In Belgium Klimaatzaak (Climate Business) was formed at the end of the year 2014 and includes artists, scientists and conservationists. With film director Nic Balthazar, Ignace Schops of the Regionaal Landschap Kempen and musician Stijn Meuris they have figures known to the public and could receive ears by the civilians which already had joined by 9,000 members of the public who added their names to a subpoena bringing the four governments to court and asking them to provide a timetable for their compliance with the CO2 demand and a division of responsibilities. The four governments – federal, Flemish, Walloon and Brussels – in breach of their obligations regarding climate change did not go in to the demands of the group to make sure that there would be a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 87.5% based on 1990 levels, with a deadline of 2050.
The group asked for an exemplary fine of €10,000 a day to be levied. In Holland a court case against the government not doing its best to get the goal for avoiding a worse climate change was won.
As we reflect on the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goals, we look toward the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals to redress imbalances perpetuated through unsustainable economic growth and to help achieve key universally-shared ambitions, including stable political systems, greater wealth and better health for all.
Clean fresh drinking water
Too many people have forgotten the importance of clean fresh water. When you look around our urban regions you may find lots of gardens hardened. Everywhere we can find lots of stones taking care the water can not go into the ground but is pushed through the drains, causing more and more floodings of which 2015 also got its share.
Effective management and universal provisioning of drinking water and sanitation coupled with good hygiene are the most critical elements of sustainability and development, preventing disease and death and facilitating education and economic productivity.
How more the water going into the ground our sewage drain the more difficult and expensive it is to make it clean again, suitable to drink. The Water purification, process by which undesired chemical compounds, organic and inorganic materials, and biological contaminants are removed from water depends on the chemicals and polluted materials in the water. In 2015 less clean natural spring water could be found from natural spring and from artesian wells which had historically been considered clean for all practical purposes; however, it came under scrutiny during the first decade of the 21st century because of worries over pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals from the surface entering wells. As a result, artesian wells were subject to treatment and batteries of tests, including tests for the parasite Cryptosporidium.
While 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water since 2000, it is estimated that just as many do not have access to potable quality water, let alone 24-7 service in their homes, schools and health facilities. Furthermore, 2.5 billion people without adequate access and 1 billion with no toilet at all.
If we don’t regain momentum in water sector improvements, population growth, economic instability, Earth system impacts and climate disruption may make it impossible to ever achieve a meaningful level of sustainability.
At a summit in India it was agreed that more work had to be made to get good drinking water and sanitation facilities around India which should be acknowledged as a basic human right. To ensure success in getting sanitation for all, programmes need to be equitable and inclusive and should include behaviour change at its core.
WaterAid (founded in 1981) has been working in the WASH sector in India since 1986 and is committed to supporting the government of India in realising the ambitious but much needed goal of making India open defecation free by Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in October 2019.
2015 was the year where we got bombarded by scientific reports alongside conspiracy theories and where data was interspersed with drastic predictions about the future. There were the many believers but also lots of unbelievers and even more who put their head in the sand.
The February rains in Brazil did not ward off the risk and could even aggravate it by postponing rationing measures which hydrologists have been demanding for the period of October 2014 until March 2015. Six million people in Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo had to face their water tanks being very low. The rural population, the hardest-hit by drought, has learned to live with the semi-arid climate in the Northeast, collecting rainwater in tanks, for drinking, household use and irrigation of their small-scale crops. This social technology has now been adapted by the Movimento Cisterna Já, a São Paulo organisation, to help people weather the water crisis there.
The water crisis was the result of two years of drought in southeast Brazil. Exceptional rainfall was needed in order to store up water for the six-month dry season.
Development and rising pollution levels remain closely linked, as clearly evidenced in China and India. However, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a major opportunity to curb pollution and turn economies around the world towards clean and green development pathways.
“The key to development and improving the health of everyone requires new, clean approaches to economic development,”
said Fernando Lugris, ambassador and director general of political affairs with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay.
“You can’t ignore the global impact of toxic chemicals in the SDGs,”
Climate mitigation and adaptation
Attempting to sift through all the information is a gargantuan task, but it has been made easier with the release of a new report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think-tank based in New Delhi that has, perhaps for the first time ever, compiled an exhaustive assessment of the whole world’s progress on climate mitigation and adaptation.
The assessment also provides detailed forecasts of what each country can expect in the coming years, effectively providing a blueprint for action at a moment when many scientists fear that time is running out for saving the planet from catastrophic climate change.
The study found a 10-fold increase to 525 natural disasters in 2002 from around 50 in 1975. By 2011, 95 percent of deaths from this consistent trend of increasing natural disasters were from developing countries.
China, which was the highest GHG emitter in 2011 with 10,260 million tonnes, despite high economic growth, has not been able to reduce the disaster risks to its population that is expected to touch 1.4 billion people by the end of 2015: it ranked sixth among the countries in Asia most susceptible to climate change.
The post-2015 development agenda focused primarily on strengthening opportunities to reduce poverty and marginalisation in ways that are sustainable from an economic, social and environmental standpoint.
The SDG Fund, created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with an initial contribution from the government of Spain, has been designed to smoothen the transition from the Millennium Development Goals phase into the future Sustainable Development Goals.
The rationale of the joint programme initiative is to enhance the development impact of technical assistance by combining inputs from various U.N. entities, each contributing according to its specific expertise and bringing their respective national partners on board.
Some researchers project that human-made global warming will heighten future conflicts, or argue that it may already be doing so.
Toxic hotspots and pollution reductions
The international collaborative body working to help low- and middle-income countries deal with toxic hotspots and solve environmental health problems, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) along with UNEP, Sweden, Germany, Uruguay have proposed a more comprehensive set of indicators based on measures of death and disability under the “Global Burden of Disease” methodology.
Despite the well-understood reality that exposure to pollution has serious impacts on health, it can be difficult to quantify. The World Health Organization and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have developed a way to measure the overall health impacts of disease or pollution using disability-adjusted life years (DALY).
“This is a well-accepted metric although it will have to be enhanced because it doesn’t cover the impacts of pollution in soils yet,”
GAHP has proposed that the pollution reduction indicator show the current the death and disability rates from all forms of pollution as measured against a 2012 baseline established using the Global Burden of Disease methodology.
“Pollution affects everyone and everything but awareness of the impacts is low,”
“This is the right moment to put this issue on the centre stage,”
One of the promises made by the leaders of the world’s seven richest nations when they met at Schloss Elmau in Germany at the beginning of June was an energy transition over the next decades, aiming to gradually phase out fossil fuel emissions this century to avoid the worst of climate change.
The G7’s role in upholding the current dirty energy system is not limited to the subsidies they pour into fossil fuels daily.
G7 countries also directly finance – and profit from – dirty energy projects, particularly in the global South, and in regions where poverty and limited energy access devastate families.
These include projects affecting communities deeply reliant on clean air, water, and land that is polluted and stolen from them, projects among populations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and projects where people face harassment and human rights violations for speaking out.
The host of the G7 meeting has been much lauded for its ‘Energiewende’ (‘Energy Revolution’), with a rapidly increasing use of renewable energy compensating for its nuclear phase-out in recent years. They also called Belgium to stop using their Threadbare nuclear powerplants.
However, German euros still make their way into the dirty energy machine – through sizeable tax exemptions afforded to fossil fuel producers’ exploration activities – allowing such companies to go further and dig deeper to uncover more carbon that needs to stay in the ground.
Top threats and Greatest danger
Climate change is viewed as the “top concern” by people around the world. However, Americans, Europeans and Middle Easterners most frequently cite ISIS as the top threat among international issues and certain politicians want citizens to believe the biggest danger is the possible islamisation of our Western world by the refugees.
Those refugees often live a camps where they do not take care much of sanitary conditions and cleanliness. In Calais it is just horrible with waste lying everywhere around.
The last two decades in Europe in a certain way we have seen already some arabisation going on. When we walk on the streets in bigger cities we can find quarters where nothing else is spoken than Arabic, Berbers or or the Amazigh languages.
Dr. Michael Dorsey, a member of the Club of Rome and an expert on global governance and sustainability, visiting professor and lecturer at several universities in Africa and Europe and interim director of energy and environment at the Joint Centre for Political and Economic Studies, said
“If publics fear climate change more than terrorism, we might have to re-think collective and regulatory approaches for entities responsible for carbon pollution.
“If we accept the fact that carbon pollution drives both human mortality and morbidity, compromises ecosystems, and threatens society, then institutions and firms that produce carbon pollution, as well as those who opt to finance carbon polluters are akin to those who work with entities engaged in and financing terrorism.”
Denying unfolding climate crisis
It should come as no surprise that in some jurisdictions, elected officials are considering laws usually used to fight organised crime against those that deny the unfolding climate crisis.
Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) at the “Our Common Future Under Climate Change” scientific conference being held in Paris (Jul. 7-10) at UNESCO headquarters, said that the cost of inaction is high when it comes to climate change and, so far, countries’ commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not enough.
Many people remember Copenhagen in 2009 and say it was a failure but it was a place where the 2°C objective was set up and recently a number of initiatives in clean technology supported the city’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2025. And they are not doing bad. We may have a little smiley face when we notice that every COP is going one step further in defining the objectives but also addressing solutions.
Time to adapt and take all necessary measures
As a number of GHGs have already been in the atmosphere for a long time, it means we already committed to some amount of global warming. Therefore we need to adapt to the consequences such as sea level rise, impact on crops, on health and on extreme weather events.
Developed and developing countries don’t have the same financial, human and technical capacity to adapt. How can we bridge this gap by making sure there are appropriate technology transfer and financing mechanisms? This is one of the difficult parts of the negotiations. We need to address that as a priority.
Africa is getting hot fast. Already battling against the impacts of climate change, temperatures in Africa will rise faster than any other continent. In fact, they are expected to exceed 2 C and may reach as high as 6 C greater than 20th century levels. These rapidly rising temperatures foreshadow increased drought, famine and disease. The most vulnerable populations – of which millions are smallholder farmers – need solutions, and they need them now.
These rising temperatures brought on by climate change affect not only yields, but also food quality, safety and the reliability of its delivery to consumers. By 2050, child malnutrition could increase by as much as 20 per cent and food shortages could lead to losses of up to 7 per cent of GDP followed by corresponding food price hikes.
Maize, rice and wheat prices in 2050 could rise by 4 per cent, 7 per cent and 15 percent respectively, nullifying progress made in the last two decades to combat hunger and poverty in Africa.
The potential to sequester carbon worldwide through better land management has been estimated at around three Gt of carbon per year. Collectively this has the potential to offset between 5 and 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and increase annual grain production in developing countries by 24 to 32 million tonnes, leading to improved food security for many farmers and their families.
Globally, more than 30 million tons of oil equivalent are consumed in the form of primary energy every day, equivalent to 55 kilowatt hours (kwh) per person per day. On average, rich countries consume more than twice the average while most emerging market economies consume less than a third of what is consumed in developed economies. For many developing countries, the figure is well under 20k.
2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference
Climate-related humanitarian disasters
“Three out of four humanitarian disasters are now climate-related. Economic losses have increased by more than half over the past decade. And ecosystems, and food and water supplies are under increasing pressure,”
said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the climate summit COP 21 (the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which began Nov. 30 and ran until December 11 in the French capital. He declared that the hardest hit are the poor and vulnerable – including small farmers, fishing communities and indigenous peoples.
Ban Ki-moon saw the effects of climate change firsthand in the northernmost state in the US, namely Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.
Teresa Anderson, Policy Officer on Climate and Resilience at ActionAid said
“For African countries, who are already feeling the effects of climate change in their agriculture and economies, adaptation is clearly a priority,. They urgently need support to deal with the impacts of a problem that they have not created.”
Speaking on behalf of 1,5 billions farmers, between women, man, and youth, Eveline Nguleka, President of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union and also of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), an international body of agricultural producers, praised the stakeholder engagement process leading to the adoption of the SDGs and of the overall 2030 agenda.
The adoption by the international government community of this new path for development will translate into a strong pressure for all the actors involved, to deploy massive change processes aimed at the realization of the targets by 2030. Within this framework,
Evelyn Nguleka, said at the conference
“We’re not only part of the problem, but we’re also part of the solution, and that is crucial.”
Nguleka said that agriculture and food security had to be “part of the deal” in any agreement because farmers, particularly in regions such as Africa and Asia, are on the frontline of climate change.
“The local nature of the farming activity, based on a widespread presence on the field, make the world farmers ideal partners for both supporting the data gathering efforts needed to implement and monitor the progress in achieving the SDGs and for recommending appropriate policy interventions. Being a fundamental part of the food value chain, farmers are also an essential player of partnerships between the public and the private sector to successfully work and achieve results.”
“We need good soils, good air … to be able to do what we do,”
“Without preserving the environment, there is no agriculture. We have to be part of the equation.”
Around the world, 600,000 took part in demonstrations in favour of a strong agreement. Paris had a ban on public gatherings in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, but allowed thousands to demonstrate on 12 December against what they felt was a too weak treaty. There were also illegal demonstrations in Paris, including a violent clash between police and pro-communist protesters on 29 November.
At the high-profile climate negotiations in Paris links between climate change and human displacement were also made.
Climate change hasn’t been recognized in court as grounds for granting asylum. Anticipating the climate-related displacement of 250 million people by 2050, the creation of a displacement coordination facility is being proposed as part of the implementation of a new Loss and Damage mechanism. Unavoidable impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, sea level rise, storms and other climate-related hazards have to be addressed and climate change has to be seen as a threat multiplier, likely to increase displacement in the future.
AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria, knows what climate change has done and what its implications are for Africa’s agricultural development if nothing is done to halt global warming. She said
“The danger that Africa will not be able to feed itself is a real one. And if we don’t have resources to adapt to climate change, Africa will not be able to unlock potential in agriculture,”
highlighting the implications of climate change variability on Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.
Farmers attending the conference also acknowledged that their sector is part of the global climate-change problem, but many emphasized that a distinction had to be made between huge agricultural concerns and smallholder farming.
Agribusiness in general has been criticized for a range of unsustainable practices including monoculture plantations, deforestation, land grabbing for biofuel production, and the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and hormones.
U.N. figures show that agriculture is directly responsible for 13.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions (through methane from animal digestion and nitrous oxide from cultivation, including the use of synthetic fertilizers), and indirectly for another 17 per cent of emissions through deforestation or the clearing of land to feed and graze animals.
The sector thus cannot be ignored, and the Paris Agreement recognizes the “particular vulnerabilities of food production systems” to the adverse impacts of climate change.
It mentions the “fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger” and indicates that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should occur in a way that does not “threaten food production.”
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that an additional US$ 7.1-7.3 billion per year are needed in agricultural investments to offset the negative impact of climate change on nutrition for children by 2050.
The accord’s main aim is to keep the average global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
But it has generated both widespread praise and criticism, with world leaders calling the accord “historic” and “robust” while some civil society groups say it doesn’t go far enough even if it’s a step in the right direction.
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, said,
“The Paris Agreement is only one step on a long road, and there are parts of it that frustrate and disappoint me, but it is progress. This deal alone won’t dig us out the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep.”
For the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) the agreement shows that farmers were heard, even if “everybody cannot be fully satisfied”, said Dr. Marco Manzano de Marinis, WFO’s Secretary General.
“We would have loved to have agriculture more mentioned and more directly involved in the different articles of the document adopted, however, food security and food production are there.”
He said it was essential that governments had considered the importance of producing food alongside the need to combat climate change.
“Without food, there is no social stability,”
he said, mentioning recent upheavals such as the Arab Spring that have been linked to food insecurity.
End-result for 2015
After 2 weeks of intense negotiations the 21st UN climate conference (COP21) in Paris finally delivered a historic agreement that, for the first time, promises to keep the global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. The treaty, consisting 31 pages and signed by by 196 countries, include Climate Change Mitigation, including a series of goals to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius to accompany the current hard limit of 2 degrees. As Long-Term Goal (Article 4) there is the overall aim specified in the agreement to peak global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and undertake rapid reductions so as to achieve a balance between emissions by anthropogenic sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century.
The specificity of this long term goal is such that, when coupled with the goal of limiting warming to 2 Celsius countries would be de facto required to completely decarbonize the global electric sector by 2050, according to the IPCC.
Economics has always been an other important factor. Developed countries will provide financial and technological support to help developing countries adapt to impacts of climate change, building resilience and preventing further damage (also in COP Decision Section III, Paragraphs 42-47). The COP Decision text reiterates a global finance pledge with a floor of 100 billion dollars per year in climate financing from developed countries by 2020 (Section III, Paragraph 54), and expands the donor pool post-2020 to encourage other countries to voluntarily provide additional financial support (Article 9.2). Countries have agreed to set a new global, collective climate finance goal for 2025 that increases upon the 100 billion dollar target for 2020 (COP Decision Section III, Paragraph 54.
Scientists at the COP approved the agreement. Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre called the agreement a “turning point” that would ensure a
“1.5-2 Celsius safe operating space on Earth”.
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