Siemens Stiftung is a foundation committed to enlarging basic services and social entrepreneurship, promoting education and strengthening culture. They have used some examples of Practical Action’s work to illustrate the type of technologies that they are suitable for submission for their “empowering people. Award” detailed below.
It is often true that the smallest things can have the greatest impact. With the “empowering people. Award” the Siemens Foundation has initiated a worldwide competition to identify low tech innovations for basic supply problems in developing countries.
The Foundation is calling on inventors and developers worldwide and inviting them to enter simple, appropriate technical products and solutions in the following categories:
Water & Waste Water
Waste Management & Recycling
Food & Agriculture
Housing & Construction
Information & Communication Technology
Entries should be submitted online on the project website. Entries will be professionally evaluated and an international jury will select winners.
Following the competition, the technical innovations will be categorised in a database, which will offer international practitioners in developmental cooperation a speedy and comprehensive overview of operational solutions in the categories defined.
The Foundation will also honour the best entries in an Awards Ceremony which will take place in Summer 2013.
The deadline for entries is 12 pm on 31st December 2012.
For more information visit www.empowering-people-award.orgNo Comments » | Add your comment
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
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
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
Last week the UN climate change negotiations in Bonn took another step towards building a strong and effective mechanism to enable people to adapt to climate change.
Today marks a day of global action by the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, an alliance which describes itself with the phrase “Not complicated. Just brilliant.“, and which Practical Action is a proud member of.
Luckily one of Robin’s band took the time out to explain how the campaign can finance these adaptation developments.
There are new and innovative sources of climate finance which remain untapped, one of which is a Robin Hood Tax, or Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).
A Financial Transaction Tax is a tiny tax of about 0.05% on transactions like the sale of stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives which could generate a whopping $400bn globally each year.
The taxes are well-tested, cheap to implement and hard to avoid, and because they are targeted at casino banking operations, they can easily be designed in a way that protects the investments of ordinary people and businesses. They could also help reduce the volume of risky transactions which helped to trigger the financial crisis.
Most importantly, the money raised from a Robin Hood Tax could help those most vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks (hence the ‘Robin Hood’; the tax takes from the ‘rich’ and gives to the ‘poor’). We suggest that half of the money raised ($200bn) be used to fight domestic poverty, with 25% going towards fighting poverty in developing countries ($100bn) and the other 25% ($100bn) towards tackling climate change at home and abroad.
It has been recognised at the UN that at least $100bn will be needed annually by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to a changing climate, and to develop in a low carbon way. When governments come together in November this year at the next UN Climate Summit in Durban, they will be discussing how to set up a Green Climate Fund to provide the money needed to help tackle the effects of climate change.
However, at the moment the fund risks being just an empty shell.
To fill the fund – without simply raiding the overseas aid budget – a Robin Hood Tax is vital. A Robin Hood Tax won’t be able to provide everything – but it can provide a serious chunk of what is missing. This is our generation’s battle. The Robin Hood Tax could raise billions every year to fight climate change, help people adapt to the changing climate and develop green economies.
A few years ago even the suggestion of such a tax on the financial sector would have been unimaginable. The world is now a very different place and significant progress has been made with governments across the world getting behind this good idea.
As a priority of their G20 presidency, the French government has called for a coalition of willing nations to implement a Financial Transaction Tax. The German government also supports a Robin Hood Tax, as do the Spanish and a number of other European nations which are pressing ahead to implement it at the Eurozone level. It is likely that the EU could move ahead with a tax on the financial sector with other willing countries joining in at the G20 summit in November.
But big risks remain: there might be no agreement or else a tax that directs nothing to development or climate change.
Successfully securing a Robin Hood Tax will need even more active campaigning across the world in the next six months to keep the pressure up. You can help by joining Robin’s band of merry men (and women!) spreading the word among family and friends, sharing our videos, joining our Facebook group to find out about the latest campaigns and actions, and by sending an email to your MP telling them why you think a Robin Hood Tax is important.
The political door is ajar; this is a campaign waiting to be won.2 Comments » | Add your comment
There are all sorts of widening fault-lines on energy policy within today’s Green Movement. In the good old days, we’d just rub along together happy in the knowledge that for almost all of us energy efficiency came first, reducing the use of fossil fuels and vastly ramping up renewables came next, with nuclear (and carbon capture and storage for that matter) largely seen as a bit of a sideshow.
No more. The emergence of an eloquent pro-nuclear green lobby has exploded that (admittedly frail and rather woolly) consensus. Energy efficiency now goes as disregarded as ever, as a new fight rages between the supporters of the nuclear industry versus the supporters of renewables.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer that we’re now into a strict fight in terms of those two options. The days when people talked about “co-existence” are long gone; this is now either/or, not both/and. And disturbingly, in every single decision that the UK government has taken over the last few months, it’s clear that they’ve thrown in their lot, yet again, with the nuclear industry. Fukoshima doesn’t seem to have changed that.
There’s one simple test for this hypothesis: where do you think the debate would be if the UK Treasury put the same sort of cap on funding for the nuclear industry (including paying off historical liabilities) as it has put on funding for renewables?
It’s maddening, yet again, that the nuclear industry has succeeded in turning its wretched sideshow into the main show – even though everybody recognises that even the most optimistic scenario for nuclear means it won’t be generating any more electrons in 2040 than it is today. And I can’t help but admit to real anger at the growing number of leading Greens who’ve been co-opted by the nuclear industry as it rises once again from the dead.
So perhaps we ought to be trying harder to find common ground elsewhere – and in particular on what needs to be done now to address the needs of the 1.4 billion people in the world today who are still without electricity, and 2.5 billion people who are cooking on open stoves, often at great risk to their own health.
Our sad little nuclear vs. renewables spat obscures the fact that this is where our priorities should lie – as has been spelled out very eloquently both by Ban Ki-moon in his call for “universal energy access by 2030” and in Practical Action’s excellent campaign to persuade people to get behind this overarching priority.
There are moves afoot to tie this to the Rio +20 Conference next year – and given how dispiritingly uninspiring the current agenda looks for Rio +20, that has to make a lot of sense. It’s a goal that all our NGOs, in both the development and environment lobbies, could enthusiastically mobilise behind, and persuade us in the process to keep our falling-out over nuclear in rather more realistic perspective.19 Comments » | Add your comment