Logistics Logistics Logistics! Highlighting Technology Needs Assessment for Developing Countries

As the Paris AgTNA-logo_rgbreement parties continue to meet and deliberate legal provisions, supporting organizations put in place tools that help developing countries meet their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). A non-governmental organization is one of the amazing things about the Paris Agreement, COP, or climate change in general. Citizens from all over the world don’t need to wait for government action and can operate independently. NGOs can hit the ground running, enacting change, and are sometimes more effective than governments who need to navigate foreign affairs carefully. What is even more impressive about NGOs is their ability to adapt. Like any successful story, you need to fail. It was through this process that led the UN development program (UNDP) in creating the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) tool for developing countries.

TNA streamlines the process of determining appropriate technologies to supply developing counties to combat climate change. Choosing the right technology is an important issue because it gradually builds the capacity of the developing country. Sometimes we are too quick to solve a problem and look to the most efficient solution. However, the answer may be too complicated for the developing country to maintain, once the experts have left. The TNA address this problem. The TNA is a three-step process that conducts a feasibility study and selects the appropriate environmental controls.

Step one is a holistic background study that looks to multiple sectors including gender. The first step helps prioritize available technologies that can be applied. Step two conducts a feasibility study or barrier analysis of each technology. Since developing countries circumstances are different, experts must carefully examine the technique. The third step is called the technology action plan and supports “the implementation of the pritorized technology.” The level of ambition, timelines, schedules, and education are carefully implemented and contributes to reaching the developing country’s NDC.

Moreover, the TNA tool is so effective that, successful application of the analysis enhances the opportunity to obtain funding to construct the project. So, to the organizations that help make pragmatic steps that help lay down the right tools, keep up the good work.


A New Mitigation and Adaptation Tool: Low Emission Development

Capture

Today is the first day of COP24! Technical experts and policymakers come from around the world with one goal in mind – progress. Progress in building solutions that give us that extra step toward a solution to climate change. There is no one solution, and discussions occur at multiple fronts over a range of topics.

The decision in COP21 started a shift toward low emission development (LED), which seeks to fundamentally change human behavior as well as industry practices to seek ways to minimize emissions. LED utilizes both mitigation and adaptation strategies. LEDs are also flexible where they can integrate with other planning tools and strategies. Successful execution of LED varies by country but has been widely known to depend on three factors: participation, prioritization, and implementation. Now at COP24, the LED project is bearing fruit. Tunisia successfully implemented LED and now serves as a case study for other counties to benchmark from.

One reason why Tunisia was so successful in adopting LED was that it simultaneously campaigned for public participation, petitioned to political powers, and targeted the youth. Early involvement of stakeholders is key to gain LED traction. LED is best approached by lobbying. Tunisia hosted workshops for the public and designed activities for children to learn the value of conservation. Tunisia’s approach propelled LED to the point where Tunisia added language combating climate change into its constitution!

The second factor requires careful prioritization and scheduling. LED is data heavy and inputs vary significantly depending on the country conditions and available resources. For some developing countries, LED may not be cost effective to implement. However, case studies like the success in Tunisia help strengthen viable LED strategies. Over time, as the LED strategy matures, LED becomes scalable and ultimately lowers the costs in its implementation.

The final and most difficult factor is implementing the LED. Implementing the LED can be messy because it requires careful coordination of multiple stages. The best way to overcome obstacles from implementation is to maintain good record keeping practices and concurrently build the institutional framework creating LED laws and regulations. Establishing the institutional framework helps build trust and hold the parties accountable. This cross-government work is critical to support LEDs.

Moreover, LED is attractive because it works synergistically with any economy. LEDs focuses on national priorities for sustainable development and simultaneously serves as a road map that spurs economic development by driving the economy in minimizing waste and pollution. LEDs are known to guide diversification of an economy.

Finally, LEDs is a pathway for funding and capacity needs. Since LEDs apply both mitigation and adaptation tools, LEDs can benefit stakeholders and prepare the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) that help qualify for the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). LEDs can be eligible for numerous financial sources such as the World Bank ESMAP, US Country Studies program, and “fast start” funding under the UNFCCC.

Tunisia has already implemented the LED strategy in February 2018. Ukraine, Guyana, Indonesia, Mexico, and the UK have already adopted LED strategies, and more parties are following suit.


The Log-istics of Carbon Dioxide Removal

Trees are the coolest source of CO2 Removal on the planet.

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2012/10/26/conservation-or-carbon-sinks-can-the-un-see-the-forest-for-the-trees/

Trees and vegetation are known to help cool ambient air temperatures through evapotranspiration.  If left undisturbed, forests can also be a vital source of carbon storage.  Estimates from the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2015) show that the world’s forests and other wooded lands store more than 485 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon: 260 Gt in the biomass, 37 Gt in dead wood and litter, and 189 Gt in the soil.

In the most recent IPCC Special Report Summary for Policymakers (SPM), the world’s leading climate scientists assess the pathways the global community can pursue over the next few decades to prevent overshoot ofScreen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.58.11 PM warming beyond 1.5°C.  The fact that all pathways to limit global warming to 1.5°C require mitigation via some form of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is not to be overlooked. But these removal amounts vary across pathways, as do the relative contributions of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and removals in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector.  BECCS sequestration is projected to range from 0-1, 0-8, and 0-16 GtCO2/yr, in 2030, 2050, and 2100 respectively; the AFOLU-related measures are projected to remove 0-5, 1-11, and 1-5 GtCO2/yr in these years.  These contributions appear meager, and they are… but every little bit counts in this climate.

A reasonable argument can be made for increased investment in and use of CCS to achieve emissions reductions.  The SPM makes it clear that forests alone won’t be able to make a significant numerical difference in reduction of CO2 from the atmosphere.  And as the New York Times aptly points out, “the world is currently much better at cutting down forests than planting new ones.”

On the surface, CCS seems like a logical outgrowth from the nature of GHG emissions production.  The IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Capture and Storage (SRCCS) describes CCS as a mitigation activity that Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.37.30 PMseparates CO2 from large industrial and energy-related point sources, which has the potential to capture 85-95% of the CO2 processed in a capture plant.  Direct Air Capture (DAC) technologies like ClimeWorks remove CO2 from the air. Proponents argue that DAC is a much less land-intensive process than afforestation: Removal of 8 Gt/CO2 would require 6.4 million km² of forested land and 730 km³ of water, while DAC would directly require only 15,800 km² and no water.

However, as our blog has cautioned readers in the past, CCS requires significant financial investments from industry and government and are only regionally accessible.  Only places that have sufficient infrastructure and political support can pursue this path of technological sequestration, leaving underdeveloped countries at a major disadvantage.  A recent report published in Nature Research further emphasizes that BECCS will have significant negative implications for the Earth’s planetary boundaries, or thresholds that humanity should avoid crossing with respect to Earth and her sensitive biophysical subsystems and processes.  Transgressing these boundaries will increase the risk of irreversible climate change, such as the loss of major ice sheets, accelerated sea level rise, and abrupt shifts in forest and agricultural systems.  Above all else, CCS ultimately supports the continual burning of fossil fuels. CCS technology may capture carbon, but it also has the potential to push us over the edge.

Money tree

Mitigation has historically been the focus of the FCCC and other collaborative climate change efforts.  Global climate change policy experts are familiar with the binding language associated with activities related to mitigation in the multilateral environmental agreements: Article 4(1)(b) of the Convention calls for commitments to formulate, implement, publish and update national programs containing measures to mitigate climate change; and Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) calls for Annex I Parties to account for their emissions reductions in order to promote accountability and activity guided by mindful emissions production.  In the waning hours of the KP, the Paris Agreement has become the new collective rallying document, whose ambitious emissions reduction target has inspired the likes of the IPCC to offer us pathways to get there.

If we are not currently on track towards limiting GHG emissions well-below 2°C in the grand scheme of the FCCC, why not insure some success, however small, buy securing CO2 in forests, not CCS?  Forests are a well-established CDR technology that do not have the associated risks with CCS.  While the most recent UN Forum on Forests report kindly reminds us that forests are also crucial for food, water, wood, health, energy, and biodiversity, the SPM upholds that mitigation contributions from carbon sequestration technology are numerically minuscule in the face of the large-scale change necessary to avoid CO2 overload.  A much more engaged energy overhaul is needed.

The ideal SPM pathScreen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.10.17 PMway states that afforestation can be the only CDR option when social, business, and technological innovations result in lower energy demand and a decarbonized energy system.  A more middle-of-the-road scenario achieves necessary emissions reductions mainly by changing the way in which energy and products are produced, and to a lesser degree by reductions in demand.  This speaks to the need for a broad focus on sustainable development rather than continuing business as usual.  Regardless of the pathway, forests need to be preserved, whether it be for carbon sequestration, their cooling effects, or merely beauty.

Sometimes there is no turning back.


IPCC special report leaves the world in dire straits

In response to an invitation from the Parties of the Paris Agreement (PA), and pursuant to the Article 2 efforts to limit temperature increases well below 2°C, the IPCC prepared a Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15), released Monday, 8 October, 2018.

Climate scientists sounded the alarm yet again, painting a dire picture of the future without immediate and drastic mitigation and adaptation measures worldwide.  High confidence statements made by the panel include:

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 3.58.11 PM

  • Human activities have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels
  • Current global warming trends reach at least 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Staying below the 1.5°C threshold will require a 45% reduction in GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero by 2050
  • Pathways to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot will require removal of an additional 100-1000 GtCO2

Pathways of current nationally stated mitigation ambitions submitted under the PA will not limit global warming to 1.5°C.  Current pathways put us on target for 3°C by 2100, with continued warming afterwards.

The ENB Report summarizing SR15 was able to shine a light on the good that can come from responses to this special report (not to mention upholding the ambition intended with the PA).  SR15 shows that most of the 1.5°C pathways to avoid overshoot also help to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in critical areas like human health or energy access. Ambitious emission reductions can also prevent meeting critical ecosystem thresholds, such as the projected loss of 70-90% of warmer water coral reefs associated with 2°C.

Groups like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are intensifying their adaptive scientific support through a “fully-integrated, ‘seamless’ Earth-system approach to weather, climate, and water domains,” says Professor Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the WMO.  This “seamless” approach allows leading climate scientists to use their advanced data assimilation and observation capabilities to deliver knowledge in support of human adaptations to regional environmental changes.  By addressing extreme climate and weather events through a holistic Earth-system approach, predictive tools will help enhance early warning systems and promote well being by giving the global community a greater chance to adapt to the inevitable hazardous events related to climate change.

WRI Graph

Success ultimately depends on international cooperation, which will hopefully be encouraged by the IPCC’s grim report and the looming PA Global Stocktake (GST) in 2023.  In the wake of devastating hurricanes, typhoons, and the SR15, it’s hard to ignore both the climate and leading climate scientists urging us to take deliberate, collective action to help create a more equitable and livable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

In Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20 decides to convene a “facilitative dialogue” among the Parties in 2018, to take stock in relation to progress towards the long-term goal referred to in Article 4 of the PA.  Later renamed the Talanoa Dialogue, these talks have set preparations into motion and are helping Parties gear up for the formal GST, with the aim of answering three key questions: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

Discussion about the implications of SR15 will be held at COP24, where round table discussions in the political phase of the dialogue will address the question, “how do we get there?”

It won’t be by continuing business as usual.

 


Teachers Without Borders

In the context of climate change, capacity building focuses upon developing the infrastructure, response and communication mechanisms, access to finance, climate awareness, and human capital of developing countries. This in turn enables the countries to meet carbon emission goals and develop sustainably. Developing countries face significant capacity challenges, which frustrate their ability to carry out their commitments under interactional climate change agreements. These issues stem from a lack of public awareness, shortage of experts and research institutions, insufficient international, aid and domestic political instability.

The COP 23 capacity building session entitled “Balancing International Standards & National Context” further delved into this issue. Speaker John O Niles, representing the Carbon Institute, identified the need of a stable workforce that can measure, report and verify obligations under international agreements as invaluable elements of download (1)effective capacity building. For instance, the Paris Agreement requires “soft” pledges of domestic commitments to take inventories of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), submit national communications, make pledges, and then implement those pledges over time. This essentially requires capacity in the form of a “GHG accountant” at each step of the process to be making assessments and informing policy decisions. Without an active educated workforce, this process falls apart.

Ideal capacity building allows for sustained and transformative development of domestic infrastructure. In other words, ideal projects would lead to the creation of an educated workforce well-equipped and funded to address international climate change obligations. Traditionally, capacity building has taken the form of monetary investment paired with training by experts. These are usually conducted via bilateral and multilateral efforts. This often involves a developing country investing money in consultancy companies which provide training workshops. These short-term assistance projects can be unresponsive or unadaptable to the local customs, political climate, and economic markets. In addition, many are considered high risk investments that deter possible foreign investors. Thus, capacity building has met with many challenges to effective implementation. However, new strategies to implementing capacity building have been gaining traction.

One such expanding  category of capacity building that has met with increased success is the trans-border partnership of academic institutions. These allow for sustained negotiations and trainings between developed institutions and developing countries. For instance, Emory University initiated the Global Climate Initiative by partnering with Nanjing University. This relationship provides mutually beneficial collaboration on climate change issues and trains a new generation of internationally-aware students. Additionally, the Norad Program allows for training of faculty and universities. Norad connects himagesigher education institutions within Ethiopia, Malawi, and Norway. This program develops an educated faculty, improves regional collaboration, and enhances outreach to local communities by their home institutions. These partnerships between academia and developing governments is beneficial because it allows national governments and their respective universities to build a qualified workforce.


Continuing to Decouple

Photograph by Carlos Barria - REUTERS

Photograph by Carlos Barria – REUTERS

For the third year in a row, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector remained level while the global economy grew. This continues to buck the economic thinking that economic growth, typically measured with gross domestic product (GDP), cannot be decoupled from environmental degradation. The current trend of decoupling GDP from CO2 emissions is largely due to the global growth of renewable energy use. Solar energy was the fastest growing source of renewables in 2016, while hydropower supplied the largest portion of global electricity demand growth of all the renewables. 

A recent report from PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency released September 28, 2017 found that of the five largest emitters, which account for 68% of global CO2 emissions, only India showed a significant rising trend of greenhouse gas emissions. China, the U.S., the E.U., Russia, and Japan all had flat or decreased greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. However, in a departure from the IEA report from March 2017, this report found that global emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2016. Of these non-CO2 greenhouse gasses, methane emissions represented the largest portion—19% of global emissions. The primary sources of methane include fossil fuel production, cattle, and rice—a staple crop in the developing world.

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, another recent study released in September 2017 in Science revealed that a thinning of tropical forest density has led to a net carbon loss across every continent. This indicates that forests are no longer behaving as sinks because they have been degraded through logging, fire, and drought, among other factors. Forests provide a vast natural resource for developing countries yet increasing the sink capabilities of forests through afforestation, reforestation, and decreased forest degradation are among mitigation goals of these countries. This study highlights both the importance and the challenge of those goals. The international target of limiting warming to no more than 2˚C is unattainable without vast carbon sinks like these forests.

The decoupling of emissions from economic growth globally is cause for celebration. However, as seen with India, this trend is still tentative as developing countries work to increase economic growth, which could include increased agricultural production, forests use, and energy use. To continue decreasing global emissions, more work is required to assist the developing world with sustainable development. Increased methane emissions from the agricultural sector and increased CO2 emissions from loss of forest mass are among several challenges facing the developing world as they seek to grow. There are viable solutions to many of these problems. Yet these solutions require significant assistance and resources from the international community.

The developing world requires assistance in electrification and energy diversification in the way of hydropower and other renewables so the decoupling trend can continue. These countries also require capacity building to bolster forestry sector projects; the transfer of technology and best practices to assist with the growth of sustainable agriculture; and of course, continued mitigation efforts from developed countries.


Developing Innovation

Cyclone Aftermath

Cyclone Nargis Aftermath

With the increasing risks of loss and damage (L&D) associated with the impacts of climate change, all nations are facing unprecedented complications in providing for the protection of their citizens. This burden of meeting this challenge is especially felt by those countries with less access to the variety of resources necessary to adequately innovate unilaterally. These developing countries lack the finances, information, and collaboration to successfully adapt and therefore reduce the amount of loss and damage suffered by their citizens. In the face of various types of weather and climate events, developing nations have to entertain multi-faceted approaches. While some have similar themes, they often differ in some key areas.

At an official COP22 side event, government ministers, private sector representatives, and other interest parties gathered to discuss these approaches. The first to speak was Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of SDPR in Pakistan. He set the mood by describing their inadequate responses to climate change. Pakistan, and now other nations as well, experience a cycle of intense floods and droughts that have been exacerbated by climate change. Local communities are not provided with enough resources to adapt to one extreme by the time the other has set it. This instability is intolerable, and compounds the already devastating impacts. Dr. Suleri stated that because of the unstable climate, Pakistan is experiencing a brain drain which further reduces their capacity to innovate. The other represented countries’ perspectives prove that Pakistan’s is far from unique, but the remedy is far from clear.

The dialogue centered around disagreements on innovation. The representative from Kenya, Kennedy Mbeva believes the risk posed through L&D requires a three-pronged innovation paradigm shift: technology innovation, policy innovation, and institutional innovation. As for the first, Mr. Mbeva focused on lack of access to technology and the redundancy in inventing existing renewable energy sources. Also, Kenya does not have the access to the financial and human capital necessary to promote such invention in the first place. The international community needs to create a platform for sharing as these innovations usually come from outside developing countries. As for policy innovation, Mr. Mbeva recognized the hostile environment many developing nations pose to outside investment. Tying this in with the third prong, he suggested reducing the risk to private and public institutions through proactive government policy founded in corroborated evidence. This evidence would provide investors security in their returns, and would hopefully encourage outside contributions through the private sector and public funds.

The Director General of TERI in India, Dr. Ajay Mathur simply focused on the expense incurred at the individual level by being a climate-progressive consumer. He stressed the need to create companies that can appreciate the long-term returns on renewable and sustainable innovations, like LED lightbulbs, that the average consumer would immediately write off as beyond extravagant. Through economies of scale, those businesses can receive short-term benefits that will only increase in the long-run. Once solutions are affordable and make economic sense to the private sector, then adaptation and L&D risk reduction follow. However, this approach does not incorporate the blatant urgency reflected in the expedited ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Dr. Edward Cameron

Dr. Edward Cameron, Managing Director of BSR

As the sole representative from a developed country, Dr. Edward Cameron of the U.S., Managing Director of BSR, closed the meeting with some concerns, recognizing that issues of innovation — those mentioned above as well as cultural innovation — do not incorporate the complexity of international investment. The expedited ratification sent a message to investors emphasizing the importance of climate resiliency. Still, direct investment will only occur if the private sector is confident in the countries rule of law and its ability to provide a favorable return on investment. As for public funds like the Green Climate Fund (GCF), not only is the capital dwarfed by the resilient climate market, but it does not address accessibility of finance to vulnerable minority communities, or those without access to information on finance and resource availability. Developing nations need to provide some sense of reliability for returns and equal distribution so the funds are not wasted in this crucial window of opportunity.

 

 


Finances are the Glue that will make the Paris Agreement Stick

glue

Starting the second week of negotiations, the Climate Action Network’s held a press conference to discuss their view of the current “state of play” in the climate talks. Two themes clearly emerged; the need for a robust and certain climate Agreement to come out of Paris with clear targets and deadlines to send the correct signal to the industrial and business sector, and the financial support from developed countries to reach those targets and deadlines. What constitutes a robust agreement? Review of ambition goals coupled with a ratcheting mechanism to achieve a 1.5℃ target, resubmission of the INDCs, and setting the goal of 100% renewables and decarbonization by mid-century.

 

How do the Parties meet these targets and deadlines? By a robust finance mechanism. The INDCs can only be implemented if there is adequate financing that includes Loss & Damage. The billions pledged in Copenhagen and Cancun kept the developing country Parties at the table; now the call is to implement those mitigation and adaptation strategies to achieve decarbonization of the economy. This will come faster for some countries and slower for others depending upon their different capabilities. The collective financing proposed, which would include “all Parties in a position to do so”, is not the way to secure new financing. This, according to OxFam, is the equivalent of the developed countries “holding the money hostage on this issue.” The developing countries will contribute as they can, of course; but a vague reference too their obligation to do so has no place in the text.Money tree

 

What the developing Parties clearly articulated as a priority throughout last week’s negotiations, continues to threaten the stickiness of this Paris Agreement  – the provision of finances to enable those countries to put their INDCs into effect. The developing Parties have fastened onto the idea of traditional differentiation and are washing their hands of the language that all Parties will contribute if “they are in a position to do so”. They will only cement a deal that has clear markers for capacity to contribute and places those responsible [the global North] as the major financiers of the efforts to stem climate change.

 


Empowering Women in the Fight for Global Food Security

SDG special 245x355

Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core, and include a target to ‘double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women.’ Indeed, rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the 17 SDGs.” UN SG Ban Ki-moon

There is no doubt that climate change affects less developed countries more dramatically. It also affects women more significantly, since they represent the majority of the poor  and vulnerable. On 15 October, the world recently celebrated the 6th anniversary of the International Day of Rural Women, “the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods.” Climate change’s effects on food security are well-known and well-established; therefore, in order to fully address food security, women’s issues must be at the forefront. The UN FAO released a report on 13 October indicating that expanding social protection will offer a faster track to ending hunger.

How can food security via women’s empowerment be achieved through the UN’s SDGs? Specifically, 1 (4) , 2 (3)  5(7)  relate to women’s rights to land. Current land use practices coupled with the exacerbating effects of climate change like droughts and other extreme events have led to soil degradation and desertification.  Women are often responsible for supplying the food and fuel for the household and finding ways of making up for the shortfall when these catastrophic events occur. However, they are not in a position to make decisions about how the land is used – either for their benefit or the environment’s – because they do not have the authority or ownership of it. For example, in most African countries, approximately 75% – 90% of land is held under traditional rules, customs and practices, which mean that women are not able to assert control over it or its use even though they are primarily responsible for its cultivation.

Solar Market Garden in Benin

Solar Market Garden in Benin

The outlook is not dim, however. As the world looks to COP21’s negotiations in Paris, the Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities – an initiative spearheaded by the UNFCCC Secretariat – is shining light on models that “mov[e] the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future.” Projects profiled are “innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.”  One Lighthouse winner is the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF ) Solar Market Garden. In Benin, women are now able to grow food year-round despite a six-month dry season. By using solar-powered pumps with drip irrigation systems, women farmers are able to pump water for irrigation from nearby rivers and underground aquifers instead of hauling it long distances. This is both an environmental and socio-economic benefit as the girls of the village are now able to attend school and the women can allocate their time to other economic pursuits.  “It also empowers them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. By embracing solar power and micro-irrigation technologies, these female leaders are trailblazing solutions for both climate change mitigation and adaptation that can be replicated throughout the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.”

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

This is just one example. Looking forward to COP22 in Marrakesh, perhaps the world can witness firsthand the success that women living in the Moroccan province of Errachidia have realized by cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants using renewable energy and selling them in the markets. This UN Women  project is supported by the UNDP Tafilalet Oasis Programme and the Swiss Cooperation.

Clearly, the support of women’s rights to land, mobilizing their agricultural knowledge, and providing social support will provide food security and opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

 


Growing Pains: Are GMOs an Adaptation Solution for Growing, Hungry Populations Affected by Climate Change?

Chronic hunger plagues 805 million people worldwide. Although this is 100 million less than 10 years ago, the future of food security remains uncertain in the face of climate change. The world is growing, and so is the demand for food. The World Resources Institute projects the world will face a 69% food gap in 2050 if food production remains the same.

Adaptation efforts will be particularly challenging due to changing precipitation patterns, warming temperatures, and extreme weather events resulting from climate change. The agriculture sector accounts for 55% of total world GHG emissions; paradoxically, it must strive to reduce GHG emissions and to increase food production simultaneously. Ideally this will be done without increasing deforestation and consequently decreasing carbon storage. To face these climate change hurdles and maintain consistent crop yields, countries will likely consider using or expanding current use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

cornpharma+gmo

Photo Credit: www.darkgovernment.com

GMOs are organisms that have been inserted with another organism’s genetic material to achieve new properties. The new properties for crops typically include herbicide tolerance, virus resistance, and water-uptake efficiency. The new genetic material can come from plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. For example, in the US the majority of soybeans, corn, and cotton are GMOs with genetic material from soil bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis; the bacteria produces a protein toxic to certain insect larvae, but not to humans and animals.

In addition to the US, many countries have already taken stances on this divisive topic. Others remain undecided as they weigh the pros and cons. The US along with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and India are leading producers of GMOs. Among countries limiting GMOs are: EU countries, requiring approval of all genetically modified products prior to distribution; Switzerland, banning GMO farming since 2005; Russia, banning all imported GMO products; and China, banning GMOs for human consumption but allowing them for livestock.

Monsanto, a producer of GM seeds and Roundup herbicide, advocates for using heat and drought resistant GM seeds to adapt to climate change impacts. Other proponents argue GMO crops can adapt more quickly to sudden weather changes than conventional breeding methods.  They also maintain that farmers can produce more with fewer resources, thus having less climate affecting impacts.

Opponents of GMOs champion alternatives like ecological agriculture and conventional breeding that, they say, are just as good if not better. They also site environmental hazards, unknown human health risks, biodiversity loss, and economic concerns as reasons to ban or at least label GMO crops.  Mark Spitznagel, professor of risk engineering at NYU School of Engineering, compares the “GMO experiment” to the US financial system before the 2008 crash, which many people believed to be “too big to fail.”  He differentiates the two explaining that there are no possible bailouts when the GMO enterprise fails, and that the consequences would be much more devastating. Genetic engineering is only 40 years old. Uncertain future consequences of using this new technology is troubling to many people who believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

As more countries submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and consider adaptation methods to climate change, it will be interesting to see how the global dialogue surrounding GMOs develops. The agriculture sector is the largest contributor to global anthropogenic non-CO2 GHGs. The agriculture sector directly impacts climate change. Climate change directly impacts the agriculture sector. Deciding how to feed a growing, hungry planet and also curb temperature increases will be one controversial topic stemming from this paradoxical challenge.

53cbadc236dd9-640x419

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Powerful Statements from the Plenary

I am not one of the three in our group in the plenary today, but I have been watching the live streaming for the past 4 hours.  Various heads of states are now giving their 5-10 minutes statements.  I just listened to the Prime Minister of Mali, Modibo Sidibe and the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.  Below are my hastily taken notes from their speeches (both through UN translators so these texts not the specific words of these leaders):

Photo source: Wikipedia

Mr. Sidibe  – “I want to tell you a story about my relationship for the past 50 years with a river – the Niger river – I was born in the central delta on the banks of this river.  I was 5 years old when my grandma warned me of swimming in this river b/c it was turbulent and deep.  She said a city of water spirits lived down in the depths. 

.

.

.

Continue reading


Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed: “Leaders will only understand things when the people understand things.”

Heavy hitters in the UN: (from left to right) Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP; Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of WFP; Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP and Chair of UNDG; and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the WMO.

At “Advancing work on adaptation to climate change:  A United Nations system perspective,” top officials from five U.N. agencies spoke to a packed room.  They called for collaboration and cooperation between all U.N. agencies to be provided in any text to come out of COP15.  Speakers included Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme; Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives, chaired the panel.  President Masheed began the discussion by emphasizing that developing countries will feel the effects of climate change first, and that, in the Maldives, ocean level rise is leading to salt water already contaminating fresh water reserves.  He emphasized that good governance is central to successful adaptation measures to protect people and ecosystems. Continue reading