Friday, November 30, 2012

IPS – African Negotiators Saving Kyoto from the Grave | Inter Press Service

 African negotiators attending the United Nations climate change talks in Doha, Qatar say they are determined to ensure that developed countries do not let the Kyoto Protocol die as its commitment period comes to an end.
The protocol’s first commitment period will expire on Dec.31, 2012 unless negotiators at the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can give it a new lease of life under a second commitment period to begin in January 2013.

“We are not about to watch on as some of the developed countries plot to bury the Kyoto Protocol in Doha,” Chebet Maikut, a Ugandan delegate, told IPS. The current protocol commits industrialised nations and the European Community to reduce their emissions of four greenhouse gases.

The African Group of Negotiators and the Alliance of Small Island States are pushing for the renewal of the agreement, as it is the only international treaty of its kind.

Peter Odhengo, the coordinator of Greening Kenya Initiative, told IPS: “Some of the developed countries that have been buying time (to implement emissions reductions) want to use the upcoming deadline as an opportunity to end Kyoto and we are saying ‘No’.”

According to Odhengo, Canada, Russia, and Japan are not willing to sign a second commitment period partly because they want emerging economies like China and India to commit to bigger emissions reductions.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, told IPS that a renewed commitment period was urgently needed in order to safeguard important emissions reductions and accounting roles that have existed under the Kyoto Protocol.

“The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries commit to cutting greenhouse gases. It underwrites international political trust that developed nations remain responsible to lead emission cuts,” she said.

Figueres said that the Doha deliverables had been prepared during the year and she hoped that no new issues would come up.

According to Figueres, deliverables include the second commitment period for Kyoto as well as an array of institutional arrangements and the convention to support developing countries.

Meanwhile, according to Odhengo, African countries are eager to save the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which provides for emission reduction projects that would cease to exist if the Kyoto Protocol is not extended beyond December.

However, Peter Storey, the coordinator of the United States-based Climate Technology Initiative’s Private Financing Advisory Network, told IPS that it was meaningless for Africa to push for this. He said Africa had less than two percent of all CDM projects registered globally and the remaining projects were mostly in China, India and Brazil.

Conor Barry, the head of stakeholder development mechanisms at the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told IPS that CDM projects were rapidly increasing in Africa.

He said that the focus had changed from large-scale projects that could easily be found in India, China and Brazil to small-scale projects in Africa and least-developed countries (LDCs) in other regions.

“We have learnt a lot from CDM during the first commitment period and we think the situation will be much better for Africa if parties at Doha agree to the second (Kyoto) commitment period,” said Barry.

He said the secretariat was expanding its small-scale projects, including those involving the use of improved cooking stoves and solar lamps, across various geographical areas.

According to Barry, in April the secretariat introduced a loan scheme aimed at stimulating the registration of CDM projects in under-represented countries.

The loans are given to projects that have a high probability of registration, an expected generation of 7,500 Certified Emissions Reductions or CERs per year in LDCs and 15,000 CERs per year in non-LDCs.

John Christensen, head of the U.N. Environment Programme’s Risoe Centre, told IPS that such initiatives could increase Africa’s share of CDM projects.

He said that the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, which is the main purchaser of CERs, would only accept carbon credits from projects in LDCs from 2013.

IPS – African Negotiators Saving Kyoto from the Grave | Inter Press Service

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why India's green growth dream is turning into a nightmare | RTCC - Responding to Climate Change

India has maintained a very respectable average GDP growth rate of more than 7.5% since 2007, in spite of the recession in 2008 and slowdown in 2011. However, the growth story cannot stop here. The challenge is to further improve it and sustain.

The bigger challenge is to achieve it ensuring environmental sustainability or in other words achieve green economic growth.

With growing manufacturing sector, increasing mining, expanding infrastructure and scaling up power production, along with increasing responsibility to be pro-environment, India is at a really curious stage where its emissions could explode upwards or it could move heavily down the ‘green’ route.

Unfortunately, what’s worrisome in the recent times is that the challenges seem to be getting worse by the day as the efforts to achieve green growth is translating into a green versus growth issue.

Why India's green growth dream is turning into a nightmare | RTCC - Responding to Climate Change

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

IPS – Developing Senegal’s Urban Agriculture | Inter Press Service

Watering cans in hand, men and women move back and forth between the wells and water storage tanks and the crops they’re watering: carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes, as well as fruit trees like palm, coconut, papaya and banana trees.

Growers like Ahmadou Sene are working tirelessly to produce vegetables in and around the Senegalese capital. Sene, in his forties, has a one-hectare plot. For three months of the year, he has a dozen young people to hoe and weed the garden, and for four months a group of 20 women work to harvest and sell his produce.
“Vegetables make up more than 80 percent of my crops,” he said, gesturing towards his garden. He cultivates his field year round, and harvests nearly 12 tonnes of vegetables each quarter.

According to the 2011 census conducted by the Regional Office for Statistics and Demographics (SRSD), some 3,200 people work in horticulture in the Dakar region, spread across 113 production sites.

Around 6,000 people work in horticulture, which supports more than 40,000 people in the capital, and a million people across the country.

IPS – Developing Senegal’s Urban Agriculture | Inter Press Service

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Issues to Watch at the Doha Climate Negotiations (COP 18) | WRI Insights

As the U.N. climate change conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18) rapidly approaches, the urgency of climate action has never been more evident. Extreme weather has wreaked havoc in many corners of the globe, most recently with Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in loss of life and severe economic hardship in all the countries in its pathway. Many countries—from the United States to those with far less capacity to respond—are still trying to comprehend what happened and how much it will cost to get back to normal.

They also understand that this just may be, to quote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “the new normal.” The World Bank Group has just released a shocking report of what a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer would look like. We must hope that when delegates arrive in Doha, they grasp the urgency of this issue, recognize the immediate and far-reaching threat to human security, and summon the necessary political will to craft an ambitious and equitable global response.

One issue will be discussed across the entire COP 18 spectrum, and that is equity. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) has been a fundamental element of the Convention from the beginning. A successful agreement in 2015 will need to preserve the underlying notion that those with the capacity to take bold climate action should go further faster, while acknowledging the need for all countries to address what is the most pressing global problem of our time. Negotiators in Doha will need to think creatively about a work plan that will progressively operationalize equity and CBDR-RC in a manner that can secure buy-in across all Parties. This is a difficult but necessary task.

Issues to Watch at the Doha Climate Negotiations (COP 18) | WRI Insights

Agenda for Doha | Down To Earth

The last conference of the Parties that took place in Durban in 2011 has put climate negotiations at the crossroads again. The decisions taken at Cancun in 2010 supported a bottom-up approach wherein countries agreed to take on voluntary emissions reduction commitments that were not legally binding. This, along with low expectations for the survival of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) post-2012 cast serious doubts on the continued role of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the future of a top-down, multilateral approach in climate negotiations

 The Durban meet put such doubts to rest—an agreement was reached on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol (KP-2) and there was a decision to agree to a new framework that would bring all countries under its ambit by 2015. Durban re-instilled some faith in the process by carving out a delicate compromise between developed and developing countries in what came to be called the Durban deal. This means that the Doha meet is left with the tough job of binding all the cracks that the compromise package left for a later date. This includes a successful transition to a second commitment period, closure of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) track, a decision on how incomplete issues under the track will be carried forward and the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund. A total of seven different negotiating tracks will cover the different issues under consideration which is going to make it very challenging for negotiating Parties to arrive at multiple decisions within the limited time available.

Agenda for Doha | Down To Earth

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Civil Society call for environmental limits and wellbeing for ‘Green Growth’

Many economists and policy makers now advocate a fundamental shift towards ‘green growth’ as the new, qualitatively-different growth paradigm, based on enhanced material/resource/energy efficiency and drastic changes in the energy mix. But challengers say it is a reductionist approach that needs to look at broader issues. But a number of global initiatives and discussions on advancing green growth are already underway targeting rich, middle income and developing countries alike.

The Green Growth and Sustainable Development (GG-SD) Forum is a new initiative by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) aimed at providing a dedicated space for multi-disciplinary dialogue on green growth and sustainable development. This year’s event focused on ‘Encouraging the Efficient and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Policy Instruments and Social Acceptability. It took place November 23, 2012 at the OECD Headquarters in Paris and brought together experts from different policy fields and disciplines working in these areas.

Why Green growth?

According to OECD, green growth means fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural resource assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies. Green growth can therefore open up new sources of growth through incentives for greater efficiency in use of natural resources and natural assets, open up opportunities for innovation, spurred by policies and framework conditions that allow for new ways of creating value and addressing environmental problems, creation of new markets by stimulating demand for green technologies, good and services; boosting investor confidence through greater predictability and continuity around how governments deal with major environmental issues; and securing a more balanced macroeconomic conditions, reduced resource price volatility and supporting fiscal consolidation

According to OECD, the global economic crisis convinced many countries that a different kind of economic growth is needed. In response, many governments are putting in place measures aimed at a green recovery. Together with innovation, going green can be a long-term driver for economic growth, through, for example, investing in renewable energy and improved efficiency in the use of energy and materials.

Green growth: A reductionist approach?

According to the Food and Climate Change Network, “Green growth” may work well in creating new growth impulses with reduced environmental load and facilitating related technological and structural change. But growth, technological, population-expansion and governance constraints as well as some key systemic issues cast a very long shadow on the “green growth” hopes. One should not deceive oneself into believing that such evolutionary (and often reductionist) approach will be sufficient to cope with the complexities of climate change. It may rather give much false hope and excuses to do nothing really fundamental that can bring about a U-turn of global GHG emissions. 

Hence, the Food and Climate Change Network cautions on the need to realize that the required transformation goes beyond innovation and structural changes to include democratization of the economy and cultural change. Climate change calls into question the global equality of opportunity for prosperity (i.e. ecological justice and development space) and is thus a huge developmental challenge for the South and a question of life and death for some developing countries (who increasingly resist the framing of climate protection versus equity).

Green growth: Address deprivation and manage trends in Africa

During the Green Growth and Sustainable Development (GG-SD) Forum 2012, Frank Sperling (Chief Climate Change Specialist) from the Africa Development Bank noted that there is still scepticism whenever green growth discussions take place in Africa, due to the perception that it will constrain growth by creating conditionality.

He noted that Africa’s ecological footprint is increasing, coupled with many pressing development needs including addressing energy access, water and sanitation and issues around urbanization. Moreover the continent is vulnerable to climate change, which is compounding local environmental challenges that affects land, water, fisheries and livelihoods.

Frank notes that on one side, green growth in Africa means addressing deprivation (uneven economic growth, lack of energy access, lack of access to markets, lack of education, air and water pollution, depletion of natural resources and land degradation. On the other side, is the need to manage trends including the rapid population growth; urbanization; globalization, economic volatility abs shifting consumption patterns; and disaster risk and climate change.

Frank concluded that the level of intervention will require both programmatic (country/regional) as well as project level. For programmatic level, there is need for high level vision / buy-in with Development Plans / Country level roadmaps as possible entry points. Project level interventions require upfront options analysis and cross-sectoral approach and skillset; as well as focus on enhancing efficiency, sustainability and resilience of project interventions. Key green growth focal areas that will need to be tailored to national circumstances include provision of sustainable infrastructure, efficient / sustainable management of natural assets, and building resilience of livelihoods and economic sectors.

Civil society call for inclusive green growth processes, focus on environmental limits and wellbeing

Ten Civil Society Organisations were represented at the GG-SD Forum: Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, Friends of the Earth Germany, Global Footprint Network, Green Economy Coalition, Institute for European Environmental Policy, Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, Vitae Civilis Institute, WWF Europe, WWF Indonesia, and WWF Zambia

On behalf of these civil society representatives, Aron Belinky, from Vitae Civilis Institute and Green Economy Coalition, highlighted the importance of an inclusive process, environmental limits and wellbeing.

With regard to an inclusive process, CSOs asked the OECD and all Governments to make explicit opportunities for effective civil society engagement in green economy, green growth and related processes. Stakeholder engagement and societal buy-in are fundamental for such processes, and goes beyond participation in meetings, but as helping civil society become equal partners for development and implementation. ‘We ask specifically that in future versions of this Forum civil society representatives are given an equal opportunity to participate in the stakeholder engagement process and also to contribute with their own presentations on green economy perspectives’, the statement emphasized.

On environmental limits, CSOs want green growth processes to acknowledge environmental limits and to actively pursue policies that improve natural systems. They added that while current inequalities between and within countries makes the case for economic development, we must accept the fact that there are environmental limits. Public policies, governance and economic frameworks must acknowledge this, steering action so we can actively improve the state of our natural systems.

On wellbeing CSOs want green growth to be explicit in its ambitions for societal development and poverty eradication taking into full account the institutional and contextual analysis, importantly in respect of land and resource tenure, among others. Therefore they asked OECD & Governments to have policies on wellbeing and link that to the process of developing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘Though there are  still serious gaps in the models, indicators and strategies on what value green growth makes to societal development today’s presentations,  this lack of agreed methodologies (as evidenced in the forum presentations) should not constrain OECD and nation states making clear their ambitions to use green growth to explicitly secure societal development and,  on-going, to further define improvements on how it does this’, the CSO statement concluded.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


President of MRFCJ, Mary Robinson, outlines the hopes and aims of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice at the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP18) from November 26 - December 7 in Doha, Qatar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Earth First? Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Meets the Neo-Extractivist Economy

The “Law of Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well,” promulgated by President Evo Morales on October 15, establishes eleven rights of Mother Earth, including the right to life, biodiversity, pure water, clean air, and freedom from genetic modification and contamination.

The concept of nature as a legal subject—a protagonist with its own interests and rights—is a novel approach in the field of environmental law, offering a potentially revolutionary tool for groups engaged in environmental conflicts. Still, given Bolivia’s structural dependence on extractive industry—with minerals and natural gas constituting 70% of its exports—and the Morales government’s continued reliance on these sectors to generate state revenues for poverty reduction and industrialization, whether the new law will be useful in challenging government-supported development projects remains an open question.

The new Mother Earth law, elaborating on a declaratory short law” adopted by the Bolivian congress in December 2010, has been a high priority for Bolivia’s indigenous and peasant movements, and results from a commitment made by Morales at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change held in Cochabamba earlier that year. Key provisions include an extension of Bolivia’s agrarian reform program (with women, indigenous peoples, afro-bolivians, and migrant settlers having preference for redistributed lands), establishment of a Mother Earth “Ombudsman” and a Climate Justice Fund, a ban on genetically-modified seeds and crops, and a requirement that all infrastructure and development projects respect the natural environment and provide remediation for any incidental damages.

Earth First? Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Meets the Neo-Extractivist Economy

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poor planning, climate shifts devastating India's Sundarbans - AlertNet

Experts warn that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest river delta, a UNESCO heritage site and a critically endangered ecosystem that is home to the largest number of tigers on earth.

Climate change is warming the surface of the Bay of Bengal, causing erratic monsoons and an increasing number of extreme weather events. All of this is gnawing away at the mangrove forests that define the region and provide its best line of defence against high tides and storms.

Poor planning, climate shifts devastating India's Sundarbans - AlertNet

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why cassava?

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and maize. Millions of people depend on cassava in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is grown by poor farmers, many of them women, often on marginal land. For those people and their families, cassava is vital for both food security and income generation.

FAO: Agriculture: Cassava

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Water Hyacinth Force Fishermen To Farming

The water hyacinth menace in Lake Victoria now threatens the livelihoods of many fishermen in Homa Bay County, forcing some to shift to Agriculture to make ends meet. The hyacinth has covered much of the lake, making fishing for the locals an almost impossible task. The residents of the affected area have decried the failure of authorities to clear the region of the hyacinth menace.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Step up climate action to reduce poverty - AlertNet

By Helen Clark, UNDP

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy reminds us once again of the destructive potential of extreme weather - even in a developed country such as the United States, and even with ample warning and swift emergency response. From Kingston, Jamaica to Jamaica, Queens, this “perfect storm” exacted a deadly toll that New York’s mayor reckoned was even higher as a result of climate change.

But while developed countries dig ever deeper to fund elaborate flood defense systems, compensate farmers, and adjust thermostats to accommodate hotter summers, the consequences of climate change in Africa can be catastrophic: Crops fail. People go hungry. Girls spend less time in school and more time collecting increasingly scarce water for their families.

Step up climate action to reduce poverty - AlertNet

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sweden’s Trash Crisis: They Need More of It

By Christian Crisostomo, November 8, 2012, The Environmental Trash management is one of the most serious problem points that our civilization currently has to tackle in order to properly solve our problems in pollution. Every day, we see truckloads of waste go into landfills, with a good amount of it heading out into open seas. Strangely though, this is hardly an issue in Sweden. You may find it hard to believe this, but this north-eastern European country has been reusing and reprocessing 96% of all of their trash for quite a long time already. Yes, that means only a very miniscule 4% heads to their landfills. You might even be amazed that their problems are exactly the other way around. They are actually in serious need of trash, and they plan on getting some from nearby countries. The recycling program of Sweden is very simple. They gather all of the waste material that they can find, and burn them in incinerators. While the use of incinerators in other countries as direct energy sources is inefficient, the generally cold climate in the north makes this source of energy economically viable in Sweden. Through the years, the efficiency of simply using waste to generate energy has been looked at more and more, and the amount of energy recovered from incinerating trash has significantly increased. But the country itself also grows, which means that there is an ever increasing demand for more and more energy as time passes. This is where the dilemma starts. Sweden’s trash is now insufficient to properly supply the energy needed by the entire country. This is where they have come up with a very enticing solution. Since it is impossible to increase the “production output” of trash, the Swedes would just have to get trash where it is more abundant. Yes, Sweden is planning to directly import tons of trash from other countries. Their primary target is of course the nearby countries, and that’s where Norway comes in. The basic part of the arrangement was for Norway to pay Sweden for taking away their trash. The deal works to benefit both countries two-fold. Norway gets to expand their trash management program and reduce costs in burning trash, while Sweden stabilizes their energy production and gets an added “tip” for picking out their neighbor’s trash. Sweden is currently looking forward to expanding their trash importation project, and they plan on finding good prospects in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and other Baltic countries. The most notable toxic materials that are released in incinerators are dioxins and furans, and this is part of the remaining 4% of the trash that still gets landfilled in Sweden. Part of the deal between Norway and Sweden was for the ashes that contain these environmentally hazardous materials to be collected and sent back to Norway, where it will be mixed with other toxic metals to be locally landfilled. Source

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Caribbean sardine collapse linked to climate change - SciDev.Net

The collapse of sardine fisheries in the southern Caribbean Sea during the past decade may have been driven by global climate change, according to a study.

Researchers from the United States and Venezuela linked ecological measurements in the southern Caribbean Sea with global climate change indicators. These indices were revealed to correlate to changes in regional wind and seawater circulation patterns, which may have dire socioeconomic consequences for Caribbean countries — such as the collapse of valuable sardine fisheries.

Caribbean sardine collapse linked to climate change - SciDev.Net

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CSOs and Social Movements from the South unite to Campaign for Peoples Goals for Sustainable Development

Civil Society Organizations and social movements from the Global South have banded together and pledged to Campaign for Peoples Goals for Sustainable Development (CPGSD). According to the common statement released by the campaign initiators, governments must abandon the current dominant development model that grants rights and liberties to capital over the rights and freedoms of people and the protection of the environment. They vow to fight for a new development framework that is founded on the principles of human rights, equality, self-determination, and social, gender and ecological justice. The initiators of the campaign include 16 international and regional networks as well as 8 national and local organizations representing a broad range of social movements and grassroots organizations. These include the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Peoples Coalition for Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Asian Students Alliance, International Migrants Alliance, Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), Latin American Network for Debt and Development (LATINDADD), Habitat International Coalition, Friends of the Earth-Indonesia and many others. This initiative was the main outcome of the Rights for Sustainability Beyond Rio+20: Global Civil Society Workshop on the Rio+20 Outcomes and the Post-2015 Development Agenda held in Nairobi last October 2-3, 2012 organized by IBON International. Antonio Tujan, International Director of IBON, describes this initiative as “a Southern-led campaign that is grounded in grassroots struggles while engaging with the official processes related to the post-2015 development agenda.” The CPGSD statement was released just ahead of the meeting of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 development agenda in London, UK. Among the key demands of the Campaign is the establishment of multistakeholder processes for setting the post-2015 development agenda at the national and international levels with full participation of civil society in deliberations and decision-making beyond mere consultations. The CPGSD statement urges all movements, peoples’ organizations, civil society groups and all concerned citizens to join the campaign. For more information about joining this campaign, please

Monday, November 5, 2012

Water hyacinth resurfaces on Lake Victoria

The Water Hyacinth the worst water weeds has attacked Lake Victoria profusely covering acreage of the Lake. The shore lines of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are affected causing worry to 30 million people who derive livelihood from it. The health of the Lake is endangered .River Kagera flowing from Rwanda contributes to ushering the weed to the Lake. Emily Arayo of the East African Sustainability Watch Network highlights this crisis in this 6 minutes video.

Sunday, November 4, 2012 Zimbabwe: Gold Panning Destroying Zimbabwe Environment

A cabinet minister, who has witnessed the deliberate burning of bush and trees by illegal gold panners, has warned of the severe damage being done to the environment and urged government to urgently introduce policies that create jobs and protect the environment.

Education Minister David Coltart told SW Radio Africa that he has seen hundreds of thousands of hectares of bush burned over the last three months, as he drives from Bulawayo to his office and cabinet meetings in Harare. The fires he saw were lit close to the road near Shangani.

The Minister stopped and spoke to some of the illegal panners on one occasion, and they told him that they were deliberately lighting fires to get rid of bush, grass and trees that get in the way of their metal detectors. They said a mini gold rush hit the area recently after deposits of alluvial gold were discovered. Zimbabwe: Gold Panning Destroying Zimbabwe Environment

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Video on Waste Water Treatment Plant - Reed bed

Video on Waste Water Treatment Plant - Reed bed by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rising Urban Poverty and Inequality Hindering Asian Cities Ability to Tackle Climate Change | UNDP

Asian cities are estimated to contribute around 80% of the region’s GDP, yet they face huge challenges from climate change and rising numbers of poor, all of which threaten to derail progress to build more prosperous and sustainable human settlements. Slums and other marginal areas in cities are highly exposed to climate hazards. Urban services such as water and food supplies, sanitation and electricity will come under increasing strain from floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea-levels.

The Asia-Pacific region has made progress in reducing slum numbers, but it is still home to more than 500 million slum-dwellers or over half the world’s slum population. Urban poor communities, often concentrated in makeshift shelters, in flood-prone areas alongside rivers or even directly on watercourses, are more sensitive to climate change.

Rising Urban Poverty and Inequality Hindering Asian Cities Ability to Tackle Climate Change | UNDP

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Greening Havana

By Ivet González,IPS News, October 31, 2012 Sandra Ribalta is no longer satisfied with getting more and more people involved in the task of greening the neighbourhood of Las Cañas in the Cuban capital. She is now working to raise awareness of “climate change, as the key reason for reforestation.” “People grow plants for aesthetic reasons, to have prettier surroundings. But the state of the environment is critical and crying out for help,” Ribalta, the coordinator of Ando Reforestando, a community reforestation project, told IPS. This self-managed initiative also seeks to complement, in urban areas, the national reforestation plans. Nearly three years ago, Ribalta began to scatter seeds along the sidewalk in the next block over. “Some neighbours asked me if I had moved to the next block, others asked if I was crazy,” she said. But today she has a plan to fulfil as part of her contract with the Unidad Provincial de Áreas Verdes, or Provincial Greenbelt Unit. This state agency supports Ando Reforestando with seedlings and tools, along with the State Working Group for Sanitation, Conservation and Development of Havana Bay, the Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians, and the Workshop for the Comprehensive Transformation of the El Canal neighbourhood. Ribalta’s rooftop is a nursery for scarlet cordia, cherry, orange and moringa trees and amaranth plants, among others, which are good for shade and for purifying the city air without the risk of the roots lifting up the pavement. “Many people worry about this, which prevents them from planting a tree in their yards or along the sidewalks in front of their homes,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to raise awareness and make information available about alternatives for greening the city,” the activist said. She encourages the use of small trees, like fruit trees, and ornamental and medicinal plants, and only selects varieties of this kind from the Greenbelt nursery for her work. The Greenbelt Unit focuses on the care and plant repopulation of large areas like avenues and parks. By late 2011, 27 percent of Cuban territory was covered with trees, after steady growth of the country’s green areas since 1999, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information. Of the 72,800 hectares covered by greater Havana, 11.5 percent is forested. “Community needs in this area must be met by people themselves. Citizens must be mobilised,” said Ribalta, whose work has led to the planting of nearly one hundred trees. According to international studies, a key action for mitigating the effects of global warming is to increase forest cover in each country. The Cuban government’s National Forestry Programme has set a target of increasing forest cover to over 29 percent by 2015. In Ribalta’s view, there is still unexploited potential for greening the city. “We see planting strips along sidewalks that have been cemented over, and others that are bare ground. We also see large patios and yards without plants. “This work demands awareness-raising,” said Ribalta, who was elected to the municipal assembly in the Oct. 21 elections. “When we put in plants, we consult with and get the people living there involved. Planting something in their surroundings is like giving them a pet to adopt.” She said that “many people want to grow plants, and come to my house for advice and seedlings.” The core group of Ando Reforestando, made up of 12 people, is currently searching for a place where they can hold workshops and lectures on subjects like permaculture, a method for creating sustainable environments. Ribalta believes that quality of life is improved when rooftops, balconies and terraces are decorated with plants and flowerpots. Although he can’t say why, José Luis Fraga knows he needs “a lot of greenery” around him. “Here I can breathe better now, and the air is fresher and cooler than in the street,” Fraga, a member of Ando Reforestando, told IPS as he showed off the ornamental plants lining the passageway to the entrance of his house. Alcibíades Pupo, who lives in Fraga’s neighbourhood, looks after the community gardens on a voluntary basis. “Plants and trees give us life and cool things down. They are necessary in this tropical climate, which has lately become hotter and more complicated,” the 68-year-old labourer said. Pupo’s perceptions are borne out by national studies. According to Cuba’s report to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20), the island’s average annual temperature has increased by close to 0.9°C since the mid-20th century, and may rise by between 1.6°C and 2.5°C by 2100. A nature-lover, Pupo learned through Ando Reforestando that planting strips with trees reduces the entry of dust into houses, and limits soil erosion during the frequent flooding in the area. But he told IPS that “children mistreat the plants, which is sometimes discouraging.” For this reason, the project brings together some 50 adults and over 100 children and young people. Ribalta gives a weekly educational workshop in some local schools. “When we talk about climate change and caring for the environment, the children respond immediately,” she said. “Trees are the lungs of our city,” 11-year-old Lorena Portela told IPS. She and a classmate planted two shrubs in the common patio of the building where they live. Another student, nine-year-old Diana Venus Rodríguez, has already put in 15 plants “to make the air more pure.” Source