A sincere and heartfelt thank you

Unfortunately, the time has come for me to move on from the CO2balance family to pursue other ventures. Heavy hearted, I bid farewell to the wonderful people I have had the privilege to work with since I joined the company in 2014. I am immensely proud to have called you all colleagues and friends. Every song ends but that is no reason not to have enjoyed the music.

State of the Climate Change Agenda

On the back of the Paris Agreement, one can be in no doubt that the climate change war is being won and the 21st century is destined to be shaped by the low carbon agenda. It has been an honour fighting from the same trench as you all over the past couple of years. Those on the opposing side in the climate change war appear to be weakening. They seem marginalised, defensive, feeling the argument slip away. Drip. Drift. Drain. Old energy to new cleaner ambition.

CO2balance contribution

I firmly believe CO2balance has been a voice, ratcheting up ambition on climate in both the UK and further afield, working with organisations to measure and manage their climate change impacts. CO2balance will end up on the right side of history, influencing the world for better since its inception in 2003, by practically creating innovative solutions that contribute to the energy transition required to move to a low carbon future. Part of a transition that will transform the world we live in. What an exciting thought that is.

I would like to wish happiness and good health to every person I have worked with from the UK to East Africa. To my East African colleagues; no more and no less than all others, you possess all human attributes; talents, deficiencies, ambitions and virtues. It was wonderful to have met you all and you have left a lasting impression on my young life and I sincerely thank you all for this.

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Zoba Anseba Cookstoves: Tekea and her Award Winning Eritrean Stove

Tekea Tsefagherghesh keeps her home spotlessly clean – not an easy task in Eritrea, a hot and dusty sub-Saharan country.  Tekea’s village, Adi Tekelezan, is 2,500 metres above sea level and about 40 minutes’ drive north of Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Within the low walls is the mid-sized hut that contains Tekea’s most proud possession; her self-built improved cook stove.

The traditional stove with its open flame and voracious appetite for fuel is very detrimental for the health of families and their living environments.  One familiar image of Africa is of women and children carrying heavy bundles of sticks, sometimes for many miles. Tekea was one such woman, gathering sticks three or four times a week and carrying them many miles back to her home, or spending her little amount of cash buying them instead.

Tekea’s new stove is quite substantial, at over two metres in length.  It has various doors and openings to regulate the temperature as well as large, round hotplates so that she can cook Injera, the traditional bread eaten all over East Africa.  The design is simple but very innovative, and has won many awards for it’s inventor, local man Debesai Ghebrehiwet such as The Green Apple Award and the Tech Museum award. Each stove saves at least three tonnes of CO2 per year.

Tekea has decorated her stove with hand painted flowers and leaves.  The huge advantage of the stove is that it uses nearly 60% less fuel that the traditional stove and any harmful fumes are funneled out of the small, enclosed kitchen hut. All of the materials used to build the stove are sourced locally.

In this community-led programme, Vita supplies the moulds and the knowledge, but the women themselves contribute towards the cost, as well as building each stove with the help of the other village women. Involving the whole community ensures that no individual family is left out. Tekea is now a trainer, and works with Vita’s home economists to bring the programme to the wider community. Vita has an integrated approach to enabling farm families achieve sustainable livelihoods, involving not just stoves but clean water pumps, solar lights latrines and trees. This creates ‘green zones’ that not only benefit the families but have a hugely positive impact on the environment.

For Tekea, the drudgery of gathering sticks is dramatically reduced, and this has given her far more time to spend working to better her future and that of her children. Tekea, like more than 40% of women in Eritrea, rears her family of seven children alone. The extra income she can now earn is used to buy milk and help pay for her children’s education.

 

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Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba

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Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan

Zoba Maekel, Eritrea – Completion of Borehole Repairs

After three months of enormous efforts our project partners Vita have successfully completed the repair and maintenance of 48 bore holes in the central region administration of Eritrea (or Zoba Maekel) This repair programme has received mass support and satisfaction from the beneficiaries that will now benefit from access to clean water across the entire district.

It is with enormous pleasure and pride on behalf of CO2balance that we have been able to be part of these projects which truly alter the lives of the most deserving people on the planet. I have seen first hand how illness from drinking dirty water and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures while cascading them onto a cycle of poverty which makes Eritrea one of the most under-developed countries in the world.

CO2balance and Vita are seeking to address extreme poverty in Eritrea going forward over the next number of years. Zoba Maekel is just one part of the programme being implemented which is seeking to break the cycle of poverty in Eritrea and long may it continue to thrive and develop going forward.  All our work is done in conjunction with the communities and people of Eritrea. Eritreans are proud of their country. Proud of what they have achieved in such a short time since becoming independent. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people.

It was Robert Unger (philosopher and politician) who famously articulated that “At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different”. CO2balance together with Vita do not lack any clarity or imagination on a vision for Eritrea. Ultimately, their programme has the dream of repairing all the broken boreholes in the country and providing clean water for thousands of people. Watch the space for this dream becoming a reality.

See a montage of photos from the borehole repair programme in the beautiful country of Eritrea through 2016.

 

 

Eritrea: Programme Report

Recently I had the opportunity to accompany our project partners Vita on an in country visit to Eritrea to report on the great work currently going on in country. The collaboration between Vita and co2balance continues to go from strength to strength and it impacts on the lives of Eritrean people is profound. I have seen this first hand.

The overall programme now consists of 2 cookstove VPAs in Zoba Anseba and 4 boreholes VPAs in Zoba Maekel with planned expansion of more borehole VPAs in Zoba Debub through 2016. Borehole repairs are moving at an excellent pace thanks the careful coordination of the Vita team in Eritrea.

I was humbled to have discussions with villagers about the extraordinary improvements that the cookstoves and borehole rehabilitations have made to their lives. To see the look of joy on the faces of women and children as the first jerrycans are filled from new boreholes, some of whom have had to travel for miles to collect water from unsafe sources is something that will live long in my memory.

These are some of the poorest people on earth but the welcome they extended, their unwillingness to let us leave there village without sampling their finest Injera (local bread) and yogurt was truly inspiring. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people. To understand the foundation for this resilience we must consider the history of the African continent. Four hundred years of slave trade. One hundred years of colonialism. This equates to five centuries of external domination. Now Eritrea has a chance to forge its own path. In respect of this, it is a young country (formally becoming independent in 1993) on a young continent.

At co2balance we are determined on improving the lives of Eritrean people. We look forward to expanding our work there. Watch this space for high quality HD footage of the work in Eritrea coming soon.

 

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.

Malawi Clean Water Carbon Credits: First of its kind

Since 2013, CO2balance have been developing a number of borehole rehabilitation projects in Malawi under the Gold Standard voluntary carbon offset scheme in a unique collaboration with Concern Universal. After 2 years, we are glad to announce that 4 VPAs in the Dowa and Kasungu districts have recently issued carbon credits for the first time. This is a major achievement for everyone that has been involved in the projects, in particular our staff in the UK who have worked tirelessly to see these projects through to issuance.

The issuance of these unique VPAs should provide the springboard needed to drive these projects forward for their entire lifetimes. Congratulations to all on this including Concern Universal. A tremendous achievement.

 

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Progress on ESOS: The CO2balance approach

CO2balance has been quite busy working with companies across the UK to realise operational and cost efficiency energy savings under the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), an EU wide energy efficiency directive. This week alone we have been conducting audits of businesses from a variety of sectors in Liverpool, Cardiff and London. In all cases our team has been able to identify cost-effective opportunities to make significant savings in both energy and expenditure, helping businesses to increase profits and become more competitive.

With less than a month to go before the compliance date, we are busy compiling our findings and feeding back to companies that we have been working with on where the most significant improvements can be sought. Our collaborative approach will ensure that this scheme provides real business value as well as gaining compliance with new regulations.

The government has estimated that the net benefit of the policy will be 1.6 billion over the next 15 years however our experience suggests that benefits could well exceed this. We look forward to working with our clients over the next ESOS phase, seeing many of the opportunities implemented and the savings realized.

For information about our approach, contact us at enquires@co2balance.com.

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*Disclaimer

This blog has been compiled by Richard Stone, ESOS consultant at CO2balance.