Issuance of First Gold Standard Water Projects In Kaliro

CO2balance are pleased to announce that our first two borehole VPAs in Kaliro District, Uganda, have been issued under the Gold Standard. For the past two years, we have worked closely with local NGO WAACHA and district water mechanics to rehabilitate broken down boreholes and implement a long term maintenance programme that ensures the provision of clean water to communities for at least 7 years. An important part of the programme is  community sensitization and engagement, which involves training the borehole caretakers and water resource committees on the key aspects of borehole maintenance and hygiene. We recognise that creating a sense of ownership among the community members is a crucial element to the success of the projects.

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WAACHA and CO2balance conducting a WASH meeting in Madibira under a jackfruit tree

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Educating children from Saaka school on the importance of borehole hygiene

 

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A well maintained borehole in Lwamboga

 

 

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ESOS: Driving forward..

As we reach the extended deadline for large companies within the UK to comply to the Government’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), it is a good time to reflect on the main outcomes that were common across many of the reviews we conducted.

Depending on the level of detail, audits can identify savings of between 10-40% and this is certainly the case with the organisations that we have worked with. Running through the audits there were a few themes where the vast majority of organisations could reduce energy consumption, save money and thereby improve the bottom line.

Low-hanging fruit

When visiting any organisation with a large number of employees it is clear that small actions by many will result in a large cumulative energy reduction. An effective employee engagement campaign, tailored to an organisation, is one example of the relatively simple opportunities to drive down energy expenditures. Just by adjusting the heating timer or the layout of an office, coupled benefits of energy saving and employee comfort can be achieved. Typically, zero or low investment opportunities alone could achieve 10% reductions in energy bills.

Transport

Though not the case with all organisations, where the company owns or leases vehicles, transport makes up a significant proportion of their total energy consumption. This presents attractive energy and cost saving opportunities, for example vehicle procurement policies, driver efficiency training and more effective route planning, all achieving dramatic fuel reductions. This came as a surprise, particularly to organisations with an established energy and sustainability management policy, highlighting that across sectors, not enough attention has been paid to decarbonisation of the transport sector.

Management

With this being the first ESOS reference period there was a sense of ‘getting your house in order’ to get an idea of the energy baseline before considering more significant investments. In many cases, responsibility for energy management was limited to supplier account management without considering the organisations’ energy expenditure. The attitude of ‘the cost is the cost’ is almost unique to energy bills and wouldn’t be accepted in any other area of business. Designating one or a few individuals as responsible for understanding, monitoring and managing energy consumption will inevitably lead to achievements in reducing energy demand.

Looking to the future, it is likely that the multiple policies and regulations relating to energy and carbon reduction will be amalgamated in to one energy tax similar to the Climate Change Levy (CCL) and one reporting system that is based on ESOS; many of these policy decisions are expected to be announced in the Spring budget in March. To date, ESOS has highlighted the wealth of energy-saving opportunities but hopefully also raised energy management up the agenda, bringing it to the attention of company boards and directors. With current low prices, now would be an attractive time to act on opportunities to future proof organisations against rising energy costs and more stringent energy policies. Time will tell how the policy landscape might change but CO2balance will continue to work with all of our clients to help manage their energy and make significant cost savings in the process.

The Shea nut tree…………….

Traversing the northern districts of Uganda, one can’t help but notice a wide range of different tree species but the most noticeable is the shea nut tree that is endemic to that region. It is known for it’s numerous uses that range from butter, cosmetics, medicinal and locally in the northern part of Uganda, for cooking oil. This tree stem also has the best wood for lighting and produces the best charcoal; being the reason it is facing extinction.

72 year old Emat Idah, a caretaker of Otikori borehole rehabilitated by co2balance says she grew up harvesting firewood from the shea tree as it was the best for use. The firewood was mainly used to purify water fetched from the river for the many people in her homestead. Over time, the wood around became scarce and they had to move longer distances to look for this particular species.

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72 year old Emat Idah, caretaker of Otikori borehole

In 2000, Otikori borehole was drilled to provide clean water so that they only had to look for little firewood. This was a pleasant surprise but didn’t last long as the borehole broke down. Efforts to get it fixed were futile. In 2013, co2balance rehabilitated the borehole and since then has been doing planned annual maintenance and reactive repairs to ensure that it is in constant use.

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Otikori borehole

Idah, as the caretaker now protects this borehole as a major lifeline because she knows what it means to go searching for water and unfortunately, unsafe water like in the past.

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Old water source before Otikori borehole was drilled

For every borehole in use and providing clean water, a few trees are saved and it’s a gateway to combat climate change.

 

 

The Paris Agreement: Look beyond the imperfection

 

On Saturday December 12, 2015, applause and cheers broke out throughout the conference hall at COP21 in Paris. It was celebration mixed with relief. The result is the first agreement requiring all nations, rich and poor, to pledge action on climate change, with the aim of restricting global warming to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”, and to strive to “limit it to 1.5C”.

The Paris Agreement represents a marked shift when juxtaposed against the last 21 years as the climate circus rolled on from place to place, conference to conference, with very little to show for itself. Each of these spectacles, Berlin Mandate, Kyoto Protocol, Marrakech Accord to name a few (notice the change in outcome name for political purposes) have been hailed by the climate champions and politicians as major breakthroughs. Their overall impact plus or minus, zilch.

I should probably admit that over the last number of years I believed the publically financed jamboree that is COP should be declared defunct and unfit for purpose, with emancipation a necessary pre-condition for progress on managing climate change. But the COP circus beat on, boats against the current. Or so it seemed.

Fast forward to December 2015. The Paris Agreement and the supporting decisions are a diplomatic triumph, an act of true global co-operation of historic significance. The diplomats have done their job and have set ambitious climate goals. The Paris agreement points the world in the right direction with sophistication and clarity, against a backdrop of 21 years of negotiations that achieved very little. A remarkable outcome. Our first question is, how did this happen?

The climate community and wider debate has matured. It has done away with a top-down deal and instead replaced it with a voluntary bottom-up deal. This bottom-up approach is made up of voluntary intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs in UN jargon) from all 195 signature countries. Unrealistic, top-down absolutism has been replaced with pragmatic, bottom-up flexibility. The importance of this should not be understated. It became clear to the UN climate envoy that a legally binding top down deal in which a global per-capita carbon budget was divided up between nation states was doomed to fail. The only framework that would be accepted was one which was essentially voluntary. This should not be misrepresented as the global community reducing overall ambition on climate change. It was simply the result of a growing understanding of methods in which ambitious climate goals might actually be met, rather than procrastinated about. After all, the Kyoto Protocol was binding, and when it suited them Canada, Russia and Japan simply walked away from it, with no penalties whatsoever. Binding is not the solution in this context. Action is the solution. Imperfect action, but action nonetheless.

This shift in acceptance of the necessary imperfection in the Paris Agreement has not been universal. Idealists and cult like climate change ultras still exist in activist groups, academic circles and around negotiating tables. These groups would seek to sacrifice action on the sanctum of perfection. Unfortunately for them the truth is, the developed world is never likely to penalise itself for its historical carbon emissions profligate as they so long for. Of course there is merit to the fact that it should (see link to a previous blog of mine) but unrealistic to think it will. Neither will the rich world allow the developing world a turn at the emissions helm and allow them to run the planet close to the edifice as the older nations struggle to compete and grow. What matters most is that developed and developing countries have agreed to be pragmatic.

This new pragmatism matters. It embraces a certain reality. A zero carbon, zero fossil fuel world, has more in common with the simulated reality in the movie The Matrix than it has with Planet Earth at the present time. Fossil fuels are the main source of CO2 emissions. Fossil fuels represent circa 80% of global energy consumption. They are at the absolute heart of our economies. However, 2015 is the first year that the world could dare to dream about a clean energy low carbon future. The cost of clean energy has been coming down rapidly. This falling cost of clean energy technologies gave policy-makers at Paris growing confidence that shifting to a low-carbon future is not an unaffordable pipe dream, but something that can, gradually, be delivered.

The Paris Agreement should also be seen as a product of the year 2015. In what was a momentous year for clean energy growth, oil prices took a huge nosedive hitting 11 year lows, with the hydrocarbon industry in disarray in some quarters. Advocates of clean energy however, must restrain their Schadenfreude at this sight. False solutions such as divestment need to be avoided. As far as divestment goes it is fine. But that is not very far. Paris did not nor should it ever have looked to deliver an extinction event for fossil fuels. To wish for this as some have is to underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Fossil fuels have done mankind a service, in broad accord with the political consensus of an earlier time. Paris should be seen as the first step in what will no doubt be a difficult divorce between the world economy and fossil fuels, a divorce that is well and truly underway.

Of course, there is still room for the cynics, the extremists who would seek to deride Paris as a sham agreement, to focus on the inherent imperfections of an agreement involving 195 different parties. At this point we must openly acknowledge the truth, grim as it is. The voluntary INDCs at the heart of the agreement do not yet add up to a 2C limit, much less a 1.5C limit. Furthermore, it is not obscene to suggest the Paris Agreement could end up a failure. Or it could partially succeed, with current commitments honoured and future ambitions diluted. Determined as some of the INDCs are, far more ambition will be needed in future to hit its goals. But anyone who thinks that this is a Achilles’ heal is thinking obtusely. The Paris Agreement contains a powerful ratchet mechanism, repeated every 5 years, for ever-increasing ambition. Forces now at work will act inexorably to push up not rein back ambition on climate. Ambition. Ambition. Ambition.

Global agreements are necessary for global problem-solving and collaboration around a shared goal. The urgent, long overdue challenge of implementation now begins. We would do well to look beyond any imperfection and acknowledge that the Paris Agreement is a turning point in the world’s fight against unmanaged climate change.