Talk of revolution at Cop17

2011-12-07 00:00

REVOLUTION was in the air last night at UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban.

“We have to have a new energy and industrial revolution in order to overcome poverty and to manage climate change at the same time,” British climate change economist Lord Nicholas Stern said at the launch of the Momentum for Change initiative.

Momentum for Change is a three-year initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at benefiting communities by increasing their resilience to climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was launched under the banner of the UNFCC Secretariat by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, President Jacob Zuma, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, the COP17 president, and Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC executive secretary.

“The world is grappling with two issues: overcoming poverty and climate change,” said Stern, who moderated the event.

Stern is the author of The Global Deal: Climate Change and the Creation of a New Era of Progress and Prosperity. The main finding of his 2006 Review on the Economics of Climate Change was that the world needs to spend one percent of its gross GDP annually in order to successfully tackle climate change.

Figueres, who Stern described as the “life force” behind the Momentum for Change initiative, said that there is a misperception, because climate change talks are so“painfully slow”, that “there was no action on the ground”. This initiative dispels that misperception, she said.

Figueres said the initiative is a “revolution” in terms of both production and consumption and involves private and public partnerships between run-for-profit and non-profit organisations that “established trends and created business opportunities where previously there were none. These have benefits for both people and the climate.”

Ten “lighthouse” projects from the initiative, including two in South Africa, and ranging across rural and urban communties, were featured at the launch.

“These projects are a timely reminder to all of us here at the conference that climate change is not happening in the abstract but already happening to the rural and urban poor,” said Mashabane.

Ban said when people take advantage of a momentum, like the move to address climate change, they are successful. “Let us not lose this momentum given by God. It might be a warning — if we do not take this momentum we may be losers and all the future generations will be losers.

“Averting dangerous climate change is the way to sustainable development and we can take inspiration from these lighthouse projects,” he said.

Climate change adds another layer of uncertainty to the possibility of development, according to Zuma.

“These projects, in practical ways, allow people to respond to climate change while at the same time improving the quality of their lives.

“They give access to energy while at the same time saving energy. This is a balance we must get used to.”

feature1@witness.co.za

South Africa

• Community reforestation of the Buffelsdraai landfill site in Durban, which is building on the efforts to offset COP17. This project is also designed to engage the local community by training “tree-preneurs” to manage the reforestation, and creating jobs.

• eMalahleni water reclamation plant sees a coal mine working with the surrounding community to purify its waste water and provide a reliable water source. This has already supplied 22 billion litres of drinking water to a community where water availability is already becoming increasingly unreliable.

Uganda

• Wales-Mbale climate change tree-planting project, part of large scale partnership which aims to plant one million trees in Uganda, through partnerships between regional governments, for improvements in coffee-farming practices and raising awareness among the communities in the participating regions.

Seychelles

• Promoting adaptation to climate change in schools in the Seychelles via rainwater harvesting. The success of this initiative is being scaled up to national government policy level.

Philippines

• A “litre of light” project involves lighting households with solar bottle lights in galvanized iron houses in the Philippines. Water-filled plastic bottles are re-used to serve as “lightbulbs”, bringing light into homes that would otherwise be in darkness. The programme will have reached 200 000 beneficiaries this year.

India

• Scaling up solar power in India, through the implementation of a National Solar Mission that seeks to promote investments in solar energy, with an initial wave of projects totalling 5-10MW. This first phase has laid the groundwork for larger projects and will help develop financial instruments to enable further investments.

Kenya

• Distribution of clean cookstoves in Africa, changing the lives of thousands, with the goal of millions, of women and families by improving air quality, reducing the need to deforest and search for firewood while also mitigating household carbon emissions.

Brazil

• Improving public transportation services in Curitiba, Brazil, with intelligent transport solutions. Through electronic monitoring of routes, time spent at stops, speed, distance travelled, and times for arrival and departure, the public transport fleet is more efficiently deployed. These improvements result in greater customer satisfaction, improved security and safety and reduce fuel use.

Ethiopia

• Micro-insurance for farmers in the Horn of Africa, providing them with the security of a pay-out in the case of extreme weather events that prevent them from harvesting a self-sustaining crop.

China

• Solar-driven LED street lights to provide a high- quality, sustainable lighting solution for people in remote areas of Guiyang, China. Solar energy is stored in batteries as electrical energy, providing street lighting to areas that do not have access to the conventional electricity grid.

— Source: UNFCCC

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