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Environment

What forests can now do for Africa

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

One of the concrete things to come out of Cancun was the agreement on REDD+ or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The "+" includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The decision in Cancun establishes a framework for rich countries to pay for preventing deforestation in developing countries. While the details are yet to be worked out, the setting up of the mechanism itself was a big step.

 

REDD+ is clearly one of the 'winners’ from Cancun. It is an important development for Africa, where a critical piece of the climate change puzzle lies in preserving and managing its forests well. Although Africa currently contributes only a small amount to global greenhouse gases, the main source of the continent's emissions is deforestation.

 

Over the years we have been engaged in many forest management projects across the continent.  The World Bank has been working with several countries to pilot approaches in sustainable forestry that have provided valuable lessons for the REDD+ mechanism being set up now. During Forest Day in Cancun, many of us discussed how to make the most out of REDD+, and how to ensure that the lessons learned from the Forest Investment Program (FIP) activities in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana can help Africans get more value out of conserving forests than chopping them down. This approach is critical, given Africa's development needs and growth in population. How do we create REDD+ partnerships that bring real value and payments for conservation? How do we ensure the playing field is level for all countries and players in REDD+? Answering these questions will be key to fostering an integrated mitigation and adaptation approach to Africa's forests.

A world of action in Cancun: Don't listen to your grandma

Andrew Steer's picture

Negotiators have worked through the past three nights in search of agreements that all nations can sign up to (see my last blog).  At 3 am this morning they reached consensus on a package of decisions that represents progress in the journey towards a global deal.

 

But most of those in Cancun have more down-to-earth reasons for being here.  They’re here to initiate action – to share experiences, learn from best practice, forge new partnerships, and launch new programs.

 

Here’s a sample from the past 48 hours of some of the action that we’ve been moving forward, when many heads of state, ministers and global leaders such as Ban Ki Moon and Bob Zoellick were in town.

 

Developing Countries push the frontiers on Carbon Markets:

A new Partnership of Market Readiness was launched by the World Bank and by ministers from 15 countries  with the purpose of supporting innovation in developing nations on market based instruments. Countries like China, Chile, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Ukraine and many others – are introducing their own market based instruments. This new facility – now US$30 million but expected to rise to US$100 million – will provide technical support to these efforts, and seek to share practical lessons for others to follow.

 

This is part of a much bigger movement on carbon markets here in Cancun. The Clean Development Mechanism is in need of reform so that transactions costs are reduced and low income countries get better access to funds. [So far around US$25 billion has flowed to developing countries through carbon markets, but only 2% of this goes to Africa.] The High level Advisory Group on Finance  estimates that US$30-50 billion could flow annually to developing countries through the offset markets by 2020 with moderate progress in policies. The fact that so many leading developing countries are now creating their own internal markets could help hugely in driving down the cost of mitigation, bringing in new technology and, over time,  building a linked global market

 

Negotiators at Cancun. Photo by IISD

 

Energy efficiency is a win-win for Africa

Jamal Saghir's picture

 

Here in Cancun, the discussions on energy efficiency made me reflect on the "big picture" about energy efficiency in Africa. For years this subject has been near and dear to my heart. As Director for Energy in the World Bank I saw how much there is to gain from solid energy efficiency plans in developing countries. I saw how increasing costs of energy can encourage serious action on efficiency. Now, as Director for Sustainable Development in Africa, I see how committed African countries are to improving energy efficiency and making smart use of demand-side management in their efforts to combat climate change.

 

This week I met with at least nine Ministers of Environment at the margins of the Cancun COP. Each one of them mentioned the importance of energy access but this was qualified with the fact that this energy must be clean and it must be used efficiently. For many of these governments, it is no longer enough to speak of clean energy in isolation. They prefer to think about it in the context of their integrated low carbon development agendas.

 

Given that 560 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to modern energy, African countries must expand power generation and access if they're going to reduce poverty. The trick is they will have to do it in climate-smart ways and this is where energy efficiency is an important win-win.

The challenge at hand is to reduce the wrong incentives

Daniel Kammen's picture

The last few days at COP16 have, in a low-key way, accomplished more than I have seen at the COP meeting for some time (and I have been attending them for over a decade now).

 

For example, there have been a series of business-led discussions and proposals on how to develop energy-efficiency master plans at all levels—company, municipality and country. An exciting aspect has been the presence of so many innovative industry partners and governments that have not only developed, but started practicing important renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in an electric vehicle. photo by IISD

 

I had the pleasure of moderating a stimulating event that the World Economic Forum hosted Monday that really got into the nuts and bolts of energy efficiency. This event included small NGO representatives, the venture capital community, Fortune 500 technology companies, utility CEOs from developing nations, and Energy and Environment Ministers from four nations. There have been fruitful discussions on specific mechanisms—from feed-in tariffs, community aggregation of clean energy purchase plans, to very large-scale government procurement of clean energy services.

Small islands show the way on clean energy

Angus Friday's picture

Today was an exciting day in Cancun. For me, it marked a break from the rhetoric of negotiations to focus on the reality of action on the ground to combat climate change. This morning’s weather was picture perfect as the World Bank’s President, Bob Zoellick arrived at the Press Conference Centre in the Moon Palace to voice the Bank’s support for the concrete actions of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

 

AOSIS consists of 43 island and low-lying countries that encircle the tropical belt around the globe. Given the very real threat posed by climate change, they have been attending international meetings on climate change for the last 20 years and are frustrated at the pace of progress and the lack of ambition. They are here in Cancun to fight for their survival and to call upon their partners and the international community to be ambitious. In the negotiating text, they want to see reference to 1.5 degrees, “loss and damage” and a legal form to the agreement. After 20 years of talks, AOSIS is going beyond negotiations and embarking upon concrete actions to lead by example: They are intent on entering an era of renewable energy and energy efficiency—hence today’s press conference. 

 

Amidst a blaze of flashing cameras, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Prime Minister of Grenada in his capacity as chair of AOSIS, Dr. Lykke Friis, the Danish Minister of Climate, Energy and Gender Equality, Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP and the World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Simon Billett of UNDP who had been stellar in his efforts joined me on stage as we facilitated the signing. This MOU calls for the introduction of renewables and energy efficiency into these island states with an initial injection of US$14.5 million from the Danish Government as part of their Fast Start financing pledge.

The buzz around blue carbon

Marea E. Hatziolos's picture

Photo credit: J. TamelanderThe delegates and observers at the COP16 in Cancun are getting an earful about Blue Carbon—shorthand for atmospheric carbon sequestered in the earth’s coastal and nearshore environments. Oceans Day at Cancun will feature a session on Blue Carbon, and briefs, and blogs by ocean advocates are circulating on the net and at side events. The reason for the buzz is that coastal wetlands, including tidal salt marshes, estuaries and river deltas, mangroves and sea grass beds are highly efficient at taking up CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into organic material—then storing it in the soil. In fact, the root systems and sediment layers which build up as this organic material is generated, broken down and deposited, are up to ten times more rich in carbon than the biomass above the surface.

 

This makes coastal wetlands even better at sequestering carbon than tropical forests. And, unlike their counterparts on land whose net growth peaks when the forest matures, wetland vegetation continues to grow and sequester carbon in the soil as long as sediments are deposited and the environment remains healthy. This is why Blue Carbon is being brought into the international dialogue on carbon emission offsets and the domain of REDD+ eligible activities. A statement, signed by 55 marine and environmental stakeholders from 19 countries has been presented to the COP for action.

¿En qué consistiría el éxito de Cancún?

Andrew Steer's picture

Esta tarde llegué a Cancún. El sol brilla. El mar es azul. El hotel Moon Palace –sede de las negociaciones– es un hermoso centro vacacional con playa propia de un kilómetro de extensión y arena blanca. Se insta a evitar el uso de chaqueta y corbata y muchos delegados visten las tradicionales guayaberas mexicanas. 

 

Los anfitriones han hecho un excelente trabajo de diplomacia y logística en la preparación de este evento. ¿Por qué parece, entonces, que los turistas lo están disfrutando más que los representantes de los países participantes?


Porque nadie sabe cuáles serán los resultados. Cada uno de los presentes cree que otra persona debería proponer algo más y algunos lo están expresando con mucho sentimiento. Se ha ido el entusiasmo por un posible acuerdo forjado en Copenhague el año pasado. No hay en el horizonte un jonrón, una clavada, ni un hoyo en uno a la vista. La analogía ahora pertenece al fútbol americano: se trata de hacer avanzar el balón con paciencia por el campo de juego con la esperanza de marcar un tanto el año próximo, el siguiente o dentro de cinco años. Sobre todo, no hay que dejar caer la pelota para no perder terreno rápidamente.   

 

What would success look like in Cancun?

Andrew Steer's picture

I just flew in to Cancun this afternoon.  The sun’s shining. The sea is blue. The Moon Palace – the site of the negotiations – is a beautiful resort with its own one-kilometer white sandy beach. Jackets and ties are discouraged, and many delegates are wearing the traditional Mexican guayaberas. 

 

The Mexican hosts have done an outstanding job –in diplomacy and logistics – in preparing for this event. So why do the tourists look like they’re having a better time than the delegates?

 

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres speaking at the opening ceremony. Photo by IISDBecause nobody knows how this will turn out. Everybody feels that somebody else should be putting more on the table, and some are expressing this with great emotion. The excitement of a possible deal last year in Copenhagen is gone. There is no home run, slam dunk or hole in one in the offing. The analogy is now from American Football: It’s about moving the ball patiently down the field with the hope of an eventual touchdown next year, the one after, or five years from now. Above all, don’t drop the ball, or we could lose ground fast.   

 

But this cautious view short-changes what Cancun should achieve. The package of decisions that is being negotiated is highly consequential, and could significantly improve the prospects of a pro-poor climate-friendly future.

 

So, what would success look like at the end of this 12 day marathon? By the end of this meeting we could have the following:

 

1.       Forests: The first globally agreed REDD+ partnership providing sufficient funding for investments, performance-based payments, and readiness for future carbon market inclusion – thus ensuring that forests are more valued alive than dead.  

 

2.       Adaptation:  A framework for ensuring the fair and adequate allocation of resources for climate resilient growth, with special attention to the most vulnerable countries, and a process for ensuring lesson learning and technical assistance on this urgent agenda.

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.  

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