Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Pat for green steps in small island states

 A SOCIAL enterprise that says it helped to cut binge drinking in Vanuatu by selling solar-powered lanterns is one of ten nominees for a new award that aims to highlight organisations that champion green energy in small island developing states (SIDS). Four of the ten candidates for the SIDS Awards 2013 are from the Pacific, including Green Power, which is shortlisted for its work selling solar-powered lights to people in Vanuatu who often lack access to cheap power and so may use kerosene and batteries to power lights and burn wood for cooking. Green Power managing director David Stein says that the lanterns have brought behavioural changes and improved the quality of local life as alcoholism and substance abuse have fallen since the scheme began. “Lighting is a primary determinant of the quality of life. With access to artificial lighting, people now have the opportunity to extend the length of the productive day,” he says. This can allow them to study for longer and can also broaden access to 24-hour health care, he adds. Another nominee, Fijian company Paradise Technologies, helped reduce electricity costs for domestic users — and cut carbon emissions — by selling energy-efficient lighting and cooling systems, says Kamlesh Kishan Raju, the firm’s assistant financial controller. The two other nominees from the Pacific are the Island Economic and Environmental Co., which sells solar products to people who do not have access to the electricity grid in the Marshall Islands, and the National Development Bank of Palau, which offers loans for renewable energy and energy-efficiency schemes for houses. The SIDS Awards were introduced this year as part of the annual London-based Ashden Awards run by Ashden, a charity that promotes universal access to sustainable energy. The overall awards serve to recognise ground-breaking green energy champions around the world. Within that, the SIDS Awards aim to recognise businesses or enterprises that have contributed to the economies and social welfare of small island nations in the developing world through the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Ashden founding director Sarah Butler-Sloss says: “With their natural resource limitations, high fuel costs and threats to their very existence, small island states have no option but to pursue sustainable forms of energy. They’re starting to do things that the rest of the world will end up having to do anyway. They could end up leading the rest of the world in this area.” (SciDev)

 Risks from climate change increasing

 AS THE UN climate change talks continue in Doha, Qatar, several reports over the past month have highlighted a sombre picture of the Earth’s changing climate, raising alarm bells in particular for the world’s poorest regions. A report from the World Bank launched last month warns that the planet “is on track for a four degrees Celsius warmer world” by 2100, marked by extreme heat waves, declining food stocks, loss of biodiversity and life-threatening sea level rise. This is double the generally accepted two degrees Celsius threshold beyond which catastrophic climate change impacts are expected. According to the report, ‘Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided’, the negative effects of a warming climate would especially hit the world’s poorest regions. Erick Fernandes, who co-leads the Global Expert Team for Climate Change Adaptation that commissioned the report, tells SciDev.Net that the Latin American region in particular “is likely to bear the brunt of the combined effects of sea-level rise, an increased number and intensity of storms, a loss of farmland, reduced agricultural productivity and irreversible loss of the region’s biodiversity”. The World Bank has doubled lending for climate change adaptation in the past year and plans to step up efforts to support countries’ efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, the report says. “The bank is supporting action on the ground to finance the kind of projects that help the poor grow their way out of poverty, increase their resilience to climate change and achieve emissions reductions,” Fernandes adds. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) revealed that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels reached a record high in 2011. The elevated level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is “causing our planet to warm further and is impacting on all aspects of life on Earth”, said WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud in a media release. The role of carbon sinks such as forests and oceans that absorb CO2 is pivotal in the overall carbon equation, the bulletin says. This is because, up until now, they have absorbed nearly half the CO2 that humans have emitted into the atmosphere, but this may not continue in the future, it says. WMO scientist Oksana Tarasova says: “At the moment, we do not have a comprehensive system for observing carbon fluxes and analysing carbon stocks on land, in the oceans or in the atmosphere. Many research groups are working on the issue of [fully understanding the] carbon cycle.” Finally, a paper published in Environmental Research Letters found that sea levels have been rising 60 per cent faster than projected by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The rise, measured from satellite data, was 3.2 millimetres a year from the early 1990s until 2011 instead of the two millimetres a year the IPCC projected, which means that the current estimates of how quickly the sea level will rise may be too low. Although these recent reports set out serious climatic impacts, Fernandes says “the intention is to avoid being alarmist and instead provide science-based evidence and guidance to all stakeholders globally”. But José Antonio Milán Pérez, climate change professor at the University of Commercial Science, Nicaragua, says that there is not “much practical value in continuing to produce studies and publications to estimate the catastrophic effects of climate change because there is already enough information available to all audiences, including decision-makers, for them to understand the risk of an increase of [even] two degrees Celsius this century”. (SciDev)

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