Paris Agreement: global solidarity in action

Paris Agreement: global solidarity in action

The debate about global warming is heating up , in some ways quite literally – the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that 2016 is on track to be the “hottest year on record.”  Fortunately, glance at the news and you can easily believe that state institutions have the issue well in hand. The wording of the well-publicised Paris Agreement was finalised before the end of 2015, undeniably a success when one considers it marks the first time nearly two hundred nations have been able to agree on anything. Under the agreement, states aim to strengthen “the global response to the threat of climate change…keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Criticisms of the agreement are well-known, and arguably too extensive for a mere blog post. The main problem seems to lie with the targets, which some perceive as not ambitious enough, particularly taking into consideration  findings from MIT indicating that temperatures could increase by up to 3.7% by 2100. Developing countries have the most to lose if this situation arises, as highlighted by Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an indigenous women’s leader from Chad who spoke at the COP21 conference about the threat rising temperatures pose to development in her country. Yet money remains a sticking point; while developing countries need aid to adapt to both climate change and the move towards green energy, countries with more to give don’t seem particularly willing to commit to any tangible targets.

Image of climate leaders standing up and holding hands in the air as the Paris climate deal is finalised at COP21
The Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12 2015 | Photograph UN.org

 

The legality of the Paris Agreement is another grey area.  There seems to be a legally binding element to the treaty, but there is confusion over what this legal form should be. The reality of getting 197 countries to agree universally to a treaty on climate change means some of the more forceful language had to be omitted, a disappointment to the EU and small island states who would have liked for the agreement to go further, ensuring countries meet their targets. However, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. The theory that a treaty must be legally binding to be effective didn’t hold for the Kyoto Protocol, the predecessor to the Paris treaty. Despite the internationally binding nature of that agreement, the United States failed to ratify it, and developing countries received a free-for-all pass on emissions.

The truly global nature of the Paris Agreement is what needs to be held onto. 197 countries agreed to it and it is expected to come into force by November 4. Countries known for releasing the most greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, such as India, China and the United States have all ratified the agreement earlier than expected, an endorsement that is likely to catalyse further action on climate change.  Action is the crucial thing here, rather than further commitments. This is more likely to be achieved through global solidarity anyway, given the role of diplomatic relations in this globalised world, as it is possible that countries failing to meet their commitments could suffer the weight of international exclusion instead of lengthy legal proceedings – a reality none care to face.

Woman in mac and green scarf holds up banner saying "climate is a common good" at a climate protest march
Photograph CAFOD

 

Meanwhile, developments continue and while not explicitly related to the Paris Agreement, are interesting signposts about what could be around the corner. The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently decided that environmental crimes would be included in their remit – a change of focus for the court of last resort. While the weaknesses of the ICC, such as problematic bias and ineffectiveness, are well-documented, this demonstrates an expanded focus on regulating the environment and holding actors who abuse it to account. While there has been no indication that state governments will be brought before the ICC for failing to reach their targets, the precedent set by the American bill which allows families of victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia shows countries’ previously concrete immunity is no longer secure. While it seems unlikely that this could be used as a way for countries to hold others accountable for failing to meet their agreements, it is interesting to note that this law doesn’t come from the state level. Instead, the suit comes from families impacted, arguably harder to ignore.

Progress over the last year has been encouraging, but it must not lag. The early ratification of the Paris Agreement is a sign that states are finally beginning to take notice of President Obama’s words from 2015, that “no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a change in climate.” Let’s all hope our leaders are up to the task.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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How solar power is revolutionising the developing world

How solar power is revolutionising the developing world

Does solar power have the potential to transform poverty-stricken regions? Harriet King explores how the sustainable energy resource is opening a multitude of new opportunities across developing countries. 

The advantages of solar power are becoming increasingly evident, and everyday more and more countries are turning to the promising source of renewable energy in order to overcome issues of poverty and corruption.

The growth is in light of the International Solar Alliance, led by India

Jimmy_Joe/Creative commons license
Jimmy_Joe/Creative commons license

at the Paris climate conference, which invites 120 countries to collectively support the expansion of solar technologies in the developing world. Countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Ghana are now also building solar farms and installing solar panels across their countries as an alternative solution to unreliable energy sources.

Why Solar?

There are multiple reasons as to why solar energy is spearheading the clean energy market. The sun, as one of the most powerful sources of energy, means solar is as a guaranteed form of sustainable consumption – generating electricity at a price effective cost. The price for installation and upkeep of solar power is minimal compared to fossil fuels and other sources. Solar energy systems generally require little maintenance, and most manufacturers guarantee that the systems will work efficiently for 20-25 years.

Solar energy is also universal, and can be applied diversely. Not only can it produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, but also distil water in regions with limited clean water supplies. Technology within the industry is constantly developing and adapting to a sundry market, meaning both richer and poorer countries will be introduced to the same advancements. In the future, it is predicted that innovations within the sector would mean double, or even triple, the current electrical turnover of solar power.

India Sets The Trend

In July this year, India signed an agreement with the World Bank to borrow over $1bn in order to build and develop a flourishing solar power sector. The decision meant a step in the right direction for the country’s president, Narendra Modi, whose green dream is to install 175GW of renewable power by 2022 – mostly solar. Despite this highly ambitious target, the goal is achievable and Modi has shown persistent commitment to the industry: “The world must turn to the sun to power our future. As the developing world lifts billions of people into prosperity, our hope for a sustainable planned rests on a bold, global initiative,” he said in a statement at COP21.

Officially the second most populous country in the world, India is the ideal country to front the solar energy movement. It has an average of 300 sunny days a year, meaning a guarantee of solar power generation. Neighbouring developing countries, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, also experience the same climate therefore would find solar power highly advantageous and can follow in India’s footsteps.

Solar Power and Development

Nancy Pelosi/Creative commons license
Nancy Pelosi/Creative commons license

India is in the position to prove the potential of solar power in terms of development and prosperity. Out of 250 million households across the country, 56 million struggle to maintain electricity, the majority of which are located in rural areas. In total, one in four people in India do not have access to a source of electricity – an obstacle that stops poorer communities from going to work and receiving an education.

Off-grid solar installations, suitable for single homes or small clusters of buildings, could prove extremely helpful in these areas. Students throughout rural areas are unable to be educated, as they are either not equipped to go to school and complete their studies due to lack of technology – many lack basic needs to study such as adequate light.

Solar power would not only benefit schools and workplaces, but also create thousands of well-paid jobs within the industry itself. India is one of many countries experiencing heightened poverty in certain areas due to a lack of resources. Electricity can change the lives of families, communities, and entire regions.

Essentially, sunlight is free and solar power comes a very little cost. The solar power industry is proving a stable, cost-effective, trustworthy, reliable business which is applicable to all countries, communities and regions throughout the world. If government projects, NGOs, and research funds invested time and effort into solar energy projects, we could see a huge decline in poverty and destitution, and a rise in demographic equality and education across developing countries.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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COP21: Expectations and Challenges

COP21: Expectations and Challenges

In the first of a two-part series, Nina Rachet analyses the workings and possible outcomes of COP21, and the Paris treaty’s impact on investments and business by economic sectors.

Climate change is the most important problem of the 21st century. It is becoming costly, both politically and economically, to ignore. The public support for a “greener” world has recently peaked, a change in behaviour accompanying growing economic losses in business and investments. Thus, all eyes will be turned towards the 21st Conference Of the Parties (COP21) set to take place in Paris.

COP21 represents a major opportunity to regulate and adapt to climate change. Past summits on this global problem have failed to result in a significant globally-inclusive deal of carbon emissions. The Kyoto protocol came to an end in 2012 and no other global deal on carbon emissions has emerged since then. The reputational costs if COP21 should fail will be important for states. France, as the host of the conference, is particularly concerned due to internal political divisions and its position as a diplomatic power.

The human and economic costs of climate change will continue to increase thus regulating this global matter is increasingly costly the more an international treaty is delayed. Rachel Kyte, VP of the World Bank, recently declared that the world was at the bottom of a hockey stick. By 2050, without carbon regulations, climate change will have generated billions of economic losses, massive migration movements and thousands of climate-related casualties. It is thus necessary – both economically and politically – to agree on a global deal on carbon emissions at COP21 in Paris this winter.

COP21: a Global Solution for a Global Problem

A global political solution to climate change is necessary in order to plan and implement international long-term policies. It would offer the assurance of stability and continuity of a global regulatory framework needed to invest in green activities. COP21 has ambitious objectives, necessary for adapting and mitigating climate change.

The Paris summit has already achieved considerably more than previous summit. Through pledges and interstate agreements, China and US appear to be committing fully to resolving climate change. The business world seems attached to a greener production since climate-related losses have recently and dramatically increased. Therefore, a global deal on carbon emissions in Paris is likely to include four pillars-objectives.

Global Deal on Carbon Emissions: Challenges

Obtaining an international agreement on carbon emissions will be complicated. Past COPs have shown that business elites more willing to cooperate towards regulating carbon emissions than political elites. While governments failed to achieve a concrete agreement during COP16, important businesses encouraged industries to move forward with implementing greener forms of production rather than wait on a global political deal. The Paris Agreement must therefore be too costly to disregard for states, thus a legally binding treaty on which the public and all branches of the state agree must emerge. This implies a lengthy ratification process in democratic countries as heads of states and government must obtain parliamentary approval to implement the treaty. This issue particularly concerns the USA, as the Republican-dominated Congress is not inclined to climate politics. In the absence of ratification, efforts to reduce carbon emissions and implement greener forms of production would be severely delayed and states would not insure the stability and continuity of long-term regulation on carbon emissions as well as financial aid to green activities. Additionally, while states have been committing to reducing carbon emissions, governments’ pledges currently do not meet COP21’s first and second objectives.

Finally, climate finance is one of the major issues in the negotiations towards Paris. The emergence of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at COP17 was a successful measure towards providing aid to developing countries’ transition towards green economic development. However, these nations’ representatives have complained about the reluctance of developed countries to pledge financial aid to the Fund. Estimating that US$100bn per year by 2020 needed to finance the poorest regions’ green development, pledges to the GCF only amount to US$10.2bn and less than 60% of these pledges have been officially transferred to the Fund. The USA contribution to GCF – US$3bn – has yet to be ratified by the Congress. The uncertainty of green aid to developing states is problematic, as climate change is increasingly devastating and costly for the world’s poorest populations. Climate finance is also competing with fossil fuel subsidies that take up to US$2 trillions globally. These subsidies crowed up governmental capacity to finance greener activities, such as research into renewable energy and sustainable productions. Although recent scientific advancements have helped towards reducing carbon emissions, it is essential for the successful transition to zero-carbon world that research and development (R&D) be given the appropriate attention by governments. This funding would ensure continued governmental help toward green R&D and offer added stability to investments research. However, carbon pricing has recently been included in the Paris Agreement proposal that would help implement carbon regulation and provide stability to future energy prices.

Nina Rachet has recently completed a MSc in International Public Policy from the University College London (UCL). Currently working as a freelance political analyst, her main interests are climate politics, post-war development and conflict. In the future, she aspires to work on international development and peace projects.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Food Consumption: Does recent French legislation signal the end of huge wastage?

Earlier this year, France made a landmark judgment passing legislation that ensured that supermarkets must donate their unused food to charities. The legislation comes as a response to the global food waste crisis and ongoing efforts from citizen groups to tackle it. Here, Amira Aleem questions whether this policy change represents a wider move towards positive action against vast food waste in Europe.

Apart from the obvious moral argument, that food waste is excessive when hundreds of people go hungry all over the world – it is important to remember that food waste also affects our economy and our planet in huge ways. John Oliver provides an excellent overview of the issues in the United States.

In comparison, the UK wastes an estimated 7 Million tones of avoidable food every year, costing the economy close to £12.5 billion annually. Since throwing away food involves a waste of all the resources that went into growing, producing, packaging and transporting the food, the long-term environmental effects are disastrous. Some studies claim that unconsumed food causes greenhouse gas emissions of over 3.3 billion tones annually and is responsible for water wastage equal to the volume of Russia’s river Volga.

Deliberate wasting is a particularly insensitive social problem at a time when religious leaders are lobbying the government to pay attention and provide support to families living under the breadline. The demand for food banks and emergency services has gone up a record 54% in the last year alone, with many parents frequently going hungry to feed their children.

France’s decision is heartening at a time when the European Union has outlined its intention to implement policies to enable Member States reduce food waste by It aligns closely with the EU agenda to combat food waste by promoting a circular economy. The bill navigates the complexities of making out of date food available to consumers by ensuring food that is unfit for human consumption is used as agricultural compost or as animal feed, thereby also having a knock-on effect of driving down the prices of food.

Although the law is definitely a step in the right direction, and hopefully will set an example for other countries in the EU to consider the effects of large-scale food wastage it is worth remembering that supermarkets and restaurants are not the prime accused in the fight against food waste. The largest amount of avoidable food waste in fact, comes from consumers themselves. For example, in France, an overwhelming 67% of food is wasted by consumers.

©P T/Creative Commons License
©P T/Creative Commons License

The problem then, becomes a larger discussion on behavior and the consumer culture of choice and excess. Fundamental attitudes to food waste are what need to be addressed. In the UK, and supermarkets around the world fresh fruits and vegetables have to conform to strict cosmetic standards before they are harvested.

This means that large amounts of perfectly edible food are discarded because they do not look visually appetising although they have the same amount of nutritional value as their ‘good-looking’ counterparts. UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s was lauded when it decided to relax cosmetic standards in 2012 as a response to the worst harvest in decades.

In another example, although British supermarkets are still under no legal compulsion to donate food, Tesco has trialed a ‘Buy One Get One Free Later’ offer that allows customers to take advance of competitive offers but return to claim them the following week, to facilitate less waste at home. Although small steps, creative strategies like these can be incredibly effective at holding larger corporations responsible and helping consumers to be aware of the consequences of their buying habits.

For the rest of us, learning how to store groceries is a great first step in keeping food fresh and edible and these tricks will help make the same food last longer. There are also several food waste reduction apps that handle the process of planning meals and managing leftovers. Ultimately, it can be argued that the growing awareness of the issues surrounding food waste will allow policymakers to underpin food waste as a critical issue of our time. It will also leverage the power of conscious consumerism to push market forces towards demanding a service – less food waste.

Interestingly enough, the claim for many UK supermarkets not donating their surplus food is that it becomes a legal liability for food poisoning cases and that it is an issue of health and safety. The Good Samaritan law in the United States actually protects food donors who donate food in an act of goodwill, allowing them legal protection. It may be worth asking if a similar law would provide traction for the food waste reduction movement in the UK and may in fact be more relevant to the nature of food waste in the UK.

Ultimately, as the Atlantic puts it, we need to establish whether throwing away food should be made illegal in order to best tackle it. And ultimately, as is characteristic with these things it may be far more likely that a combination of efforts and initiatives working together will redefine the landscape of the issue to create lasting change.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Coping with climate change: The Uganda story

The effects of climate change are hitting Uganda hard. What are ordinary people doing to adapt to extreme conditions? Ugandan journalist and guest DiA blogger Mubatsi Asinja Habati finds out

Lake Bunyonyi faces silting. Photo by snowflakegirl/ Creative Commons
Lake Bunyonyi faces silting. Photo by snowflakegirl/ Creative Commons

Every time Joseph Musoke visits his ancestral home in Mubende in rural central Uganda, he leaves it a sad man. “My village is no longer the same as 20 years ago when we grew up. The steady rain and thick forests are no more. Too much sunshine and erratic rains have reduced the once plentiful village to a hungry one,” he says. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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How climate change is destroying the earth: an infographic

“Mad March!” screamed the font page of London’s Evening Standard today, with extensive coverage of the recent wintry gales that have swept through the UK over the past few days – producing the coldest March for 27 years. And it is mad, when you remember the heatwave we had this time last year.

There’s no doubt that climate change is having a serious effect on our weather. And not just in the UK – the rest of the world is experiencing severe weather conditions. LearnStuff.com has provided DiA with an infographic detailing the detrimental effects of climate change on our planet. Check it out below.

– Emily Wight, blog editor

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Conservation Community: building on the technological revolution

Last week, Blog Officer Emily Wight went to the launch of Healthy Planet’s new initiative for charitable giving. Here she reflects on the event and the use of interactive technology to encourage people to give money to causes.

Use Healthy Planet's Conservation Community to map where your money is going. Photo: Frontierofficial
Use Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community to map where your money is going. Photo: Frontierofficial

Conservation is one of the many global causes that is perhaps overlooked by potential donors in the UK due to its seeming remoteness. One of the reasons a protected area must stay protected is because part of its beauty lies in it being completely cut off from the rest of the world, right?

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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How Europe’s reliance on biofuels is affecting Guatemala

Because of EU targets from 2008, more and more of our energy is coming from biofuels. But what effect does our increasing reliance have on the land producing this energy? Courtenay Howe examines the land grabs that are harming Guatemala’s local communities.

The beauty of Guatemala is being spoiled by land grabs to capitalise on biofuel production. Photo by amslerPIX

Biofuels, created from organic matter such as sugar cane and palm oil, are regarded as a more sustainable alternative to energy sources such as oil. The importance of this alternative energy was recognised by the European Union in 2008 when it set a target to ensure that 20% of the energy consumed by its member states came from renewable sources, such as biofuels, by 2020. Half of this target would materialise within the transport industry.

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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