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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.  

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.  

Threats and opportunities unite us

Shamshad Akhtar's picture

As a show of solidarity in the lead up to Cancun, a Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative (MCCI) was launched in the coastal town of Vouliagmeni, near Athens this past week. Fifteen member countries signed a declaration that binds them to work together on climate change. To take this initiative forward, an expert group is to meet in Malta in the coming months─it will be followed by a second MCCI event in Turkey.

 

Such solidarity is important. While not among the worse polluters in the world, the Mediterranean countries face an increase of four degrees in average temperature, and a 70% drop in precipitation in the coming years.

 

I participated in this event and shared the World Bank’s position and perspective. I was struck by the high level of commitment and the cooperative spirit of the host of the meeting; Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, was joined by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Malta’s Premier Lawrence Gonzi, and other representatives of the Mediterranean countries.

 

This initiative , in some sense, is an historic event. Abandoning political differences, the Prime Ministerial commitments and the time devoted to provide national and regional perspectives, is commendable.

 

Delegates echoed the broad consensus regarding the magnitude and severity of the climate change problem and the cross border implications of the environmental degradation it will cause. A recent World Bank study has shown that warming in the Middle East region is about 50% higher than average global warming. Many of the largest cities in the region are located on the coast and are vulnerable to both sea-level rise and increases in extreme weather events─particularly Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Finding a voice for indigenous peoples at COP16

Fabio Pittaluga's picture

I was part of a ``historic’’ moment in Xcaret, on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico, earlier this month. Here representatives of indigenous organizations worldwide had gathered together with government representatives of various governments, including Bolivia, Panama, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bangladesh, and Peru to prepare a strategy for giving voice to the concerns of the indigenous groups in the COP-16 negotiations in Cancun in November.

 

This was the first time a country has supported indigenous peoples in preparing for a COP, normally dominated by policy wonks and government negotiators. Historically, relations between indigenous groups and states have been confrontational in nature; in Latin America in particular, there has been a history of violent events, including the long civil war in Chiapas. The process of inclusion, however, is fundamental in many Latin American countries, as indigenous peoples form a significant demographic group─15 million in Peru, 12 million in Mexico, and about 6 million in Bolivia and Guatemala.

 

Against this backdrop, it was heartening in Xcaret to see, indigenous leaders and government officials,  jointly preparing a strategy to voice their preoccupation and concerns over issues that will come with climate change and have the potential to affect all groups. In the meeting, indigenous peoples presented themselves as first and foremost “citizens” of those countries, even though different from the mainstream. This time, the governments were actually listening to their voices. It is becoming increasingly recognized that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Climate change is expected to exacerbate existing inequity faced by indigenous communities in the form of political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, and ultimately their distinct ways of life.

 

Lessons from the Montreal Protocol for Climate Finance

Alan Miller's picture

The recent talks in Tianjin, Washington DC and Addis Ababa show that there is serious thought being given to making good the promises on climate finance in Copenhagen (read related blog post by Andrew Steer).

 

I believe that the Montreal Protocol has some lessons to offer for tackling climate change: It is an international agreement that addresses stratospheric ozone depletion and is widely viewed as the most successful response to a global environmental problem to date. One common feature of the ozone and climate conventions is the provision of financial resources to help developing countries pay for the higher costs of measures with global environmental benefits. This topic is high on the agenda for the Cancun climate meeting in December, and is being specifically addressed by a high-level UN Advisory Group on Climate Finance that met last week in Addis Ababa.

 

Since the signing of the Copenhagen Accord last December, much attention has focused on the issue of resource mobilization and specifically how to generate the US$100 billion a year for climate finance promised by 2020. Numerous studies have also been published estimating total costs for developing country mitigation and adaptation requirements─they usually conclude that the needs are in the many billions of dollars.

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