Friday, May 30, 2014

Consumers International Blog: Amanda Long: We must act now to stop obesity killing millions

Consumers International Blog

As worldwide support for our call for tougher action on unhealthy diets shows, there is an overwhelming consensus that the obesity crisis is out of control. CI's Director General, Amanda Long, on why we need immediate action.

Last week, we launched a new set of Recommendations that call for a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets, drawing worldwide media coverage and support.

Developed in consultation with Members of both Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation, as well as a wider network of public health experts, our Recommendations have already received endorsement from the likes of the UK's Association of Directors of Public Health, the US Public Health Institute,World Cancer Research Fund, European Public Health Association , and the UN's food chief Olivier De Schutter. Not to mention the support of our 250 membership orgainsations around the world.

Such strong support underlines the fact that the case for a Global Convention on healthy diet is now overwhelming. We face an unprecedented health crisis, that is largely preventable – yet action is falling far short of what is required.

Here are a few shocking statistics:

One person every seven seconds dies of diabetes – nearly half of those deaths (44%) are attributable to overweight and obesity
9.4 million people die of hypertension every year – with high salt intake a major risk factor for that disease
obesity rates have nearly doubled since 1980
2.3 billion people will be overweight by 2015.
This crisis is truly global – the highest rates of growth for obesity and overweight are now found in low and middle income countries.

As Margaret Chan said in her opening address to this year’s World Health Assembly:

"We see no good evidence that the prevalence of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases is receding anywhere. Highly processed foods and beverages loaded with sugar are ubiquitous, convenient, and cheap."

The figures are absolutely compelling. Yet our collective response is lagging far behind what is needed.

Calling for a Global Convention inevitably draws comparisons with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Of course food is not the same as tobacco – but in public health terms we are facing a similar, or even greater, crisis.

The point is about impact.

When it comes to the scale and scope of the impact, tobacco and unhealthy food are directly and very worryingly comparable.

Smoking still kills six million people a year and rates continue to rise in many countries. In some countries however, rates are decreasing; in large part because concerted efforts by governments to put public health ahead of the commercial interests.

The FCTC is a major part of this story. It was a ground breaking international agreement that built political will and led to co-ordinated action around the world.

The shocking truth is that, today, poor diet is the number one cause of premature death globally – more than smoking.

As we seek to tackle poor diets we need to learn from the FCTC success, without repeating the thirty years of debate that led to its adoption. We cannot afford to allow the food industry to repeat the foot-dragging strategy taken by the tobacco lobby.

How many times have we said to ourselves – if we knew then the harm caused by tobacco, we’d have done things sooner? Well we do know the damage of unhealthy diets– let’s make amends and prevent a similar catastrophe.

We believe that the global community can, and must, do better than the story of tobacco controls. The vast majority of deaths from unhealthy eating are preventable. There is widespread agreement about the policies that will have an impact – but we are not doing enough and we are not taking action fast enough.

Of course there are some good examples. Governments that have moved on this such as Finland, or more recently Argentina, with programmes to reduce salt in food. Others such as the UK have pushed for clearer labelling. And of course the recent decision by the Mexican government to tax soda and junk food.

At the city level the excellent lead taken by Michael Bloomberg when he was Mayor of New York, introducing calorie labelling in restaurants, making the food that the city authority provided in schools and hospitals healthier.

Companies are also responding by reducing fat, sugar and salt in food, improving labelling and some efforts to reduce marketing to children.

Many of these developments have been the result of pressure from campaigners all over the globe – including CI Members.

But the response – whether from governments or the food industry - is inadequate.

Ten years ago, the WHO adopted the Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health. It marked a significant step forward but steadily rising figures for obesity and non communicable diseases show that it is clearly not enough.

Individual related WHO programmes and guidance, and Codex initiatives on labelling are all important steps, but without the political will and comprehensive approach offered by a Framework Convention they are not having the impact that is needed.

The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, that was adopted just last year, calls for a ‘halt’ in the rise of obesity and overweight.

Just a halt. Given the rate of increase, this was thought to be realistic. What a sad indictment. It should not be accepted. It is just not enough.

Back in 1998, then director of the WHO, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland speaking on the FCTC said:
‘Tobacco control cannot succeed solely through the efforts of individual governments, national nongovernmental organizations and media advocates. We need an international response to an international problem’.

The direct parallel is here. This problem is global and systemic and requires a global, systemic response.

We need concerted action on a global scale. In doing so governments will be truly serving their citizens. Putting them first. Acting for those they represent and sparing them the horror story from poor diet that we all saw happen as a consequence of inaction on tobacco controls.

The world cannot wait another 10 years until we find the will to take the action necessary. And we cannot contemplate the 30 years it took to get the FCTC agreed. We cannot let history repeat itself.

Poor diet is the number one cause of premature death globally. We need to act now.

Consumers International Blog: Amanda Long: We must act now to stop obesity killing millions

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Anglicans call for action on climate change | Anglican Alliance

By Anglican Alliance

This year the Anglican Alliance is working closely with churches and agencies across the Pacific to call on the G20 to take action on climate change.

Following the G20 Civil Society (C20) event in June 2014 the Anglican group in the Pacific will take the lead on a campaign that will ask the 88 million Anglicans around the world to sign a 'call to action'.

The Anglican Alliance believes that all Christians and others around the world will want to call on their leaders to take the worsening effects of climate change seriously and realise its devastating impact on the poor.

Despite the agenda for the G20 meeting already looking full, it has this significant omission. Once again the leaders of the world's top 20 richest nations could miss the chance to take climate change seriously and make decisions that will best serve the people they stand for.

The Anglican Alliance will use the gathering of civil society groups at the C20 to call these world leaders back to the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals. These goals are now being reviewed for the formation of a new agenda beyond 2015.

In the Solomon Islands the local community are feeling the effects of climate change first hand. Anglican Alliance Facilitator Tagolyn Kabekabe said, "The fragile coast line is shrinking, the crops that once thrived are beginning to struggle and the vulnerable agricultural people of the Islands are having to adapt and mitigate against the changes all around them."

Working with the Anglican Board of Mission and Anglican Overseas Aid, the Anglican Alliance have asked the bishops of Australia to lead a prophetic call back to hearing the voices of those who often go unheard.

These leaders of the Anglican Church in Australia will gather the signatures of Anglicans around the world and deliver their call to the G20 in November 2014.

With a united voice we can build momentum for individuals, churches and whole communities to engage with the post 2015 process.

Revd Andy Bowerman, Co-Director of the Anglican Alliance, said, "We believe that as Anglicans around the world dream, plan and pray together, they will be able not only to imagine but also help to create a different world - one where we take seriously our shared responsibility to care for the earth and for one another."

The initiative will be launched in Melbourne after the C20 summit, and will be followed up with a series of activities for all to be involved in. The Anglican Alliance will host a webinar on 24th June 2014 to join people together worldwide - particularly in Africa, Asia and the Pacific - to equip those at the grassroots with advocacy tools, which will help them speak up with the marginalised.

There will also be a round table discussion at Lambeth Palace in July this year. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will host discussions that will attempt to reframe the process towards achievable, sustainable and just goals for the future - goals that, as they are outworked, will deliver measurable change for the poorest in our world.

Anglicans call for action on climate change | Anglican Alliance

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Green travel: how NGOs can reduce their carbon footprint

By Caroline Watson

There is an irony that the organisations that are doing the most to tackle social justice and environmental issues have a large environmental footprint of their own. Travel can feel unavoidable and necessary to get the job done, yet there are ways organisations can minimise this that reduce their carbon footprint and have a positive impact on productivity.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one NGO that leads by example. In 2009 it launched the One in Five Challenge that works with businesses to reduce the number of flights they take by 20% over five years. WWF took on and met the challenge itself, alongside Lloyds TSB, BSkyB, Microsoft UK, and BT. Results from the programme show that over the past three years members have, on average, cut their flights by 38%, saving £2m and 3,000 tonnes of CO2. In addition to the travel challenge, WWF has designed their office space to be one of the greenest buildings in the UK, which includes impressive video conferencing (VC) equipment to communicate with colleagues in other offices around the world. They have built in this function to reduce the need to travel. But you don't need to build a brand new office to optimise the use of VC equipment. It can be a very good return on investment to any office as long as it is used.

For small NGOs state-of-the-art VC equipment can seem like a too much of an outlay. Skype is a helpful alternative – and it is free. Smarphones, laptops, tablets all have video chat function.

The first step to reducing travel is to question the necessity. Instilling this questioning culture is not automatic, it needs a strong internal champion and a senior sponsor who is prepared to lead by example. But reducing travel can have productivity benefits, as well as cost and environmental savings. We have worked with Telefonica O2 to increase flexi-working and reduce travel to the office. As a result of the programme, 96% of employees involved felt equally or more productive flexi-working and 100% of staff reported a better work/life balance. For every desk not required in an office, Telefónica O2 UK saves £7,000 each year.

In certain circumstances travel is unavoidable. When it is, we encourage decision makers to consider the whole cost of a journey. For example, often it is only the flight ticket that gets compared to the train ticket, and the employee may forget to factor in the cost of the taxi or train to the airport, parking costs, and also the cost of their time and productivity. Sitting on a train for four hours can be more productive than time spent hanging around the airport waiting for a flight and then not being able to access the internet while in the air. A sleeper train can replace the cost of a hotel room, or alternatively replace an early morning flight and ensure the employee turns up to a meeting refreshed.

Producing incentives for staff to choose the lowest carbon option of travel is also a good idea; as is setting a challenge to teams to see who can reduce their carbon footprint the most each month. Equally important is removing incentives to fly such as personal accumulation of air miles for business travel.

We recognize it's highly unlikely that we can reduce all environmental impacts from travel. Ultimately for some NGOs flying or driving is necessary to get work done. If you do need to travel you may consider carbon offsetting. If you want to ensure that you're using an offset that is credible, check it's on the UK government's quality assurance scheme for offsets. You may wish to look for offsets that deliver carbon reductions in areas where you work. For example, if you are an NGO that is working to eradicate poverty in Malawi you can search out offsets that invest in community energy projects in the country.

Every journey begins with a first step. In this case, the first step is to consider the wider impact of our footprint.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Asbestos causes preventable cancer

By Brian Turner, ToxicSubstance Safety Advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Many people are unaware that asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen.  It affects our water, air, and soil quality, as it does not break down or biodegrade.  An individual may be at risk to develop mesothelioma if he or she was exposed to asbestos in the workplace or at home. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and the inhalation of asbestos particles. In most cases, mesothelioma symptoms will not appear in an individual exposed to asbestos until many years after the exposure has occurred.

Being that mesothelioma is a completely preventable cancer (caused only by asbestos exposure), knowing more about asbestos and its risk factors truly does make a difference. 

Read more about asbestos and
mesothelioma from the link:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UN group chairs release SDG "chapeau", expanded goals | International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development


The co-chairs of a UN group charged with proposing a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) have circulated a draft introduction for the framework. The text – published after the close of the group’s eleventh meeting in New York, US from the 5-9 May – uses language from the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in June 2012.

That text, entitled The Future We Want, launched the SDG process as part of broader efforts to establish a post-2015 development agenda. The new goals, destined to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) upon their expiration next year, are tasked with balancing and integrating economic, social, and environmental concerns.


The new narrative opens with a strong statement on poverty eradication, as the “greatest global challenge facing the world today,” pledging to tackle it, together with hunger, as a matter of urgency.

Universal commitments made over the last two decades in relation to sustainable development are also restated, as well as broader international norms and instruments safeguarding human rights and international law.

The assignment of responsibility for action has consistently proved to be a delicate task in international negotiations. Much of the chapeau text reiterates carefully balanced existing agreements, attempting to present the diversity of views around responsibility.

For example, the chapeau refers to all of the principles included in the outcome statement of the pioneer development and environment 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) is highlighted, an approach that has proved controversial in other international forums.

The text also reiterates language from the Rio document that “each country faces specific challenges to achieve sustainable development,” while also reaffirming that “developing countries need additional resources for sustainable development.”

Goals, targets to expand

According to Earth Negotiation’s Bulletin (ENB), discussions last week across each goal and target indicated divisions on how to apply the principle of universality in the new framework.

Some rich nations said that efforts were necessary from all countries to pursue sustainable development, while poor nations stressed that they should not be expected to achieve the same targets as their wealthier peers.

Since the group’s ninth meeting in March, the co-chairs have been guiding the process through a series of focus areas. Discussions at last week’s meeting were primarily driven by a new working document released in April, which pared the list of possible development goals down to 16, with around 140 targets. (See BioRes, 25 April 2014)

At the end of last week however, Co-Chair Macharia Kamau – Permanent Representative of Kenya – said that the next version of the working document would include a separate headline for equality, previously grouped with poverty as an opening goal.

Kamau also indicated that the following iteration would contain many more draft targets, which delegates should prioritise in their discussions at the group’s twelfth meeting. The new text will be released at the end of May.

Co-Chair Csaba Körösi – Permanent Representative of Hungary – reportedly said that consensus was emerging among delegates around the inclusion of “unfinished” MDG challenges such as poverty eradication, food security, education, health, gender, and water, as areas to be included in the framework. Work to reach a common position on some of the “newer” issues – topics such as climate change, ecosystems, and oceans that have climbed up the international agenda in the last decade – was however still required.

Tying together

According to reports, delegates were also concerned last week with how the process would move forward, as well as how the eventual goals will relate to other streams feeding into the post-2015 development agenda, together with other international processes and instruments.

Discussions on the climate change focus area, for example, saw diverging views on whether the issue should be included as a stand-alone goal or not, given the ongoing negotiations to seal a global climate deal under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, also by 2015.

Conversations are also underway elsewhere in the UN system around the key question of financing within the post-2015 development agenda period, such as through the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing, preparations for the third international conference on financing for development, and ongoing discussions on a technology facilitation mechanism.

In the April focus areas document that was discussed last week, “means of implementation” was elaborated both in a separate section, as well as included in a phrase across each of the other focus areas.

Trade is posited in the means of implementation headline, with targets referring to an open, rules-based multilateral trading and financial system, including complying with the agricultural mandate of the WTO’s Doha Round negotiations, otherwise known as the Doha Development Agenda.

Other trade targets in the document included the provision of greater duty-free and quota free market access for the world’s poorest countries, and improved market access for agricultural and industrial exports of developing countries. Trade-related targets are also present in other focus areas, namely eliminating harmful fisheries and fossil fuel subsidies.

Speaking last Monday at the opening of “Geneva Week” – an event held annually WTO observers and non-resident missions – WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that trade had an essential role to play in tackling poverty.

“You will need to start thinking about your priorities for future sustainable development goals and about the role of trade in achieving them,” he said, referring to the post-2015 agenda discussions.

Azevêdo also took the opportunity to outline the progress made by the global trade body in recent months. Last December, WTO members clinched a multilateral deal on select parts of the Doha Round – namely on trade facilitation, along with certain agriculture and development-related components – while also giving themselves until end-2014 to draw up a work programme for concluding the remaining negotiating areas.

Next steps

Back in New York, with only 10 business days now left on the working group’s calendar, the pressure is on to pull together into a coherent agenda the range of views and inputs currently at play. The body will outline a draft framework by mid-July, to be forwarded to the UN General Assembly for consideration in September.

The co-chairs have indicated that a week of informal meetings will take place ahead of the remaining two sessions to help iron out some of the outstanding issues.

ICTSD reporting; “Summary of the Eleventh Session of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals,” ENB, IISD Reporting Services, 12 May 2014.

UN group chairs release SDG "chapeau", expanded goals | International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

Monday, May 19, 2014

African climate adaptation projects starved of cash, says UN chief

By Ed King in Bonn, RTCC

Vital climate adaptation projects in Africa are losing out to more lucrative energy investments in China and India, the head of the UN’s land degradation agency has warned.

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, says millions of lives will be at risk unless countries take the threat of soil erosion and desertification more seriously.

In an interview with RTCC, she called on the board members of the UN-backed Green Climate Fund, which meets this week in South Korea, to ensure adequate flows of finance are supplied to communities already facing worsening climate impacts.

“Today, if you talk mitigation…you are talking about 40-50 countries. All the rest, they are suffering. The only way you can help them is adaptation, and nobody is seriously looking at this question,” she says.

“I am afraid most of the GCF discussion are going into programmes of mitigation issues…it means once again you are putting most of the donor money into those 50 countries for which it makes sense for huge mitigation. But are they really the poorest? Are they the ones who will suffer most from climate change and without having been emitters at all?”

Finance crunch

Barbut’s comments come at a delicate time for the GCF board, which is under intense pressure to agree how, where and when its funds will be distributed.

In a March meeting the board gave assurances that at least 50% of all its finance flows would be directed towards adaptation in vulnerable regions.

Barbut, previously head of the GEF, another huge development fund, said this needed to be confirmed, stressing that she does not feel large energy projects in big emerging economies should be a priority.

“If you want to be totally fair, the issue of land is a good issue. And clearly, if you invest in the land, you also sequester carbon,” she says.

“There’s a side benefit…every year, if we were doing big programmes of land restoration, you could sequester up to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year – equal to a third of all carbon emissions in one year.”

The UNCCD, which estimates 168 countries around the world now suffer from some form of desertification, has long argued that the role of soil and drylands in addressing climate change has been overlooked.

Next year it will to present plans for a global land degradation deal, which if signed off would enshrine the principle of ‘zero-net land degradation’ around the world, a significant if ambitious statement.

Financial imbalance

Nowhere is the threat of soil erosion more keenly felt than in sub-Saharan Africa, a situation exacerbated by changing weather patterns, weak central governments and cross-border conflict.

African leaders have long felt they have lost out on global climate finance flows, largely due to difficulties in creating projects that are financially viable and replicable.

To place this in context, a 2012 study by the Overseas Development Institute revealed India, China and Indonesia alone received around $350m for climate adaptation and mitigation projects since 2003.

In contrast the whole of sub-Saharan Africa received $344 million. Around 25% of that was directed at South Africa, while adaptation projects received just 28% of the funds.

Fears over what the consequences of continued degradation of valuable farmlands in Africa are starting to exercise not just the UN, but officials at NATO and the Pentagon.

The Sahel region’s land is now rated as “very degraded”, much of it lacking vegetation.

Most countries in the region have recently experienced civil war, with Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic all classed as failed or failing states.

A UNCCD booklet called the ‘Invisible Frontline’ describes the situation as a “silent invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale”, warning of food security and migration concerns.

Valued investments

Barbut argues that if big donor governments are concerned about value for money, restoring Africa’s lands should be a priority, rather than building power plants for their competitors.

“What we are talking about does not cost much,” she says. “To restore a hectare of degraded land is between $20-60. Niger’s humanitarian assistance in 2011 was about $160 million.”

“If you put that money to restoring land it would have helped to rehabilitate 3-7 million ha of land, half the country’s total arable land. We are not talking about hundreds of billions…we are talking of a very small amount of resources.”

As populations and food prices soar, she says this is likely to become a political imperative, rather than the forgotten child of climate change it is at the moment.

A new UN project involving 12 countries with funding from Korea will launch soon, set to explore ways in which countries can measure how they are caring for their lands.

And far from simply being an African issue Barbut – a former French diplomat – says it’s one developed countries need to pay more attention to, especially if extreme weather events like the heavy storms experienced by the UK last winter become a regular occurrance.

“I have seen pictures of David Cameron at the beginning of the year, with his legs in water. Of course you had big rains, but the problem is that the consequence of the rains is worse because nothing is there to retain the water,” she says.

“You may not be sure 100% of floods this winter are linked to climate change, but if you apply the principle of precaution you take it as an assumption and you see what you can do to mitigate those effects.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Solar Power Leader Barbados to Host World Environment Day 2014 - UNEP

By UNEP News Centre

Barbados, a Caribbean island at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change, will host this year's World Environment Day (WED) global celebrations on 5 June 2014, according to a joint announcement made today by the government of Barbados and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The theme for this year's celebrations is "Small Island Developing States and Climate Change". Barbados, a 430-square kilometer nation with a population of 270,000, is considered to be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change - from agricultural impacts to the destruction of its coastal ecosystems.
However, this small nation has taken big steps to reduce its climate impact and to provide clean, renewable energy - as well as opportunities for green economic growth - to its people.

Among other things, Barbados has pledged to increase the share of renewable energy across the island to 29 percent of all electricity consumption by 2029. This would cut total electricity costs by an estimated USD 283.5 million and reduce CO2 emissions by 4.5 million tonnes, according to the government.

"I would like to take this opportunity also to formally announce that in less than four weeks time, the global spotlight will again be focused on Barbados as we have been selected to co-host the Global Event for World Environment Day 2014, to take place on 5 June. This event will once again give Barbados the opportunity to showcase its rich culture and tourism assets to the world," said Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel J. Stuart.

"Our target should be to place Barbados firmly on the world map in the context of the environment and sustainable development. This can only be achieved if all parties - public and private sector, NGOs and civil society - work together for a successful World Environment Day," he added.

It is estimated that Barbados' tourism sector, which contributes about 15 per cent of the island's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and its sugar industry, which contributes about 2 per cent, could both be severely affected by changing weather patterns.

In response to such threats, Barbados has made "Building a Green Economy: Strengthening the Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment" one of six concrete goals built into its National Strategic Plan (2006-2025).

"Small Island Developing States the world over are facing a host of risks related to climate change, from temperature increases that negatively affect agriculture to sea level rise that threatens the very existence of some nations," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"Barbados has put conservation and the transition to an inclusive green economy at the heart of its national strategy. Through this framework, it has enacted a number of proactive, concrete measures to combat climate change, including incentives that support one of the island's fastest growing sectors - solar power."

As the host of WED, Barbados will have the opportunity to showcase these initiatives and to act as an example for countless Small Island Developing States facing similar challenges. The country has shown tremendous leadership and political will, proving that the transition to a green economy is possible - even in countries facing the greatest threats - when robust environmental policy is translated into action on the ground," he added.

The island's over-reliance on imported fossil fuels has become one of its major environmental concerns. The National Strategic Plan, its new Medium Term Development Framework 2014-2020 and supporting fiscal framework are designed to ease this dependency by increasing the country's renewable energy supply, with a special focus on raising the number of household solar water heaters in Barbados.

In his Feature Address during the opening of the landmark Sustainable Energy for All Conference in May 2012, Prime Minister Stuart said: "at the regional level we realize that high oil prices have severely affected Caribbean competitiveness, with a negative fiscal and macro-economic impact on our fragile economies. For example, Barbados spent USD 393,538 million last year on oil imports, or 6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, which has impacted negatively on direct production costs and the overall competitiveness of the Barbadian economy."

He added: "we know that although many Small Island Developing States are energy deficient in conventional energy, limitless potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency resides in our countries. The fundamental issue thus is how do we, as Small Island Developing States with inherent structural problems and limited resources, convert this renewable energy potential into a tangible product that is accessible, affordable and adaptable?"

Solar water heaters are now a widely used renewable energy technology in Barbados, with installations in nearly half of the island's dwelling units. In 2002 alone, Barbados saved 15,000 metric tonnes of carbon emission and over USD 100 million in energy savings from the 35,000 solar hot water systems that had been installed at the time. The solar water heater use is one of the highest in the world (water heaters per thousand households).

Three Barbadian companies lead the installation and manufacturing of solar water heaters on the island, and they are already expanding the Caribbean market potential in the nearby islands of Trinidad and St. Lucia.

The solar water heater industry started in 1974 with the pioneering company Solar Dynamics. That early effort was also supported by the McGill University Bellairs Research Institute in the early 1970s. In recent times, that institution restarted its solar training programme with a focus on solar electric systems. With a regional outlook, the training has already been extended to Belize.

More recently, the Barbadian government has implemented several plans to further stimulate the use of solar electric systems. For example, from the USD 5,000 allotted per year under the 2008 modified Income Tax Allowance for Home Improvement, up to USD 1,000 can be used for energy audits.

The import duties on renewable energy electricity systems and VAT have been reduced to zero and companies involved in their development, installation or manufacturing are eligible for a 10-year tax free holiday.

Financial incentives for manufacturers, such as the provision of low-interest loans by the Barbados government, may further serve to assist the diversification and growth of the solar water heater industry.

During the November 2012 Energy Week of activities, Prime Minister Stuart stated: "In the same way that we pride ourselves on the penetration of solar water heaters, the next frontier is the erection of solar electricity systems and the use of other renewable energy sources."

In that vein, the government is rolling out a programme to outfit 19 government buildings, including nine schools, with solar photovoltaic systems. Prime Minister Stuart said that the initiative would "capture the interest and imagination of the next generation which will give impetus to this effort in making renewable energy truly the engine of the economy".

He also said that similar energy systems would be installed in hurricane shelters, which would also be equipped with the necessary back-up power to enable them to function effectively in the event of a hurricane or any other emergency.

With respect to transport, the Barbados government has also piloted the design and deployment of electric vehicles at their number one natural attraction, Harrison's Cave. In addition, there have been innovative tours with solar/electric trams of the historic city of Bridgetown - which has recently been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO - since 2005.

These efforts combine the government's thrust to protect its natural and cultural heritage products while demonstrating innovative, Small Island Developing States-appropriate climate change mitigation opportunities.

In 2012, Barbados and UNEP launched the Green Economy Scoping Study - Barbados Synthesis Report, which was designed to identify challenges and opportunities in the island's transition to a Green Economy, and to accelerate that transition.

Projects and events in Barbados to celebrate WED will take place over five days. They will focus on climate adaptation technologies, business, sustainable resource management, protected areas, schools and Barbadian local culture, as well as spotlighting challenges and opportunities facing Small Island Developing States around the globe.

About World Environment Day

The celebration of World Environment Day began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations encourages positive action for the environment. WED activities take place year round but climax on 5 June.

Through WED, UNEP enables everyone to realize not only the responsibility to care for the Earth, but also reminds one and all of their individual power to become agents of change. Every action counts, and when multiplied by a global chorus, becomes exponential in its impact.

WED is a big celebration, engaging millions across the globe through events on the ground in over 100 countries. Every year, participants, young and old, organize clean up campaigns, art exhibits, tree-planting drives, concerts, dance recitals, recycling drives, social media campaigns and different contests themed around caring for the planet.


Friday, May 9, 2014

IUCN FBU The River Bank

Freshwater biodiversity is facing unprecedented levels of threat - help IUCN put it on the map

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Mauritania, solar energy helps vulnerable communities | UNDP

Sixty-year-old Aissata Hamath is a mother living in a vulnerable community on the outskirts of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.

She used to garden, making little money from the sale of her produce. But after a pilot project from the Association Nazaha for health and the environment set up a solar-powered oven in the village, things changed.

"Before the installation of the solar ovens," she said, "my economic activities were limited to selling vegetables, from which I earned MRO 800 per day (less than US $3)."

More than 250 households use the oven, which can produce up to 100 loaves of bread a day. The villagers also learned to make bread and cakes that they can sell to increase their income.

The project, which was funded with about US $50,000 from the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) and UNDP, aims to strengthen the capacity of communities, empower women and reduce poverty while ensuring new sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies are put to use.

In all, 300 people, mostly women, have benefited from training on how to manufacture and use solar ovens. Aissata, who received this training, said the project has significantly improved her living conditions and those of her friends and relatives.

"Today, I sell bread and cakes, and I participate in the selling of solar ovens,” she said. “This brings me an average of MRO 8,000 (US $30) per day."

Nearly 250 stoves were sold by the villagers, and just as many are planned to be manufactured and sold by the end of the year.

Through the use of solar ovens, coal consumption for cooking has been reduced by 50 percent.

The project also made it possible for 1,600 trees of different species to be planted with the aim of raising awareness among the population on reforestation and carbon sequestration. These initiatives have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, and their adverse effects on the population’s health.

Today, the organization has expanded its activities to include the manufacture of cloth bags to replace plastic ones. It has also begun construction of a new headquarters using alternative materials such as bottles, rubber or glass filled with sand. The new larger premises will accommodate more people and increase production.

In Mauritania, solar energy helps vulnerable communities | UNDP

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

U.N.'s Post-2015 Agenda Skips the Right to Water and Sanitation - Inter Press Service

By Thalif Deen, IPS News

A U.N. working group mandated to formulate a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the post-2015 development agenda is being accused of bypassing water and sanitation as a basic human right: a right long affirmed in a General Assembly resolution adopted back in July 2010.

A letter of protest signed by 77 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Biofuel Watch, Blue Planet Project, Corporate Accountability International and End Water Poverty Coalition, says: “We are deeply disappointed to find the reference to the human right to water and sanitation has been removed from the Working Document” for the current session of Open Working Group (OPW), which began Monday.
"This confirms a broader concern by civil society organisations that human rights have been marginalised within the SDG framework." -- Meera Karunananthan

The protest is being led and coordinated by the Mining Working Group, a coalition of NGOs which promotes human and environmental rights worldwide.

Meera Karunananthan of the Canada-based Blue Planet Project told IPS, “The United Nations must not commit to a development agenda that does not further human rights.

“We will be talking to member states to demand that they champion a human rights-based approach to the SDGs,” she added.

Esmee Russell, international campaign coordinator for End Water Poverty, told IPS her organisation calls upon the OPW not to backtrack on history and to enshrine the human rights to water and sanitation as underpinning all water and sanitation SDG targets and indicators, as well as the SDG framework as a whole.

The NGO coalition is also making a strong push for a “stand-alone goal” for water and sanitation in the proposed SDGs (which did not achieve that singular status in the Millennium Development Goals ending 2015).

Asked to identify any groups or countries opposed to this proposal, Russell said it is really positive to see that over 57 countries have already publicly shown their support for a stand-alone water and sanitation goal, and hopefully more countries will continue to do so.

“But our concern is that China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan stated in the Open Working Group’s last 10th session that water and sanitation should be addressed through ‘access’ rather than a ‘rights-based’ approach,” she said.

End Water Poverty believes that such an approach may ultimately fail many of those still in need of water and sanitation, she added.

Comprising a core group of some 30 member states representing various regional groups, the OPW has held 10 sessions since March 2013.

The current 11th negotiating sessions, May 5-9, will be followed by two more sessions in June and July – and perhaps continue into early next year.

The new SDGs are expected to be adopted at a summit meeting of world leaders in September 2015.

In its letter of protest addressed to U.N. ambassadors, the NGO coalition says it is crucial the SDG process guarantee the progressive realisation of the human right to water and sanitation now and for future generations.

Given the critical role of water within a number of different SDG areas, “it is vital that the human right to water be seen as a central component of other focus areas including energy, food, gender and climate change.”

With 780 million people lacking access to clean drinking water and two billion without adequate sanitation, the letter says, the water and sanitation crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time.

Every year, 3.6 million people die from waterborne diseases, which can be avoided.

In addition to access to water and sanitation services, Karunananthan told IPS, “We want targets dealing with water resource management to be based in a human rights approach in order to ensure that human needs are prioritised over industrial consumption and that non-commercial water users such as subsistence farmers and landless communities are not marginalised within water resource management strategies that are deemed environmentally sustainable.”

She also pointed out that water and sanitation remains a target within the focus area document and there has been a lot of support for a stand-alone water goal from a variety of sources.

But the latest version no longer contains any reference to the human right to water.

“This confirms a broader concern by civil society organisations that human rights have been marginalised within the SDG framework,” she said.

A human rights-based approach would ensure that marginalised communities are prioritised, it would ensure accountability and recourse in instances of violations, she added.

Karunanthan also said the process relating to the current Millennium Development Goals “showed us that numerical targets alone do not ensure this.”

Russell told IPS that in discussions to date, the importance of access to water and sanitation has been referenced – and the need for a stand-alone goal was clearly stated in the high-level panel report.

And the OWG has kept water and sanitation as a “stand-alone focus area” in their recently published focus areas for post-2015.

“While this is positive, we are concerned about the framing of that focus area which now contains no reference to human rights to water and sanitation,” she said.

It is essential that the human rights to water and sanitation underpin this focus area because it requires an explicit focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalised, as well as an emphasis on participation, empowerment, accountability and transparency, she added.

Asked if she was hopeful the current campaign will succeed, Russell told IPS that over 1.1 million people, many of whom are directly affected by the lack of access to water and sanitation, have signed End Water Poverty’s petition calling for a water and sanitation goal – “And we are hopeful that the United Nations and member Governments will respond positively to such a strong and clear demand from citizens.”

U.N.'s Post-2015 Agenda Skips the Right to Water and Sanitation - Inter Press Service

Monday, May 5, 2014

DESA News: Renewing Focus on Sustainable Islands

"Many of the challenges facing Small Island Developing States are shared
by the international community, such as climate change, biodiversity
loss, oceans and seas, disasters [...]," said UN DESA's
Under-Secretary-General and Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, as
preparations accelerate ahead of the UN Conference on Small Island
Developing States in Samoa on 1-4 September. DESA News also spoke with
some of the conference bureau members who shared their hopes for this
major event.

In the video [in order of appearance]:

- Ali'ioaiga Feturi Alisaia, Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations
- Milan J N Meetarghan, Permanent Representative of Mauritius
- Ronald Jumeau, the Roving Ambassador of Seychelles for Climate Change and Small Island

  Developing States
- Karen Tan, Permanent Representative of Singapore
- Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Climate adaptation at village level

By Jaspreet Kindra, IRIN

While some of the world’s poorest countries are still waiting for funds to help them adapt to climate change, others are implementing sophisticated plans without any funding, it emerged at the Eighth Community-based Adaptation International Conference in Kathmandu (24-30 April), which focused on finance.

The Adaptation Fund, set up by the UN, has US$100 million directly available to help the most vulnerable in poor countries to adapt, but some poor countries “do not have the capacity to implement and plan the projects they need the money for”, Mamadou Honadia, chair of the Adaptation Fund Board, told IRIN.

And those who have the capacity need a lot more than a share of $100 million.

The Fund is divided between what is directly available for countries to access ($100 million) and what is allocated through multilaterals (mainly UN agencies), which it has exhausted. Developing countries had fought for the direct access provision, a unique feature of the Fund.

In 2012, Nepal estimated it needed $350 million to implement adaptation plans at the local authority level (Local Adaptation Plans of Action - LAPA), based on the premise that at least 3,500 villages across the country are affected.

“But the costs have grown since then,” says Govinda Prasad Kharel, under-secretary at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. “We have very little money to implement what people need, yet we have all our structures in place and we are going ahead with it, because we have to - we cannot wait.”

Nepal, as one of the Least Developed Countries with a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), has been able to experiment with a “bottom-up” approach thanks to the help of the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

LAPA policy, which Nepal has pioneered, requires that 80 percent of all funding available for climate change adaptation in a country be allocated at village level.

How LAPA work

LAPA are developed at village or district level to identify local climate risks, vulnerability and needs, and focus on increasing local resilience. They are managed by a district development committee at village level, and seek input from all vulnerable groups, including the aged, women, and ethnic and religious groups.

The committee brings together representatives from agriculture, health, education and other sectors. “It is a very integrated process. We are mainstreaming climate change at the development level. So any new project at the village level - be it a school, protecting a water source - takes into account the climate impact,” said Kharel.

“We have very little money, so we tell the villagers to prioritize their needs between what is of immediate concern to them, such as households located in an area vulnerable to landslides who might need to be relocated, as opposed to fortifying a landslide prone area which is uninhabited at the moment,” he said.

There are hard choices to be made on what to prioritize at the national level as well. The needs of impoverished and isolated mountain villages come first. “The other villages understand but they are very angry,” said Kharel.

Additional money is available within Nepal as well. Bhushan Tuladhar, UN-Habitat's regional technical adviser for South Asia, said Nepal has collected over US$17 million in pollution tax, which has not been utilized.

LAPA in Mozambique

Lessons of integration from the Nepalese LAPA model are being learned in several other countries in Africa and Asia. Despite funding shortages, Mozambique has begun setting up structures to implement LAPA in 22 of its more than 100 districts, said Luis Miguel S.T. Buchir, an official with the Ministry of Coordination of Environment Affairs. It is going through a similar process of getting communities to identify their vulnerabilities and their capacity to adapt.

“We are able to ensure that a district is [LAPA-ready] within two months.” But it has cost the country $1.5 million to implement the LAPA in one district alone. “We have a budget for the 22 districts, so we are going ahead,” said Buchir. “We will see what happens next.”

He says he is now aware of the money that is available from the Adaptation Fund, and will try and seek lessons from successful countries like Senegal and South Africa.

Readiness campaign

The Adaptation Fund is initiating a readiness campaign from 1 May to ensure that all developing countries have an equal chance of directly accessing its funds by building their capacity.

To access the money countries have to have in place a National Implementing Entity (NIE) with the capacity to design and implement adaptation projects and programmes. NIEs have to demonstrate sound financial management, integrity, transparency, self-investigative powers and anti-corruption measures. These NIEs are assessed and then accredited by the Fund.

Few countries have qualified so far: In four years, five projects under the direct access provision have been approved. The readiness campaign, which will hold workshops throughout the year, is aimed at strengthening these capacities, says the Fund’s Honadia. The initiative will also include a South-South cooperation component. “Under this an approved NIE can help other countries in their neighbourhood navigate the accreditation process; and strengthen their capacity,” he said.

“I realize that some countries do need that kind of support [funding through multilaterals] to implement projects. We are hoping we will be able to get more funds to allow money to flow through that component as well." Just over 8 percent of the money that the Fund allocates for a project can be for administrative costs. The rest has to flow to the community.

Climate adaptation at village level

Friday, May 2, 2014

Adaptation will fail without emissions cuts, funding insufficient - UN climate chief

By Laurie Goering

The funds available to help poorer countries adapt to the impacts of climate change are “pathetically insufficient”, and adaptation efforts risk failing altogether if countries that produce most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions don’t agree to “very rapid” cuts, the United Nations’ climate chief warned on Wednesday.

Global emissions, which are still growing, need to peak within the next 10 years, with the world rapidly moving to become “carbon neutral” in the second half of the century, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The alternative is that “the costs of adaptation will exponentially rise to the point where adaptation is not only extremely difficult but virtually impossible,” she said at the close of a week-long conference in Nepal on financing community-based climate adaptation.

The price of that failure could be a surge in poverty, hunger, migration and extreme weather, which would hit those least equipped to cope hardest, experts said.

“It is absolutely urgent we mitigate (climate-changing emissions) rapidly at the same time (as) we invest in adaptation or we are entering a world of much more instability,” warned Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.

And it is not just the world’s poorest who will pay the price, as British families affected by flooding this year have discovered, noted Camilla Toulmin, director of the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

During early spring floods, “we saw the limits of government support” for those hit by climate change impacts, she said. “I hope this direct personal experience stays in people’s minds as our government gets stuck into the negotiations” towards a 2015 global agreement to curb climate change, she added.


The gathering in Nepal, which ended Wednesday, produced a Kathmandu Declaration on climate finance for community-based adaptation. It called for half of the money raised to tackle climate change to be spent on adaptation, and half of that in turn to go to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The document, negotiated by many of the 420 participants from 62 countries at the conference, also called for better access to information for communities on how adaptation funding is used, as well as transparency. It urged donors to considering pooling funds to avoid duplication of projects and to ease access to climate finance.

It also emphasised the need for long-term thinking and planning in association with communities to avoid “maladaptation,” or projects that don’t work effectively in the long term. And it called for adaptation efforts to be carried out “in accordance with the needs and wishes of local communities”, particularly women and others who may not have a voice in decision making.

Saleemul Huq, director of the Bangladesh-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, a senior fellow at IIED and the chief organiser of the conference, urged participants to incorporate the declaration’s aims into their work and “do something with it”. That led to pledges to have the declaration translated into local languages in India and the Pacific, for instance, and brought before the Green Climate Fund, which is due to start operating this year.

“Our culture, our land and our oceans are too valuable to lose,” noted Shirley Laban Tokon of Vanuatu, vowing to translate the document for policy makers and communities back home.


Leela Mani Poudyal, the chief secretary of Nepal, said the recent deaths of 16 Sherpa guides on Mt. Everest, in Nepal’s Himalayan region, were one indication of the “heavy” price to come for not doing enough to address climate change.

From worsening landslide risks to problems with food and water security, “the stakes are very high,” he said. And he warned that, in parts of the world with high emissions, “those of you enjoying luxury are endangering the lives of the poorest of the poor”.

He called for simplifying the often tortuous process of accessing international funds for climate change action, noting that the amounts available now are “barely sufficient”.

Figueres also urged that adaptation funding already in the pipeline should be spent “quickly, transparently and effectively” in order to show donors their spending gets results, and to lay the groundwork for much larger contributions.

Major international climate finance vehicles, such as the new Green Climate Fund, “cannot do bigger or better without learning from the experience of the existing funds”, she said.

Prakash Man Singh, Nepal’s deputy prime minister, called for equally quick and transparent progress at the U.N. climate talks, which are tasked with delivering a new global climate change agreement at the end of 2015.

The world’s poor, including those in Nepal, already face growing problems from climate change “and they don’t have time to wait for the outcome of U.N. negotiations”, he warned.

Adaptation will fail without emissions cuts, funding insufficient - UN climate chief