think about how indigenous people lived and adapt it to our reality. Apparently this strategy has been successful to the WWF, as they state the following:

“(…) We can often learn from the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples. Their local wisdom and survival skills, often learned and passed down over generations, can teach us a lot about the natural world and how to live in harmony with it.

Our community-based projects show that with local people involved it’s possible to find the delicate balance between development and conservation.”

Maybe not for our own sake, but for the ones to come, we better  reflect on how we can contribute as consumers to tackle this issue.


Urban Planning for Development in Guayaquil: The Challenge of Insecurity

Guayaquil may not be the capital of Ecuador, but is the biggest and most densely populated city (7,345.7 people/km2) of the country. It is located around 64 km north of the Gulf of Guayaquil and is Ecuador’s chief port and main commercial and manufacturing center, where 2.5 million people live and work. In the late 1990’s the current Mayor of the city, Jaime Nebot, started an Urban Regeneration program that has achieved a significant change in terms of infrastructure, among other things.

The next challenge

Despite the progress the city has experienced, there is still one big issue that instead of improving is getting worst every year: the insecurity. Latin America is one of the regions with the highest rates of economic growth, but is also the most insecure and unequal one. According to the “Barometer of the Americas 2010” Ecuador is the second country of a total of 25, with the highest percentage of people (29.1%) who have been victims of crime.

Based on the filed reports from the Public Ministry, in 2012 the 26.5% correspond to felonies against people and the 23.2% are against properties.

From January to March 2013, the most frequent felonies were assaults and robberies to people and properties, and threats and intimidation.

When a person has an emergency in Guayaquil and needs assitance he can call ECU 911 (the new security system of the Government) or 112 (the security system of the Municipality). With these systems the inmediate response to an emergency has been taken care of, but the process that comes next needs to be improved. Usually when you call the police they take notes of the situation, but then you have to go to a Police Station (by yourself), often located in dangerous zones of the city, to file the report. Even after you do this, if you want them to work on the case you have to go with your papers to a designated office to demand an investigation, this will require that you do a constant follow-up to see any results. This is just one example of how complicated and long is the process of filing a report, you can see these kinds of flaws at every level of all the institutions involved in security and justice matters.

The municipal elections are coming soon, a new Mayor will be elected in February 2014 and the two main candidates, the current Mayor and the former Governor, have included the insecurity issue in their proposals. On one hand, Jaime Nebot will demand the Government to adopt a state policy on citizen security. The policy should be a sum of actions taken by the Government and the Municipality permanently, adequately funded and with periodic accountability. The Corporation for Public Safety funded by the Municipality will continue to develop preventive measures, especially in dismantling gangs, job opportunities for rehabilitated and operation of the System for Emergency Calls. On the other hand, the former Governor Viviana Bonilla wants to transform the Metropolitan Police into Community Police. She will develop a recovery plan for the neighborhoods most affected by insecurity. This project will be carried out with the neighborhood associations and community police.

The Opportunity for a Change

The proposals from both candidates are good, but they should be combined and implemented. The plan needs to focus on 4 main areas:

  1. Prevention
  2. Crime control
  3. Social rehabilitation
  4. Institutional strengthening

Following the Mayor’s proposal about a state policy on citizen security, it is necessary to think first on the tools we need to develop good and strong policies. In orden to do that the Municipality can work with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government. They have experience in working in Central America with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to increase the confidence in democratic institutions and improve the quality of life of the citizens by promoting the dialogue between civil society, political parties and government institutions at local, national and regional levels.

“Since 2010, NDI has contributed to democratic engagement on citizen security policy by organizing international exchanges of best practices, designing and conducting courses on regional challenges and tools for making effective policy, and assisting municipal actors to develop and implement local violence prevention initiatives. The Institute helps civil society communicate citizen concerns to political leaders while helping parties and governments engage with constituents to develop more responsive policies. By building on a common base of understanding and taking into account a diversity of perspectives and regional experiences, leaders are better able to address the root causes of insecurity and bolster democratic institutions.” For more information click here.

I believe that a program like this is essential regardless of the project, citizens are so afraid of everybody that in some cases they don’t even trust the police. All the information, the big data, is a key resource for policy making. The Municipality and the police need to obtain this data from the citizens, so the engagement of the civil society is very important. But to complement this program they must have a software that helps to process the data and turn it into useful information. We can take the example of Thainland and the way the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) managed to reduce manual procedures by implementing a Microsoft Data Solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and Apache Hadoop software. This solution helped to reduce the time of an investigation process from 2 years to 15 days.

The World Bank has also been involved in finding ways to fight insecurity, they are aware that there is no magical solution, but the problem is multidimensional, so solutions need to be comprehensive. Last June they launched the program Red de Soluciones a la Violencia RESOL-V (Network Solutions to Violence), which is basically a network, a regional alliance to share the knowledge to help identify, design and implement solutions that work in public safety. It will give access to the people that worked in cases like Los Angeles, Chicago, Nueva York, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá and Mexico City.

The United Nations Development Program is another organization trying to address the issue that exists in Latin America. The worrying reality let them to dedicate its Regional Human Development Report 2013-14 for the region, by elaborating a report called “Citizen Security with a Human Face: Evidence and Proposals for Latin America” where they present the following recommendations:

  1. Align national efforts to reduce crime and violence, based on existing experiences and lessons learned.
  2. Prevent crime and violence, promoting inclusive, fair and equitable.
  3. Reduce impunity by strengthening security and justice institutions while respecting human rights.
  4. Generate public policies oriented to protect the people most affected by violence and crime.
  5. Promote the active participation of society, especially in local communities, to build citizen security.
  6. Increase real opportunities of human development for young people.
  7. Comprehensively address and prevent gender violence within the home and in public environments.
  8. Actively safeguard the rights of victims.
  9. Regulate and reduce “triggers” of crime such as alcohol, drugs and firearms, from a comprehensive, public health perspective.
  10. Strengthen mechanisms of coordination and assessment of international cooperation.

As we can see now, the tools to find solutions and create better or new policies are there. Sadly, the Mayor of Guayaquil is considered the representative of the opposition and this has created a lot of tension with the President and his government. Instead of aligning efforts, like the UNDP suggests, each authority has his own agenda and hardly collaborate with each other. We don’t know what is going to happen in the next municipal elections, but regardless the outcome the new Mayor will have to change the way of working if they really want to improve the security of the city.


Warsaw Climate Change Conference… a total failure or a chance for progress?

 

To be able to answer that we need to think on what was meant to be resolved in the 19th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) held in Poland from November 11th to 22nd. If we look at the bigger picture, the purpose was to keep building a path, that started in Durban in 2011, to reach a new Universal Climate Agreement in 2015. Even though the debates and negotiations concluded 27 hours after scheduled, we can say that this was achieved.

Nevertheless, when we look into the details we may find a different scenario. Besides making decisions about the steps to the next Summit in Paris (2015), two other important things were in the agenda: the developing of a loss and damage mechanism and clarity on climate finance. The first issue was one of the most controversial ones because it refers to the way a country can deal with the impact after it happens. In both cases the parties reached a minimal agreement, affecting once again the confidence that needs to be built between developed and developing countries.

Many people have critized this Conference as a complete failure, and probably their opinion is related to the fact that the Kyoto Protocol (the first agreement) was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005, however the parties didn’t act according to it and here we are again trying to make a new agreement while countries like the Phillipines is struggling with the damages caused by typhoon haiyan on previous days. Naderev Saño, Climate Commissioner from the Phillipines, went on a hunger strike to demand a meaningful outcome of a loss and damage mechanism. Japan declaring a lowering in their emissions goal, Australia repealing the nation’s carbon tax and 800 environmentalists walking out of the Summit are some of the setbacks that ocurred in those two weeks.

I think the main concern is how are we going to deal with the climate change issues while we built our way to a new agreement that will achieve its goal by 2020. Will it be too little too late? The physical reality demands inmediate actions, but with 195 parties and over 8,300 participants the challenge to reach a consensus is big. The tension between developed and developing countries is increasing, developing countries want the developed nations to recognize the damage done during the industrial revolution, and even though they are willing to provide financial aid they are not taking responsability for the long term damages such as the rise of sea level.

Wether they recognize it or not the damage is already done, and there is a new concern about the big developing countries that are growing fast like China, India and Brazil. China can reach the same level of accumulated emissions as the United States, the country with the highest emissions in the world. So it’s not about just looking into the past or towards the future to find who is guilty, it’s about being able to find solutions on time and commiting to them as a globalized world, individual excuses will not save us from catastrophes. The best way to move forward is to learn from our mistakes; we have already tried with regulations, cap and trade system and taxes. Now we know the advantages and disadvantages of each one and it gives us the opportunity to make adjustments to make it work, we also have succesful cases like the German tax reform that we can use as a reference.



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