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Africa

A view from the top: mountain forests

Klas Sander's picture

“Mountain Forests – roots to our future”. That was the headline for this year’s International Mountain Day celebrated by the UN every 11th of December since 2003. This year especially emphasized the interdisciplinary implications of sustainable mountain development. Whenever I have the opportunity to spend time in mountains, I realize how strongly the different elements in that landscape depend on each other and how fragile it all is. Earlier this year, for example, I had the privilege to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The experience of seeing these amazing animals in their natural habitat was incredible and it wasn’t just the climb up the Virunga Volcanoes that was breathtaking.

But the conservation of this ecosystem does not only provide benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation. Adjacent communities and the Government of Rwanda as a whole benefit from the income streams the tourism sector generates. Protecting the ecosystem also helps to assure sustainable flow of water from these “water towers” benefiting agriculture and lowland ecosystems alike. Not only are the Virunga gorillas and other mountain species threatened by climate change but there are also consequences for the communities that depend on them.

Covering 24% of the Earth’s surface, mountain ecosystems play a critical role in maintaining a sustainable flow of resources to the plains below. Mountains are the source for nearly 50% of the world’s freshwater for direct consumption, agriculture, and energy. Also, mountain tourism accounts for 15-20% of the world’s tourism industry, totaling an estimated $US70-90 billion per year. Mountain regions are also severely impacted by climate change, which only magnifies existing development challenges. Ecosystems will experience a vertical shift, as climates warm, generally flora and fauna will move towards higher altitudes. Fragile alpine ecosystems systems and endemic flora and fauna are likely to change resulting in significant negative ecological and socio-economic implications.

What Did Durban Deliver: Part 2

Andrew Steer's picture

Getting On With It.

The 194 national negotiating teams earned their salaries in Durban. But well over half of the 20,000 at the meeting weren’t negotiators at all. What were they up to?

Some were reporting and some were protesting, but most were busy sharing best practices, doing deals, presenting new technologies and findings, and urging negotiators to “get on with it”. They included hundreds of technology firms, financiers, NGOs, academics, development professionals and governments.

The message from this group was: There’s a world of action out there that’s growing and vibrant. It will continue, but to reach the required scale, governments and negotiators must provide a regulatory environment that is transparent, predictable, and consistent.

d’Urban: Cities leading at COP17

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.

The following Monday at the COP venue, an important partnership was announced. All five multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) launched an unprecedented partnership committing all of the world’s development banks to particularly cooperate on cities and climate change efforts. The MDBs – that provide about $8.4 billion of basic services support to cities annually – will work toward common tools and metrics for GHG emissions and urban risk.

During COP17 itself, cities that were leading this effort shared their experiences: Rio de Janeiro presented their revised GHG emissions inventory, an important leadership contribution; Tokyo outlined the impressive first year operation of its first-ever city-based emissions trading system; Mexico City issued the first Annual Report of the Mexico City Pact; Mayor Parks Tau of Johannesburg chaired a well attended C40 event. By my count, in just seven days, there were at least 100 events highlighting the critical role for cities to lead the world’s mitigation efforts, and better prepare to adapt to changing climate.

Let's take charge of our future

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture

Here at the African COP, I aimed to highlight African climate change experiences. As a young African filmmaker, I am extremely excited to have been selected as the winner of the Connect4Climate Special Prize in their photo/video competition. This is a great opportunity for me and for the communities I have been working with in Southern and Eastern Africa to showcase the exciting photo, theatre and video work I have been engaged in with them.

With Astrid Westerlind Wigström I have developed and implemented the ClimateConscious Programme of ResourceAfrica UK. Under this programme, we have worked with partner NGOs in Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya to raise awareness, build capacity and facilitate the knowledge exchange with and from rural African communities. Our activities are aimed at spreading climate change knowledge to those communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and least likely to receive climate change education.

Saturday in Durban was agriculture day, and focus was on Africa

Rachel Kyte's picture

Over 500 farmers representatives, scientists and development practitioners were out in force today at the third Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) in Durban. They are determined to put agriculture on the COP 17 agenda.

Their arguments are clear: Any serious effort to reduce green house gasses must include agricultureAnd COP 17 is the chance for Africa to shape the agenda and establish an agriculture work program that is informed by science and covers adaptation and mitigation. And even for some `No agriculture, No deal'.

And today these voices are being heard.

Three years ago there was very little discussion around agriculture and climate change…this year agriculture events are everywhere around the COP. 

Climate-smart agriculture – that’s agriculture that combines proven conservation agriculture techniques with the latest technologies like drought and flood tolerant crops, better weather forecasting and risk insurance for farmers – is gaining momentum.

People are paying attention because climate-smart agriculture delivers a triple win – increased productivity, increased adaptation and mitigation benefits.

Agriculture is being reimagined.

Africa stands to benefit most from climate-smart agriculture because of the vulnerability of rural people to climate change and the dependence of so much of the population on agriculture. And for Africa, adaptation is key.

Cool work with heat in Iceland inspires Africa

Vijay Iyer's picture

Iceland’s journey from being a developing country until the 1970s, to a modern, vibrant and developed economy owes much to its ability to tap into and develop geothermal energy. Its inspirational example in this regard can be replicated elsewhere, including East Africa, where geothermal potential is abundant. With this in mind, I visited Iceland last week, to assess how its story and unique expertise might provide lessons for others.

Iceland has achieved global leadership in geothermal technology and business in all its manifestations. It has an installed geothermal generation capacity of 665 megawatts, a remarkable achievement for a country with only 300,000 inhabitants. While 74% of Iceland’s electricity is generated from hydropower, about 26% comes from geothermal resources.

Iceland is also a leader in tapping waste heat from geothermal power plants to heat over 90% of its buildings at low-cost. Given the worldwide push for energy access and low-carbon energy solutions, geothermal is an attractive option where it is available.

One of those places is Africa’s vast Rift Valley, which stretches from Djibouti to Mozambique and takes in parts of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, among others. Lying under this expanse are 14,000 megawatts of geothermal potential—enough to deliver power to 150 million people. Properly exploited, geothermal could deliver at least a quarter of the energy these countries will need by 2030. And this would be a renewable source, clean and climate-friendly. Can Iceland’s experience provide guidance as East Africans seek to exploit their resources? I think it can, and so do the Icelanders.

Facts, knowledge and women, trump myth and superstition

Fionna Douglas's picture

When scientists from a broad range of disciplines get together to discuss research to feed the world, while protecting the planet in a changing climate, it’s not surprising that they would call for increased investment. More surprising is that they would agree on setting clear priorities.

The World Bank co-organized the Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Wageningen, Netherlands, with Wageningen University and The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation as part of its efforts to build the store of knowledge that can help small holder farmers around the globe increase productivity – a central theme of the Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan – and build resilience to climate change. The conference will also inform the upcoming global climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa.

Motivated by the statement of UK Chief Scientific Officer Sir John Beddington that the world is unlikely to make the changes required to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade, and is heading for a “4 degree centigrade world with disastrous implications for African food security”, the scientists heeded policy makers’ pleas and delivered some clear evidence-based advice.

On the passing of Wangari Maathai

Warren Evans's picture

Yale Club, New York City, 2002. Photo by Martin Rowe

I came to the World Bank in 2003 with 25 years developing country experience − but all in Asia. I knew that I needed to quickly become familiar with other parts of the world, particularly Africa. So I went on a 10-day immersion “course” to Kenya, led and managed by Professor Wangari Maathai’s daughter, Wanjira. 

I first met Prof. Maathai in one of her District villages − she was serving as a Member of Parliament and Vice Minister of Environment at the time. I was greeted at that first meeting the same way she greeted me in all subsequent meetings −with smiling eyes showing warmth and true joy in meeting me, and her embrace sending a signal of graceful strength.  Our friendship was quickly solidified when she asked me where I was from. Kansas, I had said − and she smiled and told me that she had gone to university and received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Kansas!

At that first meeting, she was surrounded by villagers who loved and honored her. I thought that I was going to see trees and hear about the way the Green Belt Movement engages women to replant degraded and denuded hillsides with indigenous tree seedlings which they raise in village nurseries. Of course that was one part of the day but the primary focus of the Professor was on helping the village deal with the struggle against HIV-AIDS.

She had arranged for the construction of a small shelter for villagers suffering from the disease, and perhaps more importantly, was teaching them to grow nutritious food in the adjacent garden that would help give strength to those who could still lead a reasonably productive life. It was a community effort in an already-impoverished community that was hard hit by HIV-AIDS. Her love for the people and theirs in return was evident at every turn and in every place where initiatives were underway to improve the quality of the lives of the villagers, in part by improving the productivity and services of the surrounding ecosystems. Prof. Maathai was thus a pioneer in applying the concept of protecting and restoring ecosystems as a fundamental element of reducing rural poverty.

An action agenda for Africa...discussions at the Annual Meetings and beyond

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

It’s that time of year again… this week the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings open, making for an energetic and hectic time for all involved. For those of us working on climate change issues in Africa, this is an especially exciting time.

For one, there is heightened awareness and urgency surrounding climate change issues in Africa. In November, South Africa will assume presidency of the Convention of Parties (COP-17) meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which will take place in Durban, the first time a climate change COP will be held on the African continent. This being Africa’s “first COP”, many people not traditionally expected to be involved with such issues have been taking a lead and stepping up to the plate – country leaders and finance ministers for example, joining their environment and natural resources ministers in seeking adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change.

In the past two weeks, three meetings–on climate-smart agriculture, environmental protection, and sustainable energy access–have been held in South Africa and Mali, creating a momentum of support for the issues that lie at the heart of Africa’s development challenges. Closely tied to this is the collective realization that is emerging: that climate is not just an environmental issue, but also fundamentally a social issue, an economic issue, and a major threat to achieving development. In fact, a changing climate affects every facet of human endeavor.

So how does one go about combating climate change within a sustainable development context? Given the cross-cutting nature of climate change effects, we believe that actions–adaptation and mitigation–are needed on a broad range of fronts.

Innovators that could light up Africa

Daniel Kammen's picture

Everyone talks about the crisis of energy access – the 2.7 billion people who use wood and other solid fuels, and the 1.5 billion without access to electricity – but who is doing something about it?

At the African Energy Ministerial Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, today, both high-level planning and on-the-ground energy projects were visible, and truly inspiring. In a five hour Green Household Energy Solutions Expo that I had the true pleasure to chair, the Minister of Economic Development for South Africa, Mr. Ebrahim Patel, kicked off the discussion by saying that South Africa was committed to growing nation’s clean energy generation capacity for both domestic use and for export and in the process create green jobs.

The meeting marks a key chance for integration and coordination as the last regional ministerial meeting before the COP17 Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa in December of this year. The room was packed, with over 15 ministers in attendance, and the discussion turned to the benefits of regional integration of transmission systems, building wind, geothermal, and large-scale solar energy projects.

However, the focus and the stars of the meeting were the innovators at the household and local community level who showed the possibilities that exist with a range of new approaches – some technological but many managerial and social as well.

Ron Bills of Envirofit, a producer of high efficiency woodstoves said: “We have sold 300,000 stoves, and can provide high quality stoves to scale up clean energy cooking markets anywhere!” 

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