Neva Frecheville is the Coordinator of the UK Youth Climate Coalition Delegation to COP17. In this blog she tells us about what she learned from travelling to the climate change negotiations in Durban.
It’s not often we hear the voices of those most impacted by climate change. For young people across the world and especially those living in Africa, climate change severely impacts on their lives. But how often do they have the chance to share their experience?
‘African climate stories: voices from the front line of the climate crisis’ did exactly that by giving the young people affected the chance to share their story at a side event at the recent UN talks on climate change.
Young people from across Africa speak out at the climate negotiations in Durban
I’m from the UK. I’ve campaigned on climate change for the last few years because I understand it on a moral level, for future generations and because I’ve always cared deeply about the natural world. But I’d never heard directly from my peers on what it’s like to face the impacts of climate change every day.
Beatrice is 23. She comes from Nairobi, Kenya. Last year she graduated from university, studying engineering. Intelligent and articulate, she describes herself as one of the growing middle class in Kenya who are contributing to its increased stability and hopes of prosperity for the future.
Beatrice at the COP17 talks
Last year, water rationing began in her community. Water is now delivered once a week on Thursdays. As the youngest girl in her family, it’s her responsibility to collect the water containers from her house and to fill them up. Like recent graduates the world over, she interns with a big company for long hours on low pay to build experience and get more chance of career progression. If she returns home from work late and the communal reservoir has already run dry, she has to travel further afield until she finds a water source. She’s often exhausted the next day, meaning she wakes late and misses breakfast, one of her two meals a day. This has only been happening since May 2010 but there’s no end in sight. Sharing her story, she became emotional as she said ‘this is my life.’
I count myself lucky, not only for having access to clean water at the turn of a tap, but also for having had the opportunity to meet people across the world who are affected by climate change and understand why this young people across the world need to take action now.
Find out more about Practical Action’s work to help the world’s most vulnerable to adapt to climate change by clicking here.No Comments » | Add your comment
Buried amongst the acres of coverage of the financial crisis and whether or not the UK is in the EU any more, it’s hard to tell exactly what the outcome of the Durban Climate Change Summit really is. That is the problem. Hardly anyone cares any more – or so you would be led to believe. Green house gas emissions are still shooting up despite this global economic crisis. According to the World Bank’s 2010 World Development Report, if all the coal-fired plants scheduled to be built worldwide in the next 25 years come into operation, their lifetime CO2 emissions will equal those of all coal burning since the start of the Industrial Revolution. It hardly bears thinking about.
Durban seems to have set us off on a journey towards a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas in a decade’s time, but to get everybody even to start seems to have involved accepting delay and avoiding the key decisions about who should make cuts and when. This is in a context where even the International Energy Agency, reckons that we need to have got our investment in low carbon energy infrastructure sorted by 2017 at the latest to have any prospect of hitting the 2°C limit on global temperature rises.
The Durban agreement doesn’t look to me as if it has done anything to help us achieve that. Once again we have ducked the issues and planet and people will pay for it.No Comments » | Add your comment
Around dawn today, Sunday 11th December, the COP President banged the gavel down on the final session of negotiators at the climate summit in Durban. What was agreed? well, it isn’t a complete disaster. The Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement to reduce emissions, will continue into a second commitment period. In parallel, a process for building a more comprehensive and ambitious treaty regime was launched – one that will include all countries in binding commitments to reduce emissions. Important decisions were made on adaptation, finance, and technology. On adaptation (the negotations track I have been following for 6 years) there is now a clear framework for supporting developing countries in accessing information to help them adapt, in preparing national adptation plans, and in working towards arrangements for loss and damage following climate change-related disasters such as droughts, floods and hurricanes in the most vulenrable countries. On finance, while arrangements for the Green Cllimate Fund are now agreed – there was no agreement on how to raise money for the fund! and without strong commitments on reducing emissions from the largest polluting countries, no amount of arrangements for adaptation will be effective, in the face of rising temperatures.
So, while the Durban conference avoided total failure, and has perhaps staved off future climate disaster, governments by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change. The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed. It’s high time governments stopped catering to the pressure of the oil and coal lobby, and started acting to protect people and planet.No Comments » | Add your comment
The climate negotiations, also here at COP17, are based on the understanding that first the industrialised countries should reduce, then the developing countries shall reduce later, as they should not be constrained in their development because they need to solve their poverty problems first.
A side-event on Friday at the end of the first week of the COP showed a somewhat different side of the big picture: climate mitigation with reduced emissions can go hand in hand with poverty reductions in many developing countries.
At the event, seven representatives from NGOs in the INFORSE network showed successful solutions from their countries on local solutions that can help the poor to get better access to energy and at the same time mitigate climate change.
They told about improved cookstoves from Mozambique that saves 40% of the wood for cooking, Indian biogas plants that replace other fuel for cooking and retain the fertiliser in cow dung, solar lanterns that replace kerosene lamps, Jatropha plants for oil for local power production in Mali, and several other good examples.
The side event went on with proposals for scaling up the successes to national level, for instance, with reduced investments with subsidies and reduction of taxes & import duties (for solar photovoltaiq panels), with easier permissions to make mini-grids in off-grid areas, and with feed-in tariff for renewables in areas with electric grid. This could partly be financed with climate financing, and could give basic energy access to all for just a fraction of the 100 billion US$/year that the industrialised countries have committed to give to climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries in 2020.
It is very promising that basic energy access and reduction of poverty does not need the large increases in CO2 emissions that it caused in industrialised countries during the last 200 years. And if universal energy access with renewable energy could be part of climate agreements, it would give enormous benefits for some of those that need it the most.
On the other hand, universal energy access will not solve the climate crisis. For that we need sharp reductions in the industrialised countries and also actions by the large emitters in the global South. Only then global emissions can peak in the next few years and then be reduced.
The presentations of the side event are online at http://www.inforse.org
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New Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) launches to African beats
It certainly wasn’t an event typically seen during the fortnight of UN climate negotiations here in Durban. An audience singing joyfully along with women farmers, Southern African youth grinning as they performed traditional dances, and the whooping and ululations ringing around the room, would have been enough to make you remember this day as something rather special and different.
But what really made the 4th of December launch of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) stand out, was the feeling of inspiration, optimism and empowerment, as 14 Pan-African networks joined together to demand and implement Food Sovereignty for Africa. After a week of increasingly depressing climate negotiations, with corporate false solutions, and a steady grinding down of expectations, AFSA’s launch and message reminded us all that we are together, we have the solutions, and there is nothing to stop us making them happen.
Of course, it is precisely because of the multiple threats to Africa’s food systems, farmers, communities and ecoystems, that this alliance has come together. “There are so many challenges facing our continent,” said Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), one of AFSA’s member networks. “Together AFSA’s member networks represent a huge constituency and we are all in agreement that Food Sovereignty is the way forward to ensure resilient food systems and ecosystems in the face of climate change and destructive development.”
Million Belay of Melca Mahiber, an Ethiopian member of ABN, explained that “food Sovereignty is an approach to agriculture that is radical, but self-evident too. It holds the interests of small-scale food producers, their communities and ecosystems, as critical to strengthening resilient food systems. For too long, food policy has focused on yield at any cost – and undermined the very systems and people on which food production depends. Food Sovereignty is a powerful concept and framework that is clear about embracing solutions, and challenging the threats.”
Agnes Yawe of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), a network with members in 10 countries elaborated further: “The Alliance for Food Sovereignty is working to promote agroecology as a solution for climate change, feeding people, biodiversity, livelihoods and healing the soils. It is about using and conserving the resources that are freely available to communities. These are appropriate for our economies, and our small scale farmers, who don’t need the expensive chemical inputs that are being pushed on us.”
Food Sovereignty also recognises the enormous value of indigenous knowledge about agriculture and ecosystems. Mphatheleni Makaulule, an indigenous community leader from Venda in the North of South Africa, expresses the clarity with which her people see climate change and industrialised food systems: “We cannot have health in a sick climate. In our territories, the soil, water and indigenous forest is already in disorder, and that affects the ecosystem. The indigenous seeds from the indigenous knowledge are our hope to adapt with this climate change, and this is why we want food sovereignty.”
Amid the celebrations, the groups shared sobering information about the way that false solutions to climate change and hunger are actually a key cause of Africa’s problems. Simon Mwamba of the East African Farmers’ Federation (ESAFF) told the room “The COP17 negotiations should not be used to advance the push for the Green Revolution in Africa, which traps farmers into cycles of debt and poverty. The green revolution will just enhance the corporate grip over agriculture and farmers, thereby threatening food sovereignty. Such practices force smallholder farmers to be dependent on agrochemicals, while eroding the seed diversity that Africa needs for resilience to climate change and a food secure future. Genetically Modified (GM) crops will be even worse ”
Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Africa added “Climate Change is killing our continent and peoples, but so are the so-called solutions proposed by profit-hungry corporations. This is why we are coming together as AFSA, to speak out for African solutions to the problems caused by the industrialised North.”
As the gathering sang their last round of the rousing South African soul song “that’s why I’m a farmer now,” we all knew that the challenges ahead are many. But the energy that swelled around the room has filled all with the optimism that Food Sovereignty can show us the way.
AFSA outline their vision and the need for Food Sovereignty in Africa, in their new report “Food Sovereignty Systems: Feeding the world, regenerating ecosystems, rebuilding local economies, and cooling the Planet – all at the same time”.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Climate change for a long time now has stopped being a question of ‘if…’ and more a matter of ‘how much’ (and the answer to that currently isn’t very nice).
To deal with this, enter technologies. They fall into three categories:
1) Mitigation – reducing emission from human activities, from home efficiency devices to renewables and nuclear energy;
2) Adaptation – ways of dealing with the impacts of varying rainfall, temperature, sea level rise and increased frequency and magnitude of disaster events. Most urgent for the poorest groups and those in low lying states where the most vulnerability lies, but planning is also under way for London, Durban, and other developed cities.
3) Geo-engineering – large and unproven projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere or reflect the solar radiation. Includes; ocean iron fertilization projects; mirrors in space; pipes; dreams.
Arguably, the most iconic climate change related technology is the wind turbine, used for clean energy generation. Less is known about the possibility of mirrors in space, and probably for the best. But adaptation technologies are equally mysterious for many people in developed countries. This is springs from a lack of awareness that people in developing countries feel climate change most acutely – “first and worst”.
Nevertheless, adaptation is happening spontaneously as people respond to the altered conditions they find in their area. Technologies, whether used to diversify livelihoods or protect assets, can make this easier, but people will also have to adapt their technologies in order to keep them appropriate.
Enter climate uncertainty – not knowing precisely how climate change will manifest in a specific area over the next two-three decades – and you have a problem that requires new ways of thinking about technology and a new way of doing development.
Today’s Geek Club (Practical Action’s online discussion forum) from 10am to 4pm will discuss the issues of technology for adaptation. This is set against the back drop of the current round of climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, where countries are discussing proposals for ‘technology transfer’ to developing countries to support adaptation. Come and join us as we consider the how, what, and why not of adapting to climate change.No Comments » | Add your comment
We started with a minute’s silence for our founder Wangari Maathai who sadly passed away in September this year. It was a poignant moment – Wangari had planned to speak out at COP17 about the challenges of implementing forest carbon projects. Wangari founded GBM over thirty years ago with a prescience of what we now face, and how environmental degradation was already making the lives of rural women in Kenya a struggle.
Wangari became the first environmentalist and first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004; she was a fearless campaigner for women’s rights and the environment. Wangari used to say how humble she felt because we need the trees, but they do not need us. My colleague, Mercy Karunditu, spoke about the work that Wangari started with grassroots women when she founded GBM in 1977. Mercy explained: “conservation and protection of Kenyan water towers is doable with the grassroots communities if only they are guided, advised and allowed to own the process. This way they are able to link improved livelihoods with environmental conservation.” Mercy works with communities to reforest the Aberdares and Mt Kenya mountains– some of the most critical water catchment areas in Kenya – producing water and hydropower for most of the population. However the restoration sites are under heavy pressure from overgrazing, charcoal burning and other unsustainable forest practices. Since 2006 GBM has been trialling climate finance projects- under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and others.
The reality of delivering a project with communities planting indigenous trees are highlighted in our Community Forest Climate Initiatives reported launched at the event. Community participation and biodiversity are some areas of concern when implementing a forest carbon project- from our perspective these are fundamental to a project that would address climate change. Current technical requirements mean it is unlikely community groups, without support from NGOs with technical capacity, would be able to start up a climate finance project. Furthermore, from GBM’s experience, until governments put in place strong forest governance, carbon projects and REDD projects will be unlikely to succeed. Therefore these projects will remain in the hands of private companies and consultants, rather than being vested in rural communities who live in and/or rely on these forests for their livelihoods.
GBM’s Prof Karanja said: “If we continue with carbon offsetting – where polluters are able to offset their emissions through buying credits- Africa, Asia and South America will become hewers of wood and drawers of water. We need clear identifiable indicators of reduction of emissions from the major polluters before they can enter the carbon buying market in the south.”
We started the event with Constance Okollet of Climate Wise Women who spoke of the extreme drought and floods that hit villages in her home area since 2007 – the Tororo district of Eastern Uganda. Constance spoke of how women and their families lost everything in floods and then starved as a severe drought followed. She explained how they first thought that God was angry with them- what else could cause such devastation, later they understood that this was climate change. The stark realities of how vulnerable villagers are to extreme weather events makes uncomfortable listening. This is what we need to keep at the forefront in our minds as we urge governments to commit at COP17 to robust, scientifically sound and time-specific global action.2 Comments » | Add your comment
As I have been attending more sessions at the ICC today I asked Max Bloomfield to cover the events of the street parade taking place through the streets around us, and here is his account:
As the numerous large armoured police vehicles crept towards me I was initially a little concerned at the heavy police presence at the start of the walk. Thankfully this thinned out and was just a cautionary approach from the SAPD, for the rest of the parade, over a kilometre long and composed of numerous sections of civil society, faith-based, and organised labour groups amongst others, was pleasantly spirited and boisterous. Starting early this morning at Botha’s Garden and working it’s way down Dr Pixley Kaseme Street, towards the ICC, the parade filled the air with the sounds of singers, chanters, music, and once again, vuvuzelas.
Although the streets nearby were filled with shoppers as normal, the main parade streets were filled close to capacity with fascinated locals and fervent climate change activists alike, not to mention a great deal of press-coverage. The parade included less well known groups such as the Airport Farmer’s Association, The Rural People’s Movement and the Landless People’s Movement, next to global giants such as WWF and Greenpeace. Very slowly the parade has made its way down to the ICC where it is currently pausing to allow short speaches to be made, and for statements gathered from participating groups to be handed over to Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. It doesn’t look like anyone here will run out of energy before the parade heads to the Old Pavilion site later this afternoon where it will end.1 Comment » | Add your comment
This week I have been following closely the negotiations on adaptation – discussing a number of issues that though they sound remote from the realities of how climate change is affecting people’s daily lives around the world, do have the potential for helping governments support their vulnerable populations. And the signs, on Friday night, are that the draft decisions look quite promising. These decisions are on issues such as the content of National Adaptation Plans, the nature of the support body that will guide developing country governments, and the extension of a programme of workshops and reports on different topics important for adaptation. Negotiations will go on through much of tonight, and probably most of tomorrow. I’m not staying up all night – but I will be back at the conference centre tomorrow to see how things have progressed.No Comments » | Add your comment
EF Schumacher said that one can “call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations; as long as you have not shown it to be uneconomic you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper”. Certain powerful countries at the climate change conference have clearly read this straight and not sensed the irony, taking it as carte blanche to let the ugly face of climate change continue because its immediate costs will be hidden amongst the most vulnerable groups in Africa and Southern Asia.
This is all very depressing. What is not, however, is hearing about the solutions already being put into practice on the ground in many countries. Ecological food provision is featuring quite high in discussions around and outside the convention centre, primarily because farmers, fishers, and herders have found it to be a successful approach for dealing with climate change and meeting food needs. Unlike the industrial food system that contributes up to thirty percent of global emissions through chemical inputs, international transport, and use of heavy machinery, and deforestation for cash cropping, agro-ecology has very low emissions and can store GHGs in plant and soil matter. At the same time, it is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change, protecting biodiversity, replenishing the natural environment, and promoting local seeds, rather than creating dependence on one or two costly varieties.
In a side event yesterday, people from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal spoke of the specific techniques. Many were building on the traditional knowledge and varieties nearly lost in the race to commercialised farming. As Mphathe Makaulule, a farmer from the South Africa’s Limpopo region said “the coming generation will realise that money cannot be breathed or chewed”. Her community pooled its knowledge of the surrounding resources in calendars and maps that express the changes they’ve experienced over the past decades. Today was Practical Action’s turn, and our work with farmers in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe was introduced alongside some of our renewable energy projects by Ranga Pallawala and Lasten Mika respectively.
These initiatives may sound a long way from the staid international climate negotiations, and that’s precisely why La Via Campesina is calling on all farmers’ movements and organizations, rural workers, landless people to join them for an international day of mass action this Saturday. In Nepal, they’ve already managed to connect existing community actions with the international discussions as the national plan for adaptation was produced in connection with local plans. As Nepal receives global support to help it adapt to climate change, it goes to fund actions such as the conservation of Lake Rupa by farmer associations and fisher groups (see video).
So, it seems that “to exist, grow, and prosper” you don’t have to degrade or threaten future of generations, you just have to step out of the conference impasse and follow the fields.No Comments » | Add your comment