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November 2010

Billions without power can now think low-carbon

Daniel Kammen's picture

I have some good news to share on the energy front from the experience of two tiny communities of 1,100 people on Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast. Results of a study published November 26 in Science Magazine demonstrate that low-carbon rural energy services can be delivered at cost savings in cases where communities utilize isolated, diesel-powered, electricity grids.

 

The rural Nicaraguan communities of Orinoco and Marshall Point were dependent on the diesel micro-grid for their electricity. In 2009, they partnered with the national government and an NGO to implement energy efficiency measures including metering, prompting residents to reduce wasteful use of electricity. Compact fluorescent light bulbs were also introduced, as well as more efficient outdoor lighting, and replacement of part of the diesel power with biogas from dung.

 

After the government installed meters, energy use dropped by 28%, and people’s electric bills dropped proportionately. The NGO, blueEnergy, based in San Francisco, which offered the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), was able to cut household energy use by another 17%. The net result was reduced burning of diesel, even though the community’s reduced energy needs allowed the local energy supplier to run its generators two extra hours each day, providing longer service to customers. In the month after the conservation campaign, energy costs per household had dropped by 37 %.

 

These conclusions emerged from calculations based on a marginal abatement cost curve, or MAC, an analytical tool developed in 2008 by McKinsey & Company. The same tool was used by a team of experts headed by the World Bank, studying Mexico’s climate challenges.

Bangladesh, a beneficiary of adaptation funding

Arastoo Khan's picture

This week marked another milestone in Bangladesh’s fight against climate change. Bangladesh with its long coastline and high poverty rates is among those countries most at risk from climate change. This week we got some good news on the climate front: Bangladesh was one of the three countries for which the Pilot Program on Climate Resilience (PPCR) was approved. The country will receive a total of US$50 million in grant and US$60 million in near zero-interest credits to pilot climate resilience strategies.

 

The PPCR was created to help highly vulnerable countries to pilot and demonstrate ways to integrate climate risk and resilience into core development planning. It is under the broader umbrella US$6.4 billion Climate Investment Funds (CIF), created in 2008 to finance climate resilience strategies. Today, it is one of just a handful of funds available for adaptation. The CIF’s   partners—donor countries, funding recipients, and five multilateral development banks—were meeting in Washington this week.

 

Until now there has been a spotty history of funding for climate change adaptation. We’ve hardly seen anything of the pledges made in Copenhagen (US$100 billion annually in the long term and US$30 billion as a fast-start fund). Money for adaptation is not even a fraction of what is needed. In this context, PPCR funds provide something real and timely for countries like Bangladesh for which adaptation is key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  

Should cities wait for a global climate deal?

John Roome's picture

We all know that the quality of the air we breathe has an immense impact on the health of the people and the economies of developing countries. Poor air quality can also threaten the economic competiveness of cities. Increasingly global companies consciously chose to locate in livable cities. We’re already seeing that in Asia.  A 2006 survey by the Hong Kong’s Chambers of Commerce showed that worsening air quality was beginning to affect investment decisions of corporations.

 

I spent two days last week at the Suntec Center in Singapore attending the Better Air Quality conference. This year’s theme was Air Quality in a Changing Climate. The link between the two – improved air quality and reducing climate change is sometimes not so apparent and I am glad the conference was making the link clearer. Climate change impacts all countries but the World Development Report 2010 estimates that some 75-80 percent of the damages caused by a changing climate will be borne by developing countries. If we are to limit global warming to about 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level, we will all need to invest massively in energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and more efficient transportation.

 

Combating air pollution is one area where it is possible to capture important co-benefits with respect to climate change. By taking specific measures, we can simultaneously achieve local health and welfare benefits (including related to air quality) while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While it is important to strive for a global deal on climate change, there are a number of things that cities can do in the interim to simultaneously reduce local environmental impacts and reduce carbon emissions. And by demonstrating on the ground some things that can work in this regard, cities can position themselves to access any global carbon financing that might become available as part of a global deal.

African cities: Moving beyond concern

Dan Hoornweg's picture

What do you get when you bring some 150 African mayors and city officials, urban researchers, and World Bank South African Country Director Ruth Kagia together to talk about climate change and African cities?  In a word: Concern.  All city officials and those who work with them are concerned about climate change.

 

Earlier this months, in partnership with France’s AFD and the Development Bank of South Africa, met to follow up the Fifth Urban Research Symposium held in Marseille last year (Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda). This local dissemination workshop held in South Africa focused on climate change in African cities. When you look at climate change through the lens of African cities, impacts appear closer, and more dire–climate variability is expected to be severe and the ability to respond often weak. With Africa’s current pace of urbanization, the number of people already living in informal communities, and the infrastructure backlog (e.g. the per capita installed electricity supply in Nigeria is less than 1% of the average OECD country), all participants agreed that climate change will only add to the problems and that an urgent response is needed.

 

  

Time is running out on climate change, says a new report

Michael Levitsky's picture

For those of us who analyze the energy sector, the publication of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Annual Energy Outlook is a much anticipated event. It is the gold standard for the assessment and forecasting of the world energy system, albeit from the perspective of the High-Income OECD countries.   For the past two years it has focused on the energy policies needed to curb climate change. This year I find its message very alarming.

 

In its 2009 Energy Outlook, the IEA developed a scenario that shows how the world’s energy system could evolve to the year 2035 so as to keep carbon dioxide (CO2)concentrations from exceeding 450 parts per million CO2 (equivalent).   This is the plateau level consistent with an increase in global temperatures of at most 20 C.   Last year this novel analysis showed that such a “450 Scenario” would require a massive shift in energy policies and investments. It gave me pause for thought. A year later, as the IEA develops its assessment, I am very worried.  

 

Between the lines of its careful appraisal of the global energy situation, the IEA all but says that achieving the changes needed to hold global average temperature to a 20 C increase is almost impossible in the current global context. The IEA states that such a goal is still not “completely out of reach.” But, in a sentence that should be chilling to anyone familiar with the inflexibility of the world’s energy system, the IEA says: “the speed of the energy transformation that would need to occur after 2020 is such as to raise serious misgivings about the practical achievability of cutting emissions sufficiently to meet the 20 C goal.” In other words, unless global energy policies and investments undergo a huge and unprecedented change over the next few years, our energy system may be too far gone to allow us to curb climate change to levels that are generally agreed to be manageable.  

Adaptation through the eyes of the most vulnerable

Robin Mearns's picture

What would support for climate change adaptation look like if it were designed to meet the needs of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change?

 

It might, for example, offer guaranteed wage employment to the rural poor in India or Ethiopia, in return for their labor in creating check dams, and water-harvesting structures – precisely the kinds of public works that can also help to increase landscape-wide resilience to climate change, improve the livelihoods of those dependent on rainfed agriculture, and even contribute to retaining soil carbon. Or it might provide a social protection floor for nomadic herders in Mongolia for when livestock losses during periodic bouts of harsh winter/spring weather conditions known as dzud exceed the level that can be covered under a commercial livestock insurance program.

 

Last Tuesday Andrew Steer blogged from the opening of the “Down2Earth”conference in The Hague, where he held out to 1000 participants from 100 countries the tantalizing yet fully achievable promise of a ‘golden triple win’ on agriculture, food security and climate change. 

 

Just before the closing plenary session in The Hague, I chaired a side event hosted by the World Food Programme on the role of social protection and safety nets in helping to foster both food security and pro-poor adaptation to climate change. We heard about the above examples from Ethiopia, India and Mongolia, among others, and came away convinced that while there are promising programs already under way, there is much more to be done to scale up such approaches in practice, perhaps through harnessing new sources of climate finance.

À la recherche d’un triple dividende pour les agriculteurs, et pour nous tous

Andrew Steer's picture

Imaginez que vous vivez dans un village en Afrique… au Niger, par exemple. Depuis des générations, votre famille cultive la même parcelle de terre. Certes, la vie n’a jamais été facile. Mais vous avez remarqué que, ces derniers temps, c’est encore plus dur qu’avant. Le temps est devenu plus variable, les pluies sont imprévisibles, les récoltes de plus en plus incertaines et les prix toujours plus volatils.

 

Projetez-vous à présent dans une, deux, trois ou cinq décennies. Que sera devenu votre village ?

 

Il se peut que les conditions aient empiré : les sécheresses sont plus fréquentes, les inondations plus dévastatrices, les rendements et les revenus en chute libre. Peut-être même que votre village n’a pas réussi à survivre à ces changements.

 

Mais il se pourrait aussi que la situation se soit améliorée : les sols sont devenus plus riches, les rendements meilleurs, les récoltes plus faciles à prévoir, les cultures plus variées et nutritives, et chaque année vous recevez même une prime pour fixer plus de carbone sur vos terres.

Pre-Cancun, AOSIS swims with giants in Grenada

Angus Friday's picture

If life is all a stage, as Shakespeare asserts, then for many, a journey home can be an intermission; a time to reflect upon preceding scenes and to contemplate the next Act. This week, returning home to the Caribbean island of Grenada with its picturesque backdrop provided such a Kodak moment for me. Similarly, for fellow travelers from 43 nations of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) journeying to Grenada this week, the meeting provided a snapshot of the organization’s achievements as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary.  It was also a moment to contemplate and plan for the challenges that lay ahead in Cancun.

 

The presence of Minister Xie, China’s chief climate negotiator and Todd Stern, his US counterpart at this AOSIS meeting, co-hosted by Mexico signaled that AOSIS had indeed come a long way. Having campaigned for the AOSIS chairmanship to go to Grenada when I served as its UN Ambassador, I must confess some personal pride. My successor and good friend, Ambassador Dessima Williams and her team had done us proud by going much further. AOSIS was also joined by senior climate officials from India, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Belgium and other countries; testimony to the intense international interest, the role of AOSIS and perhaps an indicator of further complexities to come. 

 

The island states, aka  “the conscience of the convention” are calling upon the international community to limit greenhouse gases to well below 350 parts per million, to limit temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to enter into a legally binding agreement in order to achieve these targets. The impacts of climate change, they assert, are already being felt and therefore even a two degree target is too high. “One point five, to stay alive” their slogan goes.  

In search of the triple win for farmers and the rest of us

Andrew Steer's picture

Imagine that you live in a village in Africa, say Niger. Your family has been farming the same plot for generations. It’s never been easy. But recently it seems to have become even more difficult. The weather seems more variable, the rainfall less predictable, yields more uncertain, prices more volatile.

 

Now imagine one, two, three or five decades from now. How goes farming in your village? 

 

It could be much worsemore droughts, worse floods, lower yields, lower incomes. Quite possibly the village hasn’t been able to survive. 

 

Or it could be much better. Stronger soils, better yields, more predictable harvests, more varied and nutritious crops, and cash flows each year to the farmer for sequestering more carbon on his land.

Which of these happens is a choice.

 

It depends on our decisions on two things: whether the world as a whole decides to lower carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050. And what we all do to support that farmer and the system of farming around the world.

 

As I write this there are 1000 people from 100 countries spending a week in The Hague in the Netherlands discussing this second issue. The Dutch Government and the World Bank have organized a conference─called “Down2Earthjust four weeks prior to Cancun in order to give momentum to a subject that has been often neglected in the climate debate. Farmers are under the greatest threat from climate change, but they could also play a major role in addressing it. Agriculture accounts for nearly 15% of global carbon emissions, with deforestation and forest degradation accounting for as much again.