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Climate Change

What Do Iceland and Kenya Have in Common? Lots of Clean and Renewable Geothermal Energy

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

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Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.”  A job that makes a tropical citizen like me enjoy the hospitality of the very warm Icelanders and allows me to learn from their experience is hard to top. With 320,000 citizens and just the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, subpolar Iceland has a lot to teach us development practitioners.

We are only beginning to put together a vision for how to deal with the dilemma of a warming-- and therefore more unpredictable and punishing--climate and ever increasing energy needs. But Iceland has long ago put its mind to the challenge and now lives productively and peacefully in an environment that throws at it tremendous challenges and great gifts.

My appreciation of Iceland's strategy to make use of its environment and harness its renewable energy rose as I visited Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Feeling the rumbles of the earth and looking at the steam that puffed from its heart against the backdrop of a volcanic landscape, I was in awe both of nature and the people who have embraced its imposing power.

Innovation Means Never Looking to Your Own Field for New Ideas

Milica Begovic's picture

Several months ago a colleague of mine wrote about our idea to legalize thousands of informal homes in Montenegro using energy efficiency measures (or see the infographic for a visual show off the idea).  We have been working on urban planning issues in Montenegro for almost a decade, but it was only when we had colleagues of different background looking at the problem- energy, economy, urban planning, communication, community engagement- that the solution came out.  In short:

  • Problem: over 100,000 illegal homes in Montenegro (if normally distributed would imply that every other household lives in an illegal home) that household don’t have an incentive or funds to legalize. 
  • UNDP idea: savings on energy bills would be re-invested into legalization and energy efficiency measures that created savings in the first place.  Directly, we tackle informal settlements and high energy intensity in Montenegro (8.5 times higher than in the EU).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week

Biz Community
How to speed up change for women in the workplace

“The theme of International Women's Day 2013, on 8 March, is "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum". There are many signs of this momentum in Africa - from female entrepreneurship, which is driving growth in the region, to the fact there are female government ministers or heads of state in South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi and Rwanda.

In fact, Rwanda, with 56% of seats in its House of Deputies held by women, is currently the only government in the world dominated by women, putting the East African country well ahead of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan, which all fall below the 25% mark.

So, there is momentum, but not enough of it. For instance, the global downturn appears to have worsened gender gaps in employment, according to the International Labour Organisation.”  READ MORE

Coastal Wetlands Highly Vulnerable to Sea-Level Rise

Susmita Dasgupta's picture

Photo: istockphoto.comSea-level rise from climate change is a serious global threat, and there is overwhelming scientific evidence that sea-level will continue to rise for centuries even if green house gas concentrations were to be stabilized today.

Recently, Brian Blankespoor, Benoit Laplante and I investigated potential impacts of sea-level rise on coastal wetlands. Our study indicates a rise in sea levels due to climate change of just one meter could destroy more than 60 percent of the developing world’s coastal wetlands currently found at one meter or less elevation. We estimate that such a rise would lead to economic losses of around $630 million per year. 

Talking to the UN Security Council about Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture

Flags at the United Nations. UN Photos

Last week, I had the honor of speaking to the UN Security Council about an increasingly dangerous threat facing cities and countries around the world, a threat that, more and more, is influencing everything that they and we do: climate change.

World Bank President Jim Kim was in Russia talking with G20 finance ministers about the same thing – the need to combat climate change. Every day, we’re hearing growing concerns from leaders around the world about climate change and its impact.

If we needed any reminder of the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, Australia Foreign Minister Bob Carr and our good friend President Tong of Kiribati spoke by video of the security implication of climate effects on the Pacific region. Perhaps most moving of all, Minister Tony deBrum from the Marshall Islands recounted how, 35 years ago, he had come to New York as part of a Marshall Islands delegation requesting the Security Council’s support for their independence. Now, when not independence but survival is at stake, he is told that this is not the Security Council’s function. He pointed to their ambassador to the UN and noted that her island, part of the Marshall Islands, no longer exists. The room was silent.

Talking to the UN Security Council about Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture

Flags at the United Nations. UN Photos

This morning, I had the honor of speaking to the UN Security Council about an increasingly dangerous threat facing cities and countries around the world, a threat that, more and more, is influencing everything that they and we do: climate change.

World Bank President Jim Kim is in Russia right now talking with G20 finance ministers about the same thing – the need to combat climate change. Every day, we’re hearing growing concerns from leaders around the world about climate change and its impact.

If we needed any reminder of the immediacy and the urgency of the situation, Australia Foreign Minister Bob Carr and our good friend President Tong of Kiribati spoke by video of the security implication of climate effects on the Pacific region.

A new treaty to control mercury…could be good for climate too

Laurent Granier's picture

courtesy: UNEP

Early in the morning on Saturday, January 19, 2013, negotiators from around 140 countries completed negotiations for the Mercury Treaty that will be adopted later this year in Japan. It will be known as the Minamata Convention, in deference to the victims of mercury poisoning from industrial pollution that occurred when residents of the Minamata Bay ingested contaminated fish and shellfish in the 1950s.

The Convention that took four years to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joins the ranks of a number of treaties that address chemicals and wastes. It is the first treaty to specifically address heavy metals.

Why is the international community concerned about mercury? Mercury is typically released into the environment in metallic, or “elemental”, form, or as an inorganic salt. In elemental form, it easily vaporises and can be transported great distances worldwide.  When deposited in the environment, mercury eventually can be transformed to its organic forms, including Methylmercury, which is highly toxic and readily accumulates and bioconcentrates in animals and humans. Eventually, mercury settles in cold climates and bioconcentrates up the food chains to the point that Indigenous Peoples in the North that rely on traditional foods are exposed to damaging high levels.

One of the reasons heavy metals are difficult to address is that they are mobilised through human activities, but they are also released in the environment through natural processes, for example through volcanic eruptions or in deep-sea vents. Nevertheless, estimates are that at any given time, 90% of the mercury cycling in the environment is linked to human activities – hence the need for action. The recently released UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013 outlines major sources of emissions, geographic and temporal trends, and behaviour in the environment. 

Moreover, international action is warranted because of the transboundary dimension of the issue. In the United States for example, it is estimated that half the mercury in fish caught in rivers comes from anthropogenic Continental sources – predominantly from coal burning – whilst the other half represents emissions from Asia. At the same time, by some estimates, approximately 50% of US releases are deposited beyond the country’s border. This is textbook justification for international action.

Growing Green – Opportunities for Turkey

Martin Raiser's picture

Can emerging markets make economic growth compatible with climate action? Can the trade-off between growth and rising emissions be influenced by policy?

For a country like Turkey – with the lowest carbon footprint in the OECD (around 5 tons per person in 2008), but also one of the highest rates of growth of carbon emissions over the past two decades – these are not idle questions. A recent talk with a senior Turkish policy maker about how Turkey is adjusting its policies to meet the challenge of growing green left me feeling optimistic about the role Turkey can play in this discussion. I believe that for Turkey, growing green is an opportunity. Let me explain why I think so:

Flooding and a Changing Climate in Mozambique

Phil Hay's picture

Here in Mozambique, the rainy season has brought disaster for as many as 110,000 people living in the Limpopo Valley, as surging water over recent days has flooded their crops, capsized their towns and villages, and forced their evacuation to higher ground. Forty people are believed to have died in the floods so far. It’s expected that as many as 150,000 people may ultimately be affected.

A UN reconnaissance plane that flew over the Valley on Monday took photos of mile after square mile of crops and farm land under brown muddy water, a result of the Limpopo River and others nearby bursting their banks.  It's at times like this that you really appreciate the powerful humanitarian role of the UN.

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza quickly went to the scene to see for himself how the flooding had turned communities upside down.

Talking with people from the town of Chokwé and surrounding areas at an emergency shelter, the President said, "we are with you, we weep with you, because we know that you have lost many of your goods including your houses, your goats, your cattle and much that is of great value."


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