India and China, Full Speed Ahead in Climate Change Mitigation

chinese-and-indian-leaders-meetingWhile the United States is wondering what will happen next on climate change mitigation in their country, both India and China have recently unveiled very ambitious plans to fight local air pollution and global climate change.

According to an article from the Guardian, India plans nearly 60% of electricity capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2027. This makes the Indian government believe that it will exceed its Paris Agreements targets by far, with :

” A draft 10-year energy blueprint published this week predicts that 57% of India’s total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40% by 2030.”

The Guardian goes on to list how India could become a renewable energy super power in the next decade or so, as investments in the area are booming. From bringing electricity to 400 million people with solar energy to going LED or investing massively in renewables, India has been showing strong leadership in this most important issue for a few years now. To the point that, according to newspapers, renewable energy investments in India to reach $250 billion over next five years, and over a trillion by 2030.

In neighbouring China, the government has announced a plan that it will spend $360 billion on clean energy sources by 2020. This will result in the creation of 13 million jobs and cut significantly the amount of air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Meanwhile, Beijing has announced that it will be closing  and/or not building another 104 coal-fired plants that were either due to be constructed soon or were being constructed. This move is significant – 120 Gigawatts of capacity – as it is equal to a third of the amounts of coal-fired plants in the United States.

China installed over 34 Gigawatts of solar PV capacity in 2016 alone as Cleantechnica reported, with over 11 GW in one month alone. This is absolutely staggering as it brings the total solar PV capacity of the country to 77 GW. Yes, capacity almost doubled in one year.

All this can be explained by the fact that renewables are getting more and more competitive every day and that smart countries invest in cost effective and low carbon solutions. In early 1996, the global solar PV capacity was of 200 MW, now the world installs that capacity every single day… Let that sink in. And it probably will not stop anytime soon as to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, solar is now becoming even cheaper than wind.

Edited, original article written by Edouard Stenger

How Climate Change Impacts Our Water Supply

The water cycle, the process by which water circulates through the planet’s atmosphere and waterways, helps make life here on Earth possible.

Climate change, however, caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions, is disrupting that process. It’s creating a vicious cycle in which higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and water contamination cause environmental consequences that make global warming worse and damage the health of the planet further.

How Climate Change Impacts Earth’s Water

Climate change causes various changes in our water supply, which sometimes leads to pollution and other problems.

Changes in rainfall

Increased temperatures caused by climate change raise the rate of evaporation from both land and oceans, as well as enable the atmosphere to hold more water by about 4 percent for every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase.

This added evaporation will dry out some areas and fall as excess precipitation in others. Generally, dry areas are expected to get drier while wet areas become wetter. This will lead to increasing instances of drought in some areas and more flooding in others.

Increased need for water

As temperatures rise and evaporation amplifies, so will the need for water for individuals, agriculture and industry. Rising population will add to this increased demand.

As certain areas experience more droughts, we’ll have to more frequently transport water where it is needed. Rising water levels in other areas may necessitate infrastructure changes. Both of these essential measures may result in more emissions and more used energy.

A rise in sea levels

Melting ice caps, ice sheets and glaciers, as well as expanding warming waters, will lead to rising sea levels. This could harm coastal communities and various ecosystems, as well as contaminate fresh water supplies.

Rising sea levels could push saltwater into freshwater aquifers, making the water unusable for drinking or irrigation unless it’s treated using an energy-intensive process.

Increased water pollution

High levels of rainfall could overwhelm and damage important infrastructure like sewer systems and water treatment plants and lead to polluted water, causing it to become brown or cloudy. Heavy precipitation could also lead to increased runoff of fertilizers, sediment, trash and other pollutants into water sources.

Impact of water pollution

Water pollution can have a multitude of negative effects on our environment, some of which can lead to even more problems and exacerbate climate change.

Stress on ecosystems

Increased levels of nutrients in water from things like fertilizer runoff can cause algae to grow at excessive rates. When this algae dies, bacteria can lower the level of oxygen in the water, creating dead zones where nothing can live.

Garbage that makes its way into ocean waters can also kill marine life that mistake it for food or get caught in it.

Chemical pollution can also harm or kill marine life. It can accumulate in sea creatures in increasing amounts as it moves up the food chain, eventually affecting humans.

Some scientists say ocean degradation could even cause a mass extinction event.

Worsened climate change

As water becomes a scarcer resource, we may need to treat this increasingly polluted water to make it useable. This process requires a lot of energy and could lead to more emissions.

Hope for the future

Climate change is having a negative impact on our water supply, ecosystems and quality. These problems in turn lead to more issues and the overall degradation of our environment.

The situation is clearly serious, but there are some things we can do.

Decreasing emissions by using less energy or switching to renewable energy helps to slow global warming. Turning lights off when not in use, driving less and insulating your home to make it more energy-efficient can all help reduce energy use.

Buying environmentally responsible products and eating a low-impact diet are other lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact.

Expressing your support for environmental protection can also help. You can make your voice heard by writing government officials, voting, posting about it online or simply talking with family and friends.

The effect that climate change has on our water is just one example of the impact it can have. It is becoming increasingly evident that we are at a critical point in time regarding our changing climate and the future of our planet.

By Scott Huntington

Accelerating Growth to End Poverty without Damaging the Environment

img17001There is consensus that extreme poverty and hunger must be eradicated by 2030 through accelerated, inclusive and equitable economic growth without damaging the environment. This calls for sustainable and integrated, balanced and simultaneous implementation of economic, social and environmental dimensions without one dimension gaining at the expense of others, as agreed at the Rio+20 Conference and confirmed at the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, when world leaders met in New York City in September 2013.

This paradigm shift from economic growth and per capita income as a measure of development, and relying on a single-sector approach and trickle down mechanism, to an integrated, inclusive, equitable and labor-intensive multi-sector development agenda post-2015 will require a major shift in political will and in ways of doing business.

In agrarian societies where the majority of people live in extreme poverty and unemployment or under-employment, the acceleration of traditional methods of economic growth to create jobs and end hunger and poverty will mean enhancing agricultural methods of de-vegetating land and damaging the environment through biodiversity loss, soil erosion, dropping water tables, shrinking water bodies and adverse impact on thermal and hydrological regimes, resulting in intense and frequent droughts and floods.

On the other hand, introducing or speeding up intensive and mechanized agricultural methods using green revolution technologies of high-yielding seeds that require the application of high doses of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation, including using underground salty water, will end up damaging the environment and reducing water supplies. This has already happened in some Asian countries.

In developed countries, continued or an acceleration of current patterns of consumption of meat and dairy products that rely on huge amounts of agricultural feed, and result in massive food waste, as well as increasing demand for non-food agricultural products like cut flowers, will mean that more land will be brought under cultivation by clearing vegetation or replacing food production in areas already under cultivation, as has happened in Uganda. Alternatively, more fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation will be used to increase land productivity, resulting in environmental pollution.

To overcome these trade-offs and successfully address unemployment, hunger and poverty, a new approach to production and consumption patterns is needed. The new approach should end food losses and waste, and apply labor-intensive methods rather than labor-saving machines. It should use a combination of organic and inorganic fertilizers and pesticides to boost productivity without damaging the environment.

In developing countries, much food, especially perishable produce like fruits and vegetables, is lost through pre-and post-harvest leakage. Controlling food-destroying birds, insects and wild animals before crop harvest and improving storage, including cold facilities and agro-processing after harvest, would go a long way in reducing food losses, thereby making more food available without applying environmentally destructive extensive or intensive agricultural methods. Degraded lands would be restored through labor-intensive re-forestation programs that would create jobs and raise incomes to pull people out of intergenerational extreme hunger and poverty.

Experiments by smallholder farmers in some African countries have shown that labor-intensive, environmentally and socially-friendly technologies such as crop rotation, terracing and contour farming, as in the Machakos district of Kenya, mixed cropping and mixed farming of crops and animals, zero grazing, small-scale irrigation and water harvesting schemes and fertilizer trees have boosted agricultural productivity and food availability and affordability, reducing hunger and poverty without damaging the environment.

Thus changing production methods, including mechanized agriculture, that are environmentally and socially-unfriendly and eliminating pre-and post-harvest food losses in developing countries and consumption patterns in developed countries, including massive food waste, would go a long way in creating needed jobs and making more food available and affordable, ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030 without damaging the environment. However, this success will require changing political mind sets and ending business as usual in production and consumption patterns in the post-2015 development agenda.

Article originally published here

Non-Tariff Barriers Can Connect Trade to Sustainable Development

flagsIn the landscape of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, trade is a means of implementation towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development further specifies the role of trade as “an engine for inclusive growth and poverty reduction, and contributes to the promotion of sustainable development.” That is, trade should function as a means for achieving “sustained, inclusive and sustainable” economic growth. More importantly, trade-led growth should enhance, rather than undermine, the potential for social development and environmental sustainability.

In the past several decades, however, many developing countries witnessed that trade growth contributed to aggregate economic growth, and also increased the within-country income inequality. This would suggest that a country’s trade policy reflects the interests of the country’s economic giants rather than small and marginalized players, and that these interests can override the importance of conservation of natural resources and ecosystems.

There is a need to rethink policymaking in order to link trade growth to sustainable development, including its social and the environmental dimensions. The recent UNCTAD report, ‘Trading into Sustainable Development: Trade, Market Access and Sustainable Development Goals,’ looks into this issue, focusing on the interactions between market access conditions – such as customs duties (tariffs) and non-tariff measures (NTMs) – and achieving the SDGs.

What are non-tariff measures?

Historically, market access conditions in international markets were determined by the level of tariffs on imported products. However, tariff barriers have fallen significantly across countries: the trade-weighted average tariff rate in the world fell from just over 5% in 1995 to 2.5% in 2014/2015. Against the trends of falling tariffs, the influence of NTMs upon trade costs has increased. In 2014, around 70% of agricultural products traded in the world market faced sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and over 60% of manufactured products faced “technical barriers to trade (TBT),” such as technical regulations and product standards.

Such regulatory measures are designed to meet important social and/or environmental objectives, such as by setting maximum levels for toxic residues in food, ensuring the sustainable sourcing of natural resources, or limiting trade in polluting substances. But they can directly affect trade flows and economic development when they are applied to imported products. In many cases, NTMs can be more trade-restricting that tariffs. UNCTAD estimates that existence of SPS measures to agricultural exports may increase production cost by 22%, compared to the average tariff facing the same exports at around 5%. NTMs can be particularly restrictive for low-income countries constrained by limited capacity to comply with NTMs thus significantly increasing their trading costs.

Because the vast majority of NTMs directly target key determinants of sustainable development, such as food security, health and environmental protection, countries are likely to implement more such measures for the achievement of the SDGs. That is, the number of NTMs in world trade may be increasing fast.

How to make non-tariff measures work for sustainable development

Will an increase in NTMs squeeze low-income countries’ capacity to use trade as a means of implementation of the SDGs? Not necessarily. In fact, the presence of NTMs can be the source of regional or international collaboration that can help countries to achieve a win-win situation: (i) collectively improve policy environment towards achieving the SDGs; and (ii) reduce trade distortionary impact of NTMs. The key is to eliminate trade-distortionary effect of NTMs.

Trade distortions arise from NTMs when they increase production costs for exporting countries to meet the regulatory requirements, including the costs associated with conformity assessment and certification. These costs will be higher when exporters have to meet different requirements for different markets including domestic market. That is, NTMs can be trade-distorting when the “regulatory distance” between an exporting country and its market countries is large. Therefore, reducing the regulatory distance among trade partners is the way to achieve the win-win situation.

Regulatory distance between countries is measured by the similarity of regulatory patterns of NTM types applied to a specific product classified at the HS 6-digit level. For example, if two countries each apply ten different product requirements to lemons, the regulatory distance is huge and it increases trade costs significantly. UNCTAD has assessed the potential impact of reducing costs related to NTMs in the 15 member countries of the Southern African Development Community. The gains amount to US$6 billion through a 25% reduction of NTM-related trade costs. No member country is worse off from the reforms. The largest gains stem from reducing the restrictiveness of SPS measures and TBT for partners from the whole world through alignment with international standards. In the case where barriers to trade from NTMs are reduced only to SADC exporters, the gains are much lower, with a total of about US$1.3 billion.

Moreover, when regulatory convergence is achieved among countries, it implies that countries will be implementing policy measures in a manner coherent with their trading partners. Such collaboration can jointly improve the effectiveness of policy measures, particularly in the areas where policy impacts can be cross-border, such as environmental regulations.

NTMs provide an important “policy interface” between the SDGs and trade, particularly in the framework of regional economic cooperation among developing countries.

Article originally published here