Posts Tagged ‘world bank’
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 25 2013 (IPS)
Green energy is the only way to bring billions of people out of energy poverty and prevent a climate disaster, a new study reveals.
Conservative institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) all warn humanity is on a path to climate catastrophe unless fossil fuel energy is replaced by green energy.
The U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative intends to bring universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.
If those targets are met and similar efforts undertaken to reduce deforestation, then climate disaster can be avoided, said Joeri Rogelj of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich who headed the analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“Poverty eradication, sustainable development and the transition away from fossil fuel energy go hand in hand,” Rogelj told IPS. Read the rest of this entry »
Industry spent more than $600 billion on new exploration and production in 2012
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 15 2012 (IPS)
Two-thirds of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves cannot be used without risking dangerous climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this week.
Preventing the consumption of those two-thirds will be the primary task of the annual U.N. climate negotiations that resume at the end of this month.
Late Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama surprised many by saying climate change will be a personal mission in his second term.
“The re-election of President Obama guarantees continuity of the U.S. pledge of reducing emissions 17 percent below its carbon emissions in 2005 by 2020,” said Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“The U.S. is fully aware of the need to increase its ambition in terms of mitigation (emissions reduction) and finance to help developing countries adapt,” Figueres told IPS.
The U.S. emission reduction target is equivalent to a three-percent reduction compared to 1990 levels – a baseline most countries use. Global emissions need to be 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels in the year 2020 to keep temperatures from rising beyond two degrees C, climate scientists have said.
By contrast, the United Kingdom is already 18 percent below its 1990s level and plans to be 34 percent below in 2020.
In 2010, there was a binding agreement to limit global warming to two degrees C at the U.N. climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based NGO.
“We are nowhere near to getting there. The situation is urgent. Climate change is not tomorrow’s problem, it is today’s problem. Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call to the people of the United States,” Steer said at a press conference. Read the rest of this entry »
“Our economy creates scarcity by being extraordinarily wasteful and destructive.”
Stephen Leahy interviews writer and environmentalist FRANCES MOORE LAPPÉ
UXBRIDGE, Canada (IPS)
To meet the challenges of the 21st century, including climate change, feeding the world and eliminating poverty, we need to free ourselves from the “thought traps” that prevent us from seeing the world as it truly is and narrow our vision of how to respond.
At same time, we need to eliminate “privately-held government”, says Frances Moore Lappé, author of “EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want” published by Nation Books. Lappé has written 18 books, including the very influential “Diet for a Small Planet”.
“There is no way to deal with climate change or poverty without real democracy,” she says.
IPS climate and environment correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke with Lappé about her new book.
Q: What do you mean by the term “thought traps”?
A: We don’t see the world as it really is but through a filter or mental map. Research in neuroscience shows that we interpret the world based on our previous experiences and understanding of the world. In other words we see what we expect to see.
One of the dominant ideas in our society is about scarcity or lack. There isn’t enough resources or food or whatever for all of us. We then “see” or interpret everything from that filter or frame of reference.
Q: How does this widely-held idea of “scarcity” affect us?
A: Believing there isn’t enough makes us defensive and competitive with each other. We think we’d better get ours before someone else does. The majority of people I talk to insist with seven billion people on the planet scarcity is our reality now and into the future. They are blinkered by this scarcity mentality.
Q: But isn’t it true that we are running out of resources like water, energy, food and so on?
A: I discovered as a young student that the U.S. food production was extraordinarily wasteful and inefficient. Sixteen pounds of corn and soy fed to cattle to get one pound of meat. That pound of meat also requires as much as 12,000 gallons of water. Nearly half of all food harvested is never consumed.
This staggering waste is the rule, not the exception, and not just in food production. The U.S. energy sector wastes 55-87 percent of the energy generated – most of it in the form of waste heat at power plants. It’s not just the U.S. U.N. studies showed that 3,000 of the world’s biggest corporations caused two trillion dollars in damage to the global environment in 2008 alone.
Q: Why are we so destructive and wasteful?
A: It’s a result of the current market economy with its single focus on generating the quickest and highest return to a small minority of wealth-holders. Our economy creates scarcity by being extraordinarily wasteful and destructive. The term “free market economy” is completely wrong. What we have is a corporate-monopoly market economy of waste and destruction. We need to be more careful and more precise in our language.
Q: There is a growing call by environmentalists and some economists of the need to shift from a growth economy to a no-growth economy, but you say this is a thought trap?
A: Yes, it leads to a distracting debate about merits of growth versus no-growth. Growth sounds like a good thing so most people will resist the idea of no growth. Better to focus on creating a system that enhances health, happiness, ecological vitality and social power.
Q: In your book you also say everyone needs to focus on “living democracy”.
A: America has become what’s called a “plutonomy”, where the top one percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Inequality is now greater in the U.S. than in Pakistan or Egypt, according to the World Bank. The result is corporations and the very wealthy sway public decision making via political contributions and lobbying. There are now two dozen lobbyists for every member of Congress.
To counter this privately-held government we need to re-create a culture of mutual responsibility, transparency, citizen participation and public financing of elections. Democracy is not just voting once a year, it is a culture, a way of living.
The “mother of all issues” in most countries is removing the power of concentrated wealth from public-decision making and infusing citizens’ voices instead. The environmental crisis is in fact a crisis in democracy.
Q: There is a feeling amongst many environmentally-aware people that it is already too late and there is too much to be overcome.
A: Thinking it’s too late is another thought trap. It may be too late to avoid significant impacts that could have been avoided if action had been taken two decades ago. It is not too late for life. My book is filled with examples of people taking charge and turning things around.
What makes people think it’s too late is that they feel alone and powerless. People feel that way because of the thought traps, the false beliefs about scarcity and of human nature as greedy and selfish. Those beliefs and a privately-held government have led to feelings of powerlessness.
Q: This year is the 20th anniversary of the historic Earth Summit and major conference called Rio+20 will be held in June. What are your thoughts?
A: I participated in the Rio+10 conference and we’ve gone backwards in those 10 years. Rio+20 could be the opportunity to reverse course and align ourselves with nature to create the world we really want.
First published on IPS Feb 7, 2012 Q&A: “The Environmental Crisis Is in Fact a Crisis in Democracy” – IPS ipsnews.net.
Keep Agriculture for Food, not Carbon$$
By Stephen Leahy
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 2011 (IPS)
Civil society has warned of the danger of turning Africa’s food-producing lands into “carbon farms” so that rich countries can avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions.
On Friday, they called on host country South Africa to refrain from forcing so-called “climate smart” agriculture into the United Nations climate treaty negotiations known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17).
South African President Jacob Zuma has stated that agriculture should be part of a new climate treaty. South African officials have previously told IPS they want it included so there will be “specific funds and specific actions” for agriculture under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Putting agriculture into a future climate treaty is supposedly a consolation prize to Africa for failure by rich countries to agree to legally binding targets,” said Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation based in London.
“This consolation prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets,” Anderson told IPS.
Agriculture is a major source of global warming gases like carbon and methane – directly accounting for 15 percent to 30 percent of global emissions. When the entire food production system is included, total agriculture emissions represent nearly half of all emissions. For those reasons there have been previous efforts to incorporate agriculture under a new climate treaty.
Changes in agricultural practices can greatly reduce emissions. However, the best way to do that is through regulations, not a climate treaty and carbon credits, said Anderson.
“Why are markets now seen as the only solution when less than 10 years ago they weren’t a focus at all?” Read the rest of this entry »
Humanity faces unprecedented challenge of climate change combined with food, water and energy shortages
“Markets are preconditioned on inequality and will only make matters worse”
By Stephen Leahy
THE HAGUE, Jul 5, 2011 (IPS)
Avoiding the coming catastrophic nexus of climate change, food, water and energy shortages, along with worsening poverty, requires a global technological overhaul involving investments of 1.9 trillion dollars each year for the next 40 years, said experts from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) in Geneva Tuesday.
“The need for a technological revolution is both a development and existential imperative for civilisation,” said Rob Vos, lead author of a new report, “The Great Green Technological Transformation”.
Absent in the U.N. report is a call for the other necessary transformation: what to do with the market-driven economic system that has put humanity on this catastrophic collision course? Attempts to “green” capitalism are failing and will fail, according to many of the more than 200 social science researchers at a groundbreaking international conference in The Hague titled “NATURE INC? QUESTIONING THE MARKET PANACEA IN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AND CONSERVATION“ Jun. 30 to Jul. 2.
“We must start tackling and questioning some core capitalist dictums, such as consumerism, hyper-competition, the notion that ‘private’ is always better, and especially economic growth,” says Bram Büscher, the conference co-organiser and researcher at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at Erasmus University in The Hague, Netherlands.
Governments, the World Bank, the United Nations and development agencies, international conservation organisations and others have all come to see markets as the only way to mobilise enough money to end deforestation, increase the use of alternative energy, boost food production, alleviate poverty, reduce pollution and solve a host of other serious and longstanding problems.
Started as a small gathering of academics, Nature Inc? became a major event as hundreds of experts from around the world wished to participate. Büscher believes the main reason for this is that many are actively doing research on environmental and conservation issues and are increasingly running into new market schemes like carbon credit trading, payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity derivatives and new conservation finance mechanisms, and so on.
“Payments for ecosystem services are the newest tropical ‘miracle’ crop,” said Kathleen McAfee of San Francisco State University.
The market is putting new values on tropical forests as carbon sinks, reservoirs of biodiversity or ecotourism destinations, McAfee said during the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
Climate disruption shrinking areas where people can live.
Mexico faces $10 billion in storm/flood damage to roads, schools, clinics, etc every year
By Stephen Leahy
OSLO, Jun 9, 2011 (IPS)
Mass migration will inevitably be part of human adaptation to climate change, experts agree, since parts of the world will become uninhabitable in the coming decades.
Last year, 38 million people were displaced by climate-related disasters such as the flooding in Pakistan and China.
“Human displacement due to climate change is happening now. There is no need to debate it,” Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, told over 200 delegates attending the Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century in Oslo Jun. 6-7.
Governments and the humanitarian community need to understand this fact – and that it will get much worse in the coming decades, Støre said.
Without major emissions reductions, climate change could get far worse than anyone is prepared to think about.
“It may be more realistic to consider four degrees C of warming rather than two degrees C,” suggested Harald Dovland, former head of the Norwegian Delegation to the United Nations climate change negotiations.
The world has already warmed 0.8C and will rise to least 1.6 C even if all emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases ended today, James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the conference.
A four-degree C warmer world is a very different planet and risks runaway climate change. Even two degrees C is not safe, Hansen said.
“The last time the planet was two degrees C warmer was during the Pliocene (five to 2.4 million years ago) and sea levels were 25 metres higher,” he said. “If we burn all the fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) we’re creating conditions that future generations will be unable to cope with.”
Even though a four-degree C warmer world “is choosing the suicidal path”, experts must avoid fuelling xenophobia with predictions of mass migrations and conflicts, says Francois Gemenne, research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris.
“This also feeds into a security agenda of panic and paranoia,” Gemenne said.
At least 20 percent of humanity will be at high risk of severe flooding due to sea level rise and extreme rainfall events in the coming decades.
“Too many people live in low-lying deltas and other parts of the world that are becoming too dangerous to live in,” said Gemenne. They will be forced to move and often this movement will be permanent.
Rather than building walls and barriers, countries and the international community need to encourage people to move to safer ground. “Lift the barriers so that people can use migration to adapt to climate change,” he urged delegates. Read the rest of this entry »
$ Billions Made Speculating on Food
“Africans have become share-croppers, exporting coffee, cotton, flowers and now food while going hungry”
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 13, 2011 (IPS)
Famine-hollowed farmers watch trucks loaded with grain grown on their ancestral lands heading for the nearest port, destined to fill richer bellies in foreign lands. This scene has become all too common since the 2008 food crisis.
[This is the first of a multi-part series investigating what is driving food prices higher]
Food prices are even higher now in many countries, sparking another cycle of hunger riots in the Middle East and South Asia last weekend. While bad weather gets the blame for rising prices, the instant price hikes of recent times are largely due to market speculation in a corrupt global food system.
The 2008 food crisis awoke much of the world’s investment community to the profitable reality that hungry people will do almost anything, even sell their own children, in order to eat. And with the global financial crisis, food and farmland became the “new gold” for some of the biggest investors, experts agree.
In 2010, wheat futures rose 47 percent, U.S. corn was up more than 50 percent, and soybeans rose 34 percent.
On Wednesday, U.S.-based Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader, announced a tripling of profits. The firm generated 1.49 billion dollars in three months between September and November 2010.
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Bills pay a return of less than one percent. Read the rest of this entry »
World’s Forests Losing Their Green. Billions of tonnes of CO2 Released
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 3, 2011 (IPS)
Last year’s severe drought in the Amazon will pump billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a new report has found.
Researchers calculate that millions of trees died in 2010, which means the Amazon is soaking up much less CO2 from the atmosphere, and those dead trees will now release all the carbon they’ve accumulated over 300 or more years.
The widespread 2010 drought follows a similar drought in 2005 which itself will put an additional five billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, Simon Lewis of University of Leeds in the UK and colleagues calculate in a study published Thursday in Science. The United States emitted 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel use in 2009.
The two droughts will end up adding an estimated 13 billion tonnes of additional CO2 – equivalent to combined emissions in 2009 from China and the U.S. – and likely accelerating global warming.
“New growth in the region will not offset those releases,” Lewis told IPS.
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After the 2005 drought, Lewis and Brazilian scientist Paulo Brando from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) led teams of researchers on the ground to assess the impacts. They determined that only a few trees died per hectare, and so while the forest canopy cover looked relatively unchanged, there had been a significant change in the forest’s carbon balance. Read the rest of this entry »
NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 28, 2010 (IPS)
One-fifth of all birds, fish and animals are threatened with extinction – as many as six million unique and irreplaceable forms of life – an authoritative new assessment warned Wednesday.
Deforestation, agricultural expansion, overfishing, invasive alien species and climate change are the specific causes, but the main engine of destruction is an economic system that is blind to the reality that there is no economy or human well-being without nature, experts here say.
“Without global conservation efforts the situation would be massively worse,” noted Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, which launched the study at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, it is the most comprehensive assessment ever done of the world’s vertebrates – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes – Stuart said.
Every year, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one step down a three-step path to extinction, according to the study, which utilised data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Southeast Asia has experienced the most dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops like oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting, the study found. Parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America, and even Australia have also all experienced marked losses, in particular due to the impact of the deadly chytrid fungus on amphibians.
“The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded,” said the eminent U.S. ecologist and writer Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.
By Stephen Leahy
MONTPELLIER, France, Apr 14, 2010 (IPS)
How’s this for short-sighted:
A billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent, climate change is reducing agricultural production – and for the past two decades, the world has slashed investments in publicly-funded agriculture until it is a pittance in most countries.
“Moral outrage is needed. We must abolish this… It can be done. It must be done,”Ismail Serageldin Website, Egypt and a former World Bank economist, told nearly 700 World Food Prize laureates, ministers, scientists and a few representatives from development and farmer organisations at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) last month here in southern France.
“This is the launching pad to transform hunger in our time,” Serageldin concluded.
The “rocket” on the launching pad is a major transformation of the 500 million dollars of public funds for international agricultural research carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries.
For the past year, a global consultation process involving over 2,000 stakeholders from 200 countries has produced a draft plan for reform that promises to meet the needs of the world’s 500 million poor small farmers who feed the two billion poorest people.
Called ambitious and far-reaching by proponents, the “Montpellier Road Map” sets the priorities for “linking science and innovation to the needs of farmers and the rural poor”.
Critics say it resembles little more than a passionate shuffling of the status quo. As the French say like to say: “Plus ça change; plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Read the rest of this entry »